Sunday was the Runner’s Edge Summer’s End 5k in east Boca. I registered for the race because it was cheap and they advertised free food, that was reason enough for me to run it. Clearly, I had no intentions of being serious at all during this hot August afternoon.

This was as serious as I was all day

This was as serious as I was all day

This was pretty much as serious as I acted the entire race until I finished and had nothing else on my mind except heading to the restroom. The race itself was held in east Boca and we ran an amazing route that led us from the Runner’s Edge store down Spanish River Blvd onto A1A, running parallel to the beach. I have never run this route and I’m pretty sure I will make an effort to do so in the future because not only was the ocean an amazing sight during the run, the course included some light hill work which I never integrate into my weekly runs. Also, I am pretty sure it will serve me to run there and see some pretty ladies in bikinis, that never hurts as motivation. This was my second barefoot race and proved more to me than the first one I ran in July: my feet can take the pain and it’s way more liberating to run wherever you want without worrying about getting your shoes dirty. I even kicked off the race celebrating my naked feet.

No shoes, jump for joy!

No shoes, jump for joy!

I was the only barefoot runner in this race as well although I did spy one girl wearing some VFFs in the middle of the pack, everyone else was wearing boring old shoes. I did see more Nike Free 2.0 and 3.0 shoes and some Inov8’s this time around, for whatever that’s worth.

This race was coincidentally my first run all week as I started back to school and I was not sure if I would be able to run the entire length since I could not run the full 5k the last time around and my feet were feeling really soft and girly, definitely not up to the task of pounding the pavement. Well, suffice it to say, I managed to run the entire thing except for a span of perhaps 5 seconds when I had to stop because I felt like a rock had implanted itself into my big toe; this of course had to occur when I was perhaps 100 yards from the finish. I managed to cross the line in 32:46 according to my Garmin and this serves as my “official” time since this was just a fun run and no times were kept. I did not manage to set a PR on this race but I had not set out to do so, simply running the time was record enough for me — back in the Run, Sweat, and Beers 5k I only managed to run about 2 or 2.5 miles while walking the rest of the distance. While I finished and finished strong, I also came across the line shirtless, revealing to everyone my blinding white torso accompanied by a lovely farmer’s tan

Topless and no tan, almost as bad as socks with sandals

Topless and no tan, almost as bad as socks with sandals

I am positive no one received any joy out of seeing this, it just serves to remind me I need to go topless more often to even out whatever tan I do have, after all I do live in the Sunshine State. Mental note: stop wearing shirts and just let it all hang out. Overall, I had a really good time and ran better than I expected to given my week-long laziness. My only disappointment was that I came away injured, I suffered a bloody toe of my own doing while trying to kick a rock off of my middle toe. Next time, I will just stop and flick it off rather than trying to use the road to do the work for me, now I only have a hurt toe to show for it.

My runs will probably be light this week until I get my full schedule worked out with my classes but I can be proud in that I ended August on a high note. I thoroughly enjoyed the race while everyone else looked entirely too serious during the whole thing. I saw more scowls and mean faces than I did smiles, I thought running made us all feel good! Just look at all these serious faces!

LET'S ALL LOOK SERIOUS AND PREPARED.  I stood in the back where the party started.

LET'S ALL LOOK SERIOUS AND PREPARED. I stood in the back where the party started.

I look forward to meeting you next year, Summer’s End 5k!

Lately my totally barefoot runs have taken a backseat to running in my newly acquired huaraches from Invisible Shoes. Like many runners, I was introduced to the huarache shoe via Christopher McDougall’s excellent book Born to Run. The shoes worn by the Tarahumara indians are little more than pieces of leather strapped to their feet and Invisible Shoes follow in the same vein, except they are using Vibram rubber as the outsole. While best known for their funky fingered “toe shoes”, Vibram has pumped out rubber soles for all sorts of shoes for years; I have even seen the rubber being used on motorcycle boots for slip resistance, wish I had some of those last year! Anyway, back to the huaraches. Invisible Shoes produces three lines of huaraches: 4mm Connect, 6mm Contact, and the 4mm Classic DIY kit. The first two use what Invisible Shoes calls the FeelTrue rubber of their own design, while the Classic uses Vibram’s Cherry rubber outsole. For my order, I chose the 4mm Connect because it’s the same thickness (supposedly) as my Trail Gloves. After I traced my feet and sent the scans off to Steve and company, my huaraches arrived in a few days. Here’s how they look on my feet.

