Monday, May 30, 2011

Coeur d'Alene half marathon 2011 race report

I finished
This may be the least informative race report ever. 

My day started out at 5:30a.  I woke up just before the alarm went off, immediately drank a large glass of water along with my supplements and ate some leftover pork loin, half an avocado, and some blueberries.

The biggest blueberries ever
The night before, I had laid all my clothes and gear out to make sure I wouldn't forget anything.

Just a little after 6:30a we drove down to Riverstone.  My husband dropped me off and I went to go mill around while he found a parking spot.  While he was parking I made a pit stop at the porta potties.  Luckily I was able to get in line right after the full marathoners left so the line was actually pretty short.  I was surprised at how long it took for the glass of water I drank to go through.  If I was doing it again, I definitely would have given myself a little longer between waking and leaving for the race.  The potties were not bad in the morning, but we passed by again after the race and people were opening doors and immediately closing them to look for another potty.  Use your imagination... or don't.

Amazingly, my husband and I found each other again while we were waiting to line up for the race start.  Not much later, it was time to line up and we said goodbye.  I took a place at what I thought was near the back, but as we got closer to our 7:30a start time, I went even farther back.  I had heard that you can get run over if you line up too close to the front and I definitely wanted to pace myself and not get caught up in the crowd or tripped or run over.

And we're off!  My husband says I am somewhere in here but I have no clue where.

I honestly don't remember if there was a countdown, or a bell, or what they used to start the race, I just know that it took about a minute to get from my starting point to the start line.  I couldn't see the front very well but everyone really seemed pretty courteous and I didn't see anyone fall, trip, or get pushed.  Even though I was consciously trying to stick to my planned pace I was surprised at how hard it was to actually do it. 

The trail narrowed off after about a half mile so we were packed together pretty tightly for awhile.  I saw a number of people walking 3 or 4 abreast, blocking almost the entire trail, and it took a fair bit of patience to get through the first mile and find a decent spot with other people who were going my pace.  There were a couple other sections where I had to pass through a dense crowd, but for most of the race I had plenty of room.

About a mile in?  Feeling strong!

I wish I had some sweet details or funny stories about stuff that happened during the race, but I couldn't have planned a more perfect race, really.  I felt great, I kept a good pace, nothing out of the ordinary happened (well, there was one thing that I was unable to plan adequately for, but it's kind of too much information to post here), and I don't think I could have run a better race.

Here are my stats, with commentary:

Chip time:  2:41:04
Avg pace (chip): 12:18/mi

Garmin moving time: 2:37:04 (I made two pit stops, slightly off course)
Garmin Avg pace: 11:46/mi (this is a significantly faster pace than any of my training runs)
Avg HR: 147 bpm (almost 10 bpm over my training rates)
Max HR: 168 bpm

As I said, I'm really pleased with how I did.  I came in 1146 out of 1412 finishers, which kind of made me chuckle.  Not too great when you compare me against the others, but when you consider that the goal was to finish, and I did that plus ran better than I trained, I'm quite satisfied  =)

Here are some more pics from the race:
Motoring along.  The runners had thinned out by this time
That chick in the purple was tough to get around, but she fell back after awhile.  She would walk and then when I tried to pass she would start running again.
Right before the turn around
Just passed halfway!  Still feeling good
Refueling with dates and coconut oil
Significantly after turnaround... feeling good and rocking out to music  =)
At the finish
Looking a little haggard
Tired, but happy
The dreaded ice bath.  Not as bad as I had anticipated.

Here are some of my best training/recovery tips:
- Strength train. Especially your legs. The course in this race was really pretty flat (I think my Garmin said there was a total of 320 feet elevation gain) so I didn't train for hills but I did squat and deadlift a lot and I really think that helped with the few hills I did encounter. Most of the people going my pace walked up the hills we came across, or they were really laboring to slowly jog up them. I was able to just motor up the hills with no problems, and I really attribute that to the squatting and deadlifting. Learn how to squat to full depth (erm... ass to the grass. Youtube is a decent resource... check out this video), and if you don't know how to deadlift then do lots of lunges and work up to lunges with weight. You will thank me!

