Saturday, June 28, 2008

100-mile Visions Lost In Smoke (Sierra Sun)

Our very own Gretchen Brugman (now training for the TRT100, her first 100) wrote an article about the cancelation of Western States. Donald Buraglio and myself were quoted. Be sure to read the whole article here.

I have been debating whether or not it is proper etiquette to wear the 2008 Western States t-shirt that came in the race packet. I haven't done the race, so according to Bad Ben's rules of t-shirt etiquette, I shouldn't don the threads. But is there a special rule for canceled races? What do you guys think?

I'm thinking no, it shouldn't be worn. But I comprimised by deciding that it was okay to wear the shirt for one day (today) for a memorial run along the Tahoe Rim Trail. The smoke isn't too bad up around Tahoe (still brutal around Foresthill), so I headed out for a casual 12 mile out-and-back. It was such a peaceful run, and I kept repeating "oh, that magic feeling...nowhere to go" from The Beatles' You Never Give Me Your Money. Sometimes it's good to not be tethered by a goal race. ;-)

Added a few new races to the schedule - Angel Island 50k next week, the Napa to Sonoma 1/2 Marathon with Kik Armstrong two weeks after that, the brand new Skyline to the Sea 50k in September, and back to the Santa Barbara 9 Trails in November. I can't fit in a replacement 100m this year since all my key weekends are committed, so it sure felt good to sign up for 100 miles worth of races. As the case with entering Western States, I was instantly revitalized by projecting the adventures to be had.

Onward and upward. I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

- SD

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Western States 100 Has Been Officially Canceled

I haven't received any direct communication, but those in the know have been telling me it's official - the Western States 100 has been canceled. The smoke, fires, and access difficulties are proving too risky to move forward. I'm sure it was a tough decision for Greg Soderlund, Tim Tweitmeyer, and the Board, and I'm glad erred on the side of safety for the runners and volunteers alike. I'll post anything official that gets sent.

Such an odd feeling right now. Three years of lotteries, hundreds of hours of training and preparation all leading up to a single day, and just like that, it's gone. I'm sure everyone else is feeling the same, runners and volunteers alike. It's so weird to go from obsessing about one race every second of the day, to unpacking drop bags and not having the energy to even think about another race.

A couple more beers, I'm sure it will pass. ;-)

This next beer is for all of you who had the dedication, drive, and passion to be in Tahoe this week in the best shape of your life. Even without a race, there should be deep satisfaction in this accomplishment. I will drink one beer for each of you...better get started!

- SD

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Forest Fire Smoke at Western States - Going To Be An Issue?

So I arrived at Lake Tahoe today to find...actually to not find...the Lake due to substantial drift smoke from the over 800 forest fires going on in California right now. One of them, called the Foresthill Fire (earlier called the Mosquito Fire), is a 75 acre fire on Mosquito Ridge Road not too far from the Bath Road aid station (mile 60.6). It is contained as of this morning, but the smoke hanging in the valleys remains substantial. I took a jog this morning, and although I wasn't "hacking", I was as dry as a desert sandstorm at high noon in hell. Hopefully this isn't going to be a factor for the Western States 100 on Saturday...

The current weather forecasts for Foresthill (as accurate as they can be this far out) say this should all blow over by Friday, returning to the 95-100 degree heat we all know and love. However, the SpareTheAir forecast says unhealthy levels of smoke and particles will remain through the weekend thanks to Delta breezes pulling even more from the Napa fires, and high pressure over the area will create a heat vortex on top of that. There is also a slight chance of thunderstorms - sweet! Note to self...add Visine, oxygen masks, and rain gear to the Michigan Bluff drop bag...

- SD

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is Anyone Else Freaking Out Right Now?

The Western States 100 is six days away and I am now officially freaking out. I keep reminding myself I shouldn't be worried...I've done the miles, I'm running faster than ever, and even my heat training is going well. It's not like I'm trying to win the damn thing. So why am I waking up in a cold sweat each morning like a death row inmate scheduled to walk the green mile come Saturday?

I think the main culprit is tapering, a process with which I am not very familiar. To honor the taper means to give up the long and/or hard runs, both of which are my main source of stress relief. I'm doing that, down to about 1/3 or my high miles just a few weeks ago. In place of it, I now have big spans of time to worry and fret. It doesn't help that I'm planning drop bags, finishing final steps with my crew, and by nature of doing both of these, thinking of every possible thing that could go wrong. Even Rocky the Pug senses I am nervous, curling up next to me as I sit on the couch and stare into space.

