Friday, June 1, 2012

Too hot to handle...

"Too cold to hold..." C'mon, guys: Finish that lyric!

This is very long post that has NOTHING to do with writing. Feel free to move along if you don't have time/care to read about running. I promise it won't hurt my feelings.

Instead, here's the race recap from the Green Bay Cellcom Half Marathon, which I ran on Sunday, May 20th. The race was called mid-run due to excessive heat. I, and the 50-75 runners around me, never got the message. 

Starting line area
Starting around Wednesday prior to the race, I received a number of emails from the race director talking about the projected warm temps, the need to hydrate, and how no one should use this race for a PR (personal record). Me, in my infinite arrogance, laughed. How hot can it be? It's Green Bay, Wisconsin. Home of the Frozen Tundra and all that jazz. I figured I'd be just fine, but brought 3 extra 48 oz water bottles for the road trip on Saturday to hydrate anyway. I'm glad I did.

I woke up around 5:30 on Sunday morning. I planned to meet my friends at 6am and hop on the school bus shuttle from the hotel to Lambeau Field at 6:15. I toasted my bagel thin, forced down my breakfast, and tried to drink my water. My nervous stomach didn't want food, but I knew I had to eat. I ran the same half marathon the year before (my first ever half marathon) and had a sneaky itch to try and PR this race. I knew I was in better shape than last year and really--I just wanted to beat myself.

We hopped on the bus and were naturally surrounded by the "good" runners. You know, the ones who were talking about the weather and how they were going to "force themselves" to slow down and run at a 9:30-10 min/mile pace. HA! I figured if I could average 11:30, I'd be in good shape.

Lots of standing around, stretching, bathroom lines, nervous sips of water, double checking gear, retying laces, and overall just trying to get my head in the game. It was hot and sticky at 6:55am. I didn't want to even THINK what it would be like two and a half hours later.

My two friends lined up with me. One had decided the night before that she was going to try this race (she was signed up, but hadn't trained since Jan due to knee injury) and the other one had serious medical issues and also decided the night before that she was going to give this race a shot. I was worried about both of them, but we all had phones.
HM course. Green arrow is the start, blue dots are water stops, red dots
are medical stops. It went counter clockwise.

The gun went off and we shuffled our way to the start. I hit "Start" on my iPhone's GPS program and started running. I crossed mile marker 1 (MM 1) and the woman's voice came on to tell me I was averaging a 9:45/mi pace. Whoa, adrenaline! I had to slow down! Unfortunately, I had roughly the same pace for MM 2, so I simply forced myself to stop and walk for a minute.

MM2-MM4 were really hard for me. I was incredibly hot and sweating like mad. I was also quickly figuring out that my GPS was ahead of the miles, so when it told me I was at MM4, I still couldn't see the banner on the course. I ended up turning it off later in the race.

Just before MM5, my friend April texted me (the one with medical issues). She was going to drop out. I knew there was a church party right after MM6 and I texted back that I was going to make a decision at that point. I wasn't feeling good about the race and knew I was spending a lot of time walking. I had also watched the first ambulance come up from behind and stop a few blocks ahead on the course. By time I reached the vehicle, they were lifting a female up on a stretcher. She looked to be in excellent shape and was about my age and she was out cold, complete with mask on and everything. It was pretty scary. I said a little prayer and kept going.

The church party was actually a few blocks past the official MM6 banner. At that point, I started grabbing two cups of water. I'd drink one and dump the other on my head. I love the church party. They have a full gospel-type choir complete with a band and microphones. I turned off my music, high-fived the kids along the street, grabbed the waters, and enjoyed the moment. I was essentially half way there.

MM6-MM9 I was having an absolute BLAST even though I saw an alarming number of runners down due to the heat. I don't know how, but I was running with a smile on my face and thanking the homeowners who put their sprinklers on the course for runners to go through. My runner's high was happening mid-race. I loved it. LOVED it. Here's a great pic of a sign I saw. HA!
If you can't read it, it says
"You trained longer than
Kim Kardashian's marriage!"

