RnR Philly Half Recap + Heat Exhaustion in Cold Weather

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If you follow me on social media, you probably saw the pictures and chatter in the days leading up to last Sunday – my sister’s first half marathon!

The weekend started off smashingly – 5k PR for me, a YUMMY lunch at a historic deli close to our hotel, fun time at the expo visiting our friends at Sparkly Soul and listening to Chris chat on stage and then meeting up with the rest of our family who arrived in Philly around 2pm.

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This sandwich (brisket of beef) was enormous!

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We hung out in the hotel for a bit before heading to an early dinner at an Italian restaurant. Dinner was delicious, the company was even better and the excitement was immeasurable.

My sister and I left the hotel at 6:30am and walked the mile to the start area.

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While she hung out and relaxed in our corral, I did a short 2.5 mile warmup. My legs felt really tight (not sore) from the 5k the day prior and I wanted to make sure I stretched and warmed up before asking my legs to run another 13.1 miles.

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That was the first sign of how humid and sticky it was out – I was running WAY slower than I normally do on that warmup and was already soaked and dripping with sweat. And it was only 7:30am.

Below is a post I wrote for Women’s Running about what came next.

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Last weekend, my sister and I stood at the starting line of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly Half Marathon. It was her first half marathon. I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to run it with her for support and memories! Having run multiple 10 and 12 milers leading up to the race, she was completely trained for the distance and was ready to celebrate her months of hard work with our family, who would be waiting at the finish line.

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We started off at her normal pace for long runs and the miles began ticking by. Everything was on track…until it wasn’t.

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By mile 4, she told me that she was feeling nauseous.
By mile 5, her pace had slowed down about 30-45 seconds per mile.
By mile 7, she told me she had cramping in her legs and calves.
By mile 9, we had slowed another 30 seconds per mile.
By mile 10, I noticed that she looked pale and her lips were discolored.
At mile 11.6, her legs cramped up and she stopped running. We sat down for about a minute, had a pep talk, and began walking to the finish.
And at mile 11.7, she passed out in my arms.

The next few hours were some of the scariest in my entire life. The doctors at the medical tent diagnosed my sister with heat exhaustion. She vomited, passed out twice and had a fever of 102.4. Thankfully after four hours of receiving fluids (IV and oral) and cold compresses, and having her vitals monitored, she was released and allowed to go home.

I am incredibly frustrated with myself for not seeing the warning signs of heat exhaustion that WERE there. However it was the last thing on my mind. It was overcast and not terribly warm out – maybe mid-70s by the time we stopped – so I never connected the dots. But it was extremely humid – between 90-95% for most of the morning, which played a major role in causing her body temperature to sky rocket.

There is a lot of discussion about heat injuries when the warmer weather begins to approach in the late spring/early summer. I think we are all pretty good with being on the lookout for the telltale signs. But if you are like me, it’s hard to imagine suffering from a heat injury when it’s cloudy, cool or even freezing out. However, heat injuries can happen year round – regardless of the season and temperature outside.

Heat injuries (heat cramping, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke) occur when you cannot sweat enough to cool your body. This results in your core body temperature rising. It most commonly happens when exercising intensely in hot, humid conditions but it can also happen in the cooler winter months, when you are bundled up and perspiring more than you may realize.

While air temperature does play a large part in heat injuries, there are other factors that should be taken into account including humiditydirect and reflected (off the pavement) radiation of the sunexposure to heat/humidity the previous two days as well as individual risk factors (medications, illness, age are just a few).

Some of the most common signs of heat injuries include:

  • Confusion
  • Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration)
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Pale skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat

There are ways to reduce your risk for heat injury:

  • Clothing: Wear clothes that are light colored (dark colors absorb the heat from the sun) and loose fitting – and try to limit them to one layer
  • HydrationDrink before, during (drink about 4 to 8 ounces of water and/or sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes), and after your workout or race.
  • Alter pace as necessary and add in walk breaks: A hot or humid day might mean you should scale back your goals for that day. Slow down and take walk breaks if necessary. There will always be another race.
  • Salt Intake: Increase salt in the days leading up to the race
  • Weigh Yourself: Step on a scale before and after your workout to monitor water loss. Make sure you have replaced enough fluids before your next workout
  • Monitor the color of your urine: The darker your urine, the less hydrated you are. Increase your fluids to bring your urine to a light color before your next workout.
  • Listen to your body: Keep an eye out for the common signs and seek medical attention if you think you are experiencing any of them

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I’d also be remiss to mention how GRATEFUL my sister and I are for the people who immediately rushed over to her when she passed out. Countless runners stopped running, stopping racing to make sure she was okay. They gave me their water bottles, gels, jelly beans – anything and everything they had with them. And they stayed with us until the bike medics came (about 5 minutes later). I didn’t know any of these amazing people, but I will be forever grateful and appreciative of their sacrifice and good hearts.

