Saturday, June 20, 2009

And Now, a Word About Running in New Orleans from June through September


Except for my right calf injury at the time, running in April was nice.

Heat indexes (indices? let's just call it HI) are climbing up to 110 every day. To make it less miserable, I run at the coolest time of day - 5:30 in the morning.

At that time, the HI during my runs can still hit 95, peaking in early August. What does an HI of 95 mean?

Imagine walking outside, it's still a little dark, the temperature is already 80, there's no wind whatsoever, and the humidity is 95 percent. Feel like hitting the road for a few miles as the sun comes out and heats up the morning? Not likely.

Yet there I am, several days a week, putting on my running shoes and getting in my regular six-miler. Yes, I must be sick.

The earliest in the Fall I ever ran a Marathon was October 29th (in Washington, DC). To accomplish a Marathon that early in the season I had to train with some long runs in July, August, and September.

I know I came close to heat exhaustion during some of those runs and definitely suffered with some dehydration. And that was despite dousing my head with water from a hose on the side of my house every three miles and drinking tons of water, sport drinks, and energy gels during those breaks.

Allow me to describe what it was like. Do you know that feeling you get when you step in a big puddle of water and your socks are saturated, every step squeezes water between your toes, and your shoes make an audible "squish, squish" sound with every step thereafter?

You can get that at just 10 miles. Not from rain or puddles, but from your own sweat which has accumulated on your feet and has also run down your legs into your shoes. And I'm 5-8, just 130 pounds, and don't sweat any more than any average guy. By the end of some of those particularly long 2 1/2 or 3-hour runs the HI was 100, even starting that early in the morning.

Just walking out the door to hit that noticeably heavy, humid air dampens your spirits and drains your will to live. Sure it's sea level and oxygen rich, but it feels as though you're carrying extra weight from your first step that will only get heavier as the morning heats up.

Forget running for time. Those normally easy, lazy 8:30 miles become horrible 10+'s by the end. Despite the dragging pace, your heart rate monitor is showing a tempo run heart beat, not a slow, easy-paced one. You're afraid to look up off the pavement because the bright sun in the thick air reminds you of the heat. You're on automatic pilot.

Why would you do such a thing? Because you promised someone in Washington, DC that you would run that Marathon, and you don't want to let that person down.

That's also why the New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon (now the Rock and Roll Mardi Gras Marathon) is run during the beautiful month of February.

So there's really no excuse for me not qualifying for my first Boston Marathon when I've got all winter to train in nice weather, and a rockin', fast-course, local Marathon race to run it. Well, maybe one excuse.

I'm still 20 minutes too slow to qualify for Boston. Sigh...

Well, it's nice to dream about anyway. Maybe I can get serious about my training this winter and improve by nearly a minute per mile. Right.

Maybe the New Orleans Saints will win the Super Bowl, peace will reign in the Middle East, and I'll win the Powerball lottery, too.

1 comment:

  1. I grew up in MI where I thought the humidity and heat in the summer were bad. I bet it was nothing compared to what you have in Louisiana. It shows some serious dedication to get up that early and still push through those runs.

    I am excited to hear about your training for the Mardi Gras Marathon. Don't sell yourself short, I have no doubt that with some training you can hit your BQ goal. And if not, no big deal either, just make sure you are having FUN! That's the whole reason we participate in this crazy sport right?!