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?
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!