Anatomy of an ‘Extreme Sub-Zero’ Runner – The $750 of Gear That Keeps Me Safe and ‘Warm’

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As I mentioned on Saturday, I loved Amanda’s post at Miss Zippy about how to make running more affordable. After reading it I was thinking through just how expensive all of my gear is … and then Laura posted about not being able to afford being an Ultramarathoner at And This Is Thirty.

I recounted my cost estimate of what I wore out to run in -15F weather – putting the cost at an estimated ~$750 … not including my iPhone. I thought … that is worth breaking down for a post! Follow along through my breakdown or head straight to the botton to see the actual total!So here goes.

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1. Headlamp – $30 – I have a great multi-beam P-Tec lamp very similar to this one at Amazon

2. EMS Thermal Hat – $25 – OK, my great blue EMS hat is now old enough that I can’t find anything similar, but the closest I could get was this one.

3. Brooks Balaclava $25 – I got this for Christmas 2012, and it is the same one found at Roadrunner Sports.

4. Nike Livestrong ‘Pro Combat’ hoodie – $80 – The LiveStrong brand is pretty much dead thanks to the fall of Lance Armstrong, but this hoodie is just amazingly light and wind/weather resistant. Based on what I know it once cost it is most comparable to this one at East Bay

5. Nike ‘Pro Combat’ Hyperwarm heavy base layer – $50 – Another one from Christmas 2012, pretty much the same as this one at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

6. Nike ‘Pro Combat’ fitted base layer – $50 – Got this from my brother for Christmas 2013, most similar thing I can find is this one at Amazon.

Outer Gear_1

7. Reflective vest – $20 – not exactly the same thing, but fairly similar to this Nathan vest at Amazon

8. Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared Gloves = $40 – I have gone on and on about these things (currently sold out at Under Armour and elsewhere), but the reason is that my hands are my ‘#1 cold point’, so how well these work for me is just … incedible.

9. Under Armour Compression shorts – $45 – The ones I wear are apparrently not specifically for running, but are similar to these ones at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and are a great set of shorts – I ran the PA Grand Canyon Marathon in them.

10. Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared Fitted Running Tights – $70 – These tights are incredible … on sale at Under Armour now, they are the only outer layer I have worn in the very coldest weather. And never gotten cold.

11. 2XU Compression Socks – $45 – I started hearing about the benefits of compression in 2012, and after talking to my doctor last year she suggested trying compression socks to maintain blood flow in my legs. These are similar to the onesfrom Amazon, and I have not run without them since Christmas.

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12. New Balance Minimus MR10 shoes – $100 – Some would debate the wisdom of shoes that allow so much slushy water into them, but I am loving how quickly the water also gets OUT of them. Shoe prices are variable, but MSRP remains at $100 at Running Warehouse and Joe’s New Balance Outlet, where they sell for $70 on sale.

13. Lock Laces – $7 – After getting these for Christmas I have now decided they are absolutely essential. Why? Once you have your laces untie in the middle of a sub-zero run and you are actually contemplating how bad it would be to NOT re-tie them … you will understand!

14. SpiBeltRunning belt – $20 – the one I have is not exactly the same as this one from Amazon, but having a belt to carry my phone and maybe a couple of GU packs is essential.

15. Magellan Echo GPS – Yes, this isn’t exactly ‘required’, but I have found tracking and accountability to be critically important, and my favorite setup right now is Magellan Echo just like this one at Amazon.

MY TOTAL? – $807. Of course, I could cut that by $100 or so based on buying stuff on sale and using coupons and so on … but it puts in perspective just how much it can cost to keep safe and protected during winter runs.

One thing missing – YakTrax, selling at Amazon for ~$25. For snow/ice running they are definitely worth checking into!

Comparison to ‘Summer Gear’
Of course, if I go back to last July, my cost would plummet – $25 shirt, $35 shorts, $10 socks, $100 shoes, and $130 watch – to $300. OK, so maybe ‘plummet’ isn’t the right word!

So what do YOU wear as essential gear for YOUR runs?

Throwback Thursday – The Wonders of Snow and the ‘Digital Shoebox

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As much of the eastern seaboard is getting whacked with a powerful storm, leaving ice on some of my Texan friends as well as shutting down power for my relatives in Georgia and parents in South Carolina, there seemed to be an easy theme: snow.

