I got my butt up at the crack of dawn on Sunday in order to (try to) get our long run in before it was too hot.
Pennsylvania summers are probably worse than you would think. I think you’d be surprised at how awful it can feel here. The humidity makes great temperatures into unbearable ones. 85 degrees can make you feel like you are breathing soup. 95 degrees makes you feel like you are downright suffocating. Despite starting at 6:30am, it was a hot one. The parking lot was right beside a very cool creek, so it didn’t seem so bad. Once we entered the trail, though, and got amongst the trees, it was stifling. Ugh.
We were heading out to do my favorite section of the AT (Appalachian Trail). It’s a 10 mile section stretching from Peter’s Mountain/Route 225 to Clarks Valley/Route 325. We always start at the northern point and run south, grab some water, and then return to the start. This way we have one hard climb at the start and a wonderful, fun descent at the end.
By the time we got to the top of the mountain – which took a little more than a mile – I knew it was going to be a tough run. I love long runs. And I love tough runs. But for some reason I had a feeling that this was going to be trying. Sometimes I hate being right.
I was running like it was my first time on the trail. I kept tripping and catching my toes on rocks and roots. I twisted my ankles several times apiece, and was getting frustrated. I was taking electrolyte pills every hour, eating (a date an hour, which is my norm) and drinking, but just wasn’t feeling right. At about 7 miles, I started feeling funny, but not too bad. We got to the turnaround point and filled up our hydration packs, hoping that fresh, cooler water would help. It didn’t.
By about mile 16 I was downright miserable. It wasn’t that I felt really nauseous or dizzy. I felt odd. I felt a little out of it, and like my chest was a bit tight. It was kind of like when a cold and cough are coming on or something. I was running with one of my favorite people on earth, and my ever-present training partner, who is also a physician’s assistant. She started quizzing me on how I felt. We couldn’t pinpoint the problem. Usually I would be able to say that I need water, or salt, or sugar, but not this time. Finally I sat down. Did you read that? I sat down. I couldn’t believe I was doing that. I did that during my 100 miler last year, but never during a training run. What the heck?
After a couple of minutes, we continued on our way – slowly. I felt like a loser moving so slowly, but I knew that only I thought I was a loser. There was nothing loser-ish about what I was doing. I was out running/hiking for 5 hours on a beautiful day in a beautiful place. I am healthy. I am strong. I am blessed. The feeling was temporary; it would pass.
Finally I said to Anne, “I just want to dunk my head in a bucket of ice water.” Then it hit me. I ran a little more than 11 miles in the heat and humidity on Thursday, 10 miles in even worse conditions on Saturday, and now was shooting for 20. I thought about my fluid intake over those days and realized that it just wasn’t enough. I knew I wasn’t dehydrated when I started the run, but I think that my electrolytes were out of whack, and that on this particular run I wasn’t getting enough water. I think my body temperature was getting a little high. A perfect storm was brewing. I kept drinking my now warm water, kept taking my electrolyte tablets, and kept eating my dates. Finally I got to the final descent. It wasn’t as fun as it usually is, but I started to feel a little better knowing I was almost done.
We finally got to our cars. I immediately mixed up a protein shake with a box of coconut water, pulled off my muddy shoes and socks and headed into the creek. It was cold. Delightfully cold. I got in up to my knees and started splashing water over my back and neck. I finally got myself cooled down enough and started to feel “right”. It was amazing how good I felt when compared to how bad I felt just 10 minutes prior.
I finished out the afternoon under the shade of a tree while watching my husband, niece and nephew on an 80 foot long slip ‘n slide. They had fun and I stayed cool, so it was a win-win situation. I made sure to get a lot of water throughout the rest of the day to make up for my morning mishap. I definitely know how important it is to stay hydrated, but I have to remember how hard I have to work to replace fluids after all of these long-distance runs during the heat of the summer.