Outdoors

Craig Hill: Some say mustard a must for athletes battling leg cramps

Yellow mustard seeds in a wooden pestle are ground with a wooden mortar. Some endurance athletes say a spoonful of yellow mustard helps relieve leg cramps.
Yellow mustard seeds in a wooden pestle are ground with a wooden mortar. Some endurance athletes say a spoonful of yellow mustard helps relieve leg cramps. The Associated Press

Answers to important questions nobody has asked me yet:

Q: Is mustard a must for endurance athletes?

During long, hot bike rides I have problems with cramps.

At the recommendation of a friend, I started carrying a few packets of yellow mustard with me. She wasn’t sure why it helped relieve cramps (The salt — 60 milligrams per teaspoon? The turmeric? The vinegar?), but she’d heard success stories.

Indeed, a little research (OK, it was a Google search) turned up many stories of people finding quick relief from leg cramps with a spoonful of yellow mustard. So many, in fact, a Livestrong.com article on the subject published in May suggested, “Carry packets of yellow mustard with you at all times.”

All times? Wow, must be powerful stuff.

The article seemed to set off a spasm of interest in the leg cramping community. During a recent ride, I reached the 110-mile mark feeling as if my legs could seize up at any second. I’d already cramped about 30 minutes earlier. When I asked a woman staffing a food station for extra mustard, she said cyclists had been talking about the cramp-relief benefits of mustard all day.

After finishing my mustard-smothered turkey sandwich, I made it almost 40 miles more before cramping again. Unfortunately, at that point, I was out of mustard.

So, does mustard get credit? Maybe. Or maybe it was the vegetable juice (410 milligrams of sodium and 390 milligrams of potassium) I used to wash down the sandwich. Either way, I think I’ll keep a few mustard packets in my pockets for long rides. Even if the comfort it brings is offset by the anxiety of staining one of my favorite cycling jerseys.

Q: How’s the South Sound’s first family of triathlon spending the summer?

Tacoma’s Doug Hill, 61, and his daughter, 27-year-old Alycia Hill, remain among the nation’s top triathletes in their respective age groups.

On Aug. 8, both finished in the top four at the Olympic distance national championships in Milwaukee. They’re both off to the world championships Sept. 19 in Chicago.

The Olympic distance triathlon is a 0.93-mile swim, 25-mile bike and 6.2-mile run.

Alycia finished in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 7.36 seconds, fourth out of 141 racers in the 25-29 age group. She was less than 30 seconds behind the winner, Cecilia Davis-Hayes of New York.

Doug finished in 2:15:27.12 and was second out of 85 in the 60-64 age group. South Dakota’s Gregory Taylor won the race.

Alycia is also competing in the Ironman 70.3 (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run) championships in Austria on Aug. 29.

Q: Was the Aug. 8-9 Obliteride successful?

Amy Lavin, executive director the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Obliteride, said the third version of the fundraising bike ride was “the biggest and best yet.”

A record turnout of 1,200 cyclists raised more than $1.8 million. Fundraising continues through Sept. 30. Ride organizers say 100 percent of money raised goes to cancer research. Sponsors and rider entrance fees cover the cost of the event.

The ride started in Seattle with route options ranging from 10-150 miles. The longest was a two-day ride with cyclists spending the night at the University of Puget Sound.

The 2013 and ’14 Obliterides combined to raise $4.1 million.

Q: How did the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon go last weekend?

It didn’t. The scenic run from Gig Harbor to the Tacoma waterfront is traditionally in early August, but race officials moved it to Sept. 12 this season, where it takes the place of a race that was canceled. .

Registration for the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon is still open with the fee tied to the number of entries. The more people who register, the higher the cost. The price is capped at $95 when registration exceeds 750 runners. (The exception: Registration is $100 on Sept. 11 and 12 if the race doesn’t sell out.)

As of Aug. 10, 624 runners were registered, putting the entry fee at $85.

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