Category Archives: Tips for Cold Tips

Tips for Cold Tips #10: Toughen Up

In this blog series, I offer tips for cold tips. These tips will save us from treadmill and trainer imprisonment over the winter. 

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“Toughen up, Kendra,” my dad would say to the miserable six-year-old me.

I had graduated from hands-on-knees beelines down the bunny slope to poles-in-hands turns down intermediate terrain. Only I couldn’t grip those poles. Even in the finest windproof-waterproof mittens, my paws would go numb. Oh, the hours I spent huddled in front of the lodge’s fireplace, hands in armpits, willing the color and feeling to return to my fingers.

Luckily for my fingers, I grew up in warm and sunny San Diego where I could lose myself in running without losing my fingers along the way.

But then I left the land of eternal sunshine and moved to the four-seasoned city of Washington, DC. Those numb little fingers that frustrated my dad and forced friendship with the fireplace accompanied me on every run from November to February.

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That is, until I slipped my hands into the masterpiece of a mitten known as the Manzella Run Pro-30.  Applying the skin-on-skin principle that this blog has endorsed in the past, these mittens are ideal for temperatures below 35F.

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I’m feeling pretty tough these days in my Manzella Running Mittens.  In fact, I even ran straight into the polar vortex with these gems. When I returned home, my fingers were as toasty as they would have been on an afternoon jog back in San Diego.

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Enjoy these other Tips for Cold Tips:

#1: Armpit Paninis

#2: Take Off Your Teammate’s Top

#3: Skin on Skin Wins

#4: Borrowing Body Heat in Borneo

#5: A Cozy Cabin For Your Toes

#6: Himalayan Lessons in Hydration

#7: If You’re Playing With Fire

#8: Weather and Wardrobe for Race Day

#9: Out of the Closet

Tips for Cold Tips #9: Out of the Closet

Public Transport in Malaysia

Ecuadorian scarf in the Malaysian capital

In this blog series, I offer tips for cold tips.  These tips will save all of us from treadmill and trainer imprisonment this winter. 

Within the first two minutes of my arrival in Malaysia, I developed hijab envy. All around me, women coordinated dresses with lovely headscarves. Some solid, some print. Some wild. Some muted. Many held in place by highly decorative pins. The Ecuadorian scarf wrapped around my head wasn’t going to cut it in the modern Muslim metropolis of Kuala Lumpur.

Hiking in Ijen Green Headscarf

Hiking in Ijen, Java (Indonesia)

I was trekking through SE Asia on a shoestring budget with a small backpack. I didn’t have money or space for any non-essentials. But it only took one stroll down the streets of KL to recognize that a proper hijab was, indeed, essential. With the help of some locals, I selected a black hijab that coordinated well with all two shirts in my backpack.

KL Headscarf

Looking down on KL from the Petronas Towers

This hijab then paved the way for a delightful trip through Muslim-majority parts of SE Asia. It broke down cultural barriers and began conversations.  In every customs line I passed through–mainland Malaysia, Borneo’s Sabah, the Sultanate of Brunei, Indonesia’s Lombok and Java–I was greeted with a smile.

Brunei Market

How coconut water should taste

But upon my return to Washington, DC, the hijab ended up in the back of my closet. It stayed there for two years. Then last month, after a few frustrating track sessions where my balaclava impeded my breathing and my peripheral vision, I dug out the ol’ hijab. What was fashionable in the Malaysian summer was now practical in the DC winter.

Kgo Hijab Running

Aero-Hijab

The same material that makes the hijab bearable in the heat and humidity of SE Asia, makes it breathable for the runner on a cold day.  The cut provides peripheral vision far superior to my balaclava, as the hijab was designed for women to wear while working or driving. It covers the ears, neck, and chest, but allows the mouth to breathe freely.

Mindy and Kgo Hijab

Kgo and Ko, RPCVs

So am I suggesting that you hop the next plane to Malaysia to get yourself a hijab? Not entirely.

Is this post really about keeping my neck and ears warm on winter runs? Only kind of.

The real point here is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on something fancy to stay warm in the cold. As discovered in a post (click herea few weeks back, what we do have is much more important than what we don’t. There is likely something in your closet that, with a little creativity, could become your new BFF for winter rides and runs. 

