After writing about the uplifting power of running, I had what was one of the most brutal long runs of the season. To add insult to injury, it was actually one of the shortest “long-runs” I had in a while.
So, yeah, Murphy’s Law was in full effect and Murphy is a bastard.
A down week in mileage on the calendar, I was set to do a 13-to-15 miler. The course I plotted was a flat loop through the town where I grew up. I planned to start around 11 a.m. but got a late start for a variety of reasons (procrastination being no small part) at about 4:50 p.m. By that time, I knew I was going to suffer through the run. At mile two I approached what passes for city hall. The town has one of those big electronic billboards that scrolls the city’s most important news –– weekly meetings, festival reminders, the time, date, and temperature. Eighty-five degrees, that was what the gaudy red digital numbers read at 5:05 p.m. Ugh. It didn’t help that my legs were feeling the end of a training cycle pains, or that I forgot to bring salt tabs and didn’t fill a bottle full of Gatorade. I am a prolific sweater. Heat and leg cramps are my kryptonite. Without proper hydration, I’m pretty well screwed.
I slogged through the mileage though. Matter of fact, I did so at a faster clip than usual while running, because I just wanted to be done. The problem was the brief walk between miles of running to try to bring my heart rate down and quench my insatiable thirst and to stretch my sore legs. There were also the insistent calls from someone wondering where I was. I said I’d be done by 6:30 p.m. It was about 7 by the time I finished. The caller on the other end was pissed and hungry and in need of dinner.
If anything, the run reminded me how different warm weather running can be and that I better be as prepared to grind through the bad runs as I am ready to embrace the good ones. Relatively cool where I live for about the past three weeks lulled me into a false sense of comfort. Summer-like temperatures aren’t quite ready to call it quits, just yet.
I didn’t quite implement them on Friday, but I have learned a few things about running in the heat over the last couple of years:
- Drink up. I’ve found through my tribulations with sweating and overheating that its best to fuel up on something like Gatorade two or three days before a race or long run. For me, it’s more important than “carb loading.” As a friend once pointed out, with a love of french fries, fried foods, and pasta, I carb load enough as it is. What I don’t always do, is soak up enough hydration to make it count at mile 20 (or 12?) of a long run. So, typically, you’ll find me hauling around a large bottle or two of my favorite flavor a few days before a race.
- In-flight fueling: There are a variety of tablets out there one can take to boost electrolytes to avoid cramping and control hydration as you run. Some have a sodium content to rival that of drinking water from the Dead Sea and only require one tab every hour or two. Others are lower sodium and require more tablets, more frequently. Through trial and error I find I like the latter more. The lower per tablet content allows me to regulate sodium intake better, which is important since high immediate levels of salt/electrolytes can cause bad stomach rumblings while running (as I discovered during my third marathon). This Runner’s World article is a great primer for sweating, salt, and you: http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-runners/pass-salt?page=single.
- Stretching: If I were smart, I would do more of this. Certain exercises and stretches can prevent cramping in long races, since, well, cramping is as much a result of exhaustion as dehydration. Calf-stretches and other pretzel twisting exercises limber you up. Sitting most of Saturday with sore gluts, calves and hammies, I’m all like, “Yeah, the foam roller and bending are my friends.” Again, here’s another Runner’s World piece on some exercises and tips to avoid cramping: http://www.runnersworld.com/health/cramping-out?page=single. Some of them are pretty dumb, ie, if you cramp while running stop on the side of the road and stretch. That one just made me shake my head.
Anyway, one more long run, 20-something days, and my sixth marathon is ahead of me. Hopefully this Friday’s run was sort of like the theater superstition I heard while attending a live performance of Radiolab in Columbus, Ohio Thursday night. You know, bad rehearsals make for great performances.
And yes, I just randomly dropped seeing Radiolab at the end of this post, mostly because you should listen to Radiolab and see the live show if you have the chance. It’s my deepest, truest dream to be that type of storyteller, if only I could come up with the material while musing during a long run or after.