When training in various bodily states, you get to experiment with quite a few different variables. Another significant advantage is learning to recognize the early signs of significant issues that plague ultrarunners. Here are some examples:
- Glycogen or cabohydrate depletion: As discussed earlier, your body has a finitely number of carbs to fuel your muscles. When the supply runs low, you body has to convert fat as a fuel source, which is significantly slower. This usually results in a crash or hitting “the wall', which is one of the most common causes of runners dropping out (DNF). Learning how this feels is among the most valuable skills you can learn. If you begin experiencing the early signs, consuming something sugary can prevent the crash.
- Dehydration: For me, recognizing the bodily sensations of early dehydration is difficult. Instead, I rely on other signs. I use urine frequency and color. If I'm peeing at least once every two hours and the urine color is clear or light yellow (like lemonade), I know I'm good. If I'm peeing less frequently or my urine is darker color (like apple juice), I know I'm nearing dehydration and will start drinking more. It's not an exact science, but still pretty effective. What about at night? I just shine a headlamp through the stream to determine color. Practice it a few times. What about women? [This answer comes from Shelly] She recommends learning to pee standing up (as opposed to squatting) and, like my suggestion, use a headlamp through the stream to determine color. Again, practice the technique.
- Sleep Deprivation: Sleep deprivation is a major issue for me, but usually only in longer races. If I'm excessively sleep deprived, my mood turns negative. I'm far more likely to stop a race due to sleep deprivation than anything else. The problem- sleep deprivation symptoms can be similar to glycogen depletion. Sleep deprivation is somewhat tricky because the best fix is actually sleeping. Loading up on stimulants may be a temporary fix (like pounding a Redbull or taking a few hits off the crack pipe). If that solution doesn't work, it is possible to counteract some of the effects with a 15 minute “power nap.”
- Hyponatremia: This is a life-threatening condition that is caused by too little sodium in your body. It usually results from consuming too much water and not enough sodium. Some symptoms are weight gain and swelling. The prevention is simple- take supplemental electrolytes during runs, especially if it is hot. I prefer Succeed S-Caps and will take one about every hour or two. Consuming sports drinks instead of straight water can also be useful, too.