Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yerba Mate -- Two thumbs up

Yerba Mate is great stuff. It is chock-full of antioxidants and its caffeine delivery is unlike your standard variety Red Bull or Rock Star. I frequently brew it, ice it and fill my water bottle with it. It is also a great little morning drink. My preferred blend is to mix a bag of mate cocido with a bag of red zinger Celestial Seasonings tea and just wow.

I first ran across yerba mate in Chile and Argentina where proper consumption requires a dried gourd and a nickel plated filtering straw called a bombilla.

Mate, in parts of Argentina and all of Uruguay and Paraguay, is more popular than coffee is in the US. 

Unlike Red Bull and Rock Star, the caffeine delivery in mate is gradual on the way up and the way down. Guayaki, the high-end mate provider, has a great little video that explains some of this stuff and pitches their corporate responsibility. Guayaki is expensive as mate goes, but their various offerings of drinks, sodas, loose mate and tea bags are all exceptional. I buy the cheap stuff. 

Mate has been linked to some esophageal cancers. I am not too worried about it. I believe that some or all of this is caused by the temperature and quantity of the mate as traditionally consumed in Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. You can purchase loose mate in most natural food stores and in latino markets. Loose mate is very inexpensive on a per drink basis.

 Here are some links that talk more about mate:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Big Springs - The best ride in Utah Valley

Me on the first descent

It is time to introduce my trail rating system. I give a 1 - 5 rating for both work (uphill) and fun (downhill). A trail with a high work number and a low fun number is bunk. A trail with a low work number and a high fun number is nirvana. I know some aerobic junkies that really like to ride up hill and would prefer to skip the downhill. Van and Annette come to mind. Van is about 5'2" and weighs about a buck 20. He frequently wins the Snowbird hill climb in Little Cottonwood Canyon in northern Utah. Annette is about the same height, pure muscle and weighs about 90 pounds. Once on a bike ride in Southern Utah, there was a line of us on a trail with a pine branch overhang. One of the branches was in the way. Because it was thin and light, we all blew through it like it was not there. When Annette got to it, it threw her off her bike. Yet I digress.

The absolute worst trail I have ever ridden is called 'Moore Fun' in Fruita, CO. It is a five on the uphill and a one or less on the downhill. On this ranking, Big Springs is the best ride in Utah County. I give it a 2 on the uphill and a 4 on the downhill. Its only two flaws are that it is short, but you can always do it twice or three times, and it gets congested by other bikers, scouts, hikers and horses. 

You can get there by going up South Fork in Provo Canyon. About three miles up you will get to the Big Springs sign on the left. Turn right at the sign and go to the last parking area past the bathroom facilities. The trail begins on the west, center side of the parking lot. The trial can be ridden year round as I found out this winter. If you ride in the snow, you will have to give snow shoers and cross country skiers a chance to pack the snow down after a storm.

Big Springs parking area. The trailhead is behind the photographer. 

Not the route I take, but directionally correct

You can take most of the single track ride to the top in your middle chain ring until you get to a fork in the trail that forces you to cross a fire road to continue on the single track or to take the fire road farther up. Either way, you will need to use a lower gear at this point. If I am trying for a PR, I will go a little higher and push it. Most of the time, I set it in the granny gear and chat with buddies on my way up. I opt for the fire road option because the other way, although it is single track, is a pure grunt to the top.

Jonathan Johnson riding the upper section

Resting at the water stop

Great views and amazing background at the water stop

My riding and running buddy, Jonathan Johnson on the bridge

Jonathan riding over the bridge

About a half mile up, you will get to a large campground area with porta-potties and a drinking fountain that is fed from the spring. The water is great. You continue south on a double track trail, cross a bridge and continue south ignoring the turn-off to the left. This last section is granny gear worthy and not much talking is going on. At the sign, take a hard left and 20 meters later you are on the trail above and west of the spring. 

Go east on the trail over the spring area until it turns north over a small bridge. At this point you will want to lower your seat for an amazing descent though pines, aspens and meadows.  

