Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Winter Hoot and Holler

Just in case you happen to be living somewhere outside of the continental United States, I've got some shocking news for you. It's been cold pretty much everywhere not called Florida, Hawaii, or Alaska. Mother Nature has taken vengeance on our misunderstanding of climate change and decided to punch us in the gut with steal-your-breath away cold temperatures. Still I run (or do my version of what other people call running). This winter, I set a personal low for temps, as seen on the right. This run was exceptionally fast for me. I give credit to the fact that, had I gone any slower, I might have frozen to the ground.

In the summer time, life on the road is much different. For example, I've got a larger section of road on which to run. In the winter time, much of the running lane is covered in ice and snow, forcing me and the dog out into the brine covered sections of black. We get to mingle with traffic, deer, potholes, the mail truck, the trashman, and, new to last week, a combine tractor finally harvesting corn. (And I thought I was a procrastinator.)

Summer running is louder. No, not me. I'm talking about the rest of the citizens. There are more decibel producers cruising the strip. Motorcycles that believe mufflers are unnecessary. Teenagers who believe that subwoofers in the trunk with the bass turned all the way up is da bomb. Canadian geese returning from where ever they decided to winter and honk incessantly. It can be ear piercing at times.

In the winter, everything is muffled. Kids are in the house. Motorcycles are in the garage. Geese are, um, elsewhere. All but one of the combines are in the barn. Plus, I've got my ears covered. It's a much quieter run. Peace. Serenity. Calm. Only me and the voices in my head (don't worry, I don't listen to them...much).

I have been missing something rather special lately. (Yes, I'm missing on pleasant temperatures, but I covered that already). I'm missing out on the Hoot and Hollers of summer time. See, when it's nice outside, people drive with their windows down. They sit outside of their houses. They go for walks. They ride their bikes. During this season, I share the road with many recreants. They see me coming on my bike or on my run and calculate that they have only a matter of seconds to interact. Why exactly they want to interact is a mystery to me (I've never been much of a social creature). Their version of interaction is commonly called a Hoot and/ or a Holler. I like getting yelled at while exercising. I've been known, on occasion, to deliver my own version of a H&H. Mostly, I stay silent save for my raspy chug of breathing.

Lately, I've been paying more attention to people on my sessions and I think I'm wrong. I get lots of Hoots and Hollers, only I've been too stupid to recognize them.

Take, for example, the above pictured -2º tempo run. If it weren't for the chill that day, it would have been a beautiful day for a run. The sun was, for once, shining bright. The streets were semi-adequately plowed. There was next to no traffic. I do remember this one guy though. I was running to the east while he was driving to the east. Meaning, we were not in the same lane. There was no needed action to be taken on his part to avoid the likes of me running. He, in his cozy white pick-up, heater blazing, steaming coffee cup move to and fro his lips. Me gingerly plodding through the soon-to-be permafrost of what was once a temperate climate. He could have just driven on by. Nope. He slowed down, made eye-contact, and raised his mug of Joe in a salute to my effort with a smile on his face. Then, of course, he just drove off never to be seen again.

Or, take for example, the garbage truck. Trash collection for most is on Tuesdays in my area. But, we have the freedom of trash choice in the neighborhood and a minority of people opt for a different company. I think it's because the other company has purple cans and not green. Well, the purple trash eater drives his route on Wednesday. As it happened on one particular Wednesday, I was out for a morning run with the PRP. He's a lot cuter than me and is, therefore, subjected to a lot more H&H's than I (I still pretend that they're mind- he doesn't argue the point- so it's all good). At this point in the tale, said purple truck was about a third of a mile in my future but closing the gap. Due to the Doppler Effect in both light and sound, I was able to recognize that the truck's speed was also slowing. As we neared eminent collision, the truck stopped and the trashman jumped out. His singular goal was to pet the dog. The dog was alright with this, as is his nature. This is not the H&H. The Winter H&H happened moments later. See, this was a narrow, residential style road and not much room for traffic. The large purple refuse collector was blocking a good portion of the drive-able space and a short line of cars were witness to the pettings while their forward momentum dissipated. After we started moving again, the 2 cars immediately behind the stench smiled and waved. That's the H&H.

One last example- I was riding my bike. It was cold outside and I was in the garage as usual. See, I'm becoming more and more selectively pansy. Whereas I'll run in just about any temperature, my bike won't see asphalt until it's at least 45º, probably closer to 50 (and that still depends on the rain and wind). Since Canada feels the need to keep sending her worst, it's into my partially finished workout space. I don't mind. The rest of the non-biking space is wide open or shelved off for storage. There's enough room for the bike, treadmill, and a small marching band. That's a good thing too since, on one Saturday afternoon, I was spinning away. Suddenly, my workout room door exploded open and the USC Marching Band filed in with Fleetwood Mac playing Tusk. It worked and I had one of my best trainer sessions of the winter! Later on, Lindsey admitted to me that he wrote the song about me because he missed hanging out when I was exercising instead.

Okay, that last one may or may not have actually happened in real life. But the other 2 definitely did. Regardless, the Winter H&H is a thing of beauty. You and I must train ourselves to recognize external inspiration when it happens. Even if it's only in our heads, the H&H can be a useful tool to gain an edge over our demons.

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