When I first started running a little over two years ago I started out slow. In those early days, heck even last year, my mileage never topped more than two or three miles at a time and a long run hovered in the lower single digits. The shortness of these runs rarely exposed me to the sweltering heat and humidity of the south. This year I ramped up my run training progra with an increase in weekly mileage resulting in longer weekly and weekend runs. The weekend run is usually my long run and has been hovering in the ten to twenty mile range at a very slow and deliberate pace. Running these distances in the cold of winter and the chilly thaw of spring has had its challenges, but they were easily resolved with a good choice of clothing and a carefullness to my step. The last couple of weeks summer has reared its head and has knocked me on my ass in two long runs… thus I am sure me and summer will not be friends.
A couple of weeks ago on my weekly long run the temperatures were nearing upper 70s. I was unprepared and eneded up not hydrating enough, eating properly and I did not cover my skin well (read here for more information). A week later I managed to overcome the stupid mistakes I made and all felt like it would all work out. This weekend the temperatures and humidity increased into the high 80s providing an unbearably hot and muggy day for a run. I woke up and go out the door by eleven, figuring eighteen miles would be doable. Since I knew I would be out for a while I packed my back pack with snacks and two extra 20 oz water bottles besides the one I carried when running as well as plenty of Nuun and Gu electrolyte tablets and of course sunscreen. I felt I was ready to tackle the day and I set out on my run. I chose a different course than usual, leading to a little bit of worry about finding water sources, but I knew I would figure it out. Of course I was carrying a bit of water with me and felt I was confidently prepared.
For the first eight miles things went pretty smoothly. I slowed my pace down a little bit and just enjoyed the rhythm of my run/walk pattern of running. I noticed as an hour or two went by I was starting to run out of water and the day was getting hotter and more humid. Shortly I ran into a local farmer willing to refill my water bottles (its the 40 minute mile on the above mile break down). I plopped electrolyte mix into the current bottle and moved on. I felt my fueling strategy was working wonderfully and I was having no problems moving into the double digits of my run.
As I entered the double digits of my run I felt pretty good. I was controlling my hydration intake and felt good about my electrolyte supplementation. As I ran I moved into the hottest part of the day and suddenly everything went down hill. My sweat increased drastically and I started running through the water/electrolyte mix really fast to meet my increased thirst. Even worse I could see my urine getting darker in color and I got a little worried. In the end I found I just could not drink water/electrolytes fast enough and what lasted two hours before now only lasted less than and hour. As I neared the thirteen mile mark I decided it was time to pull the plug and call the run, I was getting too dehydrated and I was at a point where nothing I did was providing any relief to help my hydration. I texted the wife and slowly walked a mile to our rendezvous point. My urine was almost a thick dark liquid by this point and I was caked in layers of salt.
This run was frustrating, I did everything in my power to control my energy and hydration and I still succumbed to the heat and humidity of the day. Now that my long runs are in the double digits, multiple hour range this is a summer time reality I am going to have to come to terms with. At this point I think the best thing I can do moving forward is twofold focus on the routes that guarantees I will have water within seven to eight miles and go out earlier in the day before the heat builds up. The increase in mileage, especially the long run is proving challenging. Just a few months ago I was able to finish a run of twenty miles while this run got yanked at 14 miles. I know the effects of heat and humidity will definitely prove my greatest challenge moving forward with my late season plans of running a 50k in November. For a fleeting moment I felt defeated and unsure of my ability to run and push myself to new distances… for a second this lasted but I pushed it away and started to focus my resolve on continuing to harden myself to summers blistering embrace. I know I can push myself further and I will be ready when November rolls around. Right now I know though that me and summer just can’t be friends.. at least til we work out a few issues.
Til next time.