Monday, May 16, 2011
Rhabdomyolysis and Ultrarunning
This weekend I read a story in the new June issue of TrailRunner Magazine titled, Up Against a Hardrock. It is a story about Diana Finkel's amazing 2010 Hardrock 100 race and its devastating aftermath.
I was especially drawn to this story for two reasons. The first is that in 2006, I was lucky enough to pace my good friend Stephen to a great finish there. I promised myself and Stephen that I would return there to kiss the rock myself. The second is that in 2006 and 2007, I ran Wasatch 100 and experienced, both times, the same condition as Diana did after Hardrock. It is a story worth reading because as extreme athletes, we push ourselves beyond normal. Sometimes we can push our selves over the edge and into a sometimes fatal condition, and always a very serious condition called Rhabdomyolysis.
I read this article that was written by Diana's husband and it took me back to my Wasatch DNF, where I was unable to finish because I knew I couldn't continue the last 25 miles crawling. It took me back to my 2nd Wasatch where I knew I had Rhabdo again, but I just had to redeem myself and finish this time. Both times I was hospitalized and was very sick. I was stupid during that 2nd Wasatch when I recognized the symptoms and practically crawled my way to the finish, sicker than a dog. We as ultra runners sometimes do stupid things. We cross health boundaries to achieve higher goals we set for ourselves and sometimes they have dire consequences. Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition in which muscles break down quickly and spill their contents into the blood stream. Myoglobin is a protein that is contained in muscle cells, and if enough is spilled into the blood stream, it can clog the kidney's filtering system and lead to kidney failure and a variety of other serious medical consequences and complications. While muscles routinely get sore after physical activity, rhabdomyolysis takes that muscle injury to a higher level. Rhabdomyolysis is the result of massive muscle destruction.
Unfortunately, I have not returned to Hardrock to run that spectacular and difficult race. Rhabdo got in the way of that. I have done a couple of successful 100's since and several difficult races without problems. I hope Diana will be back to run 100's without issues too. Rhabdo is a reminder that we must take our health seriously even while pursuing our dreams. Maybe someday I will get a chance to kiss the Hardrock, maybe not. I'm okay with that.