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1166 Views 2 Replies Latest reply: Nov 7, 2011 10:09 AM by crossboy
crossboy Rookie 2 posts since
Nov 3, 2011
Currently Being Moderated

Nov 3, 2011 4:27 PM

Unexplained "Dry Heave" during competition

Hi all,

I have been a competitive runner for a long time (30 plus years) but i also race bikes and particpate in other competitive events. Over the last 10 years I have been plagued at the finishline or worse the final kilometre by "Dry Heaves". It only happens when i am running in a competitive postion and all out. It doesn't happen in the same situation when bike racing, snowshoeing or ultra marathons. Only for 5k, 10k and halfs (no marathons recently). I think it has something to do with my head as I can feel the heaves coming and it seems to correspond with me thinking about where I am in the race...about to be caught...close to the PR...going for the win.

Has anyone heard of such a thing?

I'd appreciate any help. It isn't something I can duplicate in training.


  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,291 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Nov 4, 2011 11:29 AM (in response to crossboy)
    Unexplained "Dry Heave" during competition

    Anyone who has participated in or worked cross-country meets has seen plenty of this. When team-standing is on the line, nobody wants to be the one who lets the team down, and they go all-out. The result is puking at the finish line. As an adult, I only remember one 5k that resulted in dry heaves, and I really was trying to break my PR. I take a more relaxed approach now so it doesn't bother me, but if I were to push it to the max, I would probably be heaving or puking like before. It shows the intensity with which you run, and what is likely your body's attempt to deal with an increase in stomach acid during a high-stress event.


    Suggestions for treating this include the following:


    Low blood sugar can lead to nausea during over-exertion. Make sure you have eaten enough carbs in the past several hours to last through your event. If your event is in the morning, remember that your brain burns carbs overnight, and your muscles burn them to keep your body warm. Breakfast is not always necessary, but helps if your metabolism is high and it is at least two hours before your event. This is a balancing act because eating too close to the event can also result in nausea. It's better to run on what's already in your body than to add too close to a sports event, unless it is a very long one. Some people are OK with gels and sports drinks a half-hour before, and others can't handle them. Experiment, arranging for a private competition with a rival as a training run if necessary.


    Over-hydration, under-hydration, and hypothermia can result in nausea during exercise. Overhydration can dilute electrolytes and result in the body's attempt to void fluids. Too little water can concentrate stomach acid. Nausea can be a symptom of overheating, but is generally accompanied by light-headedness. Also, some sports drinks are acidic or have sugars that may increase stomach acidity, triggering nausea.


    Avoid medications and supplements that can irritate the stomach, including anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and caffeine. Caffeine is acidic and diuretic, and NSAIDs can cause stomach distress, even bleeding.


    One trick that may have started out as a cure for this has made its way into running legend. Dissolve a teaspoon or two of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in a glass of water to sip from leading up to your event. It will temporarily neutralize stomach acidity, and some swear it improves performance. This may backfire if you are among those whose stomach is too alkaline. Evidence of this condition might be gas and bloating, or other indigestion.


    Good luck at the races!

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