async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Trying to outrun Mother Nature

Monday, November 17, 2014

Trying to outrun Mother Nature


As a lifelong Chicagoan, I believe that maybe, just maybe, we are subject to some of the most extreme weather conditions in the US. Our temperature extremes go from 100F and 90% humidity in the summer to -20F and deep snow in the winter. We have a motto here: if you don't like the weather, wait because it will change. The possibility exists that you might experience all 4 seasons in one day! There's no rhyme or reason to our weather. This past summer, for example, our average high was below normal. For me, training for the Chicago marathon, the weather was perfect! But for heat seeking Chicagoans, it was kind of cool. We can have warm winters, too, with minimal snow. Or we can have a polar vortex, like we did last winter, with over 70 inches of snow and extremely cold temperatures. Makes life interesting, and difficult to plan for anything.

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.





Tuesdays on the Run

28 comments :

  1. I tried to run last year outside, but the cold literally makes my hands and feet hurt, so I was stuck inside more of the winter than I'd care to admit. If this winter shapes up to be the same as last year, I'll be indoors yet again. BRRRRR

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    1. Not me...I'll head outside as much as I can. I need the fresh air and natural light to keep away the blues. I'm not saying I enjoy it!

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  2. I'll still take cold over heat. Any. Day. What I don't get is when there is extreme lightning and they don't stop the race. This has happened to me twice and it's scary. One I almost turned around, the other was at mile 10 of a half and I had to run it in. I guess the waiver we sign protects the race organizer??

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    1. I'm with you about running in the heat. Ugh. I've never run in a race with lightning...that Madison mini was delayed because of it. Why would the race organizer risk hurting a runner?

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  3. Wow, I can't imagine having a race delayed like that! That must be so tough mentally to overcome, not to mention the rain! It is really hard when Mother Nature makes her own decisions. I guess you can try to train in different weather conditions, if possible...and try to take what you get!

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    1. It was tough, mentally, having a delayed start like that. But it is scary running when there is lightning!

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  4. I obsessively check the weather before a race. In fact, I'm doing it now for Route 66. I ran 6 hot weather H/M this year, thinking I could somehow change my summer performance from horrible to respectable. Didn't happen. Cold over heat any day. I've only run one half in the pouring rain. My shoes ate my socks and I developed ankle blisters. All races have something to teach you!

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    1. I'm still learning how to pace myself in the heat! You'd think I have it figured out by now...

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  5. I did the 2011 Chicago Marathon too. It wasn't just you. I had trained in the summer heat in Atlanta and still the heat got to me. By Mile 12 I was hyperventilating and seriously worried that I wouldn't be able to finish. That was my first marathon too!

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    1. That was a rough one, for sure! Grateful that this year's marathon wasn't hot at all!

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  6. Wow. My comment just got totally deleted. Okay, so this post reminded me to look up Stabilicers which I would never have known about had it not been for an earlier post of yours! The crazy weather conditions are damn hard to prepare for, aren't they? Good grief. I also did not know about this special weather app; I am going to download it immediately because I am a huge weather freak, too! I can totally relate! Thank you so much for talking about this topic; I have a feeling we're in for an interesting winter. Ugh.

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  7. Believe it or not, I've never had a race in bad weather. I've done one with snow flurries but that's about it!

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  8. Surprising enough I have been pretty consistent with all my races I have run no matter what the weather conditions have been. Even though some of them were not ideal. -L

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  9. I have THREE weather apps on my phone and I'm obsessively checking them the week before a race too! If I don't like what one has to say, I switch to another. My biggest challenge is running when the temps are below 50 because, as a Floridian, I just don't know how to dress for running in the cold. I don't even own a pair of running tights or a long sleeved running shirt (I just use compression socks and arm sleeves if it's chilly). Thanks for linking up with us!

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  10. I can totally feel your pain on this. Last year I trained all winter in nasty sub-zero temps in NH for Boston and then on race day it was 85. I thought I might melt. I think I need to learn more about how to adjust my nutrition and hydration to deal with the weather shifts

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    1. I don't know if it's possible! After running that Florida Half last March, I realized that acclimation to the heat is probably the most important factor. And there was no way to do it after last winter.

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  11. I have a very difficult time racing in warm temps (anything 65 degrees and warmer). I will take running a race in frigid weather any day! My worst race ever was the 2012 Lululemon Seawheeze half-marathon in Vancouver, BC. Vancouver has a very mild climate and in August the average high is only in the mid-60s. On race day, it was about 60 at the 7:30 a.m. start and just got warmer from there. I was a MESS by the time I hit Mile 9 and kept pouring water on myself for the remainder of the race. It was terrible!

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    1. The heat is much tougher than cool temps, for sure! I would love to be able to tolerate the heat!

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  12. So I don't like running in the sticky Chicago heat-- I can't do it-- my performance is terrible and I can't do the dead of winter... I love the fall and the spring-- but don't like the rain unless it's warm enough-- I guess it's a good thing I have a treadmill in my basement to get me through the long dark winter.

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    1. I try to tough it out no matter what the conditions...I just hate running on the treadmill. But I will if I have to!

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  13. ahhhh freaking weather, it feels like it's less dependable in recent years. Bizarre hot days and cold days. I have been pretty lucky with race days to only have one really cold and one rainy, sure lots of hot but I can mange those just no PR.

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    1. I agree...the weather has been crazy the last couple of years. You just have to roll with it...

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  14. Virginia doesn't get quite as cold as you guys do, but man, was last year cold! My first hot race after the polar vortex killed me because I was just not ready for the heat. And then, of course, VA was it's usual ridiculously hot self this past summer.

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    1. I'd take that if I knew winter wouldn't be so bad. I cannot believe how we are starting out already...

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