Friday, February 25, 2011

Running in the wind

I read a race report for a Big Sur Marathon that took place on a day with very strong winds. Because it's a point to point race, that meant heading into the wind for almost the entire route. The runner did note one benefit of the situation: On downhill stretches, it made it easier to go all-out, because the wind acted as a braking force.

Today I got to simulate that on a small scale; I had a 13-mile run planned, and as it happened, it was a very windy day. I got a late start in order to avoid some morning rain, but after the rains ended, the wind rushed in almost immediately. Plus, it was my warmest day of running yet this year, around 65 degrees -- and the humidity made it feel worse. For just 13 miles, I figured carrying 16 ounces of Nuun would be plenty, but I hadn't taken into account how hot it was. Even though I was well hydrated at the start, by the end of the run, I wished I had brought about twice as much liquid along.

The first six miles were pretty easy; I was running at roughly an 8:45 pace. Then I decided to pick up the pace a bit: 8:26, 8:30, 8:25. That last mile, Mile 9, is when the wind really picked up. I was heading downhill, straight into a strong headwind. Just as I had read, the wind really did help me lean into the hill a bit more than I would normally do. But then things leveled out for a while, and running on the flat felt more like running uphill, so even this "easy" dowhnill leg wasn't any faster than the previous two. Then the big hills arrived: Miles 10 and 11 were 9-minute slogs; Mile 10 with the wind at my back, and Mile 11 into the wind. On Miles 12 and 13, comparatively flat, I struggled to maintain a 9-minute pace. I arrived home after 12.6 miles, so I jogged around the block to get my 13.

The verdict: I'd much rather be running in still air than in the wind. Even on an uphill segment with the wind at my back, it didn't help much, and the brief intervals where I was running downhill into the wind didn't make up for the overall increase in effort. I felt like I expended a lot more energy than I normally would have to complete a 13-mile run. I was absolutely drenched with sweat after the run. Even after drinking three 16-ounce glasses of water, I weighed three pounds less than I had the day before, which means, counting my 16 ounces of Nuun, I probably sweated away 7 pounds worth!

For the fastest recovery, most running guides suggest drinking enough water after a run to bring you back to your pre-run weight. Because some of this doesn't stay in your system, you may need to drink as much as 1.5 times the weight you sweat away in a workout. I spent much of the day drinking liquids, trying to restore some balance to my system.

I have a 16-miler planned for Sunday; here's hoping things cool off a bit and the wind dies down by then!

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