I’m huddled up in a sleeping bag in the back of the Toyota. And freezing.
I’m camping in an open field on the night before the race. It’s perfectly quiet. Absolute blackness. The stars at night really ARE big and bright deep in the heart of Texas. They really DO remind me of the one I love. Unless she slips beans in my chili.
Curled up in Mo’s sleeping bag, which is rated down to -400 degrees, I’m still shivering. I’m reading “Walden” on my iPhone. I wonder what Mr. Thoreau would think.
And then he tells me. He’s giving me a lecture about what a sissy I am. He theorizes that we feel cold only because we get used to wearing clothes. That if we stripped down and acclimated, we wouldn’t be compelled to bundle up. He presents the argument that civilization has made me weak; my inner animal can deal handily with the cold. I should need no shelter, no bulky clothes. Embrace nature. Suck it up, buttercup. That quote may not actually appear in the book.
What can I do? I am riddled with guilt. I look at Mo’s sleeping bag, and my sleeping bag, and my flannel shirt, and my Marmot jacket, and realize the answer.
I switch over to some Vonnegut short stories.
He writes about people who are 200 years old and all killing each other. They all seem pleasantly warm. I fall asleep happy, except for my nose, which is sticking out of the bag in a futile effort to breathe.
The next morning, it’s 34 degrees or so at the start of the race. I contemplate whether to start in my jacket, knowing that the temp will be in the low 60s by the end of the race, or just tough it out for the first hour.
I think of Mr. Thoreau’s words. I think of Mr. Vonnegut’s mustache.
In the end, a good mustache always wins. I run in the Marmot. I am warm. I am happy. The trail is beautiful, and nice people give me Oreos all along the way. It’s just like “The Wizard of Oz,” except I have black shoes. Man, I bet the Cowardly Lion costume was toasty warm.
All the same, I will avoid running at Walden Pond for a while …