There are several turns and forks. I describe my preferred route. At the bottom of the first descent, you can go left, but stay right and climb a short section. After some sweet, fast twists and turns, you will come to a fork. Stay left to go through a short meadow. After entering a wooded area and taking a sharp left, there will be a fork. Take the right fork. After about twenty yards, you will take a hard left and have to climb the most difficult trail section of the day. The short trail section is loose, steep and narrow. It can be ridden by intermediate riders and experts should be able to ride it every time. It will leave you breathing hard. The next section takes you through a meadow on narrow single track. You can rip through this as fast as you want. Some parts of the single track have rather high walls. If you cannot stay in the center, you may end up catching a tire on the track wall and tumbling. Fortunately the falls are pretty soft. 

Through the meadow

At the next fork on the north side of the meadow, turn left. Take the sort section of fire road, cross the larger fire road onto the single track, and at the fork, turn right to head back to the parking lot. You can pretty much let it rip, but you have to watch out for other trail users as this section gets the most pressure. 

There is a lot of wildlife. The coolest thing I have seen is a bull and a calf moose. I about had a heart attack when a grouse suddenly decided to take flight a foot away from me. I have come onto a herd of elk. Fortunately I was wearing my GoPro. See the video below. I have seen wild turkeys, deer, skunks and other critters. 

Film from a couple of rides

The only serious mishap I have ever had came from a sting of some flying thing. I was descending at twilight when something stung my ear. By the time I got in the car I was itching everywhere and starting to swell. I called my wife to get my epi pen (that I should have been carrying) ready. I got home, jabbed myself with the epi pen and headed to the instacare. When I got to the instacare and took my shirt off, the Doc on call looked at me and said, "Wow, we can't stop that here. You will have to go to the hospital." Long story short, the ER gave me an IV concoction of Benadryl, Pepcid and a steroid and 20 minutes later I was cured, but sleepy. 

Trail conditions are perfect by Friday this week, just wet enough to be grippy, but not too muddy. Get out and ride!

Monday, April 28, 2014

My Hydration Problem

I was supposed to do a 20 mile trail run on Thursday that I had to cut short (17) due to water depletion. I took an Ultraspire pack that held 70oz and a fuel belt that held another 32oz. My Strava, music and background apps ate my entire phone battery at the ten mile point in the run. By then, I had already climbed almost 3600 feet and was conserving the last several sips of water to make it back to my car. I cut my run short and guzzled from the drinking fountain at the trail head for several minutes. I got done at 7:30 PM and headed off to a church meeting that started at 8:00 PM. As soon as I got home, it was back to sucking down as much water as possible.

I started out running from the gun range then up dry canyon. Here is a view looking back down.

My electrolyte content was perfect and my legs felt remarkably good considering the mileage, elevation gain and dehydration. I need to find a solution if I am going to survive long trail runs. I cannot just carry more water. There is not space or strength. Here are a few images from the run.

Sure beats running on the road.

As I see it, I have three choices. I can use my MSR Miox purifier, iodine tablets, or an in line filter. 

MSR Miox

The Miox is light weight and fairly easy to use. It requires 2 uncommon batteries and rock salt. Basically, it separates the sodium from the chloride in the salt through an electrical process. The resulting solution will bleach clothes and kill any bugs in the water. The intensity of the solution depends on how much you are purifying. I own one of these and have used on for backpacking for years. It would be no trouble to fit into a hydration pack. It's downside is that it is the heaviest of the three options and is useless if your batteries die or you run out of salt (thinking out loud here, I could do a Bear Grylls and scrape the salt residue from my clothes from dried sweat and see if that works. That would be gross, but cool). 

I should mention that this purifier also comes with test strips that I never use. I have had giardia before, the most common bug in the outdoors, and though it is inconvenient, with a prescription and a week, I am as good as new. If my water is a little less than pure, it isn't the end of the world or that run.

Geigerrig In-line Filter

The Geigerrig in-line filter costs $28 and comes with a 30 day return. It will filter up to 50 gallons of water (this really means nothing. One really dirty stream and you may clog it after one use.). It is convenient in that you can fill a bladder reservoir with stream water and drink purified water at your bite valve. My concern with this filter is what happens to it near the end of its life. I imagine it is really hard to pull anything through it. 

