Some (runners) like it hot … but I am not one of them.
I don’t like running in extreme heat.
I don’t like racing in it either.
I especially don’t like it when it turns the beautiful state where I live into kindling. That is exactly what is happening in Colorado right now.
We are in the middle of the worst fire season in a decade. There are several major wildfire raging and it’s very intense here.
Sunday I ran the Louisville Trail Half Marathon, and the miserable conditions could be summarized in two keywords: hot and smokey.
The picture above is me at the race, about a half hour before it started, in Louisville — a town 10 miles outside of Boulder. (There’s a major fire threatening Boulder, too, as I write this.)
There are many things in the world that are MEANT to be hot and smokey: barbecue sauce, the love scene from the movie, “Ghost”, even saunas — but road races usually aren’t among them.
And neither should neighborhoods and the area around people’s homes.
Sadly, the whole state of Colorado is far too hot and smokey then it should be right now.
This also was the case on Sunday. The smoke was so thick I could smell it in my car as I drove into town. Conditions were so bad race organizers offered to let people defer their entries or switch to running the 10K instead of the half.
As I waited in line to pick up my bib and T-shirt, I weighed my options. People all around me were either dropping out or switching races.
I was scheduled to run 14 miles Sunday according to my training plan but I seriously considered NOT running this race.
The problem was, I had already driven an hour to get to Louisville and it would another hour to get home. Even if I changed races or turned around and went home, I still needed to get 14 done and the temps were already in the 80s, even at 7:30 a.m.
I suppose I could have run indoors — but, frankly, the thought of running 14 miles inside, on a treadmill or track, was about as appealing to me as, say, drinking Windex instead of Gatorade … so …
Given the lousy options, I choose to “race” the half and I use that term “race” loosely because Sunday was not a race; it was survival.
Yes, there are some people out there who tolerate and race well in extreme heat, but I am not among them. I’ve learned this hard way.
I’ve overheated at other races before, even when the temps weren’t as high as Sunday, and the air quality not as bad.
Hydration is also key under such circumstances and also, with almost any endurance event. Combine the two and you face a double-whammy.
I once finished a marathon so dehydrated I ended up in the medical tent with an IV in my arm. The last thing I wanted Sunday was to get sick — either with dehydration or coughing from bad air, but I also needed to knock out those miles.
I took a chance. I sucked it up but I also ran with extreme caution.
How did it go?
The Louisville Trail Half turned out to be good imitation of a mini “Badwater”– the ultra endurance race that takes place in Death Valley in 130 degrees.
I’m sure that’s not the ambiance the Louisville organizers wanted when they planned it months ago, but it’s what we got on Sunday.
It was 85 degrees at the start; 92 by the time I finished; and Denver hit a high of 100 by noon.
It was grueling as we ran on hot, dusty dirt trails and very exposed, with only brief pockets of shade.
At the half marathon turn-around, runners were jumping into the nearby creek and soaking themselves to cool down — yours truly included.
The heat bore down on us like a jackhammer. I didn’t enjoy but I got through it without getting sick or dehydrated, for which I’m very grateful.
I took an S!Cap (sodium/electrolyte replacement) before the start and another one at the midway point. I drank a cup of water at each aid station (there were 8 of them) and I poured a second cup over my head each time.
The other thing that kept me going when I wanted to quit in the heat was thinking about the fire fighters now in Colorado. They’ve been tolerating not just the heat and smoke but hauling heavy clothing and equipment in these conditions.
Each time I wanted to have a pity party for myself during this race I thought of them or the soldiers stationed in the Middle East, again wearing heavy clothes or hauling gear in ridiculous heat, and possibly facing enemy fire, too, and I got over myself pretty quickly.
I kept putting one step in front of the other., albeit slower than I normally would and I even walked parts of the course, which I normally don’t do during a race.
I finished in over two hours (I usually run a halfl under two in normal conditions). I was thrilled to see my mom, sister, husband and kids at the finish and to be DONE! Afterwards we went out to breakfast at Turley’s in nearby Boulder and I was never so happy to be in dry clothes and air-conditioning.
A few bright moments and tips to share from Sunday’s experience: The S!Caps worked great; I wasn’t dehydrated. It was far from my best race but at least I didn’t get sick.
I think it also helps to expect to run slower in the heat, or even walk. I might have been overly cautious but I would rather do that then be sorry. I was also prepared to stop or quit if needed. Under those conditions, it’s wise to know “when to say when.” Luckily that didn’t happen.
I confess: A part of me was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to run faster as it was first race since January’s marathon in Charleston, but I’m OK with it.
More important is the big picture here in Colorado. Please pray for rain and relief for those affected by the fires. We need sorely it.
I’m off now to perform my own kind of “rain dance” and prayer in the form of running several miles. I’m holding cool, wet thoughts for safety and healing in Colorado.
I sure hope it helps …
“Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!”
Mileage today: 7; Mileage for 2012: 606.