At the first of the year, I was perusing our area’s race schedule and saw The Battle of the Bean 5K race to be held at the end of February. When you sign up, you join either Team Coffee or Team Cocoa. Coffee and running all in one event? How could I resist? My husband volunteered to run as well as a few of my friends and coworkers.
The race was scheduled for February 28. Being that we are in Kansas, I knew the weather would be unpredictable. We often have all four seasons in a week, so we knew it could be 60 degrees on race day or we could be in the midst of a major snowstorm.
When the race was about a week away, I started watching the weather forecast. The forecast was beginning to show a chance of snow. As the time grew closer, the chance of snow grew greater. I am not ashamed to admit that I am somewhat of a fair weather runner–when the temperature drops I tend to head indoors to the YMCA track to do any running. Add in snow and possible wind? That is a definite NO to any outside running.
I probably would have decided to skip the race and just sleep in that morning, but Mr. Caffeinated Ginger was successful in making running in a snowstorm sound like a fun and delightful experience. “It will be great! We can do this! It’s only a 30 minute or so race! I’ll take you out to breakfast afterwards!” He had me at the word “breakfast.”
I went to Target a couple of evenings before the race to see if I could find warm running gear to help protect me from the elements. Luckily they had all of their winter clothing on clearance, so I filled my cart with gloves, a hat, thermal tights, a fleece lined sweatshirt, and a gaiter. What is a gaiter, you may ask? Well, I didn’t know what it was either when I bought it–it just looked like something I would need. I actually had to go home and Google its identity. Truly. I’m cool that way. A gaiter is a tube-like piece of fabric that fits around your neck and can also be pulled up over your mouth and nose to protect you from the elements.
Disclaimer: This is NOT a picture of me. I have more hair.
I know many of you are thinking, WHY would you run in a race that requires you to wear such an accessory? Trust me–the same thought was going through my mind.
It took me probably an hour the night before the race to figure out what I was going to wear that would allow me to run while also keeping my body parts free from frostbite. After trying on different combinations of clothing, I decided to wear a short-sleeved dri-fit shirt, followed by a fleece-lined sweatshirt with a fleece-lined running jacket on the top half of my body. On the bottom half, I decided to wear my fleece-lined C9 running tights with a pair of sweats over the top. Two pairs of socks would be worn on my feet. The outfit would then be complete with my neck gaitor, running beanie (complete with hole for my ponytail), and headband to cover my ears. Mr. Caffeinated Ginger swore I was going to roast to death. This comes from the man who was contemplating wearing shorts to the race. Talk about crazy!
The next morning we were rudely awakened by our alarm at 6:20 a.m. We looked outside and sure enough there was already snow on the ground. After putting on our layers and grabbing our hot coffee, we started the 25-mile drive to the race location.
When we got to the race location, there were very few people outside milling around–most racers were being smart by staying warm inside the coffee house which was the host for the race. We spent a little time warming up and running a little to gauge the traction on the street.
In case we ended up frozen like Han Solo was in Star Wars Episode 5, we took one last picture together so that our children would remember us for posterity.
Then we were off!
I learned pretty quickly that the best way to not slip and break a hip on the street was to NOT run in the tracks made by other runners, but to stick to running in fresh snow. I really did not have any issues with slick spots. There were a couple of places that were getting icy, but volunteers were there to warn runners as well as sprinkle sand on those areas.
I started off running the first half-mile with the gaiter over my face.
This is me not loving life at the moment.
However, I soon learned that I could not breathe with it over my nose and mouth. At first I wasn’t sure if my lack of oxygen was due to the gaiter or the cold air, but as soon as I pulled the gaiter off my nose and mouth, air soon returned to my lungs and life was good. Well, maybe not good, but definitely better.
The one saving grace about this race was that the wind was not blowing. There was a slight breeze when we turned south and west which caused the snow to pelt our eyes a bit, but it wasn’t anything unbearable.
What WAS unbearable were the worthless gloves I was wearing did nothing–I repeat NOTHING–to keep my hands warm. I soon was feeling the effects of the 7 degree temperature on my hands. They turned painful very quickly. For the first two miles I was sure that frostbite was setting in and was constantly trying to figure out a way to get them warm to no avail. Finally during the last mile they decided to go numb (probably because the tissue was dying off) and I could concentrate on running and not my fingers.
When I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I knew that I would live to see another day. I sprinted (well, more like waddled since I had on so many layers–think Michelin Man) to the finish line.
I was more than five minutes slower than my usual 5K time, but I wasn’t going for a personal best–I was trying to survive to live another day.
I could have kissed the finish line.
Mr. CF and I went inside the coffee shop where we were offered coffee or hot chocolate (coffee, duh!) as well as food. When we went to get the print out of our results, we were pleasantly surprised that Mr. CF had won second place in his age group and and I had won third place in mine. Perseverance (and a little crazy) pays off, my friends!
As promised, Mr. CF took me out for a nice hot breakfast which included LOTS of hot coffee.
The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting in front of the fireplace watching college basketball and trying to defrost my fingers. (Note to self: Buy better gloves.)
Is a race in the snow something I would actually pursue because it’s FUN? No. but I have to admit I feel epic and fierce for completing it.
What are the worst conditions in which you have raced? Do you enjoy running in the snow?