Growing up in New England we always had a proper spring. The temperatures would slowly rise as the weeks passed, and over time you’d begin to remember what the warmth of sunlight felt like on your bare arms. The snow would begin to melt, flower buds would begin to peek through, the roads would turn to sloppy mud, and the birds would once again begin to sing. Of course, these spring days were usually peppered with occasional snow flurries, almost as if mother nature wanted remind you that this transition to warmer months takes time and patience.
Here in the south, things work a bit differently. We go from winter (where a sweatshirt is required) to spring (short sleeves will suffice) to summer (even this tank top is smothering me) in the matter of a week or two. There is no gradual increase that allows you to slowly adapt, instead you wake up one day to 95 degree temps that slap you in the face paired with 90% humidity that sucks the air out of your lungs.
As a runner, this can be pretty brutal.
When we returned to South Carolina in June of 2015, I quickly realized that any and all running expectations during the summer months must be adjusted. In fact, the only expectation you really should have during these months is “don’t die from heat stroke”. I’m not really kidding.
There are physiological reasons why your body slows down in the warmer weather, of course, and they extend far past the simple “it just sucks to run in this heat” excuse. Sweat causes a decrease in blood plasma levels. As blood volume decreases, less blood returns to your heart, less oxygen-rich blood reaches your working muscles, you produce less energy aerobically and you run slower for a given effort level. That’s just one example.
Also? It just sucks running in that kind of heat. Which is why I spent the entirety of last summer without a GPS strapped to my wrist. Simply getting out there on the trails everyday was accomplishment enough.
I’m grateful that I was able to get all of my training in during the cooler months. Because this week, summer has arrived here in the South, and it’s HOT. Suddenly an easy 4 mile run seemingly takes as much effort as a hard half marathon, and you are left absolutely soaking with sweat. It can be humbling, frustrating…and downright terrifying when you are less than two weeks out from the 100 miler you’ve been training your ass off for.
We are still eleven days out from the start of the race, but the extended forecast is showing temps in the mid 80’s. This, according to the weather app, is simply “warm”. Whatever you say, you weather guys are the experts. I on the other hand, consider 85 degrees pretty flipping hot for running 100 miles, and therefore have realized quite quickly that I need to adjust my expectations.
More water, more electrolytes, more walking, more time (less clothes). Still one hundred miles. Maybe not as quickly as I initially (and secretly) hoped, but one hundred miles none the less. I’ve got this.