Having struggled with cramps at an ultra race last year, keen runner Daniel Murray took an Advanced Sweat Test with PH Sweat Test Officer Shane Hanna in Sydney to see if he could get to the bottom of his issues with cramp.
Armed with the knowledge that he loses more than 1,300mg of sodium per litre of sweat and with PH in his bottles, Daniel headed into the 50k Elephant Trail Race with a renewed sense of optimism.
We caught up with Daniel to hear how his race went and to find out how he used the information from his Sweat Test to inform his hydration strategy for his latest challenge...
Hi Daniel, I understand you'd done a couple of ultra races previously and struggled with cramps?
The Blackmores Sydney Marathon and Snowies 50 were the two races where I suffered from terrible cramps. I'm a former rugby union prop and I suffered cramps throughout my whole career as well.
In the marathon, my left thigh started cramping at about the 28k mark, this then moved into both legs - all the way up and down the leg. I pushed through just trying anything at aid stations to try and correct the cramps. I managed to get through the pain and finish.
In the Snowies 50, I again started feeling cramps at the 22k mark. This time it hit me much harder and faster.
My whole leg was intensely cramping. I had pickle juice, salt chewable capsules, and an electrolyte drink. But nothing worked. I was reduced to a walk for large portions of the final 28k of that race.
I was able to keep moving but it was some of the most long-lasting and intense pain I had experienced.
At one point my leg was locked rigid and I couldn’t place my foot flat on the trail. When I finished, my wife said my face was very sunken and thought I looked like a zombie.
Luckily, I came back from "the dead" and was determined to try and fix the cramping issue.
You then had your Sweat Test with Shane - what did you learn from taking your Sweat Test?
The test with Shane was fantastic. We discussed the important of understanding how much sodium you lose while sweating. We also discussed how Precision Hydration electrolytes are made to be hypotonic so they are absorbed into the bloodstream faster, delivering fluid and sodium back to where they're needed more effectively.
We felt that the intense cramping I had suffered previously was because my body was losing so much sodium while exercising at these intense levels.
We found I lose 1,310mg of sodium per litre of sweat - which I understand is quite a significant amount!
The biggest change was the pre loading before big sessions and races - I found this immediately made a difference to how I felt during my training.
We also talked about the benefits of hydrating correctly post-sessions and I've since found this has really helped my recovery.
So, you then had the Elephant Trail Race - how did that go?
The Elephant Trail Race is a UTMB qualifying event and I did the 50k distance. The weekend involves a variety of distances featuring a 25-27k loop race that has 1200-1400m elevation per lap.
The big difference for me compared to my previous longer runs was that I was able to run (hike the steep parts) the entire 50k route, which was incredible.
I did have a slight left groin issue come on during the second loop at the 30k mark but I had two PH SweatSalt Capsules and that took that away.
I continued to sip my bladder with PH 1000 in it after that and the cramp was kept at bay - I was then able to run the downhill and flat sections on the second lap.
That was the biggest difference for me - during the Snowies 50 nothing helped the cramps, whereas this time the PH electrolytes helped straight away.
That's fantastic to hear - so how did you change your hydration strategy for the event? And which PH products did you use out of interest?
So, I preloaded with the PH 1500 electrolyte tablets, and then used the PH 1000 sachets in my bladder during the run, as well as the PH SweatSalt Capsules for "emergencies". I then had a PH 1500 post-race to aid recovery.
My recovery was noticeably better after the Elephant Race compared to previous events - I was able to do a 30k training run a week after the race.
Sounds like a near-perfect strategy. This was obviously your first race since the pandemic kicked off, how did you find the return to racing?
As you say, it was my first race since Covid. There was a smaller number of participants - under 500 I believe - and there was an emphasis on social distancing at the start line.
At the aid stations you needed to stand apart for social distancing too and ask for what you wanted from the aid table rather than just grabbing stuff. Someone in PPE equipment then handed you what you asked for and each item was individually wrapped.
The race ran really well and the changes at aid stations didn’t really affect the race. A little slower maybe but only minimal.
What were your nutrition products of choice during the race?
I use Spring energy gels. And real food such as sweet potato, protein balls, rice cakes with almond spread, and watermelon.
So, you're armed with your PH, advice from Shane and a hydration strategy - what's next in the race calendar?
I've got UTA100 in October and then the Tarawera 100 in February.
Excellent, go well Daniel!
Find your nearest Test Centre to find out more about taking an Advanced Sweat Test. If you're based in or near Sydney, contact Shane Hanna through www.readysweatgo.com.au or give Shane a call on +61 408 780 869.