A few weeks ago, I had the worst long run of my life.
I was at the boy’s house when I got up around 6am and made my preparations for an 18 mile run. Now, the boy lives in a small town in northern Colorado, about 20 minutes from the Wyoming border. All around him is farmland, until you go a little further west, where you find the foothills. Things and trees are sparse, generally speaking. I mean, we are in a high desert here in Colorado! I’ve done some medium-length runs (12-14 milers) around his house, but haven’t been extremely successful. The beating sun, with no shade apparently really effects me: nauseau, dehydration, etc. So, if I’m at the boy’s house when I’m scheduled for a long run, I typically drive about 10 miles southwest and complete any long runs in the next largest town, Fort Collins. There are trails and there is shade!
This particular weekend, I had plans to do the same. So, after my light breakfast, and half cup of black coffee, I drove to a trailhead that I’ve started at before.
It began like any other long run. Listening to music. Holding back my pace. The cool air at 7am was refreshing, as the sun started to make its’ way out for the day.
I chose a new direction on the trail; for something new, to see where it went. I felt comfortable with experimenting and I knew I could always turn back and head the traditional direction whenever I wanted. When it spit me out on a familiar road, I was about 6.5 miles into the run. I knew this road, as it was a backroad the boy and I frequently took when we were traveling into Fort Collins. Since I wasn’t even at the turnaround point, mileage-wise, I decided to continue on this familiar road until I hit the 9 mile mark.
Around mile 8, I hit the 2nd backroad. This road is a 10 mile stretch that would take me directly back to the boy’s house. At this point, I had a choice. I could either turn around, head back the way I came, and just make up the extra mileage somewhere on the way back. Or, I could continue on this road, through the farmland, with little shade, on a morning that was warming up quite nicely. We could pick up my car at the trailhead later.
Maybe the little bit of heat was already getting to me. Or, maybe I was trying to rationalize the fact that this road had hills, and I wanted some extra hill practice during a long run. Or, maybe I was feeling good, and I was determined to not let the farmlands win again. Whatever reason, I decided to just keep going…
For the next few miles, I was in a groove. I was in that place where you can zone out with your music and just knock off the miles. Despite the small shoulder, I was also doing a nice job of staying alive. It’s amazing how confident drivers must feel when driving right past you at top speed.
And then, something hit me. Not a car. Not a rock being thrown back by a tire. But that niggling feeling in your tummy that tells you, you might not feel that well after all.
It was mile 14, and I only had 4 to go. This is nothing. I can do this, I thought. I am so close. I am so close to grasping the farmland by its’ neck, pushing it up against the wall, and telling it who’s boss.
Ignore that feeling. Ignore the heat. Just keep going.
I did my best to block it all out, but the nauseau continued. I kept willing myself to just make it to 15 and I would stop to walk it off. 3 miles to go and I would be done. A simple 5k. The 1/2 mile walk seemed to take the edge off, so I started to run again. But just as soon as I did, it all swept over me again, and I was utterly frustrated.
I walked. I drank. I squatted and put my head down. I walked some more. I squatted again. And then, I made a big decision. I had to get home to the boy as soon as I could. I couldn’t continue the final 2 miles like this. It would take me entirely too long. And all I wanted to do was lay down.
Despite all of my walking and squatting and looking miserable, not one driver had stopped to see if I was alright. I guess it shouldn’t really surprise me. Although, I hope that if I ever see someone who isn’t looking “normal” during their run, I would pull over and ask if they were okay. Especially if I see them squatting down and holding their head in their hands. Just saying…
As I walked, I thumbed a car or two, but they paid no attention to me. I guess I should’ve packed my 4-inch “hooker heels” in my Fuelbelt. And maybe that little black dress.
Finally, I came to a stop sign, and flagged the guy down who had just pulled to a stop. I politely asked if he could take me home (now about a mile away). Sure, he said. Are you okay? I’ll be fine, I assured him, just not feeling very well. We briefly chatted on the short drive. More him than me. He mentioned his friend in Boulder who runs marathons, and quickly stated that he could never do that. As evidenced by the car full of fast food wrappers and the stench of KFC that permeated? Yes, maybe he’d have to give up a few things he loved. Or at least cut back.
He dropped me off and told me to drink a lot of fluids. Yes, I know, I thought. I felt a little foolish and remedial when he told me this. Granted, I hadn’t delved into my 19 years of being a runner, nor the fact that I’d been distance running for 4 years, and I didn’t bother saying this was my 6th marathon I was training for. I guess I felt like, what was the point? I didn’t need to defend myself to a total stranger. I wouldn’t see him again. And this was just a me thing. I was pretty certain I knew what had gone wrong, and to get into all the logistics with this guy during a short mile drive back home was not worth my time. Instead, I was appreciative. I thanked him again and again.
When I walked in the house and collapsed in exhaustion and nausea on the couch, the boy brought me some wonderful cold water. I knew I drank too much too fast, but it tasted like heaven in a plastic bottle. I did my best recounting the highlights of the story, granted I know I was almost whispering, speaking in incomplete sentences, repeating certain parts, and the like. Coherent, but certainly out of it. Why didn’t you just call me?, the boy wondered. You know I don’t run with my phone. And I was so close to home, it was easier to hitchhike.
As I rehashed the story, I wasn’t feeling better. While the cold water was just what I wanted, it was also the antithesis of what I wanted. Or at least at the speed of what I wanted and needed. I popped off the couch and headed directly to the bathroom where I “unswallowed” all the water I had just downed.
But after a light nap and a shower, I was good to go for the rest of the day!
Needless to say, the sparse farmlands win again. I don’t think I even care for a rematch.