Iodine Tablets

These are inexpensive, light weight and do the trick. The side effects are unknown. It is banned in Europe as a purification source, but I am not too worried about it. To be safe, I would not consume more than it would take to purify 4L of water in a single day. 

If you have another solution that works, please tell me. I will be trying all three on future runs. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

One Of The Great Running Bloggers -- Hungry Runner Girl

I had a meeting today with Janae Jacobs, AKA, The Hungry Runner Girl. She has a wildly popular running blog HERE and is a great person to boot. She is my wife's favorite blogger of all time. She knows her sport and audience, is an avid trail and road runner and has some great gear and training tips.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Today's Long Run Breakfast

I created a killer omelette this morning in prep for my long run this afternoon.

Start with Eggbeaters Southwest Style

Before pouring about 1/2 cup into an omelette pan, blend and heat the black bean mixture:

1 Can black beans
1/2 C plain greek yogurt
1/4 C pico de gallo
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp onion salt

Blend in a blender and heat in a microwave oven until warm.

Pour the eggbeaters into the omelette pan.

Flip the egg mixture over. I just throw it in the air over the sink and hope I don't miss.

Smear the top of the egg with the black bean blend.

Add a little shredded cheese.

Fold over and serve.

I added homemade wheat bread toast and homemade plum jam to the plate.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The 2014 Boston Marathon and the Amazing Seth Wold

I have mentioned that I love my Altra's, right? I have also mentioned that I love all of the Altra guys, right? I was never given more reason to love both than as I watched the Boston marathon. I wasn't really paying attention to the beginning of the race. The end is so much more interesting. I was getting ready to leave for work when my wife, who is an avid start to finish Boston watcher said, "You goota see this. There is some guy running with the front of the pack and no one knows who he is." First I thought it might be a crazy spectator that they would have to forcibly remove from the street, but what spectator can stay with the lead group for that long? This had to be a very good runner. Then I saw the screen shot:

Wait a minute. That guy is wearing an Altra shirt and Altra compression socks. Is that Seth Wold? It is Seth! How cool is that!!!!

Seth reported on his blog that he had injured his leg about a week before the marathon. He had arrived in Boston on little sleep as he tended to his injured wife. When he got to Boston, he had to do some heavy lifting to set up booths for Altra and Pro-Form while Meb, Hall and the others were getting their third massage and hot tub soak of the day. Due to his hurt leg, a sub six min/mile pace was painful at best, and yet he opted to run with the lead pack for as long as he could instead of run at a more realistic pace for the best time result possible. I love his choice. 

The New York Times stuck this classic picture on the front page yesterday:

Seth is running in blue between Meb, the ultimate Boston marathon winner and Ryan Hall, a famous runner in marathon circles. Hall appears to be looking at Seth's shoes, and who wouldn't? It reminds me of the old Spike Lee, Michael Jordan commercial. 

We cannot crawl into Hall's brain to see what he was thinking, but I bet he at least tries in a pair of Altra's in the next week.

Seth ran in some pretty elite circles while at Boston.

Here he is shown with the great Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher. 

I am not the only one talking about this. Deadspin reported on Seth as well. You can read it HERE.

Okay, so get this. Seth and I will be running together at the start of the Timp Trail marathon. I think I will pull a Seth and ask my wife to take a picture during the first hundred meters of the race to show me running with him. I think I can do it for 100 meters. After that, I will watch his backside disappear into the distance as I such wind for a while. Seth is the current Timp Trail marathon record holder at three hours and 40 minutes. Seth is such a good guy that he may let me stay with him for 150 meters before he takes off.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Two Really Good Smoothies

I have recently made two really good smoothies for different purposes.

Strawberry Ginger Smoothie

1 C Frozen Strawberries
1/2 Banana
1 T Fresh Minced Ginger
1 T Chia Seeds
1 Scoop Protein Powder
1/2 C Greek Plain Greek Yogurt
2 tsp Honey

Pineapple Oatmeal Smoothie

1 C Frozen Pineapple
1/2 Banana
1/4 C Old Fashioned Oatmeal
1/2 C Greek Yogurt
1/2 T Chia Seeds
2 tsp Honey

Soooo Good!

