Monthly Archives: November 2016

Where do you get your protein?

cow-salad

It’s the first question I get when I tell people I’m vegan. This is not a sermon about why the world should be vegan. It’s about how particular food choices have impacted my running. I’ve tried other diets to improve my health, fitness, and endurance, but haven’t found them to be sustainable.

Runners in general tend to be food aware, in that they pay attention to the things they put in their mouths and how it impacts their running. The health benefits alone should be enough for people to move toward a more plant based diet and rely less on animals as a source of food, here are just a few.

Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

Lowers Cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index, weight, body odor, bad breath, PMS symptoms, and allergy symptoms.

Prevents muscular degeneration and migraines.

Increases energy, strength of hair and nails, and life span.

I’ve always been health conscious and enjoyed eating fresh fruits and vegetables, so the switch wasn’t difficult for me. I stopped cooking out of boxes (mostly) a long time ago. And I stopped eating red meat, fifteen years ago. I’ve tried the low carb diet, but could not get enough fats to fuel my running. This is partly because of my food preferences. There are athletes who do extremely well on low carb diets.

What is vegan? I know the word is spreading regarding veganism (no it’s not a religion), but many people I speak with still confuse vegetarian and vegan. Vegetarians still eat some animal products such as dairy, eggs, and honey. There are some other variations on this as well. A vegan on the other hand does not eat any animal products. Their food is completely plant based. Vegans also have to watch for how food is processed because some things such as sugar are processed using animal products.

So the protein thing, there are a ton of sources of protein other than meat: soy, lentils, seitan, tempeh, beans, nuts, hemp, quinoa, wheat, spinach, chia seeds, brown rice, nutritional yeast, nut butters, edamame, peas, oats, barley, broccoli, mushrooms, collard greens, kale, artichoke, and potatoes. I could go on, but I won’t because I think you get the picture.

I’ve been vegan for nearly one year now and I love it. I have more energy and recover from my runs much quicker. I’ve been able to increase the intensity and length of my runs over this last year and still felt energized. The only time I’ve had tired heavy legs is after a 100 mile race or a back to back 40/30 for the third weekend in a row. Being vegan has also pushed me to use more “real” foods to fuel my runs, which has been more effective at providing sustained energy and reducing gastrointestinal issues during 100s than using sports gels and chews. The only drawback I’ve found is it’s a bit harder for me to get enough calories down the hatch, so I have to be aware of how much I am eating. Being aware of what you are eating and when is not necessarily a bad thing.

I haven’t found it any more expensive or time consuming to cook vegan either. I can make all of my favorite recipes vegan. Eating out with friends and family who are not vegan can be a challenge depending on where you live. Some places are more vegan friendly than others. Here in Salt Lake City, Utah, vegan restaurants and vegan options are cropping up more and more. As a vegan you have to do some research before you go out to eat, but it’s not difficult.

If we want to do this running thing for as long as possible or just to be active and have a high quality of life as we age, we need to pay attention to the food we eat and how it makes us feel long term and short term. We all know what we eat has a major impact on our recovery and performance as athletes. Yes some of us use our running for an excuse to devour a cake and carton of ice cream on a Saturday afternoon.

Food choices are very personal and have to not only provide your body with what you need, but fit your lifestyle and perception of who you are.

Happy eating and running!

Thank You

thanks

It is easy to think of things that are not going right in our lives. It’s easy to lash out when we feel like we don’t get what we deserve. It’s easy to be angry and hurtful when we feel unheard. It’s during these times, when we have to remember all the simple good things in our lives, because so many people don’t have these things.

I’m thankful my body is strong enough for me to push my limits of endurance and strength.

I’m thankful for the ultrarunning community, who shares their experiences and lessons with one another.

I’m thankful for my friends who stand out in the wind and rain waiting for me to come into aid stations.

I’m thankful for my family who is supportive of all the goals I set.

I’m thankful for all my readers and supporters in the community.

I’m thankful for my education, which has given me a chance to give back to the vulnerable.

I’m thankful for healthy strong children.

I’m thankful I have a job that provides enough for my family to have their basic needs of food and shelter met.

I’m thankful my family has access to medical care and clean water.

I’m thankful I live in a country where I can express my opinions and build a future for my family.

thankful-happy

 

From Turkey Trot to Santa Run

turkey-trot

Maintaining your running schedule/training can be a challenge during holiday seasons. There are so many reasons and excuses to not get out there: family is in town, too much holiday preparation to get done (shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating, house cleaning, it never ends), it’s cold (at least where I am), and travel time.

Holidays are very stressful for many people, sometimes they are tied to hurtful memories, sometimes it’s just getting everything done and looking perfect for those you love; sometimes it’s both. The holidays present us with an opportunity to get creative and to bring balance to our lives.

The most important thing to remember about training through this time, or just getting out there at all, is that you don’t want it to be another point of stress. Look at your daily schedule and decide where your run will fit the best and be less likely to cause disruptions or to be disrupted by other commitments you have.

