I dreaded the long run today, but vowed to make it a good one. The Boston Marathon is just around the corner and it’s too late for negative thoughts. The last thing I did leaving the house was to strap on my new, fully filled Revenge Belt from FuelBelt. I had moved some of my bare essentials from an old belt that had carried me through several marathons and triathlons to this new one. Two words embroidered in the old one and blasted on the new bottle caps got stuck in my mind as I closed the door – “Stay Hydrated.”
As anyone training for an endurance event knows, the weekly long run gives you plenty of time to think. And I had ample opportunity this morning. Why does a simple direction like “drink enough fluids” become so complicated for any run over a half marathon or an Olympic triathlon? Do we needlessly make it harder than it has it to be?
During my first marathon, the people around me basically said drink all you can the day before and keep drinking until the start of the race. You couldn’t get enough water in your system according to this school of thought.
Today, you can’t run even a half marathon these days without finding some warning about the potential fatal hazard of drinking too much water. Yes, you can get too much of a good thing. It turns out that taking too much salt and water can actually cause problems in your brain.
The typical advice I find today in the athlete handbooks for these events is to “drink when you're thirsty.” This sounds simple, but it has never worked for me in long events. By the time my brain tells me I’m hungry or thirsty, it’s usually too late. I hit the wall and bonk.
Medical science is very clear that performance is directly impacted by hydration levels during an endurance event. Tanita, the scale maker recently released a study about hydration levels and performance at full Ironman races. The company showed that the hydration level of athletes as much as two days before the event was a strong predictor of finish times.
So how do you know when you are properly hydrated? Again, it’s not an easy question. I recently listened to a Triathlon Mind Training podcast of an interview with Brendon McDermott at the University of Tennessee. Basically, your body’s ability to store water is greatly affected by the salt and the electrolytes in your system at the time. Your need to replenish the water is determined by your “sweat rate.”
Okay, that sounds easy. Calculate your sweat rate over a period of time similar to the event and do the math. Wrong. Your sweat rate can vary significantly based on the electrolytes in your body before the race, the temperature, and the humidity.
Stay hydrated. Okay. So how do I really do this? I’m going explore this topic more this year. By the way, the new Revenge belt performed exceptionally well. It was easily adjustable on the run and the most importantly, the bottles sat very nicely on my tail bone for the entire 19 miles. Two thumbs up for Fuel Belt’s latest addition to their product line.
In case you’re interested, here is my hydration and nutrition log for the 19 miles:
- 30 degrees, felt like 20 degrees
- 12 mph wind
- 60% humidity
- Large bowl of oatmeal (old-fashioned, not McDonald’s)
- Large coffee
- 1 Enduralite capsule
- 1 Gu
- 1 Gu mile 5
- 1 Gu mile 10
- By mile 10 - Two 7 oz bottles of water with one Nuun tablet
- 11 ounces of coconut water (convenvience store stop)
This is a tough training route that mimics the Boston Marathon elevations as best as I can - downhill for about 5 miles, generally flat for 10 miles, last 5 miles uphill.