Please leave your own recipe in the comments. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Endurance Limits -- Glycogen and Electrolytes

In 2005 I had just gotten into road biking. Two years later I would be doing several centuries and double centuries including the Deperado Dual and Lotoja, but in June 2005 I was a know-nothing newbie that was quickly increasing mileage from ride to ride but not wisdom. I was completely unprepared for what would happen one day in June as I attempted an 86 mile ride from Cedar City to St. George, Utah. I had really never experienced what it was like to run out of glycogen stores and to have a severe electrolyte imbalance.

Early that morning I skipped breakfast so that I could save time and arrive in sunny, St. George before the day got too hot. I packed two water bottles and planed on refilling them and buying a snack at a gas station that was about 30 miles away. I got to the gas station before it was open and had to settle for hose water from a nearby house. I hoped that the water coming out of the hose was potable. You never know in farming communities and rural areas. Sometimes the water comes from a ditch or worst, but I had no choice. I had worked up a good, hard sweat riding up, over a mountain pass with two more passes in front of me. It did not occur to me at the time that sweat is not just water, it is water, sodium, potassium and several other minerals that bodies need to function.

My friend Chad and I rode together to the beginning of the next hill. His stomach was upset due to his breakfast. For a while, I was glad I had not eaten. I was feeling good, so I took off, leaving Chad to work on the hill alone. By the time I got to the top I could not see Chad anywhere. I waited at the top for about five minutes then left to go down the steep road to the bottom of the last climb, Veyo Hill. By the time I got to the bottom of Veyo, I was feeling weak and light headed but didn't think much of it. At the top of Veyo, I hit a wall. I could not pedal even one more time. I pulled over to the side of the road, awkwardly fell off my bike onto the gravel and within minutes was seeing purple dragons coming out of the bushes toward me.

Veyo hill is a painful part of the St George Marathon. 

I was hallucinating, cold, disoriented and nauseous. When Chad came by ten minutes later, his gastric difficulty had passed and he was feeling great. I told him I would need a ride to even move in any direction. Since my wife was meeting me in St. George to drive us home, I had her drive to my location. I think Chad continued down the hill to finish the ride. It took ten minutes to stuff my bike into the back of my 4Runner, a task which should have taken two. I was light headed every time I stood up for the next 36 hours, and I wanted to quit riding forever.


Carbohydrates are converted to glycogen stores then to glucose before being used by the rest of the body. The two most common storage reservoirs are muscles for muscle use and the liver for use in the rest of the body. Complete glycogen depletion from extended endurance exercise is called "hitting the wall." There are four ways that hit can be forestalled.

  1. An athlete can consume carbohydrate calories before the endurance event to "top off" glycogen stores and during the event to replenish the depleted stores. The latter is difficult because body processes are limited on how fast they can convert carbs to glycogen to glucose. 
  2. An athlete can train her body to burn a higher ratio of fat to glycogen.
  3. The body can be trained to increase intramuscular stores by going through processes of depleting and carb loading.
  4. Heart, lungs and muscles can become more efficient through training thereby requiring less glycogen to cover the same distance.
In an effort to quicken the carb digestion process, some formula companies, like Twin Labs, have developed nutritional drink additives with multiple sugar sources that are supposed to allow the body to process a higher amount of total carbs and thus replenish glycogen reserves sooner. 

The hallucinations I experienced were due to complete glycogen depletion in my liver and muscles. My body was then looking to my brain for additional glycogen. It is a scary thing that I don't want to experience again.


Glycogen strategy is essential to any endurance event. I calculated that the day I biked Lotoja, a 206 mile, single day event, I burned around 14,000 calories. Of the 14,000, I believe my glycogen stores were the equivalent of 4000 calories. This left a 10,000 calorie deficit to try to intake throughout the day. I knocked out 2500 calories the morning before I got on my bike. From then on it was a race to pound calories all day. 

Lighter people have a huge glycogen advantage in endurance racing. That is why the average tour rider is scalpel skinny. They don't even do pushups for fear of any gain in grams. If they have to push more weight up a hill, they will burn through glycogen faster.

Rasmussen was winning the tour before testing positive for drugs.

Frank Schlesk, useless in a street fight, but he sure can ride.

