Sunday, November 21, 2010

Running Stuff, part #1: Hydration Belts

One of the things I like about running (vs say, biking) is the minimal amount of gear you have to have. 

But that said, everybody likes to spend money on their hobby 8). Part of the fun is figuring out exactly what you want to make your experience more enjoyable. By sharing my decision making process perhaps I can help you optimize yours.

Therefore, over the next few weeks, I'm going to discuss all the gear I've purchased and how it's worked out.

Let's start with hydration belts.

Early into my first marathon training (this was BB, before blogging), I was just starting to do long-ish runs (10 miles +).  Up until that point I had didn't have any way to carry water or food with me and knew I was going to need a hydration belt of some kind.

After heading over to Zombie Runner and checked out some of the products they carry. As always the staff there is helpful (and lots of running skill abounds). I chose an "Ultimate Direction" product:

This is a dual bottle belt...I figured I could always just leave one bottle home if I wanted to carry less weight. The belt has a center compartment shown better here:

This model has the smallest center compartment..they have many models with larger size center compartments (for hikers and ultramarthoners) but basically the same layout.

Here you can also see why I chose this brand: the bottles have unusual spigots...they are rubber and can extend or retract. (I've shown one out and one in) You can pull it out with your teeth holding the bottle in one hand. No matter how rough the running there is no banging of your teeth since the rubber is very soft.

There is a small slot at the end of the red rubber part that keeps the water in but when you suck on the bottle while squeezing you get plenty of fluid (although my wife finds them too stiff to squeeze easily).

I find carrying two bottles (they are 20oz each I think) is sufficient if the temps are low (50-60F), If the temps are higher, then I need to make sure I do a route with a refill spot on the way.

I should also mention that my strategy for marathon hydration is to always avoid the supplied Powerade, Cytomax, etc and drink only water and carry my own GU packs for calories and electrolytes. The reason I do this is that every race chooses a different drink and some of them are quite foul.  

 I train for this of course: I always take water and my GUs ..refilling mid-run, only water is needed. In addition, in hot weather, I can squirt my water bottle onto my head or chest....Cytomax would be a bit sticky for that ;)

(NB: They'll be another article about why my choices for GU and other foods to eat with the water)

One last thing to note about the bottles...I've deployed the 'keeper strap' around the left bottle. This is mostly used when you are not wearing the belt (i.e tossing it into your trunk) and the bottles are keeps them from falling out. During the run you flip them up and off the bottles and since they are upright they don't fall out, even during trail running etc.

Ok, continuing, the belt has two identical side compartments, shown here:

fits GUs just perfectly
The side pockets aren't huge, but can hold enough gels/chomps for 4 hour runs+. I like the fact that the belt overall is wide and the clips are beefy...the weight is distributed nicely. In fact, it  feels like it holds your back in place better than with no belt...kinda like a weight lifter's belt. I really have no problems running with it (other than lugging more weight).

The extra belt length you don't need can be wrapped up and there's a small elastic loop on the belt that holds it together thusly:


For short runs, I always like to carry my cell phone and house keys, and I got tired of the former banging around in my shorts (either back pocket or side pocket....) And keeping keys with the cell phone isn't a good idea unless they are seperated. So I got this at a running expo:

It's very slim, padded a bit and fits in the small of your back with the buckle in front. It actually has a little pockets inside which can keep your keys off your phone, or you can just schooch the keys to one side, phone on the other. I put my phone in a ziploc bag during a race where I might dump water on myself for cooling.

If your shirt is not tucked in this thing out of sight you can look svelte and unencumbered. It can actually fit more stuff than I carry but it will start to bulge a bit. 

When you need to get your phone, you can just spin the whole belt around pretty easily (so the pouch is in front) and zip it open.


The last purchase was for marathon races ...there you get plenty of access to water, but I need to carry my own gels, etc (as well as cell phone, ID, money, salt tablets, ibprofen, glasses cleaner, etc).

