Monday, June 19, 2017

June Half: The Punishments of Zionsville

June's edition of my 2017 Half Marathon a month quest was a small race in Zionsville, IN.

It's an old school race with nice low key vibe. It starts and ends on Main Street, the bricked street in the insanely quite downtown. Normally, Zionsville is relaxing and pleasant. But not so much this day...

And the word for this day was "punishment".

I was punished for a number of running sins on this otherwise lovely Sunday.

Sin #1, Sloth - Since the May half (write-up link below if you're curious), I'd run exactly one day...June 7th,  Global Running Day. Yep, it took a global proclamation to get me out for a run... a 4 miler. Had it not been for that holiday, I might not have run at all.

I can blame work, or the weekend lost to the Indianapolis 500 (a day bigger than Christmas in our family), but in reality, I've been lazy. Slothy.

Turns out, to run a half a month you need to train a little. In the back of my head I think I was counting on the races to keep me in shape. Didn't exactly go down that way.

So on race day I was lethargic. The legs had no pop. I knew right away it was going to be a slow day.

Sin #2, Disrespect for Ra - Not only had I not trained, but that lack of training meant I hadn't acclimated even a tiny bit to the warmer temperatures or bright, warm sun.

Sometime, when you're out running on a sunny day with a heart-rate monitor, check your heart rate in the sun versus in the shade. In the sun, it'll jump right up, without picking up the pace or any perceived additional excursion.

What happens is you're circulatory system kicks into double duty, not only feeding your muscles, but cooling your body. Your heart starts beating more to send extra blood to the capillaries in your skin to help cool it. That's blood that's NOT feeding your muscles. You can quickly start to feel fatigued.

The only way to avoid that feeling is to slow down, or to acclimate. Given a 2-4 weeks of training in the warmer temps and sun, your body will adapt. More capillaries are built near the surface of your skin to make cooling more efficient, your sweat glads expand to hold more water, which also helps with cooling, and your legs will develop more capillaries, too, so they can get their fuel more efficiently.

So, after a few weeks, you'll be more or less adapted to the heat. And the real bonus comes in the fall, when your body is all geared up for heat, and the temps fall. It's like having a jet engine in your butt!

Sin #3, Hubris - I spent most of Saturday, the day before the race, resting and drinking lots of water.

Just kidding! I spent Saturday representing my company and many friends in the Pride parade in Indianapolis, and then hanging out at the festival after. It was super fun, but it left me dehydrated and leg weary.

The course for this race was well configured to punish me for all of these sins. The two-loop course was demoralizing...  coming through a hard section on the first loop, you knew you'd have to face it again with another 6 miles on your legs.

About a third of the loop was in bright sunshine. That same third had the toughest hills. That's a one-two punch that is bad enough to face once. Twice is just no fun at all.

Another third of the loop was flat rail-trail with shade. That came as a welcome respite... just enough to make me think that the second loop wouldn't kill me.

The rest was a little rolly, a little sunny, somewhere between the extremes of the other thirds.

The first loop was reasonable, but slow. The second loop started pretty positively, but that didn't last long.

I managed 9.5 miles before the wheels fell off.

This wasn't a mental break, or lack of toughness. Oh, for sure, I've had plenty of those. But this was a problem of physiology. My body wasn't ready for this race, these conditions, and it was throwing in the towel.

So, against every command from my brain, my body decided we were going to walk.

We were in the bright sun, past the worst  of the hills, but my systems were all in the red zone. I knew that if I didn't listen to my body, I was going to turn a slow day into a very bad day. So, walk I did.

To my great surprise and relief, a good friend was along the course spectating with his family. (Apparently there isn't much to do in Zionsville on a Sunday morning.) He gave me a bottle of water, a bottle of water that I desperately needed. Did I mention that the water stops were handing out water in those tiny Dixie cups that could pass as thimbles?

I drank the water, made it to the shade, and after about 2 miles of walk-jog that was mostly walk, I recovered enough to cruise it in.

Slowest. Half. Ever... at least for me.

At the finish, I was a mess. Hand on knees, sweating but cold, not thinking or talking very well.

Thankfully, Jeni, my GF, was there at the finish. She tended to me, fetched me water, held my banana (hey now... I mean an actual banana). She knew when not to ask me questions... let me stop mid-babble without asking if I was ok... found me some salt... and generally kept me company. Without here I probably would have found a shady corner to cry in.

After maybe 45 minutes, I was ok enough to head home.

So, lessons learned... re-learned, like we so often have to do.

  • You need to stay hydrated, so if they are giving you water an ounce at a time, stop and drink a few.
  • Acclimate to the conditions you live in. Be patient and let your body adjust.
  • You should probably run a few training runs before a half-marathon.
  • Find yourself someone awesome to keep you safe if/when you forget these lessons.
Half way through the year. I hope these get easier, like the miles seem a little easier after you're past halfway in a race... unless you bonk.

Next up for July, Rock-n-Roll Half in Chicago. I promise I will get some runs in, runs in the sun.

One good thing, if I'd fallen over upside-down,
my number would have been the same.

If you'd like to catch up on the year in halfs so far, here are links:
  1. Jan: runDisney StarWars half at Disneyland
  2. Feb: Gasparilla Half in Tampa FL
  3. Mar: Sam Costa Half in Carmel IN
  4. Apr: Carmel Half in Carmel IN
  5. May: Geist Half in Fishers IN
Good Running!