Summer Racing Season Week 4: Enter the Heat Dome

At the beginning of the week, the weather was nice. But since then, the Northeast has been slammed by a heat wave that the media has dubbed the ‘heat dome.’

It’s the nature of marathon training through the summer that you have to suffer through some hot days. At first, it wasn’t too bad. But Saturday, the heat finally got to me. Thankfully, the heat is going to break next week.

Either way, I made it through. And next week, it’s racing time again – with round two of the RVRR XC Summer Series and the Sunset Classic 5 Miler.

Anyhow, here’s the plan for this week and how things actually worked out.

The Plan for Week 4

This week was a full training week sandwiched between two heavy racing weeks. The previous week, I ran a 5k on Sunday and a XC 5k on Tuesday. And next week, I’ve got a XC 5k on Tuesday and a 5 Miler on Thursday.

I was pretty beat up towards the end of last week, but I was feeling better and recovered by the weekend. So the plan this week was to hit my usual mileage goal (70 miles) and hit two solid workouts (I pace and R pace).

Here’s the daily breakdown:

  • Sunday: 16 mile long run
  • Monday: 6 mile trail run
  • Tuesday: 8 mile trail run
  • Wednesday: 10 mile I workout (7x 3 minutes)
  • Thursday: 7 mile trail run
  • Friday: 8 mile R workout (16 x 40s) followed by 5 easy treadmill miles
  • Saturday: 10 mile easy run

And here’s how things worked out.

Sunday’s Long Run through Central Park

For Father’s Day, my wife surprised me with tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway Saturday night. That was awesome. And the silver lining was that we had an excuse to stay in the city – so I could do my Sunday long run in Central Park!

The weather was still decent last weekend (60’s and sunny), so I just grabbed a disposable bottle of water and tried to hit the road early. We were staying near Times Square, so the plan was to run north, do two loops of Central Park, and then finish up with enough mileage along the river to hit 16 miles.

It took me about a half mile or so to get up to Central Park, and things started out slow. I was still warming up, and I was also taking it easy so I didn’t bother to look at my watch. My plan was to take the entire run easy because I was more concerned with overheating than with my pace.

When I got to Central Park, I saw a run group gathered around and talking to each other. Couldn’t tell if they were finishing up or heading out. The place was packed with people, and it was just so much fun to join in the stream and get moving.

I passed some people, and some people passed me. Somewhere early in the first lap, a young woman came up behind me and slowly passed me. But we ended up settling into a similar pace, and we’d leapfrog each other for the next few miles. She was carrying a phone and listening to a podcast. I heard bits and pieces, but couldn’t make out what it actually was.

I must have sped up just a little to match her pace – because I looked down at my watch and saw we were running 8:00/mi. Not terribly fast, but faster than I had expected to run. But my breathing was fine, so I kept it up. We ran around the north end of the park and turned south. The hills there are more intense than I remember.

Towards the end of the first loop, she exited out of the park. I continued on, and I passed where I had come in near Columbus Circle. The run group I saw earlier was still there, and they were cheering someone who was finishing up.

I continued around the loop, and I fell in behind an older runner in his 60’s who was churning along at my pace. He was wearing a lime green singlet. I followed him for a mile or so before he met up with some friends and pulled off to the side.

Behind me, I could overhear a conversation between two runners. One, I’m guessing the more experienced one, was telling the other about a little ‘trick’ where you take smaller steps when you go uphill to make it easier.

I ran through the north end of the park again and turned south. I passed by a woman in salmon colored shorts. She was pulled off to the side. I kept on running, and a little further on I heard footsteps behind me. It was salmon shorts – she pulled ahead slightly and we matched paces for a bit. But after we got through the hills, she sped up and pulled away.

In this second loop, I noticed some familiar faces – walkers or runners who had been going in the opposite direction. I returned a couple waves and head nods. Eventually, I made it back to the southwest corner. I was feeling amazing – legs were loose and the heat wasn’t an issue.

My watch put me at about 13 miles – so I needed to tack on an extra three miles. I turned right and jogged down to the river. Turned left, and ran past the cruise ships. Once I’d gone far enough, I turned left and ran back up to 8th Ave. By this point, I was finally starting to get a bit tired. Thankfully, I was about done. About a block or two from the hotel, I hit 16 miles and I walked the rest of the way.

My overall time was 2:08:58 – by far the fastest I’ve run 16 miles as an easy run. After the first two warm-up miles, I averaged under 8:00/mi and it was a legit easy run with my heart rate around 145-150 (except for a few spikes on the hills).

