For most of the summer (despite pockets of humidity)- the mid-Atlantic region has been enjoying a reprieve. A typical mid-Atlantic summer is day after day of 95-105 temperatures with the humidity mostly unbearable. But this year, the climate was sweet. Sweet for runners. It almost seemed like we would escape the heat and humidity doldrums. Not so fast. The last week of August was a return to “the norm”. There wasn’t a good running day to choose from. The options were – “pick one”.
I opted to run my 20 mile long run – on Labor Day. The humidity gauge read 98%. And no, it wasn’t raining. At 6AM – the temperature was 81 degrees and it felt over 90.
Here was the plan: I would need water, and lots of it. My Sherpa team (i.e. Paddy) was sound asleep, so I would get some miles in early, and he would join me as I closed in on the 20 mile mark. I would stay close to the house – so that I could easily refill my water bottles. I expected to go thru gallons today.
I put all of my needed ingredients (water, electrolytes, honey packets and power gel) into my car – and drove it to the base of the driveway (bottom of a hill), to make it easy to grab-n-go. I wouldn’t need to return back to the house – a temptation that I didn’t want to test.
I finished the first 11 miles under cloud cover, and paid close attention to my hydration. The sweat was pouring off of me, far faster than I could hydrate. I did my best to drink often, and drink more than I would normally consume. By the time I had returned to the car for refueling (more electrolytes, more water and some honey) – my clothes were drenched with sweat. One of my neighbors stopped by, with encouragement. He had run 6 Marine Corps Marathons. He told me I was doing ‘great’. I couldn’t let the man down.
Yet, it felt like I was carrying an additional 10 pounds in wet clothes. So wet with sweat, I didn’t think it was wise to run in these heavy, wet clothes. I broke with tradition (i.e. temptation to go inside the house)- and made a complete outfit change into dry clothing.
Feeling dry and lighter, I returned to the roads for the second half of my run. By now, the sun was out and my running route was heating up. I passed several walkers, who were cheering me on. I’m not sure why – other than they recognized the insanity of running in these temperatures. One by one, I knocked another mile off of my ‘to do’ list – and I had reached mile 17 when I realized that I needed to find water – fast. I’m so close to ’20’, yet I did not want to return back to my car. That temptation of “just being done with it” was too great. But, with the humidity, I couldn’t risk running out of water.
Suddenly I noticed water running down a driveway. I looked closer, and realized that there was a person behind that water! A person washing their car. Without thinking twice, I made a beeline toward the man in the driveway washing his car and asked “would you be so kind and fill up my water bottle?” And, who would argue with a dripping wet runner? He happily obliged – and I was off. Maybe I can get the last 3 miles done with this replenished water?
I was more thirsty than I had realized. I should have asked the kind man to refill all 3 of my water bottles – instead of just 1. I consumed all of my remaining water within the next mile – and returned back to the original dilemma. I don’t have enough water to finish. Should I try to finish the final 2 miles in this heat and humidity without water? Or return back (1 mile) to my refueling station – and possibly not find the energy (or mental fortitude?) to finish all 20 miles of my run.
My cell phone rang. I ran to a shady section along the road, and unzipped my fuel belt to locate the phone. It was Sherpa Paddy. He is out on his bike looking for me. Just in the nick of time, my bike support angel appeared. Stocked with an icy-cold bottle of water. I consumed at least half of the water on the spot. There were 2 miles left in my long run – and it looks like I will now complete all 20.
Despite the heat. Despite the humidity, 20 miles have been completed. And the remainder of the day is spent re-hydrating.