Wednesday, July 31, 2013

RunnerDude Chats with Meredith Dolhare

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of athletic talent found in North Carolina. When Given Brand Sports contacted me about interviewing ultra runner, multi-Ironman runner, and Timex Multisport team member, Meredith Dolhare, I just assumed she'd be out in Oregon or Colorado or some other running mecca of the US. But to my surprise, she lives just down the road a bit in Charlotte, NC.  

So close, in fact, that she offered to stop by RunnerDude's Fitness studio to do the interview. She was going to be in Greensboro anyway to get in some training runs with her ultra-running pal, Charlie Engle.

I had the best time finding out about Meredith's running, training, upcoming races (including the recent Badwater) and her nonprofit organization--RunningWorks.

Born and raised in Memphis, Meredith now calls Charlotte home along with her
Meredith, husband Walter, and
sons Noah and Watson
husband, two teenage sons, and a menagerie of animals-three dogs, a cat, and a lizard. Just about to turn 40-years-old, Meredith surprisingly has not been an ultra runner for all that long. She's definitely been athletic most of her life including having played NCAA Division I tennis at UCLA and Vanderbilt as well as having been number one in Tennessee in tennis, number one in the nine Southern states, and 9th in the country. 

Although a runner, ultra runs didn't come into her life until a little over 5 years ago. While moping around from foot surgery, Meredith's husband challenged her to set a goal--something to look forward to when she was better. "Maybe a race or something." 

It was only three weeks after surgery and Meredith was still hobbling around on crutches, so this challenge made her mad. Mad enough to come back with, "Fine. YOU know what? I'm going to do an Ironman. It has been on the bucket list forever, and that would fall under the 'goal' category." 

So, the life of Meredith the Ironman and ultra runner was born. Never mind prior to this Meredith had only done two triathlons and it had been 13 years since those races. 

Since 2008, Meredith has completed amazing ultra runs such as Ultraman UK (10K swim, 262-mile bike, 52.4-mile run), the Brazil 135-mile Ultramarathon, the Rouge-Orleans 126.2 Ultramarathon, not to mention 12 full Ironmans, and most recently the Badwater Ultramarathon Race. Badwater covers 135 miles non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA. Badwater is the most demanding and extreme running race anywhere on earth.

Sitting down with Meredith, I got to know a little more about what makes this amazing woman tick. 

The Family and Running
RD: So you're turning 40 in September. How do you fee about the big 4-0?
Meredith: I'm actually excited. Age is just a state of mind. My husband is almost 8 years older than me, so I've been getting age jokes as long as I can remember. We've been together since I was 18. We started dating my last year of high school and continued through college so, I've been getting reverse age jokes a long time. Finally turning 40 is a nice thing.
RD: You mentioned the kids were running. Do you think they'll do ultras like mom?
Meredith: Well both have run half marathons, but I've cut both of their distances. I don't allow them to run anything long anymore, because they both want to be fast. Especially the youngest. He's really fast. He wants to run in college. There's no marathon in college. There's no half-marathon in college and he's only 13. He's pretty focused. He does have the "focused" gene and the "crazy" gene. He likes to hurt. He loves it. He's very disciplined. Very motivated. That kid would go for hours every day if I didn't cut him off. It's ironic, but I have to be the voice of reason and say, "Noah, you're done for the day." He wanted to run a marathon at 12, but I said, "No." 
RD: How about your husband? Does he run? 
Meredith: My husband played tennis like me in college, but at Notre Dame. He's an amazing athlete. He has some issues with his lower extremities, leg-wise. Still plays a lot of tennis and has run a marathon and several half marathons, but doesn't consider himself a runner. He's a tennis player. He's the biggest support system I have. He's awesome. There's no "let" in our marriage. He just shakes his head and laughs.
RD: Who sports-wise is an inspiration to you and your running?
Meredith: Definitely Charlie Engle. I can relate to him. There's nothing he thinks he can't do. He can talk himself into believing he can do anything. We've become such good friends because we think the same way. We have the same birthday too, which is interesting because it's the same day as Lance Armstrong's birthday. I don't know what it is about that day, but there are several endurance athletes born on that day with similar wills and determination. 

I credit my mom with my attitude of thinking I can do anything. When I was growing up, I'd have these crazy ideas and my mom would say, "Well, if you think you can do it, I'm all for it. You just got to believe it. If you set your mind to it, I believe it." She always instilled that in me. There's no "can't" in my house. I always tell my kids that word is completely outlawed. The same goes for running my nonprofit, RunningWorks, working with the homeless. You've got to believe it. You've got to believe anything you set your mind to. Now, I'm human. If I want to, I can let those demons in my head and talk myself out of anything. Anyone can. I've been there. Sometimes in a race, I can hear myself getting negative and I stop and say, "Now don't talk yourself out of this." So, I'll take control and turn it around to the positive.

