The race started at 8 AM. All the runners were milling around the start line, as the clock slowly counted down. No one wanted to be that guy at the front of the pack, so there was about 10 feet of empty space. Then Dave Melanson hilariously yells out “You people are ruining my movie!” so everyone finally moved up. I started right at the front, because I expected to go hard and stick with the lead pack. I knew guys would go out too fast, but I planned on just rolling with it.
Mt. Constitution Road
The clock struck eight, and we were off. The very beginning of the course is a little driveway up to the road. We jogged up this, then across the main road, then take a left up the paved road to “Little Summit”. Though it was uphill, the incline is slight and very runnable, so the entire lead pack was jogging. Pace felt decent and not too unreasonable.
I was generally at the very front but not making any moves or putting out real effort. The lead pack was about 6-8 guys, and we all stuck together. Brendan Gilpatrick, out of Maine, ran up with me and said something to the effect of “Looks like no one wants to take the lead.” I don’t know if I replied, but then he took the lead with authority. He looked insanely strong, and very comfortable. Him and a few others started to pull ahead, and I began to think that the incline was too steep and the pace was too fast. I slowed a bit and did some intermittent walking, but really they weren’t gaining much during those rests.
At this point, I started keeping tabs on the numbers. I had six guys in front of me, including two Japanese runners, Tomokazu Ihara (“Tomo”) and Katsutoshi Saijo, who looked beastly and very strong on the uphills. A few others hung around but they didn’t look like they were really front-runners. One other guy, really big, tall guy, was hanging with me or behind me or whatever. He looked way too huge to be running up a giant hill so I figured he was a non-issue. Really that guy Brendan looked super strong and I definitely pegged him to be the alpha male.
Finally the lead pack started to pull away even further, and I was happy letting them go. Katsutoshi and Brendan were crushing it, in the lead. I think I passed two guys, but then two more passed me. I figured (did some timing) that the lead pack was about 1.5 to 2 minutes ahead after the first climb. When we finally reached the turn-off to head back down, I was already entirely alone.
Split: 4.97 km in 37 minutes
Little Summit Descent to Mountain Lake
The downhill starts right away, and basically consists of fairly tight switchbacks, runnable but just a hint too steep to be fast. But not at all technical, a few rocky sections, but nothing serious. The Race Director, James Varner, had warned us to please not kill ourselves falling down this section, but it was really tame compared to what I envisioned. Anyway, I didn’t see anyone. I pushed reasonably hard down the hill, but not chasing or rushing. I figured that the lead pack of 5 or 6 were going to be competing (boys will be boys!) on the downhill so they were probably running too hard.
The descent is very short, and you pop out at the Mountain Lake aid station. It was amazing, as were all the aid stations. They had sushi, and pulled pork! Since the first loop was entirely self-supported (no crew access) I grabbed a gel and some water and booked out of there. I did not, sadly, eat any sushi.
Split: 2.18 km in 14 min
Mountain Lake to Twin Lakes
Around Mountain Lake is a gorgeous flat trail that is perfectly fast. I allowed myself to loosen up a bit and was certainly hitting 8 minute miles, and then suddenly the entire lead pack was there. I was really surprised. And I was more surprised to see how slowly they were running, haha! Fuck that, this trail was way too perfect for hauling ass, so I just immediately passed them all without hesitation and maintained my faster pace. “On your left!” A few people agreed and sped up with me, I think.
Twin Lakes to Mt. Pickett
Shortly after though, the trail gets steep again. At this point, the Japanese dudes were like “Bitch, lemme show you how a real man runs uphill,” and proceeded to run the living hell out of every single one. I was very, very hesitant to follow suite. After not running any hills at Leadville (and still doing pretty well) I just didn’t know how to proceed. This section was, in my mind, the hardest to gauge. It’s just steep enough to be hard to run up (too hard!) but so shallow that you feel like “Goddamnit I should be running this!” It’s a tough call to make. Well, for me. If you have calves the size of a wombat and quads like the Pillars Olympus you just run up it. So anyway. Fuck. Fine. You bastards. I’ll run up it.
I let the leader (Katsutoshi) go, but was in second or third. I would alternately catch and lose him, depending on whether we were climbing or descending.