When you find it, let us know!

In Your Winter Closet

If you liked this post, check out others in the Tips for Cold Tips series:

#1: Armpit Paninis

#2: Take Off Your Teammate’s Top

#3: Skin on Skin Wins

#4: Borrowing Body Heat in Borneo

#5: A Cozy Cabin For Your Toes

#6: Himalayan Lessons in Hydration

#7: If You’re Playing With Fire

#8: Weather and Wardrobe for Race Day

Tips for Cold Tips #8: Weather and Wardrobe for Race Day

In this blog series, I offer tips for cold tips.  These tips will save all of us from treadmill and trainer imprisonment this winter. 

Forecast: Snow.

In response to last Sunday’s winter weather advisory, a flurry of emails landed in my inbox with contingency training plans. Indoor spin options, reminders to use my best judgment, and the caveat that two inches of snow on the ground means swim practice is cancelled.

Forecast-induced Dreams

But the snow never came.

If planning my training schedule around unreliable winter forecasts is challenging, then making apparel decisions based on that same forecast is a crap shoot.  Balaclava or beanie? One pair of tights or two? Windproof pants or kneewarmers?  My wicking wardrobe choices become even more important in late winter/early spring races when looping back by the house or car to shed a layer is not an option. In my first race of the season, the George Washington Birthday Marathon Relay, I was as stoked on my wardrobe decision as I was on hitting fast times.

This is how I weighed my wardrobe options. Since cold hands (and not feet) are my main concern in winter running, I focused my wardrobe attention on my upper half.

Option 1

Description: Short sleeve technical shirt, long sleeve shirt, mittens

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Even Mr. Rodgers Knows: It’s Annoying to Run with a Shirt Tied around Your Waist

Pros: Being warm at the starting line.

Cons: I double up on core coverage while training in temps below 50, but my body produces more heat while racing. Double shirting in races soaks my base layer with sweat, making that layer feel more like refrigeration than heat insulation.  While it’s appropriate in some races to discard your extra layer on the side of the road, that is not always an option. This race, organized and executed entirely by volunteers, did not have the manpower to send a crew out to collect discards. Tying the long sleeves around my waist wasn’t completely out of the question, but who wants to lug a shirt over 17 miles of rolling hills? Further, the very mittens vital to keeping my fingers warm complicate the mid-race strip.

Option 2

Description: Long sleeve shirt, mittens

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Long Sleeves: Not Bad if you’re Not Racing

Pros: Long sleeve shirts insulate well.

Cons: Sometimes, long sleeve shirts insulate too well. They trap core body heat, which is great for training, but not for racing. Should you become overheated, removing the shirt is an option, but you face the same challenges as Option 1 in dealing with the unwanted layer. Stripping that top layer, which is also your base layer, puts your core skin in direct contact with elements. Not a good idea.

Option 3

Description: Short Sleeve technical shirt, Zensah arm sleeves, mittens (and earrings)

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Ready for any weather conditions

Pros: Who needs an accurate weather forecast when you have Zensah arm sleeves? This exact upper-half wardrobe (plus or minus mittens) works in temperatures ranging from 35-120 degrees. This past Sunday, race day temperature held constant at 40. My short sleeve shirt allowed the optimal amount of heat to escape, while insulting my core. Though unlikely, if the temperature would have bounced up to 60 degrees, I could have easily rolled my arm sleeves down to my wrists. But I probably wouldn’t have wanted to. Zensah uses a fabric that aids in thermoregulation. While racing in temperatures ranging from 70-120, I can soak the arm sleeves with water to cool my skin more efficiently than with my own sweat, while losing less fluid and salt.

Cons: My biking coach liked my arm sleeves so much that he copied my look, harnessed the same benefits, and then outpaced me by over 45 seconds per mile.

Grrrrr

In this race, however, his fast splits translated into a second place finish for our marathon relay team.  Woot! The Zensah arm sleeves kept us both focused on racing, instead of predicting the weather.

Like my race day get up? Want to try some Zensah arm sleeves in the color of your choice? Become an email subscriber to my blog (top of page, right column, “Provide ChiTo With Your Email…”) I’ll announce the winner on March 2nd and have those new sleeves to you by race day! Woot Woot!

