I've always wanted to know what the consensus is about walking or running through water stops when you're racing. With marathon season nearly upon us, the water station question seemed like an appropriate one to ask. Do you walk or run through them? Does it depend on the race and the distance? Do you have a pattern that you follow?
I've known people who swear by walking through the water stations at the marathon. They say they can't drink from the cups unless they've slowed down. They've been instructed to do so by a coach or pace leader and then reconvene with the group after stopping for fluids. They say they reached the point in the race where they can't run anymore and walking takes over and it's better to walk the stations and attempt to run after leaving the station to make it to the next station faster where another walking break is waiting.
Then there are others who only run through the stations and run the whole race and sometimes don't even care who they take out in the process. You know these people: the ones who hit you from behind, spill liquid on your feet or steal the cup out of the volunteer's hand that you were going to reach for. Or they know that if they stop to walk there's no way they'll be able to resume running.
As for me? I'm more the in between. At the beginning of a race, if it's a marathon, I'm always running through the stops. I try not to squash people in my wake but I've definitely had a few cups that I've eyed but watched go to another runner. Depending on how I feel, I'll either run through the stations later in the race or walk through. The walk through, at least for me, signifies I've kinda thrown in the towel on the race and I'm just waiting for the finish line--it's a no PR day. Not glamorous but I guess I'm lucky that I'm able to grab the cup, pinch it to form a crease and then funnel the liquid down? That's at least how I felt when an accomplished marathon friend said she never runs through the stops mostly because she gets more water on her than in her mouth. That could work on a hot day but then you could be leaving yourself dehydrated at the same time.
The only time the running method doesn't work so well is when the stations are stocked with plastic cups and not paper ones. I'm still not sure why some of those stations at the California International Marathon used tiny plastic cups to quench the thirst of the runners--the plastic cups crunched on the ground almost posing a running hazard, I definitely spilled liquid down my front when the cup wouldn't give, and what I did get down left me wanting more but having to wait another two-plus miles to get it. I loved the race, but that was the one frustrating part I remembered as I logged those 26.2 miles.
I'm a runner through the water stations with an asterisk for not-so-good race days. What are you?
I'm all about drinking water and staying hydrated when I'm on the go. I always leave for work with a Nalgene or stainless steel bottle in tow. I feel naked without my Camelbak on a morning bike ride. I get mad at myself for stowing a bottle in the trunk when my husband and I are driving somewhere for a weekend getaway. And when the airlines said no liquids until you pass through security, I'd bring an empty water bottle--or dump what liquid was left on the curb before going through security--and then find the water fountain to refill on my way to the gate so I could stay hydrated and not have to buy a drink.
But I never expected that airport step to constantly work against me. And it most recently happened on a return flight from Washington, D.C., where I had gone over Labor Day to run a half marathon with my friends. I did my usual--stop at the water fountain to refill my water bottle before the flight--and made it a point to do so because I was feeling pretty dehydrated still from the long run. Put the water bottle back in my backpack, waited at the gate, boarded the plane and D.C. was history. Now you're probably wondering what could possibly go wrong with something so routine. Well, the water bottle itself coupled with the air pressure--I'm assuming--do not make a good mix. The problem was that when I arrived back in Chicago my backpack was a little damp when I retrieved it from below the seat. The culprit? The water bottle could be the only suspect. Immediately I think "not again" after having a similar problem with a different water bottle when heading to New York in 2007. That time I actually left the sipper a pinch open so the water dribbled out while the bag was down in flight, soaked the bottom of a notebook and not much else inside the bag but drenched my cell phone and killed it. So I learned my lesson then to make sure the cap was on tight and the sipper was down on all future water bottles. But the water bottle struck again, I just didn't know how bad until I got off the plane. I can feel the dampness along the back and bottom of my bag but when I look inside none of my notebooks are wet and I can't figure out where all the water went.
In the end, I think it settled on my computer, nestled in its separate laptop compartment. The computer worked fine when I got home and worked all afternoon. Then by the evening it couldn't hold a battery charge, wouldn't turn on, and I basically had a dead device I was working with. Not good as I was trying to finish up a million and one deadlines and had all of my files saved on the hard drive just waiting to be uploaded to the external drive at the end of the week.
To avoid that from happening again--I can't go through another week like I had when my computer went kuputz or the cell phone debacle--I have yet to come up with a solution. It should just be another water bottle to bring with me on the go but the negative side in me thinks that it'll happen again even if I switch up the bottle, screw it on tight or change storage locations. What I really need to do is remember to stow the bag but remove the bottle and keep it in the pocket behind the seat until we land. Any thoughts?
What's the most popular accessory for carrying your water and sports drinks when you're out and about? I wish I knew the answer, but I'm hoping to rely on athlete input to help answer the question. The options I could think of include:
Camelbakor the likehydration packs: These backpacks with straws (that's what I call it at least) conveniently draped over the shoulder make hydrating on-the-go almost too easy, especially if you don't want to dig in a bag for a water bottle or search for a water fountain. These are really popular while hiking, and I've seen some people sporting them while running and walking. I find it easy to use while cycling, especially on century rides and lately I've spotted triathletes using them during races (and I thought I was one of the few who used it while racing a few years ago, but earlier in the month I must have seen at least five triathletes wearing them on the 56-mile bike).
Water bottles: This is the option I think I spot the most often. We'll buy them as singles or in 24-packs at the grocery store, grab them from volunteers after a race, tote them to the beach or to work. And they're easy to fill with our favorite combination of fluid whether it be straight-up tap water, PUR-filtered water, a sports drink or even watered-down juice.