Have you ever suffered from a heat injury?

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I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    17 thoughts on “RnR Philly Half Recap + Heat Exhaustion in Cold Weather

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    2. Wow! That is scary…I think I would have panicked. Runners are amazing people and it is no surprise to me that they stopped to help! I would not have thought in cloudy conditions that would happen…good reminder! I may have been close to this last month in my half….I run at lunch time quite often when it is warm, and I tend to think I have a high tolerance for heat, so I went into my half not too worried about the heat and tried to slow my pace from the start by about 5-10 seconds per mile…well at the start it was like 82 with 100% humidity and no wind and I should have slowed it even more! By mile 9 I was really slowing and miles 10, 11 and 12 were SO rough. I got a little dizzy and sweat more than I ever have in my life (it was sloshing in my shoes). I was toast by the end and ran it almost 13 minutes slower than a 1/2 I just ran on a harder course. Lessons learned the hard way :)
      Jen@milesandblessings recently posted..Freedom’s Run Half Marathon Re-CapMy Profile

    3. Oh my god, how scary!!! I’m glad the medics came so quickly. How did you notify them? I never thought you could get heat exhaustion during this weather either. Thanks for sharing this, so we are all better informed and more cautious!
      Christine recently posted..The Ultimate Coffee DateMy Profile

    4. Wow, I don’t know what I would have done in that situation, I know I wouldn’t think heat exhaustion when it isn’t ‘hot’ out. How scary, but so glad that she (and you) are ok! Great reminder to us all to know what the signs are!
      Sarah @ KS Runner recently posted..Giving BackMy Profile

    5. WOW – this post is a good wake up call. I never would’ve thought we could suffer heat exhaustion and the like when it’s cooler out. I knew humidity really affected our running, and have certainly felt the effects, but luckily never to that extent.
      I’m glad your sister is ok. I can’t imagine what she went through, and you having been the one to catch her. Thanks for sharing this story, hopefully no one else will have to experience it.
      I hope your sister’s next race is the polar opposite of this one and an incredibly positive experience :)
      Amber recently posted..Positive TuesdayMy Profile

    6. I recently ran a half in similar weather and I can completely see how heat exhaustion is a real danger in very humid, but not warm weather. I felt nauseous and knew I was on the verge of being dehydrated but I didn’t think full on heat exhaustion would have happened but that day I did see a lot of other people struggling. I think between nausea and cramping those two signs are enough to know something more serious is happening. Thanks for sharing, great info, and very glad she’s okay!
      Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted..Simple Side Dish Recipe: Bacon Broccoli RabeMy Profile

    7. So glad she’s okay! After my husband had to come pick me up one too many times from dehydration, I had to get a handle on it. I started taking electrolyte pills whether it was 80 or 30 degrees. Runners obsess about the temperature, but I obsess about the humidity. I’m truly sensitive to it so I’m always in the know before heading out for a run! Great tips and pointers!
      Kristin miller recently posted..Postpartum Workouts: 15 WeeksMy Profile

    8. Oh Michelle, I’m so, so sorry that you and your sister experienced this and that she had to go through that on her first half marathon. I can’t imagine how scary it was for you both. I am so glad she is ok. Glad you were there with her when it happened and that you had good help. Thinking of your sister. xo
      Jesica @rUnladylike recently posted..Fall FavoritesMy Profile

    9. Oh wow….was waiting for the recap on how the race went for the both of you and did actually start to worry when I see you didn’t post on IG or anywhere else. MUCH LOVE TO THE BOTH OF YOU!!! How scary…but remember, she is okay and DO NOT BEAT yourself up…thanks for the reminders for all of us!

    10. That is so scary but very glad your sister had you and others there and able to help. Definitely hard sometimes to see the warning signs, and also don’t think about it when the weather doesn’t “seem” extreme. Too many times have I gone out on ‘cooler’ runs and struggled with dehydration because it was more humid than I thought. I’m glad she is okay and bummed the race didn’t go as planned. But there are many other races out there and everyone being happy and healthy is much more important!
      Laura @losingrace recently posted..Rochester: Post-RaceMy Profile