Santa Barbara International Fennel

November 8, 2014

I happened to be looking up fennel the other day, and Wikipedia had the interesting comment that the Greek word for fennel is μάραθο (pronounced “maratho”). The plains of Marathon are so called because fennel grew there in the old days. So the race is named after the plant.

I thought about wearing a fennel sprig in my cap during the race and pretending I was Fluellen, and beating people over the pate with it, but other things became more important. Maybe next year.

Marathon is coming, the days are staying hot
Please to grant some coolness on this old man’s trot.
If you haven’t got some coolness, and thunderstorm will do
If you haven’t got a thunderstorm then I will rue.

Saint Ann is the patron saint of mothers and miners (and perhaps other things that begin with m?), but in southern California she is known for the hot winds that bear her name. These blew into town about 4 days before the marathon and although the winds petered out the first day, the heat remained. Three days before the race the high for the day was 92°F near me. Now mile 22 of the race is very close to me, and I’d be going past there about 10:20. I started looking to see what the temps were at that time. It seemed to be about 84°F.

I dehydrate in marathons. I simply can’t drink enough from the cups they give out at aid stations even on a marathon with normal temperatures, even when I’m pacing 15~20 minutes slower than I would race. And I react badly to heat, having dropped out of one race already this year because of dehydration. And I’m not allowed to slow down when I’m pacing. I have to keep moving at my 7:45 pace. I could drop out of the race, but I mayn’t run slowly.

This frightened me. I really thought I might have to drop out (dropping out at mile 22 would be convenient:-).

Then I thought of something I could try. I can’t drink enough out of cups. Well then I’ll place bottles of water on the course. Much easier to drink from a bottle, and more water is available. The drawback is that someone might find my bottles and a) clean them up as trash, b) remove them because they might be bombs, c) drink them because there would be 100 odd thirsty runners ahead of me. I considered hiding them, but I can’t very well root around in the bushes while my pacegroup trots by. So the night before the race I went out in the dark and placed 2 bottles near mile 18 and 2 more near 22 (in case one bottle got taken). The next morning, before the start, I placed another bottle near mile 9 (which is close to mile 0 because the course makes a big loop there).

So I’d done something. I could only hope it would be effective.

Remember, remember!
The eighth of November
With runners all over the street.
I see no reason
Why runners so legion
Should ever be forgeet.

Pacing a 3:25 marathon

Pacing a 3:25 marathon

I got up at 3 in order to have breakfast and digest it before I drove to the shuttle buses at 5. I took a salt tablet for breakfast too, and packed a bunch of them to share out to anyone in my pace group who might want one (no one did, but I’m glad I was prepared).

Then I bundled all my stuff into the car.

And the handle of my pacer sign snapped! A moment of terror. Then back into the house. Yes, I have a spare dowel. Remove old staples, add new staples. Back into the car being careful this time.

I hope no one else snapped their signs. I make ‘em so I might be expected to have spares. No one else would.

Got to the parking area about 5:15. Trundled over to the marathon pickup. No buses yet, but I don’t wait very long before one rolls up and stops in front of us. We all attempt to board, but the driver tells us he is going to the Page center (which is the start of the half, not the full). So he shouldn’t be here. He certainly shouldn’t stay parked in front of us so that no marathon bus can come by. But that’s what he does. For about 15 minutes. Then he drives off, as does the bus behind him (which also is a half marathon bus, it seems). The next bus doesn’t move for about 10 minutes. Then it pulls out into the middle of the street and stops there. It is also a half marathon bus. Finally, about 30 minutes late, a marathon (or fennel) bus stops in front of us. I think he went to the half-marathon line and they had to find him. We all climb on. Except for a few who get sent to the next bus.

And we wait.

After about 5 minutes in which nothing happens, the driver suddenly closes his doors and drives off. At least this year he knows where he’s going (last year I had to give directions to the driver).

I trot off to hide my remaining water bottle, and then return to high school gym to wait for the start. I meet Jill C. the 3:15 pacer and we sit together. Last year people came up to me to talk about my pace group, but this year no one does. Except for a woman who wants to know where the 3:50 pace group is, and a man with the same question about 3:05 (neither is in the gym. They should be). A few people talk to Jill, but nothing like past years.

When we get kicked out of the gym I realize that because it is so warm out, most people didn’t go into the gym this year, and they are all hanging out in the parking lot. I consider doing a tiny warmup, but they are announcing that they want all the pacers to line up in front of the start. Which we do, in order.

Now I seem to have a group of people around me. Good. It would be sad to run for nobody.

Flyby, National Anthem, count-down, start.

Almost immediately my watch crashes. It does this if I’m careless and inadvertently press two buttons at once. I have to turn it off and turn it back on, and somehow I press the lap key when I didn’t mean to, and I’ve probably lost 10~20 seconds, but I don’t know how much. In other words I’m all flustered. I don’t know how fast we are going, I don’t know whether to tell my group to slow down. Somehow I miss the first mile marker. Someone else says it was in the wrong place.

They changed the course slightly, and none of the mile markers is where I expect it to be. This also flusters me.

The gist of all this is that we run about 50 seconds too fast for the first two miles. A fairly egregious sin for which I should be chastised. But no, they are pretty decent about it, and someone kindly mentions at mile 2 that we are going too fast, and I come out of my daze and see the marker, and slow us down. Whew. After that I run close enough to the right pace (often a second or two too fast, but close enough). But I never recovered those 50 seconds and do the whole race too fast because of it.

But my group is cheerful.

Photo by Jana McKee

Photo by Jana McKee

As we go past a small patch of fennel growing by the side of the road I point it out and explain that its real name is “marathon” too.

I’m still thrown off by the mile markers not being where I expect them. The new markers for the new course only got painted this week (sometime) and I haven’t had a chance to learn them. If it hadn’t been so hot I might have biked the course to fix them in memory but it was hot and I didn’t. We pass the old 4 mile mark. We pass a new mark, but it doesn’t have a stand up marker on it, and I assume it is wrong. But there is no other mark for 4… I don’t see the mile 5 mark either. At mile 6 I ask everyone to help me look and we see a painted mark, but no marker again. This time however I click my watch 22:13 for those three miles which is pretty close to 22:15 that I’m aiming for. I relax a bit.

One year the wind blew the markers higgledy-piggledy but there is very little wind today. Another year people stole the markers…

Anyway I now know what to look for. Mark or marker.

It’s starting to get hot now. I ask if anyone would object if I remove my shirt. The general consensus is that we’ll all remove shirts today and no one objects. The pacer shirts are (to my mind) too hot. But they do have our times on them. But then so does my sign (and I asked someone to write 3:25 to the back of each calf this morning).

