Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Calling All Experts: How Could This Run Have Gone Differently?

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I know I need to let it go, but I can't stop ruminating on Sunday's long run. It's not the first time the heat has taken a toll on me and with an upcoming half marathon at the end of July, I'm very determined to figure out what I could do differently. I ran this race last year and the conditions were very similar to what I ran in yesterday. I finished but it was a struggle, both physically and mentally. I've since embraced run/walk intervals, which I used yesterday, but even that wasn't enough for me.

I've always had a tough time running in the heat and humidity. Although I've run multiple half marathons in Florida, I've never come close to finishing like I do here in Chicago. Last February's Mercedes Half in Alabama was one of the most humbling experiences I've ever had as I finished with a personal worst.

So here's my request: I'm going to share the details of my morning pre-run routine and what went on during the run. We've got a lot of experts out there, so I'd be so grateful to those of you who do well in the heat if you'd share your advice. Southern runners, especially y'all, I want to hear how you run in these conditions pretty much all year. Tell me what I could do differently. How can I acclimate to these summer conditions? Is it possible?

I also want to know if there's really nothing I can do. Is it me? Do I just need to accept that summer running is tough and slow down to a walk?

Don't hold back. I can take it.



Saturday night: We had chicken caesar salad for dinner. I had 2 glasses of chardonnay but made sure to hydrate with plenty of water while we watched Narcos. I was in bed by 9.

Sunday morning: I woke up around 6. Knowing that I was heading out into temperatures already near 80 with humidity to match, I contemplated my options. Skip the run? Cut my miles short? Go for a bike ride? Or get up and go?

I finally got myself out of bed and made myself some coffee with GLG Collagen Hydrolysate and half and half. I checked in on all my social media accounts, finished my coffee, and got ready to run. I drank a couple glasses of water and was out the door by 7.

The sweltering conditions greeted me as soon as I walked out the door. I started off slowly at a 9:15 m/m pace. I considered that might even be too fast for the conditions but knowing that I had walk intervals coming up every 4 minutes, I thought I'd be ok.

The first 2 miles felt good. There was a light breeze that kept me fairly cool. I stopped at mile 2 to drink water from the fountain. I saw my neighbor, a former Ironman. He was just back from running Ragnar Steamboat and we chatted about that briefly before he headed back towards home. I marveled at how the heat didn't seem to faze him at all.

Meanwhile, I was starting to feel it. I thought about turning around and going home. Then I thought about the chance that my upcoming half marathon conditions could possibly be like this. I needed this run! That thought made me press on.

I continued to make my way down the path. This part of the path is in full sun and I started to feel it. I took a detour through the neighborhood that borders the path and ran on the shady sidewalk. I rejoined the path at the tunnel that goes under the road. Mile 3 and a walk break. Again I contemplated turning around.


Instead, I decided to take a gel. Instead of my usual Tailwind, I brought a couple of the SIS gels that I received from RnR. The company claims that you don't need to take water with them. The consistency isn't as thick as GU, but it still felt like a gel going down. My watch buzzed and I started to run again. I knew there was another fountain coming up and I stopped to drink again.

This time I made up my mind. Once I hit 4 miles, I'd turn around. As much as I wanted to do 10, I was starting to worry that I might not be able to get home. I started to run again. Mile 4 came at the bottom of a hill. Could I go another mile? Could I run another 5 after that?

I walked a bit longer this time. I stopped to snap some pictures by the pond at the bottom of the hill. The mosquitoes were starting to feast on me, so I turned around and I began to run again, heading back towards home. There would be no 10 miler today but I would be happy with 8.

I couldn't run all the way up the hill, so I stopped to walk. Once I crested the hill, I began to run again. Slowly. After this point, I couldn't complete my intervals, needing to walk much more often than every 4 minutes.

At mile 5 I took another gel and drank more water. I entertained thoughts about calling my husband to pick me up. Mentally, I needed to finish this run, so I let those thoughts go and just kept going. I started playing cat and mouse with some of the walkers on the path. I tried not to let that mess with my mojo. I knew I could walk the last 3 miles home if I couldn't run anymore. But did I want to?


