November 20, 2010

Is it just cold or are you happy to see me?

I hate cold weather.  Growing up in Cleveland, OH, winter used to be my favorite season.  Looking back I still can't see exactly why.

I think I can track the beginnings of my cold intolerance to when I moved to Washington, DC for undergrad.  It's uncommon to get more than a couple inches of snow and the temperatures don't get all that dramatic.  But if you watch people drive when the first couple flakes hit the air you would think the world was ending.  Everyone freaks out.  At the time I thought they were all ridiculous and scoffed at their shivering and slip-sliding.  But I think that over the years I slowly started to join their ranks without realizing it.

(The big one circled in yellow)
The nail in the coffin was when I served in the Peace Corps.  I was an HIV/AIDS Education Volunteer in Mali, which is located in West Africa.  In case you're not sure where I'm taking about, here's a map:

[Don't worry, the post office didn't know where Mali's located either.  I had mail routed through Maui, Malawi and Bali to get to me - and that's just a few of the more "obvious" examples.  Then I told people to add "West Africa" to my address, thinking that might help.  Once someone at the post office crossed out West so that it read:  West Africa.  I mean, I'm not arguing with you that Mali is in Africa.  I'm just not sure what was accomplished by the correction.]

Mali's pretty close to the equator, relatively speaking, and the top 2/3's of the country are made up of the Sahara.  Pretty much year round the temperature hits 100F at least during the afternoon, and in the hot season it can be 120 degrees even at night.  (And to put it in perspective, air conditioning was pretty impossible to find outside of major buildings in the capital - 12 hours away from me.)  For maybe a month in the winter time it would get "cold" at night... there were a handful of times I could see my breath!  Feel free to make fun, but when all of your clothes are appropriate for 120 degree weather, 40 or 50 degrees is horrifying!

Winter hat, jacket, pants
So cold intolerance is basically the cultural norm.  And it's kinda hilarious because donated clothing of all sorts makes it to West Africa from the industrial world.  Particularly during "cold" weather you'll find Malians wearing winter hats, puffy jackets and the like.  This isn't my picture, but it's not uncommon to see guys dressed like this year round in Mali.  (Worse in the "winter," of course, but people would wear those hats in the 120 degree summers!)  I made the picture a little larger so you can kinda appreciate the woman in the background wearing a thin skirt and a sleeveless shirt.  It's probably 80 degrees out and he was a little chilled.

So... 2 years in West Africa + almost 4 in New Orleans = wimpy in cold weather.  Once the thermostat drops below 75 I start wearing sweaters and break out the winter coat.  Strangely enough, some of my best races have been in "cold" weather - either the 40s or 50s.  I know that's "ideal" racing weather and I feel good once I get going.  It's that "getting out the door" part that's often unbelievably hard.  I love the concept of running sleeves, which are easy to remove as you keep moving.  And throwaways are a great idea, but perhaps not for the weekly long run.

So, what do I do to stay warm?  I go for the ridiculous look.  Living in NOLA, I can't convince myself that it's worth buying cold weather running clothes.  So I have some $2 gloves from walmart, one long-sleeve wicking shirt, two pairs of capri running pants (which don't wick) and a $5 hat from Old Navy (does a great job at keeping moisture around my head which means once it's on I can't take it off or I'll FREEZE).  If it's REALLY cold, I wear the outer layer of an old ski coat that chafes my chin.  Sweet!  And then I layer like a crazy person.  You know the kid in a Christmas Story?  ("I can't put my arms down!")  Yeah.  I go for that look.  Now that I'm back in Cleveland for the holidays, it's on!
Did you know that a Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland?

And in case you haven't discovered this little gem, hot chocolate is amazing after a run in cold weather!  What do you do to stay warm?


  1. I hate winter and I am a lifelong MN girl! I do however like running in it because I cannot do the heat.

  2. Try putting some hand warmers in your gloves AND shoes...

  3. I remember it being cold in Ohio. I lived there for 6 months =) That's where I gave birth to my daughter. =)

    *Pls read my blog post yesterday. I am shamelessly plugging it coz I don't want YOU to miss it. Kindly read and you'll understand why =)

  4. The title made me laugh ha! I love hot chocolate no matter what time of day during the winter. I am a cold wuss too! I can't believe that you lived in W. Africa. That is amazing.

  5. It a good thing you aren't planning to move to the North-east or the Midwest :)

    You must have had quite a few adventures in Mali. I lived in Nigeria when I was a kid for 5 years...

  6. Sometimes I feel dumb complaining about the "cold" weather in COlumbus, because I know it's so much colder just 3 hours north in Cleveland!

    Hot chocolate it my favorite way to warm up :) I love it with almond milk!

  7. *sigh* i too am hopeless in cold weather - and sadly Mr BBB and I live in a city that has FREEZING winters! :( Luckily we rarely get snow though!

  8. That's funny - I grew up in WI and now live in SC...and my blood has thinned so much! I used to like all the cold and snow but would NEVER want that now! I enjoy our 1 MAYBE 2 "snow (flurres) days" here. :) I do, however, love to run in cold weather! I just have the cheapo gloves like you and rarely wear them. I stay warm by layering too!

  9. I wear a tank top, a long sleeve top and a cottony zip-up top when the temps hit 30s.
    Then, I wear a fleece beanie (cheap one from Old Navy that I got last year) and a cheap pair of fleece gloves. :)

    Getting out to start running in the cold is the most difficult part. Once I am out there running, I'm usually fine.

  10. LORD...I go AWAY to get warm. It's maybe 15 degrees outside right now. Also, we enjoy our Colorado hot springs a time or two during the winter just for the deep un-thaw.