i'm a real minnesotan now

So last night, against all better judgment, I went for a bike ride. Pete already posted a pretty good description of the weather, so I won't bother, but for the link-challenged amongst you, here's a synopsis:


So when I got back home, it turned out that I had honest-to-god frostbite on my toes! Now, despite living in Minnesota, I am not actually a frostbite expert, but when your toes are solid white and waxy-looking and hard to the touch and completely numb except for a vague tingling deep inside them, I don't know what else it would be. Andy doesn't believe me, but the internet says it is "real frostbite" even without the gangrene and the amputation, so somebody here has been reading too many Jon Krakauer books. "It's not real frostbite till shit turns purple," indeed.

Anyway, frostbite sucks. I sat on the couch and held onto my toes for about 20 minutes, waiting for them to get some feeling back, and then I got sick of waiting and got up to go take a bath, and of course the stupid toes chose then to unfreeze and it hurt so bad I had to sit back down and squeeze my toes and try not to cry for another ten minutes before I could get back up. They're not lying when they say that shit hurts. But fear not, an hour later they were soft and pink again. No gangrene, no amputation. Whew.

I don't get it though. It was 34 degrees, which is a lot warmer than the 19 degree rides on which I do not get frostbite. Call me crazy, but I did not think the chemical toe warmer thingies were necessary when it's 34 degrees. Fortunately, the next time I swing a leg over the bike, it will be 80ยบ and there won't be a scrap of neoprene in sight. It's less than 24 hours now.

.......Oh, and speaking of neoprene, I have some neoprene gloves now. When you squeeze them they have the exact same texture as marshmallow peeps.


Blogger Sascha said...

when my feet get like that, I sit an bang them together for 10 minutes because that hurts less than sitting still and feeling them thaw out. I have also managed to master lowering myself into the bathtub with my feet braced on the end and only my arms to get me in so that my toes don't touch the water because that hurts like effing hell!

3/08/2006 10:52 AM  
Blogger annie said...

Does this stuff seriously happen to you guys all the time? I mean, my toes are often kind of white and numb, and it stings when they get feeling back, but not like this. They still didn't feel quite normal this morning! You people need warmer socks if this happens as often as you claim. It ain't healthy.

3/08/2006 11:19 AM  
Blogger Gilby said...

Annie, that has never happened to me before. And I'm speaking as someone who bikes when it's 0 degrees out with only one pair of socks on under my shoes. I am very glad I decided not to go for a ride last night.

3/08/2006 11:40 AM  
Blogger annie said...

Oh good. 'Cause your boyfriend thinks I'm "overreacting to some cold feet," as though I hadn't explained that I've had numb white toes before many many times and this wasn't the same thing. Smack him up some, willya?

3/08/2006 11:43 AM  
Blogger Pete said...

That is a little freaky. My guess is that your fancy road shoes were a little tight and cut off the circulation to your toes somewhat. With no blood flow those little piggies get cold quick.

3/08/2006 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Stan said...

Yow. Once again I'm reminded of why I vowed back in 1971 that when I grew up I would move to California.

3/08/2006 11:46 AM  
Blogger annie said...

Pete, you might be right. That particular pair of shoes really isn't big enough for wool socks, so they can get kind of tight. If anybody wants to start a "Lake Shoes For Annie" fund, be my guest.

3/08/2006 11:48 AM  
Blogger KM said...


It probably was tight shoes. It was cold last night but not that cold.

The worse thing you can do to frostbitten anything is warm them too fast -- like putting them in hot water. Not only does it hurt like hell but you can do permanent damage to the nerves there. Your first approach was right -- gradually warm them up in your hands or by putting extra layers on.

I got second degree frostbite in college -- no amputations but ugly. Those toes are still more sensitive to cold than before.

Hope the weather in Texas is great. But watch it down there -- those lunatics elected Tom Delay again.


3/08/2006 2:32 PM  
Blogger annie said...

Ouch. Yeah, it hurts bad enough to touch the water with my toes when they're numb in the REGULAR way. I waited to get into the tub until after they were done hurting and even then it wasn't pleasant. Oh, and even after they got pink and soft again it still hurt to walk on them. I can't imagine what your second degree felt like. Jeez.

Meanwhile, Nate wore almost the same thing and his toes weren't even chilly, never mind frozen solid. Not fair.

3/08/2006 2:47 PM  
Blogger annie said...

OK kiddies, I don't know why this topic makes you argumentative but comment moderation is now on. I will not be around to keep an eye on this for a while so the electronic babysitter will have to suffice. Fair warning, though: if your comment is "you're a dumbass, sometimes my feet get cold too," it ain't making the cut. Don't bother.

3/08/2006 3:35 PM  
Anonymous annie's brother said...

Hmm. I got mild, very superficial frostbite on a few of my toes some years ago, but it was actually below freezing then. I think the main problem was that I'd gone overboard with the thick socks and deprived my feet of circulation. They actually turned black for me, but the damage wasn't deep at all. How you get frostbite above freezing is a mystery to me-- maybe evaporative cooling brought on by cold wind on wet shoes? That's the only thing I can think of.

3/08/2006 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Internationally known expert on thermoregulation and consultant to the University of Minnesota said...

Glad to see not all scientific knowledge has been lost in the 20-something generation.

Pete has it right. Constriction is the big factor, which is why my size 9-1/2 feet wore size 12 boots in the Himalayas.

A's B has the 2nd main factor, evaporation. Cold air is very dry, so evaporation from your body is faster and more effective when it's cold than in hot weather. Further, wetting reduces the insulation value of what little was on your feet. All of this makes 34F more dangerous than temperatures down to about 0F; most hypothermia casualties occur in cold rain & wind between 32 and 40.

Also, assuming they salted the streets, the brine solution could be liquid at well below freezing. If there was slush in the spray, you also lose the 80 cal/gram it takes to melt the ice.

And, as km correctly noted, frostbite does permanent damage that makes you more succeptible to future frostbite.

3/09/2006 7:46 AM  
Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy said...


Holy shit! You got a real expert to comment on your blog... YOU ROCK!

3/09/2006 10:32 AM  
Blogger annie said...

Tim, the expert is my dad, so it didn't take too much recruitment. I think he linked to his CV on an earlier comment though, if you wish to verify his expertness. He is all he claims to be. College biology classes were always kind of entertaining because I got to play "find dad in the bibliography" with a lot of the journal articles we read.

3/10/2006 10:43 PM  
Blogger Shawn Kielty said...

I don't think it was fun to frosbite my toes today. Thank the stars I still have 'em. This was a useful post for me -- my little toes feel kinda normal now, but they still hurt. I been cold before, but not like this.

3/11/2006 7:59 PM  
Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy said...

Wow! Dad rocks! What does Mom do? Your brother is mighty funny, Dad is a full-blown science demi-God... you got some good DNA going there.

3/11/2006 10:08 PM  

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