Saturday, March 28, 2015
First comes running, Second comes fueling! Fueling during a marathon can make or break an awesome performance, but fueling at all other times of the day and throughout the training cycle is just as important. In my very first big blog, I wrote about food and my challenges with regaining an adequate energy balance. Energy balance means taking in enough calories to keep building up my body and keep my metabolism happy and healthy, not breaking down my existing muscles, energy stores, and the like. I have worked with my awesome nutritionist, Rasa, and with my coach to make sure that I am on the right track. I have also recently met with a doctor (getting a blood panel done) and found out all of my tests that were abnormal before -- liver function, kidney function, folate/B12 function -- were all now in the normal range!
Making sure to get enough food in training is my struggle, while some runners battle with making sure not to take in too much food. There is a sweet spot for everyone, an amount of food that helps you benefit from workouts and improve in training. In preparation for the Pittsburgh marathon, or any marathon, its important to have a look at what your milage is, what your workouts will be like, and what your diet is like. With increased miles, an increase in food intake should follow. Whether your hunger cues get you there or if prescriptive eating is required, when the engine burns more fuel, more fuel is needed in the tank.
Recently I posted on my Instagram (@emrunygordrun) a picture of a really fantastic sandwich I had after a 20 mile treadmill workout on Tuesday. Someone commented on it asking what a days worth of food looks like for me. I decided the response would best be done on a blog, because I can post pictures and explain a little bit of how each meal benefits me. Also, because I'm in PGH Marathon preparation, why not show the other awesome runners what its like to eat like an elite athlete* (that rhymes).
*now, this is not how every day looks. I don't limit myself to certain types of foods, I eat out occasionally, and I don't require myself to hit a certain macronutrient limit for each day. Its not necessarily a science, but more of an art. I just do my best each day to get enough volume, vitamins, and nutrients to recover, sleep well, and build up! I have realized, after over 6 months working with my nutritionist, that my hunger cues are just not an adequate measure of the amount I need to stay healthy. It important to know whats best for you and equally important to not compare yourself to the people and runners around you. everyone will eat differently and needs different things.
Before I get into a calendar, I wanted to explain with a little more detail the categories my nutritionist and I plan to hit daily. Because the contents and calorie density of my diet has been a problem for me in the past, it still takes work every day to ensure that I eat enough. I'm not one to always measure things out by serving size or cup/oz/tbsp, but Rasa does have me guestimating in order to have an idea of exactly how much food is going in. Here are the categories:
1. Grains/Carbs - healthy, whole grains are essential for glycogen restoration, required for rebuilding muscle, and is composed of THE essential metabolic energy source (Glucose) that is turned into ATP (our cells energy currency). Its an important category, especially for marathon runners, that I was missing for quite a few years. we measure grains by the "fistful", one serving is roughly the size of my fist.
2. Protein - protein sources, be them from plants or animals, are macromolecules that are made of amino acid building blocks. These amino acids have many functions. They are mainly broken down in your body and then each building block is used to make new proteins in your own cells, including the essential protein chains that make up the majority of your muscle cells. exercise brings upon micro tears in these fibers, so protein in the diet is essential for rebuilding these and other proteins needed for general cell function. Amino acids can also be converted into glucose or other intermediate molecules in the glycolysis cycle to be converted into energy. we measure with my palm for chicken and steak/beef, check book (those still exist) for fish. Also, we often guess by grams
3. Fats - Healthy fats are essential for absorption of a litter of vitamins (A, D, K, E), they're major building blocks of the cell wall and in cellular structures, and is also an important energy source. Everyones cells contain enzymes which can break down fatty acid chains into glucose precursors to be used in the absence of a carbohydrate source. nut butters are roughly a tablespoon for a serving, hummus and avocado are two tablespoons
4. Calcium - Especially for females, but for all runners, calcium is essential for Vitamin D absorption as well as important in bone growth and maintenance. Its also an essential electrolyte in nerve function.
