“To be a warrior is not a simple matter of wishing to be one. It is rather an endless struggle that will go on to the very last moment of our lives. Nobody is born a warrior, in exactly the same way that nobody is born an average man. We make ourselves into one or the other.”
This past week during my taper I have really focused on getting mentally prepared for the race, developing the mindset of a warrior. I always hesitate to say something like that because in today's culture there is very little of what I consider the true warrior spirit left, only and endless stream of adolescent bravado and puerile "tough-guyness" that I do not share. I have spent a lot of time visualizing myself running through the desert, through the night and through the inevitable discomfort and doubt. I have been repeating "embrace the pain" to myself and trying to imagine in as much detail as possible what I experienced during my last 15 miles at Lean Horse and my last 20 at Rocky Raccoon. I haven't just been focused on the difficulties of the ultrarunning though, I have also been focusing on the joy I experience while running long distances, the people I will meet and the euphoria I will feel when I eventually cross the finish line. Well, ok, by the time I cross the finish line the whole euphoria thing may have to wait for the pain and fatigue to subside but I know I will feel it. My hope though is that I do get to enjoy it right away, that I get to enjoy my final few miles. I know it is possible and I know it is in me.
This past week I also signed up for something else that I think is kind of cool; a research study taking place at the Javelina. This is the study title:
Sodium Balance in Male Runners Participating in a 160 km Footrace.
This is what they are looking at:
This study aims to determine if salt losses in Javelina Jundred runners are significant enough to require sodium supplementation during the race to prevent life-threatening hyponatremia (low blood sodium). This study will investigate if salt losses in sweat and urine are regulated by the body to maintain blood sodium levels within normal levels during prolonged and extreme endurance exercise. By measuring both salt input and salt output during the Javelina Jundred, we can determine overall sodium balance in male runners and calculate just how much salt is necessary (or not!) to maintain blood sodium levels within the normal physiological range.
And this is what they will do during the race:
The study will be conducted during the race. Before the race, we will collect a baseline blood sample (1 teaspoon) from an arm vein for measurement of electrolytes, plasma volume and arginine vasopressin – the body’s main anti-diuretic hormone. We will also be measuring body mass on a digital scale pre-race and after completion of each ~15 mile loop. During the race, we will ask each subject to pee in a bottle located every five miles (checkpoints are every five miles) if and only when necessary. We will measure salt output in sweat using a forearm patch, changed every ~15 miles (per loop). Five mL (1 teaspoon) of blood will be taken upon completion of every second loop (~30 miles) during the race and at race finish to assess electrolytes, plasma volume and arginine vasopressin levels. We will be taking an inventory of all food and fluid intake to estimate salt intake.
This might slow me down a little but I don't really care because it is in the interest of furthering the science base in ultrarunning, something that is vital to the advancement of the sport. It is also my hope that my participation in the study may advance the science behind Clydesdale endurance athletes, after all this is Studies in Clydeology.
Aside from my simple enjoyment gained from participating in some nerdly endeavor I also get three other big bonuses for participation. After the race I get a full analysis of my nutrition and everything else they are studying, which may provide me with some insights into waxing and waning performance throughout the race and provide me with data for future race planning. It will give me an opportunity to practice keeping my weight up throughout an endurance run because I'll be getting weighed every 15 miles. This is actually a big concern for me when I look at races like Western States or Leadville where they are very strict about monitoring an athlete's weight and holding them at aid stations or even pulling them from the race due to weight loss. I can drop 7 pounds during an 8 hour workout, which is a little more than 3% of my body weight and enough to get the medical staff at an ultra interested in my continued progress. I don't want them to be interested in me. In fact I want the medical staff to take one look at me and immediately fall into a comatose state due to boredom.
Finally, and probably most importantly for my present purposes, my participation in the study may pull me through some of the low points. I am a sucker for obligations and during times when I may decide to blow something off myself I will go to crazy lengths to come through for other people to whom I feel an obligation.
So, off we go. I am bib # 192 and can be tracked online through the race website.
Wish me luck!