I didn’t want to open the door to go back outside yesterday evening. I dreaded the blast of steamy air that awaited. I had already suffered through a hard track session in the morning before working all day, and every piece of me wanted to collapse underneath the AC vent. But I had no choice: summer running, for me, is all about two-a-day workouts.
It’s a lesson I learned two years ago, trying to train hard for a fall marathon. The Louisiana summer would surely help forge my fall victories. I would tough out every run. I would not bow to the heat index. My high-mileage days would be slightly slower (I wasn’t completely naive), but I would emerge from the south’s longest, cruelest season in the best shape of my life.
If my blog has a theme so far, it’s probably disappointment and dealing with crushed goals. Not surprisingly, then, summer of 2014 devoured me. It charred my running soul. I flopped in an extreme downhill marathon in Utah (Big Cottonwood). Then I struggled the second half of the Chicago Marathon. I needed several months easy to recover after leaving my legs and heart in the summer heat.
Last year I was much smarter. I switched to running doubles. It helped me keep my mileage high without leaving me completely depleted every day.
I still struggled with a disappointing finish in the 2015 New York City Marathon, which included disheartening walking breaks and critical race-day blunders. But I knew going into NYC weekend that I had prepared. Sadly my time didn’t reflect my fitness level, but I was ready to attack my goal.
So this year, I’m taking what I learned from 2015 and transferring it to 2016. I’m splitting my mileage on at least four of my six workout days each week. The key is waking up early and getting one workout done before the sun hangs high in the sky. That is a struggle for me year round. Having a strong running community with multiple group-run options helps keep me on track.
I know my second runs during the summer will be borderline unbearable. It’s as if God sees runners heading out during daytime hours and decides to flip the Louisiana crockpot setting from low to boiling high.
Tuesday, I ran five miles from work during my lunch break. For the first four miles, I was searching for anything to take my mind off the searing air. As my watch beeped to tell me I had one mile left, the sun hid behind a cloud, a gentle breeze kicked up, and several drops of rain cooled my skin. I felt second after second melt from my pace, and I thought: “this is what running feels like.” Last night, however, I had no such epiphany. No gracious cloud or rain. I ran four miles, each one more laborious. Again I reminded myself that, as long as I’m smart in my training, this hellfire will help me improve.
On those days when I have to summon the last fiber of inner will to get out the door a second time, like Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, I have to think about the benefits I will see this fall. I think to how it will feel lining up in Portland in October, knowing I’m ready to race.
So until my body can adapt to summer running (it’s a painfully slow process it seems, and I promise I’ll stop whining soon), it’s all about survival and praying for a little bit of cloud cover and a breeze.