Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's Not The Heat . . .

As I death-staggered through the final couple of miles of my Memorial Day "run," I reflected once more on that most unpleasant of distance running subjects, the bonk. Most of us have dealt with the classic calorie-deficiency bonk before. Whether at mile 19 of a road marathon or mile 60 of a trail 100, the symptoms are pretty much the same - epic energy crash and an inability to do simple things like move forward at more than 2 m.p.h. The solution to the calorie bonk is pretty straightforward as well - get calories. In a marathon, by the time you bonk, it might be too late in the game to fully recover. But in an ultra, there's usually time for multiple cycles of bonk-rebirth.

There's another sort of bonk, however. One that many a Houstonian knows all too well: the Heat Bonk. More accurately, the Heat & Humidity Bonk. Yesterday had all the elements. Heat? Check - between 83-87 degrees for the duration of the run (not July hot, but then I'm not July heat acclimated either). Humidity? Big check. There's a reason the Memorial Park trails have names like Laos and Ho Chi Minh. Poor run management? Check. Didn't feel like I was setting a very fast pace, but that's the challenge in dealing with the heat. You have to pull back on the reigns significantly and from the get-go, because unlike the calorie bonk, it's damn near impossible to come back from the heat bonk. Once you're cooked, you might as well cash it in. After about 2 slightly too fast hours, I was cooked. Every tiny uphill became a mountain, every short stretch of shuffling felt like speed work. A 5-minute stop back at the car (complete with electrolytes, ice water, and a gel) helped only temporarily. As soon as I tried running again, it became obvious there was nothing left. 10 degrees cooler and 20% less humid and I'm sure I could have churned out another couple of hours. But it wasn't the end of April, it was the end of May. And so I staggered back to my car, a little woozy and a bit nauseated. Not exactly a confidence-builder for Rocky Hill Ranch 50K in a couple of weeks.

1 comment:

  1. i think i know what happened:

    Heat stroke symptoms:

    Unconscious or has a markedly abnormal mental status (dizziness, confusion, hallucinations, or coma)

    Flushed, hot, and dry skin (although it may be moist initially from previous sweating or from attempts to cool the person with water)

    May have slightly elevated blood pressure at first that falls later

    May be hyperventilating

    Rectal (core) temperature of 105°F or more

    So the next time you're running, don't forget the thermometer to see if you have an ass-fever... if so, stop running. Apparently, you might be having heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Note of caution, make sure the thermometer has been kept relatively cool or serious burns could ensue.