Friday, 10 June 2011 07:15

Daily Hydration Needs For Athletes

By Cindy Stonesmith
Daily Hydration Needs For Athletes
Most people think my job as a running endurance coach is to motivate my clients to complete their prescribed daily workout. However, I often find myself motivating my clients to take the time throughout the day to fully recover and be prepared for the next day’s training run. One of your first lines of defense for recovery is to hydrate properly throughout the day.
The human brain is made of 70% fluid and the human body is made up of 60-70% fluid; one could say we are mostly made up of fluid. You can’t live two days without consuming some form of fluid. The need to balance the fluid in our body is a daily activity, one that is often over looked, even by athletes. On a rest day you’ll lose 1-3 liters of water due to insensible fluid loss, depending on your size, age, athletic ability, and gender, through respiration, renal filtration, and metabolic processes.
If you want to train and race to the best of your abilities, proper daily hydration is imperative. Researchers concur that with as little as a 3% fluid loss, athletic performance is hindered, pace decreases and perceived effort increases. In laymen’s terms…we bonk! This is not a new concept for athletes; you know you need to drink fluid during your races, but do you know how much fluid you need daily?
A good rule of thumb for calculating how much fluid you need to replenish daily is to divide your body weight by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. Your weight in kilograms is how many ounces of fluid you need to consume daily.
For example if you weigh 150lbs/2.2 = 68kg/body/wt. A 68kg person will need 68oz of daily fluid to replace what the body uses at rest.
Think that number is a lot to swallow? You’re not alone; most of us don’t come close to hydrating ourselves daily. Let’s look at some of the variables that help or hinder us from reaching a topped off tank for a fluid balanced state.
Sleep:
During sleep we can lose up to 0.5 liter of fluid. This happens through respiration, skin evaporation, and renal filtration. Many of us go to bed dehydrated and wake up even more so.
Diet:
All liquids count in your daily fluid balance, but some are better than others.
Consuming a healthful diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables can provide up to 20% of your daily fluid needs.
Caffeinated drinks have a slight diuretic effect on your body. A cup of coffee or tea in the morning will count toward your total daily fluid but if you continue to reach for the coffee pot or caffeinated sodas throughout your day you’ll have a negative balance on your total hydration status.
Social beings we are, and where there is a party there is alcohol. Alcohol consumption has an undisputed dehydration effect. The more you consume the greater the net loss in total hydration. If you do find yourself having more than an occasional drink, consuming a glass of water for every alcoholic drink may offsetting the net fluid loss.
Exercise:
Many factors affect hydration status for athletes: ambient temperature (cold, heat, arid, humid), altitude, mode, intensity and duration of exercise, fitness level, size and gender to name a few. Due to all these variable sweat rate becomes an experiment of one. Research suggests an absorption rate of 12-25oz of fluid will fulfill most athletes’ hydration requirements in most conditions.
In order to calculate your individual absorption rate, weigh yourself pre and post activity to understand how your body reacts to these many variables. At Training Peaks my athletes track their pre and post workout weight with the daily metrics data pod. For example: a 150lb athlete goes on an hour run. He runs a tempo run, at high altitude, with an ambient temperature of 80ᵒF. While running he consumes 12oz of fluid. Post workout he weighs 149.5lbs, equaling a 0.5lb loss. The first line of defense for this athlete is to offset the 0.5loss by hydrating with 8oz post workout. For every 1lb loss post workout, an athlete needs to ingest 16oz of fluid. The 0.5lb loss during his workout also suggests that this athlete needs to increase his fluid intake during similar running to 20oz/hr.
So how much fluid does this 150lb athlete who runs an hour a day need?
Calculation:
68oz for daily metabolic replacement – 20% from diet high in fruits and vegetables + 12oz during 1hour workout + 8oz for a 0.5lb loss post workout = 81.2oz of daily fluid needs.
Getting it consumed:
It’s important to sip throughout the day, because ingesting a large amount of fluid over a short time will over activate the kidneys leaving you more dehydrated. In order to manage the total daily fluid needs during your day, divide total ounces into hours, i.e. 89.2oz/12hr = 7.4oz/hr. That’s less than a cup an hour, now that’s a number we can all ingest.
Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll find yourself well hydrated and ready mentally and physically for your next workout or race!
Reasons to hydrate:
1. To improve performance.
2. To promote dissipation of heat from working muscles.
3. To promote detoxification-flushing out bad toxin while bringing good nutrients into cells.
4. To keep joints and muscles lubricated and moving.
5. To promote mental clarity for training and race day.
6. To keep blood pressure in normal range.
7. To promote healthy digestive processes, makes you regular!
Tips to increase daily hydration:
1. Take fluid on every run, and set your watch to remind you to drink every half mile.
2. Take a water bottle with you to work.
3. Eat fruits and vegetables that are laden with water, i.e. watermelon, oranges, and celery.
4. Drink a glass of water before and during every meal.
5. Fill a container full of water that matches your recommended daily fluid in the morning. Then calculate your success every evening.
6. Take a glass of water with you to bed and sip throughout the night.
Cindy Stonesmith ACSM HFS, is a Running Endurance Coach with Ultrarunner Training. You’ll find her most days training in the foothills of Boulder Colorado.

