Run higher, fly stronger–beat the heat.


Gonna spend some time out in the blue? Well here’s the reality of the extremes you’ll endure and exactly how you’ll handle them: you either let the sun run you or vice versa. There’s a schedule, there are miles between here and there and the only question remain is how to deal with the temperature that impacts performance sure as the heat shimmers in waves above the pavement. Make it happen, challenge the distance–carefully.

Doesn’t really cool off much as the day goes on, so deal with it. Thread pacing into the fabric, know the performance factors affecting your forward progress, and “git ‘er done:” road miles first, then air miles. Seems to help make sitting strapped into a jet easier to endure if you’ve put in a good five or six road miles before the flight.

Yeah, it’s hot, but who’s getting up early to run, especially when you have to fly late? Mock the sun: endure. A raggedy south wind like a feeble blow dryer sighs among the baked scrub brush and and straw-ish grass–so you’d best set out north, saving the light breeze for the last half.  Now a cloud in the sky so you can’t determine the winds aloft but at the surface it looks like the airport will be on a south flow; visualize the steps ahead: performance data, know the optimum flap configurations, power settings–they’re different on a day like this.

Try not to think about the aches of the last miles, look ahead. Give it at least ten minutes to smooth out, for everything to loosen up–sun-baked steadiness, that’s the key. Patience.

A stretch of flat miles, but don’t look too far down the road. Let the cadence of each step blend into the next, riding rather than pushing it–there are many miles to go. Lots of others out here too–can’t avoid the heat, everyone has to move sensibly, aware of the changes forged of the heat, wary of signs of stress.

Sitting in a gazebo-like cockpit  instantly kicks in the reflex to conserve movement as much as possible, because everything contributes to the rise in core temperature that only makes the trip more difficult. No wasted motion, breathing steady, the minutes pass like cadenced footfalls over flat miles. Sun shades, sun screen but still you feel the deep rays like a heavy blanket.

It’s all about the stride, stay in it. Breathing, like the rhythm section: become a finely tuned machine and butt out: just stride and stride again. Manage the core temp, always in touch because there’s a redline you have to stay south of if you’re going to endure.

Something about flying, like running, that becomes so much about handling the heat. How many years in fire-resistant flight suits, Nomex gloves even in the hottest cockpit, thinking about how it would be smart to endure the discomfort of the gloves and rolled down sleeves considering the fact that you’re sitting atop tons of jet fuel? Flight surgeon once said, “Be showered before your flight–makes any burn treatment you might need less prone to infection.” And we were all footprinted: they figured to I.D. you that way if needed because your boots might be all that survives burning jet fuel. Nice

Own the path ahead, heat or no heat. You know the limits, stay within. Climbout is always energy-critical, especially in summer. Need to see the positive trend in energy.

Feels like everything’s on fire–because it is. The sun has baked the ground far and wide and made kindling of the face of the earth. Smoke curls away and drapes a swath hundreds of miles behind it across the western sky. The plume and pall becomes so large that it actually creates its own weird weather with wraithish tendrils of smoke like a sorcerer’s spell exchanging heat with the sky.

Heat’s gotta go somewhere, refuses to be dismissed and even at 40,000 feet, the turbulence of the confused air bumped up by the hellish, unnatural convection makes for a choppy road. You keep your concentration, finding smoother, softer spots for the jet and its footfalls westbound.

Even if it wasn’t bumpy, it makes you want to run a few miles out of the way to avoid the spectral gouly-ness you wish was a mirage. But that’s the nature of the sun and earth and and the march of seasons: it’s baked and cracked year-round and you have to use your head to make your passage, one footfall at a time on the dirt or miles-per-minute in the sky. Either way, the heat, the relentless sun and time mean business.

There’s water, but there’s also miles of pancaked earth to cross one step at a time to find it, so you’d better pace yourself for the long run. And sometimes it’s so deep that you just have to take on faith that it’s there–the scar says so, but you’d have to look close to find a drop.

Time is the friend of distance as much as it’s the ally of the earth: patience, pacing, you get there. Change comes, heat gives way to a slower cool, one that is as much from the slower heart rate, the darkening turn of the day, and the inevitable exchange of elements between air, water and dry land. Count on it, pace yourself, endure: there will be more miles tomorrow.

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Note: Thinking about heat and the sky–running a 15K on Labor Day, flying and training in the blazing Texas heat because I’m too lazy to get up early for either.

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7 Responses to “Run higher, fly stronger–beat the heat.”

  1. blackwatertown Says:

    If you want to cool down – just reflect on the showering advice and the footprint recording – chilling.
    Hadn’t considered the greenhouse effect of sitting in a cockpit.
    Fascinating as usual.

  2. Thanks, Chris. A fun, well written back door reminder about Density Altitude. Duh? My first lesson on the subject was a mid-60s 16mm film from the FAA with the same title. Great shots of a small aircraft, seriously overloaded, trying to land on a small, remote, high altitude strip some place in Idaho. It was not pretty and I’ve never forgotten that lesson. Good stuff and thanks for sharing the wisdom of experience. Please continue to fly safely and post as often as possible. -Craig

  3. So? How was the run? 🙂

    • Excellent: perfect temp, light breeze, flat course, lazy pace (@9:40/mile) the whole way. Doubt I’ll budget the training time for a 26.2 mile event (I’ve finished 9 of them) but 10 or 15k is fun and doable.

       Chris

      Sent from my iPhone, so please pardon the typos.

  4. Just catching up on your great posts – I’ve noticed in several of them that you mentioned flying an LAX route. I’m curious – I fly all over, but for some reason, the takeoff roll at LAX always seems to be really long – is it just me, not wanting to leave CA to head back to crappy Chicago, or is the takeoff roll really longer at LAX? Thanks!

    • That’s kind of funny: like the crew doesn’t want to go home, if they’re Chicago-based, or doesn’t want to go to Chicago if they’re LA-based? Actually, we all love downtown Chicago layovers any time and really, we all have flight privileges so we can come and go anyway.

      But no, take-off roll is only based on gross weight and temperature–well, pressure altitude too but LAX is at sea level, pretty much. And if it’s a transcon, lots of fuel, heavier weight, longer roll. maybe that’s what you’re noticing, especially if you’re going to the east coast. Even Chicago is a pretty fair-sized leg, at least compared to LAX-SFO or even Seattle.

      • I think it’s probably either/or with the crew. I live in Chicago – actually out in the suburbs, so I don’t get downtown very often – and I’m originally from Texas, so the weather here from my perspective is just horrible. I know I always want to stay longer in SoCal. My weekly flights are either in a 738 back to ORD or on a 762/3 to JFK, so I suppose the fuel weight is likely the main cause of the longer takeoff roll. Again though, maybe it’s just my yearning to stay a little longer that makes it seem so long…

        Thanks for the quick reply!

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