It was hot. It felt cool in the shade, that wasn’t going to be enough. Those open meadows, hot and humid, would ramp it the heat even further. Plus, no breeze in and among the trees.
I went out with the leaders. A young man in white with a shaved head was already distancing us. I remember somebody telling him at the start line “don’t go out too fast” but I was pretty sure he wasn’t following that advice.
Right away I was in trouble because my heart rate pegged and my stomach felt ill. I spent the next 3 miles trying to slow down and, while my pace dropped and my perceived exertion improved, my heart rate wouldn’t budge from 175. That was okay. I would be able to handle that, but it would make the hills extra difficult.
I had the three other runners in sight most of the time, watching them switch leads, watching the boy in white fade from his initial efforts, until we hit the twisty section and I was alone.
My body temperature was building the entire time. After clearing Pine Hill, on the mostly downhill-to-flat section, I was feeling the tingle creep up the back of my neck. Whatever last minute surge I had been planning was quickly scrapped. Too hot. Too dangerous. I was close enough to the finish to know I could coast in and maybe even hold position.
Coming onto the paved path, with a mile to go, I was caught and passed. I picked up my pace a little bit but this was no neck-and-neck sprint to the finish. On the long straightaway, I could see the boy in white coming back to me. He looked blown.
As I approached him, I could see he was in bad shape. He wobbled and listed — telltale signs of heat stroke.