"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Salty Dog

When I first started this blog, Bryan hoped I wouldn't neglect the arcane ephemera of my first blog. This first part's for him.

Epistemological Dog

My neighbor's black lab, Buck, died. I never even petted him, but he deserves tribute for his contribution to philosophy. One day while I was running and contemplating theories of knowledge, I saw Buck in the lake where I run; not surprising, as the dog loved the water. Then, a quarter mile later, I saw Buck's owner tossing a stick in the lake for Buck to retrieve - I had seen a different black lab earlier.

Only two generations ago the first clear definition of knowledge was formulated: justified true beliefs. To know something, it has to be true, you have to believe it and you have to be justified in believing it. Did I know Buck was in the lake? It was true; he was in the lake. I believed Buck was in the lake. I justified that belief by actually seeing a black lab in the lake and knowing that Buck was often in the lake.

It turns out one only knows something if one's belief is based on justification and the justification is based on the truth of the proposition. Knowledge=belief because of justification and justification because of truth.

Good dog.

An old game

Many years ago, I frequented a saloon where people categorized each other by pop culture. It started when one suggested that everyone is like a character from The Wizard of Oz (movie, not book). When I asked which I was, everyone - in unison - said "Flying Monkey." I didn't like that game. When people were compared to TV characters, they said I was most like Niles Crane on "Frasier"... granted, I had just complained that my madeira had been served in the wrong glass.

What TV characters do I think are most like me now? There's a lot of Dr. Temperance Brennan from "Bones," some Detective Goren from "Law and Order: Criminal Intent," and an uncomfortable amount of Dexter from "Dexter." No wonder I'm not dating much.

So, readers, what character are you?

Different Ultras, Different Goals

When I started in on electrolytes, I should've pointed out that what I was going to say relates mostly to 100 mile races. One can run a marathon without a sip of water; I've done it and Ron Hill won the Olympic marathon that way, but I wouldn't recommend it. One can mess up one's electrolytes pretty seriously and still run 50 miles; one compensates after the race. The 100, though, is a different beast, as I'm learning. Here's a theory about the differences:

The marathon, at it's highest level, is about weighing as little as possible without sacrificing strength. This is why marathoners tend to be short; there's only so much weight one can lose. The extreme example is Kenyan Olympian Tegla Loroupe, who competed at 4'7" and 74 lbs. ("Are You Smaller Than a Fifth Grader?")

Races of 4-16 hours appear to be about storing as much glycogen as possible and finding the exact pace that causes one to expend the last of it right at the finish line. The best 50 mile and 100K runners usually run their fist race at what seems a comfortable pace, die about 35 miles, and struggle to the finish line AND STILL WIN. They then run their next one at an even pace, just a bit faster than what won the last one and find they could've run faster. They then bounce back and forth between too fast and too slow until they find what works. They usually do this half an hour ahead of all the other runners.

The trail 100 and the 24-hour run are about burning fat and not glycogen, so carbohydrate loading and other "tricks" no longer apply (The road 100 is different, as the best runners are doing it in under 14 hours). One has to find a pace that is just slow enough not to dip into muscle glycogen reserves, but one uses liver glycogen, so one has to take in some carbohydrate during the run. Electrolyte balance becomes critical.

Multidays are all about eating while running. I tried to follow the ideas of runners like Yiannis Kouros and Danny Ripka and eat as many calories as I was burning, but this really only matters if one's doing what they do: 80-120 miles EVERY DAY for a week or more. One can run 100 miles without food, though not well, and one doesn't really need more than basic vitamins and minerals - when I volunteered at Superior last year, Susan Donnelly handed me a fistful of empty gel packs she'd eaten and grabbed another; she ate no "real" food at all.


There are two approaches to sodium intake, the low salt road and the high salt road.

Most people in most places throughout time have had very little sodium in their diets and have functioned well. The Tarahumara indians, for example, run more than a hundred miles without any salt and pioneer ultrarunner Tom Osler did the same. The body adapts to low sodium by holding on tightly to what's available and one loses very little in sweat or urine. The way to do this is to live on an essentially vegan diet and eat only what one prepares oneself; no preserved foods (including beer, Matt), no sea vegetables, no baked goods. One then allows oneself 1/2 teaspoon of salt per day. If one eats small amounts of the prohibited foods, then one has to cut down the salt to 1/4 teaspoon. Less than this and one starts risking iodine deficiency here in the midwest "goiter belt." In races, one drinks only water. The benefit to this is that one never has problems with bloating or hyponatremia or salt-induced nausea.