"It's all part of the process," I tell myself, "and only acknowledges how epic this experience will be." Then I swallow hard, and repeat the phrase over and over. ;-)

About the only thing that gets me sidetracked is to think about it as a race I'm not in, and pontificate about the battle for the Top 10 Men and Women. This is going to be an incredible year for both, that's for sure. For the Men, you have the following:
  • Proven Western States competitors that have placed well in this race before, such as Hal Koerner, Erik Skaden (running faster than ever), Graham Cooper (same), Andy Jones-Wilkins (ditto), Jon Olsen (yup), Brian Morrison (with something to prove), Glen Redpath, Jean Pommier (I bet sub-2o this year), Jeff Riley, Kevin Sawchuk (going for his 1000-mile buckle), Craig Thornley, and more.
  • Proven Ultra Gods like Karl Meltzer, Anton Krupicka, Lon Freeman, and top ultra runners who have done well in Tahoe before like Sean Meissner.
  • Road and Trail Speed Demons like Michael Wardian (2008 50k/100k Road Champ), Todd Braje (WTC 50k winner, sub-2:30 marathoner), Michael Buchanan (Helen Klein 50m record holder), Chikara Omine (many 50k/50m course records), Scott Wolfe, and Dom and Wade Repta from Canada (top Miwok finishers).
For the Women, it's just as crazy:
  • Proven Western States competitors like Nikki Kimball (3-time winner), Bev Anderson-Abbs (3-time 2nd place), Caren Spore, Meghan Arbogast, Annette Bednosky (former winner), and more.
  • Ultra Goddesses such as Jenn Shelton (sub-15 hour course record at the Rocky Raccoon 100), Jenny Capel (faster than ever), Michelle Barton (who has won just about everything she entered in the last year), and the list goes on.
  • Speed demons like Devon Crosby-Helms (marathon, 50k, and 100k champ) and Susannah Beck (2:34 marathoner who crushed WTC 50k this year).
I've heard that so many of the Men and Women are running in top form this year - it's going to be a serious honor to crack the 2008 Top 10. Not that it wasn't any other year, of course. ;-)

Okay, time to relax and try and get some sleep. Heading up to Tahoe soon to get a bit of acclimation rolling, and I hope to see y'all up there. In the meantime if you have some taper relaxation tips, I would love to hear them!

Cheers, SD

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Job Opening - Promotions Coordinator for Montrail/Mountain Hardwear

Chris Strasser at Mountain Hardwear/Montrail passed on the new job opening below, which sounds like a great opportunity for somebody who wants to work in the industry. The job is located in Richmond, CA - go here to apply online.

- SD

Promotions Coordinator, Mountain Hardwear/Montrail

General Position Summary:

Develop and execute Montrail event programs, athlete sponsorships and promotional programs to effectively increase awareness of the Montrail brand and strengthen the Montrail image. Support the Promotions Project Manager in all areas of operations with a focus on the Montrail Brand. Contribute to the development and implementation of promotions strategies for all product lines.

Essential Functions/Major Responsibilities:

Coordinate and execute all Montrail sponsored events. Manage preparation, direct all onsite activities and evaluate effectiveness of event. Programs may be on the local, regional, national or international levels. Travel on the behalf of Montrail to all events.

Manage Montrail athlete team. Serve as key contact with involved parties to ensure sponsorship commitments are fulfilled. Coordinate all team uniforms. Execute programs to promote Montrail athletes, which may include but are not limited to photo shoots and other grassroots efforts.

Develop and execute other grassroots promotional programs to increase Montrail brand awareness.

Assist Promotions Project Manager with Mountain Hardwear events, athletes and other promotional programs. Process all sponsorship requests (event, athlete, and other promotional) including organizing, evaluating and screening in-coming requests and presenting findings. Travel on the behalf of Mountain Hardwear to appropriate events and sponsorships.

Assist in content generation for the Mountain Hardwear and Montrail consumer sites and blogs. Identify possible blog entries and encourage Mountain Hardwear and Montrail athletes to post articles and photos.

Assist in the development of promotional budgets and overall budget tracking procedures for promotions marketing.

