I wrote a post about caloric debt and it’s effect on better racing times (Caloric Debt, 2011). I should have followed that post with my thoughts about caloric consumption during training since it relates to weight, efficiency, and performance. The belief “I can eat whatever I like because I’m a runner” is not only false, but unhealthy. The average person burns about 100-105 calories per mile ran (based on a slow pace). A lighter person burns about 93-99 calories. Of course, the faster you run the more calories are burned. Also, the more you weigh increases the amount of calories you burn. What does this mean? This means you don’t need to eat that double-double with fries and shake after a long run! While it may taste good and feed your hunger cravings it’s adding to a positive caloric balance. If you’re looking to lose some pounds or maintain a good racing weight that 1,760 calories you just ate just sabotaged your plans. Of course, if you ran 17+ miles then your In-N-Out meal was justified. Keep in mind we also consume gels and other calorie dense snacks on our long runs which lessens post run caloric needs. In short, keep post-run meals and snacks calorie sensible if your mileage is on the lower end. Do the math and don’t go overboard with ingesting too many calories for what your body really needs. It’s about replacement and not storage. Unless you’re going back-to-back long mileage sessions, there’s no need to “load up.” As always, aim for whole food alternatives and remember to drink water to help in energy conversion and to aid in filling you up during meals.
I bought these bottles and was not compensated in any way by the manufacturers.
Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 20 oz.
The best thing about this bottle is it doesn’t leak. Even when you leave the bite valve in the “up” position, not a drip! Two other good thing are the larger zipper pocket that can hold more items from the previous holster (phone, gels, keys…I’ve stuffed it full!) and the thin, chafe-free hand strap. Unfortunately two glaring deficiencies about the bottle and holster need to be addressed.
First, the pull-strap is very thin and twists easily when adjusting on-the-go. With this holster you’ll find yourself having to constantly adjust because the strap doesn’t hold in place and constantly loses tension. The loose strap is very annoying and I found myself having to grip the bottle tighter than I would have liked to (which lead to hand/grip fatigue during my 50k race).
Second, the bottle itself is very firm and hard to squeeze when you need to have a strong flow of liquid. Personally, I had a hard time squeezing out a consistent flow as I bit on the valve, even harder during my early morning runs in the cold when my hand is numb from the cold.
A wider and calloused pull-strap may help with keeping the holster snug to the hand. Softening the plastic a bit to allow a better squeeze.
Simple Hydration Bottle – 13 oz.
This is an innovative approach to carrying liquids. Simple deserves credit in trying to design a bottle that is easy to carry in the hand and also stuff in your shorts. I think they saw pictures of ultra-runners stuffing bottles into their tights and were inspired to make something for the masses that would like to have a hands free experience without the need for belts or packs.
After using the bottle on four runs ranging from 4 miles to 14, I found the bottle to be more of a nuisance than a relief. Three things stand out the most.
First off, the bottle cap is hard to pull up. I found myself having to bite down hard and jerk the cap up to start the flow of water. It also doesn’t go back down very easily. In fact, when you push down on the cap you’ll find it doesn’t go back down completely. When I squeeze the bottle while the cap is down a small drip starts. Not what you’d want if you were holding the bottle during a run. (The bottle is a softer plastic and easy to squeeze, which is good for a consistent flow of water.)
Second, the bottle lid doesn’t form a tight seal. When the water sloshes around the bottle, a consistent drip appears. Only when the water level is half full does the leak slow. Very annoying for me during my long run because I can feel the water soak my shorts early on the run.
Third, the bottle will weigh down your shorts! I first wore the bottle with my regular run shorts. While the bottle did fit comfortably on my back, I noticed the weight of the bottle start pulling my shorts down. After running half a block I had to pull the bottle up from my shorts and hold it in my hand because my shorts were well on their way to being around my ankles. The hook on the bottle that is supposed to hang on the shorts slipped from the waistline and the bottle went down my shorts. Only when I wore my running short tights did the bottle manage to relatively stay in place (as it continued to leak). As I ran downhill, the bottle moved around a lot and I found myself having to reach back and realign the bottle vertically while sliding it back to a comfortable position around my waist.
