Not so long ago I was a pretty tough guy. Looking back at my fall/winter 2016/2017 exercise log I see a lot of fairly stout runs all done outside as I prepared for and raced my first trail race at Phunt in January.
There were cold mornings on the Chester Valley Trail with my Wegman’s crew, loops around my hilly neighborhood when the Christmas lights were aglow, and the long, wintry run around Valley Forge park with my friend Jeff Wren. This last, lengthy run was my last test of my rehabbed ankle prior to running Phunt itself. As I glance through my logs, I am mostly impressed. I am also a little depressed. Even the shortest, easiest of those runs was faster and colder than just about anything I can do now.
On Christmas Eve of 2016 I wrote of what a blah year it had been from an athletic perspective. I complained of rolled ankles, some minor skin cancer, and a deer taking out my brand new Mercedes. I really thought things could only get better and then 2017 came along and said “Hold my beer and watch this”.
I won’t rehash all the fun I’ve had the last two years since I thought, athletically speaking, the worst was behind me. Let’s just say it wasn’t. If you are really interested, the details are spelled out in painful detail in prior blog posts. Some people find them entertaining, but then some people sit and watch a TV channel of burning logs in a fireplace. To summarize there has been fairly major hip surgery followed by a diagnosis of a potentially disabling foot condition. Either one of these things could have spelled an end to my efforts of being a healthy, fit individual but I’ve managed to come out the other side still moving and it reasonably good physical shape for a dude my age.
When it comes to cold weather, I am becoming more and more of a sissy every year. I’ve never been a big fan of riding my bike when the weather gets cold. (Note: I define “cold” on the bike as anything below 60F degrees . ) Since spending most of last winter indoors doing post surgery rehab, the hatred of the snotfest that is outside winter exercise has started to bleed over to running too. Norwegians are noted for saying things like “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. I suppose if I lived in a country where there was approximately 3 hours of summer weather every year, I’d come up with a catchy phrase like that to try to cheer myself up too.
“But wait, aren’t you a big hunter? Isn’t that all done in cold weather?” Fair question and, it depends. While I’m not a super-huge fan of being out in the woods in September when it is still summer-like, I do my utmost to fill my freezer and get my time in the woods in October and November before temperatures plummet. It’s a lot easier to convince myself to cut short a frigid day of December deer hunting when the freezer is full. Some years it doesn’t work out that way.
I do have a full freezer this year mostly from a day of hunting when mosquitos were a bigger problem than falling temperatures but I still spent most of the first week of Pennsylvania’s buck season hanging out in miscellaneous trees in the Pocono mountains. My hunting buddies may disagree but it was cold. Monday morning I was in my tree with a stiff wind blowing. The thermometer had climbed to somewhere in the low 30s and had given up trying to rise farther. The wind blew through my layers of insulated clothing as if I were naked. By 11:00 I’d had enough and found a reason to climb down and take a walk. When I was younger I didn’t have outdoor gear as good as what I can afford now and was able to withstand the chill, but I get a lot colder now since I lost my insulating layer of blubber.
I’d like to say I manned up a bit (if one is still allowed to use that expression) and ran outside this morning. I have this grandiose notion of returning to Phunt this year even if at a much slower pace than before. If I’m going to do that, I need to get outside on the hills, trails . . . . and in the cold. Brrr. With that in mind I’d vaguely planned to go out for a hilly, chilly run this morning. At least that was the plan until I woke up to the cold, dreary, wintry darkness. It was 22 degrees at 5:30am. I stared at my closet full of warm running apparel. I fondled my knit hat and gloves.
I considered digging out a pair of warm tights and wool socks. Instead I threw some shorts and short sleeves in my bag and went to the gym to run on the treadmill. I will need some help from my friends to get back outside after more than a year of almost exclusively doing indoor workouts when it is cold.
In the meantime, I was a good boy again this year. Santa Pete has already seen fit to deliver my first Christmas present in the form of a heated camo vest from Volt apparel. Until last week, I didn’t know they made such things.
I briefly considered ordering one last week from my treestand hoping for delivery via Amazon drone but then decided the delivery charge might be a tad steep. But I have the vest now and it has already seen action at the cold, outdoor Christmas market we went to last night. It may not be appropriate for running but will certainly make other outdoor activities more appealing in the winter. The manufacturer recommends using the vest on a low or medium low setting for a maximum battery life of 10-12 hours. Pshaw! I bought 3 batteries and will run that puppy on nothing but high. Merry Christmas to me!