Monthly Archives: September 2012

Beginner’s Guide to Running Race Nutrition, Hydration and Carrying-it-all – Part 3

A little while ago we discussed hydration and nutrition; what to eat and when, and the pluses/minuses of each option.  So now that you’ve got your hydration/nutrition dialed-in how exactly do you carry all that crap for hours of pavement pounding?


Part 3 – How do I Carry It All?


Hydration transportation can be categorized into 4 basic types:  Single large waist belt bottle, multiple small waist belt bottles, handheld bottle, aid station.

Waist belt bottles are certainly the most popular choice for long distance road runners.  They are easy to access and (for the most part) pretty comfortable.  The main difference is how/where the bottles are spread around your belt area:

Single Bottle – A single bottle is almost exclusively carried on the lower back where it’s still accessible yet completely out of the way.  Within this type of belt/bottle there are two subtypes:  A belt where the bottle sits straight up-and-down, or a belt where the bottle rides at a 30 degree angle.


Many people use these as the belts also offer pockets etc. for nutrition (we’ll get to this shortly) & gear and there is less clutter to deal with (compared to the multi-bottle belts).  My personal opinion is to give these a pass. After my first run with one of these I had a huge bruise on my spine/lower back from the lid of the bottle continually hitting me as I ran.  No matter how much I tightened the belt I couldn’t stop it from bouncing.  You can rotate the belt to one side to avoid this, however then you have to deal with an external asymmetry affecting your stride.


Multi-Bottles – The multi-bottle belts are another popular option, as they spread the weight of your hydration around your body thus keeping your center of gravity unaffected (…mostly).

Occasionally referred to as “the travelling buffet”, you simply have your load split up and spread around.  One advantage this provides is the ability to specialize your hydration options.  Want a bottle of sports drink and a bottle of water?  Go to it!  Most often these come in 2 & 4 bottle options, but with additional/replacement bottle options you could potentially have as many or as few as you’d like.  At first use (with a 4) I didn’t like how the bottles interfered with my arm swing, so I switched to a 2 bottle belt and haven’t looked back.

Whether you decide to go with a single or multiple bottles waist belt option, there is a one issue that both these options cause; extra pressure on your pelvis/lower back.  It took me a long tome to get used to hauling that sloshing weight around my midsection, my lower back was continually sore after long runs, and I can see how this might REALLY bother some people.

Handheld – Another option that is growing in popularity, especially with trail runners, is the handheld bottle.  This technique has grown out of simply carrying a squirt bottle in your hand to specialty bottles with filters and special carrying cases.  The most popular options I’ve seen lately are bottles like these:

Ergonomic bottle straps with an external pocket for your gels/keys/ninja stars.  Carrying a bottle can make your arms sore if you aren’t used to it, but I’ve always appreciated the freedom to switch hands/position whenever necessary.

Aid Stations – For races, I’ve started relying on aid stations for my hydration.   You have to schedule your nutrition intake a little more rigidly, but being free from the extra clutter is well worth it for me.



And what about your nutrition choices?  How are you supposed to haul those around?  Unless you are dependent on a four slices of pizza, most of the bottle carrying options should be able to help you out.  Almost every belt/handheld bottle holder has some sort of zippered pocket(s) to hold your extra stuff.  It’s up to you to figure out how much space you are going to need; 1 gel? 2 packages of chews? 15 various packages of cookies/crackers/pretzels/ham sandwich?  Do your research, try things on, take your favourite in-race meal and try jamming it in there.

Another consideration is a Gel Flask.  Gel flasks look a lot like the bottles carried in the multi-bottle belts.  These are used as liquid calorie dispensers. Some people have trouble choking down sticky gels, so by added water to the mix they can get the calories down without risking the gag reflex/projectile vomiting.  A friend of mine makes his own gel and swears by these flasks, but I’ve never used one myself.

One option not a lot of people use, but I’ve had pretty good success with is pockets.  Yep, those things that come with your shorts (athletic shorts not running shorts).  The last few races I’ve done, I’ve thrown my Clif Bloks in my pocket and off I went.  No fuss, just easy.  It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

There are other options like Nathan or Camelback hydration packs, but these aren’t seen very much at road races, sure you can bring one if you want, it’s just not common. More often these are used at trail races or ultra-marathons where more fluid and storage for nutrition is needed.  I used one on my Impromptu Adventure Run and I was certainly glad to have that much water with me (not to mention room for a light, granola bar and $3.52 in change (what?’s my emergency fund)

Anyway, I think that’s enough for now, if you have any more specific topics that you’d like to hear about, or specific questions just ask in the comments.


