Posts Tagged ‘snow’

I should host my own cable show . . . Ice Road Runners (Ice Road Truckers)  . . . or maybe Man vs. Nature (Man vs. Food or Man vs. Wild.)

The need to run in the cold weather is the summation of three primary vector forces coming together as one.  First, I love to run.  Second, I hate the dreadmill or running indoors.  And third, I live in central Pennsylvania, not far from the home of Punxsutawney Phil.

I foresee more winter . . .and snow FOREVER!

I foresee more winter . . .and snow FOREVER!

One might also argue that a little bit of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder or run-of-the-mill insanity plays a role here, but I’m not sure why people think those things about me.

Running in the winter presents a number of new challenges that our running brethren in Florida, Arizona and Texas do not need to worry about.

Perhaps first and foremost is the issue of traction.  Running shoes meeting ice do not generally end in good results.  There is no way to throw it into four wheel drive when you are only ever running on two wheels.  And while the snow may look soft and fluffy, the ground beneath it is HARD.  I have tried several traction devices over the years, one from North Face that you slip on–but they kept coming off!) and I tried screwing sheet metal screws into the bottom of an old pair of running shoes . . .


The problem with the latter, is that under most running conditions, I am not always on snow or ice.  The removable cleats are better for running where you might go from road, to trail, to sidewalk and back to road at irregular intervals, with varying levels of ice, snow or no precipitation.  Also, I always felt like I could feel the ends of the screws coming up at my feet–it might have been in my head, but I just didn’t like it.

My favorite to date is Kahtoola NANOspikes, which are removable, but seem to stay on my shoes better than the other product.  I recommend these for the runner who must traverse icy conditions.  I think I could jog laps on a skating rink with these on!

Four-wheel drive for your feet!

Four-wheel drive for your feet!

But in addition to traction, there is another issue of equal or greater importance . . . the temperature.  It’s cold in winter.  When I got up this morning, it was -2 degrees F.  The wind was howling with chills estimated at -15 to -22 deg F .  It was actually about 5 degrees at noon when I headed out, but the wind chill was still subzero.

The key to dressing in winter is LAYERS.  I start with a Nike DriFit tank, followed by a Nike DriFit long sleeve.  These are wicking shirts that allow moisture to wick away from your skin.  The only thing worse than being cold is being cold AND WET.  And even at zero degrees, if you are running, you will SWEAT.  In fact, you will generate enough heat that you should dress as if the ambient temperature is about 20 degrees warmer than it really is.  You should feel cold when you start, because you will warm-up as your muscles generate heat.

I next add an UnderArmour cold gear shirt which is heavier than the first two layers, but also wicking.  And on top, I use either a Nike jacket or the pullover (a Pittsburgh Penguin pullover made by Antigua) you see in the following series . . .

Layers!  Not just for cake anymore!

Layers! Not just for cake anymore!

Fortunately for you, there was no room for the final image in this running game of strip poker which I seemed to keep losing.  At 5 degrees with subzero wind chills, I also wore three pair of gloves, a UA balaclava and a warm running hat also made by UA.  There are different styles of balaclavas and this type can be pulled up over one’s mouth, but I am a mouth breather when I run, and I find it gets too wet and icy if I cover my mouth.  Some people opt for a ski mask with eye holes, but it makes me feel like I am a bank robber running away from the scene of a crime if I wear something like that!

Layering also gives one the option of removing layers if the temperature rises or you simply overestimated how cold it would be.  I actually felt warm at times (sun was out, and when the wind wasn’t blowing in my face!)   My left eyelid froze to my cornea, but I microwaved some artificial tears when I got home and melted that baby off in no time!  Please do not try this at home–I am a trained eye professional!  (Ok, my cornea wasn’t really frozen–I made all that up, and please do not put hot drops in your eyes and never microwave your eyedrops!)

I do not wear any special socks, and in fact, I prefer thin wicking socks.  I wore my regular socks and my feet were not cold, but that is me.  If you suffer with cold feet, there are thermal socks you can invest in.

There is a certain satisfaction in overcoming the elements, like a mountain climber beating Everest or a rock climber successfully ascending (insert a challenging rock climbing mountain here.)  I would much rather be running in Phoenix at 120 dry degrees, but that was not an option this morning.

And my nose will thaw out by spring.  Which should come sometime in the next six months.  I hope.

