“What do you bring on a 6-mile run?” “How in the world can you run for four hours without eating?” (quick answer: I eat)
“How much water do you drink?”
I’ve been asked these questions (and many others: e.g. “are you nuts?”) over the course of my spring training. Many of the answers to those questions center around what I carry with me when I’m training. It is really important! A few words before the guide:
First: This is a guide that works FOR ME. I am not an expert, nor a medical doctor or a nutritionist. If you find any of this guide helpful, I’m happy! Just don’t sue me if it doesn’t work for you.
Second: Weather is very important. If it is hot, bring more water and more electrolytes.
Third: I’ll break it down to rough distance and time. This is assuming that you are running trails, and you are pushing yourself adequately for that amount of time. The lines I’ve drawn are blurry, so if you are curious about a 10 mile run, take heed from both my points below. I treat trail and road runs differently, so be advised this changes distances for road runs (as in, for a 20 mile road race, looks more like a 10-15 mile trail race).
Finally: Err on the side of over-prepared. I’ve never regretted taking an extra gu or more water. I have, on the other hand, suffered from dehydration. That is not fun. Don’t do it.
What I bring on training runs:
0-4 miles (less than an hour run): If I bring anything with me, I’ll carry a handheld water bottle.
4-10 miles (~1 hour): Definitely at least a handheld water bottle. If it is a hot day (or I’m being grumpy about carrying something), I’ll go with my vest because I’m not a fan of holding things in my hands when I run. Maybe stuff a gu pack or trail mix bar into my vest.
10-15 miles (2-3 hours): I definitely need more than just water. I will probably wear my hydration vest, and pack a few gus (two per hour) or a sleeve of Shot Blox.
15-30 miles (3-6 hours): In the hydration vest – water! In the front: gu or Shot Blox, and one trail mix bar. I usually like a trail mix bar to give me a break from the gu or Blox. I’ll also bring along a Cliff Bar and maybe some solid food if it is a long day, but those go in the back for a quick rest stop. I might have an electrolyte on hand too, if it is on the longer side.
What’s in my vest regardless of distance: driver’s license (my form of ID), insurance card, cash ($20), small first aid kit, whistle, medical tape, TP (or wet wipes – ziplock it) and salt tabs.
Of course that is all gear that is weather independent. Here’s a list of things to consider (and their justification) when you head out for a trail run –
What’s on my person or rolled into the straps of my vest: Buff Original Headgear (best $20ish I’ve spent on headgear for running – works as a headband, sweatband, earmuff), ultralight rain jacket (for when it, you guessed it, rains), headlamp (unless you have night-vision, this is a must after dark), sunglasses (inverse of previous statement), running hat/gloves (brace yourself against the chill!).
What’s always on me: Fenix 2 GPS watch. Spendy, but so far worth every penny. Maybe I’ll review it someday…
I’ll end with saying that what I carry has evolved as I’ve transitioned from road running to trail running. I’ve made MANY mistakes on the journey to understanding what my body needs to be fueled during runs. I should also add that I never run long distances on an empty stomach. I always eat a good breakfast before long runs (> 1 hour).
Also, many trail runners head out with much less than I do. I can foresee future runs being less and less encumbered, but I promise I’ll blog about it when that happens, and update this post.