And we loop back to the start. My water bottle is still there! Yay! One down. And I can snag it without much trouble to me or the group. And it is easier to drink from.

It takes me about 3 miles to finish the bottle, which I then toss to the next aid station before I grab a cup of water.

At the half-marathon mark I’m about 1:40. Now technically I should be 1:42:30, but I’m trying to run a little fast because I know we’ll slow down on THE HILL I was hoping to be about 1:41:30 but because of those first two miles we’re fast. Sigh.

Oh. And because however long I spent fiddling with my watch after it crashed makes me look fast when I’m not. (My watch’s idea of elapsed time isn’t accurate).

My group has been joined by a chatty character, Sean, who was running with the 3:30 group but decided they were too slow. So he zoomed ahead to catch us up. He’s a friend of one other guy in my group, Walter, and they talk about their slow running group. It takes me a while to work out they mean SLO. The new guy just did a 100k race last weekend.

OK. I’m impressed. I couldn’t run a marathon a week after racing a 100k. And I certainly couldn’t do it at this pace. Which chatty guy does. He even pulls ahead of me on THE HILL and goes even faster.

I looked at the course map at registration, and I looked at the online route map, and both show us going down Vala and then cutting on a tiny trail across to Turnpike. But when we get to Vala no one is turning there and volunteers are shooing us on to Turnpike directly. It’s kind of a relief as I thought the side trail would probably be steeply up and down and narrow… but I’d also told people that we’d be going down Vala — so I hope they weren’t confused when they got here…

Photo by Jeff Devine

Sean, Walter, Me, Michael
Photo by Jeff Devine

And now we plunge down Turnpike. We’re going too fast (again). Slow down. This is a new route this year, so I don’t know what to tell my group to expect. When I get to Calle Real I turn sharply right to run down the right hand side of the street (as I always have before here) and almost bump into one of my group who was actually paying attention to the little orange cones and noticed that we are supposed to go down the left hand lane.

And then finally we get back to the bike path and onto the old course, only now the new mile markers are about a third of a mile before the old, rather then a tenth of a mile after as they were for the first 14 miles. I’m flustered again.

One of my group says that this is about where he hit the wall last year. He’s pleased. Things are going much better this year. He says he’s feeling great! I wish I were, I’m getting tired. I offer to let him pace :-)

Then we turn right onto the main bikepath and begin the slow grind up to mile 20.5. All uphill, essentially no dips, not very steep but it just goes on for ever. I am feeling tired. As we progress I allow the pace to slip to 7:50. Not really much of a slip, the pace for 3:25 is 7:49, so what it really means is that we aren’t building our buffer for THE HILL, but we aren’t dropping back (and the buffer is too big anyway).

Michael, Walter, Me, Sean Photo by: Fritz Olenberge

Michael, Walter, Me, Sean
Photo by: Fritz Olenberge

We come to the bouncy bridge over Atascadero Creek, and the other side of it is where I hid my first two bottles of water last night. The first one is there! I grab it. I had intended to offer the other bottle to anyone in the group who might want it, but by the time I get mine, and check the other is there I’m passed it. I guess I’ll have to come back for it later. Anyway both bottles were there. Yay!

The water is quite cool too. I guess it has been in the shade.

I drink about half of the water. My next bottle is only 4 miles off (not even that), and water stops are more frequent now, and it is hot. I pour some over me. It’s actually chilly on my overheated body and I make the huffing noises I always make when cold water hits me. The guy beside me turns to look thinking I’m having a heart-attack.

We come to the last relay exchange point. There’s no one here. The others have been empty too. Were there no relay runners this year? How odd.

At what used to be mile 19, but is now mile 19.3 we come to a chip mat with the words “Last 10K” written on it. Er. Now a marathon is 26.21875 miles and a 10K is 6.21371 miles so the last 10K should start at 26.21875-6.21371=20.00504 miles or about 9 yards after mile 20. It should not be 2/3 of a mile before mile 20. We have some discussion of this. None of us has the exact figures but we know it should be a lot closer to 20 than they’ve placed it. I briefly wonder if it’s 10K to the half marathon finish? But, of course, they finish at the same place so that makes no sense.

When we get to mile 20 I say 10K should be about here. “Ah,” says one guy (Michael?), “thanks.” And he speeds up and slowly recedes from view. Neat.

Later, when looking at the Half Marathon results I see the mat was mislabeled. It was placed at the 10K mark for the half marathon and there would be 6.9 miles to go (not another 10K).

We go past Nancy’s performance. Liz is dancing and Nancy is lying in state. Recovering from her knee operation. Wow. I didn’t think Nancy ever took downtime, even when needed.

Some more little rolling hills, and then the long downhill stretch on Los Positas.

Later, looking at the temperature graph for the day it was roughly 82°F here, and I’d been running reasonably fast for 22 miles. At the time I wasn’t worrying about heat, so I must have felt OK. I’m rather amazed by that.

We go through an aid station, but I don’t take a cup. My next bottle stash is 50 feet down the road. Only when I get there the bottle is gone. Too close to the aid station, someone probably cleaned it up. Well, my reserve bottle is about half a mile further down. And it is there. Drink. Pour water on head. Make huffing noises.

At this point I am only running with one other runner, chatty guy, and we talk about ultras. I didn’t notice when the others dropped back. There were a fair number at mile 20, but there’s only one at 22. Chatty guy and I are running a little fast, but Los Positas is nicely downhill, and there’s no one else in the group — so who cares?

This morning I scribbled on my wrist the times I should be at each of the last few miles if I were running the exact pace. When we get to mile 23 I’m about 3½ minutes ahead. I had hoped to be 2 minutes ahead. I expect to lose two minutes going up THE HILL. Those damn fast miles at the start account for much of the rest (and, though I have forgotten it this point, the time my watch crashed is partly to blame too). Sigh.

Oh well. I slow down to go up the hill. I don’t want to be even faster. Chatty guy doesn’t slow down as much and he slowly disappears.

I’m alone.

Worse, I’m alone and I’m ahead. I don’t have the excuse that I was running with someone else.

At the top, at mile 24, I’m about a minute and a half ahead. Well, I estimated the time to run up THE HILL correctly. I guess that’s sort of good.

Last year, I noticed that there was only one guy ahead of 3:25:00 in the 55-59 age-group (but he ran sub-3, so he was way ahead). I wonder if I’ll place this year? I wonder if pacers are allowed to place?

I play leap-frog for a while with a guy who is clearly struggling, but not giving up. He tells me last year he ran 3:07, but this year he’s much slower. It’s the heat.

When we get to the downhill, about 24.5 I try not to speed-up. But at mile 25 I see I’m still a minute and a half fast. And then I hear footsteps behind me. Someone is catching me up! I can run with him and maybe help him.

