No we can’t dance together
No we can’t talk at all
Please take me along when you slide on down
This was supposed to be a victory post. I was going to tell you all about how I made 19 miles my bitch.
But I ended up on the wrong side of that equation, let me tell ya!
The good news is that I’m totally fine now, and my PF only flared up mildly but is back under control.
The even better news is that I know what happened (fingers crossed) and that I recovered just fine.
The bad news is that I thought I was going to die :-).
Remember how I’ve said that the journey to a marathon is a story? Here’s the story of my
19 18-mile run, in two parts.
I know I’ve referred to this before, but I am a delicate flower. I don’t mean to be a princess, but I have issues. I have low blood sugar (borderline hypoglycemia) and low blood pressure, along with a low resting heart rate courtesy of my running fitness.
These issues are not problems unless they cause symptoms, but in me they do…after runs. I’ve had experiences with my blood pressure plummeting after long runs, like down to 90/48. It’s hard to describe what this situation feels like (though in an blunt foreshadowing, I’ll describe it in detail a few paragraphs down!) I’ve tried to be smart about it. I talked to my doctor in Switzerland, and he told me that I’m probably peeing out all my water intake and that I should eat lots of salt to retain water better and raise my BP. No problem…I salt everything, and I eat Tostitos Party Style tortilla chips like every day is Cinco de Mayo.
I even took the step to establish myself with a new doctor in the fall before starting my marathon training. I am nothing if not anal-retentive! I talked to him about my history of spectacular post-run crashes, and he told me that I need to get off my feet after running and elevate my legs. He gave me a thorough checkup and even ran an EKG to make sure I didn’t have any heart abnormalities. He said that my resting heart rate is very low (41), but that I was in great shape and good to go. He said that time would tell the tale for if my body and BP could handle the marathon.
Bring on the chips and the training!
The sun was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli. The high was expected to be around 70. I was worried, because my body had been used to running in 20-40 degree temperatures. Though I was excited for warmer weather and the chance to ditch the layers, I knew it would be tough for my body to adapt. As I ate my breakfast, I read about how the previous day at the Tel Aviv half-marathon, one runner died and four had to be placed in comas because the raceday temperatures were so high and made the runners ill.
The hydration plan is so important for all long runs, regardless of the heat, and I’ve been trying to establish my water/sports drink/gel/food consumption plan during each of my previous runs. I’ve shied away from sports drinks in my half-marathon training history because I have a sensitive stomach (hello, delicate flower!), but I knew that I needed the sodium and electrolytes for the marathon distance, especially since I need salt so bad for my BP. I’d established a pretty good plan in my previous runs, alternating Honey Stingers Cherrry Blossom chews (taken with water) and G2. All was good, other than the fact that I run and belch G2 like a burly dude. I can deal with burping, just not the trots.
Part I: Miles 0-14–
I made a kickass playlist. I was mentally in a good place. The snow had melted, so for the first time in weeks I decided to map out an actual out-and-back route instead of looping through my neighborhood cussing at sweet old ladies. I was pumped. I threw on some short-sleeves and strapped on my hydration belt with one 10 oz. bottle of water and one 10 oz. bottle of G2.
I was worried that 20 oz. wouldn’t be enough given the temperature, but my belt only holds two bottles. I decided that I would stop somewhere and ask someone to refill my water bottle from the tap if I ran out and started feeling thirsty. I also drank about 4 oz. of G2 before leaving the house.
I hit the streets and ran south for 9 miles, basically all downhill. I set a magnificent slow pace with splits around 10:10-10:30. I started alternating my chew/water and G2 plan around Mile 4. Everything was fantastic, and I knew I was going to have a successful run, which I sorely needed after the cluster of the 18-miler two weeks ago.
I turned back at Mile 9 at around 12:30 and started heading uphill–like, 134 feet in one mile uphill. I adjusted my pace and kept going. I was kicking ass! I owned this run! Other than belching, excessive elbow-crease sweat and an unbearable incontinence-pad-wedgie around Mile 12, this was my day!
But my god, the heat. It was getting so hot. I was out of my liquids by Mile 14 and in a totally residential area, right around the time I hit another massive one-mile, 100-foot + ascent. I walked the last minute or two of it, which I’ve never done in my life, trying make sure that I didn’t overexert myself. I needed to focus on the full 19, not just conquering one hill that was far beyond the requirements of the actual race course. I told myself that I was far enough along to just finish the run without getting more water, since I didn’t see anyplace to get any anyway.