- Ice bath after the race.  Maybe it's just me, but I did this, plus a contrast shower, and I was not sore today.  Fill the tub with cold water, dump in a bag of ice, and sit in it until the ice melts.  The water doesn't have to be high... just covering your legs is fine.

- Contrast showers.  It sounds crazy but there is science behind it.  After training, at the end of my normal shower I would just turn the water to cold and make a couple turns in the cold water, then turn it back to warm for a minute, then do the cold again.  I actually kind of started to enjoy it  =|   I did these after a lot of my training runs because they are really supposed to help with recovery.

- Do a short run the day after the race.  Getting some circulation going the day after the race will also help with recovery.  I felt good this morning so I did a 2.5 mile walk with a few intervals of slow jogging.

- If possible, have support along the course.  I initially told my husband not to worry about following me along the course, but he did anyway and I was so glad to see him!  I never really got a 'down in the dumps' feeling but it really lifted my spirits to see a friendly, familiar face and to hear him cheering for me.  He was so sweet to follow my progress, cheer, and take pics.  I love you, Aaron  =D

I'll post more tips as I think of them!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My running strategy, paleo fueling

I realized I haven't really talked much about my running strategy.  Basically, I'm following Mark Sisson's heart rate recommendations for staying in low level aerobic activity range most of the time I'm running.  For me this maxes out at about 145 bpm.  It also means I am probably technically jogging, not running.  Meh.  The reason I'm keeping my heart rate around this level is that I don't want to be burning sugar (glycogen) as fuel while I'm covering long distances.  I eat a relatively low carb diet because I feel better eating that way, and I also feel better when I use primarily fat for fuel during exercise instead of sugar.  After my first couple runs at 150 to 155 bpm, I realized I was going to have to slow it down or start loading up on carbs.  You can see which I chose!

For my longer weekend runs, I try to run the first half of my scheduled mileage at or under 145 bpm.  After about an hour, I start pushing a little harder and that's generally the point at which I'll go for the sugary fuel.  I've tried several different things, but this is what I've settled on.  A variation of Brendan Brazier's Direct Fuel Bites.  Here's the recipe with my modifications and measurements:

Coconut date direct fuel bites, adapted

4 oz pitted dates (medjool or deglet noor are fine)
28g (2 tbsp) coconut oil (softened or melted)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt  (I used Real Salt for extra minerals)
1 packet Cococeps (totally optional.  I had this laying around and wanted to check it out for the adaptogen factor)

Throw everything in the food processor and process until a smooth paste forms.  Separate into 8 servings.  I found that it's easiest to portion it using waxed paper, and then wrap the individual servings in little parchment squares.  I keep them in the freezer, and right before a run I'll tuck several in a zip lock and put it in the pocket of my hydration belt.  They get soft during a run, but stay in the parchment pretty well and come off easily.

From my couple experiments with these, I have found that one every 30 minutes after the first hour is okay, but for the race I plan to eat one every 20 minutes after the first hour.

Other things I've tried:

Dark chocolate - I thought this would be great because of it's high fat content and little bit of sugar and caffeine.  Maybe a little is good, but I wasn't able to stick to just a little.  And a whole bar before a run is definitely a bad thing for the tummy.

Hammer gel - I tried this once and while the taste was acceptable, by the time I felt any type of energy from the darn thing I was already running way too low on fuel.  Admittedly, this could have been my fault for timing it wrong and I'm sure it would work in a pinch, but it wasn't my favorite solution.

Coconut oil, raisins, cocoa powder, protein powder, salt - This one was okay, but coconut oil is hard to manage when it gets melty, which doesn't take long!  Also, the protein powder during the run and the fiber from the cocoa powder upset my stomach.

