Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Hot and Humid Dallas Race

I completed my 100 Half Marathons goal a couple of weeks ago. But wait! Why am I still at race #98? Long story short....Every other running club I belong to accepts race distances between 13.1 and under 26.2 for purposes of counting half marathons. But there's this one club that doesn't. The 50 States Half Marathon Club only counts races that are exactly 13.1 miles. So my 25k and 30k races don't count toward earning the 100 Half Marathons award. This is making for a bit of confusion among my running friends who are on all of these different running club pages on Facebook. I post my successful completion of 100 half marathons, but then I post a particular race as being something less than #100 and therein lies the confusion. Yeah...it's been a bit confusing for me too.

So having celebrated race #100 in Little Rock a couple of weeks ago, here I am taking three steps back to say that this weekend's race in Dallas was race #98. Wait....what??!

I chose two fairly local half marathons held within two weeks of each other to knock out these last two annoying races plus the Go! St. Louis race, to reach the 100 half marathon mark (again!) for the 50 States Half Marathon Club. this would let me get two of these done with minimal expense and easy travel. This past weekend was the Dallas Rock n' Roll half marathon. I could drive there in a morning, and I had enough Hyatt points to get a free room at the Hyatt that was right next to the start and finish lines.

It's a beautiful Hyatt with wonderful amenities - including a Starbucks - and gorgeously furnished rooms. I was thrilled to be staying here. The valet parking was a bit of a mess, however, when I pulled up, since it was just a little after noontime and they were trying to get check-out guests cleared out even as early arrivals like me were trying to check in.
Inscription over the entry to Dallas Morning News. Struck
me as appropriate in today's political climate.

My room was ready and I was happy about that. I dropped my bag off in the room then walked the couple of blocks to the convention center to pick up my race packet.

Entry to the race expo

Packet pickup. Not as crowded as they predicted.

On my way back to the hotel I stopped to take photos of a couple of Dallas landmarks.

Very impressive bronze statues in Pioneer Park downtown

Iconic Dallas

There was a 50 States club dinner that night but I just wasn't feeling up to it. Even though it was an easy 1/2 mile walk to the restaurant, the group was going to be fairly large and I just hate being in a big group at a restaurant. What should be a relaxed affair usually ends up being stressful for me as service is usually very slow and what should be an hour dinner almost always ends up being a 2-3 hour affair. To me, that's okay if I don't have to be up early the next morning for a race. So I got room service for dinner and spent a restful evening staying rested and hydrated and getting ready for what would prove to be a very warm race the next day.

I was up the next morning at 6:30 and had my Cheerios and banana as I got ready for the race. The start time for the race was 8:00 AM but Rock n' Roll races use a wave start that for me usually means anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes' delay for my crossing the start line. So I was in no hurry to get to the start line. I left the hotel at 8:00 AM, walked the couple of blocks to the start line and then had about a 15 minute wait as my corral shuffled its way toward the start line.

It was a pleasant 65 degrees but I knew that this wouldn't last long. As the sun got higher in the sky, I knew it was going to get quite warm. I realized too late that I should have brought my hydration belt and a bottle of Gatorade. For some reason, the fluid stations were farther apart than is typical for most races. The first station was at mile 2, the next was at mile 5, a full 3 miles later. Couple this with the fact that the stations from mile 7 and beyond had run out of Gatorade. This did not bode well for me, being so far back in the pack. Add to this the fact that the race route was really awful, going through some of the worst sections of downtown Dallas and was totally devoid of any shade or greenery or trees. But then, that's Dallas....my least favorite - and ugliest - city in Texas.

Somewhere along the race route, before it got too hot

By mile 11 I began to feel the effects of the heat and the lack of sports drink at the water stations. I made sure I was drinking plenty of water but knew this wasn't helping me. The last two miles were almost dangerous for me. I could tell that I was becoming overheated.  As I've neared my 7th decade of life I've noticed that I don't handle heat as well as I used to.

The last mile was across a causeway with absolutely no shade. It seemed to go on forever. Finally, I was across that causeway, making the turn onto Reunion Blvd, and then making the last turn to the finish line. I was in a total brain fog by that point, totally unaware of my surroundings and being driven only by that most primitive, reptilian part of the brain that controls survival. I knew that I was very close to heat exhaustion.

Race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

It was all I could do to stay on my feet. I could feel the bile in the back of my throat as the early signals of nausea began to creep up my esophagus. I was beyond able to take in any fluids and declined the offers of finisher snacks and beverages from the volunteers as I made my way through the finisher chute. I began to feel the characteristic abdominal cramps of heat exhaustion and stumbled my way toward the bank of porta-potties. But it was so hot inside that porta-can that I couldn't bear to stay long enough to let my bowels reveal their intentions. I knew at that moment that my best bet was to head to the hotel as quickly as I could.

Finisher medal...replica of the Reunion Tower globe

I was so out of it when this was taken...I barely remember

So I gave up trying and struggled to make my way the two blocks back to the hotel. I got into the lobby and dropped into the nearest chair in the lobby and put my head back and closed my eyes. I felt like I could stay there forever. But forced myself back onto my feet and toward the elevators, the lure of my room and the bed the only things pulling me along.

This was by far the worst I've ever felt after a race. Yes, I've had a couple of episodes of A-Fib that have slowed me down, but I've quickly recovered once I stopped moving and got off my feet. This was different. My heart rate was fine, no signs of PAC's or A-fib. That's how I knew this was heat-related. The coolness of the room and the bed felt so good! I laid there for more than 30 minutes, occasionally sipping water and nibbling on a granola bar. Thankfully I had a 2 PM checkout, a benefit of being a Hyatt loyalty member.

Finally, I pulled myself together, got into the shower, then dressed, packed, and went down to the lobby to check out and retrieve my car from valet.

As I drove home, I had plenty of time to further recover as I sat in my comfortable A/C cooled SUV. Driving home from any city in Texas on a late Sunday afternoon is always a challenge. Traffic is always bumper-to-bumper the closer I get to Houston. This day was no exception. I stopped in Fairfield for gas and a McDonald's meal, the salty french fries the most perfect race recovery food for me.

Finally I was pulling into my neighborhood. It was almost 6:30 PM and I was more than ready to be done with this day. But I was just so happy to have this race done.

So race #98 - or race #101, depending on who's counting - is done. Race #99/#102 will be the HEB Alamo Half Marathon in San Antonio. It promises to have way more fluid stations and if I'm lucky it will be cloudy/raining that weekend.


  1. Sounds truly horrible! I ran the Diva Half in Galveston a couple years ago. It was hot like that with sparse hydration stations. I was so delirious by the end I don't even remember the drive back to Louisiana. Glad you made it!

  2. Glad you made it out of there in one piece and under your own steam. You might want to fire off an email to the organizers about how dangerous their poor planning on gatorade quantity was for those that weren't leading the pack.

    1. Thanks! We received surveys this morning and I made sure I expressed my displeasure with the infrequently placed aid stations and lack of Gatorade after mile 7.