Getting Started As an Ultra Runner
RD: Looks like you came to endurance running fairly recently.
Meredith: Yes, 2010 was my first 50-miler. I had done several Ironmans the few years prior to that and I just decided I wanted to do a 50-miler. Charlie Engle inspired me to do a longer race. I've never been one for set parameters and following a set order in racing. I did an Ironman before I did my first half Ironman. I'm a big believer in setting a goal and going for it no matter what it is. So, I signed up for the JFK 50-miler. It looked like a lot of fun. There are a lot of people out there, I'll never be alone on the trail. So, Charlie gave me some guidance on running it and I went for it. I remember hitting that 26.2-mile mark and thinking, "OK[laughing], here we go!" I had hurt my foot a little bit getting out the water at Ironman Florida just prior to the JFK 50-miler so I was a little messed up coming into the 50-miler. It's the subtalus on my left foot. It kept dislocating during the race so I had some trouble unfortunately. I've had issues with that same foot since then. The first 17 miles of that race are very technical along the Appalachian Trail, so it kept dislocating.
RD: Did you just pop it back in? Did it hurt?
Meredith: Right before the race, my chiropractor, who is a very good friend, taught my friend how to snap it back in right before the race. I was running up a hill in the first half mile and I turned to my friend and said, "Is it bad that we have 49.5 miles left in the race and my foot already hurts?" We got it done, but it was not pretty. I was in a cast right after the race. The doc said, "You're going to end up collapsing your foot." My reply..."Nahhh." That was the beginning of the funny stories with this foot. I've had it in a cast 3 times. Same issue. I keep going back to that particular 50-miler (the JFK) because it's so much fun. It's always the weekend before Thanksgiving. There are something like 1000 runners. It's just something cool about 1000 runners doing a 50 miler.

Racing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
RD: What's your favorite race or type of event?
Meredith: A lot of people ask me that and I have to say the Ultraman. Doing the 3 Ironmans in consecutive weekends was pretty cool, especially since all three were in the Alps, but the Ultraman in Wales in the UK was the ultimate. The weather was brutal. It was really cold and there was a hurricane coming through. The water was 50 degrees. It was windy, raining. During the run portion, there was like a typhoon coming through. You couldn't even see your crew car. Everything about it was so off the charts hard. Just on the run alone there was something like 12,000 feet of climbing. It was brutal and gorgeous at the same time. I have pictures that you just wouldn't believe. It was an amazing experience as an athlete. 
RD: What was the toughest part of the Ultraman?
Meredith: There are very few things that scare me, but standing at the start of the swim scared me. There's that fear of the unknown and I don't do well at all with cold. The water was so cold, that I had booties and a head thing on. It was a black bottom lake and there were these huge swells. They weren't allowing any kayaks. Usually in an Ironman you follow a kayak. No Kayak. The buoys got loose, so there were renegade buoys and they went way out. I mean it was a total disaster. But I knew I had to do it if I wanted to get on my bike. For me as an athlete (I'm also in recovery) an athlete and an addict you're always chasing that high you had the first time, but as an athlete, I'm looking not so much for that high but that thing that's hard, that scares me. For me, there are very few things I think I can't do. But that swim, that 10K swim, in that water, in that cold...I was actually afraid for once. I prevailed and did really great the rest of the race. Had a great run. The thing is I rarely ever think I won't finish. But, I don't want to just finish. I want to finish strong. Fast. The goal is to see how well I can do.
RD: Do you compete against yourself or do you compete against the other participants? How do you approach that?
Meredith: I'm always an inward competitor. I compete against myself. My best for that day. If you try to pick people off, you'll get in trouble. In an ultra, if you're not running your race and you're looking for somebody else and you're chasing them down at mile 50 in a 135-mile race, you're gonna blow up. You better be looking from within not outside. I've definitely done it the wrong way. Don't do that. I found out the hard way. It has to come from within and that's where the real test is. Charlie Engle has helped me with this. He has real restraint in his running. He always says, "If feel like you're going too slow, slow down." [laughing] In a race that long you feel like you're crawling in the beginning, but you have too. It's a different type of run.