Coconut water - I have used this as a sports drink on my long runs up until this last weekend even, but how well it works seems to depend a lot on which brand agrees with your digestive system.  The one that agreed with me most was the O.N.E. brand, but last Saturday at about mile 7 I was just tired of it and refilled my bottle with plain old water.  I am pretty sure I'll just stick with water for the race, too.

So, that about wraps it up for my running and fueling strategies.  I have to say that as Sunday gets nearer and nearer, I'm getting more and more nervous!  I know I will finish, but I think the nerves are inevitable  =)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reasons I love paleo and the paleo community

Paleo eating has:
  • given me a love for nutritious food
  • helped me break my addiction to carbs, sugars, and junk
  • caused me become more adventurous towards foods I would never have tried before
  • given me a nearly bomb-proof immune system.  I have not had a full blown cold or flu in almost 2 years!
  • made me a better, more creative cook
  • evened out my moods and nearly rid me of depression
  • made me more aware of how my body reacts to certain foods
  • rid me of the cystic acne I suffered from PCOS
  • given me the opportunity to share the benefits of a healthy diet with others, including some who have chronic illnesses
The paleo community is awesome because:
  • it is largely made up of thinking people who care about the health of others
  • detailed, valuable information is freely shared
  • there are a lot of people who aren't afraid to call the others out on their dogmatic sh*t
  • it is constantly changing in response to new research, which a lot of 'diet gurus' refuse to do
  • there is a nearly infinite source of free, delicious recipes available
  • paleo bloggers are really skilled at what they do.  Beautiful photos, delicious recipes, thoughful posts, deconstructing research articles... love it!

If it's not bleeding when you cut it, you cooked it too long!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Taper week, 10 mile run, bacon party, and faileo

It's been a bumpy ride the last few weeks, but I've officially reached my taper week.  Or maybe I should say, I've finally reached my official taper week.  Over the last few weeks I've been dealing with overtraining, lack of motivation, some poor food choices and the consequences of those choices.  As a result I've backed off a little from my training schedule and it's had me a little concerned I might not be prepared enough by race time.

But, Saturday I completed my 10 mile run and it felt okay.  Not good.  Not great.  But okay enough that I feel confident I can complete the race.  Here are the stats from my 10 mile run on Saturday:

Distance: 10.03 mi
Moving time: 2:08:13
Avg HR: 139
Max HR: 159
Avg moving pace: 12:47:17

My pace was a little under what I figured my race pace would be.  I think part of that is that I just didn't want to push too hard the week before the race.  Maybe part of it is due to sub-par nutrition as well.  If I can tighten up my diet this week and get some good rest I am sure I'll have more in the tank come race day.

Something struck me as funny as I got started jogging, heading out of my neighborhood while chewing a rough spot on my nail, which I feel a silly need to state is not something I make a habit of.  I thought, "I'm chewing my nail as if I'm just mosey-ing along with nothing better to do.  I think this running thing has just become another part of my life" and I chuckled slightly to myself.

In other, food related news...  I spent most of Friday preparing for our bacon party.  I must have sent 8 or more pans like this through the oven!

Bacon, ready for the oven
The menu was not paleo (though I managed to keep the whole affair gluten free!) and it consisted of:

Almond stuffed bacon wrapped dates
Goat cheese stuffed bacon wrapped dates
Caramelized onion and bacon dip with veggies

Bacon explosion
Baked potato salad
Broccoli and bacon salad

Chocolate chip cookies with bacon
Bacon and toffee cookies
Dark chocolate bacon fudge

Here is the spread
Stupidly, perhaps, I planned to do this while I was still logging pretty high mileage.  With the exception of the copious amounts of dark chocolate I've been consuming recently and the occasions I've gone, uh, nuts with the nut butters, my diet has been pretty clean. 

