Sunday, August 10, 2008

CamelBak vs Nathan Hydration

Just one of the many things I've had to adjust to by switching from road running to trail running is the need to be able to carry water. Lots of it. I was always able to plan road running routes around the location of water pumps and drinking fountains - not usually an option out in the woods!

Last year I purchased the CamelBak Day Star, a women's model designed for day hikes. Holds 2 liters of fluid, has a bite valve which is easy to operate and doesn't leak, a fair amount of storage space inside the 1 organizer pocket, 2 compression straps and a waist belt that allow you to customize the fit, and the model I bought wasn't pink (I HATE pink). Total weight of the empty pack is 1 lb 13 oz.

I found the CamelBak to be very comfortable while hiking or walking, but I experienced horrible chafing on the sides of my neck from the shoulder straps while running. No matter how tight I cinched the straps, even to the point of being uncomfortably tight, the only way I could control the chafing was to wear an Under Armour Cold Gear Mock T-Neckunderneath the pack. Fine for cool weather, but doesn't cut it in the heat of summer.

At the recommendation of another runner, I tried the Nathan Intensity Hydration Pak in the women's model. This also holds 2 liters of fluid, has a vertically adjustable sternum strap and compression straps to customize the fit, a zippered pocket for storing gear on the back of the pack as well as 2 smaller pockets on the front shoulder straps where you can reach them without having to take off the pack. Perfect for carrying gels or electrolytes. Total weight of the empty pack is 5.5 oz.

I found the Nathan vest to be light weight, very comfortable even while running, and NO CHAFING! :)) The front pockets on the vest are great too! The bite valve was awkward to use - push in to lock, pull out to unlock - and it leaked if I didn't lock it while running. The compression straps were difficult to adjust while wearing the pack - I had to take the vest off to adjust the straps as the fluid reservoir became depleated. The sternum strap is very easy to adjust. Since I've only used the pack 1 time, some of these minor problems may be that I'm just not used to the Nathan system yet. Even with a looser feel, the vest didn't cause chafing and was comfortable.

Best features:

CamelBak has the better bite valve - it's easier to operate and doesn't leak.
CamelBak has more storage space.
CamelBak's compression straps are easier to adjust on the fly.
Nathan is lighter weight.
Nathan doesn't cause chafing.
Nathan has pockets on the front of the vest where they are easily accessible.
Nathan has a vertically adjustable sternum strap to help customize the fit.

Bottom line:

For day hiking where you want to bring a lunch, guide books, a camera, and a few supplies, the CamelBak is the better option mainly because it has more storage space. Though it is heavier than the Nathan, it is still light weight and very comfortable.

For running, the Nathan is the hands down winner mainly because there is no chafing. The lighter weight is a bonus, and the front pockets make gels or electrolytes easily accessible without having to take off the vest.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Endurance Sports Nutrition Book Review

Since we had a power failure that lasted more than 15 hours this past Saturday, I had a chance to sit and read a new sports nutrition book that I picked up a few weeks ago: Endurance Sports Nutritionby Suzanne Girard Eberle. I have at least a half dozen sports nutrition books, either required for graduate school or recommended reading from Registered Dieticians that I've met via professional activities. They all have their strengths and weaknesses - this is one of the best for endurance athletes.

The good:

*This book goes where most don't - extreme environments such as high altitude, extreme heat, extreme cold.
*Most sports nutrition books are geared for marathon runners. This one covers not only the marathon and shorter endurance events, but also has entire chapters devoted to ultras and multi-day events.
*Not just for runners, cyclists, and triathletes, but also an entire chapter devoted to long distance swimmers and rowers.
*Covers endurance eating for vegetarians.
*Covers how to use supplements effectively, timing of fuel and fluids, and how much of what to take (and when).
*Common problems encountered by endurance athletes, such as muscle cramping, upset stomach, runners trots, anemia, immune function, food intolerances or allergies, eating disorders, etc.
*The unique challenges to female endurance athletes, such as female athlete triad, PMS, and training during pregnancy or breast feeding.
*Gives more specific nutrition recommendations based on duration of training compared to other books (ie 1 hour/day vs 3 hours/day). Not just what to eat immediately before or during the event, but on a regular basis.
*Offers sport specific nutrition recommendations for certain events.
*Tips on how to lose body fat without losing strength or endurance.

