I got back into running after my three week hiatus of road tripping and closing on a house. The first few runs were fine -- a few nighttime jogs around the area -- and I felt ready to get back into the swing of things.
My first run was along a 6-mile course that I know by heart. I nearly lost my stomach by 4.5 miles and had to walk the rest of the way back. I figured I was just not ready for something that long yet, so, for my next run, I went on a 5-mile course. I felt like I was dying by mile 3 and, by the 3.7 mark, I couldn't go any further.
This happened one more time, along my 6-mile course. This time I nearly passed out by mile 5 and spent the rest of the walk back thinking about how hot and unforgiving the sun was.
I got home and, before I could even get my knee braces off, I made a beeline to the kitchen and guzzled two glasses of apple juice.
It was then that I realized why I had been crapping out on my runs. It wasn't because I was out of the game. It was because I was dehydrated.
I had stopped running around the middle of June, when the air was still relatively dry and the temperatures were moderate. Suddenly, I'm trying to run in the middle of July, which is peak heat wave season in New England.
This made perfect sense to me. The 6-mile course is a fairly shaded route, whereas the 5-mile route is in direct sunlight the entire time. My body heated up faster on the 5-mile route, which resulted in more sweat, which resulted in quicker dehydration.
This is when I finally understood just how important hydrating is for long distance runners. Overheating or dehydration are more powerful than any muscle fatigue can ever be (really, at the end of the day, I've learned that muscle fatigue is probably at the bottom of the list of, "reasons why you want/need to stop running." Mental fatigue is first, followed by dehydration or overheating, followed by ligament anger (aka your knees).)
For today's run, I saved my squeezable Gatorade bottle (as I tend to buy Gatorades by the metric ton), washed it out, and filled it 2/3rds of the way with water. I didn't want to fill it up for two reasons:
1) the weight. The bottle could hold 24 fluid ounces, which seems like nothing at first, but can feel like carrying a ball and chain after a while (here, muscle fatigue IS the reason).
2) water toxicity. This is as big of a problem with runners as dehydration. You need that lovely salt in your system in order to survive. So, if you sweat out all your salt, and only put water in, you'll throw your body into shock. Water toxicity is potentially fatal, so it's an important thing to keep in mind.
I went on my run, taking little sips every 1/3 mile or so (and by little sips I mean little sips. I tried once for an actual gulp, which resulted in me nearly aspirating the water, which resulted in me coughing and hacking, which resulted in losing valuable water and energy and oxygen). I'd pour a little water on my face (essentially the equivalent of a "little sip") whenever I'd run into a patch without much shade, as the weatherman called for highs in the 90s and the weather was already starting to turn at just 9 in the morning. This right here is why I chose water instead of more Gatorade. Ever tried to cool yourself off with Gatorade on your face? Yeah, don't trust those commercials. I've accidentally spilled Gatorade on me during runs and the result is a sticky mess.
I ended up running 7.65 with a 5.5 mph pace (which is actually fairly slow for me, but given all my knee injuries as of late, I'll let it be). I ended up finishing up the course (without the extra loop around to make it an even 8) if only because my right knee was starting to act up (reason #3 why we stop running: ligament anger). It was hot, I had sweated so much that even a simple splash of water on my face made me taste nothing but salt, and even then I downed the Gatorade I had leftover from yesterday. Which is perfectly fine -- you should expect to be dehydrated after a race. Guzzling all the water that you need as you need it would result in cramping.
The Ashland Half-Marathon is October 27th. I have 9 weeks to gain an additional 5.45 miles. Which doesn't sound like too much when you just look at the numbers -- if I can do nearly 8, what's stopping me from adding 5 1/2? -- but running is like video games. It takes a lot longer to level up, the higher you go. If you think it's going to be as easy to level from 40 to 70 as it was to level from 1 to 40, you're going to have a bad time.