In mid-May, a good friend, Samantha Snukis, and one of the runners I personally coach, Father Chris Zelonis, ran the Run for the Red Marathon in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. After a cold winter and a cool spring, the athletes, who had prepared diligently for the race, awoke to morning temperatures approaching 80 degrees. By the time they finished, the mercury hovered near 90 degrees, with high humidity. While both runners ran their personal bests, their times were negatively impacted, and Chris Zelonis suffered severe dehydration.
The reason for their diminished performances was simple. There was just no way they could acclimatize themselves to the temperature increase that quickly. Now, place the race in September, and their results would have been different.
Even during the coldest winter months, the body heats up rapidly when we run. During the summer months, we need to take precautions in order to avoid heat-related issues. But, sooner or later, we are going to be forced to run races under hot conditions, so, we need to acclimatize.
Last week, I left Pennsylvania for a week in Myrtle Beach. Each day my Weather Channel app warned me of "dangerous heat." My daily runs were conducted between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m., yet, most of the days, the heat index stood above 90 degrees. Like a moth to a light bulb, I darted toward shade whenever possible, and used the Atlantic Ocean for my cool down. I ran every morning, and my workout times improved each day. On Saturday morning, before we left for the airport, I ran my fastest workout of the week.
It was dismal here in Pennsylvania yesterday. It was cool, temperature around 68 degrees, cloudy, and breezy. My dogs didn't want to go outside. Finally, around 3:00 p.m. I decided to go for my longer run of the week. My legs felt light. My breathing felt as though a plastic bag had been removed from my head. I ran my fastest 9-miler of the year.
Running through the Myrtle Beach blast furnace had helped,
The moral of the story?
If you're gonna race in the heat, you gotta train in the heat.
Be careful, but select a hot day here or there and train in the heat. Plant water along the way if you have to, but get your body accustomed to the brutal conditions. Granted, your training time may be slower, but come race day, you'll be better prepared when others aren't.
Get home to a garden hose, a cold shower or bath, a swimming pool, or an ocean and cool down immediately.
Embrace the heat in order to race in the heat.