Hottest Half Race Report
The Hottest Half lived up to it's name. It was 89 degrees at the start of the race (at 7:30am), and somewhere around 97 degrees at the end of the race. The heat is brutal, and until you have run in it, it is impossible to understand just how much it can slow you down. The humidity was also ridiculously high.
This was my fourth half marathon, and I knew it would be my most challenging. I didn't set any real expectations for myself going in. I just wanted to finish - preferrably standing. I got there early and looked around the couple of booths that were there, and thoroughly enjoyed the mini-Jamba Juice that was being handed out. Yum.
I find a spot to sit and start lubing up with sunblock. I never wear sunblock. I despise sunblock. I don't like the way it makes my skin feel, and I hate the way it clogs pores and seems to limit sweating. But I knew the sun would be brutal, and I figured having to spend the next few days as a lobster might be just as unpleasant as the race. So I did it... then I went to turn my bag in to baggage check. After I turned my bag in, I felt naked... like I was missing something. No ID, no money, no water, nothing. And the feeling kept nagging me. I went ahead and used the porta potty despite not really needing to go since you don't want to get caught being late to the start due to being stuck in line. As I finished my wandering and decided it was time to go ahead and mush up with the pack heading towards the starting line, I realize GU... oh dear... all my GU was in my checked bag. Thank goodness baggage check was run by two extremely nice and understanding people who didn't mind digging out my bag again for me to get it. A half marathon in the heat, I knew I would need those calories.
The starting line was slightly confusing... there was a big set-up for the finish line (this was an out and back course), but the starting line was around the corner from the finish line. It wasn't really marked well, and you didn't really know you were starting until you noticed the blue timing pad under your shoes. The gun went off right on schedule. It was hot and humid, but I was feeling good. I kept my pace slow and steady and just let the hoards of people pass me. I was feeling pretty good and had already resolved that I was not going to over-push myself in this heat, and that I would walk when I needed to.
Just before the 2 mile mark was Libby Jones, who is an amazing support to fellow runners. Thank you Libby for standing out in the heat to support us.
Around mile 4 was a nice hill and I decided to speedwalk up it. I have pretty long legs, so my speedwalk up the hill still kept me at pace with the girl who was beside me still jogging. This was also about the time the sun decided to make it's appearance very well known and the temperature went up. The sun was right on us... burning. By the 3rd water stop, they were already out of water and only had Gatorade. I like Gatorade, but a girl needs water too. It was blazing. Many of us made stops at water fountains that are placed pretty frequently around the lake. The worst part, though, was all water and/or Gatorade we did have was hot... which really doesn't help cool your body's core temperature as much. Ugh. I finally hit the turn around and I felt a sigh of relief... thinking the rest is all just about getting back to where you parked!
I started to need to use the restroom, and I have never before stopped during a race at a porta potty, but clearly we weren't breaking any time records today, only temperature and sweat records. So I went ahead and stopped, and besides the trauma of trying to peel my sweat-soaked shorts off my sticky body, it went pretty quick and I was back on the course in no time.
It was about this time when I started to notice the stench of other runners, especially the guys. I'm sure I was no rose, either, but it was very distracting. Until, my attention was focused elsewhere... a lady with her race bib on, pushing a jogging stroller. Not that odd, as with many races at the lake, several push jogging strollers, they just tend to stay somewhat towards the back of the pack. But I was thinking it was mighty hot for the wee one, so I went to take a look at the little person. And right as I was about to explain away my staring by telling the lady how cute her child was, I noticed there was just a giant baby doll in the stroller. Strangest. Thing. Ever. I tried to explain it away. Perhaps she saw her husband, and the baby was hot and she handed the baby to her husband. But why wouldn't she leave the stroller too? And how could a baby have even fit in there with that big ol' doll? And if the baby did fit with that big ol' doll... wouldn't the kiddo have taken his/her doll out at the same time? These are questions to which I will never have answers, and I will remain forever curious of.
Back to the race... by mile 8, the sun was brutal, the lack of water along the course was unforgiveable, and I was defeated. I was so desperate for water that at one stop where they had run out of cups, I picked a used one up off the ground and had them fill it. At another stop where they were out, one guy actually lifted the cooler and we stood under it to drink the last drops out of the bottom. At this point, I knew there would be a lot of walking involved. I was starting to see person after person laid out on the side of the path due to heat. Police and ambulances were all too common. At this point, I resolved that finishing on my feet was better than a stretcher even if I had to walk the entire rest of the way. So that's about when I started half run/half walk... alternating as best I could. At mile, 11.5, I started up conversation with another lady, and we resolved to finish together (thank Trish, if you're out there somewhere). We walked most the way, but would take short runs in between. Then we walked to the final curve and pushed it in to the finish line. I have never, ever in my life been so happy to see a finish line!!! (It's nice loot, though, isn't it???)
And bonus surprise... my brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews were there to cheer me through. Unfortunately, I was in a complete daze of heat exhaustion and didn't make very good company.
But yet again, there was lack of water even at the finish... I managed to scrounge one very hot bottle of water. It was not enough, and I was at my breaking point, but I still walked back over to the finish to watch my good friend Elaine come through for her 7th half marathon.
It was by far my worst time for a half, but that's ok. Chalk it up to a learning experience that my body and this heat do not get along. And mark my words, if I ever run in the heat again, I WILL bring my own water bottle. This has happened for 3 races now, and I will no longer trust them to have sufficient water in these extreme heat situations. (In their defense, I think what happens is it's so hot, that the first runners through are taking 2 or 3 cups... 2 to drink, 1 to pour over their head... and by time us back-of-the-packers come through, it's all been depleted.)
Afterwards, I was too tired to even text those that were waiting to here from me, so I just took a photo of myself to post to facebook to prove I was still alive... although, I was barely hanging on. It was actually feeling quite pleasant under that tree, so I was pretty sure I wasn't moving for awhile.