Collaborate and work closely with internal and external marketing partners.

Secondary Functions:

Coordinate activities/projects with marketing department to enhance and maintain overall brand image and marketing consistency.

Establish and maintain lines of communication with all Mountain Hardwear management, product managers, sales representatives, staff and other departments as well as appropriate external contacts in order to contribute to the smooth flow of information and efficient operation of the organization.

Perform other related duties as assigned.

Job Scope:

Job is frequently varied with a moderate degree of complexity. Incumbent follows some established practices and procedures and occasionally contributes to the development of new ones. Duties are performed with moderate supervision or directions and work is checked or verified sometimes visually and/or by results. Decisions are made within general policy guidelines. Errors can adversely affect the smooth and efficient operation of the department and the use of its resources.

Supervisory Responsibility:

This position is not supervisory at this time.

Interpersonal Contacts:

Contacts are normally made with others both inside and outside the organization. Internal contacts will include the Marketing Director, Promotions Project Manager, Retail Marketing Manager, other members of the Marketing department, Product Managers and other company employees. External contacts may include consumers, athletes, vendors, sales representatives and anyone involved in outside promotions and events. Interactions tend to focus on information exchange, problem solving, or giving and receiving directions. Contacts occasionally contain confidential/sensitive information. Incumbent often initiates contacts on his/her own by phone, email and the face-to-face interaction.

Specific Job Skills:

Possess excellent event and project management skills with ability to work under pressure, meet tight timelines and coordinate multiple tasks simultaneously. Strong organizational skills and attention to detail. Possess strong communications and writing skills. Ability to write standard business letters and edit as necessary. Mental ability to conduct interpersonal interactions with members of the public, vendors, sales reps, and other company personnel. Possess research and analysis capabilities with regard to promotions including but not limited to events, athletes, and consumer initiatives. Ability to operate independently and follow general guidelines. Ability to read, write, and speak English fluently. Must possess good working knowledge of Outlook, Word and Excel. Physical ability to use telephone, computer hardware/software including keyboard, type, sit and stand for extended periods of time, and occasionally lift/carry up to 50 pounds. Ability to travel worldwide on commercial transportation.

Education and/or Experience:

Bachelors degree or equivalent, preferably in marketing or a related field or equivalent work experience. 3+ years marketing experience with 2+ year’s event/promotional and/or outdoor industry marketing experience preferred.

Job Conditions:

Job may require hours that exceed 8 hours per day and/or 40 hours per week during peak season or rush projects. Job requires travel throughout the US, occasional weekend and evening meetings/travel and exposure to some physical hazards. Exposure to a computer CRT.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Devil Known as the Mt. Diablo 50k

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining 200 trail runners for the wicked hot Mt. Diablo 8k/25k/50k put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs in Clayton, CA. I had hoped to get in one last hot and hilly run before Western States (coming in a few weeks!), and this race definitely fell into the “be careful what you wish for” category. I struggled but still had a great time, and enjoyed watching some of the best runners in the nation conquer the 8000’ of vertical and 90+ degree heat to set new course records.

My heat-running skills are a bit lacking, to say the least. Short of the Mt. Diablo 50m I did earlier this year, every other hot run I have started has ended with me limping across the finish in some cramp-induced version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Hunchcramp of Notre Dame?). I keep trying, however, hoping to assemble some sort of strategy before Western States in a few weeks. This time I would tackle the most obvious culprit – running out of water on the course. No matter what my finish time today, if I can stay on the water, salt, and food in the heat, I’ll consider it a great day.

I carpooled with 2-time Ohlone 50k winner Jean Pommier, and it was already nice and toasty when we arrived at 7:30am. I told Jean I expected big things from him today, but he just smiled and pointed out Western States winner/Quicksilver course record holder Graham Cooper and holder-of-all-Diablo-records-but-this-one Jasper Halekas lining up at the start. Race Director Wendell Doman had his money on Jasper too, as evidenced by his “just follow Jasper” explanation of how to stay on course.

(Ready to roll at the start)

The 25k and 50k runners started together at 8:30am, and immediately pitched up into the hills. It wasn’t scary hot yet, so the front runners kept a strong pace, with Jean Pommier leading Jasper, Graham, Jeff Emery (25k), Andy Holak (25k), Jady Palko, Will Gotthardt, and a few others up the canyon single track.

