ORN: 26.2 miles; 5:07:34, R3/W1, then R1/W1, then W; 11:45/mile
The marathon is a relentless teacher. And I think it is this relentlessness which makes it so appealing to me. Yesterday was yet another prime example. Twenty-one nice miles. Five really hard miles. Dehydration, nausea. Bonk city. Lessons abound. And I need the group here to help me figure out just what happened.
The Gory Details
The race started on time, complete with three, count ‘em, three F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter planes swooping in from behind and then going into a near-vertical climb over the start pack. When the third plane came over, off we went. One runner nearby quipped “Wow…what we need is to have them fly over at mile 22.” Little did I realize how right she was.
The first five miles wound around the southern part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. After 5, I was one minute ahead of the splits I had projected in my 3/1 pace. We ducked briefly off base to do a mile or so through the little town of Fairborn. With no security restrictions, the fan base was marvelous, a continuous stream of folks there. I gave high fives to both Batman and Spiderman. A cardboard standup of Barack Obama smiled at me. Ohio is, after all, a swing state. I hit the 10 mile mark 90 seconds ahead of plan.
We wound back into the base, past the officers’ houses, golf course, admin buildings and worked down to the airfield. We looped the north end of the massive airstrip and headed back to the south end of the base where we started. At the 15 mile mark, I was in rhythm, still 90 seconds ahead of my plan. Along there, Jeff joined me, liking the 3/1 ratio I was holding. It was his first marathon and he asked if he could “ride along” with my timer. A couple miles later, we picked up another first time marathoner, Christina. We kept moving, now out of the shade and into the full (and upper 70s) sunshine and asphalt. The three of us came to the 20 mile mark, still a full minute ahead of the projected time. I knew I had padded the last seven miles of my plan by nearly a minute per mile and informed Jeff we were on a 4:45 pace.
Heading for mile 22, up and over a long freeway overpass, I felt the race slip away. A twingly feeling in my legs and feet was the first clue. Jeff was feeling better and worked ahead. Christina got a second wind and eased ahead a little later. The walk-breaks that usually help me through such moments didn’t work this day. I dialed back to a 1/1 ratio and held that for a while, but my mile splits fell to 14 minute range. Around mile 24.5, after a mere 60 seconds of running, I felt my head go woozy and the horizon started to totter from left to right. I recognized the signs of dehydration and realized I needed to simply walk it in. Which I did. With plenty of time to think, I walked, weakly managing to run the last 50 feet across the finish line. And that was about all I had left.
After the race, I got more and more woozy. I found a place to sit down after getting de-chipped and parked myself for, it turns out, over 45 minutes. It was all I could do to keep from throwing up, the nausea and discomfort was so severe. It was much worse than the rottenness I felt at the end of the Rocket City Marathon last December. My hands, arms and calves were all trembling. I eventually managed to walk the three-fourths mile to the shuttle bus to get back to my car. Rather than driving home, I ended up spending the night nearby with my niece and her husband. The nausea continued for another hour or so, with lots of hot sweats alternating with chills, characteristic of dehydration. Only after I could sleep for while could I get a taste for fluids. Once that happened, I recovered quickly. Strangly, the roof of my mouth felt really out of sorts for the better part of the evening.
So how did this happen? Please help me answer this question!
I thought I had worked out a good hydration plan. I carried my own fluids, starting out with 20 oz of half strength Gatorade. I consumed all of it and reloaded with the same at mile 9. I drained that 20oz and reloaded again at mile 16.5. I had made three porta-pot stops during the race, which seemed a good sign I was still hydrated. Yet, I noticed (but only in retrospect) that between the second fluid reload and mile 21, I only drank about 5 oz. It suddenly became repulsive to me. I simply couldn’t get the half-strength Gatorade down. At a water stop at mile 22, I picked up 10 oz of straight water, thinking it might be more palatable. But it wasn't. I had no desire to drink, even though I knew I needed to drink.
For fuel along the way, I used a tool I had used in training, a bite of a Clif Bar every 20 minutes. That got repulsive to me about the same time the fluids no longer sounded good to me.
So how do I get over this nausea, this revulsion from the very fluids I need? Did I simply lose focus? Do I need to go to another plan? Do S-Caps figure in or some other electrolyte replacement? Did the fact I only got about three hours sleep factor in? I’m sure I’m missing something here. Yet, if I don’t solve this, I really wonder if I should stick with running the marathon distance. I would appreciate your advice.
My oldest sister phoned today, and, after satisfying herself I was OK, asked “Why didn’t you just quit that last mile and a half?” I smiled and told her. I ran this race on a military base in honor of my two sons in the US Army. David found many times in his two deployments to Iraq that he felt pretty rotten, yet carried on to the end. Matt will find the same in his service, most of which is still to come. Countless others in service to our country have persevered, despite their own feelings. All this ran through my mind as I walked the last mile and a half. While I had hoped to finish the race strong and running hard. Yet, my daughter-in-law pointed out this evening my race may have been a better picture of the struggles of many in the military, to simply keep moving, one foot in front of the other, carrying on to the end of the appointed duty.
So I smiled as I walked, realizing this was really nothing compared to what so many have done; simply persevering to the end.