I was Tweeting with Sarah Ahiers (because, who doesn't update Facebook and Twitter while running a half?) just before MM9 when I suddenly snapped out of my runner's high and looked around. At that exact moment, I saw three runners lying down in the shaded lawns of the course. Something clicked in my head and I realized that I needed to pay better attention. For lack of a worse cliche, "It was gettin' real out here." As in, real dangerous.

I passed MM10 at 1:51, or almost 6 minutes better than my time last year. I was still feeling FABULOUS. I knew if I kept my easy pace for the next 3.1 miles that I would easily PR this race. I found some runners ahead of me to pace and tried to get into a groove. At the same time, I was nervous that I felt so good. What was I doing that other runners weren't? Or was this the early signs of dehydration and I was about to pass out any minute? It seemed like every time I looked up, I saw more runners down on the ground.

Shortly after MM10, a state trooper who was directing traffic was yelling something to the runners. We pulled out ear buds to hear the news. Up ahead at MM12, where the HM runners turn left to finish and the full marathoners turn right to go another 14 miles, the race director had closed the split. The full marathon had been cancelled due to heat. It was a half marathon only. At my next walk break I texted my friends to let them know what was going on. They were approx 2 miles behind me and from what I understood, they were seeing more and more runners down as well.

After MM11, the remaining 2 miles were in a zero-shade industrial park area. I knew it was going to take everything I had to PR. I could feel chafe burns on my back from my sports bra and on my hips from my capris from the sweat and waters over my head. I got to MM12 and saw that yes, the turn off to the right was in fact closed. A race official with a megaphone kept repeating, "All runners must turn left. The full marathon has been closed due to excessive heat. Left turn ONLY!"

Thankfully, the organizers mobilized a water station at MM12.5 and I passed a number of bike medics on this part of the course. I remember feeling incredibly grateful to the guy who worked at the sheet metal business. He pulled out his office's 10-gal Culligan water dispenser and was apologizing to runners for running out of cups! No one cared. We took scooped handfuls, splashed our faces, gave grateful smiles, and kept running. Major high-fives to that guy. He was just being nice. Man, I love nice people.

I remember the volunteers at MM12.5 yelling encouragement. "Keep going, half a mile and you're done! There's plenty of water at the finish line. You've got this!"

Suddenly, my phone rang. Who the hell is calling me? And more important--why am I answering the phone while on the literal home stretch of my HM? It was April. She was almost to MM11 when the race director decided to shut down the entire race. All runners were being diverted back to Lambeau field. She found our other friend and together, the two of them walked the 3 blocks back. I told her I was a few minutes out and would meet her at the finish.

I put my head phones away and put my phone back on my arm. From here on out, I needed to pay attention. I was with a group of exhausted, sweaty, and jubilant runners. We were looking around at each other like, "I can't believe we just did that!"

We crossed Oneida St and turned to enter the Lambeau Field parking lot, no more than 100 yards from the finish line. Unfortunately, race officials had pulled a gate across the course, preventing anyone from finishing. When the race director decided to call the race, that went for anyone still on the course. I thought it meant for any runner on the course before a specific cut off mark, like MM11 or MM12 where my friends were--not for runners who were on the home stretch!

That's right, I'm throwing deuces at the camera lady
because I'm THAT happy. And yes, I'm buying one.
Man, we were FURIOUS! We busted our butts to finish in horrible conditions, just to find 100 yds from the end that we weren't allowed to finish? Group mentality kicked in. We all stormed forward, ran around the guy, climbed over the fence, and ran like hell. Somehow, somewhere, I found the remaining energy to put every last bit into that stretch and cross the finish line with a smile on my face.

I grabbed my medal, took 2 free waters, posed for a pic, then stumbled around in a post-race fog. It was TOTAL chaos. A woman in the medical tent was screaming "I DON'T WANT TO DIE!" and I saw a number of runners simply collapse in exhaustion. It didn't help that the post-race area was too small, fenced in, and in direct sunlight. We had to get out of there and find shade. ASAP.

