It wouldn’t be a Becky blog unless I had a horrible horrible training run in which something went terribly wrong and I thought I was going to die. Fear not, I have delivered. Luckily I did not die!
Our training calendar demands that we complete a 12 mile run to prepare for the big day. We are woefully behind schedule so even though I have not finished the prerequisite 11 mile run, I simply must get 12 miles under my belt. If I do 11 and put 12 off until next weekend, that’s way too close to race day for a long run. I would risk injuring myself and would not be able to complete the Half Marathon at all. So I hydrate, throw back a protein smoothie, strap on my water belt and head out the door, Brad in tow.
I feel solid for the front 5 miles. Brad and I are very sunny and smiley:
By now it’s about 12:30. Hmm, it’s getting warm out here. First mistake: running during the hottest part of the day.
Around mile 6 Brad takes me on a new route. We weave through the Venice canals, imagining which house we’re going to live in one day. It is lovely. We exit the canals and turn down a street that seems to be paved with mirrors. The asphalt is very bright, almost white, and the beating sun reflects from my brain to the ground and back up to my brain. We are on this road for 5 minutes but it’s long enough to make my brain feel a like fried egg. My body temperature rises. Second mistake: exploring a new route on an extremely long run. Third mistake: not wearing a hat.
The next part doesn’t have anything to do with why I nearly ended up going to the hospital, but it’s hilarious and I have to share. Around mile 7 I suddenly feel the urge. You know, the bathroom urge. The kind of urge that can lead to a Bridesmaids moment if not relieved immediately. So I say to Brad as quietly as I can that I have to “go.” We’re in the residential streets of Venice. None too populated, so of course Brad waits until we are 2 feet behind a group of Venice hipsters to essentially SHOUT at me “Can you wait to make it to a bathroom?” Said hipsters turn around in alarm and concern until they see two disgruntled (and now one incredibly embarrassed) runners behind them. I scoot past them as fast as I can, hearing them giggle uncontrollably at me as I pass. Mistake #4: running with someone who doesn’t realize how loud his voice is. (Just kidding sweetie.) In hindsight it was hilarious and not nearly as embarrassing as what was to come.
Back to the saga of how I lost a toenail and my dignity. Mile 8. Just 4 miles left to go and it’s a route that I’m very familiar with. Brad was going to stop at this point. He’d been nursing a calf injury the past week and started today’s run with the intention to do 8 miles but he is feeling so good at this point that he figures he’ll soldier on with me. I’m sure I can make it too, even though I feel bad things happening. My stomach has turned, my muscles have tightened, but I figure I can work through it.
Mile 9. Silence. Brad keeps talking to me and I hear him but I cannot speak. Cannot expend the energy. Symptom: extreme fatigue.
There are so many people out. Who cares if it’s a beautiful day, why are there so many stupid people everywhere!? Get off my beach! Symptom: Irritability.
Mile 9.5. What’s happening to my arm? My entire arm is cramping up from my shoulder to my fingers. First my left arm, then my right. Wait, now my jaw. My jaw is cramping shut. Symptom: muscle cramps.
Mile 10.5. The world is fuzzy. My stomach has turned incredibly sour. Every step is a challenge. This really can’t be good. Damnit. I have to stop. I may be stubborn, but I’m not stupid. I have to stop. Symptom: dizziness. Symptom: nausea.
Damn, I have to walk home. But wait a minute. Even walking is difficult. The sun is beating down on me like a spotlight. I feel like a vampire. I cannot stand the feeling of the sun on my skin. I hate the sun! I walk (only because I’m too proud to crawl) from shady spot to shady spot. Symptom: extreme sensitivity to sun.
I make it as far as the grassy knoll that runs parallel to the beach in Santa Monica and succumb to my body’s distress. I park it right under a palm tree and sit. I can’t move… or I’ll puke. I call Brad to see if he’ll come back and get me.
I forgot to mention that by this time Brad had pulled ahead of me. He was feeling oh, you know, GREAT, at mile 10 and wanted to sprint home. He was worried about me but of course in my stubbornness I convinced him I was fine and that he should run ahead. Mistake #5: if you feel bad pain, STOP! Mistake #6: if you’re too stubborn to stop, at least run with someone so they can drag your body back home.
I sit under that tree for a solid 15 minutes. When not moving, I can manage the pain and discomfort. The second I move bad things happen. Hey, at least it’s not a terrible place to potentially lose consciousness:
I can’t sit here forever. My body is not in a good way and I have to get home. I somehow trudge on. Uh-oh. Nope, not gonna make it. But I can’t stop now. No shade. Dying in the sun. At least there’s a garbage can up ahead. Aaannd…
A young dude runs past me just as I’m letting go of my breakfast into a Santa Monica public garbage can. He looks like an endurance runner. I’m hoping he has some solidarity. Brad finally comes to get me in his car and I make it home. I collapse on the couch and all the symptoms return at the same time accompanied by a brand new one: hyperventilation. After doing some very quick Web MD’ing, Brad knows exactly what happened to me. Heat exhaustion. He takes my temperature and luckily I haven’t got one, which is a good sign. If I had, it would have been hospital time. After one more round of the Barf-o-rama, I get some fluids and food in me and I’m on the road to recovery.
I write with my tongue in my cheek, but in all seriousness, heat exhaustion is not something to mess around with. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is a life threatening condition and at the very least can cause permanent brain damage. I was dumb. I should have stopped when I felt my arms and jaw cramping up. That was a new and uncomfortable kind of running pain and I didn’t listen to my instinct which said “This is not good. Stop.” I was lucky that I was close to home, and that I have an incredible boyfriend who nursed me back to health and made sure I was ok before he left my side. Do not do as I do. Do as I say. If you ever develop the symptoms I’ve listed here, STOP. Allow me to repeat them:
- Extreme fatigue (and I mean extreme, not just feeling a kick in the butt from a hard workout)
- Irritability (and I don’t just mean general annoyance from having to work out. I mean having a strong and uncontrollable disgust for every face you see in the world)
- Muscle Cramps (not a little side-ache or foot cramp people. I’m talking your entire muscle clenching like it’s got something to prove)
- Extreme sensitivity to sunlight (think Maurice in Little Monsters)
- Run when it’s cool. Do not run during the hottest part of the day, ever. Think mornings. Think twilight. Think fall.
- If the sun is out, wear a hat. Your brain needs protection.
- When embarking on a really long run or bike ride or whatever, stick to familiar territory. You want to be physically challenged, but you don’t want to encounter any surprises that are going to put you at risk like a huge hill or a field full of rattlesnakes or a street paved with mirrors.
- Hydrate hydrate hydrate. Concentrate on hydrating the day before. If you get dehydrated during a workout, it’s too late.
- Wear clothes that ventilate.
- Wear a water belt so that you can sip during the entire workout
- Bring your phone with you on long runs. If anything happens, like your pride has been wounded in a park in Santa Monica and you can’t get home, you’re going to want to be able to call someone who won’t judge you. Or you know, 911.