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Monday, October 08, 2007

Chicago: The Short(er) Version

First and foremost: I am alive, and I am alright.

But, I did not finish.

So, by now, everyone out there in running blogland has heard of the horror that was Chicago this year, but I know you want to hear my story as well, so brace yourselves: It's not brief.

I was confident Sunday morning at the start; despite the predicted high temps, I figured that my training in FL had prepared me for heat and humidity, so I was self-assured, if not a bit cocky, that the heat wouldn't be an issue for me. When the gun went off at 8, the sun was just starting to position itself over our heads, and by the time we actually got to cross the start line, at 8:24, it was already quite warm, but I was wasn't worried.

The beginning of the race was everything I'd hoped for: an enthusiastic crowd, bouyant racers, and the sights of Chicago before me. But, quickly things started to go downhill, and that confidence I'd started with went as well.

At the first aid station (mile 1.5), the crowds were already hot and clammoring for water, so I took a cup of what I could -- about 1-2 ounces of water -- and figured I'd be fine until the next station. I was hot at this point, but it was early, so I felt sweaty but felt I'd manage. I had to pee, though. Pee bad. So, at 3 miles, I pulled off to use the restroom, but the lengthy line seemed like a waste of time, so I dashed off into the alley and peed between two dumpsters -- that, I have never done before and I can now add a "check" next to interesting experiences for that one.

At that point, I was already so hot that I wanted to lose the shirt I had on, so I re-pinned my bib to my shorts and tossed away my shirt so that I was running in my sports bra and shorts -- my standard FL running uniform. This change helped cool me a little, but I still needed liquid, which I was hoping for at the second aid station. But was there any?

Nope.

They had run out.

Fine. Next aid station it is. But, by this time, the sun is directly overhead, and I am HOT, and already feeling very tired, which isn't good b/c it was only mile 4. At mile 5, I told Lisa to go without me because I needed to walk -- I was that spent that early. Between miles 5-7 all I could think about was water -- I was so thirsty and I was so hot (passed by a bank that said the temp was 91 degrees) -- but at the next aid station, they were again out of fluids. I nearly strangled someone right then and there. Thankfully, a kind spectator was handing out bottles of water (this turned out to be true all along the course -- the people of Chicago were the most inspiring part of this story -- if not for them, many more runners would've had more serious consequences), so I took a bottle of offered water and downed it along with a GU.

Almost immediately, things weren't right in the tummy and about 5 or 10 minutes after consuming the water and GU, I was positioned by the course barfing it back up. And if there's anything worse than swallowing that snot-textured GU, it's barfing it back up. This was trouble, and I knew it. I was dizzy, faint, nauseaous, I could feel my pulse racing, and I was already exhausted. Not good.

So, I resolved to stop for help at the next medical tent. That happened to be at mile 8. I stopped running and walked up to the tent. I didn't really know what to do, so I just stood there for a moment until a nurse came up to me and asked what was wrong. "I don't feel good," I said simply and then burst into tears. She sat me down in the shade, gave me ice packs and a glass of water and took my pulse and registered some vitals. She had one diagnosis: heat exhaustion.

So, along with about a dozen other people, I was loaded onto a school bus and driven back to the finish line. I was so upset at that point that I didn't even notice the hundreds of people in the med tents back at the finish; all I could think about was my own failure to finish and my disappointment and frustration. By the time I found my husband, I was a wreck: emotionally, physically, and mentally. My head was throbbing (felt like my eyeballs were pulsing), I was crying, I felt dizzy and weak, and, ultimately, I was dis-heartened by the day.

My husband was the right dosage of what I needed at that point. He brought me water, Gatorade and snacks, we sat down in the shade at Grant Park and he comforted me and soothed me. By the time I had re-grouped and determined that I wanted to go back to the hotel, we were walking up Jackson, when we noticed a herd of runners headed our way. What was this? This wasn't the course! And the majority weren't running -- they were walking. What was up?