Wow! That felt really good. It was really fun running through Central Park, and I’m feeling really optimistic about switching my focus back to the marathon in a few weeks.

Monday’s Easy Trail Run

Monday morning, it was back to reality. Just a regular, easy run on my local trails.

I didn’t set the alarm, and I finally rolled out of bed around 7ish. I hit the trails a little after 8. The goal was six miles.

The weather was starting to turn on Monday, but it wasn’t that hot yet. I saw the forecasted high – 90F – and thought it would be worse. When I walked outside, it actually felt kind of nice.

It helped that I was on the trails, and this week has been a solid reminder of why I love trail running. In the sun on the street it felt quite hot – but as soon as I set foot in the forest the temperature dropped.

The run was a little slow – 9:20’s at the end – but otherwise I felt fine. My legs were a little stiff – probably a combination of the long run and then spending the late morning / early afternoon walking through Central Park with my wife.

But nothing another good night’s sleep can’t fix.

Tuesday’s Longer Trail Run

Tuesday was another easy trail day. Today, I bumped back up to eight miles with my usual out and back.

The weather was continuing to worsen. The high was still in the low 90’s, but the overnight low hadn’t cooled off much at all. But the humidity didn’t feel too bad when I left the house at 8, and the run felt kind of nice.

Again, the shade of the trees was a huge help.

I also realized today that we haven’t had a good rain in a while. The parts of the trail that are usually perpetually wet throughout the spring are starting to look bone dry. There was hardly any mud left to avoid or stomp through.

My pace was about the same as yesterday, but my legs felt a lot better.

Wednesday’s I Workout in the Heat

I had thought about joining my running team for a Wednesday evening track workout this week – but that wasn’t going to happen in the heat. I saw on Facebook later that some of them had braved the elements, but not me.

This morning, I made a point of waking up at 6 so that I could get out a little earlier. I was at the Reservoir starting my workout by 7. The sun was starting to come up – but half the path was in the shade. It was in the low 70’s when I started, and the temperature probably rose to the high 70’s before I got home.

I took my insulated bottle of water with me and stashed it along the loop. This way I could stop for a nice swig of water each time around – every 15 minutes or so.

I warmed up with two laps around the Reservoir (~4 miles), did some leg swings, and got to work. The workout was 7x 3 minutes at I pace with 2 minutes jogging recoveries.

Typically, I’d try and hit these around 6:00-6:05/mi, but given the heat I backed off my expectations. I think the range programmed into my watch topped out at 6:25, so as long as my watch wasn’t yelling at me, I was happy.

Towards the end of the first rep, I looked down at my watch and saw a 6:15/mi pace. Looked good to me.

I felt surprisingly good, despite the heat. I was worried I’d start to really flag in the later reps, but the next few reps went just as well.

In the back of my mind, I considered cutting the workout short after the fourth rep. But I finished that rep and looped around the Reservoir to start my final lap. I felt fine, so I might as well see it through.

Rep #5 went well, too. But the final two reps felt like crap. The heat was starting to catch up to me, and my legs were feeling a lot heavier.

I managed to finish up, and I jogged home. Total distance: 10 miles.

When I checked the stats on Garmin Connect afterwards, the pace was a little slower than I had thought. I pretty consistently averaged around 6:20-6:25/mi each rep. I realized that I started off slow in the beginning, and then I settled into a 6:15 pace towards the end of most.

Oh well. Not the best workout – but in this heat I’m not going to complain.

Thursday: Back on the Trails

I hit the trails again Thursday. I only needed seven miles today to stay on pace for my weekly goal. Despite the temps getting increasingly hot, it still felt pretty decent on the trails.

I noticed things were even drier today than they were earlier in the week. It’s funny how the trail changes over time with the seasons.

Instead of the usual out and back, I decided to loop west to the lower part of the mountain and come back up north along another trail. I turned right a little earlier than my usual turnaround point, and I snaked along the trails going downhill. As a result of the declines, I ended up running a lot faster than usual, but my effort was still easy.

When I finally got to the bottom and turned north, it seemed to take forever to get back home. Maybe it’s because I’m less familiar with the trail, so mentally things seem to take longer. But it felt like there was way more trail than there should have been.

Towards the end, I ran along a segment of trail that I usually avoid because it’s a muddy mess. In the spring, it’s wet, mucky, and watery every day. Today – bone dry.

