Monday, 22 July 2013

Half-Marathon Disaster

Well I've gone on my most adventurous run to date. Adventurous in an epic disaster kind of way. 

For new readers, I headed to Asheville, NC on Friday evening to do a half- marathon distance training run, Saturday morning, on the second half of the marathon course which I'm running in September. 

My best friend, puppy and I headed to a KOA 'Kampground' for some cheap accommodation. That's where it all started to go oh so wrong. The campground was pretty and we got a tent site right on the lake with a beautiful view. Def the best site I've gotten here. The campground had a pool and games room none of which I had the energy to try. The staff were lovely; showing us to our site and dropping of firewood. However, this is quite possibly the noisiest campgrounds I've ever been in, including the one with the Girl Scouts. Trains went by at regular intervals throughout the night. Happens to me here, no biggie except for the absence of a ton of bricks between me and the train. I got next to no sleep when you combine the trains and a puppy who recently found his voice and likes to warn me of all the "danger".

I got up at 7 very fuzzy brained the next morning. Sipped some water and had a few sports beans (mistake no 1). 
My super kind best friend dropped me off in a quiet neighborhood that marked the halfway point in the marathon. I carried enough sports beans to see me through 2-3 hours of running and had a small bottle of Ultima and one of water (mistake no 2). I also didn't pee before leaving the campground and was now dying to (mistake no 3). I headed off very nervous about what was to come.  I ran through some beautiful neighborhoods and patiently waited for the hills I'd read so much about. None appeared for a long time and the first incline I'd consider a hill was relatively short and easy. Other than the dire need for a restroom I was feeling good.

I took a chance on the roads being quiet ones and ran along some roads without sidewalks. The busiest one was a dead end and most of the traffic was heading to the city waste facility...pleasant! 

Beginning at the dead end was a greenway along the river. I was hoping, dreaming, praying that it would be like the riverwalk in Columbia and have restrooms. No such luck. By now my tummy was acting up and cramping. The greenway was nice and flat but I was too busy contemplating if someone would see me if I popped a squat in the bushes at the side to appreciate it. Someone didn't want me to do that as there were no areas to disappear into. Eventually the trail passed through an RV park, cue choirs of angels they had restrooms! Foiled they had pin-code locks. 
I struggled on to a weird park with a driving track and finally got to a restroom at approx.mile 6...more like 7 since I got lost a couple of times and had to backtrack to get back to the marathon course  (mistakes 4, 5 and 6). About half a mile down the road I realized I'd lost my not so good directions when I dropped and cracked my long suffering iPhone. I pulled up the course map on my phone and tried to direct myself with a combo of that and google maps. 
I got through the park and refilled my now empty bottles at a water fountain. Traveling across the river, I immediately started along a long stretch of flat road running in a bicycle lane. This killed me. There was no shade and at this stage the sun was well up and the roadway was reflecting heat back up at me.
I continued on to a section of the course that was a loop. Except I ran around it the wrong direction ( mistake no 7). The race organizers very kindly planned it that the worst hills on this loop were downhill...that is if you ran the right way. There were around three steep hills running in the right direction. Off the loop and in the home stretch with about 3ish miles to go. Somewhere on the loop or starting this stretch is where I started to unravel.

GPSing the Hills

Coincidently shortly afterwards is also where the marathon organizers make you earn your medal, with a long steep climb up Clingman Avenue (I didn't bother GPSing this, I don't think I'll ever forget). I think at one point along here I sat on the grass at the side of the road ready to cry. My water was long since gone and I was dreaming about a cold drink. 
I really just wanted to quit. As fate would have it I couldn't, my best friends phone had run out of battery and I had no choice but to make my way to meet her where she was waiting. Waiting a long time. That kind of forced me to run. Between the backtracking, restroom stop and slight breakdown I'd been gone a lot longer than planned and I knew she was probably worried. 
I was too disorientated to do map reading any longer and from the looks of things from where I left off it was downhill towards the finish. Best leave some surprises, right! I got it together enough to stick the name of the cafe she was at into the map and head towards the pin. I got there extremely nauseous with around 1.3 miles left and plopped down in front of her and stole her now warm water. After 2 mins with some major encouragement, I headed off and jogged/walked a small block around the restaurant until my watch hit 13.1 miles. It took 2:25 mins...but in reality adding in all the events I was probably out there for 3 hours or more. Even with stopping my watch when dying along the side of the road it still took almost 15 mins longer than I thought.
Looking back I'm pretty sure I didn't a) eat enough before b) sleep enough and most importantly c) I dehydrated myself to the point were I'm pretty sure I had mild heatstroke.
I stopped sweating ages before I'd finished the run and despite drinking a deviously nice ginger ale ( and blueberry) drink and 2 bottles of water, right after running, I didn't pee until evening. This testifies to how much I f'ed up my hydration.

Time for food...I got banana pancakes and maple syrup, not the healthiest but the pure sugar was all I could stomach the thought of eating.

I don't often talk about how good restaurants are because honestly I love almost any food but a big shout out  goes to Posana in Asheville. It's a bit fancy with really nice organic food and drinks. But what really got me was just how unbelievably nice they were. The staff had no problem with my best friend and puppy sitting waiting for me for hours. They also had no problem with me arriving as a hot/gross mess. One waitress came over and even left me a full bottle of water instead of just topping up my glass and not an eye was batted when in my grossness I ordered lunch. So nice!!! I'll go back heartbeat.
We headed back to the campground and I slept for an hour without even showering (ek). I showered and we headed back into Asheville for dinner at the dog-friendly Mayfels.
When we got back to camp I had a lovely migraine to remind me that I had been an idiot so I took some ibuprofen and slept for another two hours. The sleep and some s'mores by the campfire fixed me. Funnily other than a slightly sore knee (standard fare after a long run) I didn't feel bad at all. That's how I know I screwed legs were fine, I just didn't treat myself very nicely.
I guess I forgot I'm not running around places I know, I can't just run to where I know I can pick up water and just because its a training run, and not a race, doesn't mean you don't have to fuel properly.
Now I know this all sounds doom and gloom and I did feel that way right afterwards but now I see it as a lesson. One i'd rather learn now than mid-race. On a really positive note the second half of the course was fine....excellent. I'm planning on going back to try out the first half on another long run. I'll know then if its a killer.
Next post..the fun half of the weekend :)


  1. Very good tips, but sad you had to go through the experience to give them...

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks it sure felt like it lol. As I keep hearing pain is weakness leaving the body :)