Friday, June 8, 2012

The plight of the heat-sensitive runner

There's a scene in "Interview with the Vampire" when a little female vampire, played by a very young Kirsten Dunst, and another lady vampire are locked in a prison cell with an open roof, embracing each other and screaming as the sun slowly rises and burns them alive. This is pretty much an accurate portrait of my sister and I in summer.

I blame my mom. When she was 20 and six months preggers with me, she went on a road trip to Florida with my dad where she got the worst sunburn of her life. My theory is that I got cooked in her tummy like a little baked potato, rendering me utterly defenseless against a hot and humid summer day.

One side effect of my heat-sensitivity is fainting. Yep, folks, I am a fainter. How cool am I ...
Three of the most embarrassing examples:
1. Fourth grade. No air conditioning in the building. Muggy. Girls bathroom stall, flanked by two peers in adjoining stalls and 10 others waiting in line for their turn. As I locked the stall, I knew it was coming on. The window started to close. (I have two varieties of fainting: the instant total blackout; and "the window," when my vision goes black around the periphery, slowing closing until I pass out.) I hit the floor, my legs sticking under the stall door into my friend Donna's personal space. I wake up to my teacher outside the door. "Amanda? Are you all right?" Thank god my pants were still on.

2. Balcony. Catholic Church. Fifth grade. Uncomfortable dress. No air conditioning. Ceiling fans slowly -- very slowly -- turning far, far above. Stuffy. People singing hymns all around. The window started to close. As I leaned forward into my mom's hymnal, she said, "Amanda!" sort of in disbelief, but also concern. Her tone somehow snapped me out of it. Didn't faint. But people were staring. Got me out of communion, though.

3. Boyfriend's house. Hot as hell in his basement room. Like, 85 degrees. I get up to use the bathroom, which for some reason was about 15 degrees cooler. The temperature difference hit my overheated head like a hammer. No window. Just a blackout. The next thing I remember is my boyfriend knocking at the door asking if I was OK. "That was quite a crash," he said. I came to laying halfway inside the shower stall, a goose egg on my head and a black bruise beginning to form on my knee.

Long story short, folks, I shut down in heat. I feel like I can't breathe. I whine a lot. Even walking from the car to an air-conditioned building feels completely oppressive. Feels like it takes a million years to get to the door.

Which brings us to this morning. 72 degrees at 7:30 a.m. Sun barely rising above the trees. But the humidity was 60 percent. Dewpoint 57 degrees. Beyond my threshold. Just BEYOND it.

But, I thought, if I can't get a run in at 7:30 in the morning, then when can I? When will it be any cooler than this? So I had to go.

I felt like I was wearing a suit of armor. I couldn't breathe good. After 10 minutes I was walking. Then at 15 minutes, I walked again. Then at 20, more walking. It was a horrid 37 minutes.

After a cool shower, I didn't quite get "the window," but there were some black speckles in my vision. And now I have my "heat headache." It's a dull ache in my forehead after I've been "exposed" to the summer elements that are beyond my coping ability.

So, I ask you, what is a heat-sensitive runner to do in summer? It's only June 8! What will happen to me in August? I'm still a toddler runner. I've only been running four months, and that streak has been broken up by a knee injury and an illness, both of which had me benched for a couple of weeks apiece. I'm still learning. Even on cool days, I'm new enough that it's a toss up whether the run will go well or not. So needless to say, the added weather variable is messing with my head.

Any other runners out there who wither in sunlight? What do you folks do in summer? I'm wondering if I will just have to accept a running/walking regiment for the bulk of the season.

1. Renting an air-conditioned space suit.
2. Renting an oxygen tank, like for scuba diving, and dragging it along behind me in a red wagon.
3. Winning the lottery and building a massive indoor track with walls that change scenery.

Other ideas?


  1. Practice. Makes. Perfect. You acclimate. I too am suffering. I hope it happens fast. Oh yeah... water helps too. My water belt may look goofy but I stay hydrated!

  2. I run early, as in 5:15am early. If it helps, my dog had a hard time on Friday morning too. I was practically dragging her along Thompson Ravine Road before she perked up on the last half of our wog.