To Carry or Conceal?

Today is October 1st.  For much of the United States, October represents the beginning of autumn.  Not so here in Florida – we typically get about a week of fall-like weather, and it usually happens sometime around Christmas.  Fall not only brings about changing leaf color, cooler nights and crisp daytime temperatures, but also the end of most folks’ triathlon season and the beginning of running season.

With running season (and of course training for half-iron or iron distance triathlon) comes the age old question of how to hydrate during long runs.

Do you carry your fluids?  Do you stash and conceal them so you can retrieve them mid-run?

It’s a legitimate question for a runner or a triathlete.  Pure and simple, hydration is critical to our performance.  And unfortunately, most of our long runs don’t have aid stations spaced out every mile or so complete with cheering volunteers to hand us everything that we might desire.

Concealing your supply

This approach takes some pre-planning.  You’ll have to know your course, know how much & typically when you’ll need fluids, and then physically have to go out and place your liquids somewhere along the course.  You can often hide your water behind a bush or sign or something.  That said, this approach is not without peril.  If you set your fluids out the night before your long run, you’re trusting the fact that some kid doesn’t come by and take your bottles.  Or that some prankster doesn’t empty your bottle and fill it with some rather unpleasant…ahem….liquid.  Perhaps you live in an urban area, and taking this approach just isn’t feasible.  The other potential pitfall is the resulting litter from your water bottle.

Carrying your liquids

Many triathletes and runners (especially marathoners) chose to carry their liquids with them during long runs.  There are so many options available to facilitate toting your liquids with you during a run:  the handheld bottle, a waist-carrying device (Fuel Belt), or backpack style (CamelBak).

Hand-held bottles are just that.  Bottles that often have a nifty carrying device that wraps around your hand – resulting in decreased effort to actually “hold” the bottle.  Water is always convenient and easy to get to when you’re carrying it.  The downside, though, is that the bottle could get slightly heavy over a really long run.  Additionally, some runners may find that the bottle disrupts their normal arm-carrying style.

FuelBelts (and those other waist carrying devices made by other companies) are also pretty convenient.  You can get a belt that carries as few as 2 bottles or as many as 8.  A convenient aspect of using a belt is that you can pre-freeze water so that it melts during your run, always leaving you with cold water.  Some belts have pouches on them where you can store other nutrition such as gels.  One potential downside of using a belt is that some runners may find the “sloshing” sound that accompanies carrying several bottles of liquid slightly annoying.

CamelBak’s are ubiqutous among the military, off-road cyclists, and many others.  These devices will enable you to carry a significant amount of liquid with you during your run.  The only potential issue is that because of its backpack nature, that you could get quite hot carrying the pack. 

What do I do?

I live in what you might call a “planned neighborhood”.  This area is loaded with subdivisions, parks, sidewalks and trails, schools, and some light retail areas.  There is an abundance of places where I could chose to stash bottles for long runs.  In fact, some of my friends actually do take this approach.  I personally prefer to carry some water with me during long runs.  I use a two-bottle FuelBelt.  I know it’s not a lot of liquid to carry (I think it’s 10 ounces or so), but as there are schools and parks and some retail places around, I generally can stop and re-fill if I need to. 

What do you do?  How do you approach hydration on long runs?