Uh oh... now what?
I guess I would've thought it would take more time to do anything about getting thirsty in under 13 min races than it would help.
It was explained to me once... sort of--thoughts from an Olympic Trials competitor: Keep in mind the aid station (table) doesn't happen very often, it is more of a meet manager decision than a rigid rule governed by weather.
If I swerve over, grab a cup, pour some on my head, I will feel cooler. It might be enough of a boost (mostly psych) to pick it up for a 30 meter surge. That same surge is being done to someone who might not have used the aid table. The competitor who did not stop is (maybe) thinking, "Uh oh, he's cooled just enough to push. I'm going to have to be ready to respond." Even if the "cooler" runner does not surge, the "uncooled" runner has expended psych energy--not a good thing late in the game.
As Mike went back and forth from the cooled runner to the uncooled runner--he was playing both roles--it was amazing to thing about what is going on in their minds when all we see is running and reacting to a surge, or not.
The overall tactic comes in too--kick from the middle of curve, kick from 200 out, kick from 300 out. The guy who kicks from 300 out might have got a sip, slurp, or splash in the middle of the last straight and that ounce or two of water might make the difference on a hot day. The 200 out now has to worry about the guy that is already kicking and now does not want to take that half a second to get a splash.
They aren't going off course to get to the table. The one time I saw it, the table was in lane 4. The runners are in lanes 1 and 2 -- they only need to swing wide. They aren't grabbing bottles, just 4-ounce cups. The value is more of a psych thing at the 5 km, some real effect comes in for the 10 km. One guy even said the steeple was great on hot days because you could get a splash every lap and at least wipe a wet hand across your lips.
And other stuff.