I have run in what I consider to be extreme cold (12 degrees Fahrenheit being the lowest) the last couple of winters. I have run on paths with some patches of ice and snow. But this is the first year I have run continuously in a layer of snow. Admittedly, it was only one to two inches deep, but it’s better to learn about snow gradually, right? It was fresh powder, continuing to fall in a light flurry while I ran. I started out slowly on the snow covered asphalt path, wondering how it would affect my running and how many times I would fall. My dog, Kiwi, is well trained enough that I didn’t need traction to keep her from pulling me along, but I was on alert for needing to moderate her if we passed people or other dogs.
I hadn’t run in my RunAMocs for almost two years, greatly preferring the ground feel of the Moc3s. Last winter was cold, but rather dry. The last time I really ran in the RunAMocs, I hadn’t been running truly barefooted for other runs or through the summers; and I was not running as many miles. Even though the RunAMocs are very comfortable compared to other shoes, I was concerned they would feel heavy and cumbersome after so much barefoot running and using the Moc3s. However, the Moc3s are NOT water resistant, being perforated leather. They are fine in a gentle rain shower, when it is at least 45 degrees and the pavement is well drained, but I had felt I would be risking numb feet to run in Moc3s in snow at 30 degrees (Fahrenheit).
Right away, I was glad of my choice. The road next to the parking area was thick slush. Also, Kiwi, who is very conscious of her boundaries, was a little freaked out by cars passing when she couldn’t sense where the road edge was. I had to dig my feet in and correct her without water skiing into the road and oncoming traffic. She was like that for about 1/4 mile on the path, too, when passing dogs in their fenced yards along the route, even though she has passed them regularly without trouble all summer and fall.
I could tell the snow was absorbing some of my potential energy, as I sunk into it with each step. I was not getting as much reward from my bent knee suspension as usual. On the other hand, I was feeling lighter on my feet than I had thought I would! Surely some of it was due to increased stamina, but some of it also seemed directly related to overall better form, from so much barefoot running.
The improved running form also felt like it made me less prone to slipping. I was only keeping a 9 minute mile pace, trying not to push the speed in order to really think about whether or not I was sure of my footing. Part of that approach was to apply the same lifting principle that I have learned for barefoot running, which means I think more about lifting my feet than pushing off. It was a balance, because in order to run lightly I have to keep up a certain amount of speed.
The real test came when two medium sized loose dogs began to chase us. There was sufficient distance between us when I spotted them that I was able to turn around, then take a detour to try to shake them off our trail. My new Garmin Forerunner 10 recorded me as running an 8:15 minute mile pace at that point, so I guess I had plenty of traction!
The other benefit of having the Garmin watch, was that I could keep track of my mileage in spite of the route adjustment. With my adrenaline going from dog encounter, it was a relief to be able to refer to it once I felt safe. Then, I could plan the rest of my run accordingly. Otherwise, I may have succumbed more easily to my breathlessness and cut my run short without having a good idea of how far I had gone. I like to know how far I’ve gone. It helps me a lot with my training goals and mentality.
With this run under my belt, I am feeling like winter running has potential. If the asphalt paths get dry and warm enough, I will try to get some barefoot running. Meanwhile, it is nice to know that I can have fun in my RunAMocs in the snow!