Change #67: The Hypothermic Run: When Things Go Bad

I didn’t train. This you know.

But the point of training is more than just conditioning your body. It also helps you to become familiar with what you should eat before, during and after run; what you should wear; how fast you should go; and what things you need/don’t need to bring with you. The point is to condition your mind, and yourself, so that you know what you need to do on race day.

For this reason, there are numerous things that you should not do: don’t eat weird stuff before the event,  don’t try to run faster, and don’t buy new running gear when the first time you will “break it in” is on race day. There are lots of rules in running. I tend to break some of them.

For this event, it became a situation of, rules, what rules?

When the temperature suddenly dipped to -20 degrees Celsius my hubby, keen to protect me from my own lunacy, insisted we buy me some thicker gloves. My hands have mammoth cuts on them due to the cold that cracks my delicate skin. My hands will spontaneously bleed at inconvenient and random times throughout the day, normally when I am required to zip or unzip zippers, or simply if I knock my hand against something. Think of the Grand Canyon of cuts on skin. That’s my hands. This means I’m trailing blood behind me wherever I go. No amount of hand cream is enough. And yes, I’ve tried it all.

Nonetheless, when he said  “new gloves” that would be thicker and warmer, it sounded like a good idea. So we purchased gloves last night. I proceeded to cut the tags off this morning, and threw them in my backpack with all the stuff that I needed for the run.

And it was a lot of stuff.  When I reviewed the website last night, I noticed there was no indication of gatorade/water stations along the route. I checked with a friend that was running the 1/2 Marathon (he will be forever my hero) and enquired if he knew if there was any water stations. He is well connected with the running community and I thought maybe a friend of his might know that ran the race in the past. (I am a solo runner, all the time and for that reason, I am not connected.) He said it was a good question, but he didn’t know. I proceeded to plan to bring some gatorade/water solution. Sure, I had run 7 KM two nights ago without an ounce of liquid, but that was 7 KM. I need to drink something. With my water bottle, I would need my running belt.

Here’s the list of stuff I had to bring.  (Keep in mind that I already had a running shirt on, a vest, and a sweater, my tights and wind pants, my thick running socks, and my shoes. Oh, and of course, undergarments. They need not be mentioned here.)

  1. Running belt (that contained my Cliff bar, and tissues just in case I needed to visit  the “outdoor ladies room”)
  2. Sunglasses (Originally, I thought I wouldn’t bring them as it was one more thing to handle, but then at the last minute, I changed my mind)
  3. Cliff bar (I had to run to the grocery store at 7 AM this morning because all of my Cliff bars were past the expiration date. Not cool. How can I be so unprepared?)
  4. Hat
  5. Scarf
  6. Enormous Ski Gloves
  7. MP3  Player
  8. Headphones for MP3 Player
  9. Sports Watch (It keeps me, kind of, on track for running)
  10. My ID band (In case I collapsed at the 3 KM mark. Or, I got plucked off by cayotes because they noticed the lone, small, weak straggler that was left behind by the rest of the group. I would be an easy meal.)

I arrived at the Marshes Golf Club where the event would take place, and immediately lined up for the bathroom. If I could avoid using the outdoor bathroom that was provided, I would. And that’s when it began.

I started to overheat and took off my gloves, pulled off my scarf, and gathered my mitts while my MP3 player and headphones dangled in front of me. I stuck all of it between my knees, as I struggled to get my race bib on one safety pin at a time.

Once I got in the bathroom the real challenge began. I had all this stuff with me, and no where to put it. I ended up hooking my belt and hat on the hook behind the bathroom door, and shoved the scarf inside the hat, hoping it wouldn’t fall while I was “busy”. My gloves were a different matter. I had no where to put them. I opted to put them as close to the door and away from the toilet as I could, and reminded myself not to touch face with them on the run.

Once I was finished and washed my hands, I wandered out to the main hall and waited for an announcement. And within a few minutes, I felt like I needed to use the ladies room again. I lined up again, and did the shuffle one more time with all my equipment.

When I came back out I noticed there was noticeably less people. I asked a woman, “Have they called the 10 KM group yet?”

She said they hadn’t, that we would be next. The other two groups (1/2 Marathoners and 5 KM runners had both left.) We made our way downstairs and waited inside until the last minute, chatting about the insanity of this run. I confessed that I had barely trained, and she said the same. She also admitted (and I heard several other people say the same thing as well) that she thought about not doing it because of the temperature. (The temperature on this glorious day in Ottawa, was -27 degrees Celsius with the windchill). I mentioned that I am doing it as part of this blog, and we both laughed when I said it’s called, Pushing Boundaries.

