Category Archives: Hydration

Obsessing over Weight

I am not normally one to obsess over my weight, but recently it has been foremost in my mind.

It is not my weight I have been overly concerned about, although this has not totally escaped my attention, but rather the weight of my backpack and the supplies I ‘might’ be taking for my week in the desert in under 5 weeks time.

Calories vs. weight
Calories vs. weight

Last time I was in the desert, I must’ve arrived with at least 11-12kg in my pack, much of which was carried along for the ride in a fundamental, but common first-time MdS participant error related to the terror of being self-sufficient for a week. My pack in 2008 included cameras, chargers, spare batteries, food, snacks, extra food, extra snacks, changes of clothes, extra clothes, trekking poles, flags, hydration tablets, isotonic powders, plus all the normal compulsory kit. With a backpack resembling a Rio Carnival float which was stuffed tighter than a haggis on Burns night, I still had to add the organiser supplied mandatory equipment, in the shape of a rather large emergency flare to pack, to which access was required at all times, so no squirrelling away inside the pack.

I can look back and laugh πŸ˜† about my error now, but as a result have paid my debt to the Gods of experience and will therefore be returning to the desert with more knowledge of the appropriate levels of equipment and food required.

Balance of Weight
Balance of Weight

Nevertheless, I am still obsessing over weight, pouring over the smallest details, agonising over the merest grams of mass that I can shave out of my pack. Do I need that knife with ALL those blades? Can I manage without all that hydration fluid in the Sahara? Do I really need toilet roll, or will sand (which gets everywhere anyway) suffice? Surely, when the organisers say self-sufficient, they don’t really mean it? Surely!

The bulk of the changing weight clearly goes into food, although the organisers insist on a strict bare minimum of 2000kcal per day, remaining at the end of the day’s stage, i.e. 14,000 at technical checks, 12,000 at end of first stage, etc. Needless to say, 2000 calories for an adult male, using (conservatively) 2,500 kcal per marathon, of which there will be about 6, on top of a normal day’s energy expenditure, will leave a fairly substantial and hungry deficit by the end of the week. So here is where the compromises start, but each little extra food on a daily basis adds to the weight to be carried and since my experience is of having too much food, I don’t think this is going to be too much of a compromise.

Interestingly, post-race reviews have indicated that the Brits take excessive food and equipment while the French (the largest contingent) are prepared to accept a lot less in the way of what might be considered ‘luxury’ items.

Anyway, my daily pack weight currently looks like this, including the anticipated organiser supplied flare, etc.

StageFood (g)Stage weight (kg)

Stage 1 2721 7.0
Stage 2 2243 6.5
Stage 3 1806 6.1
Stage 4 1368 5.7
Stage 5 521 4.8
Stage 6 103 4.4

– this is based on the fact that my ‘static’ equipment weight is 4.3kg (including backpack, sleeping bag, Thermarest, headlamp, compass and the rest of the paraphernalia, but excluding water)

I will be trying to reduce my body fat content (BMI) from its current comfortably quiesent state of 11% down to a more functional 9-10%, which won’t leave me much contingency by the last day, but then as Marshall Ulrich said in “Running on Empty”, the story of his run across America, most people have enough body fat to get them most of the way across the continent! Given that he was eating enough for 4 people on his average 58 miles per day run across the States, I am a little dubious about his comment πŸ™‚ but then he is a legend!

So, after a little more tweaking I’ll be ready, and at the end of the day, a few grams here or there won’t make that much difference.

Or will it? πŸ™‚

Okay, I’m off to my spreadsheet….

Rim Run and Zion

Bryce Canyon Sunrise!

This was to be our last proper day of holiday πŸ™

Tomorrow was to be taken up with packing, travelling back to Salt Lake City, dropping the RV off and then hopefully relaxing in the hotel at SLC.

Today, we had two more things planned and the first required an early start.

We wanted to try to get up to see the sunrise over Bryce Canyon. Contrary to the names of the vista points along the rim, we had been told that ‘Inspiration Point’ was the best place to see the sunrise, as opposed, ironically, to ‘Sunrise Point’.

