Tuesday, November 3, 2009

JJ100 km clinical study volunteering

Before the start of the race getting my initial sweat patch applied. You will notice the mechanism for doing this involves pulling up my shirt to expose my sports bra as well as pastie white belly!

It was pretty chilly in the morning and this was made even worse with the really cold alcohol prep to clean up our shoulders for sweat patch application.

Notice how bundled up both the volunteer and I are during the morning. It was Brrr cold out!

Here I am with my pee bag. You will notice it is a standard issue gallon ziploc zipper bag. I am glad we were provided large bags both because as you can see I was peeing easily more than a quart (the other size available) and because my aim is less than ideal because I am a girl.

While there is a porta potty in the background over my left shoulder, I used the bush located over my right shoulder. Although less private, it was alot easier and roomier behind the bush:-)

During the main aid station visit the research volunteers would change out the patch as well as document what food and beverage was consumed.

The gentleman on my left side was in charge of my patch (and pulling up my shirt to completely expose my hula girl belly as well) and the lady on my right was in charge of documenting my food/beverage recall diary. They had a very efficient process set up and being part of the study did not add much time to my overall race time.

Here I am during my 30 mile blood draw, sweat patch change and food recall.

This "clinic" visit was more efficient than a NASCAR race pit stop. I sat down and the study personnel swarmed me each completing their respective tasks.

The one comment I would have is that it was a bit confusing to go from running pretty much alone with running being my only task to so much activity.

Here I am getting my blood drawn. I wish they had been injecting blood into me rather than sucking it out, but alas it was all good.

After I finished the race I chatted with the study coordinator who mentioned that the preliminary analysis of all volunteers blood done on site at the race aid station showed all the runners blood was within specs.

I am not overly suprised because I think a common theme in ultra runners is to take care of oneself before a minor issue becomes a crisis.

I would definitely volunteer for another study and know being a participant had no effect on my lack of 100 mile finish.

Running an endurance event is tough. Running while being poked, prodded questioned and having to collect pee pee adds a degree of complexity I did not anticipate.

While my DNF was assured because of so many issues, one component of my JJ100 experience that did not contribute was participating in this study.

During packet pick up on Friday I checked in at the clinical study tent. Tami, Marty, Kristen and several others were there to explain the logistics of the study as well as to do pre-race measurements. Weighing in I was shocked that I was 136 lbs. I have gained 5 lbs since VT100. I consoled myself with the fact I had been drinking like a fish all day and hoped most of it was water weight. After recieving my bib I got the green sticker indicating I was a research participant and then started the paperwork and more baseline value data collection. I signed my informed consent after perusing the document. I think we had been sent this information earlier in the week because it all looked familiar.

After the paperwork was finished it was time for my baseline blood draw. Sadly even though I am a frequent blood donor I know my veins are a bit questionable. This issue popped up as I was getting my baseline blood draw. First try was on my right arm, then left arm, back to my right arm (each time getting stuck with a needle unsuccessfully). Sadly after this third blood draw my arm sort of started gushing a bit of blood. I was a bit worried because about 4 blood donations ago I actually had a bit of difficulty in getting my arm to stop bleeding. And prior to a 100 I figured I needed most of my blood in me not out of me.

I then suggested I would be agreeable to my wrist or the back of my hand. So the back of my right hand was the next location and finally my left wrist. After five needle sticks they apparently had enough blood to do the sample but I felt like a human pin cushion. This all was transpiring in front of another research volunteer which I felt really badly about. I guess sometimes my veins have a bad day. With this task completed my pre race clinical study data was complete. It was time to hydrate and get my game face on.

The morning of the race we were instructed to get a pre-race weight as well as to get a sweat patch applied. The weight was in kilograms and it was around 62, so I felt good (no one needs to tell me if this is over 135 lbs!).

Then it was time to get the sweat patch applied. The sweat patch was to be applied on alternating shoulders. First the volunteers would wipe you back with an alcohol swab then put on the patch. It was cold. The outside temperature was about 50 degree's; having to take off or pull up layers to get the patch on was a bit chilly. Then the alcohol prep was even chillier. But I was tough. Oh yeah and I complained about it:-)

After heading off for the first lap it was time to do my best to follow the study protocol. This meant at aid stations I had a few tasks to complete. I had to keep track of what I was eating and drinking and I had to collect my pee. Seriously we had to collect our own pee! In a bag. I knew this when the solicitation for the study but I had hoped they were just joking.

