Saturday, January 01, 2011

Frosty Peak(er)

There are, honestly, very few times when I question why I'm out running. Running is hardly heaven at times, but it's very rarely hell.
Still, Friday, on New Year's Eve, with a fantastic dinner, a nice night with the wife (including an anticipated movie, "Black Swan," that we'd see in an actual theater) and a late-night poker tournament with friends waiting for me that night, I sat in my car as the wind threatened to topple it over and exchanged text messages with a running partner.
This guy was a three-time Ironman finisher. He'd battled high blood pressure, problems with his medication, back problems, issues with his legs and a recent sinus operation. And even he wondered why I was going to run outside.
It was snowing sideways, the temperature was lower than the age of my toddlers, and strong winds dipped the chill down to -23.
I was not sold on the idea just yet either. When another running buddy, my last hope, really, for company, a guy who does ultramarathons, including a few 100-mile races in his past, and therefore enjoys suffering, didn't show, I was left hoping I had enough hair metal on my iPod to keep me focused.
But I had faced worse. I think. Maybe. And I wore long underwear under my running tights and five layers up top and a neck warmer and a hat and a face protector. And so, the inconvenience I would surely face to take all that off and hit a treadmill, a torture device strictly designed and modified with the sole purpose of boring you to death, won out over common sense. I strapped snow spikes on my shoes.
"I'm going out," I texted him.
Just before I opened the door my phone beeped.
"Have fun," he wrote back.
• • • 
The hardest part of a run is getting out the door to go for the run. Seriously. It's not the hills, the exhaustion or the weather. It's getting your butt off the couch and doing it.
That's true 98.7 percent of the time, but about a mile into Friday's run, I really thought about turning around. I had reached that rare point in my training when I wondered why I was out doing it.
I wore runner's gloves, which, despite me wearing layers that gave me a coat thicker than a polar bear's, was doing nothing to protect my hands. These gloves have gotten me through many single-digit days, but the difference between a -20 windchill and a 0-degree windchill is the difference between 75 and 95. That's the difference between a day you spend on the porch and a day you spend inside with the air conditioner struggling to keep up. Every time the wind gusted, it hurt, and I cocooned my fingers inside my palm.
"OK," I thought to myself as I started up an icy, snowpacked hill. "I'm charging this hill. If I don't warm up, and my fingers don't feel better, screw it, I'm bailing."
No one would blame me for that. Hey, I tried. I honestly began to look forward to the car again.
But as I topped the hill, I did, in fact, start to warm up, and I had to smile. OK, fine, I thought. I'll keep going.
You see, I ran outside mostly for the same reason I climb mountains or wanted to do the marathon. I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to see if my body and my mind would respond to the challenge. I was curious more than anything. Sure enough, once again, both were responding. I honestly feel sorry for those who don't ever push either one to face seriously difficult circumstances. We really have some incredible equipment, far better than even an iPad.
The gusts of wind, along with the 6-8 inches of snow, had turned my normal running routes into chaos, so I did what I could to stick to the sidewalks and the roads. Normally that's a run meant to pound my joints on painful concrete surfaces, but the snow was good for one thing, and that was a nice cushion. The spikes worked beautifully to keep me from slipping. 
The wind was at my back as I headed for a park while dodging slippery cars, so I was somewhat warm. Warm-ish anyway. I wasn't in danger of hypothermia. When I went for a drink, my sports beverage had only frozen a little bit, turning it into a tasty but brain-freezing slurpee. When I went for a bite, my Sports Beans were hard but malleable. My iPod continued to work. Hey, what was I worried about?
Then I turned into the wind. 
Oh, yeah. That.
• • •
I knew the neighborhood, my old neighborhood where Kate and I bought our first house, actually, was only a temporary reprieve against the frostbiting wind, but I didn't care. You don't care about reprieves when you're in pain. You just want it to end.
I was tired at this point, but that's always the point of a long run, and I knew the snow and ice and cold would make me worker harder than normal.  My pace slowed, but I knew, too, that that wasn't just because I was fading. I really didn't want to hit the wind, and yet, I had to to get home. Fortunately it wouldn't be that long, for a mile at the most.
But man. Man oh man. When I did hit headstrong into the wind, I knew right away what few pieces of skin I had left exposed. A thin strip on my forehead that my hat could not cover. A piece of ear. A sliver of my wrist. The wind blasted over them, and the pain was bad, but the numbing sensation, like a shot of  narcotics, was worse. I knew I needed to get to the car soon or I'd possibly have some serious, painful thawing to do.
One last hill. When you're tired, hills test you in ways the last mile of a fast 5K can't touch, and the wind was pushing me back, like a bully, trying to prevent me from reaching the relative safety of my car.
I snarled, picked up the pace and bounced around like a bunny when I reached the occasional drift.
Downhill. A tree. The car.
Home.
People like to make resolutions. I'm all for it too. I cheer the people who crowd the gym, though the resolutionists, as I call them, rarely make it into March. I don't really make them, except for one. I resolve to continue to live my life, and that means not letting anything, even a polar blast that turns the wind into razor blades, keep me from my goals of being a good Dad, a good husband, a good friend and, yes, a good runner.
It's something I'll continue to remind myself of now that winter has finally visited Colorado. Tomorrow, in less than 12 hours actually, I start training for the marathon again, come what may.

1 comment:

Miami Don said...

Awesome stuff.