Only “him” turns out to be a “her”. I think I recognize her, I think she was the only person with a French passport to whom I gave a registration packet at the expo last night (and therefore was memorable).

So I ask “Etes vous français?” She says “What?”. Sigh. Looking back I realize my French is slipping badly. The adjective did not agree with the subject. Probably my accent is atrocious as well. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve been running for 25 miles I’m not thinking as clearly as I’d like. So I repeat the question in English. “Yes.” Normally I try to describe the course ahead to the people I’m running with, but I can’t think of the French for “Downhill” (did I ever know? I certainly don’t now.) All I can think of is the word for hill, but that might imply uphill. I’d better shut up.

We get to mile 26 at the bottom of the hill. One nice thing about the new course is how close the finish line is to the bottom. There isn’t that (seemingly) long flat section where you feel you are moving through molasses because you aren’t going down hill any more.

We turn a corner and she speeds up, faster and faster. I let her go. And she crosses the line 10 seconds ahead of me or so.

3:23:48 from the timers. (And I was the first person in my age-group).

It’s kind of amazing. I don’t feel like vomiting. I don’t feel like lying on the ground. I’m tired, but I’m not sick. I think hiding bottles of water is a great idea. I’ll have to do that next year too :-)

And about four people came up to me and thanked me for pacing them. So I guess I did some good in spite of my bad start.


Epilogue: Several hours later I get on my bike to go retrieve my one abandoned bottle of water. At first glance it isn’t there, but then I notice that it has been moved about 10 feet, opened and surrounded with about 5 other open bottles of water. What happened here? Did some group have a little water picnic with 8 miles of race to go? Very peculiar. Well, I’m glad it got consumed. I pick up all the bottles and take them home for recycling.

And, of course, the next morning dawns foggy and cool. Much better day for a race.

Frighteningly hot

November 6, 2014

It’s hot out today. The highest I noticed was 92°F. And it is November. So I went to NOAA and downloaded temperature data for the SBA airport (which has been keeping daily records since 1941).

This year as a whole has seemed hot. I was wondering if that was just my perception, for if were true. So I was interested in the temperature anomalies for this year — that is, you pick a baseline period, usually of 30 years, and calculate average temperatures for every day of the year during that period and then you look at the current year and see whether (and by how much) the temperature is hotter or cooler.

The IPCC recommends using 1961-1990 as a baseline period. Even by 1961 there was some anthropomorphic warming, but I don’t have data from back in the 19th century.

Max Mean Min
2014 to date 3.9°F|2.1°C 3.3°F|1.8°C 2.7°F|1.5°C 263 days above average
47 below
Oct 2014 5.0°F|2.8°C 3.9°F|2.2°C 2.9°F|1.6°C 31 days above average
0 below
first 6 days
of Nov
4.1°F|2.3°C 2.5°F|1.4°C 0.8°F|0.4°C 5 days above average
1 below
6 Nov 14°F|7.8°C 10°F|5.6°C 5°F|2.8°C above average

In other words, for this year, SB is already butting up against the 2°C barrier of irreversible climate change. Of course, this is one small area, and less than a year’s data. But it frightens me.

Leaves of three? Seek them out.

October 17, 2014

PoisonOakLeaves
Leaves of three?
Leave them be.

Anyone who has lived near poison oak or poison ivy (which probably means almost anyone in the North America) has grown up with that rhyme.

Of course once you start doing much hiking you realize there are many plants with “Leaves of three” which aren’t Poison Oak or Ivy.

BrambleLeafBrambles are probably the most common. And while brushing against a bramble vine isn’t really a problem, anyone who has hiked through a bramble thicket will agree that they should also be left alone. Quite a number of other species in the rose family have leaves of three, some of which are relatively harmless to blunder through.

CloverLeafThere is also a genus named “Leaves of three”, or Trifolium in latin. But the clovers are quite innocuous. Various other legumes also have a trifoil leaf pattern, but none causes dermatitis.

A friend of mine does landscape restoration and is working on a project at City College. They have been tasked by the local basket-weavers to provide an area for growing the textile plants used by the Chumash. Many of these are rushes, most of which are easy to find. But one is a sumac.

This plant seems to have been eradicated from the front country, and my friend didn’t know where to find it. But it is actually fairly common in the back country. I made a little map of where I’d seen it (click on the map to make it legible), and then offered to get her some twigs to root when I next went into the back country.
Map

RhusLeavesNow when I was a child, poison oak was placed in the sumac genus. And this particular sumac is called Rhus trilobata, or three-leaved sumac. In other words it looks almost exactly like poison oak. It’s leaves are a bit smaller, but that’s about it. If the flowers were blooming they’d be easy to distinguish, but they aren’t blooming now. In fact the best time for rooting these plants is when they are dormant — when all the leaves have dropped off in the autumn. Which makes them a bit tricky to identify. One stick looking very like another. Luckily I know exactly where some patches are.

Now I’m not supposed to go harvesting from the National Forest, but this patch was encroaching on the trail so I was actually doing trail maintenance. When I got to my patch I saw that this fiction was well founded as there where signs that it had been hacked back in the past.

I took out my snips a collected 8 springs, each about as thick around as a pencil.

One of the common names for this plant is “skunkbush”. I’d never known why before, but I figured it out by holding a bundle of it in front of me for an hour as I ran down the mountain. It’s a strange smell, not really like a skunk, but sort of musty…

When I finally got home I placed them in water. A bouquet of dormant twigs.
RhusBouquet

Not all Calories are created equal.

October 8, 2014

I had always assumed (without thinking much about it) that when a food package claimed its contents represented 100 Calories then that figure would be basically correct. In other words, if you took the food and dessicated it and burned it, it would give off 100 Calories. I’d also assumed (even though if I’d thought about it I’d have known this to be wrong) that the amount of energy in the food would be closely correlated to the amount of energy the body could absorb from the food. Both assumptions turn out to be incorrect.

The first assumption is incorrect because the second one is incorrect. Foods are labeled using a process called the Atwater System which attempts to adjust the actual Calorie content of food by a factor related to how well the body absorbs energy from that food.

Note that in this essay I focus on the ability of various foods to provide energy (that is Calories, or at the lowest level ATP molecules), not on food’s structural (or other properties). I am interested in how best to refuel during a race — which means about all that matters is energy. This is not about recovery and only slightly about pre-race preparation.

Carbohydrates

Let’s start by looking at the monosaccharide, glucose. Eukaryot cells can directly catabolize it. Each glucose molecule goes through a series of reactions in which it is broken down into CO2 and water, in the process it releases (in optimal conditions) 38 ATP molecules. ATP molecules are then used to power reactions within the cell which require energy. In actual practice only about 28-30 ATP molecules are produced (conditions inside the cell are rarely optimal).

