Saturday, July 18, 2009

Trial by Fire

Full disclosure: I will never, ever, even come close to even considering running Badwater. I am a full on heat wuss, my body just is not happy running in the heat of the day, and in fact the opposite is true: I seem to thrive on cold temperatures. But heat during the summer is a fact of life so these past few years I have been trying to improve my heat acclimation. This year has gone fairly well as it has been the coolest summer than I can remember since we moved to Colorado. But there have been a few days in the mid-80s/low-90s so I have tried to get out for easy runs or walks in the heat of the day. All this has improved my tolerance a little, and prepared me for my run today.

This weekend is a busy one for us, and I knew it would be a challenge to squeeze a run in on either day. So after all of my chores for the morning were done I realized I had one small window to get it done. I had to make it to a rehearsal at 5 but it happened to be fairly close to the gym so I decided to run from the gym and grab a shower before heading to practice. I thought if I left by 2:30 I would have plenty of time to crank out 16 around the reservoir, aiming to be back by 4:30. The plan started out well enough and I felt good for the first 4 miles, so I kicked into tempo/race pace mode hoping to keep it up for 9 miles. That went well until I started to head up the backside of the dam which seemed to have direct sunlight and little breeze. Bear in mind that it was only 85 degrees, and the humidity was low so we are not talking oppressive heat, just enough to throw me off my game. I finished 6 miles at tempo before saying "uncle" and seeking refuge under a tree to cool off a little. Keeping the pace easy I knew I could finish, but I was worried I would not make it in time. To add insult to injury the two water bottles I had brought were running on empty.

Fortunately I still had my wits about me and I decided to inquire at the park entrance about a source of water. It turns out there is a tap not more than 10 yards from the path I regularly tread, which makes me feel a little foolish as I have often been in need of water in that area and never found it. I was able to take a good drink and fill up both of my bottles for the final 5 miles of the run. The mental lift you get from knowing you can drink your fill is pretty potent, so I was able to boost my pace up a little. I also poured water over my hat every few minutes to keep it going. In the end I was able to finish fairly strong, although it was a tough effort. It took 2 hrs and 15 minutes, so I was still able to chill out in a cool shower, but not for as long as I would have liked.

All in all I survived, and managed to get a long run in that I probably would not have done at all, if not then. The direct sun of mid-afternoon really takes it's toll, especially when there is not much shade on your route. With enough water though and plenty of common sense it is manageable.

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