APRIL 17, 2010, FRUITA, COLORADO—Every spring I procrastinate about picking a race to kick off the racing season, rationalizing that more early season mileage is sure to reduce the pain of that first all-out effort. But by mid-April, due to a series of late-season snow squalls that pummeled our corner of the Colorado Rockies, I had yet to set foot on the trails. So when my training partner, Joy, suggested we go to the Spring Desert Ultra 25-miler in Fruita, Colorado, on April 17, I hummed and hawed until a week out before giving in.

The night before the race, I grabbed my pre-packed running kit, a sleeping bag, pad, pillow and a tent from Trail Runner’s gear room and tossed it all into my Ford station wagon and headed west.
Standing at the start line at 6:30 a.m. the next morning, I savored the cool air on my untanned arms and legs, which had been hidden under tights and long sleeves since last summer. Upon the start signal, the field of about 200 runners zoomed down a mile-long dirt road before scrambling up and over ridge. Away from the interstate’s din, I am struck by the desert’s eerie silence as we run over sandpapery slickrock. Hearing panting and footsteps directly behind me, I push the pace on the technical trail section, carefully watching the rocky ground ahead without getting too distracted by glowing red canyon below.

Reaching the first aid station (around mile 6), I’m surprised to see Western States 100-mile Endurance Champion, Anita Ortiz, of Eagle, Colorado, smiling and helping runners refill their water bottles.
Immediately after the aid station I started up a gradual climb that led to a flat, smooth section of trail paralleling the red canyon’s jagged lip. Below, the Colorado River cut a serpentine path through the canyon’s lush, green floor. Grateful for the trail’s smooth surface, I pick up the pace, catching up to Joy, who, as always, is smiling and exuding her usual positive vibe. “Isn’t this great?” she says.

“You were right, Joy,” I reply. “This course is amazing!” Further down the canyon, the sun, still low in the sky behind us, casts long shadows of runners on the canyon’s smooth walls, conjuring visions of the 10,000-year-old stick figures drawn by ancient peoples on stone walls and boulders all over this part of Colorado and Utah.
As the sun climbs higher, so do we, and my pace slows considerably as the once-smooth trail becomes rough and rocky. The trail steepens as we turn away from the river valley and climb back up a narrow ridge. Arriving at the final aid station, six miles from the finish, I feel good, but am all-to aware of what lies ahead. “Even when you think you’re at the top of the climb, you’re not!” my friend Todd, who’s finished this race three times, had warned me. And he wasn’t joking.
Hiking up the dusty dirt road, sweat streamed off my brow and salt caked my cheeks. As a “Canuck” I don’t typically do well in heat, so I forced myself to sip water more frequently. Topping the ridge, my breathing steadied and I took a deep inhalation as a cool breeze hit my too-hot face. I passed a male runner standing beside the trail and gazing out over the valley below. I wondered if he was savoring the view or about to hurl, but didn’t look back and find out.

With only about three miles remaining, I was relaxed and confident about finishing strong when I looked up to see a parade of 50-mile racers approaching, starting their second lap in the reverse direction. I glanced at each one and recognized faces that have graced the pages of Trail Runner magazine, such as Leadville 100-winner Duncan Callahan of Gunnison, Colorado, and Grand Slam finisher (and Trail Runner cover girl) Darcy Africa.

After descending a series of switchbacks, the singletrack abruptly ended andI lengthened my stride during the final mile-long stretch of road. As soon as my longest run of the year was complete, I promptly found a small triangle of shade and sat on the ground.

