9/15/11 – 6 MILES
Last night we celebrated running through–and surviving–the official Hottest Summer on Record. Everyone met at Fuzzy’s and the weather gods smiled down upon us, giving us cooler temps and a nice breeze at the start. We ran 6 miles total, including the last two being 90% uphill on Meadowlake and our old friend Sperry.
A small cool front blew in and the humidity was down in the teens. It was still 92 degrees at the start, but the low humidity made it feel surprisingly pleasant. Michael brought the dogs and they were extremely excited to run, especially Nevada, who can’t stand it when she’s not right at the front of the pack. She pretty much pulled the entire way, and Michael turned around at mile 2 and came back on his own while Genevieve and I continued on. Once again I was surprised at how early it got dark, and we ran those last 2 hilly miles in the dark. We both decided that Sperry should always be run in the dark.
We had a few new people running with us, including Kristin, who decided to turn around at the 3 mile mark and do an out and back in case she got too far behind on an unfamiliar route. By the time we got back to Fuzzy’s it was pitch dark, and when Kristin still hadn’t shown up after 15 minutes or so, I decided to jump in the car and see if I could find her. After my experience of missing Michael at the lake a few weeks ago, I knew how scary it could be to run alone in the dark. Plus, I felt really bad because it was her first time running with us and there was no one running at her pace to keep her company. In the end, she made it back on her own, safe and sound.
Everyone bought drinks to celebrate the end of the extreme temperatures (hopefully), and Genevieve got a huge, pink, frozen margarita. Chris and I reminisced about the infamous 17 miler, aka The Worst Training Run Ever, and talked about our future running plans. I told him I wanted to take a break from running marathons, then proceeded to list all the marathons I still wanted to run. He said he wants to concentrate on speed and run some really fast 5K’s and 10K’s, something that doesn’t interest me at all. Maybe I’ll run some half marathons in the spring. Maybe I’ll try some trails. Maybe I’ll just run.
In the meantime, there’s still a marathon to train for . . .
Stats: 6 miles @ 9:39 pace – 92 degrees at the start, with hills
It’s Official: Hottest Summer on Record
I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or celebrate. We all knew this day would come but now it’s official: 2011 is the hottest summer on record in Dallas. Today, with the 70th day at 100 degrees or above, we surpassed the old record set in 1980 of 69 days. This is merely apropos since we learned a few weeks ago that we’ve had the highest average temperatures this summer, and the highest low temperatures ever, but it’s still nice to beat that old, official record. We may break the record again tomorrow, but hopefully the cold front blowing in afterwards will be the end of the triple digit heat. We’ll see. I reserve the right to remain skeptically optimistic.
Last week we had day after glorious day of temperatures cool enough to leave the doors and windows open all day. Those kinds of days don’t come often in North Texas, where it’s usually either too warm or too humid to do so. Everyone smiled a little more last week, just happy to be outside again, breathing real air that didn’t come out of an AC unit. We all started thinking about the State Fair of Texas and football games, and those of us who run were reminded of how much easier running is when your heart isn’t trying to pump through 102 degree heat at 7PM.
Summers in Texas are anyway an ordeal, an exercise in forced hibernation from the elements. It’s a pattern familiar to anyone who’s lived here. We live like vampires, and tend to do anything that needs to be done outdoors either before or after the sun rises or sets. The rest of the day is spent going from one artificially cooled enclosure to another. We wear as little clothing as we can get away with (even when some of us shouldn’t) and we keep our blinds closed most of the day. We shower a lot. We complain a lot. Then we get used to it. But we do have our limits.
This summer tested us all. The weather was our #1 topic of conversation at the start of 99% of my runs. It’s hard to be chipper at 5AM when the temperature is 86 degrees and humid. I tried not to be too sullen, but there were days I just couldn’t take another day of running in the heat–so I didn’t. Extreme conditions sometimes call for extreme reactions. I can be very stubborn sometimes.
I resolved that we would beat the old record, that we would have something to show for living through this hell–as if I had any control over the situation. I knew we would beat it, and I think everyone else knew it, too. It was simply a matter of time. Well, hallelujah, that day has arrived! Put the medals around all our necks, because not only are we winners, we smashed the old heat record.
