Vests are handsome…

Nathan HPL-008 Race Vest
This doesn't make my butt look big.

Put on approachable airs this summer in our dapper Brisbane Vest, a breezy and brilliant choice for the 19th century gentleman’s mild-weather wardrobe. ~Gentleman’s Emporium

Since I am all laid up, I thought I’d provide a gear review for all you runners out there just dying to know what I think about stuff. So for this installment of Stu’s Reviews™ I bring you (drumroll)… The Nathan HPL #008 Race Vest. (You can stop drumrolling now.)

I had been trying to move exclusively to a bottle system for hydration but found that either I would start to chafe  from my running belt on longer runs or would simply not be able to carry enough water to get me from station to station. After talking with Charles Corfield, I decided to give the Nathan HPL #008 a try.

First impressions:
From the very first run, the 008 felt incredibly natural and comfortable and immediately felt like “my” vest. The reservoir holds 1.5 liters of water (about 2.5 regular bottles) and rides well in the pack. Little details make the 008 work really well with a small stash pocket on the back (big enough for a light jacket and gloves); a mesh pocket on the front for energy gel and a zippered pocket up front as well for a camera, extra food, etc.; and a cool reservoir retention system to help keep the bladder upright and kink-free.

Overall impressions:
After using the 008 for over a month, I have come to really appreciate the benefits of the Nathan vest system. So much so that I purchased a second vest (the larger, HPL #020). Occasionally, I will get some light chafing under my arms but this, I think, can be attributed more to using arm warmers than the vest. One note, do not cut the reservoir tube until you have used the pack a couple of times. What seems like ample length when empty, turns out to be just about right when the reservoir is full. Overall, the vest is unbelievably comfortable, keeps my hands free, provides ample storage and is a great addition to any ultra runners go-to gear.

This puppy should set you back ~$80 and can be found both online at a variety of vendors and through many local shops.

~stubert.

Rocket Man…

Charles Corfield
The biggest buckle ever was Charles' award.

I’ve got some of this Mendocino Rocket Fuel, that’s supposed to be really… ~ Viv Savage

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Charles Corfield – LT100 3rd place finisher, Everest summiter, and all-around great guy. Charles took the time out of his busy schedule (I get the impression that he runs at 4 in the morning every day) to meet with me to discuss some ultra tips and tricks, his experience running and his famous Rocket Fuel mix.

Charles placed third at the 2007 Leadville Trail 100 race after being talked into running it by some friends. He had no real intention of running the LT100 and so just jumped into the fray and treated it like running two consecutive 50s. Apparently that worked pretty well as he finished without a crew or pacers in 19 hours 42 minutes. Solid effort.

During the course of our conversation, I learned a lot about how to approach racing, training, hydration and nutrition and discovered that Charles really thinks things through, does extensive research and, perhaps most importantly, experiments to find out what works. He is practical as well, often offering simple solutions to common problems vs. recommending expensive or cumbersome alternatives. He asks questions and then thoughtfully presents solutions. For example, when he inquired about my ’07 LT100 attempt and what, in my opinion, went wrong, I mentioned that blisters were an early issue that then escalated to other, larger problems. His solution: Superglue a sock into my shoes to work as a gaiter and superglue the tongue to the upper to keep dirt and grit out. Not particularly elegant but cost-effective, light, and efficient.

One item I really wanted to discuss was his hydration and nutrition regimen. Charles is very scientific about his nutrition needs and calculates exactly what he will need during any given race (or training event) to be sure that he is able to consume the right amount of fuel during the event. This keeps him from getting bogged down by too many calories or bonking from too few. Charles relies primarily (in fact, exclusively, I believe) on a mixture of amylopectin (Waxy Maize) and maltodextrin which has found the name “Rocket Fuel”. I started experimenting with the mix in January this year to see if the solution worked for me and I have found, thus far, for it to be a great supplement to, if not replacement for, my “normal” on-trail nutrition. Here is the formula for 3000kCals (~750g of solids):

  • 340g amylopectin
  • 340g maltodextrin
  • 25g protein (Charles uses whey. Being a vegan, I use soy.)
  • non-sugar flavoring to taste (cocoa, Kool-Aid, vanilla, almond, etc.)
  • some electrolytes (I take care of this with nuun) and antacids (ground up)
  • ~3 cups of water (to the thickness desired)

During my initial experiments, I was mixing about 3 Tablespoons in a bottle of water. Though this worked well, it was not concentrated enough to work as a stand-alone fuel source. I checked with Charles and he indicated that he mixes his to produce a fairly thick, gel-like consistency that then can be delivered via a fuel bottle vs. in a more “drinkable” form. I subsequently tried this as well and it definitely is the way to go.

