Monday, October 26, 2015

Gel Factory Test Run - Chicago Marathon

Raceday has come and gone, so how did I fare?  The 2:56:30 (a 1.5 min PR) says pretty well.  However, it wasn't an "easy" run.  Following up from 2:57:55 at Boston in April, here is how I would rate myself:

Training (total mileage + race specific) = Under-trained
I had a hard time getting in the groove of building mileage.  Apart from the Saturday CES crew, 1-2 weekday run commutes with Dan, and Wednesday am speedwork, I struggled (actually didn't really try) getting weekly mileage racked up.  Mix in some work travel and summer weekends, I don't have any real regrets about it.  With Boston Bound, I had this tenacity about suiting up and battling the elements...not so much this summer.  After being so focused to hit the sub-3 number, chipping away at 2:57:XX just didn't have the same kind of oomph.  Also, didn't really spend much time at Marathon Pace.
Extra Low Mileage Training Plan - September Weekly Mileage surpassed a whopping 30 miles/week

Lifting/Cross-Training = On Track
Kept on Matt & Amber's 1x20 lifting routine that I've posted about before.  While I didn't progress that much (due for a little more variety), it was steady and definitely kept me injury free with my running form improved. 2-3x/week (didn't manually enter into Strava)

Nutrition = Much Improved!!! (?)
This was what I changed since Boston (well that and significantly reducing my mileage, ha) and will spend a majority of the race recap sharing my "secrets".  I strayed a little here and there during the cycle, but all-in-all it didn't take much effort to stay on a Low Carb High Fat routine.  Full disclaimer: I'm not an expert on this, I'm an experimenter.

Similar to High Cliff Half Iron, the two weeks prior I stayed at 70% Fat with the balance in Protein and Carbs (70g of carbs/day with berries, nuts, and beet juice being the largest drivers).  The goal here was to get my body's metabolic efficiency ramped up (readily burning fat vs. glycogen).  While preparing my lunch one day, a colleague commented that I was more like a mechanic fueling a race car in a very specific manner for high performance...I liked the synergy of that comparison.

A typical day (including Bullet Proof Coffee for breakfast):

Three days prior to the race, I incorporated some low-glycemic carbs (sweet potatoes, Lyndsey's Feed Zone Portables, bananas, Generation UCAN bars).  The goal of this was to fill up the glycogen fuel tank (~2,000 kCal), which was theoretically empty.  I also made a switch from running a slight caloric deficit to a slight positive by adding more fats and proteins as well (eggs, chicken, salmon).

Raceday nutrition became a wild card.  My past two long runs, I had Generation UCAN before and tried to incorporate normal gels during.  In the past, I took pride that I could stomach 5-6 gels/marathon with only minor discomfort.  However, based on my long runs this cycle, I learned mixing in standard gels no longer sat well with my stomach.  During race week, I finally made the decision to try something new for race day and concoct my own UCAN gels.

The Gel Factory:
After scouring the internet, I ended up purchasing disposable baby food pouches and a cake decorating syringe (Amazon had a surprisingly limited selection of large syringes).
Using Magic Bullet to blend 3-4 oz water with 1 scoop of UCAN
A large medical syringe would work better as the cake tool tolerances left something to be desired
Finished product
Considered utilizing the Salomon hand carriers, but opted for a traditional waist belt
For prerace dinner, I omitted the usual pasta and went for wild salmon plus half an avocado.  Race morning, I had one serving of UCAN (with 8 oz of water) 30-60 min before race start.

The Race:
Dave and I have an ongoing rivalry and this race had a heightened competition between the two of us as it had been since Boston 2014 that we went head to head (Dave being the victor that day).

As we worked our way to the corral, I felt the 2 caffeine patches "kick in" and was feeling the energy of the race.  Finally made our way up in front of the 3:00 group (somewhat strange feeling to do so in such a confident manner as only a year ago would have been a bold move).  Moments before the gun, a throw-a-way shirt hit me square in the face.  Here it was Sascha's who successfully caught my attention from the other side of the corral.  We gave a wave and soon we were all underway.

For pace, I didn't want to run any of the first half faster than 2:55 while making sure to keep it under 2:57:14 (Dave's PR) - I accomplished this through a patent pending dual pace band.  We clipped the first miles a little hot, but nothing damaging (we kept Sascha and Jake in front of us).
Some friendly competition
Some people split the race into three sections (North, West, and South) - my race was also split into three sections (Feeling Mediocre, Feeling Good, and Suffering).  In the Feeling Mediocre section, I didn't feel real comfortable, but let the miles come to me.  Dave maybe did a majority of the pace-making, as we'd split a 6:40, then we'd agree a little hot, back off, then surge up a little, and split another 6:40.  This went for mile and after mile until I had my first issues.  All along the way, people kept calling my name (thanks all!) and then a "Go Minnesota!" (Dave's classic jersey) and "Go Badgers!" (some random guy wearing a Wisconsin jersey).

