The Drinking Game

I have never been much of a water drinker.  My husband is constantly nagging because he doesn’t think I drink enough water.  He is probably right.  In the winter, it seems to be a non-issue; I can run for miles and miles and not have to worry about getting thirsty or light-headed.  But in the summer, especially when the temperature is over 30C and the sun is high, I can struggle; over the years, there have been a few times when I have been seriously dehydrated with shakes, dizziness and diarrhea.  I’m not sure whether it is my age, experience or having two kids that is causing me to be more careful now but, in the past few years, I have become much better at beating dehydration.

One thing that I have learned to do is drink ahead of time.  If my long run is on Sunday, I’ll make sure that I am getting more fluids into me on Thursday and Friday.  This lets me get rid of the excess on Saturday so that my bladder feels more comfortable on Sunday when I run.  Maybe it’s a female thing (after all, I have delivered two children) but this system works for me.

This summer, temperatures have been extremely high so I have had to tell myself to drink more regularly and make sure that my electrolytes are in check.  Being the math geek that I am, I have come up with a mathematical relationship that considers temperature and distance run.   On days when it is over 25C and I run 8 miles or more, whether over one or two runs, I drink a bottle of Gatorade, either during the day, after I run, or both; it really doesn’t matter how I drink it as long as I drink it.  If I run 15 miles or more on a long run day, I drink two bottles – one immediately after I run and one during the rest of the day.   After working with this temperature/distance/Gatorade relationship for the past few weeks, I find that I now automatically reach for a bottle when the math tells me to.   This has the extra advantage of putting more calories into my body, something which I am finding I need more and more of as my mileage and intensity continue to increase.

Lastly, when I am drinking water, I try to make sure that I am using a bottle or container that I really like.  After all, drinking games should be fun, right?  A few weeks ago, my oldest was buying a bag of Kernels popcorn and wanted to get a bottle of water too.  “No, you can wait,” I told him, but then I saw the Mood Water.   These bottles are so much fun it is almost impossible to not want one.  Both of us noticed that the water had a bit of a flatter taste to it, possibly due to a higher alkaline level.  (But what do I really know?  I’m a math geek, not a chemist.)  Regardless, the bottles were emptied – down to the last drop.

Most people plan their meals – what groceries they are going to buy, how they are going to cook them and when they will eat them.  But our bodies are sixty percent water so we really do need to take care that we are staying hydrated and replenishing our fluids, whether it is because we ran, gardened, walked, or even sat outside under the hot summer sun.  I have made a conscientious effort to watch my fluid intake this year and I really believe that it has made a difference in my overall health.  So, while a bit unorthodox, the number and drinking games that I play are working for me.  What do you do to make sure that you are getting enough water?

 

The Pacing Game

You know you’re a runner when you watch the countdown on a microwave, see 3:45, and immediately think “marathon time”.  And you know you’ve raised your 12 year old well when he looks at your playlist and exclaims “Mom, you have enough music to run 3 marathons!”  I’m not planning on running with music when I marathon but I’m pretty impressed that (1) his math was that quick and (2) he knows my marathon goal.

Like most runners, I often wonder about time.  How fast can I run a 5K?  If I run 5 seconds faster per mile/kilometre, how will that change my marathon time?  You want me to run how many repeats?  How much rest do I get?   Am I on pace?   Pacing is the one that is always on top of my mind.

For years, my running friends have called me a human metronome. During a 10K or half-marathon, I can quickly lock into a 7:30 mile pace.  At the end of a run with friends, when the goal is to log miles and chat, we like to guess what our average pace was, and we are usually right within a few seconds.  Even on the track, which I am absolutely no expert at, I can usually guess what my 400 metre repeats are within one or two seconds.

My friend, Monica, and I use to joke about my pacing during a long run: 7:57, 7:58, 8:01, 7:56….my miles were all where they needed to be, surrounding the 8 minute mark – until this year.  Somehow, I have lost all sense of my marathon pace.  Perhaps it has been due to the faster running that I have been doing in general, but that 8 minute mile has become elusive.   For the past few weeks, my long runs have been faster than I want them, which might sound great, but I know I need 8 minute miles so that I don’t blow up at Mile 22 in Chicago.  I also know that I need 8 minute miles when I am running continuously and don’t have a break whenever I hit a traffic light.

photo credit: W. Menczel

This weekend’s heatwave in southern and central Ontario that has given us higher temperatures and humidex levels than I can ever remember.  Yesterday, the thermometer reached 40 degrees (which is 100F); in this part of Ontario, that use to be unheard of.   While many are complaining about the heat, it is exactly what I need right now so that I can get back to the 8 minute mile.

Yesterday, I headed out for my long run at 6:30 with three goals:  10 miles, a half-marathon or anything longer than 15 miles.  With weeks of 18 mile runs behind me, I felt that I could run that distance again – if Mother Nature cooperated and if I paced it properly.  No matter how far I ran, I knew that I had to be slower if I wanted to reach any of the goals.   Well, there is nothing like a heatwave to force the pace down as all of my mile splits were predicitable and well-timed: slow to start, faster miles on the downhills, slower on the ups and into what wind we had.  At Mile 10, I was feeling good; at Mile 13, I was feeling strong; but during Mile 14, on a favorite but challenging uphill, with the sun high, I noticed my heartrate starting to climb and I thought “This is crazy.  I have kids to worry about.”  So I called it a day at 14.1 miles.

Cooling off after 14 miles on a hot, hot day.

When I got home, I was mad at myself as I probably could have run at least one extra mile before “common sense” took over.  Then, I started to think about the pluses: I got out and ran, and I ran more than 13 miles; my pacing was good as I averaged a 7:57 mile;  I didn’t feel drained at the end of my run and had the whole day ahead of me.  As I saw other runners post their 30K runs, I had to keep reminding myself of my positives.

The temperatures this weekend and in the days ahead are extreme but, in terms of pacing, they are exactly what I need.  In the same way that running through the cold and icy winter made me stronger, this hot weather is forcing me to really focus on pacing and find my inner clock again.