I’m doing it. I’m waving the white surrender flag. You win, Louisiana summer 2016.
Sadly, reaching this decision took a long time. “You’re eventually going to be heat acclimated,” I told myself.
As I ran Sunday night, however, I realized I’m fooling myself to think I have any chance to prevail over this heat and humidity. On paper, Sunday’s run should have been better than many others I’ve suffered through. The temperature was 79 degrees. But the humidity and dew point were sky high, pushing that real feel temperature to 85.
Still, 85 degrees is lower than many of my recent runs. So what’s the big deal? Well, all of the runs I’ve completed in the past three months banded together to bring me down. It’s not one run through heat that deals a finishing blow. It’s run after run through Louisiana summer.
I accept my fate. I’m not made to plow through this heat and humidity.
Some runners get stronger in the heat. Some would prefer temperatures in the 80s. Not me. I would pick 50 degrees and lower every day of every week, and I get a mental boost when I can see my breath freezing in the air in front of me.
So, as I ran on Sunday, I composed expletive-laden poetry directed toward June, July and August. I let the animosity flow. Each time I struggled to suck in my next breath of oxygen, I wondered how I’ve lasted this long.
I grew up in southern part of this state, and for 18 years, I felt the Louisiana summer wear me down. When I worked on a tomato farm during the summer as a high schooler, I struggled with the heat. Once, I passed out in the middle of the field. All I can remember is waking up in the shade with someone pouring water on my head.
When I decided to become a runner, I started in the summer heat in Texas. That first 5K run, and all of my training runs after, weren’t easy. But there is a big difference even between Shreveport’s summer and what I ran through for three years in DFW. Texas is hot. Louisiana is sadistic.
For the past four years, I’ve worked to convince myself that this Louisiana summer is making me better. The heat is toughening me up. I no longer believe those fairy tales. I’ve struggled through Louisiana summer training for all four years, and my fall races have reflected my difficulty with the heat.
My years have been nearly identical. Burn up with a lot of miles and long runs through the summer, stumble forward until race day, come up short of my goals, get depressed and take a few months to rebound. Then, thankfully, I bounce back and have a good spring racing season.
I’m tired of that pattern.
Louisiana has no interest in me becoming a better runner. It’s breaking me. And with the way I felt Sunday, it has succeeded.
And science suggests it won’t get any better. Look at this scary report published in the New York Times: Think it’s hot now?
So, Louisiana summer, I hate you. I tried to embrace your steamy mornings and blistering afternoons and nights. I fooled myself into believing you would make me stronger. But I can’t do it any more. We need a permanent break.
In 9 days, I will load up my car and drive west. I will probably cry, because I’m leaving so many friends and family members, along with a running community I’ve grown to love. But I will shed nothing but tears of joy about leaving Louisiana summer behind for good.
From now on, any time you see me complain about hot weather, send me this simple message through text, email or Facebook: “slap yourself.” I plan to come back to Shreveport for Firecracker occasionally. That way I can remind myself of true hot and humid suffering.
For now, however, I’m pulling out on I-20 west. I’ll stop when I hit the ocean. And I’ll probably need to hop in the water, because I’ll still be sweating from Sunday night’s torturous 10 miles.