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What if 6 was -9 (degrees Fahrenheit)?

Most Saturdays I don’t care what the temperature is at eight o’clock in the morning. Most Saturdays I am snuggled in my bed debating whether to have oatmeal or eggs for breakfast. Most Saturdays I’m not starting my half-marathon training. Last Saturday was not most Saturdays. I woke up at 7:30 to check my computer’s weather widget for the temperature and my eyelids peeled up to my scalp when I saw this:

Temperature: 6 degrees, Feels like: -9 degrees

Crap! I got dressed anyway, in my newly purchased sweat-wicking pants and sweat-wicking pullover fleece from Target. I also put on a light-weight jacket and my wool coat and stuffed my hat and mittens in my pockets. Then I drove to the running store where my training program is hosted, all the while thinking I would get my training schedule and free T-shirt and then go home because only a group of cruel-hearted bastards would make anyone run in these temperatures. Surely the leader would stand up and laugh and tell everyone that the real running would start next week because it would be completely ridiculous to run when it felt like negative nine degrees out.

When I got to the store everyone was dressed to run. Everyone. Damn it! I couldn’t punk out now or else I’d look like a big pussy. Peer pressure: not just good for making you smoke pot and get a tattoo, but also for running in sub-freezing temperatures! I checked out what everyone else was wearing, hoping I didn’t stick out like a purple cow. As I was passing the registration table I overheard this snippet of conversation, “…like I’m not already wearing eight layers…” and immediately started to freak out. Was that sarcasm? Hyperbole? I wasn’t supposed to wear eight layers, was I? I only had on two! I’d thought about putting on more, but I didn’t have any other sweat-wicking clothes and I thought I’d get laughed at if I showed up bundled like an Eskimo. I grabbed my free T-shirt off of the table and went to the restroom to put it on underneath. I now had three layers, like a fancy cake. Hopefully that would be enough.

I had signed up for the program in advance, paying my money on the day before Christmas, mostly so I wouldn’t talk myself out of it. On Saturday, I was able to walk into the store, grab a shirt and no one checked for my receipt or proof of registration. I could have just walked in off the street and then run out onto the street again with this pack of people and no one would have known. So, if you are an unethical person who is willing to rip off locally owned running stores for free T-shirts, this might be the training program for you!

All together there were about 40 people at the store, half of us running our first half. They had training schedules for beginners, intermediate, and advanced runners and for walkers. After reading the descriptions of each level, I determined I was an intermediate. No matter what your training level, everyone was running for 30 minutes that day, 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back. The store is right near the trail, so we all dashed across the parking lot and tied up traffic as we crossed the street. I love how a pack of runners or bikers can bring traffic to a stand still, whereas if I were to dash in front of a Honda Civic on my own I’d find myself hoping I’d stuck my insurance card in my pocket before leaving the house.

My nose hairs froze before we made it to the trail. There was a sprinkling of snow on the ground, like someone had spilled bags of powdered sugar everywhere. We dashed by a lake that was completely frozen. My hands were frozen too and I made a note to get thicker gloves. On the way out we ran by my apartment complex and it occurred to me that I could just run inside and go get my car later, but I continued onward.

As I settled into my pace I chatted with one of the runners who works at the store, who I shall call TriathaLisa. Her name isn’t actually Lisa, but she admitted she was one of those “fitness freaks” who does triathlons and I’m not going to use anyone’s real names unless they give me permission. As we were running we talked a bit and she said she thought she recognized me from the trail. She said this was the coldest weather she’d run in, which I found to be a huge relief since it means it probably won’t get any worse than this. All the other runs will be warm in comparison. She asked how I got into running, so I had to go through the whole, “Oh yeah, I’ve lost about 200 pounds” spiel. It has occurred to me that I’ll probably have to tell people about this for the rest of my life.

I completed the whole 30 minute run, though I went a bit faster on the way back than I intended because I was keeping pace with someone else. I was really tired the last 3 minutes, but I made it back to the store which suddenly felt like the inside of an easy-bake oven. I drank some water and talked a little with another runner. I’m going to try to introduce myself to two new people each Saturday, which are the days of our long runs. If I want to meet people I will have to talk to them and not just stare at their headbands. So, I will talk to two people a week. I can talk to two new people a week instead of just standing in the corner fondling price tags on expensive running gear.

