Tips & Tricks – Hydration/Fuel

I have been asked a few times what I use to fuel and hydrate myself while I train/race.  Before I layout my plan please know that I am not an expert…this is what works for me and has been a lot of trial and error (LOTS of error).  If you have questions feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Here are the items that I take into consideration when preparing for a training run or race:

  1. Distance/Duration/Type of Workout
  2. Temperature
  3. How Do I Feel

In recent years I have found that I sweat way more than I ever did when I trained for my 1st marathon 9 years ago.  When I trained last year for a spring marathon I found that my legs were cramping at mile 18 and continuing on was extremely difficult.  My nervous prompted me to seek the advice of more seasoned runners to help adjust my approach.  Some of the suggestions included the use of various products and also timing of the use of them.  Over time I tried them all and have found an arrangement that works for me.  When it comes down to it you may have to do the same and keep playing with things until you find what works best.  Not everything I do will be the end all be all for you.

Distance/Duration/Type of Workout:

Short Runs (3-5 miles) –  I hydrate with Nuun Active prior to leaving the house and immediately after.  On days when I need a little pick me up I will use Nuun with caffeine. I don’t want to over do it so that I have a ton of liquid sloshing in my stomach so I mix up a 12-21 oz bottle of water with 2 tabs of Nuun.  This is more than what the directions indicate on the tablet tube, but I have found that I like need the extra electrolytes since I sweat a lot.  I also like to mix flavors to create my own combos.

Medium Runs (5-13 miles) – I use the same mix on medium runs as I do for short runs (double tablet), but bring the bottle with me so that I can hydrate along the way.  I use the Orange Mud HydraQuiver single barrel hydration system to transport my bottle and keep my hands free. Every 2 miles I break and walk to grab a sip. This not only keeps me hydrated, but also helps to prepare me for races where aid stations are typically 1.5-2 miles apart.

Long Runs (13-26 miles) – When I move past 13 miles I switch to Tailwind Nutrition.  I have found that is is much easier on my stomach.  In the past Gatorade and GU combined together made me extremely ill.  At an ultra I participated in last year I saw a runner who what entered in the 15 hour event use Tailwind. Curious, I asked him about it and he explained that it was his go-to fuel and hydration combo product…basically its all he uses during an event.  I researched the product and found that it was highly regarded as a resource for runners who have had GI issues with the typical running fuel/hydration options.  There are several flavor available and they also offer a caffeinated line as well.  I have used the Raspberry Buzz, Tropical Buzz, Mandrian Orange, and Lemon.  On the back of the bag there are instructions to mix up the product according to your output.  I have found the directions to be spot on for myself when mixing up my drink.  I like the kick that the caffeinated version provides, but scale back when I know I will be out for a long time.  My favorite is to combine Lemon (non-caffeine) and Raspberry Buzz (caffeine).  Tailwind has a clean, light flavor and does not leave a sticky residue in my hydration packs.  For training runs I often use my Orange Mud HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 which has two bottles holders giving me the option to have a bottle filled with Tailwind and a bottle filled with of water.  In really hot races I have mixed up Tailwind filled the bladder of my Orange Mud Endurance Pack and popped it in the freezer overnight.  It does not freeze solid, more of a slush consistency.  This serves a double purpose: 1) it keeps my core cool and 2) when I’m hot I want cool liquids…hits the spot.  I have also frozen Tailwind for a treat when I get back from a hard run to help rehydrate. Its good stuff.  I’ve been asked in the past why I don’t use Nuun on my long runs.  I have found that the lack of carbs creates a calorie bonk.  Nuun has come out with an additive called Plus to solve this problem.  I have not tried it, but plan to as my miles increase in preparation for the Spring 2106 racing season.  I will report back once I have more personal experience with the product to go off of.  I have also been asked why I use three different vests.  I need a lot of fluids when I run and I run a lot.  To clean out my Orange Mud is time consuming so I save it for races that I will not need more than a 2-liter bladder.  When running daily having the bottle option with the Orange Mud vest is nice and a time saver. They can easily get dropped into the dishwasher and be ready the next day.  On ultras where I need more than 2 liters of fluids I also use my Orange Mud double barrel system since the bottles are easy to refill.  During marathons I uses the Orange Mud single barrel system.  I will warn you though with all the systems I use you can hear the fluids sloshing. It doesn’t bother me, but may drive others bananas…it is a personal preference thing.  As with my medium runs I stop and drink but do so every 3 miles miles so that I can also take salt replacements every 30 – 60 minutes (see below). It is a break that I need to go the distance and not get behind on my fluid/fuel intake. I am consistent and regimented in this, straying from it has caused problems of crashing

*So you might be thinking at this point what about food? I don’t eat on my runs, but that is about to change as I prep for some really tough ultras coming up. Prior to long runs I eat Picky Bars. I love that they are simple, taste great, and dense in calories.  For 5-13 mile runs I eat 1/2 a bar before and finish it when I get done.  For 13-26 mile runs I eat the whole bar before I start and one when I get done.  They are about 200 calories per bar.  They sit well on my stomach and are easy to carry.  I also have used Clif Bars blocks mid run when I feel sluggish, which are a gummy electrolyte chew (nice little treat to chomp on like candy). They have a pleasant taste and give me a nice surge of energy. I plan to experiment more with eating mid-run to help keep me on my feet through my ultras.  I have been told, but not yet tried this past 31 miles that Tailwind is all I will need.  I’ll touch base once I have crested past 31 miles and know more.  Back to back runs started this weekend so I will have lots of time over the next few months to try things out.

