Hydration – Things I Learned Today

The importance of hydration is something I should have learned my first month of running in Laurel, Mississippi.  I didn’t learn it then, primarily because I run at night, and it’s normally cooler at night, even in the south.

Now, thirty plus years later, I still run at night, and I’ve been having problems.  I’ve never been a fast runner, but lately I do not have what it takes to pick up the pace.  I use a heart rate monitor so I know that my resting heart rate is 48; 45 when I shut down nonessential brain activity, which is most of it.   When I began using the monitor last December, I determined that my goal was to average 120 heartbeats per minute for my entire 7.5 mile run.  Understand, in December I was only able to run that far one day per week.

A couple of months later, I was able to run two days of the 7.5 mile loop, followed by a 5 mile run, and then I’d celebrate with a day off.  By the end of March, I was able to do the 7.5 mile loop every running day, though my average heart rate was below my target level.  I tried a couple of things to “trick myself” – music and an electronic metronome.  Both seemed to work for short distances, but then I’d forget the metronome or get lost in the music and my heart rate would slide back to 106 – 109.

When the weather shifted from winter, to spring, to summer, my heart rate really took a major nosedive.  Neither the Rolling Stones or the loudest volume on the metronome helped.  Last Sunday was the second run in a three run set.  Half way through the long loop I was wondering if I’d be home before sunup.  A few miles later, I was wondering if I’d make it home at all.

I woke up Monday morning and my calves were so sore I felt like I’d just run a marathon.  I slid out of bed, took a step, and almost fell on my face.  In that moment, I got it.  Hydration was my problem.

I went to First Place Athletics, my local running store, and asked, Mike Allen, an ultra marathoner and the owner, about electrolyte replacement drinks.   Thirty minutes later, I left with a tub of Ironman Perform by Powerbar, and a 20 oz runner’s bottle complete with hand strap, and a zippered storage pouch.  At five o’clock, I began sipping my first bottle of Ironman Perform.   I finished it just before I headed out for my run at 9:26 PM.

I ran the same route I’d struggled through the night before, with a couple of major differences.  I ran it with a bottle of Ironman that I sipped often, and I ran it 6 minutes and 27 seconds faster at a heart rate eleven beats per minutes higher.  Here is the important thing: the run Sunday had been so tough I seriously considered taking an unscheduled night off.  Instead of taking off, I ran, because I knew the moment that the thought of hydration flashed through my head, that was the answer.  And I was right.

I’m a slow study, but when I get it, I’ve got it.  I’m only taking tonight off because it’s scheduled, and the only thing that makes that acceptable is thinking about how good tomorrow’s run will be.

Hydration – after 33 years of running, I finally got it.

Here are the details.





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