Ron Marinucci September Column
by Ron Marinucci, Sep. 3, 2016
Provided by Run Michigan
This year has provided great opportunities for runners in Michigan to challenge themselves (to prove how crazy they are?) to run in far less than favorable conditions. Especially in July and August, the summer months have been extraordinarily hot and humid. And last winter brought some very cold days.
Over the years, like most runners, I’ve taken perhaps a perverse pride in getting out there to run, almost regardless of the weather. Too hot or too humid? Too cold? Too much snow? Rarely have I canceled a run due to those conditions. Lightning, of course, is always a reason to stay home, as are icy roads. But other than those, it’s unusual for me to cancel due to the weather.
If I recall correctly, the hottest temperature I’ve ever run in was 105 degrees. That was in Las Vegas, with its dry heat/low humidity. I didn’t find it oppressive at all. In Michigan, I think it was 1988 when I ran with the thermometer reading 100 or so degrees during a race, the Huron Valley Hospital Run. And just this past winter, Up North, I got out there at 15 degrees below zero, actual temperature, not wind chill. More than once I’ve run in up to a foot or more of snow. Downpours of rain usually don’t bother me because I “schweat” so much anyway I’m already drenched.
I was curious so I asked a number of other runners about their “most extreme” running conditions. I said to include highest and lowest temperatures and even other extremes such as deep snow. Some added other episodes. Their replies were fun and interesting to read.
Mark Cryderman cited three experiences. He ran the 5K at the Briarwood Runs in Ann Arbor in 1995. He recalled, “During the race it rained, hailed, snowed, and featured high winds. There was a longer race on the same venue.” In fact, there were two other distances, a 10K and a 20K. “Those runners really took a beating from the hail, some being all bloodied up.” Hmmm…… I happened to be one of the 20K runners and I remember the race well, especially the last couple of miles into the wind
and sleet or hail as we finished at the Briarwood Mall. I didn’t get “bloodied up,” but oddly posted my fastest 20K time at that race.
More recently, in 2013, Cryderman “ran the Holly Dickens 5K. There were changing weather conditions.” The temperature started to drop, fast, and it started to snow. “As this was predicted, I brought my pull-over spikes and put them on my shoes prior to the race. I was doing well for the first mile, but found it increasingly difficult to maintain speed and traction. At the end of the race, I checked my shoes. The snow had turned into ice blocks on my shoes, completely encasing the spikes!”
He left the state on “Thanksgiving Day, 2010 I think, and did a 10K in Minneapolis, two laps around Lake Harriet. It was 20 degrees below zero! Although plowed and salted, the streets were too cold and stayed icy. I managed to stay vertical and nothing on me froze, well, nothing other than the icicles on my moustache, beard, and eyebrows!” While there, Cryderman learned “Minnesota rules. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.”
Dave Peterson also recalled that 1995 Briarwood Run. “My running buddy, Chuck Block, picked me up early in the morning. It was in the low- to mid-50s. We got to Ann Arbor and the temperature had dropped to the mid-40s, with a cold, blowing wind. At the starting line, this turned into a cold, wet, windy rain. I usually wear light gloves if the temperatures are in the 40s; I didn’t pack any. But Chuck had some plastic grocery bags in his van; so I wrapped them around my hands, pseudo-mittens. The wet, cold rain turned to freezing rain which turned to sleet which turned to heavy snow—miserable conditions. The hard part was that no one new how drastically things were going to go from bad to worse. The sleet caused my legs to turn red and cut into me.”
In addition to the conditions, Peterson remembers two things. “Lester Wyborny was ahead of me the whole run. And an extremely wonderful volunteer was at the finish line. Her name was Dolores Hensley. I believe this was the first time I got a bear hug from a volunteer at the finish line. I needed it.”
And he paid even more tribute to Dolores. “She was the only one out there at the finish, passing out hugs and tearing off tags on bibs. Most folks scampered into the mall to get warm.”
Although he finished fourth, “my time wasn’t great, awful footing, tough mentally, but I will always remember this event.
And he took part in a history-making running event, the 2007 Chicago Marathon. For several days before the marathon, in October, temperatures had reached the 90s. “It was bad. This was not a surprise. Most folks knew what they were in for. I remember sweating at the starting line.” He even swam in Lake Michigan two days before the race—in Chicago in October! But Peterson had been prepared. “I had a lot of hot-weather training under my belt. I had completed a recent Ironman in similar conditions. So,” he thought, “what’s a marathon?” His goal became just to get to the finish line. He planned to slow his pace, packed his gels and salt tablets, and had his MP3 for music. “My race went as planned.” But he admitted that “I was a bit shocked to see some of my friends had dropped out at the half and that the race was canceled due to the heat and emergency response issues.”
