Sunday, February 17, 2013

Estrella Foothills

I ran cross country in high school. I went to high school in a desert. A desert has ridiculously hot weather. Therefore, I ran cross country in ridiculously hot weather.

We would have practices five days a week. Monday mornings were hill workouts at 5:15am. Friday mornings were interval trainings at 5:30am. Tuesdays through Thursdays, we would run after school in the heat. It was not uncommon for me to run five miles in temperatures above 100 degrees. I would drink a lot of gatorade and take extra cortisol. But sometimes I would still end up in my “coma state” for a couple hours... or sometimes days. I now realize that this “coma state” is better known as extreme fatigue. I struggle speaking and moving and can barely form coherent thoughts. It’s not pleasant.

We would sometimes have Wednesday races after school in the ridiculous heat. There was one particularly bad race during my senior year. The hosting school thought about cancelling the 5k race due to the extreme heat. It was 117 degrees. The coaches laughed at the thought. Their teams trained in this heat daily! They can handle it!

This course consisted of weaving 2.8 miles through the desolate desert and then running a lap around the track before crossing the finish line. I remember the start of the race. Oh it was hot outside! I also remember thinking I would not be able to finish this race. I was in shape, but this heat was ridiculous. I almost collapsed towards the end, but one of the volunteers assured me that I only had a short distance before I would reach that blue track. She was actually supposed to be manning a water station, but she had run out of water long before I had reached that check point. I worked up the determination to finish.

I remember stepping onto that blue track, extremely dizzy. I knew I just had to put one foot in front of the other, even if I couldn’t see where that foot was going. My vision was going in and out of focus. Normally, I “kick” at the end with a sprint, but I had nothing left to give for this race. I don’t even remember seeing the finish line. I faintly remember two strong guys quickly grabbing my arms to keep me from collapsing. I was crying because I was so confused. Once again, I did not know who or where I was.

My mom was right there at the finish line. She knew something was wrong. Actually, everyone who knew us knew something was wrong with me. They dumped water on me to cool me off and forced me to immediately drink gatorade. My mom forced me to take some extra cortisol. I was mad at her at the time, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Slowly, I began to be able to speak and remember who I was. There were ambulance sirens in the distance. A couple runners had suffered heatstroke that race and were taken by ambulance to the hospital.

For the rest of the night, I was on edge. I cried a lot. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t express myself in words. Everything overwhelmed me. It took a couple of days for me to recover from that race. And by recover, I meant return back to my normal personality and not a by-product of low cortisol. 

That was by far the stupidest race I ever finished. However, it did teach me that there are some times that the risks outweigh the benefits and the danger is not worth it. My determination carried me through this race, but much to the detriment of my physical health. As I proved to myself last week, I can run long distances. BUT I must listen to my body and know when I push myself too far. Also, six weeks until my half marathon.

This picture was taken immediately after I crossed the finish line.
I didn't even know who these people were. But they knew I was not doing well.


  1. Sounds like heat stroke aggravated by Addisons. I don't cope well in heat either! Last October I was in Budapest to run a marathon. Of course, living in New Zealand, I'd trained through a Wellington winter. Not cold enough for snow, but certainly pretty chilly. The temperatures in Budapest for the race SHOULD have been around 15-19 degrees celsius, which would have been comfortable. Unfortunately there was a heat wave and on the day the temperatures were around 30 degrees. I also had a bit of a cold that I'd picked up from the grandson of the friend I was staying with. Needless to say on the day I decided this was not going to be a fast race! I power-walked a lot, especially the really exposed parts, stopped at all the drink stations to squeeze a sponge over my head, and kept up the electrolytes. Thankfully I'd brought my own fuel belt as the sports drink on course was revolting! I took about half an hour longer than I should have, but I finished before the cut-off and felt well enough to get up early the next morning and fly to Italy, where I spent the next 11 days walking around for eight or so hours, also in temperatures in the high 30s! My endo said to increase my Fludro if I do anything like that again, but my blood pressure's normally high normal and I didn't feel like it was bottoming out so I guess the electrolytes were good enough. You definitely live and learn!

    1. Pip, would you believe that I wasn't even on Fludro at the time? My first endo never thought to put me on it and I didn't know to ask for it. When I moved states and found a new endo, he took one look at my charts and my consistently low bp and asked me, "Why aren't you on Fludro?" "I... uh... cause we didn't know about it???" I'm on a higher dose than most now, and it makes such a HUGE difference!

      And 30 deg C would make for a rather miserable race with the humidity!! That was so smart for you to look ahead for your trip to Italy and realize that this one race wasn't worth jeopardizing it. Through this experience and a couple others, I've learned the wisdom of going, "Nope. Not going to push myself hard for this race." I did not have that wisdom in HS however. Which is why I was rendered pretty much useless for several days following this race. Not doing that again :)


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