A little late now to belabor events of early October this year, so suffice it to say that I struggled mightily at the Mohawk Hudson Marathon: barely made it in under 4 hours, well off my target time of around 3:45. How come? Mostly stupidity on my part. You'd think 20+ years of long-distance running would have taught me a lesson or two but I guess not.
My biggest mistake was probably to not adjust my goal pace to the higher start temperature. Start temperature was nearly 60F (why does this race have to start so late!) and 4 hours later it was nearly 80F. Even so I stuck with the 8:35 goal pace from the word go and never made the necessary adjustment until it became impossible to maintain. Fatal error.
Even more stupidly, I failed to hydrate properly, despite steadily rising temperatures and sunny conditions. At every water stop - every two miles - I would take just one cup of water and gulp it down on the run, not stopping at all until I was forced to. The sane thing to have done would be to have ingested at least two cups of water every 2 miles. One measly half cup was clearly totally inadequate. Should I have known better? Of course. I brought my own Cliff Shot Bloks and chewed one down every 2 miles. Having done this on many training runs it ought to have worked, but didn't... Simply not enough liquid intake.
End result? A fast half marathon, a pretty good 30K and a dreadful last 10K. Significant dehydration started to set in around mile 18; by mile 20 I was in a death march and it was all I could do not to quit right there and then. I stumbled my way to the end, rallying a little bit towards the end in a futile attempt to sneak in under 3:55 (my BQ time), but it was not to be.
From there things went really south. For the first time ever, I ended in the medical tent with severe cramping, headache, dizziness etc. All classic dehydration symptoms. Nothing much they could do for me (a cold Gatorade and some ice) but 20 minutes or so later I felt better to the point where Kathleen and I walked back to the hotel, about a mile from the finish point. To be honest, I did not do a lot of walking; it was more like shuffling, mostly just trying to stay upright with cramps in both legs, often at the same time. Very painful and very annoying.
Safely back in the hotel room I was persuaded to take an ice bath, but it was not a wise move. Within less than 5 minutes of sitting in a freezing bath amongst the ice cubes, I had gone from severe overheating to a full-blown case of hypothermia. When my tongue starting swelling (or so it felt) and my speech started to slur very badly, I knew I was in trouble. Fearing the worst (a stroke?), we called 911. Somewhere I had read that slurred speech is associated with a stroke. I should have checked a few other symptoms first but really wasn't thinking straight by then.
Long story short: back in bed under the covers, my hypothermia symptoms soon abated, I stopped shivering, speech returned to normal and all was well. Satisfied that I was not going to die on them, the nine members of the Albany Emergency Services team (thank you!!) traipsed out of our hotel room and departed quietly. They had arrived with sirens blaring and lights flashing. I am sure that the hotel management was not at all impressed as it is not good PR for a hotel to have 'medical emergencies'. Fortunately, mine was of fleeting duration and ended well for everybody. Blood pressure, blood sugar level, electrocardiogram readings, all were fine. Slightly dented ego but no permanent damage. A very memorable ending - for all the wrong reasons - to a very poorly run race.
Next up? Houston Half Marathon in Jan 2012.
Bottom line on Mohawk Hudson? I learned a lot about over-heating, dehydration, hypothermia and symptoms of stroke. The latter fortunately just of academic interest. Biggest lesson was that the body performs really well right until and just before dehydration occurs. A bit like a car that runs perfectly, even with just a tiny amount of gas in the tank. Right down to the last few drops of fuel everything works great. And then? Nothing. It stops working. So goes the body including the large muscles of the legs. Until they run out of fuel (fluids and/or glycogen) they feel fine and work perfectly. I honestly thought I was on pace for a PR, until just minutes before I cratered. How wrong can you be.
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