During the Moab Red Hot 50K, I used Rocket Fuel from the start. I did make the mistake of mixing it a bit too thickly and this, coupled with very low temperatures, made the fuel a bit tough to work with during the race. I should have added water on the go, but in my hydration depleted state didn’t think of that. So really, had I been smarter about it, I know that the mix would have worked even better for me than it already did.

On top of all of this great information, one piece of advice Charles had for me was to listen to what your body is telling you. If you are craving salt, you probably are low on electrolytes. If you are feeling bloated and too “full” you probably have eaten too much too quickly (there are studies that show that we can only process 240-280 cal/hour). Just listen to what your body is telling you and you should do well.

~stubert.

Mistakes were made…

But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for. ~ Paulo Coelho

Fri 12 Feb: 00:29, 3.4 miles, Moab street run
Sat 13 Feb: 7:07, 32.5 miles, Moab Red Hot 50K

Jammed out to Moab Friday morning. Aside from spending what felt like a large portion of the drive on the phone, it went quickly and was fairly uneventful. Crazy roads around Copper were really the only distraction and I rolled into town with plenty of time to get checked into my hotel (La Quinta, which was perfect), go for a quick run (on which I felt awesome) and gather my race packet and some grub. For a tourist destination, Moab is seriously devoid of vegetarian fare so I ended up at La Hacienda. Nothing special here but it was food, I suppose, which was what I needed. Headed back to the hotel to get prepped for the race and relax and hit the sack around 9:30.

I did employ a few new techniques to try to keep myself fresh during- and post-drive that seemed to work. First, I wore compression stockings, which I got when I had knee surgery a few years ago. They seem to help and I recommend picking up a pair to help keep one’s legs feeling fresh – especially when traveling. I also stopped frequently (about every 1.5 hours) along the way to walk around and stretch. This seems like a major pain (and honestly, it is) but I do feel that it is the way to go to save your legs from getting too mucked up during longer drives. Once I arrived at the hotel, I stretched, flushed my legs by grabbing around my ankles and pulling upwards toward my thighs and resting near a wall with my legs up at about an 80° angle for a bit. Post-run, I also soaked in an ice bath for 10 minutes then followed that with a hot soak. Seemed to work.

I got up early on race day to get all my stuff together, stretch and compose myself before the event. Carpooled out to the start with a past work colleague Michele Delman. She and her husband, Reid, run a series of adventure races throughout the year. It was good to be able to catch up with Michele and have someone to hang with prior to the start.

The race…

It was chilly at the start so I warmed up in my puffy jacket and tights then stripped down to shorts, a long-sleeved shirt, vest, visor and gloves for the start. Did a few quick surges to get the blood flowing then, with little ceremony, someone gave a whistle and we were off!

The course heads generally south, paralleling the highway, and climbs steadily from the start. Moab has seen some snow this year and the first few miles of the course were on snowpacked dirt roads. I started out fairly quickly as I didn’t want to get caught up in the mess of people walking the first hill and felt pretty well on the first climb. Then I settled into a steady pace as the course moved on to frozen dirt and intermittent snow as it wound its way toward the first aid station.

I arrived at Aid 1 (~6 miles) way ahead of schedule and actually felt it to be a bit sooner than expected. I refueled, got more water, ditched my vest and kept moving up along the course to the big loop the 50K runners were to accomplish. The second 7 miles of the course were pretty brutal due to deep breakable crust conditions and unpackable sugar snow underneath. This portion of the course saw me lose any gains I had made during the first 6 miles and really made my abs angry. Beautiful terrain, I am sure, when dry, this portion of the course climbed steadily to a section that ran along a cliff band then dropped back down to Aid 2. I rolled into the second station still in decent shape time-wise (still a few minutes ahead of my projected “medium” finish pace) but starting to feel the effects of some wicked conditions.

Shortly after Aid 2 (~13 miles), I slipped on some black ice and almost ate it. This aggravated my already grumpy abs and made for a relatively unhappy return to Aid 3 (shared station with Aid 1). This section was mostly snowpacked and muddy and rolled generally downhill through open fields with amazing views of the La Sals and unique red sandstone monuments of the Moab valley. Definitely spectacular views when I was able to look up long enough to enjoy them.

