Oooh, I had a scary one the other day. A dumb, newbie moment while running.
My running pals and I have been training for many weeks to run the half-marathon in Toronto at the end of this month. We do that by running a good bit during the week, but making our longest runs on the weekends. Pretty standard stuff, training-wise.
Sunday we set out to run 10 miles. If that sounds crazy, know that we ran 9 miles the weekend before. Well, “run,” is not really what I do. I jog very, very slowly, and stop to walk pretty often, to let my lungs catch up.
We started this run later than usual, around 10 a.m. We noticed it was sunny out, but I never thought much of it. I had upped my carbs the night before, drank more water than usual, I thought, and took my inhalers to get ready for our big effort.
I felt great.
We set out, and for the first 3 miles or so I felt great. Then not so great for the next 3 or 4 miles. And then I couldn’t catch my breath when we paused to walk. But I tried to keep going.
Until I just couldn’t.
My legs were cramping, and my heart rate had zoomed up to 180 beats/min., way too high for me. I was getting the sort of heart slamming-right-out-of-my-chest effect you typically see in cartoons when the characters are in love. Except that it hurt more. Well I guess love can hurt too. But not usually in cartoons.
My heart rate should max out around 160. And after walking for more than 20 minutes, even sitting, it still wouldn’t come down. Not a bit. Not until we walked for more than 3 miles. I felt dizzy, nauseated, and when I leaned over to stretch my back, I went a little black around my peripheral vision when standing back up.
I blamed my asthma meds, thinking I’d overdone them, taking too much albuterol on top of my long-acting bronchodilator/corticosteroid inhaler. And that may have been the case. Not so much too much med, but badly timed. Too close to my run.
But my coach called it. He said what I had there was a case of dehydration. I knew I was sweating way more than usual. My friends said it was hotter than I perceived it to be, around 82 degrees, and I lost more than 4 lbs. of water weight during the run.
So there it is.
It’s no small thing, dehydration. It leads to heat exhaustion, which can bring on heat stroke, which can cause death. It doesn’t matter how fabulously experienced you are, or what kind of shape you’re in, or how fit or unfit you are, if you lose too much water, you’re in trouble.
So I went searching today, and learned some stuff. First of all, when exerting yourself hard over a long period of time, you should plan on drinking every 15 minutes. That’s much more often than you will feel like drinking when you’re exercising. I had no idea.
It’s a good idea to be well hydrated before starting out on a big effort, but you have to keep chugging water or sports drinks during the event, and you have to replace it afterward.
Cut way back on caffeinated beverages on the day before and day of the event.
A good rule of thumb is to weigh yourself before you start and then again when you finish. Multiply the number of lbs. you lose in sweat by 1.5, and that’s how many ADDITIONAL PINTS of water you should consume after your event. So because I lost 4 lbs. of water, I need to consume 6 pints, or 96 ounces of water, in addition to the 60-80 ounces I would normally consume in a day, to catch up. That’s a lot of water, friends.
And just because you’re urinating a lot doesn’t mean your body has absorbed all it needs to absorb. You really do need to keep drinking well beyond the thirst. And when you’re exerting yourself, do not wait for thirst to set in to start drinking.
Even seasoned athletes routinely underestimate how much water they’ve lost in the course of a run. I shouldn’t have imagined I could do better. Well, I didn’t imagine anything. I never felt thirsty, and I never felt overheated. I knew I was sweating, but I didn’t realize how much.
So. I’m done with that sort of mindlessness. I have two very heavy weeks of training ahead of me, and that’ll mean being well hydrated the whole time.
I’ll be more careful. You be more careful too, please. Drink, drink, drink.
Running Safely in Hot Weather
How to drink to keep performing
19 days left to support JuJus jog for the Canadian Diabetes Association in the Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. Every Little bit helps
Uncomfortable donating online? Here are phone numbers and mailing addresses for the Canadian Diabetes Association
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