Friday, September 23, 2011

Shotgun Post - Multiple Updates

Vibram update
For those of my followers wondering "Hey, I wonder if Mike is still wearing those funny shoes?"
Yes. I am wearing my funny shoes, and I have accidentally increased my weekly mileage quite a bit, sue to the pure awesome feeling of running them. The calf soreness and pinky toe cramping has gone away, and I feel good on the go.
Today, fueled on nothing but black coffee and a coffee mug of homemade beef broth, I set off on a run with no real plan as to what the final distance would be. I new it would be at least 3 miles, but I had no intention of setting a limit. The weather has been beautiful yesterday and today, with the humidity of the summer finally dropping off and a nice north wind blowing through gently. It was 84F when I started (29C for pretty much the rest of the known world), and sunny. To facilitate my daily dose of Vitamin D, I was clad in nothing but a pair of baggies with my communication device (page/cell/2way comm phone affectionately known as "the bat phone") in my wax pocket, my VFF's, a reflective belt (you know, for safety ::facepalm::), and my Simple Hydration Bottle; which we'll get to later. It felt great. I can't remember the most comfortable I have been on a run in a long time. I took it slow, never got winded, and just enjoyed it. I walked some, but it was more a run than a walk. The sun was brutal, and I wanted to keep running to see how far I could go. After the first 5 miles or so I decided to refill my bottle, get some water and a sip of broth, and I picked up my fishing shirt to cover me up. visual reference here
I ended up with a combined total, according to google maps, a 9.7mi Run/Walk fasted, in VFF's, and in a fishing shirt. This is pretty much the longest run I've completed that I know of. I'm not a distance runner by any means, and actively avoid chronic distance. I just wanted to see how far I could go. I definitely ran more than I walked, and it took about 2 hours to complete it all, but I will still put it up there on the accomplishments. I'm not training for any races.

Simple Hydration
I found out about the Simple Hydration bottle when one of my searches for the end of the internet led me to This is a site that lets people give small sums of money to fund projects that would otherwise not get off the ground. It works similarly to a PBS fund drive, where you pledge you support, and various levels of support equal different gifts in return. However, you only get charged if the project meets it's funding goal. I loved the idea fr the bottle founder Brian Hock came up with, and saw the potential so I pledged my support, and have a bottle now to test and evaluate. Verdict: I love the little thing. It gets hot enough for the crawfish to crawl out pre-boiled here in the summer, so the idea of a bottle I can take with me on my half naked runs was spot-on. Truth be told I use it more as a basting brush than it's intended purpose, but keeping my skin cool and my bandanna wet gives me more endurance on those searing days. It works best with a strong waist band or a belt (more reason for my reflective belt, you know, for safety ::facepalm::), as I've had a hard time keeping it in place with lightweight running shorts, but it's small enough and designed so well that it fits in the palm of your hand and you don't even realize you are carrying a bottle at all. I have run with bottles before in the past carrying like a football tucked in your arm, but it's difficult staying relaxed carrying it that way. Camelbaks are sufficient, but I don't need that much water on short runs, and I prefer to not run with straps on my shoulders. The Simple Hydration bottle works great. It also fits in my weight vest, when I'm wearing that. I can say with confidence this bottle would work great in any active situation. I wish I had one of these in my military training days. I plan on purchasing a couple more.

Running in a Fishing Shirt
I honestly don't know why I've never tried this before. With the heat and the sun in the south, I just can't completely give-up using sunscreen. I put it on my tattoos to help keep the color lasting through the ages, and pretty much go without on the rest of my body, but I feel a tad guilty about it. Humans evolved many different ways to tackle the problem of sun exposure, or lack of as in the case of my European ancestry, and the modern chemicals in "SPF T-shirt" probably aren't doing me any good as they absorb into my skin. Even when I have a nice summer tan; I'm loaded up on bacon, butter, coconut oil, and tomatoes; this blond haired blue-eyed kid still gets a sunburn. Plus, tattoos have the unfortunate effect of heating up hotter and earlier than the rest of your skin, which I suspect has something to do with the Ink being made out of metal (probably not the healthiest choice, come to think of it). Sunscreen helps a little. The obvious recommendation is to get out of the sun or put on clothes. This hampers the running process.
Traditional cultures in hot environments wear loose fitting lightweight clothing that covers up exposed skin. Arab dessert cultures wear robes, Indians and Pakistanis wear loose pants and shirts, and the Tarahumara from the Copper Canyons of Mexico wear traditional blouses and loincloths when they run their great distance races though the mountains in extreme heat - just to think of a few. The Tarahumara are the inspiration for my fishing shirt run.
The Great Arnulfo Quimare
I was cooking in my skin on the first half of my run with my mind pumping away as it tends to do on runs, and I realized a fishing shirt is about as close to the traditional Tarahumara blouses as you can get without going an expedition to Old Mexico to acquire one. This is a shirt that is designed with sun protection in mind with a UPF30 advertised on the sleeve, and it's vented to allow for the breeze to flow through and still keep you in the shade. It's made of a lightweight synthetic material and is built for the movement required to cast. Seems like a perfect piece of running wear to me. I have looked at the UnderArmour heat gear before, but can't justify the price tag. My fishin' shirt was picked up at Gander Mountain for considerably less, and you can find them online. The big brand names creep up in price, but whatever.
This led me to wonder why the popularity of sun shirts aren't higher in the Ancestral heath and fitness circles. Vibrams, moccasins, running sandals are all picked up from the idea that our ancestors were right, and old ideas were merely improved (VFF's being the "improvement" to the human foot) why not traditional apparel? Runners are always making sure to have the newest technical gear to run in, but go out of the way to be minimal on their feet. Is traditional apparel the next untapped market? Time will tell. Maybe I will see more folks running in fishing shirts.

