Monday, February 20, 2012

Six tips for making your winter race more enjoyable

It's been a busy few weeks so I haven't had time to sit and type for awhile about the race I ran a few weeks ago - the Halifax Hypothermic Half Marathon, until today. Since then, I've talked to my friends and family about how much fun I had (despite it being my slowest half marathon to date), and the answer is inevitably:

"You did what??? You're crazy. I'd never do that!"

Yes, it was a -15 degree day. Yes, it was 21.1 kilometres in that weather. But I also had the most fun of any race I've run yet, and after about five minutes I was sweating and didn't feel the cold one bit. And by the time I reached the finish line, I was determined to run another Hypo Half next year.

Here are a few of the reasons why, if you'd been standing on the road in Cow Bay on February 5, 2012, you'd have seen not only me but close to 360 runners out for the race, and having a blast. Believe me, we're not crazy. We've just learned the secrets of running outside in winter weather!

Six tips for making your winter race more enjoyable:

1. Layer, layer, layer

After four winters of running outside, I've now figured out what to wear when, depending on how cold or warm it is. It's usually something I need to relearn each season, but I know that it's much better to start a run shivering than over-dressing and end up sweating, then freezing.

For race day, which was a -15 degree day, I opted to wear a base layer wicking turtleneck with a T-shirt and windbreaker on my top layer (I tend to prefer a jacket with zippable arms so I can remove them if I get too warm). I wore a pair of tights (I cut the heel and toes so it fit like a stirrup), socks and my regular running tights, along with gloves, mitts and a hat. I was a little worried, because I was shivering at the start line, but that was likely due to pre-race jitters. By kilometre 2 I was sweating and toasty warm, and actually had to take off my wool mittens.

That's the nice thing about layering: if you get too warm, you can always take off an extra pair of mitts and undo your jacket. Also remember though that you'll need to carry any extra gear or stow it away in a pocket. You can always pull it back on if you find you're cooling down later.

2. Run with friends

This year's Hypo Half was the first race I've ever run with friends. We set out at an easy pace, with no expectations other than that we'd treat it as a training run. If one of us wanted to peel off and pick up the pace later, we did. Running with friends is a great way to keep yourself distracted and encourage each other on the race course. It's also a good way to watch out for each other - just in case hypothermia or frostbite sets in.

3. Hydrate at the water stations

Because it's cold, you may feel like you aren't sweating as much as on a hot-weather run. But the reality is, you're probably losing just as much water as you would be on a warmer day. It's important to remember to hydrate just as often, particularly on race day. The problem is, your water may become frozen, especially if it's -15 degrees!

Case in point: I chose to run the Hypo Half with my water belt and run through water stations. But because my water was frozen, I ended up fighting with my water bottles and wasting time trying to even open them. Once they were open, I then had little to no water to drink.

4. Keep fuel warm

In fact, I spent so much time fighting with my water bottles that I didn't leave myself much time to take in fuels. And when I did, they were frozen into a gloopy mess. So, if you're taking in GU or gels rather than Shot Bloks or jelly beans, make sure to keep them in your mitt to warm them up at least 10 minutes before you plan to take them. You won't be stuck with a mouthful of cold goop when it comes time to fuel. But definitely fuel - you'll find your legs don't tire as easy and you have that extra push you need to keep going when your glycogen reserves run out.

5. Enjoy the day

Anyone who hasn't run a winter race probably thinks winter runners are nuts. The fact is, running a race in the middle of winter with almost 400 other runners is fun -- there was a sense of fellowship and excitement among all of us at the start line that wintry morning two weeks ago, while we waited for the starting gun to go off. It's a great way to celebrate being active and enjoying the outdoors while other folks are huddled up inside.

The race course for the Halifax Hypo Half was littered with onlookers and folks cheering on the runners - from a group of women dressed up in Mexican sombreros and dancing next to a fake palm tree, to another woman standing by the side of the road at kilometre 10 with a box of Kleenex for us runny-nosed runners, to another group of women in a van who kept driving ahead of the runners, then getting out, opening the doors and windows while they blared music and did a crazy dance. I made a point to thank all the volunteers and high-fived some of them, because their energy gave me an extra boost and made the event memorable.

6. Consider treating a winter race as a training run

Many runners I spoke to who ran the Hypo Half also said they treated the race as a training run for spring races. Because race day conditions can be unpredictable, it's best to go out there and just enjoy the day and celebrate your fitness, because you'll likely not be able to achieve a PB under winter conditions. This is of course a personal decision, but if you set out with no expectations, you're likely to enjoy the day and might even surprise yourself with your result, too!

Those are my tips based on my experiences, but for more suggestions, check out Runner's World 10 Tips For Running in the Cold.

Do you have any tips for running in the cold, or have a winter race story you'd like to share? I'd love to read your comments!

Happy running!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

I've been tagged!

Thanks to for tagging me in this meme. It's time for 11 random facts about me! Here are the rules ...

