Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Racing The Munga 2016 - An Inauspicious Start.

Whatsapp 15:05
> "Man it's hot. Just stopped at a farm school to get some water. But not before hurling my guts out. The bottles are so hot it doesn't get absorbed. I must have puked out a good litre of liquid. Taking 5 minutes to let my stomach settle then into the scorching wind again. Going is very slow into the wind. Going to be a long haul to Van der Kloof dam. Still have 170km to get there. Only done 50 so far in 3 hours."

Although I had only been on the road for a few hours I was trashed. When asked about the weather conditions Alex tweeted:

> "Desperate. Strongest wind I've ever experienced down here. And block head wind. 40+ degrees. 7 scratched already I think."

One of the teachers had given me a chair and I sat up against a shady wall castigating myself. Sure it was hot, but that was no excuse. I was one of the most experienced endurance riders in this race and had made a rookie error.

We all know that in order to stay hydrated you need to drink. And I was drinking - a lot. But there is a big difference between drinking fluids and rehydrating. I'll get to that just now.

I had publicly declared my intention of riding a 75 hour race (I had ridden 85.5 hours the previous year) and I was off to a bad start. At the 40km mark I was comfortably in the top 20 in a field of just over 80 riders. That changed by a few positions when I slumped next to the road in the shade of a tree and took a breather. A dozen riders passed by, many asking if I was okay. I wasn't dying but I knew I wasn't coping that well. I got back on my bike and soldiered on trying to figure out a plan to fix the situation. When I spotted a water tank next to some buildings I turned off into the school and was directed to a tap. Two mouthfuls of cool water and the urge to void my stomach could no longer be ignored.

The problem was my choice of drink. It's simple science and something I had read about back in the early 80's in Tim Noakes book Lore of Running. Fluids enter your stomach and make their way to your small intestine where they are absorbed.
As the sugar levels in a fluid rise their mobility through your system and absorbability decreases. One way to counteract this is to lower the temperature of the fluid. With the temperature in the 40's and 4 hours to get to the first official water point hydration fluid temperature was not something you could control. The other way to counteract the lack of absorption was something I could control, the contents of my bottles. I normally ride with plain water or water that has a zero sugar electrolyte added. For some arbitrary reason I had started out with 4 bottles filled with sugar saturated sports drink. The hot sweet liquid was merely slopping around in my stomach and wasn't getting to the part of my plumbing that could draw it into my system. As I sat in the shade one rider after another trickled by on the road. I emptied all my bottles and refilled them with plain water and then joined the slow procession snaking its way toward the first water point which was 12 km further up the road at the 62 km mark.

Riders were making use of the shade offered by the occasional big tree. I did too. It felt good getting out of the sun even if it was for only 1 minute at a time. A few kilometres from the water point a saw a rider in a blue and white top standing under the shade of a tree. I figured it was my riding friend Janine. Before I could catch up she was back on her bike and pedalling. I couldn't catch her and was happy to simply match her pace into the water point. We sat in the shade of a tree with 10 or 15 other riders and drank as much cold water as we could manage. There wasn't much chatter going on. There wasn't much to say. We were all struggling and it wasn't necessary to give that suffering voice.

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