Six hours after my sub zero (with wind chill) run and I have sufficiently thawed out enough to feel my extremities again. No frostbite or windburn thanks to the Vaseline trick my Ultra buddies taught me (coat exposed skin with it for protection) and, all in all, it was a beautiful run. Bright stars, not many other crazies much traffic on the trail. Not even the critters were stupid enough to be out in that cold… Nope… Just us “higher mammals”.
About half way through the run I started feeling a bit nauseous and light headed. It slowly dawned on me why… In an effort to ensure my own personal safety, I had disgorged the contents of my closet and chest of drawers in a search for my warmest running clothes. I made a HUGE pile of them and vowed to go through them in the morning to decide what to wear. The problem is that I have even less cognitive function in the morning (can you go negative on cognitive function?) and what I had actually managed to do was put ALL of it on. I wasn’t nauseous… I was overheating…
It was SIX degrees outside and I was… overheating…
A quick inventory (yes, now that I was awake and had the blood pumping, I could, indeed, count) revealed the following:
Two pairs of socks
Two layer wind pants
Heavy, long sleeved, mock turtle neck (wicking)
Zip up, long sleeved bike shirt (wicking)
Polar fleece vest
Long sleeved running jacket
Polar Fleece Balaclava
Heavy knitted stocking cap
Polar fleece gloves
Sunglasses with yellow lenses (helped keep my face protected and eyes from watering)
Trail running shoes
It was amazing… Once I unzipped two (or three) layers, I cooled off and felt fine.
Last year I set my own personal record for coldest temp run in at -5 (without windchill). I was miserable, cold, and seriously thought I was going to hurt myself. I was, however, underdressed for that one because I “thought” I was used to the cold by that time. Since this was my only memory of critically cold weather running, I guess I overdid it a bit this time…! But believe me, given the choice between the two, I would rather overdress and have to peel some of it off, than get a “cold” injury like frostbite, etc. In hindsight, I think I would not have used the bike shirt and only covered my head with the balaclava. Mental notes for next time…
Running in cold weather is such a balance. If you get it right, you can run comfortably in very cold weather. Get it wrong on either side and you are in trouble. If you have a problem on a hot day you can just stop and cool down or walk back. But a problem on a very cold day can be life threatening. What I did right was to dress in layers. Once I started getting hot, I just simply shed layers until I cooled down. And NOTHING was cotton. Everything was either wicking or held heat when wet (polar fleece).
When I got back to the car (no standing around and chatting this morning!) I dove straight back into the car and began to chip the ice off my beard, gloves, balaclava and jacket. A self inventory revealed that I was none the worse for wear except for chapped lips. Coach’s note: Remember the Chapstick next time.