Training has been going well as the winter progresses. The weather has been quite mild and the temps have been dipping into the -20°f range for only a couple days at a time. Unfortunately, those couple of days seem to be landing more frequently on the weekends when I schedule my longs runs. Brrr! Saturday’s run was one of these days, and I opted to run up in the hills where the temps tend to be more mild, but it’s hard to stay up hi for a whole run, so there were inevitable stretches where the temps dipped down to -13°f at least. Coupled with some wind it was definitely the coldest I have felt on a run yet.
I still haven’t found a solution for face protection when the temps drop below -10. This seems to be the point where my nose and cheeks need help against freezing. Yesterday I had an OR balaclava (windproof fleece with neoprene face mask and mesh vent over the mouth) with me. Its mesh kept me breathing easily, unlike wool and fleece which usually freeze up with that much moisture passing through the fibers, but the mesh was absolutely fridgid against my skin and I caught myself a few times contorting my face in feeble attempts to not touch it. For this I was thankful my face was mostly covered because I’m sure that my facial contortions would have easily scared anyone who might have seen me. For the future I may try a neoprene facemask that is a little heavier and just cut a slit through the mouth so breathing is totally unobstructed.
Overall, the temps have been less of an issue as the season has progressed, as I’ve learned what to wear, and particularly since I’ve discovered Mountain Hardwear’s Polartec tights. Wow, talk about warm! They have been keeping my legs warm and toasty all by themselves – all the way down to -10. I’ve seen a similar version of these with windproof panels, but since there is rarely wind in Fairbanks I think I’ll wait to buy them. I’m curious to try them out though in the hope that they will eliminate the need to layer up on days colder than -10. Less layers = chafing it seems.
As the distances have increased I’ve realized my winter pack causes quite a bit of friction on my back so I’m in the market for a new one. I’m looking for something light but durable that can hold all my winter backup gear; a Primaloft jacket, hardshell pants, mittens, 2 pairs of socks, a balaclava + face mask, spare gloves, 2L of water, and food, WITH storage compartments on the waist and shoulder straps for easy access to Gu and food.
Initially I had decided the Millet Axiome Raid 20 fit the bill, but I gave up on it after trying, unsuccessfully, to find a seller in the US or any place to buy it in USD ($).
In its place, the Osprey Talon 22 is a more than suitable substitute with plenty of glowing reviews to be found. It is a little heavier than the Millet pack, but it also is 2L larger so I consider it a non-issue at this point. It promises a better ride, more convenient storage, and more a customizable configuration than what I’m currently using. Let’s hope this means no more lost skin on my back for the rest of the winter.