After the gel, I got a small burst of energy and ran a full 4 minute interval. It helped that I was running on the shady part of the path. Once I passed back through the tunnel, it was back to full sun and that mini-burst of energy was gone. I stopped at the fountain and drank water again. I shuffled my way towards home. I saw other runners out there and while they looked miserable, they were running.

Finally, mile 8 buzzed on my watch. I hit stop on the watch and put my hands on my knees to catch my breath. When I stood back up, I felt a little woozy.  I started to walk the last 1/4 mile towards home. As soon as I walked in the door, I grabbed a bottle of water, chugged it, and laid down on the floor under the fan. A little while later, I went to the bathroom and (TMI) my urine was very dark. I knew then what I already suspected, that I was very dehydrated. I spent the rest of the day inside the AC, drinking plenty of water.

Ok, so I know I was dehydrated. Should I have drunk more water before I went out? While the SIS gels didn't bother my stomach at all, I think on days like this I should carry Tailwind in my handheld bottle. What other suggestions do you have? Thanks in advance!

I'm linking up with Marcia, Erika, and Patti for Tuesdays on the Run and Debbie, Marc, Lora, and Rachel for Running Coaches' Corner.



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65 comments :

  1. Salty sweaters (like me and sounds like you too) fare the worst in those conditions. When I have a hot/humid run coming up the hydration/salt process starts BEFORE the night before dinner. I'll start a couple days before the run. I also change what I drink to something with a higher salt content (SOS Rehydrate). In races I'll bring a salt packet just in case.
    Yes, hydrate more but not straight up water.
    Yes, back off pace. I think it was the electrolyte imbalance you were feeling.

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    1. I will go back to Tailwind, which is quite salty. I wonder if there is a "preworkout" drink with electrolytes but no sugar? What about eating salty foods?

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  2. Hydrate more in advance and drink something with electrolytes while you are running. Also, start slower or walk more at the beginning. Also, we are still at the beginning of the hot and humid season. Your body is still adapting. I try to run short runs in the hottest part of the day at the beginning of summer to help my body get used to the weather. And sometimes it just sucks and you end up walking the last two miles of a 15 mile run despite doing everything right. (Not that I'd know anything about that LOL...)

    -MCM Mama

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    1. It did suck but all these hot long runs suck. It's why I get out there--it's my best attempt at acclimation.

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  3. If I knew the answer to this million dollar question, I'd sure share it with you! I have lived in heat and humidity my entire life and have yet to acclimate to it. Every summer my paces slow down significantly and just cannot run long.. which is why I rarely ever sign up for a race before November. However, I will say that I have noticed that since I've reached and gone through menopause, I seem to have even more problems running in the heat/humidity. It's like my body has lost it's ability to cool itself ..I get overheated quickly, heart rate rises and often times just feel lightheaded and nauseated. I don't know if it's medically proven or not ...but I'm blaming menopause because it seems to be the cause of all of my other problems too!! Lol

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    1. YES! I'm thinking that my lack of heat tolerance has to do with menopause. Not that I've ever been heat tolerant but it's just so much worse.

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  4. I have an 18 ounce handheld bottle that I fill with Tailwind and carry it with me - and on a 5 mile run in the heat and humidity that is my personal hell living in Texas, I drink the entire bottle. You probably need to sip some Tailwind during every walking interval. Plus, back off the pace. It's just hard to run in those conditions!

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    1. I normally do Tailwind but I wanted to try the SIS. I will go back. Yes, I think I need to slow down even more. sigh.

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  5. I've read that women struggle with heat more than men ---> thanks to hormones, and we offload the heat less quickly. I know I struggled more than my husband, but after a while it would get easier.

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  6. Two ideas: Caesar salad can be a sodium load, plus the wine also dehydrates (yes, I know you hydrated but it's still going to affect you). So lower sodium the night before might help.

    Second, run earlier. I live in Kansas, and our summers are brutal. When not recovering from an injury, I am out the door by 4:30 weekdays and no later than 6 on the weekends. That helps reduce exposure to the sun (I've had one melanoma removed), the temp is as low as it's going to go and (silly but true) people will have their sprinklers on. Run through them for bonus cooling effect.

