Monday, July 21, 2014

Simple Hydration Water Bottle Review

This is a partial follow-up to my recent Hot Weather Running Tips post:

As a Houston runner who trains year round I have been looking for a better hydration solution than the constrictive FuelBelt, or hand-held water bottles which hinder the natural running motion. I then tried Simple Hydration's water bottle after seeing its positive reviews on Amazon, and am glad I did as I love it!

Its unique feature is that it rests on your running short's rear waistband, and nestles between it and the small of your back, thereby requiring no supplemental belt and leaving your hands fully free. As its 14 Oz. total weight is near the body's center of gravity it is barely perceivable, feels comfortable, and you can rest easy as it is BPA free and is top shelf dishwasher safe.

In summer months I like to freeze my water bottle before my runs. With the Simple Hydration bottle it nicely cools the small of my back while gradually thawing its contents, providing a wonderful cold drink of water which lasts me perfectly on my typical mid-week six mile training runs. If similarly used with ice versus water I recommend: 1) Not filling the bottle fully with water before inserting into the freezer the night before to accommodate the expansion of ice and prevent possible damage to the bottle; 2) Placing a thin sock around the bottle to protect the skin while providing insulation to keep the water cool longer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Newton Kismet Review

Over the past three weeks I've run extensively in Newton's latest Kismet stability running shoe. This includes over thirteen mile training runs on Houston's hard concrete roads, and five six mile runs on the hard steel surface of a cruise ship. As a long-time fan of Newton shoes I really like these too!

One oft-heard comment with first time Newton runners is the favorable impact on their running speed, attributed to the Action-Reaction technology lugs incorporated into the sole, roughly under the metatarsals. In prior Newton shoes the presence of these lugs were typically immediately apparent while walking, as the walker notices to a greater extent the lugs' height.  However, Newton's Kismet shoes incorporate tapered lugs, so the shoe is more comfortable while walking and is therefore more versatile and comfortable.

My intuition about the effect of Newton's tapered versus standard lugs is that a bit less energy recovery results, and this may result in a slightly slower running speed.  This impression is reinforced from Newton's own marketing material which uniquely includes the word "fast" in reference to the POP 1 design of the Motion and Gravity, and not the POP 2 design of the new Kismet or Fate.  However, any running speed reduction of the Kismet versus the Motion, if present, is insignificant.

As a major advantage for first time Newton buyers the low $129 MSRP of the Kismet will hopefully encourage more runners to give them a try.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hot Weather Running


I have been asked to participate in a forthcoming Runners Round Table podcast on hot weather running, and feel myself to be well prepared owing to having run for over fourteen years in hot and humid Houston. With the caveat that I am not a physician, and am simply sharing my personal experiences, the following are my related thoughts.

Heat acclamation helps, but it is no panacea:

The heat-acclimated runner quickly produces large volumes of sweat upon the initiation of exertion in hot conditions. This quick and voluminous sweat response results from the body's prior training in similar conditions, and the resulting trained response provides essential cooling through the typically highly efficient heat transfer mechanism called evaporation. However, under high humidity the effectiveness of evaporation is severely diminished, and as such the runner quickly becomes at risk of overheating due to their rising core temperature.

Repeated stimulation and use the sweat glands allows them to become much more effective at minimizing the losses of critical and life-sustaining sodium and potassium electrolytes. Though a heat acclimated runner's sweat is therefore less salty than a non heat-trained runner's, a dangerous low blood salt condition called hyponatramia is a serious risk for all runners. This risk is heightened amongst relatively new marathoners who are often unwisely instructed to "drink even if you're not thirsty and at every aid station" so dilute their body's electrolytes by excessive fluid consumption, compounded by inadequate heat acclimation resulting in greater electrolyte losses through their sweat.

Personally, while running in hot and humid conditions over ten miles in length I supplement my body's electrolyte stores by taking Succeed S!Cap (a buffered sodium and potassium capsule) approximately every 30 minutes. As it is important to take the capsule with fluids I align the supplement's timing based on Gatoraid or water availability. Conversely, for shorter mid-week runs I drink only water and do not take any electrolyte supplements, though do incorporate additional salt into my diet based on taste.

Humidity is the silent killer:

While for most Americans the absolute temperature is the primary determinant of whether the outside conditions are perceived as hot, for experienced hot weather runners they look first at dew-point. Why?

