Tri Coach Tuesday: Hydration on the Run

by Justin Chester, Tri Coach Colorado


Hydration on the Run, An Overlooked Race Strategy


I have a question for you.  How much do your running shoes weigh?  It’s OK if you don’t know the answer – I don’t know either, I’d have to look it up.  But what if I asked you to add a pound and a half to each shoe during a race, would you do it?  My guess is no.


A few weeks ago, I was out spectating on the run course of an Ironman distance race and I was just amazed at the number of people carrying, not just one, but two 24oz. water bottles in specially designed running vest.  There were countless more athletes that were carrying other hydration packs with bladders that were between 1.5L (50oz.) to 3L (100oz.) in capacity.

At eight pounds per gallon, 48oz. of water weighs 3lbs, and with whatever contraption is being used to contain the water, we’re talking a little over 4lbs.



My question to all of you is why are you choosing to carry so much extra weight with you?

In an Ironman race and as in most triathlons, aid stations on the run are approximately 1-mile apart.  To go between the aid stations that are stocked with water and Gatorade, it will take the fastest athletes about 6-minutes while athletes that may be reduced to walking, about 15-20 minutes.  What I find troubling is that athletes are carrying all of these extra provisions with them as if they’re going to be out for hours without sight of an aid station when in reality they are less than 20-minutes from one (and that’s if they just left one!).


There are some athletes that, through training have found they need special hydration products and since that hydration product isn’t offered on course they need to carry it along.  I still take issue with the amount that they’re carrying and not utilizing the special needs bags effectively (i.e. race strategy).  According to Andrew Dole (friend, Registered Dietitian, and owner of Body Fuel Sports Performance) the majority of people need to consume anywhere between 24-40oz per hour to stay hydrated and I have yet to see an athlete perform that hydration level solely using a sports product.  Instead, they consume some of their hydration product and make up the rest with water.  So again, why would you carry all of that weight along?  Carry one bottle, and then pick up the second bottle at special needs.  At least that saves you a pound and a half.

If I haven’t convinced you to take a long look at the way you hydrate on the run, consider this.  What do you do when the bottles or the bladder is empty and you’re in the final miles of the run, or if it starts to chaff or otherwise become annoying?  During that Ironman, I saw an athlete with a vest take it off and give it to a spectator – this actually is against the rules (abandoning equipment).  If you take it off and put it in special needs bag, you may not get it back (depending on the race, some special needs bags are not returned to the athlete).  There is the option of throwing it in the trash, but we love our equipment and that’s just not palatable for most.

Here are a few things athletes can work on to ditch the water bottles or at least minimize the amount of weight that they’re carrying.

  • Do your research on what the on-course nutrition is and do your best in training to assimilate to using it. Personally I’m not a fan of Gatorade Endurance, but if it’s between that and carrying 4+ extra pounds, I’m choosing to go light.
  • If you have to carry your own special blend, determine if that manufacturer makes the equivalent of their product in a gel form – if so, then you can use the gel with the on-course water to get the same effect. Carry gels weighs less than carrying hydration.  And gel wrappers go in the trash and do not constitute abandoning equipment
  • If you absolutely need the special hydration, come up with a plan to carry only the amount necessary to get you to the special needs where you can refill. Don’t carry it all at once.

The running vests and hydration packs are wonderful tools to use during training where rest stops cannot always be planned.  And of course they have a use in ultra-running events where aid stations are rare in numbers and typically spaced out much farther.

I know that triathletes typically are a very meticulous bunch, but my guess is that many didn’t appreciate the tradeoff between carrying their own hydration and using what’s provided on-course.  Hopefully this helps make that decision a bit clearer.


Coach Justin Chester resides in Parker Colorado and is a USA Triathlon Level 2 certified coach.  He also works as the Head Coach of the Parker Triathlon Team. Justin has been involved in sports his entire life having swam in high school and playing golf at the collegiate level before entering the endurance sports world in 2003.  Along with completing four Ironmans, he has also done countless half-Ironman, Olympic, and Sprint distance triathlons. He began coaching after writing out a plan for a friend competing in a Half Ironman event. Coach Justin takes great pride in the interaction he has with his clients and works with athletes of all levels and abilities.

Tri Coach Tuesday: Cycling Skills for Everyone

If you’ve been cycling enough in races or out on training rides, you’ve inevitably witnessed some bad bike handling skills – whether you were passing someone and politely saying “on your left” only to have the rider drift into you when they turn to look at you, or an athlete who has to unclip to be able to make the turn-around on an out-and-back race course.  This isn’t limited to just beginners – I’ve seen very fast athletes who fall over at stop lights because they don’t unclip.  You may even admit that you, yourself are not the greatest when it comes to getting your trusty steed through a ride with gracefulness of a Tour rider.   (The pictures below is from the 2016 Challenge Roth.  The age-group athlete in red/black is not maintaining his line during a climb as the pro’s came back through on their second lap)

photo from by Herbert Krabel
photo from by Herbert Krabel









On Saturday, March 4th, a cycling skills clinic was held to help cyclist avoid injuries, increase speed, and improve efficiency.  Here is what the athletes worked on.