When I was rehydrated, I reached into my pocket for my keys and they were freezing cold. But I was not frozen. I survived the cold and now I’m on my way to running my first half-marathon!

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42 Comments

Debbi • January 21, 2008 at 8:11 am

Oh how I envy you being able to train with other people. I’m going to declare myself a virtual member of your group from now on. Maybe it’ll help to imagine myself running along with all of you as I do my next 47 training runs.

Here’s to a good training season … and may next Saturday be warmer than this one.

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MB • January 21, 2008 at 9:47 am

I’m curious if you feel colder now that you don’t have 200 lbs of insulation? I’m pretty hot blooded but find when my weight is lower I tend to feel the cold more.

I can’t wait to hear about the 2 new people you meet every week.

Warm up!

PQ – I’m freezing. I always dress in layers.

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psychsarah • January 21, 2008 at 9:51 am

Big props to you! I have been contemplating joining a running class for a couple of years, but I can’t seem to figure out which is more detestable-running in freezing cold weather like you described (for comparison, it feels like -21 here with wicked winds where I live today!) or in the summer when its hot and humid and sticky. Hence, I keep putting it off. I admire you for signing up and going through with it. Perhaps you’ll inspire me to sign up for the spring!

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Rah • January 21, 2008 at 9:54 am

Well done, PQ, well done. That’s the perseverence that has gotten you where you are today. Getting to know two new people a week is a neat idea, as well.

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Sharon • January 21, 2008 at 10:09 am

You are awesome! I saw a lady running the other day while I was driving and I thought of you. I checked the temperature and it was 20 degrees. I wondered how it was going. You are so brave. Love the idea of meeting 2 people a week. Why do sense a new beau coming along soon? Good Luck!

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Gecko Rock • January 21, 2008 at 10:13 am

I’m just impressed that you are running.

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Jenn • January 21, 2008 at 10:26 am

I’ve been lurking for a while, but just wanted to come out of hiding and say hooray you! I’m doing my first half in AL in Feb, so not quite as cold as you’ve got there.

I can’t wait to read about your training.

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Crabby McSlacker • January 21, 2008 at 10:29 am

I loved this: “Peer pressure: not just good for making you smoke pot and get a tattoo, but also for running in sub-freezing temperatures!”

Very funny–and true. Sounds like you’re off to a great start, frozen nose-hairs and all. Good luck with it!

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jenny • January 21, 2008 at 10:31 am

Kudos to you for actually getting out of bed to run in cold weather… You’ll appreciate this recent article run in the New York Times. The title is “Too Cold to Exercise? Try Another Excuse.” The author basically tells you that no one has ever died just from exercising in the cold… bet thats a relief. On the other hand, warm weather kills many more athletes. The URL is: click here

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Angie • January 21, 2008 at 10:43 am

Kudos to you! I have really slacked on my running due to the frigid temps. The treadmill is also completely boring me lately.

I am insanely proud of you. Good luck meeting new people too!

:)

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Heather • January 21, 2008 at 10:44 am

Our running groups was out yesterday too. Only we had -13 feels like -25 outside (Ontario, Canada). Thats the 2nd coldest its been during my training (-28 coldest). Your nose hairs, eye lashes and eye brows grow their own icicles within minutes. My water bottle froze after about an hour. We did 13km. I missed some weeks so I went from 9km to 13km to quickly. Paying the price today!!! Congrats though for joining! We meet at the running store, are following their schedule but didn’t actually join the clinic. We’re too slow for them right now. We figured we’d get the distance in first, then work on the speed and maybe join them in June. Still going to TRY a 1/2 in May, but just to finish it. Expecting 3hrs at this point. It too us 2 1/4 hours yesterday to do 13km!!!! BUT IT WAS DAMN COLD!!!!!