5. Vegetables/Fruit - I am a lover of all things vegetables. They contain essential metals, fiber, vitamins, and slow release carbohydrates. Fruits contain more sugars, but contain a different array of vitamins, so they are also important. we do servings by the cup for veggies and fresh fruit, two tablespoons for dried fruit
6. Timing - As an athlete, when your body isn't working hard to do physical activity, its working hard to recover from it. With that I'm mind, it follows that a consistent supply of fuel is required to keep all systems running smoothly. I eat 6 times a day, 3 meals and 3 snacks, all around 2.5 to 3 hours apart. each feeding has its purpose, so they often vary in content. Each snack has 2 - 3 food groups, and each meal has all of the above food groups.
7. Water - liquids and electrolytes are really really really important for recovery and life itself. check out my last #GameOnPGH blog about how I stay hydrated!
Now, don't be overwhelmed, please. I know it can be daunting. If it makes you feel any better, I still don't know the exact number of servings of each I am required to have a day or even what my idea caloric intake should be. My nutritionist keeps that under wraps and she monitors my daily intake to make sure I am in the ball park. If a nutritionist isn't someone you can continuously see, even just a few appointment to help establish your estimated daily intake can be helpful for you to take the reigns. Then you can do as I did, and monitor weekly with a morning weigh in. don't stress too much about the number, just make adjustments if you seem to be losing or gaining rapidly. If there are questions that come up, ASK.
If increasing your intake is what you need, like me, take it one meal at a time. When I first started this, I did one meal a week. I felt extremely full and uncomfortable for a few days, but my body got used to the added volume. Your metabolism will take a kick start, you'll have some night sweats, and then things will get considerably better. Your energy will go up, you'll sleep better, and if you slowly and steadily gain needed weight, your body will adapt to carrying the weight and your running won't be drastically effected.
Okay, loads of build up, but here it is... a day in the life:
EXAMPLE: 1 cup oats (or bagel), blueberries, and tablespoon almond butter. 2 eggs, 1 piece of uncured turkey bacon, and spinach.
EXAMPLE: energy or protein bar and handful of trail mix with raisins, nuts, and m&m's.
EXAMPLE: Whole wheat turkey sandwich with avocado, tomato, spinach, peperoncini, onion, and mustard. crackers and carrot sticks (as shown on my Instagram feed) or salmon, medium potato with butter, side salad. The picture above lacks about a serving size of grains, so I would usually add a handful of crackers or pretzels.
EXAMPLE: 1/2 cup serving of Seven Sundays (@sevensundaysmn) muesli and a scoop of whey protein
EXAMPLE: roughly 1.5 cups quinoa, grilled chicken, avocado (or hummus), zucchini, and shredded cheese.
EXAMPLE: 1-2 cups of greek yogurt (usually more than pictured), 2 whole foods fig bars and blueberries (or granola or cereal with nuts, instead).
I try and stick to defined meals so that I am not snacking on less-than-ideal sources throughout the day. If I find myself hungry, I eat more, if I'm not hungry, I make sure to hit these guidelines anyways. Of course, I can't include all of the foods above that I eat, and I tend to try and bring a lot of variety into my diet. But, some of my staple favorites are broccoli, greek yogurt, pretzels, cashews, sweet potatoes topped with some kind of nut butter, and baked tofu blocks from trader joes!
I hope you PGH Marathoners find some of this information helpful, if only to be interesting to see just how much I need to eat to keep myself moving. Keep up the good training and fueling, race day is right around the corner!
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Pittsburgh is coming, pittsburgh is coming! Seriously, time is flying by. The Big Marathon goes off in 6 weeks!
I've had a clean bill of health and excitedly raced the Gate River Run 15k (National Championships) in the humid and hot Jacksonville, Florida last weekend. I watched as runner after runner walked straight into the medical tent due to massive over-heating and dehydration. A good friend and fellow RRCA RunPro camper Olivia Mickle hardly remembers crossing the finish line before passing out into the arms of the helpful finish line staff. I then took a trip to Savannah, Georgia, which included a 22 miler, where is was also incredibly warm, starting out in the mid 60's at 9am for my run and easily hitting 80F by my near 12pm finish. Even and easy run in the heat can leave me light-headed and sweating buckets. Because both of these events were key workouts in my PGH Marathon build up, I figured its only fitting to talk hydration and electrolytes!
