July 12, 2012

Lessons Learned from Inside an Ambulance

No, I have not recently ridden in an ambulance. I am referring to my big meltdown that happened in November during the Pensacola Marathon. I want to revisit the topic for a few different reasons- 1) I used to be an idiot about hydrating and listening to my body 2) It's summer and hot pretty much everywhere in the country, and being that I live in one of the hottest/most humid areas of the country, I can add to this topic something that might help others 3) Ashley requested it. 

Let me first revisit the topic by explaining a few things I did to sabotage my own body on and before race day.

*The race was on Sunday morning. The ever-changing weather down here was actually giving us cooler temperatures the days prior to the race. I remember actually running in tights the Friday before. (That is very rare down here.) This gave me a false sense of hydration, and I didn't drink like should've.

*I drank a *few* glasses of wine at the boyfriend's sister's wedding on Friday night. I'm not a teetotaler, but the truth of the matter is that if you choose to drink alcohol prior to a marathon, you need to couple that with plenty of water. I did not.

*Saturday morning I was up very early to volunteer at a race. It was cold, and I was tired. I drank lots of coffee- too much coffee, not enough water.

I will now abandon that story to discuss what do now prior to long runs, and I am especially diligent about this in summer months.

*The day before the LR, i drink PLENTY of water. I aim for lemonade-colored urine. Gross, but helpful. I try to choose foods that will not upset my stomach. Upset stomach (frequent bathroom visits) can lead to dehydration.

*I now carry a bottle on any run longer than 80 minutes. Also, on all my running routes, I DO pass a water fountain. I usually stop for a quick sip, just to be safe on shorter runs. In my bottle, I carry water, and I top it off at the 9 mile marker. In runs longer than 16 miles, I will eat a gel of some sorts.

*I recently started taking Hammer Endurolyte capsules. I take 2 before the LR. Ideally, you should take these DURING the run, but I haven't found a way to carry them without them starting to dissolve in my pocket. So... I swallow 2 before the run.

*Sam and I love to talk about what we are going to drink in the last few miles of our LRs. We make bargains with each other that we can drink ANYTHING we want after the run. In this heat, no matter how well prepared, you always want to drink GALLONS after running. And, true to promise, I have a few things that I typically choose from. I usually have a trifecta involving a few of these beverages- Gatorade AM, G2, Diet Coke, Cherry Limeade, Slushy from Sonic, or Muscle Milk Light.

Now, let's talk about the Danger Zone.

When I blacked out in Pensacola, it could've been prevented. My body gave me many, many pleas to drop out of the race (or even just dial it down), but I refused to obey. First off, I had 2 VERY bad bathroom visits-one at mile 15 and one at 18ish. (Read between the lines here.) I was already feeling VERY hot and fatigued. The weather drastically changed from the cooler temps the days before to temps near 80. Somewhere between 15 and 20, I vomited 2 times. I began to feel dizzy and had the chills. I pressed on. I was winning the marathon and refused to listen to my body. It was begging me slow down/stop, but I continued to hammer away low 7s/high 6s. At mile 20, I vomited the last time. I had nothing left. My pace was reduced to 9s and I could  not run in a straight line. I swerved on the road with tunnel vision and ringing in my ears. I would not make it to 21.

I said this in a previous blog post, but here it is again. There is not one single race, marathon win, time goal worth what I did that day. It was stupid and bull-headed. I had all the warning signs, but I refused to listen b/c I was too stubborn and prideful. I scared and worried my family, friends, and boyfriend. NOTHING is worth that. So, from now on, I'm that girl that has to pee 5 miles into the long run. I'm that girl forcing water and gels on her training partners. And I'm that girl that will bail when I have ANY of those warning signs.

I'm a heavy sweater; so I have to be careful. I've also read that people that suffer heat exhaustion/stroke have a higher chance of it happening again. I feel that I've totally bounced back, though. I ran the ultra in May where temps were near 90 at the finish. I felt great throughout, but I also treated my body right in the days before and during the race.

It's hot and humid out there, friends. Please, please, PLEASE be careful! If you have ANY danger signs, just bail. It's not worth it. There will always be other days to run...

I'll leave you with a picture of me after a race last summer that shows how much I sweat. Haha. :)


  1. I didn't "know" you when this happened. HOW SCARY. I am so sorry you went through that and so glad you rebounded as well as you did and fully recovered. This is a great post and GREAT advice. I struggle with GI issues and have to be careful about staying hydrated.

    And, sweaty or not, you are too cute! Love that pic.

    Ok, Louisiana Marathon? Have you run it? What do you think? I am looking for an "A" race in January. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. So important to stay hydrated...I've been taking it really seriously this summer. When I'm not drinking enough water and losing electrolytes, I feel so so tired. On that note, I'm off to get hydrated...I've done an awful job today. And I agree with Erin, you look So cute in your Brooks gear.

  3. Hooray, a post for me! :) Thanks for doing this. I entered a trail race next week (a rather long one in fact) and I know I need to be proactive about fueling and hydrating if I don't want to be dragged out of the woods.

    I'm still proud of you for learning so much from that awful experience. Stay safe!

    Also, why do you look adorable post-sweaty-race? I look like a drowned rat!

  4. I think I remember reading that race report! What a tough race. I hate to say it, but I probably would have tried to keep going too...i mean if I was in the position for a win. But I am glad you learned so much from it and were able to pass something on to the rest of us. It makes me really happy to have my fuel belt.
    Do you wear one? Could you put carry a tablet in it for just in case?

  5. I know you took a great deal from this experience and as unfortunate as it was (and how much it scared me too), I think you learned something extremely valuable, and perhaps more important-you sharing with others just may save someone else from heat issues.

    On a more "superficial" note, better hydration = more performance.

  6. Anonymous7/13/2012

    Thank you for this post, this is a great reminder to stay in front of hydration and pay attention to the signals the body may send.

  7. Can't comment, off to drink a glass of water which I wouldn't have if I hadn't read this before tomorrows LR! Thanks for the reminder, I definitely neglect this part of my running. Glad you bounced back from that nasty experience (also I can't help it and I know it's not big and it's not clever but it does make you even more hardcore in my book that you kept running whilst feeling that bad!)

  8. Fantastic reminder! It wasn't until I got my coach last summer that I realized I wasn't hydrating properly. Pre-hydration is so important! It's great you have water fountains on your route. I do not! Keep it up and stay safe and healthy!!!!

  9. Great post, but I am amazed your threshold is 80 minutes. Mine is 30 and it's cooler here :) I guess I'm soft and used to always having water on the bike, so I hate not having it when I'm running!

    OH, endurolytes are a huge help. Only way I don't cramp.