I’m not one to use quotes or sayings much, but there is one that is very applicable to what I am about to address. It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. While that isn’t technically true, it does help to bring up that I have had many long distance races in the past year that did not quite live up to my expectations for one reason or another. So rather than just continuing to find myself dying in the last portion of a 70.3 or 140.6 mile race, I think I’ll try to fix the problems causing it!
One of the issues that I believe is causing some of my race day issues is hydration. I live, train, and race in the Southeast of the USA. Unless I plan to travel a long way for every race I do, I will be competing in the heat and humidity for just about every race I do. And even for the races that aren’t in the heat, I will be doing just about all of my preparation in a hot and humid climate. While I can just about get away with a lackluster approach to hydration in a sprint or olympic distance race, the effects of dehydration and/or hyponatremia will catch up to me in a 4+ hour race. So the first question to ask is: what have I done in the past?
Over the past few years I’ve experimented with a number of different brands each with their own claims on why they’re better than the rest. Including Cytomax, Skratch, Infinit, Nuun, Gatorade Endurance, Hammer, GU, Carborocket, and the list goes on. There is obviously no lack of options when it comes to what you choose to hydrate or fuel with for endurance sports. Some I tried for a number of months before moving on. Others I ditched after one outing. This past season found me settling on Gatorade Endurance since it is the most commonly found drink on the race course and I did not often have issues digesting it (except that time I vomited orange for awhile in Alaska). Basically, I shot for 1 bottle (20 ounces) of Gatorade Endurance an hour with additional water depending on the course. So what’s wrong with this?
Over the past year I have been made more aware of the extent of how much I actually sweat. With a few simple tests during workouts, I have found that my sweat rate is quite high. Generally in the range of 50 ounces of fluid per hour in “moderate” conditions. And likely more when it is warmer. One thing that I don’t know about this is the amount of sodium and other electrolytes I am losing in this sweat. Without knowing this, I am essentially guessing at how many electrolytes I need to replace. And I’m getting very tired of the “error” part of trial and error. For this reason I have booked an electrolyte sweat test that I will be having done this week!
The test will be done up in Asheville, NC and is being done by Precision Hydration. They also have a range of hydration products that they recommend based on the results of the test. After I have the results of my test I will be able to compare my electrolyte sweat losses with my previous hydration plans, and then I’ll be well prepared to make a new plan for this year. I am likely to give the Precision Hydration products a try depending on how the results come out and then I’ll start testing out different strategies in training. Either way, I’m confident that I’m on a path to being more prepared for my races than ever before!