So, Sunday was my 8th half marathon. Or my 9th…. I’ve lost track. I do know for certain that it was my fourth MCM Historic Half!
I’m very sentimental about this race because 1) it was my first half marathon (5 years ago), and 2) nothing beats running the (hilly) streets of your hometown. Last year, I ran this race 25 weeks pregnant, finishing in my slowest half marathon time to date.
This year, I managed to convince my second brother Chris to run it with me. This is the same bro who ran the Monument 10k with me.
He has been my racing buddy for my last two races as a Virginia resident. Maybe I can convince him to run the Columbus Marathon with me…….
Anyways, back to Sunday. The weather was rather dreadful, but typical Virginia. At the 7AM start, there was 99% humidity at 70 degrees. I was dripping sweat by the first mile! I brought my Camelbak Dart hydration pack along filled with Nuun Energy. For fuel, I packed two containers of my own gel and brought along a Honey Stinger waffle, just in case the gel didn’t work for me. Yes, I broke the first racing rule – Don’t try anything new on race day!
We started off easy, just getting warmed up and into the swing of things. We stopped at every water stop to drink water and/or throw water over our heads. The course was pretty hilly, but I felt super strong on them. All those hilly runs with the stroller definitely paid off! It was nice that I was so familiar with the course because I knew how to mentally break it up into segments.
We finished hand in hand in 2:06, which is a Historic Half Marathon PR for me and a great first-time for Chris.
The bad – I had to go to the medic tent. Not in a “oh, something hurts and I need ice”, but requiring-treatment in-there-for-over-an-hour kind of visit. Around miles 8 and 9, I had felt a little light headed. Each time, I drank some more water and felt better. Right around mile 10 – the infamous Hospital Hill – it got really bad. To the point where I had to stop and lie down with my feet elevated. Medics came over and asked how I was, but I felt ok and wanted to keep going. We were so close to the finish! I stood up without feeling woozy at all, so we kept climbing and running. Once we finished and got food, I got my checked bag and we stood in line for free massages. We ate, we drank, and we chatted with those in line around us. Chris and I got separated at the tables and chairs. When I was done, I stood up and felt seriously lightheaded. One of the girls working the tables had me sit on the curb and drink my Gatorade until I felt better. It took longer than normal, during which time I lost sight of Chris. After I changed into my compressions socks and drank more fluids, I felt well enough to stand… at which point I stood by the massage tent, looking for the ridiculously tall brother of mine. But to no avail. After who knows how long (10 minutes?), I head over to the Port-A-Johns to change into dry clothes. Still no sign of Chris. Once changed, I started walking back and forth between the family meet up area (“what if he thought to go there?”) to the massage tent (“maybe we missed each other?”) to the bathrooms (“cuz that’s where I said I wanted to go when finished with the massage”). At this point, I’m having a hard time staying upright. I get seriously dizzy/lightheaded, my heart rate goes up, and my breathing rate increases. Finally, I don’t know what to do and I’m not feeling well when a stranger comes up and asks if I’m okay. I say I’m looking for my brother and not feeling well, and lo and behold! Chris calls my cell. He had gone to his car to get his phone after we got separated and I didn’t show up at the bathrooms. I tell him I am going to the medic tent with Peter, the stranger, and to meet me there.
We make it to the edge of the parking lot and I’m so dizzy I can’t stay upright. My heart rate won’t get below 130, despite “resting” for at least 30 minutes. Peter goes to find the medics, and comes back with Marines, EMTs, and my brother Chris. By the time the medics half-carry me to the medic tent, I can’t see well, my breathing is fast and shallow, my heart rate is up, and my hands/legs/mouth have gone numb and seized up.
Over the next hour, my mom arrives and helps me to force drink water, Gatorade, and my homemade gels. I go through cycles of feeling dizzy, heart rate and respiratory rate increase, numb tinglies in my hands and feet, whole body shaking due to the adrenaline response, feeling ok and tired, then back to the start again. After about 2 liters of oral fluids, I finally start feeling stable.
I still don’t really know what happened. One theory is that I didn’t hydrate well enough over the few days prior to the race, on top of still nursing Baby Thunder. I’ve had issues with low blood pressure before, hence the Nuun and Nalgene obsession. If I went into the HM slightly dehydrated, then I would have had to drink a lot more during the race just to maintain the fluid balance. Another theory is that maybe I wasn’t acclimated to the heat and humidity enough before this hard long distance effort.
Whatever happened, I’m determined to continue tweaking my training regimen to ID the culprit and come up with a solution. I don’t want to be another tragic runner news story. And I really hate worrying my family so much. I want to show my boys the benefits of an active lifestyle, the payoffs of determination and commitment (even when it’s hard or unpleasant), and the joys of achieving goals. But I also want to show them the importance of taking care of your body, which means respecting your limits. There is a fine line between pushing your limits (in a good way) and recklessly (stupidly) ignoring them. I may be toeing that line. But for now, I’m going to keep running for the joy of it and pay more attention to my body.