Beat the summer heat on your run – tips from an island girl

This was at the start of 10.25 miles outdoors (August 29, 2015). Who wants to come run with me in Cayman?

This was at the start of 10.25 miles outdoors (August 29, 2015). Who wants to come run with me in Cayman?

I am ready for the summer temps to fade. I won’t lie. Running in this heat is no joke. Luckily I learned from my mistakes last summer when I trained for the Baltimore Run Festival Half Marathon, and I in spite of increasing my running efforts this summer, I have been healthier and happier with the progress.

I fully realize not many will have sympathy for me, as I do live in the Cayman Islands. Which is amazing MOST of the time. I love living here. However, there is a distinct disadvantage to it when you are training for a marathon – especially a fall marathon – and must run in the heat of the summer to prepare. We basically hit 90+ heat index temps in late April, and have not dipped below that since, nor do I expect to get back below that until sometime in November. While many in the running community say you shouldn’t run in more than 90-degree conditions (heat index), well, if I followed that advice, I would only be able to run 3-4 months out of the year. Clearly that won’t work in my life.

Last year, I was very much a newbie, and while I did some reading on how to train for a half marathon, I admit that I didn’t really do much to understand how to adjust to where I live so I could train properly. I ended up getting a touch of heat exhaustion on several occasions after long runs of up to 13.1 miles, and for some crazy reason, I decided to stick with the sport even though it was quite miserable after a long run.

Fast forward to this year. I’m wiser, have done more reading on the subject, and in spite of higher mileage running, have found a way to get my miles in and NOT feel like I wanted to puke and pass out immediately after a run! First and foremost, I decided to only do my long runs outside; all other running in the summer is done inside on the treadmill. It allows me to focus more on the things I need to concentrate on: speed, inclines, pace, etc. I would not be able to do that in the temps we experience in the summer here. Based on my experience, here are some tips on how to beat the summer heat when you are training:

  • Make sure you eat properly the 2-3 days before a long run.
  • Ensure that you are drinking lots of water for the few days leading up to your run. Drink even more on the day of your long run.
  • Run in the early morning (usually before the sun is up) or as the sun goes down. As I struggle with morning running, I time all my running to where I am hitting the last 3-4 miles as the sun sets. This way, I am running in as cool temps for the evening as possible while also running while it is light out.
  • For long runs, run part of it inside, then continue outside for the remainder of the distance. This helps you to stay a bit more hydrated and not have the problems (nausea, vomiting, heat exhaustion, etc) that you might have if you do a long run outside in extremely hot temperatures.
  • Freeze a bottle of water the night before. When you go for the outdoor portion of your run, wrap it in a light towel/washcloth and stick it in the back of your running bra (sorry guys!) to help keep you cooler while you run. There are also other products you can buy (cooling vests, cooling neckbands, cooling hats, etc) that will provide the same assistance; however, as I live on a small island in the Caribbean, we do not get nifty products like that – so I am forced to go low tech.
  • Always take water with you. Drink it.
  • Map out a route that allows you to refill your water along the way OR find a friend/family member who will meet you at a designated point to give you fresh, cool water (and food if you need it).
  • Drink pickle juice before or after your run (or during, if someone meets up with you!). It is surprisingly refreshing and provides a whack of salts to help keep you properly hydrated. Another great trick I have learned is to eat potato chips mid-run to help keep my salts in balance.
  • Slow down. You need to reduce your speed. It’s OK to be slow.
  • With the line above, reduce your expectations. Your body works so much harder in the hot weather because it is trying to cool it down.
  • Take a cold shower, or even better, an ice bath after! Or if you are near a stream, river or pool, consider taking a dip at the end to help cool your body down after the workout.
This was the temp when I finished that same run about 2 hours later. Not much difference.

This was the temp when I finished that same run about 2 hours later. Not much difference.

This is how I have managed to stay upright and healthy this year. I would love to know what you do in hot, humid temps. There is ALWAYS more for me to learn and be a better runner. I appreciate any advice on what you have found to be helpful.

With all of this, I am painfully slow, and thus have really no way to gauge how fast I will be for the upcoming races this fall. Based on last year, I can expect to run about 6.3-6.7 miles per hour on race day, if I am running at top speed. Of course, I am not taking into account the speed work I have put in this year; perhaps that will help. But in all honesty, while I would love to have fast times, I’m really in it for the adventure, for the experience and to know that I am tackling challenges that I never thought I could do. So I’m looking forward to seeing how these summer temps prepare me for my fall races, and I only hope that I can do my training justice when the starting gun goes off on race day!

About two more months of extreme heat, then I can look forward to balmy temps of 75-85 for my running. I love the winter!

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