30 Days of Gratitude – Day #14, The Tech-ification of Running

gratitude

Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for the ways that technology have improved the sport of running and in particular the ways they have helped me improve and be more efficient through the years.

Day #13 – Most Expensive Free Sport Ever

I was scanning my Buzzfeed RSS feed and came across this post, which reminded me that the first GPS satellite went into orbit in February 1989, the same month I started running and my weight loss journey.

That same GPS technology would come into play in 2012 when I went for my first GPS tracked run with my brother – which showed that my distance was much lower and pace much slower than I thought. Ugh – but it was also a wake-up call. I mean, *I* had a smartphone – time to use it! So began my quest for the marathon! 6 months, 1900 miles and nearly 100lbs later … I did it. Wearing a Garmin FR-10, my second GPS watch (Nike+ was first).

Now I mostly use Wahoo Fitness app for GPS run-tracking, and wear the Garmin vivoSmart on my wrist to track steps, sleep, and also keep synced with my phone (review coming soon). I also have the Garmin FR-15 that I love.

Technology has played a huge role for me in other ways … well, mostly clothing. When I started running, there were no affordable tech fabrics, no wicking, no ‘cold-gear’ re-radiating layers. Just piling on the clothes. I remember running in the winter meant a thermal layer, then a sweatshirt layer then a outerwear layer, with thick bulky gloves and hat and scarf … and I wouldn’t go out in sub-zero air temps or sub -10 wind chills. And I was only running a few miles. Oh … and the smells … that was the worst of it I think. You couldn’t wash the stink out of that stuff!

This week when it got down to the 20’s with some wind, I was wearing a thin top layer, mid-weight hat, light gloves, normal running socks, running tights and ‘runderwear’ for the wind (we’ve covered this) … and I was perfectly fine. And newer tech fabrics are quick to wash and hang dry and much more resistant to odor accumulation.

How do you feel about the influence of technology on running?

Technology! 80s! Rocky!

This … (Five Fave Things Right Now)

I laughed the other day when I read Laura at Fit Fresh & Funny introducing her ‘ABCs and 123s’ post by saying “shamelessly stealing this from Mike, because he’s always got the best ideas for a blog post!” Isn’t that something we ALL do?!? I mean, I grabbed the ‘alphabet post’ from Amanda at Running With Spoons from a two year old post she did, which I assume was part of a popular post-scheme at the time … since there seem to be ‘campaigns’ that make the rounds.

Well, in that vein … almost two weeks ago I loved this post over at The Girl Who Ran Everywhere … so naturally I stole the idea 🙂 So let’s get rolling with it, and if you like maybe you should steal it as well!

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This … is my favorite picture right now. I found this as I was trolling my old blog, and it has always been a fave. Chris has always been an avid and adventurous reader, and always loved to fill his bed with stuffed animals and always had a book or two going. Before this he had taken to comparing his kids’ bible to the full good news bible after seeing a VeggieTales episode on ‘Daniel in the Lion’s Den’. As I noted at the time “When I walked into his room, I expected him to be reading on of the Droon or Narnia books, or perhaps a Garfield book … but this floored me and I had to capture the moment.”

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This … is my favorite room in the house, with our inherited cat sitting by my side. She only comes out of the basement when the dogs are out, and was snuggling with me for a while the other day, moving from side to side and walking across the keyboard. I love the room because there is no TV and it is away from the main kitchen-dining-family room hustle and bustle, making it relaxing and peaceful.

My beautiful picture

This … is a moment that popped into my head recently as we were discussing Massachusetts. It is from Danny’s first birthday and he had a cool ‘ball pit’ that he loved to play in, and this was one of those great moments where we were able to capture him in action yet still for just a moment. I really love the look on his face.

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This … is my love of over-tracking and measuring everything in one image. Garmin FR-15, Polar Loop and Magellan Echo … all great fitness tracking tools, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

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This … is where I want to be, who I want to be with, and where we hope to be for our 25th. We went to Sandals Antigua for our honeymoon, and they had ‘resort photographers’ constantly taking pictures around, and you could buy them … and this one we actually liked enough to pay the $5 or $10 (can’t remember anymore). Years ago we thought ‘let’s go back for our 25th’, which sounds awesome … until you realize that we will have two kids in college at the time! So we are not sure if or how it will happen, but as of now it remains a goal.

What are YOU loving now?

My ‘Polar Vortex’ Running Clothes Challenge!

