They stole my water. They stole my water! I couldn’t believe it. I had an extra bottle of water by the side of the trail for the last hour of my run, but now it was gone. I had passed these 3 teenagers and I’m sure they’re the ones that had taken it. My first thought was that they were just practicing Leave No Trace. They probably thought someone had accidentally left the bottle there so were just taking care of some trash. My next thought was that they were deliberately messing with me. These were teenagers after all with an endless capacity for meanness. The water bottle was standing up, right next to the trail. It was not on it’s side or in the middle of the trail like it had been dropped by accident.
It wasn’t until after I got home that I realized the likely truth that they were just desperately thirsty. It was about 85 degrees out and I remembered they didn’t have any water with them. They looked pretty unhappy when I passed them probably because they knew they had at least a half hour walk back to their car, which is a really long time when you’re dying for something, anything to drink. And then out of nowhere, they see this magic bottle pop up right before their eyes. If you run or hike trails long enough, you will eventually be in a place where you are in dire straights and need help. And then out of the blue someone will come along and give you the aid that you need at just the right moment. These people are called trail angels. So I choose to believe that I was an unintentional trail angel to those 3 kids yesterday.
But in the moment when I saw my bottle missing from the side of the trail, I was very honked off. I needed that water to finish my run. I had 40oz of water on me, but there was no way I was finishing my 4 hour run without the extra 20oz that were in that bottle. As I mentioned before, it was 85 degrees out and the trail I was running was almost entirely in direct sunlight. There was only about a 100 yard section that was shaded (1 guess where my bottle was placed) so I only spent about 1 out of every 12-20 minutes out of the sun (also, 1 guess who forgot to apply sunscreen and is now beat red). Without that water I was going to be in a world of hurt. I was very angry that someone would steal my bottle. They stole my water!
I gave myself two minutes to mentally rant and rave. Then I let it go. I switched gears and started trying to figure out how I was going to last 2 more hours with an hour’s worth of water. I could either cut my run short or use less water over the same time period. I always feel like a failure if I don’t hit my mileage targets for runs or time targets in this case, so I focused on using less water. Even though I wasn’t setting a blistering pace at this point (+/-13 minute miles), I need to slow down even more. So I started walking all of the uphills. As I went along, I started walking some of the downhills, too. For the final hour and a half or so I was walking everything.
I ran very low on water with an hour left and completely out with 35 minutes left in the run. It wasn’t too long after I finished off my last sip of water that I decided to call it a day and turn towards my car. I hadn’t gotten to the point of physical exhaustion yet, but I was way into the red zone. I almost felt dizzy for a moment and decided a smidgeon of caution was in order. I got back to my car 16 minutes early so managed to get 93% of my planned time done. I only ended up with 14.7 miles though, which is about 4 less than I thought I was going to get done.
It’s funny, but as soon as I started problem solving after my bottle went missing, I felt better. I wouldn’t say I was happy with my situation, but I felt more in control. I also realized that having my water taken was probably the best thing that could have happened during this run. Stuff is going to happen. I get a chance to run long 2-3 times per month, but it’s not that often I get a chance to practice dealing with things going wrong. I’ve thought about ways to simulate this (i.e. running without my glasses), but have never gotten around to actually planning this type of run. I’m pleased with the way I dealt with the situation and modified my “run” as the situation dictated.
It was also good to see how my body would react to 80+ degree temperatures, which is something I’m sure will be featured heavily in my next race. Since I do the vast majority of my runs in the morning, it’s very rare that I run at or above 80 degree temperatures. This was only the third time in the last 18 months (16th in 3+ years) that it’s been 80 or above when I started my run. Overall, my body held up well though the end was pretty brutal. It’s amazing how hard 20 minute miles can feel at the end of a tough run. Good training for Eastern States. Now I get to take a weekend off from running long.
What would you think if you saw a water bottle by the side of the trail?