Running HOT

Sometimes when I get really hot during a run, I just dream about days like these and I start to feel myself cool off...it's all mental!

Sometimes when I get really hot during a run, I just dream about days like these and I start to feel myself cool off…it’s all mental!

Sorry, but we are a little slow to jump on the summer bandwagon over here in Colorado. We just had a snowstorm last week, but now it appears that the temperatures are on the rise and the clouds are only bringing rain (along with thunder and lightening).  I know that many of you out there have already been suffering through the heat and I will soon be there with you when I move to Virginia in two weeks.  I am really not looking forward to suffering in the heat.

After running all winter in snow and cool temperatures, it takes some time to acclimate to a change in weather conditions. In most cases, the increase in temperature is not a gradual one. It can go from freezing one day to a whopping 80 degrees the next day. As soon as you are pelted with this heat wave, your body initiates a response. Your body temperature rises (dripping sweat), your oxygen uptake increases (so you feel like you are working harder), your glycogen gets quickly used up (GI issues, lack of energy), lactate builds up (longer recovery after your run) and your heart rates increases. So, you basically feel like crap and are irritated because you are moving slower than a snail.

According to Tim Noakes, MD, author of “Lore of Running,” it can take 7 to 14 days in order for our bodies to become acclimated to the heat. These continued improvements may take up to 30 days! That is nearly the whole summer, right? The best way to get acclimated is to take it slow and gradual. Gradually increase the amount of time you are running in the heat and slowly introduce intensity. Eventually, you will be able to better control your body temperature, sweat quickly and more efficiently, properly absorb the necessary electrolytes and be able to divert blood from the skin back to the working muscles (since more blood is brought to the surface in order to be cooled in hot conditions).

You just need to swallow your pride and slow down in the heat until your body adapts. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), you need to decrease the workload in order to maintain a lower heart rate.  Humidity creates a bigger challenge. When it is humid, sweat is unable to evaporate quickly and cool the body.  In some cases, if the heat and humidity are too high, then it is not even safe to attempt a run (sorry, but the treadmill may be your friend on that day).

Besides taking it slow, it is a good idea to wear lightweight, breathable clothing. Light colors work best for reflecting the heat. Also, make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day and during exercise. Just be vigilant about not consuming too many fluids(hydration is a topic for another day). Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious matters. Stop exercising if you feel sick, dizzy or weak, have trouble breathing, or are sweating profusely (or have stopped sweating altogether).

For more tips, check out this ACE article, “Beat the Heat Before it Beats You.”

When it is really hot, I try to run early in the morning before the sun gets too high in the sky. Sometimes it can also be nice to run in the evening. I know that it can be difficult to stay motivated in the heat, but keep it up and soon the weather will start getting too cold… it only makes you more tough! Running outside is so much better than running on a treadmill!

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Trail Race Ups & Downs

Breathtaking view from the top of one of those "Wake-up" hills.  Collegiate Peaks 25 miler.

Breathtaking view from the top of one of those “Wake-up” hills. Collegiate Peaks 25 mile.

My 25-mile trail race on Saturday was definitely full of ups and downs (and I mean that literally).  I don’t really remember ever running on a flat surface.  Okay, well maybe there was that sand pit we ran through.  That might have been flat.  Oh, nevermind, it was a slight incline.  I kind of felt like I was running on the beach in the mountains.  Very odd.

I only started getting serious about running trails a few months ago.  Winter just seemed like the perfect time to start: deep snow, ice, wind and below freezing temperatures all seemed like good reasons to start learning something new.  Honestly, I think Saturday’s trail race was the first time I ran on a trail that was mud-free, ice-free and warm.  I didn’t know quite what to do when the temperatures rose higher than what I was accustomed to.  I began to worry that I would pass out from heat exhaustion.  Then I realized that the dizziness might actually be related to the extra 3,000 feet in elevation.