Polar Vortex Run

Is it just me or does the incessant naming of storms make them all lose their meaning? I don’t remember when news stations started naming storm events like ‘January Juggernaut’ and so on … so while I suppose having named arctic storm systems similar to tropical storms is better, it all just gets lost after a while. At least ‘Polar Vortex’ has an actual meaning, even though I think the best part was having Danny dancing around the living room pretending he was a new comic book super-villain named ‘Polar Vortex’ loaded with bad puns!

While I had planned to take Tuesday off as a rest day due to the ‘Polar Vortex’ driving temperatures to -30F wind chills, the forecast had Wednesday morning being in the 10F range with greatly diminished winds. Well, apparently the polar vortex had other plans and it became clear that Wednesday morning was going to feature near-zero temperatures and sub-zero wind chills.

Of course I had myself determined to go out running.

Whether that decision was strong, stubborn or stupid depends on your point of view, to paraphrase Obi-Wan. I’m going with stubborn, whereas Lisa made her opinion clear this morning – and basically, considering the kids DID have a two-hour school delay due to dangerous wind chills, it is hard to argue her point.

Anyway. So I went for a run this morning. My iPhone told me it was 2F and -12 Wind Chill … but looking outside at the branches I thought it might be colder (OK, I was prepared for -20 wind chill).

First, there was a great deal of mental preparation involved, in terms of what to wear and also what route to take. The route was important because I wanted to be sure I had an ‘easy out’ at all times – fortunately the way my general runs are routed I have fantastic access back to my house and am never more than 0.75 miles away.

How long did I plan to run? At least 1.5 miles, based on how I started out. After that all bets were off.

I call this a ‘clothes challenge’ because I was going to wear some things I had never worn and others that had never seen these temperatures. That made my choice of route more important – because with this level of cold you are dealing with a serious time factor.

So what did I wear? Let’s start from the ground up:
– New Balance Minimus shoes
– 2XU Compression Socks
– Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared running tights
– Nike base layer
– Nike ‘Pro Combat’ top layer
– Nike Livestrong ‘Pro Combat’ tech hoodie
– Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared gloves
– Brooks balaclava
– EMS Hat
– Magellan Echo watch and heart-rate monitor

OK, so now to the nuts and bolts: how far I ran and how I felt.

Let’s start with distance – I ran 6.75 miles, and grabbed the picture right as I got home.

As for how I felt, let me say ‘it varied’.

What does that mean? Well, for 95% of my body I felt great – cool at times but never cold, and never overheated. As I got to the last couple of miles I could feel a bit of a chill around my knees just above where the compression socks ended, but nothing even remotely cold. I knew I was a bit sweaty on my bottom layer, but again nothing that I felt when I turned into the wind. So for 95% of me it was a total success.

The other 5% of me almost sent me home twice. I have remarked how my hands get cold easily, especially for the last 5 years or so. Just pumping gas in my car and Lisa’s was enough to get them really cold last night and this morning. I have also noted that the Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared gloves leave your hands a bit cool for the first mile or so … and that was absolutely true this morning.

In fact, after just over a mile my hands were cold, and I nearly headed home. In fact, I actually turned around twice as I was heading up the hill about 1.25 miles from the start – which would have resulted in a 0.25 mile run home. But I made a deal with myself – I would finish that neighborhood loop and if I was still cold I would head straight home, which would then be around 3 miles. One important thing I knew was that I was just cold – not dangerously cold because I was covered and moving. I kept my hands and arms in constant motion, and by the end of that loop I felt great – so I kept going.

Around 4.5 miles my left hand was feeling cool again – but not as cold as before, so I made another deal for the breakpoint between 5.75 and 6.75 miles. As it worked out, I was warm again, and felt pretty good for the rest of my run, to the poi nt that I took off my gloves in my driveway to stop the Magellan.

As I mentioned, Lisa was annoyed and thought my decision to go out was stupid and that I could have gotten hurt – and she is right. Wind chills low enough to delay all of the area schools should really have been my cue – and although I have run in colder weather, the lack of bad results doesn’t make a decision any less risky.

Which gets back to my #1 goal for running – making sure I can get up to run tomorrow. And while certainly there is always a risk of injury when doing almost any activity, it only seems logical to avoid a situation that unnecessarily increases that risk – like days where the Weather Channel has a big read ‘severe wind chill alert’ across it and schools are delayed to keep kids safe.

What do you think? What are your temperature/ wind chill limits?

