Month: December 2011

Running below freezing can be fun

I’ve been wanting to get to Colorado for some high altitude cold training, since Utah has been so warm and dry so far this winter (aside from nice ice climbing I got in). Earlier today I got a chance to run at 5 degrees F on a dirt road for emergency and maintenance access to the back lifts at Keystone Resort.

running downhill Keystone Gulch Road
running down Keystone Gulch Road, sun at my back

The Keystone Gulch Road starts at about 9,240′ and at my 2.5 mile turnaround point was 9,850′ for a total of approximately 600′ of gain and loss. Enough stats though, and since a friend on the net asked me about layering for winter running, here’s how I approached running at 27 degrees below freezing.

clothed profile dressed to run at 5 degrees
clothing for running at 5 degrees F at nearly 10,000ft

First of all, the bottom layers. For undies I wore Under Armour Heatgear longsleeve tee, and Boxerjock series O. I also like the series T for hiking and skating, but haven’t tried running in them yet. For socks, I wore my favorite Injinji Toe Sock Crew Liners under Smartwool PHD Compression socks. This is a tough layer to get on right without bunching, since the compression socks fit me quite tightly.

smartwool and injinji sock combo
sock combo detail - smartwool phd compression and injinji crew liner

Over that I wore a pair of Salomon Windstopper tights. For shoes today I’m wearing Hoka One One Mafate WP (goretex) to test for snow traction and warmth with the goretex layer. I considered a midweight baselayer or thin softshell but having run at 10 degrees before and sweated quite a bit in a softshell, I opted instead for a TNF Windstopper Hybrid full zip jacket. It’s a very thin vest-like layer of thinly laminated windstopper with thin fleece back, sleeve, and side panels for ventilation.

For a hat, I wore a TNF Flight Series Beanie that I think is now discontinued, very thin and breathable. Finally, for gloves I wore a pair of Eddie Bauer First Ascent Wind Pro Gloves. I had good experiences with this glove in Alaska, so felt it would work good enough.

running at Keystone Colorado
creek and hills along my left side Breckenridge is way back there behind that ridge

So now, after all of that, how did it work out? I was cold most of the run up, and some of the run down. I prefer to run “dry” in the winter if possible, so I’d rather be a little bit cool and not sweat. This is a fine line to run, and I don’t really recommend it to new runners, or those who’ve never run below freezing before. If you get soaked and have something go wrong and end up sitting in the shade for a while you’ll be quite uncomfortable at the very least.

The Keystone Gulch Road I ran on curves along a creek bed between trees, cliffs, and hills, so you’re in and out of the sun frequently, so you warm in the sun, and cool in the shade. Overall I was quite happy, and never so cold as to feel like bailing. At one point I pulled out my earbuds (cheap Sony and the cables were very very stiff from the cold) and had to pull off my left glove to put them back in, and I ended up having to curl my hand up in the palm of my glove for a few minutes to rewarm my fingers.

sweat at ankles
beads of sweat built up on my ankles at 5 degrees F

Some interesting points I need to mention. With the Goretex shoes and Windstopper front panels on my tights, I got some nice balls of moisture condensed on my ankles. The Mafate shoe has unusually small lugs for a trail shoe (this is not news btw) and I did a small amount of slipping on icier portions of the road (they run trucks and snowmobiles up and down the road, but do not plow). I have asked Hoka One One about it, and they say it would be okay to spike them, so I might try that soon enough.

Finally, I think that without building up to it, without knowing your own body and how it reacts to cold, what you expect for pace and how that will affect your warmth, it would be hard for me to recommend you run with this few clothes on at that cold of a morning. Build up to it slowly, test it out on shorter runs very close to home, so you can bail to safety without hurting yourself. YMMV – enjoy!


Shopping List:

injinji Liner Crew Toesocks
Smartwool PhD Graduated Compression Ultra Light Bike Socks
Men’s HeatGear® Fitted Longsleeve Crew Tops by Under Armour
Men’s O Series Boxerjock® 6″ Bottoms by Under Armour
Hoka One One Mafate WP Trail Running Shoe – Men’s
Eddie Bauer First Ascent First Ascent Wind Pro Glove

Why Am I Doing This?

If you are interested in training at all, reading all the really good information in books, articles and forums on the net, you’ll see a lot of devoted fanboyz pushing their magic pills and formulas.

Train like a powerlifter. Olympic lifter. 400 Savage Paleo lifter. Functional. Bodybuilder. Complicated set and rep schedules that take software to figure out and track. Weakness Of the Day randomness.

