Deep in the HEAT of Texas

It’s hot. 

I’ve probably uttered this sentence- now meaningless, because the word hot somehow seems inadequate, at least four times since the day I arrived in Matamoros, and I see no signs of stopping now. It’s hot. It’s really, really hot. And apparently, it’s only the beginning, as July and August are notoriously the hottest months in the Rio Grande Valley. I’ve been told we can expect triple digits daily from now through September. But it’s a dry heat, you might say, or at least think. And more wrong you could not be. A sauna is what it is, with morning humidity levels in the 90-100 percent range and dew points upwards of 70 degrees. I am no meteorologist, but I know enough about these numbers to know that they make for pretty uncomfortable conditions. And even if I didn’t, stepping outside and instantly starting to sweat is a good indicator that it’s… just… hot.

Whose dumb idea was it to train for a marathon in the heat of summer? (Mine.)

When M. and I started our run this morning at 7:30, it was already 80 degrees with 91 percent humidity. We had gotten up an hour earlier, but by the time we got ourselves and our running gear ready, took the dog out, and crossed the border into Brownsville, the clock had ticked away. We found the Heritage Battlefield trail in Brownsville a few weeks ago. It’s one of Brownsville’s best kept secrets, it turns out: a flat, paved trail that runs from the art museum downtown due north for about seven miles. It is marked every quarter of a mile for the first four miles, and there are water fountains along the way.

We aren’t sure why, but the City of Brownsville doesn’t seem to want to let its citizens and visitors know about this trail. There is no mention of it on any public website, nor are there signs or directions on how to find it. M. had heard about it several months ago, and when I arrived here, we finally decided to find it. Once we did, we knew it would be a great place to train. We could run our long runs without having to run back and forth in the unrestricted area of the dusty levee in Matamoros in order to get all of our miles in. What we didn’t know was that the bulk of the Heritage Battlefield Trail would have no shade… not an issue if you like to run with the sun bearing down on you and drink bath water from a public fountain. I guess we can’t have it all.

This morning we ran the entire length of the Heritage Battlefield Trail. Twice. Out and back, 14.6 miles in total. Four bottles of watery Gatorade apiece – one initial cold bottle prepared ahead of time from home (ahhhh…) and three refills of bath water from the trail fountains. It was our longest run to date in our training cycle for the Mexico City Marathon, which we are looking forward to running on August 25th. It was M.’s longest run ever. Way to go, M.!

Our saving grace this morning was the constant Rio Grande Valley breeze. We felt only stagnant air and intense humidity during the first half of our run as the sun rose higher, but as soon as we turned around we realized that we would run the second half of our run into the wind. Normally this is something I would complain about, but not today. When I lived in the Midwest, I spent many an evening mapping my running routes according to the weather report and direction of the wind, all in an effort to run into the wind during the first part of my run and have it at my back during the latter part… or avoid it altogether. This usually ended up being a complete waste of time, because the wind always seemed to be blowing in every direction. I never knew how it was possible to have the wind in my face during an entire out-and-back run, but so many wintry runs ended up that way. Here, the wind is more predictable, and for the first time in my life, I was grateful to be running into it on the way back. It made such an enormous difference in how much cooler we felt that we didn’t really notice the resistance caused by the wind pushing us back. It was a far cry from a cool breeze, but it was moving air and that’s enough for me on a day like this.

We approached our finish line for today at the art museum (about twelve degrees warmer than when we had started) and happened upon the Brownsville farmers’ market. After living in Minneapolis and Des Moines, where going to the farmers’ market was my weekly Saturday morning post-run ritual, I was delighted to find this little gem. It was tiny, perhaps ten booths in total, but there were a few good finds, including a post-long-run breakfast taco, homemade tortilla chips (for later), local honey, and potted herbs for our garden. A happy ending to the start of our day and weekend.

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Our goodies from the Brownsville farmers’ market after our long run this morning.

Thank you for reading!

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