Saturday, March 13, 2010

Caught in the Storm

Today's 20 mile run nearly killed me. And I don't mean that metaphorically speaking. Here's the story.

Arrived at The Point of the Mountain at the designated time of 8:30. The only other person from the running club to show up was Blaine. He had previously told me he would run my 20 miler with me. This was to be my peak run prior to the Salt Lake City Marathon next month.

It was 38 degrees and overcast when I woke up this morning. I had checked the weather earlier this week and thought I was good for rain/snow. 38 is a "warm" starting out temperature, so I went out with just shorts and a light weight, short sleeve tech t-shirt. Blaine, proven to be much wiser than me on a number of occasions, put on a pair of running pants last minute with his jacket.

It was windy on the exposed mountain top, so I was a little cold, but once we dropped down into Draper, I was fine. I simply didn't want to carry the extra weight of additional layers if they were only going to make me overheat. I've been the smart one many times this winter while everyone else was stripping off clothing mid run.

We kept a slow pace on purpose. Burning out early on a 20 miler is no fun.

Mile 1 9:28
Mile 2 9:25
Mile 3 9:14
Mile 4 9:20
Mile 5 9:20
Mile 6 8:53

We ran about a half mile with a couple guys just before Draper Park. You could tell they were runners and we chatted about various races around Utah for a bit. They had us doing an 8:15 pace for part of this mile, thus the faster split time. We stopped at the library to get a drink, but it didn't open till 10:00. I wasn't really thirsty and Blaine had brought his hydration pack. I told you he's smarter than me.

By now it was sprinkling a few drops her e and there, but that's all. What was worrying me a little was that the temperature hadn't risen any. I wasn't cold, but if it did start to rain, I'd be in trouble.

Mile 7 9:20
Mile 8 9:17 (This is where we turned around the last time we ran this trail)
Mile 9 9:12
Mile 10 9:23

Our turnaround point ended up being the Sandy TRAX station on about 10th South. We both took a GU and headed back the way we came. A pretty easy 10 miles.

Mile 11 9:26

So the wind was at our backs on the way out. It was now blowing into our face and felt colder than when we started this morning. Plus, you could see a storm had moved in off the mountains. It started to lightly rain.

Mile 12 9:07

It's raining harder and my exposed hands and arms are going numb. The temperature is still above freezing, but the wind is hitting the water and causing me a lot of pain. The rest of my body is still ok. I was vocally complaining about it. (Sorry Blaine) Our pace picked up a little because of it.

Mile 13 9:09

Shortly after passing one of those doggie poop bag dispensers, it occurred to me I could use them as gloves and wrist covers. I should have backtracked a little bit to get some, but I didn't. Big mistake. By the time we reached the library, my lower arms and hands were totally numb and my shirt was soaked through.

We went into the bathroom and I spent about 5 minutes defrosting my hands under the blow dryer. It hurt and then itched as feeling came back. We dried our hair with paper towels, ate a granola bar, and I drank for the first time from the fountain. It took us 30 seconds of staring at the pouring rain from the lobby before forcing ourselves to go back out.

Fortunately we found another poop bag dispenser just past Draper Park with a little more than 6 miles to go. The next couple miles weren't completely miserable now that my hands and wrists were shielded from the wind and rain. When we hit another stand, Blaine not only put on a pair himself, but had the great idea to double up. More warmth.

Mile 14 9:24
Mile 15 9:17
Mile 16 9:39

It's raining hard and we are both suffering quite bad at this point. The rain has made it through my shoes and shorts. The temperature is right at freezing now. Every gust of wind causes brain freeze like we just downed a Slushie. Our eyes are freezing shut, and I have stupid SUN BLOCK running into mine. Glad I rubbed that everywhere before I left.

It's at this point that we are both trying to stay positive, yet growing seriously concerned inside. I'm losing feeling in my body part by part. Fingers, hands, arms, face, shoulders, and then stomach. We stopped under a bridge to wipe the water from our hair and face, but I was really nervous to stop at this point. The only thing generating any heat in my body right now was the running.

Mile 17 8:37

I was pushing us to run faster. To generate more heat? Get to the cars quicker? Freeze our faces faster? I don't know. My brain wasn't working very well by this point. I'd been praying since mile 16 to make it to the cars. That was my only constant thought. That, and don't stop. Speed up if possible. I was a mule driver to Blaine, who's pants kept falling down from the weight of the water. I felt bad for being such a bully, but I was afraid to leave him behind and I was terrified of walking.

