Monday, May 10, 2010

Electrolyte Company

With the oncoming heat and humidity, my long runs are going to become more of a chore.

2 weekends ago, I attempted a 10 mile long run on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail headed towards Leesburg, and on my return trip, I was assaulted with a wall of humidity as I exited the tree cover around mile 31. I was humming along at about a 9:35 clip until that point. I struggled for the final 4 or so miles, sweating profusely and plodding along to the finish. My 4-bottle fuel belt was filled with water when I began, and was delpleted by the time I finished. So hydration surely wasn't the problem.

Or was it?

After reading a blog posting last week by Team McGraw's running coach, Kevin Leathers, I found out that I may not have been properly hydrated. According to Kevin, in humidity, you need to replace electrolytes (among other things), and water just doesn't do that for you. Sugary sports drinks (i.e., Gatorade) also aren't the best for you in that regard.

So I took a trek to Potomac River Running last Monday and after consulting with the sales rep there, purchased HEED, by Hammer Nutrition. HEED (for High Energy Electrolyte Drink) is promoted as a healthier alternative to the sports drinks that are primarily artificially colored high-fructose corn syrup. HEED is sweetened naturally, and has no artificial colors. When I mixed up a batch on Saturday, it had a faint orange smell, and resembled cloudy water. Not bad tasting, either.

The proof, though, was in my performance. I ran a double 5-mile loop through my very hilly neighborhood. Generally, a 5 miler through my neighborhood leaves my quads close to burning at the end of a run, and here I'm going to go twice. I sipped my HEED every 15 minutes (about 4 oz per sip) and supplemented with a GU energy gel halfway through. I also purposely ignored my running watch, so as to not worry about time - just run easy.

My usual long run, done at a moderate pace, ends up being about a 9:45-9:50 pace. With slight humidity, I could expect it to be on the higher end. But this past Saturday, I clocked in at a 9:35 pace, and that was without pushing myself. So maybe it was a hydration issue after all. I did better on a hilly 10-mile loop this week than on a flat "out & back" last week drinking only water.

So I learned something this week - electrolyte replacement is essential when running in the heat & humidity. I have Coach Kevin to thank for that, and for also suggesting getting away from stuff like Gatorade. Perhaps this will really help me as I gear up for September, when the training really ramps up in July and August.


  1. Dave! I am so glad you found another key to better running! YGB.

  2. Hey pal! Coach Kevin has called me out in the past on some of my own hydration mistakes; probably should toss THAT story out there one of these days...though I'll kinda throw myself under the bus on THAT one!

    Glad to hear your running is in such good shape; lookin' forward to hittin' the roads together sometime soon!