Tough as a Cotton Candy Snowflake
I’m just gonna admit it: I’m a weather wimp.
I’ve got a pretty specific set of atmospheric conditions that I consider comfortable, and anything outside of that leaves me grumbling. One of my top Do Not Wants is hot, humid weather, which this summer has been chock full of, much to my sweaty annoyance. When the temp and that blasted dew point start creeping upward, I get uncomfortable and cranky, and when you add in direct sunlight…forget it. I can sort of function in the shade, but put me in the sunshine and I want to dig a hole in the ground, crawl in, and die. (I joke that it’s my Irish heritage; I’m genetically unsuited for hot, sunny weather!)
For years I endured the summer heat and sun for the sake of horseback riding, because I had no choice, but for the last several years I’ve been riding at a place with an insulated indoor riding ring, which is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer. No direct sunlight, fewer bugs, and since everyone else loves to ride in the outdoor ring (CRAZY!), I get the entire indoor to myself while everyone else is outside getting skin cancer. It’s perfect!
One downside to all this blissful indoor riding is that I seem to have lost what little tolerance I had for exerting myself in hot weather. (It’s not all due to wimpiness, though: my asthma makes exercising in humid weather really difficult–I literally can’t breathe.)
I’ve got my first 5k coming up in September, and I’ve found myself fretting about the possible weather conditions with increasing frequency as the day nears. It’s probably obvious that I’m a fair weather runner, rarely venturing out when it’s too hot or too humid or too sunny, and I mostly run on shaded trails. But on race day I’ll be running on city streets with little shade, and I’ll be stuck with whatever the weather roulette wheel lands on that day. What if it’s hot and humid? What if it rains? What if it snows?? (This is Wisconsin. All three are possible.)
A month or so ago I decided it was time to toughen up. There’s a trail near my house, a former railroad grade tricked out in limestone gravel, that offers very little shade (which is why I rarely use it—ugh!) as it cuts across miles of marshland. I decided I was going to run there at least once a week, and I was going to do it when the weather sucked. No more shady trails with soft dirt and water fountains–it was time to grow a pair.
Shortly after I made that decision, Mother Nature obliged by barfing up the perfect miserable day. It rained all morning, and then the hot, humid air moved in, in front of yet another storm system. By the time I got home from work the sun was blazing, and you could practically see the water evaporating off the ground, further saturating the already humid air. Standing motionless on the patio made me start to sweat. Normally, I’d go back into my nicely air conditioned house and get my daily ass-kicking via DVD, but I laced up my little pink running shoes, grabbed a bottle of water, and marched out the door.
It was horrible.
I’d planned to run only three miles, which would have been totally doable under normal (read: carefully chosen) circumstances, but under these waaaay less than normal circumstances, it was a struggle from the first step. I thought I was going to die.
I made it a mile and a half before I gave up and dropped to a walk, dripping, wheezing, water bottle already empty. It was brutally, unbearably hot, and too humid for sweat to evaporate quickly; my shirt looked like I’d been targeted by a firehose, my shoes squished with every step. I felt like I was melting. As soon as I slowed down, the mosquitoes came at me in a swarm, further adding to my misery.
On the way back home, I caught a small break from the relentless freakin’ sunshine (it’s full of vitamin D, which stands for “despair”) when a roiling mass of dark clouds lumbered in from the west. Thunder began to rumble ominously off in the distance, and I half-heartedly picked up a plodding shuffle. I’ve run in the rain before, and don’t really mind it, but I do try to avoid being struck by lightning (success rate so far: 100%).
I’ve gone out on that same trail (which I not-so-affectionately refer to as “Satan’s Treadmill”) a few more times since then, and none of them have been as bad as that first one, but some were petty yucky. The last few days have been cool and dry, which gives me hope that by the time race day rolls around I’ll luck out and get some good running weather. Even if I don’t, it does make me feel a little better to know that I put some effort into preparing for the alternative.
Does anyone else have weather or temperature issues? Do you purposely expose yourself to challenging conditions to prepare yourself for events? Or am I just a masochist?