Including training for races. I run outside all year long and have become a bit of a weather junkie. I have a bunch of different weather apps on my phone. The week before a race, I check them frequently, as if I have any control over race day conditions. Weather.com knew what they were doing when they developed an app just for us "outdoor activity enthusiasts". OutSider, available only for iPhone, uses RunWeather technology developed by the scientists at Weather.com. The app, which is programmable, analyzes your local conditions to predict your exertion level. There are also other features that are similar to any other running app. But for a weather fanatic like myself, this is a fun, great app. But even having all this information in the palm of my hand doesn't give me any control over the conditions on race day! And no matter how much planning a runner can do for extreme race day conditions, you still have to show up and do the work.
A few years ago, I made a plan to run a spring 10 miler, the CARA 10 miler. The kick off to race season, this race is put on by our local running association, and it is a great race, with a fun after party. April weather in Chicago is a dicey proposition. The morning of the race, the temperature was 40 degrees and it was raining. Pouring rain. I like to run in the rain as much as the next person, but for 10 miles? Along the windy, Chicago lakefront? It was miserable, but I do run well in cool conditions, and I finished in 1:29 and skipped the post race festivities, heading home. The entire ride home, which took about an hour, I had the heat blasting in my car. I couldn't feel my fingers and toes. I think it took me 2 weeks to warm back up after that.
|CARA 10 miler, 2011. Looking really cold.|
I ran a half marathon that summer in Madison, Wisconsin, where the start was delayed by 1 1/2 hours due to a thunderstorm. When we were finally allowed to start, it was still pouring rain. We ran down State Street, and up towards the State Capitol building, dodging puddles the entire time. Eventually, the rain stopped, the sun came out, but my shoes and clothing were soaked for the entire race. And because of the late start, my fueling got completely thrown off. Somehow, I managed a sub 2 hour finish on that one! But can you say chafing? Wet clothes + 13.1 miles = extreme chafing....
|Madison Mini Marathon, 2011. Start delayed by 1.5h due to t-storm. Look at how wet my shorts are. And those safety pins left rust stains on my top. And so happy to be done.|
That fall, I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon, my first ever marathon. Extremely nervous, I headed to the start line. The temperature was already 70 degrees. As well prepared as I was for this race, knowing that I don't do well in the heat, my nerves got the best of me. By mile 14, I was cramping. The temperature was in the 80s. At mile 18, in tears, I called my husband to come and get me. Of course, he refused. I ended up walking the majority of the last 6 miles. I was so disappointed.
|Chicago Marathon, 2011. Always smile for the camera, no matter how bad you feel. This is at mile 23.|
Can I blame my poor performance on the bad weather? Maybe. While I was writing this post, I found it interesting that many of my "extreme" racing conditions occurred in 2011. Some years are like that.
Can you stand one more bad race condition story? Last spring, I ran a half marathon in Florida. This was after our polar vortex winter. I ran outside all winter in extreme cold and snow. The day of my half was 75 degrees and 90% humidity. There was no way for me to train for this, and I paid the price. It was a tough race. I did a lot more walking than I like. But I crossed the finish line. This time I had no one to blame but Mother Nature. Even the local runners were complaining about the conditions, which were extreme for March.
|Florida Halfathon, Fort De Soto State Park, March 2014|
We runners control for so many factors-our fuel, our pace, our clothing, but the one thing we have no control over is the weather. How do you train for such unpredictable weather conditions? Is it possible? Is it mental? And if I had to choose, I don't know which is worse-extreme cold, pouring rain, high humidity, or heat. I've run in them all. There's just no predicting the weather. I still sign up, knowing that the weather conditions are merely a roll of the dice, and hope for the best. No matter what, I show up. Because a DNS due to weather is just not acceptable for this runner.
Can I overcome my inability to run in extreme conditions? Especially the heat? I'd love to pull off consistent finish times, no matter what the conditions. It's a goal for 2015. Stay tuned.