This isn't even the worst of the salty sweat!
SWEAT IT UP:
I know I am not the only runner you know who gets sweaty! Even in the cold my body's cooling defense is in action. And not only do I sweat out lots of water, I am also a salty sweater. As you can see in the picture above, from my long run in Georgia earlier this week, I basically have table salt on my skin after cooling down from a run. its chalky, uncomfortable, and leaves me in a major imbalance! without adequate rehydration I get dizzy and light-headed with labored breathing.
Drenched Shirt after a 1 hour spin session this past winter while I was injured
A Briefing on Electrolytes:
These puppies are small minerals that are dissolved in your blood and other body fluids. The essential ones in the human body that are lost most readily in sweat --Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, and Chloride -- are important for nerve and muscle function, blood pH levels, and general body water re uptake levels. Most importantly, the gradient of the electrolytes in the body fluids is what drives proper function in the cell. So, when you lose water, the concentration of electrolytes in cells goes up, and when your body lacks proper levels of electrolytes, the cells fluids are more dilute. Either way, improper balance is detrimental to function and can effect running performance. When you run, you lose both electrolytes and water, which is double trouble!
What happens when levels get low and out of balance? Drowsiness, confusion, labored breathing (the contraction of the giant diaphragm muscle is controlled by a nerve which functions by ion signaling), loss of appetite, cramping, thirst, dizziness, and fainting just to name a few. Dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and marathons DO NOT MIX! Any of you returning marathoners know that fluids really can make or break that PR finish and can turn an enjoyable experience into a painful one.
So How do I combat dehydration and Electrolyte imbalances?
I bet you can guess my first answer to this, and that would be WATER. I drink loads of water. Cold water, room temperature water, sparking water, the occasional Zevia soda, flavored water, tea, coffee and so on. I always have a water bottle on me and I recommend you follow suit. My sponsors have provided me with great 20oz bottles which are small enough to pack but large enough to last for an hour or two of errands. You'll notice the difference. Once or twice I've forgot my water bottle in my car during an 8-hour work shift and found myself dull, drowsy, and in a bad mood. The moment I had a chance to chug some water I felt so much better. You don't have to be massively dehydrated to feel the effects.
A delicious Salted Carmel Mocha from Angry Catfish Bike Shop and Coffee House in MPLS
And yes, COFFEE WILL HYDRATE YOU. I do not recommend using this as your own hydration source, but it is 99.5% water. Warm water has been shown to no be quite as effective at replenishing the body, so tea is another one that should not be used solely. A good balance of water sources is best.
As for electrolytes, I tend to get plenty of Sodium and Chloride in the table salt I put on every meal I eat (seriously, every meal. I have a salt problem). But when it comes to choosing an electrolyte supplement during extra sweaty exercise such as runs on warm days, indoors, or especially strenuous workouts, selecting what is right for you can be challenging. Many products combine simple carbohydrates and electrolytes in order to make up a during-the-run fuel source. I use these mostly on long runs and hard workouts. My fuel of choice? Bonk Breaker Chews. I've talked about them before in a previous blog, but briefly they have 120mg electrolytes in 4 chews with 24g of carbs, 15g of which are sugar. On my 22 miler I took two chews at 11.2 miles and 2 more at 15 miles. I will use these during the Pittsburgh Marathon at 4 or 5 different places. The perfect package of quick, delicious energy and essential ions.
