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Archives for May, 2010

Shoes are important for runners.  If you wear the wrong pair of shoes, you could unknowingly set yourself up for blisters, shin splints and other injuries that could be avoided.

I purchased the Saucony ProGrid Guide 2 shoes from Road Runner Sports after running the Oakland Half Marathon.

The shoe offers light stability designed to help reduce overpronation (limits just mild overpronation, so is pefect for me).  Saucony upgraded the ProGrid Guide 2 by using a new interior sock liner and added a memory-foam collar.  Everything else is virtually the same as the ProGrid Guide — a nice change of pace since Saucony chose not to tinker too much — while providing good support.

The shoe has decent cushioning, but doesn’t have much support towards the front of my foot.  (FYI:  The ProGrid Guide 3 shoes have a different style of cushioning, so could be ideal if you don’t like the way the ProGrid Guide 2 shoes feel.)  I don’t need the added cushioning, so purchasing the ProGrid Guide 2 was acceptable.

As I said in my RoadRunner store review, I picked the ProGrid Guide 2 over the following pairs of shoes:  Asics 2150, Brooks Adrenaline, and Nike Structure Triax running shoes.  Each pair is designed to help with slight overpronation, but the Brooks Adrenaline and Nike Structure Triax were immediately disqualified.  Both pairs didn’t feel great on my feet, especially compared with the Asics 2150 and ProGrid Guide 2.  I already own a pair of the Asics 2150 line, so I honestly didn’t feel like purchasing another pair.

I try on different pairs of running shoes whenever I’m given the chance.  I obviously don’t plan on purchasing a new pair of shoes every month — but I like to test different pairs just to see which shoes feel the most comfortable.  If you’re looking for a new pair of shoes, you should do your research before making a purchase.  I’d recommend looking on, Runner’s World, and other established running sources if you need any help on recommendations.

The cold and flu season may be over, but a few of my friends recently came down with a cold and were asking for tips to help recover as fast as possible.

Some people think starving a cold is a proper way to heal — but it is one of the worst things you can do to your body when sick.  Eat more calories to help produce the cells that help fight off illness.  Recent research claims protein and vegetables also are able to boost immune strength, so have some chicken soup with vegetables.

A Q&A posted in Runners World a few months ago noted eating yogurt may be a great idea, as upper-respiratory-tract infections could be reduced up to 25 percent.

If you’re having sinus pain or congestion, the use of any over-the-counter products that have antihistamines are ideal to help aid recovery.  Rest and increasing your vitamin intake also are extremely vital — don’t push yourself too hard, or you run the risk of prolonging the sickness.

When you’re sick but want to train, most athletes and doctors have a simple rule for you to follow:  if the illness symptoms are above the neck, you should be good to go.  (i.e. if you have a sore throat, head cold, stuffy nose, etc.)  Just take it easy and don’t push yourself too hard.

If you’re suffering from chest congestion, vomiting, fever, and other similar symptoms, then you should let your body rest and forget about training.

Editors note:  Real yogurt is harder to find but always better.

Ted has participated in numerous running, cycling and triathlon events over the years, and understands the importance of volunteers.  I’ve participated in a couple of different events this year, and have volunteered several times in the past, so I’ve noticed the importance volunteers have during events.

I recently chatted with organizers of the California International Marathon (CIM), a major running event that draws thousands to the Sacramento area each fall.

“Important is not the word for volunteers,” Alameda Runners was told, “vital is.”  Without them, there would be no CIM or other marathons around the country.  There are about 2,000 volunteers who help with all of the preparation for the race, the expo, and all of those out on the course.  Thousands of hours of volunteer work and all they get tangibly is a T-shirt.  But of course, it is much more than that.  Many come back year after year and are part of the CIM as much as the paid staff.  Also, the board which puts in a great deal of time all year round, in addition to the monthly (and special) meetings, is all volunteer.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  Thank the volunteers!  When it’s cold and miserable during a race, it’s likely the volunteers are freezing the entire time they’re working.  If it’s hot and muggy, they’re suffering as they help set up the events, hand out drinks and other tasks during the event, and clean up the race after everyone is finished.

Ted and I volunteered to run the Oakland Half Marathon carrying the 2:15 pace sign (the only half marathon pace group), which was a lot of fun for both of us.  It was a blast to help so many people cross the finish line, especially the participants who were suffering and needed just an extra boost of support to cross the finish line.

During a run last week in Coyote Hills with the Mission Peak Striders running group, I had a brief conversation about the benefits of energy gels and other products many athletes enjoy while running.  I wanted to discuss some of the benefits of energy gels and other fuels here on Alameda Runners.

