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The Selle Italia bike saddle manufacturer is a well known company aimed at racers, enthusiasts and commuters alike.  We posted a quick tidbit from the company yesterday, and will wrap things up today with the full interview from Selle.

Only the expensive and super shiny bikes normally ship with Selle Italia saddles, so an upgrade might be necessary to see the SI logo on your bike. Is the upgrade worth it? Do cyclists need to really focus on the saddle when upgrading?

Sure, a bike saddle is something that we overlook in favor of wheels, tires, and other bike components that receive more attention. Even if many of us seem to overlook the saddles, Selle Italia and other manufacturers want athletes to be aware of progressive effort to make even better saddles.

For example, Selle Italia invests years of research into its increasingly sophisticated products — and is on the forefront of cycling technology — but is often imitated (though never successfully) by competitors.

“A year or more after S.I. introduces a new design or model you will find the most popular S.I. models are copied and offered at lower prices. The copies are similar in shape and style but because they don’t have the development cost nor do they use the same materials, the product is less than satisfactory for the cycling community.”

Don’t think there is a difference from the higher-end saddles and the cheaper, less reliable models? Selle Italia obviously warns riders that they’ll notice a difference between a properly-manufactured saddle and some cheaper knockoff:

“Selle Italia uses a Ryslan and Nylon N6 for the base of the saddle. This allows the saddle base to ‘flex,’ a key component for comfort, whereas the lower priced products use “plastic” that do not flex. The same goes for the foam, cover material and rails. S.I. uses full grain leather or Lorica for high end covers to help the saddle breath and remain cool. Most other companies use a synthetic cover that can build and retain heat making it very uncomfortable for the rider. You can buy less expensive but you can’t buy the quality or ride less expensively.”

Selle Italia also is staying busy in 2011, and hopes to continue making and marketing products for interested athletes. For the rest of 2011, Selle Italia also has something the company hopes bike-riding fans will be happy about.

“Selle Italia is just now shipping a new model of saddle with a single rail – SLR Friction Free MONOLINK. The future of saddles is the Monolink as it reduces friction between the rider’s leg and saddle and allows the rider to increase power to the pedals through a re-design of the base and nose that can’t be achieved with a normal rail. Selle Italia will continue developing the MONOLINK through other models to be introduced in the future.”

If you want to learn more about the unique design of the Selle Italia Monolink, here is a review (published on BikeRadar).

To wrap things up, Selle Italia had this to say about proper saddle sizing:

“Remember, today’s bikes have been designed to provide the rider with the most performance for the energy created by the rider.  The problem is the high pressure tire, deep wall rim and super stiff frame all transmit the road vibrations and shocks to the saddle/rider. Finding the right saddle to do this for a particular rider and bike is time consuming and requires patience. The perfect saddle is out there – the cyclist just has to find it.”

Saddles such as the Selle Italia Monolink are reserved for only a sliver of people riding bikes — but the company urges riders to make sure they’re riding on the appropriate saddle.

Alameda Runners recently caught up with Selle Italia, a well known cycling saddle maker, in an effort to figure out if purchasing a quality saddle really matters.

It’s clear that having a good quality bike saddle is necessary for comfort while riding, but many people never bother to upgrade from the stock saddle. When it finally comes time to see what’s out there, it can be extremely difficult to make the right choice when shopping around.

Here is a tip from Selle Italia about choosing the right saddle (maybe even cost effective?) for casual riders:

“A saddle with a long rail and flexible base but with a synthetic cover is acceptable for someone that is going to ride an hour but may find the same saddle not adequate for rides of 2 hours or longer. SELLE ITALIA is offering a lower priced saddle assortment using their high end technology under the SPORTOURER brand. The product assortment is focused on those riders that want a little more “flex/padding” and are quite comfortable for casual cyclist. Retail for the SPORTOURER brand is between $40 and $90 (w/leather cover).”

Also of note, the Selle Italia representative that helped us also shared his own commuting tale:

“I ride the SPORTOURER ZOO GEL FLOW on my commuter bike and find it comfortable for the 3.5 mile jaunt from home to work. Many people find the FLX series (men and lady specific) to be very comfortable because it has a lot of padding but I find it has too much padding for my riding. Note – SPORTOURER saddles are not lightweight using FeC Alloy (high carbon steel) rails, elastomer suspension and lots padding that all add weight to the saddle.”

Alameda Runners will have a full interview with Selle Italia posted soon, with a stronger focus on saddles for road, mountain and triathlon bikes.