For all liquid supplementation on workouts and long run and for electrolytes at all other times, I use the tasty and amazing GenUCan UCAN Hydrate product. It's individually-wrapped drink powder mix that is ONLY electrolytes. 0 calories and 0 sugars. there are 300mg of sodium, 100mg of potassium, also with 10% daily-value of Magnesium, 2% Calcium, and 4% Chloride. The electrolyte profile is awesome, especially when you don't want the extra added sugar. Its lightly sweetened with natural stevia, too! I drank about 4 oz at mile 11.2 and 4 oz at 15 miles on my Georgia 22 miler. I will fill my water bottles on the PGH Marathon course with this stuff at every possible water stop, taking 4-6 oz every 30 minutes.
And how much do I drink? Over hydration is a thing, but is rather difficult to do. Because I sweat a lot, I have one serving of the UCAN hydrate after every run (in 20oz water), and then try to have 4 more 20oz bottles of plain water in the day. I usually also have one or two Zevia sodas a day (https://zevia.com), one cup of coffee, and one cup of tea.
Water bottle, Coffee, and a book; Standard.
I also pee a lot, but that comes with the territory.
So runners of STEEL, I recommend a few things to you:
1. figure out how much water you drink and where you can make adjustments in your daily life and in your training. If you find yourself drowsy, dizzy, or dull during the day, try chugging 8 oz of water.
2. do you get enough electrolytes? try out some different products to see if they make you feel better in recovery and during workouts. every product is different, so choose wisely. Do you need sugars or not?
3. lastly, specialize your hydration. the day before a long or warm weather run calls for a bit more water and electrolytes. During the run make sure to get some as well. And always finish up a workout or run with some water and some sort of electrolyte replacement.
Happy hydration and happy PGH Marathon preparation!
Thursday, March 19, 2015
So just under 7 weeks until race day at the Pittsburgh Marathon, and man is the cycle flying by
already! With a solid base of running and workouts behind me, I am so ecstatic to report I am pain free and ready to rock the next 7 weeks of grooming workouts.
Gate River Run 15k:
Saturday morning was a 530am wake up call, 630am bus to the staging area, and 824am start time. It was 74 degrees and humid at the start line, and as the sun began to rise, it only got worse. I knew the race was going to be a quick one, and because It was my first race back in three months and at the beginning of my marathon cycle (where you tend to be running longer and slower, rather than faster and shorter), I knew I was going to be running against myself rather than the field. Every single woman in that starting corral was immensely talented and I am inspired by them all.
I felt smooth through 5k, moving at 5:37, 5:41, and 5:39 pace for the first three miles. Based on my previous workouts, this was the goal pace I hoped to be consistent at. Unfortunately, humidity is like altitude, Dennis explained, which means if you're not used to it, it can hit you hard. At 5k my legs began the burn. I stayed mentally in it throughout the race, which I am happy about, but I had slowed about ten seconds per mile through 10k. Then "The Bridge" happened. Man, it's was like 1 mile totally uphill followed by 1 mile downhill to the finish. They even have a race for who can run that last mile the quickest! I struggled up that bridge hoping to not walk (or so it felt) and then pushed to the finish in 56 minutes and change. Not a thrilling time.
My first reaction is to be upset. Why has the past few months of racing been so tough? Why can't I seem to maintain a fast pace through these 15k/10 mile races? The answer really is that my training hasn't been consistent and that I am still so new at these races. Dennis also mentioned that in order to maintain a pace above lactate threshold in the anaerobic zone (see previous blog from threshold determinations), you've got to train like a 10k runner, not a marathoner. He knew I wouldn't be able to have a break out day running faster than ever because I haven't trained my body to deal with the stress of that. This was a bit relieving. Plus, I came into this distance thing as a marathoner, I know I can chug along at a slightly slower pace and hold it. So, my head is still high and set on the A standard at the Pittsburgh marathon.
Also, I was pain free the whole run, which is the first time since my stress fracture a year ago. baby steps are steps in the right direction. Richard Fannin did a fantastic job with the elite group, the meals, the hospitality, organization, and the after party. The race was so smooth and such a blast, all of it I am so incredibly thankful for. I also got to catch up with 6 of my fellow 2014 RunPro campers as well as meet tons of other new runners. I hope to come back with consistent fitness and a craving for that top ten in my future.
