Mar 24, 2010

The Five Stages of Dehydration

Last Saturday I went on a 13 mile run in preparation for the back-to-back marathons I have coming up on the horizon. It was a perfect afternoon for doing anything outside, especially running. Earlier in the morning I took Bo out for a walk and concluded that I'll use the Krispy Kreme donut and Monster Energy drink as my running fuel for the events that would follow. Little did I know that I basically doomed myself right then and there for what would come in the following hours.

I should have learned my lesson the first time I went on a long run. A few weeks before I ran my first marathon last year, I went on a 13 miler with my dad. The run went fine except for one little detail - I was really, really, REALLY thirsty. As soon as the need for water kicked in, it was basically lights out. None of the drinking fountains were operational on the course that we ran, and I was to the point of hysteria trying to overcome my thirst. After that day, I got a Camelbak to run with so that I wouldn't have to worry about stuff like that again.

Before I go any further, I would like to make it very clear that I am a very thirsty person in general. Always have been, always will be. If I go out to eat, I will suck down as many beverages as they can bring to the table. At work, I drink at least 100 oz. of fluids just sitting in my cube. At home, I can tear through a 12 pack of Diet Coke without thinking about it. So yes, I'm always thirsty.

Back to last Saturday, I learned a very valuable lesson. They say that the human body can go about 8 days without water before dying. I can only go about 8 hours without water before dying. Sad, but true. I've dealt with dehydration through various sporting tribulations in the past, whether it be through football two-a-days or cutting weight for wrestling. The mental toughness is there, but man is it a bitch. To get me through the constant reminder of how thirsty I was, I would always think about a giant pitcher of ice cold pop from a local pizza place, Marion's. I just imagined downing the whole thing and somehow that managed to keep my mind off the realization that I was thirsty. When the pitcher of pop failed, I would move on to the Kool-Aid man appearing out of the sky and pouring a nice refreshing gulp of red Kool-Aid down my gullet. That was Plan B. On Saturday, Plan A and Plan B failed hardcore.

To describe my battle with lack of water, I will place what I recall from a psychological/emotional standpoint into the K├╝bler-Ross model, commonly used as a form of describing the process and phases someone goes through during a tragic time of death or grief, or in my case, dehydration.

Stage 1: Denial - Miles 1-3

"I feel fine."; "This can't be happening, not to me."

Instead of learning from past mistakes, I opted to go on a long ass run without the safety net of a Camelbak to keep me hydrated. What's the big deal? I'll just hydrate myself before I run. I don't feel like messing with the Camelbak juggling around on my back. I'm sure there will be drinking fountains along the way, right? Wrong.

Stage 2: Anger - Miles 4-5

"Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; "Who is to blame?"

Once the initial feel-good mentality wore off, I started getting thirsty. And I started to think about it constantly instead of anything else that would not remind me that I was running and parched. Around this point I started spitting and noticed that it was the thick milky stuff that meant I was running low on the liquids. After that, the headache kicked in from dehydration and the sunglasses/headband/headphones combo that pressed on my temple like a vice. Moral started to get low. And the half way point was not even in sight yet. God dammit, why didn't I wear the Camelbak? Why am I so thirsty? It's not like I went out drinking the night before. Fuck this. I'm not turning around. Uggghhhh.

Stage 3: Bargaining - Mile 6

"Just let me live to see my children graduate."; "I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life savings if..."

As I reached the half way marker, I pleaded with anyone listening in my head including the man upstairs that I would give anything for a drink of water. The headache was rocking, the skin was starting to get salty, and the mouth felt like I held it under a hand dryer in a bathroom for an hour. Please God, just get me through this. All I can think about is how thirsty I am. And I have a long way to go. A long way to go.

Stage 4: Depression - Mile 7-12

"I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die... What's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?"

The depression phase kicked in at the point when I had to stop and speed walk for a half mile or so. Everywhere I looked there was a reminder of water that I couldn't have. There was a stream nearby so I could hear the running water. People passed me on bikes or walking with jugs of water in their hands, full of course, and being wasted. I was tempted to stop someone and ask for a shot of water, but didn't want to sink that low. I saw an above ground pool in one person's backyard. It was uncovered and had leaves floating in it. I bet that water would have tasted delicious. And I considered hopping a fence to find out. Throughout the running path I saw at least 200 empty plastic pop bottles that once contained a refreshing, thirst-quenching treat. Not anymore. None for me. No gas stations in sight. No drinking fountains. No water anywhere. I'm so thirsty. Wah wah wah.

Stage 5: Acceptance - Mile 13

"It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."

With the finish line in sight, I started preparing myself for what I would do when I got home. Would I stick my head under the kitchen faucet? Would I chug a can of pop? Would I shove a hose in my mouth and turn it on full blast? No, I would cherish the moment, if there was any cherishing to be done. When I got home, I opened the back door, said whimpered "hi" to Bo, and grabbed my 80 oz. Michigan big gulp mug. I filled it up with an ice cube tray full of ice, and topped it off with 3 cans of Big K Diet Cola. That's all I had, and that would do just fine. Piss would do fine, but cola would take preference. I sucked about half of it down and was immediately filled with the sensation that I was either going to sneeze or puke. Luckily, I sneezed. I collapsed on the couch and drank the rest of my big gulp. Once I gained my composure, I decided to do something I haven't done in the 4 years I have lived in my house...I took a bath. I filled the big gulp back up and sat in a tub of water and filled myself up with as many fluids as I could. "WTF?" I repeated to myself over and over. Never again. Lesson learned. Sorry Mr. Camelbak.