Hydrating for a desert ultra

Monday, November 19, 2018

The biggest worry people seemed to have about my desert ultra was how I was going to stay hydrated.  In actual fact, more people tend to suffer from hyponatremia during these sorts of events than dehydration.  Hyponatremia happens when you drink too much water and the salts in your body reach a low concentration.  I remember hearing stories of people dying from chugging water for a radio contest or when pledging a fraternity (because they were under age).  Careful planning went into the food and supplements I brought with me to Jordan.  I chose salty foods, like Lucky Me instant noodles and pretzels.  I also brought Tailwind and nuun tablets, both of which provide electrolytes by dissolving the product in your water.  Finally, I invested in salt tablets from Decathlon as an additional preventative measure.

The week before the race, I started taking the salt tablets as directed on the bottle to make sure I could stomach them and also to start off with a higher-than-normal salt concentration.  I avoided drinking loads in the week leading up to the race and on the plane.  Starting off my adventure with a hangover would not be wise.  My plan was to space out the salt suppliments I had evenly throughout the day and hope it did the trick.

It is hard to know exactly how much salt is gained or lost during an ultra.  I couldn't really see what color my urine was nor did I have a lot of salt sweat on my skin.  I was drinking 1-2 liters of water every 10k with either a serving of Tailwind or nuun.  The food was pre-planned out but could be swapped if I felt thirsty or a bit off.  Luckily, I did something right as I was able to maintain my body weight, muscle mass and percent body fat over the 5 days.  Some people lost as much as 10kg while most lost 2-3kg.  One person even gained weight (I have no idea how!).  This is reflection of what they ate and drank over the entire week, not just during the running bits.  One person needed an IV after day 4 and another started to exhibit signs of hyponatremia.  She quit for the day after a short trip to the ambulance.

We finished the race on a Friday and spent half of Saturday on a bus and half walking around Petra in the midday sun.  We also partied hard on Friday and Saturday, celebrating our crazy feat.  When I got home on Sunday night, I was exhausted from the ultra, the Jordan heat, the late night parties and the early morning flight.  Luckily, I had a visit from the IV Doc booked in as my last defense against my body rebelling against a tough week.

What is the IV Doc?
It is a visiting nurse service that comes to your home, work, gym, etc to administer saline in addition to detoxifying and energizing additives, such as vitamins and amino acids.  When I made the appointment in August, I had to complete a short medical history questionnaire and have a screening call with the doctor.  The at-home visit was eight hours after I landed from Jordan but I still sent them my flight details just in case I was delayed.  The IV Doc confirmed my appointment for an antioxidant IV hydration therapy 24 hours in advance by email too so I wouldn't forget in my jet lag haze.

My experience
My nurse, Judy, arrived at my home with a suitcase full of goodies.  She had saline, liquid vitamins, syringes, and everything else needed for my treatment.  She reviewed my medical history, allergies and asked how I was feeling.  With my info, she said she wouldn't be able to give me one specific solution due to my allergy to sulfa drugs but she could give me extra vitamin B with an intramuscular injection.  We then called the doctor to confirm my prescription.   I actually talked to him too about my allergy and current medications.

Once we got the all clear from the doctor, we set me up on the couch with Bridezillas on the television and a needle in my arm.  My husband got Judy and I tea and we chatted for a while about my race, her upcoming wedding, and working for the NHS.  After 30 minutes, Judy increased the drip speed as I hadn't had any ill effects.  It took just over an hour for the bag to drain entirely. The time passed quickly though as she was very easy to talk to.  Before the appointment, I was wondering what the nurse does during the treatment.  Judy said it depends on the person and where they are having the treatment.  She said people at work tend to be more tense and formal, while home visits are relaxed.

I had read that some people get the chills during the at-home IV treatments, but I was comfortable the entire time.  The needle didn't bother me and I didn't have to go to the bathroom during the drip.  When the bag was nearly empty, Judy unhooked me, tidied everything up and took all of the waste with her.  My husband and I didn't have to worry about needles in the rubbish, which was a relief.  In total, the appointment took about two and a half hours.  It was wonderful to have the treatment in my home, rather than having to travel to an office after a grueling week of travel.

Who is this service for?
Judy told me that athletes use The IV Doc before and or after big competitions.  Entertainers who have a long gig (such as at a festival) or two performance a day (matinee and evening) have also booked in with her.  Obviously, after traveling is a popular choice, as well as after a big night out that results in a hangover.  It is something that would have been a game changer during the Wadi Rum Ultra for participants who were struggling a bit (I am going to suggest it to the organizers).  My treatment was designed to help me get back to a balanced state by providing immediate hydration.  The solution also boosted my immune system and helped increase my oxygen delivery to improve my energy levels and fight fatigue.

The following day, I was back to work and feeling fine.  I was still a little stiff but my feet were less swollen and I slept well.  It was back to normal life after an incredible experience I will never forget.

Thanks to the The IV Doc for the complementary service.  All opinions are honest and my own.

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