My husband stopped a woman and asked; "The shut down the race," she told us. "What?! Why?" I asked her. "No more fluids. And they have too many medical emergencies. So it's over. We're all headed to Grant Park."

Later, I heard of many runners who, like me, had either been bused back or had been hospitalized due to the heat. This morning, I bought the Chicago Tribune, and there was the complete news: 1 man died, hundreds were hospitalized, thousands didn't finish.

What a disaster.

I feel a bit comforted by the fact that I was not alone out there suffering in the heat, but I still feel frustrated, and admittedly, embarassed about my "defeat in the heat," but I guess I can't be too hard on myself -- if I am, I will just be miserable. Ultimately, the conditions were out of my control and I had a bad race. That's that. As my dad said when I called him after the race: "Shit happens. Not everything can be a success." So, I suppose I put the experience behind me, learn from it, and move on.

For now, I'm back home and that's a comfort in and of itself. So, even though there is more to report, pictures to publish, and stories to recount, I will save those for this week's future posts. Right now, I need to get back to life at home -- post-marathon.

Thanks for all the good wishes and concerns for my safety: I appreciate it all!

45 comments:

P.O.M. said...

I'm sorry to hear about your experience. I got choked up just reading it. Glad you are ok and didn't end up in the hospital. Thank goodness for a supportive family.

Doug Cichon said...

Glad to hear you are safe, Jess. The weather for this race was absolutely horrible; don't beat yourself up too bad.

I agree the people of Chicago were amazing yesterday -- The only cold fluids I had all day (including after the finish) were from spectators.

Tough Cookie said...

I am soooo glad to hear you're okay. It's really good that you stopped when you did; if you would have gone further, you would have put yourself in danger, and the race would have been cancelled anyway. Rest up, feel better, and start thinking about the next race. :)

Marcy said...

(((HUGS))) Jess!! I'm SOOO relieved that you're ok. I've been thinking about you! I'm sorry it was not the experience you went in there hoping to have, but you did the best with what you were given and you can't ask for more than that :-) You are still one rockin marathon runner!

Rest up chica!!

Jes said...

I am so glad you are safe and made it home alright. I was worried. I hope you have a great week!

L*I*S*A said...

So glad you're okay. I was so worried about you when I left you around mile 4. I really, truly thought you wouldn't be far behind.

Sorry I wasn't very good company...the energy I normally use for talking was used for putting one foot in front of the other.

We'll have to choose another race to run. :)

ws said...

glad to hear you are safe and sound back in Florida, where the heat is miserable but we have cold beverages. that barfing GU phenomenom - it sucks.

hope you can rest up and enjoy your recovery... should you decide you want to run a race locally when winter comes, let me know...I'll keep you company and tell you ridiculous stories about how I can't always tie my shoelaces right...

teacherwoman said...

I was concerned about you, especially since you are a prompt blogger. I was expecting something up here last night. But, I am glad to hear that you are okay! Sounds like a really rough day.

Shannon said...

What misery! I can't believe you were able to make it that far under those circumstances. You are one tough gal. I'm glad you stopped when you did though. Hopefully we'll see you Wednesday. :)

Erin said...

It is a bummer of a story but the good thing is you were not alone and the items that defeated you were out of your control. I am glad you didn't get too sick or hurt your knee. There will be many more marathons to train for and run.

We are just glad you are home. I bet Scooter is too :)

Amy said...

Oh Jess, that post just made me tear up. I'm so sorry that things didn't go your way. Right now, I'm just glad you're safe and home. I'd hug you if I wasn't in Texas!

Non-Runner Nancy said...

Oh Honey, I was just beside myself when your times stopped. I figured maybe it was the IT but then the heat reports started. I am so sorry you went through this. You are a trouper for the training you have done and all the work to get yourself ready. I know this wasn't what you wanted, but I am so glad you are okay.

Firefly's Running said...

Jess, I am so glad that you were okay when I saw you last night. I had NO idea what happened during the race. It was so good to see you at the party. Take care and get some rest!