At the first aid station I thought about peeing. Unfortunately the pee-mail station was not set up. So other than documenting in my mind what I was eating and drinking it was a pretty easy aid station visit.

The second aid station I really had to pee like a champion. There were ziploc bags (both quart sized and gallon sized). After marking my bag with my bib number it was time to get down to business. The bathroom consisted of a large bush and about 3 of us standing behind it. A person who arrived right after I did suggested he would wait, but I indicated that there was plenty of space for everyone.

It was actually rather amusing as the day went by because many of us would barely get behind the bush in the afternoon. Even worse was the fact thlat the aid station was on a slight curve so in fact the bush was straight ahead of the runners approaching from the odd loops.

As I was exiting the "LaTree" a gentleman in the study right near me asked about the reason for two sizes and suggested no one was going to pee a gallon. I responded that if you are a girl the gallon bag made it a bit easier. And I am pretty sure I peed more than a quart this first time. I had 4 cans of Diet Mtn dew, a few cups of gatorade and two full bottles of water in me. I was doing my best Austin Powers simulation. After sealing off my pee I dropped it in the box.

Because I am a data person, I did kind of take a glance at other peoples pee and noticed with pride mine was the clearest and may have been the most volumnous (go kidneys!). I believe in a few weeks we will learn our vital stats and may learn some non-identifiable statistics (such as mean, median, high and low value).

After finding the hand sanitizer it was time for some food and beverage. At this drop bag I had a handheld and filled it up with water so I had two 20 oz bottles since I expected the day to get warmer. Keeping track of my food and beverage intake, I headed out.

At the main aid station it was time for my patch change as well as for me to recall my food/beverage intake. To change out my patch I just lifted up my shirt and flashed everyone. Even better, I had a volunteer take a picture of the process. I did not care I was exposing my large, pasty white belly for all to admire or be horrified by. Once my shirt was up, the patch change was really quick. But it was a bit painful. It was like a 4 inch by 4 inch band aid being ripped off...I shrieked like a girl! Getting the new patch on was a bit chilly again because of the alcohol prep. As the patch was being administered my food/beverage recall was collected. I am pretty consistent about eating banana's, M&Ms, pretzels and drinking gatorade and water. The only challenge was recalling the precise proportions. The next challenge was that it was for the entire loop and I somehow got a bit confused and was giving my information for each aid station. Finally we got it straightened out and it was time for me to collect some more pee, wipe my hands, get some food and beverage and head out for my next loop.

During the second loop we head backwards so the first aid station I arrived at was the bush. I inadvertantly forgot to mark my number on my pee bag until after it was full. This was kind of a fiasco and my writing was really poor quality. I included my last name and my bib number twice in hopes that they could figure out it was me and explained this when talking about my food/beverage intake as I completed this lap. The bush had several runners behind it but by now we just did not care. Ultra events tend to start with minimal standards and degenerate to no standards. In fact doing our business behind the bush we were chatting away as though we were jogging along the course not doing something that is typically done in private (or at least for girls this task is done in private...I guess urinals are kind of a communal event but I cannot say this with any level of expertise).

After wet wiping my hands it was time to eat and drink at this aid station as well as refill my bottles. The next aid station visit was pretty quick and again involved a visit to the "privacy tent" as well as a refuel and rehydration. I think I preferred the bush over the tiny tent but this aid station had a fairly steep hill to get to a nice bush/shrub and I was not convinced I could climb back up. And of course there were rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas and other creepy crawlies if you go too far off course.

Heading into the main aid station at mile 30 it was time for my blood draw. Luckily this time went better than my baseline blood draw. After my first stick a full vial of blood was taken out. This all was captured in pictures. While my blood was being drawn, my patch was being switched out and my food/beverage intake was being collected. I felt like a NASCAR racer because they were efficient and got me in and out in less than a few minutes. I wanted to sit and loiter but this was not going to occur on the study staffs watch!

After another pee break (in a privacy tent) it was time to wash my hands and then time for a bit more food and beverage. I also was starting to fill up bandana's with ice which would trickle down my back or front until the next aid station. I sure hope the patches are waterproof because I do not want crazy values because my sweat was diluted by bandana ice.

The next lap was mentally challenging for me. I was really slowing down and was not a happy camper. I actually finished it after the sun went down (so I should have had a pacer:-) Upon finishing this lap I did acquire my pacer and indicated to the research staff it was likely I was about to become censored or be a missing value for the 100 mile. Apparently about 50% of us ended up only completing the 100 km but I believe the research staff will simply examine the 100 km and 100 milers data separately.

