Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"Edible, adj.: Capable of being eaten. Fit to eat; nonpoisonous.
- standard dictionary definition


Then there's The Devil's Dictionary definition of "edible" by Ambrose Bierce . . . but I'm not feeling wicked enough to quote that one today. Google it, or ask me if you have a warped sense of humor.

I've written pretty extensively in the 2005 and 2006 journals about the energy drinks and other products Jim and I use for our ultra-long runs and races. The most recent was the September 23, 2006 entry, when I summarized the products we used for last summer's adventures in the Rocky Mountains.

We've been using energy and recovery drinks and gels and bars since we began running marathons in the early 1980s. By the time we each began running ultras in the 1990s, the products and our own tastes had "matured." Finding effective products and strategies for their use is a very individual thing. In fact, we're both still experimenting to discover what works best for us and when. There are so many variables when you're out there covering long distances on foot, and your body doesn't always respond in the same ways even when those variables seem to be "the same" as last time.

We can't remember when we began using Hammer Nutrition products, which ones we used first, or even where we initially heard about them -- probably at a race or in a magazine. We see their products at a lot of ultras. I know we've been using Hammer's gels and drinks at least ten years, and probably longer.

Jim and I have pretty much discontinued using other manufacturers' products at this point except for gels and bars in race goody bags. I sometimes eat Harvest Bars or Clif Bars when I can get them inexpensively. In 100-milers Jim will occasionally use other energy drinks for variety when he gets tired of the taste of the same drink hour after hour. This can be a problem, however, if those drinks contain simple sugars -- mixing them in the stomach with Hammer's complex carbohydrate products can cause gastric problems because the combination interferes with proper absorption rates.

I mentioned in this year's June 28 entry that Hammer Nutrition continues to give us a 40% discount on products, and for that we are most grateful. I asked for a discount shortly before embarking on my Appalachian Trail Adventure Run in 2005, and they granted my request. We aren't prohibited from using other products, but we like theirs so much we'll continue using them if and when the discount is no longer available.

Translation: we don't use their products simply because we can get a discount on them. We use them because they work for us.

If you've never used Hammer's products before, we encourage you to visit their website (link at left in every entry). They have TONS of scientific information about their products and how to use them effectively. You can get a 15% discount on your first order if you use our code number at that link. We receive a discount on our next order of 25% of your order. The good thing is that YOU can also receive this discount when people order the first time using YOUR new code. (It's not like a pyramid scheme, however. It works only when someone places their initial order using your code, not every order those people ever make.)

End of blatant advertisement. Here's a recap of the Hammer Nutrition products we use. There are dozens more we haven't used (mostly supplements).

1. Hammer Gel

I call this my "rocket fuel" and I use it primarily uphill. Sounds weird, but I notice the energy burst in just a few minutes. Hammer Gel is concentrated long-chain (complex) carbohydrate without simple sugars or artificial flavors or sweeteners. It's available in individual serving packets or economical 26-serving jugs. We buy the jugs in about five of the nine flavors; two are caffeinated and we like those at night in 100-milers or in the morning on a day-long run.

We carry the company's plastic flasks that hold five ounces of gel. Jim has a waist carrier and I either put the flask in one of my waist pouches or use a carrier that fits on the shoulder strap of my Camelbak hydration pack.

Hammer Gel can be used with any of Hammer's energy drinks on longer runs or as your sole source of energy on runs of a couple hours or less. Some people mix it with Heed, Sustained Energy, or Perpetuem to add to or change their flavors.

I related a funny story in my AT journal about hikers who came upon a flask of Hammer Gel that Jim   left on the trail for me when he was trying to find me on "flood day" (Day 141) in Maine. A hiker saw me with my gel flask a few days later (Day 144, 2005 journal) and said he and other thru-hikers thought the one they saw on the ground was soap! What amused Jim and me the most was that it was chocolate flavor (how many soaps are that color??). We had visions of someone using it to wash their hair or body -- what a gooey mess that would have been!!

Note: if you've accumulated as many of those flasks over the years as we have (they are sent along with the jugs of gel), they do make great travel- or backpacking-size containers for liquid soap or shampoo -- just don't mix them up with Hammer Gel and mistakenly eat them!

2. Edurolytes

These are electrolyte capsules that contain not only easily-assimilated sodium but also calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin B6, and manganese to prevent cramping and help the muscular, nervous, digestive, and cardiac systems perform well during prolonged exercise.