When we hit the Old Town Fleet Feet aid station, the loudspeaker called my name and seconds later Chris Willis!  I swung my neck around and sure enough, sitting there creeping was the freshly shaved shine of Chris's head.  This brightened my spirits and brought me from feeling just ok to now feeling pretty good.  We also had Sascha, Jake, and Lynton rolling along.  We rolled through halfway about 30 seconds off 2:55, right where I wanted to be.
Approaching halfway with Chris at my side.  DMV close behind.
First half - just rolling along targeting 6:41-6:45
There weren't many words being shared here, but I didn't have any concern with a few high 6:30s as it wasn't going to get any easier to get back to 2:55 later on.  Being as Dave and I were "racing," I kept silent as Chris and I worked on a gap.  Although I didn't really have any idea if Dave was gone or not as I told myself not to look back.  Somewhere in here, Chris and I also separated a little and I gave a little more throttle to get back on the 2:55 pace band exactly.  The miles kind of blur together here, but I remember thinking, "ok, just need to run 6:41s rest of the way...wait 'just' 6:41s?!"  Although, I already knew it, I continued on to run one more 6:39 before coming to the conclusion that this was not possible.  And so I entered the Suffering Section of the course (commonly, mispronounced as "South Section").  Weems and I shared a mile or two...although we had a lot in common at this point, there weren't many words to share.

My second gel helped a little, but I was not loving running at this point.  I should state that I was still in a mentally ok position...actually pretty good.  I attribute this to my fueling preparation.  While I had burned through my glycogen tank, I was able to switch back to fat burning without too much of a hiccup.  My problem was the intensity...I was trying to run at a much higher intensity than desirable in a fat-burning stage.  The intensity was too high because I was "under-trained".
Around mile 20, I ran the glycogen tank to empty and went back to fat (theoretically).
1 to go!
Knowing that 2:55 was gone, I had no trouble doing the math for the slowest possible pace that I could run and still finish 2:56:XX.  So I trudged along while reassuring myself that I'm never running a marathon again (apart from the fact that I had just registered for Boston 2016).  I was aware that I didn't look pretty at this point - fortunately had plenty of cheers along the way.  The final mile, I could see a running friend, Tony - fortunately he was out of reach and I could coast in.  Then all of sudden at the final turn, noticed that we were along side of each other and had to kick it in...ugh!  Crossed the finish line dizzy, decided I should sit down, was quickly picked up by some volunteers and escorted to the beer table.  Success.
The "Suffering Section" easily identifiable with red conditional formatting.
Now that it's been 2 weeks, already beginning to look forward to the spring season!  As always, a thanks to Lyndsey, my run crew (no, this isn't NRC), friends, and a special shoutout to Dave who is now trailing the marathon showdown 2-3.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Keto-Adaptation: 2 weeks in

I (or Lyndsey) has shared with some friends that I was making the switch to ketogenic fueling. Some of whom have kindly asked for an update and I thought it was also a good opportunity to document for myself the experience I have had so far. "Diet" is likely a more correct term than "fueling" when used in the sense of "sum of consumed food by a person", not "special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons." To be clear, the purpose of my change in diet is to support running a sub-2:55 marathon...any auxiliary benefits are, in fact, auxiliary.

Many resources go over the why and how, so I'll attempt to be brief in that regard and keep the focus on my personal experience.  Here are the resources that I have used:
1. Coaches (long-time friends) Matt & Amber: honestly, if this suggestion wouldn't have come from them, I would have remained oblivious to this entire concept (health-crazed Kenny has already been on the coconut oil train for years...getting more and more like my Dad everyday).
2. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance Book: recommended by Matt, I read this 174 page book in 2 days and it left me wondering why I hadn't been onto this earlier.

3. Various blogs, youtube videos, etc. - like anything, with the internet you can consume information forever.

After running twenty marathons, I've developed a solid routine of how to fuel with carbohydrates.  It's not sexy, but it works: moderate pasta dinner the night before, vanilla Powerbar the morning of, and as many gels (4-6) as my stomach will allow during the race.  Most recently with Boston 2015, this strategy has been successful.  However, it does have some limitations:
1. Energy is "spiky" - energy declines until you pop the first gel, which gives you a nice jolt, then it declines in the next couple miles until you can take another "hit".
2. On an easy long run, I could consume gels all-day long with no issues. But at marathon race pace, it's a delicate balance as the stomach doesn't always want to process them, especially after the first couple.
3. Even with carb-loading and gels, you can run out of glycogen fuel during a marathon.  As I've read, and experienced, your body will eventually switch to fat, it's just not typically a smooth process (i.e. "hitting the wall").

