Heat Acclimation (should have written this 6 months ago)
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Every year I whine about my low tolerance for heat. Bring on the cold; I can layer up. But when you live and exercise in the South, the heat is real. Add in the high humidity and it's almost intolerable. Especially for someone that sweats buckets like I do. According to sweat science, the fact that I sweat early and often is proof positive that I am heat acclimated. I beg to differ. I'm damn hot. There is no acclimating. There isn't enough shade, there isn't enough breeze and no amount of drinking will keep me hydrated. And that was my biggest fear about training for an Ironman. How in the world would I make it through the hottest time of the year doing my longest training days?
Some days I didn't start running until 9 am. I had to swim before and have something to eat before I could get to my 90 min run. Before you think running in the evening would be better, just... no. That means waiting until 7 pm. That run wouldn't happen. So I had many runs in the hottest part of the day when there was no shade. I didn't think it was ever one bit better or that I was acclimated in the least.
Then came the August race that I do every year. I have a love-hate for it. Love it because it's my favorite Olympic distance, the one local triathlon that we have and all of my friends are there either as triathletes or teamed up to relay. Hate it because it is the end of August. There is no hotter time in MS. The course has one tree to provide shade for about 1.5 seconds on the run. That's right. Full blazing sun. You see more walking on this run than you've ever seen in a race. It is by far my slowest ever for a 10k. You can't run when your flesh is melting and your heart is beating out of your chest.
2014 was my 3rd time doing this race. I PR'd the swim and the bike then while running I realized I had made that magical crossover to being "heat acclimated". I don't know when it actually happened, but that's when I noticed I had changed. I ran the entire 10k. I was smiling, having fun and running well. I didn't look like I was waiting at death's door like everyone around me. And it was because of the many miles I had logged in midday heat. Even though I have been running every summer, because of the training volume for Ironman, I was forced to run a lot in the worst of the heat rather than the "lighter" heat of morning. I also fine-tuned my electrolytes and hydration. My body had finally made the adaptation and I could run in 95* without dying.
The race ended up being my 2nd fastest Olympic distance which still blows my mind considering the level of suffering involved. My time was good enough to win Masters Overall and I took home a gator head trophy.
Me with my much younger buddy. My trophy is bigger. Hers is "just" an Age Group win. LOL!
You will never hear me complain about the winter weather. Some days are pretty dang cold but I think about summer being here soon enough and I'm grateful for the 3 months of winter we get. I am not looking forward to going through the heat acclimation process again! But at least now I have faith that it does actually work!