I love really cold runs. I’m not sure what it is about getting outside and exercising in the frigid air that is so exhilarating. Maybe it’s the empowerment it brings to have beaten the temptation to stay hunkered down in a warm house. Maybe it’s the fact that everything looks and feels so crisp. All I know is that there is something special about it.
I leave the house as it’s getting light but the sun hasn’t quite crept over the horizon. The weather app on my phone says it’s 9 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The driveway is a sheet of ice, the result of a couple inches of snow followed by freezing rain and then bitter cold. I don my studded running shoes that Evan made for me towards the end of last winter, when similar conditions ensued for weeks. They make runs in these conditions possible, enjoyable.
I have a buff pulled over my face, with just my eyes exposed, but I hate breathing through it. As soon as I start to run, I pull it down to just below my lower lip. The moisture in my breath causes ice to form on my eyelashes, which I can see in the upper periphery of my vision, and feel when I blink.
My toes and fingers are a little chilly at first, but as the exertion slowly warms my core, the heat flows throughout my body, and soon my appendages are comfortable and I am sweating. Most of the road is covered in ice, with some gravel spread on top. Once again I am grateful for my shoes, which allow me to stride with ease and free of worry that a misstep would cause a painful crash onto the pavement.
The horizon is getting lighter and lighter. In the field next to the road, a pair of red-tailed hawks are loitering. Suddenly, one of them swoops to the ground and ascends again carrying a small mammal in its talons — a rabbit, I think.
Originally I was only going to run a couple miles this morning, but it’s so beautiful out and I am enjoying the magic of this cold and peaceful moment in time so much that I extend my run just past the bridge, to the edge of the state forest land, making for a total of 3 miles. I’m still struggling with some hamstring discomfort at times when running, and, heeding my lessons learned from last winter, I haven’t been pushing hard when it comes to speed or mileage. Instead, I am just grateful that I’ve been able to return to running a couple times a week, focusing on consistency and enjoying more than ever the different form of moving meditation it offers me in contrast to cycling. I hope that my hammie will eventually heal completely and allow me to comfortably do long and fast(ish) runs again, but right now, I’m happy to trot along at a 10-11:00 minute mile pace for 3 or 4 miles, saving my need to push myself for the bike.
I run up the gravel part of Martin Gap Road for a tenth of a mile or so, to check out conditions. I’ve been waffling about whether or not I should swap the tires out on my fatbike to studded ones. I know it’s supposed to warm up later in the week, and maybe all the ice will melt. Or maybe the freeze-thaw cycle will just make it worse. The ruts where vehicles have driven are fairly slippery, and the middle is crunchy but less slick.
I do an about-face and start heading home, in this direction noticing the chunks of ice floating in Standing Stone Creek. I also take note of the water level. Too low to paddle now, I thought. Not that I’d want to in this cold, but a couple recent paddling trips on the creek have made me notice such things.
All of a sudden, the sun makes an appearance over the mountaintop, spilling its golden beams onto the road and immediately, I can feel the warmth. I unzip my jacket a little.
I love the transition between night and day, and vice versa. I love being outside, in the world, as the light is changing. It makes me feel like I am experiencing the best part of the day, like I’m living that day to the fullest somehow, capturing that moment in time and savoring it. I think when we are inside, twilight passes us by so much more quickly. It is dark, and then suddenly it is light. When we are outside, every slight change is noticed. The mountains go from black to purple to pink to orange. The sky turns every shade of blue and purple and pink. And we are present for all of it.
The sun is out in full force by the time I’m back home. I make another cup of coffee and change for work. This was a rare day when I got to go into the office a little later than usual (getting there around 9 rather than 8 am), thus allowing me to time my run to experience that transition from first light to sunny skies. This time of year, that moment is usually happening when I’m in the car and, though still stunningly beautiful, isn’t quite the same as feeling my nostrils freeze and my eyelashes becoming adorned with ice mascara.