Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Some Like It Hot

Yesterday night at 7 PM, as I was driving to the airport for my run, NPR reported that temperatures were still lingering around 104 degrees. Instead of turning around and going back home, I sped up a little bit. As I drove around the loop and dropped off a bottle of ice at the halfway mark (about 1.75 miles), I noted with pleasure that there were absolutely no other runners either badass OR crazy enough to be out. Gyms, on the other hand, were probably packed, and with all those motors running and people expelling heat, I'd imagine it was pretty miserable inside as well.

Successful summer running is all about calculation. I have to plan ahead carefully - routes that maximize both shade and breeze and access to water, adequate hydration throughout the day, pay attention to the color of my urine and the frequency I'm going, get enough sleep, monitor caloric intake, etc. Even while running, I have to remain vigilant and hyperobservant - How much am I sweating? When's the last time I took an electrolyte tablet? How much water am I drinking? How fast am I going? What changed between this mile and the last that made this one harder? Should I walk? - because by the time the obvious signs of heat exhaustion start popping up, it's probably too late to salvage the workout, and possibly the one after that.

Successful winter running - or really, successful winter ANYTHING - is less about thinking and more about spending power. Stripping down and running in your skin is cheap, but bundling up to run in the winter is anything but. Observe:

$25 featherweight Nike singlet
$50 Nike sports bra
$25 Under Armour shorts
$10 lightweight Adidas socks
$110 TOTAL

$25 long sleeved tech shirt
$50 Nike sports bra
$60 Brooks running pants
$15 heavyweight socks
$40 thermal gloves
$90 Tikka headlamp
$25 Nike headband
$60 Brooks running jacket
$365 TOTAL

And I spent all last winter bent over against the wind and unable to feel my fingers because I was so effing freezing cold and not "adequately dressed." Had I spent another $300 or so, my comfort level would have increased, but so would my consternation with the whole winter running thing. Unfortunately, there's no other way around it - it's either spend the money and be comfy, or don't spend the money and don't be.

So, if evolution has given us all the tools - the ability to sweat, fur-less skin, a respiratory system independent of stride rate, and a big brain - to be effective summer runners, it'd be a waste to not be out there letting my physiology do its thing. As for winter running, the same tools I use in the summertime have me pretty much convinced that I should wait until evolution deals me a nice fat wallet as well. Or, failing that, I can always wait for spring.

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