Smaller bottle size (maybe 10 oz.?) will lessen the tendency for the bottle to weigh down shorts. Lengthening the “hook” while narrowing the gap may help with keeping the bottle on the shorts. Rubber bite valve similar to the Ultimate Direction bottle or adding a rubber gasket to the plastic cap while loosening it may help with the leaking. Softer plastic lid may help fill in gaps around the contours of the bottle where the lid screws onto.
I thought I was being realistic about a top 10 finish even considering my weekly mileage leading up to the race was minimal, but I was wrong. I ended up running a 4:44:09, 13th overall. After I crossed the finish line I was just glad to have ran without injuring myself and having run a race I was proud of.
Before the race I made the decision to put myself in a position to compete for a podium spot by running with the lead pack for the first loop. This was a crazy strategy, but made a lot of sense at the time. I figured one never knows when it may be the day for a breakout performance until you put yourself in the position to do great things. Can’t be scared about running up front! (Note that this strategy only works with proper training:-)
The first few miles were spent waking up the legs to get ready for the climb ahead. This course is great because the first three or so miles are relatively flat so there’s ample time to prepare the body for the heavy climb and steep descent.
I managed to consistently run 4th-6th place for the first lap. I ran a personal record of 1:56:xx for the first lap (previous PR was 2:02:xx at Malibu Creek 25k race). I was just starting to feel some cramping after stopping to refill my water bottles and tried to hang on for a mile before having to walk. At this point I decided I wouldn’t be able to maintain any kind of competitive pace and decided finishing healthy would be the best thing to do. New strategy: power walk the climbs and controlled running downhill. The new strategy led to a 2:46:xx lap. My lungs were fine, but the legs just couldn’t hang. Now I’m excited to race Bulldog next year and run to my potential.
What’s next? Lots of slower miles and lots of climbing. Simple, but effective for me.
Major thanks to:
My wife Cristina and sister Pureza for coming out and cheering me on. Nancy Shura-Dervin for putting on a festive and very well organized race. Nuun for adding some pizzaz to my water. Mark from Mizuno for the pair of Wave Kazans. The Kazan enabled me safely bomb the fire roads down without fear of slipping and with firmer cushioning under-foot to help dissipate shock. A Runner’s Circle for their support of my running. Very lucky to be working for a company that understands my passion and enables me to spread my love of running to others.
I managed to get a few bars that were provided as samples at the Hansen Dam Triathlon: Berry Cashew, Peanut Butter, Cherry Coconut, and Almond Chocolate Chip. I had mixed reviews among the four I tasted, preferring the Berry Cashew and Cherry Coconut. Listed below are my remarks regarding the flavor and digestibility of each flavor:
Berry Cashew – The bar has a distinct cashew and walnut taste. (Note that walnuts are used in all of their bars, but for some reason is most evident in this flavor pairing.) The berry flavor is subtle and is masked by the stronger nut flavor (cashew butter and walnuts), which I actually like. The package I ate was stored inside a backpack I normally use during my bike commutes to and from work. The bar itself was very limp and oily from the heat that had built up inside the bag, which made it undesirable to look at, but tasted good. It had been squished by some of the stuff I keep inside the bag, so it didn’t hold its shape well and made for a challenge in handling it while on the move. I liked this flavor best because of its distinct nuttiness and mild berry flavor.
Cherry Coconut – This is my second favorite. I love coconuts and cherries, so this all made sense to me. There’s a definite coconut flavor which is derived from coconut nectar (whatever that is) and shredded coconuts in the bar. There are little bits and pieces of dried cherries with every bite, which gives just enough tartness to counter the sweetness from the dates and what I’m guessing to be the coconut nectar. This bar, along with the Peanut Butter and Almond Chocolate chip was stored in a refrigerator (I learned after my first experience to do this to avoid an oily and misshapen bar). Take note new food developers: Cherries and Coconut IN EVERYTHING!
