Custom Search

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Old Man River: an 80-degree long run

I had been hoping that the forecast for Saturday's race would change as the week wore on, and it did - for the worse. By Friday, the projection was 79 degrees and humidity in the 80's and 90's. And Saturday morning was marginally worse - temperatures on the Westbank touched 80F, and the humidity at the start of the race was 98% (it dropped to 84% by the finish). Conditions couldn't have been much worse: the roads were slick and greasy, the levees warm and windy, and the sun annoyingly couldn't even stay behind a storm cloud.

David and I got to the start in plenty of time. The bathroom lines were a little slow, but I got in a half-mile warmup and took a gel with water at the start (it was 8:00 am and I hadn't eaten breakfast, so I thought that might keep me fueled until I took my planned gel on course). I'd ditched my singlet, opting to run this one in a sports bra. It was unbearably muggy, and despite our warm fall, I'm fully acclimated to 60's and below for running weather.
At the start. It was so humid that the ground looked wet: it hadn't rained, but it was damp
enough for the oil on the road to rise to the surface, making the portion on the road slippery. 

When the gun went off, at first I didn't feel too bad. I was immediately in a small "chase pack" off the large group of Louisiana Distance Project runners. I'm nowhere near as fast as they are, so I hung back and ran the 7:10's that I figured my  heat-modified pace would be. Before the weather changed, I had thought a 1:32 would be very doable, given my sort-of recent 3:12 marathon and very comfortable recent long runs. Adjusting for the weather, that gave me more like 1:34 or 1:35. But I didn't adjust enough. Despite the overcast start, the sun was lurking, and it popped out nice and strong, cooking the top of my head. I was definitely working too hard, and by mile three salt spray from my own sweat - blown by the gusty wind onto my sunglasses - was obscuring my vision. At mile five I passed a very fast local runner. "Can't do it," she gasped. "This was supposed to be a marathon-paced workout for me. But it's just too hot. I'm dying." She explained that she'd finish her long run, but at easy pace, now - any speed was too risky. I was feeling the same way. We got up on the levee at mile six, ready for seven miles of unsheltered sun and wind, and I felt terrible.

By the time I got to mile seven, warning bells were clanging in my head. My skin felt tingly, my head throbbed, and I had stopped sweating. The race had planned for three water stops, which you passed twice to make six stops, but I was having trouble hydrating. I was ready to quit. I stepped off the course and saw my fast friend approaching behind me. I waited for her, and she stopped, too. We discussed dropping out, but finally decided to finish the race at a slow, easy pace. We cautiously continued, stopping for several cups of water per stop, occasionally being joined by another runner, who sometimes dropped back for walk breaks. Basically, it sucked. I can't believe that I was doing long runs and even tempos in much higher temperatures this summer! How quickly we forget!

We turned around on the levee at about mile ten, giving us the last few miles with a tough headwind. But it felt so much better than the tailwind, just because it was so cooling. At mile 12, my friend dropped back - by now she was cramping and really suffering.  I dragged my butt across the line in the 1:42 range (so sad that I don't even know!) and kept running to get 16 total for the day.

This was a truly dreadful race, and a dreadful day to race. Lots of runners dropped out, and the ones who didn't posted horrible times. The winner ran 1:32, while my friend Kristin, who runs a 2:49 marathon, was second in 1:35:xx. ONE-THIRTY-FIVE. I can't believe that! The worst part is that, even though I ran very slowly, I still feel like crap now. Usually a slow race at least means a fast recovery, but the heat and sun gave me a booming headache, and I also got a pesky sunburn. My muscles feel good, but I still feel overheated.
Age-group awards I didn't stay for
Also bad? I didn't realize that the top three overall received prize money in this race. Now, there is not guarantee that I could have actually hit the time needed for third, but I think it was 1:39?! Definitely within the realm of possibility if I hadn't chosen to jog it out instead. Serves me right for not reading the website - although, the truth is, I didn't know my place in this race; so many runners dropped out that I thought I wasn't even top ten, and I think I was 4th or 5th (we didn't stay for awards and there was confusion about the finish list, so I am not sure). Anyway, it's totally counting hypothetical chickens that already hatched in someone else's coop, but yeah, I missed out on potential prize money. I also missed out on my age-group award: by the time results were sorted, I was desperate for shade and a shower, so we left!

Up next? Who knows! I really need a good race, so  might just pop into a local 5k or something some weekend. I just want to run fast for once!


  1. Ugh, those conditions sound downright awful. I can't believe it's that warm in December. Yuck! Running in heat and humidity is so taxing. At least you weren't an outlier in feeling so awful, though.

  2. This race was horrible. I thought I saw you on the levee, yep it was you. With the forecast, at least we both knew what we were in for. We finished it ! Kudos to us !