January and February are usually the coldest months here in Iowa. It is too cold to run outside, at least for most people. The last time I went out to run was back in December, and it was actually Christmas Day as we had a spring time weather that time.
But today is different. By the way, it is 02 02 2020, how neat is that? Even though it is February, our temperature is above freezing (40º F), which is unusual for this time of year for us.
So I decided to go out for a run.
It is a sunny day and our big pile of snow is starting to melt. It may take several days of “warm” days like this to melt them all down though.
Then I met some flocks of wild geese. They usually fly south for the winter, but I am seeing more and more of them staying here in our place even for the winter months.
These geese are equipt for the cold anyway, as they have down feathers which we even use to insulate our jackets. In fact goose down jackets are one of the warmest jackets you can get and has the advantage of being lightweight. But I know they can be expensive.
Here’s more geese coming for a landing.
There is more cold weather forecasted for this coming week, and we will be back to subfreezing temperature, and more snow as well. But for a day, I enjoyed going outside with the wild geese.
I am glad that January was over. For many, January is when they intensify their excercise activities as part of their New Year’s resolution of living a more healthy lifesytle. Not for me.
I was practically sick all January. I caught a bug that brought me down on my knees (see previous post) just after New Year’s Day. Then when I was recovering, I caught another virus that put me into another tail spin.
I lost my voice that made me talk in whispers. I am thankful that I did not totally lost my voice as I was still able to blog loudly and clearly. I was also coughing so hard that I think I pulled a muscle, or contused or even broke a rib. Coughing became a nightmare that made me double up in pain. I used a small pillow to push it against where my chest hurts whenever I cough. Breathing was literally painful.
But I am better now. I hope.
Besides me being sick, the weather here in Iowa last January was just plainly awful. Three days ago, our wind chill was – 40ºF. This they say was due to the Polar vortex. In that extreme cold, you can toss boiling water high into the air and it will turn into ice particles before it hit the ground.
However, today is different. Our outside temperature is 50ºF. That is almost a hundred degrees swing in temperature in a matter of few days! You barely need a jacket on.
So what did I do when I got the first chance to go outside? I ran!
Due to temperature way above freezing, all the snow that had accumulated in several weeks have melted and all that was left were a few patches.
The snow was rapidly melting that this created a small rushing spring from snowmelt at the side of this road here.
It was just not me enjoying this warm break. I saw a herd of deer roaming around in the distance. I don’t know where they take refuge when the weather is brutally cold. But no, I am not inviting them in inside my home.
Since it was my first run after about a month of inactivity, I chose to run in the gravel road which is a relatively flat terrain rather than the more challenging up and down hills in some part of my running route.
Yet the moment I stepped into the dirt road, I felt the ground to be soft and soggy from all the snow that have melted. In other words, it was muddy.
It probably was a mistake on my part to run on the dirt road, still I was determined to finish the loop back to my place. I literaly plowed through the mud. I just thought that it was one of the muddy obstacle courses in those Spartan races.
I finished a 2 mile loop albeit my pace was somewhat slow, perhaps due to my deconditioning. But I’m not admitting that, I am blaming the mud that caused me to run slow.
Perhaps I am a little crazy or mad, but I am also now a mud runner.
There’s no question that snow is beautiful. It blankets everything in white. But shoveling and clearing your driveway, and worse yet, driving on it is something else. It is at the least treacherous, especially during a major snowstorm with more than a few inches of snowfall.
However if you live in a place that has significant snow accumulation in winter, like here in Iowa, you need to deal with it. Driving in snow is a skill that you need to develop through experience.
Last week, we had consecutive days of heavy snowfall. There was a lot of cancellation in our clinic appointments as patients decided not to come as they deemed the roads were not safe.
I went home early and sure enough as I was driving down the interstate, there were several cars that were abandoned as they had fallen in the ditch. There were several reports of collisions too. Oh the joy of slipping and sliding in winter driving.
When I arrived home, the snow was still falling. With about 4 or 5 inches on the ground already and no sign of letting up, I called my son down. I told him that we were going to drive in snow.
My son got his driver’s permit a few months ago. He cannot drive alone, but only when there’s an adult in the car. Yet he needs to gain experience to drive in snow. He needs to develop the skill. I thought, this was the perfect opportunity for him to do so.
I am far from being the most expert driver or the most skilled in driving in snow. But I have several years of experience in driving in this weather, and my best qualification to teach him is that I am his father. I know what is best for my kids. Plus our car is an all-wheel drive with high ground clearance, built to play in rough terrain.
First we drove around our neighborhood. I let him slam the brake when we were going downhill and let him feel the car sliding. Of course nobody was on the road except us, so we were never in danger. When my son gained some confidence, we went out in the highway to let him experience real driving in snow with cars tailing and passing us.
After almost an hour of driving, we went home.
