Thursday, November 20, 2008

Video Tour of Upcoming JFK 50

This Saturday marks the 45th running of the JFK 50 Mile race in Maryland, a grand enough occasion for Runner's World to produce a really nice six minute video on the event, which covers its history, route, and general ethos. If you don't know much about the race, like me, it's a great primer. Speedster and current 50 mile national trail champ, Michael Wardian, took the event last year in a very quick 5:50 (6:59/mile). He, as well as 2007 women's winner, Anne Lundblad, aren't on the starter's list for 2008, presumably resting ahead of the big money North Face Endurance Challenge Championships Dec 6.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What's in Store for 2009 Race to Robie Creek Registration?

Update: (2-2-09) Registration officially set for February 16, 2009 at high noon (post).

With online registration meltdowns two years running for Boise's popular trail half marathon, Race to Robie Creek (previous posts), anxious athletes are beginning to wonder what's in store for the 2009 event. Pitched as the "toughest half marathon in the Northwest," Robie Creek frustrated thousands of would-be runners in both 2007 and 2008 when the servers at melted down under huge traffic volume. The tie-ups last year were particularly frustrating since race directors had been told by that the problems of the previous year wouldn't resurface. They did, of course, which finally prompted directors to vow that 2009 would feature revamped registration procedures.

The race website isn't yet revealing what the new process is going to be. It could be a lottery, the M.O. for a number of popular trail races these days. Most likely, it'll remain a first come, first served online registration, should an appropriate site be chosen to host the huge volume, like If things track this way, expect the race to fill in a matter minutes.

Registration is looking to be on or around Presidents Day (February 16, 2009) for the April 18 event. More to come as details develop.

(Photo by A.K. Photography used under Creative Commons)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Boost Your Glycogen Stores with a Caffeine Boost? Seems So

If you're like me, and I'm not really sure how many of you there are out there, one of my favorite pleasures following a really long run is a well crafted, high-octane quad latte. And while I've often felt these were wonderful dabbles in excess that did nothing more than reveal my frailties as an athlete -- why else would I need such an energy boost except that I can't handle the distance? -- it turns out they may be exactly what my body needs.

A small but compelling study that came out this summer (and that I read about recently in a column by Monique Ryan in VeloNews) found that a big bolus of caffeine after glycogen-draining exercise can significantly increase the rate at which glycogen stores are restocked in the hours after exercise. Basically, it seems that caffeine can keep the machinery of glucose uptake into muscles well greased over time in the trained athlete.

The study took seven cyclists and had them ride until exhaustion on two separate occasions, about ten days apart. On one of the occasions, they were given standard recovery foods (bars, sports drinks, gels) along with caffeine. On the other occasion, they were just given the foods -- no caffeine. Muscle biopsies afterward revealed that after four hours, the athletes in the caffeine group packed away about a third more glycogen than those in the no-caffeine group. On top of this, the athletes on caffeine had the highest rate of glycogen synthesis ever reported under free-living conditions.

Anyone looking at back-to-back big runs should stand up, take note, and possibly invest in a nice espresso maker.

The one stopper to all of this is the level of caffeine the athletes took in. It was pretty big -- about 560 mg for a 155 pound athlete -- but not extraordinary. A "tall" 12 ounce Starbucks drip has 260 mg. Get a refill and you're pretty much there. How about that quad (four espresso shot) latte? Pretty close, depending on the mix of beans. A Starbucks quad would only be about 300 mg, but some blends can deliver more than two and half times that.

Of course, every athlete's different and caveat, caveat, caveat, but at a minimum, if you enjoy a little caffeine rush after those long runs, it seems there's one more good reason to keep up with it. Cheers.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Drop Bag: How Much Sodium is in Those Gels, Bars, and Pills?

Water, calories, and salt form the grand triumvirate of ultrarunning nutrition. Go off-program with any one of them, and you can forget that PR and may even have to hitch a ride home in the old broom wagon.

This past season, I really tried to focus on my salt consumption and thought it'd be interesting to collapse the sodium content of some common nutrition products into a single chart to get a sense of where things fell (see below). For the savvy runner, there are aren't too many surprises here. Hammer products remains typically low in sodium. Power Gels are the sodium king in their category. And chicken broth/bouillon blows the top off of everything. One real surprise, though, is the newest formulation from Gatorade Endurance, which packs a whopping 400 mg of sodium in a 100 calories serving, easily beating out the other sports drinks in that category.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Drop Bag: PB & J vs. Turkey & Avocado

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich gained a little extra cache' this summer when neo-legend Kyle Skaggs made his sub-24 hour assault at Hardrock powered almost exclusively by gels and PB & Js. Knowing that certain sandwiches have their devotees, I wondered just how the PB & J stacked up from a nutrition standpoint with that other ultra-sandwich mainstay, turkey and avocado.

So with calculator and pad in hand, I hopped on over to the USDA nutrient data base and pieced together on-the-go versions of the two sandwiches. Neither was overstuffed. The PB & J had two tablespoons of peanut butter and one tablespoon of jelly. The turkey and avo had a 1/4 cup avocado, about 2 1/2 ounces turkey (75 grams) and a dash of mayonnaise (1/3 tablespoon).

Not too surprisingly, the two sandwiches stack up pretty well (see table below). Calories, fat, and sodium are basically the same. Where they mainly differ is in the protein and carbs. The turkey and avo has more protein and fewer carbs than the PB & J. The PB & J has more carbs and less protein.

So if you're looking for a decent amount of protein with a great carb boost, the PB & J is a good choice. If you want a bolus of protein with some pretty good carbs, turkey and avo may be the thing. Clearly, one of the most important factors is simply which sandwich sounds good to you at the time, and whichever it is it'll have some good fuel to get you to the finishing line.

(Creative Commons photo by iirraa)