So what if I didn't have to run primarily on carbs/glycogen to begin with?  The theory is that we all have nearly endless energy on board, our bodies just aren't adapted to using it (when glycogen is available, it likes to take advantage of that first).
The adaptation period obviously varies by person, but in general for performance athletes takes 2-3 weeks.  The number to stay below or around is 50g of carbs/day.  Here was my week 1 consumption:
~55g Carbs/day
Here's a visual of what I was eating to achieve this:
Whole, unprocessed foods
It did take a bit more planning, but wasn't all that difficult to do.  Biggest change was my snacks at work - I used to live snack to snack (high carbs) and would never really feel full.  That has changed.  I don't really feel the need to snack much anymore and if I do, I have spoonful of coconut butter or a handful of almonds.

I also raced Chase Corporate Challenge (3.5 mile), which I was a bit nervous about having only been 4 days in.  I maybe didn't have as much "pop" - hard to say though coming 4 days off of pacing Green Bay Marathon (3:25), but maybe I did feel smoother?  I ran sub 6:00/mile (faster than last year and only 9 seconds off my PR).  Will be very cool if I can get a 5k PR in this year as typically ketosis is suspected to be more advantageous for endurance events than shorter events (although it is used for strength-training as well).

I did have a concern about not consuming fruits as I had maybe missed that part with the focus on healthy fats and greens for vegetables.  Berries are very high in nutrients while not ridiculously high in carbs, so for week 2 that did boost my carbs a little.  Feeling good, I also was slightly more relaxed with the 50g carb/day as I'm now seeing this as a sustainable pattern (I really don't miss the grains that were previously a staple in my diet).  I could also likely eat less if I so desired - multiple times already, I've eaten meal even though I'm not hungry (previously I would be hungry before almost every meal).
Week 2 - 78g carbs/day
Week 2 was higher due to the addition of more berries, nuts, a delicious Founders All Day IPA and chocolate peanut butter brownie (a guy still has got to live).  Drinking less beer, light beers as substitute and an occasional craft beer, seems manageable to me and not a "sacrifice."

Other metrics - I love my new Withings WS-50 Body Analyzer (yes, it's a "Body Analyzer", not a "scale" and will toss in some screenshots:

I've declined in weight, which from what I understand is a significant portion from water weight that your body stores along with glycogen (takes 3-4 grams of water to store 1 gram of glycogen).  As my glycogen stores have been depleted, so has the amount of water I store.  It's also encouraging that my fat mass has declined, but there is inherently inaccuracy from the impedance measurement.  I'm not too concerned about either of these numbers, but it is fun to track them.

Some other random stuff:
1. I've made Nuun Energy my "vice" before workouts as a subsititute where I would potentially have a caffeine gel for a pick-me-up.
2. Trying to drink as much water as I can and adding salt to what I eat (there is some reason for this - can't remember).
3. Adding an occasional probiotic drink - figure can't hurt
4. Replaced my normal craft beer following dinner with fancy water.  Like mentioned earlier, not cutting beer completely.  Wine is also not a bad option.
5. When I buy foods, I buy foods that have more fat than carbs, no sugar added, and don't really pay attention to protein (getting enough just by eating whole foods high in fat).
6. If I have time in the morning, Lyndsey and I watch youtube videos about LCHF. Think there is some psychological benefit to starting out the day thinking about it.

My latest speed workout from Wednesday was a VO2Max 6x1k and "easily" hit my Jack Daniels VDOT numbers (5:53/mile pace).  I was surprised as I had biked there, did the workout, biked home, and didn't feel hungry - I ate a fat bomb when I got home for the heck of it.

So what's on tap for the coming weeks?  High Cliff Half Ironman will be an excellent "feel" test (I don't consider myself a triathlete and only have one other half to compare to, so may have to be qualitative). Reminder that I need to source some Generation UCAN (for another post).  Also doing "BulletProof" coffee this week for the heck of it - figured it would at least be fun to try with the "Brain Octane" and expensive coffee.  And finally, I may breakdown and buy some blood-test strips to measure ketone levels - I already have running-friend volunteers for the control group.

If you've read this far, wow, I'm impressed.  Thanks and let me know what you think!

