My Half-Half Marathon

MONDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2013

I wanted this blog entry to go a a lot differently after my first crack at 13.1 miles, but what I’m learning about running is that there is no normal day. Every time you lace up, you really have no idea what’s going to happen. And my first ever appearance at the first ever Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon in Cleveland was no exception.

The day started out great! I was pumped. I was nervous, but they were controlled nerves. I was full of energy, excited and could not have been more ready to tackle 13.1 miles… physically and mentally.

It was supposed to rain that morning. Supposed to. And with every fiber of my being, I wish it had, if even only some sprinkles. I was prepared for it and quite honestly, I dig running in rain. Not torrential downpours with lightening, but running in rain is refreshing and badass. Who wouldn’t love it?! But it never did.

I’ll skip ahead the first four miles and go to mile 5. We had just come up a monster hill out of The Flats (irony?!) and my heart was pounding. It was brutal, really. One of my running partners said while we were going up that she wanted to cry. So did I. It really sucked. But we absolutely made it and looked strong in the process, despite the mental angst it caused.

It was shortly after the hill that I looked down and noticed the goosebumps on my arms. And it was pretty hard to miss the chills that were starting. CRAP. This isn’t good. I got quiet. A few point-something miles more and I started getting really lightheaded and dizzy. It was about at this point, maybe mile 5.5, that I figured I should say something to my running partners, before I just fell over out of nowhere.

“Uh, guys. Something isn’t right.” My voice was soft and it was all I could do to form the words coming out of my mouth. My face was feeling numb. They asked if I wanted to walk and after some arguing with myself about it, decided that was probably for the best. We slowed to a walk and as soon as I did, I got super dizzy and veered off a bit. And that’s when my friends took over and had me sit in the grass, then put my feet up. All I could think was that I was screwing up their time. And all I could say was “I’m so sorry” and “I swear, I trained for this.”

After laying there for a few minutes, I got back up. My friends wanted to call the EMT’s, but I bargained my way in to going for one more mile and if at that point I didn’t feel well, I promised I would stop.

As we approached the 10K mark, I saw the red medical tent. I was feeling a little less dizzy, but still pretty cruddy and ultimately decided that my day was done. My running partners assured me that there would be other races in my future and that no race was worth risking my health. They were exactly right, but hot damn, is that a bitter pill to swallow when you think about all of the work it took you to get to that very point.

MEDICAL TENT 1 (10K Mark)
I make my way in to the 10K medical tent and they start taking my vitals and what not and that’s when the tears started to fall. I’m feeling lousy, to say the least, and it’s hitting me that I have just epically failed the task in which I had worked so hard to achieve. They put some cold cloths on my back, took my temp, blood pressure, etc. My running partners figure out the communication plan, which included getting my phone number and my husband’s, which I couldn’t remember. At that point, I just handed them my phone.

I heard part of the phone call to my husband. “Hi, Mike? This is Julie. I was running with Becky and….” I didn’t hear the rest, but I felt bad for the panic that was potentially ensuing on the other end of the line. I mean, who wants to get that phone call?

After some heavy convincing that I was “fine”, that there was nothing more my running partners could do and that I was in good hands now with the EMT’s, I shoved my friends back on to the course. I am so grateful they were there with me. So grateful.

At this point, I’m ready to barf. I look over to one of the EMT people and rather calmly say “I’m going to throw up now.” Their response was “OK.” I was hoping for more. Like maybe a bucket or a finger pointing me in the direction of the nearest trash can. So I replied “Where should I do that?” Blank stares. So I got up, headed behind the port-a-potty and proceeded to dry heave until my stomach cramped.

That’s when EMT Jackwad (really, he was a nice man, who just said an incredibly stupid and hurtful thing) came over to me, put his hand on my back and asked “Are you a runner?” AM I A RUNNER?! What I wanted to say: “No, a-hole, I just woke up this morning and felt like going for a 13.1 mile jog on a freaking whim.” What I actually said:“Yes, I’m a runner. And I trained for this all summer.” Queue the tears again.

After that, I sat back down while they determined if I needed to be whisked away in an ambulance or if the limo bus was substantial. I heard them determine I was “stable enough” to go in the limo. I stood up and started walking. I nailed the open back door of the ambulance with my right shoulder as I walked by, then managed to hit the door to the limo bus with my left one. The limo bus driver turned her head and looked at the EMT, at which point the EMT assured her that I was well enough for the ride in her bus. (I saw her face. She wasn’t buying it. And that did make me a little nervous.)