You’ll also see them rip on each other. No bands, no gloves, or wraps, or straps. Metal suits, reduced Range Of Motion, maximum ROM. No machines, no cardio, no heat. Yeah.

So how do you wade through this morass? Think for a minute.

Why am I doing this?

Plank with feet on box
Plank with feet on Box

Yeah, think about it seriously. Why would you train like a Bodybuilder? You want to be a Bodybuilder. Why train like an Olympic Lifter? You want to be an Olympic Lifter. What about you? You want to go chop up Trojans? You want to set a PR in a Powerlifting Comp? You want to wheelbarrow race in bleachers with sacks of concrete? What do you want to do?

I’m assuming since you’re here, you want to climb mountains. What does that involve?

I feel like you should probably spend about 70% of your resources on cardio, and the remainder on weights. I’m not a big fan of “functional” and later I’ll explain why that works for me, but if you have a real, unimaginary issue, please put your 30% into that instead of weights for a few months, then evolve into weight training.

What type of weights should you do? What do you have, or have access to? A Glute Ham Raise is awesome, but it’s a rare gym you would probably belong to that has one, and it’s very expensive for a limited-use machine and the “bang-for-the-buck” is pretty low. Unless you’re shooting for a 500lb deadlift 😉

Wraps and straps and gloves? You’re training to climb a mountain, but you also have a life. You have to support your expensive mountaineering habit somehow, right? Gloves protect your hands from the knurling on the bar, so you can type or whatever it is you do. Wrist and finger muscles are tiny. They take a long time to develop for most people. If your fingers can only do three reps with the weight that your big muscles can do ten of, you need straps. If weak wrists are the only thing preventing you from doing pushups, then get your wrists wrapped.

Olympic Lifts are dynamic, complicated chains of events in 3D paths. You can hurt yourself very badly by missing a perfect arc. Search youtube for dislocated olympic lifters – these are the best in the world too. In a normal mountain climbing environment, you should never have to do anything involving major swings, leaps, or anything else plyometric. Vertical Limit aside …

Bodybuilding? Ten sets of every single little muscle every day is a bit much, in time and recovery. You should think about having a little bit more mass, but not so much that you are too big and heavy to get around. Muscles are a great fat-burning furnace to keep you warm and efficient as a cardio machine. A little strength is good for dragging packs around, lifting them onto your back, chopping steps in a headwall, cutting out a tent platform, digging a snow cave. Yeah, the fun stuff.

So, in this article I’m not telling you what to do, or what works, but rather to guide you in your search for knowledge to look at the big picture. Knowing your long-term goals of fitness and health, as you read articles and training programs, and ask yourself:

Does this make sense in the context of training for mountaineering?

Remember, you’re not training for a specific sport, like Power or Olympic Lifting. So who cares if you use bands or wraps or straps or chains? Who cares if you use a large or small range of motion? Heavy or moderate or light weights? A little bit of this, and a little bit of that, without getting hung up in dogma. It’s all good if it helps you achieve your goal.

These are all just little examples, to give you a jumpstart. Think about it for yourself. Be smart.

Training Report for November 2011

For November I increased my weight training a bit. My own personal opinion is that during the cold and dark winter months the body naturally goes into a form of anti-hybernation. You sleep more and eat more. Optimum conditions for gaining muscle mass. So I upped my weight training.

For weights right now I’m doing some good basics:

  • Front Squats
  • Box Squats
  • Straight Leg Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Military Press
  • Front Row
  • High Row
  • Low Row
  • Pulldown

Along with some limited accessory movements:

  • Facepull
  • Haney Shrug
  • Seated Calf Raise
  • Standing Calf Raise
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Raise

Later I’ll post my set/rep plan if you’re curious at all.

For cardio, I’m still working on the Maffetone plan, riding Zone 2 on my Polar FT80 HRM which for me is between 130 and 140 bpm. Very tough to do, but I’m figuring it out, and committed to 3 months overall to see if it does work. Haven’t run any stats on it yet, and I don’t know intuitively yet either. I wrote a post about the Maffetone plan HERE. I’m mostly riding the treadmill right now, averaging about 20 miles a week of running and walking mixed. I’m working toward either growing to 30-ish miles, or incorporating other crosstraining cardio into the blend.

One important event that occurred is that the garage, even with an insulated roof, dropped below 50 degrees, the temperature at which my electronics start to go nuts. On the agenda is insulating the walls and doors, which might extend the season some, but without a heat source, it will eventually drop. That’s a major project, maybe someday.

