by Mark Jimenez
We live in a desert. The desert is hot. Those are simple statements and probably something that we learn even before we get to Kindergarten. In Las Vegas, we have the privilege of being in the Mojave desert, which is the smallest and driest of the four American deserts. Sometimes called the High Desert because of its elevation (between 2,000 and 4,000 ft), the Mojave Desert is home to all kinds of wonderful things.
Running in the summer has never been easy, but it has been manageable. When I ran cross country as a kid at Western High School way back in the day we’d wake up early and run for summer practice. We do the same thing now, almost 30 years later (holy crap! When did I get this old?). A few years ago, however, the Clark County School District, in their infinite wisdom, made a change that has made running in the summer much more difficult.
The reasoning behind the decision is sound. It makes sense to want to have semester exams before the students leave for Winter Break, rather then giving the kids a 2 week break and then testing them a couple weeks after they get back. In order to make this happen, they moved the start of the school year forward by a couple of weeks. I won’t get into how they owe all of us teachers extra money for a double contract that month, because this is a blog about running and not about how teachers in Las Vegas are always screwed over by the district, the community, and their union. So in any case, a few years ago the start of the school year got moved from late August to early August.
The repercussions of this from a Cross Country aspect are that now the teams are out practicing in the summer afternoon heat. Our team starts practice at 2:15pm, the hottest part of the day during the hottest part of the year in the driest desert in America. Go team go!
Our bodies adapt to heat extremely well. There is lots of science behind this. In fact, we adapt to heat much better than we adapt to cold. And teenagers do it even more quickly. Still, I worry about all the kids in all the sports out practicing during this heat. I am also very proud of all the kids out running in this heat. It takes a special kind of person to go out running in the desert sun.
The Cross Country experience of students living in, say Michigan, must be so much different than those here. When the state meet is held in Southern Nevada (every other year) in the first week of November, it’s been known to be 85-90 degrees on race day. I’d love to have a sit down and go down memory lane with some people who run in the midwest and have to deal with a completely different kind of Cross Country.
The heat this year has been very difficult. As I get older, I must be getting more grumpy. I look at the weather app on my phone every day, and every day I see that about 7 days off the temperatures start to drop into the 90s. And then sure enough as those days get closer the 90s turn into 100s, and even 108s and 109s. I told the kids yesterday that it feels like we turned the oven on and jumped in to go for a jog. The air is hot and dry. But we get it done.
The summer of 2021 has been brutal. We got smashed with a heat wave in June, the hottest day of the year happened to be the day I got married (it was an outdoor wedding but it’s ok, it turned into a pool party), and here we are headed towards mid-September and the forecast is still showing 100 degree days. I am ready for this endless summer to end.
I want to feel that first chill in the morning air. I want to smell the fresh air. I want fall to arrive in all it’s splendor (let’s be honest we get about 2 weeks of fall here in Vegas, then we just skip straight to winter) with Halloween and Pumpkin Spice. I want to be able to take my dog on a run again without worrying about her paws blistering on the ground.
But this summer just won’t end.
Still, I know that someday soon, probably in the next 2 or 3 weeks, I’ll start my morning run and feel that familiar chill in the air and I’ll know that summer is over and cooler temperatures are here.
Hurry up, fall. We need you!