Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Triathlete's Hydration Gauge

I'm pretty sure Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was a triathlete, despite the obvious liability that he died a good 240+ years before the first actual triathlon. A little known fact: The original purpose of the Fahrenheit scale was was to recommend rehydration levels after a grueling workout or race.

History has a way of obscuring the details, so allow me to enlighten you... Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was a Polish/ Dutch guy who was known as Danny G by those in his inner circle. He was one of the first athletes in the world to recognize the importance of proper race hydration and post-race rehydration. Here's his story...

Leading to the Problem
Danny G was an aspiring young triathlete back in the early 1700s. He was a rare triple talent in that he could swim with the swimmers, bike with the cyclists, and run with the runners. Or so he thought. Residing in northern, yet non-Scandinavian, Europe, Danny G did not have a ton of events to choose from. Sure, there was Roth in Germany and Ironman Switzerland. But since Danny G was both Polish and Dutch, he couldn't bring himself to do either one of those races. He did crush the field in inaugural 1717 Ironman Copenhagen and earned a slot at Kona (this was obviously before the WTC implemented the KPR system).

Given his talent level and penchant for destroying the competition, Danny G was a bit confident going in to the World Championships. He had a horrible race. He finished dead last amongst the pros, men and women, and got spanked by several hundred age groupers. This hadn't happened to him before. He was down but not lost.

The Epiphany
It took Danny G some soul searching to learn what had happened on the Big Island (this was after the race had moved from Oahu). He did another couple of races back on the mother land and his form was as fine as ever. 

It wasn't until much later until he was being teased by one of his friends. "Ha ha, you can't take the heat!" The light bulb suddenly turned on in his head. Maybe there was something about the heat. Northern Europe is not known for its blistering temperatures. This fact makes training ideal in non-winter conditions. Danny G had never experienced anything like the Queen K or the Energy Lab (which he believes is aptly named since the amount of juice that patch of road steals from the average athlete and placed into Hawaii's electricity grid could power most of the island's small appliances). 

Danny G now had a new goal in his athletic life- learning how to beat the heat in Kona.

The Experimental Process
Danny G knew that one of the best ways to learn in sport is to pay attention to what the other athletes do. He decided to take things one step further. Back in the 1700s, scientists had just learned that substances placed in sealed glass tubes would expand and contract when experiencing different levels of heat.

Danny G loved the element mercury for several reasons. First, he felt a kinship with the liquid since the symbol was Hg and he was Danny G. Second, he appreciated shiny things. Third, he was a big fan of sniffing the vapors.

Danny G took a small batch of his silvery goop and locked it up in a small cylinder. He got to work. First, he went north to the colder climes of Finland. It was winter by the time he arrived. After convincing the locals to go for a 1 hour run, he carefully noticed how much water they drank during the hour and in the 10 minutes immediately following the workout. He marked this as zero on his mercury shaft, since the Fins didn't actually drink anything. 

Danny G started working his way south. Every time he hooked up with a new group of triathletes (he actively tried to avoid solo-sport runners lest the peer reviews in the journals use that as a potential flaw in the experiment). The Parisian French drank 15 ounces, on the average, after their hour. Danny G marked and labeled. The French near Nice drank 25 ounces. Marked and labeled. The Egyptians drank a whopping 70 ounces in 70 minutes. 

Danny G noticed that there was indeed a direct relationship. He could easily calculate a scale and predict where imbibing benchmarks would exist. 

Sadly, Danny G was no longer much of a triathlete. He took roughly 3 years to compile his data. During that time, he only had logged sporadic 60 minute runs. His power numbers on the bike were way down and he couldn't keep up with the next generation of swimmers working their way through the pro ranks. Even worse, Danny G's skin had developed a pinkish sheen, which he thought was a reaction to the sun and heat. He was an itchy, shedding mess. His chances of qualifying and making it back to IM Kona went out the door.

However, Danny G made a fortune selling his "Hydration Gauge" to athletes all around the world. It was common knowledge in the sporting world that the 'drink 8 glasses of water every day' was pretty much BS. The Hydro Gauge provided a nice, easy to read system for taking in fluids. Records started breaking at record breaking speeds.

It wasn't long before non-athletes started buying the device. This was right around the time when non-athletes bought more athletic gear than the actual athletes. Both this purchasing trend and the hydration gauge can be found in today's society. Both have changed functions. Athletic gear is now called 'fashion' (unless you are talking about running, swimming, cycling, triathlon, or any just about any other sport not including a ball). The Hydration Gauge is now called a thermometer for some reason that most outside of only select country cannot understand.

Just think, if it wasn't for one man's struggle to become a decent athlete in a small race in Hawaii, the Fahrenheit thermometer may have never been invented. And where would the world be without that?

There's a rumor floating around that Danny G relocated to Australia. He believed that was the best place to find a doctor and consistent weather so he could care for his depleting health conditions. He made sure to bring a large stock of fresh, raw mercury and his condition never improved. His DNA did survive. Historians believe that Danny G may in fact be a distant relative of 2012 IM Kona Champ Pete Jacobs. I'll let you decide.

So there you have it.

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