Source Outdoor - Hydration System

Do you ever have a hard time keeping hydrated during training or events?  Do you hike or spend long periods of time outdoors with no water source?  I tend to have a difficult time staying hydrated.  If you're like me, then keep reading.
No matter how much fluids I drink, I tend to end up dehydrated. I've asked my doctor for reasons, but have never been given any true explanation. As an athlete, it becomes more difficult to your body hydrated. Over the last few years I have reduced my salt intake considerably by eliminating processed foods and not adding salt to my recipes and when I cook.  I've been told that it can have an impact on your ability to retain water. Any time I ever go to the gym, go for a run or hike, have a sporting event, or whatever, I always struggle with how I want to manage my hydration.  I have so many different hydration tools like hand held water bottles of all kinds, waist packs that hold bottles, and some backpacks with bladder and tube systems.

Unfortunately, the pack systems tend to not fit me very well. I am 5' tall and am around 100 pounds. Children's packs do not have a waist strap which creates an unstable pack when running or doing any other sort of activity where shifting may occur.  Handheld bottles are an inconvenience, especially since they don't hold very many ounces of fluid. Waist packs, again, tend to shift too much on my small body.  All of these options, as you might have guessed, are not OCR friendly.

I was given the opportunity to test out a hydration system from Source Outdoor.  I came across their products from a link that advertised a divided reservoir.  I thought, "How great! I can carry my water and electrolytes at the same time."  The thought of not having to take extra care to keep myself hydrated with water, but to have electrolytes with me at the same time without having to mix on the go, was a dream come true. The reservoir is called the Widepack Divide Hydration System. It comes complete with a divided reservoir that allows you to fill one compartment with water and the other compartment with a different fluid. Another benefit to the design is that you can fill one side more than the other to suit your needs. Depending on the capacity, you can choose to fill 1/4 of the one compartment and 3/4 of the other compartment. You can also fill them equally.  It also has two tubes. One for each fluid and are color coded.

The next challenge was to pair that bladder with a pack that would suit my needs.  I needed a pack that would fit my body and one that was stable enough to withstand bouncing and shifting.  The customer service staff recommended the DUNE X-fit Hydration Pack.  When the pack arrived, I took some time to get familiar with the features.  The "X" design of the straps made for a very comfortable fit.  The straps are also quite long, but can compress down to fit my frame perfectly, even with minimal clothing on. The chest strap comes with an emergency whistle, which I thought was an clever touch. There is a stretchy pocket on the back to expand to fit everything I need to carry. The waist belt has a pocket on each side that zips closed for those necessities that you need quick access to without taking the pack off. The fabric is made of ripstop material but is lightweight. There is plenty of reflective piping for visibility.

At the starting line with my WOR Teammate Heather

Now for the bladder.  The DUNE came with a 50 oz. bladder that is different than any I have ever seen. The top opens wide for easy filling. The shape of the included bladder is round with a cutout center to prevent sloshing.  The tubes are a different material than any I've ever owned. The tubing is also coated and has reinforced ends. The valve is a twist on/off design which also included a cover to keep it clean and is made of silicone so it is very flexible and easy to bite. The manufacturer claims a "glass like" technology of the bladder to prevent that plastic flavor.


The Dunk Wall obstacle at Spartan Race
I didn't have time to test the system before my first race of the season or during any training due to the extreme weather we experienced this winter as well as my surgery recovery.
This was for the Spartan Race New Jersey Beast . The "Beast" is a 13+ mile obstacle course race held at the largest ski area in New Jersey. Since I didn't get to try out the pack, I decided to at least test out the reinforced tubing and bite valve with my existing pack and bladder. I do not have a pack large enough to accommodate the 50 oz bladder or the 3L DIVIDE bladder. I connected the tubing easily to my existing bladder. The tubing came with a magnetic tab to secure the tubing from flailing around rather than my other packs that only have a clip or has to be tucked into a pocket.  The cover came in handy during my race, especially when submerged in muddy water.  The magnetic clip held up well to keep the tube in place when not in use but was also easy to pull off when I needed a drink, then quickly snapped back onto the magnet.  The valve cover is connected with a tether so it never got lost.  The tubing never leaked, even when I accidentally left the valve open.  Another benefit to the valve design is that it does not have to be bitten on a specific side because it is round instead of flat, like most others. In all, the tubing stood the test of functionality without any problems.