Back Surgery
RD: So, not too long ago in the middle of all this racing you had spinal surgery. Tell me about that. 
Meredith: I ruptured two discs in my cervical spine. That was in 2011. I actually think it happened in the summer of 2011. After I did the three Ironmans in three consecutive weekends and before heading to the UK Ultraman, I started having trouble with my wrists, both wrists. The doc gave me cortisone shots, but it didn't help. All during Ultraman, my wrists were killing me. All the runners in the race remember me because I was the one asking everyone, "Do your wrists hurt? Mine are killing me!" I just thought maybe it was due to the conditions of that race with the wind. I was holding on to my bike for dear life.  

I make it through the race and go back to my hand/wrist doc and he injects me in another location thinking it was something else causing the pain. This was just four weeks before Kona. My doc said, "Don't do anything. You're clearly fit. You don't need to do any training. Kona's not the A race, Ultraman was. You kicked ass, so just go to Kona and enjoy it."
"Dude, where's my bike?!"
Alone in the transition zone after the
swim at Kona

I get to Kona the week before the race and have a blast with my kids swimming and running and having fun. The water's so beautiful. My wrists were killing me, though. I thought it was from playing so hard. I think I actually ruptured my vertebra during this time. C4 to C6 in your neck control wrist function. I didn't know that. The wrists doc should have known that, obviously. Both wrists...he should have thought, "spine." Hello! 

Both my wrists hurt so bad, I couldn't even open a water bottle. Both my hands were going numb and there was pain all at the same time. I had horrible migraines and pain in my neck. My jaw was killing me.  

Meredith one day after spinal surgery
(not feeling so great).
I'd have the migraines for days. I had one while in Kona that lasted for about 3 days. I was miserable. So the day of the race in Kona, I had a migraine and all this pain in my wrists and neck. It hurt so bad I actually swam with one arm. I mean I was waving at fish, I was swimming so slowly. There's a funny picture of me in the transition area after the swim all by myself which is funny. It's Kona...everybody swims fast, so the rest of the field had already come an gone on to the bike. 

Before the bike, I hunted down an orthopedist who was there that gave me lidocane patches. So, I taped the patches on my wrists to try to make them numb. I made it through the swim, but the bike was worse. It was windy and I had to sit up instead of lean forward because of my wrists. Taking on all that wind was miserable. It was the worst triathlon experience of my life. I was so happy to get to the run. 
First "training" walk one
month after spinal surgery.

Upon returning from Kona, still no MRI. Hello! Spine. Spine. So the doc casts both my arms and injects me again, this time saying it was compartment syndrome. He said I had to take time off. My migraines got worse. Nothing got better. I ran the JFK 50-miler in a cast. Completely dumb.
RD: Did you have the same foot issues during the JFK this time?
Meredith: Yep, was ambulatory after the race. Really messed it up. I tweaked it badly at mile 14 and should have stopped. They thought I had broken it, but I kept going. Funny thing is I ran an hour faster because I was just trying to get it over with. I was running on the toe path with a cast on one arm and basically a broken foot. My husband says at this point, "I think this has ceased to be healthy." He was right. It was crazy.

After JFK, I took some time off. We went to Argentina to visit my husband's family. He's from there. When we got back, I was still suffering from the migraines and my husband said, "OK, you've ceased to be a functioning member of this family. Your migraines are never ending. You can't open a water bottle. Get a cervical MRI." So, I finally got one. I had the MRI at like 9PM and the doc is calling me the next morning at 8AM. That's never good. The doc said I had two ruptured discs in my cervical spine. He said it's no wonder I'd been have the symptoms I'd been experiencing. He was amazed I was even functioning. I had a neuroradiologist-runner friend of mine look at the scans who then sent them to his buddy who is the head of neurosurgery at Duke. He's the doc who did my surgery. Great doc. He consulted on Payton Manning's surgery. I told the doc that I didn't want him to patch me up and then say, "By the way, your running career is over. I'm going back out and these are the things I want to do. Don't tell me I can't run 135 miles at a time, because I haven't done it and I'm gonna do it."
First race post spine surgery (6 months prior)
after only running for a couple of weeks:
Bartram 100K, 2nd place female, 7th overall.

So, they fixed me. But I think it was a bit of a shock when they realized how quickly I wanted to get back to ultras after the surgery. Several months later (mid November) I went back for a checkup. They had cleared me to run, but had no idea that a few months earlier, while in my neck brace, I had applied for the Brazil 135-Ultramarathon and got in. I needed that concrete motivation to get better quick. The race was in January, surely I'd be ready by then. So I asked the docs if they could check to see if I had fused yet. They checked and the fusion was not yet complete. Still a few spaces between some spots. 
The start of the Rouge Orleans 126.2
Ultramarathon, 7.5 months post op and
three weeks post the Brazil 135 Ultramarathon.
Knowing I want to get back to running, the doc asks what race I want to run? A 10K? 

