If you’re at all like me, you’re just gearing up for another summer of hard training and long runs for a fall marathon such as Chicago, Portland, Marines Corps, New York City, Dallas (no longer White Rock), 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 us and is good preparation for whatever Mother Nature might throws at us in our fall marathons, but training through our abysmal heat and overwhelming humidity actually gives us an advantage over those poor souls training in Portland, Oregon, Portland, Colorado or Portland, Maine.
Seriously. Training through our Austin 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 it’s worth repeating: The type of heat training in Austin we all are doing will improve our aerobic performance, not only in a warm race, 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 much 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 bottom line in all this is if can survive marathon training in Austin this summer it will have a positive aerobic impact when you get to your fall marathon—even if the temps are 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 you slog your way through long runs this summer, rest assured there will be some payback this fall.
- There aren’t any team scores at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, but if there were UT might be leading the standings. As expected, Sanya Richards-Ross dominated the 400 meters, winning in 49.28 for her berth in the Olympics. (Richards-Ross is also running in the 200 meters which begins today.) Trey Hardee finished second to Ashton Easton in a phenomenal decathlon and current UT senior wide receiver-long jumper par excellence Marquise Goodwin PR’ed in 27-04.25 to win a spot on his first Olympic team.
- Kara June made it into the 3000-meter steeple at the Trials (her second), but her time of 10:32 wasn’t good enough to advance. Leo (The Lion) Manzano and Kyle Miller run their first round in the 1500 meters in Eugene this afternoon.
- Quinn Carrozza, the 15-year-old swimming phenom and daughter of Paul and Shiela, didn’t advance in the 200-meter freestyle and 100—meter backstroke yesterday at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha. Her uncle—Dale Rogers, a former All American at Wisconsin—is also swimming in the 50 and 100-meter freestyle at the Trials.
- At the Western States 100 last weekend in California, 38-year-old Paul Terranova led the flatlanders from Central Texas. The triguy ran 20:12:10 to place 47th overall behind winner Tim Olson who set a course record of 14:46:44. For Terranova, this was the first of three 100-mile trail races this summer. Elizabeth Howard, 40, from San Antonio, placed third in her age group in 21 hours and Kyle McQuire finished in 29:11:52.
- Up in Wacolast weekend at the Bearathon Half Marathon, Luis Gutierrez of Austin dominated field running 1:16:45 on the hilly course. Jake Fisher of Cedar Park was third in 1:23:03 and Lee Toowey of Round Rock was ninth in 1:27:12. Nancy Dasso of Austin was the first of the women masters in 1:44:49 and Becky Cunningham was third in 1:50:52. ARC’s Vance Taylor won his age group (60-64) in 1:49:41.
- Guy Morse, who has been an integral part of the Boston Marathon for more than 28 years, is retiring. Morse, who served as race director for 15 years (1985-2000) through the marathon’s phenomenal growth spurt, has been the race’s executive director and director of external affairs for the past 12 years.
- If you’re planning on running either the Chevron Houston Marathon or the Aramco Half on January 13th, you should already have been notified by e-mail if you got in. The half increased its cap by 1000 to 12,000 and while the marathon held firm to its cap of 13,000, their combined fields reached 25,000, leaving about 3000 runners who applied out of either race. You can still enter both races through the marathon’s Run for a Reason charity program. The ABB 5-K race is also still open on January 12th.
- Marathon guru Jeff Galloway will be appearing at the downtown RunTex this Saturday morning (8-9 a.m.) for a meet and greet. The event is free and open to the public.
- What I’m listening to this morning: “Come on Back” by Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.