Now, the test of the DUNE X-Fit pack and DIVIDE bladder system.
While I did not test this at a race or test it out for water and mud absorption, I did wear it on an obstacle course.  In fact, I tested it out on an Icebug Official Testing Center at Shale Hill Adventure in Benson, VT.   The course is said to be the hardest fixed obstacle course in the northeast. It is a perfect place to race and train. I filled the DIVIDE bladder with 1/2 straight water, and the other half of the bladder with NUUN electrolyte tabs and water. While not my favorite electrolyte, it is a commonly used source of electrolytes for many athletes.  I filled the bladder easily due to the wide opening with the divided sections and secured the opening. My only concern with the design of the seal is that the slider that closes the bladder is not actually attached to the bladder. I fear that it would be easy to misplace this piece. I would prefer that it be attached somehow.
I attached the two tubes to the bladder. I used the orange tube for electrolytes and attached it so the tube was on my left.  I used the blue tube for the plain water and on the left because that's what felt most comfortable for me.  I slid the bladder into the DUNE pack but noticed that it was a tight fit. I wasn't sure if this was normal.  I packed my gear which consisted of a pair of gloves, a few Clif shot blox, a Honey Stinger waffle, some tissues, bandaids, duct tape, biofreeze individual packs, and a few other necessities. I also brought my Olympus Tough Camera.  Some items I placed in the waist pockets for easy access. The pockets easily fit my camera and gloves.  Two items that I take out and put back often.  I adjusted the straps to fit comfortably and secure. Unlike my other packs, I really felt that the pack was positioned better on my back. I didn't pull down at all as I've experience with others.
 As we took off running on the course, I barely noticed the pack on my back. There was no chafing or rubbing and it never dug into my shoulders, even with the pack full.  The weather was a beautiful 75 degrees and sunny, but I never felt hot or uncomfortable. There seemed to be great air circulation. There was never any sloshing whatsoever, even as the bladder emptied. I did notice that you can easily squeeze the bite valve to slightly spray the water. This comes in handy when your hands are muddy. If you are anything like me, as I get heated up during activity, my hands tend to get swollen and uncomfortable. The ability to spray water right from the tube to my hands is much better than sucking the water from the tube and spitting it on my hands.  The waist pockets were great and easily accessible on the run. While I take the pack off on most obstacles when I have the option, I felt as though I really didn't have to. The straps on the pack stayed in place the entire course. My other packs tend to loosen during activity and need adjusting. I felt like the pack actually moved with me instead of bouncing around as I moved.  Having electrolytes in my bladder along with the water was perfect. I didn't even need to use my fuel I packed nearly as much as I would have without the bladder filled with energy.  The water even stayed cool throughout the day. If I had used the insulated tubing, then the liquids inside the tube would have probably stayed cooler.  The taste of the liquids was as if I were drinking from a nalgene bottle. There was no odd plastic taste!  When we got home, I left the pack in my hot car for 2 days. When I took it out, it was easy to clean with the wide opening. The tubes were more difficult than my other tubes to clean. I couldn't get the valve off to run water through the tubing. But otherwise, it cleaned up really well and could easily be dried with a towel through the large opening.

So, to recap....
  • DIVIDE bladder is perfect for carrying electrolytes and water at the same time. It would almost eliminate the need for energy gels.
  • Bladder had more than enough capacity for my needs. I would prefer a bit smaller capacity than 3L.
  • Pack was very lightweight and fit comfortable.  Others in my group also wore it and was easily adjusted on the go.
  • Pack was roomy enough for essentials
  • Waist pockets are convenient and easily accessible.
  • No strange taste from the bladder or tubing
  • Good air circulation
  • No bounce or sloshing of liquids
  • Side pockets and waist strap was a little long on my frame. (But fit well on everyone else in my group) The bulkiness may have been a little too much for me on the obstacles but would be perfect for someone a bit taller or larger than me.
  • Padding on the pack between your back and pack may be a little too thick for OCR. I can see that it would likely soak up too much mud and water.
  • I lost the magnetic clip on the training course and the DIVIDE tubes did not come with magnetic clips.
  • Closure clip for the bladder will get lost easily during storage. I would like to see it attached to the bladder somehow.
  • The loops on the adjustment straps could get caught on obstacles. There should be a way to tuck the ends in to secure. 

