Healthy Habits

Can you believe it? It’s March? When did that happen?

Spring is almost here…or it would be, if I didn’t live in Ohio. But alas, it’s March 1st, and we’re expecting a huge snowstorm tonight into tomorrow. Have I mentioned I despise hate tolerate love snow? No? Right…because I don’t! Snow is pretty when all you have to do is cuddle by a fire with a cup of tea and a good book. Otherwise, I’d just as soon not have it at all.

Anyway…
I’ve been busy. Work, run, sleep. Repeat. Busy, but not doing a whole lot. I’ve also been making some pretty big changes in my life, and I’m terrified excited about them. Some you’ll hear about further down the trail, as they are both private and still fresh enough to have me a little on edge. But let’s talk about the new healthy habits I’ve picked up.
20140301-123325.jpg
Writing. Keeping a consistent writing schedule has always been difficult for me. I have a stack of product and company reviews I need to write, and that all feels like work. The problem is I love to write, and once I get going, I can feel the words flying onto the page with rapid force (hence this post). But it can’t feel like work. I started another writing project last week, a journal of sorts, that I may publish in the future. It’s related to that sensitive topic (Please forgive my cryptic prose. I’m not ready to be so exposed.) The point is I’ve been writing, every day for a week, in fact. To my surprise, it’s been quite easy to set aside ten minutes each day to write. Isn’t it amazing how, when there’s no agenda, we can enjoy the things we once loved? That is something I hope to apply to other areas of my life, and hopefully my running. I’m still going to journal every day with that project, but my goal is to post something here on days I don’t work. Some days it won’t be much, and I’ll try to work in those product reviews over the next few months.
20140301-123102.jpg
Nutrition. I’m continuing with my whole food plant-based diet, but just like anything, it needs a tune up. My job has made it easier by providing tons of healthy, vegan options, but, after spending a day at a grocery store, the last thing I want to do is shop. My healthy habit for March sounds easy. I’m going to start each day with 20oz of clean water. First, I’ve been waking with migraines lately, and some of that has to do with hydration, or lack thereof. I can’t control the weather, specifically the barometric pressure…trust me, I would if I could…so I’ll start with water. Second, I’m hoping extra hydration will help curb some of my appetite issues, including my new-found sweet tooth. It’s worth a shot. Sounds easy, right? Drink up!

So that’s it! I’ll have a running post up in the next few days as racing season starts up soon. I’m tapering (read: keeping my fingers crossed) this week for a 50k next weekend. That’s going to hurt a bit. Better save that tale for next time.

What healthy habits are you starting this month? Let’s hear them!

Life goes on…

Real life change isn’t glamorous.
It isn’t sexy.
No one is writing a television show about it…unless you’re some famous person who has fallen off the wagon for the umpteenth time.
And even then, half of the audience is watching only to see you fail.

Ahh…”reality” television. That’s entertainment? Please.

I’ll admit, I haven’t watched television in over a year. I don’t miss it. Not at all. But that’s a whole other topic.

You are not going to see my life featured in a season of the Biggest Loser, or an episode of Extreme Home Makeover. I don’t have a trainer, a hair stylist, a makeup artist, and a budget.

Real change isn’t that easy.
It hurts. It seems impossible. It doesn’t have a fairytale ending and a gorgeous prince.
Wouldn’t that be nice? Probably not….I guarantee that prince cares more about his hair than my goals and aspirations anyway.

What’s this post about?

Some of you may have read on Facebook where I mentioned stepping away for a while. You also may have noticed that I’m “around,” just not actively posting. There’s a reason. I’m changing me. It has nothing to do with you, or anyone else. It is selfishly only about me. I mentioned in my last post a book I want to talk about…and I still do. As soon as I’m done working through my steps, I will. And this is all part of that.

I often gather ideas on long runs, recalling bits and pieces of podcasts I’ve heard and books I’ve read. Here’s my most recent insight:

Rewrite your story.
Write it from here, letting go of the parts of your past that don’t contribute to the story.
What would a person who lived the story you write, do?
Do it. Forget the rest.

So I’m writing. And doing. But the story is unfinished, and it makes me uneasy.

I’ve always thought if you feel a lot of resistance toward something, it’s worth exploring. Fear of something new is typically a sign of change that needs to happen. I’m not suggesting you run, headfirst, towards your fears. We’re afraid of bears for a reason. Bears will kill you. Maybe think about the source of that resistance. Walk cautiously towards it. Live in that awkward space until it feels less uncomfortable. Then move ahead.