Beginner’s Guide to Running Race Nutrition, Hydration and Carrying-it-all – Part 2

Recently we started a 3 part series on nutrition, hydration and carrying it all for beginner runners. Hopefully I can share some of my ill-begotten “knowledge” with the community and help someone out…and avoid embarrassing myself at the same time. Here goes:


Part 2 – Hydration
Hydration and nutrition are tightly linked and and, as with nutrition, you will need to find out if your body can process sports drink (sugars) while under duress or if you’ll have to stick to water only.

For my first 2 marathons I suffered from “Racer Belly”, not during the race mind you but certainly afterward. For a long time I attributed it to processing sports drink while racing but eventually discovered that my body was reacting to the adrenalin in my system (think extreme butterflies in your stomach). Since then, not only can I drink Gatorade/Poweraid, but the additional calories actually helps/prevents me from bonking.

Another thing to consider is that digestion requires water.  Your stomach can pull water from your body when it needs to process any nutrition you are ingesting, this can lead to cramping and a truly painful race. I alternate my intake of sports drink and water and time my nutrition ingestion to coincide with water stations; take a cup, move off to the side, eat/drink, and then get back to work.

If your body can’t handle sports drinks and you have to stick to water, you need to be mindful of your electrolyte levels. By drinking too much water exclusively you risk developing Hyponatremia which is essentially “watered down” blood sodium levels. Electrolytes (including sodium) aid the body in transferring water/waste across cell membranes; if you levels are out of whack you can get yourself in trouble. One thing to look into is whether you are a potassium or sodium sweater, this way you can look into specific drinks/gels that cater to replacing those elements in higher ratios. That being said there are discussions out now showing that the body should possess enough sodium that supplemental sodium intake shouldn’t be needed, the caveat being that you drink to thirst and not simply because “you should”.

Next you need to think about how to get that hydration into you. Marathons are usually well stocked and have hydration stations every 5km (3mi) or so. If you can use the race’s liquid, then you don’t have to carry it.  The risk with this being; if you want fluid while between stations, you’ll have to simply wait.  Also, since drinking while running is a messy endeavour, I choose to use the stations as an impromptu walking break, even if it’s only for a few steps get to drink into you then get moving again.  Your body will appreciate the minute break and you will appreciate not having sticky hands for the next 3 hours.


In conclusion, hydration (or lack of) has ruined many runner’s race, don’t let it happen to you.  Experiment with all the options BEFORE race day, and you’ll give yourself the best shot at success.

Come back soon for Part 3 – How do I carry all this crap?

Beginner’s Guide to Running Race Nutrition, Hydration and Carrying-it-all – Part 1

Today I’m starting a 3 part series on nutrition, hydration and carrying it all for beginner runners.  Hopefully I can share some of my ill-begotten “knowledge” with the community and help someone out…and avoid embarrassing myself at the same time.  Here goes:


Part 1 – Nutrition
Nutrition is so completely individual that it’s almost comical to hear people talk about (so why not write about it?).  There do seem to be a few trends though that can help you hedge your bets: a.) how does your system handle refined sugars?  If you don’t have a problem than you have more options (i.e. – gels, gummies/chews, sports drinks), if you do have issues then you need to get creative, b.) do you require something solid for your stomach to munch on while you run?  If so then you need to look into things like granola bars, Honey Stinger Waffles, sports beans.  Each item has it’s own benefits/drawbacks (i.e. – sugar(s) content, size, format etc.), experimentation is your friend.  Also, volume of calories is completely personal.  I know some marathoners that take 1 gel with them, meanwhile if I don’t take a handful of nutrition options I’m ready to eat my left arm by km 32.  One thing that’s really helped me recently is eating often and eating early, that way if my stomach decides to revolt on me I already have calories in my body being processed instead of being depleted and hungry.

except the coffee…maybe

Sample Options:

– gels

– sports beans

– waffles/bars

– pretzels/chips

– PB&J sandwiches (seriously…)

– bananas/apples/fruit slices

– whatever works for you

Once you figure out what your stomach can handle during a long run, you should look into what sugars are used as ingredients. The stomach processes Fructose and Glucose using two different/independent processes. If you dump a bunch of glucose-based food into your stomach, the glucose is processed at a set rate no matter how much excess glucose is present in your stomach. Doing this you can end up with a stomach full of food that is simply waiting to be processed into fuel, all the while sloshing around inside your gut. So how can we maximize this dual processing mechanism? By ingesting foods that either contain a fructose/glucose mix or manually combining your race nutrition so you end up with a mix in your stomach you engage both processes simultaneously. Your stomach is pulling “double-duty” processing both sugars at the same time. Twice the work at the same time…double uptake for the win!

