DTR Winter mode
- Winter got off to a bang in Colorado this year. DTR will continue
through the winter. However, because of the cold and dark, the nature
of the runs changes. Below is information about winter running with
DTR, as well as general winter running tips. Topics contained are:
+ DTR Winter Mode
+ DTR winter run locations
+ Dealing with ice: Screwshoes and other ice devices
DTR continues to run through the winter, at dark, sometimes on ice and
snow. However, the runs take on a different character.
Over the winter, the turnout is usually lower. You have to be a little
crazy, sometimes, to run in the cold and dark.
When it's cold, we don't stand around much before and after the runs.
We may wait in our cars until just before the start of the run. We
won't take a lot of time to go over the route, or spend much time on
introductions. Come to dinner after the runs. We'll take more time to
do introductions and socialize inside, where it's warm.
We are less likely to stop and wait (in the cold) at key
intersections. Everyone is welcome, and I do want to encourage you to
join us, but be prepared to run on your own. If you are unfamiliar
with the trails, please review the route in advance and, perhaps,
bring a map with you. Use the trail rating ("N" means navigational
difficulty) to see which trails are easy to follow and when you might
need a map.
The exception to this is our full moon runs. These runs are meant to
be social, not hard workouts. We do try to keep everyone pretty close
together, and regroup at key intersections.
You will need a light over the winter (maybe not on the full moon).
Sometimes, you will have to deal with ice. More on these below.
You will want to have warm, dry clothes to change into quickly after
the run probably something different than nice, work clothes.
We will continue to run some of the trails over the winter. We usually
stay away from the more technical trails and those that tend to get
icy. We also run some flat and/or paved locations.
Some of our best runs have been in the snow. I remember cutting virgin
tracks on Green Mountain like being in the wilderness, yet so close
to town. Or, running up Chimney Gulch, after a fresh snowfall, where
the snow covered the rocks making it safer and smoother than running
on a track. Don't be afraid of the snow and ice.
We can't always avoid ice and snow. Here are some tricks for making
There are several tools to help you when running on ice. There are
devices that slip on your shoes including Yaktrax, Get-A-Grip,
STABILicers, and GripOns. These cost $15-$50. They easily slip on most
running shoes. These devices (and screwshoes, below) work best on ice
and hard packed snow. They don't help much in deep, soft powder. They
can fall off in deeper and softer snow.
Many of us use screwshoes. It's a simple and cheap way to convert your
shoes to ice runners. You put sheet metal screws into your shoe, point
up. Yes, point up. It's the hex head that grips the ice. You don't
feel the point. They don't ruin your shoes (the rubber seals around
the hole when you take them out in the spring). Although, you have to
be careful when putting them into Nikes, Asics, or other shoes with
air/gel pockets. A few screws across the back and outside of the heel,
and the ball of the foot, are all it takes. I'll bring a pair to the
next several runs to show, even if they're not needed that day. For
more information, "How To" and pictures, go to
When running on ice, with or without traction devices, you want to use
a light, quick stride, and stay up on the balls of your feet think
of running on hot coals. This will help keep you nimble and safe.
Learning to run with this kind of stride will make you more efficient
on dry ground. So, running on ice can actually be good for you.
Consider getting some neoprene (e.g., Sealskinz, Seirus) or Gore-tex
socks to help keep your feet warm and dry.
Choosing a light is about finding the right combination of brightness,
weight, cost and comfort.
The first choice is hand vs. headlight. Both have their advantages and
Headlights leave your hands free, and the light shines where you look.
Disadvantages are that coming from above, the light can create shadows
that are hard to pick up. When it's wet or very cold, the light
reflects off the rain/snow, or mist from your breath, which can make
it hard to see. Even the best fitting light will bounce a little. The
brighter lights will have a noticeable batter pack. Some batteries are
built into the light unit, in front. This can extend the center of
gravity away from the head, adding to the bounce. A battery pack in
the back of the head reduces the bounce, but the feel takes getting
used to. Some have the batteries in a separate pouch, which you can
string through your jacket, and keep in a pocket or pack. This is a
little more complicated, but the pack gives you more power, gets the
weight off your head, and keeping the battery warm (pocket of pack)
extends the life.
Hand lights generally give you more bang (i.e., brighter) for the
buck. They can be more comfortable than carrying a light on your head.
However, the light moves with your arm swing. It takes practice to
learn how to avoid this, while not keeping your arms stiff and
throwing off your normal stride.
Some people use one of each. The headlight gives better focus on
what's ahead, while the hand light can bring out extra detail up
close, especially in technical terrain. Having lights from different
angles helps to overcome shadows caused by using only one.
When talking to other people, or with oncoming people, please turn
your lights down and to the side. If you're wearing a headlight, don't
look directly at people; keep the light out of their eyes.
Light technology has changed in recent years. LED bulbs give you a
decent mix of brightness and weight. LEDs have the advantage of very
slow battery drain, and the bulbs virtually never burning out. The
newer "Super Bright", 1-3 watt LED bulbs are much brighter than the
older LEDs. LED lights are softer than xenon or halogen. Some lights
come with colored filters that can improve night vision.
Xenon, Halogen and similar bulbs are the brighter. They do burn
through batteries much quicker and can be glary.
Incandescent bulbs are rarely used anymore.
Several models have multiple bulb systems with a xenon or halogen
bulb, for brightness, along with one or several LEDs, for longer
battery life. You can switch back and forth as the conditions dictate,
and always have the LEDs as a backup if the batteries start to wane.
