Tag Archives: cold weather

Running Cold and Hot (Chocolate)

IT’S GETTING A BIT NIPPY OUT THERE, as they say. Seems like we went from warm sunny evenings to cold and dark just like that. Even had our first snow on Monday. But that doesn’t stop the PR Fitness club. As we’re fond of saying, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just insufficient gear. Tuesday and Wednesday nights were business as usual.

Wednesday night's group at Lululemon. Zip up the warm tech shirts, put on the headlamps and hit the road!

Wednesday night’s group at Lululemon. 34 degrees and dark? Zip up the warm tech shirts, put on the headlamps and hit the road!

Cold weather running actually has a few advantages; for example, hard training like tempo runs and hillwork can be easier. I did both Tuesday night, and I was in no danger of overheating. But I overdressed a bit and got sweaty – not good, since as soon as I slowed down, I was wet and cold. Nothing for it but to keep up the pace to the end.

Wednesday night, by contrast, was a real pleasure from start to finish. We went out for a steady run at a smooth, casual pace. After a hectic day at work, it felt really good to switch off the mind and put the body into cruise control. During the run I talked with Coach Marie about last weekend’s 10K race at the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot. I’d run a good time – not a PR, but decent – and crossed the finish line feeling I’d given it my best. Knowing a friend was a few minutes behind me, I went to get my camera from the car, and found that I was able to run there and back. This actually bothered me. Had I ‘left something on the course’ after all? Not run as hard as I could?

All right, it's not easy to take this race seriously. But I tried.

All right, it’s not easy to take this race seriously. But I tried.

She told me not to worry. Bouncing back quickly after a short race is normal, as the heart rate gets down. For me to keep improving, I need to train the body to maintain a faster pace. In other words, the only way to run faster is to run faster. She said she’ll get to work on more tempo runs and intervals for me. Me and my big mouth.

Here’s another way to deal with the cold weather:


David Leggett | Wikimedia Commons

Chocolate has a longstanding association with runners, and chocolate milk is often touted as the perfect ‘recovery food’ following a race. If so, then the people at the Kona Chocolate Run this Sunday in Plymouth will be in fabulous condition. Runners will get in some healthy morning exercise and celebrate with hot chocolate during and after the run! Sorry, online registration is closed, but a limited number of new slots will become available on Saturday. See the website for details.

If you can’t make it to Plymouth, then go running anyway. And have some chocolate. For anyone in and around Ann Arbor, I can recommend Zingerman’s hot chocolate, which is sans doute the best chocolate I’ve had outside Paris. Take that, winter!


THE 15 DEGREE FORECAST FOR SUNDAY’S RACE TURNED OUT TO BE OPTIMISTIC. When I arrived at the Novi Civic Center for the Super 5K, my car’s thermometer read 9 degrees. I didn’t want to think about the wind chill. And yet over 1,400 runners showed up. That’s the count of finishers, anyway. I’m not sure how many were dug out of snowbanks by the rescue dogs.

25 degrees - that's not so bad! Oh wait, we're still inside...

And this is what people were wearing *inside* to keep warm…

Usually I warm up for a race with a mile or so at an easy pace, followed by some dynamic stretches and a few strides (short sprints). This time I warmed up by huddling inside with everyone else. When the time came, I reluctantly changed into my lighter jacket and briskly walked the quarter mile to the starting line. With the serious runners also shedding their outer gear, there was a lot of jumping in place in the starting chute. After the gun, it took about a half mile to start feeling warm, although my hands and feet never really thawed completely.

Let's get fired up! Woo! Woo! Woo!

Let’s get fired up! Woo! Woo! Woo!

The route, new this year, took us through a nearby subdivision, which helps with traffic control and normally increases the spectator count. But for some reason there weren’t too many this year. Big kudos to the volunteers pointing the way and handing out the Gatorade; running the race was hard enough, but they had to stand in place the entire time.

Now here's motivation! How could I live down losing to a couch potato?

Now here’s motivation! How could I live down losing to a couch potato?

Following a slow start, I finished in 21:22, which I considered respectable for the conditions. As the streets still had a dusting of snow, I’d decided that staying upright took precedence over a record time. My goal had been to place in the top 5 of my age group, and the preliminary results had me at #4. But that evening the final results showed I’d dropped into a tie for sixth, missing out on an award by 3 seconds. Arggh! At least I managed to edge out the lady on the right. Whew!

There are handy excuses, of course – the temperature, the decision to focus on safety over speed, lack of proper warmup, and so on. But I could have run a few seconds faster without knocking myself out. So that’s what it really comes down to – at a certain level of performance, the winners are often those who wanted it more. I was capable of running stronger – probably much stronger – but that day, I didn’t really want to.

So while I’m a bit bummed about the result, it’s got me thinking about my approach to running races. When I started, I had no particular expectations; winning my age group was a fantasy. Now I’m fast enough to compete for a top spot in races from 5K up to 10K. Do I have to lay it all out every time to feel satisfied? If I don’t place well, can I still say that I ran a good race and had fun? If not, then why am I running races at all? Certainly not for fame and fortune. If it’s the personal challenge, then I need to figure out what’s left to prove.

And then there are folks with no competitive worries...

And then there were folks with no competitive worries…

But while I sort out the cosmic stuff, there’s the next race to plan for – the Shamrocks & Shenanigans 5K in Ann Arbor on March 10. Fair warning to everyone in my age group – I’m going to be wanting it this time. Really wanting it.