Thursday, March 31, 2011


Before taking on the Phoenix Rock-n-Roll Marathon in January, I wrote an entry on nutrition where I outlined my initial strategy for staying hydrated and full of energy during the race. All in all I was pleased with the plan and never felt that I was approaching the energy wall during the race. However, as with any plan, there was always room for improvement and modification.

The first change that I made even before the January marathon was an elimination of the Sports Beans. As my preparatory long runs showed, the cane sugar from the Sports Beans just did not mix well with engineered sugars present within the Hammer Nutrition products that have become the centerpoint of my nutrition strategies.

The second modification came after I managed a face full of Perpetuem mix. I had mixed up an energy gel that was just to viscous for the spout valve on my FuelBelt squeeze bottles. As such, I've lightened up the mixture for each bottle in an effort to make it really easy to draw down during the run.

During the marathon, I only carried bottles of energy mix and relied upon the race staff to hand me cups of water along the way for hydration. For the 40for40, I'm taking a different approach. I will always keep one energy bottle and one hydration bottle in my FuelBelt. To keep myself flush with energy product and hydration, I've hired a motorcycle escort who will be ready with additional RaceBelt bottles as I need them. My goal will be one energy bottle per hour and as many hydration bottles as I need not to be thirsty.

The composition of the energy bottles is fairly simple. The first step is to put approximately 80 cc of Perpetuem powder in an 8-oz FuelBelt squeeze bottle. Perpetuem recommends 1-1/2 53cc-scoops per hour for someone in my weight class (approximately 72kg). Perpetuem is carbohydrate energy source with protein and fat and is engineered for longer duration events where the body might begin leaching muscle to make up the body's energy requirements. I tried several flavor varieties, but ultimately settled on Strawberry Vanilla. I've used it on at least two dozen runs so far and have never been unhappy to take a slurp. There are some varieties that include 25 or 50mg of caffeine per serving for those super-ultra distances, but I'm quite content to pass up the caffeine for this 40-miler.

On top of the Perpetuem powder, I drop in 6 each 0.625-cc scoops of Endurolytes. The Endurolytes are pure electrolytes and intended to counteract the loss of the same to perspiration. Hammer Nutrition recommends up to 6 scoops per hour during activities during high-heat, high-sweat activities, but as you'll see in my caloric analysis, I'll only be going through one of these bottles every hour and a half.  And with expectations of temperate weather of no more than 20 - 25 degree-C temperatures in Napa, I don't think I'll need to go to the limit. I'll be sure to have some additional capsules in my side pouch in the case that I get behind.

My plan is to give my motorcycle escort eight bottles with powder only. My escort will be able to mix the fluid during the run and hand me the energy bottles as needed. If all goes well, I'll only use six of the bottles during the event. The fluid to be mixed on top of the powder includes both gel and water. The gel is Hammer Gel. I use a little more than a double dose with 60 cc of vanilla flavored Hammer Gel. This gel is nearly pure carbohydrate with no simple sugars and no artificial sweeteners. On my 8-oz Fuel Belt bottle, this should bring me up to the 5-oz line.

From the 5-oz line up to the 8-oz line, is pure water. With approximately 1.5 servings of Perpetuem and about 2.2 servings of Hammer Gel, this energy bottle is will serve me up just about 400 calories, assuming a little bit of loss in the bottle.  Now the real challenge is - how many to drink and how often.  My first thought was to look at my training results and based on 40 miles, I can expect to burn somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 calories during my run - so you might expect that I'd have to run through 10 or more of these energy flasks.  Well after some research, I found that this just wasn't true.

I looked through some of the excellent Hammer Nutrition articles and found some very detailed scientific information that answered my questions.  In the most informative article on the topic by the Hammer scientists, they propose that the body's ability to use the fuel is limited to between 4 and 4.6 calories per minute or about 250 calories per hour.  If I consume more than 250 calories per hour, that food is only going to move down the GI tract and when it gets below the absorption areas, I'm either stopping or extra weight will be riding in places where I'd rather not carry them.  So the question is - if I am going to finish in less than 6 hours and I only am going to take in 250 calories per hour, how can I sustain a drain of 4,000 to 6,000 calories with only 1,500 calories of intake.  The answer is fat storage.  According to Hammer, I have a reserve of 100,000 calories or more just waiting inside to come forth and go beyond the calories that I take in through my energy flasks.  The real key is to make sure those calories come from the fat stores and not from catabolized muscle tissue.  I protect against catabolism with a solid intake of protein and that is where the Perpetuem shines.

So in summary, I'm planning to run through one of my energy flasks every 90 minutes and should I really just feel compelled to fill my stomach for some reason, I'll bring along some handy dandy Hammer Bars.  But who knows what my stomach is going to want at Mile 35.  That's just part of the fun.
With my energy sources settled, the next question is hydration.  Out of everything I've read and experienced, the key thing on the H2O is definitely not to force it.  Drinking too much water can really be a problem, so I'm going to drink when I'm thirsty, sipping from a flask on my Fuel Belt.