Part II: Miles 15-virtual coma–
Basically, as I described to Chris later in succinct fashion, everything was fine until suddenly it wasn’t, and it all happened pretty darn fast. I started feeling sluggish.
My pace started dropping, even with the same effort. I started craving a Diet Coke DESPERATELY, which is bizarre since I kicked my soda habit two years ago. I hit Mile 17, and my Runtastic app announced that I’d run my last mile at a 10:42 pace.
Say whuh? WTH was happening?
My god, the heat!
I made it into my general neighborhood and thought about heading home for some more G2, but I was still too far away. My muscles in my upper back/shoulder area started cramping. Cramping? This good-time Sally doesn’t cramp!
And then I knew.
I wasn’t just mildly dehydrated. I was gone baby gone. My muscles were cramping from dehydration. I realized that my body wasn’t making sweat anymore. I smelled T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
The nausea started a minute later. Here I was, jogging down the street at an 11:04 pace, coughing and begging myself not to puke. See, we live in one of those fancy neighborhoods where barfing in your neighbor’s yard and then hobbling away just isn’t kosher. You know, real snooty-like.
I hit 18 miles at the end of our block and called it quits. Out with a whimper and a heave. It took me over 20 minutes to walk down our block (eight or so houses down) and get inside. I coughed and heaved and sat and hobbled, 2-3 steps at a time. I was an excellent ambassador for the sport of running. I almost called my friend Erin to ask her to drive over and throw me in her car for the last 50 feet to my house.
I FINALLY crawled in the door, dry-heaved at the sink for a minute and then sprawled my salt-encrusted body on the couch. Sweet Max heard me cry out for a DC and a cheese stick and brought me both immediately. I started chilling BAD, and not in a chillin’ with my homies kind of way.
After about 30 minutes, I was able to drag myself upstairs and change into dry clothes. I then spent another 2 hours on the couch under a blanket, eating and drinking more water and DC, before finally showering. I was covered in salt everywhere.
I checked, and the temperature was 82 degrees at the height of my run. Yep, sounds about right.
What makes me mad is that I bombed the hydration so bad even though I had actually thought about it! I’ve just never been that sensitive to it before, even in my longest runs.
I had taken the time to weigh myself before, and I weighed myself after. I looked up several articles on percentage of weight loss and sweat rate and ran the numbers.
I lost 4.32% of my body weight on that run, which is in the category of significant dehydration.
So! Best case scenario is that I am incredibly stupid despite my best efforts and just got dehydrated, which affected my blood pressure. I can deal with that. I’ve looked up all kinds of stuff now, and I think I will try to take along some fast-food salt packets to dissolve under my tongue on my 20-mile run next week (along with lots more G2 obviously!).
Worst-case scenario is that even if I’d hydrated better, my blood pressure still would have crashed because my body just can’t handle the length of the runs. God I hope that’s not the case. I have worked too hard.
The issue of hydration during runs is complex. The solution isn’t always to just drink more water. In fact, many people actually take in too much liquids during runs, resulting in a condition called external hyponatremia, which actually mimics the effects of dehydration and exertional heat stroke. This condition is caused by dilution of sodium levels in the blood, usually caused by drinking way too much water.
According to what I’ve read and what I’ve now tried to calculate more specifically for me personally, my sweat rate is 32 oz./hour. I took in 6.6 oz for each hour I was out there. Though I don’t necessarily need to replace fluids on a 1:1 ratio, the number is still way out of whack.
Hello, my name is Dumbass!
I read one great thread in a Runner’s World forum where two people described craving Coke and Diet Coke during similar experiences…weird, huh? It was bizarre to read the articles/discussions and see just how similar the experience feels for others who have gone through the same thing.
If you’re interested in reading more, here are some links:
An article from the Boston Athletic Association
Runner’s World Forum thread
And an article on hyponatremia
Bottom line? I should have paid even more attention to the issue than I did, which is pretty funny, because I think I’ve been plenty obsessive over things. If you are a runner, I hope you will read up on the issue.
I’m pretty disgusted, because now my 18- and 19-mile runs have been bombs. I’ve only got one long run left, my 20-miler, to get my business together, and yet I don’t feel like I’ve managed things well so far. Still, Wilson Phillips runs through my head, and yes, the dream is still alive!
Song that crushed it: We Come Running (Tiesto remix) by Youngblood Hawke