Winter Racing

From your first winter run, it becomes obvious that the cold weather impacts your performance. Depending on where you live, you’re likely to find holiday themed 5k and 10k races throughout the winter, but there are longer races out there too including a 50k and 100 miler. You can check out the Susitna 100 in Alaska here. 

Not up for an ultra in the winter, that’s alright. Even the 5k and 10k will provide some steep competition, so you’ll need to be training and that means running under the same conditions as what you’ll be racing in.

When you run in the winter, your body relies more heavily on carbohydrates and less on your fat stores. This means you’re going to need to increase your carbs-on-the-go intake while you’re running longer distances. Your muscles don’t contract as powerfully in the cold as they do when it’s warm. This means you have to recruit more muscles to get the job done. You need more oxygen in colder temperatures to produce the needed energy to sustain you through your runs because you need more muscles to help out. This extra oxygen produces more lactate, which means you’re likely to feel like you’re working harder.

Also in the winter, your body has the extra load of making sure you stay warm. Staying warm takes a lot of energy. To help with this, make sure you’re wearing clothing that’s appropriate for the temperatures. Maintaining a constant pace rather than speeding up and slowing down, as you would in intervals, is much easier on your body because it can be really difficult to warm up after you’ve cooled down. Make sure your body is warmed up before you start your run. You don’t want to be sweating, but you want to be warm including your fingers and toes.

Hydration can be especially problematic in the winter because your body doesn’t have as much of a thirst response in the colder temperatures. The problem is you lose a lot of water from not only sweating but breathing. Carrying water during the winter is difficult on long runs. I always recommend a hydration pack because carrying a frozen handheld is just not going to work. To keep your water from freezing add an electrolyte to it and make sure the tube is insulated.

Once you’ve finished your winter race, don’t stand around; get out of your wet clothes and into a warm shower or blanket as soon as you can. Enjoy some hot chocolate by the fire, you’ve earned it.


icy runner

How do you keep your hydration pack or hand held from freezing on long runs in the winter?

If you are using a hydration pack, the water in the bladder doesn’t usually freeze solid (at least I’ve never had it totally freeze). It will get ice crystals in it. The hose is another matter. Over this last weekend, my running partner’s hose froze and we had to share until the sun came out and thawed his. Drinking a sip of water frequently will prevent both the hose and the mouthpiece from freezing unless it is very cold.

I’ve tried to think of different ways to keep this from happening. The first is to not leave any water in the hose. I always squeeze the mouthpiece and hold the hose up to drain any water. You can also blow the water back into the bladder, but this fills your bladder with air and causes it to make a sloshing noise as you run. These two methods don’t always work because some water remains in both the mouthpiece and the hose.

The second possibility is to buy or make a sleeve from neoprene that will insulate the hose. There are snowboarding hydration packs, which may be an option for you.

The third option is to put the hydration pack under one of your layers of clothing to keep it warm.

A fourth option is for you to use a sports drink or at least mix some in with your water. The sugar will slow the freezing down. A shot of alcohol will also do this :0) Just don’t use too much, or you’ll have more problems than frozen water.

Rather than using a hydration pack with a bladder, you can also buy one that uses bottles. However, you do want to get some insulated bottles rather than the ones most packs come with.

For a handheld it is a must to buy the insulated bottles. This will not only stop the water from freezing, but it will stop it from freezing your hand.

Of course there is the option of running a loop and leaving a stash of water in a Styrofoam cooler, but loops get boring after a while.

Let me know what you have tried, any additional suggestions are appreciated especially at the lower single digits.


I’m too Hot! I’m too Cold! I’m just right.

I’m a list writer. So, as I’m preparing for the Salt Flats 100, I have written lists for everything. My friends and family believe I over think things, and that I’m pretty much crazy, but it helps me prepare and maintain my sanity as race day gets closer. I draw the line at making lists of my lists. At that point, I will have myself committed to the State Hospital.

 Salt Flats is in the middle of nowhere, as are many 100-mile races, it’s not as if you can just run to the store and pick up a forgotten item. I have a list of what goes in each drop bag. I have a list of what I need to give to my crew. I have a list of things my crew needs to address at each aid station. I have a shopping list. I have a list of clothing to pack.

Springtime weather in Utah can be unpredictable. It can go from 75 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny to 30 degrees Fahrenheit and hailing in a matter of minutes. Knowing this, my list of clothing has nearly every piece of running attire I own on it. To complicate matters, I place the same items in multiple drop bags such as long sleeve shirts and pants. But you have a crew, why doesn’t your crew just carry it all? Because any number of things could go wrong with my crew, and I need to know my gear is where I need it to be even if my crew isn’t. My crew will come into an aid station and pick up my drop bag, so it is ready for me. If they are not there, for whatever reason, I know my stuff is there waiting for me.

Knowing what to wear at various temperatures comes with experience. Everyone’s heat and cold tolerance is different. It’s all about layers (Like an onion? Yes, like an onion).   Continue reading