Hot Weather Running

IMG_3187It’s that time of year again: marathon training AND running in hot weather. I say hot, because warm weather doesn’t happen in these parts. We tend to go from cold to hot in a matter of days.

After my trip to Cote D’Azur, I ran a football themed 5k. With all of my excitement with being in Cote D’azur, I had forgotten about the 5k. “Oh well, it’s only a 5k right? I should do fine, heck I may even get a PR.” Yeah right. Besides not running for over a week, the weather had changed significantly. It went from cool and raining to sunny and hot, with no time to acclimate.

It takes some time for your body to get acclimated to the change in weather. The first series of runs start out slow, and for some, it can be quite challenging. One of my running Oracles told me I should run midday, when the temperature is at its highest in order to get acclimated to the weather. Yeah, that’s not happening. The thought of running (more like plodding) in the searing sun is not something I would voluntarily subject myself to, even if it would help me run faster in the summer.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself on a sunny Sunday morning lining up for a 5k in temperatures that felt like 90 degrees and with no shade along the course. I felt fine until mile 2, then I became parched and felt my blood turn to molasses. My 7:30 pace for the first mile, rapidly dwindle to 8:30, then 8:56, then I settled around 9:10.  So much for a PR. It was tough. The two water stations along the course felt like they were hundreds of miles apart. The speed demons who had pass me at the start, were now walking along the course with the anguished look of defeat on their faces. I was determined not to be one of them, but was mindful of how quickly I could turn from being thirsty, to laying out on the ground with some sort of heat related ailment, or worse. So I plodded along, dropping my pace to 9:30, sometimes even over 10, but at least I was moving.

At the last water station, I doused my body with water, raised my pace to 8:56, kept calm and carried on. There was no power left in me for a last minute sprint to the finish. The theme of the race was football and there were a few football Hall of Fame inductees at the finish, waiting for us to do some sort of victory dance at the end and freely handing out high fives. I saw some runners running with footballs along the course, I guess they were going to spike the ball at the end, bravo to them. All I could think about as I turned the corner, and saw the crowds and the very tall, very muscular athletes applauding, was the following: do not faint, do not throw up and no matter how you feel, don’t try to be a hero. The urge to finish strong and go for the high fives and run as fast as I could toward the finish was strong. Especially as others sprinted by me. Running can be competitive, so how dare they sprint pass me, when just a few feet before they were walking along the course. Frauds I say!! Well not really, that was probably a good strategy; walk when no one is watching, then put on the show for the crowds.

I kept my head down, crossed the finish line and went straight to the medical tent to get a few ice bags to put on top of my head to cool down. If that finish line were any further, I don’t think I would have made it.

This brings me to what I’ve learned about running in hot weather: slow and steady wins the race!  You will likely slow down as the temperature rises, so don’t sweat it (pun intended). Your effort/heart rate at that slower pace will be about the same as your higher pace in cooler weather, really. It’s all about effort vs keeping up your normal pace. The best way to see this is by using a heart rate monitor.

So, the long journey to the marathon started with that race. Since most of my training will be in hot weather, I will remain confident that as these speed demons pass me by on my training runs, I am like the tortoise, and will eventually beat those hares.


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