As part of the strategy for endurance events, it is wise to train your digestive tract to fully function during athletic exertion. It is easier to do during a bike event than a run event. When my marathon running wife went with me on her first 100 mile bike ride, she was shocked at how much I and everyone else ate at the lunch stop. I pounded a large hoagie sandwich, two bags of chips and two large cups of full sugar coke. The most she had ever consumed during a marathon was a few gels, an occasional orange slice and Gatorade. A long distance runner should never say, "hate to eat and run." The opposite is a matter of event survival. 

I make my own gel concoction to be consumed during events that last up to eight hours. It has the advantages knowing every ingredient and it is a lot cheaper than factory produced gel packs. If you know me at all, you know I dig the second part. Here is the recipe:

  • 1/2 C Brown Rice Syrup
  • 1/2 C Honey
  • 1/2 Banana pureed
  • 1/2 tsp Salt 
  • 1 TBS Molasses
  • 1 TBS Hydrated Chia seeds
  • 6 Dates pureed
Brown rice syrup contains both fast and slow burning carbs. Honey is about in the middle. The banana contains potassium and improves the flavor of about everything. Salt, sodium, the most important replenish requirement. Molasses contains glucose, fructose, raffinose and other polysaccharides. It also contains potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium. Pretty cool, right? The the hydrated chia seeds are fluid sponges that ease water absorption and the dates are yummy superfood. 

When I feel lazy and rich, I buy and consume factory-made gels. My favorites are anything by Hammer Nutrition and Chocolate Accel Gel. It tastes like chocolate ice cream, no kidding. It also contains a shot of caffeine which is the topic of another post. 


Electrolye imbalances have several unpleasant results as indicated in the table below.

I like the article, Electrolytes: Understanding Replacement Options, by Shawn Dolan. The table above comes from his article.

Electrolyte replenishment for long endurance events is a serious matter. If you are the kind of person that leaves a salty residue on clothing after an hour of exertion, you need to be more serious. I am a sweater. I completely saturate baseball hats, shirts, and any hydration pack that I might be wearing when I go long. During super long events of more than 6 hours, once my sweat dries, my shirt can practically stand up by itself. My preferred replenishment method is spiked water and salt tables. There are many effervescent hydration tablets that do a great job. I like these as much as any others. You can find them cheap sometimes at

It will take time to learn how much electrolyte stuff to consume. I suppose there is some scientific way to figure it out, perhaps by taking blood and urine samples every few miles, but this is unrealistic for most of us. Go run or ride long, keep track of the temperature and what you are wearing and test. 

Please let me know how you beat heat, sweat and glycogen depletion by leaving a comment below.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Incomparable Bearclaw Poppy Trail

St George, Utah is home to one of the universe's greatest pleasure centers. There are few places that offer as much variety and intensity of biker bliss anywhere. There is something for sickos who crave pain from anaerobic exertion, downhill speed demons, animals who ache for air time, newbies, intermediates even children. Seriously, I have rarely watched a person come off the trail not smiling ear to ear.

The guys at created this little video.

There are two ways to ride Bear Claw: top to bottom to top or bottom to top to bottom. If you are lazy and have a kind friend or an awesome mom, you can skip the up hill and shuttle the ride several times. The ride either begins in Bloomington if you start at the bottom and west of the Green Valley Resort if you start from the top. Don't make the mistake of riding this as a loop as some books and websites suggest. Ride it as an out and back if you do not shuttle. I prefer to start in Bloomington and do an out and back a few times.

Riding from the bottom is boring by comparison with the exception of three spots. Clavicle Hill, aptly named for the body part that breaks if you misjudge the obstacle, is the first seriously difficult climb. I have never seen anyone climb it, and I have gone with some great riders. claims it can be done. I believe them.  Fortunately, there are always work-arounds and bailouts. Instead of going straight up clavicle, you can take the bailout to the right. It is still difficult to climb, but doable by an intermediate rider with a large enough anaerobic engine.

Jared Hill climbed the last acid drop and now relaxes at the pool. 

