The Runner's Reward

Monday, January 25, 2016

Winter Run Fun: Training in the Cold

Sure the winter isn't always the best time to run.  We have less daylight, cold temperatures, and for me a pervasive laziness/ love affair with my couch and blankets. The Pittsburgh Marathon and summer race season is much closer than it seems at the present so here are a few ideas to kick your training into gear:

1. Get some reflective gear and winter running gear.  If it isn't icy out you can still run in this cold weather. Once you spend the money on the gear you'll be less likely to back out of using it.

When testing new winter gear make sure to stay close to home or some place you can warm up if things aren't working out!

This past weekend I ran at North Park on both trails and road. It was 6 degrees with a negative windchill and I had started before sunrise. Here is how I ran safely in these conditions:

Gear check from the bottom up!

Feet: 1 pair of thin Pearl Izumi socks, 1 pair of wool Darn Tough socks, Brooks Cascadia shoes.

Legs:  Moisture wicking underwear, insulated tights, Saucony Siberius pants (good and bulky, they cut the windchill down to nada)

Torso: Nike Hyperwarm long sleeve (or similar insulated moisture-wicking base layer),  3/4 zip tech long sleeve , and an Asics vented jacket.

Head: Fleece neck gaiter with moisture wicking hood, beanie cap, ninja face mask, snow goggles. The neck gaiter and mask came off after a few miles, but it's better to have it and not need it than vice versa. I also used a headlamp until after sunrise.

Hands: Manzella wind-block mittens and handwarmers.

FYI: most handwarmers are good for 8-12 hours once activated,  If you put them in a wind block mitten where there is no free oxygen access they will only last for about 2 hours.

Pack: I wore an Ultimate Direction PB Adventure vest which has plenty of room for extra dry clothes, water, and nutrition. Plus it is another layer on your back and can do wonders to help keep you warm.
Warm Tony is Happy Tony

Keeping your water in liquid form in these temps is no easy task. Some hopefully helpful hints:

Use an electrolyte beverage like Hammer Heed. The electrolytes (salts) lower the freezing temperature of water and can help keep your beverage from turning into a solid.

Using an extra pack of handwarmers to keep around your bottle(s). However, be warned! I did this using a Salamon soft flask the other day and the plastic was blackened. It did not melt, but it was discolored.

Always carry a few dollars with you. If your route takes you by a store you can warm up and get some liquid refreshment.

Cell phone:  For obvious safety reasons try and carry a phone. However, once the phone gets too cold it will shutdown.  A friend shared a fix for this. A beer coozie! Put your phone in it and then keep it on an inside pocket.  In a pinch I have placed my phone under my tights against my buttcheek to warm it back up enough to turn back on!

After 12 hard miles, 4 of which were at tempo effort on snow covered trails, I had a serving of Hammer Recoverite as I always do after a long run and then treated myself to some eats and hot coffee at the OTB Cafe. Breakfast tacos....oh you lovely little things. mmmmmmmm

2. If it is too icy or frigid out hit the treadmill and/or gym for some crosstraining. If you do not feel safe running in wintry conditions then don't.  There are other ways to keep your training on track.

Though I am no fan of treadmill running it is a great option to stay on track. If the weather is too miserable to run in I'll head over to Planet Fitness for an hour or two of treadmiles and crosstraining.

In lieu of treadmill running I often opt to do the elliptical, arc trainer, stationary bike, and stairclimber which covers most of the leg muscles and top it off with some low rows / seated rows, and ab work. Hip abductor, adductor, and glute muscle machines are also among my favorites.

Lately, I have been lax in crosstraining and doing only 30 minutes worth per week.  One of my goals is to increase that.  If you want to run your best and reduce the chance of injury and good crosstraining regimen is worth it's weight in gold.

3. Friends! Get some crazy friends to go out there with you! Hardship is always more bearable with good company. Beyond bearable you might just find you are having fun!

Getting out there with Pittsburgh local running groups is always a good time. I run with the Steel City Road Runners, North Park Trail Runners, Elite Runners and the Runderful crew. Stop in your local running store to find out what groups are in your area and join in on the group run fun.

The end of January is here. We only have a couple more months of colder temperatures and soon after that it will be Marathon Day here in the Burgh! Keep your eyes on the prize and above all stay safe out there! Happy Training!


I just got word that I was accepted as an ambassador for Hammer Nutrition! I couldn't be happier to be a part of the team whose products have treated me so well over the past couple years of training and racing!

Use my code: 255648 on your Hammer orders for 15% off!

