Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How I Really Feel About This Weather

I live in North Carolina, right? Is it supposed to be this cold?

I literally – no joke – had my eye lashes freeze together during my long run this weekend. So, for the record, I am not digging the anemic mercurial readings of late, and therefore feel compelled to tell you all about it.

Let’s start with the roads.
I said it before, and I'll say it again: Running on the roads is simply dangerous. Ice, potholes, and plow trucks make for an undiscovered reality show. There’s nothing like the roar of big yellow metal against pavement and some shooting sparks to trigger my adrenaline response. So far, the score is plow trucks 1, runners 0.

Me vs. Plow Truck
So, I'm out running. I turn off a side road onto a major road and I see that a plow truck is headed my way. As it approaches, I see that the driver sees me, and he starts to move towards the other lane to give me room. I peer back over my shoulder to ensure that no cars are coming from the other direction. As I'm doing this, the plow truck driver moves back into his lane, spraying me with dirty, slushy muck. I found myself covered from head to toe with chunky...dirty.... SALTY.... snow. I even had dirt and salt in my teeth. Without thought, I basically through a hissy fit right then and there on the side of the road. But in the middle of it, I started to get COLD since I was now wet. I decided it would be most productive to continue running and finish my hissy fit if needed later. Nothing fun about that. However, even I have to admit it would make a damn good gum commercial for Orbit. "Dirty Mouth?".


What of speed work, you ask? Well, I say, try finding an indoor track that is longer than 100 meters without right angles for corners. 40 or 50 laps around one of those and you'll find yourself paying for your PT’s continuing education classes. Instead, I've developed a workout I call "cartleks": an all-out sprint on the few patches of clean payment in the middle of any road. I time the intervals by how long it takes to avoid oncoming headlights. As a bonus, cartleks have the distinct benefit of not generating a snicker every time I mention them.

Also, for what it’s worth, here’s some free advice - shoveling is not good cross training unless you are a professional lumberjack living in Alaska (another very cold place, you know).

Running in winter also requires an extensive (read: expensive) wardrobe of technical (read: malfunctioning) layers. I generally don’t 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 either too hot or too cold?

I mostly run alone, which is a good thing because running with a partner in these conditions is a whole different encounter requiring a new dialect of short sentences and disjointed grunts. Try not sounding ridiculous as you force your words out through tightened jaws and frozen cheeks: “Sa how ferr do you wannago . . . wha di u do lasssstnit?” And when your partner answers, you won't be able to understand him or her. Just say “yes” or laugh or sometimes just act like you haven’t heard anything. What’s the point? It’s not like you'll be able to respond or that your response will be understood.

Nutrition and hydration are . . well, a joke and a cruel one at that. Try carrying a hand bottle for a couple hours and learn what it must feel like to be a popsicle maker - literally. GU = half dried cement. Clif Bloks = ice cubes, well actually, more like jawbreakers. I came very close to chipping a tooth this weekened just trying to nibble a frozen Shot Blok for some needed calories. Besides, maneuvering the little packages with icy mittens probably used up half the calories I was hoping to replace.

To add insult to injury, I can’t pick up a running magazine without staring at some smiling, tanned runner dude (or dudette) in shorts on the cover and on nearly every page. It makes me want to run on the treadmill with the heat turned way up and listen to reggae just to escape.

But in the end, running in the torture of near blizzard-like conditions makes me appreciate all the other months of running here. There is no better day to run than a perfect Fall day in North Carolina, under an umbrella of Earth’s most genuine colors and in air so rich with possibilities that nothing is impossible – not even 31.07 miles.
So for that, I really don’t mind running in the winter. Enjoying the crunch of just my own feet running across a fresh layer of snow. Watching deer hop through a naked forest in search of someplace warm. Just me and my running getting ready for the mud oatmeal of Spring trails and then the nasty May flies, the awful summer humidity, Sweat Bees, the tourists . . . .
ORN [Obligatory Running Note]: Easy 4-mile loop with Leopold. One encounter with a pothole, and the realization that Leopold does indeed lack the body fat necessary to run in this crap.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. There are some great things about this winter running stuff, but other things which are less than convenient. Just know that you are getting better than the other gal who is ONLY THINKING about getting out there this time of year!

    It does make you wish for puddles of road mud being sprayed on you though;)