Just try it…will you?

Absence makes the heart grow lonely

Hi. Remember me? It’s quite possible you don’t…I’ve been gone a while.

What happened? Life. Actually not that much, but I haven’t had the desire, or frankly the time, to sit down and write. It didn’t seem that long to me. But I guess it has been a few months. Eek!

People have been asking…are you still running? What’s your next race? How’s your training going?

I’ve been hesitant to answer those questions. No one wants to hear me ramble on about myself. Right? Snore….

But maybe I should explain why I stopped writing. Hopefully this will give you some insight, and where the blog is headed this year. You might even pick up some hints on where I’m headed.

First, yes. I’m still running. That is not likely to change. Not ever. Fingers crossed. My perspective on running, specifically racing, has changed a bit. And a lot of that has been related to my transition to ultra. I made some pretty big changes to my professional and personal life recently, and that has influenced me as well.

But why? First, in October of 2013, I switched to a 100% plant-based diet. Yes…I’m a vegan…of sorts. I’ve heard all the jokes…

How do you figure out if someone is a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

Consider this your notice! I’ll use the term “plant-based” more often though, because I consider “vegan” to be an ethical decision. Suffice it to say, I don’t eat meat, eggs, and dairy. Outside of that, I’m not making any statements.

Shortly after, I started working in the food service department of a healthy supermarket. This was a great fit for me, and my new diet. Not only do I have access to great food choices, but I have the opportunity to talk to others, in person, about how food changed my life. It’s a great thing! The bad thing is work consumed most of the time I used to use for writing…and running…and sleeping!

And we’re back to running…
I decided at the end of last year that I would train for (mostly) trail runs this year. My heart is in the woods, and I want to spend as much time there as possible. I’m currently training for a few popular Ohio races, and training is going really well. But you’re not going to find me rambling on about training runs and mile splits. I’m not going to tell you how many miles I ran last week. Trust me, you don’t really want to know. If you follow me on twitter, you might see me talk about a key workout here and there, or my progress in some challenges I have with friends. I’m taking a much more “zen” approach this year, starting with my running log. It’s paper, and I made it. That feels natural to me, more than any electronic device strapped to my wrist, or data floating around the interwebs. That’s what I’m going for. Natural. (Stay tuned for more of this, and a great book recommendation if you’re interested in that approach.)

Ironically, I will be using one piece of technology a whole lot more. It’s one many runners dread, myself included.

The treadmill.

I know…I said I wanted more trail running. The truth is I am a single working parent with young kids. I can’t explain how hard it is to run outside these days. I’m not afraid of cold weather, but when my only available training time comes in the middle of the night while kids are sleeping, you do what you have to do.

Long hours on the treadmill do not conjure the stories blogs are made of. More snoring! But there is another reason for my departure from writing. A friend of mine recently told me something that has weighed heavily on my mind. It went something like this:

A great runner doesn’t have to talk about their accomplishments. Others will do it for them.

So true. There are many runners I “brag” about. I’m honored to call some of them friends. But upon meeting them, you’d never know they were runners (unless that meeting is on a trail!). You won’t hear from them how they faired in their last race, what their 50/100mi PR is, or about that time they qualified for Boston. Some of their coworkers don’t even know they run! You will hear about it…from others who look up to them. That is something to which I aspire. Running is something I do, but it doesn’t define me. But I’m torn. I don’t want to let down those that find inspiration in these posts. That is my sole goal…to show others that with hard work and determination you can do anything. If I can, anyone can.
It’s hard to explain, but I’m going to keep my training a little more private. Not because it’s some big secret that I wouldn’t share willingly with everyone. (I love talking about running.) I want to be known for the person I am, not some statistics on a web page. I’m going to call it the “ultra mindset,” but it’s not indicative of all ultra runners. Some of the runners who have been around the block a few times will understand what I mean. It’s not always about the competition. Sometimes it’s enough to just be. There will be more about this in future posts as well.

The focus of my blog is going to change over the next few weeks, and I hope you’ll bear with me. I will be discussing some new brand partnerships I’ve established, and reviewing some products I endorse. They’ll be on separate tabs with links…fingers crossed. I also will post race recaps for the big stuff. Expect the first installment in March.

