Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Heat Acclimation

When you realize you have little time, or ability, to properly acclimate to an environment in which you plan to race in, a certain sense of reluctant acceptance sets in. While I have rallied against the common misconception that Portland is a vast wasteland of cold, wet and cloudy weather (it simply is not) the fact remains that it is indeed January in the Pacific Northwest. There is simply no comparing it to Panama when it comes to heat and humidity. The average temperature range in Colon in February (where I start my run) is 83 for a high and 76 for a low. The end point in Panama City for that same time period is 90 and 76. Ooof.

I knew when I took on this challenge that the distance of running across Panama would not be the biggest hardship.  Depending on the route I will take, it looks like I will log between 50-60 miles to cross the Isthmus. However, the personal challenge, the one which will affect me the absolute most, will be dealing with this drastic upswing in temperature, and worst off, humidity. It simply doesn't matter what I do - I perform atrociously when it is warm.

Every handbook one reads on heat acclimation says it takes around 10-14 days to get properly into the zone where you can handle whatever weather comes your way.  If anything, part of my acclimation is going to take part "on-site" so to speak, when I take on the Fuego Y Agua 25k just a few days prior to my run. I am guessing this race will take me easily close to 2.5 hours. My plan is to take it rather leisurely but do what I can to push myself to a decent effort at the same time.  If anything, it should be at least on par with the difficulty level of my Panama Canal Run simply because of the lack of actual acclimation which will occur prior to arriving there.  I am hoping that trial by fire at Fuego will help ready me for 50 plus miles of hot and sticky running.

In the meantime, I am going to do what I can here in Portland to get ready. A recent trip to Miami reminded me how poorly my body does in similar temperatures. Therefore, with just three weeks to go before I set off to make a cross-country run, the time to start is now. So pushups in a sweatsuit in a sauna, here we come.

I can already tell how much I am going to hate this. In a good way, of course.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Run Across Panama

When I ran my 52 marathons in 2006 I scoured available resources to find all marathons run in order to make sure I hit an actual race every single weekend.  I became a student of the sport and tried to learn as much as I could from as many people as possible who knew infinite amounts more about running than I did. A bit of a geography nerd (which I devote a chapter to in my new book,) I was often drawn to the idea of running from places of significance to other places of significance. One area intrigued me greatly and I was surprised that I could not find a race that traversed the course I felt was a natural fit.

As the years have gone by, I have learned that often when I want to run somewhere, it is far easier not to wait for an actual race but to go and simply run there. While I love “racing” I very much love “running” – there is a significant difference, which I plan to explore in a future article. As such, knowing about this race in Nicaragua, I finally saw the opportunity to combine an excellent adventure with a years-old dream:

Run the Panama Canal.

So, a few days after finishing the Fuego I will drive down to Panama. As the morning sun breaks in the city of Colon, I will begin running from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean Sea, really) and hopefully before the sun sets, will be dipping my toes in the Pacific in Panama City. Following the actual canal is, for all intents and purposes, impossible, but I will be running alongside of it for as much as I can.  Relatively speaking it is not that far of a distance.  But the iconic nature of running across one of the most marvelous and dangerous undertakings in the 20th century is enough to get me giddy.

I am presently trying to figure out how I can have people track my progress as I have zero intention of using my own phone and paying $5000 in roaming charges. However, I will be checking in when I can and taking oodles of pictures along the way.

Stay tuned for more!