Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Letter 2011

A little narcissistic look into our year...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things (Winter Running)

It's getting close to Christmas time, and gift-giving time.  Around this time of year I'm thankful for my winter running gear.  It wasn't all that long ago when I wouldn't run outside if the temp was below 50F.  In the past few years, I've come to enjoy the sunny winter days.  But, without the right gear, even the sunny days are miserable.

A few of my favorite winter running gear...

  • If it's above 40F and not too windy, any one of my several race swag hats will do just fine.
  • If the wind is a bit gusty, or it's closer to freezing temps, I like to keep my ears warm, but let out the heat up top.  Ear wraps work perfect, but most interfere with my ponytail.  I found the perfect solution at Athleta, their Base Miles Headband.
  • When the temps drop below freezing, but not cold enough for the full face cover, Athelta's Base Miles Beanie is my go-to item.  I also have a version from luluemon, but can't find it on their website.  Hopefully they still stock them at the stores.
  • There are many winter days in Iowa that require the face to be covered to avoid frostbite.  Most people wear a balaclava under their hat.  Not the most attractive, but will do the job.  However, I was able to blend fashion with function by using a Seirus Quick Draw hat.  Mine are from Dick's Sporting Goods, but I don't see them on their site any longer.  I did find my pink version at Bob Wards' Website


  • It has to be below freezing before I even bother with gloves.  My hands might be a little chilly at first, but once my blood start flowing, they pinken back up.
  • Between 20-30 F, just a little hand covering is needed.  The cheap (3 pair for $5 or so) department store gloves work just fine.  
  • Between 10-20 F I break out my favorite running gloves, the Saucony Ulti Mitt.  They were a christmas gift a few years ago and are the swiss army knife of gloves!  I have the older version, which seems to just have a different lights with it.  A review of my version is here.  My favorite part about the gloves/mittens is that I can start with the mitten covering, and when my hands warm up I just tuck the covering into itself.
  • About the time I get out the Seirus hat, I also keep my hands warmer.  My Kombi mittens that I picked up at Active Endeavors in Iowa City are perfect.  Unfortunately, the style I have, Britney II Mitt, is no longer available.  They are the best of both worlds for mittens vs gloves.  They look like a mitten, but inside there is a compartment for each finger like a glove.  


  • It doesn't take long before I need a little extra covering up top. My go-to running shirt is the Nike Pro Hyperwarm top.  The mock neck keeps my neck and upper chest warm.  With the sleeve holes, I can go to cooler temps without having to wear gloves.  I can tuck my fingers into the sleeves at the beginning of the run, and slowly let them out as I warm up.
  • When it's cold or rainy, my Pearl iZumi jacket, similar to their P.R.O. Barrier Lite Jacket, keeps the cold out and the warmth in.  It's extremely lightweight  at 80 grams, has a pocket, and is packable.


  • In fall and spring, capris running tights will work to near freezing temps.  As long as the rest of my body is warm, my legs can tolerate the cold.
  • When it's hovering around freezing, it's time to break out the running tights.  Any brand will do.  I have two pair that I rotate through.  The Reebok version has elastic at the bottom, and the Nike Tech Tights ones have zippers.  Although the zippers look a little more fashionable, they can sometimes eat into my heels.  The fabric also likes to slip down my legs.
  • On the REALLY cold days, my upper thighs get really cold.  To help alleviate it, I found that Jockey's Men's GO Mesh Midway Brief gives just enough extra covering.  Looks a little odd in the locker room, but worth the odd stares. 


  • I've never had problems running in my standard Zoot Advantage training shoes and Wright CoolMesh socks.  My feet stay warm enough for even the coldest runs.
  • When footing becomes an issues, screw shoes are a must-have item.  They are perfect for the thin layer of morning frost, or ice after a snow thaw.
  • Snow is another issue we have to deal with in Iowa.  Screw shoes can't always provide the traction I need, so I don the Yaktrax Pro's that I purchase from our local outdoor store, Fin & Feather.  They work best on packed snow.
  • If the snow is deep enough and the city trails haven't been cleared yet, I'll just strap on the cross country skis, and head out the door.  Or, if it's a nice weekend day, the Macbride Nature Recreation Area is a quick drive away.


  • The days are shorter, so there's much more running in the dark.  Two years ago on my christmas list were Road ID's Firefly Superova lights.  I clip one on to my Garmin Forerunner 310xt watch strap and another on to the back of my running top, and I barely even know they are there.  Depending on how the battery is installed, they either blink or shine steady.  Since they are LED, the battery lasts a LONG time.
  • Not necessarily a winter item, but my Tifosi sunglasses, similar to the Torrent style, have a nice winter-friendly feature to them.   Their greatness lies in the vent in the lens, which greatly reduces fogging.  They were purchased at Northtowne in Cedar Rapids, but they also are available at World of Bikes in Iowa City.

Each year I find something new.  What will it be this winter?