Tomo was much closer in pace to me, so we chatted a bit. He was from Tokyo, and had run 25 100 milers. In 5 years. Sweet merciful heavens. He was a super cool, super friendly guy and our pace was great. At one point he stuffed his foot in the dirt and fell on a downhill. I was all “Are you ok?!” and he just shrugged it off super nonchalant, “That’s part of the sport.”
Eventually, after what feels like endless amount of running, you reach the aid station. Chips please.
Split: 5.48 km in 38 min (Mountain Lake to Mt. Pickett Peak)
Picket to Cascade Lake
Next you run another endless amount of running. (That’s starting to feel like a theme.) You eventually get to a bit of a rolling section, with ups and downs and turns, near the river, all of which is mostly flat. During this section I caught up to Katsutoshi again, decided he wasn’t moving fast enough for me, and passed him. The big runner, Evan, was with me through most of this, and we chatted a bit about how much we would prefer not to fall into the river right next to the slippery, muddy trail. He had visited the course in December and said he’d “Forgotten how runnable this section was” (referring to the downhill out of Pickett aid station) and I remember thinking it was a rough, sloppy mess and my quads were already sore, in response. Yikes.
We popped out at a parking lot, with a big yellow sign clearly indicating →. Evan and I were like “Uhm, I think we’re supposed to turn ← instead”. There was more marking to the left, too. Then a couple others caught up, and we all concluded it was definitely ←. A short distance beyond was the main road, and then Cascade just a short road section beyond that. I lead us into the station, with Evan and a couple others, presumably with the entire lead pack pretty much right behind us.
I grabbed some water in a 10 oz flask and a gel or two, and a handful of chips, and headed out. The crew was there but couldn’t crew for me on the first lap. Fran ran with me for a bit and I gave him a little status update. Change of shoes especially. My Sense Pros were way too flat for that super steep runnable road section, and the trail was smooth, flat and fast. I needed to bust out the secret weapons.
Split: 9.16 km in 55 min (So far!)
Powerline to Mt. Constitution
I was now in the lead, but by how far simply depending on how long the others spent in the aid station. A short soggy section around the lake, a short climb up to the road, then the infamous Powerline segment began.
Initially it’s a runnable trail up through some woods. Not nice, but not bad. Just a grassy kind of forest road, absolutely soaked in water. Then a section of about 15 feet of deep mud. Then a section of about 15 feet of soaked rocks and grass and deep water. Then a bit more climbing. Then Powerline proper.
It’s so steep that I actually laughed out loud. It’s probably the steepest section of any race or run I’ve ever done, that I didn’t have to use my hands to climb up. It’s so steep. I made my crew hike up there after the race, just to see it.
Anyway, no question of jogging up this. Pure powerhike mode. I immediately thought “fuck, I really should have done more hill training…” This thing was steep. I pushed hard, and was literally dripping sweat. There are a few intermittent lower angle respites, and then a few ultra steep sections, but in general nothing that steep can be too long. I jogged a few lesser inclined sections (even after powerhiking) and was not slacking off the effort in the least.
However, I looked back and saw that Evan was pretty much keeping pace behind me. He wasn’t too close, but he wasn’t falling back. I kept the pace up, and just hoped he didn’t see me looking over my shoulder, haha. I didn’t really care at this point, but it would be cool if I could shake him, right?
Split: 3.5 km in 34 min (Cascade to top of Powerline)
Eventually Powerline turns right and becomes a lot easier, and then truly ends, as you plunge back into the woods. From here is a section of some of the amazing, runnable trail on the course, and in the world! Perfect singletrack, in gorgeous forest. Unbeatable. You couldn’t find faster terrain unless you were on a declined track! So I let loose, and definitely put down some very fast kilometres. Then while trying to scramble over a log I got a cramp in my left hamstring, right at the knee. Crap. That’s bad news. I almost never cramp. But I kept the pace out, tried to stretch it a bit simply by running faster.
Sadly, the beautiful descent ends fairly quickly. But when I got to the bottom I was really proud of my insane pace and was like “Ha! Good luck keeping up with that, suckers!”. Pretty much immediately I saw that Evan was still visible behind me. Ok… well, whatever…
Split: 3.07 km in 17 min
You immediately have to run back up to the top of the mountain. The real summit this time. Mt. Constitution. However this section is switchbacks, and the angle is proper. Like, humane. Not runnable for the most part, but perfect power hiking. So I powerhiked up, pushing really hard and running anything runnable, even uphill. Felt good.
