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Fatigue makes cowards of us all


The quote from Vince Lombardi seemed especially appropriate for race day. The initial 10-day forecast looked perfect. As the week went on, the predicted temperatures climbed. I was placing high expectations on this race and hoping the predicted heat wouldn’t materialize. But materialize it did and the race became a story revolving around which miles were shady and which were sunny.

A subtitle for this post would be, “the race that wasn’t.”

We did the expo, I bought some stuff, we carbo-loaded the night before and then we came to Saturday night when it was time to prepare my clothes and other necessary items for race day. I started to feel my nerves. As I was getting my race stuff from the suitcase I freaked out because I couldn’t find my running socks. They’re thicker, which I need since my running shoes are kinda loose. Before we’d left Madison Allie was taking stuff out of the suitcase and I got mad thinking she’d taken out my socks. Of course I could function without them but I needed everything to be perfect to give myself the best chance. I ended up finding them as they’d gotten stuck in with my other running clothes!

Taking advice of race officials I drank extra water and G2 Saturday night before getting into bed around 8:15. We were cornered into bed as we needed Allie to sleep. I think I actually fell asleep before her! I slept, but it was one of my worse nights of sleep. At first it was one of those sleeps where I know I was asleep but I didn’t feel like I was. Then I randomly woke up, probably when it got hot in our room. Then Allie started coughint and continued for almost 45 minutes. Then I had to use the bathroom. Then just as I was getting back to sleep there was a train whistle! Allie asked “whats that?” Luckily she stayed asleep. This was at about 3:40 a.m. I was going to get up at 4:45 but decided I could sleep until 5.

Then it was time to get up. My phone told me it was already 68 degrees. The sun wasn’t even all the way up yet. Yikes. I started sipping my water.

I stumbled around getting dressed. I just couldn’t keep my balance. I realized I had taken my hair tye out of my hair the night before and didn’t know where I left it. I couldn’t find it in the dark but since Allie hadn’t woken up, I didn’t want to turn on lights and wake her. So I used one of her little hair pretties. It was a tight fit to get around my thick hair, but it worked.

I had breakfast and then caught the shuttle to the start. We were dropped off on one side of Lambeau Field and we had to walk to the other side. As I walked I just started getting nervous. I never really put my finger on why I got so nervous. I was sad that Doug and Allie weren’t there, even though race day works so much easier when I can take a shuttle and they can get themselves ready to go meet me on the course. But I’ve never really run a big race by myself before. I wasn’t by myself really, but at that moment I felt like I was and I even started getting a little choked up.

I was drinking my water and had been having tummy issues so I went through the long line to use indoor bathrooms in the atrium twice (it was way longer the second time). I had brought some food along and decided not to eat it. I stretched and texted Doug and wrote a bunch of posts on Facebook. Then it was finally time to line up. All these months of training were about to pay off.

I’d placed high expectations on this race in spite of advice from race organizers to not try for a PR today. I think knowing I had high expectations along with knowing I probably wouldn’t meet them were what made me so nervous. Based on my goal and my average pace lately I lined up in between the 2:20 half marathon pace group and the 11:00 pace sign. With some calculations via Garmin I set my workout: 13.10 miles with goal pace of 10:49. That would have yielded about a 2:21:41.

I lost my breath and had a hard time getting it back during the National Anthem. I just felt so nervous and so alone. But after the National Anthem was finished it was time to start. We had some last-minute instructions as the race director urged everyone again to run safe, run their pace, don’t go for the PR.

The gun sounded and we didn’t move for about a minute. Then it was a walk to the actual start. The news reports said it was 70 degrees with 63% humidity at the start. I felt pretty toasty at the start but not terribly uncomfortable. Extra fluid stops had been added to make 10 total on the half marathon course. I thought I’d skip the first one but I was heating up rapidly and decided I’d stop at most, if not all of them. I was getting pretty warm when I finally got to the first water station, which I’d expected to be a half mile earlier.

As I said before, I remember this race by the miles that were sunny and the miles that were shady. The start up to about mile 5 were through residential neighborhoods and were largely shady. It felt really muggy in the early goings. I decided a couple gulps of water at each stop would be a good thing. I’ve never been able to run through a water stop, especially the first one in a big race as its always the most crowded (why I usually avoid). But I did manage to stop at the right moment at the first aid station and walk a few steps while I gulped down my water.  My first two splits were 10.49 and 10.55, not bad for stopping for water.

I got comfortable and ran through the tree-lined streets. We’d determined that Doug and Allie would come see me at mile 4 and then drive to the other side of the course to see me at mile 11. The course looped around back to the stadium so it wasn’t a huge walk for Doug and Allie headed over to the stadium to wait for my triumphant finish, thus no need to try and find parking at the stadium!

