This years racing season had an excellent finish with the Mad Moose marathon and ultra-marathon. This spectacular event included a 64 km ultra this year held on the Cranbrook Hill Greenway.
I like to take a few weeks off sometime in the winter to let me mind and body reinvigorate. I went earlier in October this year in place of the usual December and I was rewarded with low key fall running. Before Halloween had come I had at least one -19 C, shin deep in snow run. November has been spectacular. Reid Roberts and I traveled south for a 53 km in the beautiful Chilcotin on almost snow free trails. It’s hard to do better than anywhere west of Williams Lake for trail running.
We have it good here in the north. Frozen fall ground is great. A little (or a lot) of snow adds to the training. Lower pace with a higher heart rate. I especially enjoy running those routes that are soaking in the summer. My mileage climbs all on it’s own and I am itching to be out on new single track.
Most folks reduce mileage, change to the roads, stop running or switch sports in the winter. I’d challenge you to do the opposite. There are a few small hurdles to get over but once overcome the rewards are amazing.
- Run anytime. It’s dark in the winter most of the time anyway. Rather than trying to fit your run in during the daylight like summer, sport a head or handlamp and run anytime. A small amount of light reflects on the snow. Who cares if it is the middle of the night.
- Get better. First – no one runs in the winter. You are training when everyone else is watching TV!
- Get fitter. Winter running engages the core and lower legs. Whether your stabilizing on the trail, breaking trail or sporting snowshoes you will have a greater impact on the hips, stomach back and calves. When the snow is deep, it’s real slow but the heart is racing. Very low wear and tear but excellent training.
- Surprises. One of the most beautiful things is to watch the seasons change. Being out on the trails year round lets you experience the transition of the flora and the fauna. You will be surprised to turn off your headlamp on a snowshoe single track in the middle of the night in December. To enjoy a snowstorm or to watch the animal tracks change with a warm wind.
- Go mental. Build your mental habits. Run or snowshoe in any weather, in any snow depth – day or night. When spring comes you will be practiced and prepared to run any summer conditions including the mountains.
- Learn something new. Be careful at first but you will amaze yourself at how good you will become at icy, difficult trail. These skills come quickly if you try and they last.
- Transition and start slow. Winter trail running will tax your legs in a different way. As always ease into it. This can be difficult for high mileage runners as you will want to run the same distance or time as snow free. Take a couple weeks to ease into it.
- Footwear. Get some appropriate trail shoes. I like goretex stuff for anything under two hours. I dislike overboot spikes as they ball up with snow, are heavy and change your form. Integrated spikes are great or spike up with something like La Sportiva Hobnails. Luggy grip is excellent for unpacked of packed snow.
- Avoid the streets and maintrails. Often the most dangerous places to run in the winter, especially during freeze/thaw days are sidewalks and main trails. The packed snow of trails or cleared streets develop random icy spots.