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Kyle • January 21, 2008 at 11:00 am

brrrrrrrrrrrrr…I’m getting cold just thinking about your Saturday morning. You are a truly dedicated human being to get yourself out of bed when it’s that freezing…

I won’t even get out of bed when it’s nice out, let alone -6 degrees. As my brother would say, hells to the NO!

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Comrade GoGo • January 21, 2008 at 11:15 am

Oh my god, major props, PQ! And here I was, whining about some drizzle outside. I think I’d better shut up and put my walking shoes on—you put me to shame!

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mary • January 21, 2008 at 12:08 pm

This experience for you is exactly why you have been successful at your goals and others have not. Determination. You have a lot to be proud of.

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Nancy • January 21, 2008 at 12:18 pm

Kudos to you. I know I always think of backing out when it’s really cold. I can’t run for about 2 weeks due to my oral surgery, so I’ll read about yours!

I like the “meet two people” rule!

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coraspartan • January 21, 2008 at 12:31 pm

PQ–you rule! I refused to leave my house at all this weekend, due to freezing temps. I can’t believe you ran in those temps! You are amazing.

It’s temps like these that make me glad I’m a gym member. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be getting any exercise right now because there isn’t any way I’m exercising outside in single digits!

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sonia • January 21, 2008 at 12:42 pm

wow – your post is inspirational and beautiful. congratulations on your journey.

oxo

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Marianne • January 21, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Now I feel like a huge wimp for copping out of my *walk* on Saturday because it was snowing and my neighbourhood was icy.

You’re amazing, PQ, totally amazing!

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Mary • January 21, 2008 at 12:56 pm

I feel like such a sissy. It is cold here but nowhere close to -9 and I still don’t want to go run. You are lucky to be running with a group for a little extra motivation to get out there and do it. Awesome work!

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Zandria • January 21, 2008 at 1:23 pm

I think it’s awesome that you didn’t want to run in the cold but did it anyway! Yay for peer pressure! :)

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fc • January 21, 2008 at 1:24 pm

wow. you are my motivational hero. I’M SUCH A SLACKER!!!!

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Kris • January 21, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Way to go!!!

Kris

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Mrs. Duffy • January 21, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Way to tough it out, PQ! I’ve wussed out for the past week because I had a cold, and then when the cold started to break, because it was 20 degrees outside… Now I have no more excuses, wha!!! Back to the program in the morning, I guess… :)

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Bella • January 21, 2008 at 2:16 pm

What an amazing sense of accomplishment you must’ve felt after doing it! Especially in those freezing conditions. Good for you!!

I also think that your plan of meeting two new people each Saturday is a great one. One of my friends did Team in Training and she said that she met a ton of new people, which was one of the side benefits.

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Dyan • January 21, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Make sure you stretch really well in that cold weather. I signed up for a YMCA run and we started training in January (last year). First week went great, but cold. The next week, I strained my hip flexor because I didn’t take the time to stretch and couldn’t finish the training nor run in the race. Made sure I got my tshirt though!

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Janice • January 21, 2008 at 3:36 pm

You rock. I am from Canada, and it is cold. Very cold. I am too wimpy to run in the snow.

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Emily • January 21, 2008 at 4:09 pm

This reminded me of the same NY Times article someone else mentioned. It talks about how no, you don’t need 8 layers of clothes, so you were good!

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K • January 21, 2008 at 4:22 pm

I don’t think I even believe in -9 degrees as a temperature that exists, so I bow down in respect to your hardcore-ness.

Good luck with the talking to new people plan. It’s strange to think of you being shy; you come across very confidently in writing. But I know it doesn’t always translate. (I get very shy myself meeting other bloggers in real life.)

PQ – Believe it or not, I am often described as “quiet.” I like to know that what I’m going to say is important or funny, so a lot of the time I just don’t say anything.

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Lisa • January 21, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Good for you.

(Those little heat pack things that you can get at a camping store help with severely cold hands.)

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BB • January 21, 2008 at 6:39 pm

Nice job on the polar run!

I went to the indoor track because it was just too cold and the thought of one more second on a treadmill made me cringe.

Keep at it!

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Sally Parrott Ashbrook • January 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm

Woo-hoo! Congrats on your half-marathon start!

