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June 21, 2009

Subject D

(Admin note: the Western States 100 is practically here, which means that my nerves are so frazzled that I can barely think in coherent sentences, let alone string multiple paragraphs together for a respectable blog post. So this week will feature a few quick entries, with some final race details [including my bib number for the webcast] on Wednesday or Thursday before I head to the hills for the big show.

As for that noise you may be hearing in the background … that would be my heart pounding away like a sledgehammer. I’m trying not to let it distract me.)


Most ultrarunners will tell you that our activity is an inherently self-centered one. We constantly steal time away from friends, families and jobs in pursuit of goals that are significant to only us; we spend countless hours chasing dreams of individual meaning and questionable importance to the larger world we inhabit.

That’s why many of us like to seize opportunities to share the experience, or to somehow help others benefit from this obsessive passion of ours. We volunteer at races, we invite pacers to participate in events with us, and we return the favors as pacers and/or crew for those who have served us.

And at the Western States 100, we subject ourselves to medical studies.

I’ve written before – quite extensively, in fact – about the symbiotic relationship between ultrarunners and medical researchers. Since much of my professional life has revolved around clinical healthcare, I’m especially sympathetic to the plight of desperate scientists in search of test subjects within a very narrow set of criteria.

That’s why I’m always willing to subject myself to whatever poking and prodding and body analysis that researchers want to inflict upon me. This weekend, I’ll be a participant in two studies: one looking at exercise-associated hyponatremia, and another examining the impacts of a 100-mile run on cardiac function. At various times on race weekend, I’ll give blood samples, have EKGs and a body composition scan, and possibly, um … pee in a Ziploc bag. Don’t ever say I’m not committed to science.

It actually feels kind of cool to participate in medical research during Western States weekend. It’s another small opportunity for all my years of compulsive quirkiness to actually provide some value to someone other than myself.

Besides, I long ago accepted the fact that – like most other ultrarunners - I’m something of a freak; however, if I’m a freak that contributes to the advancement of medical knowledge, that makes my condition feel a little more justified.


Dave 6/22/09, 5:54 AM  

Long live us Freaks...;-)


Annette 6/22/09, 9:31 AM  

Wow - it seems like it wasn't that long ago that the Western States was in your sights - last year! Good luck! I'm sure we'll be reading about it soon. As for the research - please no pictures of the ziploc bags, OK? ;) You are a brave one. No way would anyone get my blood mid-run. I can hardly deal with it when it's absolutely necessary! Enjoy the experience!

Anne 6/22/09, 3:12 PM  

Some future ultra runner will thank you someday for your donations of blood, sweat and urine this weekend.

triguyjt 6/22/09, 6:53 PM  

long live piss for science..
I am all for that!!!!

Rainmaker 6/22/09, 8:11 PM  

Don't even get little plastic cups anymore?

Oh wait, does that mean you have to take the ziploc back with you? Wouldn't want to get that mixed up in the hydration pack...

Alisa 6/23/09, 12:25 PM  

Not a freak...a hardcore lover of the outdoors =).

I cannot even fathom a 100 mile race!

Juls 6/24/09, 10:51 PM  

Good luck in WS100. And thanks!

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