The Hottest Half lived up to it's name. It was 89 degrees at the start of the race (at 7:30am), and somewhere around 97 degrees at the end of the race. The heat is brutal, and until you have run in it, it is impossible to understand just how much it can slow you down. The humidity was also ridiculously high.
This was my fourth half marathon, and I knew it would be my most challenging. I didn't set any real expectations for myself going in. I just wanted to finish - preferrably standing. I got there early and looked around the couple of booths that were there, and thoroughly enjoyed the mini-Jamba Juice that was being handed out. Yum.
The starting line was slightly confusing... there was a big set-up for the finish line (this was an out and back course), but the starting line was around the corner from the finish line. It wasn't really marked well, and you didn't really know you were starting until you noticed the blue timing pad under your shoes. The gun went off right on schedule. It was hot and humid, but I was feeling good. I kept my pace slow and steady and just let the hoards of people pass me. I was feeling pretty good and had already resolved that I was not going to over-push myself in this heat, and that I would walk when I needed to.
Just before the 2 mile mark was Libby Jones, who is an amazing support to fellow runners. Thank you Libby for standing out in the heat to support us.
Around mile 4 was a nice hill and I decided to speedwalk up it. I have pretty long legs, so my speedwalk up the hill still kept me at pace with the girl who was beside me still jogging. This was also about the time the sun decided to make it's appearance very well known and the temperature went up. The sun was right on us... burning. By the 3rd water stop, they were already out of water and only had Gatorade. I like Gatorade, but a girl needs water too. It was blazing. Many of us made stops at water fountains that are placed pretty frequently around the lake. The worst part, though, was all water and/or Gatorade we did have was hot... which really doesn't help cool your body's core temperature as much. Ugh. I finally hit the turn around and I felt a sigh of relief... thinking the rest is all just about getting back to where you parked!
I started to need to use the restroom, and I have never before stopped during a race at a porta potty, but clearly we weren't breaking any time records today, only temperature and sweat records. So I went ahead and stopped, and besides the trauma of trying to peel my sweat-soaked shorts off my sticky body, it went pretty quick and I was back on the course in no time.
It was about this time when I started to notice the stench of other runners, especially the guys. I'm sure I was no rose, either, but it was very distracting. Until, my attention was focused elsewhere... a lady with her race bib on, pushing a jogging stroller. Not that odd, as with many races at the lake, several push jogging strollers, they just tend to stay somewhat towards the back of the pack. But I was thinking it was mighty hot for the wee one, so I went to take a look at the little person. And right as I was about to explain away my staring by telling the lady how cute her child was, I noticed there was just a giant baby doll in the stroller. Strangest. Thing. Ever. I tried to explain it away. Perhaps she saw her husband, and the baby was hot and she handed the baby to her husband. But why wouldn't she leave the stroller too? And how could a baby have even fit in there with that big ol' doll? And if the baby did fit with that big ol' doll... wouldn't the kiddo have taken his/her doll out at the same time? These are questions to which I will never have answers, and I will remain forever curious of.
And bonus surprise... my brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews were there to cheer me through. Unfortunately, I was in a complete daze of heat exhaustion and didn't make very good company.
But yet again, there was lack of water even at the finish... I managed to scrounge one very hot bottle of water. It was not enough, and I was at my breaking point, but I still walked back over to the finish to watch my good friend Elaine come through for her 7th half marathon.
It was by far my worst time for a half, but that's ok. Chalk it up to a learning experience that my body and this heat do not get along. And mark my words, if I ever run in the heat again, I WILL bring my own water bottle. This has happened for 3 races now, and I will no longer trust them to have sufficient water in these extreme heat situations. (In their defense, I think what happens is it's so hot, that the first runners through are taking 2 or 3 cups... 2 to drink, 1 to pour over their head... and by time us back-of-the-packers come through, it's all been depleted.)