Everyone who ran a race in Texas on May 27 faced unbearably hot and miserable conditions. Ft. Worth had a morning heat index over 90 degrees and a dew point of 75 degrees. I should not have posted this a week ago…
Runner’s World has an article that explains how the dew point affects runners. It also has a useful chart that shows dew point ranges, what each range feels like, and what to do/expect for a race day in each range. Here is a link to the article… Training in the Heat
When the heat index reached 100 on Friday, I knew I needed to drastically change my race goals. I have had heat exhaustion before, so I had a pretty good idea of how hard I could push myself and which signs to watch out for during the race. Saturday morning, I went through my normal prerace routine with some added hot conditions prep…coffee, oatmeal, read random articles on my phone, pack extra Essentia water and electrolytes, eat a few Gluten Free Pretzels, drink 6 oz of water with Trace Minerals Power Pak, get ready to go, etc. I left my house at 5:40 and arrived at Trinity Park Pavilion in Ft. Worth at 6:35. This was my first time going to Trinity Park, so I gave myself plenty of time to get there. I also needed to find out what the course was like. Getting lost on a run in heat stroke conditions was not something I wanted to do again (a story for another time).
The course was very straightforward. Down the levee to the Trinity Trail, straight along the trail, turn around at the turnaround, run back on the trail, and up the levee to the finish.
I ran my 2 mile warm up in the shade, did a few strides, and noticed that my heart rate was much higher than normal. I didn’t have to check my pulse. I could just feel it. My 1st goal was to conserve energy in the first 5k, increase my effort in the second 5k, and finish the last 5k strong. My 2nd goal was to pay attention to my body, and adjust my effort and pace accordingly. It was more important to me to not get heat stroke than it was to have a good 15k time. (And, yes, I do have to tell myself things like this.) My 3rd goal was to win. If I put winning first on Saturday, then listening to my body’s warning signs of heat stroke wouldn’t have mattered one bit.
The Race Start Time was 7:45. The sun was still behind clouds, so it wasn’t sweltering yet. I got off to a good start but quickly held back. I checked my pace…around a 7:00/mile pace. One other runner and I took the lead pretty quick. We ran together for the first few miles. I felt like I needed to pick up the pace a little bit, so I broke away around mile 3. By this time, the sun was out, full strength, beating down on everyone in the race. There was no shade along this course which made the suffering even worse.
At the turnaround, I had a 30-60 second lead from what I could tell. The heat was starting to get to me. I alternated focusing on breathing and focusing on turnover both of which were a challenge. At mile 6, I increased my effort and pace and held strong through mile 7. Then the heat hit me hard. My head started to hurt. I felt hot all over. I poured a cup of water over myself to cool down. I focused ahead, knowing that if I couldn’t stay focused, I was dangerously close to heat stroke. My pace had slowed down, but my effort increased. There may have been a 200 meter stretch where I didn’t look so good, but otherwise I succeeded with staying mentally strong the whole race. Mile 8. Click. Mile 9. Click. Climb Hill. Mental Check. “I’ve got this.” I gutted it out up the levee and managed to lengthen and stride to the finish. 1st Place Overall (men and women)!
It took a long time to actually cool down after I finished. I poured two or three cups of water on my head, walked around for a while, drank some water with electrolytes, jogged for a few minutes, then decided that jogging was not going to cool me down, and walked around some more. I think I was still cooling down when I got back to my house in Dallas at noon.
I enjoyed hanging around after the race, meeting new people, and chatting with friends. This was more socializing than I normally do!
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