Friday, July 29, 2011

Time for a New Plan

"The best laid schemes of mice and men Go often askew,."  Most people think this famous line,  written by the 18th century Scottish poet, Robert Burns,   was original with him.  In reality, Burns copied it from a much earlier poem, the Old English epic "Beowulf."  Here is the original line in Old English.  "ofer swanrade secean wolde, mærne þeoden, þa him wæs þearf ðone siðfæt."  I know most of us have a little difficulty reading Old English so here is the modern translation as accepted by most scholars.  "The best laid plans of ultrarunners for electrolyte balance and hydration often go to hell-in-a-handbasket."

That is exactly what happened to me in the Tahoe 100, TWICE.   Yes, twice I managed to totally get my electrolytes out of balance, and twice it made me really sick.  The first time was in the middle of the afternoon the first day.  I realized pretty quick what happened and fixed it.  The second time was in the middle of the night and it effected the rest of the run.

It is almost impossible to add an exact amount of water to the bladder of any Nathan hydration pak, or any hydration pack for that mater.  Although the measurements are on the bladder itself, the slightest push, tilt or lack of attention will result in an incorrect amount being added.  If you are just adding water that is no big deal.  If you need 30 oz to get to the next aid station and you end up with 27 or 35, you will still get there with no problems.  Without knowing exactly how much water was added I never knew exactly how many NUUN tablets to add.  Just to be save, I threw in a little extra NUUN tablet.  If I added 12 oz of water I needed 3/4 of a tablet.  But I did not add 3/4 tablet, I threw in one whole tablet and so on.  I thought it best to err on the side of too much electrolyte than not enough.  Consequently the problem compounded itself.

Actually the first screw-up was not an accident.  At one aid station I added water but forgot to add NUUN tablets.  I soon realized that the mix was too weak so at the next AS I added one additional tablet to the number I needed for the amount of water added.  The mix still tasted weak so at the next aid station I added one more extra tablet.  By this time I probably had twice the recommended concentration.  After that aid station I started feeling sick so I ate a ginger chew.  By then the water began to taste really bad and was becoming hard to drink.  I ate another ginger chew.  I realized there was way too much NUUN stuff in the water.

I stopped at the next aid station and poured out some water and added plain water with no NUUN added.  I began feeling better in a while and by the Snow Valley Peak aid station  (mile 43) I felt good.  By the time I reached the Spooner Lake AS (Half way) I felt great and started back on the second loop on a 30 hour pace.  I still felt pretty good at Hobart (mile 56.)  It was now dark and very windy and cold up on the ridge and again I started feeling sick at my stomach.  I was reduced to walking most of the ridge to Tunnel Creek (six more miles.)  By then, the only thing I could eat was the chicken noodle soup.  I ate a cup as I headed down the "Red House Loop" trail, the hardest section of the course, for me anyway.  The loop consists of a very long, very steep, very slippery descent on a gravel road.  At the bottom are several stream crossings of very cold water.  Then you start the 4 mile climb back up to Tunnel Creek on another very steep, slippery gravel road.  (Slippery because of lots of loose ball-bearing size rocks, not mud.)  Things were made worse by feeling sick all the way down and up.  (I walked virtually all the Red House Loop.)  At the red house AS I again ate soup and that helped a little.  I was also eating ginger chews when I could find them.

I finally dragged myself into the Tunnel Creek AS, ate more soup and picked up a few more ginger chews and started out for Bull Wheel AS at about mile 70.5.  By the time I got there I had figured out that the problem was again incorrectly mixed electrolytes.  From Bull Wheel it is 9.5 miles to Diamond Peak aid station so I added a lot of water and no electrolytes..  I grabbed a few electrolyte capsules just in case.  The trail continues to follow the ridge for several miles before starting a 5.5 mile descent to Diamond Peak.  As soon at I started down this steep descent I felt good enough to run all the way to the Aid Station.  I actually passed a number of other runners.

By now I had gone all night without being able to drink even one 10oz bottle of Perpetuem.  I took one bottle out of my Nathan belt and put it in the  pack just in case.  I left the Hydration belt with Marye Jo at the aid station.  (Diamond Peak is at mile 80.)  I also only took two Honey Stinger packs and only ate one the rest of the day.  I could still only eat soup and Vespa.  (I have not mentioned my Vespa pouches.)  I think they must really work because I was eating virtually nothing but an occasional bowl of soup and a slice or two of orange and Vespa every 3 hours.  This is the stuff I was experimenting with that helps you burn fat instead of carbs.

I continued to eat bowls of soup and a few slices of orange and drinking nothing but water.  I did manage to swallow one electrolyte tablet per hour.  After the Hobart aid station we had a 1,000 ft., 2.5 mile climb to the Snow Valley Peak aid station at mile 92.7.  (Does any one else have a problem with a mountain named "Snow Valley Peak?)  By this time I felt good again and literally ran the final 7+ miles to the finish.  Actually, I raced a guy about 5 of those 7 miles.  He stopped about 2 miles from the end and I did not.  Then I could not stop because I was afraid he might pass me back.  Of course I never looked back to see if he is back there.  I am sure you know the rule.  "When you pass someone you must never look back to see how far back they are.  If they see you look back, they know you are worried about them and they may be emboldened to speed up and pass you again.  If you never look back, they assume you don't care that they are close behind you because you know you can speed up and run off and leave them if they try to pass you back."  Anyway, I never look back after passing someone, ever.

So what am I going to do about this problem?  (Electrolytes) I have two options.  One is to quit using trekking poles and run with handheld water bottles.  That way it will be easy to see exactly how much water I add and throw in the correct number of NUUN tablets.  I like the poles though, and intend to continue using them in any race with a lot of very long climbs like Wasatch, Hardrock and Tahoe.  I am going to start experimenting with other options in my training runs.  One is to use a waist belt to hold the water bottles when I am using the poles.  It is hard to get the poles back in the backpack so I may try a sling for the poles.  Another thing I will try is using the Nathan Pack but carrying an empty 20 oz bottle so I can add the exact amount of water I need.  I think this will be the best solution for when I run with poles.

Do any of you have any other ideas?

No comments:

Post a Comment