Archive for May, 2012

In the days since my flight to Dallas I have been replaying the conversation I had with the passenger next to me over and over.

An elite marathoner in the 1970’s with a PR of 2:19 – he certainly had the pedigree and accomplishment(s) to back up his philosophies on coaching and training.  We talked about our favorite type of workouts.  We covered the change in equipment, specifically running shoes and GPS watches.  We shared stories about the moment an athlete “breaks through” to a new level and how it can unlock a much more confident runner catapulting him or her to new heights.

We also talked about managing disappointment from a race that does not go according to plan or bouncing back from a workout where you more or less fall flat.  How the delicate psyche of a distance runner can take weeks and weeks to harden, but only an off day or off race to crush.

Each of the topics we spoke about are worthy of a full discussion here on Run for Dom.  And that is exactly what we will do over the next week or two.  Sharing insight and experiences from one of the top marathoners of his generation filtered through me his new acquaintance and friend.

As the conversation meandered from topic to topic there was one common thread that seemed to weave its way back into our conversation repeatedly.

Consistency.

Consistency in approach, consistency in your training, consistency in your effort, consistency in life.

It sounds simple enough, so “no-brainer”, but its basic tenet escapes many an athlete and individual.

When talking about consistent training there are two fundamental areas where this needs to apply.

1.  A long-range view of your training program.

2.  Injury prevention/avoidance.

What I mean by a long-range view of your training program is that each day needs to have a specific purpose.  As my friend put it to me, “You should start with your goal race several months out and work backwards to today.  Everything you do should be about that date circled on your calendar where you are hoping to peak and give your best effort.  Distractions along the way will detract from that performance.”

Ever since 2008 when I chose the Pittsburgh Marathon in the spring of 2009 as my attempt at running a “Boston Time” or sub 3:20 marathon, I have had a long-range training plan in place.  Today my current training plan stretches through Sunday October 28, 2012 – Ironman 70.3

June, July, August, September and October are planned out and defined.  Rest days and recovery workouts are plotted strategically.  Hard days, long runs, hill work, long rides, swim workouts in the pool, open water swims, tune-up triathlons and running races to keep me sharp – all in place for the next four months.

There is no “decision” to make when I hop out of bed in the morning.  I KNOW what I need to do and weather or illness or injury permitting – we are going to go out and execute that plan.  If a particular workout does not go perfectly I try very, very hard not to dwell on it.  I am preparing to “RACE”, I am not “RACING” my training plan.

There is a huge difference between the two.  There is a place for running without a watch.  There is a place for just running, swimming or cycling because you love it and you do it at whatever pace “feels good” on that particular day.  It is those workouts that allow you to push HARD on your HARD days and not burn out.

We spoke about the mistake that athletes make when they feel like they have to “make-up for” missed workouts.

If a workout needs to be skipped because life, work, injury, illness or something else gets in the way – then it is simply that.  A missed workout.

It needs to have a line drawn through it and be moved on from – there is no making up those miles.  Now a minor shift in priorities, such as today where Landry needed a little extra sleep which put us behind our schedule I moved my hill repeat session to Friday and substituted my long bike ride of 40 miles in its place.

That is a strategic adjustment to ensure that our run miles (50) and cycling miles (70) were achieved this week while I was coming back from the stomach virus from last weekend.  What I did not do was try to also get in my 14 mile long run I needed to skip on Sunday when I was under the weather increasing this weeks run mileage by 28%.  That is foolish – any residual benefit of doing so comes at great risk.

Sure my training log might look impressive on the refrigerator door – but I also might be looking at an injury and the downtime associated with it.

Those 14 miles are lost – and if I continue to do the right things, stay consistent and focused – I will NEVER miss them.

The second point we spoke about with respect to consistency focused on avoiding injury.

The coach told me that when his athletes change shoes he does not allow them to run more than 4-6 miles in a new pair for several weeks.  He said that, “Many people feel like they need to break in new shoes, I believe that it is the athlete that needs the break in period.  We are adapting to the shoes, not the other way around.”

Genius.

The idea of injury minimization or avoidance is that if you are wanting to improve you have to be consistent in your training and approach.  You have to be able to train for weeks and months at a time consistently to see the benefits of that hard work.

