Marathon Training Week #6 – It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity…
So…here is the vicious cycle. I dislike cold weather runs. So, during the winter all I do is talk about how I can’t wait for it to get warm again. Then, in my area, we usually have about three days of spring and then the dog days of summer set in. Living in the Ohio River Valley makes for some rather intense humidity. And, wow, has Mother Nature ever been throwing the wet towel on me for every run this past week.
But…there are so many things I have learned in the past two years about running in the heat. First of all, I do understand that when there are heat advisories…it is best not to push it. Either take it inside or slow it down. That’s the next thing…when running in hell-like conditions…slow your pace. Just do it. There comes a point where your body will tell you it has had enough…and it won’t be pretty. Slow it down, make it through the run.
HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE!!
I can’t emphasize that enough. I’ve been doing a lot of practice with hydrating while out on the run. Both with water and, yes, with Gatorade. The Gatorade came as a suggestion from my sports nutritionist, whom I am meeting up with again today. Why? Carbs, sugar, and electrolytes. I tend to sweat salt. When I get done with a run on a hot, hot day…I’m caked with white. This means dehydration is a huge risk. So, I hydrate often and rotate between water and Gatorade.
This coming week, I am praying for a break in this stifling humidity. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re breathing through a wet towel on each and every run. That being said…let’s take a look at this week’s training and see what I have learned…
Sunday is normally my easy run or rest day. BUT…not this Sunday. This Sunday was The Boilermaker 15K in Utica, New York. Race day! My rest day last week fell on Saturday, as I rearranged the training schedule to fit this race in. And trust me…this one was brutal. For one thing, it wasn’t supposed to be as hot as it was that morning. I woke up and it was already in the high 70s with a very high humidity. This meant I went running in my company running skirt and a bra top. The less fabric on me…the better. Along with the heat and humidity…was hills. This course was hilly, especially in the first half of the race. This turned out to be a tough race. I brought Gatorade and water for the route and there were over 20 aid stations on the 9.3 mile course. I finished with a new 15K PR…surprisingly, as by Mile 7, I realized I should have been fueling better when the heat started to get me…so I took a GU and kept on trekking. This was hard. And afterwards, as my schedule had me set for 10 miles for my long run, I did a slow, easy shake-out run in an alley for the remaining mileage that day. Then, I had to shower, get in a car, and not move for a very long time…which my legs and body didn’t appreciate. I was so sore by the time I got back into Columbus, Ohio early Monday morning. And with fatigue settling in, I didn’t bother to foam roll either. Live and learn. More stretch breaks…even if it means more time on the road.
Monday morning I was up just a little past 6:30 a.m., despite my late night/early morning return to Columbus, Ohio. My training plan still had me on schedule for a 6 mile easy run, and despite very sore legs, I was determined to get it done. This meant looping Jenn’s neighborhood, which is the route I usually do when I’m in town visiting her. That particular morning…I felt defeated on the run. My legs were screaming at me from sitting so long in the car after racing. The humidity was draining. I found myself stopping every half mile to catch my breath, hydrate, and at mile 3, fuel. It was just hard that morning to even get going and I just felt like crying every time my legs told me to stop. But, I got through it. And then, after grabbing breakfast…had to climb back in the car for the drive back to Louisville. Upon arriving back at home, I had to change and get ready to get back into the car and head out to my Monday fun run. I thought about skipping it, but Cathy told me it would be good to go, especially after being forced to sit in a car that long again. That was part of the problem…my legs were hurting. But I went. And, due to the high humidity and heat, it was decided that we were going to run trails. Now, I have never run trails before…and the very thought of doing so while I’m in training for a marathon scared the daylights out of me. But, Cathy encouraged me to just do it and I was told we would go easy. Natalie, who I run with often, said that if I felt uncomfortable on the trails, we could hop off in Cherokee Park and simply run the loop. Here’s to good friends looking out for me. I actually did okay and rocked out just under 3 miles of trail running. Trails keep the pace slower, which was good in that heat. And the tree cover meant no hot sun beating down…and there was actually a breeze on the trails. I’m glad I was convinced to go along.
