Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Race That Wasn't For Me
A DNF Report from the Japan Day 4 Miler

Two consecutive races. Two times I've found myself in the grass mid-race lying on the side of the road. Last time, I was there as a pit stop to help out a friend. This time, I was alone, not feeling well and not even sure why or how I got there. I knew though even as I laid there, too dizzy to think, out of mind and out of sight of any of the other racers, this outcome was entirely my fault.

Of course I couldn't have predicted such a miserable performance in my worst nightmare when I got up this morning. I had been hitting good times on the track the last couple of weeks. I ate well the night before, hydrated like crazy the day prior, and had gotten decent sleep the last couple of days too. Although I was expecting no less than a PR as my goal in this 4M race, that seemed entirely reasonable given that my 4M PR pace is 6:09 from 2 years ago while my 5M PR pace is 6:02 and my 5K PR pace is 5:56. Just for kicks, I did a random 3M tempo workout around the lake earlier this week and my pace for that was 6:07. So even if I wasn't in tip-top speed running form, I should still be able to PR relatively easily if I could manage a half decent race.

The first sign of trouble came when I was lined up in my corral waiting for the race to start. My brow was already wet, beads of sweat were dripping down my bandana and Garmin reported a heart rate in the upper 90s even before the race begun. What was this craziness? I had only gotten in 2 warmup strides of about 100m that weren't very intense and I feel relaxed as can be. Yes, the weather was warm (79 degrees F) and humid (67%) as the thunderstorm that was promised overnight never materialized, but it wasn't stifling hot and I thought for sure I was acclimated to running in these conditions. So I didn't pay attention, even as the race announcer warned us to be careful running in this humidity. I was just so focused on starting out the first mile as fast as I can.

I was hot and bothered right out of the gate. I didn't like the fact that it was humid, I didn't like the fact that I was behind hundreds of runners even in the first (blue) corral and I especially didn't like the bumping and jostling that went on the first quarter mile. I just wanted to get out of the pack, run clear and establish my PR pace. I came out off the 103rd street drive and attacked the west side hills. I ran mile 1 as if I was running my usual mile intervals out on the track. I thought I was running easy, but in retrospect, the fact that I was moving up in the pack as I was climbing each of the series of three hills meant I was running way too fast. I didn't look at the Garmin until I passed the first mile marker. 5:49. This is faster than any previous first mile pace at any road race. This is faster than 5k pace. This is even faster than any 1M interval run I've ever done on flat ground!

But instead of slowing way down to accommodate a more appropriate pace, I continued to press. In my mind, I knew mile 2 was mostly downhill and there was no way I was going to let up going downhill after suffering through the three uphills. After 0.5 mile though, I did slow down, but just enough to maintain the same perceived effort as the first mile. I was starting to not feel well, but didn't attribute it to anything until I inadvertently looked down at Garmin and saw that my HR was now at 198. 198?! That is one or two beats above what had been my previous max! I've never seen anything above 190 prior to the last mile of a race before. No wonder I felt like crap. I must slow down. Must. Mile 2 came in at 6:00 even.

At the 72nd St transverse, Flyer PD recognizes me, tells me I'm doing a great job and motivates me to keep up the pace. I do, but only for a short stretch. The treachery of Cat Hill was about to begin and I was dealing with a HR that was unsustainable for running on flat ground, much less climbing what seemed like Mt. Everest to me at that time. I look my foot off the gas pedal and took the hill slow. I knew I had at least 30 seconds in the bank for a PR so the pace wasn't as concerning to me as was just getting over it with as little damage as possible. Runners were passing me now as I focused on just running toward the Cat, then toward the traffic light at the end of the hill. As I was climbing though, I began to feel dizzy and nauseous. Not the kind where I'm about to puke, but the kind where you feel as if you weren't getting enough oxygen upstairs. I had never felt like this in a race before and didn't know what to do. I was about to crest though and thought the feeling would go away after the hill, so I continued running.