**I didn't reference any sources where applicable - figured since this is small audience and people wouldn't take offense.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Boston - Sub 3 Achieved

Arguably the greatest thing about Boston is that you can spend hours and hours discussing race “strategy” with running pals, friends, or random people on the street.  One of the worst things about running Boston is that you can spend hours and hours discussing race “strategy”.

Regardless, going into Boston, I felt very confident.  Last year, I muscled out a one minute PR 3:02 on minimal, dedicated training.  This year, I had signed up for, and mostly stuck to, the full Fleet Feet Boston365 training program.  I also supplemented this with sport-specific and general lifting plan that was created by Amber Leonard Thome.  From the speedworkouts and Barrington long runs, I knew that the coveted 3 hour barrier was within grasp.

You probably haven’t yet heard enough about Boston race strategy, so I’ll go over mine…for the 100th time.  Intentionally positive split – that is the plan.  Last year, I followed this by chance, and I knew it would work for me again.  Take the fast miles while they’re easy and give a little back when it gets harder.  The theory is very similar to those “take-a-penny” dishes at the grocery store that I never use since I always pay with credit card.  In the first half/16 miles of the race, you take a couple pennies every mile.  Then once you get into Newton, you give a couple back (but not more than what you’ve already taken…suckas!!!).  I even conditionally formatted a paceband by elevation delta for where I should be taking and giving time.

Race weekend, Lyndsey and I get out to Boston with rockstar friends, the Crockers.  On Friday, we eat some lobster, drink some delicious Harpoon beer and swing by the Adidas party.  This whole while, I’m feeling kind of crappy with a sore throat (the week leading up was a little crazy with closing on a condo, work, packing, etc. – not sure if it was stress-induced or what).
Selfie Stick - #BaumsAndCrockersInBoston

Saturday:  wake-up, still kind of feeling like junk.  Watch Lyndsey, Lacey, and TJ (PR) crush the 5k.  TJ and I run a shakeout 3-4 miles + strides followed by Fancy’s from Mike and Patty’s – the bomb!  Feel slightly better, but sore throat still there.  Watch the mile, do the expo, fried rice at Pho Basil (tradition), Red Sox game, Competitor party, bed.

Sunday:  wake-up, still feeling like junk…WTF!!!  Hit up the Cheers bar, Dave and I get fitted for suits (just normal prerace stuff), nap, late dinner, go to bed.
DMV, myself, and TJ
Monday – wake-up, don’t feel like junk…THANK GOD!!!  The weather was somewhat of a concern with wind, rain, and a little cool.  But whatever, it wasn’t 100F so that’s already a win.  Plus race photos look way more hardcore wearing singlets with arm warmers.  The Boston365 crew loads up and we roll in style to Hopkinton.  Sascha, Eduardo and I scope out Athletes Village and I pocket some nutrition as my best effort to recoup some of the entry fee.  Back on the bus it starts to rain a little, but then stops before we get off the bus.  I also managed to get Mark and Drew to hold their legs vertical in the air so I didn’t look like a fool being the only one.  Just about an hour to the gun, we start the walk to the start with our extra-oxygenated legs.

Despite us running very similar speeds, the competition at Boston splits you into corrals by very small margins of time, so I was all alone in my coral waiting to go.

Finally, it’s go-time and I tear off down the steep slope on the lefthand side.  I needed 6:51 miles for 3:00 and intended to run 5-10 sec quicker for the first half, which would bring me through in 1:28-1:29. First mile, I keep watching my lap pace (I probably looked at my watch in excess of 100 times during the race – not incessantly, but controlled monitoring I swear).  It’s in the 6:30 range…maybe a little faster, but my legs feel GOOD!  After the training build-up and taper, they are ready to go.  I split the first mile at 6:44…perfect.

Then I let them run a little on the lovely downhill – 6:35, 6:36, 6:37.  “No sense in hitting the brakes,” I told myself.  Here’s where people might say, “oh, you went too fast!”, I say “garbage – running downhill 16 seconds “faster” than race pace is practically the same as running race pace on the flat”.  Boom, logic!  When I crossed the 5k mark, I did wonder what people tracking must be thinking – TJ later confirmed that Lyndsey was super nervous about that quick split.