Due to all of the road closures, it took FOREVER to get back to the finish line. I really don’t know how long it was, but it felt like an eternity. In reality, it was probably about 20 minutes. I sobbed in the limo. Just sobbed. I was in there with the driver, a knee injury, another woman who was dehydrated and a medical tent representative, who I’m pretty sure thought I was going to either chuck all over the limo bus or pass out. I made her very nervous.

MEDICAL TENT 2 (The Finish Line)
After getting lost and not knowing where the medical tent was, the limo bus finally dropped its passengers off “pretty close” to the finish line medical tent. “Can you all walk from here?” Uh, yep. Sure. The Knee asked me if I needed help off the bus and I gladly accepted. The Other Dehydrator was helped by the Med Tent Rep.

We made our way over to the medical tent. These people are all now assuming that I just crossed the finish line and am about to pass out. They were acting very fast. One guy quickly found a wheelchair and sat me in it, while the finish-line-medal-hander-outer-lady is putting the medal around my neck. All the while I’m yelling “I didn’t finish! I didn’t finish!” The medal lady was hilarious. Obviously assuming I was hallucinating, she pushed my hand down as I tried to take the medal off and said “It’s ok, honey. You did it! It’s ok.” while I’m yelling back “I only made it to mile 6!” They all thought I was out of it, since no one knew I had just come off the bus.

I’m wheeled over to a golf cart, they put me inside, then drive my still-sobbing-ass over to the main medical tent.

MEDICAL TENT 3 (Main Medical)
I’m helped off the golf cart and escorted in to the main medical tent. They lay down one of those aluminum foil looking “blankets” on a cot and tell me to take a seat. I’m shaking uncontrollably and sobbing. They take my pulse-ox, which was low. They also took my blood pressure, which was wonky. While this is happening, I hear one of the EMT’s say something about a taking someone’s rectal temperature. In my mind, I’m thinking that I sure pity the poor bastard who’s about to have a thermometer shoved up their rear. And then I hear them tell me to lay down on my side… which I did… and then it hits me. I’M THE POOR BASTARD! The EMT then tells me directly they are going to take my rectal temperature. I popped up like an actor out of a sitcom and say “Oh, no you’re not!” to which the reply was a gentle shove back down on to my side with a “Yes, I am!” She pulled my pants down and… mooooooon river! Yep. That just happened. As if my day couldn’t get any worse.

The IV lady then came over and told me she was going to start a line and that I’d feel a “big pinch”. “A really big pinch.” “Big pinch coming.” “Here’s the big pinch.” I GET IT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! It’s a big pinch! And did she not see what happened just 10 seconds before that? I think I can handle an IV at this point.

I’m still shaking and completely freezing, laying there covered in blankets. I sat up to drink some chicken broth they gave me, but I was shaking so badly that it was splashing up and out of the cup. I managed to find my mouth a few times and drank it half way down.

Still freezing, they decided to move me to a chair out in the sun. I felt like I was in a M.A.S.H. unit. People were streaming in to the medical tent, attached to IVs, shaking. In a strange way, it was comforting to know I wasn’t the only one who didn’t make it, but I felt terrible for everyone in that tent.

I’m seated outside, IV bag hanging on the tent, wrapped like a mummy in 2 blankets, shivering and still crying. Adding insult to injury, (well, I should say further insult due to the temperature reading incident) I had the perfect view of the runners just after they came across the finish line. They’re elated, exhausted, wearing their medals, knowing they just accomplished something big and celebrating that moment. I was happy for them! And so sad for me.

Saying that my day didn’t go as planned is the understatement of the century. Never did I imagine that I’d go through a couple of hours like the ones I experienced in those medical tents. And I certainly didn’t think there would be an anal probing at any point!

One of the EMT’s asked me if I had done anything different before this particular race and I really didn’t. He asked if I drank enough water and I proudly said YES! I had done a great job drinking water and professed so to him. He responded by saying, “Next time, you also need to hydrate with electrolytes and not just water.” DANG IT. I didn’t do that.

The only other difference in this race, which I realized on the walk to the car, was that I wore a hat. I wore it to keep all that rain (which never came) out of my face. I’m wondering if the hat kept too much of the heat in and perhaps I overheated as well?

Who knows. Like I said, every run is different and every race is a learning experience. And now that I know how they take your temperature at the medical tent, I learned that next time, I should just keep running!