Friday, March 24, 2017

Building blocks and re-purposed socks

My last long run of meteorological winter was on Saturday afternoon, and after a couple of bitterly cold outings in the days beforehand all of my warm socks that are long enough to meet up with the bottom of my tights were in the laundry. If you have long legs (I'm about a 32" inseam standing at 5'8"), you know the battle of trying to keep your ankles from getting frostbitten in standard running kit. There seems to be a dearth of crew-height wool socks suitable for running, too, which just makes things all the more challenging.

The struggle is real.

Since I was heading out to do a nearly 40km point-to-point run on a trail I'd never experienced before, with temperatures around the freezing mark and rain or snow predicted, I wasn't leaving my poor ankles undefended. Even my gaiters couldn't quite bridge the gap reliably, so I was left scrambling to figure out a fix - with my left ankle being damaged I was keener than ever to keep things warm to promote mobility and prevent further injury, but I'm really fussy about my running socks 'cause blisters suck. Finally I remembered that Tank had a pair of warm, wooly hiking socks with holes in the soles and asked if he minded if I stole them, with the caveat that they'd be totally wrecked for him to ever wear again. He said he didn't mind, so I grabbed them and had at them with my sewing shears.

I cut right along the lower edge of the heel seam, hoping it would help keep them from unraveling too much either while I ran or in the wash. Then I pulled them on over my socks and tights, facing backwards so the heel of the sock settled over the top of my arch.

Dorky appearance aside, this would help keep the tendons that run down the top of my feet extra warm as well. I threw on my gaiters and shoes, then took these puppies out for a spin on the Elora Cataract Trailway.

All sealed up.

Starting from the East end

There was snow falling, as promised.
All of the sections with coniferous trees were snow covered as well, sometimes with ice underneath.

There were pretty little streams running under the trail.

And wide open, windy spaces as well.

Over four hours later - with a stop in Orton to meet up with Tanker for a water re-supply, warmer gloves and a jacket - I arrived at Belwood Lake Conservation Area (home of the Belwood Tri - one of our favourites, now sadly defunct again) in failing light and turned off the trail toward Fergus. 39km for the day, and my ankles were lovely and toasty!

Belwood Lake was not.

Getting changed in the Fergus Tim Hortons bathroom - such a glamorous life!

The ankle warmers had worked perfectly - the gentle elastic held them up nicely and I had no chafing or discomfort. The gaiters kept them in place on this run, but they stay put just as well without because of the heel portion of the sock can be tucked under the tongue of your shoe to hold it in place.

I've since washed them (or rather I should say Tanker has - he really is a Wonder Sherpa!) on delicate cycle & hung up to dry with no ill effects. They shed a few bits, but are structurally perfect. The natural antimicrobial properties of the wool keeps them from smelling bad, so they can be used multiple times in between washes without instigating chemical or biological warfare on your household. I'd been meaning to make myself a pair of these for awhile, and I'm happy I finally did!

Bonus: you can use the foot portions that you cut off as emergency mittens
Though in this case they may have extra breathability..

Meanwhile, that run on the Elora Cataract Trailway was the start of my final 6-day block of training during the Slowtwitch 2016-2017 100 runs in 100 days challenge. The leaderboard may change a bit as people log their final runs as this is actually the 100th day, but my totals will remain the same since I don't train on Fridays.

As of 3pm I've dropped to 47th place, but I don't really care.
It's about the work, not beating anyone else.

99 days from December 15th to March 23rd saw me run 90 times for a total of 947.45km in 101 hours, 32 minutes and 34 seconds. I've been participating in the 100 in 100 challenge for several years now, but I believe this is the first time I've ever managed more than 85 runs and it's certainly the most mileage I've ever put in during the winter. From Saturday's trek on the rail trail to last night was my biggest 6-day block ever: 91.8km / 57.0mi, putting me at 799.5km for the year so far. Since I'm already over 276km for March, I do believe I'll top 300k for a month for the first time as well. These will - I hope - be the foundation for a successful finish at the Sulphur Springs 100k.

Yes, I did two doubles in the last week, too.

I did, however, do some more damage to my poor left ankle on Wednesday. While doing my usual pre-run dynamic warmup at my office prior to a post-work trot, I managed to bang the damn thing off my desk chair. It feels fine when running, but gives eye-popping flashes of pain at other times, especially when using the clutch in our car. So, I might even take Saturday off as well, depending on how things feel. I've not taken more than a single day off running since January 12th, so I suspect an extra rest day won't be the death of the fitness I've built.

If I can just avoid the temptation of the trails..

So now that I've shared my little trick to staying warm in wintry conditions, let's bring on the spring!


  1. have you tried wool ski socks? I swear by those in the winter.

    1. I have Smartwool socks that I love to run in - they're almost all I use. I find most ski socks these days tend to emphasize ventilation since they're intended for use in heavy, warm boots - not that helpful when I'm trying to keep warm! I also can't add a second pair of socks without it affecting the fit of my shoes, so these warmers are the perfect solution.


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