I said, "Well, it's 10 loops of a 10K." His response was, "MEREDITH! I don't approve! I'm not going to tell you no, but what are you thinking?" 

I asked, what's the worst thing that's going to happen. He said, I could end up with arthritis. I said, "I'm going to have arthritis anyway." So, I did the 100K that was a lead up to Brazil and did great. My husband didn't think I was going to do well, so that was even more motivation [laughs]. He said, "You've only been running for two weeks, how the hell are you going to run a 100K?" I said, "Say that to me again! Please, tell me that again." That was the best motivation I needed. I love it when people tell me I can't do something. I heard it on a loop in my head the entire race.
RD: Have you had any issues since the surgery?
Meredith: I haven't. I have a screw in my foot too, since JFK and I haven't had any issues with that either. Very lucky.

The TIMEX Multisport Team
RD: You're a member of the TIMEX Multisport team. Tell me about that.

2013 TIMEX Multisport Team
Meredith: When I was at the 2011 Kona, TIMEX asked me to participate in a research study and I got to know some of the people involved with the team. So, I decided to apply for the team. I ended up being a good crossover for them. I'm the only member that does 100+ mile races and multiple ultras. Most of the members are triathletes. They've not had a Badwater runner on the team. So it ended up being a good mix for them.
RD: What's the best part about being a member of this elite team of athletes?
Meredith: It's a great group of people. Very impressive group. Not only are the others incredibly talented athletes, they're also incredibly smart, but also very few egos on the team. They're all really good at what they do, but they don't have to talk about it. There's no posturing. They're more willing to pump you up rather than talk about themselves. They're like, "Hey I heard what you did..." Really an amazing group of people. There are a couple of NASA scientists on the team. I mean literally like "rocket scientists" on the team, but they're pro athletes at the same time. Makes for great conversation. The first year was really amazing. I was expecting more jockeying for position, but I found the exact opposite. TIMEX has done an amazing job putting together the team.
RD: Does the group ever compete together as a team or does everyone do their own thing as a representative of the team?
Meredith: We have a camp every February at the TIMEX Performance Center which is at the Giants Training Center in New Jersey. There are a couple of team events. They're doing Nationals this year for USA Triathlon in Milwaukee. For other races/events, there may be just one of us or several, depends on the event and each member's schedule. It's a very close knit team, so if we do end up at common races we always get together. There's email that flies around between members. Everyone is very funny. It's a good group of people. Very supportive.

Favorite Gear
RD: Every runner has their must-have gear. Do you have must-haves?
Meredith: Absolutely. I love my TIMEX Run Trainer 2.0 GPS watch. It's so easy to use. I
TIMEX Run Trainer 2.0
GPS Watch
love how you can easily scroll between modes. I do run in Newtons. In Ultras I wear the Terra Momentum trail shoes. I also use the Nathan Sprint handheld water bottles for ultras. I usually stick it down my back. I like the little Nathan clip lights. Those are awesome. I also love Balega socks. I don't get blisters in them. They're a North Carolina company which is pretty cool. CEP compression socks are pretty awesome. I often run in the compression socks and for recovery, I love the CEP Clones that are made to your specific measurements. They're awesome. I also run 100% of my ultras in the CEP running shorts. They help reduce the vibration in the IT band. They're super tight and fit/wear amazingly well. They're perfect.

Badwater and the Death Valley Cup
RD: So tell me about Badwater. Its one of if not the toughest ultramarathons on the planet.
Meredith "chillin" in an ice cooler at mile 42-
Stovepipe Wells, where the temperature hit 129!

Meredith was "dunked" three times during the
race to lower her core temp.
Meredith: Badwater will be the first race in a long time that I'll come to really ready. I'm really focused on Badwater. Usually my head is all over the place with all the different races I'm doing. It's the first time in a while that I won't have other races to distract me. This year I have two races I'm focusing on, Badwater and the Furnace Creek 508 (a 508-mile bike race). They're very different races, but they kind of go hand-in-hand because it's the Death Valley Cup. The Death Valley Cup recognizes those athletes who complete both the Badwater Ultramarathon 135-Mile Running Race and the Furnace Creek 508-Mile Bicycle Race in the same calendar year. To earn this recognition is a very significant achievement in endurance sports. If I finish the Death Valley Cup, I'll be the 6th woman ever to finish those two races in a calendar year. I'd be honored to be among that group of women. 