Reunited with Joy and our friends, Trail Runner’s retail sales manager Ashley Arnold and her trail-marathon national champion sister, Lauren (Cynthia) Arnold, at the finish line, we congratulated one another on a solid performance all around. The Carbondale gals finished 1-2-3-4!
The Spring Desert Ultra 50-mile and 25-mile events are part of the weekend-long Desert RATS Trail Running Festival, held mid-April in Fruita, Colorado. Festival organizer Gemini Adventures also organizes the six-day Desert RATS stage race and Mountain RATS four-day stage race. For full race results, information and event dates, visit www.geminiadventures.com

I would like to thank Alec Muthig, Josh Fuller, Nate, Josh Artery, Ted, the entire Twin Mountain Trudge Crew who stayed late into the night until I was safe and Search & Rescue. Without all of your help my Epic adventure could have had a very sad ending.
The 2011 Twin Mountain Trudge Turns Epic
Epic is the term that mountain climbers use when they talk about a climb that went wrong. The party got lost, gear was dropped, days being snowbound in a tent, destroyed camps, or even death. This year’s Twin Mountain Trudge turned into an epic day for me and all involved in the race. Just like on a good climbing day everything starts out fine and then slowly the situation begins to deteriorate. Some epic tales have a good ending while others do not. When things start to go bad and the situation begins to become dire, will you be ready to survive?
I am writing about my epic Twin Mountain Trudge because I want to share my experience with you so you can also be prepared for when things turn epic. I am very experienced in mountaineering, back country adventures, and ultra racing. Through the years I have never had any of my adventures turn epic, but I am always prepared just in case they do. And I sure did not think that the Twin Mountain Trudge would have turned into my first Epic adventure. Take for instance that I always carry a full first-aid kit with me when I hike. I have been lucky and in over 15 years of hiking in the Colorado Rockies and elsewhere I have never used it. Does that mean that I should stop taking it? Of course not.
The Twin Mountain Trudge (a.k.a. The Trudge)
This was my second year running the Twin Mountain Trudge. The Twin Mountain Trudge has an 11 mile race and a 22 mile race which is two of the 11 mile laps. Here is a quote from Alec Muthig’s email about this year’s race: “The conditions this year could very well prove to be the worst we’ve seen for this race . . . I NEED to stress that this is an “adventure” event and not a typical trail run. You will need to try to be self sufficient. We will have a minimal aid station on the course, but you should carry enough for a long, tough outing. My guess is that the fastest single loop will be around 2.5 hours, with others being out for over 5 hours… yes, for the single loop. Please be prepared to be out that long and please plan on emergency situations. If you get injured it will be quite a bit of time before we can get in and pull you out on a sled. Will you be able to not go hypothermic in the time it takes us to get to you? While only 11-12 miles, this is truly a backcountry adventure. Please be prepared.”
This is a serious adventure event and should not be taken lightly. It is in Wyoming in the middle of winter through tough and challenging terrain. This year I once again signed up for the 22 mile race and I know firsthand from last year’s race that Alec is 100 percent serious about the conditions and the need to be properly prepared. This year my preparedness was put to the test.
How I Prepared for the Trudge
Food
I knew what I was signing up for when I entered the Trudge again this year. Because I knew I was in for a long tough day I started out eating a hearty breakfast of: 2 breakfast burritos, a large smoothie, banana bread (see my banana bread recipe), and a few cups of coffee. For the race I had packed two chicken sandwiches, two chicken and rice burritos, pretzels, and granola bars. Plus, I planned on eating hot soup at the start/finish aid station before running my second lap.
Hydration
For hydration I carried 80 ounces of energy drink on each lap. Yes, that is a total of 160 ounces for a 22 mile race. My plan for the event was to drink the entire 80 ounces each lap. This event is a Trudge and it takes double if not more effort to run the same distance on dry trails.
What some people do not realize is that when it is cold outside you still need to drink and eat as much as you would during a warmer day. For distance runners, dehydration can complicate and accelerate the onset of hypothermia. Remember, that when the temperature outdoors is lower than your body temperature, you will give up heat to the environment. Your natural metabolism is usually enough to maintain your core body temperature. However, when conditions become extreme your body’s metabolism may not be able to protect you from heat lose. The result is hypothermia. Staying hydrated helps your natural metabolism to regulate your body’s temperature (see my story “Cold Weather Running”).
Gear
I came ready for any conditions. I signed up for two laps and I came prepared to run nothing less than two laps. Once I was at the start/finish line I assessed what gear I was going to take with my on each loop.