If every 3 or 4 months you end up injured and need to take 4,5 or 6 weeks off – even longer in some cases – when you return to running not only will you have lost all of the gains you made over the three months leading up to your injury, you are a solid 2-3 months away from simply reaching the starting point again.

Now close to 3/4 of a year has gone by and you are no better off than you were when you started.

To an aging athlete like myself, staring my 45th birthday in the eye on July 31st – I cannot afford a lost 9 months if I am going to continue to improve as an athlete.

I shared the story of the three days I took off while Dawn, Landry and I were on vacation a couple of weeks ago.  I noticed some soreness in my left heal after my third consecutive run day.  I took my normal rest day and the pain was still there lingering.  I skipped 8 mile and 10 mile runs on the two subsequent days and then took my scheduled rest day.

Now with 4 days of rest I resumed my training and was back running a 10-miler at 6:54 pace never missing a beat.

Had I pushed through that injury it very well might have become something far more serious, led to PF or another lower foot strain and hampered me the entire summer.

By taking time off and using that time wisely, I avoided injury and was able to get back to consistent training and keep moving forward.

During my ride today I thought a lot about this notion of consistency.  How it is a critical piece of focused training and improvement, but also how it applies to virtually everything in life that you would want to be good at.  Your relationships, your job, a career search, fatherhood, being a good husband.

It all comes back to consistency.  If you do the right things consistently, never worrying too much about any one individual result that does not look the way you thought or hoped it might – in the end, you will end up right where you are supposed to be.

Last week I boarded a flight home late in the afternoon from Iowa.  It was a regional jet taking 26 of us or so into Dallas Fort Worth where I would connect to Austin and arrive home just before Midnight.

I had a long day, was facing a longer one to follow and was looking forward to a couple of hours with my phone off, no distractions and some time to rest and read a few chapters in my book.

As I settled into my seat two young athletes sat down behind me.  Just behind them were their two coaches who sat across the aisle from me and one row back.  I said a quick hello and thought about not talking running with them.  But I couldn’t resist.

I said to one of the coaches, “Looks like we’ve got a couple of fast runners on board this flight”.

The coach replied, “We sure do, we’re heading to a meet.  This one right here is a middle distance guy, the other is a hurdler”.

“Good for you both” I said, “I’m just an old marathoner.  I’m not too fast, but I can run pretty far.”

The second coach spoke up and said, “If you want to talk about marathoning, this is your guy right here” as he pointed to the first coach.  “He was really something else when he was a young man.”

My curiosity was of course about off the charts – I couldn’t resist the temptation.  I had to know.

I looked over at the coach and said, “Well, I’m new to the sport as I just started running back in 2006, but I’ve got 8 marathons under my belt, including a couple of Bostons.  I’m not done yet, still trying to break 3 hours.”

The coach looked over at me and said, “what are you 40 or 41?  You’ve got plenty of time to keep getting faster.”

“I’m 44 actually, will be turning 45 this summer.  I’ve got young legs though since I got such a late start.  Maybe only 12,000 miles on them to date.”

The coach said, “well, I’ve run 46 marathons and have about 80,000 miles on my legs.  I don’t run marathons anymore, but there was a time when I ran a whole lot of them.  My PR is 2:19.  I finished 5th in the New York City marathon in the mid 70’s, 12th in Boston a year later.  I made it to two Olympic Trials and qualified for a third, but of course with the boycott in 1980 I didn’t get the chance to run there.”

I was flying with royalty.

The next two hours went by in the blink of an eye.  We talked about training, running and racing.  What it was like to run with Bill Rogers, Dick Beardsley and Frank Shorter.  How the sport of running has changed, and what it was like as an amateur back in the 1970’s not racing for prize money but for the love of the sport.

I soaked up every bit of advice and running philosophy I could and talked about my summer plans to prepare for my first Ironman 70.3 and of course chasing 3 hours in Houston in January.

Out of respect for his privacy, I will not share the name of the coach, where he works today or where he lives.  What I will say is that after spending half a decade of my life trying to improve, mature and progress as a runner – I learned more about the sport in those two hours than I did during the previous 5 years.

With the arrival of summer we are at a crossroads in our training and racing.  We have the formula to prepare.  We have the base mileage and health to the point where we can push our training a bit further, perhaps to that 75-80 mile a week level when the focus shifts from Iron Man to Houston in October and we have the fight and the will to go after the final chapter in our quest for marathoning excellence.