Run what you can, meaning, if you only have thirty minutes don’t bag the run because well it’s “only thirty minutes.” Just get out there, thirty minutes is better than zero minutes and you’re a lot less likely to criticize yourself if you get out there for a short time rather than just not going.

If you do miss a run, let it go. Don’t beat yourself up over it and don’t try to cram it in somewhere else. You’ll have another opportunity to run the next day.

Explain to your family how important it is for you to be able to get your run in and see what they are willing to do to help you. You may be surprised by their giving spirits during this time of year.

I don’t know about all of you, but when I miss multiple days of running, things start to get ugly around my house. I get grumpy and frustrated with things that are normally not a problem. Obviously, grumpy and frustrated not within the scope of “Holiday Spirit.”

If you can stop your running from becoming a stressor, it will be an excellent source of destressing. Running can be your time to just decompress; to get away from all the hectic planning and preparing; to escape from overly involved family; and to compensate for the extra five pieces of pie we plan on eating.

 

santa-run

 

Common Challenges During 100s: part two

endurance-is

Welcome to part two of the challenges ultra runners face during a 100 mile event and some suggestions on how to deal with them. Please post comments and other suggestions as we are always looking for new ideas.

Feet issues

Knowing your feet is the number one prevention tool. But just like every situation or problem that can occur during a 100, be prepared for problems because a change in conditions can change how your feet respond. Have a good knowledge about how to resolve blisters and hot spots. The book, Fixing Your Feet, is an excellent resource and covers just about every issue you can have with your feet. I have a whole kit dedicated to fixing feet. You can find the list of its contents on my gear page above.

Chafing

I’ve had my hydration chafe my lower back, usually I don’t know about it until I shower afterward, but I’ve also had seams in sleeves chafe. The biggest contributing factor in chafing for me is humidity, rain, or having wet clothes for more reasons than just sweat. Carry or pack Glide in your drop bags. It’s light and you can even get picket size. You can also use Hydropel or Aquafore, even Vaseline will work. If you don’t have any of those, ask another runner or the aid station staff. Finally, change your clothes or put something between your skin and what is rubbing, tape works.

Diarrhea

This can be a serious problem because it has the potential to lead to dehydration. I always carry an anti-diarrheal medication in my hydration pack and in my drop bags because this is common enough and serious enough to be prepared for it. If it does happen to you, you need to look for the potential causes what you ate before and during the race, anything new? High fiber? Anything past its expiration date or potentially spoiled?  How much effort were you putting out? At high effort your metabolism is going to kick into high gear and things can pass through your system much more quickly than normal. Slowing down can be one of the things to try during the race. Also during the race, you can try eating something that may calm things down, bread or more complex carbohydrates. Cheese or protein will slow things down. Stay away from high sugar and fruits.

Missing your crew/pacer at a checkpoint

Prepare for it and don’t panic. There can be a whole host of reasons for your crew missing you: you’re faster than predicted, there’s traffic, there is some unforeseen event on the route. If there is any question that you may miss them, use drop bags at aid stations regardless of whether or not they will be there, because then you at least have gear to restock and change if needed. Talk about this in your pre-race meeting, let them know you won’t wait and if you’re not there to check with the aid station volunteers to see if you have checked in and out yet.

Missing a checkpoint or portion of the course

You’re playing in dangerous territory here. You will be disqualified even if it’s an honest mistake. It’s your responsibility to know the course and to check in and out when required. Lots of people get off course and they figure it out. You can’t expect special treatment. If you miss a check-in, go back as soon as you figure it out or drop from the race. Even if you have to go back miles, you should go back, if you can still finish within the time frame (usually 36 hours).

Gear problems

Have spare critical race ending supplies, extra shoes, an alternative hydration system, and extra lights. Make sure you test them before the run. You should be training with these supplies and know if there are issues. Having an extra hydration bladder on hand is just smart. Make sure your shoes and laces are in good repair.

Experience, planning, and a clam disposition are your friends whenever problems come up during a race. Make sure your crew has all the information and that they are not prone to freak outs and meltdowns. You have enough on your plate and shouldn’t have to deal with any crew problems.

Common Challenges During 100s: part one

sexy-ultrarunning

One hundred miles is a really long way and there are a lot of things that can go wrong, in fact, in my experience, it’s pretty rare to have everything go right. I want to go over some common problems runners have and some remedies or at least some options to try to eliminate the cause of the problem.

Stomach problems:

This comes up in nearly every race I have to some degree. Nausea is typically caused by hydration and electrolyte imbalances. Here is a useful table, created by Karl King of Succeed!, that can help you determine whether it is a hydration or electrolyte issue you are having. Another possible source of stomach upset is high altitude. It’s not really the altitude, it’s the impact altitude has on your hydration and nutrition plan. If you are not accustomed to running at altitude, make sure you take small sips and eat smaller portions of food. You may also have to slow your pace to prevent making things worse.

 

Dizziness and Weakness:

First make sure your hydration and electrolytes are where they need to be. Second it could be the altitude, you may have to sit down for a minute, however, get down to lower altitude as quickly as you can. Finally, are you eating enough? No food means no energy.

