How to Love Running in the Rain

After the freak mid-April snowstorm that covered half the country a couple weeks ago, it seems as though it’s finally spring. If you’re not fortunate enough to live somewhere like Arizona, this probably means rain, and plenty of it. Don’t be discouraged though, soon enough, people in Arizona will be baking cookies in their cars while the rest of us are enjoying more “mild” summers in the 80’s and 90’s. Until then though, we have rain and mud to deal with.

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Enjoying a rainy hike in Colorado

Every year around mid- to late-May, I start seeing tons of runners everywhere. “Wow, so many people! I wonder where they were a month or two or five ago” I think. Inside is the answer. Although people from the Midwest seem to be somewhat more hardy than people from more mild climates, people here have their “weather rules” too. Oh, it’s too cold out, it’s cloudy, there’s snow on the ground. The list goes on and on. The most extreme case of this I heard was from a friend who moved to Texas whose triathlon club there instituted rules such as:

  1. If it’s colder than 70 degrees, we don’t bike outside
  2. If it’s colder than 50 degrees, we don’t run outside
  3. For swimming, the water temperature must be at least 75 degrees and everyone must wear a wetsuit and neoprene booties and cap at all times

I just made that last one up but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was one of them. The truth is there’s (almost) no weather that’s bad enough to forgo an outdoor activity. With the right wardrobe and the right attitude, it can even be fun! For a true representation of sporting weather badass-ery, check out surfer Dan and his beard. This guy surfs in Lake Superior in the winter time. If you’ve never been to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, trust me when I say Lake Superior is freezing cold even at the height of summer. While we can’t all be surfer Dans, we can try a little bit harder to get outside in all types of weather. See below for some tips on how to embrace the rain and mud this spring!

  • Mentally prepare yourself – **This is the most important one** If you find yourself looking out the window formulating excuses about why you should probably just skip today’s workout or thinking about how if you do go out there, you’re going to be cold and wet and miserable, stop right now. Instead, tell yourself what a badass you’ll be for going out there on a day when everyone else is huddled inside. Tell yourself how fun it’ll be to splash through puddles and feel the rain hit your face. Going into anything with the right mindset will set you up for a better chance at success. In 2016, it rained during every single race I did over half marathon distance (that’s roughly 15 races and no, I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest). If I had stayed home every time it rained that year, I would’ve barely done anything at all. You never know what the weather is going to be like on race day so you need to be ready for anything and everything.
  • Phone a friend – If you already tried to mentally prepare yourself and still can’t seem to convince yourself to do it, try calling a friend. In this case, the dumber the better. On days with terrible weather when I make my husband join me my husband voluntarily joins me, I always tell him how awesome he is for being out there, but usually he says “I’m not awesome, just dumb.”
  • Dress for success – Usually I don’t wear a rain jacket while running unless it’s under 45 degrees, and even then I might not wear one depending on how fast I’m going. I have an Ultimate Direction Ultra jacket which I love. It keeps me dry in all but the most monsoon-ish weather, its super light, and it packs down small so I can put it away when I inevitably get too hot.
  • Bring a change of clothes and a towel – If you’re driving to a trail or some other place, bring a towel and a change of clothes with you. You’ll get cold fast after sitting in your car sopping wet for a few minutes.
  • Leave the phone at home – Since phones and water don’t really mix, it’s best to leave it at home. If you’re out for a longer adventure or in a more remote area where this isn’t feasible, try putting your phone in a ziploc bag before putting it in your pack.
  • Embrace the mud – I recently did a trail half marathon in Arizona of all places where most of the course was covered in mud. Throughout the race, I watched people tiptoe carefully around the “muddy areas”, which I repeat, was most of the course. If you think there’s a chance the mud in front of you might be quicksand that will drag you underground, by all means, find a way around. But when it’s pouring rain and everything is sloppy, you’re going to get dirty eventually so just embrace it. One of my favorite mottos is “If you ain’t dirty, you ain’t having fun” so it comes as no surprise that I’m usually the dirtiest person at the end of every race.
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Becoming one with the mud

 

 

Fueling the Adventure

One of the most important aspects of participating in endurance sports is nutrition. I’m not talking about how many servings of vegetables you had yesterday or whether you’ve been eating a rainbow of fruits although I guess that’s important too. I’m talking about consuming adequate nutrition on a 3 or 4 or 5 or 24 hour long adventure. It’s not enough to check all the boxes on your training schedule, you have to practice eating too. Wait. Practice eating? That’s something everyone could get into.

Some people have stomachs of steel and can consume packaged bars and energy gels all day long and feel great. Some people eat nothing but fruit a la Fruitarian and feel great. While these options might work for some people, the best way to find out what works for you is to experiment. Most ultra runners I know will consume at least some “real” food during a race (i.e. they don’t subsist only on gels and bars). And let’s face it, eating the things commonly found at ultra aid stations sounds way more appetizing anyway.

My current favorite things to eat on long training runs/races/adventures are:

  • Justin’s Almond Butter packets – I actually just discovered these and I can’t believe it’s taken so long. They’re 200 calories each and barely take up any space at all. They definitely need to be eaten with water though unless you want that whole nut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth thing
  • PB&J sandwiches – Outside Online just wrote an article about the amazing properties of the PBJ sammy and I couldn’t agree more. You just cant go wrong with these, except for of course if you’re at a 100k that requires you to make your own sandwiches and they have honey instead of jelly, and you get immediately swarmed by bees, but I digress.
  • Fruit/Chia bars by KIND – kind of like a grown up fruit roll-up except you know, made with actual fruit
  • Watermelon – There’s nothing better during a hot summer race than some delicious watermelon. Bonus: it hydrates you too
  • Popsicles – On the topic of summer races, last year I did a race where the race director stood in the middle of the woods with a cooler full of popsicles while playing ice cream truck music from her phone. Needless to say, it’s now my favorite race
  • Salted Almonds – Salted almonds are another one I recently discovered. I shared some of mine with a fellow racer at a recent 50 miler and he loved them too so it’s not just me. Lots of calories in just a few bites, and electrolytes too
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches – aka The Holy Grail of ultra food. Anytime I do a race where they have grilled cheese sandwiches, I know it’s going to be a great day. They taste even better if it’s dark and cold outside
  • Beer – Just kidding about this one. Kind of. While I personally can’t fathom drinking a beer during a run, I recently volunteered at a 100k where a woman rolled into the aid station at mile 37, ate a pizza and drank a can of PBR, then continued on her way. Lady, if you’re reading this, you’re my hero.

What are your favorite foods to eat while training/racing/adventuring? I’m always looking for new ideas! Leave your answer in the comments.