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?..it’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.