Polar vortex. Chiberia. Worst winter ever.
These are not things you want to hear in the first month of a run streak. Chicago winters are notorious for forcing people to give up all their dreams, abandon hope, and move somewhere South – and this winter thus far has lived up to that reputation and then some. But I did manage to get out and run at least a mile every day this month even while fighting some annoying cold symptoms the first 2 weeks, which at least gives me some confidence for the rest of the year. By the numbers:
- 31 days – 49.1 miles (avg distance 1.58, median 1.62) Not impressive mileage for lots of people, but coming off of a zero base and never run this frequently in my life, I’ll take it. By comparison, from 2011-2013, I ran 6 marathons but only had 3 months with more than 50 miles (3 marathon months).
- I probably surpassed my former run streak record somewhere around January 4th or 5th, so I got that going for me…which is nice.
- Average Temp: 19.6°F
- Average Windchill: 7.7°F
- Coldest Day: January 6, -17°F, -40° Windchill. That was fun.
- Days below zero: 2 (8 with Windchill below zero)
January 2014 Daily Running Temps and Windchill
…so the story this month was definitely the weather, but I’m encouraged that I made it out every day (and while I could have run on a treadmill, I really wanted to avoid it if I could in the first month). I even came away with a few positives:
- It was almost always better outside than it looked from the window (well, except for the aforementioned -17° day, that looked and felt bad). My takeaway – don’t listen to the news or anybody else scaring you into not venturing outside – you’ll probably be ok if you’re dressed for it (-40° windchill not withstanding).
- There is a very peaceful rhythm to running on a thin layer of crusty snow. I’ll miss that sound when the weather warms up.
- Likewise for having the first tracks after a new snowfall. There’s just something about being the first to run through fresh powder. Having no tracks except for the occasional rabbit or coyote tracks has a way of really connecting you with nature.
The daily run is also starting to become a bit of a routine – which is good and what I had hoped for and needed. I’ve typically been getting out the door around lunchtime, primarily since it’s a bit warmer by then. Early morning runs would have been more of a challenge not just because of the lower temps but also more ice on the roads and trails at that time of the day.
1 month down, 11 to go!
Dare I say I’ve gotten somewhat used to the cold? Ok, it still kinda sucks…but not as bad as the ice. Combine close to 20″ in cumulative snow with a sudden rise in the temps (even slightly above freezing, hooray!), and you get a lot of wet sidewalks. All good. But then when the temps dip at night everything freezes over again until it has a chance to melt with the midday sun.
I’ve found that wearing Yaktrax on my shoes does help a bit, and I’ve avoided any falls thus far (well almost, I actually did fall on my driveway walking out to start my run, fortunately landed in a soft snow bank though). But I think they work better in light snow fall than on sheer ice (at least the ‘Pro’ version I have, perhaps the ones specifically designed for ‘Running‘ might perform better – but I had these Pro ones hanging around so figured I should use them). My running route has sometimes been a mixture of dry pavement and ice, and on the dry patches the Yaktrax are a bit distracting because they slip a bit when pushing off on dry blacktop (not a falling kind of slip, but just not as good of a push off as with a normal running shoe). But overall, I think they’re doing the trick.
Longing for the days when I’ll have dry (or at least non-ice!) footing to run on! That’s all – now just stop, collaborate and listen.
When I started my daily running streak (a mere six days ago), I knew that there would be days in the coming year when it would be challenging. What I didn’t know was that day 6 may turn out to be the most challenging – because it was 17º BELOW ZERO (Fahrenheit)! Windchill was somewhere around -40º.
Now, while I could have schlepped to the gym and run on a treadmill, I would have felt a bit guilty invoking the treadmill rule so early in the streak. C’mon, it’s just the first week – if I can’t get outside and run every day this week what chance would I have of running 365 days straight? After all, how bad could it be? Well, pretty bad – but I survived.
After layering, and then layering, and layering some more, I headed out into the arctic tundra. I couldn’t find my ski goggles so I settled on sun glasses to at least block some of the wind – but they didn’t last long since they fogged up. So I was fully covered except for my eyes. Surprising, it really wasn’t that bad and didn’t feel that cold. And yes, I am completely aware of how dumb that sounds, but it’s true. The only thing that felt cold were my eyes, as I could feel my eyelashes literally freeze – which is an odd sensation.
So I only made it a little over a mile before I decided to save myself from frostbite and live to run another day. It can only get easier from here, right? Maybe not, but as long as it’s warmer I’ll take it!