When weight loss is a bad thing

June 8, 2007

On Sunday I headed out for my final pre-Western States long run: three laps of a hilly 16-mile trail loop around Tiger Mountain in Issaquah. Ralph Pooler, also training for WS, had shown me the loop nine days earlier, so now I was ready to navigate it by myself. My car was fully stocked with Gu2O, water, PowerGels, and crackers and cookies. I had even brought my bathroom scale so that I could monitor my hydration status from lap to lap. Nothing could possibly disrupt my carefully planned afternoon workout.

Nothing, perhaps, except for the trio of Mike Adams, Krissy Moehl, and Scott Jurek. I was all of 38 minutes into my first lap when I encountered them on their way from one distant place (Rattlesnake Ridge?) to another (the Red Town trailhead at Cougar Mountain). I quickly abandoned my original plan in favor of going wherever they were going at whatever their pace was. 48 miles is an awfully long way to run by oneself, and I couldn’t resist having some company for two or three hours.

The company was great while it lasted. Then it was time for me to retrace my steps back to Tiger with the help of Scott’s handwritten directions. By the time I finally weighed in back at the High Point trailhead where I had parked, I had lost ten pounds — over 6% of my body weight. I also felt nauseated, a rarity for me, and more than a little tired.

If this had been a Western States aid station, the hydration cops would have forced me to stop until I had regained a few pounds. As it was, though, I was free to take as many stupid risks as I wanted. My first instinct was to grab a couple of bottles and head back out, so that’s what I did. It seemed like a good exercise in summoning up the will to continue.

As I started walking up the West Tiger 3 trail, the part of my brain that was still working reconsidered the decision I had just made. How much did I really know about the sequelae of moderate-to-severe dehydration? At what point do the organ systems start shutting down? Perhaps right now was not the time to find out.

I turned around, jogged back to the car, got in and drove home. For today, 40 miles would have to suffice.


  1. "My first instinct was to grab a couple of bottles and head back out, so that's what I did. It seemed like a good exercise in summoning up the will to continue."When I read this I felt like when one watches a horror movie on late-night TV. Instead of yelling "Don't answer the door!" or "Don't answer the phone!" I was yelling "Don't go back out there!"I'm glad you reconsidered. Good luck at WS.

  2. As a OCD type, I can understand your mental struggle. But since it was your workout and not mine, it's easy for me to see that you did the right thing. Would those extra 8 miles have helped you at WS? Mentally, maybe; physically, not likely.Mentally, which would do more harm – a small shortage of miles or a workout gone really wrong? Physically, 8 miles one way or the other isn't going to make any positive difference.So get some fluids and rest and start to focus on the fun you're certain have at the race.All the best!

  3. I gave up my plan to run with friends one too many times:) and I'd add I am almost glad you had experienced dehydration to the point of loosing 6% body weight, now hopefully you won't let it happen at WS and will recognize the signs.Is it time to rest up yet? 🙂

  4. Did you refill at the issaquah community center? If not, that's a good water stop location to know about if traversing from tiger to squak and cougar.

  5. …remarkable how the will not to be alone is at least as strong as the need to be hydrated…

  6. Sounds like you made two good choices. Running long with friends can be so much easier than running alone. And of course running with water is so much better than without. Thanks to your post I am envisioning a dessicated corpse staggering along the TMT right now. I am guessing both strategies would work well for your upcoming race, at least up to 80 miles or so! Good luck!

  7. Nick: I didn't because the community center was closed that day. Good idea, though.

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