Not another post offering tips for running in the heat

[This article also appeared on Texas Running Post]

Ahhh, summer in Texas.

This time of year, every running publication posts articles offering tips for running when it’s hot. You know, wear light-colored clothing, don’t forget a hat and sunscreen, drink lots of water, and avoid running during the heat of the day.

But when you live in a climate where summer temperatures don’t drop below 80* overnight, when exactly is “not during the heat of the day”?

The reality is there’s no advice anyone can offer to make it easier for Central Texas runners. High temps are above 90* for approximately four months of the year–either run outside and expect to suffer, or don’t. Yeah, some runners handle the heat better than others, but even the hardiest souls find themselves running a little slower or taking a few more water breaks from June to September.

I mean, what was winter this year? That one weekend in January? Hot weather is our life. But instead of complaining about it or offering trite “tips,” I challenge you to find a way to make it fun.  Reward yourself for the suffering–have something to look forward to when you’ve finished your run.

Most Saturdays, my friends and I spend as much time at the coffee shop as we did running. Towards the end of my long run, it’s the thought of coffee and tacos that gives me that last push to finish strong.

Other times, such as today, we reward ourselves with a swim. We ran around the Town Lake Trail (Zilker Park to Mopac to the pedestrian bridge and back to Zilker) then swapped running shoes for flip flops and swam at Barton Springs pool. No matter how hot I get when I run, it only takes two seconds in that cold water to drop my body temperature back to normal. Bonus: it’s like an ice bath for my muscles, without actual ice.

For as long as I can remember, early-morning lap swimmers have come here to enjoy the relative peace of Barton Springs pool. In fact, many of these folks swim here year-round. No lifeguards, no crowds, no problem. Oh and no entry fee before 8 A.M. either.

I’m not an early-bird, as a general rule. But I think sunrise on the trail is worth seeing now and then. And since you’re already out there (not running in the heat of the day, and all that) why not take in the (as yet) unspoiled magic of Barton Springs? This time of year, it’s all about the reward.

Were you born on the sun?

It’s not just Wednesday workouts  that are tough during the summer.

What’s the weather like out there?

It’s hot, damn hot.

Thursdays at 6 P.M., it’s still almost 100*. The mile “warmup” run (along a busy road with no shade) just to get to the workout meeting place might as well take place in front of a hair dryer. Or an industrial-sized convection oven. Fortunately the workout had some built-in rests so I could cool down a little between reps. We ran at 5K pace around a neighborhood block that was just over a quarter-mile, allowing us to stop for water and iced towels after each loop, then walk/jog a short distance before repeating the lap.

About half of it was shaded, and one guy had turned on a sprinkler. He invited us not only to run through it, but stop for beers too. I only took him up on the sprinkler part.

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I ran six repeats at a pace I was pretty pleased with; with the warmup and cool-down (also a misnomer) out and back from Rogue, I only ended up with 4.5 miles, but I felt like I’d run twice that. And the sting site on my leg had flared back up and was an angry red blotch the size of my hand. Before I went to bed I put some Benadryl gel on it and took an oral Benadryl as well.

Fridays are usually rest days, but I had to get up early to supervise as B checked in online for a Southwest flight–can’t snooze on that one! Since I was up, I did a short pilates core workout. Later that day, I attended the memorial service for a former student who was tragically murdered overseas. I taught him a decade ago, but once they’re my kids, they’re always my kids. On a positive note, I caught up with some of his classmates and was gratified to learn about their now-adult lives–college graduations, impressive career prospects, and other successes. But it was emotionally draining–and it wasn’t easy following that up by dropping my kid off at a friend’s house for a weeklong trip out of state either–so I didn’t get to bed until late Friday night.

Which made my 5:00 A.M. alarm very unpleasant.

But I got up and dragged myself over to Rogue in the dark. I’ve reduced my long-run mileage a bit for the summer, so I was only running eight miles. Two friends who were running ten invited me to join them on the way out. They’re both faster than I am, so I felt bad that I was slowing them down, but it was nice to have the company.

By the halfway point, when I said goodbye to my friends, I was ready to be done–which is never a good sign. There was no breeze, and the humidity made it feel like a tropical swamp. But I slogged along, walking some, and finished most of it before the sun got too high overhead. But still, the last mile was even more unpleasantly warm. And the blotch on my leg had gotten darker, parts of it looking almost bruised. One of my friends, a nurse, urged me to keep an eye on it and if it started hurting or I had any other unusual symptoms to get it checked out.

I won a raffle prize at Rogue, which was exciting. But I was so sapped–emotionally and physically–I didn’t even go out for coffee afterward. I went home and crashed on the couch with a movie. I planned to pick up some dinner at my favorite noodle place, but then a thunderstorm rolled in and I had no desire to leave the house. So I cobbled together a sad dinner and decided to go to bed early.