Tips for Cold Tips #7: If You’re Playing with Fire…

In this blog series, I offer tips for cold tips.  These tips will save all of us from treadmill and trainer imprisonment this winter. 

I’m good at following instructions. Equipped with little more than a map, I have navigated my way to remote Indonesian volcanoes. With clearly labeled cue sheets, I can lead a fierce pace line through rural Virginia. And I’d easily win an Ikea furniture assembly competition with either English or Spanish instructions.

But in the absence of direction, I flounder. I stutter. I lose my way. So when my first embrocation product arrived without instructions, I got burned.

Embrocation, an ointment containing warming compounds, is designed to keep your skin unseasonably warm during cold rides and runs

Though the Mad Alchemy box arrived without instructions, I did locate a warning label. Test on a small area before broad use of the product. Makes sense. Much more sense, in fact, than selecting the back of my hand as the small area. And even more sense than choosing that exact area to rub out an eye itch later that night. Pouring Tabasco sauce in my eye would have registered far lower on the mucosa burn scale.

Oops. Turns out the warning label did caution me against embro-eye contact. I could barely make out the words, however, through the fire-induced tears clouding my vision.

Please keep out of the reach of children. What a polite request (“please” duly noted). I would expand this warning to include “and adults who lack common sense.”

Since my toes are my main cold issue on long bike rides, I limited the embrocation to my 10 little toes. Or so I thought. It took me awhile to figure out why, 10 miles into my bike ride my ankles felt as though my teammate was holding a torch to them. In fact, my embrocation ointment spread on with such ease that in the process of sliding my wool socks over my embro toes and up to my knees, I inadvertently embrocated every last inch of my feet, ankles, and calves. Thankfully, I shimmied on my riding pants BEFORE embrocating my toes. This order of events saved me from brushing the crotch of my shorts up against the fire oil on my toes. In the world of embro-burns, ankles > genitals.

Ouch

My post-ride shower made me thankful that this embro-debacle stopped short of a chamois tragedy.  A splash of lukewarm water on embrocated skin felt more like a pounding from a scalding waterfall. I cranked the spigot from lukewarm to ice, and though my fingertips turned white with cold, my calves still burned with embro love.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one trying to unlock the embro enigma:

Comedy aside, embrocation can be a useful tool for winter riding if you know how to use it. Though my bottle did not come with instructions, I gathered advice from the good folks at Mad Alchemy along with more experienced embrocators, like Jackie, Janet, Mark, and Mary. If there had been instructions in the box, they would have gone something like this:

  1. Put your pants on before attempting to embrocate. Your precious bits will thank you.
  2. Shave any embrocation-worthy areas at least 24 hours before embrocating. 48 hours is recommended.
  3. Wash your hands thoroughly after embrocating. And then wash them again. And a third time.
  4. Embrocation is quite possibly the only time I will encourage conservativism. A little dab’ll do!
  5. A pre-shower, baby wipe-rubdown will help reduce bathing-induced burn.
  6. Even after a thorough wash, the embro-effects may linger up to 24 hours. Don’t be alarmed; revel in the warmth.
  7. If you are smearing an ointment on your skin, avoid chemicals; make it pure and natural. All of Mad Alchemy ingredients come from the earth.

Are you an embrocator? What would you add to the list of instructions? Or are you lucky enough to live in San Diego?

In need of embrocation tips

If you liked this post, check out others in the Tips for Cold Tips series:

#1: Armpit Paninis

#2: Take Off Your Teammate’s Top

#3: Skin on Skin Wins

#4: Borrowing Body Heat in Borneo

#5: A Cozy Cabin For Your Toes

#6: Himalayan Lessons in Hydration

#8: Weather and Wardrobe for Race Day

Tips for Cold Tips #6: Himalayan Lessons in Hydration

In this blog series, I offer tips for cold tips.  These tips will save all of us from treadmill and trainer imprisonment this winter. 

Thirst Alarms Sounding, Covered in Salty Sweat, Hiking in AZ with C-Ride

When the summer humidity turns a light jog in the park into a doggy paddle in a swamp of one’s own sweat, all respectable endurance athletes have a “thirst alarm” sounding in the depths of their salty souls. Like a grizzly bear, however, this alarm tends toward hibernation in the winter because cold, dry air quickly evaporates sweat. Unfortunately, it also makes for some pretty cold tips.

