Dog Days on Their Way
Tallahassee residents know what Dog Days are – that sultry heat that just suffocates. Memorial Day marks a symbolic change in the running calendar from one of Tallahassee’s best seasons – spring – to its toughest – summer. Don’t get me wrong, May can have its warm days. Those who participated in the Gulf Coast Triathlon can testify to that. But there are still a few spring flowers hanging around in May and the nights still see lows in the 60’s and sometimes dip back into the 50’s. You rarely have to swim through the humidity to get from the car to your favorite running trail.
But as May gives way to June mercy gives way to cruelty. The mercury finds its way above the 90 degree mark a little earlier and stays there a little longer past dark each day. The heat builds each day with little respite. The Tallahassee humidity becomes a blanket that makes a runner’s task seem far more daunting than it did during those glorious days of spring.
Despite having painted such a ghastly picture, summer running in Tallahassee does offer its rewards. There is something liberating about stripping down to the lightest running clothes possible and then flushing everything out of your pores with a river of sweat. One alternative of course is to retreat indoors to the treadmill or stationary bicycle, but I cannot resist the outdoors. With a few steps of caution, you can find ways to survive the heat with a smile even if you can never really beat it.
The first key to summer running in Tallahassee is to acknowledge it will slow you down. No matter what your running skills, you will run slower in the hot, humid weather. Let it happen, but don’t get discouraged. Runners’ heat tolerances definitely differ, but we all suffer as those hot temperatures make our bodies less efficient. Blood flow gets diverted to keeping the body cool instead of feeding the cells oxygen to handle the work load of running. Slowing the pace down, especially early in the run really helps keep the run enjoyable and helps you avoid heat exhaustion.
The second key is drinking plenty of fluids. We all hear it all the time and know it is true, but it is so easy to fall behind maintaining adequate fluid levels. It really helps to start with a “full tank” as it is impossible to make up for a deficit while you are running. Find plenty of places to get water or other fluids on your runs. Either leave bottles at designated spots or find those water fountains.
My third key is to take advantage of the great trail system in Tallahassee. Asphalt and concrete absorb and then radiate heat. Many trails are shaded for 90% or more of their distance. I have never tested them with a temperature gauge, but I don’t need one to know the streets of Tallahassee are hotter than the trails. They usually are much more exposed to the sun too. Shade makes a big difference.
The last key, for now at least, is patience. It is amazing how your body will adapt to stress and get stronger if you are patient. A hot day in August is much more tolerable than the same day in early summer. The first really hot run of the year often leaves me convinced I will not survive the summer. But gradually, week after week, it gets better. Sooner or later, I will have one of those runs where gallons of sweat flow through my skin pores but leave me with that post run glows that makes it clear – I just had a good run.