GU, Clif, and other companies market their gels and goodies by promising an energy boost that most of us crave while out on the road.

I’m not qualified to go into specific details regarding the nutritional needs or the physiological benefit of these gels, but most companies are extremely helpful if you have any specific questions.  (They’ll likely ask you about your level of activity, nutrition, and similar questions to try and help you as much as possible.)

The elevated blood sugar can lead to better athletic performance — and you hopefully won’t bonk.  For example, the GU Roctane product line is marketed as a product that reportedly reduces muscle damage, acid build-up, and other natural benefits.

Most companies normally recommend eating an energy gel every 30-45 minutes, but I don’t usually eat one until I’ve been out on the road for at least an hour.  If I know I’ll be out for a couple of hours, I’ll have one after about every 30 minutes of exercise.  You need to try and figure out what works best for you.  Work on this during training, and not on race days (the results could be disastrous).

The official GU website has some useful information about how to use GU energy products here.  Clif also is more than happy to explain the recommended use of Clif Shot energy gels and other products.  Accelerade also has an excellent page that discusses the use of various Accelerade products during exercise.

Honey Stinger also offers basic recommendations regarding the use of its products, and invites you to call or get in touch if you have questions.

If in doubt, it’s best to try and contact the company directly — they usually are very good about answering back.  Ted actually contacted Clif (without mentioning he writes for Alameda Runners) and received a quick response warning him not to consume the product the way he was because it can be very bad for you.

I am not the most scientific guy around. I only care about how edible it is and how well it works. I ate a cashew coconut chocolate chip Hammer Bar yesterday before a 2 hour bike ride. The bar tasted good, I did not feel sick, and had enough energy for the whole ride. I did not go hard. It was just a cruise around Alameda, but it was still good.

The Hammer Bar passed the first test before I took a bite. It is organic. I am not a vegan or health food zealot, but I have been switching to organic foods because of quality and taste. The company managed to come up with good quality and taste. The bar is loaded with calories from good sources. When I go out on my Saturday workouts, I burn 2,000 to 3,000 calories. I need all of the good calories I can get to help replace that.

The Hammer Bar gets a strong buy from me. That is saying a lot since I am so fond of GU and Clif. We are not professionals at this site. We are just typical athletes who happen to run a website.  We managed to get a lot of products from Hammer. The bar is so good, I am looking forward to trying the electrolyte and recovery drinks.

Basic Tips if You Run in the Street

Sharing ideas related to safe running and cycling is extremely important for us here at Alameda Runners — especially since I see both drivers and athletes doing such reckless things out on the road.

In the May 2010 edition of Runner’s World (pg. 69), the “need to know” section includes runner safety if you’re running on the street.

First, you may be wondering why people would want to run on the street.  It’s done for a few different reasons, and the most popular answer is related to the smoother running surface of the road when compared to the sidewalk.

Q: When runners run in the road, do they have to use hand signals?
A: Not the way cyclists do.  For one, you should be running against, not with, the flow of traffic.  But don’t assume a driver sees you.  Stretch out a hand and make eye contact at intersections.  If you’re at a stop sign or light, it’s a good idea to let drivers know which way you’re going, especially if you’ll be turning in front of them.

Read after the jump to read some more basic tips. Read more… »

How to Recover the Right Way

The need to recover is absolutely vital — it is a great way to prevent overuse injuries that many of us inevitably suffer.

The more you get out and run, ride, or train, it gets harder to just sit around and rest.  Many people will participate in “recovery” activities, which are normally slower, shorter duration runs and bike rides.

In the May edition of “Endurance News” from Hammer Nutrition, there is an article that goes into depth regarding the complicated art of recovery.  You can find the article here (PDF).

Specifically, the author noted recovery is “defined as training that takes place below 70% HR at a minimum; below 65% is even better.”

As long as you’re training at least 50%, which still gives you physiological effects, then you should be good to go.   My HR runs much higher than Ted’s HR, even when I’m “recovering,” but I can tell when I look at my HR monitor when I’m pushing myself too hard.  During a recent race, my HR climbed upwards of 165+ bpm — and I suffered greatly — though my first run after the race I kept my HR under 140 and shuffled home.

Recovery workouts should almost always be an hour or less in duration.  On the bike, you may be able to stretch that to 90 minutes, but I would limit that to two conditions:

•    You’re training for ultra-cycling events such as RAAM or the Furnace Creek 508.
•    You are training for an Ironman.