Proper electrolyte dosing during long runs and races is sometimes difficult and it plagues many ultra runners. I have more problems with getting enough vs. getting too much than I do with taking in proper amounts of fluids and calories. However, I used to have more problems with a different brand of electrolyte cap I took back in the 1990s that contained a much higher concentration of sodium. I can correct an electrolyte problem faster with Endurolytes because of the smaller amount of sodium in them. This is a very individual thing and anyone taking electrolyte capsules has to just experiment with all the variables -- physical condition, fluid intake, how hot it is, etc.

When I'm drinking Perpetuem I need fewer Endurolytes than when I'm drinking water, Heed, or Sustained Energy. "Perp" has a fair amount of electrolytes in it already.

We use Endurolytes in capsule form because we think they are versatile to use. You can also buy it in powder form and just add it to your energy drink when you're mixing it up. Some folks like that method because they don't have to carry the capsules separately and remember to take them at regular intervals.

3. Heed

We use this complex-carbohydrate energy drink for runs of about one to three hours, sometimes in combination with Hammer Gel and sometimes without. Jim uses it for some runs longer than that, too. We buy it in 32-serving containers and mix the powder with water at the recommended strength. Although I usually use Perpetuem very concentrated, I don't like Heed this way.

You can also get Heed in single-serving packets. If we need more than one bottle of it during a run, we carry powder from the larger container in a little Ziplock bag and mix it up again in the bottle. It comes in three flavors: lemon-lime, Mandarin orange, and unflavored. Like all the other Hammer Nutrition products, Heed has no simple sugars or artificial flavors or sweeteners. It has an ingredient to buffer lactic acid.

4. Perpetuem

"Perp" is my very favorite energy drink. I use it on almost every long run or race over three hours. Jim gets tired of it after many, many hours, but I don't -- even when it gets warm. Along with Hammer Gel, it was my primary fuel on the Appalachian Trail  and Colorado Trail and in ultra races up to one hundred miles. Athletes commonly use it in extreme multi-day events.

Perpetuem contains soy protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates to provide consistent energy (not a fast energy boost like gels), help preserve muscle tissue, maximize fat utilization, and buffer lactic acid. It is easily digestible for most people.

Not everyone likes it as well as I do. This whole nutrition/energy product thing is very individual and you have to find both the taste and ingredients that work for you under different conditions. Perpetuem works for me and I love the orange-vanilla flavor. It also comes unflavored so you can drink it plain or choose your own flavor by adding gel to it.

It comes in three sizes, from single-serving to 32-servings. It is in powder form and must be mixed with water. Jim uses it at "regular" strength. I almost always mix it up in varying concentrations, depending on how long I anticipate being on the trail. For example, I use 1 to 1 scoops per hour, or 6-9 scoops in a 20-oz. water bottle for a six-hour run. I use a 28-oz. bottle for longer runs. The concentrate is thick but not as thick as a gel.

I carry the bottle with Perp in a neoprene hand carrier and carry plain water in another bottle in my fanny pack or Camelbak bladder. Because the Perpetuem is so concentrated, I have to wash each mouthful down with several ounces of water. It's not as precise a concentration of carbohydrate-to-water as I'd get if I mixed it at regular strength like Jim does, but this method has worked very well for me for several years. If it ain't broke . . .

5. Sustained Energy

SE is similar to Perp in that it contains complex carbs, fats, and proteins, but it doesn't have many electrolytes in it. The flavor is very plain, so I like to add raspberry gel to it when I'm mixing it with water. It is also used for multi-hour or multi-day events. It comes in the same size containers as Perpetuem. We don't use SE as much as Perpetuem but we use it occasionally for variety's sake. Some of our friends much prefer the Sustained Energy.

6. Recoverite

This is Hammer's energy replacement drink for post-workout re-fueling. It should be consumed very soon after a long workout or race to effectively re-supply carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes for faster recovery. I should use it more often than I do. I know it works; my AT trek proved that to me. I used Recoverite almost every day, and then went out and covered more ground the next day and the next and the next for over four months. However, sometimes I crave something salty and not sweet and I don't use it. My bad.

7. Energy bars

Hammer Nutrition's two flavors of energy bars are absolutely delicious, but they are expensive enough that we don't often buy them (we can't get them at a discount). They are made with natural, all-organic ingredients and no preservatives. Both the chocolate chip and almond raisin flavors are moist and easily digested. Yum -- gotta order some more next time!

If you have any questions about Hammer Nutrition products, check out the website for the scientific answers or ask us for our opinions/experience with them. We're not on the payroll, just very satisfied customers who like to promote products from any manufacturer who is reliable, ethical, and has a 100% guarantee on their goods.

Next entries: pre-race activities for the Hardrock Hundred. Three days to show time!

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil