Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tough Stuff: Hard Runs, Heat, Humidity

It's Take It and Run Thursday at Runner's Lounge. The topic for today is The Tough Stuff.

When it comes to running, I am a confirmed hater of heat and humidity. Trying to train over the last 2 months for an August 23 half marathon has been the most difficult period of running since I got serious about it 5 years ago. Frankly, it's been a little discouraging -- no, I'm not about to give up as I'm too mule-headed for that, but I think that's one reason I haven't posted a blog in about 2.5 weeks.

Just a fer instance: last Saturday was a scheduled 13.1 mile run with the half marathon training team. I woke up feeling good -- looking forward to the run and thinking I would do well. Even 70° and 84% humidity seemed doable. But, from the moment we started running, I was sluggish. By the time we hit mile 8, I was in bad shape (I was hydrating and had ingested a couple of Gu's). Even shorter runs have been hard -- a 6-miler on Tuesday and 4.5 miles today.

The toughest of the tough stuff for me? -- Track repeats, especially 1600m repeats at 90-95% max. (I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam, I am. -- Not sure why, but that Seuss quote seemed appropriate.)

I've decided there are several factors that are probably a part of this and I'm going to try to work on them over the next 4 weeks before the actual race:

1. Heat and humidity: I have decided that some folks just handle it better than others. David, a college friend of mine, ran in temps that were upper 90's a few days ago. I've not even attempted anything over 80°. While I certainly can't control the weather, I am going to try to do a better job of hydrating well the day before a longish run. I already run early -- 5:15-5:30 AM start during the week and a 6:45 AM start on Saturday.

2. Overtraining: Coach Dean Hebert, blogger at Running Advice and News, posted a Q&A from a reader about hitting a plateau and digressing. The reader's symptoms were similar to mine (though I haven't struggled for 5 months) and one of Hebert's suggestions was that she was overtraining or that her training was stale, too consistent. I can implement some of the suggestions. In fact, I did that today -- I backed off the mileage a bit, ran 4.5 miles rather than 6, and I added several relatively short fartleks during the run to break the steady pace.

3. Mental stamina: Part of my difficulty is that discouragement can be a cyclical downslide. My pride makes me think that every run should at least be good and I really expect every run to be better than the previous one. I know better than that, so, in the words of my favourite TV psychologist, Bob Newhart, "Stop it -- S-T-O-P, new word, I-T -- STOP IT!" As Benjamin Cheever said in Strides: "The runner's high is built on a foundation of runner's lows. The joy is often paid for in advance."

(You HAVE to watch the Newhart video but don't have a mouth full of food or beverage when you do. Word to the wise.)

Run well, y'all,
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