(L) The Airbnb home we stayed in close to downtown (R) Fancy and delicious dinner date in Savannah
(L) St. Patty's Day in Savannah is HUGE! with a parade and a giant festival by the river (R) Green fountains!
(L) The Airbnb owners let us use their bikes to ride around town! (R) Tyler and I in Forsyth Park
I even used the trip to the warmer regions of the U.S. To take a trip with my boyfriend to Savannah, Georgia for a few days. The historic downtown is breathtaking and was prepared with St. Patrick's day celebration that we were lucky to catch on Tuesday. We started our first day there with an amazingly delicious southern meal at Elizabeth on 37th followed by a Ghost Tour at 10pm. Savannah is littered with burial grounds and homes with creepy ghost tales. We had a great guide (Topher) from Blue Orb Tours who was filled with history and stories about the city and its past. Tyler and I don't get to see each other that often, so we took advantage of the time together to get in lots of running (sweaty 22 miler on Monday (7:11avg/mile) that traced the top of McQueen Island by Fort Pulaski), dining, and walks along the atlantic at Tybee island. The St. Patricks day celebrations were really the topper to a great few days in the city, with loads of green, a parade, the River St. drinking fest, and plenty of cheer in the beautiful Georgia weather. We really had a great time together and made sure to make our time together count.
Tyler and I at the pier on Tybee Island in Georgia (still working on my go pro skills)
Dennis and I decided a solid period of time in Minneapolis is the best thing for me. I've done so much training with him so far which was remote (texting, phone, and Internet) that we want to be in close proximity so he can watch and adjust my workouts in order to maximize my Pittsburgh Marathon performance. I'll be racing 4 local Minneapolis-area road racing in order to get used to morning race preparation, running with and after people, and continuing to learn how to strategize in races. Plus it's a great way to make my workouts go by quickly! But more on those later as I continue to document my progress to Pittsburgh.
Tune in this weekend for a Pittsburgh prep-specific blog, talking about my personal approach to nutrition and training in the marathon cycle!
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Hey everyone! I am excited to announce that I will be back in the Steel City for the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on May 3rd! I am thrilled to be working with the awesome race organizers that also put on the Pittsburgh 10 Miler, which I did this past November. Ryan Hogan, Patrice Matamoros, and everyone in charge of this amazing event are even more amazing themselves.
And not only do I get to race as an elite in pursuit of my A-standard Olympic Trials Qualifier mark, but I was also selected to be an official blogger for the race! Stay tuned for weekly updates of different aspects of my training cycle. I plan to cover training, recovering, nutrition, and other fun things along the way. Follow the hashtag #GameOnPGH on instagram, twitter, and Facebook, too! I will be posting updates all over the place, as will all of the other official (and talented) bloggers.
The race (http://www.pittsburghmarathon.com/Files/Admin/Maps/Marathon%5Ffull%5F2015%5F02%5F12%2Epdf) is a brutal one, crossing 3 rivers on 5 bridges, and touring 13 neighborhoods as it tours around the hilly Pittsburgh area. The first 10 miles of the race are the reverse of the PGH 10 Miler and are relatively flat. At mile 12 though, there is this thing called "THE HILL" which appears to be a 200-250 foot climb follow by rolling hills all the way to the finish. I don't know what I am in for. This course will definitely keep me honest, as will the training runs I see in my near future. Thankfully Minneapolis has some Lock and Dam hills that will function as great race simulations.
After an up and down year in terms of races and injuries, I am very thankful to be healthy and strong going into this cycle, ready to push for my 3rd marathon to be my A-qualifier time (2:37.00 or faster). More than anything, I want to go into the race confidently. May 3rd I will be on that starting line ready for what beautiful Pittsburgh throws my way. #GameOnPGH
Thursday, March 5, 2015
I know that ever since I began my blog I have been eluding to my big move to join my Team USA Minnesota coach, teammates, and support crew… And it finally happened! My mom and I loaded up my little Ford Focus 3-Door with my belongings and headed out on Saturday, February 28th. On March 3rd we pulled into Minneapolis cramped and exhausted, but safe and sound, crossing 7 states in 3.5 days (30 hours of driving). Here a quick recap of some of the highlights.
