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July 11, 2005


Yesterday I ran the Seafair Half Marathon in Bellevue. What you see more of at races these days is people with water backpacks or belts. It is good to stay hydrated during races, but now there is some concern that people are doing too good a job. The term hyponatremia has entered the runner's lexicon. It refers to having a low sodium level in your blood plasma, due to dilution from drinking too much water. Extreme hyponatremia can be fatal.

According to this Wikipedia article, the average person can rid themselves of about 1.5 liters of water. So if you head out on a 2-hour run with a 3-liter Camelbak, you may be courting disaster.

My father has always been a skeptic of the "drink eight glasses of water a day" meme, and in particular the notion that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated (because it makes no sense for humans to evolve like that). On my last visit to my doctor I asked him about drinking water, and his comment was "the dumbest kidney is smarter than the smartest nephrologist." He said that your body will adjust to whatever amount of water you drink, within reason, and there's no reason to drink any more than what you would normally consume at meals. So I started doing that, and I have not noticed any difference in my energy level or weight. The only noticeable change is fewer trips to the bathroom.

During a long race of course it's important to drink water because you sweat so much, but it's not usually a problem because they hand out water every mile or two; at the Seafair Half-Marathon they were also handing out some high-tech drink called Amino Vital. So I just plan to drink that and don't bring any water of my own; the only hassle is having to wait in line to get water, and trying to drink it from a paper cup while running.

During training runs you don't have that support, of course, but so far I've always just cowboyed it up with no water. What might be more useful than water, and actually inspired me to run with a fanny pack of some sort, is those energy goo things. At the race I didn't plan to do this because at mile 7 they were handing out Clif Shot packets.

My goal for the race was to break 2 hours, which I had never done before. If you run 9-minute miles you'll finish a half marathon in one hour and 58 minutes, so you basically have 2 minutes, spread over 13 miles, that you can cumulatively fall behind the 9-minute-mile pace. Ideally, for a race like this you will finish running no slower than at the start.

I was a bit late getting to the start line of the race due to a long line for the port-a-potties, so I had to weave through a lot of people and hit the first mile in 9:15. At mile 3 it was 27:25, which means I had chewed up 25 seconds of my 2 minutes...thus roughly on target to hit exactly 2 hours. Luckily at that point I was passed by two women named Cheryl and Kim, who woke me up and proceeded to pace my sorry keister for the next 3 miles. By then I was warmed up. I got my Clif Shot at mile 7, along with two glasses of water (since I had been told I needed to drink fluids along with the Clif Shot to make it work best). After juggling all that into my body I hit mile 10 in 89:30, which was good. In a previous race I had hit 10 miles in 90 minutes even but then proceeded to bite it for the last 3 miles. So I concentrated on running the eleventh mile at the same pace. Right at mile 11 I passed the person who was designated to run a 2 hour pace (she had a sign on her back) and from then on it was gravy. I finished in 1:56:09, an 8:52 pace and 5 minutes faster than my previous best. And it was the first half marathon I finished where the notion of running another one right away didn't seem absurd. Thus, I can start thinking about running a full marathon.

Posted by AdamBa at July 11, 2005 10:05 PM

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Congratulations on the 5-minute PR - that's amazing!!

Posted by: Dave Fravel at July 12, 2005 06:40 AM