Now the energy released in ATP⇒ADP + P reaction is: 7.3kcal/mole. So, since the heat of combustion of a mole of glucose is 686Cal, then the body captures about 29*7.3/686 = 30.8% of this total energy. The rest is released as heat.

When not exercising glucose can be stored in muscles as glycogen and it takes 1 ATP molecule to add a glucose molecule to a glycogen one (Glycogenesis). The reverse reaction (Glycogenolysis) does not produce any ATP so storing glucose as glycogen represents a 3~4% energy loss. (But this loss will be irrelevant to someone exercising as it will not happen then).

Now let’s look at fructose, another monosaccharide, but not one that most cells of the human body can directly catabolize. Instead the liver snags fructose molecules and converts about half of them to glucose at a cost of 2 ATP molecules per fructose molecule. Some of the rest of the fructose is catabolized directly by the liver a process approximately as efficient as glucose catabolism. So efficiency of fructose catabolism is dependent on where the fructose gets used, but, averaging over both pathways, a molecule of fructose produces one fewer molecule of ATP than glucose does, and much of the energy will not reach the muscles at all.

A sucrose molecule consists of a glucose and a fructose molecule bound together. Joining the two involves releasing a molecule of water, so sucrose is slightly more energy dense than its components. In the gut sucrose is broken down into its two components, and their energy is then released as if they had been swallowed whole.

Not all carbohydrates are digestible (cellulose is not), but they will still burn at about 4Cal/gram in calorimeter, so all those Calories will be completely wasted to the body.

substance Cal/gram moles ATP/gram moles ATP/Cal
glucose 3.81 ~29/180 ≅ .161 .0423
fructose 3.79 ~28/180 ≅ .156 .0410
sucrose 3.94 ~57/342 ≅ .167 .0423
maltodextrin ~4.1 ~(n*29)/(n*172+18) ≅ .167 .0406
(maltodextrin is a polymer containing many glucose molecules which is the primary ingredient of most gels. I have used 10 glucose for computational purposes.)

Fats

Now fats (and oils and such like) consist of three fatty acid molecules bound together by a glycerol. They are broken down in the gut. Some can diffuse directly into the blood stream from there, while others go through a more complicated process. Fatty acids are not very soluble in water, but there is a protein in the blood (albumin) which binds to them, thus increasing the blood’s ability to transport them. Like glucose fatty acids can be used directly by the muscles. However because they are not very water soluble transporting them around the body and especially the cell takes longer than similar transport for glucose — which is why carbohydrates make a better fuel supply when energy is needed quickly. Moving a fatty acid into the mitocondria appears to be the rate limiting step for their catabolism.

A fatty acid consists of a COOH head (methyl, the acid) attached to a variable length carbon/hydrogen chain (the fat). In nature most chains are between 6 and 22 carbons long. Chains longer than 22 carbons are not catabolized efficiently. In saturated fats there are two hydrogens for each internal carbon, in unsaturated fats there is at least one C=C double bond. The energy in the molecule comes from the breakdown of the long chain. Every two atoms of saturated carbon on the chain yield theoretically 17, but in practice 14 molecules of ATP. For a fatty acid with 2n carbon atoms the total yield is about 14n-6 (as it requires some ATP to prepare the acid in the first place, and the final two carbons must be treated slightly differently).

Energy from fatty acids
fatty acid n ATP Δc mol weight ATP/g ATP/Cal
CH3(CH2)4COOH 3 36 835Cal 116 .310 .0431
CH3(CH2)14COOH 8 106 2390Cal 256 .414 .0444
CH3(CH2)20COOH 11 148 ??? 341 .434 ???
(Fatty acids with chains that are longer than this can be broken down, but no ATP will be generated until the chain is reduced to the above size)

Most (but not all) fatty acids in nature have an even number of carbon atoms in their chains. Odd numbers can be dealt in some animals, but no one is sure how (if) that works in humans. Unsaturated fats produce slightly less energy than saturated fats, the amount depending on whether the double bond is in an even or odd position in the chain and whether it is in a cis (more common in nature) or a trans (usually man-made) configuration — trans fats being more easily dealt with.

So, from the point of view of energy, saturated fats are better, and trans unsaturated fats are better than cis unsaturated fats. Rather the opposite of what we expect from a general health perspective.

Fat cannot easily be converted to glucose and so can’t be used to build glycogen stores.

Proteins

Proteins are broken into amino acids in the gut, and then processed further in the liver. But there are 20 amino acids that can be coded for to produce proteins and they have different properties. Most, but not all, can be decomposed to produce glucose, the others can be decomposed to make ketones which can be used in fatty acid catabolism, while some can go down either pathway.

When catabolizing carbohydrates and fats the waste products were just CO2 and water, which are easily disposed of. Amino acids contain all kinds of junk. All of them contain nitrogen which must be converted to urea. But converting nitrogen to urea costs ATP, about 4 of them per nitrogen atom.

Serine is a simple case: serine dehydratase converts serine to pyruvate and ammonia — without needing energy (ATP) input. Now pyruvate is an intermediate in the catabolism of glucose (in other words the cell can digest it). Two pyruvate molecules can be converted back to glucose (to be shipped out of the liver) at a cost of 4 ATP+2 GTP ≅ 6 ATP (Gluconeogenesis) or a pyruvate molecule can proceed down the Krebs cycle and eventually produce ~12 ATP, but that energy is stuck in the liver.

So if we want energy that can reach the muscles then two molecules of serine produce one molecule of glucose (at a cost of 6 ATP) and 2 molecules of urea (at a cost of 8 ATP) while glucose produces ~29ATP. So one serine molecule will produce ~(29-6-8)/2 = ~7.5 ATPs.

Alanine is another amino acid which can be converted to pyruvate.

Energy from amino acids
amino acid ATP Δc mol weight ATP/g ATP/Cal
serine 7.5 346Cal 105 .071 .0217

Most amino acids can be converted to glucose and so can be used to build glycogen stores — albeit inefficiently.

Unfortunately I have been unable to follow the metabolic pathways for other amino acids, so I don’t have a good handle of general protein catabolism.

Energy that is not directly used is lost as heat.

Conclusions

  • Per gram fats have between 2-2.5 times the useable energy of carbohydrates
  • Per gram carbohydrates have about twice the useable energy of serine
  • Catabolic efficiency (in terms of mole ATP/Calorie) is about the same for fats and carbohydrates
  • While serine is about half as useful as either.
  • In other words a Calorie of fat or carbohydrate is about twice as useful to the body as a Calorie of protein
  • Energy that is not directly used is lost as heat. Which means that using an inefficient fuel supply like protein will cause the body to heat up faster, which is generally not good.

