Keeping it warm
27 January 2014

Picture the scene, it’s a lovely sunny day and you’ve been running for hours. You arrive at an aid station feeling hot and thirsty, someone gives you an ice cold cup of your favourite race drink. Awesome. Just what you needed.

Right, now let’s change some parameters, you’re not running on a sunny day, actually it’s -5C, the wind is blasting and you are struggling to keep warm. That freezing cold drink is suddenly the worse thing in the world. You can’t drink something that will make you even colder. So you avoid drinking much and now you are flirting with dehydration.

Often at events the water supplied on the course is freezing cold because it’s left outside. There’s no avoiding freezing cold drinks but you can work around it.

This is not a good situation to get into, what you really need is a constant supply of warm drink. How do you do that though? You could pre-heat it but before long it would be cold again. You can’t bring a heater along can you?!

Actually it turns out that you can. I shall explain.

This is my favourite tactic to keeping a steady supply of warm liquid to drink during a cold race and it’s pretty simple. In short you use a water bladder to hold the liquid and you ensure that it is clamped as tightly as possible to your back. I even go so far as to take out any padding that sits between the bladder and your back to ensure that the distance between your back and the bladder is at most a few layer of material.

The added benefit is that the liquid is protected from the elements as well which helps keep it warm. I usually carry some warm clothing in case of injury and I use that to insulate the bladder.

To aid this just make sure that the liquid in the bladder is warm to start with. Easy way to do this is to put it in the footwell of the car you travel to the event in and have the heating on. That will get it nice and toasty.

I also don’t like to empty the bladder and have to fully re-fill it with cold liquid. A good way to avoid this is to carry an empty 500ml bottle which you use to collect water and perhaps add electrolyte to. Then you’re just adding 500ml of cold liquid to the warm you already have. It’ll soon warm up. That also makes it easy to mix electrolytes up which is tricky when using a bladder.

Having the right equipment helps here and I can recommend two different versions of the same backpack which both work very well. They are the OMM Classic Marathon 25 litre and 32 litre. Any backpack will do though, as long as it allows the contents of the bag to touch your back. Bags with an air insulation layer to stop you sweating probably wont work.

Plan for the cold and it makes the whole experience far better. You can concentrate of racing rather than just trying to keep alive.