Spring has sprung for most of the country. Here in Michigan, the flowers are blooming, leaves are popping out on the trees, and the sun has been shining most days since I have been back. Although the temperatures are not quite warm enough to totally suit this California/Florida transplant, all of us runners are ecstatic to have some warmer running weather. However, with warmer weather brings the need for increased awareness of hydration.
I have a love/hate relationship with hydration. I love being hydrated, but I hate most of the options available for staying that way on the run. As some of you may know, I am a "gadget girl" and love to try new pieces of running gear. Over the years I have tried the whole array of hydration options, from hand bottles, to waist belts, to hydration packs (both belt type and vest type). In fact, I have a very large bin full of these failed attempts at finding the right hydration system for me.
Here is the thing: I get annoyed very easily. One of the things I find most annoying is waist belts that will not stay adjusted on the run. Anyone who has used one of these faulty belts knows what I mean. Eventually, about every quarter mile or so, you end up reaching down to retighten the waist strap which has slipped a bit and which is causing the pack to bounce. Super annoying!! In fact, I found this so annoying that I once left a brand new $35 hydration belt at about mile 10 of the Fontana Days Half Marathon.
I like hydration vests and have happily settled on my Nathan Intensity vest, but like other hydration vests I have tried, it is no good unless there is a shirt underneath it to keep it from rubbing abrasions into one's back. I just re-established that this was true in my recent fiasco at DWD Green Swamp. (I had originally learned this lesson on my first 50 miler where we ended up wrapping my waist in duct tape to stop the chafing. You'd think that would have been enough of a lesson, but no.). I was so relieved when I passed back by the start at mile 26 and could drop off the vest. I do love the vest, but it is only for days when I wear a shirt.
Thus, I am left to rely on hand bottles to meet most of my day-to-day hydration needs in hot weather. Truthfully, I was not really thrilled with this situation, but I was willing to live with it because it beat the other options (becoming dehydrated, wearing a shirt in warm weather, wearing an annoying waist belt, or driving around town or trails leaving water in key spots prior to the run). That was until I met the Nathan Sprint (now called the Quickshot).
I first saw the Nathan Sprint/Quickshot on a trail run when one of my favorite running buddies, Corey, showed up with one. It was small, and I could tell just from the way he was unconsciously holding it that it was comfortable for him. I asked if I could try it, and in thirty seconds I was sold. It fit so beautifully in my hand in a way that was different from any of the other hand bottles I had experience with. I had to have one!
When I got mine, I was not disappointed. It was everything I had hoped it would be in a hand bottle. I bought a second one shortly after, both because I like to be symmetrical when I run and because carrying two is a good idea on longer runs because of the smaller volume bottle. Let me tell you a bit about the pros and cons of this bottle.
There are lots of reasons I like this bottle, but the number one reason is comfort. The bottle shape has a lot to do with this. It is not round like most other bottles. It is flat to slightly concave on the side that rests against my hand. The key idea here is that it "rests" against your palm rather than being gripped. When your thumb is placed through the slot in the carrier, the bottle rests against the meaty part of the palm, with the fingers curving naturally around the bottle, but not gripping it. This is a super comfortable position.
In addition, the hole that the thumb slips through is edged with very soft material that does not irritate the thumb where it goes through the carrier, like some of my other carriers do. The bottle will stay in your hand, even if you are not gripping it with your fingers. Also, because of the way it sits in your hand, you can actually use your fingers and thumb to grip other things or to push buttons on a watch more easily.
In terms of fit in relation to hand size, it seems to work well for people with different size hands. It has an adjustable velcro strap that fits around the bottom of the bottle to loosen or tighten the hand grip. It works for my super-small hands, but also works on my husband's very giant hands. I am a big fan of the velcro closure. It does not slip like the straps do that adjust some of other water bottle carriers.
The bottle's spout is also a plus for me. It has what Nathan calls the "Quick Cap," which was originally designed for dispensing gels. They describe it as a "high-flow, one-way valve [which] opens and closes automatically and offers a quick burst of fluid." What that means to me is that I don't have to open and close a valve with my teeth. It may just be me, but I always end up busting my lip on those hard plastic valves on some other water bottles. The water shoots out with a squeeze of the bottle. I really like this set-up.
Finally, there are a few other features of the bottle that are a plus. It has a wide mouth for a bottle this size, which allows for easier filling and cleaning. The bottle can also be removed from the carrier for easier cleaning. Some people have said that the bottles will not come out, but the plastic collar at the top of the bottle slips off on both of mine to remove the bottle from the carrier.
Although I love this bottle, I would be remiss not to mention a few of the minor cons of the bottle. One con for some people is the 10 oz size rather than the larger 20 oz bottle most carry. This is a drawback if you are needing to carry a lot of fluid. For runs like that for me, I switch to my hydration vest. For medium length runs, I carry two of these. I find that 20 oz. is enough for me for runs up to an hour and a half. For short runs, an hour or so, this bottle is just perfect. This definitely is not a long distance hydration option, though.
A second drawback is actually in an area that I mention as a positive. Some people do not like the Race Cap valve. It is very responsive (some might say "touchy"). If you squeeze, water will shoot out. Many people unconsciously squeeze the bottle if they tense up as they are running. I don't have a problem with this, though, because one of the things I love about the bottle is that I don't have to grip it as I run. However, if this is a problem for you, you can replace the race cap bottle with the regular flask with the pop-up tops.
The third drawback is partially operator error. The bottle will leak if the top is not screwed on exactly. This is annoying, and it has occasionally happened to me. If there is a flaw in the bottle's design, it would be that the top is not as easy to screw on as one would hope. The first few times I used the bottle I had the occasional problem with this. However, now that I know about this little "quirk," I check the bottle by shaking it upside down after I screw the lid on to make sure I have a good seal.
Even with these slight drawbacks, this is still my absolute favorite hydration accessory at this time. Besides being great for short to medium length training runs, it could work especially well for races of 5k and 10k. It is light enough and comfortable enough not to interfere with fast running, but it would allow one to breeze by the water stops that often take those valuable seconds that keep a runner from achieving a PR.
Because of that, I would like to share it with one lucky reader. For this month's contest I am giving away a Nathan Sprint/Quickshot hydration bottle. To enter just comment on this post letting me know why you think you need or where you will use your new Nathan Sprint/Quickshot. Will it be training on the trails? For an upcoming race? To train for your first marathon? (I'll be using mine in my training for Dances With Dirt Gnaw Bone!) One entry per person, please.
A winner will be chosen next Monday, April 25, 2012, from all entries in the comment section of this post by whatever time on Monday morning that I get around to doing the drawing.