I crested and glided down the hill at a slower pace still while waiting for the dizziness to subside. But it never did. It got a little more intense as I ran by the Met. I took some water at a rest stop. Up in the distance around the bend, I could make out the mile 3 marker. I looked down and saw that my HR was 185, still much too high for cardiovascular stability. My vision was getting blurry. As I ran the little minor hill leading out of the Met, it hurt too much to even open my eyes, so I closed them for just a second. I drifted in and out of consciousness and I started swerving. That scared me. I pass mile 3 at 6:21. I took a few more steps and realized my dilemma. One on hand, I had one more flat mile to go. Even if I ran something slow for this stretch (like a 6:30), I'd still get my PR. On the other hand, my body was failing terribly, my head was terribly dizzy and it was taking all of my focus and concentration just to coordinate my legs to move in a straight line. After another five or ten steps, when I almost collapsed onto a neighboring runner TWICE, I knew right then that there would be no PR that day. I found the nearest convenient exit behind some bushes and trees and ducked in. Once I saw that no one was around, I collapsed onto the grass and passed out.

The events that transpired afterwards were hazy at best. I know I stayed down for at least fifteen to twenty minutes. I know I limped over to baggage to grab my stuff. Then, after realizing that I was way too dizzy to walk home, hid in the Northern Woodlands of Central Park for a good couple of hours. In between, there was alot of cursing, emoting, contemplating, and trying to figure out how a race that was meant to go so right went so terribly wrong. Thank goodness I found an isolated and peaceful piece of land in the woods surrounded by trees by the side of a gently flowing brook where no one visited and where I could hide from my shame and escape my embarrassment for just a little while. It is incredibly ironic that it took a DNF (my first no less) for me to find such a majestic place in the middle of Central Park.


Running and living said...

wow, this is scary. i am glad you did not finish (well, you did not have a choice, really!). this was just a fluke, something you could not have anticipated; maybe your body is not used to the heat. take care of yourself, feel better, and find another 4 miler and you'll get your pr!!!

Linna said...

wow, that was really scary! at least you were aware of how your body was feeling earlier today, it's good that you decided not to run the last leg. i hope you're feeling much, much better!!!

jb24 said...

You're race report seemed a bit scary there :) Glad to hear that you are doing OK now. When I didn't see a finish time for you, I got a bit worried. It was really rough out there this morning and although I know that you didn't want to, it was a good idea that you stopped.

jb24 said...
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Michelle said...

I was so worried about you Lam.....

:O( call the doctor today please.

Xenia said...

So sorry to hear this, Lam. I hope you are feeling better now. Take care.

Jamie said...

I know how scary that can feel. It was smart to stop running and take the DNF. If you had pushed on it could have been so much worse! I hope after a lot of rest and rehydration you are feeling better today.

Chris said...

Very hard but wise choice to take the DNF. I am always worried that my body will end up making the decision for me in situations like that. Scary stuff. Feel better and run strong another day.

The Happy Runner said...

Wow. I hope you are on the mend because that just sounds awful. Rest up!

Lauren said...

This sounds terrible I'm glad you're okay and didn't die in the bushes where no one saw you... stay safe! No PR Is that important!

Scott Brown said...

Jesus Lam!

You want to take it a little more easy, that's bloody dangerous. The heat is a killer!

I've heard of many cases of people, young and very health ones, dieing within minutes after leaving their cars that had broken down it the Australian desert. It is comparable.

You raced hard and by no means should be embrassed! You know what they say about "what doesn't kill you will only make you stronger".

I sure it's the case this time.

The Laminator said...

Thanks all for your concern. I guess I let my heart write a bigger check than what my body was able to cash. That's what happens when you forget how to race sometimes.

R&L - You're right. I didn't have a choice by the time it happened, but I think it could have been prevented if I was a little smarter at the start. I'll be more aware next time!

Linna - Thanks. I was a little scared too! I think I just trusted my body a little too much. I'm feeling a lot better now. Thanks.

jb24 - It was deceptively humid. I didn't realize it but should have. I'm more aware of hot temps but not as aware when it's just humid. Well, now I know.

Michelle - Sorry. A doc appt is forthcoming.

Ethan - True. I get into problems of just trusting my body to adjust to the higher heart rate when I'm racing. This time, it was just a little too much. I'll learn though.

Xenia - Thanks. I will.

Jamie - Thanks. I was just so inspired by all the races, triathlons and marathons that everyone did these past several weeks that I wanted a PR very badly to hang my hat on! I need to be a little smarter about racing. I know that now.

Chris - You're right. I never imagined myself to be so misguided by my passion for speed that I'd ignore my health. I have to learn. You can't force these things, even in a shorter race!

Happy Runner - Yep. I am actively resting and recovering. Thanks!

Lauren - I'm glad I didn't die in the bushes too! Haha! You're right though, no PR is that important - which is why I stopped even though I only had .9 miles to go.

