Brrr, back to cold weather running! Today's temperature at 8AM was a balmy -29 Celsius with a 17 k/h WNW wind making it feel like -41 Celsius.
Perfect! I love the challenge of running in these extreme temperatures. So, exactly what are those challenges?
First challenge... getting out of bed at 7AM. I know it's ungodly cold and my sheets are luxuriously toasty with Dexter, my cat wedged between me and my wife. The mind is screaming "Fool, stay in bed. You need the sleep. Don't be crazy." It would be so easy to listen, but I'd have to live with the guilt. I get up, slip into my neatly folded running gear and exit the house without waking Dexter or Jen.
Second challenge... getting into an ice-block car. The seat is hard as diamonds and cold as death. The frost permeates my butt and radiates down my thighs. The motor screams like a banshee as it rises from the dead. My breath fogs smoky on the windshield as I back out of the drive way on square wheels. My knuckles are frozen white in a death clutch as I slowly bring the car up to speed.
Third Challenge... I arrive at the Running Room with 5 minutes to spare. Should I remove an upper layer and risk freezing or keep all 4 layers and risk overheating? Think, think, think... I decide to keep it on.
Fourth challenge... The dreaded first mile. It's impossible to dress for the first mile. There's no way around the cold; it's simply insane! You can't risk overdressing or you'll sweat and chill quickly (sweating in these temperatures is dangerous). You know that you'll warm up in about 10 minutes, but sometimes that 10 minutes feels like an eternity. This morning my wrist was exposed and it felt like second degree burn. Sure enough, after a mile or so the body was warming nicely as we slipped into a nice chatty rhythm.
Fifth challenge... The eyes and face. The eyes tear from the cold causing huge icicle build up. It doesn't hurt, but it can cause vison issues. Many runners smear vaseline (right John?) around their eyes to reduce the icicles. This helps, but it doesn't completely eliminate the problem. It's difficult to fully protect the face. Most organic materials frost up quickly which reduces the insulation value significantly and makes them very uncomfortable. The best face protector is made from neoprene and covers the entire face with a "punch-out" for the nose and a wide slit for the eyes.
Sixth challenge... The roads can be very icy. You need to watch your footing carefully. One misstep and you're sitting on the sidelines fro the rest of the season. Some runners wear ice-grips, but I find them terribly uncomfortable. They work well on hard pack snow and ice, but often we transition from concrete to ice to gravel. Also, snow and ice builds up between the shoe and the gripper making it difficult to run. I tried them once and decide they weren't for me.
That's about it for the challenges. Once you've mastered the above, you've got it made. Winter running is not for the faint of heart. But if you're a diehard like me, you understand the why we do what we do. It's about another experience, it's running in the harshest of climates that reminds us of our good fortune.
It's a good day to be alive. Every day is a good day for a run, some are just better than others!