Peanut Butter – By far the most intriguing bar of the bunch and not in a good way. It says peanut butter on the package, but taste more like unsweetened raw coffee. I’m not a coffee fan, so this could be a reason I didn’t enjoy this bar at all. There is no peanut butter flavor whatsoever and the bar tasted bitter, which made it hard to swallow. Only with some water was I able to finish the entire thing. The sprouted quinoa and walnuts (found in every flavor bar) made for a good contrast of texture, but that’s about the only good thing I can say about this particular bar.
Almond Chocolate Chip – Again, not the kind of flavor profile you would expect from a bar called Almond Chocolate Chip. Neither the almond (or any kind of nut flavor) and chocolate flavor can be picked up. Even the chocolate chips weren’t visible and not detectable during the chew. There are definitely chunks of nuts in the bar, but it’s hard to pick up whether they are almonds or walnuts. They taste more like raw peanuts to me. On the back-end of the flavor profile is a bitterness. The bitterness of dark chocolate bars I’ve tasted is usually up front which smooths out to a sweetness. The opposite is true for this flavor. I wasn’t able to finish this bar since I took a while to go through the first half that the heat made it oily and became unpalatable.
All bars are either 220 or 240 calories and 7-9 grams of protein. Total carbs. ranges from 20-23g with saturated fat from 11-14g. There is a low sodium profile, the Peanut Butter and Almond Chocolate Chip actually have no sodium. So, these bars definitely make good in-between-meals snacks and not snacks during a long run.
I’d stick to the two fruit flavored bars and leave your chocolate and peanut butter cravings to other bars that use peanut butter and more conventional forms of chocolate ingredients. The bars are oily because of the oil in the organic butter that are used. While providing some flavor and binding properties, the oils break down with some heat and the bars become limp and oily.
While I enjoyed the two fruit flavored bars, I personally would wait until a lower price point to purchase the bars. I understand the cost of producing new food items isn’t just about the cost of quality ingredients, but also in other overhead and variable costs associated with not only the bar, but with getting the product to market. Start-ups specially have higher costs of entry in the competitive organic whole food nutrition market with added higher expenses for marketing and PR. In the end a great tasting product will always lead me to choose one over another.
This is a commendable attempt at using new organic ingredients for people looking for an alternative to more established brands. I believe there is a growing niche market among endurance athletes looking for something that not only aligns with their athletic lifestyles, but with their environmental and social beliefs also. Kudos to Nii for recognizing that and attempting to fill that void.
Get their story and visit them at www.niibar.com.
When I registered to run Bulldog 50k in July I had every intention to train hard with long miles and serious climbing. What happened instead was a bunch of short runs with not a lot of sustained climbing and downhill running. The combination of settling back into life in Los Angeles and general fatigue due to activities related to moving led to s a lot of uninspired runs. I would often start my runs with double digit mileage in mind, but I would cut many runs short. So, most runs looked like this: Scary Post Run. An intended 17 mile run that I bailed on.
What do I wish will happen this Saturday? Well, I hope my lack of training miles actually leaves me with a healthy body and inspiration to prove to myself that the impossible is probable. What I think will actually happen is I’ll finish middle of the pack leaving me with the comfort of knowing I finished strong without a good training base. I’ve ran this course many times and I know what is possible. I can only hope for the best and pray that I’ll be able to will myself to push past the comfort zone and finish at an effort I can be happy about.
So, here it goes, my predicted times:
“A” Goal: Sub 4:10
“B” Goal: 4:15
“Deserves all the beers” goal: Sub 4:20
Shoes: Mizuno Wave Kazan
Clothing: Sugoi Titan run shorts, Wright CoolMesh II socks
Accessories: Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential belt and Handy 20 handheld water bottle.
Nutrition: NUUN Hydration Strawberry Lemonade, PowerBar Berry Blast and Kona Punch, and salted pretzels
Max Distance: 37.83
Elevation Gain: 58,943 ft.
I was surprised I ran so many miles. Most of them were training miles and I rarely ran for fun (not that training wasn’t fun, but most of those runs felt forced). I only mention the vertical gain so I have something to compare my 2014 total with. I plan on running “up” a lot more this year.
Nutritionally it wasn’t the most healthy year. I ate a lot of fast food and drank lots of sugar. I think I would’ve felt better on more runs had I eaten the right kinds of food. I also depended too much on fueling during the run rather than fueling before.
