In My Element

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I have long held disdain for running in the heat and oppressive humidity that hovers over the Chicago-area during the months of July and August.  I run, but I complain.  The flip side of that is my unbridled love of running in the winter.  Annually, I am elated when we trade the last, sunny 50 degree days of November for December’s bracing chill.  When other runners retreat inside on the first twenty degree day, I am comfortably (often in shorts) running in the cold.  Without going full Skilling, let’s talk just a bit about Chicago’s record-setting, coldest in three decades, 2013-14 winter.  First, there was the polar vortex which pushed frosty Arctic air into our midst.   And then, we got snow – a darn lot of snow.  After many snows, gray skies turn bright and any warmth we had bounces off the snow and goes, wherever it goes when it’s not warm here.  All of this is by way of backdrop — let’s call it scenery.
My winter running mantra is that you don’t need lots of gear, you just need the right gear.  To this end, I consider several pieces of clothing indispensable.  Other pieces are substituted depending on the weather – think thick vs. thin socks.  If the temperature is below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (a formerly “very” cold temperature, that now seems like an ordinary day) when I start, I wear the following: wind boxer (pretty much bike shorts with a wind resistant panel where you’d expect such a panel), windproof tights (in past winters, I wore these twice a season.  I ran in them 7 times last month), extra thick socks (I am a strictly thin sock guy even in the winter, but not this year), both a long sleeve and short sleeve merino wool base layer (merino wool next to the skin is one of my life’s real joys),  a technical shirt with thumb holes in the sleeves (provides a nice layer over the gloves), a medium weight jacket, a wind resistant vest (purchased 15 years ago for $20 — it has more technical features than anything else I own), a balaclava, a fleece-lined hat, and lastly, a pair of ‘”lobster glove” (like mittens, but the fingers are grouped Mr. Spock-style).
The final step on days where either the air temperature or the real feel (wind-chill/are they kidding) temperature are below 0 Fahrenheit, is to spread a layer of Vaseline on the parts of my face that are exposed despite my mummifying layers of clothes.  If I dressed correctly, I feel warm when I walk out the door, cold a quarter mile later, and then warm about a mile or so into the run.  Depending on wind conditions, I am somewhere between comfortable and overheated for most of my run.  If the wind picks up, it can cut my face like a knife.  Other than the wind, I seem to have hit on a formula that works down to about -12 Fahrenheit.  Below that, well, even I have limits (this year), and then I am off to the treadmill or the pool.
As you read this, I am about two months from the start line of the Boston Marathon.  That, my friends, is a story for another day.
You may have noticed that this has nothing to do with mortgages, but I do.  If you need one, I’m your guy.  Please give me a call at 312-342-9555.


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