My huaraches, post-run

My huaraches, post-run

I have now run in them three separate times for a total of just under ten miles. My first impressions are mostly positive. As the 4mm model I selected is called Connect, I find them quite true to that moniker, I really do feel more connected to the ground than when I am wearing my Trail Gloves. And I should, I am wearing nothing more than a sliver of rubber laced to my foot, but Invisible Shoe have managed to mostly replicate the feeling of being barefoot without being barefoot. No longer am I worrying about stepping on the odd rock or shard of glass and getting injured, all I have to worry about now is getting poop stuck to the huaraches. I feel all the undulations and textures of the ground, just as I would barefoot, while I barely even notice I am wearing them for the most part. I have to say “for the most part” because I do notice them when actively running and when I stop and my feet are sliding around ever so slightly because they’re covered in sweat. I notice the shoes while I am running as I hear them flopping on every foot fall — mostly just the right foot — as I have not totally mastered tying them just yet. And this is where I think most people will find fault with huaraches of any type: strapping them to your foot.

For whatever reason, I can tie my left huarache without any issues and it stays tight the entire run but my right one always seems to loosen up ever so slightly, just enough to produce a flopping sound when my foot contacts the ground and for the laces to loosen up by perhaps just a millimeter or two the whole time. As you can see in the photo above, I am tying mine in a wrap around my ankle with slipknots. On Sunday night when I ran, I modified this to a variant of the toga style where the extra lacing wraps above my ankles and ties on top of my foo, again with slipknots. My right foot loosened up enough to be floppy and even hang off of my foot a bit, due to a combination of sweat and a poorly tied knot I was forced to re-tie the huarache mid-run. There are so many variations in tying styles that Invisible Shoes has an entire page full of videos devoted to different ways of putting these on your feet. I have yet to find a style that suits me best but so far, toga style has proven the most effective. Now, to my other qualm about the huaraches: the knot under your toes. This will be most apparent in huaraches as thin as mine since you can literally feel every rock under foot and so a giant knot right under your toe is going to noticeable and annoying. This is most problematic on my right foot, again, and so I completely melted the existing figure eight knot and flattened it out entirely so I barely notice it now. On my first run, this caused enough gait issues and annoyance that I actively finished my run wearing only my left huarache and ran barefoot on my right. The next day, my right leg was killing me so I took to getting rid of that knot as soon as possible. Do I think this would be much of a problem in huaraches thicker than mine? More than likely not. I cannot see it really being noticeable if you wear thicker huaraches such as those from Luna Sandals or even the 6mm Contact huaraches from Invisible Shoes.

My only remaining questions are those of durability. How long will the thin soles last? How well do the laces hold up after months of running? Sadly, Invisible Shoes does not have that answer. While I do think the rubber sole will hold up well into next year, I know the laces will most likely as they are made of a nylon material that will eventually rub through over time. Neither is a huge concern since the laces and kits are so cheap, with shipping my set of huaraches was just over $46USD as I opted to have Invisible Shoes make them before I tried to DIY them myself and potentially ruin an experience. Other than DIY kits, Invisible Shoes seems to market the cheapest pair I could find and I am down with saving money.

Overall, my first impressions of the Invisible Shoes huaraches are very positive. I will not discount issues that I knew about going in (floppiness, the knot under your toe) as negatives since both can be avoided with a little modification to the huaraches themselves. I absolutely love the ground feel I get in them and since they weigh almost nothing, I am starting to prefer them to going totally barefoot. Will these stop me from running barefoot? Not entirely but they will be with me on races where the course is going to be less than pristine or will be a trail. For what I paid for my Trail Gloves, I can get 3 pairs of the Invisible Shoes huaraches and that is a huge savings to me and will definitely be a deciding factor in my next pair of shoes.

Disclosure: I purchased these huaraches myself from Invisible Shoes’ web site. Neither Invisible Shoes nor Steve Sashen (CEO) provided these shoes to me for review and they are not media samples.

Here in the perennially balmy and humid southern tip of Florida, keeping hydrated is very important. With over 300 days of hot and glorious sun and the annual relative humidity north of 61% (according to climate data from the University of Florida), maintaining water and hydration during an outdoor excursion can be a feat in and of itself, necessitating extra precautions to be taken during outdoor exercise. This is a pivotal point where sports drinks — i.e. Gatorade and Powerade — or other electrolyte-enhanced additives — i.e. nuun or Endurolytes — not only become important to use but are almost required unless you share directly translatable DNA with a camel (or a cactus!). Since my palate and stomach can no longer tolerate the sugariness of Gatorade and I detest the taste of Gatorade G2 thanks to its use of fake sugars, I have taken to the use of electrolyte supplement tablets. My first foray into this arena was Camelbak Elixir Orange Alert. I only purchased it because the particular store I was at did not carry anything else and it was “highly recommended” by the sales rep. This made me hesitant to use it even before I left the store but after plunking down my $11, I was going to use it unless it made me vomit (it did not). My one sentence summation: It tastes like fizzy orange peel and works if I am not exercising.