As I mentioned, I managed to keep everything gluten free, but there was a fair bit of sugar in several of the dishes.  I did not cut the sugar in the cookies, and dates are, of course, just little bits of sugar.  There was dairy in the dip, and obviously the cheese.  The fudge was dairy free, but the toffee bits clearly aren't sugar free, and neither are the gazillion dark chocolate bars I used to make it.

Dark chocolate, I've come to realize, is a slippery slope for me.  It's one of Mark Sisson's sensible vices, and has positive qualities including mood enhancement and a high antioxidant content.  There are also downsides including added sugar, caffiene (though some may consider that a plus), and a really high calorie content. 

I was fortunate enough to be gifted a LOT of quality dark chocolate for Christmas.  I mean, it honestly must have been well over $100 worth of chocolate.  But it's been a blessing and a curse.

First, chocolate is not paleo.  It sounds stupid to say, and it sounds obvious, but it has taken me a long time to realize this, due in part to the fact that dark chocolate is pretty regularly consumed by people who follow the primal movement.  A chocolate bar, no matter it's quality or country of origin, is a highly processeed food that contains added sugar.  I think it can be a very occasional treat, but should not be a regular part of a clean natural foods diet.  At least not my natural foods diet.

Second, it seems I've become unable to resist the stuff.  Shortly after Christmas I taped all my wonderful gifted chocolate in a box and placed it in the closet because, honestly, I had further weight loss goals and was having a hard time looking at the tower of chocolate all day long.  Not long after that taped shut box was in the closet, there was a ripped open and retaped box in it's place.  And then, there was a double sealed, double ripped open taped up box on my desk, until I asked my husband to put it somewhere I wouldn't find it until May.

Then, I started buying small size dark chocolate bars at the grocery store, and eating them before my run.  At first, it was nice to have a little bit of chocolate before a run.  I got a nice little energy and caffiene kick and felt really good while running.  But I soon started to not feel so hot during and after the runs where I ate chocolate.  By then, I knew where the chocolate box was and the last few weeks have been a full on dark chocolate fest.

I have eaten 3 to 4 oz bars of chocolate before several recent runs, and every time it's been a poor experience.  Once I got really sick afterwards, and the stuff jacks my heart rate so high I have a hard time keeping my heart rate down where I want it to be, causing me to run on sugar instead of fat during my run, which hasn't been working well because my carb intake is pretty low, which raises my cortisol and....aaahhh!!!  It's a cascade of stress on my body. 

Basically, I can't control myself and it has been taking it's toll on my energy and health and fitness goals.  I've also been getting some nasty muscle cramps since my chocolate consumption has been high.

With the exception of two Trader Joe's 85% dark chocolate lovers bars, which I'm saving for a really special occasion, I have now used up my chocolate stash.  I also forced myself to dispose of the remaining chocolate bacon fudge which I have been less than successful at restraining myself from today.

I have to say, I am hugely relieved!

The bacon party is over, the chocolate is gone, and I'm ready to get back on track.

For the last several days I've been waffling about what I want my next health and fitness goal to be.  Now, I've decided: after the race, I'm going to take two to three months to really dial in my diet and refocus on exercise with the goal of losing 8 lbs.  Then, I will reasses and switch my focus to something strength or aesthetically related (ie: building muscle).

Coming up in the next several posts: recipes and pics from the bacon party, and details on my nutrition and fitness plans.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Vitamin C, l-glutamine, and sleep to the rescue! Plus, the next big thing?

Just a quick update...

I have been feeling lots better the last couple days.  I took a few days to really focus on getting good sleep and have been following a simple vitamin c protocol (3 grams of vitamin c spread throughout the day) to help bring my stress hormone levels down.  I'm also taking a gram of l-glutamine daily for good measure.  Since I've been supplementing the quality of my sleep has really improved.

