ONE OF THE RULES OF LONG-DISTANCE RUNNING is to hydrate and fuel adequately throughout and following the run. The rule after that one ought to be: Don’t ignore the previous rule.
Up at our campground near the Sleeping Bear Dunes for the Labor Day weekend, I prepared for my assigned Saturday 18-mile run. My plan was to start and finish in downtown Glen Arbor, running a set of loops that brought me back to my car every 6 miles or so, where I would stop for Gatorade and a Gu (a carbohydrate gel). Did I confirm the distances on Google Maps like I usually do? Naw, it all looked good eyeballing the map. And I had my Garmin watch with me. What could go wrong?
Part 1, a loop on the roads around Little Glen Lake, was perfect. At the 7-mile mark, I was back at my car downing some Powerade and a vanilla Gu. On to Part 2, a planned 6-mile loop east down M-22 toWheeler Road and around. After a second water/sugar stop, Part 3 would then be a 5-mile jog to finish the run.
I noticed the first flaw in my plan when I stopped to remove a stone from my shoe, and saw on the Garmin that I’d already run four miles without finding Wheeler Road. At 4.5 miles out, I realized Part 2 was going to be quite a bit longer than planned. Abandoning Wheeler Road, I headed up Port Oneida Road toward Camp Kohahna, where my daughters had gone in summers past. So Part 3 would be merged into Part 2. Not a problem – I had a water bottle with me, and I’d run longer than this without a Gu.
At the 6 mile mark (13 total), I stopped for water – and found my water bottle was full of suds! Apparently there had been soap residue from the last time I washed it. What I had was fine for doing dishes, but definitely out for drinking. Okay, not a problem. It was only five miles back. I’d run longer than this without. . .
Those five miles back were among the toughest I’ve ever run. Let’s just say that the Jeep was a very welcome sight. I grabbed the Powerade bottle and drank most of the remainder, then headed to the IGA to pick up a few things before heading back to camp. Problem was, I didn’t start feeling better; in fact, I got worse, feeling nauseated and unable to walk for more than a few minutes without having to sit down. Previously, a lack of salt had been the problem; this time, I’d had electrolytes and salt from some chips I bought, but I wasn’t improving. Somehow I got back to camp, where I crashed, sweaty clothes and all, on the bed. After an hour or so, I struggled to the shower and cleaned up. After another rest, I finally began to recover, and all was well after dinner.
The problem, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, wasn’t the salt; it was sugar. I’d been drinking Powerade ZERO – the kind with artificial sweetener – and on an empty stomach, it must have triggered an insulin reaction that drove me into hypoglycemia. I could have resolved it with a Gu, or a full-sugar Gatorade, but for whatever reason it didn’t register in my run-addled mind.
So chalk up another lesson learned – at the end of a long run, refuel with both salt AND sugar. And better yet, don’t put myself in that position in the first place. Next time I will check my water first – and take a Gu with me, just in case.