I want to share more, but we have time for that. Because the truth is I miss writing. It’s cathartic for me, but it’s also the way I interact with the world. And I’ve been lonely without it. Until then…be well.

My Food Journey…The Middle Miles

Great. You’re still here. Let’s continue.

So I’m a vegetarian. This was pretty easy for me…and I kept it up for five years. Granted, at the start, I wasn’t the best at it…I did what most people do: I subbed meaty things for fake meaty things and ate the same way I always did.

Note: I understand that many people become vegetarian or vegan because of the cruel way animals raised for food are treated. I understand and respect that position. This didn’t play into my initial decision at all. Sure…I love animals. Sure I wish they could all be treated nicely. I didn’t stop eating them because they weren’t though. Over the years, my opinion of this has changed. I’m still not an activist, and I don’t ever plan on becoming one. But I am more sympathetic to the animal rights cause. Maybe it’s because I’ve just been more exposed to the facts and people who are more involved. I’m not sure. It is true that those people you surround yourself will influence you.

As you read in my last post, I started running again. First that 5k, and then a Half Marathon later that year with Team and Training. 20131028-150122.jpg
I was satisfied at that distance…for a time. I ran the half a few more times, and in 2011, I toed the line at my first marathon…crazy. 20131028-150307.jpg
I was still eating my mostly healthy vegetarian diet, which included eggs, milk, and cheese. Occasionally I’d crave a good meatball like my Grandma used to make, but most of the time I didn’t miss meat. Not even bacon.

My weight hovered around 150 lbs…my Army weight. I had just trained for and ran a successful marathon. Maybe this was my “natural weight.” Where I should be. I was in the best shape of my life (so far), but I wanted more. Becoming a vegetarian was never about losing weight for me…it still isn’t. Honestly, neither was running. I just wanted to feel good. To be my best “me.” And I wasn’t…not yet.

I ran another marathon in the spring of 2012, though I had a nagging injury. If the race didn’t include a trip to see my parents in Utah and the fundraising for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, I might not have done it all. But I did. The race brought it’s own challenges, but I didn’t feel any better. And I knew the problem was still my diet…but I was in denial.

It was soon after that I found ultra. None of my friends at the time were doing anything like this. (Oddly enough, most of my friends now are! Surround yourself with greatness, right?) And that’s when healthy eating really started making an impact. You mean I don’t have to count calories? Or suck down those nasty gel things? I can eat real food while I’m running? No way! Trust me…it’s true.

In 2012, in addition to 2 marathons and countless shorter races, I ran my first trail race…a 60K ultramarathon. I had no idea what I was doing.

All I knew was this: Keep drinking water, keep eating, keep going!

That was my whole plan. And it worked. I left that race, one of only a few finishers and with a First Place AG award. What? A month later I ran the Columbus Marathon for a second time, with a 27min PR. Hmm…maybe there’s something to the healthy eating thing after all. 20131028-153144.jpg
What changed? I started reading food labels. Granted, in the beginning this was time consuming. I quickly learned which products were worth buying, and which things I was better off making myself. I experimented with making my own bread, tomato sauce and salsa. And then I started buying more things that didn’t come with labels…namely a lot of fresh produce. Whole foods. That was the key. I didn’t own a scale (I still don’t), but my clothes started feeling looser. I went to the store where I always get my jeans. Instead of the size 8s I always bought, I could comfortably fit in a size 4. A 4? I didn’t wear a 4 in high school! I took my son to the doctor shortly after that, and stepped on their scale. 135lbs. I was shocked. I wasn’t trying to lose weight. It was a natural result of treating my body well. I could get used to this!

To finish out the season, I took on the Goofy Challenge in January of this year. You can read about in an earlier post. I ran both the half and full marathon while eating real food, and felt fantastic after each. 20131028-151801.jpg
So is that the end of the story? Not exactly. I still wanted more. I read about many vegan athletes and wondered about how much influence their diet had on their performance. Then I quickly dismissed the thought. I’m Italian. I LOVE cheese. I can do without eggs and milk, but cheese? That would be torture. Or would it? I guess you’ll have to wait and see…

My Food Journey…The Early Years

If you’re following me on twitter, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been talking about food more than usual. I know…is that really possible? Yes…yes it is.

