Working on Hydration

This is probably going to be my biggest off season project this summer. Between fixing my swimming and trying to improve my hot weather performance, this is where I can realize the biggest gains in performance. I believe that my inability to properly hydrate during races is costing me around 30 – 40 minutes when the heat soars. I don’t expect to run a 1:50 half marathon when the heat is 80+° F but I also should be doing better than 2:30 – 2:40.

Since Steelhead a few weeks ago I’ve been on a bit of a mission. While I was fairly disappointed by my swim time, I made up major time on the bike leg. I knew getting off of the bike that with the weather I wasn’t going to come close to the performance I had at Texas a few months prior but my utter collapse on the run really was surprising to me. I’ve decided that I need a multi-faceted attack on my hydration problems.

General Hydration

I’ve never been the best at maintaining my daily hydration. I might go a few days here or there, especially right before a race, where I’m good about it. But some days my primary liquids come in the form of coffee and maybe a few sips of water at a meal before I forget to finish what I’m drinking. On top of that I’ve been enjoying a drink with dinner most of the week. None of this has been conducive to being well hydrated in life.

This is an easy fix. I’ve committed to staying hydrated during the day. I’m doing well with it so far and drinking far more water every day. I make sure to finish whatever I’m drinking with a meal and have at least one more cup during the day. I’ve also, mostly, cut out weekday drinking. For special events I might still have something to drink but eliminating alcohol during the week will go a long way towards maintaining my hydration levels. I also want to lose a few pounds so that will help as well.

The goal here is that when I get to race weeks, I won’t have to put extra thought into hydration pre-race. Reflecting on Steelhead, I made some terrible decisions the day before the race. While I need to make sure to eat and drink properly the day before a race, it will be easier if my daily routine just feeds into that. At my next race I don’t want to realize at 3pm the day before that I barely have had any water or food.

Training & Race Day Hydration

I’m going to lump this all into the same category since I train more than I compete. The week after Steelhead really brought this all into focus for me. I went for a group ride on a day that we had a heat advisory in New Orleans. With that said, the temperatures weren’t really that bad during my ride. I went about 50 miles which isn’t exactly a major ride but around 40 miles in I just utterly fell apart. With 4 miles to go I had totally drained both of my 24 oz water bottles. Kylan topped me off with water from one of his bottles. I finished that by the time I got to the bar we were heading to. How was it possible that he had consumed a single bottle of water while I drank 2 bottles of my eFuel sports drink and half a bottle of water and yet had signs of significant dehydration at the end of the ride? It took hours for me to recover.

I’m going to lump this all into the same category since I train more than I compete. The week after Steelhead really brought this all into focus for me. I went for a group ride on a day that we had a heat advisory in New Orleans. With that said, the temperatures weren’t really that bad during my ride. I went about 50 miles which isn’t exactly a major ride but around 40 miles in I just utterly fell apart. With 4 miles to go I had totally drained both of my 24 oz water bottles. Kylan topped me off with water from one of his bottles. I finished that by the time I got to the bar we were heading to. How was it possible that he had consumed a single bottle of water while I drank 2 bottles of my eFuel sports drink and half a bottle of water and yet had signs of significant dehydration at the end of the ride? It took hours for me to recover.

After doing some research of my various options, I decided to make two big changes. One change is what I’m hydrating with while I’m training and competing. The other is how I use it out on the course. First I decided to go with a different electrolyte mix. I’m not settled on anything yet since I need to spend some time in tough conditions to see what will work. With that said, I had to start somewhere and my research led me to read a fairly long article at Skratch Labs on their approach to nutrition. I will say that their research really resonated with me. Hydration Science and Practice talks about their approach to the science. I think it’s important to remember that there’s no one size fits all to this since everyone is very different so what may work for me is not what will work for someone else.

The other change I’m making is a big one for me. I’ve always run, during training, with my water on a belt since it allowed me to carry more. Since moving to New Orleans I haven’t needed it as much as I have more than enough water fountains along my route. I tend to take Base Endurance salt with me during the summer so water + salt has always seemed like enough. But during a race I’m all over the place. I take in water, gatoraide, salt, gus, chips, pretzels…who knows what else. Honestly during the run I’m usually so tired I just lose all track of what I’m doing. So one thing I want to do is start taking a handheld bottle with me on long runs and on races. I got a little bottle from Nathan that has a pouch in it that can hold packets of drink mix and some some Gu. Filling that once or twice during a race will take no more than all of my various water station stops now and likely far less.

Am I Done?

Probably not. On one hand I’m not in a huge rush to solve this since I have a long block of time before my next race at this point. But I do have some urgency to test my different options during the summer months. I feel like I need several rides and runs with whatever hydration product I’m testing to make sure it’s going to work in the hardest conditions for me. I feel really good about this though since this is the most critical look I’ve given my hydration in years and I think I’ve been complacent.


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