Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “heat”

Initial Reflections on Delaware

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Wilmington for two months now! The summer has truly flown by, and now that I’m caught up on my final Iowa escapades and the amazing experience that was the Race Across the USA, I can return to my regularly scheduled programming. It’s been a simultaneously relaxed and eventful transition, complete with all of the chaos of setting up a new home and figuring out the world around us. We’ve slowly begun to carve out a home for ourselves, figure out how to meet our regular needs, and begin to navigate a completely new part of the country and new stage in our lives. The epicurean’s new position at the Winterthur Museum, Library, and Gardens has been a wonderful transition and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen her more happy day in and day out. I completed my summer teaching responsibilities online at Iowa State, and have now officially left that position and am on the hunt for a new professional adventure (if you have any leads, I’d be happy to forward my resume 🙂 ).

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Amidst the unsettled nature of hitting reset on the life button, I’ve found time to continue my training in a way and have learned quite a bit about my new running home along the way. There are many new trails, hikes, races, and running friends to look forward to, and I’m certainly excited for the new running opportunities that living on the East Coast presents. It’s been a profoundly different and challenging experience to run so many miles without my Vardo partners in crime, and I still miss them terribly. When I first undertook the challenge of running, it was the friends surrounding me that kept me going, got me out the door, and motivated me on a daily basis. Throughout my growth as a runner, my biggest joy has been the relationships I’ve built and the opportunities to witness others accomplish their own running goals and grow closer to them with each passing mile. It’s strange, then, to find myself in a new area of the country where I know no one and am now running more solo miles than I’ve ever run before. I often find myself, out of habit, thinking about who I would share any new discovery, route, or trail with and then realizing that Facebook is truly only a shadow of life, always shifting as the earth turns each day and the sun rises and sets. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to discover some pretty exciting locations and opportunities in my short time in Delaware and I’m optimistic about what the future will bring. So, let me give you the Cliff’s notes version of what still feels like an extended vacation!

Heat & Humidity

Technically speaking, we aren’t that much further south so I didn’t expect the summer weather to be all that much different. I should have known better. It was in the 90’s the day I drove up in May, and it has been consistently hot all summer with little sign of relief until fall. I’ve never been a huge fan of the heat, and it’s always taken me what seems like far too long to acclimate, but it’s been an entirely new challenge in Wilmington. In addition to the heat, the humidity is rather atrocious. I’m used to a few days of high humidity every once in a while, but I seem to be bathing in a dog’s mouth every time I step foot outside. It doesn’t matter if I’m beginning a Saturday morning run at 6AM, or heading out for a short afternoon run. My body has been struggling to cope, and it’s definitely left me more exhausted than normal. I realized just how bad the humidity was a few days ago when it dropped to around 40%. Despite temps that hovered around 90 degrees, my run felt almost effortless by comparison. It really does make quite the difference!

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Hello, hills! 

It’s no secret that Iowa is a pretty darn flat state. I’ve spent my entire running life in Iowa, which meant I was far from accustomed to any sort of variable terrain. It wasn’t uncommon for me to log 25 or 30 miles and see a grand total of 300 feet of elevation gain. Delaware, however, is a different story all together! My legs are now, after two months, beginning to adjust to the fact that every single run I go on here is the equivalent of a hill workout in Iowa. I’m not sure there is a single stretch of flat land anywhere to be seen, and I’ve been racking up the elevation gain! The result is a new-found confidence with a wider variety of races, and the realization that I might be able to tackle some of my mountain-running bucket list items after all.

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Trails, my old friends

Since my first ultra and first trail race several years ago, I’ve been hooked. There is just something incredible about hitting the trails for a run and losing yourself in the miles that I can’t seem to replicate on the road. Unfortunately, living where we did in Iowa meant very limited access to trails and spending most of my time on the road. The landscape around Wilmington is a totally different experience! There is a wonderfully high concentration of state parks within running distance of our house, and even more access simply by hopping in the car for a few minutes. We bought a state park pass, naturally, and I’ve already had the opportunity to hit the trails in 5 different parks. It is a strange feeling to have such incredible access to so many legit trails, complete with switchbacks, stream crossings, and relentless hills. I’ve been in trail heaven!