The first four miles are similar to a dark roast cup of coffee in the morning.  You savor the richness, holding it with both hands, just kind of numb to the surroundings, but secretly knowing it won’t last all day.  Then, it's off to work!  6:44, 6:43, 6:50, 6:48, 6:44.  Should also note that I cracked open my first gel (sample size) at mile 3, then another at mile 8 – stomach was feeling fine and I was grabbing a little water at every single aid station.  Somewhere in here it starts raining.  At first it was real light and even refreshing.  6:50, 6:47.  Now it’s coming down pretty significantly and I let go my anger at the guy who spilled a full cup of Gatorade on my right shoe miles earlier (he obviously didn’t appreciate the pristine condition of my vintage shoes - n00b).
I spot a blue Fleet Feet singlet ahead and keep squinting to try to figure out who it is.  I recall Dan mentioning that a Matt had joined the team and I assume it must be him.  I creep alongside him (he has earphones in) and I yell “Matt!” – confirmed, it’s him.  He pulls out an earbud and we chat for the next couple of miles.  6:44, 6:49 – coming through the half ~1:28, right on the bottom of the planned range.  Somewhere in here Matt drops back a little bit and I’m thankful to have had some company for those miles.

6:47, 6:50  I had swapped the order of my gel schedule and took my caffeine gel a little earlier.  In a marathon, I try to go as long as I can on regular gels and then use the caffeine as a little boost, but no concerns with taking it a little early.  Through mile 15-16, I am dead focused on spotting the #1 fan crew.  I had told them, I’d be on the right, but I was still passing quite a few people, so I kept running center-left.  Mile 16 goes by 6:45.  I’m now scanning the right side very hard, so much so that I need to keep reminding myself to keep my foot on the gas and not slow my pace down.  Finally I hear the giant cowbells ringing and spot TJ’s green jacket.  Their yells boost me up and I blaze off again for some hills.
Lyndsey all bundled up - difficult to spot, easy to hear
6:53, 6:59, 6:47  I don’t get too caught up in the hype of the hills.  I totally get how this part could destroy you, but any mile at this point in any marathon could also do the same.  There’s some theory that people enjoy being able to connect dots and tell a simplistic story.  The Newton hills fit that perfectly in my opinion.  “Oh man, I was having such a great race, but then it was the hills that did me in.  Never mind the fact that I hadn’t been fueling like I should have, or was running far beyond my means earlier…it was definitely the hills.”  The other mental trick that I use is to compare these hills to the hills at the Birkie – those hills at the Birkie will make any runner cry.

6:57 for mile 20 and I look at my fancy paceband for the first time all day.  I do some oxygen-constrained math and figure out I could run X/mile and still finish sub 3.  Coming up heartbreak, I take slightly shorter strides and am passing more people than are passing me…win. I’m a little extra cautious not to redline and split mile 21 at 7:01.  The "7" stings a little as if I would have been paying better attention, I would have totally hit the lap button 2 seconds earlier!

Still feeling ok and have some downhill ahead.  Have to force the nutrition down, but it's staying down. I'm thinking about all the mile pennies that I've acquired and I’m taking more until the tray is empty!  “Take more, give less!” scrolls through my head - not something you’d tell your kid to do, but totally appropriate for racing.  6:38, 6:51, 6:44

Approaching mile 25, I’m on the lookout for the fan crew again.  I hear Corinne first with a "Go Eric" and then a little later the all-familiar, distinct voices of Lyndsey and Lacey. On both, I'm not quick enough to lock in a visual, so I lift a hand in acknowledgement.  6:51

Across the Citgo sign and one to go, I look at my watch for some more mental math. 2:51:15 – dang it, why couldn’t it end in :45 so I can coast in at a 7:00 mile.  No, instead I now need to run another 6:45 to break the :00 and avoid a painful single digit second time (the worst kind of time in running regardless of what the minute is).
Kenmore Square - 1 to go!
My quads have now been feeling like they have needles jammed in them for some time – it’s the same exact feeling you get during the marathon in an Ironman.  I marvel at how efficiently the Boston course can achieve the same kind of leg sensation in 2 hours that takes 8 hours in an Ironman. I make the final turn and my eyes are glued to my Garmin 920 - with about 100 to go, I realize it's going to be very close to 2:58:00 so I gun it at sub 6:00 pace and dodge around all those guys holding their arms up soaking in the glory. Official time of 2:57:55 - less than a minute shy of a free suit wager that I had going with DMV - no worries though, the showdown will happen in Chicago.

A race recap, wouldn’t be complete without some cadence analysis.  I would have liked to include vertical oscillation and ground contact time, but I foregoed the sensor and accompanying data for weight savings. As you can clearly see from the cadence graph, I ran a fairly optimal race.  The slight variation in dots can be attributed to the rain and wind, which likely cost a few seconds.  The graph also shows that I have a little left to take after a summer of training and 2:55 at Chicago should be my next target.
Cadence Analysis
Finally, a word of thanks to Lyndsey - my biggest supporter, Dave - biggest competitor, Lacey and TJ - awesome travel buddies, the Cheetahbacks - LNL, Dan - his no-nonsense running advice and inspirational blog 2-something, Fleet Feet Boston365 Coaching, and all the friends and family who were live-tracking! And a tribute to Tom Ebertowski who passed away the morning of the race after 16 months courageously battling brain cancer - this race was for him and his loved ones.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tape(r)ing for Boston

Onto the two week countdown to Boston and it's time to start tape(r)ing!  This has by far been my most intense marathon build-up of all time.  I'll share details another time of why I believe that was possible, but this post will focus on what I call tape(r)ing.

