Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BS #7 - The Indiana Sauna

The seventh week of concentrated work toward the July race goals went well - until the BS.  It turned out to be another 11+ hour training week that included dozens of climbs up Stru Hill, four solid and hilly rides, and a tempo-paced 17:27 5k on a hilly course.  It was also a week that included the hottest and most humid day thus far in 2010.  That day was Sunday, the chosen BS day.

The BS started with a relaxed 40-mile ride over a hilly course.  I decided to take it a bit easier than last week's first BS ride because of the predicted heat/humidity and the fact that I had completed a tempo run and ridden hard on Saturday,  I really enjoyed the BS ride due to the slower (20.8 mph) pace and the fact that the sun had not yet tried to boil the water in my brain. 

Of note, I came across a pair of Red-Tailed hawks feeding on a roadkill rabbit.  Hawks are becoming extremely common in southern Indiana. There is a pair nesting in an oak tree about 90 ft above my roof.  Hawks sit atop many of the poles that line the farm fields through which I ride, waiting to swoop down on small prey such as mice and rabbits.  The pair I came across was standing in the middle of a seldom-used county road.  Standing quite tall.  I'd say they were at least 20 inches tall.  Elegant, bold, and beautiful, they slowly turned full circles as I rode a couple of tight loops around them.  They quietly lifted off and began to glide in small circles about fifteen feet above their meal as I rode away.  Within seconds they were back on the ground sharing the tasks of watching and pecking.   Riding so close to them and looking them straight in the eyes was an event that I will long remember.  (Image below from Wikipedia looked most lite the birds I saw.)

By the time I started the run the air was already hot and extremely humid.  The sun was still low enough that I could hide in the shade most of the time, but the humidity caused even that cooler air to have a suffocating effect.  August seemed to have settled into mid-June. 

No problem.  I had drunk a lot of fluid and swallowed a couple of s-caps before the run.  I also had 10-oz flasks in each hand as I ran.  Throughout the first two hours I continually passed through places where I noted that I was comfortably holding a sub-7 pace.  I stopped for a short time after 90 minutes of running to drink water, refill the flasks, and swallow s-caps and gel.  I also hurriedly rung out my socks and insoles.  Once back into the run I continued to feel great.  The legs felt strong while climbing and the pulse continued  to linger in an "ultra" low region below my normal training rate.

Over time I have learned to train without focusing on the heart rate at any given moment, but I do check it during hard efforts and when running in heat because both of these types of efforts result in high rates that I want to manage well.  The low heart rate lasting almost two hours in that miserable heat and humidity indicated that I was becoming acclimated to the conditions.  It did not mean that I wasn't losing a lot of fluid and salt.  I was a virtual sprinkler, spewing salty liquid at an alarming rate in the near-90 degree temperature and 100 degree heat index.  I swallowed as much water as I could during the break because I knew from experience that I would not be able to drink as much as I was losing.  After two hours I wondered how long the good feelings would last.

Then came hell.  At about 2:20 I felt a sudden increase in the temperature and I started to get a headache.  The legs no longer felt powerful while climbing.  Sweat continued to flow out of every square inch of my body's surface at an alarming rate.  My legs moved slower and my stride shortened. I looked at the watch at 2:38 and knew that a 3+ hour run was not likely because I wasn't willing to go experience several days of the bad legs that result from running while dehydrated.  It was too close to the races. 

The run turned into a jog as I came within a mile of the car.  Then the headache worsened and I began to feel dizzy.  I ran on.  I felt that some suffering and strain in the heat was essential to the training process for both Muncie and Leadville since both races have taken place during scorching hot weather in the past. 

Within a half-mile of the car and with only a steady climb through an open field I hit a new low.  The climb in the hot sun had an immediate and debilitating effect.  I stopped to throw up, but nothing came out.  Just then an old friend came by.  He had no idea what I was experiencing, but watching him bend over and heave made me believe he was hovering somewhere near me in the struggle.  He said that he would have to walk home after 80 minutes instead of finishing out his planned 90 minute run.  When I noticed that he was walking like he was drunk I attempted to straighten both my back and my stride.  I saw two other people walking during their long (11-13 mile) runs.  A few of us happened to stop together at a watering pump to soak our heads and drink from cupped hands under the spigot. It was that kind of day.  That 55 degree ground water felt so good!

Comical.  That is how I would describe my movements as I unlocked the vehicle and started pouring down all of the fluid and nutrition I had prepared.  First my right hand and forearm cramped.  Then the left thumb locked up.  Next came the right toes.  Then the left quad.  Then the abs - wth?? - my abs have never cramped.  I couldn't turn a key, lift a bottle, twist a cap, squeeze a bottle, or lift a leg without causing a lock-up.  Each cramp hurt like hell, but I had to laugh because I kept thinking about how I would look from another person's perspective.  You know, that person who would see the wickedly unnatural contortions and grimaces without experiencing the excruciating pain.  Wanting to believe that would be a funny sight, I had no choice but to laugh.

This went on for 40 minutes before I got up the nerve to attempt the drive home.  I really had no choice because I needed more salt and water and calories.  Once at home I stepped on the scale and learned that, though I had consumed more than 1.5 gal (about 13 pounds) of fluid, I weighed 12 pounds less than I had when I woke up.  That's right, I had sweated out 25 pounds of fluid.  I couldn't believe it, so I stepped off of the scale and then stepped back on. . . wow!

Random muscles continued to cramp as I ate and drank.  I laid down and waited for the next body part to lock up.  I swung back and forth between the grimaces and smiles.  Some Father's Day.  I had to laugh.  When I am in Colorado I am often warned to look out for dehydration.  When I am in Colorado I do NOT experience the kind of weight/fluid loss that I do in Indiana.  Even my toughest and longest days on the 14ers and in the ultras have not resulted in the kind of fluid loss I experience while preparing to go to Colorado. 

So, I only covered 40 miles on the bike and 23 on foot in a little under 5 hours.  It was not the BS I had hoped for.  I must be satisfied with the fact that it was a good heat acclimation day.  I also pushed through a lot of mental and physical discomfort - good prep for July's long events.  And I did get to "save" a large box turtle that was attempting to cross a quarter-mile wide newly asphalted parking lot!

I did decide that I would fore go Muncie if the weather is similarly inhospitable.  I'd rather have a good day in Leadville than suffer there because I pushed it in the Indiana sauna.

Since it is already Tuesday evening as I write this, I can report that I had a great day of training today after two ten-hour sleeps.  The weather was supposed to be worse than Sunday, but some cloud cover kept the sun from assaulting me while I put in put in more than an hour of solid running and two hours of cycling.  The run included several kilometers of the same 5:30 pace work I have been logging lately.  The ride included many seated, high-intensity climbs. 

I am still smiling as I think about that last BS.  And I am smiling about the fact that a week from now I will be running up Mt. Mitchell and cycling on the Blue Ridge Parkway.   I am also smiling as I think about the fact that I will be exploring Crested Butte, CO three weeks from now.

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