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    1. I should have gone even earlier than I did. I know the sun is the devil in the summer. There is nothing better than running through the sprinklers!

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  7. I struggle with the heat too. It may not be ideal to get up early on the weekends, but it does help to get out there before the sun is up. I agree with Marcia, that water and electrolytes should be consumed the day before to get in your body.
    I'd also recommend looking into a sports clinic to see if your body isn't absorbing everything you're putting into it. A coworker did that after having to drop out of a hot race last year. His body wasn't absorbing the water and energy shots he was consuming.

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    1. How did they determine that? That's interesting because I'm not aware of any test that does that!

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  8. Like Teresa said, I wish I had the magic answer because I've lived in the deep south all my life and have never acclimated. I just eventually come to terms with my very slow paces. I do use Salt Tablets on my long runs. I can't say they help with my pace but I seem to recover easier.

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  9. When it is hot I carry a 21oz handheld bottle with cool water or electrolyte drink. I don't love carrying it but it definitely helps stay cooler. Also it takes time to acclimate to the heat! Although there have been some hot days, I think consistent hot days help acclimatizing go faster so it might just need more time! Also yep, starting slower and running slower in general.

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    1. I've never been able to acclimate to the heat. I'm going to go back to the handheld. I think that running without it was a big mistake.

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  10. In the summer, I've come to terms that I will be slower... I had read once, that in the heat it's not the distance, but the pace that will hurt you (I can't recall where I read it). I try to stick to more shaded paths when the heat is really high, because the sun beating down just makes it that more miserable. I always take a handheld or hydration vest filled with my electrolyte drink of choice. If I'm going to be out longer than an hour, I bring my salt chews.

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  11. Far be it for me to give running advice. Obviously, your urine answered your question...but not completely. What about your mental game? You weren't up for this run from the get-go. Directly from your post:

    Knowing that I was heading out into temperatures already near 80 with humidity to match, I contemplated my options. Skip the run? Cut my miles short? Go for a bike ride? Or get up and go? I finally got myself out of bed…I marveled at how the heat didn't seem to faze him at all…I thought about turning around and going home…Again I contemplated turning around…I was starting to worry that I might not be able to get home…I entertained thoughts about calling my husband to pick me up…I saw other runners out there and while they looked miserable, they were running.

    I'm obviously not criticizing at all, but as soon as I started reading your post that was the first thought that hit me. Fixing the hydration part is easy. The mental game? THAT'S the magic bullet you are looking for!

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    1. You know I was already dreading it. I had to do a lot of self-talk to keep myself going. It was tough.

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    2. I could see that. Obviously the heat and humidity was the main factor, but once it's in your head it's going to be a bad run, it's hard to push out those demons. You still did great getting 8 miles in!

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  12. Personally, I know my Oklahoma heat/humidity isn't near what other people experience, but this is what I try to do.
    Stay really hydrated for 2-3 days before your long run. It's a pain, but it really helps.
    Assume that you'll need to run up to 2+ minutes slower than your usual pacing in 60 degree weather. Even if you think you're feeling good, you might not want to push it until those last couple miles, until you're really comfortable with your experience in heat/humidity.
    I sip water every single mile (sometimes more). I literally mean one or two small swallows of water. If the temp is above 85, I'm taking water, even for something as short as 1.5 miles. Though you can try just swishing the water every so often, which may feel better to you.
    Walk breaks are definitely your friend. Again, don't push it until near the end of your run, because it is easier on the body to fall apart 1/2 mile from your endpoint, than it is to crash at halfway.
    Run before sunrise or after sunset. I joke that I never run during the day, only when it's dark out. Part of that is timing because of work and family, but part of that is because it just gets too darn hot. Our lows are currently in the mid 70s, with 60%+ humidity.
    If you're not training for a specific race, really try to ignore paces and run at a super easy pace. Heat/humidity are killers and I've been reading that your body actually works twice as hard in conditions like that. If your normal pace is a 7 minute mile, you wouldn't attempt to hold even 3/4 of that pace for a super long distance, which is essentially what you're asking your body to do.
    This is just what works for me and keeps my runs enjoyable, even when I'm dripping sweat so badly my husband requests that I strip on the back deck. He even brings me my robe. :)

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    1. This is really great advice and I appreciate you taking the time to write it all out here. I think that I needed to carry my handheld. Not having it was a huge mistake and one I will not make again. It's amazing that after all these years of running, I have to go back to the basics!

