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Triathlon Is Primal. Night Sweats Are Modern.

By Scott Simpson

December 14, 2009

The other night I was watching the science show Nova on PBS -- it was about our evolution and how we became bipedal. The theory goes like this: our ancestors succeeded because they had access to meat and fat that allowed our species to grow big brains. To catch this meat they would track and chase an animal to its exhaustion and then easily kill it. Unlike our naked ape selves, having lost much of our body hair to promote sweating and internal heat regulation, hairy animals cannot perspire through their skin and unless they stop running and pant, they eventually overheat. Our lack of body hair is an adaptation to the long distance running necessary to secure high calorie food. The documentary included a video clip of bush men from Africa hunting for food: chasing an antelope-ish type animal for 4 to 8 hours until it had overheated and could run no more and became an easy target for their spears. This is known as persistence hunting. It reminded me of triathlon.

It is a primal urge within us: the hunter chasing its prey. The early human hunter exhibiting controlled patience in the chase, waiting for the prey to weaken, stumble and crumble before going in for the kill. For countless generations, our predecessors engaged in this seemingly oxymoronic activity of aerobic patience to stalk the hunted. Much the same can be said about ironman triathletes. (No, not the moronic part.) In a race that requires hours of continuous swimming, biking and running, it is aerobic patience that needs to be managed to maximize results. However, countering this pragmatic approach to racing and pacing is the strong emotional desire of catching the prey; the next competitor. Get excited and go too fast too early catching 'prey' and a few hours later the infamous bonk sets in and the hunter becomes the hunted. Be forewarned Wile E. Coyote.

Then I started thinking about the whole struggle for existence/survival of the fittest thing, and how the HIV/AIDS pandemic is part of that struggle in our world. And in me. As evidenced by another bout of night sweats like you wouldn't believe. Last night, for the third night in a row, I awoke drenched in sweat. Literally dripping off me as I walked to get a towel. Even though I have experienced night sweats on and off for years now, I am still amazed by the sheer quantity that comes out of my body. Within my body, HIV persistently struggles to exist and replicate in spite of the 3 powerful antiretroviral medications I ingest daily. Me and meds vs. HIV. Survival of the fittest.

What doesn't kill you, eh?

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Joe (Dallas, TX) Thu., Dec. 31, 2009 at 3:21 pm UTC
Keep up the great work Scott. I am HIV+ for six years. Three years ago I ran 4 full marathons and several half marathons in a 12 month period. Lately because of work and time limitations I haven't been able to run very much - I can definitely feel the difference in my mental and physical health. Reading your blog has inspired me to get back to it and turn this bus around in 2010!
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Comment by: Raymond Hilerio (New York) Wed., Dec. 30, 2009 at 11:35 pm UTC
There are so many like you out there that what you say is nothing new. You should be thankful that you live in a country where that is possible.
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Comment by: Mr. X (LA, CA) Wed., Dec. 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm UTC
What they are not telling us (or that forthcoming)that as HIV New Survival Patients that we have lost 10 years of our life span from inflamation, and residual HIV not eradicated by HAART or current meds, that is doing a find job of attacking our organs, diminishing our brain power (google TAT Enzyme) while we prance around like puppets on strings. Once my immune system was rebuilding with good medicine, doctors and attitudes-I took a look at my fingernails one day.
"Hmmm...I thought...that doesn't look right." What I saw were verticle lines, almost invisible but visible to me...since this NEW CHAPTER of Life with A Disease And The Medications For Live to Keep It From Killing Me.
How does this tie in to your story. Not much really except that knowledge is power. Fruit flavored rainbow condoms are not. So if you are young and healthy great. But let's factor in --what we have to look forward to---and that is the great unknown.
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Comment by: Alan (NoVa) Wed., Dec. 30, 2009 at 9:01 pm UTC
The likely reason I, as am older Poz man, have been able to be as healthy as I am (CD4 over 800/Undetectable) is likely due to the physical conditioning I have done, in addition to the meds for over 10 years. Most people are not aware of the enormous amount of energy it takes to sing through an opera or perform (sing, dance) for 2 straight hours; conditioning is key to making it work. Overdue it and your body caves in, and your voice is trashed. Now try doing this same event 2 or three times in a day, each weekend for months.

We don't give enough credit to the men and women of the live stage who strive to be the best and for the mental and physical energy it takes. Bravo to the triatheletes, and another goes to dancers and singers who entertain us.

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Comment by: Scott Simpson (toronto) Tue., Dec. 22, 2009 at 8:48 am UTC
Hey Liana - congrats on setting big goals! You are the first poz woman I've heard of doing an Ironman - awesome! Do keep me updated on your training progress - misery loves company!
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Comment by: Liana (Santa Monica, CA) Tue., Dec. 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm UTC
Awesome blog! Thank you for doing this. I am a newbie of both HIV+ status (diagnosed Oct 2008) and Ironman. I am training for Ironman Arizona and will enjoy learning and sharing with you about night sweats and more as you train for Ironman Louisville.
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HIV+ Triathlete: Til I Drop

Scott Simpson

Scott Simpson

Scott Simpson is an HIV+ triathlete, student and inspirational speaker avoiding real work so he can find more time to train and learn. A former party boy, Scott has gone from the fictional national drinking team to the real Canadian national triathlon team and is current provincial long course champion in his age group. Scott is also founder of, and inspiration for, the Race for Dignity, which is both an annual spinathon in Toronto and annual school campus events coordinated by Dignitas Youth chapters. Cumulatively, they have raised almost a million dollars for the medical humanitarian NGO Dignitas International, contributing to over 11,000 people living with HIV/AIDS gaining access to ARVs in Malawi. Scott is currently training for Ironman Louisville 2010.

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