28 July 2011

How Hot Was It?

Yeah, it was hot last week. It’s summer, get used to it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m completely in the global warming camp. Al Gore has it right, even if I couldn’t see his appeal back in the year 2000. The right-wing Fox-News-brainwashed set isn’t just all wet, they’re leading us all to being all wet by ignoring our impact while stronger storms rage and Greenland gets ready to cause the greatest tsunami of all time when that ice cap slides.

But as for last week, it was just hot, as happens a few times each summer, and the media had their field day. Newscasts singled out the number dead, without mentioning that many of them probably would have been dead within a month anyway, and the Weather Channel delighted in the opportunity to show pictures of sweaty people. That’s the twenty-four-seven news world. To be fair, in other parts of the country it is downright miserable. I just spoke to a colleague in Dallas who noted it’s their eighteenth day of one-hundred-degree-plus temperatures. But that’s Dallas. It happens. And no, I can’t fathom why anyone lives there.

Here, we had a couple days strung together of ninety-five plus, capped off by a hundred and two last Friday. Only today, a week later, do I feel like I’ve recovered from the abuse I heaped on my body through that stretch. It so happens that I accidentally got myself on a consecutive-days-running streak some time ago – back in mid-May to be exact – and while acutely aware of the risks of overtraining and injury from such an endeavor, and proceeding carefully as my body has withstood the assault (after all, an easy three or four is as good as a day off), I’m just a day from matching my Second Lap record of seventy-two days straight set a few years back. I mention this because something as entirely irrational and obsessive as a two-month-plus streak comes in real handy when it’s miserably hot and it’s wicked easy to just say the heck with it and sit out a few days. A streak keeps you moving. So yes, I ran through the heat.

Even more obsessed, I raced through the heat. On one of those ninety-seven degree days a co-worker and runner friend of mine had his day in the sun as race director for his local 5K, an event I’d missed last year while he’d run my 10K, so in the spirit of reciprocal support I’d signed up. From my afternoon meeting on the forty-eighth floor in Boston, the air was simply solid, non-penetrable, turning normally gorgeous view of the world into a quasi-melted grayish mush. Woo hoo, baby, race day! But by evening race time it was merely in the low nineties, and I’d discovered the secret to dealing with that kind of heat: spend a few minutes in the port-o-john, and when you come out it feels downright cool.

Racing in the nineties means your warm-up feels dreadful, you’re glad there’s a stiff wind even though you know it will blow in your face when you least want it, and you expect nothing on the performance meter. It means that in a mere 5K, you run out of gas at two-and-a-half, which I did, though by that point I’d fought back from as far back as seventh to my final fourth-place finish in the hundred-thirtyish field. It means that when they give out nicely imprinted pint glasses for the awards, you’re really bummed that there’s nothing to put in them. But they made up for it with many gallons of slushies, a perfect touch. And despite the late fade, I notched my best 5K time since the Famed Foot Follies of ’08. Certainly not no sweat. There was plenty of that. But no complaints.

Probably the most descriptive portrait of the week’s heat, though, came the following morning, the day we topped one hundred, though I got out early enough that it was merely in the high eighties with two hundred percent humidity. Setting off for an eight miler, the combination of heat, humidity, and having raced twelve hours earlier simply wiped me off the map. I have to go back a long time to find a training run when I needed to stop for not just one, but several walk breaks. And by six, my shoes literally squished from the sweat, audible to Dearest Wife sitting on the front steps as I ran past down the street. Cry me a river. No, don’t bother; I created my own, running down the front steps. Yum.

For days after these experiences, even when the temperatures had dropped to pleasant, my pace ballooned and the fatigue couldn’t be ignored. Only tonight, nearly a week on, did a good speed workout shake out the cobwebs. Heat will do that do you. Get used to it.

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