I paced along with Jady Palko, and we swapped States-prep stories. Just when we thought we were macho tough, Kim Holak from Duluth, MN, caught up to us saying she had a great time last year finishing in the top 10 for the second time and was now training for the Hardrock 100. Dang! Kim was really friendly, and I got a kick out of how she got faster the steeper it got. She’s quite the mountain goat!

(Kim Holak pauses to take in the view)

(Kim Holak leads me from the saddle to the first aid station)

We hit the first aid station (mile 4), and I was feeling good and staying on my fluids and salt. I had brought my big gun bottles (20 oz each), which were a bit heavy, but were allowing me to drink ~40 oz/hour. Jady and Kim took off ahead of me as the awesome volunteers loaded me up for the trek to the summit. Eric Chitwood, Whit Rambach, Joe D’Alessio, and a group of four others were right behind me, and we rallied down the single track that hugged the mountain peak. About a mile into the single track, Jean Pommier came flying down on his way back. I literally mean “flying” - each stride was gaining 15-20 feet as he tore town the tricky terrain like a demon possessed. My guess is he was already 15 minutes ahead of us, and a solid three minutes ahead of Graham and Jasper who came down soon afterwards. Some records will certainly fall today!

(Graham Cooper zooms down on lap #1, while Kim Holak mountain goats up)

(Jasper Halekas cruising through the first lap)

I caught Kim Holak just as the summit was within reach. Her partner in crime Andy Holak (25k) was coming down told us “don’t go inside the building to get to the top” – I bet that was an interesting detour! I took a quick stop at the water fountain in the parking lot and refilled a bottle before heading back down, noting that I was somewhere around 6th place with 5-6 runners within two minutes of catching me. Holding the big guns out in front of me, I let the weight pull my body down the hill.

(Runners glide along the single track towards the summit)

It felt hotter on the downhill, which can only mean one thing – the temperature was rising quickly. All the runners headed up had big bright smiles cutting through their dust- and sweat-glazed exterior, keeping that observation tower at the peak in sight. The 25k folks were definitely pleased there was only one lap!

(A familiar smile along the trail)

I soaked my bandana in the trough before the aid station, and gulped down some Coke and pretzels as soon as I pulled in. The S! Caps were keeping me on track for salt, but there’s something magical about Coke and pretzels on the trail. I had caught Kim Holak on the downhill, and had Jady Palko and Joe D’Alessio within site, while Will Gotthardt was another 2-3 minutes ahead of them. I probably should have held back more, but the fast descent was the only thing cooling me as the heat rose with every step into the canyon. Joe was playing it safe with a steady rhythm down the steep fire road, but Jady was not (he never does on the downhill) so I did my best to stay on Jady’s tail. Dave King (25k) came in with his flying kick, and he and Jady went mono-y-mono to the finish. Don’t forget, Jady, one more lap! After what seemed like an eternity of downhill, I pulled into the halfway aid station (mile 15) in about 2:35.

My water bottles were on “E”, but only had reached that in the last mile so I was pretty close to pace. Still taking in a remarkable ~40 oz/hour, and no sloshing. The second lap would be like a toaster oven for sure, especially in the first canyon, so I loaded up on Gatorade while the volunteers packed my bottles with ice water. Joe came in just behind me, and with his much more efficient aid station stop, he took off with Jady for lap #2.

Within a few steps of the second lap, I could tell I had gone too hard on the first lap. Joe charged the hill as fast as his first lap with Jady staying on his tail, so I walked a bit and put on my iPod for some go-time music. I ran what I could, but by the time I reached the single track it felt like I was in a microwave. Actually it was more like a convection oven with the way the heat came off the rocks. My core temp felt awkwardly high and my ears were popping, so I thought it best to fast-walk until I could get a break from the breeze.

Kim Holak caught me soon enough as she pranced up the single track. She didn’t seem to have much trouble with the “unexpected heat training”, but was wondering if she should have brought a second water bottle. We exchanged a few words of encouragement, then I went back to the grind. A half an hour later, I finally got off the single track and headed down the fire road. The breeze was hot, but still helpful. I saw Will Gotthardt power-walking up ahead, and figured I could catch him by the saddle and have some company.