Tuesday is the usual cross training day. This week I was scheduled for 40-50 minutes of cross training. That’s rather normal on Tuesdays now. So, I got on the Arc Trainer for 45 minutes, using the cardio setting on Level 5, and managed 2.38 with various intervals, resistance, and inclines. It felt good and I was quite happy with how I felt on there. I was trying to be very cautious with my legs, which were still not happy with me from the previous two days of sitting in the car. I then got on the stationary bike for 10 minutes and managed a whopping 3.91 miles. I guess I was trying to prove to my legs that I was boss and they would just need to shake it off and feel better. I hit up a few strength machines before calling it a day. That night…yoga to stretch everything out.
Wednesday is my speed work or pacing day and this week called for a 7 mile Tempo run. I used the first mile to warm up and then began to turn up the speed to just under my 10K pace. It was another intensely humid day…the worst one we had all summer. And it was 4 a.m. So, I figured I would do the best tempo run I could manage. It was a little slower than my last 7 mile tempo run from the week before, but you adjust to the conditions. No sense doing damage to myself by pushing too hard in weather that I shouldn’t be pushing through. I kept the speed build gradual and really pushed for a strong finish. This tempo run took a lot to get through, but I did manage, and that was the important part. The key was hydration and fueling. It gave me a strong finish and I felt good at the end of it. Then, that evening while dinner baked in the oven…circuit training. Working on building up some muscle.
Thursday called for 5 easy miles. It was another hot, humid, sticky, and gross morning. I really kept the pace easy because it just felt like I had a wet towel draped over me. It was hard to breathe and really hard to convince my legs to keep going. They were starting to feel better from the days of sitting in the car and more sitting at the office (I wasn’t taking lunches because I was making up time for being off on Monday). Despite all of that working against me, I managed beautiful negative splits that morning. And when I saw that…I felt so much better about that run. I stretched out again that evening with about 20 minutes of yoga.
Friday brought about the dreaded day of rest. I have such a hard time with the rest day. But I did vow to respect it and keep it holy each week. Normally I go for a walk on lunch, but with the time I was making up at the office, I decided to get up at my normal run time and get my walk in early. Good thing too, as things went crazy at the office with one of my accounts. Anyway, I managed 2.4 miles in 30 minutes, which got me out and moving without tiring out my legs. Good thing too…because Saturday was shaping up…
Saturday is long run training day. Run long at an easy pace. I was scheduled for 14 miles, but my training partner in crime was scheduled for 18. I decided I could boost my run up for 4 miles. After all, only a couple of weeks ago, I managed 15.5…and this was only 2.5 miles more. I woke up early, got dressed for the stifling humidity and 80 degree morning that awaited. I drank water. I ate some cereal. Then after applying a liberal amount of sunscreen, I got in the car and headed into Louisville to meet up with Matthew at 6:30 a.m. I downed a banana on the way, which would give it time to settle. I felt good as I stretched. And when he arrived, we headed out for 18 miles. Originally we had hoped to do this at an 8:30 pace…but the weather conditions made this virtually impossible. We took a few walk breaks to cool down, we stopped for water. It was hot. And the heat and humidity was definitely taking its toll. We made good friends with the manager of Denny’s, who let us cool off in their lobby and gave us free ice water. YAY! Then…we had the scary spill. Matthew’s leg cramped up while we were in our last 3 miles. His foot hit the sidewalk and he took a tumble. He fell into me, but I stayed upright. He hit the ground hard though…and I was so worried about him. It just looked bad. He said he was fine…and a lot of drivers and a biker all checked in on him. He dusted himself up, all scraped and battered…and we pressed on…slow and steady. But we managed to get our 18 miles in. It was slower than we would have liked, but given the weather conditions, we ran it smart. And that was the important thing. Matthew’s okay, by the way. And we’ve already got next week’s training run in the works.
This past week brought about some of the hottest conditions in this area this year. The humidity has been killer, bringing about air quality warnings. I get out early to run, and even that was hard on most days this past week. I’m hoping the humidity breaks soon because this sort of weather is so hard to work through. And it does affect you, as a runner, mentally. Runners are very number-focused…and on these dog days of summer, you have to worry more about your well-being, your body, making sure you are hydrated and fueled…and focus less on pace and speed. You still get in your training…it just may not be done as soon as you hoped or wanted.
But…even these hot and humid runs serve as good training and good lessons as far as how weather can affect you. These fall marathons could have these conditions…or they could be cooler…rained on…or just perfect. You just don’t know. Adjusting training to keep yourself safe and healthy is best. Safety first…always!