Given these data, I don’t really see the point of the 40-30-30% mixture of a Balance Bar™ as an energy source during exercise. I see little reason to supply 30% protein, it just looks like a bad fuel supply to me (of course Balance Bars don’t say they are for exercisers). On the other hand it does explain why some GUs contain a little fat as well as carbs. Now an ultra runner, who needs energy at a slower rate than a marathon runner, should probably be eating more fat than a marathon runner…

Caveat: These results are the best I can do; I hope I have interpreted things accurately, but I am not a biochemist or a nutritionist.

Upper San Roque Creek

October 2, 2014

Every now and then I get the urge to follow one of our local creeks. I do this out of curiosity, I want to see where the creek goes, and what grows in it, and I do it out of stupidity as the creek bed is a pretty unpleasant place in which to travel. I generally pick the end of the dry season in an attempt to limit at least one unpleasant aspect of creek travel.

Today I followed the creek that runs along Jesusita trail. This is called San Roque creek down near Steven’s Park, but where the trail comes out on the road (near the little bridge) there is a junction and one tributary goes up to the left, along the road, and the other goes up to the right along the trail. I followed this latter tributary. I don’t know its real name.

I followed it downhill, starting at the base of the switchbacks on the trail. I went tromping off into the woods and then climbed down the steep bank of the canyon to reach the stream. Rather to my surprise it actually had running water. I haven’t seen running water in San Roque creek for months, but this high up there is some, and it keeps going for about a sixth of a mile.

SR waterfallThere’s a nice little waterfall here, I suppose it really is a waterdrip, but there is certainly water flowing.
SR waterfall
It is covered with venushair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) which means there must be water here year round.

Looking down the canyon there are lots of Giant Chain Fern, another sign of permanent water here…
SRCanyon

The canyon is covered with lots of sticks, and as I move further down, lots of dead trees. I guess the stream is the lowest place in the area, and any nearby trees that might have been killed in the fire 5 years ago will fall and roll down into it.
SR deadfall

SR deadfall2
These deadfalls make progress very slow. It takes me an hour to go half a mile.

Further down there are bramble thickets, and poison oak.

Every now and then some kind person on the trail would notice me crashing around down below and ask if I were lost, to which I would reply “I’m not lost, just stupid.”

Next time I’m taking the trail…

Just follow the arrow.

September 27, 2014

Up and down, and in and out,
Here and there, and round about;
Ev’ry corner of the place,
Ev’ry twist is in the race,
Ev’ry outlet, ev’ry drain,
Have we run, and run again.

Yoemen of the Guard, W. S. Gilbert

I wasn’t expecting to run the Westmonster XC 5K, but when Rusty (or Mike) posted the workout yesterday it was part of it. A three mile marathon pace run on Mountain Dr. followed by the race on Westmont Campus.

My group agreed we’d go for a 6:50 pace on the MP run. But… well, Mike and Dan were running 6:30s, so the rest of us did too. 6:30 isn’t hard for 3 miles, but it is no longer a pace I could imagine holding for a marathon. Then I had about half an hour to trot down the mile between where we finished on Mountain Dr. and the race start on campus.

I was going to do the race with tired legs, which was what my coaches wanted, though my legs would be a bit more tired than they should be…

The course looked like crochet work when drawn on the campus map. Up here, down there, backwards, forwards, looping and recrossing… But on the ground it was well marked, with white chalk lines on the grass and little green arrows stuck to the pavement when we went on roads. And, even more usefully, lots and lots of students at every intersection to point us the way. And for me… there was always the back of the guy in front.

As we lined up I noticed that Cindy was behind me. Now Cindy is a (much) faster 5K runner than I, on roads at least, and I assumed she would be on a cross-country course too, so I encouraged her to move up. But she claimed injury and a race tomorrow and stayed where she was. I was in the second row, behind a guy who looked fast. Craig was beside me.

We were warned not to run into the photographer on a ladder about 100yds ahead.

We set off. There were a fair number of little kids in front. Some deserve to be there, but most have no idea what they are doing and are going to fade in a quarter mile which turns the race into an obstacle course for a while. Oh well. We start downhill and fast, and then uphill even more steeply, and then a quick right turn and down to the playing fields. And I have to dodge around a little kid who has slowed down. Ahead of me is Craig, and right behind me is Bob Tmur. Mmm. I would like to think I’m still faster than Bob. I hope I’ll pull away…

Oh, we go further down below the playing fields, and then up on the other side of them. I’m not sure who is behind me now. I don’t think it is Bob, but there is someone right there.

My legs do feel tired.

We keep going up. As we cross an open patch I see shadows. The person behind me has a pony tail, so I’m guessing it is Cindy. Hunh. Maybe, injured and with a race tomorrow, she runs at my pace?

Westmonster 2014 Cindy and Me
Taken by Brad Elliott, © Westmont

Now back down to the start line, and a second (but different) loop through the campus. Cindy is still behind, Craig still ahead (though both he and I, and presumably Cindy have passed a couple of other people). We come up to an intersection we went through not long ago, there are still runners from the first loop here, and the students directing us have to guess which loop each runner is on to direct us in our different directions. They seem to do a good job — at least for me.

As I run across a flagstone patio area I notice there is a white arrow on the ground. I don’t pay much attention to it, until suddenly it is stuck to my foot. I guess one of the green arrows somehow turned over and I just ran over the sticky part of it and it’s now mine for the rest of the race…

I wonder if there is any easy way to get it off my foot (without letting Cindy pass me, of course) and I can’t think of anything. So I keep running with a sticky paper arrow flapping around. It’s annoying but not really a problem.

We climb the monster hill now. I think I pull away from Cindy a little on the hill. Hmm. I might be a better climber than she, that would make sense given the kind of running I normally do.

At the top of the hill Mike and Ricky are spectating and cheer me on. Then they notice my arrow and laugh. As Cindy crests the top they cheer her too, and tell her “just follow the arrow”. I think this is about mile 2, and if I recall correctly it’s mostly downhill from now on.

Craig, who this morning was complaining of a hamstring injury is getting further and further ahead of me until I can no longer rely on seeing him to tell me where to turn.

Cindy now catches up with me and then pulls ahead too. Ah well.

The arrow continues to flap around my foot.

Back down around the playing fields, and then up to the road again. Somewhere my arrow disappears. Someone else can run with it now.

Then a little dip and on to the track. It seems to take forever to get around the track with Cindy about 50yds ahead and Craig out of sight.

20:47. Pretty slow for a road 5K (which this was not, of course). That’s a bit better than a 6:40 pace.

Cindy’s husband berates me: “You had a good lead at the top of the hill, how did you lose to her?”

A tale told by an idiot.

