LGN 104: Winter Knights

Inside: Half way through the first month of 2015; Imaginary girlfriends; Get up, Trinity. Get. Up.

Old Man Winter is in full effect. We’ve been kicking it and he can be a chill dude if you meet him half way. Okay, three quarters of the way. And wear something warm ’cause he does not give a frozen fart if you die.

THE FALL

Back at the end of the Summer I hit a low point. My stepfather passed away after months upon months of decline following a liver and kidney transplant. There were unknown complications and even though the transplanted organs were functioning his digestive system shut down. He hadn’t eaten solid food or been home for 7 months. After all of that willpower and hope and struggle, y’know. Acceptance.

In general, I was nervous about the prospect of the dark months and the metabolic change it can bring. I really don’t like being cold. Not at all. After-work adventure is practically impossible when the sun sets a little after 4pm and I tend to rely on it as a booster. Plus the social isolation is a killer. Weight gain and fitness setbacks almost seem inevitable, don’t they?

Since I’m exhausted and my mental censors are offline I’ll admit something.

As Summer faded I was pushed over the edge when I realized that all of my imaginary girlfriends had boyfriends. Lest I freak anyone out, I’ll unpack that. For reasons that I don’t understand but am okay with, mostly women come out to these outdoor adventures that I invite people to. Not necessarily my intent, but hell yes I can roll with that. However, having nearly all female activity partners, for lack of a better term (and not a euphemism), I failed to account for cuffing season.

I was thinking, where the hell is everybody all of a sudden? I had ideas. I had plans. I was looking for and finding some great potential activities. There were things to do and the days where shrinking.

There’s nothing wrong with that — the cuffing season thing, i.e. people living their lives effectively. (I saw that “cuffing season” phrase in a FB post and had to google it for I am old but I serendipitously saw it a day after I had observed/hypothesized about this seasonal mating behavior.) In fact, every thing is right about that. Rock on.

It was an inconvenient truth. I kind of bought into my own hype. I thought I was accomplishing something when, in fact, I was just repeating one of those the-definition-of-insanity-is-doing-the-same-thing-and-expecting-different-results cycles.

It was a wake up call with a side order of slap in the face. This is not your world. You are out of your element. Way to Richard Wright’s Invisible Man it. How’s that working out for you?

So … yeh. I re-realized that I need to find other social outlets. I’ve been spinning my wheels in the same scene for years. It looks splashy what with the squealing tires and rainbow of dirt arcing out from under my wheels but you don’t get anywhere spinning donuts in a parking lot. I must strike out for other social circles, networks. Something. Where I’m not an anomaly. Work on myself. Get better. Find peers with similar interests and — here’s the rub — the ever-elusive availability. Time is a scarce resource.

Just in time for…

WINTER

Having been brought low, it was clear that I really could not afford to get any lower. It was not safe. Clear as day. “I have to keep moving.”

If Winter is getting you down for one reason or another — physiologically, socially, psychologically — here’s the balm.

Embrace it. Don’t curl up into a ball under a comforter and bathe in TV light. Not all the time, anyway.

Go outside and be cold. If you don’t have any, invest in a few layers of clothes, hand warmers, and foot warmers. It can be expensive. It can be reasonable. But it will enable you to enjoy yourself year round. At the very least, it’ll enable you to trudge outside and do what you need to do. If you metro or walk any distance to work, a decent base layer will improve the quality of your commute by a factor of “much better”.

I also swear by Emergen-C, especially the one with vitamin D. Is that science? Not sure. Don’t care.

Don’t wait until Spring to move. Don’t resign yourself to being a couch potato for the next three months. Three months of down time takes the rest of the year to recover from — to work off, anecdotally speaking. Let’s face it. We usually don’t and then we repeat the cycle.

There have been times when I’ve been comfortable out there when the temperature was in the teens. I’ve ridden my bike in that with wind chill plus the additional chill of moving at 10 to 14 mph, and almost managed to avoid exquisite pain. It was the hands that got me that time. It was so damned cold.

This kind of all started when I did the Dismal Swamp camping trip. Well, it was the first Autumnal next-level activity. I’ve never camped like that before. Never owned a tent or sleeping bag. Never kayak camped. Never slept outside in sub-freezing temperatures. Never been that close to hypothermia. There were moments of cold to the point of pain. It was also one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was sublime.

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I’ve hiked in the snow and scrambled up snow covered rocks to the summit of a craggy ridge. Yes, it was cold. Yes, my feet hurt. Yes, I had trouble keeping up with those hard core hikers for 12 miles. And it was amazing.

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I was there along with a hearty crew doing outdoor circuit training when the gym was closed for the holidays. It was freezing cold out there. The solution, of course, is to keep moving.

I’ve done some Winter hikes and lucked out with frosty but beautiful, crisp days and marveled at all the people crazy and motivated enough to be up earlier than me running, cycling, kayaking and even paddleboarding(wtf) in 20 degree weather.

The frigid temps matter even less when you’ve got good company.

REI SNOWBOARDING

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I did the REI Learn to Ski or Snowboard class. Great value. Great deal. With an awesome promotional deal at the end that I signed up for.

I didn’t do great today. It didn’t quite click for me. I fell. A lot and hard sometimes. The last time up the chair lift I really didn’t want to go but I knew that I needed to. I still didn’t get it. There comes a point when falling bruises your ego and saps your mental stamina. The solution is, of course, to get up.

Try again. Then when you fall or face plant or bite it in the most awkward way possible — face first, hands splayed in front of you, shoulder taking the brunt and passing the force along to a fragile collarbone, snowboard attached doggedly to your feet following through with its momentum to corkscrew your lower body, working methodically to transmit the rotational force from joint to joint starting with your ankles, moving to your knees, stressing ligaments to extremes of structural tolerance, cranking your hips, twisting your spine and torso as you mercifully skid on your face to a stop. Sensing weakness, Winter pounces and jams snow down your pants and up the back of your shirt.

Look around at the people smiling and laughing with you.

A kid, no more than 9 or 10 years old, looked down at me as I was laying on the ground. I looked up at him. He said, “It’s okay. I did the same thing.”

And you know what?

It. Was. Awesome!

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I do suck, though. I’m not being modest. My brain knows what I need to do. My body thinks it’s doing it. It is not. I’m not edging the board and I’m not getting my weight over my front foot. Hell. You name it. I do it wrong and subsequently discover the tolerances of the human anatomy as it relates to impacting the slope of a snow covered mountain.

In other words, it is some powerful goodness. This kid in the photo below is going to have a good head start.

I’m thinking of going back for snow tubing lessons.

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A CALL TO ARMS

So let’s do this, people. I’m still out here doing my thing. Where my Winter Warriors at? My Ice Paladins. My Snow Soldiers. (Say that five times fast.)

Grab some layers. (Avoid cotton!) Grab some micro-spikes. Grab the hand and toe warmers. Let’s move, people. Get up. Let’s go.

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