A story of going from being a non-runner to planning for a marathon in three years...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hazards of Summer Running

There are a lot of things that are less than perfect about running in the summer. The crazy tan lines are just one of them.

But the other, bigger issue is the heat. After dealing with a record breaking heatwave throughout most of July we thought we were in the clear. But the summer heat reared its head once again at the end of last week. And of course it decided to show up on the day I'd planned to run 22 miles.

Still, I really wanted to run with Kim and we figured we'd survived the brutality that was the heat of last year's Chicago Marathon. What's a little bit of running when it's 90 degrees outside?

I forgot how miserable it is to run long distances in that kind of heat. I was in denial.

Kim and I met at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve at 7:15 AM on Friday. I'd taken the day off work so that I could run with her and get my long run out of the way and enjoy my long holiday weekend (yay for Labor Day!). Although Waterfall Glen is hilly, the crushed limestone path is a nice mixture of sun and shade.

We started out and the sun was still hidden by the overcast sky. The air temps were warm but not unbearable. We did one loop of the 9.5 mile trail, stopped at the car for some water, and the did a little bit more for a total of just over 12 miles. That's when Kim switched to her bike to help me finish out the last 10 miles.

I managed another three miles before my body and my willpower started to crack. By this point the sun had burned off the clouds and the temperature was rising. Although I'd been good about sticking to my run 2 miles-walk a minute strategy I had to walk a little bit extra at mile 15. And then I just kept walking more and more. I walked up the hills. I walked every half mile. Then every quarter.

When we finally made it to the water pump at my mile 19 Kim gave me a pep talk. I made a plan to run .9 and walk .1 of every mile. And walk the hills. That lasted less than a mile.

Then I started crying. And having trouble breathing. I think I freaked Kim out a little bit. It reminded me both of how I felt at the Chicago Marathon and when I did my sixteen miler last year. I underestimated just how much of an impact the heat has on me.

Kim hopped off her bike just before mile 21 and began running and pushing her bike. I couldn't even keep up with her! Still, she encouraged me to finish that last mile. I didn't really have a choice considering I still needed to get back to the car somehow!

Finally I hit 22 miles! All I wanted to do was collapse onto the grass. But, no, Kim made me keep walking while she got me some Gatorade and cold packs and a granola bar. I managed to stay upright long enough to swap my running shoes for my flip flops and then we went on a quest to find a creek in which to take a makeshift ice bath.

We stood in the creek for about 20 minutes before leaving for a late lunch.

This run was hard. Definitely the hardest one I've had so far this year. I think it was a combination of temperature, not enough rest between runs that week, and thinking about it too much.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't a total loss! According to the McMillan Running Calculator I should be doing my long runs between a 10:30 and 11:30 pace. Even with all the walking (but subtracting the stops to refill my water bottles), I managed an 11:20 pace. That's still faster than my pace at the Chicago Marathon, too!

If anything, I learned that I'm a stronger runner than I think. And that having your best friend there as emotional support is key. I would have finished this run if I'd been by myself, but it would have been the toughest thing I've done in awhile. I'm much happier Kim was there!

22 Miles with Kim at Waterfall Glen by snmnstrz21 at Garmin Connect - Details