Race Day 101 – Remember the Electrolytes!

“But this doesn’t happen to me!” my rational mind argued as I tried to run out a stomach cramp toward the end of mile 2 of the first race of the season.

“Help! I’m having an appendicitis!” the little irrational mind chimed-in, only slightly influenced by the previous night’s episode of Lost, where stoic Jack tried to watch himself have an emergency appendectomy. Hmmmm, I suppose Lost may be easy on the eyes, but perhaps not so helpful for my race day visualization techniques.

Sure enough, I was experiencing a real muscle cramp. I’ve heard of these evil things – clients have often reported painful charley horses that wake them in the middle of the night. But come on, why now, in my abdomen, in the middle of my triathlon? This was only a 5K, for crying out loud, and I’ve been training with 10K’s for the past month!

What is a muscle cramp, anyway? Described as a rigid, involuntary muscular contraction that lasts over a period of time, cramps are caused by heavy sweating, hard work in the heat, or an imbalance between water and electrolytes – sodium, potassium, and calcium. Muscle cramps can be prevented by acclimating, increasing water and electrolyte intake, and getting adequate rest.

No doubt my abdominal cramp was caused by a combination of things, including low levels of eloctrolytes and not enough rest during the week. I’d been waking up at 5 am for the last 5 days for no apparent reason; the night before the race I woke up in a feverish sweat around 2 am and couldn’t strip down fast enough.

Combined with the headaches I’d been experiencing throughout the week, the sleeplessness and heavy sweating sabatoged my run. I tried not to watch as many of the runners I’d already passed ran by as I walked-out the cramp, clutching my side and gasping for air, faking that I was alright when the National Gaurdsmen pointed at me and yelled, “are you ok, 445?” 445, yes, that’s me alright, walking out a stomach cramp in mile 2 of a 5K.

Well, here’s to Race Day 101 – never ignore physical symptoms and REMEMBER THE ELECTROLYTES!

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