After a 5am wake up call for an easy eight mile run, my mom and I packed up the last of our things and headed north on 680 and caught 80 just outside of Davis. Into Tahoe we started seeing snow and soon were stopped on the highway because of four major accidents and tire chain requirements. The roads were completely closed to traffic for close to two hours, so we got in some reading and some Internet browsing time with a lunch of trail mix and Annie’s bunny crackers. Once the roads were open, we chugged along for a few miles before deciding the chains must go.
With the stoppage and weather conditions, we got in fewer miles than we had hoped to, but ended up in Elko, NV for the night. We stopped for dinner at the Nevada Star Hotel and the only thing I can say is NEVER GO THERE. The food was hardly edible. Live and learn.
Up again, I ran 7.5 miles (30F temps) to finish a 78.6 mile week. I stepped into the hotel lobby to get some coffee and the man behind the front desk said he saw me out running on his way to work. Thats the thing about these small highway towns.. no one is out running, especially at 6am, so I was definitely a sight to be seen. It was a beautiful sunrise and we were coffee-d up and on the road by 8:30am.
My mom drove the whole day on Saturday so I took the wheel on Sunday and ended up driving the whole way, too. I wasn’t able to get any GoPro pictures but we did get some good ones crossing the Utah boarder and throughout Wyoming. We listened to podcasts to kill the time and stopped in Evenston, WY for some lunch at a local spot. The weather all day was beautiful and clear, seriously the best weather we could have asked for. We ended the night in Cheyenne around 8pm, got a hotel, and hopped over some snowy highway exits to the closest food source before falling face first into bed.
Yay, 19F in Cheyenne made 10 miles a bit more challenging. I knew it was only the beginning of the temperature challenges, but no treadmill meant I was going to have to tough it out. I followed the only sidewalk out and back and suffered my first panic of having my balaclava suck into my mouth while I was breathing. I since have purchased a neoprene mask to solve this problem.
We had breakfast at the hotel, hopped in the car on another clear day and headed for Nebraska. It was really windy and took some extra attention in order to drive, but was lightyears better than snow, rain, or ice would have been. More podcasts, a stop in North Platte for some half-decent Mexican food and onto Iowa we went. When I was the passenger, I was the master of Google Maps (and master of using all of my phone battery in a matter of a few hours) and was always looking for places to stop and eat. I found Louie’s Wine Dive in Des Moines and my mom and I were (finally) pleasantly surprised by some trendy, delicious food. Happy and full we got to the hotel and relaxed a bit before passing out for after another 8.5 hour driving day.
I had gotten a call from Dennis (my coach) on Sunday inquiring if I would be able to make a 4pm workout at the University of Minnesota indoor track on Tuesday. Because we had banked so much time on the first few days, I was able to say yes! We were on the road at 730am on Tuesday, with ice and sleet already coming down. My car is not made for any sort of elements, so it was an adrenaline-pumping, fishtailing kind of day. The ice on the highway was rough and it didn’t help that my windshield wipers were sub-par and the windshield-washing mechanism froze. At noon, we made it safely to Minneapolis that had just had a few inches of snow. We ate lunch at the Mall of America and settled into a new hotel before my workout.
I was so excited to be able to warm up and train with everyone. My teammate Meghan is running the LA marathon next weekend, so she timed my mile repeats. It was so helpful to have someone to give me feedback on every lap and to have Dennis there to see what kind of adjustments need to be made. I could definitely get used to this (:
Next up were all-weather tires, a mattress, and furniture then groceries and last minute necessities. I love my new place and living situation. Even if it is below 0F for most of today, nothing can bring me down.
With Gate River Run 15k just 9 days a way, I am excited to say I am getting into shape and really ready to rock this exciting event. NEXT UP…? Hope you’ll read my blog post on SATURDAY and check my social media to see which Marathon I am beginning my training cycle for!