See it in action here! https://plus.google.com/photos/111689476383329319685/albums/6150783784197910161

The Widepac D|vide
The Widepac D|vide

D|vide Hydration System

  • BPA Free

D|vide Hydration System

  • BPA Free


Addiction To OCR Is Born

We signed up for a Spartan Race. Now what?
First, it meant training. Since this was our first Spartan Race or official Obstacle Course Race (OCR) we had no idea how to train. Our idea of training was running our usual mileage. During some runs we would stop and do burpees every few miles. Burpees are the penalty at Spartan Race if you don't complete an obstacle. We figured we would need the practice.  We also included lunges, pushups, and our sad attempts at pullups.  We found a few online resources for doing workouts at our local park. I found a nice set of monkey bars and made it my best friend to practice on. We found hills to run on.  We met some others who had a team they put together to do this very same race.  At a local weekly fun run, we bumped into another couple who had a Spartan Race shirt. We started asking them what it was really like.  The man said he didn't finish the first time he tried it. Gulp.... what had we gotten ourselves into?  The other group of people invited us to take a hike up a local small mountain.  It sounded easy enough, right?  Well, no.  They planned to carry a sandbag up that mountain.  I felt very intimidated.  We went to the store as instructed and purchased a sandbag.  We cut it open and I took a portion of the bag and duct taped it.  I had no intention of carrying this thing but to just climb that mountain and live to tell about it.  It was years since I climbed a mountain, and this group was in much better shape than I was.  

Looking back on the photos of that trip up Lyon Mountain make me laugh. To see how far we have come since that first climb with Team Burgh.  We were now officially Team Burgh Members.  A team that would prove to us that we had what it takes to get through the BEAST. They set up training sessions that we participated in.
As the date for our first Spartan Race rolled around, I became more and more obsessed with my lack of preparedness.  I found a Facebook group specifically for Spartan Chicks. The more I could learn about this race, the better off I would be.  I learned that my regular sneakers just would not do the job.  I purchased my first pair of trail shoes. They were Salomon XR Mission.  I tried them out on the trails and I fell in love with them.  They had a great grip and didn't seem to soak up water.
I learned that wearing form fitting clothes was the best option for wearables.  Nothing cotton.  Long knee high socks were going to be best.  I got comfortable with wearing compression shorts and tight tops. I loved the feeling of knee high compression socks. My husband even bought me a pair that said "BadAss" on the back of them with an arrow pointing up. (more on the socks later.).
Now just weeks away, my stress and anxiety were getting up there. I feared I wouldn't be ready. I watched the weather channel as the days got closer. We started to pack our gear and check our list to make sure we had all the suggested items we needed to complete the course.  We packed up the car and headed to VT to our little condo we rented along with my brother and his girlfriend who we convinced to join Team Burgh. My parents even came to cheer us on.  Race day is just hours away now.

Fast Forward to 2008

This was a year of getting on that fit train.  This was the year that I realized that I was no longer healthy. I had quickly lost all that weight I gained when pregnant with my boys who were 15 months apart.  It was easy. I didn't diet, and the only exercise I had was gardening and chasing the boys. My oldest was diagnosed with mild Diplegic Cerebral Palsy. After years of therapy and a few major surgeries, life was finally starting to calm down a little, but my anxiety level was through the roof. I had extremely high cholesterol, low iron, esophageal ulcers, constant hives, dizzy spells, constant cold sores, unending colds and infections, and was told by my doctor that I was a walking time bomb. My anxiety was so bad that there were times I would go to the ER for fear I was having a heart attack. After trying different medications for all my ailments, along with seeing a counselor, I was still not finding any relief. That's when we met our new neighbors. They were runners. My husband starting running with the neighbor. After a few months, we learned of a "Poker Run" which was a fund raiser for a local children's charity to benefit children in need of gifts during the holidays. It was suppose to be just for fun. You run from bar to bar in a three mile loop and collect a playing card. The best hand wins. There was no timing, no first place winner, no last place. Only the person with the best poker hand would win. My thought was, "I can do that". But to test my non-running legs, I decided the night before to take a run around the .75 block in our neighborhood. I made it back alive, but I felt like I was dying. My brother who had just completed Iron Man that summer told me that what I was experiencing was blood flow to the brain that hadn't been felt in years. He assured me I would be fine. Surprisingly, I was just fine. It felt great to run, even if it was just in short intervals this time.  That next week, I began my goal of running a little further each day.

In April of 2009, I was ready for my first 5k. After running all winter outdoors, I knew I would be ready for my first race. After battling some shin splints and learning that increasing my mileage too quickly and the need for better running shoes, I had learned a lot about running.  I did surprisingly well for my first race. I was so nervous, I didn't know what to expect. I finished with a time of 29:23. Not too bad for my first race. This gave me the confidence to get faster and sign up for more races.  That November, I was able to shave an entire minute off my 5k time on a hillier course. I finished with a time of 28:16. The following spring, I had a PR on the first course I ever ran with a time of 27:06.

