What you need to know about how to run in the heat

race_14_photo_188968It was about mile six on the course. My dear friend Caitlin and I were rounding the  first bend of the middle section to run around the back cove of Portland, ME. (If you imagine a figure eight, we were about in the middle of the infinity symbol.)

Caitlin and I cruised on the single lane bike path under the overpass, surrounded by runners. Much to our delight, up ahead was our cheering squad screaming our names. They were doing a great job and we could hear them before we could see them.

With a quick wave of the hand and a fist pump, we passed them, gathering their energy as we flew by. Two blinks of an eye and they were gone.

At the next bend, it was a different scene. A runner was laying on the ground surrounded by two EMS staffers, their bikes strewn nearby on the course. The heat had gotten the better of the runner.

All along the route, there were Emergency Medical Technicians officials patrolling on bikes, on the lookout for casualties of the heat.

runninginheatTo say it was hot was an understatement. Although this half marathon began at 7:30am, we never escaped the heat, sunshine or humidity during the entire 13.1 race.

While Caitlin and I managed to complete the race without needing medical attention, it was in that moment when I crossed the finish line that I declared, "I won't do any races next summer."

And I've stayed true to my pledge this summer (there are no races on the calendar until September) I'm still training in this heat. Today in New Hampshire, I'm looking at a forecast of 90+ degrees.

So what's a girl to do who is training for Reach the Beach, the Green Strides Half and the Seacoast Half Marathon?

How do I beat the blistering sun, suffocating humidity and temperatures in the stratosphere while trying to stick to my training schedule?

Here's four thoughts on how to stay cool during your summer runs.

1. Run on trails

By staying off the asphalt and hitting the trails instead, you'll avoid running on tarmac that is like an oven. The roads absorb heat, hold onto it and then radiate it right back onto you.  The tree canopy  provides a nice shelter and it's always cooler in forested areas.

2. Run early in the morning

The downside of running early (besides waking up early) is that this is when humidity is generally at it's highest. The upside is that it's the best opportunity to run when the temps are cool and the sun's rays aren't searing down on you.

3. Run by feeling not pace

Leave that watch at home in the summer. When you're training in the heat, you're going to run slower. That's a given (for most of us). Your runs aren't about how fast you are going but more about how you are feeling. It's a great opportunity to get in tune with your body and connect with how you're feeling.

4. Change your expectations

Sometimes, I'm a victim of my training schedule. I must do this speed workout today. I have to run 7 miles today at 10k pace. When it's hot and toasty out, it's not about  what the training schedule says. Instead, it's about doing my best in that given moment.

So my speed workout becomes a s l o w 4 mile run. My 7 mile tempo run becomes a s l o w three miles with a little bit of a hill in it. More importantly it's about training that big muscle between my ears, my brain, that it's okay.

It goes without saying to avoid dark colored clothing  in the summer and to stay on top of your hydration. Fluid intake isn't the only thing you need to consider, but you also need to make sure you are replacing lost electrolytes. My electrolyte replacer of choice is Nuun tablets for optimal hydration which I buy at Runner's Alley in town.

What I do love about summer running is that come the fall, with a slight temperature change and I feel so speedy!

Now you tell me, how do you deal with the summer heat when running? Are you a fan? Swing on over to my Facebook Community and tell me.

xx Johanna