Sweltering summer days are perfect for a whole host of activities. Tasting all 16 flavors of frozen yogurt in the name of science? Sure. Openly resenting your best friend for describing her 50-degree morning run in the Bay Area? Oh, yes. Lazily basking in the shade at a Central Park lobster bake with a brood of your favorite good-looking women (and one good-looking man)?
Recording a new personal record in the blazing New York heat? Not so much.
Spoiled by a (nearly) snow-filled Manhattan winter, I’ve been running outside almost daily since the start of the year and – much to my surprise – have been logging PR after PR as the mercury rises. I had started to half believe I would get incrementally faster forever, but it turns out, Saturday’s heat wave had other plans.
As I joined my colorful corral at the Front Runners NY Lesbian and Gay Pride 5-mile Run before the 9 a.m. gun, the temperature was already clocking in at an uncomfortable 69 degrees, with humidity levels grazing a suffocating 97 percent. Sweating profusely before I even crossed the starting mat, I conceded this might not be my fastest endeavor yet but internally committed to still logging a 7:50 pace — or a full 10 seconds slower than my recent 10K performance. Seemed like a realistic goal.
Turns out, realism isn’t my strong suit. Within two miles, my breathing was strained, my legs felt like lead and I’d developed a stitch in my side I couldn’t shake until the final stretch. I’ve always heard running in the heat is a challenge, but I’d vainly assumed that it was only a challenge for other runners —like all the elite althetes at this year’s Boston Marathon — not this seasoned expert with, um, about 15 months of experience in her arsenal. Hello, hubris, my old friend.
Legitimately concerned I would not be able to finish the course, I bit the bullet about 15 minutes in and forced myself to slow from a 7:30 pace to a 9:00 pace, walk through each and every water station and – at the suggestion of my wise friend Leigh-Ann who like a guardian angel sprinted past mid-race shouting sage advice – concentrate on my breathing. In doing so, I fended off the side-stitch, crossed the finish line at 41:41 for an 8:21 average pace and was rewarded with a delicious rainbow popsicle. That marks my slowest timed pace since the Irish Sprint 10K in March, but, hey, the popsicle stick included a riddle, so I guess it’s a wash.
On a completely unrelated note: How do bunnies keep their fur neat? They use a hare brush! Thanks for the laughs, popsicle-stick joke writer No. 14!
Marine Corps Marathon training officially began for me today, so putting my running on hold until the first frost isn’t really an option. Any tips for logging miles in a sauna of a city?