Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Iskiate: Home-brewed Red Bull???

I began training for my first marathon in January 2006.  I struggled with nutrition for my runs.  I generally only carry water and eat peanut butter on bread before a run.  The reason being that in almost every race I've struggled with food and drink.  In my first half marathon I was over-hydrated, felt bloated and wanted to vomit.  In my first marathon I was dehydrated and dry heaved every other mile or so.  In my second marathon I had a cold/cough.  I took cold medicine the morning of the race and dry heaved from mile 7 to 25.  To say I've had it rough is understating it.  I freely admit that I don't have a cast iron stomach.  However, I'm not one to quit. 

The training groups I was a part of suggested things like Power Gel, GU, Clif Shots, and others.  These supplements do not agree with my palate no matter the flavor.  The only supplement that I've had some level of success with was Jelly Belly Sports Beans.  I would describe them as jelly beans with Gatorade in them.  One problem I did have with them was that after running 20+ miles the sweetness factor would overcome me and make me want to heave.  I had to counteract the sweetness with pretzel sticks.  As for drinks, I tried drinking Cytomax.  Cytomax works great for me as a recovery drink, but on a run it sometimes, well, gave me the runs.  GU20 is a little better, but not much.

So, what to do?  Water and peanut butter sandwiches?  Why not try Iskiate?

Iskiate, also known as chia fresca, is a drink that the Raramuri of the Copper Canyons in Mexico use for energy.  It is comprised of water, chia seeds (yes - as in Chia Pets), lime juice and agave nectar (or sugar).  Christopher McDougall describes it as home-brewed Red Bull in his book Born to Run.  Couldn't be any worse than anything I'd already tried.  Besides, it was natural, not engineered.

After I had begun barefooting for a couple of weeks, I got curious about iskiate.  I did a quick websearch to see if there was a recipe of some sort.  On the blogsite  for the No Meat Athlete he discusses the recipes for both iskiate and pinole.  I went to my local health food store and bought a small pouch of chia seeds.  It was a bit pricey, but I didn't want to buy a large supply unless I knew it was worth it.

Prior to my next run I mixed up a small batch of iskiate and downed it.  I went out on my run.  I don't know what I was expecting.  Was I going to go and run 100 miles like the Tarahumara?  Was I going to vomit?  What would happen?  Well, nothing overly dramatic really happened.  I felt great on the run.  At the end of the run I still had a lot of energy to spare.  My stomach felt fine.  I wasn't weighed down by the drink.  My first impressions of this drink are highly positive.  The drink appears to give me energy to last my run with more to spare.  It also does not appear to give me any issues with my stomach.

I plan to continue to use the drink before runs.  Since my barefoot mileage is a little more than 3 miles per run, I can't say if the iskiate will prove to be a true "home-brewed Red Bull" on a long run.  In the coming weeks, my mileage will be increasing due to my preparation for my first barefoot half marathon.  I will keep you posted as to the success/failure of iskiate on my sensitive stomach.  I also plan to start making pinole (recipe from No Meat Athlete) as a food source on my runs.

The recipe for iskiate from No Meat Athlete is as follows:
  • about 10 oz of water
  • 1 Tbsp dry chia seeds
  • a few teaspoons lemon or lime juice
  • honey or agave nectar, to taste (optional)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Vibram Five Fingers KSO

After I started running barefoot, I looked into the minimalist shoes that Barefoot Ted wore in Born to Run, the Vibram Five Fingers.  I enjoyed running barefoot, but wanted to have the option of more protection depending on the road conditions.  Being that it was just after Christmas they were VERY hard to come by.   I wanted to try on a pair before committing to buying some. 

My first thought was REI - my all-time favorite store.  However, they only sold them online not in their stores (at least not in my town). So, I went to my local running store.  They didn't carry them - kinda figures.  I searched the web for the best price, but every time I found a good price, they were out of stock for my size/color.  Ultimately, I ended up back at the Vibram site and ordered them directly from the manufacturer.

When they arrived I was very excited.  I stripped off my socks and began trying to work my toes into the little individual toe pockets.  For me, it was almost an exercise in futility that first time.  I must have fought with each shoe for ten minutes that first day.  Once I got them on, I wandered about the house in my new barefoot shoes.  They were very flexible.   It was strange, but cool.   The VFFs have a very flexible sole.  They move very easily with every movement of your foot.  I had a little discomfort with my little toe.  It didn't want to follow the shape of the shoe.  That discomfort faded after wearing them a few times.  If you are like me and cannot find them in a store near you, be sure to measure your foot exactly as the Vibram site recommends for a good fit.  They are snug, but comfortable.

I'm fortunate that I live in a temperate area of California.  Generally speaking the coldest I've run in is in the 40s.  My feet have been fine on these runs.  If it was much colder, I'd probably wear my VFFs a lot more.  Other than the cold, it's been raining a lot.  I actually love running barefoot in the rain.  Feels great and the feet are cleaner! 