Fuel Belt or any other brand of belt with bottles: Popular among runners, especially half marathoners and marathoners, these are great for carrying a sports drink for those long miles where you know you need something besides water from the water fountain (that's me and my Lakefront runs) or you're going out in the middle of nowhere and know you won't be getting fuel unless you bring your own.
Aerobottles like the Aerodrink: They take on different names and looks but these are a step up from a traditional water bottle and fit in between the aerobars and a handy way to stay fueled during a triathlon. Fill them with any combination of water, sports drink, energy fuel (like Hammer Nutrition products, Accelerade or Infinit). Then when you're racing you don't have to reach down or behind you to pick up a water bottle, just bend down a pinch and sip from the straws. Another one of my faves.
Hand-held or waist-wrap bottle carriers: I don't know about you, but it's tough to carry a water bottle as is while on the run because it can easily slip out of your grip. These holders make it a lot easier by either strapping the bottle around your hand or slipping into a holder that wraps like a fanny pack around your waist. Not to go back to triathlons again, but I've seen a lot of people sporting these, especially the hand-held ones, on the run leg so they can hydrate before waiting for a water station to pop up. Some companies making these include RoadRunner Sports, Asics, Brooks, Fuel Belt, Ultimate Direction and Nathan.
Hydration stations: OK, this obviously isn't an accessory but at least here in Chicago we're fortunate enough to have a great bunch of volunteers who come out on Saturday mornings at points along the 18 miles of Lakefront Path to set up tables filled with water and Gatorade. It's just like being at a race where you can help yourself and then you don't even have to carry your own fuel.
So with all of these options, how do you stay hydrated?
We've had an up and down summer weather-wise here in Chicago. First spring did not want to leave--and a cold spring at that with me wearing a fleece and being cold in June. Then it would rain or be gray. Or everytime I'd think we'd start to have a nice-weather streak that rain, cold or sun-less sky would return (and more often than not ruin my morning bike ride). But finally come August and we're having a peek at what we hoped June through September would have been all along with sun-filled days, clouds and rain at a minimum, temps that have you wanting to dip in the lake and more. Or at least sometimes during the month (it's been hovering in the 60s for the past few days).
A few weeks ago we had our first taste at 90-degree weather with a heat index in the 100s--something we apparently hadn't seen in Chicago in a couple of years. With that weather comes the reminder to stay hydrated, especially when working out. I'm a heavy sweater so the minute the temps heat up I start losing fluids. And if I don't drink enough I worry about starting to suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which often can be sparked by being dehydrated. The simple answer to avoid these maladies is to keep outdoor time at a minimum on these hot days and enjoy the air conditioning, but the last thing I want to do is have the weather messing with my workouts and fun outdoors. I think there are others out there who are thinking the same thing, right?
I let the hot weather get in the way of part of my workout on that hot weekend, but I wasn't going to let it rule out an outdoor workout altogether. When our first heat wave struck, the plan was to ride the Cenar Century out in Barringtonthe date had been set a month before and my Spinning instructor organized the logistics and participantand we were all looking forward to distance, hills and a good challenge. But with rain predicted in the morning then clearing to high winds and high temps, we held off riding until the next day. Unfortunately that didn't sound any better, which had me fearing I'd get heat exhaustion while out on the ride, or would end up sweating off too much weight.
I bailed on that ride for that fear of overheating and having to battle strong winds, but I wasn't letting my choice keep me from doing something outdoors and opted to go mountain biking instead. It started off as a good ideashade from the trees, not having to work quite as hard going at my own pace instead of keeping up with others, maybe even a little cooler without the direct sunlightbut ended up being just as hot. Thank goodness for the water I was carrying with me is all I have to say. I couldn't stop hydrating during rest breaks nor could I stop sweating (which made me want to drink even more). Seeing the sweat was a gentle reminder to continue drinking and then post-ride when my clothes were soaked through I knew I needed even more fluids. Let's just say that water was like my best friend that afternoon: finishing off my Camelbak, refueling at 7-Eleven, drinking glass after glass upon getting home. And then I was still thirsty the next morning! But at least I didn't get those pounding headaches, lightheadedness or even nausea that often comes with heat sickness.
Funny how now I'm thinking about that day and wishing there was another on the horizon--60ish degrees in August is no fun. While I don't have to worry as much about staying hydrated (I'm not losing as many fluids) those warm days are some of my favorites parts of summer.
As an athlete, I always try to stay in the know about how important hydration is. I know not to leave the house without a Camelbak when I take my bike out on the Lakefront. I have my run routes mapped around the water fountains. And my workout is never a good one if I somehow manage to forget my water bottle at home and I have to keep jumping off the machine and rehydrating.
I know to stay hydrating but sometimes it's hard to keep drinking water and I'm craving of something, anything, else. I try adding lemon juice or even a little Gatorade powder to sweeten my drink, but the tedious process sometimes has more foregoing that drink because I don't want to mix the concoction. So I was super excited when a package from PUR arrived with a pitcher and water filter that also contained a flavor package to mix up the taste of the water. I already liked the water straight from the pitcher because now I finally didn't have to deal with semi-warm water straight from the tap and I had the option of adding flavor with a few quick taps of a button. I'm liking it already and know I'm staying more fueled in the process. And with a race coming up, I know it's even more important.
Stay tuned to hear more. I'm sure I'll have some hydration thoughts after the race. Last time I suspected I was dehydrated because I felt like a camel the following day, guzzling water and never seeming to get enough.