September 24, 2014

Ban Ki-moon (UN Secretary General) said that yesterday’s climate change summit was a success.
Obama said that the US (under his presidency) has done more than any other country about climate change.

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

Hamlet III.3

Out on thee! ſeeming! I will write againſt it:

Much Ado IV.1

On Monday ~300,000 people marched in New York (and tens of thousands in other cities) protesting climate change. On Tuesday the UN held a day-long summit. This was billed as the “Last Chance” to prepare for the Paris COP 21 conference in December 2015 which is the “Last Chance” for the UN process to do any good. (I’m not sure why we are ignoring COP 20 in Lima this year).

Of course, there have been plenty of “Last Chance”s in the past, and presumably there will be plenty more in the future. No one is willing or able to commit to the needed changes.

The hope was that world leaders would come to Tuesday’s conference and make all sorts promises about reducing emissions and giving money to the poor countries who will (probably) suffer the most from climate change (like being entirely drowned as the sea level rises) but have been the least responsible.

Nothing of the sort happened. No one made any new emissions pledges. The US refused to give any money to the poor, and only a few European countries and Mexico actually did so. Nothing that was desired was achieved.

The Green Climate Fund was conceived at Copenhagen as a way of transferring money from the rich to the poor. It is supposed to have $100bn/year after 2020. Currently it has ~$2.3bn total. That’s not per year, that’s ever. It is laughable.

On the other hand they did come up with a new policy on reforestation. Um. I thought they did that at Copenhagen 5 years ago? And this new policy was established without consulting Brazil — the country with the biggest chunk of rainforest?

Maybe they need a new forest policy because REDD (the last one) didn’t work? Is there any reason to believe that this one will be any better?

One of the other few “major” commitments of the summit was to put a price on carbon. Of course the US did not agree. Nor did one of the countries soon to be underwater.

In spite of this Obama had the gall to make a speech claiming the US under his presidency had done more than any other nation on climate change, and then he volunteered to “lead the international community”. This from the man partly responsible for the disaster at Copenhagen, who has done practically nothing at home about climate change, and who made no commitments yesterday.

He led his regiment from behind
(He found it less exciting).

The Gondoliers, W.S. Gilbert

Personally I think there is a high chance that any policies Obama has promulgated will be rolled back in two years if the Republicans win the presidency. And really what has he done? All I can think of is that after 5+ years he has got the EPA to make proposals for limiting emissions from power plants. Important, yes, but only one small aspect of the problem is addressed. The US has decreased its CO2 emissions in recent years, but that has only been because natural gas has become cheap. But peak natural gas will probably happen next year. I expect the decline will slow and turn to an increase again soon…*

This is the graph which matters more than any words we heard yesterday:

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase, and the rate of increase is accelerating. Nothing we have tried in the last 20+ years has changed that basic fact. Nothing said yesterday will change that.

We continue to betray ourselves.

Pogo: We have met the enemy and he is us.


* Well, I did not expect my prediction to be borne out so soon, but a month after I wrote this the EIA announced that US emissions rose in 2013 at the steepest rate ever recorded. So even with cheap natural gas we aren’t doing well.

A Mid-Autumn¹ Night’s Dream

September 21, 2014

I go, I go; look how I go,
Swifter than arrow from the Tartar’s bow.

Dream III.2.1135

Luis organized a training run for the Red Rock race at 7am going from Red Rock (day use area) to Camino Cielo and back.

But a week ago the temperature on the coast was about 100°F (and the trails were worse) and I didn’t want to do a 20+ mile run in that sort of heat. So I decided to start at 4am, thinking I’d be back about 9 before the day’s heat really kicked in. And I thought it would be fun to go for a long run in the dark… And that would get me to the top of Camino Cielo about the right time to watch the sunrise.

Yesterday I drove up to Camino Cielo with the intent of placing some water at the turn around point — only to be stopped about a mile from it. There was a skateboard race going on, and I had to wait for the current heat to finish. About 5 minutes. So I waited. Then they let me though. The finish line was where I had intended to stop and it was full of vehicles, so I drove on another quarter mile to the next pull out. Then walked back, hid my water on the trail, returned to the car, and had to wait once more for the next heat.

I didn’t even know we had skateboard races…

I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get to the end of Paradise Rd. but I figured if I left home at 3am that would get me there in good time. As it happened I got off a little early.

When I got to Lower Oso I found that there was a gate across the road there with no passage (for cars) allowed beyond. Damn it. There was a sign near the gate claiming “Gate closed Sunset to Sunrise” — clearly I’d never bothered to read it before. I grumbled quietly to myself as I parked the car. Let’s see… it’s about 5 miles from Lower Oso to Red Rock so… Mmph. That’s almost an extra hour or so each way. I don’t have enough food with me for that. I’m going to have to turn around before Camino Cielo, which means I won’t get to my water. Grrrr. I’ll miss the sunrise over the ocean too.

There were certain sections of trail that I really wanted to run on (sections I rarely do because they take so long to reach if I start from the front country). Turning back at the Grotto sounds about right. It’s probably ~3 miles from there to Camino Cielo, so it’s still going to be a bit longer than I intended but not by much.

All the bathrooms at Lower Oso appeared to be locked or out of order.

Nothing seemed to be going right.

But then I started out and everything was all right again. The stars were very bright. When I ran Nine Trails last month I was mostly running within the reach of city lights — even if the cities were small cities — and there was a (nearly) full moon, so the stars were dimmed. Tonight there was no moon, the night was clear and all cities were hidden by mountains. It was dark. The stars were bright. Orion’s Belt was dead ahead.

I trotted on into the darkness with the insects singing all around me.

After about 2 miles the road fords a channel of the Santa Ynez river. Or rather it would ford the river if there were any water in it. As it is there is just a dip that is covered with concrete (rather than asphalt) and then a rise on the other side. There are several of these crossings. All are dry.

After about 45 minutes I reach the end of the paved road. Red Rock trailhead. A dirt road takes off to the left (behind yet another gate) and that is my route.

Almost immediately I scare up a nightjar. There’s a great whirring of wings as the bird rises from the trail in front of me. — I think it’s a nightjar (or nighthawk, or whatever they call them here), it’s a little hard to be sure in the dark.

After a quarter of a mile or so a bit of single track takes off on the right. That’s the race route, but… I’m kind of interested in seeing were the road goes. I know the trail is just a short cut (also I’m not familiar with it and am a tiny bit worried about following unfamiliar single track in the dark — I’ve only run it once, and there was a steep drop off beside it). Anyway I take the road.

The road goes into darkness. But I do see a goldenbush beside it.

And then I pass the places where you can get good views of the dam (for Gibraltar Reservoir) but I have views of nothing but night at the moment.

