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Monday, November 9, 2015

Running hydration accessories

After the super hot and humid Savannah Marathon on Saturday, during which the race organizers apparently ran out of water and Gatorade in many of the aid stations, I've been doing a lot of thinking about race preparedness.

On Saturday I was lucky to have passed the aid stations before they ran out of fluids, but I haven't been so lucky before. My very first half marathon, years and years ago, was also (coincidentally) in Georgia... in August... at night a still blazing hot time of day. 

It was the inaugural half marathon of this particular racing company, who shall remain nameless, and that should have been my first concern. (As Dear Boyfriend likes to say, don't try version 1.0 of anything, and I think that's especially true of long distance races.)

Around mile 8 or so, the fluid station I came to was empty. Out. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. What?! This wasn't a huge race, mind you -- maybe a couple thousand people, max. 

Aid station after aid station, they were out of all liquids, only having GU on hand. And, as much as I swear by GU, we all know that taking one without water to chase it is miserably sweet and will leave you feeling even thirstier than before.

Starting to cramp and really feel the effects of dehydration, I was forced to walk the last few miles of my first half marathon, shaking as I crossed the finish line and lunging for the nearest aid tent. 

"I've learned my lesson," I told myself after that. "From now on, I shall always, always, carry my own hydration on races longer than 10k. Even if a race is supposedly the most well organized and takes place in the coolest, least humid conditions, you just never know."

Paranoid? Perhaps. But safe? Definitely.

And thus, over the years, I've tried out a variety of hydration methods in races, but so far, there are no clear winners.

First, for a trail half marathon I ran shortly after the Georgia debacle, I bought this waist belt water bottle from Nathan. Verdict: the weight distribution was good, and I liked that it held so much sports drink, but it jostled around so much that it was very distracting to run with. Literally, the entire belt kept bouncing up and down wildly around my waist. Granted, I have a small waist, so perhaps I bought the wrong size, but I wanted to wear it around where you'd wear a belt, not around my belly button. 

For many races after that, I used a slew of cheap water bottles -- the kind they give away in swag bags that you don't mind having to toss during a race if it gets too heavy.

Then, earlier this year during a particularly cold half marathon, where I knew I'd need little extra hydration, I bought this handheld bottle, also from Nathan. Verdict: Terrible. There's a small ribbon tab thingy on the inside of the strap that fits around your hand. I think it's there to allow you to adjust the tightness of the carrier, but I could never get it to budge. For the entire half marathon, I kept thinking to myself, "dang, this strap hurts!" By the time I actually took off the handheld water bottle after crossing the finish line, I had a pretty sizable cut on the back of my left hand. Simply from holding a darn water bottle!

So now, after experiencing somewhat of another heat/humidity scare at Savannah (during which I just carried a cheap bottle I got for free), I'm bound and determined to find a hydration pack that holds enough, is easy enough to run with, and won't cut me. 

If I hadn't had two bad experiences with Nathan products in a row, I'd be more than tempted to try out this snazzy pink vest that holds 2 liters.

I've also heard amazing things about CamelBak, so I'm considering this 2 liter vest, although it's a tad pricey.

I'll put up a post once I decide on a new hydration pack!

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