Quickly, I made it to Aid 3 (~17 miles), gathered some fuel and headed out. I was still on pace for a decent finish at this point but during the next section things started to fall apart. This section of the course wound back down the course in reverse for a mile or so then turned south. Conditions were fairly mixed with lots of mud, snow and some slick rock to keep things interesting. I was starting to realize the effects of a couple of mistakes that compounded one another during this section and that would plague me for the remainder of the day. First, I was grossly over-optimistic about my ability to traverse this type of terrain in an efficient manner and so under-estimated the time it would take me to move from station to station. This left me in a bit of a lurch with hydration and I suffered horribly. Second, I was hoping to test-drive some different nutrition techniques during this race but the cold temps early on and my mixing the fuel too-thickly, made getting the right amount of calories down a real challenge. This also tapped into my water supply and I fought nausea most of the day.

I rolled into Aid 4 (~21 miles) well behind schedule, queasy, and starting to lose the hydration battle. I should have stayed at Aid 4 a bit longer to suck down more fluids but, feeling a bit delirious, didn’t make the connection between how I was feeling and poor hydration. I left Aid 4 with a full bottle and hopes of getting moving again to make good time to Aid 5 (~28 miles).

Normally, I would be able to cover 7 miles in no time but given my condition, this was not the case. I walked. A lot. Not only was this disheartening but it also probably doubled the amount of time it took me to get to the final aid station. I ran out of water very early and just walked. It was embarrassing, frankly, but I didn’t have many options. I would walk for a bit. Stop. Try to keep from throwing up whatever liquids I did happen to have in my system. Walk some more. Pathetic. I bummed a little water from a cameraman who was shooting the race and then he informed me that the 5th aid station  had been moved even farther down the course because they were unable to make it to the prescribed spot (should have been ~mile 28 but moved to ~30). Ugh. I finally hooked up with some very friendly mountain bikers who gave me a full bottle that then enabled me to move a bit faster and finally make it to the final station.

I stopped for a bit to get some liquids down, which enabled me to suck down some more fuel and then tackle the final 2.5 miles of the course. I seriously considered just dropping out but my spirits were buoyed by the short distance left to travel and the desire to just finish. I walked out of Aid 5 and just tried to keep a steady pace along the final 2.5 miles. After about a half mile, I decided to try running 50 paces and walking 50 paces. This seemed to work pretty well and quickly the run portion was extended to 60, 70, 100 to 50 walking then I was running again and feeling MUCH better. I ran the final 1.5 miles or so and finished in 7:07. Pretty poor showing but that’s racing, I suppose. I think I was 36th in my age group and was about 50 minutes off my slow-target pace. Oh well.

Apparently the conditions didn’t put too much of a damper on the front-runners’ efforts as Karl Meltzer won again in 4:19 or something. Way to go Karl!  Anita Ortiz stomped the women’s field in 4:44. I am pretty sure I ran next to her briefly at the start. Sweet!

Post-race, I grabbed a little food, hung out with Reid for a bit then headed back to the start to collect my car. The road was so crappy at this point that the van dropped us off about a mile from the cars and so I walked and jogged back to the Subaru (thanks, Rach!) and then headed back to the finish to collect my drop bag items which I had forgotten to pick up. Michele finished just before I arrived so it was great to talk with her about her day. Similar experience to mine. I then headed back to Moab to grab a shower at Poison Spider bike shop (even though they were very close to closing time, the young guy working there let me sneak in a quick shower), grabbed some snacks at the grocery store, and headed back home.

The drive home was a bit sketchy with poor road conditions starting around Glenwood Springs and one really wacky moment where a car was half-way in the ditch and half-way in the left-hand lane with its lights out as I was passing another car! The driver was using a flashlight to signal people so, after passing the wreck, I called the Highway Patrol to report it. Hopefully that turned out okay.

I got home around 11:15 making it a long day. Honestly, I didn’t feel particularly wrecked after the event nor am I very sore or messed up today. This leads me to believe that most of my problems were hydration/nutrition-based and not due to a lack of fitness per se. That is the theory on which I am going, at least. I do know that I under-estimated the difficulty of the course and over-estimated my ability to move across such varied terrain efficiently. All in all, it was a good experience.

~stubert.

Iskiate…

Let food be your medicine. ~ Hippocrates

Iskiate, or chia fresca, is a popular topic these days after appearing prominently in Born to Run, Christopher McDougall’s book about ultrarunning, the Tarahumara, and the physiology of running – particularly running stupid distances in a single push. McDougall speaks about its use as a natural energy drink in his book and I have been experimenting with it the past several months to see how to incorporate it into my regular race and training diet.