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  13. I'm a big fan of Hammer Nutrition. No sugar in any of their products. In Hawaii I take Endurolytes Extreme (https://www.hammernutrition.com/endurolytes-extreme/) I take one as soon as I get up when I'm running anything longer than 3 miles and continue taking them (1-3 per hour.) I always carry water, often with Endurolyte Fizz tabs.

    I experienced heat exhaustion during a race a few years ago. It took a few weeks for my body to fully recover - I would feel nauseated even on easy runs. Slow runner > passed out on the sidewalk runner ;)

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    1. So tell me what the sweetener is in Hammer Nutrition? I've heard lots of good things about it.

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    2. They use Sorbitol in Fizz but no sweetener in Endurolytes tablets. They only make one fuel that I cannot take, Heed, it has Xylitol and that totally messes with my stomach. Les has used their products for more than a decade - he used it during his cross country cycling trip. Hammer Gel is very similar to GU in taste and consistency, lots of good flavors. I personally prefer watering down my gels (I add them to my water bottle and sip instead of trying to get it all down at once.)
      Hope this helps! Humidity bonks are the worst! My first few weeks in Hawaii 2013 were a huge learning curve since we left California during a cold, dry January.

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    3. I'm going to look into the Hammer products. Thanks for the info!

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  14. I am by far no expert, but I would look at what has been going on the last few days with diet, hydration, energy expenditure, rest, recovery, etc... It seems you were struggling from the beginning so I think it may be something more than just the heat and humidity. Although, I don't have the heat and humidity to contend with here in Alaska but I do know how quickly it can zap your energy and dehydrate you. I hit the wall at the Chicago marathon last year at mile 15!!! I was shocked. It can certainly takes its toll.

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    1. I wasn't shocked that I hit the wall so early on this run. It was just disgusting out there. But my goal is to try to not have that happen.

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  15. Ugh...so sorry for your rough run the other day. I think I'm at an advantage in the summer heat because I have fairly low expectations...I'd like to be faster, but I know I don't have that natural speed "thing," nor do I have the drive to find it LOL That said, I just try to accept that a hot morning will yield more of a challenge than a cool morning, no matter how much I hydrate or psych myself up for the experience. Sometimes, I surprise myself with a fast (for me) run/race on a hot day, but I don't expect it when the temps/humidity are not in my favor. Even if you're not experiencing RA symptoms (from a flare), are they always there to some extent? Could that have been a factor? ((hugs))

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    1. It's a good thought, but I can't blame it on RA. I've actually been feeling really good.

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  16. I am so bad at staying hydrated on my runs. I think it's because I am lazy and don't feel like holding a water bottle, but then I regret not bringing one half way through my run.

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    1. Clearly that was my issue on Sunday! LOL

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  17. I use a hydration vest. It's funny, because I really try to avoid using it, but then when I do, it's so comfortable I don't know why I try to avoid it! I put in 35 ounces for my 10 miler last week, which wasn't quite as hot as your run -- mid 70s. Some humidity, but not that bad. I believe I drank about 20 ounces, which really isn't even enough (but of course you know I still ended up with issues). I just sip some water every mile.

    I use Saltstick Chews, which aren't very sweet & I like the taste. I prefer to drink just water, hence the chews. I have also gone back to drinking Nuun a LOT this summer -- and I'll usually have some before I head out for my run. You don't want to drink too much before your run, really -- some, of course, but you don't want to feel it sloshing around -- I usually try to stop drinking anything about 2 hours before my run, but with the earlier runs it's not always an option. Nuun is also the first thing I drink when I get home.