Here is what I took: a running backpack with a hydration system, arm warmers, neck gaiter, ear warmers, extra wool hat, chapstick, salt tablets, ginger, Tums, Imodium tablets, Acetaminophen (not Ibuprofen), toilet paper, plastic rain poncho, sun glasses, Photo ID, long sleeve wicking shirt, wicking vest, wind jacket, ski poles, Gore-Tex jacket, headlamp with fresh batteries, and a plastic bag to put my clothes in to keep them dry.
Yes, I carried all that gear plus my food and water.
What I Wore
A Hawaiian Shirt; heck it’s an extra layer (fashionable, not too functional), a long sleeve wicking shirt, a long sleeve wind resistant full frontal zipper jersey, wicking underwear, mittens, running tights, over the tights a water proof and wind proof shell, running shoes, neoprene socks, neoprene shoe covers, hiking gaiters, and micro-spikes.
My Trudge and How it Became Epic
As you can see I was well prepared and mentally and physically ready to start The Trudge. From last year’s Trudge I found that many of the 22 mile runners would start to really slow down on the second lap. My strategy was that the adventure really doesn’t start until the second lap and I would use the first lap to keep fueled and stay hydrated. I set my watch to go off every 30 minutes to remind me to eat a few mouthfuls of food. Then on the hour I would take two salt tablets (they are not just for running in the heat). Plus, as I mentioned earlier I wanted to drink the entire 80 ounces of fluid that I carried.
My first lap went just as planned and I was feeling great. Upon my return to the start/finish area I had a cup of warm broth, refilled my hydration pack with another 80 ounces of fluid, and was ready to go out for my second lap.
At this point Josh Fuller and Jen Malmberg tried to talk me out of going out for my second lap. I came to find out that nobody was willing to tough it out for a second lap. It took me about 3 hours and 25 minutes to go 6 miles! That’s how tough it was. But I came prepared and I told them that I came to run two laps and that I’m going out. With this Josh couldn’t let me be the only runner going for a second lap and he got his gear together and took off after me.
The second lap was actually “easier” to run since all the other runners had tramped the trail down. I still was prepared that my second lap would take me at least 4 hours to complete. Having a target on my back and Josh chasing me down made me run a lot more of the course than the first lap.
The Spiral into an Epic Adventure
I was still following my set plan of eating every 30 minutes, taking salt tablets every hour, and staying hydrated. My goal at this point was to stay out of the sights of Josh. Mentally I wanted him to turn every corner, come to every meadow, and start the long climbs without him being able to see me. I was able to do this and I started thinking about how it was going to feel to come in first place under such challenging conditions. I started thinking about the dinner all of us were going to go to after the race and all the stories that we would tell about our adventures out on the course.
Well, during all my day dreaming I missed the cutoff to head back to the start/finish line and ended up starting to run a third lap. I did not realize I missed the cutoff until things started to look familiar, like I have already run this section. I decided to backtrack to the last intersection. When I got there I was thinking that this is where the cutoff was supposed to be and it wasn’t. I decided to start running forward again and went a little further than the first time. This time I knew for sure that I had missed the cutoff. What really solidified this reasoning is that if I was on the correct part of the course I would have ran into Josh, and I didn’t.
I was already tired, and now I just wasted more energy running the wrong section twice and I was really getting tired. I really started to feel tired around 6 hours into the race and by this time I have already been out for about 7 hours. I started back tracking again and by now it was getting dark. Being prepared, I put my headlamp on and started backtracking. It seemed that I was backtracking further than I needed to. I have to admit I had a little panic at this point but quickly regained my composure.
What was Going Through My Mind
Here is the checklist that was going through my mind: First, I needed to stop moving since I did not know where on the course I was. Making the decision to stay in one place gave me the direction of what I needed to do until I am rescued. Plus, it is mountaineering 101 to stay in one place and have the rescue party find you. Second, Josh and I are the only runners doing a second lap and when Josh comes in Alec will ask him where he past me on the course. Josh will respond, “I didn’t pass Ray” and with this they will know I am lost. Third, Alec would not leave any runner on the course. Fourth, I knew it took Alec about 6 hours to mark the course. This meant that I needed to stay safe for 6 to 8 hours before I could expect anyone to find me.
The bottom line in all my thoughts was not to panic and make any stupid decisions, and to stay calm. By going over my checklist I had a rational plan that I would be rescued and this gave me a sense of reassurance. However, it was most likely going to be a long time before they found me with no guarantees that I would be able to hike out on my own.

