Seriously, I had an experience yesterday that was soul-shaking...
I decided to run an out and back totaling 25-27 miles on mountain trails as one of my two final, big motherfuggin' runs before my taper. Let's face it: It's hot. Scary hot, all over. I'll spare us all the lectures about global this-and-that and eco-somethin'-DeCaprio/Gore, but it's blazing out there for us all. I scoped the weather for Santa Monica, location of my planned mountain run, and saw that it was to top off at a comfortable 78f degrees on Saturday.
I arrived at the trailhead fully prepped: It was 8:45 AM, 68 degrees. I had with me my trusty Nathan pack (holds 2 liters of water), my UD handheld (20 oz) filled with Perpetuum, 5 Gus, and 3 Clif bars. Seriously: What could go wrong?
*cue creepy, decending music sting*
The first 2 1/2 hours went amazingly. My legs were strong, so strong that I had to reel in my pace quite a few times. I was drinking, fueling, singing, sailing, and when I reached my turnaround point at Will Rogers trailhead (mile 14 or so), I filled my pack and bottle, rested a minute or three, and trotted back up the steep ascents without so much as a care in the world.
*cue creepy, descending music sting*
The sun rose in the canyons and not an ounce of shade was provided. I continued along, happy as could be, sucking down fluids, muching on gels, when I felt the first blast hit:
This is the first sign of dehydration for me. Actually, the very first sign was that I'd downed about 60 ounces of fluids (with electrolytes) and hadn't peed more than once in 2 hours. The sun beamed down upon me like God's searchlight as I trotted up the steeps and glided down the descents.
My handheld went empty. "No worries", I thought, as I had at least 1 1/2 liters of water in my pack, and several bars awaiting my consumption.
Then it hit: THE heat.
Temps topped off at *92*, far above the predicted 78 degrees. I guzzled from my water pack. I revelled in the shade. At one point, I lay back and chewed on a powerbar, looking out at the mountains, smiling and humming in the shade of an Oak.
I had no idea.
Within 30 minutes more of running, my pack's water bladder emptied! I STILL hadn't peed, now at 3 1/2 hours, even with heavy fluids and electrolytes. I found myself on familiar singletrack that is rarely traversed by hikers and mountain bikers, and that's when the panic hit:
Oh MAN. I'm ALONE and starting to feel woozy.
My cell had zero reception. I thought of calling Ann to tell her to contact the rangers that I'd be looking for a ride but had no available service. My head began swimming. I downed a gel and drank down the last drop of my fluids to chase it.
I was confused an irrational. Whenever I opened my mouth to talk myself down, I slurred my words and couldn't think of others. I remember consciously thinking about being airlifted, about IV fluids, about collapsing in a heap on the trail to be found dead days later.
Then, I slapped myself out of it and faced the reality: I had 4 miles left. I had been running for 4+ hours and had several more to go, no water, and in this heat, I knew few hikers/cyclists would be out. Without water in the next 30 minutes, I'd be screwed.
Press on, Russ. Press on, I told myself.
I kept hiking/shuffling.
My lips were dried like raisins. I emerged from the singletrack to the familiar jeep trails, hoping to find help. No one. A single biker loomed in the distance. I screamed, "HEY!". He turned his head, paused, and pedalled on over a ridge.
Shit, Russ. Press on.
I focused only on left, right, repeat. Other negative thoughts treaded water outside my mind, but I pushed them aside and focused on the matter at hand: Find hikers, get water, get to the trailhead, kick my own ass for not being prepared.
I tromped down a loooooong series of switchbacks and came to a junction where I knew I'd find some sign of life...and I DID! I saw a handsome man about 200 yards ahead.
"Hey! HEY! i'm behind you!!!!!" I rasped, at the top of my lungs.
I sprinted up the trail and saw a group of 5 hikers with him about 20 yards ahead.
They paused, and then I remembered the magic word that captures any human being's attention.
The incredibly sweet family on a day hike supplied me with 2, 16 oz water bottles and well-wishes. I assured them I was going to be fine (I was sure I was lying) and sent them on their way down a different trail.
1.25, VERY EXPOSED MILES, to go.
I ascended the jeep road, more coherent but exhausted (the bars in my pack sounded less than satisfying) when a hiker approached. I weighed the option of asking him to get a ranger, but then, he offered me his water.
His name was Adrian; a young guy on vacation from Seattle, who was on a day hike. He poured his water into my handheld and kept my attention, letting me hear his history as an athlete, understanding of my situation, and awe at what I'd accomplished for the day. Then, he muttered those magic words I had no idea I needed to hear:
"Do you want some juice?"
I imagine my eyes shot out from my head when he asked. I guzzled down his "fruit juice" box, chatted with him a few minutes longer, and suddenly, I felt like myself for the 1st time in an hour. I stood and said, "I gotta move on."
Adrian shook my hand and smiled. "No problem, dude. Karma. It's all downhill from here."
My brain recovering, I replied, "Next time, it will be me helping you. Promise."
I (painfully) shuffled my way to my car where I refilled my water bottle, drank my carb-replacement mix, and sat in the shade. And lost my iPod Shuffle. Meh. They still sell 'em. No biggy.
I learned many lessons that day, about myself, about being over-prepared for long runs, and about the amazing brotherhood that is humankind.
To the man that sat with me on the trail, comforting me, keeping a watchful eye, I say to you, from the bottom of my soul, thank you. And I quote from Rocky 2:
"YO ADRIAN! I DID IT!"