I grew up in southern California, 20 minutes from the beach. With only a 20-degree temperature swing between summer and winter, I was a child without seasons.
Considering this, I think I've adapted fairly well to a climate which receives an average of 30 feet of snowfall per year. To be sure, I love the mountains. We get very little rain (most of our precip comes as snow), and if it's not absolutely dumping outside, it's sunny. Friends in the valley complain of the fog and how they haven't seen the sun in weeks, while I wouldn't dare leave the house without my sunglasses for fear of snow blindness.
Here in the Sierra, we lack the frigid temps of the midwest. Even in summer we're absent the heat of the desert and the humidity of the coast. The only real challenge we have is vast quantities of snow. With last week's storm dumping five feet in four days, and today's storm already totaling two feet at my house, I wanted to share a few of my strategies for running through a winter of snow.
Some days, my house looks like this:
When that happens, I generally don't run. Trails are chest-deep in powder, making snowshoeing and cross country skiing ridiculous endeavors, and roads are full of cars sliding around with drivers who can't see - not a good scenario for running.
If getting to the resort is a viable option (taking road conditions into account), then powder skiing is the best crosstraining around. (I don't recommend backcountry skiing on big storm days!) Think a gravity sport like skiing isn't a good workout? I dare you to try doing it all day in deep powder.
Other good options for big storm days include shoveling, snowblowing, snowball fights, and carving out sled runs in the neighborhood.
|Andrew gets his snowblower on, along with all the neighbors.
After the driveway is cleared, head inside for some yoga and strength training. This is a great time to do some serious stretching!
On non-storm days, snowshoeing, skate skiing, and telemark skiing all make for excellent crosstraining.
|Skinning up and skiing down is a serious workout for me!
Drive for Dirt
Getting tired of running the roads or snowshoeing? If you're lucky enough to live within driving distance of snow-free trails (like I am) then take your Saturday to drive somewhere that you can get in a long run on dirt. It's a welcome respite!
When the Storm Breaks, Go Big
I took five days off during our last storm. I actually needed the rest, but when a clear day coincided with a day off work, I made the most of it. Not only did I drive for dirt, taking an hour to get to Auburn and the Western States trail, but I joined a friend for a 36-mile day. It was wonderful, and I'm glad I did since I'm back to crosstraining for the next couple of days.
Embrace the Life
When people complain about the snow, I often wonder why they live here. This is what you get in the Sierra! If ultrarunning were my highest priority, maybe I would live elsewhere. I find, however, that doing multiple sports early in the season not only helps prevent injury, but it also helps prevent burnout later in the season. I haven't been running like a madwoman all year long, and that is a good thing.
I guess embracing the life is about attitude. I make the most of good weather, and I don't let myself get frustrated if mother nature throws a wrench in my training plan. I simply adapt.
I also recognize that there are a myriad of wonderful things about life that have nothing to do with running. Crazy, I know.
Here's one way the people in my neighborhood embrace the life. At the moment, our street looks like this:
After the blower plow comes through, the snow banks become sheer, white walls. And what do you do with a blank white canvas? You draw on it, of course!
Some of the snow bank art on my street:
|Peace, and a flower.
|Smiley face and "Hi."
|Flower. Someone is ready for spring!
|I think maybe this poor guy got run over by the snow plow.
|More smiley faces.
|Apparently we're a happy neighborhood.
|Your standard pooping duck. Clearly we have children living in our hood. :)
|And of course, declarations of love. Aww.
I'm excited about my upcoming races, and I have been training hard. A six-week spell of warm, sunny weather in January and February allowed me to get a solid early-season base. Now that I'm back to winter-style training though, I'm enjoying the pleasures of winter in the mountains. I make the most of my running days, and play hard in other arenas. I think, for me, this is the best approach, as I have a tendency to get obsessively focused on things if given the chance.
As spring approaches, I know my training will increase in intensity and mileage. For now, I'm content with a "quality over quantity" approach.
How do you deal with the training challenges presented in your neck of the woods?