Seasons Change – Tim Unger’s Call to Summer
Spring does not end by the calendar until June 21, 2018. But Tallahassee runners know that pretending spring really last that long is just wishful thinking. It has been a great spring, many cool mornings that were perfect for running. But alas, I hear Tim Unger calling for participants in Gate to Gate at Eglin Air Force Base on Memorial Day. The latest summer ever arrives in Tallahassee is Memorial Day. Memorial Day is not just another hot day, but it is nature’s notice that the relentless, oppressive Tallahassee summer is here and staying until sometime in October.
For many runners, Memorial Day marks the end of outdoor exercise, especially running, until there is a fall football game played at home under a crisp blue sky with a chill in the air. For many others, summer may require some deal cutting (slower pace, shorter distance), but they are not about to surrender use of the outdoors. They know some of the best running events of the year take place despite summer’s challenges.
But before we start signing up for these events, it is worth remembering how bruising summer heat can be. If you ignore northwest Florida’s suffocating heat, the impact can be fatal, although that is rare. Cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are not rare. Runners who exercise common sense, however, can avoid these perils and find the rewards of outdoor running in the summer worth the extra sweat.
Success depends, for almost everyone, on acknowledging that the human body is simply not designed to perform as well when the air temperature begins climbing above 60 degrees. On the other hand, it has learned to make adjustments to survive. Keep these four rules in mind during summertime running:
Adjust your expectations. When running in the heat, it is ok to forgive yourself for slower performances. When temperatures rise, runners will have poor efforts more often and most runs will be slower than expected and slow compared to running in those awesome springtime conditions we have had this year. Remember too, it is not just the hot sun that slows us down, it is the humidity.
A number of sources recommend looking at the “dew point” temperature to know when and how much to expect performance to be slowed. The dew point is a measurement tool that relates to humidity — it is the temperature at which water condenses. For most runners, a dew point above 60 or 65° F will start to feel uncomfortable, and one higher than 70° F make most all efforts challenging.
Work with your environment the best way you can. When and where someone runs can make a big difference. Trails, shade, temperature, asphalt and rain are major factors. Each of these are impacted by the time of day and the dew point.
Give yourself time to acclimate. The human body does do some acclimating to help runners survive the full impact of summer. There are limits to the amount of acclimation, but after two weeks there is usually a noticeable improvement in heat tolerance. The primary way the bodies does this is by increasing the fluid volume maintained in the body and by Increasing the blood plasma feeding the muscles and cells. It then tries to rebuild the nutrient levels in the blood stream to cool, feed and fuel the muscles. Finally, the body’s sweat rate increases and starts earlier, while the amount of salt in the sweat decreases.
Hydrate more than you think you need too. Finally, drink, drink, drink. Chronic dehydration can easily become a problem for summer runners. Once you get behind, you cannot catch up while running a strong pace. So be sure not to give everyone else a head start.
The Tallahassee summer running and racing scene is active and offers great opportunities. The summer racing season kicks off with the Gate-to-Gate Memorial Day 4.4 Mile Run on Eglin Air Force Base. While this is obviously not a Tallahassee event, it has always been a Gulf Winds Track Club tradition to drive over in large numbers and participate. Tim Unger has done a great job of keeping the tradition alive and directing the club to 22-year streak of winning some kind of team award. Mostly in the sun, this race is a challenge! Gate to Gate event information has officially been released at https://runsignup.com/Race/FL/EglinAfb/GatetoGateMemorialRun.
The 2018 version of the SMIRF (Summer Mornings Include Running Fun) Northside Cross Country Program begins on June 4. This program is sponsored by the City of Tallahassee Parks and Recreation Department and Gulf Winds Track Club and provides runners aged 9 and up (emphasis on middle school/prep distance runners) with preseason, summer venue to gain an introduction to the sport of distance running as well as to offer a setting for those competitive runners to perfect their running skills and endurance. Sessions are to be held every week day (M-F) from 7:45 AM – 9:30 AM, beginning June 4 and ending July 27 (with a week off July 2-6). The runners and coaches meet at the Meadows Soccer Complex, 701 N. Miller Landing Road. Use the Miller Landing Road parking area. For more information contact Carly Thomas, (850) 631-2184; Tallahassee Parks and Recreation Lucas Williams (891-3825) or firstname.lastname@example.org (425-6671).
The Pot Luck Bash 4 Mile Run is another great summer time event produced by Gulf Winds Track Club. It is four miles on the trails of Phipps Park, mostly in the shade. However, it starts at 6:00 p.m. and unless it is raining it will test your heat tolerance. The good news is you win awards by accurately predicting your time in the race instead of running fast. There is a great Pot Luck Dinner and Low Country Boil after the run while GWTC recognizes outstanding high school cross country runners and track and field athletes with scholarships.
June also means the return of Thursday Night Track Meets. Starting with the 40-meter diaper dash and continuing up through the 5,000-meter race, it is family night! Meets start at 6:45. Contact Tom Perkins for details at Tom Perkins, 894-2019.
The Summer Trail Race Series has now opened for registration. The series consists of 4 races on mostly single-track trails each race in a different park. The first race is June 23 at Munson Hills. More information at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-gulf-winds-summer-trail-series-tickets-45182239294.
There are many more opportunities including the Summer Trail Racing Series, but time and space have run out for now.
So, start acclimating and take on the summer outdoor challenge. You will find them all on the GWTC Calendar.