Just got back from my morning run, and...well, it looks like those blessed warm temperatures are going the way of the white buffalo. No, it's not "Iceland Cold" yet, but it's not "Africa Hot" anymore either. I don't know what's wrong with me, but I have been dreading this morning's run all week. Why? Because the all-knowing weather people have been saying "freezing temperatures" for Saturday morning since last weekend. Just flat ruined the whole dang week. Many of you have known me for many years and have had the thrill of training with me in cold weather. I will whine, complain, and be utterly disgusted during the winter months. Why? BECAUSE I HATE COLD WEATHER, THAT'S WHY!! In the summer, it's easy - shoes, shorts, and a singlet. When the Artic winds blow (or any temp in the 30's), it's every long sleeve, tights, gloves, knit hats, and anything else I can get on and still move. Sometimes, I feel like that kid in "Christmas Story" that falls over and can't get up because he so many clothes on. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but not about that hating cold weather stuff - always have, always will! And I'm from New Jersey! I want to sweat, I want to feel that sun beating down, I want my shoes to squish when I finish my run. I don't want to be shivering, I don't want my water bottle to freeze, and I don't want my fingers to be so cold that I can't turn my car door key at the end of my run. Now, we don't live in Maine, so the chances of getting frostbitten while we're running is pretty slim, but after running all through the Alabama summer, our blood is thinner (it's not really, but that's what my grandmother told me) and we feel the cold more.
I probably should wait and write this post in December, when it's really cold, really windy, really miserable, but I ran two runs this week in the dark, cold (yeah, high 30's is not really THAT cold) mornings, and then this morning I stepped out into the pitch black and saw smoke (not actual smoke) coming from my mouth and felt the first uncomfortable wisps of cold filtering through my several layers of clothes. I've been doing this running thing for 35 years now, and I'll be damned that I still don't know how to dress when the cold Gods laugh at me. The colder it gets the entire process of getting the right combination of running shirts, turtlenecks, gloves, toboggan hat, wind briefs (essential) and every other piece of required clothing on (and off) is a long process. I'm always worried that I'll be too warm or not warm enough. Yeah, yeah, I know the drill...dress like it's 15 degrees warmer than the actual temp. Ha, that's a good one! If I ain't sweatin' in the house, I won't convince myself I'll be warm enough. The problem is these days of technology allow you to check the hourly forecast, so you can see in the bright display of your Smartphone (smarter than the Smartrunner) that it'll be 15 degrees warmer by the time you finish your run...but it ain't warmer NOW!!
Running in cold requires an extensive (read: expensive) wardrobe of technical (read: malfunctioning) layers. I generally barely have the time to plan my route ahead of time, let alone figure out whether I need a base layer, a midlayer, and/or a shell. The advent of layering systems and wicking technologies are heralded in running, but why is it that no matter what I wear, I am sure I will still be cold? Should I go with a single, heavier weight shirt and maybe a vest, or two shirts, or just get it overwith and wear a down jacket? Sometimes I wear mittens – me, a man, in mittens! And if it's real cold, I'll have another pair of gloves under those weenie mittens! Thank Goodness for The Trak Shak - every Mercedes Marathon in February, they give away free gloves, so I have absolutely no shortage of gloves...in my drawer, in my bag, in my car, everywhere! And...get this...I have a box of 40 Hand Warmers in the trunk of my car! I am serious about this, man.
Another problem with running in the cold is nutrition and hydration. That's a joke, and a cruel one at that. My weekends are reserved for my longer runs, mostly on the trails where it is essential to carry water and Gu packs. I honestly have to struggle to open a Gu pack on a good Spring day, but trying to tear those little packs from the devil when you have gloves on is hilarious. Usually, your fingertips are non-functioning anyway, so I guess the gloves are not the major problem. As an aside, if any of you ever volunteer at an ultra event aid station, one of the most blessed things you can do for an approaching runner is open his Gu pack for him. I can fill my own water bottle, but if you tear open this damned pack of calories, I will shower you with thanks. Anyway, back to the solo cold runs, by the time I get those little buggers open, I’ve probably used up half the calories I was hoping to replace.
Running with a partner in winter conditions is a whole different encounter that requires a new dialect of short sentences and disjointed grunts. As many of you know, I often run with my "long-lost-brother" Mohammed who is from Iran and although he has been here for decades, he has a strong accent, and it ain't Southern. When he gets tired, he is almost impossible to understand. Ok, when both of us have been running for a couple of hours in biting cold, just cross out that word "almost" from the previous sentence. When we both have frozen cheeks and lips and Moha speaks, honestly I usually just say “yes” or laugh or sometimes just act like I haven’t heard anything. What’s the sense? It’s not like I will be able to respond or that my response will be understood by him.
So, now the temp outside has warmed up to about 55 and I feel silly writing this post, but during my run this morning (when I get most of my ideas of what to write) it was ALL I could think about. Maybe I'll repost it when the winds of January come a-blowin'. In the meantime, I'll just organize my winter wardrobe in nice little stacks in my drawer (thin long sleeves, heavy long sleeves, gloves, mittens, tights, knit hats...you get the picture). Tomorrow, I'll show up for my run with friends bundled up, and Ken will probably come shirtless, the girls will wear short sleeves, or worse, singlets(!), but I'll be perfectly content in my warm cocoon ready to yell at the heavens "bring it on". Spring is right around the corner. Ok, it's a big corner, but I'm goal oriented.
I'll see you on the cold roads - AL
"One child lost is too many... One child saved can change the world"