Alameda Runners obviously has a focus on running, cycling and general outdoors content, but we try to keep things lively around here. We focus on companies that make products for active people, and today want to chat about the Clif Family Winery & Farm.

I’m no wine expert, but a Clif-owned winery seems to fall within scope for the blog, so let’s see what they have to say about their wares.

“Clif Family Winery was started by Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, founders and owners of Clif Bar & Co.,” said a Clif Family Winery & Farm representative. “We have been making wines from the Napa Valley and Northern California since 2004. The wines that you will most often see available are our Climber Wines – a Zinfandel blend and a Sauvignon Blanc. Our goal is to over deliver quality in every bottle of wine. We also have a focus on sourcing sustainably farmed and organically farmed fruit.”

The new Velo Vino wine tasting room in St. Helena gives visitors the chance to taste wines and enjoy scenic views. Here is a bit more about the Velo Vino tasting room:

“It is the home of both Clif Bar and Clif Family Winery. It’s a truly unique experience that brings together food, wine and adventure. You can taste our wines, enjoy an espresso on the patio, purchase Luna Sport apparel clothing, sample our Gary & Kit’s Gourmet food products and Clif Bars and start and end a cycling adventure.”

As expected from newer wineries, the Clif winery also includes a tasting room that includes wine and food available.

“The connection between food and wine is a natural for Gary and Kit. They have always wanted to create a line of gourmet food products and our Gary & Kit’s Gourmet Mountain Mix was made to pair with specific wine varietals. We offer a food and wine pairing in our tasting room.”

(For clarification purposes: a ‘varietal’ is a term used for wines made predominantly from a single grape, such as a fine California zinfandel wine.)

Boxed wine — or anything found in a container besides a traditional wine bottle — often is overlooked as cheap, low-quality wine. However, Clif recently introduced a new “Climber Pouch” wine that is more portable, eco-friendly, and should taste better than your average grocery store jug wine.

“The Climber Pouch wines were introduced in Spring 2011 as an alternative to glass bottles. Each pouch is the equivalent of two 750ml bottles of wine and the packaging produces 90% less waste and 80% lower carbon emissions than the glass equivalent. It’s a convenient, portable package with great quality wine.”

All wines from the Clif Family Winery & Farm can be found at Velo Vino and online — with a store finder available on — as the winery continues to add to their wine-making resume.

*Editors note: He better follow this up with an article about organic milk supplied from another vendor.

The Oakland Running Festival (ORF) is a major event for Alameda Runners, and we love to put the spotlight on the event’s sponsors. One such sponsor is Greenlight Apparel, the company that made this year’s event shirts, and they have a fantastic story helping drive their business.

In addition to using greener materials in all clothing products, Greenlight also is interested in helping out in a very important effort. Not only does the company provide funds, but also sends company officials to make sure the money and collective manpower is being used as efficiently as possible.

“Our dedication to our mission and audience is a real factor,” Greenlight recently told Alameda Runners. “More and more companies are willingly — or through public pressure — becoming more socially responsible, but we’re really built around doing good. Organic and recycled fabrics aren’t just in some of our products. That’s all we use. And we don’t just write checks and make donations to good causes, we actively work hand-in-hand with humanitarian partners, and frequently travel into developing countries to work on the child labor and human trafficking causes we represent.”

It’s important for companies involved in the active community to have athletes in the office — it helps offer a more accurate insight into the inner workings of the athlete psyche.  Ask friends and family, and it seems that we’re a very special bunch … and that helps shape Greenlight.

“Likewise on the user end, we’re deeply entrenched in the athletic community. We’re runners and fitness enthusiasts ourselves, and have staff representing us at as many races and expos as we can. We maximize Facebook (page here), not just to self-promote, but to have that relationship with the running community and people wearing our shirts. It’s really a part of us. ”

In the future, fans can expect to see Greenlight continue to strive to make products even better for athletes and customers.

“Race tees are certainly our bread-and-butter. Our sales tend to go beyond ‘customers’ and into partnerships, so we’ve had some great race directors who will experiment with us. Our tees get better because we’ve had the luxury of being able to test different fabrics, stitching, seams, cuts and so forth. We’re producing socks, hats, jackets and windbreakers, and similar athletic gear now, and working with the same experimentation. This fall we’ll be launching a full line of retail gear for the individual athlete and casual wearer, and will have many more of these products available then.”

To wrap up our conversation, Greenlight Apparel wanted to invite you to visit their Facebook page (and offer up a ‘like’ if you wish). Alameda Runners has a second part of this story currently being written, with a focus on Greenlight’s humanitarian efforts in other countries.