The climb felt really short and easy though, and I felt like this was probably a good segment, for me. At the aid stations I grabbed some chips and a gel and some water refuel and took off. The top of the mountain was super nice, and after a short “summit section” the real descent starts.
Split: 1.75 km in 21 min
Mt. Constitution to Cascade to Moran
Down, down, down. Down, down… down… down down down. Goddamnit. Not comfortable down either. This is like quad busting, brakes on or die down. At some point near the top I pinched a nerve or something in my ass. My left ass cheek was going numb and I could feel it down the back of my leg. Picture me sprinting down the hill trying to massage my ass at the same time. It wasn’t really slowing me down, but both things were annoying. Combined with the cramp, I was feelin’ afeared. And it was just the first lap!?
Split: 6.3 km in 37 minutes (Descent from Mt. Constitution to road)
After a long while I popped out at Cascade Lake. It’s weird. The aid stations is just across the road. But no one sees you, so you run like 20 feet away from a bunch of people. No cheering, no nothing. Made me feel like “God this is dumb. Why am I doing this?” After a short lake trail section, I arrived at Camp Moran for my first real crew meetup.
Split: 1.3 km in 9 min
I swapped shoes, choosing my nuclear orange Adidas Adios Boost 2.0. Boom. Time to get serious. Then I ate a Nuun. I don’t really believe in electrolytes during races, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. Having been eating keto for so long, my electrolyte intake has been higher … so maybe it made sense to supplement during a race? I took off fairly quickly from the aid station. I told them to keep tabs on how far back the other runners were. I also got the hell rid of my bladder. I wouldn’t need it on this course.
Popped that Nuun straight and proceeded to gag and foam at the mouth like Cujo while that shit dissolved like pop-rocks for 3 km. What a stupid idea for a product! Haha, but I do enjoy it.
Lap 1: 4:18
I ran the entire hill, again. I took a few more walk breaks this time, but still ran most of it. You know, once I run a given pace, I hate to slow down. It sets the baseline. So having run the hill once, I figured now I’m stuck and have to run it every time. I really didn’t know if it was possible though.
Up, and up, and up. Something like 4.5 km. Very long. The climb took almost the same amount of time as first lap! About 37 mins. The transition to the downhill took a bit longer than last lap. Definitely a lot more tired. I can’t remember much of the downhill. I hit the aid station, and filled up my 10 oz flask with water, and grabbed a gel and some chips. I wanted that sushi so bad, but ran on. I pushed hard through the fast section, knowing for sure that this was my advantage over many others. No one likes flat running, except me!
This is where there’s a solid 20 feet of lake water about a foot or more deep that you need to wade through. So cold. My compression sleeves held water and I got soaked right up to my shorts. My feet were tingling. It was intense, every time!
After that the long section up to Mt. Pickett was probably similar to last time. I couldn’t tell you, as I don’t remember one part of it. I probably walked a bit more, as I was feeling like our first lap was too fast. I do know the section to get back to Cascade from Pickett seemed much, much longer. The descents seemed much, much longer. The km’s were ticking by much more slowly.
When I got into Cascade finally, my crew informed me that the second place runner had been only 3.5 minutes behind me at Camp Moran. After I left, I was pissed that they hadn’t told me about 3rd and 4th place! I was still thinking there’s no way this dude Evan, that is like 7 feet tall and 250 lbs is going to be able to maintain this pace for 100 miles. He has to have gone out too fast!
I left Cascade and went back up Powerline. I don’t remember much of climbing Powerline. Lots of mud, lots of steep, steep climbs. Dripping sweat, working hard. Again to the top, again back down. Again to Mt. Constitution. Again to the bottom. Quad crushing, incredibly painful. Pushing really hard.
Back to Moran, and my crew told me that Evan was now 7 minutes back. Only seven minutes!? After 50 miles! Good lord. I left the aid station and headed back out…
Lap 2: 4:37
This was it. The tough lap. Lap 3. The one that would define the race. I thought of many things to motivate myself during this race. One of them was to consider each loop like a lap of the track in a mile. Which meant lap 3 was where I needed to push the hardest, stay strong, don’t fade. Lap 4 will be easy, just bring it on home.
So I pushed even harder than before. Just thrashing myself to get running again after hiking sections, thinking “Evan is walking this section, you need to run it.” Thinking about my poor dogs languishing in the kennel AKA Doggy Prison, their sacrifice for my running. Thinking about all my friends I didn’t see while I went training. My crew, freezing their ass off to see me to the finish. I repeated my mantra.