Tight Turns:  If you’ve ever been in a race where it’s an out-and-back with a 180-degree turn on a two-lane road, this drill is for you.  This drill teaches balance at low-speed, cornering, and the fine line between pedal-power and braking.  There were two circles outlined in flat cones that were about 2-bike widths diameter.  The riders practiced going around the first circle clockwise (right-hand turn), then transitioned to the second circle going counter-clockwise (left-hand turn).  Since the circles were such a tight radius, riders had to go slow to be able to make the turns and counter balance the bike.  Riders found that if they were smooth without jerkiness of the handlebars, they were able to stay on track, but give the handlebars too much input, you’re far more likely to begin over-correcting and need to bail.

Box Stop:  The primary focus of this drill is to teach riders how to perform an emergency stop…without going over the front of the handlebars.  The riders were given a small area in which to complete the stop – full braking was required. But before we did full stop with both brakes, the riders tried a full stop with just the rear brake (enjoying what we all did as kids—skidding!!!!)   Then the same thing was tried with just the front brake but riders were shown that during full braking, that it’s important to get the weight back over the saddle to avoid going over.  Then finally, all of the riders did a full-braking stop to a track-stand then rode out of the box.  Every rider absolutely needs to understand how well their bikes stops and how much applied brake pressure is needed to perform a full stop.

Corridor:  Next up was riding and maintaining a straight line with hands in various positions on the handlebar.  A narrow, straight course about 25m long was set up and riders were instructed to ride through.  First time, riders went through on the hoods (bull-horns on tri-bikes), next riders went through in the drops (or in aero).  Next up, riders got back out on the bull-horns and exercised taking their left/right hands off the handlebar; left/right hand touching the down-tube; left/right hand on their hip; and finally look back to the left and looking back to the right…all of this while riding a straight line through the corridor.  The final skill was to hold onto the stem and try to maintain that straight line – the key here is that at speed while centered on the bike, the bike will want to remain straight, so you don’t need to continuously put a lot of input into steering the bike.

Slalom:  This drill taught riders to look through the turn to set up for the next turn.  If they got behind, they found that they were in a very bad position to make the next turn.  A very tight 8-turn slalom course was set up to, not only teach riders to look through the turn, but also to link the skills learned during the tight-turn drills, and introduce pedal movement to get through the course.  To maintain speed of course, the riders needed to pedal forward, but they needed to plan which leg would be up as they entered the turn (left leg up when turning left, and right leg up when turning right).  Some riders found it easier to back-pedal as they entered the turn to get the leg in the proper position.

Wheel Lifts:  How many of us have come across an unavoidable obstacle in our path.  Being able to lift the front end of the bike, the rear end of the bike, or performing a bunny hop has saved me and my bike from damage numerous times.  Riders were shown how to perform the wheel lifts, and then they had some obstacles that they had to clear (a cut-up pool noodle).


Low-Touches:  The last drill that riders performed was low-touches.  This drill is useful for athletes who need to go back and pick up a dropped water bottle, but even more, it gives athletes a much greater confidence on their bikes because the athletes feel what the bike needs to do when the athletes’ center-of-gravity is off to one side of the bike.  In order to perform this skill, athletes need to counter-balance the bike to the opposite side of the side in which they are leaning in order to continue riding in a straight line.  In the picture below, the athletes’ bike is leaning to the left while the rider is off to the right-side of the bike.  First the athletes worked on picking up cones, then moved onto the flat cones.  Athletes who really felt one with their machines even got to the point where they were dragging their fingers across the turf (I was once told that you should be able pick up a quarter off concrete while riding.  I didn’t believe it until I did it, and these athletes now believe me)



The athletes who attended this clinic left with new found confidence on their bikes.  They have a greater understanding of the rider/bicycle interface and how the body affects the bike, and the bike affects the body.

Another Cycling Skills Clinic is planned in the May/June timeframe.  Follow TriCoach Colorado on Facebook (@TriCoachColorado) or Twitter (@TriCoachColo), or periodically check the website for updated information.

Justin Chester is a USA Triathlon Level 2 certified coach.  Additionally he holds a Level 2 certification from the American Swim Coaches Association.  He began coaching after helping a friend create a plan for an upcoming half-Ironman and has since coached athletes of all abilities, from beginner to elite, and athletes competing in all distances, from Sprint to Ironman.

With an engineering mindset, Justin takes a very methodical approach to training and employs advanced data analysis to achieve the best results for his athletes.  His approach is also one that understands the delicate balance that needs to be maintained between triathlon, family life, and work.  Getting the most out of each training session is key and the ability to adapt training plans to individuals is paramount.

Justin believes that any every athlete can achieve any goal they set their mind to – after all, it is the mind that is the greatest limiter.

Justin is based in Parker, Colorado but has clients worldwide.