Outdoors Blog

Winter running provides sense of adventure; here are some tips to stay safe out there

Mark Wheeler, Mike Blessing and Ryan Anderson (from left to right) lead a group of runners up Dry Creek trail on Saturday morning, when it was 9 degrees. The runners are part of the Boise Trail Runners Facebook group.
Mark Wheeler, Mike Blessing and Ryan Anderson (from left to right) lead a group of runners up Dry Creek trail on Saturday morning, when it was 9 degrees. The runners are part of the Boise Trail Runners Facebook group. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Vicki Stieha of Boise ran in weather so cold this winter that her voice stopped working. She ran in snow so deep she couldn’t identify the Camel’s Back trail she’s run hundreds of times. She got so fed up with the traction devices on her shoes that she stuck hex screws in the soles of her shoes instead.

Still, she runs outdoors — through one of the most severe winters Boise has ever seen.

“I could definitely go inside and run my miles on a treadmill or go run stairs, but it’s not the same as just being outside in the fresh air,” Stieha said. “... There’s some camaraderie in it. We can laugh at our ridiculousness.”

Stieha runs four times per week, often with the Boise Area Runners Meetup group (meetup.com/boisearearunners). The membership is broad — from ultra-marathon runners to people who run/walk.

“I’m not like your super, super, duper fit person,” Stieha said. “I’m an almost-52-year-old mother of four. ... If people want to get out there and be crazy with us, you don’t have to be a contender.”

Beau Seegmiller, the president of BAR, finds treadmills “psychologically challenging.”

“There’s also a little bit of an adventure to running in the snow,” he said. “Part of running is developing mental toughness. You run in bad weather, you feel like you’re putting a little deposit in that bank.”

Here are some tips from Seegmiller and Stieha to enjoy and survive winter running:

▪ Take advantage of the Greenbelt and Foothills trails. “Traffic safety is one of the biggest issues, especially when there’s so much snow and no sidewalk, so you’re running in the street with limited space for cars,” Seegmiller said. “We escape the No. 1 hazard. We’re spoiled here in Boise. The Greenbelt is better maintained, from what we saw with (the January storms), than the roads.”

▪ Dress wisely. Layers are important. Take hand and foot warmers if you need them. “Absolutely no cotton on your body anywhere — it will just wreak havoc,” Seegmiller said. “Smartwool (socks) are great. You can hit a mud puddle and your feet will be wet and a half-mile later they’ll warm up.” He and Stieha use a variety of gloves, depending on the weather. “As you try stuff,” Seegmiller said, “you get to the point by this time of the year you can look at the temperature outside and know exactly what you need to wear to be comfortable.” Said Stieha: “A lot of times when it gets like this, I’ll have a technical shirt or two and my fleece and then I’ll put a wind layer over it.”

▪ Try slip-on traction devices on your shoes. In the snow, Seegmiller uses Yaktrax — a system of steel coils that attach to his shoes. He uses Get A Grip on ice because of the product’s metal spikes (Yaktrax has a model with those, too). Stieha recently became frustrated with her traction devices breaking so she went to a do-it-yourself technique, inserting 12-15 hexagonal screws into each shoe.

▪ Slow down. “(The pace) doesn’t really matter,” Stieha said. “It’s time on your feet. If you’re training for (the Race to Robie Creek) or you’re training for a spring race, it’s not going to make a big difference. It’s effort. You have to give yourself a break.”

▪ Some days you just shouldn’t run. If there’s a layer of ice on the pavement coated with fresh snow, stay inside. “Even with traction devices, it’s just going to compress the snow and slip,” Seegmiller said. “Those are the situations that I’ve known runners to get injured.” In those conditions in Rexburg, Seegmiller’s ex-wife fell and broke a wrist, he said. Another person in the same running group also fell and needed medical attention. “That’s the super dangerous stuff,” Seegmiller said.

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