Luckily, since we were now on daylight saving time in the mountains, sunrise was at 6:55am (the previous day in Arizona, it had been 5:55am! We tried to make our way, as quietly as possible, out of Ruby’s Inn RV park, disconnecting our amenities in a flash – seasoned RV’ers after only a couple of weeks πŸ™‚ We then drove up to nearly the highest point of the Bryce Canyon rim, where the first vestiges of sunlight were starting to illuminate the eastern sky.

Liz rushed up to the high point with her camera to start to take photos of what promised to be a magnificent event; indeed, there were several other people there who had had the same idea. Dad wondered up to the first point and after ‘settling’ the children down, I followed to the mid point of the rising rim and found a boulder on the edge of the cliff to sit on.

For a brief instant in time, we had a spectacular and privileged view of the sun rising, as it slowly crept its way above the horizon and stuttered behind the distant blanket of clouds, releasing a red warmth onto the chilly mountain side. A daily event, for sure, but unique to see the patterns within the canyon, illuminating the hoodoos which had taken thousands of years to form and which were ever changing in the slowly rising light.

After the spectacular sight, I got back to the RV to find the children going wild! It is difficult sometimes to have such emotive experiences, and then be brought down to reality so suddenly by the practical needs of the youngsters. However, after Liz had returned as well, and settled them down, I was ready for my next exploit while they had breakfast. A run along the rim.

Since we were only a couple of kilometres from the high point of the rim, I decided it would be rude not to go all the way to the top first and then turn round and come back ‘down’ the edge of the precipitous cliffs to the most northerly view point of the park, although this was a desire vs. time constraint compromise.

Bryce Rim Sunrise – Not a bad place for a Run

As I started out from the car park and up the first incline, I hoped my initial breathlessness was simply a result of a ‘standing start’ and going up hill without having warmed up for a few km; that and the 8,200ft altitude, of course. I was reminded, for the second time this vacation, of the Western States 100, which starts out with a vicious 3-4km climb from Squaw Valley, up to the highest point of the course, before the undulating one way route descends over 100 miles into Auburn. Perhaps I should practice my uphill running from cold.

Only half an hour after the sun had risen, I was already beginning to feel the heat, on first my left side and then, after reaching the summit at Bryce Point, turning and retracing my steps, on my right side. I stopped briefly every few moments, as I reached another corner or crest with another new and stunning view of the canyon to the east, to take some remarkably pleasing picture with my iPhone.

If I thought that the route was to be all downhill from the turning point I was sadly disappointed as it too was an undulating route along the ridge of the canyon, but this at least gave me a good workout. I ran through my start point and them on for another 2-3km before reaching Sunrise Point where I had arranged to meet my breakfasting family. They had had an adventure of their own and, being confused about where they were to meet me, had travelled around the various vistas but luckily had arrived at the perfect time to meet me.

What a fantastic day so far, and it wasn’t even 9:00am yet πŸ™‚

After a quick bite of breakfast and shower, while the children played in the surrounding woods, only at the end of which did we discover that ‘rattlesnake activity’ was HIGH :shock:, we then continued our journey, but went south for 40 miles or so, back along the road we had previously travelled to Bryce, back down in elevation, and then 20 or so miles west to Zion National Park, our second treat for the day.

Zion is more popular than Bryce, as it is more accessible and lower elevation, but is just as beautiful albeit for different reasons. We entered the canyon and realised that approaching the route through the park from the east, we were actually descending further into the valley which after the climbs of the last few days to get to our destinations was an unusual feeling. The canyon walls were beautiful though, and etched in unbelievable way as if someone had spent a lifetime with a cold chisel and hammer drawing a myriad of designs of the rock faces, some etched vertically in contrast to the horizontal sedimentation lines, some horizontal weathering effects and some diagonal and cross-cross herringbone lines produced by heaven knows what effect! Beautiful though.

We had been warned at the entrance to the park that there were two tunnels, the second of which we were considered an ‘oversized vehicle’ for and hence needed a ranger ‘escort! This amounted to only allowing one way traffic through the tunnel so that we could drive down the middle of the 1/2 mile tunnel hewn through the canyon wall.

Zion National Park – After the second tunnel – Click for Panorama

As we emerged from the other side, we were exposed to a final perilous descent down a switchback through the almost unfeasibly steep cliff valley on either side. The pictures we took, on stopping will never do it justice.

At the bottom of the valley and the other side of the park, we stopped for some some lunch and found a Thai restaurant which although incongruous in its location, was a great meal.