J~mom said...

Oh man, I am so glad you are ok. I was so worried. I am sorry to hear about the horrible race that it turned out to be but I am so happy that you are safe and healthy today. If you had pressed on you might be one of the ones in the hospital. There is still room in Phoenix in January. :>)

((((HUGS))))

Mendy said...

So glad you posted, Jess and that you are okay. I've been reading on boards and hearing from personal accounts as to horrible the event was. Been thinking of you today wondering when you were going to arrive back to your home.

I really hate to hear that you hit heat exhaustion, and it was best you stop when they told you too. I'm just glad you're okay and home safe. Put your feet up and relax for a while.

((hugs))

Neese said...

sweet jess, ohh i was at the edge of my seat reading this and I don't think I took a breath... until I read your dads quote and laughed out loud! oh goodness, life.

scott keeps running said...

Glad you're okay. What a crazy, crazy race. I can't imagine them running out of water. I feel so bad for all the runners. The heat is one thing, but you pay a lot of money for these events for them to be adequately supported.

miss petite america said...

glad to hear you're ok. i was obsessively checking last night to hear something from you.

i couldn't even watch the news on the tv about it. i can't imagine what it must have been like.

rest up. have your hubby feed you ice cream and cupcakes.

David said...

Damn, I feel for you Jess. I know you wanted to have a completely different experience, but I'm so glad that when things went south you payed attention, walked, and went straight to the med tent.

Mendy was looking up your bib and some others yesterday, and something seemed weird. That was our first clue that something was up. I'm glad you are okay, and have an experience to draw upon for training and races down the road (both your own, and those you can advise on).

Great to hear about the people of Chicago stepping up, along with the EMS and fire workers, saving the day that the piss-poor race organizers created.

Keep pushing fluids and electrolytes! If Robin's (Gotta Run) experience is any indication, the problems can last and intensify even 24 hours or more later.

Allison said...

I'm glad to hear you're safe! And I'm glad you did the smart thing - you listened to your body. I still think that you rock!!

JustJunebug said...

I like Nancy, was worried sick when your times stopped popsting. Then all of a sudden another popped up. Then nothing.

I knew that something was terribly wrong, given the others I was tracking as well. Then I saw the notice about the 'contingency'...

I am just happy you are ok, as when there was no blog, I worried even more...

Rest dear Jess. You deserve it.

eyegirl said...

I'm saddened to hear about your horrible experience, but glad to know that you are home and safe. There will always be a next race to run! Don't be hard on yourself!!

brunettechicagogal said...

Aw, Jess. I am crying. I felt bad after reading your email, but reading the details...well, I am just so sorry you had such a bad day. Glad you're OK, though, and that you had the smarts to pull over when you did.

P.S. Congrats for peeing in the alley -- true Chicago Marathon style! Next time, try peeing in Lincoln Park next to a tree. Yes, that was me 3 years ago, baring my white ass for all to see. I so did not care -- I just wanted to get it over with and continue my run.

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

I'm REALLY glad that you are okay.

Don't think of it as failure on your part.

Glad you pulled out before things got REALLY ugly for you. That's smart.

RunningCrazyAfter3 said...

Oh my gosh! I am so glad to see you have posted! I have been so worried about you. Like the rest said, good for you for listening to what your body needed. No amount of training or race is worth threatening your life over. There will always be another. Who would have thought that Chicago in October would have been in the 90s????

MN Mom said...

Oh Jess I am so sorry about the race. I checked your blog about twenty times today hoping to read that you were back and you were fine. And thank God you are! It could have been so much worse. You and all those other runners who have worked so very hard for months just to be let down by the citits who weren't smart enough to plan for enough water when record heat was in the forcast... It really is criminal and I bet the city gets sued by some of the runners. That is why they cancelled the race I'm sure.
Anyway I am proud of you!

Mary Gee said...

