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Running through a snowstorm
by on Wednesday, March 6, 2013  (5 comments)

Here in southeast Wisconsin, we dodged a bullet with this week's storm. We got snow but not like Minnesota, Illinois and other parts of Wisconsin did or the mid-Atlantic region is expecting. That said, we've got our fair share this year. I, for one, appreciate the reprieve this time.

For those of you in the mid-Atlantic who may not be used to running in storms like this, what should you do? Well, the easy answer is to take it inside. Hit the treadmill, find an indoor facility, whatever works. That will surely work and, if available to you, may be the best option for the next day or two.

What if indoors isn't an option? Well, first think about your safety. When I think safety, I usually say the same thing whether running or driving. I know how to take care of myself. I'm not worried about myself, I'm worried about some idiot out on the roads who is going to hit me. A couple of tons of steel vs. 100-some pounds of flesh and bone is not a fair fight. If you don't have an outdoor option that you feel is safe from crazy drivers available, think about your safety first, even if that means taking a day or two off.

If you do have a safe place to run, next consider what you need to do for traction. Are you dealing with snow, ice or both? If you're dealing with just snow, trail running shoes (cross country flats are an option if you're a minimalist) with good off-road tread should handle the snow well. If you're dealing with ice, consider something metal on the bottom of your shoe that will cut into the ice and give you some traction is very useful. The screw shoe is a very effective and cost-efficient option. You can also look up YakTrax or other similar slip-on traction tools. At least in Wisconsin, most sporting goods stores or department stores with sporting goods departments have these in stock during the winter months. A final option for the minimalists is to buy a pair of rubber soled cross country spikes. I've been using a pair of Saucony Kilkenny spikes the past two winters and they have worked amazingly well. They are also great for snow on top of ice because the spikes work on the ice and the tread is good for the snow.

If the snow is falling or blowing when you are heading out for a run, the next thing you need to think about is visibility. If you have lights for visibility while running in the dark, use them. If you don't, dressing for visibility in a snowstorm is a little different. Dark or very bright colors that will contrast with whiteout conditions are best. Black, red, orange, colors like that.

Once you've figured out what to wear, all that's left is figuring out where and how to run. If you have a speed workout planned, forget about it. Plan to be slower and, if necessary, plan to go a little shorter. Just get out and log the miles. As for direction, it's best if you can start into the wind and return with it. Be careful on turns and avoid dangerous situations, especially anything involving cars. Remember, even if you are acting completely safely, you can't be assured that the driver in the car going past you is doing the same. Have an escape plan and watch the cars as they pass to make sure you can get out of the way if you see them starting to slide.

Have fun out there! Running through a snow storm or in fresh snow after a storm can be a very fun experience if you take a few precautions and approach it with the right mindset.

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5 comments
ksrunner:

Good post, Ryan.

I think that one of the more dangerous times is the time when the snow is melting during the day and then the temperature falls below freezing at night. In the morning, it is likely that in most places, the footing will be good, but there will be a few small patches of ice that are easy to miss. I missed one yesterday.

Since the footing was generally good, I would not have worn special shoes. I wore XC flats as usual. (In this case, they were spikes with blanks screwed into the holes to make them more like flats). They are only lightly used, so the traction on them is still very good.

I was running on a sidewalk that still had some patches of snow and I came to a snow bank where the snow had been pushed up from the edge of a driveway. As I stepped off of the snowbank, I stepped onto a small, unseen patch of ice. Before I could register what was happening, I was halfway to the ground. I have a small list of injuries that I do not even remember the sequence of how it happened except that the last thing that hit the ground was my left cheek.

I ended up with a scraped right knee, scraped knuckles on my right hand and a jammed knuckle on the base of my third finger on that hand, a bruised left shoulder, a bruised left cheek, and a mild concussion. All in all, it could have been worse. By the time my cheek hit the pavement, most of the force of the fall had been absorbed by other parts of my body.

For me, I experience it as a mild headache and occasionally I have had a weird feeling in my head when I've stood up from a chair or turned my head. I am not to resume running again until I've been symptom free for 24 hours. I still have the headache this afternoon, so I know that tomorrow will be a day off. My wife tells me that concussion symptoms can last weeks.

Be safe and watch out for the small ice patches. I can think of multiple instances where I've fallen on small patches of ice when the roads or sidewalks were mostly clear. This was just an unusually bad fall.

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Ryan:

Oh my goodness, I wish you a speedy recovery. Even as I was reading the first sentence, I was going to reply saying that those days you describe are absolutely the most scary. There are so many hazards and, if you're an early morning or late evening runner who is running in the dark, they can be very hard to see.

Fortunately for those on the East Coast today, those early moments during a storm are usually much safer and actually kind of fun to run through. In the coming days, though, don't let down your guard until you are sure your running surfaces and the areas surrounding them are clear of not just snow but also ice.

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Ed:

I was very lucky on my run this morning wityh those patches of fresh and very smooth ice. I slid a couple of times but never fell. I was ecxeedingly vigilant at shifting my viewpoint to try and catch any light reflecting on the ice, avoided some, slid on some. I am shorter so my center of gravity is lower be default and that helps.

I really hope that you recover quickly and have no lasting effects.

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ksrunner:

Thanks for the wishes for recovery. As I said, it is very mild as concussions though, but what I've read indicates that those are sometimes more dangerous because the symptoms are so mild that people ignore them and do not take precautions against further injury. It is not impacting my work or anything. My only symptom is the headache and that is not at all severe or inhibiting. Often I don't even realize that it is there unless I think about it.

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Ryan:

Glad to hear that it's not too bad. Hearing stories like yours of "very mild" concussions makes me glad I'm not a football player. If that's very mild, I don't want to know what a bad one is. Keep safe.

Ed, be careful out there. That refrozen ice is bad, hard to see sometimes plus extremely smooth and slippery.

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