I took my Vibrams out for a 2 mile run.  They were great!  They offered protection from the rough road and rocks while maintaining most of the feeling of barefoot running.  I took them out for another  2 mile run.  Again felt great!   I was able to feel the differences in the surface of the ground from asphalt street to smooth sidewalk, to fluffy grass.  It felt like the grass was actually between my toes!

The one drawback that I experienced is that the VFFs allow me to cheat slightly on my barefoot form.  Since the soles of my feet are protected, I noticed that I could hear myself scuff the balls of my feet across the ground.  When I scuff my feet running barefoot, the feedback is painful enough that I don't want do THAT again.  Since I'm focusing a lot on developing my barefoot form, I've gone back to straight barefoot for my runs.  I'll probably go back to the VFFs when I start to explore trail running later this spring or summer. 

Currently, I am using my VFFs as my shoes when I'm out and about.  The VFFs allow me to go almost barefoot when I can't be barefoot.  My goal is to strengthen my feet as much as possible by going barefoot or near barefoot all day.   I'm hoping that this will translate into better runs.  Unfortunately, I don't think my work would allow me to wear them.  I want to look into the Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot Aqua shoes.  I think I might be able to pull that off at work!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Too far, too fast. . .TOP OF FOOT PAIN

I would imagine that I am like any other runner or person for that matter.  When you get excited about learning something new, you want to practice it a lot.  As for runners, when you get bit by the running bug, you want to run more.  The same goes for barefoot running.  Beware of Top of Foot Pain. . .

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been out of running for about 2 years.  I was looking for new inspiration and found the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall.  I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would have an interest in barefoot running.  I just wanted to understand how the Raramuri could run so far and try to apply some of it to my running life.  I didn't even know the book talked about barefoot running.  Well, the book did what I had hoped and more.  It re-inspired me to run again but the twist - run barefoot.

I started running 2 to 3 days a week about 2 to 3 miles each run.  I loved it.  But there was a tiny but important bit of information that I was ignoring.  In the various barefoot bloggers and barefoot websites I had learned (but obviously not listened to) that newbie barefoot runners should take it slow at first.  Take lots of short distance runs and barefoot walks to get the muscles acclimated.  Well, I was excited.  I had the bug.  My runs were going well.  No problems.  Well, not exactly.  I started to notice after some runs a slight pain on the top of my left foot.  I convinced myself it was just my muscles acclimating, right.  I'll just train through it like I did with the initial calf soreness (which disappeared after my 3rd run).  WRONG.  The pain got worse.

After running for about 5 weeks, I thought I was getting the hang of it.  My sister-in-law, who was coming back into town, would be running a 7 mile training run.  I wanted to get up to that distance and quick.  So, one fateful afternoon I went for a 5 mile run.  Well, I tried to anyway.  I got about a mile and a half from the house and the dull pain that had been plaguing me for a week or two was getting worse.  I got to a point on my course where I was supposed to loop or I could start to head back.  I thought I would run another few blocks to and pick up the loop on the other end depending on how my foot felt.  I got to that point and my foot was in definite pain.  Now I was about a mile from my house, barefooted and in running clothes.  Me being the stubborn type didn't want to walk home like that.  So I ran.

I made it to the park around the corner from my house, when I heard a boy with his family shout, "THAT MAN HAS NO SHOES!  DAD! DAD!  THAT MAN IS RUNNING WITH NO SHOES!"  I smiled.  The dad replied, "Well, he looks like he's comfortable."  I continued to smile and said, "Hi," as I passed.  Doing my best to keep my form strong despite the dagger-like pain that was in my left foot.  I cut straight across the park.  I didn't care about mileage anymore, I just wanted to get home and off my feet. I cut across the park on the soft grass (which was a blessing) and back to my house.

After I got home and showered, I searched the blogs and websites for that little bit of information that I had glossed over.  I found out more about "TOP OF FOOT PAIN" or TOFP as many refer to it.  I had it for sure and had it bad.  Going up and down the stairs was torture, walking around the house was torture.

For the next week and a half I perfected the art of an inside/midfoot foot strike and roll to the outside.  I don't know if I looked like an idiot, but it felt better to walk that way.   I was almost convinced that I had a stress fracture in my foot.  I talked to my buddy who is a runner and orthopedic surgeon.  He informed me that I could break a bone in my foot and not really know it.  He had done it (not while running).  A nurse at the school I work at had a "mini-shock" therapy device that chiropractors use for redirecting pain around other nerves.  There was a spot on bottom of my foot under the 4th and 5th metatarsals that I could not feel the shock.  Damn, I thought.  Now I can add nerve damage to broken foot.

Fortunately for me, by the end of the second week my foot was feeling much better.  I went for an easy 1 mile run.  When I got home the pain was mild and disappeared the next day.  I went for a second easy 1 mile run.  No pain afterwards or the next day.  I waited a couple days and went for a mile and a half.  Beautiful!  No pain.  I was healed!

I learned my lesson.  Take it easy.  Don't push too far.  Don't push it too fast.  Now, I'm back in the game.  This time I'm taking it a little slower.