What I really wanted was just a belt with a couple of pouches so I could carry things, but I ended up with this:

It's another Ultima product, but a single bottle. The main compartment is not that big..very slim. I've added two kinds of amphipod pouches to the belt, a longer one:

And a shorter one:

These pouches give me much more volume and can slide around on the belt (which is nice actually).

I got the single bottle model because I also sometimes thought I would like to stage my gel-taking when there doesn't happen to be a water stop.

In practice I've decided to just deal with waiting until the existing water stops..usually there are tons of them. 

And, the other problem is that the bottle pouch on this model really grabs the bottle too hard (to keep it from falling out since it's on an angle). This really takes TWO hands to get the thing out and in: left hand around back holding bottom of pouch down and right hand around back pulling out the bottle.

It's not fun to run with two hands behind your back. In fact during the late phases of my PR marathon run at SF my left leg would go into mild spasms every time I reached around behind messed up my stride that much.

So, I'll probably get some webbing and buckles at REI, move the amphipods over and have my marathon belt as originally planned. (I also can carry my small camera this way too as I did during the Long Beach Marathon)

I still do use this single bottle belt for runs from 8-13 miles where the dual belt is too much...but it's really just a nice-to-have.

There you have it!.... that's the scoop on my hydration belts.

Any questions [8-) ?


A light week this week, 20 miles of easy running and some cross training Sunday.

(Taking it easy on my left ITB and legs in general).

Today for the first time I tried rowing.... vigorously for 10 minutes to see if I like it ..and it was fun!  It's another cross exercise (besides biking) that gives the regular running muscles a break.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Double Nickel Thoughts....

Tuesday was my 55th birthday.  In the morning I ran 5.5 miles in 55 minutes for fun. 

Toni then treated me to another great b'day:  seeing animals in the wilds of Sonoma visiting Safari West (not quite as good as Kenya but a lot easier to get to!), then giving me a lot of great gifts and finally having a great dinner in Yountville at "Redd". The grape vines were all showing great fall color this year, too! As an extra bonus we stopped off at the De Young Museum on the way home and saw the incredible impressionist exhibit.
Duh..should I ram jeep?

Now it's time I was thinking about  some new goals for my favorite hobby 8).

When I started running in March of 2007,  my goals were to just lose weight, eat better and change my lifestyle habits....I've done that.

I also wanted to first race was in May 2007, and I ran 7.567 miles (the Bay2Breakers) at an average pace of 12:23 min/mile.  It was rough...I was still heavy and I probably risked breaking something.

In some ways this was a great time...improvements were huge from month to month as the pounds came off and the fitness grew. It was easy to go faster and faster.

I've come a long way since then. A little over a full year later, I ran my first half marathon and in March of 2009 I ran my first full marathon. 

This was a full two years of weight loss and then continued running before I felt I was ready..I was careful and took my time and had a great first marathon. 

The racing is fun, for sure 8)

But what's next? Improvements now are smaller and  require careful peaking...and the risk of injury is higher the faster we go.

But hey, I'm in a new age group now and so the obvious question is "Do you want to run Boston?".  

Alas, it's pretty darn tough. Even at my new age, the qualifying time is 3:45. Currently my PR is 4:06.  This is a heck of a gap in pace. I've done 5 marathons now and sped up from 4:25 to 4:06. I still feel like each one is an experiment.

But it might be possible. If I lost more weight (get BMI down to 20 from 22) , trained perfectly, picked a great downhill course, I *might* be just able to do it. 

In fact, the running calculators say that with my half marathon time of 1:51:26, I should be able to run a 3:50 marathon..except..the marathon is a very different bird. I've got stride degradation problems (which lead to poor running economy) slowing me down from that pace quite a bit. Perhaps I'll figure out something to prevent that...I'm working on it.

But just look what happened this year: All the people that qualified got on the internet on the day registration opened and it was full  in only *8 hours*. They all have to qualify again to try for next year.