My Plan of Action
Since I made the decision to stay where I was I was going to need a shelter from the high winds and snow. The task of building a shelter gave me a focus and kept me from panicking. No matter what, I needed a shelter. What would happen if for some reason they could not find me and I had to stay out overnight in temperatures that would be in the low teens. I decided that not only would I build the shelter for the short-term, but I also mentally prepared myself that I might have to stay out overnight.
I started building my shelter’s frame with branches and sticks. I built it about 10 feet off the Trudge course so it would be easier to find. The snow was like champagne powder and was not ideal for building a shelter. I used my poncho as part of the wall facing the wind to help give my shelter the most protection. I was beyond exhausted building my shelter, but what kept me going was that by building it I was keeping warm, and that I MUST have a shelter if I wanted to survive through the night. After over 6 hours my shelter was ready. By this point I had been in the cold, wind, and snow for over 13 hours.
I took my ski poles, crossed them over each other and stuck them standing up the snow on the trail in an “X”. This was a signal that my shelter was here and that I am inside. I could not take the chance that I would stay conscious and needed a piece of mind to know that rescuers would see the poles and explore the area and find me. I was ready to take refuge in my shelter and crawled in and from the inside I barricaded myself in. For those of you who have never made a shelter out of snow it is extremely important that you leave air holes otherwise you can suffocate and die from asphyxiation. On the ground of my shelter I put sage brush and pine branches so I would not be directly lying on the snow. I put on the extra clothes that I brought and then laid on top of my running backpack and the plastic bag that I used to pack my clothes in.
The temperature inside the shelter was warmer than the outside temperature but was still very cold. I knew that I could not fall asleep so I set my alarm on my watch to go off every 30 minutes. To stay warm I did sit-ups and moved my legs and toes vigorously. At this point I knew that I would survive the night but I was going to be miserable. I knew that as the temperature dropped that I would start shivering uncontrollably and that I might lose toes to frostbite. But I would survive.
The Rescue Finally Came
As I laid in my shelter trying to keep warm I heard in the distance two snow mobiles. I did not want to immediately punch out of my shelter just in case they did not come close because I would then have to reseal myself in and I would lose the little heat that I had generated. To my relief they came right to my shelter and stopped in front of my ski poles. It was Search and Rescue and the Sheriff.
When I came out of my shelter they did not think that I was the person they were looking for since I was still a functioning person and seemed to be fine. They asked me if I’m the person that needed to be rescued and after I gave them my name they were convinced I was the right guy. I have a feeling that they were thinking they were on a body recovery mission and not on a real rescue mission. Once we were back at the start/finish line they made a comment that they have never had such an easy rescue.
The Bottom Line – Be Prepared, Always
My epic adventure could have turned out to have a really sad ending. Because I took the seriousness of the adventure event and Alec’s advice I was prepared and survived my epic ordeal. I saw other runners that took less than the minimum requirements set by Alec. If they would have gotten lost their Epic tale would have been of a recovery and not a rescue. If you are not educated on survival skills you should not even think about attempting The Trudge. If you are not willing to take the proper gear because it will weigh you down and you are more concerned with “racing” you should not think about attempting The Trudge. Unfortunately I see people going into the wilderness unprepared all the time and my friends in Search and Rescue are the most frustrated with the people who are not prepared. Don’t be one of those unprepared people.

Depending on where you live, and how you approach the season, winter can mean many things to endurance athletes. For some, trails remain open and accessible, for others, deep snow and deeper freezes change everything. This article will explore a few of the techniques and special pieces of equipment that can help make winter adventures safer and more fun.