At least the level of excellence as we define it.  Sub 3 hours.

But to talk to a truly remarkable athlete and an even more amazing man was truly a gift this week.  A week that was full of challenges personally and professionally. 

After great runs on Wednesday and Thursday Landry had fallen ill.  My plans for a swim Friday morning and a long bike ride on Friday afternoon were scrapped as I stayed home with our little one and helped her over her bug.

I was able to make a 30 mile ride on Saturday morning before that bug reared its head a second time in our household.  I got it full-bore and could not keep any food down.  Couldn’t think of eating and could barely drink enough to stay hydrated.  Three days and 4 1/2 pounds lighter, I am now starting my way back.

What was planned as a 111 mile week fell far short at only 73.  Those miles were great quality – just not the quantity that we had hoped for.

But on this Memorial Day, the first day of summer we are feeling more like ourselves.

Confident, assured and powerful.  We have some work to do with nutrition right now to get those calories back in us – but Tuesday morning we start anew.  After Landry is dropped off at school with Momma Bear away in Germany this week, we will start to hit it hard again.  Pushing the limits of our training to prepare for our first summer races in Holland, TX on June 18th followed by the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon the following morning on Father’s Day.

Summer is here and the time is right for dancin’ in the streets.

I realized something on Monday while I was pedaling away on the TRI Bike up on the trainer in the garage.

I had not thought about the Boston Marathon in over a week.

Not a thought about training, about the hills or the course.

Not  a single thought about running a qualifying time or how badly I wanted to return to the race.

After two years of obsessing about that particular event – it appears that I have finally moved on.

Boston = Over.

I’m not really sure what it is about looking back in the rear view mirror on my two Boston Marathons that has given me peace when it comes to our country’s longest running marathon.  Certainly it is not related to my performance as those two races represent my 4th and 6th best marathons.  Definitely nothing to write home about.

But my eyes are now cast firmly in front of me at the next two major challenges on the horizon for the rest of the year.

Longhorn 70.3 in October – our first ever Half Iron Man.

Houston Marathon in January – our next attempt at breaking 3 hours.

Even though I have a “Boston Time” in my back pocket for 2013 already, I am planning to let that registration come and go this September without thinking twice.  We’ve been there, we’ve done that – it’s time to let someone else experience Boston and take our spot.

Perhaps one day we’ll decide that want to return to the race.  Maybe when we turn 50 or even later if Landry takes up the sport of distance running.  But for now we’re at peace.  Maybe all it took was Landry’s little arms around my neck in the finishing area taking away the sting of the race from 2010.

Landry and Dad – Post Race in Boston

So as we return from a much-needed vacation and get back on the horse this week with 111 training miles split between the bike, the pool and the running trail it is nice to have our eyes fixed firmly ahead.

It’s about time.

Kids are the best.

They are so full of lessons and positive examples of the way us “grown ups” should operate it is truly amazing.  All you have to do is take a moment to really watch the way they attack a new challenge, overcome obstacles, pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep trying until they get to the finish line.

Whether that is trying to avoid getting knocked over by a small wave as it deposits them on their rear end, take the stairs by themselves when a hand is at the ready to help them or even trust that even though Dad might be trying to make me eat something I know I’m not going to like …. I’ll give it a shot anyway as he wouldn’t let me down would he?

It’s a delicate mixture of fear and bravery, wildness and wariness, attempt, failure and “stick-to-it-iveness”

As I spent time with Landry this week I paid a little extra attention.

I watched the way her eyes lit up when faced with an exciting adventure.  Whether that meant meeting a 2,000 pound draft horse in downtown Charleston, holding tightly onto the spool of line on a kite flying higher than anything she has ever seen or running headlong towards the Atlantic Ocean and waves crashing onto the shore.

There were times when things did not go necessarily according to plan – the outcome did not match her expectations – but time and time again she did what kids do – at least what my kid does – and that is reevaluate, reload and attack once again.

This week my guaranteed entry to the Houston Marathon was approved.  What will be our third real attempt at breaking the three hour mark in the marathon.  In February 2010 the combination of us being slightly on the outside looking in of that potential, coupled with a hot, humid windy day on our Austin Course resulted in a best ever effort at the time, but not really close to 3 hours.

