Winter Break

child in coat

As the temperatures drop and snow looms ever closer, many runners reduce their miles for the winter break. Some even stop running all together. One of my friends, Spongebunny, thought stopping sounded like a great idea. His line of thinking went something like this: My next race is not until the end of May. I need sixteen weeks to train for a marathon. If I start training in January, I will be all set for the marathon.

There is nothing wrong with this line of thinking. He would be ready for the marathon in May if he began training in January.

However, there are also drawbacks to proceeding this way. First is the big one. You lose all your fitness that you have worked so hard to gain. You are actually safe for about ten days before it begins to decline. The longer you have been training the slower it will decline. More experienced runners have a larger base to draw upon.

After two weeks you lose 6% of your fitness and you begin to lose muscle power. Not too bad you say. You’re right it’s not too bad and you can actually make up for it with two or three weeks solid training. From 3 weeks to eight weeks it is 12% and more muscle power loss. Nine to eleven weeks off and you’ve lost 19% of aerobic fitness and significant muscle power. After 11 weeks you’re down by 26% and are waving goodbye to more muscle.

By the time winter is over, you are starting over from the beginning. So what can you do about this? Maintain a base of miles through the winter. How big of a base depends upon your miles at the end of race season and what length of race you are going to start the season off with. If you finish with a marathon and want to start with a marathon, shoot for maintaining a 15-20 mile base through the winter. If you are a 5k or 10k runner, shoot for 10-15 miles a week throughout the winter.

The second problem my friend Spongebunny will have by starting training in January is that his body will not have the chance to adjust to the dropping temperatures during training. The gradual adjustment to the cold is much easier to deal with than the sudden freeze zone. This will be a huge blow to his motivation especially given his decline in fitness over that time.

He could just train in doors on a treadmill or on an indoor track, but I am here to tell you a 15-20 mile run on a treadmill sucks almost as much as it does on an indoor track.

If you are going to do you winter training on a treadmill remember to set it at a 1% incline to account for wind resistance and the belt moving below your feet.

Winter Layers

winter running

September was unseasonably hot in the western United States. Now, that October has come the temperatures have dropped into the high 40s and low 50s (Fahrenheit) over the last week. I love running in these temperatures. I love the colors of the changing leaves and the crispness of the air.

I run outside year round. Here in Utah, the temperatures get below zero in January and sometimes in December too. The lower the temperatures the more clothing I put on. Sometimes we have a few inches of snow and biting wind on Halloween. It makes trick or treating rather unpleasant.

At 50 degrees Fahrenheit, I wear a long sleeve shirt, but I’m still in shorts.

At 40 degrees Fahrenheit, I have long pants, a long sleeve shirt and a short sleeve shirt. Possibly gloves as well.

Once the temperature starts slipping down to 35 or lower, my thermal tights and long sleeve shirts come out.

The colder it gets the more thermal layers I wear. My outer layer is windproof. My feet stay warm with one pair of socks no matter how cold it is outside, so long as they stay dry. My hands are another matter entirely. I wear three layers on my hands and then slide hand warmers in as well.

In January, any water I carry freezes solid on long runs. Carrying a handheld water bottle is impossible with three pairs of gloves on. Carrying water only makes my hand colder anyway. I use my hydration pack in the winter. You can buy an insulator for the tube so it doesn’t freeze up. I blow the water out of my tube each time so that it doesn’t freeze.

Any gu you pack along with you should be put in an inside pocket so you can use it when needed. If it is in your hydration pack or an outside pocket it will freeze.

There are a few different brands of spikes you can get for your shoes, that will prevent you from sliding on the ice.

If the temperature is below ten degrees Fahrenheit, I will split my run up doing ten miles outside and then finishing the rest inside on a treadmill. Frost bite doesn’t seem like fun to me.

Winter is an amazing time to run so long as you have the right gear to do it safely. The blanket of white that covers the ground in the early morning hours before any beasty children or dogs have put any footprints in it, is a treat. The moon’s light or the streetlights make it look like diamonds covering the ground.

