Running in a winter Wonderland

I have always been a cold weather person.  I can remember back in grade school, when the school year was just getting started in late August/ early September, I would already be digging around for my skis or snowboard and counting the days until the first snowfall.  As I have moved from extreme sports into endurance sports, my outlook on winter has changed somewhat.  And while I currently can't wait for the temperature to rise into any range other than 20-30 degrees, I still have a lingering love for snowy days.

This past week brought the first really cold weather of the 2014/15 winter to the DC metro area: temps in the teens; strong, cold winds; and the first snowfall of the season.  Even I was driven inside on a few occasions when I had planned an outdoors workout.  But after the initial storm blew through, and a fresh coating of snow was left on the ground, I did venture out and was able to complete some fantastic runs throughout the week. 

During many of these sessions, my mind began to wonder over all the things that I love, and hate, about running in the winter.  So here is a short list of my top three pros and cons of winter running.

PROs:

1. There is nothing quite like being outdoors during, or right after, a fresh snowfall.  There is a magical quietness that seems to exist only when all the local critters, including people, seem to know that now it a time that they should be tucked away inside their home where it is warm. 

2. Running in snow is a great way to work on your running form.  Keeping your steps light and quick and having your weight balanced are critical when running in the winter.  Throw in a little ice and any sloppy mechanics are brought to light very quickly.  Plus, the additional focus on your footing that you need to maintain is great mental training for staying in the moment.

3.Like I said before, I'm a cold weather person.  I start to sweat when the temperature reaches the high 60s.  When I throw on some thermals, a good pair of gloves, and hit the trails 35 degrees feels pretty darn good.

CONs:

1. Fresh snow is fantastic for running.  You get a little extra cushion under foot, when it's cold enough you don't have to worry about your toes getting wet, and you get that unique crunch noise as the snow packs under your weight.  BUT, after a few days of being trod on, that same magic carpet becomes a pock marked field of ankle death.  After a run this weekend through the Sligo Creak trail, I had achy muscles in my lower legs that I didn't know previously existed.  Guess I need to work on my foot plant.

2. The last few winters I have acquired the habit of growing a winter beard with the mindset that it will protect my delicate cheeks from harsh winter winds.  However, I have also become more prone to the dreaded "beard-cicle".  For those of you unawares to this phenomenon, the warm air being exhaled quickly freezes on the surrounding facial hair leading to small icicles to form.  i won't even get into the nose drainage issues.

3. Doing multiple workouts per week training for triathlons already leads to bi-weekly laundry loads in my house.  Maybe three every 14 days.  During the winter months, this number is pushed to the max with all the additional clothing that one must dawn in order to venture out into the cold.  Next to the bigger bill from the heating company, I am pretty sure I am doing my fair share in purchasing a few new BMWs for the execs at Pepco.

So keep your toes warm, your beards ice free, and I will see you out on the snowy trails.