Tuesday, January 7, 2014

5 AT 5

"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."

Mark Twain

Today I ran 5 at 5.

The outside temperature read 5 degrees, with the Weather Channel telling me the 'real feel' stood at a chilling minus 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

They call this the "Polar Vortex."

I'm just proud to be able to use the terms, "real feel," and "Polar Vortex" in the same blog. Poor old Mark Twain would have no idea what I'm talking about. I mean, this weather is enough to force one to retreat to their hibernaculum, in order to conserve energy. Sorry, I just learned the word. It means, 'winter quarters,' and I simply had to use it here.

Anyhow, here's the way 2014 has shaped up so far here in eastern Pennsylvania.

A calm New Year's Day gave way to a six-inch snowfall on January 2. The next day, bitter cold began to set in, with temperatures in the teens. On Saturday, under sunny skies, I ran in in 9 degree weather. Sunday, a coating of ice rendered it impossible for me to run on the streets, so I retreated to trudging through six inches of untouched snow in the mountain behind my house, at a snail's pace. Yesterday, the wind whipped at 25 miles per hour, and today the temperature topped out at 5 degrees. I'm expecting tomorrow to bring a plague of locusts!

Most runners realize, however, that, if one is to continue training under these conditions, it is all about preparation. We will not "freeze our lungs," as our critics will caution. Getting out the door on these Winter days is a chore, but, if properly prepared, the task of logging miles can be less unpleasant.

From a meteorological standpoint, at my geographic location, it can't get much colder than it was today. Honestly, though, my 5-mile run was not so bad because I was dressed for success.

Here's what worked for me.

I started with a pair of Helly Hansen briefs. Twice in my running career, I was improperly clothed in that "brief" region, and I suffered the same pain as one would experience when one's fingers thaw out after being frozen.

Enough about that.

A regular pair of running shorts, then my tights, along with a pair of moisture-proof socks, completed my lower body wardrobe.

An Under Armour cold gear turtleneck, followed by an old cotton T-shirt, with a waterproof shell jacket covered my upper body. Mittens allow the fingers to stay together and share warmth, and a balaclava, along with a hat, keep valuable heat from escaping from the head. I healthy layer of petroleum jelly on the face, sunglasses, and my iPod Mini, and I was good to go.

For my route, I used the old runner formula of running the first half of the route into the wind, so that coming back was actually pleasant.

I drank plenty of water today, as the humidity is so low, it could chap an alligator's tail. I'm sipping a green tea as I write this.

Believe me, I'll eat like a fat man tonight, as extra calories are burned simply to keep us warm under these conditions.

Remember, adapt and modify. None of us are going to record personal best performances when it's like Antarctica out there. Maybe that's why penguins are reduced to a waddle! Do what you can, and earn bragging rights by being able to say that you ran outside today, while mere mortals hunkered down in their hibernacula.


  1. Balaclava. That's a new vocabulary word for me. And I think you are on to something with your waddling theory about penguins.

    1. Glad to offer vocabulary enhancement. Stay warm and safe out there on the roads!