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I wanted to let you know, in case you were lying awake at night wondering if I was still running on the icy trail near my house, that I am indeed still running on ice.  I could have my own TV show . . . ICE TRUCKERS RUNNERS.

Despite falling and seriously injuring my ego, I have continued to brave the winter elements.

This looks like a good place to run!

This looks like a good place to run!

Yea, though I run through the valley of the shadow of ice, I will fear no falls.  Thy tread and thy YAK TRAX they comfort me.

When I blogged about my accident, I mused that I would not be able to tolerate stopping and putting on YAK TRAX just to run the short distance between my development and our local high school.  Well, I lied.  I tried.  It’s not so bad.   It actually works very well.  And carrying the YAK TRAX (which are technically DueNorth ice cleats but I like the sound of YAK TRAX so much better) is no worse than carrying a water bottle on a hot humid day.

The time I spend to stop and put the things on and then take them off again is well worth not having to be bruised and picking myself up off the ice.

I am still really looking forward to spring, though.

As is this person . . .

Thank goodness it was the perfect texture for running!

And I’m glad there was no video of me!

That I know of.

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Move over Steinbeck, I have a few words of my own.

It is probably–at least partially–my own fault for having faith in a little varmint from Punxsutawney.  The little rodent predicted an early spring this year.  Let’s be perfectly honest here . . . Phil has as much chance of correctly predicting the weather as the guys with degrees in meteorology and millions of dollars worth of radar equipment.  And Phil does it for free.

And I desperately wanted the worthless little furball to be right this time.


You see, I hate winter.

Winter comes with all the predictability and compassion of an unwanted season.  It is the last primordial vestige of the Ice Age (perhaps the only era in history worse than the Dark Age of Middle Age) and an annual reminder that Mother Nature can be less than a lady.

I do not like winter.  I like it not one little bit.  I do not like the cold.  I do not like it here or there.  I do not like it anywhere.  Wait a minute.  Strike that.  I do like winter in Hawaii.  But I digress.

I do not ice skate.  I do not ski—the thought of hurdling down the side of the mountain on a couple of bed slats doesn’t appeal to me somehow.  And don’t even have the gall to ask about cross-country skiing—that’s just stupid.  Why would any sane individual strap boards to their feet to walk from here to there?  I don’t fish in good weather, so ice fishing would be even more stupid than it sounds.  I used to sled as a kid, but as an adult, the hill going down has gotten far too short, and the hill going back up has gotten far too high.  I’m having angina just typing about it.  Excuse me, it was just gas.

So tonight it is snowing again.  The ground is white.  Some idiots would call it a winter wonderland . . . please!  This is Hell and it is freezing over.

Snow serves no useful purpose.  Rain at least waters things.  Life could not exist without rain.  Even plants in a desert have to get some water eventually.  But nothing grows in snow.  Look at a picture of Antarctica or the North Pole.  Or my backyard.  There is no moss on glaciers.  Ice kills.  No one in America besides me knows how to drive a car anyway.  You take your life into your hands just driving on a sunny day with a visibility of five miles.  Throw in a white-out and some slush in the passing lane and you’ve got a concoction that would make Dr. Kevorkian smile.

And after it snows, we have to move it.  We have to shovel it off our walks.  It snows again.  We shovel again–hoo what fun!   We’re like modern day Sisyphus’s shoveling, blowing and plowing as the snow continues falling, blowing, and cloning before we’ve even finished.  And then that jerk with the snowplow comes along and shoves more in my driveway before I even get back in the house.  He knows I love winter.  He knows I just love being in the great outdoors.  He knows when we are sleeping, and he knows when we’ve just cleared the end of our driveways.  He’s a moron and I may kill him if I get the chance.

No one calls this FUN!

No one calls this FUN!

Have you noticed that they never complain about global warming in the winter?

And deep inside my head, one of those many voices calls out.  “Why don’t you move south you idiot?”

I ponder this but momentarily.  This is my home and I will defend it from the elements for as long as I live, or until I retire, whichever comes first.  I do fear that I will die with a snow shovel in my cold, dead grip.

I have no more sense than a lemming and fewer cents in my pocket.

Why build a home in a flood plain?  Poor planning.

What causes food poisoning?  Home canning.

What’s worse than nails drug across a chalkboard?  Anything sung by Carol Channing.

