Yesterday after work, I went for a seven-mile trail run in low 50-degree temperatures where sunshine was in full force. While the brightness and warmth always puts me in great spirits, I immediately missed my cold weather running that I had just enjoyed the day before.
When I say I love running in cold weather, I mean I LOVE LOVE LOVE it from the bottom of my heart. I have built a case for my feelings in Snow Monster Runs, and hold fast to this affection. I love feeling the crisp cold wind blowing on my face, whipping through my hair creating a mess. With the exceptions of winds higher than 35 mph, as I did attempt running in 50 mph winds on top of the mountain where I reside, and ended up turning around. Not only was I being blown all over the road, but the dirt flying into my eyes was not a welcome side effect.
Cold weather running doesn’t come without it’s pains. My skin is very sensitive, so I have spent many nights sleeping with a Vitamin E oil mask to help restore moisture that’s been stripped from my face, and my hands slathered in moisturizer then covered with those super soft therapeutic gloves (which are always rejected because somehow I manage to take them off while sleeping). This is a small price to pay for happiness, so it’s worth it to me.
I love summertime and mostly everything that comes with it. I know this makes me an running anomaly, but I’m just not a fan of running in the summer heat. The main reason is I have a difficult time breathing in the thicker, humid air, I’m always thirsty and have to hydrate more often, and while I know sweat is a great indicator of how hard you worked, I can’t stand the feel of the extra sweat that comes with running in blazing temperatures. I also tan (and sometimes burn) very easily, and while I laugh at my crazy tan lines because they are the mark of a runner, I am just not into adding more risk for skin cancer. Yes…I know you can get sun damage even on the cloudiest, cold winter days. But I’m mostly covered, so I feel more protection, and I’ve never had quite as many side effects in the winter or fall as I have in the summer.
I also struggle with melasma, where my face will tan, then fade, leaving behind patches of pale brown skin. I have tried skin lightening techniques (lemon juice, hydroquinone, laser) that have helped, but it continues to come back anytime I’m in severe weather conditions (ahem, hot Mexico sun). I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no sense wasting my energy dwelling on something that is mostly out of my control. I accept it for what it is, but since I certainly don’t want to make it worse than it already is, it’s hello sunblock and hats. This picture was taken on my way to the Richmond marathon, and I received a lot of static from my sister for wearing it for the entire 7-hour drive (this includes rest stops).
This is one of my favorite hats that I wear in the car on those extra sunny days. When it comes to protecting my skin, I am all about priorities and don’t care who makes fun of my floppy hats.
When I ran the Pittsburgh marathon in May 2012, the weather climbed into the 80s, and it became so hot and humid that they called a Code Red during the race (i.e., potentially dangerous conditions). The hardest part of this race for me was the long straight and flat stretch of East Carson Street, from the West End to the South Side, where there was no shade in sight. I welcomed with open arms (literally) the crazy hill climb into Oakland because it was wonderfully cool and shady. There were many moments in that race where, if there was a two-foot wide sliver of shade flush to the sidewalk, I was in it. Still, I prevailed with an excellent time for my first injury-free marathon.
It’s my nature to make the best of any situation, so running in the heat is no exception. While I don’t necessarily enjoy it, I still run just as much on those hot summer days as on colder days. To not run would be worse, so I suck it up and go. To make it a better experience, I
1) enjoy the freedom of summer running gear and being able to wear less weight in clothing.
2) follow up my run with a dive in the pool or take a cool shower, and it was all worth it.
3) try to run earlier or later in the day to attempt beating the peak heat hours, but sometimes it doesn’t matter – it’s just HOT.
4) avoid the worst time for damaging sun rays (sources suggest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.).
5) am never without both a ball cap and sunblock containing either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (supposedly the best protection against dangerous UV rays).
6) make up for clothing weight lost by adding my fuel belt with double water bottles.
While most of my posts are upbeat and positive, my aim here is not to complain or bash summer weather. Being human, I have things that I’m not particularly fond of and wanted to share how I cope. I’m extremely grateful for the ability to run period, so I’ll certainly be dragging myself out there and sweating with the rest of them. By them, I mean my husband and one of my sisters, who love running in the heat. I worry there may be something wrong with them. 😉
What keeps me going is knowing that fall will be here again before I know it, and I’ll be back in my glory. If you haven’t read it yet, feel free to check out my fall love post. In the meantime, I’ll be savoring every last cold day I have to run in, and embrace those hot days that are ahead.