I had said this would be a 3 part series. The first was about staying warm
and the second was about dealing with icy footing
. I decided to combine the remaining 2 issues - lack of daylight and hydration/nutrition issues into one blog post, as well as cover the most important cold weather running issue of all... the one your mother won't tell you about.
Lack of Daylight
Winter running means short days. In Wisconsin, it's not light out until 7am, and it gets dark before 5pm. That doesn't leave a lot of daylight for running, which can offer safety challenges, as well as motivational challenges.
As for safety - most running tights and jackets will have some sort of reflected elements. This is a huge help. If you are improvising, and running in clothing not specifically designed for running, make sure it has something reflected, or wear a reflective vest.
Head lamps and hand held flashlights will help you also. Don't be afraid to shine them directly at an oncoming car to be sure that they see you. I find that head lamps are only comfortable for about an hour. If I wear them longer, they give me a head ache. For really long runs, I will alternate between using the head lamp and a hand held flashlight.
Also - if possible, avoid roads by running on a bike path or other trail.
And remember - a night run where the glow of the streetlights bounces off fresh snow can not only give enough light for you to see, it can be down right beautiful.
Drinking water is problematic during the winter. Public drinking fountains are shut down for the winter, and water that you carry has a tendency to freeze. I find that I can go for about an hour run without any water, in the winter, but longer than that, and I need something to drink.
I found that hand held water bottles will freeze up when temps are in the low 20s or below. Higher than that, and the shaking of the water will be enough to keep it liquid for a long enough time.
For teens and down to just below zero, I find that a waist belt water bottle carrier, worn under my top layer jacket, will be sufficient to keep water/sports drink liquid for several hours. I have had the top spout freeze up, forcing me to unscrew the cap, and my bottle contained a sports drink slushie, but I was able to drink enough to stay hydrated, though I didn't quite avoid the ice cream headache.
Energy shot blocks will take on the consistency of a tire, and sports beans will turn to jaw breakers in super cold weather. Either keep them in a low layer pocket, or suck on them for a while before attempting to chew.
The Most Important Cold Weather Issue - Dealing with Runny Noses.
My mom tends to read my blogs, and so for the sake of mothers everywhere - to deal with a runny nose, be sure to carry plenty of facila tissues for you and your friends, use them delicately as though you were in church, and properly dispose of them in a trash receptical.
Ok Moms out there (especially mine) - this is the end of the blog post. You deserve a fabulous cup of coffee. Right now. No need to read any further. Kiss kiss. Bye bye.
OK beginning runners, listen up. This is the most important thing I can teach you about cold weather running. Snot Rockets.
This is no laughing matter. Thousands of runners suffer every day from a runny nose while running. Moisture wicking materials are great for dealing with sweat, but they are pretty useless when it come to nasal output, unless your goal is to spread your snot evenly across your face. In that case, they are great.
Contrary to what mothers like to believe, facial tissues are not terribly practical while running. A little bit of sweat, and your facial tissue turns to a linty wad that fingers will go thru like a spider web.
The only practical option for expelling mucus from nostrils while running is the snot rocket. If you have not yet mastered this skill, you haven't been properly mentored. I offer you my words of wisdom.
I learned everything I know about snot rocketry from my friend Dennis. I had tried to covertly teach myself this skill, but most attempts resulted in a double dangler. To the horror of my neighborhood, I shuffled down the street looking like I had tried to crack an egg in my nostrils.
Fortunately, Dennis offered to be my snot rocket Yoda. He showed me the ropes, and helped me develop basic, and eventually advanced snot rocket techniques.
It is now time for me to share these lessons with you.
A successful snot rocket accomplishes 3 goals, in order of importance:
1. Removes snot from your nose.
2. Does not land on you.
3. Does not land on your running partner(s).
Depending on how well you know and/or like your running partner(s), number 3 might be optional.
First of all, you need to master the most basic technique: the overhand single nostril rocket (OHSNR). Carefully plug your right nostril with your right hand, turn your head to the left, take a deep breath, and give a good hearty blow out the left nostril. Repeat with opposite hand, opposite nostril, and opposite side.Please try this while alone. You will need to practice this. You'll need to get a feel of how to coordinate this action with your stride. They key here is turning your head to the same side of the expelling nostril. This is the safest method, offering the best chance of the snot landing on the ground, and not on you.
Once you have mastered the overhand technique, and you are feeling brave, give the cross over single nostril rocket a try. Cross over single nostril rockets (COSNRs) can be very useful when running in a group, and you don't have proper opportunity to turn to either side. When you find yourself needing to clear both nostrils by only turning right or left, the one OHSNR and one COSNR should yeild successful results.
The double nostril rocket is an extremely advanced skill, and should only be attempted under extenuating circumstances, and by those who have solidly mastered both OHSNRs and COSNRs.
As you practice your snot rocket skills, keep in mind that air temperature, wind speed, and whether or not you have a touch of cold virus in your system can all affect your snot consistency and trajectory. It will simply take lots of practice to learn the subtle differences in air flow expulsion for best results in a variety of conditions.
Beginners as well as seasoned snot rocketeers can occasionally end up with a single side dangler (SSD). This could be poor planning, poor execution, or sometimes unexplained reasons. No matter what the reason, it is possible, to recover from the SSD. If you've got enough material present, with a quick and skilled turn of the neck, you can convert your SSD to a SSSD (swinging single side dangler), which gives you a split second to apply kinetic energy to the dangler, and successfully propell it to the ground. It is a risky move, and can result in a leg lander if you are not careful.