A few weeks after this interview, Meredith ran Badwater. Not only did she run this amazingly difficult race, she killed it. Meredith was 20th overall out of a field of 96 runners (15 runners did not finish the course) and she was the 3rd place female finisher (out of 23 female runners). Only 4 of the 15 DNFs were women. Go ladies! 

Now Meredith is preparing for the next event in the Death Valley Cup--The Furnace Creek 508-Mile Bicycle Race which takes place in early October. This epic race traverses tremendous mountain climbs and crosses miles of desolate desert roads. The course has a total elevation of over 35,000 ft, crosses 10 mountain passes, and stretches north of Los Angeles across the Mojave Desert through Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve to the finish line at the Joshua Tree National Park in Twentynine Palms, CA.

Coming up the final stretch on The Portal Road
about mile 133ish

In addition to Meredith's amazing work as an athlete, she's also found the time to give back to the Charlotte community in the form of a nonprofit she founded called RunningWorks. Through RunningWorks, Meredith runs with homeless people as well as focuses on various life skills with the participants in the program. Check out the video clip below as Meredith tells you more about this great organization.

Monday, July 29, 2013

And the Winner Is....

Congrats to Larry McMaster from Gresham, OR, the winner of the Camelbak Cloud Walker Hydration Backpack!

Here's Larry pictured at the 2012 Hood to Coast Relay Race. 

Be on the lookout soon for the next RunnerDude's Fitness giveaway! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Short Life That Touched So Many - Peyton Moore

This morning I awoke like any other morning. Early. Weekdays and Saturdays I'm usually up at 4:30AM. I have early morning clients to train at the studio during the week and on Saturdays, I have to get the water coolers out on the greenway before my runners have their Saturday morning long run. Sundays, however, I can sleep in. But my body has an internal clock now of 4:30AM. So now, even though no alarm is set, I often find myself awake at 4:30am on a Sunday. Today was no different. I laid there a while and tried to go back to sleep. Didn't work. Turned on the TV and watched Cindy Crawford try to convince me I'd look years younger if I rubbed this rare melon all over my face. I finally got up and decided to catch-up on reading some of my favorite running blogs.

The long hours needed to keep RunnerDude's Fitness growing has taken it's toll on my own blog writing, much less having the time to read other blogs. But today, this morning, I had that time. 

I headed to my blogging buddy, Noah Moore's blog, Moore on Running. Noah is an amazing guy and I've been following his blog pretty much since I started mine back in 2008-2009. Noah has a great story. He overcame obesity and did a 360 in health and fitness and not only for himself, but his entire family. Noah is one of the very first "How Running Changed My Life" stories I featured on the blog. Click here to read that post.

So, this morning I was struck numb when I saw his most recent  post "Our Miracle, Our Love, Our Angel-
Peyton." The post began..." Many of you who follow my blog know about the passing of my son, Peyton Moore (June 4, 2013)." It had only been a few months since I last read Noah's blog. This couldn't be. 

In December, Peyton experienced a seizure and was shortly after diagnosed with benign rolandic epilepsy. Often diagnosed in kids ages 6-8, benign rolandic epilepsy often shows itself as mild, infrequent seizures. Most cases cease when the child reaches his/her teen years. Peyton had several more mild seizures after that one, but the last known seizure was in February. On June 3rd, after not getting up as usual for school, Peyton's dad found him still in bed not breathing. He died the following day at the hospital.

Although just 9-years-old, Peyton was responsible for saving two people's lives--his mom and dad. Peyton was the inspiration for Noah's dramatic weight loss as well as Jennifer's quitting smoking. Peyton also inspired many others. Peyton was often right by his dad's side while coaching many new runners in Noah's Couch to 5K program.

My heart goes out to Noah, Jennifer and the entire Moore family as well as the Charleston running community. Even though I never met Peyton in person, I feel like a virtual part of the family having watched him grow into such an awesome young man through his dad's blog.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hot and Humid? Adjust Your Expectations!

Hot is bad. Humid is bad. But, Hot and humid is just plain nasty. Ever been
on a run and it feels more like you're swimming than running? More than likely that's because the humidity is very high. High temperatures and high humidity is a rough combination on a runner.

Your body is an amazing machine. It has its own intricate cooling system. It's called sweat. The human body is all about maintaining balance. That's never more evident than with body's desire to keep a consistent internal body temperature. When it's hot outside and your internal body temp starts to rise from the heat and exertion, your body will begin to perspire. Perspiration is your body's method of cooling itself. When the sweat rises to the surface of your skin it evaporates. The evaporation of the sweat is what cools the body down. On a hot day, the body's cooling system works well. You run. You sweat. The sweat evaporates. Your body stays in balance.

