I’ll start with the good news– I didn’t get hurt, and I finished the 18 miles yesterday.
Everything else was bad. Really bad.
For the first nine miles, the run seemed pretty normal, if not better than normal. I was cruising along, listening to my podcasts, easily finishing each mile in 15-20 seconds faster my goal pace of eight minutes. I returned to my car after six miles for some sports drink and water, and headed back out for another six, feeling great except for a blister developing on the ball of my left foot and a little bit of chafing downstairs. (We ran out of Blister Shield Powder, which I swear by for long runs, and I had a difficult time lubing up with Body Glide in the car, so neither of these ailments came as much of a surprise.)
Then it hit me. To avoid details, let’s just call it “the wave.” Or better yet, “the tsunami.”
Something was very wrong with my stomach. I didn’t eat anything weird beforehand (just a portobello wrap at the restaurant where my sister works), so I’m not sure what the cause was. I ran a few panicked miles but managed to avert the disaster of having to use Mother Nature’s facilities, and after taking care of the problem, I figured everything would be back to normal. Unfortunately, in taking care of said problem, I awoke the chafing monster. Not only did all the commotion cause me a tremendous amount of not just stinging, but worse– bleeding, in one of the worst places you can imagine (don’t try, if you haven’t yet).
I carefully limped the remaining mile back to the car, so as to avoid any further damage to my future children. When I got there, I reapplied Body Glide, drank a good gulp of sports drink and water, and headed out for the final six miles. Surely now, nothing else bad could transpire.
After just the first of the six remaining miles, it was clear that something was amiss. I hadn’t exerted myself much in the first 12 miles of my run, my muscles and lungs felt fine, and yet it was taking me all the effort in the world just to lift my legs and propel myself forward. In hindsight, I should have turned around immediately, and I probably would have been fine. But of course I didn’t do this; I thought, “Just wait two more miles to turn around, you can finish this.”
From here, it went as you might expect, especially if this feeling has ever hit you and you still have about six miles left in a marathon. Things get worse and worse, muscles start to cramp (for me it was my back), and by the end you’re doing that sort of half-upright limp/run thing that resembles caveman/ape #2 in the image. No, not the one with the cool spear; the other #2. By now my blister was killing me, the chafing was worse, and I didn’t even have the energy to adjust my stride to make these things less painful. I noticed that, though I was still sweating, I had goosebumps on my arms and legs.
I finished the run in this manner (I could have walked, but that would have just taken longer to get back to the car). When I did get back, I found myself chugging water, even though I hadn’t realized I was thirsty. I went to the nearest 7-11, got myself a chocolate milk and a Gatorade, and called Erin. By now I was feeling lightheaded, with hands shaking. I had trouble stringing together a coherent sentence; I could hardly even explain to Erin how I felt without losing my train of thought.
I told Erin that I thought I could drive home, and I did so without any problems except having to fight to stay awake. I was freezing, but everytime I turned on the heat I started to sweat and had to turn it off. It felt like I had the flu. When I got home, I staggered inside, teeth chattering, and got in the shower then immediately into bed. After about an hour, I had stopped shivering and felt like I could finally think straight. I ate a little bit of cereal, went to sleep, and that was the end of an awful evening.
I feel completely fine today; even my legs feel great. It was truly just an all-out lack of energy, and I am still unsure about the cause. I’m thinking it was dehydration, or maybe extremely low blood sugar. During the run, I drank about 12 ounces of water and 16 ounces of sports drink, and it wasn’t hot out and I didn’t feel like I was working very hard in the beginning of the run. But maybe the stomach problems dehydrated me. I haven’t needed to drink much during long runs recently– last week’s 17-miler was no problem, and I didn’t drink anything until 11 miles into it. So I figured two stops at the car would be plenty, but maybe I’m disrespecting the long run and need to prepare better. I’m also realizing that the sports drink I made had only a few tablespoons of agave nectar and the juice of half a lemon for sugar; since this is so much less than in commerical drinks, maybe I need to drink more of it.
I’m hoping that some of you experienced runners can provide a more-informed diagnosis. Does this sound like dehyration? Or bonking from lack of sugar? Whatever the cause, this run was terrible, the worst of my short running career. I’m not going to let this happen again, even if it means putting up with a bouncing fuel belt or eating those nasty gels. Thanks for whatever advice you can give me.
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