Dropping out of a race had never crossed my mind—until Saturday. Right around the middle of my half marathon this weekend, I was in a very dark place; I seriously considered calling it quits. The only things that kept me going were sheer logistics (e.g. “how would I find Dimity—or my way back to the hotel—if I stopped now?!”)—and salt.
Like black ice or a deer in the road, I never saw the rough patch before I hit it. My goals weren’t too lofty: I wanted to complete the half in under two hours as part of my lark to become a Half Fanatic. Given that my 13.1-mile PR is 1:46, I wasn’t too concerned about the time part of it. The only potential hiccup was a comment a friend had casually tossed my way, “Ya know, the heat and humidity could be tough.”
Race day dawned beautifully; at the start line, it was about 55 degrees and tufts of clouds dotted the sky. As the clouds burned off, the sun started feeling a bit too hot for this Pacific Northwesterner. By about mile four, I had a system in place for the water stops: one cup for drinking, one cup for dousing my face and chest. But I was cruising along, easily running sub-9:00 miles despite long, rolling hills. Around mile 6, I met up with Sarah Stanley, a Twitter pal. We chatted a bit as we trotted side by side. I didn’t feel 100% at this point—something just felt “off”—and I knew I was hurting when she started talking about other races. I had a flashback to my first marathon, when I was dragging my butt through the final miles and a friend had chatted about training runs. As I did then, I pleaded, “Please, let’s not talk about running!” On a long, sun-drenched climb near mile 7.5, the other Sarah chugged ahead of me, and it was like she took my race-mojo with her.
I didn’t hurt, but things just seemed really crappy. The finish line seemed too far off, and the start line seemed like a distant memory. I downed a gel, which only made me realize I was nauseated. I drank and tossed some water and no improvement. Life still sucked. A few yards past the water station, though, some guys—or, perhaps angels—were holding up little paper packets, yelling out, “Salt! Salt!” Somewhere in the reaches of my addled brain, my friend’s comment about the heat and humidity popped up. I grabbed a packet and poured the white stuff onto my tongue. Yuck…but, ahhh. Within a few minutes, the gel and sodium started working their magic in my system, and my cylinders started firing again.