No the cold hasn’t gone to my head, and no I have not found some new radical self heating running outfit or some new Zen running technique where you think your way to warm when it is so cold the rubber on your shoes are cracking. I was fortunate enough to escape the snow and cold for a bit by heading off to the Caribbean.
For the past few years I’ve regaled you with whining examples of the tortured long distance runner slogging through the cold weather in heroic style. But after the last blog I figured it was time to report the other side….what it’s like when fewer clothes are better, sunscreen is mandatory and a run without water is an invitation to a death march.
First day out is always the toughest. You would think the body would respond well to going from 20 degrees to 80 degrees. Certainly when I was sitting on the beach soaking up the sun, sipping a cold drink and watching the sun set, the weather seemed perfect. And it was perfect the next day when I headed out for a run with as few clothes on as I could wear and avoid being arrested. By the time I reached the first mile it was clear I was overdressed. It turns out that over 65 degrees most people start to build up heat faster than the body can dissipate it. …even without clothes. By 2 miles I was soaked in sweat and thinking a float in the ocean would be a lot more fun. The body responds to the heat by sweating and by moving more blood flow to the skin to move the heated blood out to the cooler skin (much like a furnace sending hot water around a house).
By 3 miles I was a soggy, red faced, wild eyed tourist that was scaring the locals. Even the local dogs (called Potcakes) were giving me a wide berth. This is about the time that the body can start shutting down if you haven’t been replacing fluids and pacing yourself to lower the effort. The blood flow is moving to the skin and away from the vital organs and is robbing the muscles of the critical oxygen you need. I use to do pretty well in the warmer weather but after a particularly bad marathon where I suffered from significant dehydration I’ve struggled with hot weather. It doesn’t help that the body wants a few days to acclimatize and 24 hours before I had been running in temperatures that were 60 degrees colder.
When I got to 4 miles I decided I had run 8 and headed for the beach. It was easy to rationalize it was 8 miles because at this point I was bordering on delusional. The core body temperature at this point is racing towards critical and the speed it arrives there is a function of the outside temperature, the humidity, the speed of the runner, the clothes they are wearing and their fluid situation. The body’s fluid level is determining the ability to lower the body temperature and move waste from the muscles. Unless the fluids are regularly being replaced it’s like having a leak in your car radiator. At some point the car overheats and the engine seizes up. The spiral down is rapid….kidneys shut down, the body stops sweating, the brain stops getting enough oxygen, and core temperature rises to a level where you cook from the inside out.
While I never got to the point where I was seeing mirages, it was a huge relief to jump in the ocean and down a bottle of water.
Right about now if I was reading this I’d be saying something like “Oh…poor baby! He escapes from 10 degree weather and 3 feet of snow to a tropical island and 80+ degrees and he is moaning about running in the heat.”. Guilt as charged! Whining is one of the less attractive aspects of my marathon training. Pam has learned to ignore me, feel free to do the same.
If it is any consolation, since we came home the temperature has been less than 12 degrees on my runs.