Fuel Belt Review

The other day, I had to switch cars for a week with Stephanie as hers was in the repair shop (my father's repair shop, to be precise).  One disadvantage to switching cars is that when it comes to triathlon training, you're really switching locker rooms.  That means bike helmet, cleats, pump, swim fins, gloves and hand pump. It also meant taking my Nathan two-bottle running belt. Somewhere between the time I took that belt and the time I got my car back, Nathan decided to up and leave me.  I'm pretty sure it had something to do with my GYST transition backpack I've been toting around -- looking like a tiny second-grader in the process.  The Nathan belt has a generous amount of Velcro and likes to attach itself to clothing or anything else nearby.  I'm pretty sure Nathan hitched a ride on the GYST Express and got off somewhere in my work parking lot.

Which leads me to Wildflower long-course triathlon, a little less than a week away. It's going to be hot that day.  Real hot.  Wildflower is the kind of place where 80 degrees will feel like 90.  So I'll need a hydration system of some kind for the dusty, sweltering run.  My wave starts at 8:35 a.m, meaning I'll be on the trails starting around noon, the heat of the day.

I chose to experiment with the Fuel Belt R30 for two reasons. First, the store I went to (Runnergy in Sherman Oaks) didn't have a Nathan three or four-bottle belt in my size.  Second, I've found that for two-hour runs or longer, a two-bottle Nathan belt (approximately 10 ounces per bottle) doesn't contain enough fluid for me to stay fully hydrated.  I need at least three bottles.

The R30 Fuel Belt gives me an extra 4 ounces overall, with each bottle being slightly smaller (8 ounces) though.  The challenge with a three-bottle system, at least with this Fuel Belt, is that all three bottles are positioned on the back part of my hips or directly on my backside.  That's inefficient from a running perspective and threw off my gait when I first tried using the belt this past Friday during my Griffith Park long run.

Further, the Fuel Belt has only a small square pouch on the right side for keys and possibly one folded gel.  You can add additional storage on the belt, but of course you're gaining further weight.  That's a touchy trade off.

I'm not that impressed with the R30 Fuel Belt.  The bottles aren't removed easily from their plastic holders, unlike my old trusty Nathan belt.  The Fuel Belt plastic almost feels more rigid, so that if you don't place the bottle correctly in the holder it won't slide into place. This was especially frustrating for me as I found myself twisting my hips and back more mid-stride focusing on putting the bottle(s) back instead of where I was going.  That's not safe on trails!

In short, I miss my Nathan belt.  If I could place a "Missing" sign with a reward for it, I would. I'll likely use the Fuel Belt at Wildflower because it's better to have extra liquids there, but after that I plan to return the Fuel Belt and wait patiently for a properly sized Nathan three- or four-bottle system to arrive in the store.

63 days and counting (re-calibrated to sync with the actual race day!)

My Amazing Super Food

This past week, I've experimented with a new "Super Food" powder with a very funny name (at least to me it's funny).  The product is called Amazing Grass. Yep.  I'm not joking.  More like snickering and remembering college.

Anyway, I've been interested in fruit and vegetable supplements for months.  While I eat carrots, bananas, berries, apples, dried apricots and "tangelos" regularly, I don't eat enough of the green stuff overall.  Since my buddy Bob is holding out on me with his own special fruit/veggie supplement connection (yep, I'm callin' you out, friend!), I've been searching for assistance on my own.

I ventured to the Whole Foods near my condo where I was greeted by "Dave" in the vitamins section.  He had a propensity for calling me "bro" and saying things like, "You can really pound three of these a day and feel totally great, bro!."

Yep, I'm not joking.

After listening to my needs (something to help fill the gap between what I should consume for fruit/veggies and what I actually do), Dave immediately pointed to the Amazing Grass products.  So, having a bad experience with "super food" that tastes like sewer sludge, I bought four sample-size packets (instead of the nearly $80 I spent trying Brazier's products) to see if I could get this stuff down: "Green," "Chocolate," "Berry" and "Energy."

Overall, I'm a big fan of Amazing Grass (cue snickering).

I noticed an energy boost when trying "Green," "Chocolate" and "Berry", though ironically I can't claim the same sensation for the "Energy" sample.  I tried the energy sample this afternoon, so called because it has 85 mg of natural plant-based caffeine in it.

Sorry, but doesn't that last part sound a little like cocaine to you?  Yeah, I was a little worried about that too.  Apparently it gets its kick from yerba mate and matcha.

If "Energy" makes me perform like Macca I'm interested...but I'm not feelin' it.

That said, the "Green" Amazing Grass helped me fight off an oncoming head cold in less than 24 hours earlier this week.  I was shivering and stuffed up at night on the same day I ingested the "Green" sample. The next day, I felt fine.  Almost 100%.