I can’t stand the treadmill. Sorry, I just can’t do it. And the thought of being sequestered to road running for six or more months of a Laramie, Wyoming winter is equally maddening. I need to get out there, into the woods, even when it’s brutal. The problem is that the snow can get deep, the temperatures can plummet, winds howl, and empty spaces of Wyoming are even emptier. Last weekend a buddy and I completed a three-hour run through areas that had knee-deep snow. It was an incredible workout and a great adventure, but something we both kept in mind was the possibility of injury. Out here, hours from the car, injury could rapidly lead to an emergency situation. Hypothermia and frostbite are real dangers, unless you take care of yourself and have the proper equipment. So what did I carry on this three-hour outing? Let’s take a look at what I and some others do in the winter.
Clothing:
The basic idea is to run cold and keep sweat to a minimum. For me, that is easier said than done. Whatever layering system I end up using for the day, I always bring a wind jacket and pants, warm hat, gloves, wind mitts, and a fleece neck gaiter. While training for the Arrowhead 135 Winter Ultra I learned that in very cold conditions, any sweat will flash freeze when you stop, so some form of insulated jacket has become an important part of my winter pack. Mont-Bell and other companies make ultra-lightweight synthetic filled coats that compress into a very small package. A duffel bag in the car contains a complete set of dry clothing that I can change into when done with my adventure.
Footwear:
For most of my winter outings, regular running shoes work for me, with the addition of neoprene socks and trail gaiters. The neoprene socks are a key component to keeping my feet dry and relatively warm. The gaiters keep snow out of my shoes and add a bit of insulation. In the winter I prefer gaiters that have the cord that slips under the foot. If running or trudging in deep powder, the velcro-tab style running gaiters don’t create a good enough seal to keep snow out. In really cold conditions I have added an outer neoprene cover to the shoe, like the Crescent Moon Booties. If the trail is slick packed snow and ice, I’ll add traction devices, like Kahtoola MicroSpikes, which easily stretch over the rest of my system.
Gear:
OK, so I admit that I carry a substantial amount of gear compared to many other runners, but I feel that any less would be unsafe. I emptied my pack after that three-hour snow run and it contained: extra calories that I keep in reserve, a mylar bivy sack, a small survival kit with chemical hand-warmers, a whistle, a small fire-making kit, duct tape, basic first-aid and blister supplies, a bit of toilet paper, a folding knife (a real one, not a toy), a headlamp (because the sun sets so quickly in the winter), and lip balm. On longer outings I’ll carry more. Sometimes much more, like a stove and a sleeping bag pulled in a pulk sled behind me, but that is for really long stuff! Speaking of really long stuff, Ray Zahab explained that “During our 33+ day trek to the South Pole and our 13 day run across Lake Baikal in Siberia, Kevin Vallely and I were completely unsupported, meaning we had to bring everything with us. We bring many items to help us – including obvious items such as warm clothing/sleeping gear, high calorie foods and a reliable tent. I would have to say the most important gear we bring is a “second” stove. You don’t want to be left in the cold without a stove for days on end!” I also asked Pierre Ostor, a veteran ultra-endurance runner and cyclist in Alaska and former race director of the Arrowhead 135 Winter Ultra, what specialty items he carries in winter. He replied “A distress flair, a 10 inch knife and a photo of my wife just in case things don’t work out on the trail.” Now that’s planning!
Water:
When the temperatures plummet, keeping your water from freezing becomes difficult and can lead to a life or death situation. When your water supply freezes, you stop drinking, become dehydrated and then hypothermia starts it’s slow and potentially deadly crawl into your body. I know this from experience. So what can you do to help prevent your water from freezing? It greatly depends on how cold it is and how long you’ll be out. If you are using a waist belt with bottles, fill them with warm water, make sure they don’t leak, and then keep them nozzle down. Wear the pack under your coat. In a reservoir-based system, water is especially susceptible to freezing in the mouthpiece and tube. When I winterize my pack, I start by adding the CamelBak Thermal Kit, which includes a thin neoprene tube-cover and a heavy insulator for the mouthpiece. Then I add a homemade cordura/thinsulate tube insulator over the top. Once the temperatures get into the single digits I’ll tuck the mouthpiece into my coat, against my warm chest. If it gets colder, I’ll wear the entire contraption under my coat. As long as I drink often, to keep the water moving, this setup has worked well in temperatures to minus 30 (f). Pierre reports that he has tried insulated CamelBak and bottle options but has opted to go with a heavier Thermos. “I never even had slush in them, liquids stay hot for 8 hours, warm for another 5 hours.” Ray mentioned that “on my long training runs I use Gatorade with a customized higher sodium content. Mixed with hot water to start, it lasts longer. Last year when Kevin and I were on expedition in Siberia it was so cold that even a Thermos would freeze solid after several hours. So drink plenty before heading out!” Being hydrated BEFORE you start a winter training run is a great idea.

You don’t have to be running the Arrowhead, adventuring in Alaska, or on an expedition through Siberia to experience the thrill and chill of winter. You can find yourself in trouble right here in your own backyard. The list of what you carry should grow from this simple question: If I was injured anywhere along my planned running route and had to walk slowly back to the car, or had to sit and wait for help to arrive, would I be able to keep from succumbing to hypothermia or frostbite?