I started to wonder if I was having some kind of reaction to the topical Bendadryl I’d been using, so I swabbed the whole area with alcohol and left it alone, although I took another oral dose of Benadryl. Then I crashed for the next 12 hours. And when I woke up, I noticed the angry redness had all but disappeared, leaving just a small pinkish spot where the skin felt a little bumpy. Not sure there’s a cause-and-effect here, or if it were clearing up anyway, but either way it looks a whole lot better today.

I slept so late, there was no way to get in even a short recovery run this morning. I think I’ll stick with an indoor core workout today. ‘Cause it’s hot. Damn hot.

 


What kind of indoor (non-treadmill) workouts do you do? I’m a fan of Fitness Blender–I just stream it from my laptop to my TV.

Ever been stung by a bee? Assuming you’re not allergic, how long did it take for the reaction to go away?

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Wednesdays are rough.

It starts with a 5 A.M. alarm that gets me more or less on time to an hour-long intense workout (today was heavy on the jump squats), and a three-mile run. The good news is we’re done by 8:00. The bad news is… it’s hard.

I’d already done core class + three miles on Monday and a Fitness Blender HIIT workout Tuesday. Oh and it was 5:30 in the morning. The workout itself went by pretty quickly, but by the end my legs were sore and I was dreading the run. Especially when the clouds cleared and the sun emerged juuuuuuust as we were heading over to the trail. After I’d left my visor and sunglasses in my car, of course.

Anyway, we went out our usual 1.5 miles and stopped for water. I was dripping sweat and felt like I was plodding along even more slowly than usual. S wouldn’t let me rest too long though–she had us heading back long before our Garmins tried to go to power saver mode. Taskmaster. 😉

So we finished our three miles and hit the path heading back to our cars. It’s kind of overgrown–we keep saying we need to bring a weedeater out there and clean it up a bit. But it was still kind of a shock when some unknown insect STUNG ME! It got me sort of behind my left knee–I have no idea how, because I was walking on the right-hand side of the path, my right side closer to the weeds–and the spot immediately started burning. Ten seconds later I sported a welt the size of a quarter. Good thing I’m not allergic.

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I knew I had some first-aid supplies back at my car, but it was a half-mile away and with each step the welt swelled up a little more. S, the beekeeper, whipped out her Starbucks Rewards card and scraped over the area. I could feel the card catch on something, and then she showed me a stinger. Still no clue what kind of insect got me–I never saw it. But after her stinger-ectomy the burning sensation slowed–it still hurt, but at least it wasn’t getting worse. I walked the rest of the way with only minor-ish discomfort.

I found a sting-relief packet in my first aid kit, and that seemed to help. S also had some topical Benadryl (what doesn’t she have in that magic bag??) which helped a lot. By the time we got our coffee and were sitting on the patio, it was just a little red and puffy; an hour later it was barely visible. But this was more drama than I was expecting before 8 A.M..

So yeah, Wednesdays are rough.

Run the Year overachievers

Back in January, I signed up with three BRFs to complete the Run the Year challenge: running a collective 2017 miles in 2017.

2017

While I personally had a slow start due to my lingering hamstring injury, my teammates picked up my slack and got us off to a strong start. By February I was back on-track, and I have logged 610 miles so far. The others combined for another 1825 miles, which means that as of today, a little more than six months into the challenge, we’ve accumulated 2435 miles.

I’ve decided to continue logging miles to see how many I really end up with by the end of the year. I’m under no illusions that I could reach the 2017 milestone alone (I usually run about 100 miles a month) but it’s still kind of fun to keep track. However, while I added miles quickly as I trained for two half marathons, we’re dropping Saturday mileage into single-digits now that July temperatures have arrived in full force. And although I’ve signed up for several fall races, nothing is longer than 8k. So  we certainly won’t accumulate miles at the same pace we did the first half of the year.

Perhaps it seems like it wasn’t much of a “challenge” if we completed the year’s miles in six months. But remember, in January I was coming off an MRI for some nagging knee pain that seriously curtailed my running, and I hesitated even to join the challenge because I wasn’t sure I could contribute. The fact that I rebounded with 600+ miles by Independence Day makes me pretty happy.

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You could say we’re overachievers, but along the way each of us has dealt with challenges–injury, weather, life. So I prefer to think of us as resilient.

Congrats, Team Canada’s Texas!

Love-hate

I love summer–I have a long break from school, I don’t have to guess at weather-appropriate clothing, and there’s no worry that I’ll be too cold. But summer running is tough.

I’ve decided that I’m struggling with my evening runs not because of some lingering jet lag, or because I spent two weeks in a cooler climate. No, I think it’s because it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been part of a summer training group that meets at 6:00 P.M., which is practically the hottest part of the day this time of year in Austin.

