Leading up to my trip to Iowa for Christmas, I had romantic fantasies of frolicking in the fresh, fluffy white snow on my runs. I dreamed of looking like someone in all those running shoe advertisements who are smiling (even though they are completely alone…maybe they were recalling a funny joke?) as they sprint through a snow storm, looking not the least bit uncomfortable and, of course, not cold. Yes, I was a little nervous that I might hit a patch of ice and go flying on my back, leaving me out of commission for the rest of vacation, but prepared myself by reading up on the latest tips and tricks for running in snow. I looked up all kinds of specialty snow running shoes and accessories used to prevent those ice wipeouts. I learned about layering and drinking warm drinks before heading out to help keep your core warmer longer. I read about using a ski mask or scarf to warm the air that you breathe in so your lungs won’t go into complete shock at the -10 temperature. But then I realized these were the same common sense rules that I followed all my life while growing up in Iowa. Wear layers. Wear proper shoes or boots that keep your feet warm and dry and prevent ice wipeouts. Keep your extremities warm with hat, gloves and scarf. Check. I was ready for the arctic tundra of Iowa.
Now normally when flying from Houston to Iowa, I love to sit by a window to watch the green slowly fade away into a blanket of white. Every year it has been like flying into the North Pole…nothing but white everywhere. My parents would meet me at the airport with a down coat and, of course, a hat, scarf and gloves. Last year I remember thinking I had entered a frozen hell as dad and I hauled my luggage out to dad’s car that mom had pulled up to the door of the one room airport. (This was normally dad’s job, but, thanks to the effects of a chest cold, he was able to enjoy mom’s front door service.) The wind was howling and it was probably only 20 below zero…yet mom couldn’t find the ‘unlock’ button for the car. As I stood there pounding on the door mom was frantically jamming any and every button hoping to hit the right one and, thus, save herself too much yelling when we got into the car. I was expecting, almost hoping, for more of the same this year.
But wait, what’s this out my window?!?!? Green grass?!? 40 degrees and NO SNOW?!?!?!? UGH! How am I supposed to brag about how I braved the blizzards and ice and arctic temperatures all in the name of training??? And what about the white Christmas I dream about day after day while running around in shorts and flip-flops in Houston???
Well, the 40s didn’t last long but the green grass did. I’ve run twice so far, once in 29 degrees and once in 36. I have to admit that I was happy to be running on my old routes down bike trails, over the rivers and through the woods…. Though everything was brown and cold, and my rear end was quite numb after 6-7 miles, it was still surprisingly refreshing. I found that it is much more difficult to run energetically and pick up speed when your legs and derriere are frozen solid. In fact, I felt like I was mostly plodding along like an old mule who couldn’t possibly move any faster. And to think it could be much worse. MUCH much worse.
However, I would like to end on a note that I found rather humorously encouraging: “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, keep moving.” -MLK
And that’s exactly what I plan to do.