As the days and weeks wear thin and I'm looking at only seven days to go, my mind has moved into the taper.  I'm running shorter distances, stretching for longer periods of time and trying to refine my diet for a few short days as I make my final preparations.  Currently, I'm focusing on Fish and Chicken for my protein intake sources outside of my normal training aids.  And for carbohydrates, I'm working more and more Sweet Potatoes and Oatmeal into the diet on a percentage basis as the race approaches.  I've dropped nearly all spices and I'm really trying to avoid citrus juices or any other acidic fluids or intakes

As for my fiber intake, I'm not doing as much as I would normally do, but when I do it, I'm focusing on insoluble fibers.  These insoluble fibers don't break down quite as easily in the GI tract as pointed out in a really great article on the website.  Carrots, beets, and cauliflower all made sense to me as low gas but fibrous vegetables, but I was surprised to see brussel sprouts and cabbage on the list of veggies that are high in the insoluble fibers.  Bananas and avocados also rate well on the scale as do whole wheat products and long grain brown rice.  I've actually enjoyed the challenge of finding ways to make my carbo loading diet taste good and look appealing.  And while I can't seem to get my co-workers interested in my sweet potato oatmeal for breakfast and lunch, I'm convinced that it will be a pre-race week staple for years to come.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shot Day

Spring is a good reminder for our family about allergies. Each one of us has our own cross to bear as the trees bud and the grasses rise up from the once wintered landscape. It is an especially tough time for Zachary. Airborne allergens drop his immunities, asthma sets in and before you know it, we are battling bronchitis or worse. And so spring is a battle against allergens so we stay ahead and we live healthy. For Zachary, the inspiration behind 40for40, two things have made huge impacts in his battle for health over the last two years -- swim team and shot day.

Northern Virginia is like no other place I've been when it comes to swimming. The summer brings warmth to our region and as the school year ends, hundreds of pools are active with competitors from pre-K to young adult stroking their way through practices, preparing for Saturday competitions in one of the 18 divisions in the Northern Virginia Swim League. For Zachary, the competition is greater than a race for ribbons and medals. Every stroke and every lap means extra lung capacity to keep the immunities up and the oxygen levels high in his blood stream. The awards that he will get this summer and the summers to come with our team, the Division 1 Tuckahoe Tigers, really is just icing on the cake.

The benefits of swimming are palpable and obvious. Since 2009, we have had a barometer with which to measure the progress. Every week, we head to our oasis in Bethesda, the Institute for Asthma and Allergy to visit our friends and get a booster shot against airborne allergens. Before every shot, Zach blows into a peak-flow meter to check his lung capacity. Prior to joining the swim team, 120 liters per minute was a high end reading. After daily swim practices began, Zachary popped up to a 175 l/min and has been 150+ ever since.

As for shot day, the only downside is a little bit of pain in each arm. But the benefits are many and go well beyond the emergency room trips that we have avoided. For Zach and for me, the benefits include a special trip that he and I take together each week. This week, Zachary is hard at play, creating a new scene amidst the palms and sands of his pirate island, while I reflect on the progress he is making. It really is a special time for us - an early rise, a bowl of cereal, some good tunes in the car and general camaraderie to start our day. No one likes a shot, but this shot really brings us together. At least one of us is happy that today is shot day.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Grand Plans

The date of April 8th is well within sight now and plans are underway for a really fun event. Thanks to my friend and co-worker Susie Staiko, we have found a great company in San Francisco that is dedicated to ensuring that events such as 40for40 go off without a hitch - Cappa & Graham.

Cappa & Graham is a member of what is referred to as the DMC Network - Destination Management Companies. DMC companies got their start before rollerboards and overhead bins, in the days when travelers went on long holidays by coach, by train, and by boat. Without the convenience of today's amenities, travelers would take huge travel chests along with them and often would return home bringing their purchased prizes big and small. As they would land at ports or arrive at stations, the local DMC would do the heavy lifting so that the travel chests would arrive safely at the hotel and the ladies and gentlemen could concentrate on the more important tasks of taking in the local culture and flashing a bit of social pomp in their wake.

Now while we don't expect any large travel chests from our 40for40 guests, we do intend to organize an event that will be memorable in experience and flawless in execution, while achieving our overarching goal to raise awareness for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. Cappa & Graham has really helped us put this together.

Since the site of the run is the Napa and Sonoma valleys in California, the fruit of the local farmers' labor will play a central roll in the activities for our guests. While I am working up a sweat on the open road, our guests will enjoy a private tour of two local wineries that are coordinated with the route. First stop is the beautiful Chateau at Domaine Carneros perched atop the ridge separating Napa from Sonoma. After enjoying some sparkling wine and local cheeses, our team will depart to Norther Sonoma for a pairing extravaganza featuring the wines and hospitality of the Mayo Family Winery.

As the course is laid out, Mayo is next to mile 38 and if I have trained well enough and am keeping to the schedule, our wine aficionados will get to great me as I turn home toward the final stop at Benziger Family Winery. It won't be an easy task as the last mile climbs up from the quaint town of Glen Ellen up almost 200 meters on the same road that Jack London himself traveled in years past. While I am on my way, our team will be able to take a tour of the Benziger vineyards and the beautiful gardens that are the centerpiece to their organic growing techniques.

Benziger won't just be the site for the finish line. Our group will return that evening for a private dinner in the caves at Benziger, featuring the produce of local chefs and the local vintner as well. With any luck we will have a little energy left in the tank to enjoy the luxurious surroundings of Fairmont's Sonoma Mission Inn that evening.

Thanks again to Josiline and her team. We are looking forward to April 8th. It should be a memorable event.