So, frankly, Boston just doesn't excite me that much. Sure, I'd love to run it, but I don't really want to risk injuries that might keep me from running for a long stretch.

Right now I'd rather age my way into qualifying. If I can learn how to do <4:00 marathons and then keep that ability for 5 years, that time will qualiify me at age 60. (Assuming they don't mess with the qualifying times).

That's not to say I don't want to improve my marathon times as much as I can. I think I'm pretty close to figuring out how to break 4:00, given that my 4:06 was running on a pretty hilly course (SF). 

So sub-4 is still a reasonable goal and maybe a bit better than that. And we have a some room to improve our shorter distances too, of course.

What else?

Trail runs/ultras have me interested. (That's way I have the skyline-to-the-sea 50k on my schedule). I like the idea of running far more than running fast I guess. 

I still get a kick out of seeing the GPS saying we're 26 miles from home when we're driving back from San Francisco  and thinking to myself: "Jeeze, this is really far from home, but I could run home from here".


Tomorrow back on the roads for 8 miles, easy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I Like Hike.

Last week I made the prophetic statement: "some pretty intense running this week...I feel pushed to the limit of how much i can absorb".

As it happened I should have listened to myself, instead I pushed myself too hard. On Tuesday I did my 4x800 Yasso repeats at 3:50 each and I could really feel it in my legs on the trot back home. My left ITB was not happy.

So the next day I did cross training, but I did 15 minutes of intense stairmastering and that tired out all the other muscles in my legs that weren't already tired.

THEN, just to finish the job, we had three successive evenings of cooking for friends, which involved being on my feet for a few hours at a stretch. Fun but left my legs feeling like they'd run a marathon.

The combination of all that meant that on Saturday, after my 5-ish mile slow recovery run I was wiped out during the day. Today, (Sunday) I was supposed to do a 13 mile run but bagged that and shifted (at Toni's suggestion) to a wonderful hike on Russian Ridge.

Toni on Borel Hill (2500' above the bay)
That was a good idea 8).

Underfed Coyote
We had perfect weather and it really helped loosen up the tired legs. 

Once again we learn the hard way to LISTEN UP when your body is trying to tell you something rather than just pushing ahead with a fixed schedule.

I don't think I have "over-training syndrome" or anything so fancy, I think i just beat up on my leg muscles too much. My HR is not higher than normal, in fact I recorded a new low for resting HR of 46 sitting at my desk this week.

I really have to remember that hard running has to be done in moderation, especially when I'm also increasing mileage!

No running tomorrow and then an easy 5 on Tuesday. After that we'll see.

In other news, you'll notice a new entry called  "ZombieRunner bay trail marathon" to my upcoming races list. I'm so excited to run this race because it takes place on my favorite trails over in the baylands. It's also cheap ($60) and small like a lot of trail runs.

You may wonder why i have so many marathons stacked up on my list. Reason: I've decided to see what it's like running a marathon every 4 to 6 weeks. 

Mind you, I plan to run most of these marathons SLOWLY, not all-out...think more like a slightly longer sunday run. This idea seems to work for a lot of recreational marathoners, many of then much older than I am, so I thought I'd try it. I suspect I'll run them at about 10:00 min/mile for flat ones, slower for hilly ones. 

One side benefit of that is it will give me a lot more experience actually running races so that it becomes less of a big deal. It will also get me used to the idea of running a race without expecting to try to PR every single time: this not a realistic way to think. 

And, I get to harvest more fun from my hobby 8)

N.B: The stupid company that took the Long Beach photos finally came through with my photos, here's my favorite (a cropped version is now my profile photo). I like it when they can catch me in the air.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Weekly Recap

13 weeks to surf city
37.5 miles for the week, up from about 30 last week.

Normally this would be considered too much of an increase for one week (i.e. more than 10%), but that applies to people building up for the first time or after a long hiatus ...or at least I hope so ;)

However, there was some pretty intense running this week...I feel pushed to the limit of how much i can absorb.