On the final hike up to the saddle (I think this is the steepest section), Will was nowhere to be found ahead or behind. I thought about how delirious I was in this section of the race last year, and hoped he wasn’t passed out under a tree somewhere. Adam Ray caught up to me and gave word – Will wasn’t feeling well and headed back down. Adam, on the other hand, looked great per usual and led me up to the aid station. Adam is prepping for Western States as well, and had a great run at the Quicksilver 50m a few weeks ago.

(Adam Ray tackles the steep hill on round two, and blazes by me)

It was screaming hot this time around, and although I was on track for water and salt, my legs were twitching in the heat. It was forcing me to walk more sections than I would have liked, and really playing games with my head. Jeez, if Western States is 24 hours of near-cramping like this, I am DEAD MEAT for sure. C’mon Scott, stay focused…no sense in worrying about the next race when you're IN a race right now.

(A quick pause for the scenery before cruising into the last aid station)

Jasper came screaming through the single track, leading with a much stronger pace than the first lap. He was all smiles, and had a solid six minute lead on Graham Cooper, who in turn was three minutes ahead of Jean Pommier. I did a quick calculation and it seemed like all three would be breaking the course record if they kept their pace. Amazing!

(Jasper is moving fast on lap #2)

Joe D’Alessio was the next one down, clearly making a ton of time on the second lap and gaining time on the front three. Kim Holak came next in a league of her own, a solid hour ahead of the next woman. Jady Palko, still holding strong, and Adam Ray came next before I made it to the top with some nutty runners doing a 75km training run today (three laps, oh boy!). The trip to the summit was fast, since the whole structure was covered in thousands of earwigs. I wanted to take a picture, but my Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan flashbacks were getting the best of me so I hustled it out of there.

By the time I filled my water bottles, Whit Rambach (training for his 7th Western States), Troy Howard, and Eric Chitwood (heading back to the TRT100, where he broke 24 hours last year) all passed me up. I took the first downhill section with Whit, but he soon left me in the dust when some uphill sections came up. My calves were whimpering in the heat, but I tried to calm them by saying this was the last descent.

I was so famished at the last aid station (mile 25) that I ate about three handfuls of trail mix, peanut butter Ritz crackers, and goldfish. I had been eating mostly gels today, thinking that this would go best with lots of water. But the solid food was restoring me quickly, and I’m exactly not sure how. It was enough, however, for me to keep a steady pace into the hot canyons. The air still felt toasty around me, but my core temp was staying in range.

I passed some Boy Scouts who let me know their temperature gauge was reading 102 degrees on the fire roads, but I was feeling okay. I walked a few more small uphill sections in the final stretch, and came into the finish in 6:10:47 for 11th place. This was about 20 minutes faster than I had thought I would finish on a hot day, but I had secretly hoped to break six hours in an epic victory over the Heatmieser gods. Alas, that would have to wait for my next trip up Diablo (I have three of the PC Trails Diablo coasters now, so I need to come back to finish the set ;-)).

Everyone was huddled in the shade at the finish, cheering folks as they came in and enjoying the grub. Jasper had smoked the course record by 20 minutes, become the first ever to complete the course in less than 5 hours (he ran 4:48:48). Graham had held on for second (5:03) with some minor cramping, but certainly well on pace for a strong run at States. Jean said he “blew up” early on the second lap, although he still managed to finish in a respectable 5:11:21, within seconds of the previous course record. Jasper said Jean’s 25k split was less than a minute off the 25k course record – now that’s fast! Joe D’Alessio was only five minutes behind Jean, which means his second lap made up nearly 20 minutes on the leaders, and 40 minutes on those who came in with him. Kim Holak handily won the Women’s division in 5:42:21, with more than enough energy to make an ice pack out of my hankerchief to help me cool down. Isn’t she great? Andy Holak (2:24:41) and Marianne Baldetti (2:43:54, 7th overall) won the 25k (all results here).

(Jean and Mike Nuttall share stories with others at the finish, while 26-year-old Neil Samson enjoys a coke to celebrate an age-group win at his first ultra)

Jean and I were pleased to be finished, and even more pleased to begin the taper for Western States. I think Jean may have a sub-20 hour States if all goes well, and I’m hoping a sub-24 is in my future. This race capped off two 100+ mile weeks for me, which is significantly more than I thought I would ever do for peak training. I may have not aced my heat running yet, but I will certainly be showing up on June 28th in the best shape of my life. Let the taper begin!