These combination lights offer the best of both worlds.
Another option is a bike commuting light. The Cateye EL300, 400 or 500
are great values and great combination of brightness and weight. You
can hold it in your hand, or make a simple hand strap with duct tape.
I can show you what I've done at an upcoming run.
How much brightness you should get depends on what type of running you
do, and the quality of your night vision. Trail running, as opposed to
road running, requires brighter lighting to bring out the varied
terrain. How well you can see largely dictates how hard (hard is
relative to your own ability) you can run on trails.
A couple of us use mountain biking light (e.g., Niterider HID) for
trail running. These lights are extremely bright, but the batter pack
quite heavy (that just makes for a better workout). HID lights are
You can find lights at outdoor, running and bike stores, as well as
online. In addition to REI, consider some of the local stores:
Bent Gate in Golden
Wilderness Exchange in Denver, across from REI. A discount outlet.
Army/Navy Surplus in Englewood, Aurora and Arvada
You can also get some great deals online including:
SierraTradingPost.com discount outlet based in Cheyenne
Several people have mentioned good deals at WalMart. However, be
careful about buying a very cheap, knock off.
Run on snowshoes? Are you crazy? Yes, but that's beside the point.
Snowshoe running is an awesome workout (you can easily burn >1,000
calories/hour), very easy to learn, low impact, almost injury free,
perhaps the warmest winter sport, and a lot of fun.
Modern snowshoes are not like the old ones you might imagine. They are
fairly small and lightweight. You don't have to waddle like a duck.
You can run with little or no change in your stride, depending on the
Running snowshoes are lighter in weight, have a narrower profile and a
different cleat system than hiking and backcountry shoes. Weight
matters. When it's on your foot, at the end of the pendulum, rather
than around your waist, you feel it a lot more. Think of the
difference in how it feels to run when your shoes are dry, versus
after they are wet and full of mud.
The other main functional difference is in how the shoes track on the
snow. With backcountry shoes, the toe pivots so that the back stays on
the snow, even if you are going up an extremely steep slope. With
running shoes, the toe pivots somewhat, but the tail comes off the
snow. For running, you don't want the shoe dragging and getting caught
on rocks and sticks. Different models work somewhat differently.
However, the similar effect is that snow gets kicked up from behind,
sort of a rooster tail effect.
Racing shoes typically weight 2-2.5 lbs/pair. Racing shoes are a
little more expensive, around $250. While that sounds like a lot, they
should last for years, and many come with long warranties. They are
also fine if you are primarily going to snowshoe on packed or well
established trails. Instead, you can get a light weight hiking or
sport type shoe. They are less expensive, heavier, though still OK for
running. Many races will have free loaners available. Check in advance.
Most companies make what they call women's snowshoes. These are
basically smaller and narrower. You don't have to be a woman to use them.
For clothing, wear slick outer layers. You get wet from below, even
when it's sunny, because of the rooster tail effect. DON'T WEAR FLEECE
on the outside. It acts like Velcro to snow. You will end up covered
in snow, and carrying all that extra weight. For a similar reason, zip
up pockets and cover mesh. Nylon pants and jackets work well. Dress in
layers. If you are running, you will generate a lot of body heat and
Keeping your feet warm is important. Many racers wear a neoprene sock
(e.g., Seirus or Sealskinz brand), either alone, or over a think sock
liner. The cheap version of this is a plastic shopping bag and duct
tape. Trail running gaiters (small, that just cover your ankle), keep
snow out of the shoe, and from ice building up on the shoe collar and
rubbing your foot. Don't wear cotton socks. Use wool or synthetic
socks that stay warm and dry. Most people race in running shoes.
Lightweight hiking shoes, or even light Nordic boots work well.
Snowshoeing is one of the few areas where Gore-tex running shoes
really help. If you wear running shoes, some people use a winter
cycling bootie, over the shoe, to help keep their feet warm and dry.
Where to go? Pull out a map. Look for a trail. You can snowshoe many
places you might hike or mtn bike in warmer months. After a decent
snowfall in town, try trails without too many rocks. I've had good
snowshoeing at Deer Creek and Green Mountain. A little further up,
there are some good places off of Squaw Pass Rd, Echo Lake, Jones
Pass/Butler Gulch, and Berthoud Pass (off of US40). For a longer
drive, head up to Rocky Mountain National Park. Also, most of the
nordic centers have designated snowshoe trails that are easy to
follow. There, you'll need to pay a trail fee.
I think it's more fun when you get off trail and play in the powder.
Trekking through powder can be extremely tough. It can take you 45 min
to do a mile, in hip deep powder, at max effort. Powder can be good
with a group of diverse abilities. The stronger runners/hikers can
take turns breaking the trail, while the others follow behind.
Poles are optional. They provide better stability and an upper body
workout. However, you then miss working your core and hip stabilizing
muscles. They can get in the way when you are running. They are not
allowed at most races, for safety reasons.
Snowshoe races range in distance from 2mi to 20mi. Don't expect your
times to reflect what you do on roads. Distances are typically not
measured precisely. Snow conditions, hills, packed trail vs.
off-trail, etc., will all affect how much time the course will take.
I've seen a 5k winning time under 20 minutes, and a 10k winning time
over 1:40. Most races will have lots of first time snowshoe racers and
non-runners, and people who will walk the whole way. Please don't be
intimidated. Give it a try. There are approximately 15-20 snowshoe
races in Colorado through the season.
There are a couple of free demo days, Winter Trails. Also, we may have
a couple of group outings. Pay attention to the calendar in future DTR