As noted previously the reason is that our bodies reject heat primarily through sweating. An interesting fact is that human beings have more sweat glands then any other mammal, and it is generally believed that this physiological attribute provided our distant ancestors a survival advantage. Again, when the dew point is high, the resulting high humidity renders sweating as a cooling mechanism largely ineffectual.

Nevertheless, there are solutions available that allow us to continue running, with due caution:
  1. Slow down!  Pace yourself for the hot conditions, and not for the cooler conditions which most of us remember our ideal pace to be. In this regard slavish obedience to one's target pace set on our Garmin Forerunner or GPS-integrated smart phone App can quickly lead a runner into heat problems, simply by running at a too fast target pace that is not adjusted for the conditions. Personally, though a cool weather low 8 minute per mile runner, under hot and humid conditions I routinely run between a 9:30 and 10 minute mile pace.
  2. Negative Split!  As a dutiful follower of Kenyan Way's Coach Sean Wade, I follow his prime negative split mantra, i.e. to run the second half of every race and training run faster than the first half. Doing so, especially in hot conditions, provides its greatest physiological and race-tactical benefits.
  3. Listen to your body and only drink to thirst!  Nevertheless be aware of your sweat rate per mile run, and how this varies based on weather conditions. Towards this end I suggest maintaining a log of your hot weather runs, capturing temperature, dew-point, wind speed, the amount of sun, and finally your weight (without shoes) at the beginning and end of each run. By doing so you can easily determine how many ounces that you had sweat per mile run via your measured weight difference (in pounds) multiplied by 16 then divided by the number of miles run. As I always drink only to my thirst I have never returned from a run weighing more than I had at its beginning (an indication of potential hyponatramia.) In the rare event that my weight loss is greater than 2-3% of my pre-run weight (an indication of dehydration) I realize that I simply hadn't had access to sufficient fluids to fully quench my thirst.
  4. Stop for for cold fluids roughly every two miles.  Running with the Kenyan Way group this is easy, as the coach supplies us ice cold drinks every two miles. On your own self-made runs I suggest immediately beforehand pre-deploying along your route frozen bottles of Gatorade, or carrying a frozen drink whose contents are thawed while simultaneously cooling your hands.
  5. Run at the coolest time of the day, dawn.  Not only will the early morning cool conditions make your run easier, but from a health perspective you will breathe far less potentially lung damaging ozone and particulates. Runners are typically unaware of their lungs' vulnerability to ozone damage, which results from the massive volumes of ambient air respired.  As ozone is typically found in the highest concentrations in the late afternoon, which results from the effect of UV radiation upon ozone precursors in the atmosphere, this is one more reason to run in the early morning.  Besides being the coolest time of day, the vehicular traffic is lowest as well.
  6. Dress cool!  I once conducted an experiment on myself on a hot and humid day in which I ran the outbound half of a training run wearing a thin singlet running shirt while monitoring my pace and heart rate. I then removed my shirt and ran bare chested back to the starting point, while running at such a pace as to hold my heart rate at the same approximate level as it had been beating during the outbound leg. Afterward, the benefit of dressing cool was obvious as the return leg's pace was at least 15 seconds per mile faster!
  7. Run on a shady path with maximum exposure to wind.  If necessarily exposed to the sun, periodically reapply a broad spectrum sunscreen and wear sunglasses with UV protection. Use extra caution at higher elevations.
  8. What to do when you get too hot nevertheless?  Find shade and place ice packs to the neck, fold of the elbows and behind the knees. This will cool the blood passing through the major arteries and veins, thus cooling the target organs. Don't force-feed cold water, instead, allow water to be slightly cool before drinking. Forced ice cold water can create the condition of shock.
______________________________
Good input to the article from a good friend, former assistant coach and long-time runner: 

I think point #3 is the most important to know your sweat rate.  I understand that every pint of sweat typically has 500 mgs of sodium therefore after loosing a few pints of sweat the sodium replacement becomes critical.  While an experienced runner may be secreting less sodium, as a rule of thumb I try for one Succeed S!Cap (330 mgs of sodium) per pint of water.  

Another suggestion is for longer runs if you carry a water bottle with an electrolyte drink (gatorade), spiking the fluid with a 1/4 teaspoon of sodium is a good way to get sodium in the body early and easily.  There has very little impact to the flavor of the gatorade by adding a little sodium.  I usually use a 1/4 teaspoon for a 20 oz bottle, so if the fuel belt is used then perhaps an 1/8  would be better.  By getting the sodium in the body early on a long run defers any sodium deficient problems.  