A dehydrated endurance athlete in sub-zero temps will experience the same negative effects on performance (e.g., dizziness, disorientation, disaster) as one battling the Dog Days of Summer (or November) in Cozumel, Mexico. Yet, I’ve noticed that my multi-layered, balaclava-faced training partners’ electrolyte replacement schedules drop in direct correlation to the thermometer’s sinking mercury.

Thirst Alarms Silenced In the Cold, Dry Air At The Inca Trail’s Highest Point

Unfortunately, that can be more dangerous (and colder) than some endurance athletes realize. In cold temperatures, your body activates a survival mechanism that I call “blood hoarding,” which decreases blood flow to the extremities. Hoarding warm blood in the body’s core maximizes protection of vital organs contained therein, but it also makes for very cold tips. Some scientists believe that this hoarding of fluid in the core also silences the “thirsty” alarm and initiates a vicious cycle of cold tips–dehydration–cold tips.   Some scientists have even found a link between dehydration in cold temperatures and hypothermia.

So just drink more water, right? Wrong. In my remote Nepalese village, I observed in myself the classic symptoms of deyhydration. In response and over time, I gradually increased my H2O intake to an unfathomable 10 liters a day! (Ridiculous considering that for purification purposes I had to boil and then cool every drop of Nepalese water I pumped.) Dizzy? Drink more water. Disoriented? Must be dehydrated.  Drink more water. Turns out the signs of electrolyte depletion mirror those of dehydration. Turns out drinking 10 liters of water a day still won’t “hydrate” you if you aren’t consuming that H2O in proper proportion to electrolytes, including sodium. Turns out I caused a dangerous crash in my body’s sodium levels and learned some life-saving electrolyte lessons in a humble Kathmandu hospital.

Stop By for an Electrolyte Drip

So what’s an endurance athlete to do this winter?

Enter Nuun.

Hotter than Starbucks, cooler than the Space Needle, Nuun is one of the best things to come out of Seattle since grunge rock. (Interesting, a lot of things I like come from Seattle. Stay tuned.) The fizzing, electrolyte-enhanced drink tablet complements any bottle of water with both electrolytes and flavor. It’s so tasty, in fact, that you’ll want to drink it, even when your body’s “thirst alarm” is deep in hibernation. Victory. More importantly, it offers the best in electrolytes without any of the sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners of typical sports drinks. It even uses natural sources like beet root for food coloring instead of Red #40. Double Victory.

Joy in a Fizzing Tablet

Remember that hydration begins long before your feet hit the trail. Endurance athletes delivering peak performances hydrate properly throughout the day and week. I’m fairly certain, in fact, that achieving athletic nirvana in the coldest of months starts with half of a Nuun tablet dissolved in a mug of hot water each morning.

Note: Since there are only a few calories in each fizzing Nuun tablet, athletes looking to perform over periods exceeding one hour will want to couple a Nuun hydration regimen with carbs and other calories.

Your turn: What do you do to ensure you keep drinking even when the cold silences your thirst alarm?

Blurry Vision? Drink some Nuun

If you liked this post, check out other posts in the Tips for Cold Tips series:

#1: Armpit Paninis

#2: Take Off Your Teammate’s Top

#3: Skin on Skin Wins

#4: Borrowing Body Heat in Borneo

#5: A Cozy Cabin For Your Toes

#7: If You’re Playing With Fire

#8: Weather and Wardrobe for Race Day

Tips for Cold Tips #5: A Cozy Cabin for Your Toes

In this blog series, I offer tips for cold tips.  These tips will save all of us from treadmill and trainer imprisonment this winter.

Fellas, What’s Cooler than Being Cool?

Brrrr. It’s cold outside the double-paned glass of your little log cabin.  Your trusty thermometer reads 30 degrees, but The Weather Channel update tells you that it “feels like” 15. You are cold. Very cold. Shivering, in fact.

You wrap yourself in a blanket. Brrr…

You build a fire. Brrr…

And then you open a window.

WHAT?! Open a window??

