The coincidental timing of Multipure’s February Spotlight being “Health and Fitness” and my participation in a rather humbling running race inspired me to share my recent experience. As a bonus, this experience bolstered my already strong belief in the power of Multipure water.
I’ve never been much of a sports guy, but I’ve always tried to be active. This dichotomy led me toward sports that don’t require balls, bats, clubs, nets, or end zones: namely, distance running.
I’m one of those people who find distance running to be enjoyable – even cathartic. I also have a bit of a competitive streak, so over the past few decades, I’ve participated in probably a hundred fun runs, 5k’s & 10k’s. As I’ve aged (middle age, my kids so kindly remind me), I’ve noticed the speed at which I complete these events has steadily declined. To my surprise, one thing that hasn’t precipitously dropped has been my endurance. It is this revelation that led to one fateful decision in the quarantine-tainted summer of 2020: my decision to join my regular running buddy, Jason, in an “Ultramarathon.”
The definition of an ultramarathon is any running race that is longer than a traditional marathon’s 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles). One might categorize ultramarathon organizers as some of the world’s most accomplished sadists – whether it’s the unrelenting desolation of a 380+ mile run in Canada’s Yukon (the 6633 Ultra), 160 miles of Sahara Desert sand (the Marathon des Sables), or the bonkers, 5 marathon-distance loops of Barkley – Ultramarathons can truly push the limit of human endurance.
The race we chose, a 55k (33 miles) trail run in Moab, Utah, was comparatively tame. Our goal was to finish on our feet and finish together (we were joined by Jason’s brother, accomplished distance runner, Jerry). I have a history of knee problems, and the longest distance I had run up until the race had been 25 miles, so success was not guaranteed.
I don’t believe that participating in a single ultramarathon qualifies me as an “Ultra Athlete” – those rare creatures have body fat percentage measured in the single digits (fact check: my body composition is about 25% ‘Cheese-Its’), have inspiring reservoirs of willpower and work ethic, and seemingly glide over rocky trails as if gravity somehow has less influence on them. Regardless of my plodding gait and dad-bod, I still had the opportunity to breathe the same air, tread (stumble through) the same trails, and immerse myself in the same scenery as these true ultra-athletes.
Proximity and environment aside, one other commonality between myself and ultra-athletes is the critical role that nutrition and hydration play in successfully completing an ultramarathon. No matter who you are, how much you’ve trained, or how genetically-blessed you are, you must properly fuel and hydrate your body if you expect to travel 30+ miles on foot. Prior to the race, I dutifully stocked my hydration pack with snacks, performance gels (same consistency and size as a small tube of toothpaste, only full of sugar, electrolytes, and caffeine – it’s even grosser than it sounds), and plenty of Multipure water. In retrospect, it was the calories, water, and Jerry’s insistence to consistently consume both that were the true keys to our success.
Water is heavy; don’t ever let anybody convince you otherwise. It weighs about 8 lbs. per gallon, which is significant when you’re trying to save every possible ounce from your pack. Fortunately, you don’t have to carry all of the water you’ll need for a race. One of the great benefits of a well-organized ultramarathon is that the racecourse has strategically located aid stations, replete with friendly volunteers, snacks, and water. Unfortunately, nobody told the organizers they needed Multipure water.
On this mid-February Saturday, amidst the sandstone bluffs of Moab, the temperature hovered near 45 degrees, and it was raining. These are not conditions that would typically warrant special attention to hydration; it’s cold and raining, and we’re soaked – should we really worry about drinking a lot of water? Yes, a million times, yes!
Despite the conditions, Jerry encouraged us to consume all the water we had in our packs before reaching each aid station. Even in the cold and rain, your body continues to spend water – you’re still breathing hard, and you’re still sweating, but you just notice it less. Jerry knew this, and his wisdom was invaluable. At the aid stations, we would replenish our hydration packs with what was available in large 5-gallon coolers – tap water.
After draining my initial supply of Multipure water, I had no choice but to use the tap water, and what a startling contrast it was! After 20+ years of drinking Multipure, my disdain for regular tap water has only grown. On the trail, desperate for water, I was glad to have anything; but, the chemical taste and overpowering chlorine-smell of the tap water was jarring. It made it difficult to consume. When you’re practically forcing yourself to drink water, it really helps if it actually tastes good. This chemical soup of tap water was nearly intolerable, and seriously hindering my hydration goals!
This post has already grown well beyond what I expected – so I won’t bore you with the mile-by-mile recap of the race. There were stumbles, some cramping muscles, soaked clothes, and aching joints – but lots of smiles, moments of awe and wonder, and camaraderie built on the shared experience of pushing yourself (and your water supply) to the limits.
In the end, I drank the chemical soup – about 5 liters of it. Despite the cold, the rain, and 4000+ feet of elevation gain over 33 miles of Moab trails, we finished the race, together and on our feet, but thirsty for good water.