I’d like to think I was physically strong during the previous year. I did a weekly routine of push ups, pull-ups, core exercises, and lunges/squats. What was missing was flexibility work and active recovery. I hope to do more preventative care while continuing body weight training in 2014.
Overall, it was a good year of running. I earned my first buckle, set a half-marathon PR, a few podium finishes, learned new training/nutritional techniques, discovered new trails, raced/trained with friends, ran alongside my wife, and was injury free!
I noticed a person tweeting about Pocket Fuel and I was intrigued. I love the idea of whole food nutrition in a small pouch. Usually, I use Clif Shot gels for runs longer than an hour. I was excited to try something different from my traditional gel.
Pocket Fuel uses nut butters as a base with the addition of various fruits, seeds, and natural sugar. It doesn’t have the typical gel consistency. It’s thicker and the consistency is textured and sometimes grainy.
I bought three pouches from REI: Banana Blueberry and Chia Goji Honey (both almond butter based) and the hazelnut butter based Chocolate Haze.
The first one I tried was the Chocolate Haze. I’m a sucker for anything chocolate. I took it out on an easy 12 miler. I followed the website instruction to squish and squeeze vigorously to make the consistency gooey and easier to consume on the run. After about 5 minutes of kneading the mixture, I left for my run. I held the packet in one hand and after seven miles I opened the cap to eat some. When I squeezed the pouch I first got a taste of oil before the hazelnut butter. I needed to squish the contents some more to mix everything up. I did this and it came out mixed, but in globs. It was cold outside and I was probably better off taking something that would not freeze over so easily, but I was excited to try something new! I sucked as much of the mixture out of the pouch as I could and resealed the with the cap. There was a good bit of the mixture left inside that I couldn’t squeeze out, so I took the rest home.
After this experience, I figured Pocket Fuel would best be used as a pre/post run snack. The package being bulky, the mixture thick, and the work you have to do to consume the content doesn’t make Pocket Fuel an “on the move” food source.
What I did for the other flavors was to spread it over toast before and after my run. I ran the pouch under hot water while massaging the mixture for a couple of minutes to get it to a spreadable consistency. The flavors I tasted were very good and satisfying. I can probably eat more than two packets after a hard run!
You have to give the folks over at Pocket Fuel a lot of credit for coming up with something that is so unique. I don’t think there is any other product out there that has the hunger satisfying properties of a fuel bar in an easy-to-digest consistency. Bravo!
Some challenges Pocket Fuel will have to address are the packaging, the ingredients and how they react to temperature change, and easing the user experience.
The hard plastic cap Pocket Fuel uses makes stuffing the pouch in small areas hard and uncomfortable. Also, while trying to get as much of the content out of the pouch, theres is always some that remain because you can’t squeeze past the plastic tubing tip. Sucking, as the website suggest, doesn’t work (partly because the contents have to be in liquid form for this to work).
I kept the pouches of Pocket Fuel on my dining room table for a couple of days. My house is kept at a constant 68 degrees. At this temperature, the nut butter base remained separate from the liquids in the pouch and hard. With the air temperature at 34 degrees during the one run I took Pocket Fuel with me, the contents separated and the bottom where the hazelnut butter settled into felt like a piece of stone. It took some effort to get it to a consistency I could squeeze through the pouch.
Understandably, using whole food ingredients will present some problems. We all know about oils separating from natural nut butters, and clumping of some fruits and seeds when mixed in liquid, but when something is marketed as “ready when you are” I don’t want to do much work when I’m ready for some food.
I hope they’re working on some changes because it’s a great tasting product with some unique nutritional benefits that are not often found in other fuel “gels.”
Some minor things I want to address:
-I don’t think the whole reusable pouch thing adds any value to the product. It takes too much effort to get the contents out and clean it. After that, what are we suppose to use it for? Gel consumers buy fuel gels for convenience, ease of use, and the ability to just throw them away. Perhaps recyclable rather than reusable.
-Not sure if this is a common occurrence, but I noticed every package of Pocket Duel sold at the REI location I went to was oily. Being sealed with a twist off cap it was easy for contents to leak out.