For last year, I had paced Carmel Marathon the week prior to Boston and needed all the help I could get.  This is how I developed what is now known in the sports physiology community as "taper(r)ing". Related, but different, this NPR article about compression has gotten a lot of attention in the running community.  While compression is garbage and does not work at all, tape(r)ing (if done correctly) absolutely works.  This quote can be adopted for tape(r)ing and is an indicator of why it may also work for you:

Two men who did show improvements while wearing the compression sleeves were the ones who believed the garments aided in training, racing and recovery.

Tape(r)ing works because I believe it works!  All that downhill in Boston can really tear up the quads - everyone says that!  That may be true...if you're not wearing KT Tape.  The best part of tape(r)ing is it starts today and lasts through the end of the marathon.  Whereas normal "tapering" only lasts until the start of the marathon.  That's almost an extra 3 hours (2.5 hrs if you're in coral 1)!!!

Quads still intact last year thanks to tape(r)ing!
Recommended Tape(r)ing Routine:
Two weeks prior to goal race: 1 piece of tape on quad and calf (50% stretch) - wear for 3-5 days
Morning of race: 2 pieces of tape on quads in a "V" pattern,  1 piece of tape on calf (both 50% stretch)

It is likely that tape(r)ring will cost you about the same as your raceday nutrition.  Fortunately, the US economy is on the rise and you may be able to afford both.  However, if you're on a tight budget having already spent your last dollar on the plane ticket and VIP hotel accommodations, one solution is to not purchase raceday nutrition and use what's provided on course.  This will entail a lot of Gatorade consumption as the only gel location is at mile 17.  Still well worth the extra 3% of performance from the tape though.  KT Tape PRO is more expensive, but a must for optimum performance.

During the race, if you ever start to doubt the effectiveness of tape(r)ing, simply think of this - Kerri Walsh (two-time olympic gold medalist) uses it!  If it's good enough for her, it better be good enough for you!

Have a great tape(r)!

***Disclaimer: I am in no way endorsed by KT Tape.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Guest Post: Nutrition 101

Thought it would be worth returning to the blog with some advice from a highly regarded exercise scientist and product manager.  Here's Lyndsey's update on sports nutrition from her recent visit to The Running Event:

Hey Friends-

I just returned from a trip to The Running Event in Austin, Texas. This run-centered event sponsored by Formula 4 Media, is a great place to connect with the running giants like Nike, Saucony and Asics as well as meet and discover smaller brands like Huma Gel, SKRATCH labs and Addaday. I don't want to sound like a total sales person, but I know you guys are some of the fittest people I know and want to know about "what's hot" on the market, so I'm here to tell you!

I was and have been pretty excited about a few nutrition brands out there over the past year that have done pretty well in our store and have also resonated with Eric and myself and a bunch of our friends. As someone who tries pretty hard not to eat all the crappy processed junk out there, it was pretty difficult over the past first few years of running to find something that worked for me and wasn't filled with junk. Sure Clif products are "organic", but what's all that other stuff in there? Hint: for cyclists out there check out what Clif has in store for 2015>

What do you think?

Another real food based brand, HoneyStinger, is on to something with the honey based (albeit too sweet) gels and chews. Two years ago I couldn't keep down a gel during my long runs (it felt like I was getting punched in the stomach!), so I switched to Honey Stinger chews  - which worked, until you had to carry a bajillion of them during a marathon because I need to have 3-4 (or approx 100cals) every 30 minutes during a long race otherwise I just tank.

This past year, we discovered Huma Gel. Ian, the founder of Huma was in the Army Iraq when he became sick and tired of the traditional gels out there. Taking what the Taraumara (Born to Run) used - chia - and making it more modern, he developed the product and the brand. They just released 4 new flavors (caffeinated!) this fall. The brand has been very popular in the store - and they only have gels - no bars, chews or drink mixes. They may be a little expensive, but they are worth it if you're looking for a real-food alternative. I really love strawberry, lemonade and mango. Eric likes blueberry.