Friday, January 15, 2016

The 2016 Plan

Here we are! A new year, new goals, and a new plan to achieve those goals. After last year's training wrapped up I gave myself a month off which consisted of low volume, easy effort running. The first three weeks I ran 15-20 miles per week and on the fourth week 25 miles. 2015 was a great year for me.  I ran 3 marathons and 3 ultras with big PR's in both the marathon and 50k format. Also, I ran my first 50 miler at Burning River.

For 2016 I am determined to run further than I ever believed I could.  On December 14th I began training building upon the work put in in 2015. 

This year's goals for the summer are straightforward:

1. Run the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail Ultra (LHHT). The race follows the trail end to end starting in Ohiopyle and ending near Johnstown. All told it is 70.5 miles through the beautiful mountains of western Pennsylvania.

2. Run the Burning River 100 miler. After running the BR 50 last year I was bit by the distance bug and the supportive ultrarunning community. I am fundraising for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for this race. If you feel so inclined you can donate here:

The path to completing these goals revolves around putting in a lot of quality miles and crosstraining. My first phase of training is focusing on strength and base building culminating at the Pittsburgh Marathon.  The day before the marathon I will be running a 26.2 mile training run on trail. The challenge very well could be completing the Pittsburgh Marathon within the time allotment.

After the marathon there will be a 3 week buildup period with more of a speed focus and then right into taper for the LHHT 70.5. From here I plan to take two light weeks to heal up, though it conceivably could be more depending how my body feels.  Then another 3 week mileage buildup followed by tapering for the Burning River 100.

Dick's Sporting Goods Marathon Training Kickoff
On Saturday I attended the marathon training kickoff run hosted by the Steel City Road Runners. Thankfully, the weather was more cooperative than last year. I arrived early to get some miles in before the group run.  After a few miles I met up with Lisa and Seth. Together we ran 5 miles and were back with time to chat with friends and check out the vendors.

I ran 10 miles with the group starting with the 9:30 group. After 3 miles we ran into the 8:00 pace group. They had taken a wrong turn. I jumped on with them to see if I could hold that pace. We ran roughly 8:30s due to some icy spots. By the end of the run it was sunny and mild with temperatures in the 40's. Perfect running weather! Afterwards I picked up a Milestone Pod they were giving away.  The Milestone Pod is a device that laces onto your shoe.  It tracks your mileage, cadence, and footstrike among other things and it does so without GPS.  A very useful device. Plus, you can track your mileage on a leaderboard  here and win prizes just for logging your training miles.

Trail Glory

On Sunday I went to Boyce Park for some trail love. One of the staples of ultramarathon training is the back to back long runs.  Running 50, 60, 70 mile training runs to prepare for a 100 miler just poses to much risk for injury. The safer way is by ramping up mileage on back to backs similar to an increase in long runs for a marathon.  Today I had 10 miles planned. Eventually, the back to backs will increase to a 30 miler Saturday followed by a 25 miler Sunday.

I decided to simply run where I felt when I felt.  No planned route and it was absolutely liberating! Just running free without a care as to pace or direction.  Upon starting winds were gusting at 20-30 mph and soon I found myself in a patch of forest where the trees bent and groaned heavily under the force of the wind. My senses were alive, ever keeping vigilant for trees that could fall.  Many spots in the forest were already littered with branches and downed trees. Freezing rain came down and it was absolutely stunning to see the sunlight reflecting off of the ice like a shimmering curtain.   

Soon, I passed out of this area into sturdier and familiar forest eventually making my way off of the Blue blazes onto the Orange trails leading up to the forest surrounding the Boyce Park Wave Pool.  There was a whipping wind wherever the trail passed an open space.  After this loop I made my way up the winding trails that lead to the top of the ski slopes.

I thought I knew wind. But this...this was much more. Coming out into the open fields topping the ski slopes I was confronted with a wind that literally took my breath away.  I opted for some slight reprieve and to build up some body heat by running down the first ski slope and straight back up it. This side of the slope was sheltered from the winds and the climb up warmed me up fast.  It was less than 1/2 a mile to the tree line and the reprieve of the forest, but it was a long 1/2 mile.  I saw a park employee near the maintenance building. He mentioned that the winds there were steady at 20+ mph with gusts topping 50 mph! Soon I was frozen, but back in the trees.  It didn't take long to warm back up.  I finished the run out on the Cherry Tree Trail.

This past week was a active recovery week. I will be taking one of these every 4 weeks. It is simply a week with lower mileage, easy effort runs with maximum long run distance of 10 miles. Then comes three more weeks of intense training.

15 more weeks until the Pittsburgh Marathon! Game On!!