Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What I wore

The DC area has been hit by another cold snap this week, resulting in frigid temperatures that rival the north.  Yesterday morning, the air temperature for our workout was 15 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of -5.

I try not to complain too much about the cold (though I do whine some).  For one thing, I believe that the more you whine about the weather, the worse you perceive it.  And running-wise, I much prefer 15 degrees to 80 degrees and humid - I find it much easier to breathe in the former.

Plus, I have running friends in New Hampshire and Minnesota and other such places, and I really can't complain in any medium that they might be reading (though I do want to note that yesterday it was actually colder in DC than it was in Duluth, Minnesota).

However, without whining, I do want to note that it was cold yesterday.  Colder than it's been for about a year.  Which means it's been a year since I dressed for these conditions.  Which means that I was rummaging through my closet early that morning, trying to remember what I wore last year.

And so, I am now going to document what I wore, and what worked very well for me.  This may help others; I know it will help me in a year's time.

You can click on this to expand it.  As you can see
artfully arranging things for nice blog pictures is not in my skill set.
First, a picture:

A) thick headband
B) snowboarding mittens
C) clear lens sunglasses
D) sportsbra
E) tights
F) thick longsleeve
G) compression shorts
H) running jacket
I) disposable handwarmers
J) petroleum jelly
K) thin socks
L) "anklewarmers"

And next, the description.  I do want to note that my personal thermostat is a bit wonky, due to some autoimmune/circulation issues.  I tend to be very cold when I'm still, but warm up rapidly when I run.  Furthermore, my core tends to overheat, while my extremities stay very cold.  So, the balance I've struck here may not work for all.

For my lower half,

I wear compression shorts (G) underneath a pair of fitted running tights that are not super tight (E).  For workouts, I've found I prefer looser tights that let my legs to move more freely than compression tights allow. 

I layer the compression shorts under the tights to make sure my hamstrings stay warm, given my past history of injury there.

For my feet/ankles,

I wear very thin socks (K), and then homemade "anklewarmers" (L) to cover the gap between my tights and socks.  It may seem surprising that I don't wear thicker socks, but my cold feet stem from lack of circulation, and thick socks crammed into shoes just make things worse.  The pounding from running does a good job of warming up my feet and keeping the blood flowing, so I just deal with numb toes for the first 10 minutes and then I'm fine.

Close-up of the anklewarmers
(my cellphone camera ain't great)
I made the anklewarmers by taking a cheap pair of thick tube socks and cutting off the foot.  (I made a second pair from cutting the toes off of the remaining foot).  I have a history of tendon issues in my ankles, and I've found that keeping the gap between socks and tights covered and warm is essential to avoiding injury.  This is why you will never see me wear capri tights - because they cover my knees (which rarely have any issue with the cold) while exposing my sensitive ankles.  Right fabric, wrong place.

For my upper body,

I wear a sportsbra (D), and then one of my thicker longsleeve t-shirts (F) (white, because we're running on streets in the dark).  While warming up for the first mile or two, I'll layer a running jacket (H) on top - that jacket gets shed before any hard running. 

If I'm just running easy mileage, I'll go with a tanktop instead of sportsbra, plus just the running jacket without longsleeve.  Longsleeve+running jacket works well for the first few miles of a run, but I'll be massively overheated by the end of 8-10 miles.

For my hands,

I wear snowboarding mittens (B).  The snowboarders and skiers really are the experts when it comes to dressing for winter conditions - I really don't understand why most runners limit themselves to running gloves.  In my experience, the cheapest snowboarding mitten is more durable and warmer than the priciest running glove.  Plus, manual dexterity is not important to running, so there's no specialized function inherent to a running glove.

(Seriously, why do we need separated fingers?  Other than to flip off motorists?  Which actually is a pretty good reason, come to think of it.)

Within the mittens, I carry disposable handwarmers (I).  I swear by these - they make a massive difference and really don't cost much in the broader scheme of things.  By my math, seven pairs of handwarmers costs less than one cup of coffee from Starbucks, and keeps my hands a lot warmer over a week.  Plus many types of handwarmers can be "suspended" by sealing them in an airtight bag between runs, so that you get two or three runs out of a pair.

For my head,

This one's easy - thick headband to cover my ears (A), and petroleum jelly (J) glopped on my face. Trust me, don't apply it, glop it.  The thicker the better. 

I religiously use the petroleum jelly any time the temperature drops below 40, or it's windy, or it's raining - it protects my face from the elements.  I've tried balaclavas, but generally am not a fan - I don't like breathing through them.

I prefer the headband over a beanie or similar because it works better with my ponytail.  I know some beanies have ponytail holes cut within them, but the opening never aligns with my ponytail.  Additionally, beanies never stay in place on my head, while headbands generally do.  Factoring into this decision is the fact that my long hair already provides some natural insulation - only my ears need protection, not my scalp.


So, how did it work?  Pretty well. I was cold for the first mile of my warm-up, and then fine.  I shed the jacket after warming up, and was cold for the first repeat, and then fine thereafter.  By the end of the workout, I was barely starting to break a sweat, which tells me I got it right.  I didn't want to be cold, but it would be worse to start sweating and then REALLY get chilled.

The one thing that didn't work was my sunglasses with untinted lenses (C).  I wore these yesterday morning in hopes that they would protect my eyes from the wind.  However, I found that even the clear lenses interfered unacceptably with my night vision - preventing me from seeing the details of the road.  Additionally, they kept fogging up.  They ended up with a free ride on top of my head for the workout.

One thing not in the picture above, but essential nonetheless, was a sense of humor.  If you can manage to laugh, just a bit, at the absurdity of it all, you'll find the air is less biting.  And good running buddies are key also, as they make wonderful wind blocks, both physical and mental.

1 comment:

  1. You are my temperature soul mate! I have the same Reynaud's issues. Surprisingly, I can run in 10 degrees with thin socks and my feet are fine, but put me in a 65 degree room, and they turn blue. I also love your advice on the snowboarding mittens. I haven't tried those--- I use Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves under Brooks heavy convertible mittens, with two pairs of handwarmers for each hand. Are your pants heavy? Fleece lined? I find that my butt and quads get really cold.