Christmas lights always make me smile and I recall Christmas mornings I’ve spent with my children and the wonder on their little faces.

Start unpacking the winter gear, it will be here before we know it.


A Vigil for Justice: Episode Ten


A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie packed granola bars and fruit snacks into the hydration packs. She was taking Sam hiking this morning and then to a movie in the afternoon. It was their mom’s Saturday to work, which meant it was Melanie’s day with Sam.

Melanie slid the spatula under the golden brown pancake and flipped it over. She put sausage links in the microwave and pushed start. She stepped over the Rottweiler pup, Daisy, who was dancing around at her feet, tongue lolling and dripping drool.

Sam peeked around a corner into the kitchen.

“Psst. Melanie?”

Melanie smiled and then turned around. “Yes?” she whispered back to Sam. Daisy pranced over to Sam. Her wagging tail throwing off her balance causing her feet to crisscross and exaggerating the swing of her rear end.

“Mom here?” Sam bent down to let Daisy lick her face. Melanie scrunched up her mouth and nose as the dog’s pink tongue lapped at Sam repeatedly.

“Nope, you are free to eat in your PJ’s. In fact such naughty behavior is encouraged.”

Sam laughed and sprung up like a jack in the box.

Melanie set a plate of steaming pancakes on the table. “Will you get the butter out of the fridge?”

Sam set the butter on the table and pulled out a stool to get the syrup down from the cupboard. “Are we hiking today?”

“We always hike when mom works on Saturdays.” Melanie set the bowl of sausage on the table next to the pancakes.

“Can Daisy come?”

“We’ll have to carry extra water for her, but I think she would like to come.”

Sam climbed beneath the table on her hands and knees. “Did you hear that Daisy? You’re coming with.” Daisy licked Sam’s nose and wagged her tail.


Melanie pulled up to the Indiana Creek trailhead. She pulled Daisy’s big paws through the harness and clipped on the leash before getting out of the car. Sam took ahold of the leash and got out. They were the only car in the parking lot.

“Looks like we have the trail to ourselves.” Melanie laced her belt through her holster and slipped her 9 mm into the snug leather pocket. Sam stared at the gun. It was the first time Melanie had worn it in public. She pulled the hydration packs out of the back seat and held Sam’s up so she could slip her arms through.

“Did you put sunblock on?”

“I forgot.”

Melanie reached into her backseat for her running hat and pulled Sam’s ponytail through the back and onto Sam’s head. Sam took off down the trail as fast as Daisy’s clumsy oversized paws could go.

“Don’t get too far ahead of me,” Melanie jogged down the trail after her little sister. The whisper of the leaves and sigh of the wind loosened Melanie’s shoulders like a hot shower. She pulled the fresh pine filled air into her lungs opening up her chest. Getting Daisy had created more tension between her and her mom, but Melanie knew that it was one of those ask for forgiveness rather than permission decisions.

Her mom was mad yesterday, in fact they had said little to one another in normal tones. Every word stretched with the tension of a rubber band about to spring back into place or snap from the strain. But this morning, Melanie had gotten up before her mom and made coffee. When her mom strolled out of her room hair wrapped in a towel, she ruffled Daisy’s ears and threw a squeaky toy until Daisy lost interest. Her mom probably approved of the dog more than the gun at Melanie’s hip. To Melanie, both were necessary. If her mom wouldn’t carry a gun at least she would have Daisy.

Sam collected leaves, flowers, and rocks along the trail.

“This one is pretty.” Sam handed a piece of rose quartz up to Melanie. Daisy jumped up and bounced on Melanie with her front paws.

“No Daisy!” Melanie grabbed ahold of the puppy and pushed her down. “Stay down.” She forced Daisy to sit.

Sam stuck out her lower lip. “She just wants to see.”

“I know she wants to see, but if you let her act like that when she is small, she will do it when she is big and it will knock you to the ground.”