*Ted’s note: I met with Greenlight at the Oakland running festival.  They have great products at reasonable prices and great people out representing the company.  My Greenlight shirt is one of the few race shirts that I actually wear.

Alameda Runners is an absolutely fun blog to operate, and I enjoy reaching out to companies, but I also love when we get e-mails and press releases. It can be difficult to pick topics to write about, but it becomes a lot easier when companies reach out to us.

Ted recently chatted with Rob Butner, XTERRA Dry Creek Trail Run co-director, about the XTERRA events and what they meant to athletes. Rob is a first time race director, while “co-director, Enrique Henriquez is the head coach of the Moreau Catholic High School cross country team. He has experience directing invitationals with attendance of over 1,000 runners.”

Although he’s serving as race director for the first time, he has raced XTERRA off-road triathlons for six years. As such, here’s a bit about XTERRA and what you can expect if you race in one of their events:

“XTERRA is a global leader in off-road adventure sports. With both an off-road triathlon and trail run series, they focus on uniting athletes of all levels with nature while promoting a healthy lifestyle.”

The XTERRA race at Garin Park (Hayward) is XTERRA’s newest effort to help bring its well known trail and outdoors events to Northern California. “We are definitely working with the XTERRA Trail Run Series to create a full XTERRA NorCal Trail Run Series. One has existed in the past, and we are trying to bring it back better than ever for 2012.”

The XTERRA events will feature GU and Gatorade products along with water and vocal spectators helping cheer athletes along. These events cater to both experienced trail runners and beginners alike, so don’t be afraid to hit the trails even if the courses do look intense.

If you’re looking for a trail event this summer, there are plenty of choices for you to consider. In addition to XTERRA events in Northern California, the SF Bay Area also has Brazen Racing, EnviroSports, Pacific Coast and other race companies focusing on playing outdoors.

The 2011 Xterra Dry Creek Trail Run takes place on June 4 from Garin Park in Hayward, with 21K and 6K running races available.

Casual athletes understand that running, cycling and endurance sports can be extremely expensive, especially for higher-priced compression and tech clothing. I’ve worn compression shirts and shorts, but haven’t tried compression arm or leg products — which got me thinking, isn’t it time to reach out to a new company?

Alameda Runners recently chatted with Zensah, a compression apparel company popular with athletes. We wanted to hear about the company and some of its products — and why they matter.

Some people believe running should be a minimalist sport excluding compression clothing and similar products, but supporters clearly disagree. Zensah and other companies directly promote their products by listing benefits we can expect.

“If you don’t try it you will never know,” Zensah recently told Alameda Runners. If used properly, athletes will feel feel their legs feeling fresher, and see a reduction in recovery time after those long runs. For those that run with compression they will feel like they can go longer with less exertion.”

As for Zensah’s products specifically, the company has a few items it can be especially proud of in its store catalog.

“Zensah was the first to develop compression leg sleeves. We own our own technology. Some of the other companies just joined the compression market, they are still learning how to create compression clothing. At Zensah we have always been focused on compression.”

For runners hoping to keep their legs healthy during long training exercises and races, Zensah has compression socks, leg sleeves, and shin sleeves. The leg sleeves cost $39.99 and are designed more for health and usefulness more than general warmth and looks — but we were curious how they helped.

“Zensah leg sleeves are the only leg sleeves made with a physiological design to help support the calf and reduce the risk of shin splints. Leg sleeves will help in circulation which in turn helps getting oxygen to the muscles.”

Zensah products can be purchased online at REI or RoadRunners Sports, or check your local running store. If you’ve already used Twitter, feel free to interact with the company (good or bad) via Zensah’s Twitter or Facebook account.

Nutrition pointers for athletes

I ran into Joe P. from the Clif Bar company at lunch today.  I asked him a few questions and sent him an e-mail with some questions.  He was kind enough to answer quickly and directly.  He recommends that I keep a food log.  I am going to start one because I have a lot of issues with speed and longer distances.  Most people do not need to keep a log.  If you are a bit OCD like most of my friends on facebook and Dailymile, start a food log now!

We are very lucky to have Joe and the Clif Bar company right here in the East Bay.  His answers may seem easy or complex at first glance.  Read the answers thoroughly and think about your situation and how this information applies to you.  It makes sense.  When you go to the Oakland running festival or any other big event, give Joe or Clif a shout out for having great customer service.  They appreciate the feedback.

In my own experience I have found that everyone is very different when it comes to food and how soon after eating that they can work out.
Four hours should have been ample time between a meal and working out. Digestion of eggs is pretty quick but you said that you had an omelet
which could have had numerous ingredients in it. It really is hard to tell what it is that gave you difficulty during your workout. I would
recommend that you keep a food log and see if a pattern develops negatively with certain foods.