Training for an almost-marathon on mountain trails was pretty interesting.  You see, I had some time restrictions when it came to my training.  I was doing the temporary single parenting gig during my training so I had to improvise.  My long runs did manage to get up to 20 miles, but I had to incorporate both roads and trails in order to not spend all day out on a trail.  Sometimes I got in some good elevation, other times it was only a small incline.

I did manage to get out on the trail quite often, but it just so happened to be on a weekday morning.  The bad thing about that time is that NOBODY is out on the trails during regular work hours (my work hours aren’t regular).  Even fewer people will actually go out on trails during the winter.  It was quite amusing to suddenly see people come out of the woodwork on a day when the temps reached 60 degrees.  So, it was calm and peaceful, but very EERY to be out on the trails alone.  Needless to say, I ran a fast pace on those days.

Yep, training was quite fun, but I finally ended up at that starting line wondering what I had gotten myself into.  I looked around at a crowd that I was not familiar with.  Trail runners are a different breed.  Just go to a trail race and you will see for yourself.  I didn’t mind being there, but I kind of felt slightly out-of-place.  I am pretty sure I looked like a road racer.

The next thing I knew the mass of 300 runners was moving forward.  I stayed towards the back for a while until I got my rhythm.  We ran on the road for a bit until we crossed the river and started heading up.  I started passing people and said to myself (as I always do): “you better slow down, you will be dead at the end.”  I didn’t listen to myself.  I really hate passing people and then having them pass me later on.  However, it appears that happens quite often on a trail race.  Yet, I must say that the funniest thing is that when everyone comes to a hill, they stop running and start walking.  Everyone just does this in unison.  But these are not the tiny little hills you might see in one of your road marathons.  Nope, some of these hills in the mountains are just plain nasty.

When I came to “Infant Wake-Up Hill” I wasn’t so sure about the first part of the name.  “Infant” was not fitting.  “Wake-up” definitely was appropriate.  That hill was so damn steep that I could barely even walk up it.  I was hunched over like some kind of sick animal.  I even stopped to take a picture so it looked like that was the only reason why I was stopping.  But the top, the top was amazing.  The one great thing about going up is the view.  Breathtaking.  I know some people look forward to going down, but I am not a good downhill runner.

Thanks for waking me up!  Now it was some minor (ha!) ups and downs to the sand box.  After that, it was the “Lenhardy Climb Full-On Wake-up Hill.”  I don’t know who Lenhardy is, but he sucks.  Yes, I totally understood the “Full-On Wake-up.”  I was freakin’ awake by the time I got to the top of that one.  I was also nearly dead.  As I started the descent I made a friend and was forced to make it a fast downhill.  Then I just couldn’t keep up anymore so I said “I need to slow down now, but good luck to you!”  I know she was only about 20 years old so I didn’t feel so bad.  More ups and downs and then I came upon one of the only sections that was semi-flat if you can call it that.  I was just happy knowing that the city was still below us so we had to go down at some point.

And then there it was!  The Arkansas River was next to me!  That river would lead me to the finish line!  At around mile 21.5 I had some issues with math.  My mind must have been toast because I looked at my Garmin and told myself that I only had 2.5 miles left.  I seriously was counting down.  Soon, it was 2 miles and I was so excited.  At one point I finally realized my mistake.  It wasn’t over until mile 25.  At mile 22 I still had 3 miles left… not 2 miles!  That was quite the downer.  On the upside, I didn’t hit the wall that I usually experience in a road marathon.  I don’t think my body knew what was going on at that point.  It had been through too much torture, so what was a few more miles of mostly downhill?  I just let gravity take me.  And I had passed some dude at mile 24 and I didn’t want him to pass me so I had to run down really fast in order to stay ahead of him.  Whatever it takes, right?

That was freakin’ hard, but I will gladly do it again.  It just felt so good afterwards (well, my mental state felt good).  It might not have been fun at the time, but that was so much more fun than running 26.2 miles through downtown Denver.

Gosh darn it.  The problem is that I am moving at the end of the month to a place with no mountain trails.  “Run on the beach” they say.  It’s just not the same.  I won’t be able to climb over 3,000 feet during a 25 mile run on the beach.