Overall, there will have to be a certain amount of experimentation in your approach.  Even if you know you have pre-existing limitations (health, taste aversions, illness, etc.) you will soon realize that almost anything CAN be fuel, it’s more a matter of IF it should be used as fuel.

Finally, when you find something that works for you, heed these 3 words: STICK WITH IT!

Come back soon for Part 2 – Hydration


Pic Post

(From the Gore-Tex Flickr Set)

Autumn’s here folks, get ready to bundle up on those early runs.

Have a great weekend!

Quick Pic – Chevelle

An abandoned 2dr Chevelle near my family cottage, it’s seen better days…

Impromptu Adventure Run

A few weeks ago I went for a little run at our cottage in northern Ontario.  The roads up there are almost entirely gravel, with quite a few unmaintained right-of-ways leading to hunting camps or logging claims criss-crossing the landscape.  I knew from past experience that there was a decent logging road about 3km from our place, and chances were good that with the dry summer we’ve had that the water-logged section near the start might be dry enough to bypass on foot.  Well, I was wrong.  Recent rains had replenished the wetland adjacent to the trail and the spillover was significant (and typical).  Now, I don’t have issues with getting wet or dirty but slogging through shin deep mud (pic 4 in the gallery at the end of this post) would have been bad enough on it’s own without the knowledge that I was going to have to come back through it on my way home.  Deciding to make the best of a bad situation I looked around and noticed a fence gate a little way back (pic 5).  After eyeballing it and the pasture beyond for a while I made my move, hopped the fence and skulked off into the pasture (Pic 6-8).  Upon cresting a hill I noticed a small lake off in the distance and (much like a goldfish) I was suitably distracted .

Lake and bog in the middle left in the pic

What was SUPPOSED to be a quick detour, turned out to be a 2hr “adventure”.  By the time I reached the lake the vegetation had gone from rolling meadow -> grassland -> to bog with knee deep boxwood shrubs.  My progress slowed ridiculously, but I was out in the sun, not a sound to be heard; peace and serenity.   Had I been a little more boy-scoutish I probably would have reminded myself that I was in the heart of bear country without any protection, and my movement essentially slowed to a crawl, but it was lost on me at the time and the adventure continued on.

Eventually, I reached the far end of the bog and realizing how long I’d been gone, I thought it prudent to get back and let the family know I hadn’t been eaten by bear/sasquatch/hungry lumberjack.  My bog-slog morphed into full on bushwhacking as I tried to skirt the wetland and return to the logging road.  Another half hour of crashing through the tree and underbrush later, legs scratched and bloody, I was back to the road and on my way.

All in all I was pretty pleased with my day, but I really should have taken more precautions while out there.  Enjoy the outdoors folks but respect it at the same time.  Regardless I’d like to go back with a few friends and see just how far we can take that logging road (water, mud and all), according to the map there’s a lake 5km past the area I was, and it might make for a fun afternoon jaunt.  Only time will tell at this point.

Enjoy the pics, let me know what you think!  Would you run alone in unfamiliar territory?

Goodnight Keith Moon…

This is perfect!



Where for art thou?

You’ve probably noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve posted some real content, so what’s been keeping me so busy that I haven’t been able to post?  Here’s the quick and dirty:

 1.)      In early August I pulled my left hamstring and missed half a month of training.  No training = no running to talk about, so I deferred to posting pretty pictures and videos to cover the gaps.

2.)     The last two weeks of August were ridiculously busy in family-land.   My wife took the kids on a few 3 day trips, as well as taking a few trips of her own with some girlfriends, meaning that I was either on my own or doing single-parent duty.  Both of these produced great stories, but also a multitude of fatigue, which translated into a lack of communication on my part.

3.)      I also took some extra time over the Labour Day weekend and spent some quality family-time swimming, climbing, midnight canoeing,and trail running.  One of my runs lead to an awesome, impromptu, adventure run which I’ll be describing in agonizing detail shortly (in glorious HD!)

 I guess what I’m trying to say is that for most of August I was either injured or living life to the fullest.  Dichotomy much?  This is my life, I guess I should be used to it by now.

Anyway, I’m back to running and I’ve been trying to get my neighbours onto a serious half-marathon training plan with mixed results (much like last year).  We’ll have to see how things turn out, but at this point it’s looking dubious.

 Hope things are good your end, Cheers!