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A New Running Community

I’ve made it crystal clear how important it is to me to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who share my passion for running. So much of my motivation comes from the efforts of those around me, so it was quite hard to leave such a tight-knit community behind. Luckily, I’ve begun to connect with other runners in the area, with the hopes of cutting back on my far too regular solo runs! I took it as a great sign that our next door neighbor is also a runner, and I even had the chance to run with her and a friend the first Saturday I was here. Since then, I’ve found the Delaware Running Club, and have run with them on numerous group trail runs. I even had the chance to participate in the Festival of Miles, which was my first official track race and led to my new mile PR of 6:08. Obviously I need to get it under 6:00 now! It’s a large group full of wonderful people with diverse running and life backgrounds, and I’m really enjoying getting to know folks!

Scenery & Orientation

The most shocking thing for me out here, even more than the hills and humidity, has been the overwhelming beauty of this area. I’ve lost track of the number of times I found myself stopping in the middle of a run to simply take in all of the beauty around me. It’s common to find a random historic marker, the remains of an old mill, or the remnants of a luxury amusement park from the turn of the 20th century (more on that in a future post!). The lush, green forests, rolling hills, and streams everywhere make each run something special. Unfortunately, stopping to gawk at the beauty of the area isn’t very good for my already tenuous sense of direction. When I left Ames, I could tell you how to get anywhere on foot, and how far it was within a tenth of a mile. I knew that area like the back of my hand. I’ve now found myself in an area where grids and city planning were an afterthought (Delaware is the first state, after all), and the winding roads mean I often don’t know north from south. I’ve begrudgingly started carrying my phone with me on most runs, and have needed to pull it out on several occasions to see just how turned around I really am. On one particularly ominous evening, I left my phone (and water and nutrition) at home for what I had intended to be an easy 6-mile run out and back. However, my curiosity got the best of me and one wrong turn led to another. Before I knew it, I had basically made my way to the PA border, and I had logged 18 dehydrated miles before I finally got home. Epic fail! I’m hoping that won’t become a regular occurrence 🙂

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Running @ Winterthur

One of my favorite places to run thus far is actually a place I find myself every single day (and jealous of the fact that the epicurean takes her lunch breaks on the grounds!). I wrote about Winterthur back in December when we traveled out so the epicurean to visit, and I was mesmerized then. However, the gardens truly shine in the spring and summer, with something new in bloom practically every week. There are countless paved and single-track trails meandering around the 1000 acre estate, and I truly feel as though I’m in another world, whether I’m out there running or curling up with a good book as I listen to the birds sing. I’ll be sure to highlight the beauty of this place in a future post, but few words can truly do it justice, especially for this Midwestern flatlander!

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So there you have it…it’s been a hilly two months, if you will, in more ways than one but we are finally beginning to settle in and get to work on making Wilmington our home for many years to come!

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A Few Moments of Heat-Induced Clarity

For the past two days, I’ve headed out for a run with Looper, our new Vizsla, around 11AM. On both occasions, this seemed like a perfectly reasonable time of day. However, Iowa finally decided it was summer (after skipping spring all together), so it’s been getting rather warm rather quickly. Now, I will never claim to be a fan of heat, but I can usually put up with it. However, we are still getting way more rain than we really need, which means it has also been wicked humid. This is a bad combination!

After two years living without a leash, Looper is slowly learning to run next to me and not pull too much. She still wants to be in the lead, and she is still skittish around large trucks, bikes, and trains, but is otherwise settling in nicely. Interestingly, running with a new dog gives you a new awareness of your surroundings, and most certainly a new awareness of the heat! She is proving to be an excellent barometer for how far we should be running, when we should be hydrating, and is giving me a refreshed awareness of my surroundings. These past two days have left me with a few moments of clarity in an otherwise foggy, heat-saturated brain. I’ve found myself remembering:

It's not Arizona, but still plenty hot for me!

It’s not Arizona, but still plenty hot for me!