The rain turned to snow. Heavy snow. The only benefit here being that we could see better without rain pelting our eye balls. Unfortunately, the damage from the rain was already done. My socks had gone from moist to soggy sponges. Water had penetrated both layers of my shorts. My shirt was freezing to my torso and weighed about 5 pounds. In retrospect, I should have taken it off. It was doing more harm than good.

I remember thinking how beautiful the snow looked. Massive flakes everywhere. These last 3 miles are mostly uphill as we climbed The Point of the Mountain. The storm got worse the higher we went.

Mile 18 9:10
Mile 19 9:51

I thought we were going faster, but then again, I couldn't feel my legs anymore. I had been very concerned for the last 3 miles, but as we entered the last mile, I'm not joking when I say that I was afraid we might not make it. I was weighing the options of flagging down a motorist at the next road crossing, but was afraid to risk stopping even for that. We had been talking about getting so cold that we no longer felt it, and I had reached that point. If either of us had stopped at that point, it would have been lights out in 5 minutes.

Mile 20 8:49

I felt bad about it, but this is where I pulled ahead of Blaine who began slowing on the uphill. I was in survival mode and justified it in my mind because he had more layers on than me. I had to make my car soon or I wouldn't make it at all. I wasn't cold, but my entire body was throbbing in pain. I couldn't bend my fingers or arms. I could literally feel my body shutting down the last half mile. I kept tensing my muscles and then releasing to keep the blood flowing.

I was splashing through giant puddles that I didn't have the energy to dodge. It didn't matter. I couldn't get anymore wet than I already was. I began screaming for no other reason than to know I still had control over something. The last quarter mile was along the frontage road. the cars on the freeway were just 20 feet to my right behind a fence. My one reassuring thought was that if I collapsed, somebody would probably pull over and get me. They must have though I was insane to be running in shorts and a t-shirt in this blizzard.

I reached my car and it was covered with snow. It took me about 30 seconds to get the zipper down on my shorts and fish the key out of my pocket. My fingers were completely useless. I pressed as hard as I could on the unlock button, but couldn't tell if it had even gone down. After trying to get the key in the lock, I remembered I didn't need to do that and opened the door. I used every bit of focus I had left to turn the ignition and then cranked the heat.

I got the car in 1st and sped out down the road to find Blaine. By then, he was only a hundred yards out and waved me off, so I drove back and parked next to him again. I started breathing uncontrollably after a few minutes. Rapid short breaths that racked my whole body. I wanted a drink, but I couldn't get the lid of my water bottle off, so I gave up. I wised up and took my shirt off and then slowly got my arms through the sleeves of a dry jacket I had in the car.

After 15 minutes I was still shivering and breathing uncontrollably. The car heater wasn't getting the job done, so I switched the heat to unfog my windshield and made a break for home. Worst stick shift driving I've ever done. My brain was fuzzy. I felt like a drunk driver. Pulled into my garage, ran inside, and stripped my clothes off as I bee-lined for the shower. My breathing hadn't slowed. Still rapid fire breaths that I couldn't control.

I turned the shower onto a warm setting, but it felt like hot lava on my body, so I switched it to cold. After 5 minutes my breathing slowed to normal. I slowly increased the temperature every couple minutes. It hurt like crazy as each body part regained feeling. My stomach was the worst. Sat on the floor of the shower for at least a half hour. The storm outside is brutal. Snow and wind that lasted into the night.

Definitely the coldest I've ever been and the worst training run I've ever had. This storm caught me by surprise and I'm not lying when I say I feared for my life towards the end. Had the cars been any further out or we been in a more remote area, this blog post would never have been written. You can read Blaine's account at his blog.


maria said...

Brutal--but it makes me want to be a runner...maybe in my next life?

How's life?

Anonymous said...

That was quite an experience. Reminded me of "To Build a Fire" which I read in jr. high. I'm glad you were awaare of the danger of hypothermia. Thanks for the details. Dad

blaine said...

That was definitely the hardest run. I'm glad you
pulled ahead because I kept forcing myself to catch up. I think back and those pants served me until those last couple miles. I wonder if I had taken them off for those last two miles if I could have gotten there faster. Thanks for the run.

Amy said...

Good thing Mom doesn't read blogs anymore : )
Glad you both got back safe and no frostbite amputations had to take place.

angie said...

this sounds absolutely horrendous...glad you made it through okay.

Kelsey K. Hartley said...

I love the play-by-play. You're insane, ya know? There are many a day I've driven by runners on bad-weather days and wondered what motivates them. Now I know—insanity. Glad you're alive!

cort said...

I think you forgot to include the body heat action that took place in the car after the run. It saved your life!

You are crazy, You are crazy, I think I would have given up at around mile 1.