So what has the lesson been? That we’re all stronger than we think we are? To accept the things we cannot change? For myself, I feel as if this summer has been a waiting game, an exercise in patience, that if I just sit still enough, and move as little as possible, it will soon enough go away. It was also about giving up control, knowing there was nothing to be done but wait, accept, and hope for cooler days. For some of us the summer brought loss, of our homes from wildfires, and even of our own lives from the extreme temperatures. We personally lost most of our garden, but we’ll replant again this winter and next spring. On the positive side, being forced to stay inside so much this summer means I’ve read some great books. I even started cooking more. And even though it was torture, I never knew I could run–and survive–when it was 104 degrees.
Honestly, though, I’m glad we broke that record. Now we have something to show for all our misery. And it means the end has to be near.
Now I can say with conviction: Summer, be gone! You tried your best to do us in, but we’re still standing. We ran through your filthy, oppressive blasts of misery and made it through to the other side. Now, off you go, be on your way, and godspeed. There are miles to be run and winter gardens to be planted, dogs to be walked and fried foods to be eaten at the State Fair. Let’s pack it in and ship it out–and please don’t come back anytime soon.
Lost at the Lake
The other day was just one of those days. You know the kind, where despite your best efforts, everything seems to be a little off. The kind where the day you’ve envisioned in your head doesn’t quite match up to the one that actually occurs.
I set the alarm for 4AM to get up and meet my friends for our first speedwork session at the SMU track field, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. Speedwork is my least favorite type of workout, and I was dreading it–especially at 5AM. When the alarm went off at 4, I hit the snooze button twice and fell back asleep. When I woke up it was 4:45, still enough time to get up, throw my clothes on, and race over to the SMU track field. I fell back asleep. I’ll get up at 6 and run on my own, I thought to myself, and went back to sleep again. I woke up at 8, feeling grumpy and guilty.
The whole day was blah. The dogs were tired of being inside because of the high temps and kept whining and looking out the front window. When I let them outside all they wanted to do was bark. I felt unmotivated and guilty all day for not running, and hoped it might turn cloudy by the evening so I could make up my missed morning run, knowing I was completely deluding myself about it magically turning cloudy.
I decided to punish myself. Thinking it might get a little cooler by 6PM, and knowing it wouldn’t, I resolved to run a loop at the lake all alone. When it was still 102 degrees at 6, I knew a loop wasn’t going to happen, so Michael talked me into taking the dogs to the dog park. He said he’d stay with them and I could go for my run. I figured I could still get in 5 or 6 miles and let go of my guilt for missing my morning run.
We didn’t leave the house until 7:15PM, and it was “only” 100 degrees. When we got to the lake, I told Michael I would stay on the hilly path on the east side (remember, I was punishing myself), and if the dogs got bored after awhile he could come meet me on my way back. As I ran off I yelled out over my shoulder, “Remember, I’ll be on the path.”
It was actually a very good run. Except for the broken up path, which would feel like a cheese grater if you tripped and fell (which I am prone to do), I always enjoy running on the hilly path. The hills are not extreme, but still steep enough and long enough for a pretty good workout. Most runners stay on the road on the east side of the lake, so the path never has many people to dodge like on the newly paved section of the west side. The hilly path also stays mostly in the trees, where it’s cool and shaded. I pushed myself and kept a 9:18 average pace for the first half. Not bad with the hills and 100 degree heat.
I decided to run 5 miles instead of 6, mainly because it was getting dark so quickly. I turned around at Sunset Bay and headed back to the dog park. The path here is in pretty rough shape, so I knew I had to be extra careful not to trip in the low light. I trudged on. It really was getting dark much earlier these days. I had noticed on the weather website a few weeks ago that the days were getting shorter by a full minute every day. This was good news considering our ungodly high temperatures this summer. (The days are now getting shorter by almost 2 full minutes.)
I barreled around the Stone Tables and up the hill, through the trees where coyotes are often seen in the evenings. I hoped I wouldn’t see any tonight.
