Sunday, June 6, 2010

The 12th Mile

Let me tell you about my 12-mile training walk yesterday - and the issue that hit me fast and furious.

A friend of mine (who happens to do triathlons, so she's in pretty good shape) offered to join me on my walk yesterday. We planned a route and planned to meet at my house at 7:30. I knew it was late - I would have preferred starting the walk before 7, but since she was joining me, I didn't want to ask too much of her on a Saturday, you know?

Anyway, we got started on our walk at about 8 and I was a little worried - the high for the day was 92 and it was already a bit sticky outside. Plus, I knew the walk would take about 4 hours and that had us ending at noon.

Honestly, the first 11 miles weren't too terrible. In the midst of miles 10 and 11 I started getting a bit cranky because of the heat - the trail we were walking had very little shade. Also, we were running out of water. But otherwise, I was feeling fine. Sore muscles, but no cramps or anything - I felt like I could comfortable finish the 12 miles.

But it was right as we started the 12th mile that things began going terribly wrong. Out of the blue, I was struck with waves of nausea.

As a kid, I was very susceptible to heat stroke. I never drank enough water and lived in Texas. Plus, I was too ashamed to wear shorts in public, so I was always clad in unforgiving jeans during the height of the Texas summers. To say I passed out a few times growing up would be sadly accurate. So, I knew what that queasy feeling meant as I was overcome by it yesterday: Dehydration and potential heat stroke.

We stopped in a bit of shade for a few minutes - painfully close to the trail head and my friend's air conditioned vehicle, but there was still a mile to walk and less than 8 ounces of water in my bottle.

The key to my issue was water. The heat didn't help, but would have been bearable if I had brought enough water. I drank about 5 ounces, keeping the last three in case of a dire emergency. We slowed down the pace and continued on the walk, but I honestly had to stop every tenth of a mile or so to stand in whatever shade I could find.

It was truly a blessing from God when we saw a water fountain at a church that abuts the walking trail. They put it there for the walkers and it saved me, it truly did. I rested on a bench near the fountain and sipped water for about five minutes before we again began hobbling our way to the end of the trail.

A trail head never looked so good, let me tell you!

Since I have a 9-mile walk scheduled today and many more long walks ahead of me, I went to the sporting goods store last night and bought a hydrating backpack. It holds 50 ounces of water and I am really looking forward to testing it out this evening. I overslept today, sadly, and missed my window to start the 9-mile trek this morning. Luckily, the high is only 82 today and I'm planning to walk at the lake where it should feel cooler.


  1. Hi Natalie! Would you be interested in being an Online Ambassador for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure?

  2. I can certainly relate to the water thing; I'm used to drinking a lot of water, and have found recently that having my 3-liter Camelbak on my training walks really helps! I fill it up the night before and put it in the fridge; it stays cold for the whole walk!

    BTW, I am walking in San Francisco; Sue Ward's the name!

  3. Wow, I'm so glad that you were okay!! I'm only just starting my training, but will be sure to remember this. thanks :)

  4. I invested in a hydrating backpack a couple days before my 12 mile walk. It really came in handy; it holds a little over 65 ounces. The only problem is by the time I finished my 12 mile walk I had to really go to the bathroom and almost couldn't wait until I got home. I didn't take is with me Sunday on my 9 mile walk for fear of the same problem but I wish I had. I got a late start and the it was really cool outside so I thought I'd be fine; I couldn't wait to get home so I could get some water. I'm not sure how to avoid the bathroom problem because there is no where around for me to go...any suggestions?

  5. When I walked 9 miles the next day, I planned a route that took me through a park with restrooms. You honestly shouldn't plan to walk 3+ hours without a potty break - especially if it means you limit your water intake. Gas stations work too. Maybe you can arrange a pit stop at a friend's house ... (and talk them into joining you for a mile or so!)

  6. I hope you don't mind if I give you a few tips. I have been a training walk leader for 3 years (but this year I'm crewing in Boston & DFW).

    First, start as soon as it begins to get light if at all possible. That is the coolest time of the day and you should be able to get a couple of hours (6 or so miles) in before it starts to heat up.

    If you are walking with others in an area where there are no places to replenish your water/electrolyte replacement beverage (remember to drink both!), consider leaving one car with a cooler stocked with ice and drinks at a mid point location.

    If you aren't having to potty at least every 3 miles (hour), you're not drinking enough. Even with cooler temperatures. We have peed in very unusual places. I remember one summer Sunday morning when one of our walkers had an urgent need in a residential area and we asked a man coming out to get his paper if she could use his restroom. Do not skimp on hydrating for fear of having to pee. PLEASE.

    And, yes, you can get dehydrated in any type of weather -- even if it's cool and rainy. Don't be one of the scores of walkers who end up in the medical tent with an IV on event. You'll miss the karaoke contest!

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I'm walking the 3 Day in Az for the 1st time in Nov. and walk with my hip pack that has 2 spots for water on it. Definately a necessity in the inferno state!! I too have had heat exhaustion when young as well as when I was pregnant once... hydration is a must indeed... good luck on your walks, keep safe.

    Julie~ thanks for sharing the tip on leaving the car at half way point an excellent idea for areas without bathrooms or other drinking options just in case not to mention if there is any emergency God for bid.... Definately walking the first sign of light is a must... especially here in Az this heat is horrible and I can't imagine walking many miles in the temps we get in the summer so yeah that is already happening with me :)

    Ta Ta for now my fellow walkers :)

  9. Excellent post, Natalie. I'm glad you're OK. Living (and walking) in Phoenix (the Valley of the Sun), I totally share your high-temperature pain. It was 110 over the weekend. But at least it was dry. I only walked 4.3 miles Saturday, but I did have to stop and buy myself a G2. (I was intended to do 3 miles and only had 16 ounces of water with me.) Thank you for sharing your experience. I'll be eager to hear how your new pack works out for you.

  10. I can second Julie's advice about leaving a car at your midway point with extra water bottles. I always pack a big cooler with extra water and sports drink for my longer walks so I can replenish. I also stash some snacks for lunch in there. It makes for a great refresher mid-walk without the temptation to quit early that stopping at your house can bring.

    ~ Kristen

  11. Thanks for the solve my bathroom problem I've planned my trips so that I come home for a bathroom break at the half-way point. That way I can use the potty, get more water and take a stretch break. My city isn't the safest and there isn't anywhere to stop for bathroom breaks along the path I take. I've considered changing my route but I live in the inner city of Detroit and walking any other place other than my current route wouldn't be such a good idea; I'm just thankful my neighborhood is safe and has a lot of police traffic along my walk route. There is usually others out walking too; otherwise I'd have to drive somewhere to do my walks and I figure why drive when my goal is walking. I've even considered buying some "Depends" just in case I can't make it home one