*If a workout is going to be grueling (hills, intervals, speed work) I will make sure to bring extra fluids with me to stay hydrated in anticipation of extra sweating/output.  No matter the workout or distance I try to drink at least 8oz of water before and then 8-12oz immediately after I finish. I don’t drink a ton of water throughout the day, max 24oz…which by many standards is not enough, but it works for me.

Temperature:  Wisconsin weather is very unpredictable.  When I am going out for a run i always check the forecast and adjust my hydration plan according to what is predicted.  I sweat like a beast (glisten wound not even cover it) so keeping a balance to prevent cramping is key!  If the temps are more than 80 I treat my run like it is one step up from its actual distance (example short 3 mile run I treat it like a medium run).  This has served me well.  When I do my long runs that are greater than 15 miles in temps that are 80+ I use SaltStick caps 30 minutes in and then continuing every 30-60 minutes until I finish. This has helped to ward off major leg cramps.  I use SaltStick in addition to Tailwind. Some say they don’t need the salt replacement with Tailwind, but for me it is not an option…I just sweat way to much and cramp violently.  I will warn you though when I get done with a long run I feel like a bloated puffer fish.  My hands are often puffy too so I do not run with jewelry.  I have been running all winter and have not had to use SaltStick caps and also did not need them at the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon. It is the high temps and humidity that I need to watch out for.

How Do I Feel: The last thing I take into consideration when planning out my hydration/fuel for a run is “how do I feel”.  If I am tired or my body is sore from a previous run I hydrated a little more. Not excessive, but enough to compensate for a hard effort my body is trying to recover from.  I try to listen to my body before, during, and after a run to know if what I have done is working or needs to be tweaked.  Dialing in hydration/nutrition is not an easy task and being attentive to one’s own body is important. I keep a running journal (Believe Training Journal by Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan Dumas) to track my hydration, fuel, and miles so that I can reflect on how I felt during those efforts to further improve each time I head out.

There is not a silver bullet when it comes to a hydration and fueling plan.  It takes time and a conscious effort to find what will work for you personally.  I don’t have all the answers – I’m not an expert or a running guru, but am starting to see success with the products that I use to help me get where I would like to be in regards to my fitness goals.  As I continue to challenge myself to go further and push harder I may need to adjust my approach. I promise to report back on any new insight that I gain along the way.

#BeKind #BeHappy #BeActive

25 thoughts on “Tips & Tricks – Hydration/Fuel

Add yours

  1. I learned of Tailwind through your blog and when I checked into it was impressed with all the good reviews. I ordered some and started using it this week. Love the light flavour and maybe it was just coincidence but I had a great 23k run with it.
    I started using Salt Stick last summer as I too sweat alot in heat and humidity – very salty sweat. I have issues with getting lightheaded in the heat but the extra salt seemed to help. It seemed to make a big difference for me but I was wondering if I should try it along with the Tailwind once it gets hot again. We are a few months away from the heat so I will have to wait to try 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading! I’m glad you gave Tailwind a try. I used it when I ran a 50k in July with the temp at roughly 90 degrees and very high humidity. To say that I was sweating was an understatement. I drank Tailwind the whole race and also used SaltStick caps. I needed both to keep my legs from cramping. I will keep up this combo this year since it worked so well for me. Give it a go and let me know it goes for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Ali,
    Hope all is well with you. This was to funny to read from the perspective of the way you write, and clearly the way you test what to use, it was so similar to myself, I thought I reading my own writing at times.

    Anyway, I found I ended up at the same destination. I trained for my first 100 miler with nothing but Tailwind, but it is raining and moderate temperature on the West Coast in the so-called “winter” months (I am from Ontario so unless, like WI, you can get down to -20C on average, with lots of snow then not really a true winter).

    But I have also used Saltstick tabs with Tailwind when it is hot, and found a great balance.

    Just one comment on you observation of the swollen digits. I am guessing you already know, but this is sometimes your body trying to conserve water. I used to get this all the time too. Thus, you might be taking on to much salt, or not drinking enough.

    Anyway glad to hear after much trial and error (oh I know, 10 years of running and only now I have I found what works, at least for now, lol), you have figured out something that works for you!

    All the best with your races this year, looks like full cornucopia of distances and surfaces. I see you are doing the ECS by North Face, I will keen to read your review, as I want to get out and do a couple of those next year.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog posts!

    Have a wonderful day!!!


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