Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The importance of hydration.

I've had an interesting combination of incredible and miserable running since I last posted. Shortly after my last training post, I underwent a period of fatigue and frequent nausea resulting from running and a total lack of speed, where previously slow paces (7:00/mile, which I can easily hold for hours) would kill me in less than an hour. I underwent a Vo2 max test and found (without quite peaking out due to feeling lightheaded and fatiguedwhile exerting myself) that I registered a 64.5 ml/kg/min (compared to 63.5 last year), so I am probably around a max of 65 right now. However, the test showed that I had very little ability to metabolize fat, which makes no sense based on how I train (and compared to the exact same test from 1 year previously, which showed that I was incredibly efficient at burning fat, requiring only a small percentage of my intake on long races to come from glycogen, ie eating food) and on top of that, I peaked out at a considerably lower work effort despite my higher Vo2 max (an increase in Vo2 is like upgrading to a more powerful engine). Basically, keeping with the car reference, I had somehow developed a more powerful engine, but had a very small tank.

Thinking about this, I could not possibly put the pieces together without factoring that something was physically wrong with my body. I had run as far as 50 miles in recent months with no more than 1000 calories consumed in that time, so based on the tiny percentage of energy coming from fat metabolism during that test, that particular run would either have been physically impossible or would've left my body literally and painfully tearing skeletal muscle from itself to feed my running, which had obviously not happened. The trainer suggested that perhaps I was a. sick, b. dehydrated, or c. anemic.

I went to a sports medicine doctor the next week and found that I was definitely dehydrated and had probably (but fortunately, temporarily) overstressed my kidney, based on abnormally protein levels in my urine (in addition to overconcentrated urine). Due to my dehydration, my kidney had been unable to filter everything out of my urine properly and it left fairly high amounts of albumin. Additionally, it seemed likely based on other testing that I was getting over some sort of flu, so I probably had a combination of factors affecting my odd test and horrible running while back home visiting in MN.

I had been maintaining a weight of approximately 159-161 pounds for awhile, which seemed a bit low to me considering that I was right about 160 3 years ago before I ever lifted weights (and I was very scrawny previously). I got as high as 175 while lifting 2 hours a day when I had a broken foot last fall, in addition to supplementing with lots of creatine, nitrous oxide, whey protein, and hydroxymethylbutyrate. I had since cut all of that out and stopped lifting basically entirely, but maintained considerably more muscle than I previously had, so the 160 number seemed a bit low.

Within 3 days of proper hydration, my weight rebounded to a constant 164 to 166, my symptoms of fatigue went away, and I was running much faster on all of my runs with no increase in effort. The bottom line is, if you're going to spend a ton of time in the sauna, running in the heat, and driving around in a car with the windows up and the heat on full blast, even in the summer, make sure you drink LOTS of water. You can't just weigh the same before and after your sauna session as you'll still pee out a good percentage of that water and eventually get dehydrated if you're not paying attention to your weight over a longer period of time.

Since rehydrating my body (which had been maintaining that low weight for at least 2 to 3 months), I have felt considerably more comfortable in longer runs, back to back long days, tempo runs, and overall increased mileage. In the last week and a half, I have hit 4 long runs of 16, 18, 20, and 30 miles (in that order), all but the 20 miler in 90+ degree weather, and all with at least 4000' of climb, felt extremely comfortable on all of them, and would be doing even more if Western States wasn't in a week and a half, with Badwater 16 days after that.

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