I’m what my sports medicine doc calls a “heavy sweater.” I don’t glisten or perspire, I leak. In the summer, my sweating reaches new heights so I tend to run in the early morning. This is especially true when I go long on the weekend.
This past weekend, for example, I had the option to run two 7-mile laps on a shaded path around a lake on Saturday. I was all set to go through with this plan until my son reminded me that we were supposed to campout in the backyard (by 9:30PM I had moved the tent into the sunroom because it was too hot). Instead, I took another friend up on his offer to run a 15-mile trail run on Sunday (forecasted to be a wee bit warmer) with some folks training for a 50 miler.
Confession, I’m a bit of a Dory (or perhaps an idiot) when it comes to running. I tend to forget things like mileage, forecast, and my propensity to sweat buckets. That said, I put together an ingenious hydration strategy for the big group run. I figured I’d drink two 20 oz bottles over the course of the run, come back to the car to down two more 20 oz bottles, and knock back a 32 oz nalgene on the way home. At best, my plan was stupid.
I showed up at the trailhead just before 8AM, got ready, and took off with the dudes. As we warmed up I quickly noticed that two of the dudes weren’t carrying any water and the others seemed to have little hydration (with the exception of my buddy, Jody, who had two bottles on his chest and two more in reserve in his pack). Strange, but perhaps they stashed water (SPOILER ALERT: They didn’t). I also noticed that the group’s slow training pace was definitely not my slow training pace. To add an exclamation point to my subconscious “WTF”, Jody started telling me their running bios, “That dude ran around the globe twice. That dude took second in the Mt. Everest 18K. That dude invented running. That dude…”
Surely Jody was yanking my chain. Uh, no. When my watch chimed in after the first mile I calculated the time it would take my body to spontaneously combust—4 miles. Wrong again!
By mile 3 I was by myself and struggling. Sweat was pouring out of my skin as it tried unsuccessfully to keep me cool. Around mile 4 Jody showed back up. He must’ve recognized my absence and circled back for proof of life (and possibly to log a few additional miles). By mile 5 the two of us took a wrong turn and were now running around in the heat trying to find the group so we could finish our run. Thanks to the help of an old lady and a fireman we found the trail and continued down the correct path. And, thanks to the weather and my lack of water, I was spent and we weren’t even halfway.
Around mile 7 (which was actually mile 6 of our planned route) I was ready to start the back since I was finished running the out. As we turned around to head back, two of the group’s runners came flying up a hill (they were actually running). We chatted ’em up about getting lost, about the heat, and then we were off. Within a mile I was bringing up the rear…again. A short time later I polished off my 40th and final ounce of water.
A mile later, I disregarded all the science behind pathogens and brain-eating bacteria and filled a bottle in a nearby creek. After knocking back the bottle, I filled it up again and started “running” once more. I should point out that I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to fill my SECOND bottle with dirty creek water. No, that would’ve made too much sense.
Down the trail, just before my body caught fire, I came upon a creek whereupon I proceeded to take off my ultra pack and lay flat in the water for a good 10 minutes. I could feel my body cool down as steam rose from my person (which, btw, was enough to power a small city for a year). Sufficiently doused, I filled my other bottle with creek water and began the slow shuffle back to the car.
More signs of exhaustion began to show. First dizziness then nausea then regret then acceptance. And with about 2 miles to go I stopped sweating. With a mile and a half to go I finished off the remaining water. And with a quarter mile to go, Jody came trotting down the path like a unicorn crapping rainbows of happiness (thank you Jody). He followed me in and I proceeded to down every ounce of liquid in my car. On the way home I stopped and bought a quart of chocolate milk and a bottle of Gatorade. When I returned home, after 246 ounces of fluids, I was still 4 pounds down from my initial weigh-in (something I always do before a summer run). To understate my physical and emotional well-being, I was pooped.
TLDR? Allow me to recap…
And that’s it. I nearly collapsed from heat exhaustion running trails with superhuman runners and little water. Still, I’d do it again because I’m an idiot and tend to forget my limitations.
Also, unicorns are fast.