Sunday, February 3, 2013

Snow Running

It's been a fairly mild winter this year (and last), so I've missed a lot of snow running. I made up for it yesterday... 20 mile run, nearly every step on snow covered trail. We had a fresh snowfall on Friday night, giving a nice 1-2 inch layer over everything. I dreaded the run all morning, but finally after lunch, I met up with 6 other Sole Sisters for some white miles. I prefer morning runs, but this was my only window of opportunity over the weekend. By afternoon, the winter winds had kicked up, adding both resistance and cold to the tricky footing. It was a tough run, but we powered through to hit our 20 mile goal.
20 miles in 3:34 (10:40 pace)

Running in snow certainly adds an extra cardiovascular effort to your run. I like to think that 3 miles in snow is equal to 5 miles without. (That's my estimate and I'm sticking to it.) Your body works overtime maneuvering through the white powder. You work additional muscles in a stabilizing effort to keep balance... from your hips down to your ankles. In my experience, my upper back and shoulders are also a tad bit sore after long runs in the snow.

Here's my tips for running in the snow successfully...
    • Wear trail shoes if you have them. They'll provide extra traction and tend to be more waterproof than regular running shoes.
    • Throw a pair of Yaktrax or Stabilicers over your running shoes. In my opinion, snow has to be pretty consistent to wear these. If there are dry spots along the route, the uneven bottoms of these traction gear tend to hurt my feet. I did not wear them for my long run yesterday. In hindsight, the Stabilicers might have been helpful.
    • Wear a pair of extra socks for warmth. I always do this in winter, but you know your feet best. Some people have hot feet. Seriously, I know folks who run without socks even in winter! If you do a lot of winter running, have a separate pair of shoes for winter...  Go a half size bigger to allow for the extra thickness of socks, and add screws to the bottom for traction.
    • Dress in layers. Despite cold temps, you will warm up as the miles tick off. Again, run outside enough in the winter and you'll learn what works for you. I'm a big fan of UnderArmour heat gear leggings and mock turtleneck as my base layer. Occasionally, I'll add a skirt for extra warmth on my thighs and butt. I sweat a ton in my armpits, so my outer layer is almost always an insulated vest. On long runs, I wear compression socks to baby my calves.
    • Wear sunglasses. Even on a cloudy day, the brightness of white snow can produce a glare effect. In addition, sunglasses protect your eyes against the wild winter winds. If you wear contacts like me, glasses are an absolute necessity.
    • If snow is coming down at a regular rate, wear a brimmed hat to keep the flakes from hitting your face directly. Over enough miles, this added wetness on the face will only intensify the cold.
    • Slow down. Be realistic in your expectations. Odds are likely you won't be running the same pace as you do on dry roads. Instead of focusing on your pace, put that effort into keeping your balance on the slick surface.
    • Shorten your stride and keep your feet lower to the ground. This will help reduce the risk of falling or straining muscles on a slippery push-off gone wrong.
    • If you're in the presence of a wicked winter wind, start off my going INTO the wind. Believe me, you don't want your final miles to be like ours were yesterday... cold. Once you're wet with sweat, the wind against you only makes you feel colder... fast.
    • Safety first. Find friends to run with you. The trails are less busy in the wintertime, so there is a sense of loneliness out there. While sometimes that is a refreshing, it's definitely a safety concern. If you must run alone, be sure to let someone know where you are running, check in occasionally, and carry a cell phone and pepper spray (I also carry a pocket knife.)
    • Be seen. Wear bright colored clothing and/or reflective gear. Vehicles are not expecting to see pedestrians on the side of the road in the winter... so be sure you can be seen at all costs. When snow is piled up on road sides, it's natural to run further out onto the road... but be sure you are running against traffic and move over (stop if necessary) when a car is coming.
    • Lastly, ENJOY the run, the scenery and the tough badass feeling of getting it done in adverse weather. You rock!!

    Do you experience much snow running?
    Do you have any other tips for mastering the white run?


    1. very nice run Jess. Thanks for the tips on winter running

      1. after reading your blog post I went out and ran 3.75 miles. It felt great to get outside and run. sNOw EXCUSES! THANK YOU FOR THE INSPIRATION

    2. Thanks Jess for a great post! I ran today at the Super Bowl Shuffler and it was great. Windy, snowy and slick in a few spots but I loved it and felt like I could have ran more! Not much snow on the route but it was just an awesome feeling knowing that a few years ago I would have been curled up in my chair avoiding going outside in the weather and now I am taking it head on and loving it! Loved your pics!

    3. I have YaxTrax and don't know if they're pracical for a 20 miler. My thing though - DUCT TAPE. I got this from an old veteran. Duct tape the mesh on your shoe. That cuts most of the wind penetration and eliminates the need for double socks.

      And Jess... Hanson... Hanson Marathon Method. I'll let you know after River City in May... but I like their "cumulative fatigue" concept over the 20 miler methods. Get the book - it's no shortcut.

    4. These are all really great tips! I just moved to the Midwest from the South, where I started running, so I have zero experience running in the snow. Wearing trail shoes for snow running is a really great idea; I'm definitely going to incorporate that one into my runs. Stay warm out there!

    5. When what a beautiful trail run! I ran into some patches of unshoveled snow yesterday (all 2 inches of it) and I had to be very careful. Great job! Way to push through with no excuses!

    6. Don't you think 3 miles of snow running is equal to 5 of clear. I did 10 today and it felt like 15. I wonder if there's a way to compare it? Heart rate?

    7. Thanks for all of the helpful info, although I'm on Long Island and we haven't really had much in the way of snow, yet.

    8. i do think it would be fun to do a run in snow, but man, not sure about a whole 20 miles worth. I wouldn't have thought about the sun glasses part due to the sun bouncing off snow- good call. HUGE congrats for SNOW excuses to get out there :)

    9. I have never ran in the snow and it looks tough! Nice job on the 20 in the snow. I love the commitment!

    10. Great tips... I wore YakTraxs for 30 miles a couple weeks ago.. longest I've ever been in them. Running in snow is tough, but to me, it's less tough than 4 or 5 hours on the treadmill. THAT's discipline I don't have!

    11. Wow, good for you! I think I would be hesitant to really run on snow...I would be worried about slipping the whole time...LOL.

    12. This is great advice! I ran in 2" of snow no problem last week, but with the 36" we got this week, I don't think I'll be running in the snow for a few weeks/months!


    I appreciate your feedback and comments!