Heat training, for running on lava rocks

Photo: Joe Creighton (instagram: jayaresea)

I wore gloves to run to work this morning, because it was actually cold! That means it has a been long time since I was piling on ski pants and down vests in August at noon to heat train for the Backcountry Rise 50k. As I stare down the Oregon Coast 50kthis weekend and a California International Marathon (December) training block, I have zero desire to overheat myself again for ten days. Yes, while I now believe heat training really works, no, I’d rather not put on onesie snowsuits and four scarves to compensate for <40 F Seattle winter temps or sit in a sauna for an hour after a jog.

Let me unpack that a bit. Heat training only took me ten days – six in a row, upfront, then one more every third day until the race. I prefer a three week taper, but I’ve always been a little confused from 21 to 14 days out. Mileage starts to come down while workouts still matter. For me, it’s also a lighter week since I’m usually recovering from 3 “up” weeks at 100 mi or so. It’s too early to rest completely, so I thought I’d try a heat training week with medium to low mileage. The heat training made the days feel a little more challenging, but not exhausting. This was way better than starting on a high-mileage week. Next were two weeks of earnest taper and heat tune-ups every third day until the race.

Here’s the article you should read to make your own plan. It’s very well written. https://www.irunfar.com/2018/06/handle-the-heat-heat-acclimation-for-endurance-running.html. Thank you Stace Beaulieu for sending this to me after I cooked at The Escarpment Trail 30k!

My notes:

  • The most time efficient solution is to get hot while running, since I’m going to run anyway (obviously). Otherwise, a sauna after a run sounds pretty doable.
  • If the temperature is 70 F and I need to make it feel like 100 F, that’s “30 degrees” of clothes. I put on enough shirts and pants to pretend it was 70 – 30 = 40 F outside. On one unusually cold summer day I ran in Carhartts and a wool button up flannel!
  • It is not particularly convenient to trudge around in 10 lbs of soaked clothes. I do not want to do heat training months before a race and have to maintain it. I want just enough, without risking too much extra stress in the last 14 days of taper.
  • Heat training might be as good as altitude training. Even if the race is cold, VO2 max generally improves (see linked article above).
  • I’m only willing to do this a few times a year and when it is at least somewhat warm outside already. I can’t imagine going through the process every two months or putting on so many layers in the winter that I have to shuffle-run.
Photos: Steven Mortinson (instagram: stevenmfilmphoto)

In the end, a broken toe (I kicked a root while training) was the defining factor at Backcountry Rise. I was 50-50 on starting in the final week. The 22 days of healing were just enough that my toe was only a dull pain on race day. My downhill speed suffered, but I worked the uphills extra, got chased by JT Lehman (instagram: alpenflo, Portland, OR), and managed to navigate tens of thousands of rocks and roots without the slightest clip/stumble. I was intensely focused on footwork and when I climbed through the cloud layer into direct sun from miles 15 to 25, my cooling system was untouchable. Back in the fog at the finish, the red LEDs on the race clock glowed 4 hours 42 min, a new course record. It was a Mt. St. Helen’s sized blast! What a great weekend. Thank you Daybreak Racing!

Training on the course with Bryan Hamilton (instagram: bryonlion)

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