Race report: good, then real bad

imageI didn’t blog about it, but I did a half marathon about five weeks ago in Connecticut, because it was a warm-up, a trial run for the NYC half marathon which was this Sunday.

My time in CT was a 1:33 and I was using 1:30 as a stretch goal for this race. (This works out to 6:52 min/mile pace)

Race morning was like clockwork, Emily and I walked leisurely over to the start in Central Park, we had our gels and fluids just like the last race, the weather was warm and humid to be sure, but much cooler than the forecast had predicted earlier in the week.

I had my new racing shoes on, I was seeded nice and high for the race which meant I was up near the front for the start, the first 7 miles went around the park and I’m feeling great. We run through Times Square and onto the West Side Highway. The buildings near the Battery Park finish looked far away, but I could tell we were reeling them in. I pass by the 12 mile marker at 1:20 (6:40 min/mile) with plenty of time to spare and still reach my goal. Mile 12-13 my form starts breaking down, for some reason I start holding my head very far back and my neck tenses up, but my legs feel fine and I’m cruising into the crowds and the finishing area — I can see it!

Then the wheels fell off. You know those videos of triathletes struggling to get their legs to work at the finish line? That was me. I wasn’t cramping or sore or tired, I just could not get my legs to work anymore. People are all around yelling, trying to will me on and unfortunately this was not a question of will. The next few minutes are hazy, I didn’t lose consciousness, but just by a hair. Apparently a policeman grabbed me and put me in an ambulance that was stationed nearby.

The EMT person put an IV in my arm, which I’m sure was the right thing to do, but as anyone who grew up in the era of station wagons with backwards facing seats will tell you, it is not a great idea to put sick people in a position where they can’t see out and are traveling backwards. I’ll spare you the details of those few minutes, but let’s just say they weren’t going to be using that particular ambulance for a while.

My time in the ER was predictably awful, I managed to stay awake, but I didn’t stop sweating or open my eyes for ninety minutes or so. A few hours and five liters of IV fluids later I was ready to walk out on my own power — I weighed nine pounds more that night than the day before. My main concern was finding Emily and my parents who had come down to watch us finish — we rely so much on everyone having their cell phones on them both to be contacted on and for their numbers stored in them, it is very stressful when you can’t get a hold of the people you love. (I actually had a Road ID on my wrist which has my name, Emily’s cell number, my home number and my sisters home number, but my sister was on vacation and Emily was in the race so she didn’t have her phone on her. I still think these are a great idea for any runner. The ER staff called all the numbers on my wrist as soon as I got to the hospital). Emily ran a great race by the way, she said I could share her finishing medal on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Severe dehydration was the diagnosis. I’m still analyzing the whole situation and what went so wrong with my planning and strategy.


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