And then down into the canyon below the dam, and up the other side.

I get a little lost here. There’s a junction, and one road is the main road, and the other is the driveway to the where the caretakers of the dam live. I end up running around their houses by mistake and waking up a rooster, and then a dog, and then a voice comes out of the darkness asking me where I’m going.

(Anyway that was the gist of the question)

Oops. I apologize. Find the real road again and continue.

It’s not far now to the turn-off for the Mercury Mine. And now we are getting into a section that is actually familiar and becomes more so as I go further toward the Grotto.

After about a mile I see some Matchweed, a plant I have previously only seen growing on the edge Cottam Meadow (of course it is pitch black still, but I recheck it on the way back — in the light — and that is what it is).

I, um, get a little lost at the Mercury Mine too, and I end up running down the road to mine itself, rather than taking the high road that skirts it. But when the road dead ends my mistake becomes apparent, and I run back up the hill a little way and find the junction which I missed before.

It has taken me two hours (and some seconds) to get here and I’ve gone almost 11 miles. It’s about 5:30 and it’s still pitch black.

Moon and DarknessA little before 6 I see a crescent moon rising over the hills ahead of me. My eye can see the hills underneath, and a bright crescent against a dimly lit (earth-light lit) rest of the moon. The camera has different ideas…

I’m currently running high above the riverbed/floodplain of the Santa Ynez river, so I have a good view of the moonrise and the coming dawn.

Moon CrescentTen minutes later I try again. This time with better effect. The hills are visible (as is my flashlight) and the moon is a crescent.

MoonCrescent2 MoonCrescent3
MoonCrescent4

Now I head down into the canyon of the nameless stream the flows out of the Grotto, and the moon is lost to sight. I turn up Cold Spring trail and run the quarter mile to the Grotto. Last time I was here there were still a few Indian Paintbrush blooming at the waterfall, the last few of Castilleja minor for this year. Two are still here, and I peer at them in the dim light of pre-dawn. Yes, there’s a tiny bit of color left, and the top is still in bloom.

Time to turn around.

Brickellia-nevinii-plantBut a little further down Cold Spring there’s a Bricklebush that I’ve only recently identified. Not our common Bricklebush, but Nevin’s Bricklebush. I only know of three plants, so whenever I get close to one I like to check it’s status. So I go a tenth of a mile out of my way (this time down the canyon), and there it is. Still blooming.

It is now light enough that I can see the trail, and I turn off my flashlight.

Then back to the trail to the mine, and out of the canyon.

While I’ve been down there a fog has come out of nowhere and is covering up the dawn. In the next hour or two the fog will become more pronounced, and lower, until I’m running through it by the time I’m back at the mine.
FoggyDawn

ThreadleafRagwortI can now see all the blooms I missed on the way out. I’m seeing a fair number of flacid senecios (rather an unfortunate name, I feel). I was down this way about two weeks ago and didn’t notice any, but today they seem fairly common.

I trot along past the various landslides and wonder how on earth I got past these in the dark? More to the point there are some bike tracks here on the trail. How did they do it?

CalSeedsA bit further on I spy some Calochortus seeds. I’ve actually gone looking for these lilies on this trail a couple of times over the summer and never seen them. But I’ve always turned back to the Grotto before I got this far and so have been disappointed. I’m guessing these are C. fimgriatus (though there are a couple other species with this seedpod shape, still the plant size and habitat are right for C. f.). That’s good to see. There are only about 7 plants here now. I’ll have to return here next July (I hope it’s cool then…)

CalClavSeedsFive minutes later I find a very large patch of C. clavatus seedpods. This is a much bigger surprise; I really hadn’t expected to find that species anywhere near here. I’ll have to come back in May… And 10 minutes after that I find another (but smaller) patch of them. I guess they are more common than I had imagined.

I start calculating how long it will take before I see Luis’s party. Somewhere around the dam I guess… They started at 7, but didn’t have to run from Lower Oso (at least I hope they didn’t).

GibRes
There’s a outlook point here, right above the Mercury Mine, and whenever I pass it I stop and look at Gibraltar Reservoir — the upper reaches anyway. It’s shrouded in mist, but even so it is clear that no water is visible at all. The lake floor is covered with shrubs. It’s been dry a long time here.

Ten minutes down the road I finally do see some water.
GibRes2

Then I hear voices, and turning a corner find Karen, Heidi and Andreas. But no Luis. Ah. They started at 6 (and the gate was open for them, lucky people). I tell them where I stashed my water (in case they go there). I realize that I seem to have plenty of water still. It’s a cool day, and now it’s misty. Less need for liquid. I’ve completely forgotten to worry about it.

We say our good-byes and go our separate ways.

I slowly climb out of the reservoir basin, and then back down toward the dam. I hear voices again, but I can’t see anyone. Oh well.

About 5 minutes later, down in the canyon below the dam I meet the first of Luis’s party, and then Luis himself. He wants to know if anyone else started early, so I tell him about the others.

GibDamA large group is running with Luis, but there are some stragglers. I pass Simone and some others (my glasses are fogged up and it’s hard to recognize people). I turn back to chat, and as I do I see the dam. I couldn’t see it in the darkness on the way down. It’s impressive. When I reach the top of the saddle there is an even better view, looking down from above you can see there is water behind the dam. Still. Some.
GibDam2

Now I need to find the turn-off for the trail (now that it is light, I’d like to run down it). I didn’t notice this end of it on the way out… Anyway as long as I can see the tracks of Luis’s party I know that I haven’t passed it. And here there are footprints spread all across the road. New prints too, the sand is speckled with mizzle and the footprints have disturbed it.

Eventually I find the trail, and plunge downhill to Red Rock and Paradise Rd.

Lots of cars here now, but not mine. I’ve got another 4.5 miles to run.

On I go.

After about two miles I can see a bit of blue sky. I’m still under clouds, but the mountains across the way are in sun. It’s nice to see the sky, but I fear that means it will heat up soon…
SunnyHills

A couple of trails hit the road along here. I knew about the Mattias Connector, but now I also see where the Camuesa Connector comes in. A bit later, at the final stream crossing, a trail takes off to the left and heads down through the river bed. Lucky it’s dry. I’m pretty sure this is more of the Camuesa Connector and that it will take me back to Lower Oso. So I head out into the unknown. There are only two more miles or so…

The sun is out now, and it is getting hot.

The trail is a bit difficult to run on. It is alternately sandy and rocky. But it’s kind of fun to see what is growing inside the riverbed.

The great grey-green, greasy Santa Ynez River, all set about with sycamore-trees.

The great grey-green, greasy Santa Ynez River, all set about with sycamore-trees.

There isn’t just one trail here, as I had thought, there seems to be a maze of twisty little trails all alike. Still I guess that if I keep picking one going downstream I’ll be OK.