Scott - Yeah. I know the effects of heat exhaustion and stroke very well. I guess I just didn't realize where I was headed until it was a bit late. I totally just got carried away, trying to race a 4M in Central Park like it was a 5K in my backyard. Just dumb!

Teamarcia said...

Very scary stuff. Who'd think it could happen so fast? Don't be embarrassed by it though. We live and learn. Hope you're feeling better.

lindsay said...

for the record I'd just like to say a 6:30 isn't slow :) yeah, yeah, it is all relative I know. :)

scary though lam!! I mean I can understand not wanting to collapse in front on everyone but should you have done so in such privacy? nausea and dizziness suck. I know I get a little scared and would not want to be alone in case something worse happened. anyway glad you are ok!! and that you were wise enough to stop. PRs are great but so is regular life :) guess it's an extra good thing you backed out of the marathon too!

about warm temps (/your comment on my blog) -- I just wonder what the temp/humidity threshold is to where you can blame some cruddiness on the heat? I feel like I'm being a wimp in mid-70's... Like I need to toughen up or something. just wondering your thoughts on where the temp barrier is?

Julie said...

Oh my goodness Lam! I get the same way when I run in heat and body just shuts down! I am glad that you were able to find a private cool place to calm down and rest. Do not feel bad for not finishing this race! It happens to everyone...sometimes it is just not in the cards. You made the right decision:) Hang in there Lam! I know that your PR is just around the me on this one:) I hope that you are feeling better and enjoying your week!

DMC said...

Very sorry to hear you had such a rough time out there. My experience was that the heat and humidity didn't fully show themselves until after the gun, and then it was just like a lead weight pressing me down into the pavement. I went into it thinking I'd go easy, so I was just plugging along at a moderate pace but I still had to work extra hard and thought I'd have to stop.

Around mile 3, I heard someone yelling at runners to 'pick it up and push for PR's' and I wanted to punch him in the mouth. Sunday was no day for heroes.

Glad you are ok.

aron said...

yikes this is scary!! glad you are ok and pulled out when you did... hope this doesn't happen ever again!

X-Country2 said...

What a scary story. Glad you were able to recover though. You keep taking care of yourself out there. :o)

runner26 said...

omg lam. i'm so sorry this happened! i hope you're feeling better and getting some rest.

Adam said...

Eeeek. Not fun at all. But I think that we can all admit that part of us would want to push as far and as fast as you did. I probably would have too.

That said, you know as well as anyone that you made the right decision. live to race another day

Anonymous said...

the heat can do you in. I'm glad you did the smart thing!

The Laminator said...

Teamarcia - Not me! I didn't think running a 4 mile race could get me into so much trouble. Still a little embarrassed about the whole proceeding. Thanks for your concern though.

Lindsay - For the record, if you run the first mile at 5:49, a 6:30 would be some 41 seconds slower. That's significantly slower :) Yeah, I thought I could handle it so didn't want anyone around. It would have made for a huge mess! As for your question, I think it really depends on what kind of temps/weather you've been training in. If you've been always running in 80s weather, then mid 80s probably wouldn't affect you the way it would if you were always running in 60s degree weather. I go by the heat index. Anything over 80 is probably enough to affect performance.

Julie - Thanks! I guess I'm just not used to pushing so hard in 80 degree weather. My body totally didn't like that. I really wanted to finish too! But I guess my body had other ideas. Boo! I'll have to find a cooler 4M for my next PR attempt.

DMC - Totally true! I think it was more the humidity that was so deceptive. There was a little wind which also made it seem like it was a good running day, which it was NOT! Congrats on your race!

Aron - Yeah, me too, me too! I might not be so lucky next time!

XC2 - I am always torn between the doctor and the runner while racing. It's kind of funny. I can totally tell when I was getting hypoxic! I think there was an episode of House like that when he talked someone through his own surgery...

runner26 - Yep. I guess NJ wasn't even to acclimate my body to running in heat. Boo!

Adam - Maybe, but I really shouldn't try to be a hero in mile 1. And the decision not to finish was kinda made for me...the body just kind of pooped out...what could I do?

Katherine - No kidding! The heat sucks! Of course the next day, it had to be absolutely gorgeous and 20 degrees wrong! I want a DO-OVER! Haha!

Morgan said...

Holy crap Lam! I'm so glad you're ok and I'm so happy you listened to your body and got off the course.

J said...

That is really scary Lam! A DNF is not fun at all but really prolly the best idea in that situation. Just glad you are doing ok now.

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