If you have ever been in Texas in the summer, you know it's pretty much like Hell on Earth. Even at 5am the humidity will hover at over 85% and the temp rarely dips below 75 degrees. It doesn't sound bad temperature-wise until you get about a mile into your run and realize you can't breathe and that's sweat dripping off your elbow. It's enough to make even a hardcore runner take pause and realize it doesn't feel good at all. Sure, a runner can slog through it and get those miles in, but is it enjoyable?
Two years ago I signed Greg and I up for the Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marathon, which would take place in mid-July. Temperatures at the race would probably be in the 50s and 60s, humidity hit or miss. Scenery: spectacular. Wine at the finish. A race meant for me and Greg to run together. Something I didn't really think too much about was TRAINING for said race. Training up until July in Texas. Doing a 12 mile run in 80 degrees, plus countless runs over 8 miles leading up to that. To put it bluntly, it was miserable. The race itself was pretty great, but I vowed that would be the last summertime half marathon I would ever train for in the hot Texas summer.
Last year I had a bout of exhaustion that derailed any quality summertime running. I struggled every time I was out there. I pretty much maxed out at 4 miles and it simply was not enjoyable for me at all. I was typically running at a 9:45 pace or slower, whereas my usual training pace is 9:15-9:30. I was dejected that I was getting slower and struggling so much. My marathon training season pace really wasn't much better, although I was able to enjoy some cooler and more comfortable, albeit slower than usual, runs during the fall and winter.
I knew I needed to make a change this season if I wanted to maintain my running shape. I had no choice but to embrace the dreaded TREADMILL, or as my running friends like to call it, THE DREADMILL. *cue foreboding music here*
Up until my first day in my gym my longest treadmill run was 4 miles, plus I had done a 5 mile run with a walking break at 3. I jumped right into my new routine, however, and was consistently posting 4 and 5 mile runs, and even a 10K, within the first month at the gym. I do strength training and core work before my treadmill runs so I'm already slightly fatigued before I even start. If someone, especially a dude, hops on the treadmill next to me, I usually crank up the speed and push myself more than usual. After I missed a 10k race because of traffic, I immediately headed to the gym and got my frustrations out on the treadmill. I posted a 44-minute 5 mile run, which is almost my 10k race pace. I do speed interval workouts consistently so I can continue to push my pace. I'm running harder, faster, more efficiently, and I'm not dreading every single run. I get to watch
Today I posted my very first 10 mile non-stop treadmill run. Well, almost non-stop. You see, the treadmills at our gym max out at 60 minutes, so when that session was up (at 6.3 miles), I paused, took my shirt off (it gets warm in our gym! I still sweat a lot), reset the 'mill for another 3.7 miles and continued on my quest for double-digits. I ran it in 1:34, which is 9:25 pace. Last week I did 5 miles, then strength training, then another 5 miles for a total running time of 1:33, a 9:18 pace. It's a huge difference from how I felt running long runs last year.
Last week Greg and I did a couple of short runs outside during late morning. I'm running a 5K on September 5 and a half marathon on October 9 so I do need to stay slightly acclimated to outdoor running. It was already very hot when we started, but I just ran with what felt comfortable. I rarely looked at my Garmin to check my pace, but when I did I was consistently seeing sub-9 minute pace, and it felt easy. During the last mile of one of the runs, when I was definitely feeling the heat, I ended up running FASTER. I absolutely attribute it to my treadmill runs.
Color me shocked....I AM LOVING THE TREADMILL.