By the time I got to the Bath House it was pitch dark, and kind of creepy on the path. There was hardly anyone around, and those who were stayed on the road. A police car passed me on the road, then parked down the road facing the path. This particular part of the path goes up the hill into the trees, and I wondered if the police had seen me running and were watching out for me. I felt better just thinking that. I also considered going down to the road, but remembered how I had told Michael I would be on the path. I didn’t want to miss him in the dark.
Just before I got to the top of the hill I heard rustling to my left. A male runner came running up the hill onto the path, headed in the opposite direction. It totally spooked me, and I picked up the pace. I was surprised I hadn’t run into Michael and the dogs yet. This section of the path is pretty high above the road, tucked in between Big Thicket and some neighborhood homes, and it was full on dark. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, just before entering the last segment of the path, the part that goes directly into the trees, I decided it was too dark to stay on the path. Not only was the path in bad shape, it just didn’t feel safe. I decided if I hadn’t seen Michael by this time he was probably waiting for me at the dog park. I ran the last quarter mile in the road, against traffic, and kept an eye on the path just in case Michael and the dogs passed me. Several cars passed by, none of them Michael, and I was ready to be done with this run.
When I got to the dog park, no Michael, no dogs. Great. He must’ve been on the one part of the path I didn’t stay on, the part at the very end that was so dark. Thinking he might be sitting at the top of the hill with the dogs, waiting for me, I walked back over the bridge and up the hill. No luck. By this time there was almost no one walking, running, or biking at the lake, and there was only one woman and her two dogs at the dog park. I walked back to the dog park to try and figure out what to do. Not only did I feel unsafe, the dog park is located in a swampy area of the lake and the mosquitoes were ferocious. I started pacing.
I had no phone and no car key. I didn’t want to get back on the path alone in the dark, and knew I probably wouldn’t catch up with him anyway. I walked back over the bridge a few times, hoping to see them headed back, then talked to the woman at the dog park who assured me the park was safe after dark. I thought of a recent rape that had been reported at the lake, and the dead body being hauled out one early morning run. Maybe I’m a scaredy cat, but I don’t think a female alone after dark is safe anywhere in the city.
I had always told my children if they ever got lost to stop and stay where they were, I would come and find them. It actually worked, too, several times. I remembered telling Michael that not long ago, so I knew the best thing would be to stay at the dog park and wait it out. A few more people brought their dogs to the dog park, so I was less alone. I must’ve looked odd walking around the empty parking lot.
I waited and waited. I worried. What if one of the dogs had chased an animal and got off leash and ran away? What if someone had attacked him? What if he got hurt and the dogs couldn’t help? How far would he walk before turning around? What if all the people left the dog park and I was all alone in the parking lot? What if I got eaten alive by the mosquitoes? Would Michael be mad because I hadn’t stayed on the path? What if he never came back????
A full hour later, I saw them cross the bridge. Michael came running up with both dogs, sweaty and smiling. He was so happy to see I was safe. I felt so stupid. He had walked 4 miles total, thinking I might have injured myself in the dark and was hurt on the side of the path, unconscious. What a man! He’s always told me he has my back, and he certainly proved it this night.
If I had stayed on that last stretch of path I would have met them. We still can’t figure out how we didn’t see each other from the street and path, how he didn’t see me when the cars passed and shined their lights on me, why the dogs didn’t act a little excited when I passed, and can only surmise he was in the trees when I passed on the road. We simply missed seeing each other.
Like I said, it was just one of those days. I’ve lived in Dallas almost all my life, and run around the lake hundreds of times, but it figures that only I could get lost there.
A Short Vacation from Running
8/27/11 – 15 MILES
Last Saturday’s The Most I’ve Ever Walked in a Long Run run, combined with this never ending heat, broke me. My nagging tendonitis worsened and I decided to take a Short Vacation from Running to get rid of it once and for all. Our record breaking temperatures continued and I barely left the house all week. Tuesday rolled around, then Wednesday, then Thursday, and not a day did I run. I’ve run long enough to know that a week off won’t significantly impact my marathon training, and might actually do some good.
