How to Run on Snow and Ice

The weather always looks worse if you’re looking at it through the window… So just get out there!

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This post may come at a bad time, considering my running friends back home in Australia are currently experiencing 40 degrees C days, but Pip and I are on holidays! For the last week we have been in Canada, splitting our time between Whistler and Vancouver.

The main purpose of this trip is to run the Disney Dopey Marathon challenge in Orlando, Florida, which starts in a couple of days. So why not squeeze in a week of skiing beforehand? What could possibly go wrong?

We arrived in Vancouver last Saturday, 27th December. Snow was falling as we rode the bus up the sea to sky highway to Whistler. Upon arrival, we organised rental and loan of our ski/ board equipment, ready for the next day.
We had 5 day lift tickets for skiing/riding, and would also try to squeeze a few runs in while we were there.

The next day, we headed up the mountain.

Pip, Kirby and Lee ski Whistler.
Pip, Kirby and Lee ski Whistler.

Tip #1: Schedule your runs.

We enjoyed snowboarding all day, before heading down the mountain at about 2pm, because we had planned to go on a run that afternoon. when you plan or schedule a run for a certain time, you are more likely to do it.

Kirby, Pip and Lee run Whistler.
Kirby, Pip and Lee run Whistler.

Lee, Dean, Pip and I ran a 5km loop of the golf course, which is maintained (snowplowed) valley trail. It was good to shake out the legs after a day on the mountain.

The next 2 days we hit the mountain again. On Tuesday afternoon after skiing, Pip and I decided to go on another run.

Tip #2: Wear appropriate clothing.

I left on my wool snow socks, and pulled on a pair of thick tights. I added a singlet, thermal, and a windproof, waterproof, lightweight North Face jacket. I also pulled on a beanie (or toque, as they call them in Canada) and gloves.

As soon as we stepped out the door, we started running to try to get warm.

We ran about 8 and a half kilometres, out to Riverside and back. That evening, I also decided to try hot yoga at White Gold yoga studio.

The next day was New Years eve, so after we finished skiing for the day, we headed out for New Years celebrations. It was a big one, so we had a sleep in on New Years Day.

Mid-morning, we headed out for a 15km run past Lakeside park, and towards Creekside.

Lakeside Park.
Lakeside Park.

Tip #3: Wear appropriate footwear.

All week, Pip and I had been running in Trail Shoes. Another option is crampons or yaktrax, which you pull on over your regular shoes.

Yaktrax
Yaktrax

On our last day, we headed out to Rainbow park and back.

Tip #4: Slow down.

We had to run down a steep hill, which meant we needed to slow down. All week, we had been running around 30-40 seconds per kilometre slower than normal, due to the slippery conditions and snow. I also noticed my gait had changed slightly, as I was cautious of slipping over. My centre of gravity had shifted forward, and I had shortened my stride. For different reasons, you also need to slow down in extreme heat. However, if it comes down to extreme heat vs extreme cold, cold is faster.

Rainbow Park
Rainbow Park
I'm not sure what everyone back home in Australia is talking about... I have no trouble keeping my hydro packs cold!
I’m not sure what everyone back home in Australia is talking about… I have no trouble keeping my hydro packs cold!

Tip #5: Drink up!

Don’t forget to hydrate in the cold! Obviously it is not as important as in the heat, and your requirements will not be the same. Particularly for long runs, you still need to hydrate. I carried a collapsible water bottle in my pocket, and sipped occasionally. It was not in response to thirst. Due to the cold air, my throat was getting really dry, so the water helped with this too.

That afternoon, we caught the bus to Vancouver.

The next day, we awoke to the trademark Vancouver rain. It would have been easy not to run, but we had made plans to meet up with a fellow night strider now living in Vancouver, Lauren.

Tip #6: Run with friends.

When you plan to run with friends, you are less likely to back out, especially in inclement weather. If we didn’t run, we wouldn’t get to see Lauren. So we caught the seabus, and Lauren picked us up in North Vancouver, She drove us to Lynn Canyon, where we embarked on a 13km trail run that took us nearly 2 hours. It would have been tough even in good conditions.

It was a few degrees warmer than Whistler, but it was raining, so I was worried that I would be colder. We encountered unexpected snow on the ground. Mixed with the falling rain, it meant we were running through ice-cold slushy mud. Waterproof shoes don’t do much when the puddles are more than ankle deep. But my jacket worked, and my body stayed dry and warm, so I was fine, despite my frozen feet.

We had to slow to a walk on many parts of the trails too, because the snow concealed the hidden dangers of loose rocks and tree roots. Lauren was also carrying a space blanket… Just in case! (That’s Tip #7: Be prepared for the worst!)

I think that we are now 200% more hardcore after this run… And ready for ANYTHING that the North Face 100k can throw at us this year.

Thanks to Lauren for showing us your part of the world!

Lauren, Kirby and Pip: 13km of ice-cold fun!
Lauren, Kirby and Pip: 13km of ice-cold fun!

The next day was our last in Vancouver. We needed to visit the Running Room, (a running store that’s almost as good as Pure Performance) to buy supplies for the Disney marathon.

Tip #8: Run to commute, sightsee, or run errands.

It was a few kilometres from where we were staying, so we decided to run there. And by run there, I mean, run-10km-out-of-our-way-to-sightsee-Stanley-Park-on-the-way run there. It was so cold, we even saw penguins swimming in English Bay! By the time we arrived in the Running Room, we were a dripping mess. We bought our gels and headed back home, with 16 wet kilometres under our belts.

Pip runs the Stanley Park Seawall.
Pip runs the Stanley Park Seawall.

With 6 tough runs in the snow and rain under our belts, we are now more than ready to head to warmer shores, and take on the Disney marathon. Next stop…. Florida!

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