I have a treadmill in the basement, but it’s right under the cold air intake for the furnace – tons of fun till you’re warmed up 😉 I have permission to bring some of my stuff in, and maybe I’ll build a really cool Home Cardio Theater out of it, if I can spare some time. If I do, I’ll post progress reports on it, to keep you in the loop, if anyone is interested.

Review: Hoka One One Bondi.b

Hoka One One Bondi.b

Having used a MafateWP as one of my “snow running” shoes, and being generally happy with the cushy feel, I got a pair of the Bondi.B – a primarily street shoe that I’ve used on roads, trails, and treadmill for about 250 miles now.

In fact, right now it’s one of my favorite trail runners, and I’ve used it on every organized trail run, including 10k, half marathon, and marathon. Compared to the pic above, here’s how mine look now after about 100 miles offroad, and 150 miles other …

Bondi.b - on feet - dirty tops after 250 miles
Bondi.B from the top, on feet, showing wear and dirt
Bondi.B showing side on feet
Bondi.B from the side, on feet

In the two photos above, note the general wear and tear, including a crack near the left big toe joint I got during a trail 10K that I repaired with shoegoo. Also quite dirty compared to the marketing image at the top of the review.

Left shoe inside side view crack near toe
Left shoe inside side view - crack near toe repaired with shoegoo
Left outside side view
Left outside side view

Above two photos show side views. One of the most obvious differences in these shoes is the very thick, soft, cushy, foamy midsoles. Some people love them, others hate them. The foam has a lot of energy, and if you can try them on and run on pavement, you should totally feel it. Whether you like that feeling or not though …

Above in the video, I show the general characteristics of the sole. If you can’t really see what I’m doing, from the ball to the end is very soft, ball to instep medium soft, and heel fairly unsoft (though it will deform in twisting motions). Notice the speed with which it snaps back when I let go. Lots of energy, even after 250 miles (about half the life advertised, and I have no reason to doubt I’ll hit 500 miles).

For “anti-traditionalists” notice the sole is very rounded in shape (some people report being asked about their butt-augmenting workout shoes while wearing them). The hype implies that you’ll strike in the prominent middle foot area and roll off the toe without necessarily flexing your toes. Here are a few shots of my current sole wear at about 250 miles:

Middle sole zone
Middle sole zone - note moderate wear in white rubber, maximum wear in yellow foam area
Heel sole zone wear
Heel sole zone - note minimal wear in orange rubber, moderate wear in white rubber, maximum wear in foam area
Toe sole zone wear
Toe sole zone - note minimal wear in orange rubber, moderate wear in white rubber, maximum wear in foam area

Notice that there is minimal wear at the heel and toe, and a lot of wear in the middle instep area. So at least in my case it’s working as advertised.

Now down to the nitty gritty: the midsole is fat, thick, soft. If you need some type of support, it’s not there – this is majorly a “cushion-only” shoe. IMHO for my foot anyway, it seems to run about 1/3 size small.

Some people report very tired support and stabilizing muscles in their lower legs, and increased incidence of rolling because of the lack of support. I can’t dispute that, as I’ve felt the stress on the little support muscles as I got used to this shoe, and while I have rolled a few times in them, I normally do, so I can’t report that it’s any better or worse than any other shoe.

On a treadmill, the foam absorbs your impact quite a bit, which has one bad result – the belt feels like it stops just after your midfoot expands on it. It’s the weirdest feeling. Never read anyone else mention it though, so maybe it’s my wacked out gait?

Hype says the huge foam blob deforms to accept all terrain variations. I feel rocks, so I can’t really accept that. Maybe I’m just more sensitive? I mean, I really can’t walk across a normal concrete driveway barefoot without a lot of pain from the miscellaneous stuff that gathers on it.

Running uphill and downhill on the road is just freaking amazing. On the trail I had a lot of control issues on technical downhill. Took a major fall in the Aspen Backcountry Marathon, as well as a lot of sliding around that I managed to save. I talked to a few of the aid support crew who’d worn Mafate’s in the Leadville 100, and they said the same for that more popular offroad shoe with larger tread lugs.

I love this shoe, wear it frequently in my rotation, and despite the thin tread, it’s one of my favorite trail runners. One of my prime considerations in using it is the ease of recovery, probably from the impact absorption (though it appears I’m not a heel-striker, I’m big at 185 lb and 6’1″, and old, at 50+), not to mention the increase in strength I’ve noticed in my stabilizers.

Don’t take my word for it though, go try a pair on at a reputable running store and see if they’ll let you go outside (Boulder Running is where I got mine – nice people overall).