You see…11 days ago I made a significant change in my diet. 100% plant-based. That’s right. I quit dairy cold tur…tofurky? Whatever. The straw that broke the camel’s back was meeting Matt Frazier: Boston marathoner, Burning River 100 finisher, author of No Meat Athlete, and all-around cool guy. But I’ll get to that in an upcoming post.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this decision. Most people know that I was a vegetarian for the last five years. It’s been great…mostly. I still had some dairy sensitivities, but I was happy. Maybe I should start there. 20131023-095451.jpg
My third child, a daughter was born five years ago this past July. I wasn’t running…at all. I weighed 190lbs. My diet was a train wreck. And I didn’t care. What I did care about were these terrible migraines I was getting everyday. I visited my primary care doctor (then my OB/GYN), who referred me to a neurologist. I was scared. A neurologist? Something is wrong with my brain? Great. Panic settled in. I was convinced I had a brain tumor. Now I’m not sleeping and the migraines are getting worse as a result. He tried a bunch of pills: pills as a preventative, pills to take when you think you’re getting a migraine. Really? When I think I’m getting one? I have one now just thinking about what that feels like. Pop. Pop. This is not working.

Next step: MRI. See…I told you I have a brain tumor. We’ll see it on the scans.

Side note: Have you ever had an MRI? Of your head? I had one of my legs while I was in the Army. This was WAY more terrifying. They put your head in this cage and tell you not to move. That loud noise…is right by your head! I’ve seen enough sci-fi movies to know what happens next. Start panicking…but don’t move. And another migraine.

As if something could be worse, I now had to wait for the scans to be read. “If you could just point to the tumor…” Ok…there was no tumor. Everything was normal. But I didn’t feel any better.

Next! Elimination diet. We started with red meat (which I almost never ate) and pork (bye, bye bacon). Then seafood. And chicken. Dairy wasn’t even considered. I mean…I’m Italian, and you just took away half of my plate. There was no way you were taking my cheese.

I felt better, but not perfect. He suggested exercise, and I laughed. This was post-Army. I was on an exercise ban. I was told I would never run normally again after injuries sustained during my service. (Good thing runners are NOT normal!) So I started walking. Then a jog around the block. And the next one. I fell in love.

This is me after running my first 5k in 2009. Scary. Good thing I didn’t stop there!
20131023-095850.jpg
I’m not certain any one food was responsible for the headaches, and I could have easily gone back to eating meat. But after 6 months it was my new normal. After a year I decided I wasn’t going back. I was down to my Army weight again…although I had three kids since then…and bodies change. I still hadn’t run my first half marathon. It was barely a thought in my mind at this point, but I would…just a few months later. And even bigger changes were coming. But we’ll get to that in the next post. I think that’s enough embarrassing photos for now. ❤

Learning to Fall

The last four weeks have been a struggle. Not just with running…with life. I want to write about so many topics, but I’ll stick to my running and recovery for now.

After North Coast, I didn’t want to run. At all. I was told this was normal…part of the healing process after an ultra. After all, I did it. I met all of my goals for the race and got a huge distance PR…way more than I was expecting. It was OK to take some time off. And that’s where the problem came in. I didn’t leave any.
In a week’s time, I’m running the double marathon at Run With Scissors, a trail course through Hinckley Reservation in Northeast Ohio. I know nothing about the course except for the reports of others, and a few Garmin maps. This should be terrifying interesting. 20131019-125040.jpg
A quick recap…
Week 1: Hardly any running. I managed about 10 miles of walking and a little biking. I was all but convinced my foot was broken. Running on the road for 83.5 miles can do some damage. I iced and massaged, but there was no real swelling. A nagging tightness when I rested…but I could walk without pain. I thought if I could just get my foot to crack, I’d feel better. I paced a 4mi race on Friday night without incident.

Week 2: Time to put in a little mileage. More foot stretches. Finally my foot loosened up enough. Crack! So much better. As it turns out, my Cuboid was slightly dislocated, and it likely popped back in on it’s own. I gave the foot some support with tape and compression for a few days while continuing the stretching exercises. I logged about 30 miles this week.

Week 3: Peak Week? Already? Not good. I’m not ready. I put in as many treadmill miles as I could stand. My “long run” was 25 miles…on a treadmill…over two days. It was the only way I could stand the dread. I wasn’t able to get to any trails this week, and worried I wouldn’t be ready. I knew I didn’t have to run a crazy amount of miles. The race is close, and I’m not going to make that many gains at this point. Maintenance. I just have to maintain cardio fitness, put enough stress on the legs to trigger muscle memory. No time for DOMS, boys and girls.

