Saturday, July 7, 2012

Not another post about the heat wave

Everyone who's stepped outside or consumed some form of media is probably not only tired of the heat wave, but also of hearing about it.

I think I'm even tired of complaining about it and railing about it, so in the vein of a Phoenix resident's tips for coping, I'll focus on what I've learned this week. Warning: If you're, like me, a cold weather runner desperately combing the Internet for a magic bullet ... I don't have it.

* Des Moines' trail system isn't awesome merely for the bathrooms it features (hey, when nature calls ... ) — it's awesome for the frequency of water fountains. On a related note, it might be time for me to give my Simple Hydration water bottle another try.

* Listening to my body has gone from being veteran runners' wisdom to something completely automatic. It's not a choice. I wish I could say that's because the switch has clicked and I've become a zen runner, but it's actually more like the human body flipping a lever and going into survival mode.

Example: Runs on July 3 and 4 averaged paces around 10-minute miles for the first two (downhill/flat terrain). They flew up past 11-minute miles for the second two (series of uphills) and reached 13:20 during what was apparently my toughest run. The stop-and-walk breaks aren't a matter of me being mentally weak, at this point; they're my body preventing me from overheating.

* There is no "good time of day" to run. Even though the figure on the thermometer almost doesn't matter — it's oppressively hot and muggy, period — I've been checking. We had 88 degrees at 10 a.m. on July 4; on July 6, 99 degrees at 8:15 p.m., 97 at 8:45 p.m. and 96 at 9:30 p.m.

But look at these numbers from my runs on those days: an average of 10:27 per mile over 4 miles on July 4, with the slowest being 13:20, versus an average of 9:56 per mile over 6.5 miles on July 6, with the slowest being 10:50. Plus, after returning from the shorter run, I had to spend probably twice as long in the A/C before I stopped sweating and could take a shower.

The difference was heading out midmorning versus later in the evening. Maybe the heat melted my brain so I don't remember how intensely I suffered during the July 4 run, but I can say with certainty that while I might not have hated running during the midmorning adventure, I know I liked running during the late evening adventure. (Sundown, by the way, comes closer to 9:15 or 9:30 p.m. in Des Moines right now, so the majority of this run was not done in the dark.)

* The last and most uplifting nugget: I'm adjusting. Or getting used to it. Or being worn down by it.

This isn't like "Green Eggs and Ham," where I hated summer runs before I tried them. This is more like being scared of driving on interstate highways until I graduated from college and had to choose between never visiting people outside the Rockford, Ill., metro area and dealing with merging/others merging at 65-plus mph.

To be serious for a second — and honest — I'm pretty proud of myself for choosing the "learn" option (in both situations) instead of the "hide" one. I haven't reached the full-on addiction like the folks I see running around asphalt-heavy, shade-free downtown at 1 p.m., and I don't plan to, but I'm able to suppress the urge to hunker down in the A/C for at least 40 minutes a day, a few days a week.

Take that, climate change. Actually, don't take that, and certainly don't read that as a challenge to throw even more devastating and drastic changes at us.

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