2018 bought warm and dry conditions to the Race. This year also lacked the usual cooling winds up high along the Ridge. I’m not sure, but it may have been the warmest Ridge Run in the 33-year history of the Race. One could check historical weather data to verify. Late afternoon saw race day temperatures at least in the high 90’s in the finish area. Race director David Summerfield speculated that Bozeman may hit 100 degrees race day which it hadn’t in 15 years. Regardless, I think the race just happened to take place on warmest day of 2018.
Putting a Cramp in One’s Race
So obviously the warmth played a factor in most people’s race experience. Heat typically does not bother me, but for some reason I suffered severe muscle cramps that really slowed me down and made the second half of the race a painful struggle to complete.
My hamstrings were the first to start cramping as I neared the half way point of Bridger Bowl. Flexing my leg to step over rocks or downed logs would cause my hamstrings to seize up in a cramp. Taking a bite out of some fresh spicy ginger root has helped me manage cramps in the past so I employed that strategy. It would temporarily help, but it was not a permanent solution and I got to Bridger in a state of worry and concern.
After Bridger, my Quadriceps and Adductors also started to cramp. The rolling terrain between Bridger Bowl and Baldy presented a multi-dimensional challenge. My Quads would cramp going downhill, my Adductors would cramp going uphill and my Hamstrings would cramp trying to run on the level areas. My calves never cramped.
Frequent chomps on a bit of ginger root or licking salt sprinkled on my hand, just did not do the trick of relieving the tendency to cramp. The theory of munching on ginger root is that a very strong spicing tasting substance like ginger or salt divert nerve signals from the cramping area to the mouth giving the cramping muscle a chance to relax. It is kind of a nervous system diversion or distraction technique. Mustard, peppermint and pickle juice are also supposed to help. There is a product called HOTSHOT based upon this theory.
I’ve never tried HOTSHOT. It has mixed reviews and is expensive for what it is. Perhaps I will add a little cassia (cinnamon) and capsicum (cayenne) to my ginger and salt to better match their active ingredients.
Descending from Baldy to the Finish line was a real struggle. My Quads were painfully cramped up resulting in stabbing pains with every step on the steep downhill sections. It was slow going and I just had to press on. No one was going to get me down the trail for me. The result was my slowest finishing time ever.
You Do Not Know How a Race Will Unfold until You Do It
Last year, 2017, I had a freak accident 3 weeks before the Ridge Run that resulted in major trauma and injury to my leg. It forced me to do the race with my left leg immobilized with a brace and tape combination. I figured I could stiff leg shuffle, gallop and skip through the race using ski poles in about 5:30. Somehow, last year, I ended being 45 minutes faster than I expected. Now, a year later, although my leg is permanently disfigured, at least it functions enough that I can hike and run without a knee brace and ski poles. For an old man like me, the high expensive of reconstructive surgery and a muscle graft is just not worth it and surgery is not without risk.
Based upon recent training, this year, I figured I could do the race in 4:30. But 2018 found me 45 minutes slower than I estimated. One just never knows. Every year is different. Some are more humbling than others.
2018 marks the most I have ever drunk during the race. I started out carrying a full 24oz water bottle and refilled it on course 4 times. That is 5 X 24 or 120oz total. A cup, 8oz, short of a gallon. Usually I drink between 72 and 96oz during the race.
Weight Loss from Sweating
This year, out of curiosity, I weighed myself before and after the race. By the time I got home (about a half hour after finishing) and had a chance to weigh myself after the race, I had consumed another half-gallon, 64oz, of liquid. The scale indicated I had still lost nearly 9lbs from the morning weigh in.
So what does all this mean? Well for simplicity, figure that 9lbs is mostly (not all) water weight. I lost a net 9lbs or over 1 gallon of water while ingesting (120+64) or just under 1.5 gallons of water. It is hard to get an exact figure because I also drank 24oz after I weighed myself in the morning, but before the start. I also pee’d twice before the start and once during the race. One could estimate I sweated out at least 2 gallons of water during the race and the half hour after the race. Wow, that seems like a lot! Especially for someone that usually weighs about 145lbs.
Perhaps I should of drank more during the race? I never felt overheated, dehydrated or extra thirsty, but maybe I was and perhaps it was contributory to my cramping problems. There is no way to know for sure.