Minutes later, a runner who is unable to speak and nearly completely unresponsive is brought by ambulance from the mile 89 checkpoint to the finish. Shortly after his arrival, he begins to have seizures. In a large part due to previous research at Western States, we know what the problem is immediately (do you??).
Now if you think you know what the problem is, what is the treatment? (think fast, we could very easily lose him). If you choose the wrong one, he'll get worse.
I'll tell you. But I'd like to know if you knew. When the body is under extreme physical stress, it retains urine (I think of it as an evolutionary mechanism to stay hydrated when there is not going to be access to water) and when there IS access to fluids and we drink them (even WITH salt tabs) 100 mile runners in races with extreme temperatures are at high risk for hyponatremia (low sodium). (think Susitna and Western States, for example).
The treatment is a bolus (100mL) of IV fluids with more sodium than is found in the blood (3% saline). When the runner received this, he stopped seizing and improved rapidly. Had he been sent to a local hospital, they most likely would have treated him for dehydration with regular isotonic saline (or even hypotonic) and could have sent him into a coma or killed him.
The medical team at Western States seems to have a bad reputation among the runners, so it was an interesting experience being on the "other side"
|Gordy and me at packet pick-up|
Well, after years of pulling racers from Western States due to a certain amount of weight change (or a certain blood pressure), it has been shown though research at the race that weight doesn't correlate well with blood levels of electrolytes or race outcomes. It turns out runners are a lot better off following their instinct (Okay, honestly, I had never liked the idea of pulling runners at WS, so I'm glad there is research to back this up). Trouble happens when runners are mistakenly encouraged to drink. Runners aren't held anymore or pulled. The medical team is now there to give advice and help when runners get into trouble. And of course, respond in an emergency.
And as I was stationed in the extreme heat at mile 39 and then the finish line, I witnessed what seemed to be something superhuman and even magical.
There were top runners who ran these 100 miles in over 100F in the unthinkable times of just over 15 hours. I could barely walk out into the sun to get runners' weights. And I got to be in the mindframe of that person who always asks me "how on earth do you run so long/so fast?", etc. Timothy Olson and Rob Krar achieved an absolutely astonishing feat yesterday. Honestly, did we know as humans and scientists that a time this fast in these temperatures was within the realm of possibility? What are the limits and are there consequences? (one of this year's research studies looks at the affects of ultra running on the heart, both immediate and long-term).
|Rob Krar - 2nd in 15.22:05, Timothy Olson 1st in 15:17:27|
Even more incredible, perhaps, is Pam Smith's win. She had a pace card shooting for 18:30 which she made before she knew it would be so hot. She stuck to it basically all the way and finished in 18:37 and took 9th overall, even outrunning Yassine Diboun and Karl Melzer. Last year she ran in around 29 hours, suffered from hypothermia and was held for 3 hours at an aid station due to weight gain (no more holds, thank goodness, as I said). As far as I know she didn't make it on any female top 10 lists, let alone for the men. She is just a woman from Oregon who lives in a town without trails and trains with men who love to run marathons on roads. And she works as a pathologist. How she did it, I do not know and she was completely calm and collected, even unfatigued afterwards. But one thing is certain, she had an extremely methodical training and race plan, sticks to it and believes in it 100% (my love and admiration go out to you Pam :0)).