Big Basin 50K… Make that 25K

I signed up for today’s Big Basin 50K only a few days prior, and I already knew it was forecast to be hot. But by early this morning, the forecast high for nearby Boulder Creek was 92°F! If you don’t know Boulder Creek, well my brother has called it Colder Bleak. Heat is not normal there. [Update: The official high was 94°F.]

So I knew going in that it was going to be very hot. And knowing that I struggle in the heat, I also knew I was going to take at least 7 1/2 hours, and maybe more than 8. But I didn’t really consider the possibility that I couldn’t finish it in the allotted 9 hours.

The structure of the event is four loops: 15K, 10K, and then both of those again. The 15K loop worked pretty well, though the steep stairs at Berry Creek Falls made me nervous, because I was expecting to have to go up them a second time when it was hotter. I took electrolyte capsules about every 45 minutes since it was still relatively cool, and I finished the whole 64oz of water in my hydration pack. I think my time for this loop was about 2:15.

On the 10K loop, it got hotter. I increased the electrolyte capsule frequency to every 30 minutes. And I got slower, first on the uphills. The top of the second (and final) significant climb of the loop comes not long after the one exposed (read: extra hot) section of the course. I think I started feeling a little spacey during that section, though I didn’t really recognize it at the time.

And then on the downhill I started getting dizzy. I was almost out of water, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep up the electrolyte capsule schedule all the way back to the aid station, since you need liquid to swallow them. But I also knew that electrolytes were the most likely fix for the dizziness.

And then the dizziness got way worse. I found the nearest log to sit down on. Things were spinning, and I couldn’t imagine standing up, much less walking or running. I was sure my 50K was over.

After I was there for maybe 5 or 10 minutes, two women doing the 25K came by. They didn’t think I looked very well. They said I looked white, so they decided to wait with me to see if I got better. After a few minutes I could imagine standing, and eventually I did, and managed to start walking. One of the women was still watching me carefully. The really weird part was that even when the dizziness was mostly gone, my arms felt like they were vibrating, though that subsided after a while. And I could run, though only slowly and with some walking breaks.

Around this time I started to wonder if there was still a chance of me finishing the 50K, which another part of me knew was crazy. Then I got dizzy again, though not too badly. And later it happened a third time, worse than the second time. At that point I decided I was not going to try to go beyond the 25K point. It wasn’t safe: I might stumble or even pass out.

This was a different from Diablo, four weeks ago. This time my legs were fine, but my basic systems were not doing well at all. After Miwok I thought I could complete anything. Not today. Oh, for the rain and cold again!

One more thing: I donated blood on the 4th, right after Miwok, and this was less than two weeks after that. It certainly couldn’t have helped (except whoever got the blood—it helped them a lot, and I have no regrets).

So this was my second incomplete event out of the last three. It was the right decision, and it points out that I need to learn how to handle the heat much better. But of course I’m also disappointed.

My next event is a running camp in June with Lisa Smith-Batchen and Lisa Bliss, in Idaho. Both have won the women’s division at Badwater, an insanely hot 135 mile race through Death Valley, and Lisa Bliss is also a doctor. I’m guessing I’ll learn something about running in the heat when I’m there in a couple of weeks.

Lastly, I would like to thank Sue from Ventura County, for sticking with me when I didn’t know which way was up. Thanks, Sue!

Update: I heard from my current local coaches, who after reading this blog post speculate that I had “heat-related illness.” I’m guessing there is no chance it was heat stroke, so that probably means heat exhaustion.

Also: The results were posted, and I was given credit for the 25K in 4:24:45. Only 15 people finished the 50K out of 29 signed up (and only 5 out of 12 in my age group).

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2 Responses to “Big Basin 50K… Make that 25K”

  1. Why Do I Do This? « Steve Reinheimer’s Weblog Says:

    […] greater than the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. To me, this is crazy. Last weekend up at Big Basin, the temperature was in the 90s, and he did not finish a race, officially known as the dreaded DNF […]

  2. Carolyn Jung Says:

    The fact that you even attempt these competitions is something to be proud of. Me? I run on the treadmill once a week. And I have to force myself to do that. I wish I loved running naturally as you do. 😉

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