The thermometer on the front porch read 82 degrees; more humidity than I like but enough of a breeze to offset it, and enough thin cloud cover to provide some screen from the sun once it rose, without threatening rain. At 4:30 in the morning I started my 15 mile long run.
It can be a tricky business training through the summer in central Arizona, cramming your runs into the margins of the day. Key to avoiding heat stroke is back into shade, and preferably A/C, before the sun gets too high in the sky. At this point in my training, my long runs don’t dip below half-marathon distance until my taper. I’ve been scouting out new routes lately, re-evaluating streets I’ve driven for years, now with a runner’s eye. The straight shot between my house and the gym, which I’d always thought a nice drive, revealed a desolate five-mile stretch of block-wall-enclosed neighborhoods without a drinking fountain, convenience store, or stick of shade in sight.
What do I look for in a good long-running route? One, there need to be places along the way where I can fill up my water supply or buy drinks. Two, toilets. If I’m going to be out there bouncing my bladder around for 2+ hours I don’t want to feel like a fugitive from Urinetown by the end! If there’s some nice scenery along the way that’s a plus.
The greater Phoenix canal system is popular with runners (also walkers, cyclists, etc), and in fact I’ve been using an out-and-back along the nearest canal for my short runs. There’s no vehicular traffic and few street crossings where you might have to wait, making them ideal for tempo work. This favorite stretch is paved and lighted most of the way, and while not particularly scenic (unless you like sleeping mallards and free-range cats), I often catch the sunrise over the Superstition Mountains on the return.
Yesterday morning I cobbled together a route out of canals and streets, a 5-mile loop and a 10-mile loop with my house as home base. First loop, done in twilight, went pretty well. The second loop, well, either it needed more convenience stores or I needed a bigger bottle. At mile 14 the sun came out from behind the clouds, and – you know those old-time cartoons where the character suddenly turns into a big thermometer and his head explodes? That was me. Also, I’d underestimated the mileage and would up with a 1-mile walk to get home.
So, I learned a few things with my little reconnaissance run that I’ll use plotting my future courses. Smaller loops back to home base will probably be my strategy for now. Not too exciting, but safer.