This lap I made sure not to make mistakes I had made previously about not labeling my bag. But I was to face new challenges. At one location there were no ziploc bags with the zipper top. Regular ziplocs were not as easy to use. Another location only had regular bags. This was a bit of a challenge to tie off but I managed. I was getting to be better and better at this whole process and could get in and out of the aid station pretty quickly. I am glad I had my triathlon belt hula skirt because I was able to easily and quickly take off and put on my costume regularly.

Upon completing my 3rd lap I acquired my pacer. While getting my patch changed I had a semi meltdown because I knew there was pretty much no way I was going to be able to finish the 100 miler in 30 hour time cutoff. Even worse this meltdown was captured on camera. So there may be footage of me in a Discovery or University of Arizona documentary with my shirt up, belly and sports bra exposed nearly in tears talking about how I was really depressed and about to have a meltdown. The camera folks were pretty funny and would discretely insert themselves into the action and apparently I must have caught their eye cause they swarmed me at the same time the research folks were swarming me. In retrospect this is pretty funny to me and I think my meltdown/pity party was not too bad. Although I am a little curious about what I looked like cause I was not a happy camper.

After heading out of the aid station it was time to continue collecting my data. I knew I was not going to finish the 100 but wanted to do my best to keep my data clean. In fact I even did a 50 mile shoe change in case something dramatically happened and I was able to miraculoulsy speed up. As we jogged and walked the course I think my pacer was initially suprised at the invasiveness of the study but observed that by this lap I was an expert at the whole process and it really wasn't too bad or time consuming.

She even snapped a few pictures including one of me exiting the main aid station privacy tent complete with full pee bag, which I found very amusing.

Upon finishing my 100 km I had my final blood draw as well as my weight, food/beverage intake as well as a final bag of pee collected for analysis. During my blood draw I mentioned to the nurse taking my blood I was miserable. I suggested that I blamed the study not the 100 km race. In clinical studies there is an organization that is designed to protect the patient or subject called the Institutional Review Board (or "IRB"). I believe this study had one and jokingly asked for the number. I think the study personnal all nearly had a heart attack. My nurse also might have jabbed my vein a little harder to pay me back for this:-) Just kidding....the staff were wonderful and did a great job of taking care of the runners.

After finishing my blood draw and my pee break I was done with the study as well as the race. Turning in my chip I stopped being a research rat and ultramarathoner. It was time to decide what I wanted to do. I had no clue because for 18 hours all I knew was running. It is very odd to finish an event of this distance/time because it is a bit disconcerting to go from doing one activity and focus to having no set goals.

Luckily very quickly I realized it was time to start my recovery in preparation for Richmond Marathon and JFK50 miler.


S. Baboo said...

Wow, I have yoiu by almost 100 pounds. It did feel good though to say "I weight 106 kilos" despite knowing the reality behind the numbers.

If your husband hasn't climbed New Mexico yet be sure to look us up when you pop in.

Runner Tammy said...


Congratulations on you JJ100 mile finish!!! You were amazing out there.

Maybe the US should have switched to metric back in the 70's:-)

We'll definitely look you up because I know New Mexico is on Tritan's list of peaks to climb.


Athena Misty, aka "GeekGirl" said...

Aren't we freaks, though, when we compare the clarity of our pee to others! (PS: I'm pretty sure it's spelled Pasty. I learned that on David Letterman). Cheers!

Runner Tammy said...


If comparing our pee color/volume is the only thing that makes me a freak, I think I can change:-)

Alas I suspect the quest to run all hours of the night, the willingness to consider toenails optional and even the use of "only" and "100 km" in the same sentence might also be considered freakish;-)


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

I started reading this two days ago when it was originally posted.

I just finished it now, after two uninterrupted days of straight reading.

But now I forget what it was about. It sucker-punched my brainpan into submission with its relentless, Carolina Cletus-like onslaught of 2800+ words.

7800+, if you count the 5 pix (each worth 1000 words).

Runner Tammy said...


So wait a second, it took you twice as long to read this post as it took for me to live it out???

I sure hope you had a Ziploc baggie close by because I imagine you needed about 15 baggies over the past 2 days for this marathon reading session:-)

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

I started reading your reply to my comment but I stopped, exhausted, after the first paragraph.

So if there was some sort of zinger or kertwang in that second paragraph, it was lost on me, sister.