Saturday, August 26, 2006

Trail Running

Word to the wise: don't run when it's 103 F. If you are lacking in wisdom, like me, then at least make sure it's on a beautiful trail with lots of shade and streams for the dogs to plop down in and cool off.

One of the things that attracted us to our neighborhood was that it has extensive greenspace. We are on the edge of the Texas hill country right by the dam that creates Lake Travis. So we are on the hills that overlook the Lake Travis and Lake Austin which is below the dam. The hill tops are separated by steep valleys that can't be developed so our neighborhood has a lot of beautiful, wooded trails that will never be developed. Most of the valleys have small, spring fed streams that run year round, even in drought years like this where Lake Travis is over 30 feet below full and dropping at a rate of one foot per week.

Running in Texas from June to September is always hot. At night it sometimes doesn't break into the 70s. Returning from a late show last night around 11:30 pm the temperature was still 90. So even if you run in the early morning, you have to deal with the heat and for big fatties like me the heat just really saps energy. You have to be careful because the heat is quite literally life threatening and not just for people. I always run with my dogs and I'm sure that they would quite willingly run until they collapsed of heat stroke. The heat is particularly bad for dogs because they are stuck wearing a fur coat and they can't sweat. They only dissipate heat by panting.

The heat holds another danger to dogs. A couple of years ago I woke up one morning and my German Shepherd Dog was stumbling around the house like a drunken sailor. I was worried that he had an ear infection or something worse that was affecting his balance so we rushed him off to the vet. Several hundred dollars of tests and examination later the vet told us that he couldn't find anything wrong. The next day I noticed him constantly licking the bottoms of both of his front paws and when I looked at them I saw with horror that the thick layer of skin was peeled off and raw. No wonder he was stumbling around; he had blisters that covered the entire bottom of his paws that weren't noticeable until the skin started coming off. Now, when the sun is up in the summer we never run on pavement.

Yesterday I got busy cleaning house and balancing financial accounts, paying bills, etc. and didn't get ready to run until 5:00 pm. I'd taken Thursday off as a rest day so I didn't want to miss another day of running so we went running on the trails around our house. For some reason I don't do it very often, but after yesterday I'll do it more. We ran for over an hour and a half and even though it was still 101 (high was 103) it felt a lot better running under the trees. You have to pick your way carefully as you go up hill and down, across steep hillsides, over sharp rocks and ledges, and through patches of round rolling rocks near the streams. I found a new trail that follows the contours of the cliffs over Lake Austin and the trees break to open up beautiful views of the lake and its surrounding cliffs and hills. I have a lot of reasons to run, but runs like that make you feel alive and happy to be able to move and be a part of the world.


Sister Mary Lisa said...

Oh your poor dog's feet! That made me feel so bad for you and your dog. The guilt! Anyway, I admire you for running. I'm someone who hates running and admire those of you who do!


MattMan said...

I had to skip my hour-long meditative Sunday run yesterday. We got some rain on Saturday, and it just makes the trail around the bayou too sloppy. :(

On my runs during the summer (I've been trying to go around 0700), I wear my floppy mexican-gardener-looking wide-brimmed hat to keep as much soon as possible off my buzzed head, and I never run without a bottle of water to nurse as I go along.

I definitely see a correlation between my speed/time and the temperature. The heat really zaps your energy for sure!