I spent the first 22+ years of my life in Western PA. For a runner, that meant many (all?) months of the year were not ideal training conditions. Today, I thought I would give one runner's perspective of moving from the snowiest city in America of Erie, PA, to Raleigh, NC. As I started a draft of this post last week, I had yet to see a single flake of snow hit the ground in North Carolina. Obviously, once I began writing this, the Triangle region has been hit with record-breaking cold temperatures and the local schools have canceled the past four days. It's currently 15 degrees in Raleigh with a windchill of 3 degrees.
During the winter months in western PA, it was very difficult to get in any kind of speed work outside. Roads, trails, and tracks were perpetually covered with snow and ice. It was a great time to build a base and get some miles, but not much else. I was lucky enough to have access to an indoor track in both undergrad and grad school, but it can get pretty nauseating after a few dozen laps on a 200 meter track. I have done long runs of 12-14 miles on indoor tracks before (100+ laps), but I would not recommend that to anyone who wants to keep their sanity. It was far too difficult to keep track of the laps.
Running in North Carolina has been a dream. With the exception of this week, I have been able to run in shorts all winter long. In fairness, the current windchill of 3 degrees is still much better than negative 18 windchill in Erie. I always think I can pick out other runners from up north based on what they're wearing in the cold. For me, 30-40 degrees is usually a long sleeve t-shirt with shorts and maybe a hat. Forty degrees is a spring track practice in Pennsylvania. When I see a runner that is bundled up enough to travel through the Article circle, I think they are probably from the south.
The treadmill is typically a last resort for me. Although it wasn't fun, I still ran outside last year a few times when the windchill was around negative 20. Many non-runners often scoff at hearing that, but somehow I always managed to survive and not get sick. Given the choice, however, I may wait until it warms up a bit this afternoon before I head out into the coldest February 20 of all-time in Raleigh, NC.