My thanks to Wendell, Sarah, and Aaron Doman for putting on a great race, and the fabulous volunteers who braved the heat for us. This is a challenging race to run, and I can only imagine how tough it is to manage!

- SD

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Moveable Feast (Monterey Herald)

I've been enjoying Donald Buraglio's multi-part series on preparing for the Western States 100 that he is writing for the Monterey Herald. This week is "The Moveable Feast", a great article that compares aid stations to progressive dinners, and juxtaposes the massive caloric intake requirements of the race with the famine of shedding unneeded pounds before and after. No wonder most people think we're crazy! ;-)

Don's writings can also be found at his blog, Running and Rambling.

- SD

[PS - Working on the Diablo photos, should be up shortly!]

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cracking the Mystery of Vespa

I've been using the Vespa Power Amino Acid Supplement over the last few months, and have been very pleased with the results. It's hard to explain the feeling, but for me it feels like a smoothing of my energy flow that negates the sugar spikes and lows that I typically struggle with in the latter portions of a long ultra. How it works is still a mystery to me, so I sent some questions to Peter Defty, the North American Rep for Vespa (and a hell of an ultrarunner himself), to help clarify.

Before I get to the questions, I should note a couple of things. First, you see the logo on the right so you know I'm already a big fan and have a massively biased opinion. I was referred to the product by Paul Charteris, whom also raves about Vespa. But I have also spoken to a few who say it does nothing for them. Like any dietary supplement, you should choose what works for you, consult your physician, blah, blah, blah. Second, please note that neither Peter nor I are medical professionals. I'm just trying to get the info out on a product I find useful. Available at ZombieRunner here if you want to give it a try (don't forget to enter TRBLOG for your 10% discount).

Okay! Here's what I found out from Peter. Thank you, Peter, for taking the time!

1) a) Can you explain, in layman’s terms what the effects of VESPA are?

The effects of VESPA are really very subtle because what an athlete may notice is what they do not notice (i.e. the ups & downs of blood sugar and energy levels)... the “effect” is a steady “even” metabolism rather than the boost found in energy drinks or the “energy boost” one gets when ingesting sugars or carbs when their blood sugars are low.

The other big “effect” of using VESPA is by reducing lactate levels ( a key marker for fatigue) the muscles will develop less fatigue or, shall I say, there will be a delay in the onset and/or intensity of fatigue. Developing less fatigue translates into a faster recovery and lower levels of muscle soreness allowing the athlete to train harder.

b) How does it “metabolize fat, stabilize glucose levels and minimize lactates”?

The conventional mantra is to find the best way to keep re-fueling with sugars/carbs which means the muscles are metabolizing the ingested sugar. The more sugar the muscles metabolize the more lactate is produced. Lactate, though not the cause of fatigue, is a key marker.

VESPA’s mode is novel in that it shifts muscle metabolism toward oxidizing fatty acids (fats) for energy thus lowering the muscle metabolism of sugar. VESPA is composed of a naturally occurring peptide (an amino acid complex) derived from the Asian Mandarin Wasp, one of nature’s endurance athletes.

Indirectly, by shifting muscle metabolism toward greater use of fats, glucose levels are stabilized. The nervous system and brain sip glucose whereas the muscles will use glucose up quite rapidly if utilized as the primary source of fuel. This leads to the classic “bonk” in addition to producing lactate.

Endurance training builds the number of mitochondria in the cells which oxidize fats and sugars and since it takes twice the oxygen to oxidize fats (by weight) over sugar the more mitochondria the greater the fat burn, the greater the endurance…..this is why endurance training allows athletes to go farther on their glucose & glycogen stores. VESPA optimizes fat metabolism at all levels.

When you metabolize more fat and less sugar the muscles a lower level of lactates are produced…..lactates are produced through sugar metabolism…sugar is broken down into lactic acid and pyruvic acid. Both are immediately buffered into lactate and pyruvate. The pyruvate is then oxidized in the Krebs cycle to produce energy whereas the lactate is dumped into the bloodstream to be used by the heart (a muscle that loves lactate and has the enzymatic pathway to utilize the energy) or processed by the liver back into glucose (glycogenolysis) or processed by the kidneys. Interestingly enough studies have suggested VESPA stimulates the production of noradrenaline which directly stimulates the production of glucose via hepatic (liver) glycogenolysis, again reducing lactate levels.