Now a lovely product shot.

Camelbak Elixir Orange Alert

Camelbak Elixir Orange Alert

What we have here is a twelve tablet tube of Camelbak Elixir Orange Alert, their caffeinated version of their tablets. I will state this up front, I have absolutely no idea why they included caffeine in these things as I found it to be completely ineffective. They claim it has 75mg of caffeine, equal to that of a shot of espresso. I do not know what kind of testing Camelbak did with these but when I have a shot or two of espresso, I felt a bit more peppy within a short amount of time, but not with these tablets. All it seemed to do was make the bad taste even worse. The taste of the tablet-enhanced water is a cross of something between orange-infused floor wax and a crayon. The water out of my faucet at home has a distinct taste already but Camelbak Elixir simply made it taste more awful. I have tried to figure out the mouth taste I get from this stuff and I can never place my finger on whether it is closer to Orangina or floor wax. If you have ever had Orangina, you have already tasted this product, effectively. In fact, I bet I could drink that rather than spending money on these tablets and get the same net effect.

Now on to their effectiveness. Let me say this: I did not look up any reviews of this particular product until I was done with all twelve tablets so I had no preconceived notions of its efficacy. I will then say this: I have found “doing the salt” to be more effective and a lot cheaper than using Camelbak Elixir. I used all twelve tablets in the following way, something I figured would allow me to fully evaluate their typical use cases:

    1. Nine tablets were used specifically during my running sessions over the last month.
    2. Two tablets were used during my recent vacation to the Bahamas, with one used in Nassau which was much hotter and more humid than where I live in South Florida.
    3. One tablet was used in my Klean Kanteen after the Levis JCC Run, Sweat, and Beers 5k last month.

For anything involving real exercise, numbers 1 and 3, I found them to be no more effective than regular water. Put simply, I could have saved $11 and a trip to Delray Beach and used perhaps $0.50 worth of water to achieve the same effect. On the runs in which I did not take a salt dose beforehand, I still found some cramping to occur. While this is more directly related to overall nutrition, the addition of sodium in electrolyte replacement of any type is supposed to aid in minimizing or avoiding cramping. This is especially important for me because I sweat quite a bit under just about any circumstances, not just exercising, so this means that salt is guaranteed to be exiting my body and its replacement is a must. In this instance, I found the Camelbak Elixir tablets to be ineffective. As for the other electrolytes they include, I have no idea if they were effective or not and as I already stated, the caffeine inclusion was pointless during exercise. When I used it during and after the 5k, I was sweating so much, no amount of water — electrolyte-enhanced or not — proved effective. I believe I drank at least half a gallon of water after the race. For number two where I was in the amazingly-more-humid-than-Florida Bahamas, I actually found (or incorrectly correlated) the tablets to work their magic. I slammed one into my 27 ounce canteen before we set foot in Nassau and sipped on it all day and while I found myself to be dripping in sweat at every possible moment, I did not feel rundown or any other ill effects. While I have no data to back this up, I may have been able to achieve this same effect with water alone or with all the beer I drank that day (which was after I had emptied my canteen). A few sips here and there kept me mostly hydrated and I never felt like I was dehydrated because I am more aware of water intake in hot climates. And believe me, I had sweat a ton that day, not just stays-on-your-skin but sweat but straight up rolling up and dripping off sweating. Even in places I don’t think humans should sweat. After we ate lunch in Nassau and had a few drinks, I filled up my canteen and popped another tablet. The sweating continued but still no cramping or other effects people may experience in near 100F heat and what must have been 90%+ humidity.

Overall, would I buy this product again? I will emphatically say no. Not even if I buy an actual Camelbak hydration pack. Was twelve tablets enough to garner a large enough sample size of activities and use? I would certainly think so since I tried to use them in the activities where I believe hydration and electrolyte supplementation would be beneficial. The general consensus is that extra hydration is not necessary in activities of less than an hour but that is the general consensus for everyone and does not take in account climate and how one’s body uses and excretes water. As I said, it is absolutely necessary for me to carry water on any run regardless of length and I often take water with me when I go out to do anything. Although I am no scientist and all my observations are based solely on personal use and my own anecdotal evidence, I found the Camelbak Elixir tablets to be overall ineffective for myself. I have read reviews where people seem to have enjoyed the purported effects but I take them with a grain of salt as I cannot effectively evaluate their activity, sweat levels, or if they even know how the product is supposed to work inside their body.

Time for the final and fast review:

  • Taste: Dreadful. I would rather eat chalk
  • Effectiveness: Very little observed
  • Packaging: Like a tube of Airborne, the most effective portion of the product
  • Price: Overpriced, the MSRP is at least $0.66 more than a nuun tablet and $0.70 more per tablet than an Endurolyte capsule.
  • Buy It Again: Extremely unlikely.
  • Disclosure: I purchased these tablets myself at Peter Glenn in Delray Beach, FL. These were in no way provided to me by Camelbak.

