Sunday, January 3, 2010

Running West of Route 11...Or East of I-81?

First, a couple facts:

1) Choosing where to run is an important decision, especially, since as was the case a week ago, today's run was a blustery struggle.

2) My home sits between two major north-south routes: Interstate 81 and its predecessor, US Rt 11, which at this point are perhaps 1.5 miles apart. I can look out my front door to see Rt 11, and out my back door to see I-81.

3) The prevailing wind is from the west.

Today I ran west of Route 11. This is typical of my preferred running route over the winter here in the Keystone State. Why go west (besides being so advised by Horace Greeley, who may not have coined that phrase)?

It's pretty simple, actually. It’s all about wind direction. And today, the wind was from the west, as usual, but roaring along at practically warp-speed. I wore all my wind-chill clothes, put my head down, and plowed into the gale until I reached the far side of my planned loop. Here I gradually began the return side of the loop, and the wind blessed me with an assist from behind back to my door.

When it is cold AND windy, you want to face the wind at the beginning before you get sweaty (and you WILL get sweaty regardless of how cold it is). Sure, it's tough to go out the door and immediately turn into and get hammered by the wind. But it's worse to run with the wind early on, blissfully unaware as you cruise, that payback is coming....payback in the form of an icy blast when you're sweaty.

And besides the physics of the issue, it’s a huge psychological boost to get the hard part of any task out of the way first.

So, Gary’s cold and windy rule: face the wind early so you'll have it behind you as you finish. My summer rule is the opposite: save the cooling breeze in your face for the end of your run, when you are hottest.

Thus in the winter I tend to spend much more of my running miles west of Rt 11. In the summer I see more of the terrain east of I-81, a sort of a seasonality of routes. I wonder what I’m missing?

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