And we’re back with our second installment of Ask-a-Salty: the feature where…surprise! you ask questions and we answer them for you. If you have a question you’d like to ask, check out this page!
Today’s questions come from Jen P. who asks:
Hi Salties! One thing I have been thinking about lately is how do many racers carry their gels? I was curious what the Salties might have to say. Also, on a similar note, I was wondering whether or not to carry hydration during my upcoming marathon. Right now I am thinking if weather conditions are good I will not carry my own water but if it’s going to be hot I will. Also I’m running Chicago (like Mint!) which is a huge race. Is there anything I should do differently for a huge race to make sure I get enough water? Thanks!
Great questions, Jen. Let’s start with carrying gels. The good news is there are several options. I like to keep things as simple as possible when I race; as far as I’m concerned, the less I have to carry or do the better. For this reason, for most of my marathons I have safety pinned my gels to the waistband of my shorts. I safety pin the tab of the gel to the top of the waistband on the outside of the short and then fold the gel over into the inside of my shorts. The beauty of this is that the gels are lined up in the exact order you want them and you just tear them off and the tab stays put on your shorts. Here’s a video featuring the lovely Cinnamon demonstrating how to do this:
Alternatively, you could put them in a belted pouch, like a SPI-belt. I have one to carry my phone and it’s awesome! I hardly know it’s there. I personally prefer the safety-pin-to-shorts method because you don’t have to worry about zippers catching or gel tabs sticking to you, etc., but if you don’t like the way the gels feel in the shorts then this would be the next best way to go. Spi-belt even has a deluxe version that has little gel holders! Cinnamon’s tried both ways, and says the pin-to-shorts method is more secure.
Others swear by gels in the bra, which I don’t recommend because I’ve seen some NASTY chaffing from that! Camille Herron said she keeps hers in her gloves or tapes them to her hands! Those are other options.
Now as to whether to carry water or sports drinks, I say no. Again, I like to keep things super simple on race day. If you want to race the marathon and run your best time, I really think weighing yourself down with fluids is counter-productive and unnecessary; drink as much from a cup at each stop as you can and that will be enough. Bringing a fuel belt, hand-held or Camelbak along for the marathon might make you feel secure, but it’s probably just weighing you down.
The latest science suggests most marathoners are over-concerned about hydration. The most notable work on this subject is Dr. Timothy Noakes’ latest book, Waterlogged. I won’t get into all the science here as that’s for a more involved post, but if you enter the race well-hydrated you should be fine using the fluids available on the course.
Keep in mind that it’s normal to finish a marathon somewhat dehydrated. If you drink from a cup at every water stop on a seasonally cool day, you should not suffer any ill effects from these normal levels of dehydration. The latest in sports science suggests drinking when you’re thirsty is more than sufficient to maintain a high level of performance. Even if you’re not racing and you’ll be out there for a long time, you shouldn’t need to bring your own fluids. Non-racers have the luxury of time to walk through water stops and drink as much as needed.
HOWEVER– There are, of course, caveats!
For a crowded marathon, I like the advice our friend Lloyd gave to Jen on our Facebook page: bring a throwaway water bottle to the start. Sip on it for the first mile or two, then pitch it. This will get you through those first few super-crowded waterstops.
If it’s really hot, like Chicago ’07 or Boston ’12, then and only then would I consider bringing fluids in some permanent manner (e.g. fuel belt, handheld, etc.) Your time goals will be out the window anyway, so just getting to the finish line in one piece would be the goal and by bringing your own fluids you could again avoid the zombie hoarde at early water stops.
Salty Readers, what say you? How do you carry your gels? How do you feel about bringing your own fluids along for the ride during your marathons?
Let us know what you end up doing, Jen, and be sure to fill us in on how your race goes! GOOOOOOOD LUCK and RUN FAST!!!!
this post was originally published on October 1, 2012.