My husband signed up for a local half marathon that was being held that April of 2010. I knew I would never be ready so I agreed to be his cheerleader and photographer.  As the months passed and my mileage grew, I got comfortable with my runs. I had a schedule set that allowed me to increase my mileage. Instead of it just being something to relieve stress and get my blood flowing, had become something I really enjoyed. When race day rolled around, I wished I had signed up for that half marathon. I was bummed I didn't run it. I was ready after all, with my mileage at a comfortable 12 miles. I came to realize that I actually enjoyed running, so instead, my husband signed me up for the Lake Placid Half Marathon. I thought it was a great idea until the day came closer and I realized that it was a very hilly course that seemed to never end. But I survived, with my husband by my side to assure me I was doing fine and to keep me motivated.  I finished with a smile and couldn't wait to do my next one.
Over the course of the next couple of years, we added lots of finisher medals to our collection for various distances of road races. I even had a few age group winning placements that I can be proud of.... But eventually, I felt like there must be something more out there. That's when we discovered Obstacle Course Racing. We saw a video on YouTube of this race where you do obstacles, run through mud, get electric shock and many other things that looked like more fun than just running on the road.  We weren't sure if we were quite ready for that big race at the time, but there was set to be a local mud run that we signed up for to be sure we liked it first.  Needless to say, we fell in love with it! Within a few weeks we were signed up for our first Spartan Race!  Instead of going for a small race, we signed up for the Spartan Beast at Killington, VT.


When childhood was different

Back when I was a child, I had always participated in some sort of sport.  When I was around 6 or 7 years old, my parents enrolled us in swimming lessons at our local beach.  We would take a bus that would pick us up just down the street.  These were the days that our parents would have full trust in others to take care of us when we were away from home.  There were different levels based on your swimming ability. I earned a patch as I proceeded through the rankings.  I always admired the lifeguards who taught us how to swim.  I once asked my mother for the cute red bathing suit that they got to wear and that I wanted to be a lifeguard when I grew up.  One instructor in particular was my favorite.  I still see her at sporting events here and there.  I guess it's important to have a certain level of respect for someone who has your life in their hands.   I was a bit of a beach bum back in those days.  After swimming lessons we would take the bus back home to have lunch. Then we were allowed to take the school bus in the afternoon to spend the rest of the day at the beach (Yes, children. All alone. Without an adult other than the lifeguards. Things were different back then.) My parents would meet us at the beach where we would have dinner and head out on the boat where my parents and brothers would all go skiing.  I was afraid to learn how to ski. I have no idea why, but that giant lake was just scary to me.

During those years, I also played softball. I started out as a catcher and played second base.  That was until I got hit square in the back of the head with a baseball bat.  There was a dropped ball in front of home plate.  I bent forward to grab it. At the same instance, the batter took a practice swing while standing in the batters box, hitting me right in the back of the head.  Back then, there were only face masks without the helmet.  Again, things have changed since I was a kid.  After that incident, I took on the position of pitcher and shortstop where I continued to play all the way up through high school.

When there was no ball, we were always to be found riding around town on our bicycles. As soon as I was a steady rider, my mother took my training wheels off my bike.  That same day, my older brother convinced me that it was okay to ride my bike downtown.  He chose the steepest hill, but the fastest route. I knew it was a bad idea, but my brother convinced me it was okay because we were going to the library.  Even without a parent or permission.  As my brother yelled to me from the bottom of the hill to pedal faster, I suddenly lost control.  Down I went. Face first on the fresh pavement.  I ended up nearly knocking my front tooth out, had to have stitches across my forehead, my chin and even inside of my mouth.  This is the reason why I am not a triathlete.  I just can't bring myself to trust a bicycle to keep me safe.

During the winter, I could either be found riding snowmobiles with my family, skating at the local skating rink, or on the mountain skiing with friends.  I was still less than 14 years old, but my parents were fine with us going off on our own across town with friends and no adult present along with the other kids in town.  As much as I didn't like the cold weather, I would never turn down a chance to be racing down a black diamond trail. Who could resist skiing the same mountains that the Olympians did? 

As I grew older and entered school sports, I tried quite a few different sports.  I played two years of basketball. I still played softball, but also enjoyed being a cheerleader.  I was on the swimming and diving team. My favorite heat was the 400M Backstroke where I always did well. I never found myself on the track or cross country team.  I had no interest in running. It seemed very boring to me despite my parents nudging me to join since both my brothers were on the team.

Throughout this entire time, our family still did a lot of hiking, biking as a family, canoeing, camping, and traveling, as well as hours on the lake in the boat, snowmobiling or off-road Jeep expeditions.

In my next blog post, I move out of my parents home and go off to college....