Friday, January 30, 2015

so you want to do a winter marathon?

When I signed up for the Dopey Challenge, my main thought was "I'm going to have to train through a Colorado winter".  The thought of running miles upon miles in the snow - or worse - treadmill was more intimidating than the race itself.

Now that I'm on the other side of my marathon, I'm happy to report that I had a ton of fun training.  Even in the snow.

Here's what I did to survive enjoy my winter marathon training:

1. Get a buddy.  You don't have to be running the same distance/time.  My training buddy and I would meet up at least weekly, and always for our long runs.  Some days we had the same distance, other days were different.  On the days our plans were different, one of us would start earlier and meet the other for the later part of the run.  Meeting a friend on the back part of your run gives you something to look forward to and helps keep your mind off fatigue.

my running buddy (and some big horn sheep)
2. Have a few good routes to run on that are "safe" when its snowy or icy.  We ran at Waterton Canyon or Highline Canal pretty regularly, mainly because they were plowed.  It also helps that these  routes were long and pretty and had good bathroom access along the way.

view from Highline, right before the snow hit
Waterton with snow.  And my headphone cord.
3. Alternate your running routes so you don't get bored.

4. Don't be afraid to try new routes!  Be adventurous and go explore!  We tried a few new routes.  One was hard (but pretty).  That was the Santa Fe Trail that connects Palmer Lake to Colorado Springs.  Running at 7200 ft elevation (and running downhill, only to turn around and run back uphill) was a bit of a challenge!

Our other adventure turned out to be my favorite run of the entire winter.  We had a 3:30 run and it was going to snow, so for grins, I mapped out 16 miles entirely inside the boundary of Cherry Creek State Park, just to see if we could do it.  It was gorgeous and we had the place to ourselves.

love this photo.  running next to the dam
5. Don't be afraid to bribe yourself with treats after your long runs.  We frequently went to get pho afterwards (tasty + salty + warm) and one time I did treat myself to Voodoo Doughnuts.  It was delicious.

6. Get good gear.  At a minimum I suggest:

  • capris
  • tights
  • trail shoes (for running in snow - traction and a bit of added water protection)
  • regular running shoes (for obvious reasons)
  • wool socks that go above your ankles (these keep you warm even when your feet are wet)
  • a few good long sleeve shirts as layers
  • lightweight wind and waterproof jacket
  • beanie
  • light gloves
  • hydration pack (for hydration and to stash layers if you get warm)

7.  Don't forget to eat and drink.  Even though its cold, you still need to hydrate.  On really cold runs, I mixed my hydration mix (Osmo) with hot water and put it in insulated water bottles.  They didn't stay warm, but they didn't freeze either.

8. If its too cold, don't be a hero.  Go hit the treadmill.  A few winters back, it was in the single digits and I had to do a long run, so I thought I was all bad ass and layered up and went running.  Running was fine.  After was bad.  I've got asthma and the cold air (even with my ski balaclava) burned my lungs, making it hard to breathe for the following week.  Now my rule is to go hit the treadmill if it is colder than 20.  Fortunately, the longest run I had to do on the tready was a 1:30 run.  I'm pretty sure there would be not a whole lot of nice things to write about if I had to do my 3:30 run inside at the gym....

There's my basic tips for winter marathon training success.  I had so much fun that I'm considering doing another one next year.

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