Yesterday’s run was a chilly affair. The south wind was bitingly cold. I trotted east-to-west and back as a result. That way I wasn’t freezing my face off the entire run into the wind.
Over years of training in cold weather, I’ve learned how to dress and manage the cold on my face, hands and other body parts. Way back when I was a kid training in high school and college, the equipment wasn’t that great. We wore the same mixed-fiber stocking caps every day. For hand coverings we sometimes wore multiple layers of tube socks. Nylon shorts were critical to protect the crotch from frostbite, and still we had days when it was tricky getting home without frostnip.
I once ran on a day so cold that my voicebox ceased working. My running companion Rob Serres started laughing so hard when I couldn’t talk that we almost had to stop because I started laughing too. But I couldn’t make a single sound. Nothing worked.It wasn’t often that I got caught off guard like that. Normally during our runs on cold days we’d wrap scarves on our heads or wear a hooded sweatshirt tightly drawn around our faces.
“You’ll freeze your lungs”
Many times I’ve been asked if running in such cold weather would “freeze my lungs.” It’s pretty simple to avoid anything of that order. Just put a gloved hand over the mouth and breath warm air into it.
Cold fingers are a problem now and then. Yesterday before going out to run, I discovered a set of mittens that had been kicking around my gear drawer for a couple years and pulled them out to wear. They have finger covers but function more like mittens than gloves with a retractable mitten-like flipcover. They are really warm. So from now through March they’re going to get more action.
After all that cold weather running yesterday in which the cold wind stung my face, I traveled to the dermatologist this morning for a six-month checkup after having a small bit of skin cancer taken off my right arm last summer. The doctor looked me over from the waist up. I laughed telling him that I had a bit purple bruise on my butt, and showed him the greenish bruise on my right forearm after sliding out the bike last weekend. He’s a cyclist too, and we commiserated about the vagaries of winter riding. That bruise on my butt is a work of art!
He walked around me like a sculptor looking at a slab of marble, looking for trouble spots. Then he started shooting any suspicious-looking skin with shots of super-cold nitrogen. The spots fizzed and stung. He zapped me in several places while telling me, “These are pre-cancerous. So we’ll freeze them out.” At one point he aimed the big silver canister at my right cheekbone, the spot most susceptible to skin damage thanks to its position on the promontory of the face. Hissssss went the spray. Ouch, went the skin.
Driving home in the car I still felt the sting of those treatments. It’s best to catch things early, and my father had skin cancer. Admittedly all these years of running and riding in the bright sun do pose a threat to my skin long term. So freezing my face off is the right thing to do.