The second obstacle set is the acid drops. I can ride up all but the last one. Jared Hill is the only rider of many that I have seen ride up the last drop, and he had to finish it by bouncing his bike to the top. If the last drop were the first, it would not be as difficult, but you are tired from climbing the previous four drops and the runway for the last drop is short. Maybe someday. Again, there is a bailout trail to the right that is upper-intermediate but definitely doable. After a little more riding you come to the wash that is slightly downhill as you go north. The wash ends at the bottom of the fingers of death. Most people opt for the pinkie of death (described later) or walk up some of the more difficult fingers.

Now the rip roaring fun begins! there is an immediate downhill section that lasts for about 100 yards and flattens out. The downhill is intermediate to intermediate-advanced depending on the route you take. A difference of two feet can turn a fairly straight-forward downhill segment into a launch pad. At the flat, there is a bailout route that avoids the fingers of death. My kids call the bailout, the pinkie of death. Sounds more fearsome that way I suppose.

Using the modest launch pad instead of the easy way

There are three fingers of death with some variations. They grow in difficulty from left to right. It is possible to descend each without your tires leaving dirt, but it is not advisable. If you let your bike roll with little to no brake, the downhill is silky smooth. Your time in the air is hardly noticeable because the transition is so perfect, and for heaven's sake, don't even tap your front break or you will endo. Just go with it. After biking through a wash and going down a few fun dips you are back at the awesome acid drops. The acid drops look frightening and discourage less confident riders, but there is always a bailout. explains the easy to hard routes on the fingers of death

Another view

A view from the bottom. This guy is taking one of the yikes routes on the fingers

My good friend Jonathan who is one of the best downhillers I have ever seen, attacks the acid drops with reckless abandon. He and a group of skilled riders were descending the trail through the wash casually when they were asked to get out of the way by a couple roadies in full kits and freshly washed carbon mountain bikes who were riding the trail like they were on some pro team in a stage race and taking all the fun out of the ride. It is blasphemy to ride this trail with anything but fun and adrenalin as your purpose, yet I digress. The two riders stopped at the top of the acid drops wondering if they could muster enough courage to go down. Jonathan picked a line between them and at full speed launched into space. The great thing about the drops is that they have killer transitions. There is almost no way to not land softly even if it is on your body and not on your bike.

Although not one of the acid drops officially, this is a great ride

A view of the acid drops from the bottom.

Happy for smooth transitions and still smiling

A great view of a typical acid drop descent

The best way to take them is with some space between tires and dirt

Clavicle Hill is a serious matter. The only really safe way to take it is to launch it due to an annoying lip that can cause your rear tire to pitch up and forward if you take it too tentatively. You will have to commit. I took a friend down a slightly easier section of it and warned him not to touch his brakes until he had both tires safely on the ground on a less steep grade. Instead, he panicked, tapped his front brake, flew over his handle bars, landed on his knee and head at about the same time and ended up with a shattered helmet and trip to the emergency room.

With a full faced helmet and a DH bike, yes. Otherwise, maybe avoid the tail whip.

Joe opted for the bailout route which is still a little treacherous. Knocked him out cold for a few seconds.

The remaining half of the ride is the roller coaster section. It makes for some of the funnest real estate in the solar system. There are several route options that will increase or decrease the fun/difficulty. The routes are normally well marked. We have spent hours stopped at some of the better jumps to see just how far and high we can launch. 

Dangerous Dan the Rock Licka coming off one of the jumps

This is a classic, not-to-be-missed ride. Due to the various trail options, it can be ridden by all skill levels. Joe's crash was due less to the trail and more to a sharply increased confidence level that out grew his judgement. He has since taken the same route several times with no mishap. 

The area around the designated trail is fragile and not to be touched. Please respect the signage. Do not adventure off trail. The area is habitat for endangered species including the Dwarf Bearclaw Poppy, the trail's namesake. If the trail is abused, it will get shut down, so don't be a scrub. 

Finally, do not ride the trail when muddy! About every other year some bikers that can't seem to wait ride it in poor conditions. The grooves created by the tires and mud harden and take an entire summer to smooth out. As I write this, the trail on the roller coaster section is quite bumpy and far less fun than it will be in the fall when things thousands of riders have been on it. 

Here are some links to some reviews of the trail...