Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cooking with 4 Feet Running (except there's no cooking involved)


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Hey, everyone. Dan here. I've been promising people on Twitter for a while that I was going to blog about some recipes Nik & I have been making: homemade gels and drinks. But I'd been reluctant to share the recipes because I wanted to know for certain that they tasted all right and they worked. I don't want to be responsible for screwing up your run! I can't have that on my conscience! 

We've been using homebrew stuff for a few weeks now, using different flavors and combinations, and we're pretty confident that we've come up with some good recipes and ideas, so I'm here to post some of them. Use them any way you like -- change them, improve them, love them, hug them, ignore them.

First, a little history, and an explanation of why we did this: This all started because Nik is allergic to nuts and stuff with nut byproducts in it. She also can't eat wheat or too many carbs, so that means most energy bars are out. We used to use Hammer Nutrition gels on the run. Once upon a time, they had a note on the website assuring you that their products were nut-free. Not anymore. We don't know why. Probably because it's extremely difficult to be legally 100%-cover-your-ass certain, given the cross-contamination that's common in food production factories. So she's avoiding Hammer gels, just in case. She also used to use Clif Shot Bloks. They're chewy, delicious, easy to use. But after a couple of long runs with those, she noticed a tightness in her throat that felt eerily similar to the kind of tightness she gets from nut allergies. On their website, they say they can't guarantee their products are nut-free, either.

She figured there's got to be a better way -- if she made stuff herself, she would know exactly what's in it, right? So she decided to start making her own drinks and gels. (She also made some dried fruit and fruit-rollups in a food dehydrator. We'll talk about those in a future post.)

At this same time, I was listening to an episode of the Running From the Reaper podcast, and Nigel described making his own homebrew electrolyte drink. I started thinking it would be great for me to try out this homemade stuff as well -- I'm not allergic to anything, but I've been low on Hammer gel and HEED, and anyone who's ordered products from Hammer knows that shipping time is ridiculously slow. I've never gotten a shipment from them in less than 2 weeks. I hate Gatorade because it makes me burp. And I was intrigued by the idea that we could make running fuel that was much, much cheaper. So I started making stuff too. I'm indebted to Nigel for his recipe, and I'll include it below.

We had two criteria when making stuff:
  • No exotic ingredients. Use stuff we already have in our fridge.
  • No expensive ingredients. Either it's cheap or it's not worth it.
Here's what we came up with. The basic recipes include possible substitutions. Enjoy, and as always, if you're unsure about using them, do your own research before trying these out. They work for us, but be sure they work for you.

(makes 20 oz)

• 1/4 cup of orange juice
• 1/8 to 1/4 tsp (or less) of salt
• 2 tbsp of sugar or honey
• 2 tbsp of lemon or lime juice
• water

Put 1/4 cup of water in a microwave-safe cup and add salt and sugar/honey. Microwave it for a few seconds, just enough heat so the salt and sugar crystals melt. Pour the mixture into your running bottle. Add the orange juice, lemon/lime juice. Fill up the rest of your bottle with cold water, shake to mix.

Notes and substitutions:

  • I say "(or less)" because you can tweak these amounts to suit your taste and needs. If you generally sweat a lot and need to replace a lot of electrolytes on a run, like I do, add a flat 1/4 tsp of salt. If you tend not to need as much electrolytes, like Nik, add 1/8 tsp. If you don't want as much sugar, undercut that.
  • I've also tried this drink using limeade, iced green tea, or orange/banana/strawberry juice. They all taste great. The O/B/S juice blend has a much less acidic flavor than straight-up OJ, and the green tea is nicely sweet and dry. Note: I used powdered iced green tea mix, which contains a lot of sugar, so you'll probably want to cut down on the extra sugar you add.
  • If you try the limeade or iced green tea, be warned that those flavors alone do not contain potassium, so you'll need to add some. Potassium helps prevent muscle cramping, and I found that I got abdominal stitches if I had a drink without it. Use those juices but add a splash of orange juice (the flavors blend nicely together) to get in your potassium, or have a banana just before your run if you're not going very far. 
  • The lemon and lime juice is in there for an extra kick of flavor. If you don't like it, or don't have any in your house, it's not necessary. Or just cut it down.



(Makes 16 oz)

• 1 tsp sugar
• pinch of salt
• orange juice
• water

Nigel says he takes his 16 oz. bottle, fills it with half OJ and the other half with water. He adds the sugar and salt, mixes it, and it's ready to go. The key difference between this drink and the one above: since he's using more OJ it's got less sugar, because OJ has sugar in it naturally of course. There's a trade-off there. It's also got a stronger orange flavor (duh), so if you really like the taste of OJ, give this one a go sometime too.



• honey (1 tbsp = 60 calories)
• orange juice (2 oz = 30 calories)
• touch of molasses
• pinch of salt
• Total: 90 calories

This makes an energy gel with the same calorie count as one packet of gel. It's got electrolytes like sodium and potassium too, which is nice. Take a running gel flask (usually 4 or 5 oz), and, using a funnel, add a tablespoon of honey. Drop in a touch of molasses, about l/4 tsp or less. Add a pinch of salt, about 1/8 tsp. Add orange juice to help mix the ingredients and for flavor (2 oz is two lines' worth on a gel flask).

You will probably need to adjust this based on how long you're going, your pace, and your needs.

To calculate the proportions of stuff for you: Use a calculator like this one to figure out about how many servings of gel you'll need on a long run, based on your average pace and weight. Then use the formula of 60 cal. of honey + 15 cal. of OJ to make up your flask. You can add more OJ or less, more honey or less, whatever you like. It takes some math at first, but once you get your proportions set for typical long runs, it'll be easy.

