Saturday 14 December 2013

To pee or not to pee: The missing element in your race strategy.

So you have trained well, you are looking at a PB, your race strategy has been designed to get you a PB, you think you have a perfect strategy for a PB, BUT DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY FOR THE PEE?
I hope that my experience will help you draw up your own plan. I must tell you, please do not just giggle and let it be, because as you will discover, especially if you are a marathon virgin, this is one of the most important questions that you will confront on the road. If you do not have an answer worked out, you are in trouble. Your bladder will be a drag, "what gall" it will say to you as you are caught between paying attention to the full bladder and the running.
Until SCMM 2011 when I ran my first marathon (all of the earlier runs were 21 k, to call it a HM is an insult to the real thing), I never had this problem. I had never hydrated properly and there never was an urge to pee just before the start or during the race. But for SCMM 2011, for the first time in my life, I had hydrated well in the run up to the race, so much so, to borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, I was well liquidated by the time I reached the venue. I saw a public facility just outside azad maidan and in I went to empty my bladder before entering the holding area, pun unintended. Trouble started as the gun went off, may be because of the hydration or because of stage fright, I felt like peeing again. The bladder was getting full rapidly. knowing the topography as well as i do (when you are as slow a runner as i am, you get to inspect every stationary object very closely as you get that much more time to observe), I decided that i would use the facility under the Marine drive flyover, which I did. thats when it hit me that I had no clue where the next loo was, so my hydration for the rest of the race suffered. i had considered briefly but rejected the possibility of peeing in my pants, knowing that it could potentially raise a stink and i dont mean just with the organisers. :)
It also helped greatly that by the time I reached water stations, most had shut down and where they were still doing business, they were selling the water to fund kingfishers's expansion plans and where the water was still available, it had all but evaporated. (now you know how slow I run, but that is another matter) I started taking a bit of water and rinsing my throat and spitting it out so that the water did not settle down inside my rather ample stomach (now u know why i am a slow runner). I survived.
Since then i have run two races where i did not do so well as i had not thought through my Pee Strategy.The first was at cape town. The organisers specifically ask runners to not pee against the walls of any of the buildings we passed, but that is precisely what most people did, choosing the walls of the most beautiful buildings to spray with their liquid. I discovered very early on that most of the petrol pumps had toilets which one could use. So I stood in line at one of them but the line would not move, someone seems to have gone in on a longer tenancy kind of deal. As i saw runners going past and me still stuck, i decided to follow the local, following when in rome kind of lesson, and turned my attention to the gas station fencing which was amply covered with greens which could have certainly benefited from the irrigation. But even aftare a minute of huffing and puffing and clenching my muscles and what not, the pee would not materialise. I quickly decided to abandon it and start running again. I am glad i did, because i managed to cross the finishing line at 2:59:10, they have 3:00 cut off at cape town which is based on gun time. the pee experience had set me back by atleast 2 minutes if not more. But when i think back and ask how I could muster up the courage to abandon the task and get a move on, it has probably for to do with my mind which told me that there will be another petrol pump on the way. When I recall the restof the route, I dont think there were any more, but the comfort of thinking that there were more loos on the way allowed me to plough on.
Then came Delhi. I started off quite nicely and then the urge to pee hit me around teh half way mark. May be it happened because i saw people peeing all around me, some because they had to, yet others in what looked like an act of defiance as they screamed slogans against the government while peeing against the walls of government buildings. One particular gent who picked the wall of parliament house was clearly a votary of anna hazare and he let loose on the jodhpur stone wall. It was a silent protest, no slogans marred his moment of defiance of authority, his actions would have raised a stink that would last for a while, leaving behind a stain though less permanent than what our parliamentarians are wont to leave inside parliament with their antics. Job done, he even beamed, at some imaginary camera, raised his fist, though me thinks he did so to let the dribble on his hand dry in the morning sun. then he was on his way. My civic sense was torn between applauding him on the one hand for his act of bravery and castigating him for his stupid act. I considered and promptly trejectyed the idae when I found a few runners actually cheering him. Worse, I had my own pressing matters to deal with and my thoughts at that moment were sufficiently fluid for me to justify not taking a stand. Any way, when you have a race to run, it is okay to walk, it is okaty to run biut not to stand, so I ran off, leaving behind the protester to accept the accolades of a cheering crowd.
Close to CP is when my bladder threatened to bring cause enough distration to halt me in my tracks. So I stopped off at the public toilet. I walked in. I saw Rajiv Bajaj of Bajaj Capital standing in line. It must be a first for him, I thought to myself. There was not much of a crowd and it was my turn soon enough. I walked up to the stall boldly to pee but the damn thing would not flow out. I had a feeling of deja vu as my mind went to cape Town. determined, I stayed on but the frequent change of visitors to the three other stalls was unnerving. the line behind me grew. "Forget your Pee if you want a PB," an angry voice screamed at nobody in particular. It was a wasted trip to the loo for me, i had wasted 3 minutes. For the record, I failed to Pee and failed to get a PB.
So, on Sunday if you are faced with the questions that I faced, how do you find an answer. You have to find your own answer but here are a few questions you could ask yourself to help you figure out.
1. if you are early in the race, just go to pee, dont worry about the time factor.
2. If when you are crossing a loo, there are not many people around, just use the loo, you will not have to wait much. 3. if you gotta go, you gotta go. So, just go.
4. If you are okay peeing in your pants, go on and do it but ensure that you are well hydrate in the run up so that the stink factor is less and the colour is closer to white than yellow. Also do it, when you are pouring water on your head, so that others dont know just what it is you are up to.
5. You could also plan ahead and wear diapers but this will increase the weight you are gonna carry.
What if you have an urge for the big job. Well, that has to wait for another post.

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