Sunday, 19 December 2010 06:12

Desert R.A.T.S. 2010 by Jeff Owsley

When one faces the epic challenge of Desert RATS, it helps to be prepared. The more unprepared one is, the greater the opportunity to learn. I felt like a kindergartener in the Ivy League. I benefited from RATS being so difficult that it attracts highly experienced and successful ultra running athletes. It was wonderful to be a grasshopper among master gurus.
 One of the most basic lessons I learned is you just have to accept where you are and make the most of it. This is true on a macro level, such as your overall condition at the beginning of a stage, and on a micro level, in dealing with each moment in the race; for example, the current temperature, the difficulty of terrain every step of the way and your present physical condition.
I can be an encouragement to first time ultra runners, as this was my first – I had never run more than a marathon at one time and had only done three of those; the last of which was Boston 2 months prior, and the latest training I had done was for the BolderBoulder 10K two weeks before RATS. It was at that race that my childhood friend, David Clemmer, whom I had reconnected with on Facebook (in the process discovering that we both picked up a middle-aged passion for running), asked me if I’d like to take his wife’s place in the race since she had to drop due to injury. I readily agreed because I had wanted to try an ultra. Therefore, I only had 2 weeks to specifically prepare for the race. I had never run with a Camelbak type hydration pack, nor with the amount of weight we needed to carry due to the required safety items. Hailing from Colorado, I was not used to running in hot conditions, but I had trained extensively on hills and had an elevation advantage. There was nothing I could do to change my preparation at the start; I could only do the best I could with where I was at.
The first stage of 19 miles seemed easy enough, but the technical trails and elevation changes made it much more challenging than any run I had done at that distance. It was also an introduction to the heat we would face, and the beauty we would enjoy, during the week. As each person finished, other runners and the staff cheered – we all quickly became each other’s support group. I had the extra advantage of having my wife, Hallie, with me all week. Hallie provided tremendous support to me and quickly became a valuable volunteer at aid stations during the day and also at camp. It was a blast and very special to go through the whole experience together.
My focus on the second stage of 39 miles was on the distance, since I would need to run a half marathon distance past my longest run to date. I should have been more concerned with the heat. I ran most of it quite well, but was reduced to walking toward the end and threw up about a mile before the finish. The first question my newly found senseis asked back at camp was concerning my electrolyte replacement and hydration strategy. Though I was careful to take E-Caps and drink water in proportions I’ve learned in Colorado, they said it is a whole different ballgame in the desert – I should have taken about 4 times as many E-Caps, which likely would have saved my stomach from getting upset. That probably became my single biggest mistake of the week, since from then on it was a battle to eat even half of what I normally eat. But, that was just the way it was and I needed to cope with it.
It is funny looking back now at how I felt like I could perform well on stage 3, which is only 9 miles. It is humbling when 9 miles can kick your butt that badly. I realized it is no small matter that the miles had been mounting up and we had had precious little time to recover. Within 3 days, I had equaled the highest volume of miles I had ever done in one week of marathon training. You can imagine the mental battle I was having to constantly do with my brain, which was telling me I have more than extended my limits already. That is one of the beauties of training properly, letting your brain realize it is okay to push past barriers that would normally create danger signals and defensively start to shut the body down. My leg muscles felt totally shot and on fire. My stomach felt tied up in knots. It was a very difficult way to face the 52 mile monster in the morning, but I had to accept it and move on. The best I could do was to soak up the wisdom and encouragement from those around me. Also to pray and trust that my friends and family were doing the same. I was confident they were and could sense their desire to be present in spirit.
For the first 14 miles of the 52 mile stage, I felt strong and in good spirits. Then my stomach started to feel just like it did before I threw up on the second stage. The impact of running made it feel like for sure I would throw up, and I knew if I did, it was all over for me because I would lose the precious little food I had in me and send my hydration into a tailspin. I had to pull back from the group I had been hanging with and walk. I quickly went from thinking of a decent finishing time, to focusing on survival and finishing before the 20 hour cut off time. Soon I was joined by Grace Ann, who was celebrating her birthday that day by facing up to this extreme challenge. She told me she learned from her coach to continually move forward with purpose (both syllables accented in a cool Jamaican way) and you will not only finish, but finish well. With several miles to go before the 2nd aid station at about mile 28, I was feeling like death warmed over. Twice I started to throw up, stopped it just before the mouth area, and forced it back down. My mind was running through all the reasons I should quit and I was finally giving into it. I started hoping that my weight loss and condition would give cause for the race doctor, Jeremy, to pull me from the race, because I knew he would be at the aid station and they were going to weigh us to make sure we were hydrating properly.
