“Hot enough for ‘ya?”
“It’s how I like it.”
I once lived for hot weather.
For me, it was never hot enough. The four-word question at the top of this piece was worthy of ridicule.
I would run or ride a mountain bike for extended periods no matter how hot or humid, then brag that it took 90 minutes to stop sweating even after a shower.
I would tell anyone who cared to listen that I was prepping for races in the fall and winter. The more I could take in July and August, the easier it would be to fly through a 5K or a 10K in October or November.
Heat was partly the idea behind going to running camp all those years in valleys of Western Pa. It was a place where misty mornings were followed by disgustingly humid July or August days.
The scheduled 3 p.m. run was usually at the hottest time of any 24-hour period. It followed a pre-breakfast run and a morning time trial, developmental race or hard workout. If I could keep up with the kids, I might have a chance against my own age group.
Reasonable precautions were taken, of course, whether I was at camp or not.
Water would come with me on the bike via one of those camelback hydration things. Or I’d hide water bottles along a running route at a place like the Montour Preserve and repeat the route. At one point, I even considered moving to a climate where most of the year would be like what it’s been like here for the past eight weeks.
Cautionary tales, such as that of Alberto Salazar, did little good to instill common sense.
On a hot day 40 years ago this August in Falmouth, Mass. Salazar damn near died at well-known road race. Always one to push himself harder than anyone, Salazar worked up a serious case of dehydration during the 7.1-mile run.
Salazar finished 10th, then collapsed. Reports said his temperature hit 107 degrees as he was packed in ice and flown away for treatment. He survived, but the stress of Falmouth and other intense competition may have led to a decline in his running and other consequences.
Some attributed Salazar’s depression in the 1990s to what he put his body through as a runner, perhaps damaging the endocrine system. Other health problems followed, including a cardiac incident in 2007, during which his heart stopped for 14 minutes.
Common wisdom upon hearing Salazar’s story is to hydrate like mad. But there is also a downside to excessive hydration.
When a person flushes out or dilutes the sodium and other minerals from their blood, a condition called hyponatremia may loom. Water enters the brain, causing brain cells to swell and be squeezed along the internal structures of the skull.
Seizures, nausea, vomiting and short term memory loss may follow, with death a possibility unless the condition is immediately treated. The method of treatment depends on the cause.
Hyponatremia has become better known with the popularity of “ultra” marathons and triathlon. It is unclear how many endurance athlete deaths can be attributed solely to it.
Today I feel the heat, and know it’s nothing to play with. It wasn’t like this even just a few hot summers ago.
But questions linger. How could I train and race day after day when it was 90 degrees or higher? Why did common sense sometimes exit? Pride and self image played roles, to be sure. It was the only way I thought I’d ever be known as a tough guy.
We’ve had two months of this ridiculous weather, punctuated by a period of high water. A bone-chattering winter has been predicted in many parts.
Whether or not winter is as brutal as predicted, I promise to not complain when the polar vortex dips down from the arctic. I also promise to not complain if the cold turns my hands yellow thanks to Reynaud’s syndrome. And won’t complain if we don’t see the upper side of 20 degrees for a few weeks.
Honest, after this, I won’t complain.
FYI: “Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley and America’s Greatest Marathon,” by John Brant (2006), is mostly about the 1982 Boston Marathon. But it included bios of both principal athletes and details of Salazar’s near-fatal race at Falmouth. Brant and Salazar have since collaborated on “14 Minutes, A Running Legend’s Life and Death and Life” (2013), a memoir.
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.