The reviews I’d gotten from everyone about this race was that it was flat and fast. It certainly was the first few miles. Nothing particularly noteworthy happened until mile 4 when I saw Doug and Allie. I wasn’t sure exactly where they’d be so at about mile 3.5 I started scanning the crowd (which got pretty big in this area) hoping I wouldn’t miss them. Turned out they were right at the 4-mile marker.

Doug tried to snap a picture and this is what came out. I stopped and gave some quick kisses and gave Allie five and then continued on my way. I was starting to feel fatigued at this point but nothing terrible. Even though I’d used the bathroom several times before the start I had to go again. I had kept putting it off until I’d get to a less crowded part of the course. After leaving Doug and Allie I decided to start looking for a bathroom. I did stop at a water station but didn’t use the bathroom. As I ran the urge went away.  I didn’t end up using the bathroom until two hours after I finished. Scary stuff, dehydration.

Splits for mile 3,4,5: 10.42, 10.59 (when I stopped to see Doug and Allie), and 11.06. As I passed mile 5 I decided I’d have to start taking some walk breaks. The heat wasn’t harming me, but I certainly felt it and was getting tired. Mile 5 went through a commercial area that was all sun. Mile 6 was back into a residential area that had some shade. Mile 6 was 10.51 and then I started walking.

I was upset, though not surprised. Then I snapped back into reality. This stretch went in front of a fire station. As I was walking by, a fire truck was getting ready to go somewhere. It drove up the street not far from where I was to take care of an overheated runner.

Reality check, no longer upset!

I walked a decent chunk of mile 7 and had a split of 12.38. Near the mile 7 marker was one of the only (if not the only) hills I’d encountered so far in the race. And looking at the course map I see it was the biggest hill on the course. We turned a corner and went by a school through an aid station and into a nice neighborhood with huge houses and lots of people cheering and offering their own water in the form of sprinklers. Not far from the first overheated runner I saw the second.

I should add here that the neighbors who put out their sprinklers for the runners were lifesavers.

I ran mile 8 in 11.31, so I must have still been walking a bit here. After this I fell into a rhythm running about a mile and a half and walking up to a half mile. After mile 8 we turned into an industrial area with plenty of sun and no sprinklers. I was running pretty good at this point, but really wishing I could see the stadium or something indicating I was almost done.

Mile 9 turned back into a neighborhood and I managed my last sub-11 mile with a 10.55 split. Just before the 10-mile marker was the second biggest hill of the race. I had been walking and tried to run up the hill but couldn’t and had another 12.38… saw yet another ambulance loading another overheated runner. The neighborhood was newer so there wasn’t much shade here either, but there was a lot of crowd support including a band playing in someone’s driveway.

I ran mile 11 pretty steady and even got some extra energy. The water stop at 10 was under a bridge and went into a shady residential area. I wasn’t running fast but I was feeling pretty OK. I started looking for Doug as I neared the 11-mile marker as it was our second designated meeting. He and Allie were just past the water station that I had decided not to stop for since I was suddenly feeling good.

Doug was poised for a great picture but then some guys on bikes got right in front of him. But the picture above shows a smile on my face as I hadn’t yet started to really struggle. I gave Allie a kiss and a high five and gave Doug a kiss and told him (yelled actually, there was a lot of noise around here) that it was d*mn hot.

After leaving Doug and Allie the road went though a commercial area, sunny. I was still feeling pretty good running slow but steady. I wasn’t really struggling just yet. My splits for mile 11 and 12 were 11.24 and 11.34.

With about a mile and a half to go I started thinking about my strategy to get this race finished. I wanted to only walk one more time. My Garmin had been measuring me ahead so I knew I was in for slightly more than 13.1. I wanted to take a walk break with about a mile to go and run the rest.

That didn’t happen. I walked for a bit just before hitting the 12-mile marker, so a little earlier than I’d planned. Right after the 12-mile marker we turned and ran down a short road and came to the point in the course where the full marathoners would turn right to continue their journey and the half marathoners turned left to run the final mile. It was really hot at this point and I was really starting to feel it. I was surprised they were still letting full marathoners make that turn.

At that turn off was a timing mat for 12.1. I found out later text alerts gave a text with one mile to go, my time and my estimated time of finish based on current pace. I didn’t finish when the text estimated me to.

I ran across that timing mat and had to stop. I was getting noticeably more thirsty than I had been the whole race and regretted skipping the last water stop. That one had been right at mile 11, so I expected the next to be around 12.1 (pre-race info said aid stations were about 1.1 miles apart). There wasn’t one. A girl running by me voiced my thoughts, “f—.” My throat was really dry and I couldn’t run at the moment. I remembered I still had a few energy chews, so I had those just to try and moisten my throat. It worked for a very little bit and I tried to start running again. After crossing the 12.1 mat and turning the stadium came into view. It was so close, yet so far away!

From 12.1 to about 12.7 I didn’t run much. I kept trying to but I just couldn’t maintain anything. I was so happy to finally get to the last water stop just after 12.5. I walked a bit more and then finally turned the corner to the road that led to the stadium. I finally was able to kick up enough energy to run and keep running.

