Writing and running in Austin, TX.
I hope you all have been enjoying the season as much as I have. I know, I know, conventional wisdom says that I should be lamenting this stressful time of year (and my expanding waistline), but I’ve always loved Christmas. And this year, with all the adjustment of moving to a different country, learning a new language, etc., this past week has been the most relaxing of the last 3 months.
Long before Aachen ever came into the picture, Handsome J and I had agreed to the classic “alternating family” holiday scenario. Since we spent Christmas 2009 with my family in Chicago, Christmas 2010 found us booking tickets from the capital of the European Union to the capital of Manitoba. (Manitoba is the big flat province in the middle of Canada. If you’re American and confused, picture a map of the States and head north from Minnesota.)
Under other circumstances, I think this travel plan would have inspired fear in my heart. Winnipeg (the aforementioned capital of Manitoba) is definitely in the COLD part of Canada. From the Wikipedia article:
The coldest temperature recorded in Winnipeg was −45 °C (−49 °F) in February 1966. According to Environment Canada, Winnipeg is the coldest city in the world with a population of over 600,000…
In other words, if we were coming here from Austin, I think I would have died. Still, I was excited enough about a return to the English-speaking world to go into this trip with high hopes. And boy has it delivered. For starters, despite one missed connection on our way here, we were still among the lucky few who managed to escape Western Europe on the one day last week that the airports were operational.
Even Winnipeg itself has obliged us with some unseasonably mild temperatures. It hasn’t made it above freezing, of course, but for the most part it’s contented itself with lows in the -18 C (1 F) range.
Which is not to say this hasn’t been a whole new challenge in the world of running. Here are the positives of running in Winnipeg (or rather, the small-town about an hour outside of it that is home to the Handsome family):
Here are the cons:
And hey, did the cold just kill my iPod?
I suited up for my run in what I thought was decent cold weather attire – lined running tights, long-sleeved tech shirt, fleece jacket, wind-resistant shell, hat, gloves, neck warmer, etc. And like I do in Aachen, I tucked the iPod in the pocket of the shell. It lasted for exactly one episode of Marketplace (28 minutes and 34 seconds).
Honestly, who knew that there’s an “iPod Temperature Zone“???
Okay, probably Canadians. And of course Handsome J, who helpfully responded to my complaint about my dead iPod with, “Well yeah, it has a battery.”
Okaaay, so I know all the cars up here have cords hanging out from under their hoods for a reason, but I’ve been a Texan for too long to see how that related to my iPod. Apparently, batteries work thanks to chemical reactions, and those reactions occur differently in different temperatures. Like if it’s below freezing, they just stop. (Learning how the cord prevents this problem for car batteries is a project for another day.)
Clearly I, like an iPod, was not made to operate in sub-zero temperatures. I secretly suspect the Handsome family is running their heat a bit higher than normal to avoid my perishing on their watch.
But all things considered, I’m not complaining. Despite the cold, I’ve managed all but one of my runs, even squeezing in 8 miles on Christmas Day. (Which wasn’t nearly enough to offset all the amazing food this family has been whipping up, but hey, ’tis the season!)
My time here has truly been an excellent winter-weather boot camp. After Manitoba, I feel prepared to stand and face the German winter head-on! Now, I’ve learned that you can tame a cold iPod by stuffing it in your glove, and that layering wind pants over tights can stave off pesky feelings of frostbite in your thighs. Oh, and I got Yak Trax for Christmas! After one run, I can say they certainly seem to make a difference when it comes to sliding around on the ice. So bring it on, Aachen.
P.S. – I’ve also been enjoying a new and exhausting from of cross-training: Cross-Country Skiing. (As far as I can tell, this must be a sport that runners came up with to deal with snow before Yak Trax were invented.) Sure, I’ve spent a good portion of my time sliding backwards down hills and face-planting when the track turns but my skis do not, but I secretly suspect I’m a real prodigy.