    Of course, it does have a title (now) but I must have sat here for 15 minutes in an attempt to think of something and I simply could not do so. It is not for lack of things to discuss, I have plenty, but there are specific things I want to break out into different posts for different reasons. Things I have figured out this week and will be posting about soon:

      1. My primal diet has weened me off of grains completely and I do not miss them at all. While I still scarf down pancakes once a week, I do so because I can and look forward to it, not because I crave them.
      2. Camelbak should not make electrolyte replacement tablets.
      3. As I approach week six of Couch 2 5k, my paces are picking up.
      4. My Nathan flasks are leaky, no matter how tightly I cap them.

    This has just sort of been a mediocre week, nothing spectacular has really happened. I ran my first night run on Monday and it was pretty nice, but I discovered that with or without the sun, I sweat an incredible amount. I have actually run twice this week shod, once for foot protection (night run), and once because my feet are still recovering from the pounding I gave them on Tuesday. Both times were the first time I have run in shoes in just about a month and I have noticed that while my form has improved slightly, I am still pushing off on each foot fall and my feet have toughened up but even moderately rough surfaces are hurting my soles. This means that according to all the barefoot rules and tropes, I am doing it all wrong. I realize doing barefoot running requires a lot of reprogramming in the form department, I still have quite a journey ahead if I wish to continue doing it.

    I also hit my weight goal of 197lbs this week, although I did shoot up to 198.5lbs the very next day. I was only discouraged a bit but I have noticed that I am not having the huge weight swings everyday like I was a few weeks ago. I am still managing to stay under the 200lb mark for the most part — I did top out at 200 even yesterday — but just a few weeks ago I had a lot more variance in my weight day-to-day than I do now. Typically I am going up or down by a pound each day whereas before, I was fluctuating a few pounds everyday. I am making a much more concerted effort to include larger vegetable portions in my lunches and dinners while keeping breakfast almost entirely protein-based for that extra boost in the morning. Unfortunately, I have been so busy lately that I have resorted to eating mostly canned veggies rather than fresh and I am not too pleased with that. Now that I am teetering around the 197 mark, I will be working my way down towards ~190lbs as my ultimate goal weight. With things going the way they are now and continuing the primal diet, I will probably hit that goal in December or January of next year. I know it is only another seven or eight pounds in total but since I am currently doing no cross training, my body is relying solely on food intake and running to eat away those pounds. That is a lot to ask of my body but it has been pretty compliant so far, so I am confident that I can reach my ultimate goal.

    A few days ago, I finally finished off my first tube of electrolyte replacement tablets that I had purchased last month. The store I went to did not carry nuun tablets so I picked up a tube of Camelbak Elixir Orange Alert. I will be writing a more formal review of these soon but to summarize: I wasted the $11 that I paid for them. For casual walking around and milling about, they seem to work fine but for use during exercise, I found them to be useless. I have since purchased a tube of fruit punch flavored nuun and just started to use them today. A review of those will be forthcoming as well.

    I am excited for this weekend because I will be doing something decidedly un-metal: going to see Ke$ha and LMFAO in concert. I do not really mask or hide my adoration (and dislike) of pop music, especially stuff that gets me pumped and going like these guys do. Both groups are on my pre-race playlist and the CDs — yes, CDs! — stay in the car for regular rotation. The concert should be a lot of fun and we plan on buying some outlandish gear to fit the outlandish party the concert will turn into. Luckily, I will be buying stuff that is running gear so I end up with some functional stuff too, score!

    School starts soon and I am looking forward to it. I really do like having my summers off, especially the fact that I get off at 2:30PM twice a week, but I need a change of pace. This will of course affect my race training but FAU has a nice track and gym that I can and will utilize. I will be excited to use the gym as I heard they will be offering some TRX classes this fall. This will be cheaper than going to a CrossFit facility and decidedly less injury-prone since every CF exercise video I see includes exercises that are designed to get you ripped and ultimately, injured. I do not enjoy watching videos of people plowing through Kipping pull-ups because they are not only known to cause dislocations and other shoulder injuries, the action of kipping itself removes the workload of compound muscular interaction which pull-ups are designed for and places much of the movement into the actual leg pumping (kipping). Back when I was weigh training heavily, anything other than a dead hang/standard pull-up was cheating because of this compound movement removal. Anyway, I am not going to wax poetic on an exercise movement that has clearly improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, CF definitely has its place in keeping people out of useless gyms.

    Ah, I have rambled on too much, I will be heading to bed now.