"Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations. If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won't exist because you'll have already shut it out." -Mae Jemison, astronaut

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Simple Answers Wanted: Apply Within

Running is so complicated!
Is polenta high GI or low GI?

Do I drink exactly at my sweat rate per hour during an ultra? Or do I drink exactly "to thirst"?

Do I always eat 4 calories per kg of body weight during a race?

Are Hokas the shoes that will prevent running injuries? Or is it Inov-8s?

The longer I'm in this running gig, the more I'm learning that simple answers are rarely useful ones. But the desire of the black-and-white mindset! After all, many of us would say life is busy and complicated enough. If someone could give me the formula.... "Eat 140 cals/hr of Perpetuem, drink 524 ml/hr of water and wear x-talon 212s. Tape your left pinky toe with Rocktape, use an UltrAspire pack, drink 117 ml of Coke at the 57 km mark. Wear Compressport calf guards and yell "Yeee haw" at the start line. Then you'll win."

And never have nausea. And never be injured. And always want to run, every day, even the long, hard sessions, even after a really crap long day at work when it's 40 degrees and you have no one to run with.

On my Sunday run, I noticed my hands were swelling up a bit. This happens occasionally. When I race, I take off my rings, just in case. I was trying to remember...was that due to dehydration, overhydration, low electrolytes, too many electrolytes, a full moon??

Sunday's luscious but hot 4hr hill run - summer's coming!
Researching it to refresh my memory, I learned this: swollen hands are a reliable indicator of NOTHING.

However, two years ago, I took it as a reliable indicator of something. I just can't remember what. It would have been the first thing I googled.

Now, as a more discerning googler, I can find evidence arguing that swollen hands is caused by dehydration, overhydration, heat, and increased blood flow to the extremities. If I searched long enough, I'd probably also find it is caused by a full moon.

Having only reached page 29 of Tim Noakes' 400+ page "Waterlogged," I realise already that I started the book wanting to find "the answer" to hydration. He is, thus far, very verbosely setting the stage for his main argument - that runners should be drinking to thirst alone. They should not drink a prescribed amount or drink "before" they are thirsty, in order to ward off the dreaded monster of Dehydration.

I wonder how heavy the can is?
Though his initial arguments are sound to me, I am already thinking that the supposed answer in this book... Drink to Thirst... is too simple. I agree with the opening arguments - humans are incredibly well adapted biologically/physiologically to survive. Bipedalism is smart. By standing up, we expose 60% less surface area to the sun than 4-legged creatures.We don't have much hair (which would help protect against the sun's radiation), but that's more than offset by the fact that we have more sweat glands than any other mammal. We have biological controls like the hormone AVP/ADH that act to keep our sodium and fluid balances just right. Chemicals are released that tell the kidneys to retain or expel water. The brain will protect itself from death by slowing us down if we try to cook it by running ourselves into heatstroke. In fact, if we don't slow down enough, it will basically give us temporary paralysis to shut us down. Very smart brain, wants to survive.

So far, I'll give him two points:

(1) Humans are biologically adapted to survive. We have a physiology and hormones that promote our ability to cool ourselves during exercise and to maintain a balance of water and electrolytes to survive during endurance exercise (That said, we're also bloody inefficient, in that 75% of the energy produced by our muscles when we run is wasted as heat, not propulsion - we're like incandescent light bulbs!).

(2) The kidneys have a limited capacity to process/excrete fluid. The maximum is likely around 600 ml/hr in smaller athletes like me with an upper limit of less than 1000 ml/hr for the biggest of athletes. (Of course, some fluid is lost to evaporation/sweat, as well, but this intimates a maximum a person could drink before becoming overfull of fluids. And interestingly, one of the first signs of excess drinking in test subjects was diarrhoea).

But can everyone simply run with such a simple formula? Drink to thirst?

He's got 370 more pages to convince me. At the size of this book, I might become Booklogged before I get to the finish line.

1 comment:

  1. Drink every 45-60minutes works for me. When its hot and especially when its hot and humid, I'd still stick with the 45-60minutes rule, but probably increase the amount to more around the 1000mls than the 600mls. When its cold I might drop it below 600mls, but still drink every 60min. Because I'm around 79kg I need more drinks. Noakes is highly regarded, and its worth taking note of what he says, and I think a lot of the older runners have trained themselves to survive on just H2O only and small amounts at that, but I think their performance suffers significantly as a result, although they are better tuned to operating that way. Your body gets used to operating on certain routines, usinf certain products, as long as you don't vary that too much and consider the weather conditions, then you should be on the right track. Death or illness by overhydration unlikely to happen in Australia with the heat of our summer, but particularly in the colder parts of the world, its important not to over drink especially if you are a slower runner. In Australia you are more likely to suffer badly from dehydration, heatstroke and heat, low fluid related conditions. In my younger days I pushed the limits in that direction a few times, and learned to rehydrate to avoid it. A cold nectie on the carotid artery of the neck is also a good option I think in the heat. Its the same with the Hoka v Innov8 etc debate, depends on your injuries, your training environment terrain your body weight, running technique etc, and I think also which type of Innov8 shoe you choose. Also comes down to what you have trained your body to use, I think the real answer maybe is both can work well, but you need to pick one and stick with that one and not keep changing your tried and trusted routine too much. Its good! to make small modifications, refinements, improvements, but if you make any big changes, you have to be sure its going to work for a year or longer.
    Is polenta high GI or low GI?
    not sure. need to do more research but I am guessing it depends on which Polenta we are talking about, as it may vary from one Polenta to another Polenta?
    Do I drink exactly at my sweat rate per hour during an ultra? Or do I drink exactly "to thirst"?
    Drinking to thirst probably should override, but planning according to sweat rate should be a good frame of reference to work with, as long as their is flexibility to operate according to thirst especially when conditions are extremely hot, humid or cold.
    Do I always eat 4 calories per kg of body weight during a race?
    Similiar to sweat rate question, the 4 cal per kg of body weight sounds like it might be a good frame of reference, but energy use may be deceased or increased according to weather conditions, race conditions, injury and other factors, so its important to be a little bit flexible in this regard, but the 4 cal per KG probably right most of the time.
    Are Hokas the shoes that will prevent running injuries? Or is it Inov-8s?
    So many factors involved it depends on the person, and terrain of the course. If its a course like Qi Gong, Swissmurdie, maybe Snakes and Ladders, then I'd bet Innov8 is the right way to go for most people. If its Kep, large parts of 6 inch, or stay Puft? then Hoka might be a better option for many people. 0430-0730 the best times to run for the next few months if you can get out there then, if not heat training aplenty, increase the drinks supplies and get a necktie. All the best, and looking forward to the 2013 edition of PTS....and hopefully some Phaties runs soon.