What do I eat before a race?
What to eat before a workout depends on the workout and how much time you have before you train. Also each of us know how much time it typically takes our bodies
before we can work out with any problems. Eat a sensible meal 200-400 calories prior. More specifically a complex carbohydrate meal (metabolic type). See below

What should I eat when transitioning from one workout to another (also known as a brick workout)?
Between workouts I would recommend a drink product, gel or blocks (I use Clif Bar Products). A few words of caution before consuming – do not ingest more than 250-300 calories because the body cannot assimilate more than that during workouts. You must remember the higher the intensity the more the oxygen is being shunted to the working muscle groups. The digestive track tends to shut down during very intense workouts or when an excessive amount of food has been taken in. On that note- drink temperature is also a very important factor – room temp is better for the body to ingest because it does not have to warm the drink body temp before it can be assimilated.

How do we consume enough calories to complete a 4-10 hour training session?
You should remember not to overload the body and only consume 250-300 calories per hour. Regardless what the product is: drinks, bars, gels, blocks.

How do we train our bodies to burn fat during these long workouts?
To train the body to burn more fat during workouts you need to work at 70-75% because more oxygen needs to be present for a fat cell to be broken down and assimilated into energy. Most people like to go hard and fast and unknowingly train their bodies to use glycogen as the primary fuel source. The other reason that glycogen is used is because there is not enough oxygen present for the body to use fat cells for a fuel source because of the metabolic process. Glucose breaks down easily and is usually what the body uses first as a fuel source.

Do you have any general dietary tips for us amateur athletes?  Something like, eat more spinach and limit Big Macs to one per week.
No general rule of thumb for eating habits. The athlete should figure out their own metabolic type and eat for their specific body type. Refer to the book “The METABOLIC TYPING DIET” by William Wolcott & Trish Fahey. With that said- you are what you eat – eat organic healthy foods that are minimally processed. Read the book ” How to eat, move and be healthy” by Paul Chek. I recommend this as I am a CHEK certified coach: CP1 & HLC2

I have my books on order from, another local vendor.  Alibris is a bit like the original before they became a powerhouse.
How to eat, move and be healthy
The metabolic typing diet

Alameda Runners recently caught up with DeFeet to discuss running sock and clothing products athletes rely on. DeFeet is best known for its socks, but also has products ranging from arm warmers to boxer briefs and baselayer shirts.

We focused on socks and making sure we keep everyone injury free (to the best of our ability).

Trying to determine when to replace running socks can be a difficult challenge, especially as runners begin to prefer certain socks over others.

“Generally when the yarns begin to wear thin or become overly rough on the skin, usually in high abrasion areas for runners,” DeFeet told Alameda Runners. “Also if the sock no longer fits snug and secure to your foot. Never run in loose fitting or baggy socks.

When to throw them out varies greatly on the individual and how well the socks are cared for. It is perfectly normal for spun polyester or Merino Wool to develop some piling (little balls of fiber that appear after multiple wash & wear) in friction areas.

DeFeet also recommended proper care for technical running socks (so you’re less likely to destroy your pricey socks). “Never subject your high-end technical running socks to bleach or harsh detergents, it damages the fibers and results in pre-mature breakdown.”

People new to running (and sports in general) may be shocked to see the cost of running socks and other performance apparel. Despite the higher price tag, most athletes believe it’s worth a few extra dollars to purchase the higher-quality products. DeFeet was quick to point out what sets its products apart:

“The most important things that go into DeFeet are technical fibers that work by providing rapid moisture management, secure fit, durability and value. We personally use and test the socks we manufacture and bring to market. High-end technical fibers such as EcoMade CoolMax® and Merino Wool bring with them a higher cost of goods. Defeet is a premium brand that is owned and operated (manufactured) in NC (USA).”

We typically like to try to shorten quotes to prevent including large blocks of information, but our final discussion topic (plantar fasciitis) warrants a full verbatim entry:

“In general – plantar fasciitis is the result of inflamed foot muscles tightening up overnight. Tightened foot muscles accentuate the pull on the heel bone spur and plantar fascia, making your first steps painful. You know you have heel pain if getting out of bed in the morning and stepping down makes you want to yell “ouch”! Relief and prevention is not usually associated with socks. Here is some info I found while refreshing my mind on the condition. Taking the pressure off the foot goes a long way in helping treat plantar fasciitis. Other plantar fasciitis treatment techniques include:

  • Wearing proper footwear for both everyday and sporting activities.
  • Using insoles that support the arch and reduce tension on the ligament.
  • Making use of a heel pad, heel cushion or slight heel lift to relieve pressure and reduce inflammation of the plantar at its attachment to the heel bone.
  • Correcting leg length discrepancy via an adjustable heel lift.
  • Using a heel cup to add extra shock absorption to shoes, thus reducing pressure on heels.
  • Giving the afflicted area an ice massage to reduce inflammation and relieve tension.
  • Stretching calf muscle to reduce tightness
  • Maintaining length of the tight calf muscle with the use of a night splint.”