Data from Informal trials on humans (including diabetics) and lab studies on mice have indicated this is how VESPA metabolizes fats, stabilizes glucose and minimizes lactates.

c) How is that helpful for endurance athletes?

If we do the math it becomes clear how this helps endurance athletes…. A well-fueled athlete can store about 1500 calories of carbs/sugars in the muscles and liver as glycogen while a lean (8% body fat) 150 pound male endurance runner has 50,000+ calories stored as fat (about 12 pounds of fat)… takes that runner about 9000-12000 calories (2 pounds of fat and sugar from stores and a moderate ingestion) to run a race like Western States and if you are going to do it by using the conventional wisdom of ingesting enough carbs you can’t or you have to slow down or stop.

On the other hand by optimizing the body’s utilization of fat stores for muscle metabolism one can keep sugar intake low enough to maintain a higher level of performance and with less risk of stomach/intestinal issues arising from trying to ingest calories while maintaining a high level of physical activity.

By stabilizing glucose levels an athlete stays more focused, aware and maintains a high level of motor skills. You are not riding the blood sugar roller coaster so to speak and can take in a constant but small supply of sugar your system can handle and keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable.

As mentioned above, by reducing glucose metabolism lactate levels are reduced, lactates being a by-product of glucose metabolism. In an Ultra it is vital to do everything possible to reduce lactate production to a minimum because, over time, the levels are going to creep up and fatigue set in.

The use of beta-alanine, sodium phosphate and sodium bi-carbonate are steps taken to buffer lactate production but why use them if you can reduce lactate production in the first place by metabolizing fats instead of sugars? Furthermore, the mechanisms for fatigue are quite complex and there is no evidence taking these lactate buffers will help in endurance exercise. Rather, this strategy is utilized for high level activities of 30 seconds to 2 minutes

2) a) What are the ingredients of VESPA?

The principle active ingredient is the Wasp Extract which is minimally processed. This is key because of the high bio-availability, that is, the body’s ability to utilize the amino acids found in the Wasp Extract. There are synthetic copies (VAAM & Hornet Juice) and, in all studies, VESPA has consistently out-performed synthetic versions. Other key ingredients are Royal Jelly and Bee Propolis.

b) What contribution does each ingredient make?

VESPA was formulated so the key ingredients (wasp extract, royal jelly, bee propolis) work synergistically.

The Wasp Extract is the peptide (amino acid complex) derived from the Asian Mandarin Wasp that shifts muscle metabolism toward fat metabolism and also facilitates glycogenolysis (production of glucose from lactates) in the liver.

Royal Jelly: Royal Jelly has some natural anti-bacterial properties and is the food source fed to larvae in bee colonies….it is termed royal jelly because it is the only food source fed to the larvae destined to become a queen bee. Royal Jelly has proponents making a lot of claims but the only substantiated material is that it has anti-bacterial properties and is rich in certain amino acids and B vitamins.

Bee Propolis: Bee Propolis has exhibited fairly strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties which make sense since this is what bees use to line their hives…..hives which are highly susceptible to viruses and bacterial infections. One study also suggest anti-inflammatory properties in humans.

Honestly, my interpretation of the information available suggests that there are benefits to Royal Jelly and Bee Propolis, however, many claims of purported benefits are grossly overblown and/or false making any potential benefits suspect.

3) How did you find out about VESPA?

Serendipitously one afternoon at the 2006 Western States Memorial Day Training weekend my good friend Paleo Paul Charteris (also known as Kiwi Paul) gave me a couple of pouches and said his good friend “Mojo” (Dr. Michael “Mojo” Cosgrove MD) swore by the stuff even though he was initially quite skeptical of the claims…Mojo and a group of fixed gear cyclists actually rode fixies across the US later that year and had a stash of VESPA which, when it began to run low, made everyone realize just how well it worked for endurance performance.

I ran my first 100 at the ’06 WS and had a very even run with no metabolic issues at all and ran a sub-24 in a year that only 53 people went under 24 hours and only 52.6% of the field finished. While I trained smart I credit VESPA for the metabolic evenness throughout the run.

4) a) What is the recommended intake for training and for racing?

