In this blog series, I offer tips for cold tips. These tips will save all of us from treadmill and trainer imprisonment this winter.
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.
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.
Description: Short sleeve technical shirt, long sleeve shirt, mittens
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.
Description: Long sleeve shirt, mittens
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.
Description: Short Sleeve technical shirt, Zensah arm sleeves, mittens (and earrings)
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.
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!