Running in the Heat


Here. Let this helpful diagram edify you. (Courtesy of: http://nasdonline.org/)

WEATHER: Two straight days of gloriousness!

MILES: 5.5

MILES THIS WEEK: Oy.  I don’t even know.

WHERE TO: All over.

MOOD: Boom!

TODAY’S RUNNING SONG: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUT_CP6WoK4

It has come to my attention that a significant portion of The Running Log‘s readership is not, in fact, made up of runners, but rather of non-runners who want a window into the crazy.  They want answers to pressing questions: Does running really cost you toenails?  Do runners ever get sick of having absolutely kickin’ gams?  Is running right for me?  Is the oxford comma indeed correct usage? (Answers: Yes, Fantastic, Only if you want to be awesome, and Yes.)

Well, we’re getting another big sweaty chest-bump from Mother Nature this weekend, so it’s time to answer a few more questions: does one even bother running in the oppressive, soul-crushing, walk-around-the-office-in-a-beater-and-mesh-shorts-and-no-one-cares heat?  How does it affect a runner?  Are there side effects?

And so today we discuss:

Things That Happen When You Run in the Heat

1) Dirty shoes

After a long run last weekend, I looked down at my shoes to find them all caked in brown dirt.

“Funny,” I thought to myself.  “It’s not muddy.  I wasn’t on a sloppy trail.”

No, I was not.  My sweaty shoes — sweaty inside AND out — attracted every particle of dirt and dust within a 1-mile radius to form a protective layer of yuck on the outside. Additional gross-wet-everything note: my shoes were squeaking, basketball-court-style, on the asphalt last weekend.

How to prevent it: Until some genius fashions ankle-gutters to prevent the down-the-leg-sweat-drippage, I think we just deal with this (I smell a patent waiting to be born!  Get on it!).

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2) Skin loss

Mm-hm.  And this isn’t your run-of-the-mill, only-happens-if-your-thighs-rub-together-or-boobs-are-outta-control chafing.  This is if-you-are-wearing-any-clothing-at-all-your-epidermis-is-rubbing-off chafing.

How to prevent it: BodyGlide.  Rub it all over your body.  Yup.  Just like that.  WE’RE GOING STREAKING!

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3) Staying in and not running

BAHAHAHAHAHA.  Just messing with you.  Seriously, though:

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3) Being a badass.

I give my props to DC runners on this one.  I went out both mornings last weekend, thinking to myself, “OH man.  I have the trails allll to myself.  I am the most kickassiest runner ever.  Also, if I collapse, no one will find my body until the heat wave is over.  So, like, in October.”

What I found was much better than the whole “I’m sooo incredible” feeling.  As it turns out, DC runners are way more hardcore than I ever would have dreamt. Both Saturday AND Sunday mornings, the trails were packed with weekend warriors, bands of stringy men, and roughly 90 Team in Training units, despite the fact that breathing at any point between 10 AM and 6 PM felt like inhaling hot tar.

How to prevent it: You cannot turn off the badassery.

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4) Interesting noises (a.k.a. Sneaking up on yourself)

<rustle rustle slap slap rustle>

What is that?

<rustle slap slap flutter rustle>

Someone is behind you!  Quick!  Turn around.

Huh.  No one.

<rustle SLAP SLAP SLAP>

“WHAT IS THAT SOUND?” you scream, waving your hands in the air in “i give up” fashion.

That sound is you being filthy.  It is also the sound of your sopping wet shorts bunching and shifting and slapping against your legs as you run.

How to prevent it: Skivvies.  Spandex skivvies.  Try them on and show me first.  Mmmmm, girl, you’ll look fiiiine.

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5. Water fountains shut off.

WHAT IN THE HOLY NAME OF ALL THAT IS GOOD OR RIGHT IN THE WORLD IS FRACKING GOING ON HERE?  Seriously.  On two consecutive gonad-scorching weekends, I have encountered water fountains — and on relatively remote trails, where there are no nearby houses with hoses to surreptitiously suckle from (did I just admit that?) — that WERE NOT WORKING.  Jesus H., D.C. Parks Department.