I cross Arroyo Burro Rd. now. Only about 3/4 mile to go now. Google Maps gets this trail wrong. They claim it stops here (among other problems). But it doesn’t stop it keeps going.

I pass a family out horseback riding.

Mmm. Maybe the maze of twisty little trails isn’t quite as easy to get out of as I hoped. I’m on the wrong side (south side) of the river now and climbing the bank away from it. Oh dear. As I recall the hint was “Don’t go west”, and I’m going west.

So I head north at the next intersection. And north again. And eventually I cross the river, and climb up the north bank, and am 50 feet from my car.


¹If mid-summer’s day is on the summer solstice, then surely mid-autumn’s day is on the autumnal equinox.

Kingsnake Predation

August 28, 2014

Posted on EdHat

Two weeks ago someone running Nine Trails found a king snake eating a rattler on the route.

Today, as I was running up Jesusita I passed Heidi and Brett and others coming down. They told me to watch for a King Snake eating a lizard further up the trail.

Taken by Heidi Heitkamp at ~5:30AM.

Taken by Heidi Heitkamp at ~5:30AM.

Sure enough, right before the trail gets really steep, right in the middle of the trail was a small king snake eating a western fence lizard. But I didn’t have a camera. I debated turning around to get a camera, but instead kept going — there was a flower I wanted to see further up.

I found my flower and turned back, but I ran a little faster than I usually do. When I got back to the steep spot the snake was exactly where I’d seen it before and seemed to have made no progress on eating the lizard. It appeared stuck on the front legs.

I wondered if the snake could actually eat it? The lizard appeared bigger around than the snake, and the legs were even bigger…

Predation events are rare…

Anyway it seemed that the snake wasn’t going anywhere and I figured I might actually have a chance to get back home; grab camera; return. So I sped up. It took me 20 minutes to get back to the bike, 13 minutes to get home (downhill), 3 minutes to get the camera, 15 minutes to get back to the trailhead (uphill), 20 minutes to get back to the snake.

On the way down I passed a woman taking her dogs up the trail. Perhaps the dogs would disturb it.

On the way up it was starting to get hot. Perhaps the snake’s metabolism would speed up and it would finish and move away.

And when I got there it was gone.

I swore.

That was a long way to go for nothing.

Then I searched more carefully.

The snake had moved. It was not gone, but it was no longer in the middle of the trail, being instead some distance off to the side. Whew.

KingsnakePredation1

KingsnakePredationCloseup

KingsnakePredationScale
It’s not a large snake…

KingsnakePredationSide


The only other time I can remember running back so far to get a camera was one day when I stumbled on two snails mating in Ranomafana (Madagascar). The snails there are enormous, about 3 inches long, but like all snails they are slow. I figured I’d have time to run back and return before they were done (In fact they seemed to spend more than 8 hours together — I kept checking them throughout the day.)

Helicophanta ibaraoensis mating Jan 1999

Helicophanta ibaraoensis mating Jan 1999

Rounding errors in Running Foods

August 26, 2014

(When I wrote this I was unaware of certain things. A better analysis is given in a subsequent blog post: Not all Calories are created equal.)

Rusty gave me a enormous bag of cliff blocks the other day, so I’ve been eating those on long trail runs rather than GU gels as I usually do. I think it takes me longer to get nauseous when eating these blocks than when eating gels. I also seem to notice that I am hungrier when eating the blocks than when eating gels. This might be part of not being nauseous (if I’m nauseous then I don’t notice hunger, and if I’m not then I do; or maybe I don’t feel nauseous so I run harder and get hungrier?). Or maybe the blocks and the gels have a different number of Calories?

So I came home and checked. The blocks are said to have 100 Calories/serving of 3 blocks, and the GU gels claim 100 Calories/serving of one packet. That was what I thought. So I should be consuming at the same rate…

But then I looked a little closer. A “Mountain Berry Cliff Block” is said to have: No Fat, No Protein and 24g Carbs. A “Salted Watermelon GU gel” is said to have: No Fat, No Protein and 22g Carbs. Now Carbohydrates burn at at rate of about 3.8 Calories/gram.
3.81*24=91.5 Calories/3block serving
3.81*22=83.8 Calories/gel serving
So you’d think I’d get more hungry from eating GU than blocks? But I don’t…

Ah! Not all GU flavors are the same. “Chocolate Outrage GU” has 15Cal from Fat, No Protein and 21g Carb=80Cal. So that one has 95 Calories/serving.

Flavor Cal Fat Cal Carbs Tot Cal Claimed
Salted Watermelon GU 0 84 84 100
Chocolate Outrage GU 15 80 95 100
Salted Caramel GU 0 84 84 100
Strawberry Banana GU 0 95 95 100
Peanut Butter GU 15 76 91 100
Mountain Berry Cliff 0 92 92 100
Chocolate Cherry Cliff 0 88 88 100
Citrus Cliff 0 92 92 100
Margarita Cliff 0 92 92 100
Mountain Huckle Hammer Gel 0 84 84 90
Orange Hammer Gel 0 80 80 90
Raspberry Gel 0 80 80 90
Apple-Cinanamon Hammer Gel 0 88 88 90

Those were all the flavors I had on hand to test. And, of course, I have no idea how accurate the carbohydrate/fat readings are. Could there be something else in these concoctions which would increase the Calorie content? (Alcohol is the only other thing I know of that can be metabolized but there are probably others, and I guess it doesn’t need to be metabolizeable to count toward the Calorie content).

Still it does seem to me that there is likely to be significant error in the Calorie labeling of these products.


Different carbohydrates have slightly different heats of combustion in a bomb calorimeter.

Glucose 3.81 Cal/gram
Fructose 3.79 Cal/gram
Sucrose 3.94 Cal/gram

However maltodextrin (the primary component of GU, and a component in cliff blocks) is a variable length polysaccharide, so heat of combustion is going to be variable too. At any rate I can’t find any data for it. I used 3.81 as a factor in my calculations above (but even had I used 3.94 none of the totals would reach 100 Calories).

Now within the body the energy currency is glucose so all carbohydrates are converted to glucose before being used. Within the cell the energy currency is ATP and one mole of glucose is converted into theoretically 38 (but in the real world about 30~32) ATP molecules. In the theoretical case only about 50% of the glucose energy is captured in ATP (in the real world it’s even less).

To use a molecule of fructose it must first be converted to glucose which takes up 2ATP molecules, so fructose is less efficient.

To use a molecule of sucrose it must first be broken into a glucose and a fructose (the energy released in this break down is too small to make an ATP molecule — I think). Then the two simple sugars would be oxidized as above. So the efficiency here is again slightly less than 50%.


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