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Holy Half runners fight heat

Megan Doyle | Thursday, April 14, 2011


Completing the Holy Half was on senior Kaitie McCabe’s college bucket list, but sun and 80 degree temperatures Sunday stood in her way as she attempted to complete the race. 
McCabe trained for the 13.1-mile race in the weeks leading up to the Half, yet she only completed a portion of the race.
“I went out as fast as I had planned and by mile four I was really struggling,” she said. “I ended up completing the ‘Holy Quarter’ but didn’t feel like I could finish the entire half marathon. It was very disappointing.”
Race organizer Gabby Tate described the day as a “perfect storm” of unexpected conditions.
“Most people were not accustomed to running on an 80 degree weather day,” she said.
McCabe was not the only runner to feel the effects of Sunday’s heat.
“Seven students were transported to Memorial Hospital for heat exhaustion,” University spokesman Dennis Brown said. “About 20 others were treated for heat-related problems.”
Two sports medicine doctors, a nurse, 14 First Aid volunteers and a mobile unit from the South Bend Medical Foundation staffed the event, Brown said. Two golf carts with First Aid supplies followed the race. 
“A small amount of the medical costs — medicine and some supplies — are billed to the event,” Brown said. “Most costs are assumed by the First Aid Services Team budget.”
The First Aid Services Team is a student volunteer organization on campus. 
Freshman Allie Kuhl was rushed to the hospital to replenish her fluids after she was severely dehydrated and fainted during the race. 
“I sat down to rest around the 10th mile because I was struggling to just keep walking and I was not seeing clearly,” she said. “I intended to keep racing after I rested, but when I started walking again I ended up collapsing.”
Volunteers responded immediately after Kuhl collapsed. 
“The volunteers and medical responders were very efficient, and I greatly appreciate their help,” she said. “I felt that the volunteers were very aware that runners may be struggling with the heat, and they seemed to be keeping an eye out for anyone who may have needed help.”
Kuhl said she left the hospital around 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon, and besides minimal soreness, she is feeling well.
“In the future, if I am running in the heat and feel the way I did before I had to quit running on Sunday, I will know that I need to stop and take a break rather than try to push through it,” she said. “This will not prevent me from running in future, but I hope it will make me a smarter and safer runner because I will be more aware of my physical limits and how to deal with them.”
Around the fourth mile-marker, freshman Billy Raseman said he began to feel the effects of dehydration in the heat when he stopped sweating and his back started tingling.
“Just before the 10th mile I slowed to a walk once I got the water station,” he said. “I could tell something was wrong because I felt dizzy and could not even walk in a straight line. The First Aid responded immediately — they gave me ice and water and told me to lie down on a nearby bench.”
Raseman said he began training over winter break. 
“I knew it was going to be hot but I have run in similar weather before,” Raseman said.
“I think the fact that all my training had been in much cooler weather made the heat worse than it would have been if I had been more acclimated to it.”
For his next race, Raseman said he will learn from his experience at the Holy Half.
“I need to make sure I hydrate better for future races,” he said. “Also, I will make certain not to underestimate how the weather can affect the way I race. It is obvious I did not take the change of temperature into account as much as I should have and I will definitely plan better in the future.”
Freshman Jake Flynt ran cross-country in high school, but the Holy Half was his first attempt at a half marathon.
 “I reached a point between 10.5 and 11 miles where my legs felt like they were simply out of my control,” he said. “Even before that point I started desperately looking forward to each water stop.  When I realized how dehydrated I was and how uncontrollable my form was becoming, I stopped at the nearest volunteer. I asked her to call my older brother who was waiting for me at the finish line.  I told her I didn’t think I needed any medical help and that water and rest would be enough, and she offered me her water bottle.”
Flynt said he wished water stops along the race route were more frequent. 
“After dropping it several times due to my dizziness, I drank what I could of the volunteer’s water bottle and then what was left of my brother’s when he reached me,” he said. “I had four more bottles of water and some fruit upon reaching the finish line.”
Flynt said his entire body was sore Monday after the race.
“I think I will never again underestimate the need to hydrate,” Flynt said. “The wisdom of all of my past coaches keeps ringing in my ears and what seems to ring loudest is, ‘You need to hydrate the entire week leading up to the race.’  I would like to run another half marathon at the end of the summer. I’ll not only have more time to train, I’ll have training weather more indicative of that on race day.”
While runners recover from the Holy Half, McCabe said she is already anticipating her next race.
“I’m considering this race a learning opportunity,” she said. “I’ve already signed up for another half marathon this summer … [and] I plan to come back after graduation next year and finish the Holy Half. Hopefully it doesn’t snow.”
Tate and fellow organizer Sean Kickham said heat was not the only problem for runners. Runners wore chip timers to record their times, but Tate said the times were lost when the chip timer transferred the data to the computer system.
“The chip timing did not work at all,” she said. “We only have times for people’s splits, the first half of the race.”
This year was the first where the race ever ran into problems with the chip timers, Tate said. 
“This is also the first year where the course for the race was certified as a half-marathon,” Kickham said.
Many runners hoped to use their times from the Holy Half to qualify for other races, Kickham said, but unfortunately cannot do so. 
“It’s really upsetting,” Tate said.