November 2017 - RUNNING & WALKING
Creative Winter Running
By Laura Clark
After the feathers have settled from the November turkey trots, many runners stash their sneakers until spring. Colder temperatures, lack of daylight, and holiday obligations all threaten good intentions. This year, why not turn your leftovers into planned-overs? A between-season respite is just what the coach ordered to refresh your mind/body outlook. Enjoy your holiday celebrations guilt-free, but just be prepared to resume action afterwards.
For me, the looming obstacles are lack of daylight and hunting season. Research before you don your trail shoes. While the Saratoga Spa State Park is totally safe, the DEC manages some of the trails at Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park, so make sure you know which ones. The Saratoga (Battlefield) National Historical Park’s woods are hunter-free, but not the adjacent land. Speeding bullets do not respect property lines, so besides wearing orange, make sure you are in a buffer zone.
To beat the darkness, I head for the Saratoga Spa State Park before work. The commute buys me daylight running time and preplanning mostly ensures that I arrive at work with a sufficient change of clothes. In really nasty weather, a group of coworkers and I head for the stairs. A half-hour of dedicated stair climbing provides a serious “bang for your buck,” and the competition relieves the monotony. You may even learn something. Last year my friend and I discovered that a steady pace guaranteed us more flights per minute than an early rush followed by untold suffering. This will also help you train for the Cystic Fibrosis Stair Climb at Albany’s Corning Tower on February 24, 2018.
Many local running groups like the Saratoga Stryders host weeknight runs on local streets, but while there is safety in numbers, there is also danger that the magical thinking inherent in pack mentality can make you complacent. Run single file, allowing cars plenty of space to get out of your way, should they skid on an icy patch. Opt for the Christmas tree effect and see how many reflective items you can decorate yourself with. Even in winter-gray daytime, it doesn’t hurt to run with a headlamp, whose motion will alert distracted drivers to your presence.
To do this, take full advantage of your local running store. James O’Connor of Fleet Feet Sports in Albany (and Malta), comments that, “Various apparel pieces and shoes are now integrating chameleon reflectivity that lights up the night when light hits the apparel or shoes.” He recommends Amphipod’s reflective vest, more of a harness really, without the annoying flapping sides of the netted variety, integrated with front and back flashing LEDs. Top off your ensemble with Night Runner 270 LED shoe lights. Imagine a single file line of running buddies all outfitted with flashing footwear. Pretty difficult for a driver to ignore!
Jamie Mastroianni, co-owner of iRun Local in Saratoga Springs, suggests the Craft 2.0 hood jacket, boasting 360-degree visibility. For decorations, select from the store’s wide range of flashing accessories.
We all know overdressing causes sweating, which produces chills and misery. But what to do when you are waiting at a starting line in frigid weather? For my snowshoe races, I swear by hand warmers. These little furnaces trick your mind into believing it is not really that cold. Plus, they can be stashed once you feel comfortable.
For extreme temperatures, warm base layers such as Heat Holders microfleece thermal are a good option for warmth and breathability. Layering is highly recommended for cold weather outdoor running. As you warm up, you can take off a top layer to fling off or tie around your waist.
For icy roads and trails, I prefer ice spikes. Screw these into a dedicated pair of sneakers and you will avoid the clunkiness of slip-on traction devices. They are more in tune with your natural gait and you will avoid that “walking on stilts” feeling.
Despite any number of creative fixes there will come a point when motivation sags. The best cure is to lighten the darkness with some short-term winter goals, leading up to your spring target events.
Make a weekend of it and sample the ultra experience at the sixth annual Fleet Feet 24 Hour Fight Against Hunger on Friday-Saturday, November 17-18 from 3pm to 3pm. Participants run a safe one-mile loop outside Fleet Feet Sports in Albany, and will be awarded a raffle ticket for apparel, shoes, race entries and accessories upon completion of each loop. Organizers emphasize that “this event is for all people, groups, and families interested in helping a valuable community resource, the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.” Uniquely, this is a choose-your-own adventure event where you can choose to put in an hour or two, run/walk all 24 hours as an individual or relay team, or run/shower/sleep and then return the next day. New this year, the celebration is bookended by a Friday Night Happy Hour from 4-6pm and a Saturday breakfast from 7-9am. (fleetfeetalbany.com)
Bring on the Christmas spirit with Adirondack Runners’ 4-Mile Reindeer Run & 1-Mile Jr. Reindeer Run at SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury on Sunday, December 3. Note that the start times have changed with Reindeer Jr kids’ fun run at 9:10am and the main event at 9:30am, so that adult runners will be able to cheer on the younger reindeers. According to race director Lance Decker, “The course is not really hilly. The first two miles are mostly flat and then the last two just have gradual uphill grades.” This is your opportunity to update your holiday wardrobe as festive reindeer long sleeved T-shirts are available to the first 150 runners. (active.com)
If holiday plans have so far derailed your good intentions, jumpstart your New Year’s resolutions at the 20th anniversary First Night Saratoga 5K, launching from the Skidmore College campus in Saratoga Springs at 5:30pm on Sunday, December 31. Definitely worthy of a momentum-setting effort, this moderately challenging course follows a gentle campus uphill with a tour of festive neighborhood homes, ending with a final push up North Broadway and back onto campus. Limited to 1,500 runners, this race will sell out, so register early! And remember to order your First Night Saratoga entertainment buttons at the same time to receive a $5 discount. New this year is the opportunity to link your efforts with Leukemia & Lymphoma’s Team in Training to fundraise for blood cancer patients. (saratoga-arts.org)
Overachievers can double their resolution credits at the Hudson-Mohawk Road Runners Club’s Hangover Half Marathon & Bill Hogan 3.5-Miler circling the University at Albany and state government office buildings on New Year’s Day. Commencing at high noon, ostensibly to take advantage of the warmest part of the day, the sleep-in start effectively eliminates late-night party excuses. The roads are largely flat, punctuated by the occasional gradual hills. Like other races in the winter series, registration is day-of only and free for HMRRC members. (hmrrc.com)
And finally, do extend your winter creativity to snowshoe running. You will get a low-impact, high-intensity workout in the whiter, brighter woods – away from the stress of treadmills and icy roads. You will return in the spring in top shape and ready to tackle new challenges. See the Calendar of Events and read the upcoming December issue for more information. For more details, visit dionwmacsnowshoe.com. Many venues remain the same, with some new surprises.
And remember, winter is not a chore, but an opportunity!
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.