This affects people the most who perspire heavily.  Signs are those whose clothes are soaked before others, shoes get soggy wet and those who cramp.  Dizziness and cramps are signs of dehydration and when attempting to re-hydrate either on the run or after the run, sodium is a must either in pill form or food.  Salty but tasty foods - tomatoe based foods like pizza, red pasta sauce, salsa, store or restaurant made soups.  Potato chips are salty but not really healthy. 


Additional good input from a physician and friend:

The body functions best within a certain temp range 98.6+\- 1.4. As body temp rises the risk of organ failure increases. The body keeps cool primarily by evaporation conduction convection and radiation. When you exercise in hot temps the latter 3 are out and when it's too humid there's no vaporization gradient for sweat to evaporate so that becomes less effective. If you're "conditioned" you can tolerate the effects better but invariably you too will succumb to the heat. The risk is much higher in the first couple of weeks of training in the heat and any acclimatization is gone after only a few weeks of being back in a temperate environment. As you note running at dawn when humidity is less as is temp is safest. There's a reason why marathons are run mostly in 60-70 degree weather. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Meb Keflezighi, Boston Strong!!!

I was extraordinarily lucky in January to meet Meb Keflezghi at the Houston Marathon Expo, and to hear his heartfelt and inspirational personal story in overcoming unbelievable adversity.  A naturalized U.S. Citizen originally born in Eritrea he rewarded his adopted homeland by earning an Olympic Medal and winning the New York Marathon.  His sincerity and gratitude to the United States, his family, the community and to God touched me deeply.

As a long-time Boston Marathon fan, shocked in 2013 by the senseless acts on Boylston Street, I was delighted during this year's Boston Marathon to see Meb personify the "Boston Strong" spirit.  He courageously ran strongly from the beginning of the race, and never faltered.  By doing so he clinched for the United States the Boston Marathon win for the first time in over 30 years, and simultaneously rejuvenated the city's and the country's spirit.

With incredible gratitude we wish Meb our full and hearty congratulations!
Meb, crossing the finish line, just ten seconds ahead of the charging second place finisher!

Meb, tearing up during the award ceremony
Boston Strong!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Texas Independence Relay Race Report

For my sixth consecutive year I was again honored to run with team DOGs (Disciples of the Order of the Garmin) as we ran the 200 mile Texas Independence Relay.

We lined-up, as usual, in the historic small town of Gonzales, and were excited to be blessed with absolutely fantastic weather.


Along the way, we were treated with some beautiful sights. The bluebonnets, Texas' State Flower, were in full bloom and gorgeous.
 
The rural scenery was breathtaking (photo credit to Jamoosh.)

The DOGs got along fantastically. Our team of twelve had four substitutions in the preceding months resulting from injury or relocations, but the new DOGs fit in perfectly. Upon reaching the San Jacinto Monument finish, a short 29 hours and 27 minutes after we began, I was sorry to see the relay race end.  While we were happy to learn that we had finished second in the Mixed Masters' Division, 68th out of 149 teams, the real reward was running a fantastic weekend together. 

During the TIR I learned again that the human body is truly a mysterious and miraculous thing, as I ran the prologue one mile convinced that may very likely be my only mile based on the discomfort I was feeling in my calves which had become aggravated in the preceding few months.  To relax and to set realistic expectations I applied a bit of my talented sports massage therapist Connie's sage advice by cautioning my teammates of my condition.  They uniformly reassured me that I should only do what I could, and they'd pick-up the slack.  With faint hope I proceeded to extensively apply Tiger Balm, repeatedly self-massaging my calves with with "The Stick", and stretching preceding and after each run.  Miraculously, each of my succeeding four legs (8, 26, 32, and 38)  became easier, and afterward my calves had seemingly become rejuvenated as they felt fantastic - both immediately, and in the week afterward.

Newton Motion III Review (2014 Edition)

Newton Motions have always been my favorite all-around training and racing running shoe.  I've worn them in their prior two incarnations, and, as always, Newton’s Action/Reaction forefoot technology provides springy responsiveness owing to their unique lugs that line the bottom of the sole as shown on my recently arrived Newton Motion III's.