I'm a little nervous since I've still been tired and unmotivated to put much effort into running this week.  Tuesday I did an easy 3.5 miles with lots of walking, and today I did 4.5 miles with a little walking.  Saturday is my last long run before the race... going for 10 miles. *gulp*  Next week is my official taper and I have a few short runs scheduled, and a big chunk of rest towards the end of the week.

The thing is, I know I can do it.  I have no doubt I will complete that 13.1 miles on race day.  I am just growing tired of logging so many miles per week.  I am not cut out to be any type of distance runner.

To avoid the post-race blues, I've been seriously considering what I want my next goal to be.  For the last few months I've been really excited about the possibility of going back to CrossFit.  Now, that's a topic for a whole other post, but I'll just say that I am kind of hesitating now... I'm undecided about going back.

The other thing I have been considering is working on some bodybuilding stuff.  I'd really like to shed some more fat and put on more muscle.  The only reason I'm hesitating to jump full-on into it is that it's an aspiration but there's no real goal, and right now I think I need a goal to focus on.

So, things are up in the air right now.  I'm going to take about two weeks after the race to adjust my diet and figure out where I want to go with things.  For now I'm using most of my free time to steep in some heavy nutrition and exercise literature.  I'll update more on what I'm reading in the near future!  One thing for sure, whatever plan I choose I'm doing it paleo-style  =)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Running update

Last Saturday I completed my 9 mile long run.  I felt really good when I was finished and my body seemed to recover from the effort really well.  I wasn't even sore the following day.  Last week's stats:

Tuesday 5/3  5.42 miles
Time: 1:08:28
Avg HR: 139
Max HR: 159

Thursday 5/5  5.38 miles
Time: 1:10:44
Avg HR: 139
Max HR: 157

Saturday 5/7 9.5 miles
Time: 1:53:53
Avg HR: 141
Max HR: 157

Something happened this week, though.  I was feeling pretty great Tuesday before and during my 5 mile run, but when I got home I got sick to my stomach and very achy.  Thursday's run was tough and I probably should've cut it short.  I did an 'easy' 5 miles of sprint, walk, run intervals and was able to complete the 5 miles.  My recovery from Tuesday's and Thursday's runs has been difficult, so last night I went to bed early and got a couple extra hours of sleep and skipped today's planned 10 miles.

I think, honestly, I'm riding the edge of being overtrained.  I've had some hyper-cortisol symptoms this week, some difficulty sleeping, and some stress going on here at home.  I've also been dealing with some inflammatory symptoms -- connective tissue pain, inflamed gums and other things.  Even though it was difficult mentally to not complete my planned training today, I know I'm doing the right thing for my body.

This training process has really shown me that I have the mental toughness to set a big goal and follow through with it.  It's shown me that I'm able to affect change in my body.  I've developed a love for running and made it a part of my life.

I have never been under the impression that chronic cardio is health promoting, but training for the half has really brought that fact home for me.  Between my last couple (rather stressful) months at CrossFit and this near-overtraining experience I'm beginning to recognize the ways in which I need to guard my health and wellbeing when I'm trying to... improve my health and wellbeing!

So, as I said above, I've developed a love for running but I will be so glad to be done with training for this race!  I've got a few plans I'm considering as 'the next big thing' but nothing's set in stone yet.  Possibilities?  Taking a couple months to focus on leaning out, or maybe just enjoy hiking and backpacking this summer and looking forward to starting CrossFit in the fall... though, that's a topic all on it's own.

Back to the present.  One big training week left and then taper week!  Hopefully I can rest up enough over the next couple days to be able to hit it hard (and smart) next week.

A recipe - Birthday ribs and broccoli slaw

 I have been trying to write this post forever.  I had time the other night but Blogger was down.

My birthday was a couple weeks ago and instead of going out for dinner, which I have found to be rather hit-or-miss since I've become spoiled with fresh, nutritious paleo food, I wanted to cook up a rack of ribs and make one of my recent side dish favorites. 

