Dr. Hydration or: How I Learned To Stop Being “Tough” And Love Water

I don’t drink on my runs. I don’t have a fancy running belt with 72 loops and straps to hold gallons of water. The fact that during a 10k race I look forward to the 1 or 2 ounces of water that make it into my mouth (I have yet to figure out how to successfully drink from a dixie cup while running) never seemed to resonate with me when it came to my daily runs. Sure, I am running much harder during a race and may not necessarily need hydration mid-6 miler here at home, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. I should have taken a cue from the evening headaches I would get after longer jogs. No matter how much water and gatorade I would drink after the fact, the pain was inevitable. “Wahhh my head hurtsssss!!!” I would whine, knowing exactly the cause. Did that change anything when it came to my next long run? Nope! I can handle it! Nope. I can’t.

Then came the attempt to run my longest run yet up here at altitude. I remembered how damn thirsty I was during my 10-miler the week before. It had been a hot day, I was dumb and decided to run in the mid-day heat. All I could think about was water. I was hallucinating huge pools. Running around the lake was absolute torture. I wanted to dive in and drink it dry. Upon the completion of my run I ran into McDonald’s and asked for a cup of water. I was presented with a cup that held approximately as much as those race-day dixies. I asked for a second cup. I stood at the drink dispenser, double-fisting these baby cups, guzzling water like a madwoman. This is terrible, I thought. My amazing body took me this far on foot and this is how I thank it? I deprive it of liquid? I’m a terrible body owner.

And thus, when it came time to don the thermal sleeves and running shoes for my 13-miles of certain hell, I decided to invite along a new friend to the adventure. My camelbak. I wasn’t sure how it would be, running with what felt like a tiny child clinging to my back, but I decided it was worth a shot. I filled up my 100-oz bladder approximately 1/3 of the way with a water/gatorade mixture, tightened the straps as much as I possibly could, and was off. I started slowly, trying to judge how this new addition would affect my gait. To be honest, I hardly knew it was there. But when I needed a sip of that juice, boy was it comforting to have him along. I took a few sips every 15-20 minutes, even when I wasn’t thirsty, knowing that my body would thank me later. And can I tell you something? I did not have even the slightest hint of a headache that evening. Nor was I completely spent and dehydrated at the end of my run. My pace was even 2 seconds faster than it was on my previous long run. This, I told myself, is how running should be. And that, my friends, is how I discovered the magic of proper hydration.