Marathon No. 15: More heat trouble

Our journey home began in December of 2011. My father-in-law Wilton was dying at his southern New Hampshire home and we needed to be there for him in his last weeks. We were fortunate – with the help from some very generous friends – to pack up all of our belongings into a 26-foot U-Haul and not hit any snowstorms on our six-day sojourn from Montana.

My wife and I were also fortunate not to have jobs at the time. We could focus all our time and energy on Wilton, who passed away in January. A short time later, we set ourselves up in an apartment in Ayer, Mass., to start our new lives.

And the mild weather continued.

It hardly snowed all winter, which was a nice break after the June and August snows of Montana. The conditions were also conducive to running. Even the trails were clear for most of the winter.

I decided that I wanted to run Boston again. My eventual plan was to run one marathon a year for as long as I could – and I wanted that marathon to be Boston.

I chose the Shires of Vermont Marathon because it starts in Bennington, where we lived for five years. The course even went past the first house that my wife and I bought as a young couple, in the town of Shaftsbury.

The race is held the weekend before Memorial Day weekend, meaning the chance for warm, even hot, weather is good.

It was great to be back in the town where I first became a runner.

The race was in just its second year, and it started at 10 a.m. Way too late for a mid-spring marathon. It started out warm and ended hot.

My wife and daughter stationed themselves at different parts of the course, and I first encountered them near our old house near Mile 8. I made sure to give them a hug. That’s when I realized how hot it already was.

My daughter has very dark hair, and when I leaned over to kiss the top of her head, it was quite warm. Those black follicles were already absorbing the heat.

I was able to hold onto a good pace leading up to the dirt roads that were under a canopy of trees en route up to the halfway point. I was shooting for a 3:05 and was at 1:33 at 13.1 miles, but the heat wasn’t going to allow that quick of a pace.

I got a painful cramp – one that balled up like a fist – in one of my hamstrings at Mile 19. It halted me in my tracks. I was forced to walk a bit before slowly returning to running.

Now the goal was just to qualify for Boston. A 3:05 would have allowed me first dibs to sign up for Boston since I’d have run at least 20 minutes faster than my qualifying time.

Since I just turned 45, my qualifying standard went from 3:15 to 3:25. And on this day, I needed nearly every bit of the extra 10 minutes.

At Mile 23, the shade I had enjoyed earlier was long gone. The roads had become paved and the heat was growing by the mile. I started to rotate between walking and running; anything to keep moving forward.

I even skipped – something I hadn’t done since I was a kid – to keep my momentum going when my legs refused to bend.

Constant. Forward. Motion. Or, confortion, as I call it.

The finish that year was at a big field in the town of Manchester where the Vermont Race for the Cure was held when I lived in Vermont. I knew where it was, but the clock was ticking and I was slowing down. My watch hit 3:20 and I still hadn’t hit the 26th mile marker. Only five minutes to spare, and I was getting nervous.

Finally, there was the “26” I’d been longing for. I took a right and lumbered into the finish at 3:22. Just made it.

I sat on a cooler under a large tent for a while to recuperate. It was 85 degrees and I just needed to sit and hydrate. It took a long time to return to a standing position, but eventually I felt ready to get up and around. Food was becoming appealing again too.

I continually ate small bites and drank small sips of water – something my mother encouraged me to do when I felt nauseated after my first Boston – and the process was working.

Before we loaded up for the trip home, I started to crave something more substantial. I saw a food table that included pizza slices made out of pita bread. It looked great. I grabbed a slice. Big mistake, it turned out.

I must not have been rehydrated yet because the cheese I ingested kept me from getting there. I didn’t realize it then, but dairy products are harder to digest than other foods.

On our way home, with my wife driving, I thought I was going to be all right. I had consumed seven bottles of water and was eating.

But VT Route 9 to Brattleboro is a very curvy, mountainous road, and all the turning wasn’t doing my stomach any good. But the time we turned onto I-91, I was asking my wife to pull over. You know what came (up) next.

It took me until last summer to figure out not to ingest dairy products until well after a race. Especially a hot one.

It was a rough evening, but I did qualify for Boston for the 2013 event. Boston’s 2012 running was also a hot day, and I was glad to have missed it. But a year later, the history of the iconic race was changed forever.

And I was there.



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