Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hydration Packs and Belts, What works best?

Like just about everything else involved in ultrarunning, it depends on what you like and the race you are running. Personally, I prefer the hand held bottles like the Nathan Quickdraw. Here is a link to Nathan hydration products. I used them in the first two 100 mile races I ran and they worked great. I use them for all the 50Ks I run and every training run I do that is less than 5 hours. I also use one in every road race I do including the run segment of Ironman events. You can even carry a flashlight while running with them.

I always use the hand held bottles in shorter ultras. If the aid stations are pretty close together, less than 5 or 6 miles,(and not too mountainous,) you will only need one bottle. For longer stretches, especially if it is hot, I carry two. I found out in 2009, at the Leadville 100, that two bottles may not be enough. I hurried through the Twin Lakes aid station and failed to drink anything. I did refill both bottles before heading up Hope Pass, but it was very hot. I used up one bottle crossing the valley floor before reaching the climb. I started rationing my water and totally ran out before reaching “Hopeless” Aid Station located at timberline, about 1000 ft. below the crest. I was so dehydrated by that time I had to walk all the way down the other side of Hope Pass and up to the Winfield turnaround. At that point, I really did not think I would be able to finish. Fortunately, my wife, Marye Jo, made me stay in Winfield a few extra minutes and eat and drink. I still had to walk the 4 miles back down to the start of the climb back up Hope Pass and all the way up to the pass but I recovered on the descent and was bale to finish.

One reason I like the hand held bottles so much is that you always know exactly how much water you have. I now use NUUN electrolyte tablets. You add 1 Tablet to 16 ounces of water for a perfect balance of water and electrolytes. I mark the side of my bottle at 4, 8, 12 and 16 ounces (20 oz. is full) and it is easy to tell how much of a tablet to add. I divide the tablets in1/4s and put them in baggies.

This works great as long as you do not need your hands. Unfortunately, this year at Wasatch I decided to use trekking poles. Wasatch has 26,882 feet of elevation gain. I had read articles talking about the benefits of using poles and I started using them in training runs. I really liked the poles on steep climbs and also used them on really steep descents. Trouble is, you cannot use hand-held water bottles if you are using trekking poles. I purchased a 3liter Nathan “X-Treme” Vest that I used for all my training runs and the race. It is great. You can carry all the supplies you might need and (unfortunately) way too much water. I was so concerned about the climb to the first aid station at mile 13.4 that I carried so much water at the start that I did not have to add any water until “Bountiful B” AS at mile 24. That is not smart! I carried several extra pounds of water up the longest climb in the race.

I also use a Nathan “Speed” belt. The one I like holds four, 10 oz. bottles and has a pouch in back and a small zip pocket in front. My favorite energy drink during all races from Marathons to 100 milers as well as all training runs is Hammer Nutrition's “Perpetuem” drink mix. I have found I can drink it for 30+ hours with no problems. I add two scoops of Perpetuem in every of the 10 oz. bottles I think I will need. At Wasatch, I think I filled 24 bottles (21 were in drop bags.) I will carry two bottles all the time but only fill one. Each 10 oz .bottle will last me about 1.5 hours. I try to time mixing up the next bottle at aid stations as I have just about emptied the first bottle. (Extra Weight)

A lot of ultra runners like hydration belts. They are available in all kinds of designs, one bottle, two bottles and bottles with pouches. I have quite an assortment of these belts that I need to put on eBay and get rid of. I just do not like having the bottles around my waste. They bounce up and down unless I really tighten them up, then they feel like they are restricting my breathing. But that is just me. When you go to any 100 miler, you will see a lot of runners with them. Some runners claim the belts cause stomach problems late in the races, too.

One of the reasons I purchased the X-Treme vest is because it will hold a lot of equipment. When you do ultras in the mountains, especially the Rockies, it is important to be prepared for any possible weather conditions. I have been fortunate. I have had beautiful weather at Leadville in '09 and Wasatch this year, although it was unusually cold at Wasatch. The back pack allows you to carry a jacket, gloves and hat or have room to stow them if it warms up. It also has room for Ginger Chews, Shot Blocks, Enervit Tablets, Honey Stingers, extra contacts, sunscreen, or anything else you might need.

I have provided links to most of the suppliers for the products I have mentioned. The are the products I use and like. Many of the items like Hammer products and Nathan belts and vests you can find at local running stores and bike shops. If you cannot find them locally, go the the Zombie Runner web site. They specialize in everything ultrarunning and sponsor a lot of events. I have purchased a lot of stuff from them over the past 3 years.

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