I was right. Even though I still had some soreness above my left ankle, I had a good 15 mile long run. We decided to start at 5:30AM, 30 minutes earlier than usual, to stay out of the sun as much as possible. It was a good tactic and we all ran much better than last week. Bill and I resolved to keep our pace slower at the start so we wouldn’t crash and burn the last few miles like we have been doing. It’s taken us all summer to figure this out the hard way, but we really do have to slow down more than usual when the temperatures
There was a tiny sliver of moon in the sky, which meant it was a dark start to the run. Even though it was projected to be 79 degrees at the start, it was 84 when we started and fairly humid, and we were drenched by the time we got down to the lake.
Our route took us the reverse of an old DRC route we used to run, but we still had the privilege of running up through Lakewood and down Swiss. I’ll take running down Swiss, as opposed to that long, gradual slog uphill, any day. Next we ran through ‘da hood’ over to McKinney and Turtle Creek, then through everybody’s personal favorite, Highland Park, aka The Bubble– scene of many hassles in the past from the HP police because they demanded we run on the sidewalks, not the street, stalking us in their police SUV’s, and generally looking and acting like they didn’t have enough to keep them busy other than hassling predawn runners. (I only mention this because their behavior really was quite ridiculous.)
I needed a good run and I got it. Genevieve, Bill, and Heather really kept me going. I celebrated with an ice cold 9AM beer afterwards–a first for me.
For the rest of Saturday I was pretty much wiped out. I tried to nap but, as usual, it just didn’t happen. Later that night, as I rolled over in bed, I was aware that my quads were sore. Really sore. Like I-just-ran-a-race sore. This surprised me since we had purposely kept the pace very conservative. Sunday I hobbled around and realized my week off did have some repercussions, and my sore quads were the small price I paid. I used it as a good excuse to spend the day lounging on the couch with my Kindle.
The tendonitis, however, is gone. I only wish I had spent my Short Vacation from Running someplace a little more scenic, a little more beachy, and a lot less hot.
Stats: 15 miles @ 9:56 pace – 84 degrees and humid at the start
The Most Walk Breaks Ever
8/20/11 – 14 MILES
Today’s 14 miler has the honor of being the known as The Most I’ve Ever Walked in a Long Run.
When I left the house at 5:45AM, the thermometer in the car said it was 91 degrees. I had already resolved the afternoon before that I wasn’t going to think about the run beforehand, I was going to set the alarm, get up and get ready, and just get out there and do it. That’s all fine and good until you actually get out there and . . . can’t do it.
My heart and mind just weren’t into the run. I posted, quite seriously, last week about the possibility of going insane from the heat. It isn’t even the heat, per se, it’s more the knowing that there’s no end in sight, that the mornings really don’t cool down at all, and that we could possibly still have weeks and weeks of these extreme temperatures. Obviously, this summer’s lesson for me is to accept what I can’t change.
It doesn’t mean I have to like it.
We ran the entire length of the Santa Fe Trail. It was shadier than I thought it would be, and it seemed to be all uphill (I think it wasn’t). We arrived at the water stop that Bill had set up with cold water and Gatorade only to discover that someone had stolen the large water jug. Major bummer, but I guess that’s part of living in the big city. It made the next water stop’s cold water that much better.
Even though I’ve been trying to follow the 10% rule and not ramp up too quickly, I’ve been plagued with shin splints and some minor tendonitis in one ankle these past few weeks. It made the first 4 miles of today’s run uncomfortable and my legs never seemed to warm up. As if the heat wasn’t enough . . .
I’ve been trying to see the glass half full, but I’m struggling.
We walked. A lot. We walked the most I’ve ever walked in a long run. All of the walking only prolonged our run, of course, and it wasn’t long before the blazing sun made its appearance over the horizon and made the run that much more difficult. One thing I have learned to accept this summer is walk breaks when it’s this hot, but today was extreme. Just like the temperature.
Thank goodness for good friends to help you make it to the end of a run like today. I know it will get better, but gosh, I hope it gets better soon.
Stats: 14 miles @ 9:42 pace – 90 degrees at 6AM
Going Insane from the Heat
8/16/11 – 6 MILES
Got up at 4AM for yesterday’s run. I looked for an excuse to bail on my friends. Got up anyway and let the dogs out. Not happy. It was muggy and hot.