Tues: Hills. The 6.2 miles included 4 x .25 mile hill sprints that were killer. ....kind of over did it and was feeling it in my lower quads and with niggles in various other places for several days after.  

I've been very remiss not doing hill training and all the books recommend it. I  do feel I need more strength (i.e. muscle fibers) to have a bit more of reserve for the last 6 miles of a race. So, I'm doing these once every two  weeks, but I will take them a bit easier next time until I get used to them.

Wed: Recovery. After the hills kept it slow and easy.. 10:30 pace. It's hard to keep up a proper form going so soon as I try to keep my stride rate high I end up speeding up. (or my stride length gets crazy-short)

Thursday: Medium long run 9.6miles,  with tempo. Got onto the Paly Track at about mile 6 and did two miles at about 8:05-8:15, which is between my 10k and HM pace. Felt really good at that point, I was feeling really crappy for the first 6 and thought I would bag the tempo altogether but after eating a GU I perked right up.

Friday: Cross train. Did 15 minutes of light spinning on a recumbent bike to help loosen up the legs from the previous three days and then a full set of upper body free weights.

For the weekend, I had planned 5-8 easy on Saturday, 18 on Sunday. However, the forecast called for rain on Sunday (and here it is as I write this), so up at 6:30 am on Saturday morning to get the 18 in. 

Started slow and easy...couldn't even see the watch in the dark (the clock change will help with that next weekend) and gradually knocked the average pace down to 9:56 or so by mile 13. Held to that, and then sped up the last 3 miles or so  and dropped the average down to 9:45-ish.

My quads were pretty tired during that run but I really concentrated on form and a high stride rate. Not a bad run considering all the hard running earlier in the week.

Sunday... a rest day.


Next week's plan:

Note: easy = 9:45 -10:00 pace, recovery = 10:30-11:00 pace, MP (marathon pace) = 9:00
  • Monday:  5 easy
  • Tuesday:  2 miles warm up, Yasso's on the track 4x800@3:50 each + HR cool down, then 2 miles cool down
  • Wednesday: 5 easy or recovery pace
  • Thursday: 10 easy with 2-3 miles at tempo in the middle
  • Friday: rest
  • Sat: 8 easy
  • Sun: 13 at MP

Total about 43

Friday, November 05, 2010

Dr. Sunshine

Recently  a very good friend was diagnosed with a chronic vitamin D deficiency. She had been extremely fatigued and had a fever, neck pain, you-name-it, so she finally went to the doctor and he figured it out. We were getting really worried there.

UPDATE: our friend feels so much better after 4 days of 2000IU. She also found out her neighbor was diagnosed with a D deficiency....also somebody that gets no sun and took no supplements.

UPDATE2: Turns out my sister and brother in law (live in vermont, don't get much sun) BOTH got put on 1000-2000 IU per day by their doctors a few months ago!

Coincidentally, I opened up Science News magazine this week and the back page interview is with Michael Holick, aka "Dr Sunshine", he was being interviewed about his new book "The Vitamin D solution".

I've been seeing more and more articles about the importance of vitamin D. In the last 10 years.... a lot of studies have found out that it's way more important than just preventing rickets. 

All these events conspired to make me blog about it.
This isn't just another vitamin fad (in fact D really turned out to be a hormone precursor). Tellingly, the most common ordered assay by doctors in the USA right now is for vitamin D deficiency.

Some study examples: 

  • 1200 UI per day reduced risk of children getting the flu by 50%
  •  women who ingest more than 400 IU of vitamin D a day reduce their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by as much as 42%.
  • postmenopausal women taking D over 4 years reduced the risk of cancer by 60 percent.

Humans evolved in sunlight, and our forbears were making ton's of D every day. Our body has adapted to that's estimated that upwards of 2000 genes are directly or indirectly regulated by D.

