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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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