Setting off again we were soon back on the interstate, with ‘only’ 160 miles to go to our final evening stop in the RV. We had decided to push on to a place called Fillmore, simply because it had a hot-tub as well as a swimming pool at the KOA RV park; such are the simple demands of under-11 year olds.

As it turned out the park was well enough presented with a great view of the mountains to the east and although several miles away, there was nothing between us and them except, as it turned out, a couple of thunderstorms. At least they whipped up a nice breeze while we were packing. Fillmore itself was a small place, a bit of a one horse town perhaps, but the restaurant we ate at for our final evening meal in the RV did us proud.

RV Trip, Day 15: Ruby’s Inn RV Park, Bryce Canyon to Fillmore, UT
Day Mileage: 246 miles
Total Mileage: 2249 miles

Caffeine and Pace

For the last 15 months or so, I’ve been largely caffeine free.

In an attempt to give my leg the best possible chance of healing, I forsook caffeine in coffee and tea, choosing instead to drink decaf coffee and rooibos tea, the naturally decaffeinated tea which originates from South Africa. On occasions I have had the odd double espresso after a meal, and of course I’ve not given up chocolate by any means, but these have been the exception rather than the rule.


So imagine, if you will, the effect of a couple of full strength coffees on a pace run I had today.

I am still feeling a bit blocked up, so decided I needed a bit of a perk up this morning after getting into the City and it certainly worked.

London is filled with small coffee shops, Pret a Manger, Pod, Eat, Cafe Nero, Starbucks, Costa’s, plus any number of small independent shops – it is clearly a lucrative business to feed the City’s habit of morning stimulant. I don’t normally have to worry about frequenting them though, as our restaurant and coffee bar normally provision adequately for my needs. Still, you never know what you’ve got, until it’s gone, and as both are closed for the Bank’s annual meeting, for the last week I’ve been experimenting with the local drug establishments, but still getting decaf as a preference.

I had a large coffee from Pret first thing, with my croissant followed by another from rival Pod a couple of hours later.

When I got down to the gym I was still feeling a touch congested, and it had not even crossed my mind that I had been imbibing hard stimulants all morning. The weather was good, but my mind was such that I only decided to go outside at the last minute, deferring from my planned treadmill interval session to get some fresh air along the Regent’s Canal.

As I started out I tried to get things moving as quickly as possible, warming up for the first km with a view to doing a faster 4km before a cool down final km back to the gym. My watch beeped all too soon though and as I glanced down I was pleased with the 4:45 recorded for my first lap as I sped up for the real test.

Then the surprise really happened, 4:15 as I picked up the canal, 4:14 for the third km, feeling the strain, but still not maxed out. I took the prudent course at this point and slowed marginally for a couple of minutes as a recovery, so the next beep indicated 4:34 as I sped up again on my way back through Hackney and Hoxton to record 4:10 with the last cool down km being 4:28.

Now, I know these are not particularly fast pace times, indeed, I will be looking to attain this as the norm, rather than the exception in a few months time. Even so, the surprise was that in my semi-depleted, blocked up state, I was able to run at this pace at all, let alone without bursting a blood vessel.

It was only much later that I realised the probable, caffeine related reasoning behind my sudden performance increase.

Performance enhancing indeed!

Chia Seeds

So, you thought Gillian McKeith invented the concept of superfoods.

Think again πŸ™‚

There are records of ‘Chia Seed’ being used as a food over 3,500 years ago and it was recognized as a superfood by the Aztecs, so much so that it was often used as legal tender for exchange of goods!

So what is so special about chia seeds, and why am I writing about them on a running blog?

Continue reading Chia Seeds

Iskiate or chia fresca

Step 1
Combine 1 tbsp. dry chia seeds with 10 oz. water in a small glass or bowl. Chia seeds absorb over nine times their weight in water, making for an effective timed release of water and nutrients later.

Step 2
Stir the mixture gently with a spoon to keep the seeds from clumping together.

Step 3
Allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes. When chia seeds in water are soaked for at least 10 minutes, they form a gel with the consistency of yogurt.

Step 4
Add 2 tsp. fresh lime juice and 2 tsp. sugar to taste to your chia gel.

Add fruit juice instead of the water and lime juice to make up the mix with different tastes – we often make it up with orange juice and in the mornings add blue-green algae or green barley powder.