Hungry for more…

I’ve got ants in my pants! I’m discombobulated! Give me a calmative! ~ Grandpa Simpson

Wed: 1:32, 10.5 miles, East Boulder tempo
Thurs: 00:40, 4.6 miles, Boulder Creek Path recovery
Sat: 00:40, 4.14 miles, Neighborhood surges
Sun: 4:12, 26.24 miles, North Boulder backroads

A crazy week got in the way of updates so I am playing catch up a bit. Things have been going relatively well… I am still nursing a tight hamstring and mildly sore knee but that doesn’t seem to be holding me back too much. Wednesday’s run was a bit of a cluster. My splits were okay but by the end, I was really just done and my knee hurt and so I cut that one a little short. Thursday was a bit faster than I should have been running but I felt okay so just cruised. Saturday was a squeeze run early. Went to the opera mid-morning so it was good to get out for a quick run while it was still quiet and calm. Sunday was the mad man of the week…

Headed to Boulder early hoping to get in a few miles before meeting up with the crew but that didn’t happen so we started together shortly before 9:00. We wound our way around part of the Backroads course and I ended up way north on CO66 before heading back to Boulder. Not too much to talk about other than really working on managing lingering ailments and getting in the miles. For the most part, I was successful. After 3 hours things started to get a little ouchy for sure but nothing that sparked tremendous concern – mostly just the standard fatigue and soreness that comes with the territory when logging that much time on one’s feet. These small increases every week are paying off, however. I am feeling super fit and recovery happens quickly.

People ask about nutrition during ultra running a lot and aside from some of the standard items (gels; “real” food like pb&js, wraps, fruit; etc.) I have started working in some fluid-based nutrition as well. I have been using nuun exclusively for the past year or so and find it to work really well. I recently started working Charles Corfield’s famous “Rocket Fuel” into the mix. I’m trying to get more info about that so check back for a full report. Thus far, however, it seems to be working really well for me both during and post running. I have been using a 1:1 mix of Waxy Maize and Maltodextrin coupled with a tab of nuun per bottle. I have the feelers out to Mr. Corfield (3rd place in the ’07 LT100) and will let you know what more I find out.

Most of the top talent whack down gels throughout the races. I am not quite sure how they handle this but it seems to work well for them. I will supplement with gels and do use gels exclusively during shorter, faster events like marathons (maybe that is the key – make 100 miles short and fast and you are golden!) but for longer runs, I tend to stick with more solid fare and try to work in as much real food as possible. When I did the LT100 in ’07 and the Silver Rush in ’08, I relied pretty much exclusively on real food. For the LT100, I relied on food my crew made for me: PB&J wraps, avocado wraps, bean burritos, fruit, trail mix, tomato/avocado soup and the like. I had decent success with this and found, for me, the avocado wraps worked really well (1/2 of an avocado and some pink sea salt wrapped in a tortilla). Being a vegan, I didn’t want to rely on aid stations and didn’t want to get into a situation where I needed nutrition but was unable to find anything that suited me.

I took a slightly different approach to the Silver Rush in ’08 (mostly because I wanted to approach this event more casually to take some of the pressure off) and actually did use the aid stations which provided chips, pretzels, fruit (melons and bananas) and soda. I made the mistake of filling up with some energy drink at one of the stations that did NOT go down well, so definitely beware. I supplemented with my own food for the start (pb&j and avocado wraps) and put more in my drop bag for resupplying at the turn. The best practice is to well… practice! Grab a burrito and go for a run. See what works well for you. Be prepared for wacky cravings during events but try to stick with foods and supplements with which you are familiar and have tried in training. Nothing worse than stomach problems during an event.



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.


Hydrate or die…

Simplify, man! ~ Recycle Center Guy

Spent the day today waiting for a delivery which finally arrived about 3:00. Then I got to move a bunch of building materials around and stash 2400 pounds of stove pellets in our garage. Good, good times. Now we’re definitely set for winter, however and I can also finish up work on the shed. SO psyched.

So today, since I have no running to report, I’ll toss another review your way. Today’s product review: The many awesome flavors of nuun.