Depending upon the intensity you can use it every 2-4 hours for a race or really intensive training. For training, every 4-6 hours for a long training runs where “time-on-your-feet” not intensity is the goal.

Keep in mind that for Ultras one still needs to take in some calories but, by using VESPA, one can take in a lot less which allows the athlete to maintain a higher level of performance with a lot less risk of stomach/intestinal issues. My friend, Paul Charteris, said he took in about 1200 calories for this year’s Diablo 50M where he ran over 50 miles (got lost) and was out for over 13 hours…. that is less than 100 calories an hour! While he was certainly tired he looked and felt great at the finish!

b) How about longer events like a 100-miler?

For the really long Ultras the 2-4 hour rule is still a good one to go by, however, later in the event as your hemoglobin get utilized and fatigue and other factors kick in to diminish oxygen delivery you will need to increase your intake of sugars/carbs with something like GU etc. as you are simply fatigued and your body cannot oxidize fats because it can’t deliver enough oxygen like it could earlier in the day when hemoglobin levels are fresh and high. You still take the VESPA but you also take in the sugars at a higher rate.

In my ’06 WS I started taking GU’s every 30-40 minutes from Foresthill on which allowed me to run pretty hard whereas I would have run slow or walked. I have successfully utilized this strategy on runners I paced on really long Ultras like WS & Miwok.

5) Would I need to alter that intake for high altitude, heat, or other external conditions?

No, actually the altitude & heat are a couple of the environmental conditions where the effects of VESPA are particularly noticeable. I think this is because in both cases people do not want to eat because of susceptibility to intestinal/stomach issues and VESPA allows the user to get by on no or minimal intake of fuel under these conditions while maintaining a high level of physical performance.

6) a) Are there any known side effects?

To date, VESPA has not had any serious side-effect issue. There have been a few cases where users reported stomach or intestinal distress, however, after investigation, most of these were caused by over-fueling. There is also the potential for an allergic reaction but, like I said, to date, we have not had this happen (the product has been available for 12 years).

There is a beneficial side-effect related to the liver….informal trials have indicated VESPA works toward processing alcohol in the liver and, in fact, is marketed as a hang-over remedy in Japan.

b) How about when taken in large amounts?

Like anything moderation is the key….a good thing can go bad with excess. That being said the potential for intestinal/stomach issues or an allergic reaction would increase.
7) Does it (VESPA) have any effect when you are at rest/recovery, or is it primarily designed for use while exercising?

Yes, while VESPA is primarily utilized during exercise I know of a lot of people( including myself) who use it for post exercise recovery and weight loss (because you don’t get the cravings). I have even heard for a few people who switched to VESPA over the energy drinks because it gave them stable energy levels throughout the day without the inevitable crash of the energy drinks.

8) Why have two different versions, VESPA CV-25 & VESPA JR?

VESPA CV-25 is for the higher weight (160+ pounds) or really serious athlete as it has a higher dosage of the key ingredients and only 18 calories.

VESPA JR was developed for the youth market and lighter-weight athletes (less than 160 pounds). It uses orange juice so it has a sweeter more palatable taste and 34 calories.

Final Note:

VESPA approaches metabolic endurance in a completely unconventional way so I am finding the marketing of it to be daunting since most people’s expectations & mindset on supplements are shaped by the conventional information currently and commonly available (i.e. trying to find faster and better ways of getting carbs ingested).

Compared to other supplements and nutritional products for endurance activities VESPA has a lot more science behind it, much of it indicative of VESPA’s unique way of enhancing fat metabolism which correlates to what athletes experience when using VESPA.

Unfortunately flaws in the experimental design and interpretation of the data make these experiment not pass the litmus test of scientific method.

VESPA is currently taking steps to setup basic clinical trials with UC Davis Sports Medicine once cash flow can justify investment in a such a trial. From this VESPA will further investigate the mode of action and other areas of investigation because of our conviction in the product’s efficacy and need to demonstrate this compared to all other supplements which boast claims but are short on science.

[Note: These statements are based upon review of the scientific literature (some of this is available online at the VESPA web-site and other science based literature and resource and/or commonly accepted biological teachings of metabolic pathways for muscle, liver and nervous system metabolism. Though the experiments related to VAAM (synthetic version of the active ingredient in VESPA) have flaws in their design and interpretation the data correlates to what athletes like yourself experience using the product.]