Sunday, August 19, 2007


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:

I'm irritable.

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.

"HEY!!!! WATER!!!!!"

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:



Jess said...

wow. that's quite a story. I believe, as well, in the innate desire to help in most people. Give them an opportunity and most often, you will not be disappointed.
I'm so glad this story had a happy ending.

ReneeMc said...

Yes, thank you Adrian for saving this poor man's life.
Shit, man, don't die! Really, don't do it.
I am so glad that people want to help out and that you remembered the key word to use when asking for it.

stephruns said...

Oh man, I can see your adventure like a movie in my head. It must be a real learning experience; just having to ask a stranger for the most simple but life-saving matter: Water!

It is absolutley crazy how much water the sun sucks out of one here. I am going to buy the largest camelback there is, I believe it's 3 liters and I won't mind carring it!

Amanda said...

Amazing you found so many good samaritans! This may be the reminder I needed to carry water as I am horrible about that.

Ann said...

it really is a testament to what jess said: innate human desire to help. and like renee said, the key is asking for help. thank god for both of those.

and i just want to remind you to DON'T ALMOST DIE AGAIN! although i don't think you'll be going out for a 25 mile run again without a office water cooler strapped to your back. and me sitting the shade at the bottom of the trail looking at my watch every 30 minutes and the ranger programmed in my mobile.

rustyboy said...

Upon reflection, and your posts, I have decided to NEVER DIE, EVER.

This will take some effort on my part; you know: The deal with the Devil, the ritualistic sacrifices, but dammit, I am convinced!

Mr. Satan A. Chilles said...

Isn't it amazing how hard a measly 1.25 miles can be? Under the circumstances, it makes perfect sense, but I'm sure you were going through the same mind games we all go through ('I've already run 98% of this run, hold on'; 'it's only ten or 15 minutes, get over it', etc.). And on top of it all, in brain-addling heat. Whew!

Although it's nothing to compare to your experience, I'll never forget the good samaritan spectator who helped me get through Marine Corps years ago. I bonked at mile 13 (running too fast, like an idiot), and had to walk. With few spectators around, I came across a young lady sitting on the curb; she saw me walking morosely towards her, and as I got there, she asked me if I wanted her only bottle of water. You bet, there wasn't another water station for a half mile, and I looked like the saddest runner award-winner in Sad Runner magazine. I'll never forget her. So you'll REALLY never forget those kind people you met over the weekend. Makes you want to buy bottles of water and sit somewhere waiting for a runner-in-need to come by...

Dusty said...

That was really scary. I was glad that I knew you were okay with the post saying "ALMOST" and knowing that YOU posted it. That is really scary.

I'm glad you felt better and didn't have to go to the hospital. There are a lot of stories out there that don't end as well.

Bummer about the shuffle. :(