The past two summers, I focused on strength and cross-training with a weekly early-morning Fit to Run class on Wednesdays. We usually got in a couple of miles afterwards, at 6:30 A.M., and we ran after Monday evening core classes too. Plus our usual Saturday morning mileage beginning at 5:30 A.M.. But my evening runs were on my own, and I usually didn’t start until at least 7:30 or 8:00 at night, after temperatures dropped below 97.

Since last summer, though, I moved from a race-specific training program to a year-round ongoing one. And instead of swapping programs for the summer, I just added the Wednesday F2R class to the mix. Which is why I still find myself meeting up with my training group on Thursday evenings much earlier than I’d normally set out to run.

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Last night, the first mile wasn’t too bad. But it went downhill from there.

Our coach had brought a cooler of iced towels, and after every mile loop I stopped and held ice/ice water to my head and the back of my neck. Each time it took forever for me to cool down enough to go back out again. The middle two miles were supposed to be at half-marathon pace, and I think I missed that by at least a minute per mile. Even though we ran the semi-shady trail around the park rather than on the track, and even though there was something of a breeze, it was brutal. I ran five miles with another mile or so of cool-down walking, but it felt like I’d done double that.

I don’t expect things to get any easier for a while, either. August is typically hotter than July, so all I can really do is suck it up and do the best I can. At least I’m not training for anything specific for a while.

But on the plus side, I can sleep late, then enjoy my recovery on my couch or at lunch with a friend. I love that part of summer!

Recovering

My husband always says there’s a difference between a vacation and a trip. A vacation is relaxing. After a trip done right, you need a vacation to recover.

And that’s where I am right now.

My first two attempts at running since I returned from Ireland were … less than stellar. Thursday’s four miles (including one mile of hills) sounds more impressive than it actually was, considering the amount of walking I did. Then Saturday’s 8.25-miler was not a whole lot better, just longer. Even starting at 5:30 didn’t help much:

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Both days my quads hurt. Not the same lead-leg, heavy feeling I’d dealt with a few weeks ago, and not injury pain. Soreness, I guess? But it had been a week since I’d run, and I had a difficult time attributing it to climbing Skellig Michael or hiking the Cliffs of Moher, as it had been days since those adventures as well.

Finally I considered the possibility that I’d gotten lazy about hydration after my half-marathon. Not that I was dehydrated–it was more than adequate for even Ireland’s “heat wave” temperatures in the high 70s, but not for the 100+ I returned to.

I’d also forgotten to take my vitamins about half the days we were gone. So Saturday I dropped a Nuun tablet into my lime water, downed my vitamins, and spent the day on the couch, reading and sipping water.

My sleep has been screwed up too. Since we got back, I’ve been unable to stay up until even 10:00, and I wake between 3:00 and 5:30. Saturday morning my alarm was set for 4:45 but I’d been awake for more than an hour by then. So I’m sure that didn’t help either. Saturday night I fell asleep about 9:30 (someone told me it takes one day per hour of time difference to recover from jet lag–I’ve been home for three days, so I guess I’m halfway there) and woke up about 7. Progress.

This morning I decided to catch up on the Fit to Run homework workouts I’d missed while I was gone. But first, I went out for a short run–still warm, still humid, but this time I had no quad soreness at all. This tells me (obviously) I’d done something that helped improve my situation. Or several somethings.

So I know it’s a terrible fate, but I’m going to try sitting on my couch, reading a book and drinking electrolytes again this afternoon. You know, to make sure the results are legit. 😉

Hell, thy name is hill repeats …

… fewer than 24 hours after returning home from a two-week international trip.

We had the choice of a 1.5-mile warmup, or 2.5 miles. Um, that was a no-brainer, considering the workout was mile hill repeats. It was 96* with a heat index of something like 104*, and the first mile, there was zero shade unless you count running under the highwary overpass.

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From Hyperbole and a Half

An occasional breeze appeared, but even then it just felt like someone had a hair dryer pointed at me. It was so uncomfortable, our coach said to think about how many repeats we planned to do, then reduce that by one.

I won’t lie–I walked some of the warmup. Then at the bottom of the hill, I waited, gulping water, as long as I possibly could get away with before starting the first hill run attempt. A half-mile isn’t usually a big deal, but a half-mile UPHILL is something else.

I walked some of it going up, ran almost all of the return, and declared myself done. My quads hurt (residual soreness from Skellig Michael and the Cliffs of Moher?) and I suddenly felt really, really tired. It seemed kind of wimpy, but the others reminded me that I’d not even been home a full day, and most folks wouldn’t have come out at all.

Last time I came home from Europe, it took two weeks for the effects of jet lag to disappear completely. This time, whether I recover more quickly or not I’m just focusing on getting back into my usual routine–which means running at 5:30 Saturday morning. Six miles? Eight miles? I guess I’ll see how I feel when I get out there.