Drink Water

Anna Frost writes about her dehydration-based kidney infection, which prevented her from racing the 2014 TNF EC 50 Mile Championships.

By on December 11, 2014 | 14 comments

“Would you like a drink of water?” “Is that all the water you are going to take?” “Have you drunk any water today?” “How much water will you drink?”

Just some of the questions I have been asked all my life. And usually my answer is something like, “No, thanks. ” Or, “I don’t need any more.” “I don’t like it.” “Not much.”

Well, I learned the hard way–again!

I’m not exactly sure what happened and why, but the pain came on quick.

Initially I thought it was a pulled muscle in my back. I couldn’t lie down or sit up, standing was getting worse, and now I was starting to feel sick. I curled up in bed with all my clothes on, blankets pulled up around me, and a beanie on my head. I couldn’t get warm. I was shivering and sweating at the same time. This, I realised, was more than just a pulled muscle in my back.

My guess is that over the last few months, living at high altitude in the desert of Arizona, and drinking my usual amount of water (which isn’t much) caused long-term dehydration and now my kidneys were pissed off and talking to me.

I limped into the hospital, only an hour after the slight, dull ache set in. Now it was full-blown pain. A demon pushing a screw driver into my kidney and slowly turning it around. Then pulling it out slightly, changing his angle, and driving it in again. When I thought I couldn’t take any more, he struck again, moving now to my left kidney to work on that one, too.

Time seemed to be standing still. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move or sit still, tears were streaming down my cheeks, I was about to start begging when finally I got closer to the doctors with the medication.

When I was younger, I remember my mum telling me that “pain was only in my mind.” This became my mantra until finally the blood cultures were done, the medication concoctions were mixed, and they were ready to pump me full of antibiotics. As the morphine slowly trickled through the plastic tube to my arm and into my blood, I could identify with that mantra, that the pain really was just in my mind. The morphine cutting the receptors in my brain. I was now able to sit, breathe, dry the tears, and start asking all the questions that were racing around my mind.

“When will I get out of the hospital?” “Why did this happen?” “Will I make my flight?” “Will it go away?” “Will it come back?” “I have a race this weekend?” “Will this all be okay for a drug-free sport?”

The doctors and nurses just looked at me. Slightly amused, slightly worried. Without a word from them, I could tell by the look on their faces, my season was over. No TNF EC 50 Mile. Just water, antibiotics, painkillers, and rest for me for some time.

TNF 50 wasn’t an A race for me, but I had begun to feel good from a long, ‘flat’ zone after The Bear 100 Mile. Running around the Marin Headlands just over the Golden Gate Bridge is always a nice way to end the year, racing hard against a super-competitive field. But I was already really happy with my season. Apart from the fact that I was sitting in a hospital bed, connected to a drip of antibiotics and morphine, I was healthy, uninjured, and happy.

This was a serious lesson for me. And I hope for you. I don’t drink enough water. I know that and I have chosen–in the past–to do that. Kidneys are serious. They do a huge job at keeping our bodies clean. The least we can do is respect them and give them some cleaning-up love back.

I was fortunate enough to get into a hospital rapidly and only needed a night of intravenous drugs to quickly get on top of my kidney infection. But it could have been a lot worse. And if only I had gone into the doctor as soon as I felt some bladder discomfort it could have been a lot better, too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help early, even if it means taking antibiotics for a few days!

[Editor’s Note: The following advice from Anna is adapted from an article published by UltraRunning Magazine online on November 24, 2013 called “Running, Rhabdomyolosis, and Renal Failure–Who’s at Risk” by Tamara Hew-Butler and Marty Hoffman.]

How you can you prevent developing kidney problems during training and racing:

  • Avoid taking NSAIDs and/or analgesics like Advil and ibuprofen during a race and training.
  • Don’t race or train hard if you had a recent viral or bacterial infection.
  • Monitor your hydration before, during, and after training and racing. Take into account different elements such as altitude, travel, and humidity.
  • Train properly for the event. If you get injured, race only when you have regained proper fitness.
  • Listen to your body. Do not push through pain to finish a race/training session if you have any warning signs. Seek medical attention immediately if pain comes on in your lower back or you have fever type symptoms.

This is intended to scare you! A warning from me to you to not take our precious organs for granted.

Look after the simple factors in life…WATER! DRINK IT!

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Anna Frost
Anna Frost roams the world running for the joy of it with the support of Salomon. You can read about her adventures on her blog, Frosty's Footsteps.