Insanity has its limits.
For Jeff Mescal, Monday almost breached his.
"I normally don't run when it gets below 10-below," the 48-year-old Hebron man said during an afternoon that was minus 15 and falling. "I'll probably just do some inside treadmill work, then maybe tonight I'll go out and take it easy and run four miles."
Go out and take it easy!
Now Chad Lawless, 37, of Valparaiso, had the sense to avoid running outdoors altogether amid record-breaking lows. Or did he?
"I didn't run on Monday," Lawless said. "Wait a minute ... yeah, I did run. I ran and hiked about two-and-a-half miles after my car got stranded and spent the rest of the day shoveling snow. I had no time to run after that."
As for Bill Stalhandske, snow is not just for shoveling. It's for blazing through ... even 12 to 18 inches of it.
"To tell you the truth, I prefer trail runs over marathons," said Stalhandske, 30, of Hobart, who recently negotiated the snow and ice-plagued Huff 50K Trail Run held Dec. 28 in Albion, Ind.
"For me, the varying conditions make running outdoors such a challenge," Stalhandske said. "Every race is different. You really never know what you're going to get."
All three men are set to run the Mississippi Blues Marathon this Saturday in Jackson, Miss. Their biggest concern is how hot it's going to be down there.
"If it's in the 40's, that should be ideal," said Mescal, who will attempt to add another state in his quest to run sub-three-hour marathons in all 50 states. "But if it's 65 degrees or above, it's going to tough for guys like us who train in wintery conditions for our bodies to adjust."
Even when the trio returns to the region to run and train in "more preferable" conditions, they take more precautions.
"Since there is less daylight, you need to make yourself seen with lights and reflective gear," Mescal said. "And when there's snow on the ground like today, I avoid running on country roads. Cars don't have much room to avoid hitting you if they lose control.
"And during the winter, it's best to run with someone or within a group. Misery loves company."
Aside from layering up, wearing multiple pairs of socks and placing hex nut-studded Yaktrax slips over their shoes for better traction on ice and snow, Mescal and Lawless use Vasoline to protect exposed facial skin.
"What works best for me is Balaclava masks," Stalhandske said of the hooded garment that has grown more popular among runners.
Believe it or not, one can overdress for cold running, something Deanne Grimes learned shortly after taking up running four years ago. Grimes is a certified running coach who leads the Calumet Region Striders Adult Running Program.
"You don't want to sweat and get wet, because that can lead to hypothermia," said Grimes, 30, of Merrillville. "You have to consider that things will heat up about 20 degrees once you get a good run in. So if it's 25 degrees out, it's going to feel like 45 degrees."
Grimes said the group canceled its usual Tuesday run because "conditions were too extreme. But we'll likely be back at it next Tuesday."
Jen Villarreal, 43, of Valparaiso, will also will be back at it when she participates in the inaugural Ruff, Tuff and in the Buff 5K Trail Run, Saturday at Taltree Arboretum and Gardens in Valparaiso.
"I didn't run Monday or Tuesday, but that was because of an ankle injury," said Villarreal, who heads the running programs at the Extra Mile Fitness Company in Valparaiso, which sponsors Saturday's trail run.
As an Extra Mile employee, Villarreal comes across the latest running wear innovations. Many, like Smartwool socks and Gore-Tex shoes, help to keep feet warm and dry, she said.
"One of my favorites fabrics is Breath Thermo (from Mizuno) that pulls the sweat off the body and converts it into heat. It's amazing."
Like Villarreal, Lawless is a former smoker turned marathoner. He remembers watching from within the warmth of his car runners brave frigid conditions on the road.
"I always thought those guys were crazy," he said. "Now I'm with the crazy ones."