Chasing the hornet

I’d like to say Hornet Juice has been on my radar for a while now, but that’s just not true.

Prior to two weeks ago, I’d never even heard of the stuff. I could barely envision a world in which I’d take pleasure from the words “hornet” and “juice” in such close proximity, nor could I imagine my body would one day crave an insect’s knack for endurance sports. Those were dark days, indeed.

Then my friend Michelle offered a hot tip: “Have you heard of Hornet Juice?” she whispered in the hushed tone I’m arbitrarily ascribing to her blog comment.

I had not.

Immediately I rushed to investigate, intrigued by the idea of a clandestine world powered by insect secretions.

Hawr-nit joos. What was it? Was it legal? Could it do for me what strychnine did for Thomas Hicks in the 1904 Olympics at St. Louis?

According to the website, it most certainly could. There, among a glut of scientific studies and hornet puns, were the glowing testimonials of famous racers and Olympic champions. All admitted initial disbelief in the potential of bug-based supplements. But all experienced vast improvements in speed, energy and endurance. And all credited their achievements to a heady concoction of nutrients replicating Japanese Giant Hornet larvae. HORNET JUICE!!

“C’mon, and join the swarm!” they beckoned coquettishly, drawing me in with sweet promises of oxidated fat and preserved glycogen stores.

And, God, did I want to. Never have I been so aware of my comparative dearth of amino acids. I too wanted to lessen my chance of injury, reduce lactic acid build-up and even avoid the “bloated feeling” I apparently get from other sport drinks.

So, being an investigative journalist and freelance guinea pig, I decided to take their 17 amino acids on a test drive. Hornet Juice would soon be mine.

Important science-y stuff.

Rumor has it, in Japan you can buy the actual glandular output of real hornets (presumably from some kind of vending machine that also sells sexy underwear and Sapporo beer). Because that sounds both icky and non-vegetarian, I went with the only hornet secretions I could get my paws on anyway—the synthetic kind, available directly from my friends at Hornet Juice Headquarters.

HJ HQ (for the sake of my family audience, let’s pretend “HJ” doesn’t mean what it usually means) is located inside the award-winning island nation of New Zealand. New Zealand has already given the world so much in the way of wool knitwear, Peter Jackson and Cadbury Crème Eggs—it’s scarcely conceivable they’re willing to contribute more. Yet, here’s the offer: A four HJ trial-pack for $9, free shipping, satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

I couldn’t plug in my credit card info fast enough. Just knowing my hornet discharge hailed from Middle-earth was enough to suggest it would grant Tolkien levels of courage and triumph.

And seven to 10 days later, the HJ arrived.

You can't resist my sweet secretions.

So sit back and allow me to take you on a journey to running’s seedy underbelly—where insect-doping is as common as toenail loss, and even Runner’s World fears to tread. Here’s my story:

Trial One: I planned to save my first dose for a 12-mile run on Saturday but decided it couldn’t hurt to hit the hornet sauce one day sooner.

Friday morning I ate a couple pieces of toast, mixed one packet of the whitish powder into a glass of water and slugged back the contents. The taste was chalky but not dissatisfying—a bit like citrus-flavored Alka Seltzer with a slightly floral bouquet.

Then I plunged out into the snow for the 1.5-mile walk to the gym. Midway through my walk, I sensed a change. It definitely wasn’t a placebo effect—something strange was happening to my body. First, I felt thirsty. Then I felt powerful. Finally, I became very, very hyper.

Feeling strong enough to strangle a sharktopus with my bare hands, I stormed into the gym and reported directly to the first available treadmill. I jammed out on my power mix; I watched Novak Djokovic beat someone with a lesser name in the Australian Open.

I ran. I summoned the power of a thousand Zeuses and the energy of a thousand Tazzes, converting my corporeal form into pure light energy. I shredded that treadmill—tearing a hole through the space-time continuum, rewriting the laws of thermodynamics, tripping ballz harder than Natalie Portman in Black Swan.

I was on a bug bender, and I never wanted to come down. My new life was all about high-fiving giant hornets on the astral plane—no time for the drudgery of three dimensions.

Then it was over.

My body felt exhausted.

I collapsed onto the handrails. I checked the workout view to read my score.

And…… I only ran seven miles in 58 minutes. Which is exactly how slow I always run on the treadmill.

I left the gym feeling hungry and bewildered.

The Hornet Juice website suggests drinking its product before, during and after a workout. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to start chasing that hornet dragon right off the bat, though.

My day continued in the usual manner, except I felt a slight buzz in my system. For the most part, this took the form of chattiness and thirst. Day One can best be described as a “mixed success!”

Trial Two: Saturday morning I woke up, ate some toast and stalled on my run until I felt certain the maximum amount of meltable show had melted. Then I shot back a chalky glass of Hornet Juice and waited 30 minutes before heading out on a 12-mile jaunt.

Again, mixed results. My running times were pretty slow on the snow-packed trail, but I had a solid runner’s high going from mile eight on.

Then, the hunger. I came home to an apartment empty of food and was completely unable to follow through on my earlier plan to drive to the store. My blood sugar crashed hard. So I sat on the floor and waited for the universe to feed me.

There comes a point in every human’s life when he or she has to step back and ask, “How would I fare in a post-apocalyptic society?”

In my case, that answer is not at all. I simply would not fare.

Sure, in the event of utter societal collapse, I have several leadership and wilderness skills to contribute to the loose band of dazed survivors. I can start a fire without a lighter or matches. I don’t panic easily.

But if I go more than eight hours without food, it’s all over. I lose the ability and ambition to seek out sustenance, even if survival simply requires the decision to enter a store.

One time when I was bike touring through the West Texas desert, my blood sugar crashed so hard I ate half a roll of vitamins and the candy coating from Advil tabs just for the calories. Then I put my sunglasses and helmet on a nearby cactus, told him I’d never leave him and sat down to wait for the buzzards to find me.

In that case, a friendly rancher happened along with a bag of cheese puffs and a can of Sprite. But based on extensive evidence from regular bonk sessions, it’s safe to say I’m bad at adult tasks like gathering resources or feeding myself. If the revolution comes tomorrow, I’ll be the first to sag against the wall in a tiny ball of hunger and bewilderment.

So this hornet-induced food panic was not necessarily a new experience. By 4 p.m. I scraped myself off the carpet and found a box of Saltines to claw open. And all was right with the world. I would live to eat insect discharge another day.

To conclude this decidedly unscientific study, Hornet Juice is a mighty force to be reckoned with. You’ll sail high off those 17 amino acids, but it might not affect your performance in any measurable capacity.

You might get thirsty. You might get hungry. You might corner a coworker for 40 minutes to explain the rich mythology of your Dungeons and Dragons character, a sorcerer gnome raised in a refugee settlement after a vicious struggle against a warring army of Merfolk.

You might alienate a lot of good people.

And I have no idea what it does to your liver.

But it’s only $9 for a trial pack if you act now, so what can it hurt? JOIN THE SWARM.