Racing and bodily fluids
by crawlingkiwi Mar 13th 2012
This isn't one for the squeamish but I think it's a post which is long overdue. Having come 2nd last year in my long-distance race (the DW - 125 mile non stop canoeing race), we realised very quickly that had we not stopped so many times to pee, we could have easily won our division. We only needed to reach our final portage about 20 minutes earlier to have managed to hit the tide instead of the slack water and would have won by a decent margin.
So what happened? We started the race, which was on a devastatingly hot day over Easter 2011 drinking loads and keeping our fluid levels up but as sun-stroke started to take its toll on my K2 partner, we were stopping to pee much more frequently than we had ever needed to before. To start with, on a fairly deserted canal, we were backing into bushes, checking no-one was within view and generally taking our time - by the end we'd squat anywhere, holding conversations with fellow paddlers as we 'did the business'. All social rules were out the window and I have to say, it has taken some time for me to realise that most normal people would choose to use the loo over a random bush and that when I am no longer racing, it isn't considered good form to stop and go where-ever!
To pee in the boat or not is one of the great discussion points of the DW race, with strongly held view on both sides. At a recent meal out with our support crew to plan this year's attempt, the look on the waiter's face was priceless as he interrupted a detailed description of someone who decided 'in the boat' was the way to go. And at the end of Sunday's warm-up race a few of us could be heard talking about the difficulties of going in the boat and how 'letting go' when portaging (that's when you have to stop at a lock, get out of the boat, hoist it onto your shoulder run with it and then get back in at the other side of the lock) is particularly difficult, particularly if there's a huge crowd of supporters watching you run by.
But having just finished Chrissie Wellington's book, where she talks about letting a quick stream go to ward off her opponents when she's on the cycle, I feel more relaxed about my own disgusting - but necessary - habits.
Of course no discussion such as this would be complete without acknowledging that other scourge of the runner ... the upset stomach or runner's trots. I used to suffer dreadfully from that when I ran more regularly and knew every public loo in central London and their opening times! While I suffer far less from this with canoeing, the nerves of race-day always have a major impact on me. In the 2011 race, the pre-race favourites were 2 paddlers with 8+ world championship titles between them and one had been to the olympics twice. They were aiming to take the record for the DW and all their training had indicated that even with the complete lack of flow on the river, the record which had stood for 20+ years, might just be broken. But they suffered dreadfully from stomach problems and had to pull out of the race ... suffice to say that when they decided to pull out, they had to have a quick swim before exiting the river!! I shall use my pre-race favourite dose of imodium to make sure I can get through the race ok - because there's NO question of THAT happening in the boat!
A bit of vomit seems to be par for the course, both of us did our fair share last year - Helen from 2 hours in because of heat-stroke until about 3am (17 hours in) while I started at 5am with the dry-wretching. I've yet to finish any race or any length without needing to or actually throwing up, so I accept that as part of the race.
Women have an additional issue ... and yes the monthly cycle does obsess us - but a quick visit to the doctor's for a prescription usually sorts that one out!
So we are left with the 'in or out' of the boat conundrum - it's a difficult one to practise! I think copious amounts of vaseline might be needed just in case.
And if you happen to be in Central London, at Westminster Bridge early on Easter Sunday morning as we get pulled out of our boats and carried up the stairs at the end, don't stand too close to the boats while they're emptied, and definitely nowhere close if you're wearing flip flops!!!
DW - 125 miles, 24 hours
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