  • 10AM- 2PM is not necessarily the best time to run- when the sun is at its peak, it might be best to stay inside, at least during the hot summer months. This may end up being more difficult considering my schedule, but I have a feeling it will lead to much more comfortable runs for both of us!
  • Shade is your friend…unless it’s humid- On both days, I headed for local parks and trails, in search of shade that might provide us with some reprieve. Unfortunately, with the shade we found the humidity increasing as well, so it was definitely a trade-off in terms of comfort.
  • Slowing your pace matters- I’ve been very focused on pacing during my training, and seem to have forgotten that I should be slowing my pace in the heat…oops! When Looper suddenly pulls up to flop down on the ground and cool off, it’s a nice reminder to slow down. Alas, she picks up right where she left off when we start running again!
  • Drinking every 1/2 mile isn’t overkill- I normally try to hydrate every mile, and I’ve gotten accustomed to carrying a water bottle on every run. However, in this heat, setting my watch to remind me to drink every 1/2 mile is quite helpful!
  • I sweat ALOT- I’m fairly certain that I’m one of the 1 in 4 that sweats more than the average person. This fact was reinforced over the past two days, and I’m on a continual quest to find the best sweat-management techniques. If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears!
  • Dogs hijacking your pace = trouble- Looper is a very willful dog, and when she wants to stop, she does. On the flip side, she pushes onward with seemingly no effort whatsoever, and the result has been a much faster pace than I had intended. I think we are going to need to talk about who is pacing whom!
  • Ice cubes sooth an overheated Vizsla- I always make sure there is a nice big bowl of water waiting for her when we get back. On a whim, I gave her an ice cube to see if she wanted to chew on it. It slid around in my hand, and I realized she loved them. At one point, she was lying on her side, on the dining room floor, with several ice cubes placed on her belly…ridiculous!
One tired Vizsla!

One tired Vizsla!

A “century” of learning…in the saddle!

H.G. Wells has nothing on me. I flew threw a century in less than a day! Like any long span of time, there were a number of ups and downs. There were moments that left me in awe of my own accomplishments and moments where I really had no interest in going on. I met some new people, got to know some friends better, ate some delicious food, and learned more than I anticipated about myself in a span of merely 9 hours (merely…hah!).

As I had previously posted, this week is RAGBRAI 2012. Although I had talked to plenty of people about the experience, heard some great stories, read blogs and looked at pictures, I still really had no idea what I was in for when I signed up. I only knew that it was an experience I hadn’t had yet, and I wanted to have it!

We trekked up to Sioux Center, IA on Saturday morning, by way of Lincoln, NE to pick up our SAG driver for the week (a friend’s daughter). We camped at a friend’s house on Saturday night, but I didn’t get much sleep. Between the rain and the anticipation, I was doomed to insomnia. We woke up at 5AM to pack up our gear and we were on the road by 6:10AM. It was a beautiful ride of town, and we had plenty of time for the mere 62 miles that the day had in store. Ironically, my previous long ride was only 55 miles, so even the shorter rides this week were long for me! The day went fairly well, and I enjoyed the stops in small towns along the way. I really had no idea how big of a deal it was for RAGBRAI to go through town until I saw everything the towns came out and did for the riders. Clearly, with 15,000 hungry and thirsty riders coming through, there is at least a small economic incentive as well 🙂 We arrived in Cherokee, IA around 11AM, and had plenty of time to get set up with our host for the night. We had the luxury of staying indoors with AC, which was vital considering the 100 degree temperatures!

Departing from Sioux Center, IA for Day 1 of RAGBRAI

The second day saw another 5AM wake-up call, and we were again on the road by 6AM. Monday proved to be a great day. I traveled with a group of friends who I mostly consider much faster and more skilled than myself, so I had no aspirations of keeping up with them during the rides, but figured I’d enjoy the company of strangers and experience everything. However, I got going on Day 2 and it was as if my legs decided to +1, because I was feeling good and rolling right along. We stopped several times, for some great cinnamon rolls and the classic slice of pie (who can say no to homemade pie served by little old ladies at a church in a small town?!). We rolled in to the state park we were staying at, 67 miles under our belt (another PR for distance), and I had averaged closed to 19 mph along the way, which was a complete shock but it certainly brought a smile to my face!