Like everyone else, I am so so so relieved to see your post. I am sorry that the race was horrifying, but so glad to see that you are basically OK. What an awful experience.

nwgdc said...

i'm just happy to hear you're alright. this was a fluke, and whatever you decide to do from here, you'll do it. when i finished i had a beer (YUCK) because it was the only thing cold. it was rough. you're still a champ!

Paul said...

Glad to see you made it safely out of that one and had the right support crew for you! It's a shame about that race that they ran out of fluids. It awesome to hear the spectators coming thru like that.

Juls said...

You were wise to go to the aid station when you did. I can't believe that a race of this size would run out of water so early on. I am just beginning to read the race reports and I feel bad for taking my 1 cup of gatorade and 1 cup of water. I had no idea; I just knew that I needed it.

Running Jayhawk said...

All I've got is lots of hugs for you, darlin'!! You made the right decision for you at that point.

Debbi said...

Hope you're feeling a little better this morning, Jess. Put Chicago behind you and start planning and training for the next race. Glad you're all right.

RunnerGirl said...

Aww Jess... I was thinking about you Sunday when Denise (Firefly) texted me that they cancelled the race. I wanted to check in today to see how you are doing.

I have to commend you - you litened to your body. Aa lot of people do not and instead the push themselves beyond what is safe.

You rock Jess! I am glad tht you are safely back home. :)

Wes said...

Yes, Jess! We are all so glad that you made it through safely... In truth, nothing else matters. I know you worked hard and to have to stop is disappointing, but was the wise thing to do. Live, be healthy, run another day! Hope you had a safe trip home :-)

Nicole said...

What a trooper! I think next year they should give you all free entries into the Chicago marathon.
i'm glad you are okay!

Hands Off My Biscuits said...

Sorry things didn't go better for you.

Glad you're okay.

Krista said...

Oh, your story made ME want to start crying. I think you said it best - things were just out of your control. I cannot believe how incompetent the Chicago planners were, not having enough fluids.
Thankfully you're OK. Dont' beat yourself up over this - easier said than done, I know, but there's just nothing you could have done differently.

Bob said...

Jess, I am sorry you had such a horrible day to run a race. I am glad you are ok though, you will be back to fight another day. The more I read the more terrible it sounds.

lifestudent said...

It was a mental struggle for all of us (and obviously a physical one!). Smart of you to stop! I kept going, and thought my legs were literally going to fall off. I experienced things I never had during training, and saw things I never imagined I would see. It was like a war zone. And on top of it, at mile 16 they told me it was cancelled ;)

Luckily we are ok ... and we can safely assume that our future races can only be better than this one!

Lindy said...

Sorry about your run. All the stories need to be told, as race officials here are still denying the fact there just was NOT ANY WATER OR GATORADE. I got Gatorade at station 1, and not again until the station near the 25K mark. PATHETIC!!!!

If you're up to it, PLEASE fill out the race evaluation form at www.cararuns.org and note the issues!

runner26 said...

I am so sorry about this race! You certainly deserved a much better experience. But you have the best attitude about what happened. I am thoroughly impressed by the way you handled such a difficult situation. You did all the right things:stopping at the aid station/getting help when you needed it/putting things into perspective/moving on with life. I wish you the best in the weeks to come!!

Grandma said...

just really glad you got back home and your husband was there right when you needed him... what an awful ordeal for so many people...take care!

Randy said...

Major {{{{{{HUGS}}}}} and so glad to learn you are ok...wow what a disaster....you have nothing to feel bad about....I'm just glad to learn you are ok....it was frustrating to see your chip time thru 10k and then it disappeared....glad you made it home ok too...next year!!!!!

CollegeGirl said...

Dang, I'm already comment #44. I just want you to know that I thought of you when I heard about it all on the news. I'm glad to see you're okay!

Laurel said...

I am so glad to hear you are ok. You were smart to stop when you did! That is a sign of a good runner!

Since you are in such good shape from training, have you thought about keeping the training up a bit and signing up for another one closer to home?