It’s true. I once went running in temperatures of twenty-three below zero. A half mile into the run, my eyelids froze shut. That’s a weird feeling I can assure you. I stopped, covered my face and warmed the area the best I could. Then I turned around and ran back home.
Wind chills were fierce that day as well. But after three days stuck largely inside the house during the cold winter of 1982, I’d had enough. So I went running. Not the wisest decision ever made, but to this day I can still say I did it.
Voices frozen in mid-air
There have been many other extremely cold runs over the years. During one seven-miler we were climbing a hill into stiff north winds with temps at thirteen below. I turned to talk to my running partner Rob Serres and no words came out of my mouth. My vocal cords were too cold to speak. He burst out laughing and pointed at me. “You can’t talk!” he roared.
Waves of terror
While living in Chicago, I went for a run through Lincoln Park up to Montrose Harbor and back from our place at 1764 N. Clark. Temps were six below and a north wind was howling straight down the shores of Lake Michigan. In several places, the lakefront path cuts quite close to the water. As I eased my way along an icy section of trail, a windblown wave slapped into the breakwater and came splashing down on me from straight above. Instantly I was soaked with icy lake water. It was a cold, harsh two mile run back to our apartment.
Cashing it in(side)
These days I don’t feel so compelled to prove myself tough enough to withstand such temperatures or conditions. I’m no fan of the treadmill and not great at riding more than an hour on the indoor trainer, but they’re far superior to freezing my eyelids shut, losing my voice due to thirty-below wind chills or getting doused with water barely above freezing.
Tough young kid
It’s twenty-four below zero here in Illinois this morning. That makes me think back to being a humble little paper boy in the town of Elburn, Illinois in the early 70s. One morning when the temps hit seventeen below my father go up and drove me on the route. I think something in him admired my dedication to that paper route when I was such a slacker in other areas of my life, especially subjects I did not like in school.
In those days the weathermen did their best by using charts and graphs and calculations to predict winter storms. They were still pretty accurate on most accounts. These days with computer modeling the weather folks (ladies included) can predict an almost precise line where rain will turn to snow and vice versa.
They also know why the Polar Vortex is splitting far up north in the Arctic and sending massive blocs of freezing cold air down into the Midwest. Climate change is forcing the issue with warming ocean currents and shifting air masses combining to mess with the world’s weather phenomenon. Our ignorant President here in the United States tweeted out some foolishness comparing cold weather to climate change. His lack of understanding of the issue shows how specious the creep can be about anything that confuses him. And that’s everything.
All these experiences build character over the years, including patience with politicians and weathermen alike. But at some point you get to cash in some of that character, stay inside and run on the treadmill or ride the bike until sweat comes streaming off you like the middle of July.
And my eyes will remain wide open and unfrozen. On all issues.