Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Esoteric Measurements V4: Sweat Logic

"It's finally starting to feel like Christmas around here," a Panamanian friend said to me as the two of us sat with the sun on our backs, sipping beers and watching a row of ships waiting their turn to make the passage from Pacific to Atlantic. While it may not feel anything like the Christmas I remember, there has been a noticeable change in and around Panama City.

As we move deeper into December, Central America emerges from it's rainy season (though you wouldn't know it from looking out my window today) and into the "dry season" of their summer. Unlike the heat of summer back home, Panama  actually cools off a bit during the upcoming months while the humid, stagnant air gets swirled by a new pattern of breezes from the east that leave behind slightly less but still incredibly humid, stagnant air. I'll admit that the breezes are more of a relief than I had expected, the city somehow seems more manageable and yesterday, when we hit the bone chilling temperate of 71 degrees, I briefly considered putting on a sweatshirt...

My greatest relief from the recent change in climate comes during my afternoon runs along the picturesque oceanside jogging path called the Cinta Costera. Even now I know better than to run in the heat of the day, prefering instead to set off just after the sun has gone down and light of the city have come up.

I have come to measure my runs not in miles, kilometers or even total time but instead  track both effort and my general fitness with one basic factor: How long I can run until my body overheats to the point that I have to stop and walk or risk what I can only guess would be some kind of catastrophic organ failure. In the beginning this took little more than about 12 minutes but as time passed and my body has become more accustomed to the heat, I worked my way up to around 35. Improvements were signs of progress until suddenly  the arrival of the new weather pattern and the breeze turned everything on its head. Instead of running until overheated organs began to shout for relief I was continuing on until my calfs and hamstrings begged for mercy.

Now this sudden change is bad news for two reasons: First is the fact that I no longer have any conception of the type of progress I have been making or the effort I am exerting. Bad for a guy who needs to start worrying about skinny arms and bike races. But second, and more alarming, the winter weather has allowed me to run further down the Cinta Costera path and directly into the rougher neighborhoods surrounding Casco Viejo. Here, in the Zona Roja (Yes, the red zone), it's not the best idea for a nike-wearing, ipod-toting American to be jogging after dark. In fact, on some Zona Roja streets it's not even good to be jogging in broad daylight.

I suppose now is not a bad time to wean myself off of the sweat death measurement method because if I took it back to Colorado with me I would probably end up as a popsicle of spandex, carbon, and aluminum frozen to my bicycle somewhere on windy foothills road.

So until then, here's to finding that middle ground between sweat death and bike popsicle.


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