It happens every few months, without fail. To write about it seems an imprudent waste of time: the changing of the seasons. We’ve entered full fledged fall in Vermont, and it sucks. I’m not sure if living in Georgia negated the work the previous 28 winters of living in Upstate and Northern New York did on my blood, or perhaps it was the vicious cold last year coupled with a not-so-warm summer (according to accuweather.com we had two days that hit 90 on the nose), and more predictions of a nasty winter – this time with more snow. Either way the cooler weather of the fall has already made me ornery so I’ve made a list of the things I’ll be missing about summer.
1. Barefoot Runs. I love running barefoot. I don’t do it all the time, but I do try to incorporate 5% of weekly mileage barefoot. Sometimes it’s on the road, others it’s the field or track. Not in winter. I can push pretty far into the winter unshod, but once the salt goes down, forget it. Foot coffins here we come. Now I know I can hit the treadmill barefoot, but running on the treadmill seems to contradict the whole idea of running barefoot and naturally. Besides which, no one likes the smell of roasting flesh.
2. The Track. I hit the track once, sometimes twice a week. I enjoy an easy warm-up to the track, a nice hard workout that requires no thoughts about oncoming traffic, slushy puddles, black ice, or guessed distances. You find a pace and rock it. Not in winter. I do my best to get out when the early snow flies and keep the first lane cleared – and sometimes I can make it into December – but it’s hard work. And once the snows on the track, it’s there until April.
3. Sweat. A good sweat makes everything more enjoyable. All the toxins in your body purged through your skin and flushed into the air. You feel accomplished. A job well done. You know you just worked your backside off, and you can strip down to your shorts and just bask in the glory of your stank self. When you’re done, a cool hose for a quick rinse and off you go. Not in the winter. There is no sweat in the winter. Sweat just turns to ice, and when it does stay melted it does an awesome job at wicking away your body heat, too.
4. Clothes. As a stay at home dad, I do my share of the laundry. I do lots of laundry. Every day I do laundry. Wash, dry, fold, away. And with kids, if you don’t get to the ‘away’ part quick enough, you end up folding twice. In summer, there’s less clothes. Sometimes, (albeit rarely) it’s warm enough I start a run without a shirt on. One less item in the wash. Not to mention the size of the clothes. A t-shirt and shorts takes up so little space in a load, but when you start adding shorts, running pants, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, maybe a third shirt because it’s that damn cold, that’s almost a load of laundry in and of itself. In one run.
5. Rain, streams, ponds, lakes. Water. Who doesn’t love water on a hot summer day? A quick jump in a pond or lake will cool you down instantaneously and you’re off on your way again. Just a stream? Splash some water on your head and let it run down your back. Rain? Awesome. Who doesn’t run faster with less effort in the rain? In winter? Look out. Rain in the winter turns to ice, black ice. Sometimes it comes down as ice. It hurts. It soaks clothes and rubs body parts raw. Crossing a stream? Be careful you don’t punch through, it’s an excellent way to get frostbite.
6. No leaves. When you start doing long long runs, and you’re out for extended periods of time, you’ll quickly learn that it is prudent to bring toilet paper. However, if you forget in the summer time, no sweat; grab some leaves and you’re good. In the winter there are no leaves except for some crinkly, crumbly beech leaves still hanging on. Don’t use those, they won’t work. If you forgot toilet paper in the winter, you’re out of luck. Say hello to Mr. Tom Thumb, or you can use a snow ball. If you did happen to bring toilet paper, you’re stuck bumbling around with exposed fingers in the bitter cold, trying not to drop a glove while you attempt to keep the TP from getting wet in the snow. Meanwhile, your backside is hanging out, and you’re literally freezing your ass off. Mind you, this is all after you’ve trudged through knee deep snow an appropriate distane off the trail so as to not offend others. Try squatting in that. (True story: Doodi called – badum… – while I was on a night run in sub-zero temps this past winter. That was a shitty – ching! – expierence.)
7. Evening Light. Not all complaints are about temperatures. As I do near half of my runs at 8:00PM or later, I love summer when it doesn’t start to get dark until 9:00 or so. I can head out on any loop I choose, and not have to worry about the fading light. As fall and winter approach, my loops start getting more and more limited, until I’m eventually running out-and-backs along the damn highway because a.) it’s the only thing clear of ice and snow, b.) if I fall over and freeze it’s the only place I’ll be found, and c.) I’m scared of the dark and dirt roads with dense tree could be hiding any number of baddies including hungry ass catamounts.
8. Stretching. I’m not an avid stretcher, but as i get older, I find that if I can do a little stretching ten minutes or so into a run, I’ll feel better during and after the run. In the summer – and fall to some extent – I can sit down wherever I want and stretch myself out. It might garner some funny looks when at first glance I’m flashing the world, but it helps. Do that in the winter and you’re hard up. It’s not the flashing part I miss – though who doesn’t like a good flash? – it’s the dry, warm ground to sit on that I miss. Sit down in the winter, and you’ll either freeze up, or get a wet bottom, which will then freeze up. I suppose I could just do laps around my house and go inside to stretch, but then I’d be all sweaty and freeze when I went back out – if my wife let me go back out.
9. Procrastination. In the summer, my wife and I have no problem getting out in the morning on the weekends. I have no problem getting out at night. The weather is warm, there’s probably some daylight; it’s easy. As darkness and coldness progress, getting out the door gets harder and harder. Instead of getting out the door to go for a run, we sit and drink our coffee dreading the venture outside. At first it isn’t so bad, but as the winter wears on, the foot dragging gets worse. No one wants to go outside for a run when it’s single digits, no matter their gear.
10. Vitamin D. We’ve all heard of the stuff. And while you can get Vit D supplements, the main source is the sun. Well the sun doesn’t go away in winter, but as you head further north, the Earth’s angle of insolation becomes steeper and less Vitamin D can get through. Not to mention the fact that in order to absorb Vitamin D you have to have exposed skin. In winter, that usually consists of your face, which for most of us, isn’t that big. So for November-March, I’m absorbing zero Vitamin D on account of the angle of insolation being too steep, and for September and October, there’s so much grayness, little Vit D is being absorbed anyway. That’s near six months without Vitamin D.
So no, I’m not looking forward to winter. I’m not enjoying the cool fall breezes, the turning of the maples, or the harvest of the garden. I want 90+ and sun. I want to sweat faster than I can hydrate. I want summer. I want a real summer.