11 random things about me:
  1. I like dancing and singing in the rain while wearing rubber boots.
  2. I come from a line of strong, independent-minded women: my grandmother on my father's side was one of the first competitive rhythmic gymnasts in England, and one of the first cohorts of Girl Guides. My grandmother on my mother's side was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, which she heated by stoking an old flume stove. My mother left her small northern Quebec village at the age of 16 so she could make a better life for herself instead of becoming a nun.
  3. I spent a year in Holland with my family at the age of 7, where I learned to speak Dutch, jumped rope wearing wooden clogs and brought the neighbour our stale bread for his sheep, in return for candy.
  4. At most points in my life I have been trilingual - although never with the same third language, which has included Old English, Japanese, Spanish and Dutch. The other two languages have always been English and French (believe it or not, my maternal language was actually French).
  5. If I could, I`d do yoga every day.
  6. Growing up, I dreamt of becoming a ballerina or modern dancer. My other dream was to become a writer for National Geographic or at the very least write about nature. I`d say my current job comes pretty close to accomplishing that goal. As for the first one, I still love dancing any time I can, even if it isn`t on the big stage (see #1.).
  7. One of my favourite foods is fondue - can`t beat melted cheese! Then again, I love pretty much any cheese, which is why I could never be a vegan.
  8. My favourite books as a little girl were Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess, The Wind in the Willows and any of the Nancy Drew series.
  9. I have often broken into laughing hysterics for minutes at a time - the belly-aching, tear-jerking, gasping kind of laugh - simply because of something silly.
  10. I love my husband because he brings out the child in me, gives me pep talks before a big race, makes me laugh like no one else can, believes in me and has a big, warm, loving heart.
  11. I have a love-hate relationship with running, but I love to run fast to good songs - the kind of run where you feel like you`re floating on air.
Losetheshoes` questions for me:

1) What is your favorite color?
Not fair - there are too many! I love earthy colours - burgundy, red, green, purple, brown...

2) Would you rather run up a hill or down a hill?
Downhill, skipping all the way and whirling my arms. But there`s no question that running up a hill during a race and knowing that your hill training has paid off is also a great feeling.

3) Would you rather make millions doing something you disliked or struggle at something yoou love?
The latter, for sure! I took a 15% pay cut from my last job for that very reason. I love my job, even if I know I`ll never make millions at it!

4) Would you rather workout with Jillian Michaels or Bob Harper?
Good question - they`re both really tough on their teams. To be honest, I`d love to have a chance to work out with either of them for even just an hour, to learn some of their tricks and tips and to mix up my workout regimen.

5) If you could be in one place in the world right now, where would it be?
In my house with my husband in Halifax, sharing a bottle of Blomidon Winery`s Seyval Blanc with some Foxhill Cheese House cumin gouda and a freshly baked baguette.

6) Would you rather downhill ski or water Ski?
Downhill ski - I`ve only ever waterskied first. Although if it was summer, I`d rather water ski.

7) If you could be drawn into one cartoon which one would it be?
The Simpsons, without a doubt - my husband constantly tells me how much I remind him of Lisa Simpson.

8) what child would you be off Willa Wonka and the Chocolate factory?
I have no idea!

9) Would you rather a dream truck or a Dream car?
Dream car (a silver convertible Porsche 911) - this is a generalization but I find that truck drivers (at least in Halifax) tend to be really aggressive and bad drivers.

10) If you could stay in shape without working out would you enjoy that?
No - working out is part of my life, and I love the feeling of accomplishment I get after a good workout. Gotta love those endorphins!

11) Would you rather be President of the biggest company in the world or start your own within its shadow?
The second. I have no delusions of grandeur and am happy living my life on my terms.

The rules for this meme

1. Post these rules.
2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
3. Answer the questions set for you in your tagger's post.
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
5. Go to their blogs and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. No stuff in the tagging section about "you are tagged if you are reading this." You legitimately have to tag 11 people!

My tags:

  1. Forever in Running Shoes
  2. Forty 4 Change
  3. I`m an adrenaline junkie
  4. Live Run Love Yoga
  5. Runner`s Rambles
  6. Runnergirl Training
  7. How to climb a volcano (and other fitness exploits)
  8. Mr. Durwin
  9. What Lies Within
  10. A life-changing journey
  11. With Bite
My questions for my taggees:
  1. What is your favourite colour?
  2. Would you rather run a short distance fast, or a long distance slow?
  3. Would you rather make millions doing something you disliked or struggle at something you love?
  4. Would you rather work out with Jillian Michaels or Bob Harper?
  5. If you could be in one place in the world right now, where would it be?
  6. Would you rather dance in the rain or run in the snow?
  7. If you could be drawn into one cartoon, which one would it be?
  8. What are your favourite books of all time?
  9. Beer, or wine?
  10. What are your favourite running shoes?
  11. Cat, or dog?