    I have one of those cooling neck thingies -- it seems to help -- and seriously I do love my Skirt Sports Cool It Skirt too (which is made of the same material as the neck thingie). Plus a visor. The skirt is seriously just so comfortable, has a lot of pockets, and while I don't know if it really cools me down, I do know that I've had some pretty good hot runs in it.

    I usually do have something carb-y before a long run too. Pierogies. A rice dish. At least a baked potato. Of course we're all different, but I like my carbs!

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    1. I'll usually drink a smoothie before I go but I wanted to get out the door before it got too hot. Would that have made a difference? Hard to say.

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  18. I have found it necessary to carry a handheld for pretty much every run these days. Even on the ones shorter than I typically would. It helps to have something to drink to clear my mind and settle my nerves...

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    1. I'm really not sure what I was thinking, not carrying my handheld. Sigh.

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  19. I don't think I have anything new or of substance to add after reading all the other responses. I can get the exact same way, and have lately, and, even though I drink a LOT of water, I know that I need to do better at pre-hydrating the day before. Especially, if I'm going to enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner. Personally, right now, I'm trying to scale back on my wine consumption because I want to see if that may be part of why I was so beat last week (humidity+busy+stress+wine, etc).

    And I totally agree about your mental game. It's hard to beat away the negativity when you have it before you even start. ESPECIALLY when it's hot and miserable outside. But, you still do have some mental game chops since you managed 8 miles (even if you weren't thrilled with them). #beastmode

    <3

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    1. I hate the idea of giving up my nightly wine. I so enjoy it! I'm not sure that it really makes much of a difference either way. Maybe I have a problem.

      I was pretty proud of how I talked myself into those 8 miles. That was huge for me. Of course, I got greedy and wanted them to be good miles...

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  20. Is that a usual pre-run dinner for you? I know personally, I need some more carbs before a run. Maybe also making sure you are hydrated the night before, not just the day of the run. I feel like if I don't drink enough water one day I feel it the next day too. I also feel like I need to carry water when it's super hot out. But we don't have any water fountains around here so that's my only option. And adding Nuun seems to help alot too. But really, I think it's just tough to adjust and takes time! Maybe you can tweak some things and feel better, but I also think as you get more used to the heat hopefully it will get a little easier.

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    1. As I've gotten older, I've found that I need more protein and less carbs. So yes, that's a pre-run meal. Actually, anything goes for me--in normal conditions, I don't see the night before meal making any difference for me.

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  21. My first thought reading this is to carry water mixed with some sort of electrolyte with you. It might seem like it doesn't make a big difference but I know from my own experience that it does!

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    1. I know this too and what was I thinking not bringing it with me?

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  22. Just like some of the others have said, I wish I knew what to do. I do drink a gatorade or something like that the night before a hot race. I only lasted 3 miles today w drink breaks. It's going to be a long summer.

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    1. Which is exactly why I wrote this post. Looking for any and all suggestions!

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  23. I'm not an expert on running in humid weather but we get our share of heat here in So Cal so this is what I do. I avoid alcohol the night before a hot run. I know you hydrated but alcohol is sooo dehydrating so you might want to save the wine for another night. Sorry :-(
    I've read that drinking cold fluid before can help to lower your body temp so maybe switch to iced coffee instead of hot coffee.
    I also recommend wearing a breathable hat to keep the sun off your face. And I've worn a neck gator soaked in ice water that helped for an exceptionally hot and hilly run.
    And lastly you may need to resort to an indoor treadmill to do your long runs before your race so at least you'll feel strong on race day. Good luck! I hope this helps a little. :-)

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    1. Thank you! I considered the treadmill but the need to acclimate to the heat and humidity won out. It's hard to not have my morning coffee--old habits die hard!

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  24. I'm no expert but this is what I would do differently - days before, extra hydration (why I'm always checking the weather), evening meal small carb/protein balance and zero alcohol, morning of: up, breakfast (if you don't like to eat then some sort of carb loader or a Nuun, and out earlier than you went out (i'd say if the weather is that hot/humid, 6am was too late to get up). I use a hydration vest like Judy. Two water flasks with Nuun or SiS electrolyte drink, plus space for gels or chews.

