Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Frost on the Pumpkin

WOW. What happened to Summer? Heck, what happened to FALL? It feels a lot like Winter outside. Like the lyrics from the classic Guess Who song: Seasons change and so did I. You need not wonder why. So it's time to start thinking about running and riding into the new season.

I've ridden in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. I've been to Antarctica 6 times, 5 times as a part of the Race Operations Staff with Thom Gilligan's Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon. Riding in the cold is nothing new. The truth is, if you're well prepared, riding - and running - when most people have decided to hibernate is both invigorating and satisfying. Knowing that you continue to push the envelop, to find that part of yourself that is willing and able to take on the extreme challenge, is a great feeling.

In Antarctica, on King George Island where the race is held, it isn't so often the cold as it is the wind. It's not that it's never cold, one year the temperature dropped 20 degrees fahrenheit in 10 minutes up on the Collin's Glacier, but generally it's the wildly unpredictable wind that creates the greatest challenge.

The key, and the aspect of  riding in the cold that many people miss, is that you can't get warm, you have to STAY warm. You've got to be prepared for whatever the temperature does and whichever way the weather goes. Once you GET cold, there's very little you can do to get warm.

In some ways it's the opposite with running. If you start your run warm you'll end your run STEAMY. Those first few steps should make you wonder what you're doing outside. By the time you get a mile behind you chances are you'll be warm and toasty.

Whether it's running or riding the key is having the right equipment. Over the years I've purchased thousands of dollars of riding gear that was, at the time, state of the art. 40 years ago, unfortunately, the state of the art cold weather gear was a newspaper stuffed in your jacket and your feet wrapped in plastic bags. Things have changed.

These days I've got a Gerbing electronic jacket liner, compete with an adjustable rheostat. One of the first things I did when I got the Piaggio MP3 was to install the battery connection for the Gerbing. I've also got an Aerostich Darien Goretex suit, lined gauntlet gloves, and waterproof boots. As long as the temperature is above freezing, I'll be riding.

With a good technical base layer, a pair of tights, and a good wind/water resistant jacket, hat and gloves, there's almost no lower temperature limit for running outdoors. I've run with Jenny when her ponytail has frozen! It's neat.

This is the week to make the change. There will be warm days again this season, but not hot days. For riding and running, this is the transition week. I'm looking forward to it.

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