There were too many people and I was too focused on gritting out the last bit of running that I didn’t see Doug and Allie. But Doug saw me and snapped the picture. He said I looked very determined.

I don’t remember my thoughts as I was rounding the final turns other than being mad when the 2:30 pace group passed me. I had been monitoring my times during my walking breaks and for some reason still thought I could achieve my secondary goal (2:27). I guess I’d miscalculated or something and I knew that was gone when I saw the pace group. I tried to speed up and catch them but I couldn’t. I looked for the 13-mile marker and didn’t see it.

Once we turned into the Lambeau Field parking lot we had to run around the block surrounding the entertainment area. I remembered wondering why it seemed so long the day before when I was carrying Allie in the kids race. It seemed even longer in my race.

I don’t know if I should have noticed more what was going on as I rounded that block. There was supposedly an announcement that the race was being stopped, but I didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear anything. As the finish finally came into view, I noticed that some race officials were moving barricades around. My thought was that they were moving it to the side so everyone could get through, which seemed strange to me since it was the finish and we had to go through. But instead of moving the barricades out of the way, they were putting them IN the way!

A woman in front of me practically went head first over the barricade, thats how quickly they went and just stuck it there. There were at least six of us about to cross at this point. We were all asking “what are you doing?” and I thought someone moved it then like it was some kind of joke. I’ve seen footage though and we actually started going around.

I was really upset wondering why they’d done that. I figured I wouldn’t like my finish line photo because I was so upset as I crossed the finish. I stopped and tried to catch my breath as someone put a medal around my neck and I still wasn’t sure what had just happened. I grabbed two waters and tried to catch my breath, which was really tough at that moment. I walked around a bit in a daze for a minute and took out my phone, right as the text with my finish time came through. I saw my chip time of 2:31:24 and was upset to blow my goal by so much. I saw on my weather app that it was 83 but it seemed hotter than that to me. I heard and read later the temperature was 85 or more.

When I found Doug and Allie I told him I thought they were calling the race, not realizing it had already been called. I was glad I’d gotten what I thought was an official time. Doug told me the twitter feeds he follows for his football had lots of mention of what was going on in the race, about the stretched thin medical personell and news that the race was closing.

I walked a bit, got some food and we left the finish area and sat down for a few minutes. The car was about a 20-minute walk away near mile 11. I felt OK but was starting to get a stomach ache. I ate my food slowly and drank my water. I wasn’t too happy about walking but knew it would be good for me even though I had several blistered toes.

I left the finish line still not realizing what was going on and thinking I’d gotten an official time. We slowly got news that runners still on course were told to go to aid stations and wait for a ride to the finish. I pondered if those who didn’t get to finish would still get their medals.

We headed back to the hotel for me to shower and to pack up and get checked out. Allie actually fell asleep in the car for about 45 minutes. I wore my medal all day. We stopped for lunch and I patroled the news via facebook. I saw the story posted on the race web site and some of the newspaper accounts. Eventually I decided to search for my time and didn’t find it. Thats when it finally dawned on me that the barricades across the finish were the signal that the race had been called off. I missed getting an official time by no more than 30 seconds. Talk about disappointment.

I could go over and over about the lack of communication on the course, how much it sucks that I missed an official time by so little, wondering why they barricaded the finish, but I’m over it. Or I’m almost over it. Writing this novel helps. I did end up posting on the race’s facebook page asking about the barricades since it didn’t make much sense to me to barricade the finish because that was the only way off the course at that point. I did get a response that it was supposed to physically demonstrate that the course was closed. They admitted it was an error since there was nowhere to go.

I don’t know what I want to do next. I’m trying not to be of the mindset of “all that wasted training,” but it is a disappointment to spend this much time preparing for something and getting lackluster results. But I get so much more out of running than just one race. Part of me wants to run another half as soon as possible and part of me wants to put it on the shelf for awhile. I don’t know when or how I’ll decide. I’m sure it will be soon though because I need to have goals to keep myself running.

I totally earned that medal, even if I don’t have an official time to prove it. I’m proud of my accomplishment. Half marathon #5 is in the books.


Author: Jessica

I am a running working mama. We work hard and play hard and I have a lot to share along the way.

2 thoughts on “Fatigue makes cowards of us all

  1. Great race report. I can’t begin to imagine your frustration with the organization’s handling of the race. Certainly not the best way to deal with it. However, I’m glad you’re safe and were able to cover the miles, official finish or not.
    Unsolicited advice: Half marathons are just going to get hotter and harder this summer. Take some time off, but keep a high base mileage so you can hit some of the early season halves. Racing some shorter races (5ks) will help build speed, too.
    Congrats on your finish. Those we fight the hardest for are the ones we deserve the most.

  2. Jess, you worked very hard to get here and ran a great race in very challenging conditions! Don’t second-guess your training; it’s all part of the framework that will continue to build and grow as you mold yourself into the runner you want to be!

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