Later it was New York City where for 22 miles we went toe to toe with the marathon only to falter late as the cumulative effects of the bridges, crowds and a hilly course resulted in another Personal Best by more than 7 minutes, but still not quite the result we had hoped for.

Boston was next, but that flight never even got off the ground as 87 degree race temperatures turned that “race” into nothing more than a glorified 26.2 mile training run.

But here we stand once again after having gotten knocked on our ass quite frankly each time we have chased this goal since 2010.  But like my daughter I am ready to pick myself up, dust myself off and get after it one more time.

They say that nothing ventured nothing gained – in this case I couldn’t agree more.  There will be plenty of runners in Houston next January that reach the Mile 25 sign in 2 hours and 50 minutes with 9:59 to run the final 1.2 miles.

Most will make it, some will not – but in Landry’s Daddy’s case that is where it is all going to come together.  If our plan for once goes the way we hope I will glance over at my good friend Brendon Cahoon who will have run stride for stride next to me for 25 miles.  We will look at each other with a knowing gleam in our eyes and from there to the finish it will be every man for himself.

When he looks into my stare he is going to see the same thing I see when I look into Landry’s … the look of someone who knows that despite previous experience and all evidence to the contrary, this time is MY TIME.

That is going to be the greatest 1.2 miles I have ever run, and those 9 minutes and 59 seconds are ones I am going to remember forever.

Sometimes it’s a great exercise to take a step back and take a look at things from “a long view” or as I say all the time in business from 30,000 feet.  Oftentimes you are so close to a situation, constantly monitoring the day-to-day activities that you don’t have a chance to take a breath, survey the big picture and make the necessary course adjustments to stay on track.

I feel like I had fallen into that trap as Last Summer’s training for my first triathlon segued to “New York” in November, then almost immediately to “Boston” in April.  Now we are firmly in another training cycle for our first summer as a full-time triathlete working towards Iron Man 70.3 in Austin on October 21st.

In the 365 days prior to Longhorn 70.3 we will have run two major international marathons, 4 or 5 half-marathons depending on if I choose to run the Rock N’ Roll San Antonio Half as a preparation race for the Houston Marathon in January, 6 triathlons and more 10K and 5K events than I can count.

All the while focusing on the things that I think will push us over that final running goal we have before us, a sub 3-hour marathon.  Preparing for New York and Boston I felt like hill work, strength and stamina were the areas where I needed to focus my energies.

As I enjoy some downtime this week on vacation, just logging some easy miles at “elephant” pace – meaning whatever pace I feel like running – I’ve spent that time analyzing where we are and where we want to go.  Where I see the opportunities for improvement and where “maintenance” is really the primary focus.

Last week while traveling in Galena, IL for a retreat at the Eagle Ridge Resort I ran 10, 8 and 10 mile workouts on some amazingly hilly terrain.  Steep rolling hills, both up and down that would have really taken a bite out of me in previous years.

Each morning I hit the hills with great enthusiasm and focus.  Ticked off runs in the 7:11 to 7:30 range with very little in the way of “real effort”.  All of the hill work we did preparing for Boston which did not necessarily come into play on that race day due to the high temperatures and lack of “racing” – has put us in a great position entering triathlon season.

The goal there will be to maintain our ability to tackle hills, which also translates to strength and endurance for the triathlon and speed on a flat marathon course such as Houston.

As we return to Austin and resume training, hill repeat Thursday will be back and a part of our training regime through the end of the calendar year.  It is simply a workout that pays dividends in so many areas – it will remain a key part of what we do as an athlete preparing to race.

Triathlon specific – although my swim is improving, I know that I still need to focus in that area.  More laps, quicker intervals, more swimming at “race effort” and not holding back so much in the open water as I “conserve myself in an effort to stay calm”.  If I cannot reach a new level of effort when I am racing during the swim portion of the triathlon I am going to continue to find myself in the middle of the pack or worse trying to dig myself out of that hole on the bike and the run.

I simply have to gain more confidence in my swim to push harder and not get “nervous” as my heart rate increases and my breathing asks for more and more oxygen.  I can reach that level in both the bike and the run with no fear of reprisals.  I know I have that in me, I just have to unlock it in the water.

