Sunday, February 3, 2013

How To Run in -40 and Not Die.

It's been a tad chilly in Winnipeg lately.  Only the die-hards find the beauty in running in extreme cold weather.  We're runners, not to be mistaken for joggers. Joggers have a more casual approach toward running. Perhaps they're more sane?

My record cold weather run is 10 miles in - 50 degrees Celsius with Bernie, Lori, and Jason.  We ran 5 miles outbound, stopped, and returned into the wind.  It was chilly but we were dressed properly and lived to tell the story. We four will forever have this memory and that's so special. The trick is in the layering folks, that and knowing your limits.  

I had a sexy dude lined up to model the long johns below, but his wife pulled the plug. Sorry, you'll just have to use your imagination.

In extreme cold (-35 or colder) I know I need five upper layers and 4 lower layers to stave off the frost.  Note that no layer is cotton... it's true, cotton really is rotten when it comes to running.  It retains moisture and freezes and you die.  Technical gear has come way down in price and it's available at most good sports stores.  I get most of my running gear at Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) because of the value, high quality, low prices.. love it!

My base layer is light weight MEC long-johns top and bottom.  Mine are polyester so they're not the best quality but they do the trick.  I intend to upgrade to merino wool but they're a little pricey.  I'll be looking for a sale any day now.  

The next layer is pretty crucial.  I wear two pairs of insulated undies overtop of my long johns.  The first pair is a technical briefs with an insulated layer where it matters most.  The second layer is a boxer style technical undies, again with a protective layer over the mid-section to protect the groin area.  It's important to protect this area especially if you're a young man planning a family!

Three layers on the bottom.
My second upper layer is a technical light weight MEC turtle neck that fits snugly.  It has a zillion little pockets on the inside that traps air and sheds sweat.  I like it so much I bought two.  I can wear this top for a variety of weather conditions.

Two upper layers.
The tootsies are toasty with these socks.  They're heavy weight wool sock that fit snug so they don't bunch up.  I sometime put a thin pair of socks under these but only for the coldest weather.  I love these socks and I wish I purchased 6 pair. Trouble is, I can't remember where I picked them up.
Blaze DeFeet socks... love em!
I sometimes place a trip of duct tape over my shoes to add a thin layer of protection.  I don't do this often, but it is another option to consider when planning my gear for a early morning run in -40.

Merino wool is the best.  It's light weight, warm, sheds sweat, and doesn't hold the stink like the black MEC turtle neck above. It's also fit long so it covers my rear. Speaking of rears, this is one part of the body that is almost impossible to keep warm.  If I'm going to chill, it'll always start in my rear and move to my belly.  

This will make my third upper layer.
Next up is this ugly orange brute, but it's warm and mid-weight.  It has a half front zipper so I can shed heat by zipping it down.  It fits snug and has another million or so tiny pockets on the inside that trap air.  It's a technical design so it does a pretty good job of shedding unwanted sweat.  This is my standby upper layer.  It configures to many different weather condition.  On warmer days I will use this as an outer layer with a thin inner layer.  It's very versatile and pretty affordable at MEC.
My fourth upper layer.
And finally, the fifth upper layer, a Saucony runner's jacket from City Park Runners. It's expensive, but I'm worth it, right?  Having tried on about a dozen I finally settled on this one.  It's deceivingly warm for such a light weight jacket.  It has a half-moon flap that covers the rear end but it doesn't flap in the wind like those standard nylon runner jackets.  It fits snug but not tight.  The two zippered pockets allow me to stash my gloves if I'm over heating.
My fifth upper layer.
Gloves and hats.  I have a million configurations of gloves and mitts.  In super cold I wear a light weight pair of technical gloves under a slightly heavier glove.  My hands warm up pretty quickly so I often stash the gloves in my pocket after a few miles.  I wear a balaclava and a hat.  I have two balaclavas; warm and insanely warm. The insanely warm balaclava is a wrap-around design that attaches with velcro behind the head.  It made from neoprene and has a cut-out flap for the nose and a hole for the mouth.  It's amazingly warm and I use it when the wind is straight in my face.
And finally, my Pearl Izumi winter running pants from City Park Runners.  They are absolutely the best running pants I have ever worn.  They are expensive, but worth every penny.
ooowooooooo, let's go for a run!
My Annie, she's such a sweet heart.
It's a good day to be alive. Stay warm, but for heaven's sake, get off the tread mill and get on the trails.  Tell 'em Mike sent you.

:) Mike