Where am I going with this?

I do not know.  But I have miles to go and snow to throw.

All work and no play make me a dull boy.

All work and no play make me a dull boy.


All work and no play make me a dull boy—a dull boy, discontent with winter.

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Feeling Flat and Tired

Last night we were invited to a friend’s house for a party.  Our neighbors were invited as well and offered to drive.  With a chance to save gas (and have a designated driver that was not me) we accepted.

On our way to the party, our ride stopped for gas.  They drive the same model of minivan that we used to have.  I noted that his tire light was on.  My wife was always complaining because the tire light kept coming on.  She blamed the guys at Jiffy Lube, convinced that they let air out of the tires every time she went for an oil change.  I suspected it was just a defective sensor.

Our ride assured us that the low tire pressure light always comes on when it gets cold.  We had a good laugh about it.

After a pleasant evening of playing BUNCO, perhaps another blog entry unto itself, we headed out into a snowstorm to return home.  We were only about five miles from home, but no sooner had we started to carefully slide down the hill from our host’s home in this blizzard, when the rear tire started making noise.

“It sounds like you have a flat tire.”

No.  It was just some snow and ice built up in the wheel well.

But the noise persisted and seemed to get worse.  The car was listing now like the Concordia cruise ship.

Finally, at the bottom of the hill, we found an empty parking lot behind a church and pulled over to inspect the wheels and see what was causing the problem.

Sure enough, the back passenger tire was not only flat, but was now off the rim.

They don’t have a dashboard light showing your tire popping off apparently.

So we call AAA, and despite the bad weather, we are assured that help will be on the way.

At least the engine is running and we are warm.  It is now past midnight, and we are tired.  Well, at least 3/4 tired.  It’s that last tire that is the problem.

So while we are waiting there, a taxi cab pulls into the church parking lot beside us.  At almost the same time, my friend’s phone rings and we all look at each other thinking the same thing . . .

Did Triple A send a cab for us?  How long is this going to take???

The call was from the Tow Service, but no one sent a cab.  The truck is en route and the driver was just verifying our location.

So what is up with the cab?  It’s now about one o’clock in the morning in Hollidaysburg, PA.  We look at the cab driver.  He looks at us.  Everyone pretends we’re not looking at anyone else.  We make sure our doors are locked.

Before the situation could get any weirder, it does.  Another car pulls in between us–an SUV.  Two young guys get out and get in the cab.  The one looks like he has an open beer bottle.  Both vehicles now leave.

I have no idea what that was all about.  We were at a Brethren Church.  I doubt this kind of thing happens at the Catholic church.  Or even at our Presbyterian Church.  Of course, the Presbyterian Church has no parking lot, but I digress.

So while we continue waiting, with no taxi cabs to entertain us anymore, we start to think about the spare tire.  This begets a search that proves fruitless.  We didn’t find any fruit either.  As I may have mentioned, my wife used to drive this particular model, and I recalled having a flat tire one time.  The spare was located underneath the van and had to be released by a screw inside the van.

After a quick check of the owner’s manual, we found the tools to assemble the key that would release the spare and we lowered it so it would be ready when the tow truck came.

Now the comical aspect of all this is lost in mere words.  I am an eye surgeon.  My friend is an attorney.  None of us, the women folk included, know a lug nut from a walnut.  The whole process of finding and getting this spare tire was something worthy of an episode of I Love Lucy with Lucy and Ethel cast as two white-collar professionals who barely know how to start a car, let alone service one.

By one thirty, we are back on the road with our spare and a flat tire in the trunk.  It has been snowing miserably this whole time.  Whether it was merely the weather or the fact that we were running on three tires and a temporary donut, we were unable to get up the hill into our development.  We tried twice, but didn’t even make it as far the second time.  They do have a light on the dashboard that tells you the wheels aren’t getting traction.  That was terribly helpful since we otherwise couldn’t have figured that one out.

We tried another entrance, also with a hill but not as steep.  We fared even worse.  Each attempt brought us farther from home than the last.

I finally got out and jogged the rest of the way home.  I got in my trusty Jeep with 4-wheel drive and headed out to fetch the rest of the group from a parking lot at the bottom of the hill.

So much for not having to drive.

And thanks to that one tire, we’re all quite tired.

And thankful to finally be home.

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