Second, I really connected with the founder of SKRATCH labs, Allen. He has a background in exercise phys and cycling. You can read more about him here: . Watch the videos on the bottom to learn more - super interesting dude.

I've found this hydration product to be another great alternative to traditional products provided on course. We all sweat so much while running that we NEED electrolytes and some calories. The products are made with real dried fruit and real sugars. Allen has also co-authored The Feed Zone Cookbook and Feed Zone Portables. These books are awesome for athletes because they are easy to make meals with real food. 

Anyway, I just thought I'd share some thoughts and insights with you as you begin to shape up your racing schedule for 2015 or even want to start on your New Years resolutions early.

Many of these brands even offer Ambassador Programs (where the swag you up to promote the product!). I can get you the names of more brands that offer this type of program if you're interested. I would also encourage you guys to sign up to be wear testers for brands. Eric, for example, will be testing a Nike vest over the next few weeks that will likely be in their Fall 2016 collection!

All for now,

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Abroad - #EricInHK

I'm very fortunate to have some extensive work travel to our Hong Kong offices, so I thought I'd share some of my experiences outside of the working days.  "Work travel" is certainly a double-edged sword - on the positive side, you get to travel; on the negative side, you have to travel.

September in HK isn't necessarily the ideal weather that I had on my January trip (coincidently the same time as Chiberia), but it can be easily made into a fun game that I like call "Try not to need a shower before getting work."  The rules are simple, but to win, it takes strategy and execution.  (Basically you decide between taking the subway, which involves a little more walking, but less waiting.  Or you gamble, with taking the bus that involves less walking, but you must time it precisely or risk broiling in the sun...and the AC is less powerful.)

Looks like the October trip will be a bit milder (September was mid-90s and high, high humidity):

While on the topic of weather, I was able to experience a Typhoon!  Yes, I was quite excited about this (it's similar to anticipating a snow-day).  I was surprised by how cavalier everyone was when it was anticipated to only be a Level 3.  But then word came that it'd be hoisted to Level 8 and the city shut down.  We stayed in the hotel and watched the wind and rain.  The next morning, we had to wait to go into work until it was lowered.  Boom, all of a sudden everything is business as usual again.

Tracking Typhon Kalmaegi:

While HK is a very active city, it's not necessarily as convenient for am running on the streets when compared to the Chicago LFT.  For this reason, most of my runs were done on the treadmill before work.
Typical 3 mile treadmill before work:
Note that the cadence sensor is not calibrated because I use the 220 also for biking (no multi-sport mode)
However, hiking is very popular on the weekends.  When I initially thought of Hong Kong, "city, skyscraper, urban" came to mind, but really, I should have also been thinking, "mountains, trees, landscape".  A colleague and his wife played tour-guides and we hiked the popular Dragon's Back Trail, which just amazes me that you can get to within 45 min. of the city all with public transportation:

I also took advantage of Strava's Segment Explorer function to find some popular running routes.  Happy Valley horse race course caught my eye, and on a later trip with more favorable weather, I may place my bid for the CR:

Time to wrap this blog up for now, but I also need to give a shout out for my Manduka eKO travel matt from Fleet Feet Sports - Chicago, the Yogify app, and the Trigger Point Grid mini-roller.

Also on Instagram or Twitter, follow @EricVBaum #EricInHK for pics from October's trip!

And for great travel advice specific to Hong Kong's public transportation, follow #HKSubwayWarningOfTheDay :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Take Your Spectating to the Next Level

This post was inspired by today's activities - I had the honor of watching my wife, Lyndsey, complete her first Olympic Triathlon*.  While I often partake in racing, it's quite rare that I spectate.  The last tri that I spectated was Ironman 2010 when my friend, Dave, completed the distance.

Let's consider this an "advanced" course in spectating.  Hopefully you've already watched a couple 5k's or other events that are under 90 minutes and have a base to work off of.  First let's review the goals of spectating:
1. Most importantly, be there to support and add value to your athlete.
2. See your athlete as many times as possible.
3. Capture candid photos of your athlete.
4. Keep the social media world up to date of your athletes location and how awesome of a spectator you are.

1. Add value to your athlete!  This can come in a number of different ways.  Just by being present at the event may be enough.  It's possible that Lyndsey didn't want to ride the "el" downtown this morning at 3:30 am alone.  Boom - easy win, wake up early and go along.
3:30 am on the el platform - silently taking note of Lyndsey's #: 2137
Or you may get appointed with the much desirable role of the mule.  What is a mule, you ask?  Simply, you carry the athlete's odds and ends.  Sometimes, this is as simple as a chapstick.  If it approaches Blue Seventy T2 bag, I suggest that you try to direct this into the bagcheck area as it will slow you down from reaching your other goals.