The goal will be that by the time we hit the water at Jack’s Generic Tri the first Sunday in August, we are at that level.  Ready to lay it all out there in the water and race the full triathlon with bad intentions.  From the horn of the swim to the tape at the end of the run, I want to attack, attack, attack.

I will give myself the next two events at Lake Pflugerville and the Couples Triathlon in June and July to start tapping into that part of me.  But by August, no more excuses.  Swim with bad intentions.

Transitions – another area where I am firmly in the “O.K.” category as I transition from the swim to the bike.  I am in the “above average” area going from the bike to the run.  This is an area where I can improve my triathlon race time without a single improvement in my stamina, strength, speed or endurance.

It is a matter of setting up a transition area at home and practicing, practicing, practicing.

Practice running up, going from a barefoot, helmetless athlete to a fully shod, dressed cyclist as quickly as possible.

Then further refine my transformation from cyclist to runner.

I missed out on 1st place Masters overall in the rookie division last Sunday by :07 seconds.  Of course not dropping my chain on the bike would have more than made up for that deficit as I had to stop, dismount, fix the chain, remount and start riding again.  But unexpected things are going to happen in the triathlon.

I could have easily picked up :08 in transition had I practiced before the event.  That is something I am going to do every weekend from now until Ironman 70.3.

The Bike.  Right now I am relying on raw strength and endurance to power my bike leg.  Even with my dropped chain I was able to post the 5th fastest bike in my division on Sunday.  I can make that strength even stronger by logging more miles in the saddle and working on my approach to gearing on the climbs and descents.

In the simplest terms I have a good engine but lack technique and experience.  By the time summer draws to a close and we are in the final preparations for our Half Iron Man I will have ridden over 1,900 miles.  I need to make every one of them count to make that strength of ours even stronger.

Lastly, the run.  I need to keep my eye on the prize which is to be able to lock in and execute 26 miles at 6:50-6:52 pace in January.  That kind of performance is going to require me to continue to run long, keep mileage on my legs and most importantly stay healthy.

No nagging injuries, no downtime, no corners cut.  I am going to focus on health and recovery from our triathlon training to make sure that when the weather cools in the fall and we shift focus from Ironman 70.3 to the Houston Marathon we are 100% ready to go.

Those 11 weeks will require a great deal of focus, drive and determination to build on our fitness level and bring it to a peak on January 13th.

That is what the next 7 months are going to be all about.  We are going to try to peak twice.

October 21

January 13

Every other day during that period will be geared toward preparation(s) for those two events.

Right now though it is time to continue to relax and enjoy a little downtime.  Hang out with my girls, build sand castles, get my feet buried in the sand and enjoy the ride.

Pretty good gig if you can get it.

 

Tomorrow Dawn, Landry and I are heading out East for a week at the beach in South Carolina to enjoy some time off, a little fun in the sun and visit with Landry’s Grandmom and Grandpop.

It’s been quite awhile since Dawn and I had a real vacation – the last one was back in July 2010 before Landry was born.  We snuck down to Mexico for a few days while it was still o.k. for Dawn to fly.

There have been trips and long weekends here and there – but not a full week of rest and relaxation.

I’m going to enjoy the downtime and really let my body recharge it’s batteries as we start preparing for Iron Man 70.3.

Without a bike to ride and without a long pool to swim laps in (at least I think the pool is short at our beachfront condo – I’ll bring my goggles just in case) I will be reduced to the old stand by.

Morning runs.

We are going to flip the switch onto “maintenance mode” and just run mid-length workouts, 8-10 miles and run them at frankly whatever pace we feel like.  If we catch a cool morning, we might take advantage of the oxygen at sea level and run a few miles at a quicker pace.

If the air and humidity are thick, we’ll dial things back and just cruise.  Ponder future important decisions like where I can get some good clams and blue crab for dinner.  Where Landry and I will find the best wind to teach her how to fly a kite.  When low tide is going to be so we can look for seashells.  The best morning for a carriage ride in downtown Charleston, what to make for breakfast.

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a chance to unplug and recharge the batteries.

It’s about time, we’ve been pushing hard for over two years now since we came back from injury after the Austin Marathon in 2010.  Can’t wait for some quality time with my girls.

When we get back to Austin on the 19th it will be time to jump back into training.

Ironman 70.3.

Not bad for a guy who couldn’t swim a single lap in the pool last April.

I’m an outdoor runner.  Some people are, some people aren’t, but for me there is no grey area. 