Homemade Apricot pie- yes, please!

Now, we had been leaving early to try and beat some of the heat, as the highs reached around 100 degrees each day. However, camping outside in a state park (granted, it was quite beautiful and situated right on a lake in Lakeview, IA) meant still sleeping outside and enduring the heat. I don’t do well in heat, and I slept pretty poorly. In addition, the next day was a 100 mile (century) ride, so we woke up at 4AM to be on the road by 5AM. Needless to say, getting starting on Tuesday morning was a struggle.

Nonetheless, I pushed myself out and up on the bike, and I had plenty of adrenaline flowing. Riding a century meant surpassing my previous high distance from the day before by 30 miles, and really riding twice as long as I had trained for this year. I was feeling good, and my confidence carried me for about the first 30 miles. Then my back started spasming- feeling like someone is branding your lower back with a hot iron isn’t exactly motivational when it comes to cycling. Still, I pushed through it. The route itself was only 77 miles, but there is an optional “Karrass Loop” (named after the founder of RAGBRAI) which adds 23 miles and gives you the full century. In retrospect, I should have known I might be biting off more than I could chew, but I’m rather internally competitive so I went for it! Mother Nature had other ideas.

Dunking my head in a pool of ice cold water after the Karras Loop!

Clearly I have offended her quite a bit in the past, because I found myself riding into a 21 mph headwind, which meant I was topping out at about 9 mph on the straightaways. Then came the hills! There were two GIANT hills in and out of the river valley during the loop that were both larger than anything I’d ever gone down or up. Flying down them at 40 mph was AMAZING but painfully putting one foot in front of the other on the way up left much to be desired. Still, I made it through, and finished out the route with two more giant hills and plenty of headwind. The strawberry rhubarb pie and homemade peach ice cream definitely eased my pain (especially because I hadn’t eaten enough and was a tad dizzy at one point), but the damage was done. I finished out the century with a friend (it was both of our firsts), pedaling on shear determination and will, but running on fumes. By the time we got to our meeting location, my bike computer read 108 miles (my phone had died at 91 miles).

Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt, but there was still a wonderful sense of accomplishment tied up in riding that far. RAGBRAI recommends riding  1000 miles as preparation for the week, and I had done 450. On day three, that lack of training caught up to me. By the time I got home, my whole body ached, I was sunburned, badly chafed, and my back was still hurting. In the end, I had to make the tough call to bow out gracefully from the remainder of the week of RABGRAI. I had ridden a total of 240 miles in three days, made some wonderful memories with new and old friends, and learned a lot about not pushing myself TOO far. I enjoy cycling, but I enjoy running even more and the last thing I wanted to do was injury myself and inhibit my ability to reach my running goals this fall.

Proof!

I have a lot of great memories ahead of me, and I couldn’t be happier to have these to add to the list. Thank you to great friends for a wonderful RAGBRAI experience!

It’s Official…I’m a Yankee Runner!

The Civil War for my running persona is over. Just as they did 150 years ago, the South has raised their white flag and surrendered to the might of the North. It was a hard-fought battle, and the South certainly had it’s fair share of resources and advantages. However, in the end, the North was simply overwhelming.

I got back from a mid-week 8-mile run this morning, and when I left at 8:45AM,  it was already 81 degrees outside. By the time I returned, it was 87, and the heat index made it feel like 95 degrees…at 10AM! I certainly enjoy a good sweat, and there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with being drenched in your own sweat. It’s as if your body is assuring you that “yes indeed, you worked your ass off!”

As grateful as I am to my body for the reminder, however, I’m fairly certain that I’m capable of sweating without oppressive heat and humidity bearing down on me as if I was running through a pool of wet concrete. This is not an environmental condition I will ever acclimate to, nor is it one that I can adjust my running routine or wardrobe to compensate. Alas, a person must run with at least a minimal amount of clothing in order to avoid various legal ramifications, not to mention the strange looks from passersby. With the possible exception of the new CoolMax clothing from Columbia, all of our innovations in sports science have yet to yield a way for me to be truly comfortable running in temperatures above 80 degrees. It’s just the way my body is programmed. Sunblock may prevent the sunburn, properly hydrating may keep me healthy, and light-colored clothing may have some minmal impact on my overall comfort, but until they invent a skin-tight temperature-regulating ice suit for running, I’ll still hate the hot temperatures!