I had my headlamp with me, and had to start using it on the descent from Little Summit. The thing worked pretty well.
Down through Mountain Lakes, more chips. Around the flat section, harder now in the dark, and on tired legs I wasn’t moving too fast, but I tried to serve up some speed. It was here I lapped my first few people, I think. A couple of women having a chat. They seemed to be having a great time. I was quite jealous.
Got to Pickett. More chips.
When I got to Cascade again, I swapped headlamp batteries. Nothing else. My crew later told me that people were amazed that I wasn’t even stopping at aid stations. And I felt like I was spending an eternity in them! Though probably no more than 15 to 20 seconds at most, in all cases. My crew were super prepared. A little table. Shoes, socks, gear, all types of fuel, pre-filled bottles, headlamp swaps like an F1 pit crew. Lanterns, tarps, we had it all. In and out. See ya. I actually feel bad for the aid station volunteers because I never get to use them.
Again up Powerline. This is it. Last lap. Or was it before last lap? 3rd lap. I can’t remember. How can you differentiate them? At this point Evan is still only like maybe 13 mins behind me. I was actually thinking “How is that even possible!?” Like how could two people have an identical, nearly evenly paced race? How could something not have gone wrong by now? Shouldn’t he be puking or cramping, or giving up?? Fuck! I kept asking Nigel “Give me the good news” and he would just shake it head sadly like “You gained 1 minute”. All I wanted to do was slow down!
Ok, well. Such is life.
I started up Powerline for the last time. Or was it the before last time? I wasn’t laughing at how steep it was now. I actually wondered if I could get up it. I decided that my goal would be to try not to rest. That would be a huge accomplishment. I managed. For the flat sections, my brain would say “ok, let’s walk this one” and my body would just start running again. “No, Evan will run it. Everything you did for the last three laps, he did too.” The only reason I didn’t walk was that I figured if he couldn’t gain on me the last three laps, maybe he won’t be able to this lap either.
But I was the hunted. I imagined myself being passed in the last lap. What a loser. Lead the race the entire time and then couldn’t close. I frequently imagined slowing down and relaxing. But every time I’d think about it I’d find myself speeding up instead. Goddamnit.
The top was covered in snow. It was snowing. Was it third lap, or fourth lap? How far back was Evan? The snow wasn’t too bad, but being in road shoes I was wanting to get out of it quickly. I also figured maybe the conditions behind me were just a bit worse, so that might slow Evan down. I rushed through the aid station. I was lapping lots of people now. Most were supportive. All were just a bit like “… shit.” too though.
Some didn’t want to get out of the way. “Runner up…” I would say. Like I’m on the fuckin’ seawall. Some people say stuff like “Oh, did you want to get by?” after about 30 seconds of being behind them. I was feeling really good (emotionally/psychologically) and always said “Thank you!” very cheerfully. I was a happy guy. I can’t promise that will always be the case. Even though it wasn’t explicitly laid out in the rule book, I suspect murder by punch to the back of the head and disposing of a corpse in Mountain Lake is not considered “sportsmanlike conduct”.
Ok, once again a slow slog across the Cascade trail to the final lap. Everyone is cheering me on like crazy. Or I think so. I am pretty out of it. I swap headlamp batteries and start up that fucking paved road for the last time in my life. Ever.
Lap 3: 5:03
My motivation for this lap is now “I never have to run this goddamn section of trail ever again in my life”. It feels longer this time. I think I run even more of it than last time. Every time I start to walk, I think “why walk? You don’t need to save anything.” so I run nearly all of it. I hit the top and start down but I’m wrecked. It takes me a long time to get moving again. I start running down to Mountain Lake.
My headlamp suddenly starts blinking. When it blinks, I’m plunged into absolute and eternal blackness. Holy shit. If this thing dies I am fucked. I start running faster (ha! Can you imagine!?) because I see a faint glimmer of a headlamp out in the woods. If I can catch someone, I can piggy back to the aid station where I have spare batteries. I pass one, then another runner. I stick the battery of my headlamp in my glove. Why is it dying? It says fully charged? Is it cold? It’s not that cold out?
