Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Running in Austin: Part 1

It's that time of year again in Austin, TX.  Day time highs above 100F (yes, that is hotter than body temperature...), overnight lows between 73 and 78F and temperatures hovering in the 90s long after 10pm.  While morning temps in the mid 70s may not seem terrible, the humidity averages 90% at that time of day.  In summary, Austin summer weather is nothing short of unbearable for outdoor running.

Despite that, I try to make the best of it, getting up bright and early to run in the "cooler" morning temps.  My paces are slower and I feel like I'm running through a wall of humidity.  The sweating starts almost immediately and somewhere between 10 and 12 minutes in, my body is literally coated in sweat.  In my desperate attempts to keep myself cool, I am wearing very little clothing and have nothing with which to wipe sweat from my eyes, ears, forehead, shoulders etc etc.  I let it pool all over me and just go with it.  Lawn sprinklers are a welcome sight and offer a brief moment of reprieve.  When I finish, all the sweating leaves my core body temperature dangerously high, which can be alleviated pretty efficiently with a 10 minutes cold shower.  I follow this up with massive quantities of cold water, and it usually takes me the entire day to properly rehydrate.

Thirst on the run has been a major issue lately.  I have been trying to do longer runs in the range of 10 miles.  In cooler weather, I can easily run 16 miles without any water, but the summer heat has made that impossible.  I finish 7 mile runs totally parched and can recognize that the lack of water on the run is impacting my performance.  I finally caved in and got a hydration pack (actually boyfriend bought it for me as a birthday present!).  I got the Nathan 2-speed waist pack.  As a minimalist runner who hates taking "stuff" with them, the idea of a handheld was not appealing and the Nathan waist packs are not supposed to bounce.  I am hoping these extra 20oz can help me build up to the 14 mile range through the summer months.

On Sunday, I made the fatal mistake of sleeping in.  Sadly, I was very tired and had also gotten up early on Saturday morning to run.  I silenced my alarm and didn't get up until after 9:30pm, far too late to brave the morning heat.  This left me no choice but to run in the evening.  As previously described, evening temps stay in the 90F range up until about 10pm, so I decided that I would make the best of it and run at 8pm, a half hour before the sun went down.  I am babysitting my friend's dog Ike, who loves to run, so I took him along.  Ike is an incredible runner and has a lot of endurance, so I was surprised when both of us were lagging about 45 minutes into the hour run.  At our last intersection, Ike even lay down on the ground, something I never see him do, indicating he was hot, exhausted and running on empty.  We slogged through the last 5 minutes and celebrated with  frosty glasses of water.  The worst part was that, even though I had my new hydration pack, I elected NOT TO BRING IT WITH ME!  A 7 mile run is a standard distance for me, and I convinced myself I wouldn't need it and should wait to use the pack for longer runs.  A mere 3.5 miles into the run, I desperately regretted my decision.

So what have I learned with all these hot weather running?
1) The weather isn't going to get better for awhile.  Don't wait for ideal conditions, just motivate yourself and go out and do it
2) Running in the morning is almost always better than the evening.  Unless there is a massive rain storm and you happen to synchronize your run with the rain
3) Hydration makes a big difference.  Drink drink drink leading up to the run
4) Even dogs hate hot weather running.

When I finally use my new hydration pack, I will write a review with my thoughts about it.  In the meantime, stay cool and run long!


  1. Indeed, it's better to run slow - and to survive - than to not run at all! I've also found mornings to be the best choice at this time of year. Occasionally my schedule dictated running near noon, which turned out not to be as bad as I'd feared provided I ran in a heavily shaded running trail.

    Regarding running with a dog a lot of people don't realize that they can only release heat via panting across their wet tongue - a far worse heat exchange mechanism than the myriad sweat glands and lack of fur that we're blessed with. So, with a dog on a hot day be sure to slow down a ton more than you'd think, and let the dog drink frequently (even carrying for them if your trail doesn't have fountains).

    I agree with your boyfriend's water belt pick, though think you're a bit stingy in only carrying 20 Oz. for an intended seven mile run (my losses are ~8 Oz. per mile - though everyone's different). If you're losing more than 2% of your initial body weight then you're definitely on the verge of performance affecting dehydration!

  2. Yeah hydration is a must for summer long runs. I need about 1L per hour, although some deficit can be incurred at cost to recovery. I would be happy to recommend some gear if you feel you need it.