Something very weird happened this morning as I was finishing up my run: It actually rained. It’s certainly rained a few times this summer, but this little shower wasn’t in any forecast. Can’t remember the last time it rained during a morning run and even though this one didn’t amount to much, it sure felt good.
What hasn’t felt so great is another summer of hard training and long runs for Central Texans who are gearing up for such fall marathons as Chicago, Portland, Marine Corps, New York City, Twin Cities, St. George or a bit later, Dallas, San Antonio or Sacramento. You also might be wondering if there’s any possible way that training through our brutal summer could possibly bestow on us any positive benefits.
Wonder no more.
Certainly, gutting out long summer runs toughens and calluses us and is good preparation for whatever warmth Mother Nature might throws at us in the fall marathons, but training through our abysmal heat and overwhelming humidity actually gives us an advantage over those poor souls training in Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine, but not Portland, Texas.
Anyway, training through our Texas summer in conditions fit only for lizards actually provides some of the same aerobic advantages that training at altitude provides.
I wrote about this last summer, but I get asked about it all the time so it’s worth repeating: The type of heat training we all are doing will improve our aerobic performance, not only in a warm marathon, but in a cool-weather race as well.
A study at the University of Oregon (released in 2010) looked at the impact of heat acclimation and whether it could improve the ability to exercise in a cool environment. And, it did.
The UO researchers took 12 trained cyclists and put them through a 10-day heat acclimation process. A control group of cyclists didn’t get any heat training. After that, the cyclists performed time trials in controlled hot and cool conditions. To make things even harder, before the time trial, the cyclists were immersed in warm water to elevate their body temps so they started off running hot. (Hope these cyclists were well-paid for this.)
What the researchers found was that the 10-day heat acclimation process the cyclists were put through, resulted in a five percent increase in VO2 max during cool conditions and an eight percent boost in hot conditions. (VO2 max is the max capacity of the body’s ability to transport and process oxygen during exercise. Important stuff.) Equally good, the heat acclimation also increased the power output by five percent in the cool temps as well as the hot.
Clearly, the heat-trained cyclists were significantly fitter than the control group of cyclists who didn’t receive any heat training. But that was only part of it.
In the all-important category of plasma volume, our heat-trained cyclist friends increased their volume by a whopping 6 ½ percent, while the control group showed no changes. This is particularly significant for us because when you run, your plasma volume—the volume of plasma in the blood vessels—goes down by as much as 20 percent. The more we sweat, the more the plasma drops because the body is working so hard to cool itself. As the plasma volume continues to plunge on a long, hot run, there is a corresponding rise in the concentration of red blood cells.
We all know how difficult it is to run long and hard in the heat. The reason it’s so harder (than say on a dry, 50-degree morning) is once we heat up, the blood flow to the working muscles gets messed up and when it does, the heart has to work a lot harder to pump blood around the body to cool us off. Another words, it takes a lot of work to cool the body and keep us running and this puts a strain on the body.
No surprise there. But the Oregon study shows that once we’ve adapted sufficiently to the heat (and believe me, if you’ve been running at all through our early summer warmth, you are well on your way to fully adapting), our plasma volume is significantly increased which means we have more blood to work with.
For sure, any type of training in any weather, will increase plasma volume, but heat training increases it even more—similar to training at altitude. Which is why runners flock to altitude in the first place.
The difference though is in recovery time. Here, any hot, long run will absolutely wipe you out and the recovery time is much longer than a similar run in a cool, dry climate at altitude.
Still, the bottom line in all this is if you can survive marathon training in Texas this summer it will have a positive aerobic impact when you get to your fall marathon—even if the temps are mercifully cool and dry.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee that you’ll PR in your fall marathon (darn it), but Austin’s heat-trained marathoners are aerobically fitter than runners of the same ability who may have trained this summer in cooler, dryer conditions.
So, as we slog our way through long runs this summer, rest assured there will be some payback this fall. At least, we can hope so.
O Kendall Baisden, the reigning NCAA 400-meter champ from UT, is the fastest qualifier to advance to the semis of the World Junior Championships in Eugene. That semi will be tonight. Baisden, a sophomore to be, qualified for the World Juniors by winning the USA Juniors earlier in Eugene where she also won the NCAAs. Baisden, who is from Detroit, was also one of four Longhorn track women to be named to the All Academic team, sponsored by the US Track & Field and Cross Country Association. Baisden was joined on that team by Shanay Briscoe, Briana Nelson and Marielle Hall. The Longhorn guys placed seven on that team: Chris Galvin, Ryan Crouser, Johannes Hock, John McNamara, Carlton and Charles Anumnu and Josh Brudnick.
O Despite owning an Olympic silver medal and being the American 1500-meter champ, Leonel Manzano couldn’t get into the Monaco Diamond League 1500. Or, so he thought. Leo The Lion was in Stockholm getting ready to head to Spain for another race when a spot opened up in Monaco at the last minute and he flew there instead. In one of the greatest 1500 fields ever assembled, Silas Kiplagat won in an insane 3:27.64 with Manzano eighth. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a cause for celebration, but Manzano’s time of 3:30.98 was a two-second PR and the fastest time for eighth place in any meet in history. “I knew I was going to be running faster than I’ve gone before,” says Manzano who is back in Austin while the European tour takes a break for the Commonwealth Games. “The key for me was to just stay as calm as possible and not make too many moves. My main goal going into it was to PR and do well in the race. I’m just thrilled that I was able to go out there and put down that time.” Leo has three more European races on the schedule, but before heading back across the pond he’ll run the GNC Liberty Road Mile in Pittsburgh on August 1.
O Boston Marathon champ and all-around good guy Meb Keflezighi has a new gig. Earlier this week, Meb was named VP of running for Competitor Group which owns and operates the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series. Competitor is based in San Diego where Keflezighi lives and where he is also is a co-owner of Movin’ Shoes, a four-store chain of running stores. He isn’t retiring from running quite yet. Meb will continue to race at least through the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials where he’ll try and make his fourth Olympic team at the age of 41.
O Congrats to Elias Asch, the logistics and operations manager for the Austin Marathon and Conley Sports. He and Leslie Wise got married last Saturday.
O Pure Austin club manager (and former Conley Sports staffer) Diana Ferguson and her husband Keegan are expecting a son in December. And former Austinite Shauneen Garrahan Werlinger, who went to UT Law School, is also expecting a boy in November. Shauneen now lives in Fairfax Station, Virginia where she is an attorney.
O Quinn Carrozza, daughter of Paul and Shiela, will swim three events in the Phillips 66 Nationals in Irvine, California, August 6-10. Quinn will swim the 200 and 400 freestyle and the 200 backstroke. This meet will serve as the qualifier for National Team selection for the 2015 Worlds, World University Games and Pan Am Games.
O Department of Corrections: Reported last week that Rodrigo y Gabriela won’t be here on current summer tour. That much is true. But R y G announced a fall tour of the US this week which includes Austin. The amazing guitarists will be at the Moody Theatre (ACL) on October 16th.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Wanted! The Outlaws,” the classic 1976 compilation by Waylon Jennings, his wife Jessie Colter, Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser.
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