What's missing:

*Recipes. Not necessarily a bad thing - Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook is another excellent resource that fills that bill if you're looking for easy and healthy recipes. Her book is more of a general sports nutrition book and not necessarily just for endurance athletes.
*Sports nutrition for strength and power sports, hypertrophy, etc. This one specializes in endurance. Again, not a bad thing - just be aware.

The bottom line:

I have both of the books mentioned, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either of them. Right now I'm most interested in moving from general trail running to ultra trail running, and Suzanne Eberle's book is currently my main resource for that endeavor. If you are strictly an endurance athlete, this book is a great resource. If you are interested in sports nutrition for muscle hypertrophy, have specific chronic health challenges such as diabetes or hypertension, you'd do better somewhere else.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

S Caps vs Endurolytes vs Nuun

Did another test run today to try out electrolyte replacement strategies - a 2 hour run on the trails at Afton with Heed and S! caps. Today's weather was mid 70's and sunny, which was similar to last weekend when I tried Nuun (with Clif Shot gel and Endurolytes).

My plan for today was to take the first S cap after 30 minutes, then another at 90 minutes. I had 20 oz of Heed in my water bottle and refilled with plain water approximately 7+ miles into the run. I really don't care for the taste of Heed, but I've used it in the past with no ill effects, and it's the sports drink that is used for several local races (including the upcoming race at Afton in 2 weeks), so I train with it prior to those events.

Results: no cramping, no hand swelling, no upset stomach :))

In the past, I've taken as many as 6 Endurolytes, also with Heed, and still had some cramping and hand swelling under similar conditions.

Some interesting numbers:

Endurolytes: 40 mg Na, 25 mg K, 50 mg Ca, 25 mg Mg, Vit B6, Manganese. Cost 15.8 cents/cap, recommended dose = 1-6 caps/hour. Six caps = 240 mg Na (less sodium than 1 S cap) and cost 94.8 cents/hour. And I was still cramping and having hand swelling.

S Caps: 341 mg Na, 21 mg K. Cost 17.5 cents/cap (when shipping is included for just 1 bottle - they can't be bought locally in the Twin Cities), recommended dose = 1-2 caps/hour. So far, 1 cap/hour has worked just fine, but even 2 caps/hour would cost only 35 cents. If you buy more bottles at a time, it's even cheaper.

Nuun: 360 mg Na, 100 mg K, 125 mg Ca, 25 mg Mg, Vit C, Vit B2 in 16 oz drink. Cost 54 cents/16 oz drink. It worked in the sense that I didn't experience cramps, but I did get a queasy stomach after 12 miles. Still plan to experiment with Nuun a little bit more before giving up on it.

Thoughts: I'm a salty sweater, and the Na content in Endurolytes doesn't seem to keep up with what I lose, even when I max out their recommended dose. It's also almost 3 times more costly than S caps. Nuun seems to work, but doesn't agree with my stomach after 1 major and another minor test. Tastes kinda fizzy, even though it's done fizzing when I drink it.

Bottom line: looks like S caps are the current leader in this battle so far.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

NUUN Product Review

In my continuing quest to figure out hydration and electrolyte replacement strategies for trail running, I decided to try NUUN at the Sour Grapes Half Marathon. I've been having problems with muscle cramping and mild hand swelling at just about every trail race I've run where the mileage has been in the double digits. Never had a problem with road running, but trails have proven to be an entirely different endeavor!

So, what is NUUN? It is an electrolyte replacement drink - just electrolytes - no carbs. It comes as large tablets in a tube (very convenient for traveling), and you simply add 1 tablet to 16 oz of water. It's kinda fizzy and dissolves very quickly, leaving no residue in your water bottle. It does have a mild taste and comes in a few different flavors (I tried lemon lime).

Here's what's in 16 oz of lemon lime NUUNed water by the numbers:

Calories = 6
Na = 360 mg
K = 100 mg
Ca = 12.5 mg
Mg = 25 mg
Vitamin C = 37.5 mg
Riboflavin = 500 ug

Results: no cramping after running a half marathon on trails, but my stomach was feeling a little queasy by mile 12. I should also note that I also took 5 Endurolytes and 2 Clif Shot gels during the run, although those are things that I've already run with in the past with no problems. I still had some very mild finger swelling and wanted salty pepperoni pizza post race, so I don't think I overdid it on the electrolytes.

