pigs in snow, north Fort Collins

What I Learned from Running in -1F Weather

“The Chub Run returns,” proclaimed my friend Nick about a fun run that has occurred in years past during the middle of December. I intended to participate this year but a few days before the event was already reconsidering. Blame it on the weather forecast for snow with a high of -1 degrees Fahrenheit, which did not seem rather wise to run in lest to risk getting a case of hypothermia and/or frostbite.

During Winter Bike to Work Day—while warming up inside Happy Lucky’s Teahouse after working outside in 15F as a volunteer bicycle mechanic—I told my friend Brad about these concerns. “There is no such thing as bad weather,” he said, “only bad clothing.”

“I think I have only bad clothing then,” I replied. But did I?

As the day of the Chub Run got closer I gradually built up resolve to participate on that ridiculously frigid day. Then, the night before the snow started barreling down and I lost the motivation to drive all the way over to Nick’s home in the Horsetooth hills. With the slippery roads, it would take 50 or so minutes to motor over there. I had a baby reception to attend during the late morning and it seemed a bit too ambitious to do both events with the weather and driving involved.

So instead, I decided to run around my neighborhood in solidarity with the Chub runners. I ended up running 10 kilometers. This is what I wore:

  • One short-sleeved T-shirt
  • One long-sleeved thermal shirt
  • Thermal underwear
  • Snow pants
  • Two jackets
  • Two pairs of socks, including one fleece pair
  • Two pairs of gloves, including one fleece pair
  • One pair of socks to use as mittens over the gloves
  • Fleet hat with integrated face mask
  • New Balance MT101 trail shoes
  • Chemical hand warmers underneath the gloves and socks

How did the run go wearing the above? I overheated! After only a couple of miles I already was unzipping the jackets. When I returned home the base short-sleeved T-shirt was even a bit damp.

But I really enjoyed the run and listening to the pitter patter of my light footsteps in the not-so-thick layers of snow. I also took delight in the tranquility of the surroundings. Almost nobody else was out: I only saw a couple of cars rolling down the streets. And a couple of kids ice skating at Richards Lake. And a couple of hogs mucking around on a farm.

“Ha, those are the Ultimate Fat Ass Chubster Grandes,” I thought in deference to the Chub Run.

From this experience, I learned several things:

  • You do not need expensive sport-specific clothing to run in below zero temperatures. For example, both pairs of gloves and one pair of socks were all items I had picked up years ago at a dollar store. The short-sleeved shirt was a free race shirt. The jackets were made by INC International Concepts, a company that fabricates fashionable urban wear, not technical gear.
  • Socks do work well enough as mittens. I still had enough dexterity to press the buttons on my Microsoft Band 2 and take photos with my Windows phone.
  • It is a good idea to bring a capacitive stylus on days like this to use a mobile phone. I brought one so I would not have to remove the gloves and bare my fingers to touch and operate the phone screen. Styluses can be found on eBay for a buck or two.
  • A couple inches of fluffy or crunchy snow is not bad to run in with regular running shoes. My trail shoes are well worn and do not have the most aggressive tread patterns, and not once did I feel that I was going to slip or need traction devices like Yak Trax. (Thankfully, there was no ice around.)
  • Brad was right: there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. And it only takes putting on enough layers of existing clothing you already have to make “sufficient” clothing.

Lastly, I learned that it is a good idea to run on unusually cold days such as this one because it makes running on days over ten degrees seem balmy and unintimidating.

mountain bike tracks, footsteps, snow on trail, Hearthfire, Fort Collins
Apparently I was not the first one out on the trails this morning, as evidenced by footsteps and mountain bike tracks.
ice skaters in Richards Lake, Richards Lake trail with snow
There were ice skaters on Richards Lake to the left of the Richards Lake trail.
pigs in snow, north Fort Collins
Pigs in snow in north Fort Collins
Felix Wong, snow, -1F day, running
Felix Wong dressed for running on this -1F day.
Temperature graph of Fort Collins on December 17, 2016.
Temperature graph of Fort Collins on December 17, 2016.