If it's hot and humid, the body will produce the sweat, but because there's so much moisture in the air, evaporation happens much more slowly. That's why on a hot, humid day you appear to sweat more. You're actually not sweating more, but it appears so because the sweat has no where to go. It collects on your skin, your shirt, shorts, and if you're like me....down into your shoes (which at times will be so waterlogged, that they squish with each step).

Hydration is key no matter the conditions, but in hot/humid weather, the excessive fluid loss can really take a toll on your performance (not to mention your health). Some research shows that losing 2% of your body weight (through sweat) in your run can lead to a 4-6% decline in performance.

Heart rate also increases with increased heat/humidity. So your perceived effort is going to be greater when it's hot and humid. On top of this, all this sweating decreases your blood volume. That's because your body, in its effort to keep that balance, will divert more blood to the skin in an effort to keep it cool. That means less blood returns to the heart. That in turn means less oxygen-rich blood leaving the heart to fuel the muscles for your running. So, now your heart and lungs are working even harder to compensate trying to help you maintain your same pace as on a milder day.

A little trick that can help promote better evaporation of the perspiration is to pour some cool water over your head, neck and arms. The coolness will help promote better evaporation. It's not a cure-all, but it definitely helps. (Be sure to drink some of that cool water too!)

Sounds like maybe you shouldn't run in the heat and humidity, huh? Well, not so fast. Remember I said your body is an amazing machine? Training in the heat/humidity will provide some adaptation, but consistency is the key. But given that, training in the heat will only take you so far. Even with some acclimation, a lot of demand is put on the body in excessive heat/humidity.

So, this is where the attitude check comes into play. When it's excessively hot and humid, you have to adjust your expectations. If you're in training for a marathon and you have a speed workout such as 800 intervals, a tempo run, or a progression run, it's okay if you come in under your targeted training pace for that run. 

Heat is an intensity, just like running a hill. If your normal tempo run is on a flat route and you change it one day to an extremely hilly route, you probably would end up with a slower overall time for that workout. But, you'd say, "Well, that was a hilly route." That same logic should be applied to a run on a hot/humid day. On hot/humid days pay more attention to perceived effort not pace. As long as you feel you put forth the same intensity on a hot/humid day as a cooler day, don't worry about what the clock says. You're still getting the same benefit training-wise.

Keeping all this in mind, there are days when the heat index is so severe that it may warrant skipping the run or dramatically altering your goal. In a Runner's World article, two-time Olympian Alan Culpepper presents a helpful guide for approaching your runs in various conditions. Culpepper says when checking the weather stats, look for the dew point instead of humidity. Dew point is the temperature at which water condenses. When the dew point is close to the air temp the more saturated the air is. This makes it harder for the sweat to evaporate off the skin for the desired cooling effect. So, dew point is a better tool in predicting how your performance is going to be affected.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Respect the Heat!

No need to be a fair-weather runner, but runner's do have to take caution in
extreme weather conditions particularly in the extreme cold and heat. This time of year, heat is the big concern to many. 

One of my runners was recently visiting death valley and it was 120° F. There was practically no humidity. After being in the sun for quite a while he noticed he wasn't sweating. He licked his arm and to his surprise, it was very salty. Because of the high temperature and low humidity, his sweat was evaporating as soon as it surfaced on his skin, leaving traces of salt, but no sweat. Kind of a cool science experiment, but could be a huge danger to a runner. 

Most of us relate hydration to sweat loss and we gage that by how sweaty we are and how wet our clothes are becoming. Running in my native North Carolina climate, there's no doubt I'm losing a lot of water, because I sweat profusely, basically standing still. I literally can wring my running clothes out after a long run. Someone running in a very arid climate won't have this visible gage of sweat loss, so he/she will have to be diligent in hydrating well before, during, and after running. 

The sweat test is a great way to monitor how much water you're losing through sweat. It's not uncommon for a runner to lose several pound due to water loss (sweat) during a long run. To get a handle on how much you're losing and how much to replace,  I recommend doing the sweat test below on a mild day and on a very hot/humid day so you can get a feel for how much water loss you experience on each type of run. Then on subsequent similar runs you'll have a good idea of how to hydrate and rehydrate. 