Sam’s eyes got wide. “She’s gunna be ginormous.”

Melanie laughed. “I hope so.”

Daisy started barking and Melanie’s head popped up. Daisy was barking at the trees. Melanie looked around and rested her hand on the gun. Sam stepped behind Melanie. A squirrel began chattering and something rustled in the brush. Daisy continued to bark in a steady rhythm.

Melanie’s heart drummed against the inside of her rib cage. Another squirrel behind the girls took up the warning call. Melanie scanned the trees around them. She felt Sam bury her face in her lower back.

“Is someone there?” Her voice shook more than she wanted it too.

A rabbit darted out of the bush and streaked down the trail. Daisy took off after it.

“Daisy!” Melanie yelled. “Come on Sam.” Melanie took ahold of Sam’s hand and ran. Daisy crashed through the underbrush. The branches scratched at Melanie’s face and arms.

Sam’s breathing was heavy, and she was starting to wheeze. Melanie cast a glance back at her. They had to stop before Sam had an asthma attack.

Melanie crouched down in front of Sam. “Are you all right?”

Sam nodded.

Melanie put her hand on Sam’s chest. “Nice and deep. We’ll find her.” They could hear Daisy barking again.

Sam’s breathing was slowing. “I think you are like Daisy and I am more like that bunny rabbit.”

“Come on. We can find her if she is barking.” Melanie led Sam through the scrub oak and through a small stream. They pushed through another wall of branches and into a small clearing.

A man was crouched with a hand on Daisy’s collar.

Melanie stopped. He looked up and a smile pulled up on the corners of his lips and eyes.

“Seth, what are you doing out here?”

“This yours?”

“Yeah, we just got her.”

Sam ran up to Daisy and took the leash from Seth. “You naughty girl.”

“You better keep ahold of her. She’s a hunter and nearly had that rabbit she was chasing.”

Seth stood up and shouldered a rifle.

Melanie’s breath caught in her throat. She coughed. “So, what did you say you were doing?”

“Same thing as Daisy, hunting.” He walked to the edge of the clearing and picked up two rabbits. He brushed the dirt and leaves from their smoky fur. They hung limb swinging with Seth’s motion as he walked back over to Melanie and Sam.

“Can you give me a ride home?”

Is running selfish?

running is my oxygen

I often wonder this, when I’m out for hours running and running. I plan vacations around my races and life at my house is coordinated around peak mile weeks and rest weeks. My race registrations and running shoes are just a part of the family budget.

The conclusion I have come to over and over again is that it is a type of altruistic selfishness, like much of what we do. By improving the lives around us, we directly and indirectly improve our own lives or the lives of those who are close to us.

Running makes me happy, and if mamma ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy. It’s like when the airlines tell all passengers to make sure that their own oxygen mask is secured before helping others, because if you can’t breathe you can’t help others. Running is my oxygen.

Running makes me a better person overall. I think more clearly. I sleep and eat better. I’m more emotionally balanced. I have more patience with others. I don’t get sick very often.

My kids can tell when I’m not running. It takes my oldest, Jazz (17), about three days to figure it out. My younger son, Sky (13), takes a little longer. I’ve had to reduce my miles due to injuries and of course to taper for races and there is palatable difference in the house. I’m a little more short tempered because I can’t sleep and feel like I have electricity running through my veins.

My children never go without something they need so I can run and I try to run when my children are sleeping, besides my races of course, so they are not missing time with me either.

Running impedes on my social life more than anything I do with my kids. I don’t stay up late on the weekends to go out with friends because I have to be up at 3 a.m. to run. I have a special diet and can’t eat at certain restaurants. All my extra money is spent on running so I can’t go to movies or hang out at the bar, or go to the theater very often.

But these are sacrifices I am willing to make. Frankly, I have a pretty addictive personality and there are a lot worse things to be addicted too than running. Or maybe I’m just trying to justify my selfishness.