I discovered nuun sometime last spring and thought it sounded like a great idea. It removes all the crap packed into common sports drinks: the waste, the high fructose corn syrup – the unbearable taste – and slams it into a compact treat that is not only yummy, but is super convenient. nuun comes in a wide variety of flavors to appeal to virtual any taste. My current favorites: Cirtus Fruit, Cucumber Mint, and Banananuun. nuun doesn’t rely on artificial sweeteners (actually, all nuun is sugar-free) so it is a perfect compliment to your hydration/nutrition regimen.

nuun is portable and super easy to use. You just drop a tablet into 16oz of water and watch it go to work. It turns any available (potable) water source into an instant sports drink. Another upside to nuun is that its mix of ingredients keeps one from having to rely heavily on salt tabs during long runs. Sweet! One less thing to have to keep track of when my brain is run-addled anyway. I love being able to re-use bottles without adding to the landfills and being able to create great tasting sports drinks on the go. Each tube contains enough tablets to make 12 bottles of electrolyte drink and costs a LOT less than the equivalent volume of sports drink.

Full disclosure time: I was so thrilled with nuun after first trying it this spring that I contacted them to see if they had room on their roster to sponsor an athlete such as myself. For the ’09 season, I was a proud member of their pro program. In 2010, I am happy to announce that I will continue to fly the nuun flag!


Good eats…

Mmmmmm… purple. ~ Homer Simpson

In addition to whacking down nuun by the truckload, I have been experimenting with some new food selections I picked up from Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. In the book, he mentions iskiate and pinole on numerous occasions and hypes their collective awesomeness for endurance sports. Since no recipes were provided, I was left to my own devices to find information about how to prepare these tasty treats.

So I turned to my buddy, the internet, and found a couple of references to iskiate or chia fresca that turned out to be quite awesome. Here is one recipe:

  • Combine 8oz of water with the juice of 1 lime and a couple tablespoons of sugar (or your favorite sweetener)
  • Shake or stir until the sugar has dissolved
  • Add 2 teaspoons of chia seeds
  • Mix, drink, feel the pow-ah

The Terahumara use iskiate to fuel their day-long treks and I must say that it is not only delicious but does provide what appears to be a pretty slow burn fuel for longer jaunts as well as a tasty, post-run recovery drink. Chia seeds (yes, the same stuff used to make entertaining Chia Pets) are high in protein and anti-oxidants and can be purchased at many natural food stores or online.

Pinole proved to be even more elusive in both where to find the stuff and how to prepare it. In Born to Run, McDougall mentions the use of pinole as a pre-run favorite as well as being used mid-run to help refuel. Caballo Blanco (Micah True), a gringo who has lived among the Terahumara for many years, takes dried pinole with him on long runs. Pinole is made from dried maize which one grinds into a fine powder and toasts to produce a very complex carbohydrate that is perfect as an energy source for long efforts.

Discovering a recipe for pinole was even more difficult than iskiate so… I made one up using regular corn meal. Two actually. I toasted the meal until golden brown then added some sugar and cinnamon to one batch and added some salt to another to see if either of these did the trick. I even tried eating it a variety of ways: Dry (not so great), mixed with water as a thin sports drink (the corn meal I used was a little too coarse for this to work well), just dumping some in my mouth and washing it down with lots of water (again, not the best plan while on the move). I actually did recognize the benefits to eating pinole even though my delivery methods were less than ideal. The meal tends to swell up in one’s stomach, producing a feeling of fullness and my energy levels seemed to stay higher with less spike-and-crash sensation one can experience with other, high-carb food sources.

Undaunted, I contacted the source, Caballo Blanco, for more information.

One of the many things I love about the ultrarunning community is its openness and willingness to provide assistance, guidance and support to others. Shortly after my first ultra race, the 2007 Leadville 100, I contacted the winner, Anton Krupicka for advice. I’d never met Anton (unless you count the brief encounter we shared on the flanks of Hope Pass – he was running back toward the finish, I was still on my way to the turn around), but he quickly responded with a reply (run till your feet bleed then run some more). Micah was no different. Shortly after sending him an email asking for advice about how to prepare Iskiate and pinole, Micah replied with several recommendations for each.

For iskiate, he recommends soaking the chia seeds in water, juice, sports drink… whatever you like until the seeds get plump with the soaked liquid. Then drink them down. I have found them to also be good just tossed in a salad, on oatmeal, etc.

To make real pinole, one starts from whole maize that has been toasted and ground to a fine powder. This can be made into a cream of wheat type meal or can be mixed in water like a sports drink for on-the-go nutrition/hydration.

So I am off to find some maize. Or it can be purchased here:, though Micah says the fresh stuff is way better.

And on that note, I am going to grab a snack.


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