It's almost race day for the NYC Marathon (Sunday November 1, 2015). You've put in the work and training (right?), and it's time to go 26.2 miles, over bridges and down city streets. Here are 5 critical things to keep in mind, whether it is your first marathon or your tenth.
During intense activity, your body can lose 450mg or more of sodium per hour, while sweating out over four pounds of water. The water loss may be more noticeable, but the sodium loss is more critical. It is recommended to have a water/sodium(electrolyte) balance of about 3.25 grams/liter in the bloodstream. If the sodium levels drop much below that it can cause a life-threatening condition called hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is particularly dangerous because sometimes sufferers think that they are dehydrated and drink more water, making the condition worse.
In fact, one study showed that 85% of runners at the end of a marathon had low sodium levels.
The Prescription: Take two Brode Electrolyte Vitamin tablets with your pre-race hydration routine, and two more with your celebratory beer at the end of the race. Go ahead, you've earned it.
Running 26.2 miles takes a lot of energy. And dispersing all of the heat generated by your muscles is a large task for your body. If you get too hot, you don't function as well. But nor do you function well if your muscles are too cold. The ideal balance is at just about 60°F, where these two opposing forces balance the best. But during a marathon, the air temperature will rise during the day. How to combat this?
The Prescription: Dress in light, cheap layers that you can tear off during the race. It may seem wasteful, and in a way it kinda is, but this allows you to keep your muscles warm at the beginning, but then allow them to dissipate heat as you get to the middle of the race.
Pacing is very important, and experienced runners do not leave it to chance. Through extensive training and careful monitoring, pros can zero-in on their ideal pace. But even amateurs can use pacing to avoid accidentally running intervals, where one doesn't run a steady pace.
The Prescription: Try a pacing calculator, which can take variables and estimate an idea pace.
The sodium/water balance in the bloodstream is around 3.25 grams/liter. If you drink straight water, that is with no electrolytes (specifically sodium), it creates what is called osmosis pressure. (Osmosis is the term for fluid moving through a porous membrane.) Since the water that you drank has a different sodium concentration, it literally sucks sodium out of your bloodstream and muscles in order to match the concentration of your body, before it can assimilate. This is why drinking even a small amount of water when engaged in heavy activity can cause cramping.
The Prescription: You should "pre-hydrate" with plenty of water and sodium at the beginning (Brode Electrolyte Vitamins are an easy way), ideally peeing just as the race begins. Then stick to specially made gels during the race.
Your body loses a lot during a marathon: electrolytes, water, lots of stuff. A beer, believe it or not, will actually replace what is lost better than a water. Beer has water, vitamins, carbs, even a tiny amount of protein and soluble fiber. So go ahead, drink one, (that's one, right?) and know that yes, it is perfectly healthy in moderation. Just remember to take two Brode with it to replace those electrolytes.
The Prescription: Enjoy a post-run brew, ideally a light beer such as a pilsner or ale with an ABV of less than 5%, and two Brode Electrolyte Vitamin tablets, to give yourself a little reward with your recovery.