photo by Steve Penland

Monday, September 9, 2013

Caffeinate Me

I've been a big fan of caffeine ever since I cracked open my first can of Tab in college (yes, for you young 'uns out there, I did just date myself).  Over the years I've bounced from Tab to Diet Coke to Diet Dew to coffee; I currently have a nice regimen of coffee in the morning, Diet Coke at lunch, and Diet Dew on the way home/pre-workout.  (Yes, I'm trying to quit the diet pop.  No, I haven't been successful--and I've been trying for 30 years.)

Anyway, despite all this daily caffeine I've never really tried a "performance enhancing" dose immediately pre-workout.  My sister Energizer Bunny, though, is the queen of the pep-up juice; she manages a GNC nutrition store and loves mixing and matching their energy products before lifting or skating.  A 300-milligrams-of-caffeine "pre race" drink makes her happy and peppy and hell to try to keep up with on the trails (and she's too short to provide a good draft!).  Still, despite her enthusiastic (and somewhat hyperactive) endorsement of energy products, I'd never deliberately timed and dosed my caffeine for a workout or race.

Until last week.  On Labor Day, EB and I did a 25-mile trail skate to prep us for the upcoming North Shore Inline Marathon (next Saturday).  I felt decent the first two 6.2-mile laps of the trail, but was becoming very hungry.  So we stopped after two laps and I had a Clif Shot--with 100 milligrams of caffeine  I didn't think much about the caffeine dosage, I just wanted some calories.

What I got was more like a turbo-boost.

When we hit the trail again, I was energetic.  I was strong.  I cruised merrily along behind EB (I always used to "pull" when we skated together, but in the past few years I've had to go behind when we go fast, and often I can't keep up even with a draft), singing out loud to my iPod and occasionally charging past her yelling "c'mon, let's go!" I felt awesome for two full laps--or, well, almost two laps.  My heart arrhythmia kicked in a couple times in the last 400 yards, and EB dashed past me to win the unofficial sister-fest. (And no, I don't think the caffeine precipitated the heart arrhythmia; I still get it occasionally, and the only triggers I can identify are drinking cold liquids and lying in certain positions.  Fortunately, it happens less during workouts than it did last year at this time).

Anyway, that was a fun skate.

And definitely worth seeing if I could replicate, especially since I have a marathon coming up.  I've always been very cautious about what and when I eat pre-workout or race, and now I'm beginning to think I've been shorting myself on energy--or at least, energy enhancers.

So I decided to try the experiment again.  EB and I were planning another pre-marathon trail skate for yesterday; she was going to do four or five hard laps of a 3.5 mile course, and I planned to do three or four "recovery pace" laps.  Then a friend of EB's and a couple friends of the friend decided to skate (and bike) too, and suddenly we had a group.  A very fast group, that I was not planning to try to stick with.

For my experiment, I had my usual coffee about an hour and a half before the morning skate.  Then I had the only energy product I've been using, an FRS energy shot (these have about 35 mg of caffeine, but are mostly other "energy ingredients" and an antioxidant).  Then, about 10 minutes before we skated, I added the finishing touch--a 100 mg caffeine Clif Shot.

And then we skated.

EB and I headed out before the rest of the pack got there, to get in a warmup lap before the hard stuff started.  I felt so good in the warmup lap that I decided to go hard with the group and see if I could stick with them.

And I did.  For two fast, fun, flying laps.  Just like last time, I felt marvelous--skating hard, digging deep to keep up and loving it, and even singing occasionally (quietly, though--I know better than to inflict that on anyone).  After the two fast laps--the second of which was the fastest I've ever gone on that trail--I was cooked, and I did a fourth lap as a cool down, accompanied by the Hubster on his bike.

So. I seem to have learned something.

Caffeine before workout=good.

Can't wait to try it in the North Shore Marathon.

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