An example: Nik knows she needs about 90 calories per hour on a run. She's going for about 2 hours. She'll need 180 calories of gel.

  • 2 tbsp of honey = 120 calories
  • 4 oz of orange juice = 60 calories
  • Total = 180 calories
She could've done just 3 tbsp of honey (60 cals. x 3 tbsp. = 180 calories), but the OJ makes it come out of the flask easier and gives it a nice flavor and some potassium. The molasses adds more potassium to prevent muscle cramping and acts with the salt as a concentrated electrolyte drink. She sips it throughout the run every 2.5 miles, rather than having a packet of gel that dumps a load of sugar into her system all at once.

Another example: I'm going for a run that should take me an hour and a half. I usually take about 1 Hammer gel packet on this kind of run, which is 90 calories.
  • 1 tbsp of honey = 60 calories
  • 2 oz of orange juice = 30 calories
  • Total = 90 calories. 
You can tweak it more based on how you feel. Like, the one gel packet may not be enough. I may need about 110 calories for an hour's worth of running. Since I'm going for more than that, I may want just a little more than just one "packet's" worth. I'll add 2 oz. more juice for 60 calories there, plus 60 calories of honey = 120 calories of gel, or enough to keep me fueled up for over an hour.

Make sense?

We hope these recipes help you. If you have suggestions for improvement, let us know!

Some resources:
• Nancy Clark's homemade sports drink recipe (the electrolyte drink is also heavily indebted to this recipe too)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

54:40 or fight

Hello everyone. Dan here. It's been a while since I've written here last, but let's catch up, shall we?

Nik's doing great -- for now, she's been on a "run whatever I feel like running" running plan, which I can totally get behind. She just started a marathon training plan and is trying out some new options for fueling on the go. I'm planning on writing more about that soon.

As for me, I ran today. It was a speedwork day, and after looking through my running logs for a while, checking the old splits, I realized today I ran my fastest mile yet at 10:39.

Go ahead -- sneer if you must! That's fast for me! I'm a big guy still! Plus I'm lazy! Really lazy! And it was hot out, too.

Since the last half-marathon I ran in early May, I've been fed up with running longer distances in half-marathon training. It's not the distance that gets to me -- it's how damn long it takes.  My usual pace had been nestled comfortably in the bosom of mid-12-minute-miles for a while. I can log decent mileage at that speed, but I spend what seems like the best part of a day out there once you factor in all the prep, the running itself, the logging, and the post-run staring-into-space.

When I come home after an extra long day at the office, the weather sucks, I haven't eaten in hours, and I know I've got a 7-miler ahead of me that will take me just under an hour and a half, it's a pain in the ass -- I can kiss every free minute left in the day goodbye.  I'm a man with many interests that need attention! My Facebook restaurant can't run itself, pal.

After the NJ half, Nik and I decided I wouldn't run any more half-marathons this year. I've proven I can be out there in motion for almost 3 hours, or in the case of the New Jersey half, 3 hours. Instead, I've come up with a schedule of much shorter races to see me through the end of the year -- a bunch of 5Ks, at least one 8K, a 5-miler, and a 10K or two. I even bought myself a copy of Pete Pfitzinger's "Road Racing for Serious Runners" and used it to build myself a nice 5K plan with lots of speedwork built in. Yes, I read a running book. I'm not all the way through it yet, so don't quiz me. I'm getting there, I'm getting there. What, you want a book report? I'm not on trial here!

Go here to see the details of my 5K plan. It's 12 weeks long and takes you up to 21 miles a week.

I'm 4 weeks in, as of this writing. Has it been working? As I said before, I ran my fastest mile ever and didn't even notice it until later. The other week I ran a 5K road race in Berkley (a few towns over) and got a PR -- 33:24, so a 10:44 pace. That's the fastest I've ever run without falling downhill. I'm also now mostly out of the 12s and into the 11 minute-mile range pretty comfortably. With any luck and a little less beer I'm hoping to settle into the 10s somewhere -- anywhere -- this year.

Here's my schedule of races for the rest of the year. These are the ones I've already signed up for, anyway -- there are at least one other 5K, 8K, and 10K nearby I can do, and I may sign up closer to the dates.

  • Next Sunday: Day of Portugal 5K, New Bedford: I haven't decided whether or not I'll run this one in my luchador mask. We'll see if (a) it's too hot to run 3 miles in a wrestling mask and (b) if I know anybody running, in which case I'll leave the mask at home, thank you very much. People I know think I'm weird enough as it is...
  • July 3: Mattapoisett Road Race, the Poi: I've run this race before. Last time I ran it I was still running in 13-minute-mile territory. We'll see how I do this time. Plus, I'll get to run with John From The Poi, which is always a treat.
  • July 4: Harvard Pilgrim 10K, Foxboro: This will be my first 10K race in over a year. I've run easily faster than my 10K race PR in training, so I'm hoping I can do that again. It should be a great race -- you end up in the endzone at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots play. I hate football, but what the hell. 
  • Oct. 9: ING Hartford 5K, Hartford: It's not the prettiest course, but it allows me an opportunity to try for a course PR. I ran this in 2009 and did pretty well -- we'll see how far I've come in a year.
  • Nov. 20: Rothman Institute 8K, Philadelphia: I've never run an 8K race before. It's practically 5 miles, but not quite. Isn't that interesting? It isn't? I'm going anyway. I've made a personal time goal for this race: 54:40. That's just under an 11-minute mile. My goals are modest. It's 54:40 or fight! Reacquaint yourself with American history if that doesn't ring a bell. Gordon will get it...
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