Yep, I'm not joking.

As for taste, it's not the worst thing I've consumed.  That's about the most ringing endorsement I can give.  (I don't think they'll put that on the back of the box though.)  The good (or bad) news is that each of the supplement samples I tried all tasted about the same, with the "Energy" supplement being arguably the best due to more of a green tea taste.  But that's just my opinion. All I can say is that "Chocolate" doesn't taste like the chocolate we know and love.  Neither does Berry.

How's this for a better tagline: Amazing Grass: "A taste you get used to!"

I'm going back to Whole Foods this weekend to make my Amazing Grass purchase.  I'll talk to my bro Dave about which of the four options is the "best" for my needs/lifestyle.  And I'll write back to let you know how I feel in the coming weeks or months.

I wonder if Amazing Grass will be a gateway to other Super Foods?

165 days and counting.

Bit By Bit

When I was a kid, I was forced to endure my mother's obsession with all things Barbara Streisand. That meant seeing Yentl.  In theaters.

It meant listening to the soundtrack.  Over. And. Over.

And over again.

It meant listening to every Babs song ever made on road trips, and heaven forbid a quiet Sunday afternoon at home, because that meant watching KTLA-TV's movie of the week if Streisand was starring.

Oh, how that woman tortured me with her nasally charm.

I thought I had put those memories out of my head, but then along came this morning's Fortius team swim.

Once again, Coach Gerardo flooded me with information about all the things I'm doing wrong in my stroke.  (Side note: That's his job. I love the feedback!)  It was one thing after another following each set of intervals.  Cross-swimming. Not rotating the arms. Not gliding enough off the turn-kick. Reaching wider on each stroke. Stop clenching my hands entering the water.  Relax on the recovery stroke.

I'd fix one aspect and break another.  Then, I started to look like a mechanical bot on each stroke, trying to fix everything at once but instead looking like C3-PO trying to run (not a pretty sight).

As I started to get the hang of all these tweaks towards the end of the workout, Gerardo had me swim one more 100-yard set, this time all-out.  I was getting frustrated prior to that point because my 100's were consistently at 1:50 even though I was supposed to be increasing speed from 2:00 down to 1:45 over a set of four 100s.

I think Gerardo was getting frustrated too.

Then, I took off.  Everything clicked!  I glided along the water.  Almost effortlessly.  Almost.  I built speed and power with each 25, though my effort/output level remained largely the same.

And out of nowhere, a friggin' Barbara Streisand song popped into my head!  Seriously! I don't know the actual name of the song, but it's the one that has these lyrics: "Bit by bit, putting it together..."

Honestly, that's all I know.

Sorry mom.  But I'm serious.

I was building confidence with each lap while that annoying song was embedded in my noggin'. On the final lap, the music in my head grew louder as did the power of my stroke.

I hit the wall hard and leaped up to see the giant electronic clock confirm what I felt...a new personal record!

100 yards in 1:37.  I think I hit 1:40 once but I've certainly never broken through the 1:30s.  This also explains my Newport Beach Triathlon pace of 1:40 (wetsuit-aided, of course).

Gerardo looked at the time, and looked at me.

"Why did you make me work so hard for that?"

I couldn't help but laugh.  My teammates cheered me in the next lane, including Megan, our team's swim coach.

It was a nice moment.  Probably a little more special than the others I've enjoyed so far.  Hopefully it signals a breakthrough.

Putting it together.  Bit by bit.  I knew all those years putting up with Babs would pay off somehow.


Speaking of pay-offs, I had another nice one today courtesy of Jack Black Men's Grooming Products.  Thanks to Stephanie, I use this stuff every day.  Especially the All-Over soap, Beard Lube for shaving and Face Moisturizer after coming out of the pool.  Jack Black (not related to the actor, thank goodness) makes premium skin care products for men that truly are a cut above the competition.  The soaps, creams and ointments are good for your skin and work really well.

Jack Black was a sponsor of the Newport Beach Triathlon and had a booth at packet pick-up.  I visited with them and proclaimed my love for their lineup and how it's a perfect fit for triathletes.  (What a coincidence, since that's why Jack Black is sponsoring triathlon events.) The company recently released a new line of performance-based products geared towards athletes, including muscle rubs.  I bought the muscle rub product and applied for a raffle to win the full lineup.

Today, I got a call from Jack Black HQ telling me I won.  So, on top of a great morning in the pool, I had good fortune at my back.  This really offset the news that I wasn't selected in the Kona Ironman lottery for 2010.  I knew I didn't have much of  a chance, but a guy can dream, right?

My Jack Black prize pack should arrive in the mail early next week.  I'll let y'all know how I like everything.  Based on past experience, I'm sure it will be soothing, smell great and feel even better.

