I read an interesting article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle about just how hot and muggy Summer 2016 was:

  • August 2016 was the hottest August ever recorded for Rochester, NY with an average temperature of 76°F (July 1921 is still the hottest month on record for the Rochester area – it averaged almost 78°F).
  • Summer 2016 will go down as the third hottest summer since temperature recordings started in 1830; the average temperature for June, July, and August 2016 was 72.8°F; Summer 1854 (73.1°F) and Summer 1949 (73°F) top the list.
  • The Rochester area experienced 23 days where the daily high was 90°F or higher, the fourth-most ever.

The temperature is one thing, but let’s not forget the impact humidity makes. Combine the two together, and you get one long, hot summer.

Runners typically prefer cool-to-moderate temperatures to run in. Why? Simple. When you start running, your body generates heat and you sweat. When you run when it’s hot and humid out, it feels a heckuva lot hotter! What happens? You tend to slow down, something runners really don’t want to do because now you’re out there longer than you want to be. Or you cut runs short, which is something runners also really don’t want to do because doing that can really mess up mileage goals or training plans.

I will admit, I love running in the summer, but I only run in the wee-morning hours (5:30 AM on weekdays). Doing that allows me to run without having the oppressive temperatures or scalding sun beat me down. It’s only the humidity I have to contend with at that hour. As long as I bring plenty of water and run a little slower, I’m usually OK. And a typical Rochester summer only features a handful of 90°F+ days with high humidty levels (what I call “stupid-hot” days). And we’ll maybe get a few in a row followed by a return to more moderate temperatures.

Not this year…

Going back to Memorial Day weekend, we’ve had one long stretch of brutally hot weather. Several of my running friends participated in the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon, which was held on Saturday, May 28th. I was not there. I was home sweltering while waiting for East Rochester’s Memorial Day Parade to start. It was already in the mid-80’s and extremely muggy when the parade started around 10 AM; my friends down in Letchworth State Park were melting on the trails and roasting in the open sun. I was worried for them and was worried for myself because I was running the Buffalo Half Marathon the next day. All I could think about was the 2014 50 Yard Finish Half Marathon, which was held on a sweltering mid-June morning that year. There was no shade on that course, there were plenty of hills, and the aid stations on the back half of the course ran dry. I nearly succumbed to heat exhaustion as I approached Ralph Wilson Stadium (the finish line was on the 50 yard line), but managed to finish the race.

Fortunately, I made it through the 2016 Buffalo Half Marathon. Several factors aided me:

  • I was “only” running 13.1 miles (vs. those running the full marathon)
  • The race started at 6:30 AM, 30 minutes earlier than the 2015 race – that helped a lot!!
  • There was plenty of shade on the course and a nice breeze
  • The aid stations were loaded with water, electrolytes, frozen clothes, etc.

After finishing that race, I figured I would be able to get ready for the Rochester Half Marathon (September 18th) without any concern.

But the summer was just getting warmed up (pun intended)…

With the exception of a nice vacation (escape?!?) to Lake Placid in mid-July to cheer on/volunteer at the Ironman Trialthon, there was no avoiding the heat and humidity (I gladly traded Rochester’s heat and humidity for Lake Placid’s hills). Since mid-July, my training has taken quite a beating. Long runs were radically shortened; walking breaks became more frequent; race pace turned into a desperate slog to just simply finish.

Since Lake Placid, I managed only one run in double-digit mileage, and that was the Metro 10 race (a 10-mile race that pitted Rochester against Buffalo) in Albion, NY on August 20th. And that race was when I experienced the cumulative effect of a summer’s worth of ugly runs. We had a moderate break in the heat and humidity leading up to the Metro 10, but race day was another scorcher. I managed to run at or above my target pace of 9 minutes/mile for the first 2.5 miles, but by the time I reached the 5K (3.1 miles) mark, I was feeling the heat. I took a short walking break, but never really recovered. Miles 4-6 were painful as we were in open sun the entire time. By the time I cleared the apple orchard at Watt Farms, I had probably walked more than I had run. I felt depleted and nauseous. I somehow managed a slow run over Miles 7 and 8, but by the time I approached the unoffical water stop at Mile 9 (thank God for that and for the boost provided by the Albion HS cross country team!!), there was a hill that just stopped everyone in their tracks. Over that hill, I limped-jogged the last mile. After I received my finisher’s medal, two cups of Gatorade, and a bottle of water, I collapsed under the shade of the first tree I found in Bullard Park. I felt absolutely awful and sick. I was dehydrated despite carrying my own electrolytes and stopping at every aid station. I seriously contemplated never running again! At least not in the summer!!

I’m not alone in my suffering as a runner this summer. Many of my running friends have struggled mightily, too. With September comes cooler temperatures (hopefully!!). I am eager to get out and redeem myself with some long, hilly runs starting tomorrow.

Bring on the Rochester Half Marathon and its hills! The heat and humidity can stay home.

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