29 September, 2011

Rain, rain come again!

...and boy did it rain! I had intended to go for a run all day and for a variety of reasons, wasn't able to get out there until late afternoon. The weather was overcast but still quite mild. There had been a little rain on and off during the day, but nothing too major.Of course, as soon as I changed into my running gear, the lightning started. But as there was little rain about and whilst overcast, it looked to be clearing from the south, I headed out anyway, following my usual route down to the Barwon. Clearing? Who was I kidding? By the time I got about 5km into my run, it was pouring. We haven't had rain like that in ages - big, heavy, wet drops and it didn't let up. It was however, probably the best time to be running. The temperature was still remarkably mild, there wasn't much wind and the rain was keeping me cool.
It felt later than it was - more like 6pm than 5pm - but I wasn't the only one making the most of the conditions. I passed the odd cyclist and a couple of intrepid walkers as well as several other runners - with one exception all male.
This got me thinking about two things. Firstly, I wondered as I often do, about the optimum conditions for running. Over the years, I think I've encountered most of them, such as they are in this part of the world, and my conclusion is that if it is too cold to start running, then I am more likely to have a good run. However, if it is not so cold that I don't want to start running, then I will very soon find it too hot to run comfortably. Great! Either I won't run because it's too cold, or I can't run because it's too hot. My current solution to this problem seems to be running during thunderstorms. Any breeze is cooling, but not freezing, the rain is refreshing and perhaps all those extra ozone molecules zinging about add some extra bounce to my step - assuming of course, I don't get hit by a stray lightning bolt.
Stormwater runoff
The other downside to running in the rain which became increasingly apparent on this occasion, was the issue of water runoff across the path. By the 7km mark, my ultra lightweight running shoes were anything but, by the 9km mark I could hear squelching noises with every step and then, at around the 11km mark I landed in a pothole which meant one foot was now completely saturated as high as my ankle. Regardless of this, I finished the run in reasonably good shape and hit the shower to dry off - let's face it, it was wetter outside at that point!
But what do the experts say about weather and running? From what I can see, the "optimum" temperature range for distance running is between about 5-10 degrees Celsius. Great! I'd rather be home in front of the heater! But I do have to admit that they are pretty much correct. Assuming I can drag myself out there, my best times tend to be in the cooler weather - anything below about 15 degrees will do, except in the case of rain for the reasons I outlined above. Some experts contest that running in cold weather can actually hamper the ability to run as performance is compromised by the need to generate heat to warm the body, however I suspect they have cooler temperatures in mind than those along the Barwon.
Yesterday a torrent, today a trickle
Heat of course, is a detriment to running. Too hot and you run the risk of hyperthermia (elevated core body temperature) leading to heatstroke and organ failure, dehydration and electrolyte loss through sweating, or sometimes even hyponatremia (decreased body sodium levels) due to over hydration. None are a good alternative and as I have trouble drinking and running at the same time - water is not useful when inhaled - I tend to avoid running in the heat. Either I go early, late or not at all unless I misjudge the temperature, in which case I suffer.
The other thing which was glaringly obvious as I made my way round the river was the water runoff. Not only for the fact that most of it seemed to be happening via my ASICS, but also because of the very apparent volume of water which was making its way into the river. As I neared Queen's Park, I passed a stormwater drain which was discharging water with the velocity of a small train. On my way back, I noticed a similar drain on the opposite side of the river had taken on the proportions of a waterfall and then, as I neared King Lloyd Reserve, there appeared to be a small geyser spouting from the lawn - perhaps a pipe had ruptured under the weight of the deluge.
Balyang Sanctuary
Along this section of the river, the water collected from surrounding catchment areas, just feeds back into the river itself and joins the larger flow, however on other parts of the river, stormwater plays an important role in maintaining local eco-systems. Balyang Sanctuary and Jerringot Wetlands are both excellent examples of habitat maintained by storm water runoff. Balyang takes its water from 70 hectares of surrounding residential land, whilst Jerringot is supplied from a large area extending up the Belmont Escarpment as far as Roslyn Road. The careful planting of native flora at Balyang Sanctuary - and presumably also Jerringot - contributes to a significant improvement in the quality of stormwater reaching the Barwon

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