Winter Training Update

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.


  1. Congrats on the winter training regime! Not much inversion last weekend, and windy in the hills. I really like the granite gear adventure travel pack for day trips and skijor outings.
    Bigger volume, but lighter. Doesn’t have the waist belt pockets, but has big side mesh pockets and a hydration pocket that fits my 3 liter Gregory bag. Definitely not as tough on the bottom. Tore a pretty good hole in the bottom bushwhacking into a canyon through alders, spruce snags, and rock slides, but it patched nicely with tear aid. Got it at Beaver.
    I’ve also got a lightweight balaclava that is thicker on the neck and over ears, has a windstopper fleece facemask that pulls down below the chin.It is much thinner on top of the head (like me), so it fits nicely under a hat. Covers cheeks and nose when its windy, but just covers neck/chin/ears when its not so cold. Can’t remember the brand, but I think I got it from Big Ray’s Happy Trails! I enjoy catching your post feed.

  2. Thanks! For some reason I forgot to even look at Granite Gear for day packs. I’ll take a trip out to Big Ray’s and see what balaclavas they are stocking right now. Is it unrealistic to want something to want something to cover my face without actually covering my mouth 🙂 The feeling of restricted airflow feels too much like suffocating to me (in an irrational sort of way), but after the cold this weekend I’m prepared to hack something.

  3. I’ve gone through a lot of balaclava/facemask combinations. I know what you mean about finding a solution that doesn’t cover your mouth. It’s hard to find something that covers cheeks and nose, but doesn’t ice up and restrict free breathing. Some of the nordic skiers are using a respirator type mask with a filter that doesn’t restrict airflow much. My kids grew up ski racing in Fbks and skied in college for UAA. Both had exercise induced asthma issues in extreme cold. The mask adopted from collegiate skiing buddies from Scandinavia seemed to help with extreme cold training. I think it is this one: Beaver may carry these now. Haven’t tried one myself/ The balaclava I use is easy to flip the mask up to cover my nose and cheeks. There are holes in the windstopper fleece over my mouth, and the nose covering is open on the bottom. I can pull it up for high speeds or winds, and down when I’m going slower and exerting harder on uphills. Stay warm!

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