Little late getting onto this, but just a quick post regarding an article by Andy Hewat in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag, that talks about the dangers of ultra running in regard to Rhabdomyolysis and Exercise Associated Hyopnatremia.
The E-Zine is available for download here.
Definitely worth reading and knowing the dangers of these conditions. I got Rhabdomyolysis after completing Western States in 2009 off about 5 or 6 weeks training due to a broken foot. Naturally i went in underdone but with a firm mindset that not finishing was not an option. I tried to be conservative early but my quads were no match for the long downhill stretches of the course and were blown by Foresthill at Mile 60.
Looking back now I have a bit of disbelief about how i actually managed to push myself through such pain over those last 40 miles. My efforts ultimately gained me a silver belt buckle and a 2 weeks in Auburn Hospital. I won't go into the full details of my stay in hospital but suffice to say that it wasn't a very pleasant experience.
I like my belt buckle, but i wont be pushing that hard again. Last year while racing the Great Ocean Walk 100km, it was evident from pretty early on that my legs were carrying over fatigue from the You Yangs 50 Mile, four weeks prior. At the 55km checkpoint i was faced with the option of keep going and risk damaging a quad muscle, or drop with the knowledge that I just didn't have what it took to get it done on that day, but that i'd be back to running after a few days rest. Easy choice, I dropped, my first ever DNF. I have no regrets.
I think there is a bit of a macho mindset in ultrarunning and that a DNF shows a sign of weakness and lack of ability to handle the pain that goes hand in hand with running ultras. I don't argue that a fair degree of pain is inevitable in the majority of ultra races, but i think that people need to make a distinction between pain and damage. Pushing through when your experiencing pain is one thing but continuing on when your causing yourself damage is another, and everyone should ask themselves, "Which is the bigger failure. To not finish a race, or to tough it out, limp across the finish line and check yourself into hospital?".
For me, I plan to show up at races fit, healthy and fully trained. To race those races as hard as i can, but to show the initiative to stop (or back off) when the signs are saying that i'm putting myself at risk. Those that care about me shouldn't have to be subjected to the worry that i put them through after Western States in 2009, and neither should the Race Directors/Organisers that are taking responsibility for your safety while your running their events.