The Rugged Beauty of Swampy South Louisiana

Louisiana has a strange charm. It's downright sultry in the summer, with heat and humidity that would choke a ghecko; Reptiles, Arachnids, and Insects that live off your suffering and can certainly ruin your day abound; and the area has to deal with the occasional Category 5 hurricane that rolls through and knocks all the trailers off their pilings (they will put a double wide anywhere down here). However, over the course of the last two years I've grown very fond of life here, and the scenery is very beautiful when it wants to be. The sunrises and sunsets are spectactular, beside the heat, the weather is pretty awesome most of the year, and the fish and wildlife are pretty awesome. The people are the friendliest you'll ever meet, and the food culture is one of a kind.
I love getting off the road here and just running or hiking. I work very near the locations on Swamp People, and I can decipher the coon-ass dialect so well I don't need the subtitles on the show. Gators, Snakes, Spiders be damned. I still run trails. I do wait for the grass to be cut, and I have regular run-ins with fire ants, but so far I'm still higher on the food chain. I don't plan on changing my habits anytime soon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fasted Training

As I laced up my running shoes (first time since buying my VFF's) for a 5k on the gravel road, the lightning struck and the rain started falling. So I've been pacing around the crew trailer waiting for it to stop. There are squall lines in every direction today, so I was hoping to get my run in before it started storming again. I wanted to post a link to a guest post by Jason Fitzgerald this morning on Naturally Engineered I've been following David Csonka for a while now, and his blog is a great resource to all things Paleo and Fitness as well as a great place to start if you are just getting into all of this. Strength Running, likewise has been extremely helpful to me in improving my running ability. Both these guys know their stuff, and are talented bloggers who can really convey the information in a concise, understandable way.

Perfecting the Art of Fasting Before Running
The article deals with fasted-state running, and actively challenges the old adage that you need to carb load prior and during a run to perform well. If you are training for a race or race season Intermittent Fasting lets you work in a way to train your body to metabolize and store glucose in your muscles more efficiently. This definitely a must-read article.

In my own experience, I have switched almost entirely to fasted runs. I have not been putting in as many miles as a competitive runner, but rather supplementing my training, and maximizing the mind-clearing benefits of runs. I was starting to ratchet up my mileage before I started running in VFF's, but dialed it back down when I was breaking them in. I made up for the shorter distances with more frequent runs. It is very cathartic to just float along nearly barefoot, and I have to say it is mildly addictive when you are already into fitness. My already minimal (9mm heel drop) NB100's feel like cowboy boots compared to the KSO's. The only reason I am putting them on is I want to run on a gravel road, and gravel has been my arch nemesis lately. I really just want to run my old 5k on gravel just to get away.
I have not eaten a traditional breakfast in nearly a year, and now if I run with anything more than half a banana in my stomach I feel nauseated the entire run. Running with the fuel low light on has been nothing but a blessing to my runs. I get a nice little pulse of energy after the first mile that catapults me through the rest of the run. The only exception being on very high heat and humidity days where I'm just getting beat down by the elements. Most of the time fasting helps cool your body down as well, so the summers are a lot more bearable here in the deep south.
I have also completed many military fitness tests while fasted with my Navy PRT scores getting better, and my Search and Rescue Fitness Tests and Evals getting better. Swimming with anything in my stomach has generally been a bad idea anyway, due to the nausea and cramping associated. The Conventional Wisdom would be that an individual needs a large number of calories before during and after to fuel these workouts, but the opposite is true. I now perform better on an empty stomach than I do with even a light breakfast. Light breakfast being a powerbar or a piece of fruit. Now I fuel myself with a good cup (usually more) of French Pressed coffee, and at most a tiny piece of very dark chocolate to counteract the acid. Coffee and Chicory seems to provide the best results, as the chicory takes away the acid, and is high in magnesium.

The added benefits of increased insulin sensitivity, lower caloric load over time, and better fat metabolism, have all helped push me through plateaus in fitness and weight loss; and the "second wind" sometimes achieved gives the benefit of pushing through some grueling workouts leading to my better over-all conditioning. I am unsure as to this effect is from the release of liver glucose after gluconeogenesis from the previous night's protein, or if it is simply keto adaptation and the point at which the mitochondria switch over to burning ketone bodies (fat) as fuel. Either way, it has been intuitive to me to eat and work this way, so I will not be switching back.

If you are interested in learning more about Intermittent Fasting as a method, here are some very helpful links that I still follow on a regular basis:
Martin Berkhan at Lean Gains
Johnny at The Lean Saloon
Brad Pillon at Eat Stop Eat
Mike O'Donell at The IF Life
The Fast-5 Corporation

***I do want to state, that unless you have your diet really dialed in, and all the crap removed this will be a very difficult transition if this is something you are wanting to try out. A lifetime of poor dietary choices perpetuated by our consumerist society will not provide enough of the necessary nutrients for your body to run efficiently. Start with making REAL FOOD your primary source of fuel, so the need to snack on junk all day is eliminated. This is imperative. Fasting is intuitive once you can eat well enough to be able to skip a meal. Garbage in Garbage out. If you get light headed by dinner time after snacking all day, then it's time to reevaluate your food choices.