Sweat Test:
1. Record the temperature of your run.
2. Weight before running (without your shoes); record your weight.
3. Run for 60 minutes.
4. Weigh immediately after running (without your shoes); record your weight.
5. Calculate the difference of the two weights; record the difference.
6. Each pound lost = 16oz of fluid lost during your run.
7. Over the next couple of hours ingest 16oz of water (or a combination of water and sports drink) for each pound lost.

Runner's World's 8 Rules of Fluid Replacement are also great tips to keep in mind for keeping you well hydrated during the hot summer months.

1. Drink Early and Often--Drink water or other low-calorie fluids in small, steady quantities throughout each day. If your urine runs clear when you void, you're well hydrated. Being well hydrated throughout the day not only benefits your running, it helps keep you more alert during the workday and can help prevent that dull, headachy feeling that can slow you down during the middle of the day.
2. Fortify Yourself With Fluids Before and During Your Run
3. When Running Long, Use a Sports Drink.
4. Don't Wait Until You're Thirsty to Start Drinking--By then it could be too late. Also, as we age, our thirst mechanism doesn't work as well, so you may actually be thirsty but your body isn't giving you the signals as quickly as when you were a young whippersnapper.
5. Don't Drink Too Much--The rate at which fluid is absorbed into the system varies from person to person. Factors include size, gender, age, metabolism, etc. If you feel or hear sloshing in your stomach, its telling you it's full, and you don't need to drink for a while.  For others over-drinking symptoms surface as cramping or feeling nauseated. If you feel any of these and you've been drinking a lot, stop drinking for about 15 minutes. If you're only drinking water, that sloshy feeling can be due to depleted sodium stores. Sodium works as the transport system that gets the water molecules out of the stomach and into the body. If the sodium stores are depleted, the water can become trapped in the stomach and have no means of transportation to hydrate the body. It's important to drink sports drink or use electrolyte replacement tabs if running more than an hour to keep from depleting your sodium stores.
6. After Your Run, Drink Between 16 and 24ozs of Sports Drink for Every Pound of Body Weight You Lose During Exercise.
7. Beware of Hyponatremia, a Potentially Fatal Condition Caused  by Taking in Too Much Water and Too Little Salt. (see the end of #5).
8. Be Careful Out There--The better your overall condition, the better you'll be able to cope with low or moderate degrees of dehydration. (Case in point: In the 1984 Olympic Marathon, Alberto Salazar lost 8.1 percent of his body weight in sweat, and still ran a 2:14.) But if you feel yourself slipping into fluid debt with  symptoms like--chills, dizziness, disorientation, and cessation of sweating--don't panic. Stop running, find shade or an air-conditioned building, and start drinking as soon as possible. If you don't quickly improve, ask for help or call 911. If you do start to feel better, resist running and walk or ask for a ride home. This is a great reason for running with a buddy.

For all you hard-headed runners who think water is for sissies, then take heed...performance starts to decline when you lose 3% of your body weight in sweat. That's 4.5 pounds for a 150lb person. 

Drink up! Water does a runner good!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Enter to Win a Camelbak Hydration Backpack!

In line with yesterday's post on the importance of good hydration while running, RunnerDude's Blog is happy to announce it's giving away a free Camelbak Could Walker 70oz. Hydration Backpack (an $80 value)! Simply complete the form below to enter! The name of the lucky winner will be posted on the blog on Monday July 29th, 2013! 

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Sports Drinks: Which is Right for You?

Sports Drinks...They're a necessity for runners, especially endurance runners and
especially this time of the year. Sports drinks have gotten somewhat of a bad rap lately because of the carb/sodium content. Ironically that's what makes a sports drink a sports drink. I think the negative view is largely due to the whole Paleo diet hoopla. Sports drinks are not designed to be drunk as a regular beverage. Kids sitting on the bench at a soccer game don't need to be chugging Gatorade. Even the kids in the game playing for less than an hour, probably don't need Gatorade. Same goes for runners. If you're running less than an hour, water will do just fine. It's when you'll be running 60-mins or longer that you need a sports drink.

Most sports drinks contain small amounts of sodium. Sounds counter intuitive to have salt in a hydration drink, but sodium is an electrolyte that actually helps the body absorb water and carry it throughout the body. If you sweat long enough you can deplete your sodium stores. Even if you're drinking lots of water, you can become dehydrated if your sodium levels are low. Ever get that sloshy feeling in your stomach after drinking water on a run? That could mean that your sodium levels are low and even though you have been drinking water, your body has no means to get it out of the stomach to hydrate the rest of you. 