Met Bill, Bryan, Shannon, Heather W, and Steph at the dog park at 5AM. Shannon said her car showed 88 degrees. I was extremely grumpy.
The run was uneventful but slightly out of my comfort zone, a true tempo run for this time of year when I struggle to keep my pace in the heat. There was no breeze and everyone was very quiet. Talking about our misery just makes it worse.
On the positive side, saw a beautiful sunrise when I walked the dogs at 6:30AM.
Stats: 6 miles @ 9:34 pace – 88 degrees at 5AM; 2 mile walk with the dogs
8/27/11 – 4.23 MILES
Set the alarm for 6AM to get up and run 4 miles on my own. Hit the snooze twice then gave up.
I just didn’t feel like getting up to run in the heat.
Woke up two hours later feeling guilty, knowing I would have to run in the evening when it was even warmer.
The heat is definitely getting to me. Today I schlepped around the house not feeling like doing anything. To say I’m tired of the summer is a gross understatement. The hardest part is that there is no break. The heat is grinding me down, day after day, unrelentingly. I truly feel as if I could go insane from this heat.
Talked Michael into running with me in the dark. It was still hot.
Stats: 4.23 miles @ 9:23 pace – 99 degrees at 8:15PM
Another Long, Hot Run
8/6/11 – 12 MILES
What can I say that I haven’t already said all summer long? It’s hot. Really hot.
It was very humid when we met at 6am at Fuzzy’s. Bill had stomach issues and decided not to run, but Heather V. was there for her longest run since February and her first run with the group since her marriage. I heard Jose also had stomach issues and Genevieve turned around somewhere after 3 miles and went home. I had to use my inhaler before the run, as did Teel. The point here is that the extreme heat, coupled with no wind, is creating a lot of pollution and pollen, and it’s making us all sick.
We mostly stuck to running at the lake, which was great because of the water fountains. There was one small section when the sun came up and it was less humid, and there was a nice, cool breeze blowing off the lake.
I used the new small Nathan water bottle with a hand strap that I bought yesterday. I debated long and hard if I wanted to run 12 miles holding water in my hand, especially when we were running at the lake where the water is plentiful, but it wasn’t too bad. I kept the bottle mostly empty at the lake and filled it up before we ran back into the hills. I think I’ll use if for shorter runs in the future and strap on the hated fuel belt for the longer runs.
We ran 7 mi around the lake, and the sun started to get very hot and intense. The last 3 miles were the toughest for everyone in my group. It was all uphill back to Fuzzy’s, and we had the pleasure of running up three of our old friends, Tokalon, Sperry, and Anita.
For some reason my heat addled brain didn’t realize when we turned onto Hillside we were only about a quarter of a mile from Fuzzy’s. Turning the corner and seeing the finish right there, when I was expecting to have to run another three quarters of a mile, was the sweetest finish in a long time.
All in all a good run, but it was hot. Again.
Today’s Favorite Quote: “It’s only 12 miles. I can do anything for 12 miles.” – Teel, when I asked her how she could hold her huge bottle of water for 12 miles
Stats: Run – 12 miles @ 9:39 pace – 89 degrees
Warming Up and Hitting My Stride
When I first started running it was all I could do to make it through one mile. It was tough, but like most new endeavors, I threw myself into running with fervor and enthusiasm. I quickly built up to two miles, but it took me awhile to figure out pacing. Finally, the day came when I could run three miles and not feel like I was going to die.
That doesn’t mean it felt good. Six years later, the first three miles are still tough.
It took me a long time to figure this out. The midweek three and four milers always seemed so much tougher than my Saturday long runs. I quickly knew I was a true long distance runner because I always enjoyed my long runs more than my shorter midweek runs. Once I got past the first three miles I was good to go. I remember many six mile runs at the lake when I thought I would have to walk back to the car at the turn-around, only to get a second wind around mile five and feel like I could run the whole lake.