Cramps:

Cramps are typically caused by electrolyte imbalances or just plain tired legs/muscles. So first, make sure your hydration and electrolytes are balanced. Next have your crew, or do it yourself, rub out your cramping muscles. I also use Icey Hot or Tiger balm.

Soreness in feet and legs:

Everyone gets sore in either (sometimes both) their legs or feet. They are getting a pounding, literally. Make sure you train for the type of course you are going to be running on.  Changing up your cadence and stride length during the race will help because it changes the way your body impacts the ground. A faster cadence and shorter stride reduces impact.

Unexpected weather

Always expect the unexpected, if you still get caught in some craziness (which happens in the mountains) get creative. I stuff a plastic garbage back in the bottom of my hydration pack. They can be life savers in wind, rain, hail, and snow. You can also keep a bandana tucked away some place, which can be used to hold ice to put around your neck. Ice under your hat can also help and ice in arm sleeves as well. I always pack for both ends of the spectrum. I put gloves/socks (can be used as gloves), a long sleeve shirt, and a short sleeve shirt in every drop bag. As frustrating as it can be, you’ll have to adjust goals as needed for the conditions.

Getting lost

It happens. It happens more than you think. Course markings get pulled down by people, animals, and weather. Even if they are there, you can miss them depending on weather, chatting with friends, and level of exhaustion. Don’t panic and flip out. Turn around and go  back until you find a course marking. There’s nothing you can do about it so don’t let any discouragement or anger set in. Just keep moving.

 

Peeing Red

potty-dance

One of the more concerning problems I had during my most recent 100 mile event, was blood in my urine. I had never heard of anyone experiencing this particular issue. When I saw the blood at mile 50, I knew I had to make a decision and had four options: drop out of the race, walk and drink a lot of water, continue running and risk making it worse, or take a break and see if it clears up.

I chose to walk and drink a lot of water. It did clear up and I was able to finish the race, but struggled with nausea through the rest of the race. I had hydrated well before the race and I paid special attention to hydrating during the race, since I’ve had issues with hydrating before. I concluded it was the combination of dehydration and taking Aleve, for my hamstring. After the race, I decided to do some research to determine if I needed to go to the doctor.

Blood in your urine (hematuria) is not a common issue runner’s deal with, but it does happen in some runners. The typical causes of hematuria are infection, trauma, kidney stones, cancer, blood cell disorders, medications and strenuous exercise.

Doctors don’t know exactly what happens for there to be blood in a runner’s urine. They think it could have to do with dehydration, blood cell breakdown, or bladder trauma. There is a theory that if someone voids their bladder right before a strenuous run, the walls of the bladder slap together (disturbing thought) during the run and cause traumatic blood loss.

Blood can be present in the urine if the blood vessels surrounding a specialized membrane that helps filter blood and produce urine, if they become more permeable which can be caused during exercise.

Another potential cause is related to hemoglobin, which is red. The theory here is the impact of our feet on the ground while running damages blood cells and releases the hemoglobin which then gets filtered out through the urine.

In my search of potential causes, I found that this uncommon issue is not all that uncommon among ultrarunners and is typically related to hydration problems.

So if you have blood in your urine during or after a run, hydrate and don’t freak out. If it continues for more than 24-48 hours you should go to the doctor and get checked out.

Hot Yoga?

bikram-yoga

At the suggestion of my boyfriend, I’ve decided to try bikram yoga (hot yoga). The reasons I came to this decision were: I need heat and humidity training for the Hawaii 100 in January and I need to do something about a nagging hamstring injury.

My cousin is a Bikram Yoga instructor and has always suggested I start practicing…but I only have a limited amount of time in the day to train, so I’ve never done it. I decided to research the benefits of Bikram Yoga for runners.

Here is what I’ve found out. Yoga increases your flexibility and strength particularly in your core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors (and if you’ve read any of my past articles you know how important hip strength is to preventing injuries from hip to toe). Increasing your strength and flexibility increases your running efficiency. The breathing exercises can expand your lungs allowing for deeper and more effective breathing. I can see how this would be helpful at higher elevations especially for those runners who are coming from anything under 3500 feet.

It makes you sweat, a lot which flushes toxins out of your body allowing it to heal and recover more quickly. It has the same cardiovascular benefits as running. It’s a great alternative for injured runners and for those coming back from an injury. It can help with old injuries by improving circulation and cleaning out scar tissue that hinders flexibility.

Bikram yoga is mentally challenging, but reduces stress and the risk of heart disease. It also restores balance in your body helping prevent illness.

Bikram yoga benefits your mental strength and focus. Yoga teaches you to deal with discomfort and to focus. It teaches you to let go of troublesome thoughts that get stuck in your head regardless of where they come from or what their content is. It could be questioning your ability to cross the finish line or dwelling on a poor decision or incident earlier in the race.

I’m looking forward to this new challenge and diversity in my training program. If the only benefit I get out of this is healing up my hamstring it will be well worth the change in routine. I do expect to get more out of it than that, however. Changing your routine and challenging your body in new ways helps you reach new levels and break through training plateaus. I will keep you posted on how it goes, you never know, maybe it will become a permanent part of my training.