Thursday, December 12, 2013

Running in the Cold Slowing Me Down

Well, I wasn't sure about doing this post today. Normally I'd be posting about pre-race jitters. How I'm feeling about Saturday's CASA Half Marathon really doesn't even have anything to do with jitters this time around. Now, I know many of you will automatically want to disagree with me when I say that I feel very under-prepared. 

It's true though. I've been putting in the miles, yes. But since my last half marathon, my runs have slowed down some and I've not pushed out any tempo runs other than the 10-Mile Treadmill last Saturday.

Yes, my body knows the distance. I'm not worried about that. I guess I'm worried about this sudden slow down of my pace. I know, shake your heads if you will, it's still how I'm feeling about Saturday. Slow.

The thing is, my last race was in very ideal weather conditions. It was in the 40's, sunny, no wind. So while the course was hard, the weather was perfection, especially coming out of the heat of summer. I'm not expecting to get another PR. That really isn't even a goal of mine for this upcoming race. I just wanted to do a totally different race. But I should have re-thought the date.

Right now our temps are well-below normal for this time of year. We've sunk down into the 20's, had icing that's lasted for nearly a week. In fact, one race was already canceled this weekend due to the road conditions.

Luckily we've had a slight warm up during the day - finally hitting 40. But mornings are still in the 20's, which is better than the single digit wind chills from last week. My race day forecast has potential for rain and in the mid-30's by race time. At least it'll be about 10 degrees warmer than what I've been running in.

However, this leaves me questioning how difficult this race is going to ultimately be fore me. The course is supposed to be mostly flat. I guess that'll be my bonus. But it's the cold that has my body working against me right now.

I read a great article about how the extreme cold affects running and racing. Of course, knowing the facts doesn't really help my brain come to terms with my suddenly slowing pace. According to the article, some of the affects of the cold include:
Your body relies more heavily on carbohydrates and less on fats for its energy
Your lactate production is higher for a given intensity, indicating that you’re going deeper into “oxygen debt” to produce the necessary energy to maintain a given pace (as evidenced by a higher oxygen consumption rate in colder temperatures)
Your muscle contractions are less powerful, which demands an increase in fast-twitch muscle fiber usage, perhaps explaining the higher lactate production
All of these adaptations have consequences for running: relying more strongly on carbohydrates will drain your energy reserves faster on long runs, and could spell trouble in a winter marathon. Higher lactate production and less efficient muscle contractions are also problematic for shorter races.
 I'm assuming I need to carb load more than I normally do, but the article didn't really go into detail on overcoming that issue. Hydration during a race is always hard for me. I have carried my water bottle one too many times. I don't want to lug that thing around, but I have a hard time getting in enough water at the aid stations. Yes, I should have searched out water belts prior to this race. Now's not the ideal time to decide to try one of course.

Yesterday and this morning, I noticed that it felt like I was pushing really hard, but when I checked my pace, I was literally shocked at how much slower we were going than normal. In fact, I even asked Amy what her pace was showing. I know that I'm in taper mode, and easy runs are what I need. I'm ok with that. What's hard to swallow is knowing how hard it feels when you're actually going so much slower. Shouldn't it be the opposite?

So, for all the pros out there (especially those in the north), what are your thoughts on that article and speed degradation due to the cold temperatures? Any tips?