Did you hear that?

Unless you’re training for a specific event that requires hours upon hours of continuous exercise, keep your recovery activities short!

When it comes to grocery shopping, you should never believe the hype!  There once was a time (right before I started running, of course) when I would go to Safeway and purchase whatever food, drinks, and snacks I wanted.  I slowly realized how difficult it is to burn calories and fuel my body properly while eating nothing but junk food.

The hardest part for me was going into Safeway and not purchasing all sorts of sugary, unhealthy drinks every time I went shopping.  Let me clarify:  I’m still eating occasional junk food and soda, but it’s much better than it was one year ago.

This article published by Men’s Health (thanks to David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding) shows the best and worst “health” drinks that you’ll find in your local grocery store.  The authors also include “health” drinks that you should absolutely avoid, and why you shouldn’t drink them.  Instead of just listing a bunch of unhealthy products, they also were kind enough to offer up a few healthy choices we can enjoy.

Worst water:  Snapple Agave Melon Antioxidant Water.
Alternative:  Smartwater

Worst bottled tea:  Sobe Green Tea
Alternative: Honest Tea Green Dragon Tea

Worst meal replacement drink:  Right Size Skini Vanili
Alternative: Slim-Fast! French Vanilla

Worst functional beverage: Arizona Rx Energy
Alternative: Glaceau Vitamin Water 10 Revitalize Green Tea

Worst frozen fruit drink: Krispy Kreme Lemon Sherbet Chiller
Alternative: Very Berry Chiller

Worst “health” drink in America: Smoothie King Peanut Power Plus Grape
Alternative:  High Protein Banana

The article lists why these are the worst drinks – and why the alternatives are better – so I’d urge you to give it a read.

The Oakland Raiders, the NFL team we all love to poke fun at, has stepped up to offer $200,000 that will be used to upgrade East Oakland’s Sobrante Park.  The City of Oakland will match the generous $200,000 offer to ensure the field only undergoes one major construction job to make all necessary changes.

it’s great to see the Raiders organization make an effort to help rejuvenate a community that is seemingly in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

As part of the park upgrade, the Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation will oversee installation of a synthetic turf field and upgraded drainage system.

“The Sobrante Park football field restoration symbolizes the 50 year partnership of the Raiders and the Oakland Athletic League,” said Michael Moore, Oakland Athletic League Commissioner, during a recent press event.  “The ‘Commitment to Excellence’ for the youth of Oakland insures that the next generations of young ladies and young men have beautiful places to learn the virtues of ‘Victory with Honor.’ The OAL appreciates the commitment of the Oakland Raiders to student-athletes of the Oakland Unified School District.”

When finished, the new field will cater to an estimated 14,000 city youth — and the Sobrante Park Elementary School and James Madison Middle School — along with organized flag and tackle football teams.

FINIS is a company well known to swimmers and triathletes, as a company that specializes in performance clothing, equipment and gadgets aimed at people who play in the water.  Alameda Runners recently contacted the company to learn more about the company’s products, outlook, and future in the swimming market.

I previously reviewed the FINIS SwiMP3v2 MP3 player for MyCE — a tech site I write for — last year, and am currently working on a review of the FINIS XtreaMP3.1G MP3 player for Alameda Runners.

“With today’s technologies creating an MP3 player is easy, but waterproofing that player and also integrating new sound technologies such as ‘Bone Conduction’ is another story,” Finis recently told us during an interview.  “Our engineers have worked hard to develop our current players, make them extremely durable, and have them be completely waterproof. Their successes only give us more confidence to dive into future electronic devices for swimming. In the end, waterproofing electronics is certainly not easy. ”

Many triathletes who participate in open water swims use wetsuits to help stay warm and increase swim performance.  Some have questioned why FINIS hasn’t branched out to offer wetsuits.

“There are very good technical wetsuit suppliers who focus specifically on their market, and we have close alliances with several of them. However, we have made a conscious decision to focus on our product development strengths in the competitive swimming arena. Ultimately we will look to bring our businesses closer together with other wetsuit suppliers, so that FINIS does not get directly involved with wetsuit production.”

FINIS also outlined its goal in the swim market which, not surprisingly, focuses on creating the newer generation of products designed to increase comfort and performance.

“Our goal is to be on the leading edge of swimming development, and our focus has always been to create products that help people swim better. Swimsuits and goggles are the most common products swimmers purchase, but when they want to improve their technique, they look to FINIS.”

You can read the rest of the interview after the jump. Read more… »