Sure enough, I had lost more weight than anyone else, 18 lbs, but instead of a doctors excuse, Jeremy gently and gradually gave me a strategy for continuing. Hallie was at that aid station too and her presence and sweet disposition always lifts me up. Kurt and Mike came in cracking joke after joke after joke, which lifted my spirits. I was able to eat about a fourth of a sandwich, some other snacks and drank quite a bit of fluids. Finally, two girls, Susan and Lisa, who had been struggling mightily with blisters, came into the aid station, spent only a short time and continued. Their courage tipped me over the edge and I decided to go on.
That mental battle took a lot out of me and I started getting very emotional. Whenever a breeze or the slight shade of a small tree cooled me for a second or two, I was extremely thankful. That led to thoughts of what else I am thankful for in life and I figured I literally have all day and might as well start from childhood and move forward thinking of all I was thankful for. This made me even more emotional and I knew I had better not cry, because I’d lose water AND salt. So now I was forcing myself not to throw up or cry and spent hours with my palms raised upward thanking God for each stage of my life and the people in each one. It was a wonderful way to spend an extremely trying time. The last group of people I was thankful for were those most recently in my life, the RATS family. By that time, the coolness of twilight felt heavenly and we had climbed to a more familiar elevation into the La Plata Mountains. Reid, the Race Director and later Jeremy, the Race Doctor came up along side on mountain bikes and rode with me for a while. Somewhere in there I gradually realized that I had made a complete 180 and caught a second wind like I have never experienced before in running. My stomach felt great for the first time in several days. The muscle pain that had enveloped my legs was completely gone. On the other hand, I had developed blisters during the long day, but they developed while I was walking – I realized that if I ran it set me up on a different part of my feet and relieved the pain. So, run I did. After a very short stop at the last aid station, I power hiked the last steep climb and then ran at a pretty fast pace for the last 6 miles and all but sprinted to the finish line. It was such a dramatic turn around that it seemed like the closest thing I have experienced to a miracle. It was 11:30 at night and I had started at 7:30 in the morning. I ate a ton of Josh’s chili and forced myself to stay up and cheer each and every finisher – finally getting into my sleeping bag at about 2am. I was so very thankful.
We had the next day off and I spent most of it gleaning from the vast knowledge about blisters people in the camp had. I found that the more experienced people were in ultra running, the more of an expert they are with blisters – and some had a PHD in Blisterology. I had 10 or 11 blisters, depending on if you count a ‘blister in a blister’ as one or two. The largest was 2 ½” long by 1” wide and a dark yellow liquid made it very puffy. The worst blisters were on the pads of my feet, which made every step extremely painful. After Tom doctored up my blisters and they were bandaged, I napped under a tree, got up and poured cold water over my leg muscles from a stream and got a massage. I had extreme tightness in the soleus muscles of both calves. I was so happy to eat well, but I was still quite concerned for the last stage of a full marathon the next day.
When I woke up, the turn around I was hoping for with my blisters didn’t come. I could barely put my weight on my feet and walk to the next bush to pee, much less think about running a marathon. As I got ready, I realized the only way I could do it was to totally put the stinging pain out of my mind, be careful not to alter my running gait and run a normal race. The first six miles was a steep climb. It was nice to have the sense that it was finally over after this last day, so there was no reason to save energy for tomorrow. Training in Colorado Springs, I have learned to love attacking hills and I hit those first six miles hard. At the first aid station at the top of the climb, I was in 5th place – only behind the front runners and surprisingly within sight of them for the first time all week. Attacking the downhill was harder on my feet. Then I stood at a fork in the trail extremely frustrated for about 5 minutes trying to figure out which way to go. Tom and Kyle, two of the clearly good runners, caught me there, but they would have eventually anyway. On the out and back on Porcupine Ridge at about mile 18, I witnessed a great race by two of the top women, Caroline and Shelly. I didn’t witness it for too long, however, as they soon passed me. Although I wanted to finish strong, I started to realize nothing I could do would change the final standings and there was no one anywhere close behind me. The main thing was I was about to finish this monster of a race. After thinking the end should be around several bends, finally it was and I ran fast to the finish line tape with my hands in the air in triumph.
It was so hard to believe I could do it, especially when there were times when I thought for sure I was completely done. The joy of finishing such an epic challenge is humongous. Therefore, I am thankful for every difficulty and pain. But, mostly, I am thankful for the community effort it took, involving the whole RATS family, those around the country pulling for us, my sweet, personal crew member, Hallie, the generous friendship of David and Wendy, and the amazing grace of God.

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