My terrifying, big, hairy, audacious goal of a race (A Race For the Ages 48 hour run where I hope to *whisper* run 100 miles or DIE TRYING) is now ~6 weeks away and the utter terror and questioning of all my life decisions is starting to set it. What better way to distract myself than a dawn til dusk training run on the hottest day of the year with my training partners?!
Kim, Colleen and I had this run planned for a while as a good way to 1. spend time in the heat, 2. practice long, slow progress, and 3. because we’re dumb???? I DON’T KNOW. We were actually scheduled to do this the next weekend, but due to a couple conflicts we decided at the last minute to do it the upcoming weekend… and then we learned that the heat index would be well over 100 degrees and that there was a heat advisory out basically saying, stay inside, or else. Great day for an all day training run, no? As terrible as it sounded, I was weirdly excited (mark of a true ultra runner, I think); I tossed almost every running related item I own into my car, and at 6am (when it was already 80 degrees and humid enough that we were covered in sweat from simply tying our shoelaces), we set off.
We kept a good pace for a lot longer than I had expected us to, to be honest. We settled in a 3:3 rhythm which seemed to suit all of us well and had water/food/toilet/re-application of sunscreen stops every 2 miles or so. I cannot accurately describe how hot it was. I’m not sure I’ve ever been that hot in my life, at some points it felt like my brain was cooking inside of my skull, like my skin was going to just drip off of my body at any given moment…. but thanks to our slow pace and mindful fueling, we actually stayed feeling pretty decent considering the conditions.
Here’s what I learned on my time on the literal surface of the sun:
- Baby powder is the SECRET WEAPON (for sweaty running), or, as I said to Kim at one point with my heat addled brain, SECRET INGREDIENT (to what? I don’t know). I have been struggling with blister problems for the past few months. I got some new shoes, which helped, and inserts, which also helped, but I was still getting some hot spots. I had the idea that maybe making my feet MORE moist with copious amounts of body glide and aquaphor wasn’t the solution, especially not when my feet are already damp from sweating (heavily); so, instead of covering them in more lube, I dusted them with baby powder. EUREKA!! My feet stayed comfortable and dry (and baby fresh) for nearly the whole day. My hot spots and blisters were kept at bay almost completely. I did leave with a couple minor blisters (only two that were painful), and I think if I used a powder specifically made for, well, foot stuff, it would have worked even better. I also dusted the powder between my thighs which were covered in heat rash, and it helped. SECRET INGREDIENT, I TELL YOU.
- Ice bandanas are everything. Kim bought one of those fancy magic towels that are supposed to stay cold, but after reading her blog post it seems like my simple bandana filled with ice tied around my neck actually ended up a little better than her fancy towel. And actually, just ice everywhere. In the bra, under your hat, in your pants… basically wherever it will go. ICE. EVERYWHERE.
- Starting slow and staying slow is key to staying steady. In every other timed event I’ve ever participated in, I usually go faster in the early hours when I’m energetic and putter out throughout the day. For this training run, we didn’t wait until we got tired to start adding in the walk breaks or slowing down. So, instead of starting off strong on barely hanging on until the end, I felt like I was able to keep a continuous effort level for much longer and even go faster over all. The tortoise and the hare, and all.
- The little things can make all the difference. A dry pair of socks, a fresh change of clothes, listening to a song that really gets me going — doing these all day when I was feeling tired or in a bad mood instantly brought me back to Happy Chelsea when I needed a boost. We changed clothes twice during our run, and both times putting on those dry clothes (because I was COMPLETELY soaked through with sweat) made me feel like a new woman ready to conquer all the miles.
- Sometime the best sun protection is just staying out of the sun. I am very diligent about applying sunscreen, to my tattoos and face in particular. I am that weird sunscreen girl that wears it literally every day, even when I’m just going to work. Could be my brush with skin cancer, could be because I’m vain and don’t want to age, could be because I want to protect my significant investment in the art on my body… whatever it is, SUNSCREEN: I’m a fan. But it’s really damn hard to just keep applying layer after layer of sunscreen, especially when you’re dirty and sweaty and tired. Partway through the day I ripped one my of buffs in half to wear under my hat and cover my face, and I pinned another one around my arm to cover my tattoos. For the race I plan to buy one of those super cute wide brimmed foppy hats and also getting some UV protective sleeves for my arms.
- Getting up to run the next day was difficult, but not impossible. And as soon as I got up and got moving, the stiffness quickly dissipated. This was something I was very interested to test because I plan to take a nap during the race. I was worried it might be too hard to get up and get going again if I did, but I think if I take care with recovery, it shouldn’t be an issue for the race.
As we lovingly decided to name it on a particularly hot stretch of pavement… the Swamp Crotch run was a rousing success!