January 2017 - RUNNING & WALKING
Be Your Own Hero This Winter
By Laura Clark
There are some folks, like me, who live for winter; others have to be convinced. The ubiquitous quote, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes,” is the tipping point. If you are outfitted appropriately, less than ideal weather is a minor annoyance, and not a game changer.
The trick is to select the correct gear to brave the winter with confidence. Ever wonder why there are so many variations on a common theme? For the same reason there are a bewildering plethora of running shoes; no one model suits all. Before Christmas I eagerly anticipate the mail order catalogs and enjoy pouring over all the exciting gear, guaranteed to make me run more comfortably, and perhaps even faster. I try not to look at the prices. While a three digit figure is not unreasonable for equipment that will make a bitter cold snow adventure doable, I want to make sure the item is the right fit, and be able to debate pros and cons with a knowledgeable expert right there in the heat of the moment.
That is when the soon-to-become hackneyed phrase “Buy Local” assumes significance. We are fortunate that we have a variety of running stores here in the Capital Region and Adirondacks.
Road runners among you should check out iRun Local (irunlocal.com) in Saratoga Springs. Owners Jamie and Anthony Mastroianni urge the Christmas tree approach to winter darkness with traditional reflective vests supplemented by LEDs, especially lights that blink on and off, to get the attention of distracted drivers. Tops in this category would be the Amphipod Xinglet Flash LED vest with front and back lights. Black diamond headlamps are another mandatory item. And consider expanding this tactic to those non-dusk hours when snow and fog also limit visibility. To ensure against slipping on nearly invisible black ice, Jamie recommends slip-on Kahtoola Nano Spikes for added traction.
“If you’d prefer not to sport a ski mask on your friendly neighborhood run, we understand,” Jamie quips. “The more hip and effective accessory is a balaclava… acting as a hat, scarf and face shield all in one.” My problem areas are hands and feet, and for these appendages Jamie suggests Under Armour gloves lined with ColdGear infrared heating material, and the Swiftwick latest MAXUS sock with maximum cushioning.
If you prefer to heighten you winter adventures, Barbara Gillen of Fleet Feet Sports (fleetfeetalbany.com) with Albany and Malta branches, recommends Dion Snowshoes – handcrafted in North Bennington, Vt. – customized with your choice of interchangeable cleats and bindings. Now is the time to ditch those faithful sweatpants that get you tough guy points but little else. To remain toasty warm despite snow kick-up, try Mizumo Breath Thermo apparel which features synthetic active wear that reacts to moisture when you perspire to generate warmth, as well as merino wool offerings from Adidas and Icebreaker – and any Scandinavian brand, such as Craft and women’s specific Kari Traa. For your pre-ski or snowshoe warmups, Barbara suggests Saucony Peregrine Ice, a trail shoe with a unique slip resistant outsole. Or, secure the Saucony Razor with attached gaiter to your Dion Snowshoes for a dry foot experience.
I am still somewhat old school and cling to my no frills trail shoes incased in mountain bike booties. For Planet Bike neoprene shoe covers, see Tone Ferradino at Spa City Bicycleworks (spacitybicycleworks.com) in Saratoga Springs, or another advertising bike shop in your area. Bring your shoes to Spa City and Tone will ensure the proper fit for a fraction of what you would pay online.
When temperatures hit the single digits, hydration may be the farthest thing from your mind, but for expeditions over an hour, it is not a good idea to rely on snow cones. For that matter, I can’t tell you how many times I have headed out for an hour’s exploration only to find that haphazard directional choices led me far astray. Not that I was actually lost… just temporarily spatially disoriented.
One of the coldest snowshoe races I have completed is Jeremy Drowne’s Cock-A-Doodle-Shoe in Saranac, coming up January 15. Since Jeremy, Shannon and Matt Drowne own Kinetic Running (kineticrunning.net) in Plattsburgh, I figured they would be experts in keeping your hydration system from turning into a solid block of ice – short of resorting to the St. Bernard brandy-in-the-keg approach. Sure enough, Jeremy suggested insulated pouches for hydration bladders, as well as purchasing a neoprene sleeve for the hose. Check out their CamelBak insulated drink tubes for winter.
If you are making do with a non-insulated variety of anti-freeze, Jeremy advises prefilling with hot water, blowing your warm breath into the nozzle before you drink, and tucking the hose into your clothing. I have had success with the Mazama Sidestream waist pack, featuring a retractable hose system. For added insulation, the entire pack fits comfortably underneath your jacket.
Finally, with the 2017 World Snowshoe Championships 10K & 5K on February 15 in Saranac Lake, Gail Joseph and Bob Tysen of the Fallen Arch (thefallenarch.com) in Lake Placid anticipate lots of last-minute gear emergencies. More than that, as longtime snow and endurance sports enthusiasts, they are willing to share many tricks of the trade. For example, to combat “snow butt” – a chilling condition resulting from kicked-up snow – they suggest Brooks Seattle Shell jacket, which runs a little longer than most. Or, for a low-tech solution, simply wear a pair of shorts over your tights or don a tight-fitting triathlon short underneath.
For keeping feet dry, they suggest Brooks models with Gore-Tex bonded to the inside of the shoe, or the La Sportiva Cross Over GTX with an attached gaiter. If you favor flasks for hydration and nutrition, go with the new soft flasks as they have less tendency to freeze. And finally, Bob reminds cell phone users to stash their phones under their clothes to prevent battery drain.
After this primer, you should be all set for your heroic wintertime adventures. And what better reward than some downtime before a roaring fireplace, with a hot drink, and a good book. For something more interesting than yet another “run your best marathon” handbook, continue the hero theme with actual Greek heroes. Following up on Rick Riordan’s middle grade Percy Jackson Series, are two stellar picks: Christopher McDougall, author of the blockbuster, Born to Run, presents his latest, Natural Born Heroes, and ultrarunner Dean Karnazes offers his The Road to Sparta.
In Natural Born Heroes, Chris McDougall explores an obscure but pivotal slice of history, how a band of ordinary citizens became Greek Resistance fighters to delay Hitler’s Stalingrad campaign by kidnapping a German general, and evading thousands of German troops. Chris leaves the research library on an odyssey to discover what makes a hero. His journey takes him foraging for weeds with a ballerina in Brooklyn, scrambling over rooftops with a London parkour group, and clambering across Crete cave-by-cave to recreate the heroes’ path.
In a long-overdue attempt to rediscover his roots, Dean Karnazes’ The Road to Sparta tackles the 153-mile Spartahlon, tracing Pheidippides’ 36-hour journey to enlist Spartan aid in the impending Persian attack against Athens. Disappointingly, Dean discovers that – unlike the Cretian resistance route – due to modern highways, Pheidippides’ path can never be truly reconstructed. Nevertheless, during his journey, Dean gets inside the mind of this ancient ultrarunner, whose victory rescued Athens, thus safeguarding the development of Western civilization – and leaving us with the 26.2-mile marathon!
So this winter, fortified with the right gear and some inspirational reading, get out there and become your own hero!
Laura Clark (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Saratoga Springs is an avid trail runner, ultramarathoner, snowshoer and cross-country skier. She is a children’s librarian at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.