Saturday, July 24th 2010…..Up at 6am. TFK is meeting at 7am, and I need to leave within 20 minutes in order to make it on time. I quickly hop into the shower and, still being half asleep, I promptly screw up the concept of left vs. right. You see, on the left is the hot water nozzle of the shower. On the right: the cold. I reached out, turned a nozzle, and was immediately awakened by a large VERY COLD dose of Chateau Bloomberg, vintage 2010. I considered this mistake to be Freudian in nature – some part of my mind must have determined that a dose of cold water at 6am was a required element. But something else felt weird, standing in my bathtub at that hour of the morning…..and then I looked down and realized that I left my boxers on. Ah yes – a true sign of things to come, I’m sure. As I was drying off, my brain actually began to function normally – and I realized that today was Saturday…..which means it’s time for my weekly long run. As this thought entered my rather dense cranium, the first thing I reached for was Body Glide. Body Glide, quite simply, is a distance runner’s savior. It is applied to any spots on the body that might experience friction and the resulting chaffing over longer periods of exercise. After applying some of this waxy stuff to some key areas (oh please – don’t expect details on this one, folks – I’ll let your minds get creative…lol), I quickly got changed into running attire that fits me most comfortably (which is another VERY important ingredient to a successful long run – never wear anything that causes any form of irritation to your skin during runs like these), laced up my sneakers, grabbed my bottles of water and headed out to practice.
I stopped into a local deli for my Saturday morning ritual – a bacon & egg on a roll and a bottle of orange Gatorade to enjoy as I walked to the southwest corner of Central Park, TFK’s meeting spot for the day. By the time I arrived, the group was already beginning to form up nicely. 40-50 runners, most first-time marathoners, surrender weekend sleep every Saturday morning and travel various distances in order to run with the TFK at the wee hours of the morning. Fortunately for me, my commute is rather easy: a 20 minute walk southeast from my apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
At 7am this morning, the temperature was 90 degrees. The humidity was easily 85-90% – I could tell because I was already having a very bad hair day. I left the house looking like Gordon Gekko, and I arrived at practice looking like Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. Due to the heat, the coaches decided to trim back the overall workout – so as we stood around waiting for the practice to begin, I downed another bottle of orange Gatorade. I’m providing you with that last little detail because it will come in to play in just a moment….
The workout was scheduled to be a 9-11 mile run along the park’s bridal path, and I started out feeling chipper. As usual, I began running my mouth trying to make my teammates laugh as we clocked one mile after another. We headed North on the path from approximately 62nd street all the way up to 102nd, and then the path itself hangs a right and heads east. As it draws closer to the East side of the park at 102nd, the path hangs another left and we headed south toward the east side drive. By the time we got to 90th street, I was saturated – it was as if I were 6 years old again, and I danced in a sprinkler on my front lawn on a hot summer day. I was getting thirsty again, and fortunately for us the TFK staff set up a water stop – complete with Gatorade – at the Engineer’s Gate (which is the entrance to the Park that the Marathon course takes at 90th Street and 5th Avenue). So I downed two cups, gathered with the group, and set off again, Southbound.
When the group turned around to head back in the opposite direction at the southernmost point of the bridal path’s Reservoir loop, I began to feel odd. My legs were fine, my wind was coming and going pretty well….but something was off. I thought to myself, “maybe I am still dehydrated – better get some water on the way back as well”. So I slowed my pace until I got to the TFK water stop again, and chugged 2 more cups of the orange elixir. After chucking the plastic cups in the garbage, I picked up my pace in order to catch up to my group. As I approached the northeast corner of the bridal path, my stomach had a rather urgent conversation with my brain. It went a little something like this…:
Stomach: “Hey brain – you’re an idiot. You just overloaded me with some orange crap that just royally upset everything else in here.
Brain: “Hey buddy – good to hear from you. Just thought I’d try to help you out. How’s that Gatorade working out for ya?”
Stomach: “Dude – we were just fine down here. Everybody was getting along. The eggs were hanging out with bacon. The roll was minding its own business, hanging out in the corner being a bit antisocial if you ask me. Then you send some of that orange crap down here, and everyone figured hey – open bar!
Brain: “There you go, buddy – I’m always looking out for ya. You’re my paisan – you know that. Did you like the linguini a la…..”
Stomach: “Stai zitto (which, for all of you playing the home game, means “shut up!” in Italian. My stomach is more Italian than the rest of me)!! Things were just perfect down here. But then you continued to dump more of that orange crap down your extra large gullet. Now you pissed off everybody down here and we’d all like to have a word with you….”
Brain: “Buddy, I don’t understand – what do you mean, have a word with….”
Throat: “Sorry to interrupt this love fest – but something’s come up. Brain – tell the legs to stop what they’re doing. Stomach – I see its last call and you’re kicking everyone out.”
…..and with that, I got sick.
After the nausea subsided and I emerged from the trees like a befuddled Sasquatch, I attempted to right my ship and get myself back on course. I’ve felt like this before: last year I ran the Marine Corps. Marathon and repeatedly got sick to my stomach from mile 16 on. I somehow finished the race – but it was the worst running day of my life. My stomach at this moment felt exactly like it did during that marathon. I struggled through the rest of mileage, at one point teaming up with a TFK coach to get me through the roughest spots, and finished up by stretching with the Team before heading home.
Lesson learned: before race day, figure out what your body needs to stay properly hydrated. And too much fluid – especially something like Gatorade – isn’t always a good thing. Work with your coaches (and, if you have one, your nutritionist) to figure out just the right combination of foods and fluids that you need for optimal performance. I haven’t been focusing on this well enough….and Saturday was just the message I needed to receive.
“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” – Jesse Owens