Crush Your Next Long Run with this Smart Hydration Strategy
Hydration science has seen some major updates in recent years. Here’s how to leverage them to improve your long-run performance.
If you don’t already know Adam Merry’s name, you should. In 2021, the rising star set the course record at Oregon’s Run the Rock 50M, a blistering 6 hours and 41 minutes. It was an impressive improvement—he’d first raced that course three years before in 2018, finishing in 8:37.
Over the past few years, Merry has also taken gold in the Silverton Alpine Marathon, the Peacock Gap 50k, and a handful of other trail races, but he stands out most for his remarkable consistency in performance. Take one look at his UltraSignup page, and you’ll see a ticker tape of times and rankings almost mechanical in their regularity. It’s the kind of results list bigger-name pros spend their whole careers trying to achieve—and something Merry has worked hard for.
“I’m 31 right now, and I’ve got a lot of peak running years left,” he says. “So I’m really committed to a long-term approach to training, staying healthy, and watching my results improve year over year.”
One of the secrets to that impeccable consistency, Merry says, is his approach to nutrition and hydration.
“As a running coach, I’ve studied how the training methodologies and the science around hydration has evolved a lot in the last 15 years, as well as in the last five, as more qualified coaches and research professionals have entered the field,” he explains. In the past, it was popular for runners to set off on multi-hour runs without food or water, but Merry says there are no advantages to that approach. The human body can adapt to a lot of stresses, but dehydration isn’t one of them.
“By running without enough water, you’re only negatively impacting your performance, which is decreasing any training benefit you might get,” he says. Hydrating during a workout also gives your muscles a head-start on recovery, he adds.
Merry recommends mid-workout hydration for any run that’s longer than 45 minutes, or that features any appreciable vertical gain. Personally, he drinks about 500 mL per hour, though he says every runner’s hydration needs are different. As for carrying all that water?
“No one likes sloshing,” he laughs. “I prefer to carry as little as possible, so that’s when a filter comes into play. If I’m out here on the Colorado Front Range where I live, and I want to run up Mount Evans or something, there’s plenty of water along the way. If I have a filter, I can do that whole run with one soft flask and refill it when I need to.”
Usually Merry carries a lightweight in-line filter, like LifeStraw’s new Peak Series Collapsible Bottle, which weighs just 3.9 ounces, flask included. He likes the Peak Series model because it’s light, fast (3 liters per minute), and durable.
“You can also go with a personal straw filter if you’re somewhere with a lot of stream crossings you can take advantage of,” he says, “Most runners dream of running unencumbered, and you can fit that straw in a pocket in your shorts.” The new Peak Series Personal Straw, at just 2 ounces, is perfect for those occasions.
For longer runs, Merry recommends identifying water sources with an app like Gaia GPS or Strava’s Route Builder before heading out the door. When he’s created a route he likes with plenty of water options, he’ll load it onto his watch to ensure seamless fill-ups.
“Bringing a filter unlocks your ability to do really cool point-to-point or loop runs without having to carry five to 10 pounds of unnecessary weight along the way,” he adds. “It really is a game changer.”
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