The good:

*Having the tablets in a tube is a very convenient way to carry them without having to measure dry powder or make a mess. I went through 2 tablets during the run, and refilling my water bottle and plunking a tablet in at the aid station was a breeze.
*The tablet also serves as a premeasured serving, so if you add it to 16 oz (500 ml) of water, you get the correct concentration to make a slightly hypotonic solution that will be absorbed into your body rapidly.
*It dissolves quickly (2 minutes of fizzing) and doesn't leave a residue in your bottle.
*Keeping electrolytes and carbs separate allows you to have more control over your dose of each.
*It worked!

The not so great:

*My stomach was feeling a little queasy after awhile, but it could be that I'm just not used to it yet. I may try the orange ginger flavor (ginger is a stomach settler).

Bottom line:
For the first time this year, I didn't have cramping during a trail run, so I am going to continue to use it and see if the stomach issues are really related to NUUN or something else. I will probably try a few other options too - for example, S caps with my tried and true Gookinaid.

Current pricing: 3 tubes of 12 tablets each for $19.50 + S/H from the NUUN site ($6.50/tube + shipping), or 8 tubes of 12 tablets of NUUN for $44.99 with free S/H from ($5.62/tube). You can also get it at REI or TC Running Co. in the Twin Cities.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Stabilicer Sport Product Review

Winter traction while running on snow and ice is always a big discussion in this neck of the woods.

Here was my review of the Stabilicer Sport from February, 2008:

I've been pondering my options for improved traction during outdoor winter runs for the last few months: buying some 3/8" sheet metal screws to put into an old pair of shoes, YakTrax, microspikes, etc. Like all things in life, there were advantages and disadvantages to each option: cost, convenience, durability, having a power screw driver (I do not), whether or not they actually work, etc. At the recommendation of another winter runner, I decided to head over to REI and check out the Stabilicers. They were getting rave reviews as the best traction device on the REI website too!

Well, the most beefed up model of Stabilicers seemed incredibly heavy and not very flexible. Not exactly conducive to running. An REI employee mentioned that the beefed up model really wasn't made for running, but more for working outdoors or wearing over heavy boots. I ended up with the Stabilicer Sport, which was a lighter, more flexible pair that was supposedly intended for running.

I had a chance to take them for a short test run at Bredesen this afternoon - beautiful running weather: sunny, 14 degrees above zero, not too windy, fresh snow on the path. I got to try walking across smooth ice where Nine Mile Creek had frozen over too.

The good:

*Can be worn over any pair of running shoes without having to drill holes in the soles. Today I chose my Gortex Salomon trail shoes, for longer runs I may prefer my lighter weight road shoes.
*Don't have to spend a lot of time putting them on.
*They stayed on my shoes very reliably.
*Great traction running on snowy trails; pretty good traction walking on smooth ice.
*Can take them off of the shoes for driving, walking indoors on nice floors, etc. - without having to take off the shoes.

The not so great:

*They cost about $40.
*Another runner mentioned the screws in his pair didn't last very long and weren't "typical" so they couldn't be replaced by going to the local hardware store. Instead, you've got to pony up another $5 for a small bag of their replacement screws.
*Even though they slip on and off any pair of shoes, they don't slip on and off very easily. You've gotta stretch, tug, pull, jam, swear, etc to get the things on your shoes.
*The stretchy rubber that you need to stretch, tug, pull, jam, and swear at seems kinda flimsy.

Bottom line:

It's great having some traction for winter running, and so far I'm not sorry I bought them. If I had a power screw driver, making my own screw shoes would probably be just as effective and cheaper.


As an avid North Woods outdoors woman and Professional Coach, I often get asked for recommendations about what works and what doesn't when it comes to sports nutrition, training programs, gear, clothing, shoes, chafing, injury prevention, how to dress for cold weather running, how to carry water on the trail, etc. Rather than crowd my main blog page with yet another list down the right side, I decided to create a new blog to keep this stuff separate. It also allows me to list more stuff ;)

What works and what doesn't will most likely be a little different for everyone, so my posts just reflect my own opinions and experiences. I hope you find it helpful!