Man, this might be the most metro-sexual post I ever write.  Barbara Streisand?  Skin care products?

Surely there's a place for us crazy triathletes.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

223 days and counting.

Weekend Holiday

Why, hello Saturday!  I had almost forgotten what you looked like! Instead of the usual Ironman training regimen, I had an off day in preparation for tomorrow morning's 20-mile run from Universal City to Chinatown for the Firecracker 10k.  Here's a peek at the route.

To celebrate my morning of relaxation, I did what any reasonable person would do: I slept.  And slept.  Then, I slept some more.  Until about 10:45 a.m.  I needed that!

The rest of the day was fairly decadent, especially with the constant schedule I've maintained since this past November.  I enjoyed perhaps one of my all-time favorite breakfasts at Larchmont Bungalow.  People, you must try their Best of Both Worlds pancakes and brioche French toast.  Of course, I added scrambled eggs and chicken-apple sausage to it for balance.

Feeling fat and sassy, I headed to downtown LA to register for the Firecracker 10k, since I hadn't done that yet.  Then, I jetted back to Encino to Phidippides, a popular running store.  I'm replacing my Amphipod runner's belt with a Nathan, since I couldn't ever quite get comfortable with the Amphipod fit.  I also purchased compression socks and shorts to experiment for tomorrow's run.  Full report coming post-race, of course.

The highlight of the day though came tonight, at the Safe at Home charity event featuring Dodgers manager Joe Torre and my boyhood hero (make that every Jewish kid's hero), Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.  Despite knowing I'd get home late and have less sleep heading into tomorrow's run, I needed to hear Koufax tell stories about his career since he so rarely grants public interviews.  Several heavy hitters in Los Angeles apparently agreed, as former and current Dodger players, Hollywood directors and actors, helped pack a nearly full house.  One of my favorite sports writers, LA Times columnist TJ Simers, moderated.  Simers was as feisty and crotchety as ever, but Koufax never bit, displaying his signature wit and class throughout the discussion.

Hearing Koufax' tales of tenacity during a career filled with injury, scrutiny and mystery certainly inspired me.  I will remember the pain he must have endured pitching nearly 600 innings over the last two seasons of his career as I labor before sunrise tomorrow during my run.  I will recall that in order to become a champion, you can never lose sight of your goals, but the core of your personality is even more important.  I will internalize that you can win while keeping your head down and building others up, that nobody has to suffer at the hands of your own triumph.

Yeah, I'd say it was a pretty darned good Saturday.

And now, I fade off to sleep and dream of breaking another milestone tomorrow: my first 20-mile run.

I can't wait!

269 days and counting.

Fat n' Sassy

Considering I eat roughly seven to eight times a day, my stomach is probably spoiled more than most people.
But the past 24 hours have been especially decadent.
Come to think of it, the past two days have been a spoil-fest -- if I throw in my jaw-dropping experience at Equinox!
My meal-athon began last evening with margaritas and tacos at Casa Vega. It was a fantastic way to ring in my weekly day off from training. After a slight dip in the food quality this morning at breakfast thanks to the awful-tasting (but incredibly healthy) Vega products, I was treated to my favorite Indian food restaurant (Salomi, North Hollywood) at work as part of our weekly catered lunches.
(Yes, I realize how lucky I am!)
But tonight the truly best was saved for last: Kiwami, a relatively new sushi restaurant in Studio City located on Ventura Boulevard (aka "Sushi Row"). I've eaten at many sushi joints over the years, even in Tokyo, and now Kiwami ranks among my all-time favorites. The dishes are varied and light, such as a spicy tuna roll wrapped delicately in nearly transparent cucumbers. The meat is prepared deftly and with just the right amount of spice, such as the herb-dusted lamb chops. The fish is fresh, lightly seasoned and allowed by the chefs to simply speak for itself with just the right amount of garnish. Try the sea bass with cherry tomatoes, presented on a small, square cedar plank. But save room for dessert, as the mochi ice cream caps off the meal perfectly, complete with a generous assortment of strawberries, raspberries, orange and pear slices.
Kiwami is an ode to presentation and proper proportions, all neatly contained in a bustling yet relaxed environment. It's easy to understand why, since Kiwami is part of the renown Katsu family of restaurants (Katsuya, Izakaya, etc.).
If you like sushi, and we all should seeing as how healthy it is considering the training we do, Kiwami can't be missed.
My tasty food and drink binge has left me feeling utterly relaxed -- or as my friend and colleague James says, "fat and sassy." I'm definitely looking forward to another weekend of training and excitement. Tomorrow's regimen includes a two-hour bike ride highlighted by a time trial followed by a 30 minute core strength workout. Anat, my dinner partner tonight, is rallying to join on the bike portion of the workout.
We both will be ready to work off our meals!
306 days and counting.