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Hot Sauce & Running

2010/04/19

I have recently discovered the secret to achieving a runner’s high without the run: hot sauce.

I had decided to try making my own hot sauce a few weeks ago, loosely following a recipe for a mango-habanero sauce. I first sampled it on an unsalted tortilla chip, about a dime-sized drop. First it was nothing but the sweet mango taste, and I thought, for the first five seconds, “This is so weak!” Then the heat came on quick as soon as I swallowed. I fought the urge to douse the flames with a glass of milk. I let it simmer, and after 30 seconds, it finally faded back to a sweet but tingly aftertaste. And then, suddenly, I felt slightly out of my head, that light and high feeling I normally associate with completing a good run.

I was intrigued. So I hit the sauce a couple more times, enjoyed the taste, the burn, the buzz that only lasted about 15 seconds at the most each time. Hmmm….

Apparently,  I would come to learn, capsacin, the chemical compound in chile peppers responsible for the heat, has been shown to induce endorphin release in the body. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain relievers, and are activated during strenuous exercise, fear or excitement – and consumption of spicy foods. Thus, endorphin release is what causes the feeling of exhilaration known as runner’s high. Usually for me, the fitst two or three miles of any run  is the most difficult, but once I reach that point, the endorphins kick in and the run becomes easier.

So I had this thought: What if I were to coax that natural endorphin drip into my system before the run, just long enough to get through the first couple miles more easily, before the physical activity brings on a more steady flow of feelin’ good?

The next day, I drenched a PowerBar in my mango-habanero hot sauce and consumed it slowly and carefully. I admit, it was excruciating. I washed it down with a glass of water and, feeling the heat on my tongue and buzz in my head, I went out the door. Unfortunately, that habanero high was still too short-lived – it was gone by the end of the block – and my run continued as normal, struggling the first couple before gradually getting into the flow.

So – back to the drawing board – or recipe book, as it were. For my next batch of sauce, maybe I’ll use the 10-15 habaneros the recipe called for instead of only four. Or I could wait until the naga jolokia (ghost pepper) seeds I just planted mature.

I just hope I’m not trading early endorphin rush for ghastly gastrointestinal issues.

Mango-Habanero Sauce

Bottled runner's high, homemade mango habanero hot sauce (mild?).

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