We won’t tell you to buy DeFeet socks, but we hope you appreciate they took the time to answer our questions for us. Keeping your feet, ankle and knees healthy is extremely important for runners, and the socks are an important starting point.

Swim company Finis not only aims at providing top quality gear for swimmers, but also hopes to help athletes refine their skills in the water.  To learn more about some basic swimming tips, Alameda Runners recently chatted with Mark Stephens, who is the Finis Product Manager and former Stanford Swim Team Captain.

Swimming has benefits for fitness and cross training that are often neglected by non-swimmers.  Many athletes use swimming as part of their training for running and cycling, because it’s a low-impact activity.

“Swimming will increase your flexibility, aerobic training, and work muscles you never thought you had. Swimming is very good as a recovery and non-impact exercise,” Alameda Runners learned.  “In the long-run, injuries are much less common for swimmers.”

Although injuries are less common, swimmers should always pay attention to their form as best they can.  For example shoulder-related issues remain a great concern for swimmers hoping to prevent injury and increase swim efficiency.

“Stretching is the best way to prevent shoulder inflammation and tendonitis.  Stretch before and after your workouts.  Shoulder stretches with the Fraid Nots ropes are great, but you should also include active stretches (such as arm swings).”

Stephens also mentioned it’s not uncommon for swimmers to suffer shoulder aches after long workouts and if a swimmer was pulling with paddles.

“Be sure to mix in pulling AND kicking. Pulling is a great way to build arm-strength, but can lead to injury if over done. Much the same way you don’t want to over-lift weights.”

New athletes normally have to find out what their body can handle before jumping into training too much.  It is recommended that new swimmers “take it one-step at a time” and learn to pace themselves as they become more comfortable in the water.

“If you are with an organized team, don’t over-exert yourself initially to try and make the intervals everyone else is doing. It’s okay to push yourself, but don’t push yourself to the extreme. Also don’t over use muscle-building equipment such as paddles. Too much repetition with paddles can cause shoulder injury.”

Part two of this interview will be posted in the next 24 hours.  It will include strengthening tips, muscle cramp prevention, the importance of good swim technique.

Chat with an ultra marathoner

I went out for a nice long easy day on Saturday as weekends are perfect for my long, slow days.  I went out for a nondescript 8 mile run with the MP striders of Fremont.  I always enjoy running with them.  After my run, I went out for a 50-mile bike ride in the Coyote Hills Park ,where I stumbled upon an ultra marathon runner who was out for a 45-mile run in preparation for a 50-mile running race.  I slowed down to chat with him for two hours while we covered 15 miles and parted ways when he was at mile 22.5, his half way point.  Think about that for a second.  He covered 15 miles in 2 hours while out for a 45-mile run.  That is an astounding pace.  He was also chatting while running that fast.

We started out talking about how lonely it gets while out for long training runs.  Four-to-six hours of training is usually done alone as it is hard to find a training partner to do these things with you.  It is also extremely rare to stumble upon a cyclist who knows what you are going through and decides to slow down to chat for a few hours.  We agreed that ice baths are good for recovery but they are terrible things to do to your body.  Ice baths are cold.  We then covered various ways to keep ice attached to sore muscles after a long training day.  We agreed that ice is good for sore muscles.

My ultra marathon friend was fast and he was still ripped.  I asked how he managed to stay toned while running the long distances.  His secret was eating a lot.  Not exactly recommended for new runners who are just starting out.  Here are some tips he gave me during our chat:

  • It is nice to work abs as part of core training but it is much more important to work on the glutes and hamstrings.  You can work this area by doing single leg squats with no weights.
  • Hydrate – drink a lot of fluids during long runs.
  • Eat during long runs.
  • Consume electrolytes during long runs.
  • Cross train.

We also talked about feet.  He told me that people who are trained for a long distance event will not quit for a blister.  If you get a blister on your foot, you can pop the blister with a sanitized needle, drain the fluid, and then close the hole with super glue.  I don’t know how well it will work but I do know that super glue works well on skin.