Race day is a very exciting day, in my early experience I would show up, dressed and ready to run. Part way through the race, I was itching for an aid station for a drink, or some boost to keep me going. This would often slow me down – ever try to grab a water from an aid station with hundreds of other runners? Yeah, no thanks. It wasn’t until I started to prepare for my races that I really started to enjoy the process. Arriving prepared, not just in gear alone, can make a race day experience so much better. 5K races I generally treat as fun runs without much fuss, but on long-distance runs, and races over the 10-mile mark I generally start to think about fuel on the go.
Please keep in mind these product reviews are entirely my own, my own experiences, tastes, preferences, and do not express the views of the manufacturer. Please proceed with caution, individual results will vary. While I have an ambassadorship with Honey Stinger, the best in sports fuel in the industry, I developed this list prior to joining them so there is a bit of a variety.
In this post, I want to focus on two things: Gel and Hydration Race necessities.
GEL packs are handy handheld liquid energy that can help energize your body when you are feeling drained. They provide a quick shot of glucose to help fuel your body and offer a slight psychological boost as well.
The top brands I have used are GU and Honey Stinger. GU offers a variety of GEL pack flavors with and without caffeine. I’ve had most flavors, with my preference leaning more on the chocolate, coffee, marshmallow side, as compared to the fruity flavors. One piece of advice; PAIR THESE WITH WATER! There is nothing worse than trying to slog down an energy gel with a dry mouth.
Honey Stinger also offers a variety of flavors, with and without caffeine. When you are on the go, ripping open a gel pack can be a little tricky, and then there comes the “what do I do” with the empty pack. Some people toss these on the ground, I store mine in my waist belt – but things tend to get sticky after a while. Recently, I decided to mix thing up by switching over to carrying a GEL FLASK that can hold up to 6 gel packs. I bought Acai Pomegranate in bulk to fill up the flask – we’ll see how that goes in the future, but the promise of not making a sticky mess is super appealing.
*Image from the Honey Stinger website
Hydration is key before, during, and after any race, long run, or activity. That is why I’m always keeping hydrated, but drinking water can get boring and when you’ve been logging some serious miles, water alone just won’t do. I’m a huge fan of Nuun electrolyte tablets and Trace Minerals Power Pak drink mixes.
Nuun offers a large variety of flavors and is available at most running and health food stores – I try to stock up on my favorite flavor (watermelon) when I have the oppurtunity. If you are going to hydrate, without a doubt, Nuun is the way to go. Plus those cool tubes can be put to re-use after you’ve used up all the tablets.
*Disregard Christmas Tree in the background, also BodyGlide is a must (that’ll be another list).
Trace Minerals Electrolyte Stamina Power Paks are also a go-to for me when it comes to hydration. If I don’t have time for a tablet to dissolve, these ready-use packs are a fast solution. We have had some luck finding these at our local health food store – Guava Passion Fruit flavor is in my top three.
Anyway, there you have it, my favorite hand-held race essentials! Don’t forget to check back, next time we talk energy chews/gummies, and protein bars!