Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Emerging from winter's crucible

I stepped outside Sunday for my five-miler, bracing myself for a blast of arctic air.

The tips of my ears trembled in anticipation of the horrible freeze-and-defrost cycle I was sure they'd go through, because I wasn't wearing my fleece headband.

And yet — all I felt was a little shiver. Was there a cruelly cold wind gust lying in wait for me somewhere? Or was I actually dressed appropriately for what my computer said was 21-degree weather?

It seemed so, when the gloves came off at mile one, and the cotton sweatband kept my ears perfectly comfortable. But still, it was below freezing, right?

Tuesday, the phenomenon repeated itself: I saw 30 degrees on the weather widget and tempted fate further. No jacket this time, just a long-sleeved T-shirt; no ear coverings, just a sweatband; and no gloves at all. (A scouting expedition/trip outside to take out the trash persuaded me to leave them behind.)

The past month of Iowa winter had changed me, it turns out. Flaky skin, nosebleeds, frozen thighs and dead iPhone batteries led me to overreact — do I no longer thrive on cooler weather? — and believe I needed spring to arrive posthaste.

But at the same time, it toughened me up. During the nonwinter of 2011-12, I had forgotten the lessons and fortitude I gained during 2009-10 and 2010-11. The winter storms of 2012-13 so far have not just recalled that knowledge, but also built upon it.

That is to say: I didn't just walk outside Sunday and Tuesday and think, "Huh, it doesn't feel like a meat locker with a fan on," I stepped out and thought, "Wow, it feels nice outside."

Twenty-one degrees felt nice — "a great day for a run!" I even declared in a text. My Viking blood* didn't get drained after all.

*My grandpa's cousin was told by a doctor that she had a tendon condition only found in those descended from Vikings. Yes, this may not have come from our common ancestors; no, that doesn't mean I'll stop declaring that I have Viking blood, because they probably still impregnated one of my ancestresses.

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