“I completely understood that heat was going to be a factor. It’s too bad the race organizers didn’t understand this. They could have easily moved the start up one hour.” But one thing Peterson is glad came from this race. “Major marathons learned a lot from Chicago that day.”
In the midst of our humid August in Michigan, Karen Lewis was in Chennai, India. “Trying to run or walk outside is impossible.” She said, “It’s also very humid in India. I believe the Indians think 80 degrees is a cool temperature!” She added, “Throw in all the traffic, people, cows…yes, cows wandering the streets and sidewalks in the middle of cities,” and more. Lewis is “trying to keep up my training for back-to-back half marathons” in September in the two Dakotas. She moved her runs indoors, into “the fitness room.” It was 90 degrees outside, along with the humidity, “so I ran one hour on the treadmill in the fitness center, whose temperature must have been set at a cool 80 to 85 degrees. Sad to say, I was
slogging about 15 minutes per mile. Hopefully I can keep up my hour slogs every other day in the sauna fitness room!” She finished with, “Oh yeah, if there are no other Westerners in the gym, I get funny looks from the Indian men wondering what the heck this middle-aged woman is doing dripping sweat and running, as they are casually strolling on the treadmills.”
Laurel Park takes us back a bit in time. “Probably the worst run I’ve ever done was in the mid-1980s. My dad had just retired and my parents started doing the ‘snowbird’ thing, spending summer and fall in the Upper Peninsula and winter and early spring in Gulf Shores, Alabama.” One year, she hopped on a plane and flew down for the Christmas holidays with her folks. She quipped, “The warm, sunny picturesque beaches featured in the travel brochures become chilly, gray, depressing landscapes in the winter.”
She went on, “There was one road, pancake flat, along the length of beach and the pavement was made of some compound that withstood the heat and heaving traffic of summer, but had a hardness just short of tungsten steel when the temperatures dipped below 50.” In blew “strong winds off the gulf, covering everything in sea salt. I made it less than two miles, against that awful wind, before giving up. By the time I reached the condo, my quads felt like I had run a marathon and my contact lenses were ruined, corroded by the salt! It was awful!” She noted, “I’ve run in bitter cold and oppressive heat, but in terms of overall crappiness, that Gulf Shores experiences still takes the cake.”
Stu Allen “vividly remembers the time I did a February 20-miler on a lonely country road” while training for his first Boston Marathon in 2000. He faced “single-digit temperatures with sub-zero wind chills. Halfway through my fingers were like frozen hot dogs!” He chuckled, now, as he recalled “As luck would have it, my shoelaces came untied with several miles to go. I couldn’t manage to retie them.” His luck “would get better,” though, “as a car went by me and pulled into a driveway nearby. With ice caked all over my eyebrows and moustache, I approached the vehicle. I must have been quite a sight!
The lady in the car rolled down her window about an inch and listened to my desperate story.” He was stunned. “Somehow she believed me and opened her car door. I stuck my foot up there and she tied my shoe for me.” And away they both went. “She’s probably still telling that one!”
“I’ve had lots of extreme runs,” said Tom Cameron. He’s run in “knee-high snow,” quipping, “Someone said that’s good for resistance training.” He did a “night race at Stony Creek, with below zero windchill and frostbite on my nose.” On the other hand, it was 85 degrees “at the start” one year at the 20K Volkslaufe in Frankenmuth. I may well have run that one, too, remembering my complete collapse in the last mile or two. Another Volkslaufe 20K, he said, “was worse. It started hot, poured at one mile and poured again. At the halfway water stop, I had heat stroke and stopped for water and ice.” Gritting his teeth, he recalled, “The local photographer got in my face and took pictures. I said nothing, but wanted to hit him.” He didn’t, but did “recover and finish” the race. He also still shakes his head at, not one, but “two marathons in Milwaukee where the temperature went to 85.”
Years ago, Amy Krzyzanowski, then Amy Masternak, remembers, “Mike Middleton put on a 20-mile race in Fenton. One particular year it was very windy and snowed all night, that morning, and during the race. It took forever to get there and once the race started there were times I wondered if I was still on the course.” She was the only female to finish the race, adding, “Mary DeMattia and I still laugh when we think about that day.”
I think I ran that race, too, while I was training for Boston. Not only did my wife tell me, “You’re crazy,” but a police officer directing no traffic echoed that. “You guys are crazy.” Krzyzanowski seconded that, “Yes, we were!”
