This week’s big weekend run was cut short, rather irritatingly, due to frozen roads. This cost me roughly four miles so it was still a substantial run and easily the longest of my week. I was annoyed at having to reduce my mileage but the map for my weekend run should illustrate that the main hill, Crown Point in Burnley is a pretty remote, intense climb and it is also a place where idiots like to drive their cars at unbelievable speeds. There is no street lighting, no police presence and it is an open country road operating under the UK national speed limit (60 MPH). In short, a frozen road added to those complications is asking for trouble and as such it is a death trap. Cutting my run short was the only sensible option. Had I known that it would be so cold I would have rearranged the run to do 11-12 miles over a different route, but we all would do things differently with 20/20 hindsight I am sure.
The temperature last night I estimate to have been around -3 so it was very cold. I have spent time in the Arctic Circle at -37 so that is a little perspective for you there, however for running this is serious injury territory if one simply trots off out in a pair of shorts and a jacket. I have been studying the art of layering and this is something that is very important to a distance runner (a term I was surprised to learn means anyone who regularly runs over 3 miles – that does not seem too much to me). To be succinct; cold muscles get damaged very easily and so last night I had only one option: Spandex.
Okay, I am joking. I didn’t don Spandex last night, however decades of cycling in all manner of weather conditions has taught me a lot about how to manage the human body in extreme environments. I am sure it will surprise nobody to learn that the most important principle of keeping warm and injury free is to wear many thin layers rather than woolly clothes or what have you. The top half of the body is relatively simple to do. Wear a base layer, then a running top, then another if you can, then a windproof jacket. That is simple enough. The challenge here is to close off any holes where air can enter and for that I recommend one of the best inventions ever: a snood. Not just any old snood mind, I wear a children’s snood because they are tight and can be pulled up over the face and they will not slide down. This combined with my hat can reduce my exposed face to a slit for my eyes. When I run I wear on-ear headphones for music or podcasts so they clamp the hat onto my head. There isn’t a herd of wild horses that could get through my warmth armour on the top half of my body.
The bottom half is more interesting, and here one must be prepared to look like a bit of a prat. Layered legs have to be aerodynamic which means skin-tight (and I do mean TIGHT) clothing. I have previously cycled and run in subzero temperatures wearing shorts and whilst I never suffered serious injury, in retrospect I have to admit that this was stupid. It no doubt contributed to a good few niggling pains and stretched recovery times. Neither are painful in extremis but they are annoying and can be chronic. So, the solution? One of the best inventions EVER. Layer one for the legs must be compression tights. They cling to and squeeze the muscle, keeping blood flow at the surface and therefore muscles stay warm. Over that I wear my cycling long johns which are essentially running trousers with saddle padding in the crotch. I must get around to getting a pair without the pads. They are the same thing but the padding can be annoying and feels like a nappy, which is not ideal. I stress here that the worst thing to wear would be tracksuit bottoms. They flap in the air and reduce your speed. You will waste a great deal of energy and your running rhythm will be completely out of sync. Yes, you will look ridiculous in tight running trousers but you will be safer, less injury prone and they feel great. Forget form, this is all about function. Tracksuit pants are for recovery or, if racing, arriving and leaving.
Today is my rest day. Tomorrow is my 43(ish) mile round trip to university on the bike so I’ll be posting that tomorrow evening.