Monday, January 02, 2006

Hazy Shade of Winter...

I am fortunate enough to live in San Francisco where even the worst weather would still be considered more than tolerable by most. The weather can rarely be considered an excuse for not running in the Bay Area.

Most recently San Francisco has been besieged by a wave of pretty unpleasant storms making it nigh on impossible to run outside...or at the very least markedly unpleasant to attempt it. Despite this, I have felt a bit guilty in not braving the elements.

This somewhat irrational guilt stems from a childhood spent in Kansas. I think it speaks volumes that when Kansas was first being settled the land was being given away for nothing. The summers are miserably hot and humid and the winters are typically cold, windy, gray, and depressing.

Truly, anyone suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder should steer clear of Kansas during the winter. Fortunately, there were about two wonderful weeks out of the year during the fall that were actually conducive to being outside.

At any rate, I endured more than my fair share of miserable runs due to the challenging conditions. I vividly recall foolishly attempting to tackle an 'easy' five miler in the middle of the day in July. The folly of youth. The sun was blazing hot and the humidity was akin to a steam cooker. I got about two miles into the run before I began to forget my own name.

A mile or so later, I started to get dizzy and light headed. Fortunately, I had just barely enough sense to realize that perhaps it would be in my best interests to pull the plug on this run. I walked the rest of the way home in an overheated stupor.

As if this experience wasn't bad enough, a few months later (during the bleakest period of winter), I met a friend for a 15 mile long run. We were both sporting runnning tights, long sleeve shirts, a jacket, gloves, etc. We both bore a striking resemblance to Nanook of the North.

The weather wasn't too bad initially. Some light snow flurries were punctuated by the occasional blast of frigid wind to lively things up. Fortunately, the wind was at our backs when we started.

Admittedly, we were pretty goddamned cold the first five miles, but as we approached the halfway point (7.5 miles), we managed to work up a bit of a sweat. This would prove to be the beginning of the end.

Upon turning around, the wind seemed to evolve from occasional blasts to an unrelenting howl. The flurries matriculated to sheets of ice pellets. What little sweat was on our bodies instantaneously froze. I began to wonder if this was similar to what Robert Shackleton experienced while trying to traverse the South Pole.

We were miserable and had another 7.5 miles to go. As we attempted to get through the first mile, little pieces of ice began to stick to my eyelashes reducing visibility significantly. Every time I blinked, my eyelashes would stick together further exacerbating an already difficult situation.

Despite my desire to emulate Robert Shackleton and persevere despite all obstacles, we ultimately decided to bag out on the run at a nearby fire station and call my friend's mom for a ride home. While we waited, the two of us feverishly tried to get some feeling back in our hands. Eventually, I used the restroom and tried to take my ski headband off. This would prove to be quite an ordeal as the headband had been saturated with sweat and subsequently frozen.

The headband was as stiff as a piece of cardboard. After melting some of the frozen sweat, I was eventually able to get the headband off. Likewise, the pieces of ice stuck in my eyelashes had melted giving the appearance that I had been sobbing uncontrollably. Who knows...maybe there were some tears of joy for having survived such a miserable ordeal.

OK, so I'm dramatizing here just a bit. We weren't stranded in the South Pole for 18 months and were never in any real danger per se. But, whenever I find myself cursing the fates for unleashing a hellacious rainstorm or a particularly strong gust of wind, I recall a few of my runs from Kansas and remember how much worse it could be.

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