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Mastering Race Water Stops

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runner-79590-640.jpgEvery race from a 5K to a marathon to an Ironman triathlon is going to have a water stop with wonderful volunteers handing out much needed cold refreshments. This oasis can hold you back if you aren't careful. Stopping to walk and drink, dropping your cup or spilling most of it's contents, and accidentally choking on or inhaling your beverage are the main problems that can occur and suck away precious time from your race performance.

First of all, it is very important to remember that water stops are a place where people will sporadically stop and walk so be extra careful to avoid collisions.

1. When approaching a water stop, try to lock eyes with your chosen volunteer so you'll both be on the same page. A nice point at the cup and smile doesn't hurt either.

2. Extend your arm a little early to line up your grab and stake your claim on that cup.

3. Begin the grab at full arm extension but absorb the initial blow by moving your arm back as you pass by. This should keep the spillage to a minimum while keeping your pace and you won't douse the volunteers. Don't forget to thank your volunteer!

4. Now that you've got your water cup there are two widely accepted methods of drinking it.

PINCHING THE CUP

The first involves pinching the top rim of the cup. If you hold most of the cup rim flat against itself with your hand and just leave some space open on one side you will be left with a small spout where you can get a controlled water flow. You can then freely tip it up to you mouth and get sips without accidentally dumping the whole cup of water down your windpipe.

GEETAH STRAW

The second method is referred to as the "Geetah Straw" This involves some slight preparation. You need a strong straw that you cut to about 6 inches in length. You will have to carry this with you during the race. You can tuck it in your waistband, tuck it in your watch wristband, carry it on a necklace, or any other idea you can think of. Some recommend straws with larger diameters or flexible tops. Now once you have secured your water cup you just stick the straw in and pinch the rest of the top rim of the cup around it. Now you are able to run freely and take sips from the straw without even needing to tip it up to drink. Just don't forget to secure your straw again after you are done drinking. Bringing a spare might not be a bad idea.

5. When your cup is empty give it a quick crush and toss making sure not to hit anyone. Now continue on to crushing your PR.

Other Tips:

- Skip the first water stop if you can as it will be the most crowded and probably slow you up.
- Snag an extra cup at the water stops to dump on your head or bring along to drink more.
- Other beverages like Gatorade are often offered so make sure you get what you want and don't accidentally dump Gatorade on your head.
- If you want to avoid water stops altogether, you can always bring along your own water bottle and drink as you please.

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