Luckily, for us runners (at least in sunny climes)  we get out there and have sun shining on us doesn't take too many minutes to get 1000s of units.

What about skin cancer? ..I put sunscreen on face, neck and arms and wear a hat when running..any places where it would be difficult to remove a carcinoma. 

But the legs have a lot of area and it's easy to remove a carcinoma from them (compared to say, your ear!). So let the legs be your D absorbers.  Even the legs should get sunscreen before any sunburn've gotten plently of D before then.

When I turned  50, my Dr recommended that I take a vitamin and mineral suppliment (body isn't as efficient at getting it out of food..better safe than sorry) , and that gives me 400 IU a day beyond what my legs make and I get from fortified milk.
Dr Sunshine recommends at least 400-1000 per day for children and 1500 to 2000 for adults.

Anyway, check it out. If you live in a dark winter clime you probably need more vitamin D that you are getting (especially if you are dark skinned). The downsides of a vitamin D deficiency develop subtly over time and masquerade  like a lot of other be aware!


Looking forward to the long run this weekend...probably 18 miles or so at 10:00/mile.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Le Problème Avoirdupois, deuxième partie

WARNING: even though it's not Halloween, this material may be scary.

In part one, I talked about how a lot of runners, including myself are running to stay trim and still eat all the stuff we like...and I shared my own story of growing blimpy-ness and redemption through running.

But now I'm going to share some data from the National Runners Heath Study. (All of these graphs and information can be found over here.  This study looked at about 8000 runners aged 18 to 49. (Why did they stop so YOUNG? Insulting little zygotes...stuff 'em back in the eggs I say.)

There are some interesting statistics. First, we have this graph:

You can see that the more miles per week you run, the less your weight. Obviously somebody that runs 50 miles per week burns a lot of calories. But, of course it could be that only skinny people can survive running that much or want to run that much. Hard to say. But look at this next graph:
Firstly, before you have a heart attack, I should correct the left axis label, clearly it's labeled 'inches' and should be 'centimeters'. God forbid we have a 7000 runners tromping around with 88 inch waists! Yikes! Somebody tried to "metricate" the graph (in a spasm of guilt no doubt) and failed miserably.

But to the can see for each set of lines (grouped by weekly mileage) that the waistline increases with age. 

Ouch. How bad is it? I quote from the study:

"The average rate of weight gain was the same in men running less than ten miles per week and those exceeding forty, about 3.3 pounds and about 3/4 inches around the waist per decade in a 6' man."


"Statistically, it appears that age-related weight gain and exercise-induced weight loss are independent, additive effects. Middle-aged runners are leaner than more sedentary men not because the processes that promote age-related weight gain are abated, but rather because exercise-induced weight loss offsets weight gain during middle age."

So there you go. If you hold your mileage constant (your calorie burn) you will STILL gain weight as you age. Sooo, that begs the question, "How much more do I need to run to keep this from happening?"


"Running distance needs to increase annually, by 1.4 miles per week in order to compensate for the expected increase in waist circumference between ages 20 and 50."

 [UPDATE: These numbers are fishy. 3.3lbs per decade is 10 lbs gain from 20 to 50. This is about 33000 calories of excess over 10 years which is 520 weeks, therefore about 65 excess calories a week. That is about .65 of a mile more running required per week. Where do they get 1.4 miles?. Hmm. Perhaps this study isn't so good after all 8( ]

This means when I'm 75 I'll need to run another 28 miles a week beyond my yearly average now? Clearly exercise becomes more and more important as you get older and your metabolism (or whatever the reason) causes you to get bigger. 

But that much mileage increase  isn't going to fly...or even crawl...I think we'll have to cut back the eating. Darnit!

Of course exercise is good for us in so many other ways than weight loss. In fact, other research shows its much more important to exercise and be overweight than vice versa. But it would have been nice to see running turn off that middle age spreading thing.
Told you it was scary. 

Maybe the data after age 50 shows something better? We can hope!