“Back in 2000,” Herman Smith ran “the Canadian Death Race” in Alberta, Canada. It’s a 125-K event whose start and finished are on a plateau, 4200 feet above sea level, and includes more than 17,000 feet of elevation change. And it includes a major river crossing. Smith said, “This race can have
everything imaginable and then some!” There are five total legs of the CDR. He was trying to finish it “solo. I finished the first two legs, but then pulled out.” He remembered, “The first leg was not too bad, but during the second I fell all the time and really got depressed and hungry. The terrain was very frustrating. I asked if any of the stages left were tougher than stage two. They told me stage three was easy, but stage four was the toughest of all. I told them to cut off my wrist band. I was quitting.”
Tracey Cohen had just finished the Run Thru Hell (“Hell was hot today!!”) when she sent this other extreme. In December 2011 she ran the Huff 50K in northern Indiana. She remembered, “Temperatures were 30 [degrees] and below with snow.” Snow was already on the ground and kept falling. “But because temperatures had warmed the previous week, much of the snow was melted. So we ended up running through very wet snow, often thigh-high, at least for me, and muddy and frigid conditions. I have never been so tempted to quit on a race. I didn’t, but sure considered it.”
In the early ‘80s, Ellis Boal experienced “a 100-degree difference on consecutive days. I flew on a Saturday in January from Detroit to Puerto Rico for a court case. The morning I left, there was time for a lap at Belle Isle. I remember it was quite chilly, like zero degrees. The next day I ran in San Juan and it was 100 degrees.”
Mike “Flagman” Bowen has run all this summer, as “always, with the POW/MIA flag and always will. I can’t help but notice the extreme heat and humidity that want to slow me down. If I went any slower,” he joked, “I’d be going backwards.”
He added, “One summer a while back we (he and his wife, Patty) were camped at the Mt. Rushmore KOA while we were enjoying the Sturgis, South Dakota Motorcycle Rally.” It was early August. “As is the norm when I travel, I had a run planned for the next morning when a ‘heat alert’ was posted at the KOA. So, I took an extra bottle of water and headed up the trail toward Harney Peak (7,242 feet). It’s not an easy trail for a human as it was designed for horseback riders.” He shrugged,
“Rough, but no big deal. I hit the summit and headed back down around 11 AM. The heat was really wicked and the temperature was 107 degrees when I got back to camp. My coach [that is, Patty] was mad, but glad I was OK.”
“On the other end,” he continued, “I was doing a long winter run once when the wind picked up and the sun disappeared. That dropped the wind chill to below zero and I still had to return to home base. Picking up the pace a bit to keep from getting cold, it caused some extra ice around the face. My right eye had a huge ice chunk in front of it, but the left one was OK. The guy on television said the wind chill was seven below.”
“About 30 years ago, I was at the JFK 50-Mile,” recalled Jeff Gaft. “The weather report promised a sunny day with a high in the low 50s. With the start in the 30s, I dressed accordingly, long-sleeved top, shorts, and gloves. Need I say the weather guys got it wrong? Who would have thunk that? By 35 miles into the race, there was a light rain with temperatures still in the 30s.” Five miles later, “it was a downpour.” He noted, “My feet completely froze. Each step was painful because my feet felt like ice blocks.” But, the positive was, “I ended up finishing well because I think a lot of people dropped out. When I finished I was able to get a ride to the hotel and I laid in a warm bath to try to thaw out.”
One thought sustained Gaft throughout the grueling race. “My wife was pregnant with our first child. During delivery she will not be able to drop out of her event, so I can’t either.” Nope, she couldn’t.
Ed Kozloff knows about races and race conditions. The long-time president of the Motor City Striders picked one race that many runners remember. “The most extreme condition for a Motor City Strider race was on Saturday, January 23rd, 1982, the day before Super Bowl XVI came to the Pontiac Silverdome.” Pontiac, he noted, was the first time the NFL had chosen a cold-weather site for the Super Bowl. To demonstrate that such a cold-weather site as Detroit/Pontiac could still host a great event,
many activities were planned. The MCS worked with the NFL Alumni Association to hold one- and four-mile runs at Pine Knob. Kozloff thought, “This may have been the first Super Bowl Run.”
