Quiet time

July is the a quiet running time for an ultimate Comrades runner.

So I if I get out to run now it’s mostly for the joy of running, to maintain the aerobic capacity I built and to get my legs muscles to recover, deeply properly and bouncingly.

I am also working on a solution to my ultra-flaw: the one where I just can’t drink anymore. Swallow fatigue. Gulp stop.

I mean I can drink 700 ml per hour, electrolyte right. I can squeeze in, force in more. But if, as in the heat and wind of  Comrades 2013  I need 900 or more ml per hour, I dehydrate. Over 11 hours I can be a good few litres short.

I don’t worry about it too much.  I’ll find an answer. I’m sure. And if I don’t, it’s okay too.

I’ll just get close as I can to the end and then procrastinate – put off bailing until I cross the grin-ish line in time as I did this 2013 year.

10, actually 12 things to know about Comrades Hydration

Things to know about Comrades hydration


Even if you just want to survive to the end, your survival is more likely the better hydrated you are.

It’s the same for any ultra, and it’s even the same for everyday living.

There’s a lot of science out there that could help you get it right. There is also a lot of hype, advertising and myth, and many points of view. You have to wonder though if its all enough and how and what applies to you in your run.

Here are 12 things to know about Comrades, and by extension or contraction, to marathon and ultra hydration. They are not science. They are about the logic of longer run hydration –

    • distilled, so to speak, from what engaging with what scientists and others say and write, running and, sure, flirting with dehydration.
    • aimed at a framework for engaging with drinking to sustain endurance runninghydration

Proper Hydration

  1. You run your best Comrades at whatever level you choose to engage with it, when you are properly hydrated for as much of the run as possible.
  2. Proper hydration means having the right amount of water, not too much and not too little, with the right things dissolved in it, in the right places in your body for as much of the run as possible. This includes keeping the supply process going so that water is available when it is needed.

Not just water

  1. Hydration is more than just drinking water. To get water through your stomach and be absorbed without unbalancing the levels of chemicals your body needs in its systems to sustain running, it needs the right things in it.
  2. Eating and drinking go together – to hydrate you need the right things in the water; to digest absorb nutrients you need the right amount of water with them. It makes sense to think about them and to manage them together.


  1. The human body can cope without water and food while performing. It also has a couple survival mechanisms, one of which insists on curling up under a tree in the shade  and sleeping. While we can make use of these mechanisms to get through a run, coping and survival mechanisms are not performance, let alone best performance mechanisms. And they don’t guarantee that you will make the cut-off.
  2. One of the early casualties of even mild under-hydration – not enough water – is that your blood volume drops and with it your blood pumping rate and with them your performance. In my speak, your body borrows water from your blood volume (and other body systems) to ration what’s available between all the systems that need it. The funny thing is when you train right you build up your blood volume to sustain your efforts. So its a bit weird to undermine your training by not keeping up a good water supply.
  3. No training can get rid of being de- or under-hydrated. You can be tough. You can show how long you can go without water or enough water. But you can’t out-tough the effects of dehydration. Why bother anyway? You can, not so weirdly, do the opposite. You can train to yourself to drink and process water on the run.
  4. Dehydration is not a thing that occurs later in the run. You begin to use water as soon as you start running. If you don’t replace what your body needs you begin to dehydrate. Actually you use water when you are standing at the start, you even use water when you are sleeping. The deficit begins insignificantly with little effect. The problem is that it keeps building until it becomes noticeable. By then you have to work extra hard to make up the deficit as well to replace what you use while your are waiting for the deficit to be fixed. This can be tricky if not extremely difficult without stopping or seriously slowing down.

Train to drink

  1. It’s easy not to train drink and eat while doing the months of running training. Because training distances, even 42 km marathons are shorter than Comrades, you can catch up after them. In Comrades  you have to catch up and keep up hydration while you are running.
  2. Its actually very easy to train to drink on the run. You take what you need with you, get someone to bring it or plan your runs to go past places where you can buy things. By testing out things, you get to know what you need, how much you need and when you need it. You can get to know your needs at different effort levels and for vary conditions in which you run. Your body learns to process water while running, It’s good to end a 2 or 3 hour training run not needing or being keen or desperate for anything to eat or drink; needing only, as you relax afterwards, to pee the blondest pee.

The Basic Plan

  1. The basic plan is to:
  • get properly hydrated before the run,
  • top-up even from when you wake to the start gun
  • drink regularly during the run. The water-tables are spaced just right to help you with your liquid needs.
  1. To reinforce this, note that it takes time, maybe even up to an hour, for what you drink to get to the parts of your body that need it. This means is drinking ahead of your needs, drinking before you get thirsty. Thirst is not a good indicator of drinking needs for long runs. It’s  triggered by a deficit not by a need that hasn’t arrived yet. Anyway thirst is easy to ignore or override. 




Comrades 2012- Base training

I’ve been thinking lots about running and drinking – the hydration kind not really the beer kind.

Hydration on a long run like Comrades  – which for most goes on for well over 7 hours is, as we all know, very important.

So my thoughts on that soon.

The effort of the these weeks is accumulating. Even recovery runs are hard and I have to recover from the recovery run.

But its okay. Fresh orange juice, muesli,  home-made health bread help. So does sleep.

Compared to last year its all looking good:  Weekly totals between 46 and 50 km are better than last year; running pace easily 30 sec per km faster and still sustainable. I’ll get a rest soon and a 42.2 km marathon before the end of the year.

Its good when running is sustainable and allows me to ramp up distance from time to time.

Running ages-10

The 10 year-old in me enjoys my running antics. His cheers are loud. He finds my name in the results; not worrying I don’t make the headlines.

He loves the peeling naartjie smell, how his mouth sucks at its taste-burst after a run.

The taste is as fresh as that of the ones he used to take from Mr le Roux’s orchard next door, even when he shot near us with his pellet gun; teaching us to run and hurdle fences.

Oh and naartjies are great with an espresso.

(a naartjie is South African word for an easy peeling, if it gets enough water during growing, citrus fruit also known as a mandarin,  tangerine and Citrus reticulata; perfect for maintaining post or during run hydration or for stealing from the neighbour)