Friday, July 16, 2010

How we feel before has nothing to do with during

It is hot. Ridiculously hot. Day after day after day hot. Forecast unerringly predicting an endless string of 30-35 deg C days. I am almost taking the heat personally at this point; I am overwhelmed by a paranoid delusion that it is out to get me. It is claustrophobic, there is simply nowhere to hide. 

I know when people think of Canada, if indeed they think of Canada at all, the iconic vision of igloos and permafrost comes to mind. It does, however, get extremely hot in most Canadian cities. In my city, we will have 35 deg C days with a humidex of 40. But it ENDS! After a week or so there is respite. And there is almost daily respite in the form of a welcome thundershower. Here it is just bloody sunny hot day after sunny hot day. Ok, I'm grumpy and whiny.

So I thought this post was going to be about how lousy my training has been going in the heat. Which it has. But today out of nowhere I had a fabulous work-out despite it being 29 deg C at 5.45 am when I left the house. I expected another abandoned work-out in favour of a slow trudge because my legs were feeling incredibly heavy, stomach incredibly upset - complete and utter lethargy. As I neared the point where I would normally start my 5 X 1 km I decided just to jog, easy and go home. But as I hit the start line my body, unbidden, just started running the first 1 km repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until all five were done and very fast at that (3:32, 3:36, 3:29, 3:25 (WTF?), 3:31). This is faster than I have averaged for 5 since giving birth. Amazing how transforming a good work-out can be. Suddenly I feel hopeful and on track again.

This episode reminds me of a very important rule, one I always tell the runners I coach but often forget myself. Here it is: the way a runner feels immediately before a work-out or race has very little effect on the outcome. This obviously does not include extreme situations, if a runner is feeling the pain of say a compound fracture (cough, Steve) beforehand, than that might have a little effect on outcome. But lethargy, tightness, heavy legs, upset stomach, etc. etc. these little annoyances often vanish with the crack of the starter's gun so... the next time I am feeling terrible before a race I will remember this work-out and be confident.


  1. You know that people usually go to Italy because of its nice weather. So it is supposed to be like that! :)
    You are completely right that how one feels before a work-out has no effect on an outcome. But I always remember this only after the workout, never before:)

  2. I have NEVER had a compound fracture! I have, however, rivalled Evel Knievel for simple fractures.

    In St. Paul, we're having a normal summer - for New Orleans. Week after week of oppressive humidity. This morning I relaxed in the relative comfort of 75 degrees (24C) and 75% humidity at 6 AM, but it's back to swampiness tomorrow for my long run.

    One caveat about your rule: how a runner feels about the upcoming run can affect the run. Nervousness, a feeling that one hasn't had adequate rest, etc. can all doom a run before it starts.

  3. steveq - I figured even you wouldn't run on a compound fracture (if indeed you ever had one) i just threw the word compound in for the cringe factor. And you are absolutely right that feeling crappy before a work-out or race can have a psychological impact on performance. And if you are now thinking that sentences should not start with a conjunction, you are also absolutely right about that.

  4. Let me throw this out there: I think one gets really awesome training in the heat. Perhaps the reason you ran so fast (and that was SO fast! Damn you. I mean...) was you have actually been training in warmer than 29 lately and 29 felt awesome to your body and you were ready for it because of the boot camp of heat leading up to it... eh? Just keep telling yourself it will make for an even faster marathon.