Two parts hydrogen compounded with one part oxygen. Transparent, odorless, and tasteless, yet we can’t survive more than a few days without it. If not for oceans, lakes, ponds; rivers, streams, and creeks; and a whole lot of underground aquifers, we humans would be in a heap of trouble. With due respect to Harry Potter, water is the elixir of life.
It’s fair to say most of us don’t drink enough water for optimal health. The long-held belief that eight glasses a day is sufficient has been replaced by the following formula: your body weight in pounds, divided by two, expressed in ounces. For most of us that means even more than eight glasses. Gulp.
Somewhere along the way of several years of working out, I developed the habit of drinking small amounts of water during exercise, instead of chugging just before or just after. On the treadmill for instance, I take a slug every time I complete a kilometer. In the cycle class I drink every time the instructor says to pick up the bottle. In a road race I never pass up the tables of water cups. No question; the body works better with a regular intake of water. Or at least a splash to the face.
Whenever I know I’m not drinking enough water I recall two vivid memories where I reached full-on dehydration status. The first occurred as a child, when I was driving in the desert with my family. I let the day go by way too long without taking a drink, and before I knew it my throat was so parched I could barely speak. The heat of the day surely made it worse. I pleaded to my grandparents to stop at a gas station (or anywhere with a halfway sanitary drinking fountain), which we eventually did, and I’m sure I took in a quart or more to quench my thirst. Here’s a little irony: my desert dehydration is a fond memory because I can still hear my grandfather’s distinctive voice, saying, “need to wet your whistle, do ya?” That was over forty years ago.
My second “parchment” occurred just short of the summit of Pikes Peak here in Colorado Springs – the first time I climbed it. Pikes Peak is the highest mountain in the southern Front Range of the Rockies, at just over 14,000 feet. Using the popular Barr trail it’ll take you five or six hours to get to the top. Despite recommendations to carry a lot of water I only brought one 12-oz. bottle in my pack, which I refilled at a campsite halfway up the mountain. I was getting by okay until the very last mile, when I ran out of water and my body literally began to shut down. The combination of the effects of dehydration and altitude was devastating. I could only walk a hundred yards at a pop, taking a seat on the rocks each time to recover for several minutes. Mercifully I was close enough to the summit that I finished the hike, but not before realizing I’d been woefully unprepared. In extreme circumstances the body demands a lot of water. Certainly more than half your body weight in ounces.
If an elixir is defined as “a magical or medicinal potion”, then water qualifies in my book, and especially here in the high altitude of the Rocky Mountains. It took a few years for me to gain a little thirst knowledge, but now my water bottle is my constant companion. On that note, I think I need a drink!