About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I spend countless hours running in the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, TX. I call it "going to church". I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Running Cold

Oberammergau, Germany
Are you a fair weather runner?  Not me. I’ve been bundling up this week when I venture out for my run. How do you know what to wear when you go out? Most people check the weather forecast to see how cold it will be. After living in Texas for 7 years, I’ve figured out not to look at the temperature.
Yorktown, VA

I’ve been doing this for quite a while and have run in all sorts of weather; scorching sun, 4th of July heat, arctic blasts, snow, rain, lightning, you name it. On a winter hiking trip in Virginia, I suffered superficial frostbite by not wearing proper socks and boots.  In the Bavarian Alps, I became mildly hypothermic in July. 
It was raining and windy and I was wearing cotton clothing under a non-breathable rain suit while slogging up a mountain all the time sweating profusely. On the return downward trip, I became chilled to the bone and had symptoms of hypothermia. After realizing the seriousness of my situation, I stopped to don a wool sweater that I was carrying in my pack. I made it back to camp, but shivered in my tent all night.

Did the conditions leading to hypothermia apply to me? According to a Princeton website they are:
              Condition                                                 Applied to me?
  • Cold temperatures                                   Somewhat
  • Improper clothing and equipment         yes
  • Wetness                                                     yes -rain and sweat
  • Fatigue, exhaustion                                 yes -mountain hiking
  • Dehydration                                               maybe a little
  • Poor food intake                                        are Cheetos a vegetable?
  • No knowledge of hypothermia               hypo what?
  • Alcohol intake                                            alcohol in Bavaria?
I learned the hard way (as usual) that cotton shirts and non breathable fabrics do not work for high intensity activities in windy, damp, cool weather. Now I know better and wear wool or synthetic layers to stay warm when I exercise outdoors. Running shorts over tights keep my legs comfy and 2 or 3 layers of polypro shirts keep my torso warm. Breathable Gor-Tex rainwear sometimes comes in handy too.

Proper outdoor wear

As I said before, I don’t only look at the temperature before I go out for a run. I’ve felt just fine on a sunny, calm, zero degree day, and have frozen on a 60 degree, overcast,  windy day. The most undesirable element to run in is the wind. We have a lot of wind in Texas. Dust devils are a common sight and I’ve even seen snowplows clearing tumbleweed jams from roads. Well, that is better than dealing with the snirt that Northerners have on their roads.
Partnachklamm - Garmisch, Germany
Tumbleweed, that symbol of the American West, isn’t even a native plant to these parts, but an exotic introduced from Russia in 1874. Can you believe that? Salsola tragus is also known as Russian thistle or windwitch and one plant can disperse up to 250 thousand seeds thanks to the wind. No wonder it is found in almost every state. On another note, Prairie Tumbleweed Farm sells it on the internet  just in case you were looking for a unique Christmas gift for someone.

Blowing dust helps create beautiful sunsets
Blowing dust is a common weather forecast in the desert southwest. Before I go out, I check the temperature and, equally as important, the wind speed. When it’s really windy I wear my Mountain Hardware windstop soft shell jacket which keeps me toasty while wicking moisture. Don’t let winter’s weather derail your running plans; just dress properly and don’t forget to check the windcast before you leave. 

See you on the trail.

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