When I run, I run outside.  Cold, wind, rain, snow if I’m traveling – no problem.  Part of it is the fact that I simply enjoy being outside in the elements.  There is nothing better than a cool morning run, a sunrise, spotting deer along a running trail.  It’s the best. 

There is another reason why I run outside however and that is the treadmill.  My archenemy.  My kryptonite.  I loathe it.  I dislike virtually everything about it. 

The Dreadmill

It takes a lot to get me on the dreadmill, exigent circumstances I like to say, and there are usually a combination of factors at play that force me inside. 

It usually isn’t enough to just be the weather.  I have just about every type of running “gear” that there is thanks to my very understanding and wonderful wife.  But if travel to a new city, icy streets and an early flight conspire against me all at the same time, I do sometimes end up with an indoor run. 

In the last 12 months I have gone for 270 runs covering 2,456.21 miles.  Every single one of those miles has been run outdoors.  The previous year I ran 232 of my 234 runs outside.  Just two runs on a treadmill.  

Two years later I can still remember both of my indoor runs vividly. 

The first took place the day of my 25th High School Reunion, the Friday after Thanksgiving.  I arrived in Philadlphia at 4:00 p.m. and needed to get an 11 miles in quickly before meeting up with my good friend Steve.  I didn’t have time to drive from the airport hotel, get my run in, get back, shower, change and make it back out to Manyunk.  So I hit the hotel treadmill for my longest-ever indoor run of 11 miles.  I hated every second of it.

The other came just after Christmas when we had high winds and rain falling with a temperature of 28 degrees here in Austin.  The temperature was fine, but the wind was gusting up over 30 mph.  A big front blowing through town.  I had an appointment with my personal trainer that morning, so I simply went to the gym a bit early, knocked out my 6.25 mile run on the treadmill, dried off and hit the weights. 

That’s it.  In two full years we have run 504 times and only twice did we climb on a treadmill.  That is 99.6% if you are scoring at home.  Man vs. Nature.

Here in Austin it is not the winters that make that make outdoor running challenging and dangerous like some of my runner friends in the Northeast and Midwest – for us it is our Summers.

Last Sunday for example I rose at 5:00 a.m. to get out before sun up.  Temperature 73 degrees, 86% humidity.  I put two 10 ounce bottles into my waterbelt, one with water, one with grape Gatorade.  I hit the hill route for 14 miles.  Covered it in 1:44:41 (7:29 pace).  A pretty even-paced training run although I did ramp things up late with my final two miles clocking in at 7:13 and 7:12 to wrap things up.

I stepped on the scale when I got back inside.

5 lbs. lighter.

Think about a 5 lb. dumbell.

A 5 lb. bag of sugar.

I lost that much weight in just 1 hour and 45 minutes, while I drank 20 ounces of fluids!

This time of year the “challenge” for outdoor runners  is not snow, ice, wind and storms – it is something far more difficult and in a lot of ways far more dangerous.  Heat. 

For a marathoner or even a middle distance runner there is no greater evil than the heat.  Heat can bring on two conditions that will negatively affect your performance.  Overheating and Dehydration. 

Overheating occurs as your body begins to lose the battle in how much sweat can be evaporated from your skin.  This is the primary “cooling mechanism” in each of our bodies. 

As your internal body temperature rises you start to sweat.  Your body then begins to send more blood to the capillaries at the surface of your body, where it is cooled by coming in contact to your “cooler” skin. 

While this is taking place there is a battle being fought elsewhere over this same supply of blood.  As you continue to run and cover miles, your body calls for more and more oxygen to be sent to your muscles.  As this blood flows to your muscles being placed under a heavy load – less of it can be sent to the skin – and overheating results.  

Your body is forced to make a choice between the two.  Either the oxygen (and the blood carrying it) will go to your muscles allowing you to keep your pace – which will cause you to overheat OR the blood will go to the surface of your skin to cool your body – but less oxygen will be available for your muscles which will slow your performance.  

You cannot have both, although slowing your pace is a much preferred alternative to overheating and all the problems that can cause. 

Dehydration is simply your body losing fluids while you are exercising – in the heat, this of course means sweating.  If you’ve noticed after a long run or race that you have dried salt on your face, arms and legs you probably realized that in addition to losing water you are also losing salt as well.  That is why in the summer months drinking a sports drink that contains electrolytes is so important in addition to the water you consume during a run. 

