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Crazy, jogging in snow? Not as crazy as you might think

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POSTED December 8, 2009 4:43 a.m.

“Are you crazy?”

It was more of a statement than a question.

“It’s snowing!”

The guy who shouted those remarks to me had just rolled down the window of his Chevy Tahoe. He was bundled against the morning cold and I assumed he had the heater going full blast.

“No,” I replied as I started to jog across Spreckels Avenue on the way home from the gym. “It’s warmer now than it was an hour ago.”

The guy just shook his head in disbelief as I crossed in front of him wearing running shorts topped with a rain jacket and the prerequisite gloves.

It was true the snow around 7 a.m. Monday – which wasn’t sticking to the ground – seemed a lot warmer than the cold drizzle on the way to In Shape at 5:30 a.m.

Not exercising and not getting outdoors isn’t an option for me. You can’t do anything about the weather so you might as well embrace it. Of course some say I do both to the extreme shunning air conditioning in the valley heat and – so far – resisting lighting the pilot light to the wall heater at home.

It wasn’t the first time I was dressed like it was summer while braving the snow.

The other two times, though, it wasn’t by design.

I got caught on a cycling trip in New Mexico heading from Taos to Red River on a Memorial Day Weekend. A lawyer from Des Moines was riding behind me while the rest of the group had turned back to a support van due to threatening skies and the fact there was still a bit of a climb to the summit that was just less than 9,000 feet.

Every time the heavens would rumble and the lighting followed she’d count out “one thousand one, one thousand two…”

I finally asked what she was doing and she replied it was a way of gauging how many miles away the lightning strikes were. She then informed me it was down to about two miles and if it went down to one she was heading toward the ditch.

Just as she stopped talking it started snowing. It just didn’t come down light, it snowed. The road was covered with a good inch or so of snow in a matter of minutes. Oncoming traffic was swerving making the ride even more precarious considering all I had for traction were about three-quarter-inch bicycle racing tires that were slick treads by design.

I was getting cold – fast. Summer cycling shorts along with a light jersey aren’t exactly recommended gear to ride in the snow. I was relatively warm, though, compared to what happened after my bonehead move. After two miles of climbing there was considerable snow accumulating on my handlebar bag. I thought it was throwing my control of the bicycle off. So like an idiot I swept the snow off in one direction with one hand and the other way with my other hand. It wasn’t until I finished that it dawned on me – ever so painfully – that my fingers were now frozen completely thanks to the fact summer cycle gloves have no fingers.

I could no longer feel the road through the handlebars as I lost all feeling. What followed after we crested the summit and started descending as the snow changed into rain was plain reckless. I couldn’t feel the road so instead of riding my brakes I let it go.

I made it to the resort and spent the next two hours or so in a hot tub trying to get warm.

That experience hit home. The first trans-Sierra trip I planned with a younger friend while fully-loaded touring I made sure I brought plenty of winter gear and told him to do likewise as mountain weather is unpredictable.

The first day of summer we were leaving Lee Vining and heading up Tioga Pass on Highway 120 when it started snowing. The kid – he was 17 at the time – started shivering. When I suggested he get on his winter clothing the only thing he had was the tights he was wearing.

I gave him some of my extra gear to stay warm and dry. That wasn’t enough. We stopped twice on the way up as the snow got heavier. Each time I stripped some other article of clothing off in an effort to keep him warm.

The snow stopped about a mile from the entrance east of the summit at 9,943 feet. It was a good thing as I was down to a light pair of summer cycle shorts, a thin jersey and nothing else while Brian was layered with three sets of tights on top of his cycling shorts, two jerseys and two rain jackets.

His comment? I was lucky it stopped snowing as I’d be riding naked if it hadn’t.

Now that would have been crazy.




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