Tuesday, August 18, 2009
When Triple-H Comes a Knockin'!!
After running Sunday’s NYC Half-Marathon in some pretty grueling hot conditions I thought that I should talk a little about training and racing in the triple-H (Hazy, Hot, Humid). You know what I am talking about, the type where you look out the window at 6 a.m. excited to throw down a nice long run – beautiful, sunny, slight breeze in the trees to keep you cool. Then you open your door and it’s like breaking the seal of the airlock in “Aliens,” steam shooting out, that nice muggy, wet slap in the face, and you feel your body wilt, like spinach in boiling water, saying to yourself in an instant, “This is really not going to be that fun.” So how do we combat the forces of nature when they decide to stack the deck against a good day?
Be smart. Hazy, hot and humid conditions are tough on the body. With the heat comes a rise in core temperature, which gets the sweat flowing early and often. It also diminishes the amount of fluid available to your exercising muscles. As a result, those muscles receive less oxygen and nutrients, your body can’t get rid of lactic acid readily and you start to slow down. Let me tell you, when you feel that hit you, you really need to take notice. Here are a few little things that we can do to keep our training going without getting hammered by Triple-H!
First thing to consider is your timing. Get your butt out of bed in the morning early enough that the sun hasn’t put the World on broil just yet. Or, you can be like me, since I hate the morning anyway, and run at dusk while the day is cooling off – for those in the burbs, just be sure to wear reflective clothing for any traffic or poorly lit areas.
Secondly, and this is sort of a no brainer: dress for success! You want to try and be as comfortable as possible. Light, loose fitting, breathable, moisture wicking, technical materials are the only way to go. This is particularly important when it comes to socks, because of your susceptibility to blistering. There is nothing worse than basting in your own fluids on the course, because you’re wearing something that was a little thick (ex. Regular cotton t-shirt or tank top) and super saturated with your sweat. So much fun to be able to ring out your clothes on the street and see how many fluid ounces you managed to excrete!
Another thing to consider in the clothing department, and this is a bit more touch and go due to the self-consciousness factor, but the less you can wear the better. Gentlemen, this is not just for the boys that weigh four pounds and need to show off their 6-pack abs, this applies to you as well. Ladies, this is lot touchier subject, but I wanted to raise it just the same. The simple fact is that the more you let your skin breathe during runs on hot days the better. Sunday I ran in a short-sleeved shirt, because I could not for the life of me find my racing singlet, and I felt like I was stuffed in a pressure cooker. As soon as I wised-up, stopped worrying about the visibility of my race number, and stripped the shirt I felt so much better and was regretting the fact that I didn’t do it sooner. Even just the little breeze you get from moving through air at your pace can cool you off just enough to make things a little more bearable.
Over the last couple of seasons there is one piece of equipment that I have come to see as REQUIRED and that is a good pair of sunglasses. Slaves to fashion, leave your D&Gs and Ray Bans at home! A good pair of lightweight running sunglasses can do wondrous things for you while out on the course. I have had horrible runs simply because the sun punished my poor baby blues giving me the nicest and longest lasting headaches you can imagine! Seriously, it’s no good. It seems like such a small petty thing, but not having to squint or fight off the glare and feel beat down by the sun in that way really does a lot for you physically and for your psyche as you pour on the miles. By the same token, visors and running hats are also great things to have!
This one is a big one to remember and there are a lot of us that struggle with it, but in the heat you have to be willing to SLOW DOWN. I know, the two words that none of us want to hear, but if you don’t do it yourself your body will do it for you and it won’t be nice about it at all! Take a walk/shade break just to let your body adjust a little bit.
Lastly, and this one goes without saying, hydrate the hell out of yourself inside and out! If weather.com, and I know you are all slaves to the weather widget, indicates that you will be doing a hellfire run the next day, prepare well the night before. Make note of your urine color, yes I am being that gross, and make sure that it is just faintly tinted yellow, so you know you are hydrated well. If it is clear you may be a little over hydrated and you could be pissing away nutrients that you need. During your run, make sure you take the time to have a few good solid sips of cold water, if that is even humanly possible in this type of weather, every mile or two. Cold water gives you that little psychological kick you want/need and it also passes through your stomach quickly. Also, douse your head whenever you take the time to have a drink, that way you try and keep that internal temperature down a little bit.
OK, enough of this public service announcement-esque blog post! Hope it helps a little bit. Run Smart & Be Safe!