    I'm drinking ice cold water these days (stick my bottles in the freezer but not for too long) and it seems to be helping me a bit with the humid runs.

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    1. No alcohol? I might have to give up running!

      Does the vest make you warm? Extra layer and all...

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  25. First off, stop being so hard on yourself. Heat and humidity take some adaptation to adjust to and you haven’t had the time yet. Plus, it never really gets easy no matter how adapted you are. It is still making you stronger though and when the humidity backs off you should feel amazing. I also think you may have started off a little too fast. Even with the walk breaks you probably need to adjust your pace for heat and humidity and save something for the last part of the run.

    To a certain extent the dehydration is inevitable, but I would suggest carrying your handheld. And I hate to say it , but maybe one glass of wine instead of two? It is dehydrating (not like I’m the one to talk! 🍷).

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    1. Who me, hard on myself? Hence the need for the wine... I hear you loud and clear, tho...

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  26. Sounds like such a tough run, and as one who struggles with heat & humidity I feel your pain. It has definitely gotten worse for me since crossing the 50 yr mark! While I have yet to find the silver bullet, I find what I do the day before makes a big difference - hydration, plenty of electrolytes. Other than that, go out ridiculously early and slow way down. And, I agree with others who have said keep the Tailwind with you and sip constantly.

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    1. What is it about getting older that makes us less heat tolerant? What a humbling experience. Thanks for weighing in. Looks like we are all in this together.

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  27. Nothing new to add. In the heat, I walk often and run fewer miles then I plan to.

    I know I need to run earlier as well.

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    1. Yep. No more laying in bed ruminating on what to do. I have to just get up and go.

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  28. Without knowing exactly what the temp, humidity, and dew point were for your run, you should plan on adding at least 20 seconds per mile to account for warm/hot conditions.

    Your run was fine. Just go much slower and bring plenty of hydration.

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    1. The slower part is the sticking point for me, but it looks as if my body is giving me no choice. I just have to convince my brain.

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  29. Don't ignore your body's need to rest, especially after such a heinous run in the heat! We all know you're a beast ;)

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  30. Just no alcohol the night before �� but that’s me it’s not a requirement for everyone ��. I have a salomon pack - it’s lightweight and mesh against the back. Often I will pre cool my flasks or the bladder (if I use it) and that also makes it nice cs and cool against my back. Hey I’m going to sweat anyway- I may as well have lots of water with me !

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  31. You meant to do 10 and you did 8... it's not like you meant to do 10 and did 2. Give yourself a break! 8 miles in this weather is brutal enough.

    Personally I've learned to consider most of June a wash due to acclimating to the heat. I honestly just don't even worry about pace until we've been through 2-3 weeks of the worst. Your body needs to adapt, and there's really no point in stressing about it just yet... you're going to drive yourself nuts needlessly.

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  32. I think you are right about carrying Tailwind with you. I can't do long runs in the summer without electrolytes. It helps some to soak your hat or headband in cold water before you head out, but of course that doesn't last the whole run.

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  33. Hey Wendy! As you may recall, I live in GA, so the majority of my runs are in this type of weather. My advice (besides plan to slow WAY down, even with intervals), is to take water with you and sip it more frequently. I know you usually drink Tailwind, so that works as well. You just definitely need to hydrate more and more regularly on the run. I have a best for summer runs so I can take two water bottles and my bladder, for something that long, in the summer. I’ve had heat exhaustion. No bueno! I’m super late to the party and didn’t read previous replies, but that’s my two cents. Hope it’s not redundant...

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  34. So sorry to hear about your run not going the way you wanted it to. It happens sometimes. I know, that's not a great response, but at least it looks like you got some good advice here. When I run in the heat, I slow waaaay down. Slower than slow. I would not worry about how many walk breaks you are taking. Time on your feet is time on your feet. I also think that you are an experienced runner, so you will probably be fine running a half with a smaller amount of training. I agree that it would probably be better to start as early as possible, but I have trouble getting out the door some mornings too! Hope your next long one is better. :)

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