Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Heat and Humidity

Running in the heat and humidity can be really frustrating in the Southeast and I suppose any where else you sometimes feel like you are running in a steam bath.  It seems no mater how hard you try, you just can't get beyond a certain point.  You feel great at the beginning of the run and plan to run, for example, 5 hours.  Your first hour or two is good and you are running as strong as ever.  Everything is going according to plan.  Then the bottom falls out.

During the first hour, the temperature was in the 70's, fairly cool for the SE and you did not need to drink too much waster because you pre-hydrated.  (For me, that means after the early morning 3/4 cup of Starbucks Coffee, I drink some water at home and drank a little more on the way to Oak Mountain State Park.  By the second hour it is beginning to get a little warm but not bad.  You are soaking wet with perspiration and start drinking more water.  Normally, I don't drink much water in that first hour but try to up H20 intake to about 16 oz per hour by the second hour.  If it is "really" cool or cold I don't drink that much.  I mostly drink if I am thirsty.  I also drink a little at the time and drink constantly (every 4 or 5 minutes.)

You have now been running three hours and it is getting hot.  You seem to stay thirsty and your shoes are getting squishy because they are filling up with sweat.  You are beginning to have a hard time with the hills.  You ate an energy gel at the start of the second hour and eat another at three hours.  You will also probably begin eating an occasional cookie or Honey Stinger Waffle, (I really like those.) or some other type of solid food.  Despite all this the power wanes and by hour four it has become a real struggle to "just keep moving."

Hour four?  If you keep going, you are probably going so slow you don't think it is even worth the effort.  You have been soaking wet for three hours, you legs are beginning to cramp, you probably are having a little stomach discomfort, you haven't needed to pee for the last 3 hours and basically, you just feel lousy.  If you quit, then you really feel frustrated and think you will never be able to run another ultra.  Does any of this sound familiar?

The natural tendency is to get discouraged and think you just can't do this.  Well let me share a little story about my last few weeks of training.

I returned for running the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 on the weekend of July 23rd and 24th.  I did not run that weekend but Wednesday, the 27 I ran two laps (6 miles) at Veteran's Park, my usual mid week run location.  (I run in the afternoon at Veteran's, usually starting between 3:30 and 4:30 so it is HOT.)  Saturday the 30th, I ran 2.5 hours at Oak Mountain and run 2 or 3 hill repeats and felt pretty good.  Now we get to August.  I was still recovering and taking it pretty easy.  I ran at Veteran's Tuesday and Thursday for 2 laps each day and really struggled.  I was not sure if it was residual effects from the 100 miler or the heat or both.  Saturday I ran 3 hours and 4 hill repeats at Oak Mountain.  As I recall, I felt pretty good.  The next week on Tuesday I ran three laps at Veteran's thought I would die on the third.  All three were really hard and pretty slow.  Thursday I went out to Oak Mountain and swam for 40 minutes, then run one lap on the new Lake Trail, the site of the Run for Kids Challenge in 2012.  The run felt good but the trail is almost entirely in the woods and shady.

Saturday the 13th, I ran at Oak Mountain for 4 hours, 50 minutes.  I started with 6 hill repeats which take about 3 hours including 13 or 14 minutes each way to get to the hill and back to the car.  The first 4 were great although it was getting hot by the 4th and I was soaked.  The last two were really hard.  It was all I could do to keep running.  I returned to the car to refill the water bottles and headed out again for two more hours.  I struggled up the 1.5 mile series of climbs up the blue trail but had to walk up much of the hill.  I was so zapped by the time I reached the ridge crest, I was probably averaging 14 minutes per mile until I finally made it back to the car.  I came home and laid around the rest of the day with no energy to do anything.  There is no telling how much liquid I drank, starting with a "Bruster's" chocolate shake on the way home.  While I was driving home the thermometer on my truck read 100 deg.

That week I repeated the Tuesday/Thursday schedule with 3 laps at Veteran's Park and a 40 minute swim and 30 minute run at Oak Mountain.  The Tuesday run was awful and very hot, (100deg.)  Saturday, the 20th was almost a carbon copy of the previous Saturday.  Six hill reps and a two hour loop.  It was again very hot and humid.  The last two hill repeats were a real struggle and the loop was almost embarrassing.  This time the thermometer only read 99.  As before, the rest of the day I was really tired and didn't do much.

That brings up to last week.  I did not have time to run Tuesday so I ran at Veteran's on Thursday.  Do you happen to remember what was happening in the Atlantic last week?  Well, apparently by Thursday Irene was pulling the moisture out of the air in Birmingham.  The temperature was about 90 deg. when I stared the run but the humidity was very low.  It actually felt cool and the three laps felt great and were considerably faster than they had been the last few weeks.  Saturday as I started my usual 6 hill repeats followed by a 2 hour loop the air again felt cool and dry.  After 4 hill reps it was still cool and I still felt great and I was not even sweaty.

Each hill repeat in the white trail, where I normally run hill repeats, is about 3/4 of a mile of continuous climbing and gains between 500 and 600 feet. It is the best climb I have found without driving over an hour. By six hill repeats I was still feeling great and decided to tun a few more.  I ended up running nine repeats, more than I ran at any one time getting ready for the Tahoe Rim Trial Run.  I felt really strong on number eight but as I started 9 it seemed to get noticeably hotter and I decided that was enough.  After the ninth I continued along the crest for about a mile before heading back to the car on another trail just to be sure I got in the 5 hours.  When I got back to the car my shirt was only damp, not soaked as usual.  I didn't even have to use the "ski boot drier" on my trail shoes as I usually do.  I actually felt good the rest of the day although my legs were a little rubbery.  I did have my "Bruster's" reward on the way home.

As I got in the car to leave the park my thermometer read 92 deg.  Those few degrees along with the low humidity make all the difference in the world. Not only were the repeats comfortable they were the fastest I have ever run.  All were under 13:35 with three under 12:40 and one in 11:45, the fastest repeat I have run to date.  ( That was on repeat 7, I think, and I was trying to chase down another runner.)  My point is, don't beat yourself up if you are struggling with you summer runs not being up to you norm.  Do the best you can and you will be amazed what happens that first run on a really  cool day.

One additional note.  I ran yesterday, Tuesday, at Veteran's Park.  I ran my usual 3 laps and the cool, dry air is gone.  Even though the temperature was only about 91 when I got home at 6:10, the run was miserable.  My splits were 24:30, (about average on a hot day) 25:25 and 25:50.  Normally, I run pretty consistent laps. Not yesterday!  I was exhausted.

No comments:

Post a Comment