Yesterday, I received a phone call from my daughter who was in college a couple of hours away. She said that she was supposed to go somewhere but snow was starting to fall. I sensed some alarm in her voice and she was not feeling confident in driving in snow. She was asking if she should go or not.
My daughter has been driving for a couple of years, but have not driven in snow by herself. If I could only go to where she was, I would, but she was far away. So I did what I think was best. I advised her to drive slowly and carefully. I told her that sooner or later she would have to drive in snow but she should be fine. Besides the snow was a couple of inches only.
Even though I sounded convincing when I talked to her, in my heart I had some fear. But I know I had to let her fly on her own. I know she needs to build her confidence. I know she needs the experience to be independent.
I was relieved when she texted later that she made it to her destination safely.
As parents, we don’t stop parenting even if our children are grown-up. Their challenges may be different now. It’s not about the big spider on the wall anymore, or about a difficult math equation, or a bully in the playground. But their challenges may be bigger. Would I pass this college course, or would I find a job, or would my salary be enough, or would I find a niche in this world?
I hope I have equipped and prepared my children in facing the snowstorms in life. And I don’t mean just driving in snow.
It’s been two months since I ran the half-marathon for this year. But I am proud to say that I have not yet relented on my running for this season. Emphasis on the “yet.” Maybe I just want to stay trim for Christmas. Maybe I want to look good on my vacation photos. Whatever the reason is, I am still running even if it’s already winter here in our part of the world.
But hopping on a treadmill and running for a mile or two in place is really boring. Even running inside an indoor track in our local Y can be dull and uninspiring. So when I saw that the temperature outside this morning was 30º F instead of our usual single digits or teens, I cannot resist to run outside. Besides, there was no snow on the ground and more importantly, no ice. I can run on snow, but not ice (see older post).
When I got out in our front yard, I saw ice! But it was just in our bird bath, which was frozen solid (photo above). The sun was shining though, so it’s a wonderful day to be outside.
As I approached the pond in our housing community, I again noticed that the water was frozen.
Should I try running on ice? Or perhaps put on a pair of ice skates and glide my way through?
Then I heard some honking. When I looked up I saw a flock of geese.
They seems to be egging me on – “Run on ice! Run on ice!”
The temperature however was not in the deep freeze. I am not that foolish yet. Again, emphasis on the yet. So no running on thin ice!
As I kept on trucking, I was looking for my deer friends, but they were nowhere to be found. Have they gone some place warmer?
Instead I saw some polar creatures. A penguin and a polar bear! You don’t believe me?
Here they are:
The pengunin and the polar bear seems to be lost in place without the snow. Perhaps like my son they were praying for snow. Lots and lots of it. But for me, I’ll enjoy this relatively warm day without the snow and ice.
Overall, it was a decent day for a morning run.
After about an hour outside, I came back in and warm myself with the leftover arroz caldo my wife cooked yesterday.
Again, I have my app to document my “cool running.”
We are in a deep freeze. For a stretch of a few days our temperature here in Iowa have not wandered above zero degrees Fahrenheit. I know my friends in California boast of warm weather there still. Plus recreational marijuana is now legal there too. It’s not fair!
There was even one day last week, that our actual temperature in Des Moines was colder (-18 F or -27.8 C) than that same day in Antarctica (-5 F or -20.6 C). This is not considering the wind chill factor that can be as cold as -30 to -50 F. I’m expecting Emperor Penguins to arrive in my front yard anytime now.
Yet few days ago, there was somebody who rode a motorcycle on the road in this dangerously frigid condition. Not a snowmobile, but a motorcycle. I know that seems all madness. But if I tell you the reason why he did it, you will be convinced that it was rather a valiant and selfless act.
We have somebody in our church who likes to ride motorcycles. What he owns is a big maroon Harley-Davidson trike. We were told that he rode it to many places, far and near. He even goes to work on it, and I have seen him come to church on this trike.
Recently his health declined and he became more sickly. His kidneys failed, and he started dialysis three times a week. Yet he continued to ride his trike despite all of his illness, and he even rode it to go to his dialysis treatments.
Few days before Christmas, he got hospitalized. Then with one complication after another, sadly to say, he died a few days later.
So earlier this week, we attended his memorial service that was held in our church. The temperature that day was negative 12 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill factor of 30 below zero. It snowed the night before and into early morning, so there’s freshly fallen snow on the ground. Even though it was bitterly cold that morning, what was more palpable was the love and warmth of the family and friends who attended that memorial.
To honor this fallen brother, they brought his trike to his memorial service. And yes, somebody rode it from this departed brother’s home and into the church, in this Antarctica-like condition!
So there it was, the Harley-Davidson trike, parked at the entrance of the church. It was positioned near the door, waiting like a sentinel. Perhaps it’s waiting for its rider for a final ride into the sunset.