I’ll be packing the final elements ahead of the trip to Amiens tomorrow afternoon for the 100km de la Somme on Saturday morning. As I type this I am almost exactly 48 hours  from taking my first steps in the race so, in terms of getting things in order, this is the time to make sure everything is aligned.

The only area where I had final second (and third, and fourth) thoughts was on hydration. Not the necessity of it – that was obvious – but how I would take on water because this race, despite being long, is incredibly well supported.

I really have three options for hydration during the race:

  • a hydration pack like my Camelbak
  • a handheld bottle
  • relying on the aid stations

Generally for a long training run I go with the hydration pack. It means I can keep moving and it’s not a big deal to stop and refill it if the run is particularly long. It’s not quite as comfortable as running without a backpack but it is not uncomfortable and it gives me a lot of autonomy.

The handheld, on the other hand, gives me a lot less autonomy but is far lighter and easier to manage. I don’t seem to have problems running a long distance with a bottle in one hand and it also reminds me to drink. It’s easy to refill but it needs to be refilled more often than the pack.

Then there is the aid station option. At this race the aid stations are never more than 5.5km apart and they are usually less than 4km apart. This means I’ll have access to water and other liquids regularly throughout the course. I could run without carrying anything at all and still drink enough to get through the race.

My dilemma: which option to choose?

I straight away discounted the hydration pack as I don’t need to carry all that liquid when the aid stations are so regularly placed. This left me with a choice between taking nothing and the handheld, so I turned for advice to the ultralist group and was told:

  • Handheld
  • My advice: carry a bottle. It will allow you to skip aid stations and be quicker. Alternate filling it with water and then sports drink. Graze as needed at aid stations, but get in and out.
  • I’d do similarly, but take or leave the sports drink. I figure the bottle gives me options (and remember you can fill it as little or as much as you want too – you don’t have to leave the aid station with it full every time).
  • That’s a good point. With a bottle, you could probably blow through every other aid, and any time you lose from running with a bottle will be made up on saving time by skipping aids. Unless you’re just in it for funsies and the experience. Then you could put whiskey in your hand held, and lounge around aid stations chatting it up with people.
  • Don’t carry anything, just run. That’s the fun of a fast road ultra.

Based on the advice and not wanting to be caught short at any of the aid stations if they somehow ran out of water before I arrived, I’m going with the handheld bottle.

48 hours and counting now – I’m about as ready as I will ever be now and I can’t wait to get started.

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