Dressing for Cold Weather Running (-8F)

Sunday was the first day this year that I ran in genuinely cold weather. I wore almost as much clothing as I did on the coldest run last year, even though it was only -8F. Running outside during the day in the winter has such a powerful effect on my mood;he sun was my happy light on Sunday. Not only did I get a good dose of exercise but I also got to bathe in the exquisite light of the Fairbanks winter on a clear day.

Stock Photo of cold trees by tvvoodoo on stock.xcng


I was worried that I didn’t have my warm hat. The right hat could make the difference between a comfortable run and a very uncomfortable run.

About zero is where it starts to be important to wear face protection of some kind. I hate the feeling of moisture building up that you get if you pull a neck-warmer over your face when you exercise. That seems to be the primary solution to the problem that people use in Fairbanks. At Junior Nordics I noticed again that some kids where wearing a plastic device over the lower part of their faces. The device looked a little like a gas mask and seemed to have a valve of some kind on the front. I’ll have to look into that.

My solution to avoiding frost bite is the neoprene face mask. Everyone in Kotzebue used to wear these things when they rode snow machines. I don’t see them in Fairbanks at all. I bought a couple of neoprine face masks two years ago when I was doing some Burbott fishing on the Tanana. Down on the river there was an unusually strong breeze that was miserable for Emile. I immediately thought of my experiences with cold and wind in Kotzebue and went looking for the neoprene. I found what I was looking for at Sentry hardware. The gators were something like $15 each, which felt a little expensive to me and they don’t match the quality of the high priced west coast Yuppie outdoor clothing I generally wear. I bought one for Emile and one for myself. The first day we were on the river the glue that held the Velcro onto the neoprene came loose and there was no way to keep the mask attached to my face. I guess I could have used safety pins but I gave up on my mask that winter. Emile’s seemed to work pretty well for him.

Last winter Aida got me a Garmin freerunner 305 for Christmas. That motivated me to run more consistently and to overcome the inconvenience of some very cold weather — January and February in Fairbanks. At those temperatures it was just painful to run without some kind of face protection. Obviously frostbite was a risk too.

I don’t know how many people do this, but I have a trick for avoiding frost bite on my nose and cheeks when running at subzero temperatures without anything covering my face; I stick my lower jaw out slightly when I exhale so that my breath is directed over my face. The main problem with this is that it is annoying to hold my jaw in that position and concentrate on controlling the flow of my exhalations. I bought a new neoprene head mask at Sentry. The mask held together this time and my running got a lot less painful at much lower temperatures.
I used to wear my neoprene face mask slightly loosely and get a lot of ice buildup inside the mask which I don’t particularly enjoy. Running really increases the amount of water vapor at issue. I figured out that with the mask a little bit tight I could get a bit of a lip lock on the vent holes in the front. That way, most of the mask stays dry for the whole run.

The clothing I wore comfortably at -8F follows. I was not cold at all. Well one toe and one finger got a little numb. I didn’t overheat either.

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