Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Beating the Heat

Friday afternoon was perhaps the warmest day we’ve seen this year. Without question, it was certainly the warmest weather for which I had planned to run. I think the thermometer in my car was running a little warm, but let’s just call it about 85* when I left for my 8 mile run. Running in warmer weather is going to be important. HITS is scheduled to start at 7:00. I figure something around just under four hours for the swim, T1, Bike and T2. Even that may be optimistic—I’m keeping my expectations for speed low for my first half-iron distance. However, assuming as much, the means it will be 11:00 or so when I start out on the run.

Having recently completed a race along the course and being generally familiar with the area, I can tell you that there is no shade at all. Period. No groves of trees, no cliffs casting shadows in the right direction. In late July, the entire race will be in full sun. A review of the historical temperatures for greater Fort Collins for the date says the average high is 84* but I found that over the last 10 years it’s been closer to 87*. What’s more, this has been an unusually warm year. The highest temp I found during the period was 96* in 2005. In other words, I’m expecting it to be well over 85*. If we get an unexpected cool spell, great, but I’m not counting on it. Hence, my need to acclimate.

I learned last year what a killer heat can be during the run when I did the Creek Streak. Though there were plenty of water stations and I actually took in enough fluid on the bike to the point of having to pee a little bit, I still found myself overwhelmed by heat. In fact, I ended up running about three minutes slower in the race than I did on a brick that was on the exact same course two weeks earlier in similar conditions.

The question is: what was the difference. I did not do a swim on the morning I did the brick, but I don’t think swimming in 60 some degree water and then getting the bike wet warmed me up. If anything, it kept me cooler longer. I’ve been pondering this for months since the race and I think I know the answer. The frequency and temperature of the water I had available.

Obviously, no one comes out to support your brick work-outs with water stations along the way. You’re on your own. So that day I filled my CamelBak up with mostly ice and let it sit in the car/transition area while I did the 22+ mile bike ride. It’s not as though I didn’t feel the heat during that workout, but whenever I needed it, ice cold water was at the ready. In the race, I took water at intervals that were a little under a mile each.

Now let’s jump forward to last Friday afternoon. It’s 85*, there’s a dry breeze blowing and while the course I took offered some shade, it was more sun than not. Again, I took along my CamelBak which was filled with icy cold water. In anticipation of a warm run, I also had been taking water all day long.

The end result was completion of the course at a pace of 9:50. Compare that to the brick last July of 9:39 and keep in mind the brick was only 6 miles and I did after months of preparation. Compare it again to the race two weeks later where the pace was 10:03 and you get the idea. The difference was the availability of cool water when I needed/wanted it.

Purists will argue that it’s not worth the extra weight since it will slow you down. I would counter that I’ll slow down even more from overheating. When you consider that it’s 13.1 miles, I think the speed difference for a MOP(er) like me is negligible. Bottom line, unless there is freakishly cool weather, the CamelBak is coming along on the run portion! Plus, as you can see below, HITS is offering a pretty luxurious and spacious transition area:

As for other races, it probably won’t. SOST is in the middle of May and the run is only 3.1 miles. I’ll get all the hydration on the bike. Greeley was pretty warm last year, but again, it’s a sprint. I’ll be fine.

Boulder Peak is an Oly with a standard 10K for the run portion. It’s on July 8 when it can be even warmer than late July. However, the race starts at 6:00 and even if I end up in a later wave, I think I can be done with the swim, bike, and transition within two hours. That would probably mean I’m ready to start the run by 8:30 at the latest. Not saying it won’t be warm, but I think I can handle that with the on-course support. If we’re suffering through triple-digit heat, then I may change my mind.

Of course, even if a tanker truck filled with ice water were pacing me, I’d still have preparation to do. I’m planning on doing a lot of my long-run training at roughly the same time I plan to be doing the run portion of the  race. While my body is the type that just usually runs hot, I think I can do some work to adapt enough to be ready.

After Friday afternoon’s run, I had a good 1800 yard swim Saturday at the Rec Center and then headed out from there on a 45 mile bike ride. Sunday was a day off, but I didn’t feel as depleted as I have on other workouts. Maybe this training thing is actually starting to pay off!

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

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