I get to the aid station. I love them. I want to hug them and tell them thanks. I take some chips and water. My crew is here this time. (Thank God.) I take my headlamp battery and tell them the one I have is dying. I leave. Evan was like 16 mins behind at Moran. Can you imagine? My god he is like the fucking T-1000.
Gotta run harder. I get to the “lake crossing” and there’s a woman just standing there, motionless, staring at 20 feet of icy, knee deep water. I say “It’s horrible” and she says “It takes me a while, every time…” and slowly wades in. Jesus, it was like a horror movie.
I run through, this time, uncaring, splashing water right up to my shorts. Oh god. This time my feet tingle for a lot longer. My legs are frozen solid. There’s snow on the ground.
Mt. Pickett is 1,750 m. How can that be? How can it be so high? Up and up and up. I run every hill. Wait, 1,750 ft. Ok, that’s doable. I can handle this. Only … oh god, that’s still a lot. I think “I never have to run this hill again.” I keep thinking I’m lost. The course is barely flagged. What if I get lost? My race is over. I experience many moments of panic. Finally a piece of tape. Blessed, blessed neon pink. God I love that colour. My headlamp starts blinking again, even with the new battery. It says fully charged. More panic!
The Pickett aid station guys, including a guy I know named Matt, are just pumped as hell to see me. (I interpret their enthusiasm this way, anyway.) I ask them if I have a drop bag here. “Nope”. Fuck. I’m fucked. A guy lends me his headlamp. It’s dim, but better than being eaten alive by cougars in the dark and stumbling into a river and dying and getting second place after leading for 15 hours.
I run the rolling section but it’s hard to go fast. I’m wasted. I get to the road. I sprint the road. Last time ever. Fuck you, pavement. I think I averaged 6:12 min/km, says Strava. I was trying really hard.
I get to the last aid station and dump that fucking Petzl Nao. I take my LED Lenser. Battery pack the size of an oil tanker, held closed by duct tape. Bulb as bright as the sun. I chug some Skratch and head out with almost no water. Dehydration can’t kill me now. Kidney meltdown can’t kill me now!
Powerline. It’s definitely lap 4 this time. All that stuff I wrote before about Lap 4? I meant that now. Does it matter? It’s all a blur of pain and soul-crushing willpower expenditure.
Steep. Muddy. Wet. Snowy. Harder, always push as hard as possible. My motivation is that probably Evan went a bit light last lap, so now he’s gonna rally and he has “almost done” power too. He’s a stronger runner, so this is where he’ll make it happen. I am fucking relentless up that hill. I am hiking so hard I’m actually dripping sweat again. How is that possible? I didn’t think it was possible. I pass a bunch of people. I run (can you imagine!?) the downhill “rest sections” on Powerline. Bone on bone the whole time, but still a run. I frequently think of Kilian Jornet, and how people say he’s really relaxed. I try to relax. lol. I can’t relax on a Hawaiian vacation.
The top. The descent. I really am working on extending my stride, but how? My vastus medialis are torn to bits, probably literally. The re-ascent to the aid station. The aid station crew know it’s me. “Number 43!” These guys really are killing it up there. They say “We love you man!” and I say “And I love you” and I head out into the blistering cold. I took some chips and didn’t even take water. Dehydration definitely can’t kill me now. I could roll back to Camp Moran like this. It’s muddier than that out here, in spots!
Final descent. It’s not as bad as I remembered. I was doing the math. 11 km left or something like that. Could Evan catch up? “What if he got up Powerline really fast. He’s a machine. It could happen. Man, he can descend really fast. Way faster than me. He could have caught me after Pickett…”
I was thinking of Elk/Beaver Lakes 100 km race. That hurt a lot. My muscles hurt more then, so as I’m descending these brutal hills I am actually thinking to myself “How can I make this hurt more?” (Verbatim. “How can I make this hurt more?” That is not healthy.) I tried extending my stride and pushing harder on the downhills. My hamstrings should be cramping! I’m obviously not maxed out yet.
I couldn’t see at all. Headlamp and rain and double vision. I just threw myself towards that circle of light and prayed my beat up ankles would hang on.
I finally reached the bottom. I looked behind me, and couldn’t see any headlamps. Could he catch me, if he was 100 yards back? The Cascade trail is up and down. I had to stop to pee. “If he beats me by 5 seconds… it was this pee that did it.”
Running again. No one behind me. I slipped in the mud and put my hand in the dirt. I wiped it off on the softest, mossiest tree. “What a lovely course.”