I've tried it. It doesn't work well for me. It is the way to go, however, if one has sodium-sensitive high blood pressure. A lot of people worry about this and don't need to and a few should worry and don't. The test is simple. Here's what I did: My local Cub pharmacy has a blood pressure machine and the store shares a parking lot with a Burger King. I took my blood pressure, than went and ate two orders of fries and drank soda until I had to urinate. Then I went back and took the pressure again. No change, for me.

The high sodium route allows one to eat whatever one wants, but then one has to worry about sodium levels during long runs. The sweat of trained, acclimated runners not on salt-restricted diets contains about 1800 milligrams of sodium, no matter how much salt they ingest, so one needs to replace lost sodium as well as lost water when exercising. That salt can come from any source, but it's best if it's in solution. No commercially available sports drinks contain this amount of sodium (I think; someone will undoubtedly prove me wrong), so most ultrarunners supplement with salty foods or salt tablets/capsules. Learning how one's body handles too much or too little sodium in conjunction with too much or too little water is complicated and takes time; each body is different. Karl King has a chart that covers some of the symptoms at http://www.succeedscaps.com/Ninebox.html


aharmer said...

Is there any kind of analyzer out there that will measure sodium content of sweat? Strips of some kind maybe? That would be incredibly helpful if it existed. I've always used my hydration model to determine sweat rate, and then taken 1 Succeed for every 30 ounces of sweat...sometimes it's every 30 minutes, sometimes every hour. Knowing the sodium content of your sweat would be huge in a 100 miler.

In regard to the TV characters...I'd like to think I resemble any character Brad Pitt or George Clooney plays. Unfortunately my wife would collapse in laughter if she heard that.

Speaking of NCAA brackets, I've got huge stakes on my pool this year. I will be coaching the family through filling out their first brackets this year. Winner gets their choice of Sunday brunch location following the tourney. Go Jayhawks!

Kel said...

Bill Gookin analyzed his sweat, which is how he came up with the formula for Gookinaid (aka Hydralyte, and now the newer version Vitalyte). Not sure how he did it though - probably in the lab when he was working as a biochemist. I've been using his product for more than 10 years and have found it works better than any of the other commercial electrolyte/carb sports drinks. Maybe I sweat like Bill.

aharmer said...

I emailed the one guy who I thought might know about testing sodium levels...Karl King isn't aware of anything out there.

bryan said...

BUT, by what external, independent axiom do you ultimately judge whether a justification is really based on the truth of a proposition? Isn't this another way of saying the justification has to be justified in its basis on the truth of the proposition -- in which case, how do you evaluate the justification of the justification? It turns into endless iterations. But that's the secret; justification is iterative, and the belief, the justification, and the actual truth of the proposition all remain conditional and falsifiable pending all future observations. However, this doesn't imply that no truth claims are superior to any others; a sophisticated structure of prior iterative justifications is almost infinitely superior to mere doubt of primary justifications. Knowledge is iterative.

Too bad you didn't just receive an axiomatic inner conviction that the first dog really was Buck, then you wouldn't have had to go through any extra effort of analyzing the implications of the subsequent obvious imposter.

As for salt... the one formula that has yielded the most reliable experimental results for keeping my electrolytes and hydration level for any length of run is Gatorade. Score one for big corporations.

Runner Brewer said...

No preservatives in the beer I make dude! (although, the alpha acid in hops is considered a preservative).

What character have I been called? Recently somebody said I remind them of a guy in Lost. I have never seen the show, but they also said his name is Matt.

I have been called Cliff Clagen from Cheers on more than one occasion. I guess I always add a bunch of useless trivial knowledge to a conversation.

I peg you more of a Kramer from Seinfeld.

I had lunch at the original Salty Dog Cafe in Hilton Head last month. Check out the webcam.