Runners that woke up for a morning run today realized that winter temperatures are becoming more frequent. If you are a late sleeper or an older and wiser runner you know that the temperature will be a few degrees warmer later in the morning or early afternoon. The hard part of adjusting to running in Texas is that the day before the temperature was up in the mid-80 degrees range. That is a 50-degree temperature drop in one day and adjustments are needed if you want to get that daily run in.
I grew up in my younger days about 60 miles south of the Canadian border and running in below-freezing temperatures was almost a standard for a run. There are a few differences in running in the far north versus the deep south when it comes to the effect the temperature has on a runner. A few differences include is the humidity of the air. Is it “dry” or “damp?” Is the wind blowing or is it a still day with no wind? I was made aware of the difference on one of my first runs in Texas with a 30-degree temperature. I figured since I had run in this temperature before up north it would not be a problem. I put on my running jacket and long tights for my legs and a ball cap to keep my head warm and headed out the door.
I noticed that when I headed down the road that the wind was blowing in my face. After a few blocks, I started to notice some discomfort on my cheeks and nose and that spot right between the eyes. I had just wanted a short and fun run this morning. The discomfort on my face moved up to downright painful and the fun of running was becoming harder to appreciate by the minute. I had an additional problem in that I wrestled in my younger years and my ears became cauliflower. Cauliflower are thicker and more rigid and unbendable. In a headwind, they stick out like open car doors and gather in every breath of cold air. Since there is very little circulation in the cartilage in my ears there was not a lot of blood flow into them to warm them up. This fun run was getting more not-so-fun anymore.
In those younger years, I toughed this discomfort out and kept on. This was especially true when I played ice hockey on an outdoor rink in below-freezing temperatures. We usually had warm covers for the ears but the face was open to the cold. After the game you look at your face and see those white patches on your cheeks where there is some frostbite. A warm cloth over the face soon brought back the normal color to the face.
On this run on a very cold morning in Texas, and being a little older, just not wiser, things became painful enough to rethink about finishing those five miles I had planned for this run. It didn’t take more than a few more minutes to become a little wiser and not so macho about this run. I turned around after about three miles and headed back to a warm house. The tailwind was a welcome relief to the face immediately. And it was a strong enough tailwind to increase my pace on the return run so I could warm up sooner. It still took long enough time to get back home that even the running jacket and tights on the legs failed to provide enough protection to keep out the cold.
Once I was in the house with my bright red face glowing like a Christmas light bulb on the tree, I started to warm up. A warm spot in front of the heating vent helped get the cheeks, nose, and that spot between the eyes feeling much better. Since the ears had poor circulation it took several minutes longer before they started to feel better. I have had frozen ears before in my younger days and the ears would swell up and turn red and painful. They looked like two tomatoes glued to the side of my head. Thankfully the ears did not reach that point on this run and the color returned to normal. With the warmer temperature of the house and no wind chill factor to deal with, the ears survived with no harmful effects. They were still thick, rigid, and unbendable but at least they didn’t hurt.
On cold morning runs, just dress accordingly to stay warm. A cap that covers the ears and keeps the head warm is one item to remember. A “runners jacket” that allow air circulation and keeps out the wind is another item. The nylon windbreaker that does not allow air circulation will keep the heat from your body inside and cause it to dampen the shirt next to the body. When you stop the dampness of the clothes and the cold will be a problem. Running in the cold can still be fun if you dress properly.