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Cindy • January 21, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Hi PQ,

Good for you—Keep up the good work. We’ve had the cold, too, but a friend and I managed to get out snowshoeing for two hours Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Once you get moving, you manage to build up quite a heat and don’t notice the cold (and I’m ALWAYS cold, these days!). I really, really, really want to run, but I’ve been advised against it, due to my problem knees. It doesn’t stop me from wanting to run, though, so perhaps I’ll give it one more try this spring. If I could just run one little race, like a 5K, even, I’d be happy. Is that too much to ask?! We’ll see what my knees have to say when i start training!

Thanks for sharing your training story—keep us posted. We’re all rooting for you (and learning from you, too!).

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Dinah Soar • January 21, 2008 at 10:30 pm

You rock pastaqueen. And as funny and witty as you are, anyone whould love chatting with you. I think you’ll find that as you open up and get to know new people you’ll have tons of additional friends.

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AW • January 22, 2008 at 11:02 am

PQ – GREAT STUFF!

i ran my first half marathon on January 6th. it was snowing on me the first half, sleeting/raining most of the second, and didn’t get dry until mile 11. i was absolutely miserable but felt so accomplished once i crossed the finish line. i even finished third in my age group and won a flashy white ribbon!

all the training in the cold will definitely be worth it. the feeling you get when you’re done will outweigh the agony of weekend long runs. i promise!

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cricket • January 22, 2008 at 11:53 am

wow! good for you. I am also training fro my first half in April. I whimped out this morning and my widget read 25. Jeez next time I’ll think of you and I am out there! come hell or frozen nose hair ;).

thanks for the motivation!

cricket

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BrightAngel • January 22, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Go, Girl, Go.

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wendy • January 22, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Awesome run! But that just sounds cold! Brrrr! I wonder if mittens would keep your fingers warmer?

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Lynne • January 22, 2008 at 4:36 pm

You will feel like a GLADIATOR when you look back at your training runs. You are NO WHIMP, although peer pressure is the key! Enjoy your group. You will miss it dearly when it is done!

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ladyL • January 23, 2008 at 2:31 pm

“I couldn’t punk out now or else I’d look like a big pussy.”

Come on, pastaqueen. As an intelligent woman you should know better than you use the word “pussy” to describe failure, weakness or inability. And that includes using the word as a short cut for “pussycat.”

It’s time that we stop using female genitalia and sexual performance (like oral sex: “go suck it,” “blow me,” etc. ) as derogatory terms. We should also stop using words describing male genitalia (“shmuck,” “d**k”) or sex acts (“f**k”) in demeaning ways.

When women are not objectified, and sex is understood as an act of love, respect and intimacy, maybe then we’ll have true equality between the sexes. Maybe a lower divorce rate. Maybe less rape, infidelity, domestic abuse…

PQ – I was wondering how long it would take for someone to get on my case bout using the word “pussy.” If Tori Amos can use it in the live version of “Sugar” on To Venus and Back, I can use it on my blog. That woman is fierce.

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Amy • January 23, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Say, is that the running place in BR with the South African guy at the helm? He and his wife are friends of ours! Nice folks.

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ladyL • January 23, 2008 at 5:47 pm

Tori Amos may be fierce, but has she changed the meaning of that word? Has she contributed to reducing domestic violence and all of those other thins? If she has empowered women, as she is credited with doing, why in the hell are we still objectified? still starving ourselves to look like models, who absolutely do not represent the human population, much less the female population?

I understand why people use that word – I’ve used it, too – but until we change what it means, it will continue to contibute to our stance in society (and we Americans have it much better than most women in the world).

I’m just saying, you are smart and successful and you’ve done something amazing for yourself and a huge number of women who admire your stamina and accomplishments. So, take it a step further and continue empowering women to be healthy, fit and happy – but to do it for the right reasons, like you have.

PQ – Well, she did start RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, so yeah, she has contributed to reducing domestic violence and all those other things.

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ladyL • January 24, 2008 at 2:12 pm

good to know…

too bad she kind of fell off the face of the earth. where’s she been?

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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