What is unnecessary during an hour of exercise in the winter becomes critical in the heat of a Texas summer.  Fact of the matter is that I never carry a water belt with me on runs 10 miles or less between 30 degrees and 65 degrees here in Austin.  But this time of year – anything longer than a 10K and I make sure to have water with me on every run. At the very least I make sure I plan my route so that I am passing a water fountain within every two miles.

So here are one runner’s tips for running in the heat. 

1.  Know your Body:  Weigh yourself before and after your run.  Drink 16 ounces of fluids for every pound that you lose during your run.  This is not “weight loss” – this is dehydration.  Take this very seriously. 

Last Tuesday’s Pre Run Weight 137 lbs.
10 K and 43 minutes later 134 lbs.

2.  Run Early:  If you are not a morning runner, you might want to become one from June-September.  Here in Austin even on the hottest summer day reaching 105 degrees will fall below 80 again overnight.  At 6:00 a.m. the temperature is rarely higher than 78.  Better still, if you can have your run completed before the sun reaches the horizon you are even further ahead of the game. 

3.  Sun Protection:  Morning running also removes the need for sunscreen if your run is shorter than an hour or so.  If you do have to run in the heat of the day, apply a sunscreen that is a “non-drip” variety.  These are designed so the sunscreen will not get into your eyes as you sweat.  SPF #15 or #20 at a minimum. 

6:04 a.m. Temp 68 degrees, humidity 94%

4.  Hydration:  During your run make sure you are drinking every 15-20 minutes.  I take a hit on my water bottle on the even numbered miles – 2, 4, 6, 8 etc. – it helps me remember to drink and gives me something to look forward to as the miles tick by.  I try to drink about 4 ounces of water per “squirt”

5.  Clothing:  Wear light-colored, technical clothing that is moisture wicking.  If you are running in cotton it will trap your sweat against your body and will not allow for evaporation – which helps cool your body.  You will also be prone to chafing as the material gets wet and heavy. 

6.  Anti-Chaffing:  Apply Body Glide or another anti-chafing product liberally and everywhere that skin meets skin.  Moisture in the form of sweat is just like running in the rain.  If you do not prepare for it properly it will lead to chafing and blisters. 

7.  Slow Down:  This is science guys, not opinion.  Less blood to your muscles = slower pace.  Don’t fight it and try to be a “hero” or “heroine” – slow down and enjoy your run.  We are out there because we love it.  Why push yourself to run a pace that your body simply isn’t able to hold comfortably?  You will enjoy your summer runs much, much more if you lower those speed expectations just a bit. 

For me it is :05-:10 seconds for every 5 degrees above 65.  If my pace per mile for an 8 mile run is typically 7:10 at 65 degrees or less, I will adjust my pace to run at 7:25 on a 77 degree morning.  I finish the run feeling the same in July as I would in November – and my fitness level is no worse for wear. 

8.   Adjustment Period:  “They” claim that it takes two weeks for the average runner to adjust to running in the heat.  That to me sounds about right – one trick however is to make sure you are also out “in the heat”, not just going from your air-conditioned environment to the running trail and back.  I make sure to do yard work and spend some time “in the heat” when I am not running to help with this adjustment. 

9.  Run Naked:  Now, now – we talked about this before.  By “naked” I mean no GPS and no iPod.  I do this frequently when the summer arrives to help me simply “enjoy being out there”.  This has helped me not be so conscious of every mile split and think about pace on every run.  Without my Garmin beeping at me every mile I simply run by feel.  

If the heat and humidity is forcing me to dial back my pace so be it.  I run by the effort I want to expend instead of by time.  If you know how a “Hard” vs. “Moderate” vs. “Easy” run is supposed to feel – you are ready to embrace “Naked Running”. 

10.  The Dreadmill:  Look, if it’s simply too damn hot out there – it is.  If you need to do a speed workout or a hard interval workout to train for a race and it is 100 degrees outside – be smart.  Last time I checked our gym it was about 70 degrees at Fitness 19.  That is definitely a better option than skipping your workout all together or even worse, putting your health at risk. 

Enjoy the summer guys!  Six months from now we’ll be here talking about the best running gloves and hats … guaranteed.