In Tennessee, the coldest I ever ran was 28 degrees. And that was fricking cold.
Today, I ran in 4 degrees (with a windchill of -15 degrees). New record.
I had waffled about running when this wintry front struck. Trisha called in a rain check for run club yesterday. The temperatures were subzero, but my body was itching for the run. It had been too many days. My brain chemistry needed the calibration.
I figured how different could it be from skiing. I geared up. Two socks. Two pants. Two shirts. Parka. Scarf. Headband. Hat. Gloves. I was bundled up like a child going out to play in a blizzard.
When I started getting my GPS apps rolling and my music playing, it didn’t feel to cold. But soon my fingers began to burn. The cold began to nip harder and deeper at my exposed skin. My breath was billowing out in steam so thick it had a shadow in the sunlight.
I started out in long stride over the snow-streaked sidewalk, debating how long to run. Two loops around work? One? I knew I was not going to run my usual route down Cresterra to Powers. I didn’t want to deal with the wind and epic hill. I decided to cut that leg and make just a circle of the remaining route. I figured it would get me at least 3 miles, which could be plenty in this weather.
Once my internal heater kicked on, I didn’t even really feel the cold. I began to sweat under my many layers. I started with my scarf over my mouth. My sunglasses fogged and froze relentlessly, reminding me of the same annoyance on the side of a ski slope. With the fabric over my mouth, my face was warm, but I felt like I was suffocating. I tugged it down and only brought it up occasionally to warm my face back up. I ditched my gloves into my pocket and exposed my wrists to cool my blood. I couldn’t risk exposing any more, no matter how warm I felt.
I was able to bask in my love of winter, still appreciating returning to Colorado. I loved the sound and the feeling of neglected snow crunching under my shoes. Even at this frigid temperature, the sun remained my enemy. I still glared up at it sideways and wished it behind the billowing clouds obscuring the mountains on the horizon.
I felt like I was flying. I was taking long strides and pushing myself. (I found out when I looked at my splits that I was, in fact, crawling. I even reminded myself, “when you feel like you’re going fast, you’re lagging. Never fails.) The soles of my feet hurt; I imagine because the shoes were frozen and had to give at each impact.
As I rounded behind my building, a knot began to form over my left hip/lower back, bundling up on my sciatic nerve. It took me a few limping moments to realize it was correlated with hills. I, of course, did not stop jogging. I don’t know if it was the cold or a different stride. I felt that perhaps my body was still tender from the 14 mile over the weekend. Perhaps it was good that the weather and my running mate sidelined me for a couple extra days.
I crested the hill and dropped down back to my start, chasing my own footprints. I smiled to myself as my strides lined up to their originals every time they surfaced in the snow. At least I was maintaining pace.
I sprinted out the end of 4.5 miles and was radiating heat when I got to my car. However, my furnace turned off quickly and reminded me just how cold (and crazy) I truly am.
When I finished, I had that familiar feeling. Frostbitten flushed. Cold exertion. Like coming in from building a snowman as a child or like coming into the lodge after hard runs on the slopes.
Even though my pace was shit, even though the distance was low, it still felt like an accomplishment. It was still a new little challenge I managed to push through. And now I know: I can run even in subzero temperatures.