Like sodium, potassium levels 
(another electrolyte) can decrease through sweat loss after an hour of running. Calcium is an electrolyte that helps muscles contract and potassium works to relax the muscle. Muscle cramps can sometimes occur later in a long run when potassium levels become depleted. Sports drinks contain potassium and are a great way to keep your potassium levels topped off.

So, sports drinks do serve an important purpose. Navigating your way through all the sports drink varieties to find the one that meets your needs is the next obstacle to clear. Ever go to the sports drink isle of the grocery store or nutrition store? It can be overwhelming. Today there are many more brands than Gatorade and even Gatorade has numerous varieties, each promising to do this or that. Basically there are three types of sports drinks, each designed for a different purpose--Isotonic, Hypotonic, and Hypertonic.

Isotonic Sports DrinK--This is the most common sports drink. It's designed to
be drunk both before and during exercise. The formula consists of similar concentrations of salt and other electrolytes and sugar (6-8% carbs) as in the human body. Isontonic sports drinks usually contain about 120-170 calories per 500ml of fluid. Probably the most common type of sports drink, isotonic sports drinks are good for normal replacement of fluids lost through normal sweating incurred during middle and long distance runs. Branding plays an important part with sports drinks companies. In Australia, Powerade now has "Powerade Isotonic" drink playing off "isotonic" like it's something new, but it's the same as the regular Powerade here in the states. (Examples: Gatorade [original]; Gatorade G Series; Gatorade Endurance Formula, Powerade [original], PowerBar Endurance sport [powder], ZICO 100% coconut water, etc.).

Hypotonic Sports Drink--This type of sports drink contains a lower
concentration of salt and other electrolytes and sugar (carbs) than the human body. This type of drink replaces fluids but doesn't provide much of an energy boost. The hypotonic sports drink is a good option for a runner whose stomach won't tolerate the Isotonic or Hypertonic sports drink. But...if a runner uses hypotonic sports drinks on a long run, he/she will need to supplement with sports gels or some other carb food source to get in the needed carbs. Salty pretzels are a great option because the carbs are easily digestible and the salt will help ensure proper hydration/water balance. (Examples: Gatorade G2 Low-Calories, Powerade Zero, Amnio Vital)

Hypertonic Sports Drink--This type of sports drink contains a higher concentration of salt and sugar than the human body. They contain about 10-15% carbs and
usually about 240-320 calories per 500ml of fluid. These drinks are designed to replenish carb levels after exercise or to top off the glycogen stores before an endurance run. Hypertonic drinks are good for marathons or ultra runs. Due to the high levels of carbs, hypertonic sports drinks are not well suited for use during exercise. They absorb slowly and may cause cramping or bloating. (Examples: Gatorade Endurance Formula, Powerade Energy)

Junk Water--There's a 4th category of "enhanced water" that I like to call "Junk Water." Now don't get me wrong, water is water. So, drinking what I call "junk water" isn't necessarily bad for you, but I'm more concerned that
the fancy packing may make you think you're getting something you're not. Vitamin Water for example. Vitamin Water, is a great tasting flavored water that's been enhanced with various vitamins. While these vitamins may have some health benefits they're not going to provide any help with hydration after 60 minutes. Smart Water is another in this category. The label even reads "enhanced with electrolytes." But, if you read the nutrition label, there is no sodium or potassium. The electrolytes added are to enhance flavor. So, like Vitamin Water, it's expensive water that will keep you hydrated (just like tap water) for runs less than 60 minutes. (Examples: Vitamin Water, Smart Water; Aquifina Essentials, SoBe LifeWater, Dasani Plus, etc.)

Can't Tolerate Any Sports Drink--Are you a runner with a touchy tummy that can't seem to tolerate any sports drink? You're not alone. Many runners have stomach
distress when using sports drinks. These runners often just drink water. That's fine, but if they're going to be running more than an hour, they greatly risk dehydration and a host of other complications if they don't somehow replace those lost electrolytes. They're performance will wane too as they deplete their glycogen stores. Ever hit "the wall" in a marathon? That's often due to running out of fuel--glycogen. So, what are these runners to do? Well, luckily there are products such as Nuun and GU Brew that are electrolyte replacement tabs. You pop a tab in your water and it dissolves much like an Alka Seltzer tab. The tabs come unflavored or flavored. They only contain the
electrolytes, so someone with a sensitive stomach should not be bothered by their use in regular water. They will, however, benefit from the hydration and cramp-reducing benefits of the electrolytes. These runners will need to experiment with other ways of getting in some source of more easily digestible carbs to replenish those glycogen stores on long runs. Some runners find eating solid foods like pretzels, fig bars, or graham crackers works well. Others find that the energy chews or gels work okay.

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