Last Sunday did not end as I had planned. The marathon was supposed to end with me crossing the finish line in about 4 hours, 50 minutes, triumphant and feeling pretty good for just running a marathon. I mean, it couldn't be any worse than last time, right?
Let's start before the start. Keep in mind, I've been training in Iowa, where my warmest run was about 55 degrees and windy. At the start it was about 60 and raining, and when the rain stopped it remained quite humid. Mentally, I was ready. Physically, I thought I was ready. It didn't take long to learn otherwise.
About 5 miles in, I could tell my legs were more tired than they should be, but I pressed on, thinking they were just settling into a groove. I actually kept my 5 hour pace for the first half of the race, but my quadriceps on both legs began to cramp at mile 11. Two years ago, they waited until mile 15. I adjusted my running to include more frequent and longer walk breaks, determined to, at the least, beat my time from 2009. Sometimes the cramp would seize up and even stretching wouldn't undo it.
About mile 17, I really started feeling bad. I knew I was dehydrated, even though I drank Gatorade (and sometimes water, too) at every fluid station and I wore a Camelbak with 60 oz of water in it to drink between stations. I had a mild headache, I was very thirsty, but I felt full and didn't want to keep eating my gel blocks, even though I knew I needed them. Every time I stopped to walk, my quads would tighten up for a while and if I stopped to stretch my legs or lower back, I felt like I needed to sit down. But I refused to give up and I kept going.
At some point, I couldn't run more than 30 seconds before the cramps would come back, then I would walk for about 90 seconds and try again. This took me through miles 18-26. The final .1 I ran continuously on adrenaline alone, wanting to throw up, cry, and lay down as soon as I finished. But I stayed upright until I made it through the recovery area, chip removal, and food tables. Then I sat down on a concrete bench to wait for Heidi to meet me.
I knew immediately I was in trouble. My hearing started to disappear, my vision began to tunnelize, and I felt my head getting light. Heidi was still approaching as I told the people next to me, "I think I'm gonna pass out." Then it went black and I felt asleep, but woke up about thirty seconds later to a medical crew laying me down on the bench and getting my hyperventilating under control. Heidi said when I passed out, my arms went stiff and straight, my eyes rolled, and I groaned. That's why they think I may have had a very minor seizure. They loaded me onto a golf cart-type thingy and rushed me to the medical tent, where I almost passed out again and my blood pressure was 80/55. After laying on a cot and getting an IV and a bunch of tests, they advised me to go to the hospital, where we spent the next 4.5 hours getting fluids and rest.
What I learned:
- Listen to your body. Mine said stop. I didn't. My body had the last word.
- I am not made for marathons. Half marathons, yes. Full, no.
- It's a good idea to tell someone if you're gonna pass out.
- Hill training is essential. The hills here chewed up my legs, and we just don't have hills like that in Waterloo.
- Always take your ID and insurance card with you when running. I'm glad I did.
Okay, time to sleep.