True, It would be completely idiotic to open a window in the middle of this icy scenario but I’ve watched many cyclists commit the equivalent bike cleat crime in the winter. Allow me to illustrate this allegory. You wrap your feet in double socks (like the double-paned glass of your cabin), and then cover your cycling cleats in windproof neoprene booties (blanket), and throw a warming packet (fire) into your cleat, but the ventilation system (window) sends your toes packing on a plane to Numb City.

The window in this allegory is like a cycling cleat’s ventilation system. The mesh and vents on the top and bottom of your cycling cleat may provide cool relief in the summer, but they are recipes for numbing disaster in the winter, even when covered by your neoprene or other windproof booties.

Your feet need a warm, windowless cabin.

Your feet need the Sidi Hydro GTX Road.

Like a cozy cabin for your feet, the SIDI Hydro GTX Road is packed with waterproofing, insulating, and warming features. Its outer layer is made of a synthetic leather called Lorica, which kicks regular leather’s hide in inclement weather. To maximize insulation and waterproofing, the Gore-Tex inner layer stitches to this outer shell in just a few places. Under the Gore-Tex layer, your feet enjoy another insulating layer, followed by a final fuzzy liner that you may want to snuggle. You’ll find all of those features attached to a ventless sole.

The neoprene ankle-hugging design may remind you of your middle school sneakers, but you’ll be pleased that this wonder traps heat where your tri or other cycling shoes let it escape.

Sidi thought of everything. They even designed the Hydro to fit wider than traditional cycling shoes to budget for thicker socks. Further, I intentionally purchased my pair one size too big so that my cabin could house a warm packet (fire) under my toes. And because my toe numbing problems are so severe, I still throw on the windstopper booties for good measure.

Because of its significant price tag**, I tested these shoes on many long rides, including a 70-miler in “feels like” 15 degree temps, before endorsing them here on Tips for Cold Tips. True, the price tag approaches the GDP per capita of Nepal, but this product has quickly become the most valuable item in my biking basket of goods.

What products and tricks do you employ to keep your feet warm on winter rides? Or are you just less wimpy than I am?

**MSRP $329.99.

If you liked this post, check out others in the Tips for Cold Tips Series:

#1: Armpit Paninis

#2: Take Off Your Teammate’s Top

#3: Skin on Skin Wins

#4: Borrowing Body Heat in Borneo

#6: Himalayan Lessons in Hydration

#7: If You’re Playing With Fire

#8: Weather and Wardrobe for Race Day

Tips for Cold Tips #4: Borrowing Body Heat in Borneo

In this blog series, I offer tips for cold tips.  These tips will save all of us from treadmill and trainer imprisonment this winter.

To test Tips for Cold Tips #1 (Armpit Paninis) and Tip #2 (Take Off Your Teammate’s Top) I conducted a scientific experiment in my laboratory atop the highest peak in the Malay Archipelago, Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu.

Freezing off my hands in the name of science: I can’t make up this stuff

As I hiked to the top of Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo, my hands grew drastically numb. My fingers failed to ward off the cold temps, rain, and wind 13,500 feet above sea level. Part of this epic hike required gripping a rope to pull myself up the slippery rock surface, as impossible a task with numb hands as pulling back on ChiTo’s break levers.

Try climbing that without your fingers

My dear friend Jay Treloar, so cold he was wearing my fashion scarf to protect his neck, wanted to summit the peak by sunrise as much as I did. My hands, however, had other plans. Pausing to perform the Panini trick, I stuck my hands in opposite armpits and held steady. Unfortunately, the temps were so brutal that opening my jacket at the neck to stick my hands in on both sides exposed too much of my neck and upper chest. My core froze. Unselfishly and unabashedly, Jay offered me his pit. I kept just one hand in my own pit, which allowed me to cover my exposed neck and upper chest, and put my other hand in the lifesaving heat of Jay’s right pit. We made it to the summit by sunrise.

The neck ornament adorning Jay’s neck doubled as my headscarf in Brunei

Jay’s armpit made this scene possible

In a comment below, share a story. Where were you when you temperature dropped to a dangerous level? How did you warm up?

If you like this post, check out others in the Tips for Cold Tips series:

#1: Armpit Paninis

#2: Take Off Your Teammate’s Top

#3: Skin on Skin Wins

#5: A Cozy Cabin For Your Toes

#6: Himalayan Lessons in Hydration

#7: If You’re Playing With Fire

#8: Weather and Wardrobe for Race Day