Offer subtle reminders leading up to the event. "Do your tires have air in them?"  "Did you put bodyglide on your neck by the wetsuit zipper?"  "I will see you at X location after you finish."

Add value to your athlete supersedes all of the other goals!  If seeing them every 100 yards is possible, but only annoys them, you are not winning as a spectator.  The points just don't work like that.

2.  Now we're getting into the finer areas of the spectating profession.  To see your athlete as many times as possible, you need to do some homework leading up to the event.  Study and print the course maps to take with you.
Often times you can find good maps at the expo.  This case, I had to print my own.
It also helps to do some analysis on past results - I calculated the median past finishing times of Lyndsey's age group and printed with the top finishers time.  I forecasted that Lyndsey would be near the median on the swim and quicker than the median on the bike and run.  If you have time, you can also create various histograms to refine expectations on your athlete:
Histogram Example - Credit to Mark Scheitler
Your athlete may also have some good insight on their expectations.  Try to encourage them to give you a range rather than a discrete value. i.e. if you're feeling great, your time will be X; or if you're having a bad day, your time will be Y?

Now that you as a spectator are ready for race day, what are you going to wear for "your" big day?!  Choose items that are easily recognizable by the athlete.  Team apparel is also encouraged.  For the ChiTri, I went with the FF Racing Red shirt (a classic).  I could have used a brighter hat though.  Communicate what you are wearing to the athlete.  Chances are that they may see you before you see them.  KNOW WHAT YOUR ATHLETE IS WEARING - you already know that though as you're not a spectating n00b.
Our apparel for the event
I often get questions from readers about choosing spectating locations.  My advice to them is to strategically look for areas that minimize the distance you travel between sightings, while maximizing the distance that the athlete has to travel.  Today, on the bike leg, I was able to see Lyndsey 3 times by moving less than 1 mile , while she was turning the crank for 10 miles.  This put the Spectator to Athlete Per Sighting Distance Ratio to 3.3.  For biking, try to target ratios greater than 3; and for running, try to hit numbers greater than 2.

Are you ready to get technical?  The ChiTri run course follows the south lakefront path.  While this out and back approach lowers the SAPSDR, it provides an interesting opportunity for spectators who are aided by a bike and GPS watch.  If anyone tells you they already knew this method, they are lying - I invented this myself this morning.  Set up your watch so that it displays "lap distance", "lap time", and "lap pace".  Whenever your athlete passes you, hit the lap button, reassemble yourself, and ride on a parallel path to "leapfrog" your athlete.  The goal is to leapfrog your athlete with enough spare time to prepare yourself (pull out camera, etc.) while you are stationary before they again overtake you.
Here I have travelled .7 miles since last seeing Lyndsey.  I know that her pace is ~8min/mile, so I have already leapfrogged her.  Since I am now stationary, she will arrive when my lap pace increases to ~8 min/mile (or 30 seconds from now).

3. Now that you've tracked down your athlete, you need some candid photos to prove your success.  I am not yet an expert in this area.  We own a Nikon D3100, but since I was also playing the role of mule and flying solo, I opted to stick with my iPhone 5S.  Point and shoot - that's about all I got for you here folks.
A nervous smile in the start corral
Whoops - I incorrectly forecasted Lyndsey's swim time and she saw me first!
Attacking right out of T1!

This shot can be used later on to analyze form and improve speed.

I had to run a few paces to grab this shot, but boy was it worth it!
4. Social Media - many of Lyndsey's friends and family were not able to make it into town to spectate.  With the global environment that we live in, you may also experience this.  As a spectator, it's your responsibility to keep these friends and family members up to date with live information.  Again, I have some work to do here.  I started off strong as I had some time to kill while Lyndsey was in the water and the first leg of the bike.  But as my sightings increased, it became increasingly difficult to keep the tweets going out.

I like to use Instagram for photos and Twitter for status updates (both handles are @ericvbaum).  I could have also benefited from using a hashtag for the morning such as #LynzChiTri to provide better transparency to those following along.  Here is an example of me getting called out for slowing down on the updates:
Normally, I would try to focus my efforts on Instagram and Twitter that communicates to the entire Lyndsey Fan Club, but for my mother-in-law, direct messaging is a valid exception to that rule.
More of the Lyndsey Fan Club - live updates also help others spectating on the course!

That wraps up this post, thanks for reading!  What are some of your Pro Spectating Tips?

*Did you know that "Olympic" distance is set in stone as 1.5k, 40k, 10k, but "International" can vary from course to course (usually approximately the "Olympic" distance, but anything greater than a "Sprint").