The cold-weather gods didn’t cooperate. “The night before there was an ice storm. On the day of the race, going north on I-75 [to Pine Knob], we counted 33 cars in ditches.” He recalled, “The four-mile route on the back roads out of Pine Knob was a sheet of ice and the one-mile in the parking lot was icy and snow-covered as well. A snow plow cleared the mile route as best it could and it was decided to do a two-mile race instead of the four-mile.” Racers heading to Pine Knob were told on the radio that the events would be delated. But there was a problem, Kozloff remembered. “At the original start time, there were over 500 already there, so that race was held. While the race was in progress, hundreds more were arriving and a second race was held. Many of the participants who ran the first race also ran the second.” He noted, “Several of the top finishers were in both.” One of them, Kevin Kitze, “had his cross country spikes in his car and he raced in those.”
In 10th grade, Eric Stuber “decided I like running in hot weather!” It was 91 degrees when the high school runners lined up for the two-mile. “I broke the school record with a 9:51.1.” He added, “My hottest run was 98 degrees” and almost sounded sad when he said, “I’ve not been able to get into the triple digits.”
His “coldest run was a few miles in 15 below.” He ran a 10-Mile Dave’s Shoe Run in Ohio in 5 degrees that were accompanied by wind and blowing snow. “I’m not too sure I’ve even been happier to get done with a race.”
But he suggested that “Our family’s most extreme run may have been in 2013 when Brooke [his wife] and I pushed baby joggers in a 5K cross country race at a North Carolina winery. I asked the race director if baby joggers were allowed and he said, ‘Yes. But you really couldn’t run with them on the
trails, hills, and grassy course.’ That’s all we needed to hear! We both made it through the course pretty slow, but received a lot of support for being so crazy to run with baby joggers!”
Riley McLincha remembers a “vacation at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. I left the campground for an eight-mile run.” It was hot. “I saw a bank thermometer reading of 108. I never ran in hotter weather since.” Compounding matters was, “I miscalculated the distance; it ended up being twelve and a half miles.” Fortunately, he thought ahead. “I remembered to take money, two quarters. I put one in each hand between my thumb and index finger. They ended up being lifesavers. I had enough to buy a large Coke.”
Don Richmond once ran four miles in Las Vegas—in 110-degree heat. “I just did a loop around The Strip area and tried to find shade from the buildings where possible.” And to make it worse, “I went to go to the pool after finishing, but the pool deck surface was too scalding to take my running shoes off to jump in.”
He is a regular at Stony Creek Metro Park. He ran there once in fifteen degrees below zero, with a fifty below wind chill. “I ran one loop around, six miles, which I was very proud of—until Mark Neal came alongside and joined me, on his second loop around.”
“I did run in overwhelming heat,” Nina Bovio said. “In July 2004, I crewed for my friend Jody, who was running the Badwater Distance Run.” Badwater is a 135-mile race that begins at 280 feet below sea level in Death Valley, California and finishes about 8,000 feet above sea level on Mt. Whitney. “While in Stovepipe Wells,” a small town in Death Valley, “I ran three miles,” Bovio related. “Jody told me that the soles of my Nikes would melt on the hot road. So, I wore Asics. The temperature was way over 100 degrees, maybe at 130?”
When Bill Ewing lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, he worked his running schedule around the heat. “I had to do my summer nightly training runs at 10:00 PM, the first time all day it was under 100 degrees
and with no sun load! I did my summer long runs no later than 4:30 AM on weekends. As soon as the sun came up, it was in the mid-90s within minutes.”
He added, “I’m a better late person than early person, so I got in a lot of naps on the weekends. The nightly runs were fine, but occasionally had to dodge the western diamondback rattlesnakes stretched out on the warm pavement!”
Finding a silver lining, Ewing said, “I enjoyed perfect running weather for winter runs, though.”
Ruben Henderson ran the Free Press in 2009. He noted that was “the year that three people died during” the half marathon. “The temperature was 29 degrees. I had on just a singlet, racing shorts, a throw-away hat, and my facing flats. I underestimated the weather. It was a very cold Sunday morning.”
Stockholm, Sweden was the site of “one of my most memorable marathons,” said Jerry Mittman of the 2001 race. It had an “unusual” starting time of 2:00 PM. The beginning “was a nice June day, 65 degrees and mostly sunny. Later the clouds and a major storm moved in.” He remembers, “From miles 21 to 25 there was lightning, heavy rain, and hail. Spectators headed for cover, but the runners continued” to the finish in the Stockholm Olympic  Stadium. “We were hoping we would not be struck by lightning.” At the finish, runners found “all checked gear was drenched and bagels were tossed like Frisbees from the flooded food stations.”
Hot. Cold. Snow. Ice. Rain. Lightning. Runners aren’t wimps!