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July 11, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me...The heat is on...

Six years ago today I got to play in snow.  I thought it was going to be a great birthday.  We made our way from Tahoe to Yosemite.  I saw waterfalls and El Capitan.  Afterwards, we were supposed to stay at one of the old-timey hotels at  Yosemite before making our way to San Francisco the next morning.  Then my birthday was ruined by bears...or the threat of bears.

Driving cross-country over 2 weeks, my wife and I had seen some amazing places, and some less than amazing places.  We had camped some and hotel-ed some.  However, upon arrival, we were told that if anything had a scent, it had to be locked up inside, or bears could (and would) attack our car.  After 2 weeks in the car, everything had a scent. After going completely ballistic, and declaring it the birthday from hell, I went back inside to the main desk, and politely asked for a refund on my non-refundable room.  I was politely told that was impossible.  Then I mentioned it was my birthday.  Shortly thereafter, I was given my refund.  We hopped in the car, and made our way out of Yosemite, through the forests and neighborhoods of ET.

Eventually, we had dinner at a diner near the freeway.  I had a strawberry milkshake and french toast at around 9:30.  I continued to drive through the night, hoping to find some hotel.  My 25th birthday was spent in  a dry wasteland in California, known as the City of God; its actual name is Turlock.

Almost none of this has to do with my birthday today.  Except, that when my alarm went off at 6:45, and I made my way to the local high school track for intervals on a humid, hazy morning, I was confident about one thing.  This was not going to be my worst birthday ever.

The local meteorologists have not been able to call this a heatwave.  We haven't had 3 consecutive days of 90+ temperatures.  However, it has been hanging somewhere in the mid-80s to low-90s with varying levels of humidity every day for the past 2 1/2 weeks.

Most of my runs have been slow going.  I did run 2 miles at 8:44 pace on the 4th of quarter after ten at night.  That was the best run I've had in a while.  It was also the coolest I've felt in a while.  This is why my lawn is starting to look like a jungle.  Still, I was up with the sun, to complete my intervals.

Intervals on the track, and speed-work in general are something I've avoided.  However, I've toyed around with them, practicing with the track athletes the past two springs.  Running 10x200m with a goal of 45 seconds seemed like a good idea.  My goal is to go to the track every Monday.  Nobody likes Mondays, anyway, so I thought I'd throw it at the start of the week.

I skipped last week because it was the 4th of July.  It seemed like I should just relax (I ended up doing 4 miles in the morning and 2 before I went to bed.  Some R&R).  This week, I was my birthday.  There was something to prove.  My goal was to get as many reps done before 8:08, and me turning 31.  At 8:07:58, I finished my eight of ten, and turned 31 jiggle jogging my 300m recovery.  The local HS athletes were doing their summer conditioning work.  I kind of wished that I could be flipping tires with the kids at the school I coach at, but no big deal...this was my day.

Instead, I just quietly worked hard and tried not to be in the way of the various teams.  The last two track workouts, I've been inconsistent.  Today, aside from one 39 (the first) and one 45 (the last), all my reps were in 41-43 seconds.  For me, that's an unattainable race pace, even for a 5k, but building those fast-twitch muscles is why I was there.  I could feel a rhythm and cadence to my steps.  It was a great workout.  And when I was done, I knew that I had kicked the pants off of the track's case of the Mondays.

Of course, it was hot.  Sweat was pouring off. of me in buckets.  I'm a big guy.  The heat is a major concern to me, and it should be for all runners.  In the summer, most of my other runs are not going to build speed.  They're going to keep me alive.  I never push the pace if I feel hot...which is most of the time I'm not in the shade.

I go on what might be a training run for a fitter runner, and it takes me a lot longer.  Eight miles on Saturday seemed to go on forever.  It wasn't that hot, but it was hot enough to keep me slow (I also was a bit lost/confused, because it was a new route, up a giant hill).  Just remember, for those of us that are recreational runners, it's okay to go slowly...the miles will come, and it's better to be safe than sorry.  Plus, you're lapping everyone that's sitting on the couch.

Running in heat is something I've come to accept over the past few summers.  If I want to run, I'll get up early, and beat as much of the heat as possible.  I'm no expert.  However, the people over at Runner's World have a great few articles and tips in this month's magazine.  Their website also includes a tremendous resource page for running in the heat.

And remember, there are some crazies out there, who for my birthday, are running in the desert, in the world's toughest foot race.  The Badwater Ultra began this morning, as runners chug along it's 135 mile route through Death Valley, and pass through areas like Furnace Creek.  For those folks, I should stop my complaining, because the temps I run in are downright chilly to them.  Live streaming and tweeting available...

I'll leave you with some summer advice-STAY HYDRATED! (not that you needed to be told)
Update, June 25, 2011: Yesterday, one of my favorite run-blogs posted a good summary of all the ills of heat and humidity on adult humans, and put it in pretty easy language.  So, take a moment to read Frayed Laces.  It makes many of the same points as the Runners' World articles mentioned above.  However, she took the time to do the research.  Check it out, really.


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