The big change in the Motion III's, and my favorite, is the added fifth lug.  This, combined with the Extended Medial Bridge (E.M.B) helps the sole of the shoe better align with the foot’s five metatarsal bones, and delivers more cushioning, greater responsiveness and a broader and more stable base.  Combined, the added lug and E.M.B. allows for a more balanced and efficient running gait. 

Newton's Motion III's also provides a new micro-suede overlay on the upper and 360-degree reflectivity for added safety.  Unchanged are the Motion III's 3mm drop from heel to toe, as the shoe's near-level platform encourages a more balanced and natural posture, an essential component to efficient running.

I found the transition to the new Motion III's versus my prior Motion II's to be seamless.  I just tried them on, and they felt great.  As a result of my confidence in Newton I wore them with essentially no transition (from my previously running in Motion II's) both on last weekend's Texas Independence Relay (~20 miles in four legs) and yesterday's 4 the Park 4 mile race, and they felt comfortable, stable and responsive.

Needless to say, I highly recommend these shoes, and encourage runners new to Newton to try them on at a specialty running store which allows you to get them on the road where they truly shine.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Bayou Classic 10K Race Report

This morning's Bayou Classic 10K was run under humid and windy conditions on a hilly Allen Parkway course. Still, it was a fun run and it was nice to see Chris and Tim at the start and Kim at the finish. The calves felt good, thanks to Connie's massage two weeks ago, self massage since via a foam roller, and Tiger Balm.

My splits point out I again failed to negative split (7:29, 7:29, 7:28, 7:59, 7:45, 8:14), but considering the tough east wind that would have been extremely difficult.  Happy to place 11 / 45 (top 25%) in a tough age group.

Data: Avg. Cadence: 82, Avg. HR: 167, 57 °F, 12mph E, 88% humidity.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rodeo Run 10K Race Report, and Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor Review

Every year the single 10K race that I look forward to the most is the Rodeo Run.  This year again fully met my expectations.

Arriving early with my wife and her friend, both of whom ran the 5K, we had plenty of time to check-out some horses and decorations of the parade floats prior to my 10K and subsequently their 5K start.  These floats and horses, along with hundreds of parade participants, are viewed by tens of thousands of spectators in Downtown Houston each year to dramatically kick-off the start of the Rodeo.  The spectators, eager to see and cheer for a parade of any kind, are consistently enthusiastic and supportive of the nearly ten thousand 5K and 10K Rodeo Run runners.  This, combined with the high volume shouted encouragement of numerous announcers along the downtown streets, creates a truly celebratory mood particularly in the first mile where the spectator support is the greatest.

Resulting from the cheering crowds and my fresh legs, I consistently find it hard to initially moderate my pace in order to run the second half of the race faster than the first half (Kenyan Way coach Sean Wade's number one rule!)  Sadly, as is oft the case, my earliest mile pace was my fastest, and I subsequently gradually slowed until the final mile, when provoked by a runner in my age group passing me my competitive juices kicked-in and I was spurred to catch him - which I did just before the finish line!  My mile-by-mile paces, on a 70 degree nearly 100% humidity morning were: 7:46, 7:46, 7:58, 8:23, 8:23, then 8:08.

While far from my personal best time I succeeded in protecting my legs for the far more important 200 mile Texas Independence Relay which I will be running with eleven friends in four weeks.  My calves, which I've had issues with in the past months, felt good throughout the race.  For this I again thank Connie, whose therapeutic massage skills have allowed me to run three races in the past two months.  After the race was over I was happy to see that within my division I placed 11th out of 146 - within the top ten percent.

Polar H7 Heart Rate Monitor Review:

Earlier this week I purchased via Amazon a highly rated Bluetooth heart rate monitor, the Polar H7.  It paired easily with my iPhone 5 and, thanks to it being natively supported by the iSmoothRun App I used it to monitor and announce each prior mile's total mileage, pace, cadence and heart rate - all while otherwise playing a motivating music playlist.  This information, conveniently provided without my needing to glance down at my wrist as I had previously done with my Garmin Forerunner proved helpful via cautioning me against a dramatic increase in exertion seen through a sharp increase in heart rate.  The Polar H7 worked well with the iSmoothRun App, and conveniently auto-uploads afterward to DailyMile and RunKeeper.  Bottom line, while I am new to using the Polar H7, I give it a big thumbs up.