Week 4: Here we are. Motivation is at an all-time low. I have no goals for this race other than “finish.” I don’t care if I’m dead-last, but I’m fairly certain I won’t be. I ran 15 trail miles on Thursday, and that was a big confidence boost. I left the trail feeling positive and refreshed. Not too tired, and no DOMS on Friday. Perfect. Most of Friday was consumed with the Columbus Marathon Expo, and I did a fair amount of walking around Downtown and the event itself. This week my sleep cycle is pretty much non-existent. I’m not sure the last time I got a good 8 hours…or 6 for that matter. It’s been a while. I should be sleeping right now, but my brain is in this hyper-vigilant mode. It’s not a good place for me. I can’t relax. I feel stressed and paranoid all the time. Maybe I just need to run…

The race is next Sunday. 52.4 miles of trails for which I’m not sure I’m ready. I’ll finish. I recently met a gal who is running her first 50+ race, and it seems we have a similar pace and race plan. I’ll do what I can to encourage her, and that will get me through the race. Now I know why people stack events so close together…there’s no time to fall. You’re always racing. Of course, there’s a danger in there as well…the dreaded injury. I think if you play it smart you can keep it up for a while, but eventually you have to take time for rest and recovery.

This will be my last official race of the year. I have a few other long runs planned…a miles for years run around my birthday, and a FA50k in December that I won’t miss. But really, this is it. It makes me feel uneasy without something on the books. Sure…I have race ideas for the spring. But nothing official…yet.

Maybe it’s my time.

Time to learn how to fall.

Ramblings on the eve of Race Day

‘s here. The race is tomorrow. If you recall, the Fall rendition of the NorthCoast 24hr Endurance Run is to be my goal race…for the year. That’s a lot of pressure, mainly enforced by myself.

Here’s how the rest of the taper went…
Taper Week 2: 42 miles. I had planned on 40…but I’m not the exact-type as running goes. I took Monday, Tuesday, and Friday off. My foot was bothering me…first one before I ran, then the other afterward. They’d switch back and forth. I rested and iced…no relief. I stretched…no relief. I ran…no relief! I couldn’t pinpoint the pain, nor could I find a spot that hurt with pressure. My feet hurt just as much with pressure as without.

Yup…you guessed it. THIS is taper madness. There is NOTHING wrong with my foot. Neither of them. Stupid brain!

I ran 15 miles with some friends on Saturday who were running their 20 miler as a part of marathon training. Two of them had never run this far, and I was glad to talk their ear off for a few hours. On Sunday, I woke up early to pace the Fall Scioto Miles 15k with the Fleet Feet Pace Team. I wasn’t originally on the schedule due to the proximity to race day, but when I found out that a friend (Laurie) would be pacing the 2:15 finish (that’s a 14:29/mi pace), I knew the walking would be good for me. And 9miles walking without foot pain was great for my head!

Race Week: I debated taking the whole week off. I had lunchtime drinks with a friend (Thanks Ang!), and skipped my regular Monday workout in favor of rest. On Tuesday I ran 3 easy TM miles. Wednesday was my planned “dress rehearsal.” I woke up at the planned time, got dressed, made breakfast, then sat for 3 hours to simulate driving time. I read a book, knit, and watched the sunrise. Wonderful! At 9am, I ran for an hour: super easy to start, and worked up to my “race pace” towards the end. I practiced my intervals. I felt great…like I could run forever. A good feeling, since on Saturday I would be. I met friends that night for my Regular workout, and they accommodated my need to shuffle the run. Two days of rest…and here we are.

20130920-125944.jpgIt

I’m packed. I have enough clothes to wear for a week…in every possible climate. Who packs tanks/shorts AND a jackets/tights for the same event? I do. And a rain poncho, winter hat/gloves, and three pairs of shoes. Maybe four…I’m not sure yet. Everything is charging. My crew is ready (I hope!). I drank half of my coffee this morning before the shaking started. Then I wanted to throw up. I think I might cry (again). Floods of emotion. It’s difficult to explain.

Here’s the link for live race updates:
http://www.northcoast24.org

Unfortunately you’ll need flash in order to view it, so all you mobile users will need an app to view it. Don’t buy it, just switch to a desktop or laptop. I’ll wait….

I’ll also try to tweet some updates at milestone intervals using the hashtag #NC24.