1 km to go. The road section appeared. I looked back. “He can’t catch me now, right?” There was just a 300 yard section of grassy lawn to go. I could hear the station cheering, and my crew knew it was me. And now, after 19 hours and 19 minutes of pushing as hard as I could every single instant, I finally relaxed.
- Lap 4 split: 5:21
- Evan finished in 19:44:04, just 24 minutes behind me
- Katsutoshi sadly dropped, of an injured quad, perhaps
- Tomo completed his 26th hundred miler, and finished 3rd in 22:42
- Brendan finished 4th in 23:31
- Link to Garmin Activity: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1057608704
My crew did an amazing job. I once again raced without wasting any time in aid stations. Our fuelling and watering went perfectly. I definitely couldn’t have done it without them, and I am told that everyone was commenting on how awesome they were. I know it!
Appendix A: Very Intense, Angry Gear Review
Shoes: Salomon Sense Pros (lap 1) and Adidas Adios Boost 2.0 for the remainder. Very happy with both pairs of shoes, but for those long road ascents, I wasn’t feeling a trail shoe. The light and fast road shoe has always been my racing shoe of choice! (Mizuno Elixirs and Sayonaras, previously.) Adios Boost is the best shoe I’ve ever owned, hands down. A bit narrow for my wide Waterworld Paddle feet, but still the best.
Pack: Nathan VaporAir. Don’t get me started on this pack. “Dear Nathan, Your engineers don’t run in your gear, do they?” Still, it’s cheap, light, and really comfortable when it has absolutely nothing in it. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Rob Krar, you owe me a better pack than this.
Light: Petzl Nao 2. Stupid reactive technology, stupid strap design, expensive as fuck, and there’s no mention of “flashing, blinking lights and quickly dying while fully charged” in the manual. Thanks for nearly ruining my race, Petzl. Otherwise, I like it. At least they are trying to do cool things. Other than nearly killing me, I still actually like this light. Everyone had one.
Socks: Swiftwick socks. If you’re not wearing Swiftwick’s “Vibe” sock line, you are making bad decisions. One single pair the entire way. #beastmode.
Clothing: Pearl Izumi t-shirt that doesn’t chafe at all. I love Pearl Izumi. xo. Call me. Pearl Izumi gloves from like 4 years ago. My new gloves got skunk on them from my dog. The smell was making me sick. Sugoi shorts, 2XU compression, New Balance long-sleeve, and a Salomon beanie. Ha! The only piece of Salomon I run in now. Weird. Maybe they should charge reasonable prices for things, eh? Greedy fucks. It’s a shame most of their gear is so awesome.
Fuel: Skratch Labs almost the entire way. Thanks guy, you rock. Zero complaints. Pineapple is too intense, stuck to Lemon Lime and Apple Cinnamon. Goddamn delicious. Also did Gu gels (disgusting, but whatever) and lots of chips! I tried Trail Butter (I am keto, after all!) and that shit is like eating 5 pancakes with peanut butter centres. Absolutely not a race fuel, for me. Tastes amazing but that will be for training only. Would like to see some science about the value of eating fat during exercise anyway? What’s the point? I’m fat enough as it is. Like I said, great for training.
Data: Garmin 910xt, the cheapest, buggiest piece of shit GPS watch on the planet. I would love it if it had just a few more neat features, e.g. Not turn off randomly while running, not turn off every time it transfers, actually transfer when it’s near the computer, not beep at random times for no reason, not turn the light on randomly for no reason, not get stuck with the light on forever, not hide my files 50 folders deep in some operating system purgatory, and so on. But… It’s fully featured, costs pennies (Gee, wonder why?) and you can charge it on the run! (Too bad they removed that feature from the 920xt.)
I know this race report is a bit tight on photos. Reading words is hard! However, I will add lots of pics once I receive them. I wanted to get this out the door. It took me nearly as long to write as it did to run.
Yes, I am aware that Nuun is “supposed” to be taken with water. Per the “Central Governor Model”, the effects of sugar and electrolytes should be greater if you taste them. Performance improves, for example, if you just taste sugar water and spit it out. I was more after the placebo effect then anything! I do use Nuun in water regularly at home after long runs. I also a) didn’t want to carry excess water, or drink excess water, and b) I like candy. I like pop-rocks. I eat my Nuun straight up, like a real man.