Once outside I tried to do a pre-run, but it was so cold. Finally, there was an announcement and before I knew it, we were off. Except, somehow I was still fussing with my watch trying to get the timer going. Then the real challenge started when I tried to find Ed Sheeran on my MP3 player. It was Adele, who I love, but right now I’m in an Ed stage of my life. My enormous gloves made it almost impossible to move through my playlist and so I removed them. The wind was icy cold and within a few seconds it became a real struggle to manipulate anything with my fingertips. My running belt, at the same time as I struggled to locate the songs I wanted to hear, decided that it was going to start migrating down to my shoes.

Imagine this – you see this runner who is to be running a race and her running belt keeps sliding down, she struggles to tighten it up,  her MP3 player slips out of her hands so now the headphones are still in her ears but there’s a long chord in front of her where the MP3 player dangles. She has enormous gloves, that she can barely get on and off, and she keeps pulling over to the side as she squints at the screen mumbling curses under her breath. She then decides to begin her run again, but the belt has started to slip again, as it nearly makes it past her hips.

I was an accident waiting to happen. The first 3 KM there was an icy cold wind that numbed my toes. I questioned myself, did I wear the wrong socks? I will lose a few toes. I may have to drop out. OMG, when I said I needed to run a long enough distance where there was a chance I could lose a limb or two – I was kidding!!!! 

But once I turned (oh, because we did 2.5 KM on the way out, ran back to the Clubhouse and then did the same loop again. I had no idea. Did not look at map.) I got warm really quickly. Because now the wind was not in my face. I started stripping down removing my hat, gloves and scarf. Sure it was still cold in parts with a turn here or there: but not like on the way out. When I arrived back at the start line and turned the corner to start the second loop, I began reassembling. The gloves, hat and scarf were back on as the wind whipped at my face. For some reason, it was bitterly cold, but not nearly as bad as on the way out.

Now at the 6 KM mark something happened. I pulled my gloves off, most likely to fuss with my MP3 player, (I did manage at some point to get Ed playing) and then I COULD NOT GET THEM BACK ON.

My hands weren’t terribly cold, but all I thought was, this can’t be happening?  I struggled for some time, pulling and yanking at the glove but to my horror –  IT WOULD NOT GO BACK ON.

And then it occurred to me. In the summer, with high temperatures, my hands swell. It was the only logical explanation, as Mr. Spock would say.  The last 4 KM of the race, I pulled my running jacket down and ran the course sans gloves. On the upside, I now had the dexterity to shift back and forth with both volume and songs on my MP3 player.

About 8 KM in I started to do that thing I do, where I slow down and take LOTS of walk breaks. I don’t know why. I always find it impossible to finish the last KM running the whole way.  (Maybe I can make that a pushing boundary?) Instead, I’m more like a sputtering car rolling slowly into the gas station on fumes.

When I turned the corner of the pylons, I was done. There was no cheering crowds, no voices saying you’re done. Just me standing there scrolling through my watch looking at the distance, wondering, 9:95 K? All I thought was, well, that’s annoying, I was going to post a picture of my watch and time on the blog. People are going to think I quit the last 50 meters.

So, I turned my watch back on and started to climb the hill. Then I saw a woman with a medal. And my mind shouted, HEY! WHERE’S MY MEDAL!

Then I looked up. And I saw it. There were steel poles with a covering that showed the finish line. Small children shouted, “Run! Run!”

I ran the best I could and mumbled to the people handing out the medals, I thought the pylons were the end.  They gave me my medal and I began to walk away and I looked down at it, proud of my accomplishment. I normally wouldn’t think 10 KM was a big deal, but today it absolutely was. I was elated.

Then, confusion set in again. It said Half Marathon. I went back to the volunteers and said they gave me the wrong medal. There answer was that everyone gets the same one.

I do not relish the idea of pretending I did more than I did. I’ve run half marathons. They are difficult. To run in the conditions we had this morning, they definitely earned the title. Only take what is truly yours.

But then it dawned on me. It was a very small group that signed up and completed these crazy races: 5 KM Run, 10 KM Run, and 1/2 Marathon. The event was to support the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, and they most likely received a volume discount in order to provide the medals to all finishers. If they had to create medals for such smalls groups, it would most likely eat into money that was to go to the hospital, that we runners paid through registration fees.For this reason, I was ok with it. I prefer charities to maximize dollars in order for a larger portion of my registration fee to go to a charity.

Was this a pushing boundary?

I could have NOT signed up. I definitely could have opted NOT to run, given my utter lack of completing any form of training. When the temperature plummeted two days ago, I could have declared it a holiday, forfeiting my run for a leisurely breakfast in it’s place.

But I didn’t.

“Never, never, never give up” ~ Winston Churchill





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