As I finished up, I realized that I had miscalculated the distance a little bit. This loop would be about 7.5 miles if I ran all the way home. I kept up till the edge of the forest, and I stopped once I got back to the street. I walked the two blocks home, and my total mileage for the day was 7.35.

I’ll just shave it off my workout tomorrow.

Friday: A Steamy R Workout and Some Treadmill Miles

Friday was time for the second workout of the week. The heat was continuing to get worse – with the daily high forecast to be almost 100F.

I probably should have set my alarm earlier, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. I hit the road around 7:45, and it was already above 80F and the sun was up above the trees.

The workout was a simple 16x 40 second reps at a hard effort – around mile pace or a little faster. It’s less volume than I’d usually do for an R workout (2 miles instead of 3), and the reps are shorter than usual (40s / 200m instead of 80s / 400m). But I did this on purpose to hopefully survive the heat and the sun.

I brought my insulated water bottle full of ice water and stashed it on the side of the path. After a single loop to warm up, I got to work.

The nice thing about these reps are they’re short. I didn’t bother looking at the pace at all. Frankly, I was afraid I’d be slow in the heat. But each one seemed to be done before I could get tired.

The first half went really well. I’d blast the rep and then slow into a very slow jog for ~1:30 in between.

By rep 8 or 9, though, I was starting to get worn down. Once I hit time, I stopped and walked for a minute or so during the recovery. Then, I’d jog the final 30 seconds and launch into the next rep.

It worked, though. I finished up, and I didn’t feel like my legs went totally dead. They were definitely tired, but I was able to put in a good effort for the final few reps.

I got home and checked the stats on Garmin Connect, and I was a little shocked. My pace was great.

The first half, I averaged ~5:20-5:30/mi. The second half, I slowed down a bit. But I still hit 5:30-5:45/mi on most of the reps. Overall, I did 5:34/mi.

Last week, I hadn’t been able to generate much speed. So I was happy to be able to do so this week – especially given the heat.

Saturday’s 10 Mile Trek in the Sun

The week wrapped up with an ‘easy’ 10 miles.

I made the mistake of not setting an alarm at all. It’s Saturday, so why should I wake up early?

Oh yeah, the inferno outside. That’s why.

By the time I had my coffee and hit the road, it was 8:30. But it’s only 10 miles, how bad could it be?

I put on my hydration backpack, full of ice water, and vowed to keep things nice and easy. At first, there was a little bit of cloud cover. It wasn’t cloudy, per se, and I could still see the sun. It was more like someone was holding a transparent sheet in front of the sun – just enough to take the edge off.

The first half went pretty well. I took a sip of water every mile, and my heart rate was under control (less than 150). I felt fine, and I was keeping the pace nice and easy.

When I looped around the park and headed for home, though, things started to get a little harder. My heart rate had snuck up to 155. When I hit a hill, my legs felt dead at the top.

With about three miles to go, I had to pick up the pace to try and beat a traffic light. On the other side of the intersection, my legs felt dead. Once I slowed down, though, things evened out and I felt ok again.

Those last couple miles were long. But I made it, and I maintained an easy pace (~9:00/mi) throughout. It’s crazy that a week ago, I was cruising along under 8:00/mi for 16 miles … and today, I’m struggling through a run at 9:00/mi.

I finally made it home. At first, I felt ok. The water had helped, and I wasn’t terribly thirsty. But after I showered and ate something, I had a little bit of a headache. It wasn’t until I took a solid 2 hour nap that I woke up feeling better.

The heat definitely got to me. I survived – but I am not doing my long run in this heat tomorrow. To the treadmill!

Thus Ends A Solid Week in the Heat Dome

In retrospect, it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.

Last summer, I visited family in Florida in July. The heat and humidity were bad. When I saw the forecasted heat wave, I thought it was going to feel like that.

Although it was hot, the humidity was never as bad. On the trails, things actually felt pretty good. At the Reservoir, it was a little worse. But in the shade, it wasn’t bad.

The only run that really got to me was the final 10 miler on Saturday – and that’s partially my fault for sleeping in and going out too late.

Regardless, I had a great long run Sunday, a great workout on Friday, and a halfway decent workout on Wednesday. I’m feeling good about the races next week.

Thankfully, the heat will break after tomorrow, so it won’t be crazy hot for the races. But it’ll be warm enough that I’m not worried too much about a PR. I’m going to play it by ear and aim for an even effort and a decent placing.

Repeat after me – summer races are not for PRs.

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