Birthday deliciousness!

I found this rib rub recipe from Cosmopolitan Primal Girl but used a slightly different method:

Birthday Ribs

1 rack (pork) baby back or loin back ribs
3 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
ground pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees f.  Or don't.  With the long cooking time, does it really matter?  Rinse ribs and pat dry.  If there is a sheath of connective tissue on the underside of the ribs, do your best to remove it.  Combine all spices and sprinkle over ribs, then use your fingers to pat the spice rub all over the meat.  In my opinion the thicker the spices, the better!

Cover a cookie sheet large enough to hold the rack of ribs with foil, then wrap the spice rubbed ribs in foil and seal it up as well as you can.  My rack was meaty side down, but I don't know if it really matters.

Place the ribs in the oven and forget about them for 4 to 5 hours.  I checked mine at about 4 and a half, flipped them over, and basted the meaty side with some of the cooking juices.  By 5 hours, they were falling apart tender so I turned the broiler on and basted them a couple more times to make the spice crust a little crisp.

Cut into 2 or 3 bone sections to serve.  Don't they look fabulous?

Meaty and tender

Broccoli slaw with avocados and blueberries

I don't know what it is about this combination but I can't get enough of it.  I've been making broccoli slaw this way for months now and it seems like I never get sick of eating it. 

2 12 oz bags of broccoli slaw
3 oz homemade mayo (it tastes great with more, too!)
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 tsp prepared dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
1 1/2 tsp celery seeds
5 drops liquid stevia (optional)

fresh blueberries and diced avocado as desired (I don't add these to the big bowl of slaw)

Place the bags of slaw in a large mixing bowl.  Combine all other ingredients and pour over slaw, toss to coat.  It has quite a bit of bite at first but will mellow a little bit in the fridge.  Add blueberries and diced avocado at serving time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I really need to do better with keeping this blog updated!  There have been lots of times I've wanted to write but I've just been short on time to do it.

Last week I took kind of a 'deload' week with my training... I ran 3 days but I did less mileage, and took it pretty easy with the weights, too.  This week I'm back to my scheduled workouts.  Tonight was a 5 mile run, and after Sunday's squat heavy session (5x5 backsquats and bench press, then 150 squats and 60 pushups), running was very, very difficult.  For some reason my DOMS took a couple days to develop, so even though I rested Monday it really hit me today and my quads were stiff and sore.  A couple times during my run I had to apply a fair bit of pressure to the muscles with my thumbs to get them to loosen up, along with some stretching.

The other thing I'm kind of having problems with is fueling.  I tried a gel (Hammer gel, huckleberry flavor) today about halfway through and I just don't like it.  It digests fine, but when I use sugar or carbs during my run I end up with mad carb cravings for the rest of the day, and then I overeat.  So far, I'm really liking a little bit of dark chocolate before a run because I get a little sugar, a fair bit of fat, and a little caffeine kick, and I think coconut oil during the run with a little bit of dried fruit works too.  I may experiment more with those fuel sources to see if I can make that work on the longer runs.  I just have to figure out how to make it a little more portable.

Last Saturday was my birthday and I had a great day!  I got a super sweet cookware set from my husband.  I have had the same 'cheap' (it was $60 when we bought it, and that was a lot of money at the time!) cookware set for 10 years, since we got together.  It was nonstick, came out of the box warped, and has probably been flaking teflon and chemicals into our food for the past couple years.

This cookware has seen better days!
 And this is what I now have... a shiny new 13 piece set of Calphalon tri-ply!

I also decided that instead of going out for dinner (yuck) I would make some slow cooked ribs.  They turned out excellent.  Recipe to follow!

There are officially 4 training weeks left until the half-marathon, and I'm getting a little nervous.  I know I will finish, but I hope I can finish with a semi-respectable time.  I think the most nerve wracking part is the heavy training volume over the next few weeks.  C'mon body... stay strong!