It’s time once again for extreme cold in the Great North! Every couple of years we get a solid week of frigid temps. Usually this means an air temp that averages between -25°F (-32°C) overnight and -5°F (-20°C) in the daytime. Because of our need to sensationalize everything it’s become known as a “Polar Vortex”. Growing up we just called it a “cold snap” and we expected it every couple of years, and we dealt with it. Further up north in Minnesota the temps dip down even further, and a couple of years ago I rolled into International Falls for the start of the Arrowhead 135 with an air temp of -40°F (-40°C).
People often wonder how we manage such brutal temps up here, but honestly, it’s not the end of the world. You just need to plan appropriately, wear the correct clothing, and avoid taking dumb risks. There’s very little reason that the cold needs to stop you from doing the things you need/want to do.
In some ways it’s the opposite of what happens down south in the summer time. When you’re dealing with daytime temps over 100°F (38°C) you structure your day differently. You plan to do more things in the mornings and evenings when it’s less oppressive, and you spend more time in air conditioning. During a Polar Vortex you aim to get your stuff done in the middle of the day when the temps are at their highest, and then spend a lot of time in a heated dwelling. (Note: there are a lot of people without shelter, and we need to fix that problem. There’s no reason everyone shouldn’t have an opportunity for warmth and a roof over their head.)
Granted that doesn’t mean much to a lot of us crazy folks who run and bike all winter. This morning I met some friends at a trail head and we did a solid 6 mile run that started at -21°F (-29°C). We wore the right clothing and were perfectly fine for the hour and twenty minutes we were out in it. In fact the air was so nice and still that it was incredibly enjoyable every time we stepped out into the open sunny areas. I haven’t had a chance to get the bike out yet, but maybe sometime before all this ends I’ll have an opportunity.
We’re looking at another week or so of this, and then I assume we’ll be back to more normal winter temps. Either way, life still goes on, and before we know it everything will be melting again and the cycles starts over. Go enjoy the weather you have, and don’t use it as an excuse. You got this!