Just got back from my morning run, and those blessed warm temperatures of the Alabama summer and fall are going the way of the white buffalo. No, it's not "Iceland Cold". I can usually handle the progressing cold weather as it creeps deeper into the calendar, but there comes a time in late December/early January when I just crack. I'm like a fighter on the ropes who keeps getting jabbed. I don't know what's wrong with me, but last night i looked at the 7-day forecast and the all-knowing weather people have been saying we won't get out of the 40's for a while (with that possibility of a "wintry mix"). Just flat ruined my 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, gloves, knit hats, and anything else I can get on and still move (except tights. It's got to be Mars-cold for that). 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! Guess I didn't move far enough south! 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. I even got a new car with a keyless entry mostly because I don't want my fingers to be so cold that I can't turn the 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 stepped out into the pitch black a couple of mornings ago 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 know a lot of you LOVE cold weather (and for the life of me, I can't figure that out). I've been doing this running thing for over 40 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 on 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 used to have a box of 40 Hand Warmers in the trunk of my car! I stopped that because it seems they tend to disintegrate after spending a hot summer in the trunk.
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.
So, when the temp outside has warmed up to about 55 I'll 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. Of course, I know you warm up during the run and may actually not feel too bad. But, 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, knit hats...you get the picture). I'll show up for my run with friends bundled up, and the girls who pass me 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.