There are lots of ways to use chia seeds (yes, of the Chia Pet ilk) as a dietary supplement and I have been using Iskiate as a pre- and post-run addition to my nutrition with decent results. I have not been particularly scientific about my use of the chia seed but definitely have done a little experimenting with how best to incorporate its use into my regular regimen and have found it to have a refreshing effect.

Chia seeds can be purchased online or at many natural food stores. I have definitely found the best deals online, but if you want to pick up just a little to try it out first, many stores have chia seeds in their bulk or raw foods sections.

Chia seeds have a remarkable ability to soak up liquids and when introduced to water or another liquid, open up to absorb up to 9 times their original volume of water to form a gel. This gel can be consumed in a variety of ways and not only is a great source of energy but helps to keep a person hydrated. The seeds are rich in calcium, Omega 3 and 6 and when in gel form, provide a slow-release mechanism for carbohydrate absorption so you don’t get as much of a spike as you would from a glucose-based energy drink but more of a slow burn energy release.

Chia gel can be made in a variety of different ways and can be stored for use in the fridge for a week (I have heard up to 3 weeks but I like to err on the side of caution). I mostly have been using it as an addition to juices (grape, apple, orange) and will pour a glass, add a couple tablespoons of chia seeds, stir vigorously, let sit for 10 minutes or so to let the seeds soak up the juice, stir again and drink.

A more traditional Iskiate recipe calls for lime juice, sweetener, water and chia seeds and I have found this to be incredibly tasty and refreshing before, during and after exercise. Take the juice of 1 lime, combine it with 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of sugar, agave or sweetener of your choice. Add a couple teaspoons of chia seeds, mix it up, let it sit for a bit for the seeds to soak up some of the liquid and get good and plump, then drink up!

Iskiate is a bit too thick to flow through a standard water bottle valve so you may have to slow your pace a bit and drink from an open top if you plan to use it during exercise but other than that, I have found it to be a great addition to my regular nutrition/hydration. nuun is still my go-to solution for hydration but I have definitely used Iskiate (even in combination) to provide a natural energy boost to compliment the regular use of nuun tabs during training and racing.

~stubert.

GoLite HydroSpeed pack review…

So much time, so little to do. ~ Willie Wonka

And on the second day, Stu rested. Mondays are typically my rest days so I just kicked it today. I did head to the gym for some circuits but other than that, I laid low. A little sore from yesterday’s adventure but I think most of this is from jumping in the car immediately after running and sitting at a desk most of today. Gotta knock that off.

So in lieu of a long, boring talk about lifting weights, I thought I’d entertain you with a brief review of a hydration pack I have been using for a couple years: the GoLite Hydrospeed Lumbar Pack.

When I ran Leadville in ’07, I alternated between the GoLite Rush and a lumber pack that a buddy loaned me from Ultimate Direction. The UD pack suited me very well for cooler, shorter segments and I grabbed the Rush for the long, warm trek between Treeline and Twin Lakes and outbound over Hope Pass. Honestly, now I would go with the HydroSpeed and a handheld for every section unless it was blazingly hot (and even then, might opt for the lighter set-up regardless). This was what I used on Sunday’s 4-hour run and it was about perfect.

The HydroSpeed is a comfortable, lightweight lumbar pack that is designed to carry two bottles. The UD pack I mentioned earlier (no longer available) had a similar set up: Two bottles, two good-sized pockets and a secure bungee strap for a jacket, spare bottle or whatever else you might need to bring along. The HydroSpeed is even more awesome. GoLite (as you may have guessed) engineers their gear to be very lightweight without compromising comfort or stability and the HydroSpeed fits the bill nicely. The bottle sleeves are positioned well (when cinched-down as much as I like it, they make bottles easy to access but a little tough to remove) and the overall carriage is super comfy and easy to adjust. The dual pockets are perfect for carrying the necessities and I have crammed cool weather gear, food, camera, keys and an iPod in there without feeling overly burdened at all. The pack rides low on one’s hips and the buckle system is very easy to get adjusted to fit snugly without excess wobble.

The pack utilizes the lightest weight clips and buckles but they have held up very well through a LOT of abuse over the past two years. It even has an iPod headphone port and key clip. It does not feature a whistle buckle so if you live in kitty or bear country (or just for safety’s sake), you will want to pick up an emergency whistle to attach to the straps.

The pack weighs in at a scant 450g and retails at $50. This has been my go-to pack for two years now with my Rush relegated to only my longest, unsupported, no-access-to-water-type adventures.

~stubert.