When we lived in Townsend, Massachusetts for almost 15 years, there was one constant: snow. Before we moved there I remember talking with my father about a guy he worked with at Motorola who lived out there and it was constant snow. The joke was that whenever there was snow in the forecast … it would hit Townsend!

And when we moved there … it was no joke! Here is a basic summary:
– We would get a minimum of one storn dumping 3 FEET of snow each year
– We would get at least SIX storms resulting in more than a foot of snow.

The picture at top is one of those storms. We took the picture NOT because it was a remarkable amount of snow … but because Chris LOVES water. When we had a pool he would stay in for hours, and long after Danny headed inside we would be watching him out playing in the snow! This is his first year off the ski team due to other trips during the winter.

As you can see, this picture is almost exactly 8 years old, which we reflect on as he turns 16 next week! Where did the years go?

Speaking of where the years went … how about a picture of our house in Stoughton MA from the Blizzard of ’78?!? That shut down everything for quite a while!

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Now that we are in Corning NY, you might think we are in another snow belt. I mean, looking at the 5 snowiest cities in America right now, there is Erie PA, then Buffalo, Syracuse, Grand Rapids MI amd Rochester NY. So four of the five snowiest cities wrap around us geographically … but we are nowhere close!

We have seen incredible cold, but not much snow. Our biggest storm this year was only 8″ or so, and I have only shoveled a few other times with a few inches each. The current story is only supposed to dump a couple of inches here.

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The Digital Shoebox

In the title I talk about the ‘digital shoebox’ … what does that mean? Well, let me ask – do you have piles of old developed photos around your house? We do – and years ago Lisa bought some ‘photo boxes’, which are basically shoebox sized storage containers with a spot to label the contents. So we have several of those … and normal photo albums, and Creative Memories scrapbooks Lisa has done of special times and events.

Looking through those boxes is like an instant time-sink: you open up a box looking for something specific and the next thing you know you are in a different box just browsing through the memories!

Well, I have said before I have been on the ‘digital train’ for a very long time, about as long as reasonably possible … so I have accumulated thousands of digital camera pictures from pre-MP days up to the present super-hih res images. During that time we have gone from pre-iPhoto Mac laptops to PC running Adobe software and them Picasa, and now back to the Mac and iPhoto … and our image collection is A MESS!

The top picture was from an external storage drive, was taken with a cool Sony point-and-shoot that had a 3X optical zoom and 3.2MP sensor – not bad in its day.

But once I dove into that particular ‘shoebox’, I got lost for a while, browsing Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, First Communion, soccer, baseball, a California trip, and on and on. At the same time I was thinking ‘what a mess’ I was just totally glued to experiencing the images and memories again.

How do YOU store and organize your prints? How about your digital images?

And if you are in the path of the storm – stay safe and keep off the roads if possible!

Throwback Thursday – Thinking About Named Storms

Blizzard of 781

So I complained about the incessent need to name storms and weather events, and it got me thinking about storms in general through the years. This week in addition to the historic cold, in New York we’ve had portions of the NY Thruway west of Buffalo and route 81 from Watertown to Syracuse closed for extended periods due to the extreme cold and wind from the storm.

For me, when I think of a major named storm I always go back to the Blizzard of ’78. Anyone who was around back then in the northeast marks that as the storm to measure all other storms. When we lived in Townsend MA later, we would get at least one snow dump of 3 feet or more every winter, eclipsing the snow total of the 1978 blizzard – but not the impact. In that snow-belt area, the heavy snow would just be an incnvenience, and I would still head to work after working my way through the snow.

In contrast, in 1978 the entire region was shut down for about a week – the image shows my dad, older brother and myself a couple of days later just shoveling out. There was no school for a while, and without cell phones people who were stranded on the highway had trouble connecting with their families – I remember waiting for my dad to make it home down 128 – it was a tense day!

I typically pull out this picture in February (when the storm happened), but it seemed appropriate right now. Here is a remembrance marking 30 years from NOAA, and one from the Taunton National Weather Service. Boston.com had a great slideshow as well.

