Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The skin I'm in

It's starting to look a little like spring around here. Flowers are blooming. Trees are starting to grow leaves. Races are filling up my calendars on the weekends, and the weather is occasionally allowing me to run in fewer layers and slightly less clothing.

(Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm not talking stripping down to do one of those crazy underwear races, I'm just saying shorts instead of running tights, t-shirts instead of UnderArmor turtlenecks.)

Now, for some reason, every spring, I need to re-learn one very important running lesson that I first learned long ago, but seem forget every. single. winter.

In case you don't know or couldn't tell, I have red hair. It's natural, and that naturally means that I burn and freckle with the best of them. All my childhood summer pictures have me with bright red sunburn lines under my eyes, and my wedding pictures even show me sporting a wicked sports-bra freckle line.

Clearly, I've been dealing with this skin for a long time. My whole life in fact. But, when it's cold out, and I'm completely bundled and running in a blizzard, shockingly enough, I don't think about my pale skin. But, it's still there, and it is still as vulnerable as ever.

Now, I know you know there's a reason I'm telling you all this. And, I know you know there's a story involved, right? Well, there is. Stay with me.

So, last weekend, I road-tripped to St. Louis with two girlfriends to run a couple legs of the Go! St. Louis Marathon Relay. We had been planning this trip for almost six months, but it just snuck up on all of us. I had been thinking, oh, that's in the spring. And since it hasn't felt like spring, it felt like the relay should be much further away. Then, one of the girls who was going to go with us got sick, so everything got thrown up in the air. I felt discombobulated and unprepared.

Then, there's the "joy" of Midwestern weather, with the rapid and drastic weather changes from day to day or hour to hour. Last week, I was running in running tights and jackets and gloves. By Sunday, the day of the race, the weather had warmed considerably.

The problem, of course, is that I wasn't prepared. I had tried to pack light for the trip. When I last checked the weather before we left on Saturday morning, it showed Sunday with lows of 59 and chance of thunderstorms at 75 percent.

I packed capris, a skort, a tank, a short-sleeved shirt, and a jacket. I was trying to cover all bases, but figured I'd be wearing the capris, short-sleeved shirt and jacket. Especially if it was raining. Well, by Saturday night, all chances of rain had been taken out of the forecast, and the low had been changed to 63 degrees.

In the morning, I was at a loss. I stared at my pile of clothes. What to wear? I tend to run colder than a lot of people, but 63 was warm. But, I was running legs 3 and 4, so I'd have a lot of standing around time, in which I'd probably be cold. But, that also meant I wouldn't be running until at least two hours after the start time. And, it'd be even warmer. I was seriously confused. I even changed a couple times. It had been so long since I had run in any weather close to this, I didn't know what to do.

Finally, I settled on a skort, short-sleeved shirt and jacket. We headed out to the race.

At the starting line. A missing spot for our fourth friend, Emily, who got sick and couldn't make the trip.

Waiting around for two hours before I could even start running was tough. But, what was even tougher was seeing the sun come up and shine and shine and shine and shine. The sun made it feel really warm. I'd venture to say hot. Definitely too warm to wear a jacket to run in. And, see, that was the moment I realized, despite agonizing forever about what to wear, I had forgotten one very important thing to my redheaded self.


Yup, all that wish-washing about whether to wear capris or skort or tank or short-sleeves, and I completely forgot about all the rest of my skin. Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I had to run for two hours in the baking sun with my pale skin shining bright and white and my arms, neck and legs completely unprotected.

As you can imagine ... I got burned.

Self picture of arm on Sunday night. Nice Garmin line, no?

And, the worst part was, I knew it was happening as it was happening. I even told Katie and Hilary, the friends I was running with, that I could feel it happening. Of course, they both have skin that tans, so I don't think they really know what it's like to be a freckly redhead.

Happy to have finished, but already feeling the burn.

And, it appears I don't either. Or, at least I had forgotten. Why in the world I didn't remember or even think about sunscreen is beyond me. Like clockwork, once every year, at the start of spring running season, I get burned on a run. And, then I remember why sunscreen is so important to me.

Luckily, I had a bunch of aloe at home. I doused myself in it and am recovering nicely, with just a couple new freckles to show for it. (Ok, I can't say that for sure. I lost count of my freckles about 32 years ago. But, I'm just guessing.)

So, now that I've relearned this lesson ... again ... I'll be ready to face spring and summer runs with my weapons of choice:

Bring on the warm weather. I'm ready and armed. Maybe a freckle-armed, but armed nonetheless.

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