Keeping Warm vs. Not Getting Cold

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Across much of the east and north there was some really significant cold this week along with a dump of snow. This morning it was a bit of a ‘warm up’ – it was 6F when I headed out for my run and 9F when I returned, but with no wind. Somewhere between the extreme cold and the snow and my various outfits I thought about the differences between Keeping Warm and Not Getting Cold and dressing for each.

Next month marks 25 years since I started running – and the image above from Real Genius is very representative of a ‘track suit’ from the 80s that would have been seen everywhere. Running in the cold back then meant layers – thermal underwear with sweats and perhaps more top layers over that … all made from cotton, and all of which STUNK after a couple of wearings.

Yesterday I ran with a thin base-layer and another ‘base layer’ on top, with running tights on the bottom. I had a hat and my new Under Armour ColdGear InfraRed gloves. And in spite of the appearance of not wearing much I was never cold, and by the end was warm enough to take off my hat for my final half-mile dash! I ran a great 12.5 miles including hills and flats and felt the cold on the exposed areas of my face by the time I was within a few miles of home – and my hands felt the chill as I started the run.

For many people one of the toughest things about winter running is stepping out the door into the nasty cold temperatures. But if you ask people who actually DO get out there, they will tell you that once they are running they warm up and enjoy the run.

So what is the difference between the two?

Keeping Warm:

If you are going to watch a football game, go ice fishing, or otherwise pretty much stand around outside in the cold for an extended time period, you want to keep warm. Typically we do this with heavy clothes, thermal socks, heavier shoes, thick insulated gloves and hat, and a jacket that uses a combination of bulk and thermal materials such as Thinsulate to trap body heat.

This is why the term ‘bundling up’ is used – you want to have systems in place to trap all warmth inside and minimize loss, for one simple reason:

You will NEVER be as warm as the moment you leave the house.

Since you will not be very active, you will not be generating much warmth, so the goal is to keep what you already have from escaping, which is tricky since some portion of your body is likely exposed, and there are likely parts of your clothing that leak heat (have you ever used a thermal imaging camera to check this? A few old work friends and I did once). As a result you end up jumping around, shaking, and so on in order to regain some warmth … or deciding that perhaps ice fishing isn’t for you after all!

Not Getting Cold:

When you are going for a run, the conventional wisdom is to dress as if the temperature was 10-20F higher than the thermometer says. I tend to go more by the wind chill because I find that has a greater impact on my comfort.

But what does it MEAN to dress for running? That is a tougher one – because everyone feels different in the cold and heats up to a different extent while running. As I said I dress for wind chill – which can be a problem if the wind dies down or is erratic.

But regardless of your ‘temperature target’, modern athletic ‘tech’ fabrics mean that you are working with thin layers that are designed to wick moisture away from the skin and keep your body warmth in. I’ve mentioned Coldgear Infrared from Under Armour, but all of my Nike stuff does the same basic thing, as do clothes from Brooks, Reebock and so on.

I mentioned going running yesterday morning, and what I was wearing in 6F temperatures was the equivalent of two t-shirts stacked on top, thin thermals on bottom, basic socks, thin hat and light gloves. And yet running nearly an hour and a half I never got too cold.

I started off a bit cool – especially in my hands – but as I ran I warmed up, and my clothes made sure to keep that heat trapped inside so I would be comfortable. The sun was a major factor, because when it went in I felt the air cool down, and when it came out I was warmer.

My hands are my worst point in terms of getting cold – and I would have been miserable with cold hands for a long run, but after a couple of miles, all of that thermal energy was reflected back.

As I was completing my run the wind was starting to come up a bit, and I could feel it – which reminded me: these clothes are there so I don’t get cold, NOT to warm me up. Sure my goal is comfort, but it is important that I don’t overheat.

Implications for Runners:

I had started and planned to write this on Sunday, but am finishing it Monday night after a very long couple of days for various reasons. This morning I headed out when it was 50F at 4AM, and I could tell it was windy. Since I knew the brutal cold was coming I over-dressed a bit – I wore shorts and a thin top, but wore light winter gloves and a light winter hat. And I am glad I did – at first I was a bit warm, but neither the hat nor the gloves are very efficient at trapping heat, they are more about basic warmth.

So I ended up with my hands feeling colder in 50F temperatures this morning than at 6F yesterday, because the gloves are more about ‘keeping warm’ than ‘not getting cold’.

When it comes to clothes for running, be sure to understand what you are buying and what the basic function is – is it going to bock wind, wick sweat and trap heat, or is it just part of ‘bundling up’?