The Very Basics of Running Safety in the Dark & Snowy Winter

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I cannot believe that I recently found myself in a position of debating some of the core, basic, common sense safety rules for running in the dark during winter. I mean, all you have to do is go to any running site and there will be a ‘Top 10 Winter Running Tips’ article or more every year, and they pretty much assume that you have SOME basic idea as an adult about basic safety. And yet … there I was befuddled by this other person, someone who other runners look to for advice, wondering whether it was ignorance (he is a trail runner for the most part) or machismo that caused him to take these positions. Megan wrote a while back about ‘letting it go’, that sometimes being right doesn’t make the argument worthwhile. So I did – I stepped away and didn’t participate.

But what I could NOT let go is the possibility that someone would listen to that bad advice and end up hurt. As we start a new year we will have new runners trying to keep resolutions. So here are a few core safety items for all runners:

1. Know Your Route
– Make sure you have a known route that provides you with all you need to stay safe. Snowy and icy days are NOT the times for ‘route discovery’, and ESPECIALLY during an active storm.
– Looping your neighborhood for mileage might seem boring, but if that is the safest choice … stick to it!
– For example, there is a ~100 meter section of the main road near me that has <12" of space between the travel lane and a jagged road edge that drops 12 – 18' at a steep angle. With snow and ice that edge gets further blurred, making it an easy spot to lose footing. In bad conditions I avoid that section.

2. Maximize Your Awareness
– I am a vocal advocate of taking off your earbuds while running outdoors. But ESPECIALLY when it is dark and wintery. You really want to make sure you can hear anything going on around you.
– When it is ‘hat weather’, use ‘tech’ instead of ‘bulk’. Older hats relied on bulk for warmth, whereas new tech materials work to keep your own heat trapped to form a thermal layer. This allows much thinner and lighter layers – and better hearing.
– Avoid hoods, or anything else that obscures your peripheral vision. In snow with sun, sunglasses are more important than during the summer. But make sure yours have an open side-view. Also, if you need a hood to protect against wind, make sure it isn’t blocking your vision.

3. Make Yourself Visible
– Wear bright colors. For example: I got a black thermal base layer for Christmas. Which is great, but it will never go with me as a ‘only layer’ the way my bright yellow one does – because I run in the dark and don’t want to be invisible.
– Reflective EVERYTHING – Brooks has the best stuff, because it ALL has reflective elements. But most gear now has some amount of reflectivity, and in the morning add on a reflective vest, cuffs, and so on.
– Head lamp / Wrist lights / flashers / etc – these make you visible a long way off and give drivers the chance to prepare. We have a young woman who runs with hand-lights, and I estimated the other night driving the boys that I could see her nearly 3/4 mile away. I wear a head lamp all the time. Another bonus – a head-lamp helps you navigate the lousy edges of many roads. And see critters who seek trash cans in the early mornings of spring and fall (e.g. skunks)

4. Run Defensively
– In the battle of Man vs. Car … car ALWAYS wins. So do EVERYTHING to ensure you never enter that battle.
– Run facing traffic – that gives you more warning about what is coming, and with your reflective gear and lights, they can also see you coming.
– Know your ‘escape route’. I mean this in case a car slips, but also in case you find yourself being followed/pursued.
– Remember that no amount of lights / safety gears is a ‘sure thing’, and that your own attention to safety has to be constant and unrelenting – which is also why I am an advocate for maximizing awareness.

As I said, these are just the basics – there are other considerations:
Women: I absolutely HATE that there is an entire set of ‘gender specific’ rules, but while there are cases of men runners getting shot or otherwise killed, in general when you hear about assault, rape, kidnapping or other things happening to runners – it is to women. Dorothy Beal has a couple of great posts here and here to help you.
Hydration / Fuel: you need to work just as hard to stay hydrated in winter, but your body doesn’t scream for it like during the summer. And if you are going to be away from home for a while, be sure to carry some fuel (Gu, energy bar, etc) and water.
Cell Phone: true confession – until recently I ran with my phone ONLY on the weekends or evenings. On my morning runs I would leave it at home. The sad thing is that it is your easiest and most direct safety ‘lifeline’ and should always be with you. Please buy a belt and carry your phone … also a RoadID is a great idea.
Hypothermia: the picture below is my slushy and soaked shoes from a couple of nights ago. We had 3-4″ of slushy snow and the temperatures were just above freezing. My feet were soaked within a quarter mile. And then I ran a total of 7.75 miles. Fortunately at the outdoor temperatures I was not in danger of hypothermia – but my feet were never warm the entire time. Running outside presents some real dangers of hypothermia due to wind and low temperatures. Be aware and dress appropriately.

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