That was about it. The busses to the hotels were busy out on the course picking up runners, so we had to wait another hour and a half before we could even get back to our hotel. The shower should've felt wonderful, but I had too many random rub sores all along my waist and back that the water stung.

That night my friends all left for their own homes. I ordered a pizza from Old Chicago and ate every last bite of the mushroom pineapple deliciousness. And I didn't even feel guilty. I earned that grease. :)

Like I said, this is super long. My apologies. However, I know there are a few writer-runners out there. If you have any questions about being a non-runner in a runner's world, please don't be shy--ask away! I'm more than happy to help anyone realize that you can run a half marathon. True story. Even this drinker-sometimes-smoker. If you can write a book, you can run a HM. Actually, I'd argue running is easier and has quicker payoffs, but we can discuss that another day.


  1. I wouldn't expect such heat in Wisconsin either! Congratulations on finishing. That close, you HAD to!

    1. Thanks, Alex. I was DETERMINED to finish that race. Screw the race director and the "official results" (which weren't posted for anyone after ~9:15ish).

  2. This post was amazing!
    I can't tell you how amazed i was that A. you jumped the fence to finish and B. you were tweeting me while you were running.
    My 5K is tomorrow. I'm both nervous and excited. BUT! I am excited to hang out on Sunday and chat all about it.

    1. More like I was Tweeting while I was walking. :)

      Good luck tomorrow! You will absolutely earn some pie on Sunday. I can't wait to hear about all of it!

  3. Wow, that's kind of scary. They just did the Bolder Boulder marathon here on Memorial day and it was like 72 degrees, which I think is pretty hot for running. I don't even like to walk outside if it's past 65 degrees. Props to you for finishing despite the rough conditions. You're a superstar!

    1. Why thank you! I forgot to put in in the text, but when the race began at 7am it was in the upper 70s. When I crossed the line around 9:45, it was well into the 80s. But it was the humidity in the 70% range that KILLED us.


    I'm so proud of you! I am going to run a HM next year because of you. Crazy girl. You're like Wonder Woman. I think at mile marker 12.5 they should have handed you guys capes.

    1. Are you really?! We should talk. I want to know more!

      And yes--capes would've been a BRILLIANT idea. If I get an email survey, I'm totally suggesting that.

  5. So proud of you!!! You did awesome, you rebel, you!!!!!

    So - what was your final time even if unofficial???? Was it a PR in those deplorable conditions?

    1. Kristen--I wish I knew!! :( They turned off the race clock when the closed the course. I don't think it was, though. Mile 11 was TOUGH and there was a lot of confusion at the end, so I spent probably another 30-45s trying to figure out what to do before we decided to go around the jump the fence. Next time, though. Next time I WILL PR!

  6. Replies
    1. Oh, absolutely! But so are writers and this way, I get free beer when I'm done. Where's the free beer at the end of my books?!

      As a result, I feel like I have one foot safely planted in each world of crazy.

  7. Thanks for this post! I kind of fell off the running horse and I'm just starting to get back into it. There's a half at the end of September that I'm aiming for, but I've never even come close to running for that long. (So far, my longest race has been an 8k.) So I've been going back and forth about whether or not I should bother. But this was really inspiring! Love the image of you all climbing over the barrier to the finish line. :) Can I ask you what your training schedule was like? I think if I can just manage to put in the time, I could probably pull it off...

    1. You would have plenty of time to train for a half at the end of September!

      In terms of a plan, one of the smarter decisions I made was to sign up for a 10-mile run ~3 weeks before my half. Finishing that made me feel much more confident about being able to finish 13.1.

      I added on one more mile to my runs each week and trained with Jeff "The Penguin" Galloway's plan of run 10 minutes, walk 1, repeat. There's more to say--maybe I'll just make a blog post about it so others can see and comment!? Hmm... will need to think about that. But YES--you can absolutely do it if you start in August. I spent Sunday mornings out on long runs. It takes dedication, but then again, so does writing a book. :)

  8. Several of my friends did the GB, since it's right in our backyard. They all had stories about the heat and sitting in med tents surrounded by bags of ice to cool their body temps. Yikes! Glad you made it!


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