How to prevent it: There is no preventing, my child.  There is only coping.  Be prepared.  Bring a water bottle.  Bring money for a trip to the convenience store.  Bring a baggie for the money so it doesn’t get completely soaked by your drippingness.  Bring a stash of gels.  Bring salt pills.  Painkillers.  Extra ponytail holders.  Moist towelettes.  A sewing kit.  Nail clippers.  Better safe than sorry, kids.

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6. Getting faster

As it turns out, according to the first article that came up when I Googled “running heat acclimation,” running in the heat acclimates you to the heat (der) and can make you an all-around bigger superstud.

How to prevent it: Prevent it?  Are you KIDDING?  Pull off to the side of the trail/sidewalk, tear off your shirt, whip your sweat-logged ponytail back and forth, splattering the onlookers, and roar!  ROAR!  “I AM HUNGRY FOR MORE PUNISHMENT!”  Yes you are, you beautiful animal!

This being D.C. in the summer, the onlookers will be too hot to move, so they will just sit, fanning themselves in the shade of their fantastically large edge-of-Georgetown estates.

“Ah dee-clayuh!” says old seersuckered man #1, mint julep in hand. “That girl is runnin’ an’ drippin’, ee-iz she nawt?”

“Beauford, thay-ut ee-iz raht, ah say,” says seersuckered man #2.

“Ah say, ah say, ah say, thatsa sweddy broad,” says Foghorn Leghorn.

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7) …And yet, paradoxically, going slower.

Yeah, OK, you’re a badass, but the heat is going to force you to dial it down a bit.  No, wait.  The heat is just going to dial it down FOR you.  Everyone, pull out your pencils and notepads and slide rules and TI-85 graphing calculators: For every 10-degree increase in temperature above 55 degrees, there is a 1.5- to 3-percent increase in average marathon finishing time.  That’s just the way it is.  Deal with it now.

In fact, running in extreme heat causes all sorts of physiological reactions, from the obvious to the surprising. Higher body temperature and increased sweat production of course top the list, but there are plenty of others: increased pulse rate, dehydration, increased perceived exertion, muscle fatigue, drymouth, joint stiffness, anxiety, restless legs, persistent giggling, and sudden desire to eat your roommate’s entire canister of Gatorade powder.  Call your doctor if your erection lasts for more than three hours.

How to prevent it: You cannot prevent going slower, but you can prepare yourself for this eventuality.  Be gentle with yourself.  Don’t set unreasonable goals.  One way to deal with this is to write on your hand in super-permanent Sharpie before you go out: “IT IS 115 FREAKING DEGREES.”  Then, anytime anything remotely unpalatable happens on your run, just look at the palm of your right hand for a quick dose of reality.

Your usual route is taking 4 hours instead of 3.5?  What does your hand say?

“IT IS 115 FREAKING DEGREES.”

Right on.  Your ponytail splatters some tourists?  Hold up your hand, friend:

“IT IS 115 FREAKING DEGREES.”

The tourists shrug and understand.  You pull a sweat-laden baggie of one-dollar-bills out of your sports bra at the convenience store to pay for your Gatorade and the cashier looks nauseated?  Huh.  Ask Mr. Cashier to consult Righty:

“IT IS 115 FREAKING DEGREES.”

The cashier nods, understandingly.  FREE GATORADE FOR YOU!  You feel that fellow runners are judging your less-than-perfect shirtless-and-spandex-skivvied-ness out on the trail?  Oh HELL no, bitches!

“IT IS 115 FREAKING DEGREES.”

They raise their fists in solidarity.  You’re at the bar later and some uberpersistent Hill staffer won’t take a freaking hint?

“IT IS 115 FREAKING DEGREES.”

He blinks.  “Oh man, do you want me to buy you a drink?”

Oh no.  You’ve just made things worse.  Panic!  Agh!  Uhhh.  Uhhh…sh*t.  You’re out of ideas.

“IT IS 115 FREAKING DEGREES.”

“Oh, I get it.  You want to get out of here,” he says, nodding knowingly.

…Oh no!  Say something!  Quick!  Get out of this, you inarticulate bastard!  Uhhh…Uh….

“IT IS 115 FREAKING DEGREES.”

NO!  Stop doing that!

“My apartment is air conditioned,” he says.

GAHHHH!

“And maybe if things go well, we can stay up and eat a canister of Gatorade powder.”

Wait, what?  OHMYGOD YOU’VEFOUNDTHEONE.  Score 5 billion for running!

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