My last month of training consisted of some mountain running: Coosa, Western North Carolina & several days at Amicalola State Park - a strong recommendation for anyone who wants mountain running with awesome views in Georgia.. And, several of these runs have been in warmer weather... Yet, none of this training could have assisted my physiological decline (from leading the race - for women), on Saturday.
The day started out warm, but I don't think I was aware of how warm it was. We were at Sloppy Floyd State Park outside of Summerville, GA, and I thought - it is North Georgia, it won't be that hot.
The race started at 9:00am. The first several miles were relatively flat and there were some hills; nothing too extreme or that my last runs (7 sisters, amicalaloa & Coosa) had not prepared me for. It slowly started up and up until we were walking up a steep incline. We got to the top of the ridge quickly, and from there we went on a Forest Service gravel road where we ran for about a mile. From there we traversed to another trail, which dropped us down into a valley. This is when I started noticing that I was not feeling at my best. I kept asking other people with watches - how long have we been running... And, how far do you think we have been? I usually am more concerned that I am not enjoying the views or watching for rocks. These thoughts continued and were heightened around mile 13. At this aid station, I started noticing how hot I was - how I could not cool down. I thought it was just the heat, and I started dumping cold glasses of water on my head. But, this was not cooling me down. I was leading the race for women, so I did not want to slow down my pace, so I continued back on the forest service road feeling OK (not great). There were several other aid stations before we started another decline down a bluff. Usually, I would have been excited for the downhill rest, but, again, no - I was tired and annoyed & kept wondering why I was so warm! So, I started the Jeff Galloway method & started to walk some to try and get my body temperature down. This, again, did not work. So, around mile 18 - I arrived at an aid station, and I was exhausted. And, so warm. Then, my muscles started to not work. It became difficult to run. Then, around mile 19, I was passed by my first women, and I did not care; I was in such a state of decline - my legs hurt; everything hurt. I continued this way until mile 21 - where I received more gatorade/water, and I started the verbal complaints - I am just so hot - they advised that I should sit down, but I declined and trudged on. Then before the last aid station at mile 22, I laid down under a tree. My symptoms had peaked: I could not walk without staggering on the trail; my vision was blurry; I had stopped sweating; I was chilled, sometimes, everytime I drank water, I was nauseous, etc etc. An all around decline. I gave up. I realized that I was going to get a DNF, and I did not care. I just wanted out of the heat & off the trail. I was carted off and down the trail I went, and I was mortified, but relieved. I had not ever, ever in my over 15 years of running felt that badly. That weak - that horrible. Several people stopped and gave me words of encouragement & stories of their own IVs they had to receive, which kind of helped the embarrassment but not the bewilderment. I kept going through my mind - what had i done wrong - how had I become sooo dehydrated? How could I have let it get this bad?
This experience was very humbling, and made me really think about some of my, perhaps, nutritional mistakes - too much coffee?? Too much work stress? And, it gave me humility in recognizing my own mortality and acceptance of my limitations... As I sit here several days later and still exhausted -Today, I watched with envy as a group of young men raced around the soccer field, and I realized how lucky we are, we runners, to be able to run and train the way we do. It has only been about 2 days, but I miss that freedom...