Now that I’ve been running for almost six years I’ve noticed it takes me even longer to hit my stride. The first three miles are still not pleasant, but it isn’t until after the first six miles that my running starts to feel smooth and effortless. I noticed this the first time when I ran an easy five miles before a 15K race. I was surprised at how great I felt after the first mile of the race (which was really six total miles into the run). I ran fast, too, and placed in my age group that day. It’s happened to me several times since, and I’m always amazed at how fast I can run after already putting in five or six miles before a race.
I know elites and competitive runners tend to do a slow warm-up run before a race, and this is comparable, but I’ve always suspected there was more to it than that. I finally came across what I think is an explanation.
In his book The Marathon Method, Tom Holland writes about getting new runners to the point where running is enjoyable, and isn’t such hard work. He says most people who start running quit when they get up to two or three miles because they never reach that point of ease that I wrote of earlier. He calls this “the ‘cardiovascular turning point,’ or CTP, a physiological state that occurs after running for a certain amount of time during each workout.” Just like I’ve experienced, he says most people reach this point after thirty or forty minutes of running, which generally equates to about three miles. He also says this:
Over time the CTP is pushed back. In other words, after you become accustomed to running long distances, namely two hours or more, your body seems to “need” to go farther and you will experience the CTP at fifty minutes, an hour, or longer. This doesn’t mean that you are in discomfort until that point. It seems that once you have greatly increased your endurance, the human body almost wants to be challenged further and the CTP is pushed back.
This makes perfect sense to me. Even though it is somewhat irritating that I have to run six miles before my running becomes more flowing and effortless, now I know it isn’t merely my head telling me those first three miles or so are hard work. They really are. But after that, when I hit my stride and find that place where I feel like I can run forever, it makes it all worth it.
8/4/11 – 4 MILES
Setting the alarm for 4:45AM to get up and run makes me grumpy. Especially when the reason for getting up at such an unholy hour is to stay out of the heat, knowing that it’s still going to be close to 90 degrees at 5:30AM. And not going to sleep until midnight doesn’t help either.
Complaining about the heat this summer is starting to lose its appeal. This has been going on since the first week of May. I know I need to be strong and resilient, and not think about it, and just run. But really. This. Is. Ridiculous.
Met Bill, Nikki, Dawn, and Giovanni at the Comerica bank on Mockingbird/Abrams at 5:30AM and ran two miles down Alderson and Swiss to Skillman. Along the way we saw a dog running towards us off leash. As it got closer we realized it was a coyote! In the middle of my neighborhood! In the middle of the city! I’ve seen–and heard–them down at the lake several times and have to wonder if they are coming up from the lake to hunt in the neighboring streets at night for small game.
It was another tough run, mostly because of the humidity. It was like trying to breathe through a straw. We powered through. Running up the last block of Swiss felt like running up Flagpole Hill.
Personal realization: I carried my water bottle with the hand strap and have decided I hate the weight. I’ll look dorky and wear a fuel belt in the future.
Got home and walked both dogs 2.5 miles–and Michael slept through it all. But then he went to work–and I didn’t.
Stats: Run – 4 miles @ 9:46 pace, Walk – 2.5 miles
When Humid 88 Degree Heat Feels Like Spring
8/2/11 – 6 MILES
Got my lazy butt out of bed early this morning so I could get in my 6 mile run before the supposed Hottest Day of the Year began. Yesterday’s temperature of 107 broke the record, and today the high is expected to be 108-110. I knew that running in the evening wasn’t an option, and the Tuesday night DRC run was officially cancelled because of the heat, so it was either get up and run early or hit the treadmill at the gym later in the day.
Treadmill = shoot me now.
So that means I’m getting up at 6AM. It was actually a good run. After weeks of evening runs at 101-103 degrees, the early morning humid 88 degree weather really did feel like spring. At first there weren’t a lot of other people running in my neighborhood, but once the sun came up people started appearing like humans submerging from their homes in a zombie movie.
I still have a slight nagging soreness in my left quad (from yoga, I think) and the usual tendonitis in my left inner ankle that pops up when I start upping my mileage. Other than that, it was nice to run in the early hours of the neighborhood for a change.
Stats: 6.11 miles @ 9:34 pace – 89 degrees at the finish