I was late, showing up at 7:40 am for our 7:30 run. All I had to eat or drink that morning was two cups of diced fruit in heavy syrup. We got underway at 7:50 after stretching. I carried a half liter of water.
Two weeks earlier I had run 15 miles at a steady 9:00 pace that deteriorated to a 9:15 pace the last few miles. A kept us locked on 9:30s for this run.
We went southbound through Alexandria on the Mt. Vernon Trail for 8 miles and turned around. By now it was after 9 am and the day was heating up fast. My technical shirt was saturated and hanging heavily off me.
Going back I started getting really tired. I finished my water. I was also hungry. I hadn’t brought anything to eat.
A stopped in the comfort station at 12 miles and I gratefully walked a quarter mile til she caught up again.
Going through Old Town, I felt terrible. I couldn’t keep up with A anymore and I couldn’t talk to her through my heavy breathing. I couldn’t catch my breath and my jaw and shoulders ached. My heart was racing and I was really sweating. It was 92 degrees by now and humid. Shit, I thought, there are only two miles to go. Some recess of my mind said, there are two miles to go.
I didn't think I could make two more miles. Two more miles? How could this be? I stopped and started walking. A stopped also and walked besides me. She offered me her water which I waved off. She apologized for having ingested her one Gu a few miles back and not offering me half, not knowing I hadn’t brought any. I said that was ridiculous, I could have brought Gu.
I took off my hat and shrugged out of my shirt. Sweat was pouring off me. I felt like I might fall down so I went over to the grass and sat down. A urged me not to sit down but I said I felt "black spotty." The grass had turned from green to sepia toned. A sat down beside me, watching me carefully.
I drank all of A’s water. I sucked in long breaths. I kept apologizing to A for "ruining" her 16 miler. (Her first 16 miler.) She said that was ridiculous.
After awhile, I got up and walked it in. I couldn’t run anymore, although I tried. A walked with me for most of the way and then ran ahead to her car when we were close. She brought back some fluids, Gatorade and water. I sucked the warm Gatorade down and it made me feel much better.
We went out for a post-run brunch. I uncharacteristically ordered a steak and a soda. Afterwards I spent several hours in my bedroom with the A/C unit going full blast.
I am a veteran runner. I can do sixteen miles easily, if not well. Sure it makes me tired and sore but it shouldn’t make me quit. But this shows what a fool I had been.
This is a precautionary tale. The admonition pride goeth before the fall springs to mind.
A summer morning might seem benign but can be dreadfully enervating because of rapidly rising temperature and humidity. It’s potentially dangerous. Lessons for long runs in the heat are:
- Respect the weather, always.
- Hydrate before the run.
- Hydrate during the run (16 ounces wasn’t enough). (But don’t go crazy and over-hydrate.)
- Fuel your body (eat enough before the run, and bring some energy replenishment, if only as a precaution).
- Bring money (to buy water or for a transit ride or to use a pay phone).
- Run with someone.
- Stop when you aren’t feeling right and make sure people around you know that you’re feeling distressed.
- Wear some ID, maybe affixed to your shoe.
A was a real sweetheart about it, a veritable lifesaver. I’m gonna miss her! So is the DC running community.
(Three perfectly lovely ladies. Not Born To Run and Bex say goodbye to A. We'll see you on the trails!)