Contrary to popular belief, I am not a super hero 🙂

Now, clearly I’m still running and I’m sure there is a part of you that’s saying to yourself…”suck it up!”. Don’t get me wrong- I AM sucking it up and continuing to train, and running earlier in the morning or later at night to avoid the worst of the heat. However, I still find myself longing for the cool fall days, the rejuvinating spring days, and even the chill of a February morning. The reality is that at least in the winter, I can add layers and provide myself with enough warmth to be relatively comfortable. Granted, it was a mild winter this year, but I’ve run year-round for the past three years now, and I will gladly take a 0 degree day that forces me to wrap myself in layers of thermal Under Armor over a 90 degree day that leaves me wanting to strip down to a thong and running shoes, stopping just short of peeling off my skin to try and cool myself off. I prefer cold weather. I can adapt and dress accordingly for cold weather.

I am a Yankee runner!

Managing the Heat: Summer Running

It’s already been a strange year for weather. Temperatures have been consistently warmer than normal, drought has given way to flooding all around the country, and now that the summer solstice has greeted us, it would seem that someone turned on the oven. I will be the first to admit that I’m not a fan of warm-weather running. I know that some people like to work up a good sweat in the first 5 minutes, and carry that throughout their workout, but I’m not one of them! 40 degrees at the start, and 55 or 60 at the end is what you would call my running sweet-spot, and those days are gone for a while. I’ve already committed to taking a racing break for June and July, but I’m still going to be training and getting ready for the fall race season, which means I need to make my peace with the heat and move on. This is no easy task.

Luckily, my love of running is stronger than my dislike of the heat. As such, I’m always thinking of ways to keep up my endurance training while avoiding the heat as much as possible. Clearly hydration plays a big factor in maintaining your training and chasing down your goals, but once the heat of summer starts bearing down on you, simply drinking more water just doesn’t seem like enough. So, there are a few other approaches to beating the heat and continuing to push forward, some of which I more easily implement than others 🙂

1. Wake-Up Call! Perhaps the most difficult of all adjustments for me is getting up earlier to go for an early morning run before the sun even has time to grace you with it’s rays. I am the antithesis of a morning person, but I’ll still push myself to get up extra early if it means my run will be more comfortable. On the bright side, you get home earlier, can get some things done in the morning, and have time for an afternoon nap! You can always sleep in your running clothes to save time in the morning too 😉

2. Hiding Under the Canopy: I live in Iowa, which means the corn fields far out-number the forests. However, seeking out shaded routes can certainly help you conserve energy and lead to a more comfortable run. Your risk of sunburn goes down considerably as well (which is constantly on the mind of this Irish/German!)

3. Hit the Trails: As indicated above, forested land is at a premium in Iowa. However, trading in the city streets for the trails will not only mix up your routine and work out different leg muscles, but the chances of a cooler environment make for a more comfortable run as well.

4. Embrace the Heat: The beautiful epicurean has found a new love in hot yoga. I’ve been a fan of yoga in general for many years, but have never given the hot variety a go. However, if it’s going to be hot anyway, why not head into a 105 degree room for some deep stretching and strength-training, right?

5. Reassess Your Wardrobe: The hotter it gets, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more your clothes stick to you. As a result, running shorts and tops that were once very comfortable can begin to irritate you as seams rub the wrong way or the added weight becomes too much. Summer is a great time to check in with your running wardrobe and see if you need to invest in some better tech fabrics. You could certainly invest in some even more high-tech apparel as well, but it’s not necessary.

I’m sure there are other tips and tricks that folks have for beating the heat. Whatever you do, as always, running smart and staying hydrated (without becoming over-hydrated) is going to be the most important aspect of summer running. Now I think it’s time for me to go hit the trails!

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