Food = Energy

Food = Energy

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Find what works for you

Okay, so this may not be the exact sentiments or consequences for everyone, but they are certainly mine. I'm all about the mornings. You can give me a 7am to 3/4pm over starting later in the day and I will never want to alter my hours. Will I get enough sleep? Probably not, as I'd be waking up early to run or do some kind of workout. Oh wait...this is exactly what I do now. 

I've never been one to sleep in. I was (still am, I guess) a huge mama's boy growing up and seeing as my mom has always been an early riser, I was right up with her. I didn't need an alarm or someone telling me to wake up. My alarm? The moment my body heard the first dishes clank-clank'ing in the kitchen--she always had to clean the dishes and put pots and pans away while everyone else was sleeping. But I never minded and those times will always remain fond memories of mine. 

So waking up early is now ingrained in me. I do set an alarm nowadays although I certainly don't need to with our cat, Ellie, always ready to get that job done.  

It's not that I don't know how good it feels to sleep in, and once in a blue moon I will opt to do it. I just feel that I miss so much of the day when I miss the morning hours. The morning is when I feel the most awake and ready to tackle everything that needs to get done. It is also my preferred time for a run.

To me, there is nothing like a morning run or workout. The following pictures are from my quick session this morning. 

Decided to keep this equipment in the trunk for when I'm coaching track.

7.5 lbs on each ankle/leg 

Don't sprint up the hill but a good jog while trying to get the knees up and while holding 5lb dumbbells. Do it smartly and it can be a heck of a workout!

And the run or workout just makes these steel cut oats taste 20x better than if I did nothing at all!

Three years ago I was training for my first triathlon and my first marathon immediately after, and I was waking up sometimes at 4/4:30 to get a morning training session in before I had to be at summer camp for work at 7. I would then do another training session after camp (this worked wonders when I was training for the 3 sports of a triathlon). A year later when I was training for my first ultramarathon, I was again occasionally waking up at 4am to get my 4/5 hour weekend runs completed so that I still had the whole day ahead of me. So by comparison, waking up at 5:15 or so isn't difficult at all and how I feel after my quick morning sessions just can't be beat. 

Sometimes there's just no choice in the matter either. Val's uncle doesn't get home from work until 7/8 at night and he's got two girls at home so he can't just immediately leave and go run, bike, or swim for 2 hours. His solution: wake up at 3/4am to do those things. It works for him so why alter the system? That's the key here. You need to find what works for you. Waking up early and working out or going for a run works very well for me. I probably couldn't sleep in even if I wasn't running. 

So what works for you? Is it avoiding the snooze button at 5/6am so that you can get in your workout the only time that you actually can? Is it eating a light lunch or lunch on the go so that you can use your lunch break to go for a quick run or jog (my mom's solution)? Or maybe you have most of your availability in the evenings and don't mind exercising at those times. The gyms are usually crowded by then but hey, do what works for you. There's never no time to work out. In the June issue of Vegan Health & Fitness, Robert Cheeke (look him up...I can't do all the work for you!) echos this sentiment: "...The good news is that it lies in your hands. At the end of the day, you live with the consequences of the decisions you make and actions you do or do not take." 

Take the actions. I strive to remain as disciplined as possible. I make a plan and when I do that, I usually always stick to it or make alterations, but I try my hardest to just nix the plan altogether. It works for me. What works for you? Trial and error may help you if you are going to begin finding the answer to that question. Find what works. You won't regret it.

Happy Running!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Slow it down

The famous runner's high. If you run for a long enough time, which varies for each person, you will almost assuredly feel it. It's the moment when you no longer feel like you are in pain or tired or consciously moving forward. It's that last part that is key, I think. Running when experiencing a runner's high is almost like a blur in memory. It's this calming sensation and period where you are briskly and easily moving through the air as opposed to pounding your feet and legs across the pavement or trails.

Then there's the post race high. 

Runners need to be smart here. It is a dangerous period. Let me explain:

When runners (cyclists, swimmers, and tri-athletes too, perhaps) sign up for a race, there's this wonderful feeling. Sometimes it's all nerves, but nervousness can be a good thing. Then, when runners are running the race, there's usually a moment (several even!) when one of the following thoughts arise:

"Why in the world am I doing this?"
"I can just stop now, right? It's my decision, after all."
"I'll just get to the next aid station and see how I feel then."
"Okay, something's wrong with my super fancy, not cheap, always accurate on a training day GPS watch. I know I'm running faster than ___:___ a mile!!!!"

You get the picture. 

Pain. Discomfort. Fatigue. These feelings aren't pleasant, but when racing, it's usually all mental...not all the time though so please don't quote me on this or run through the pain caused by the bleeding gash you just received courtesy of Mother Nature or the dizzy spells you're having. That would be so not cool.

Here are some of the times when you may not want to push it through a training run/workout or even a race: 

But we feel these discomforts and yet, when we finish the race or the workout, we can't wait to do it again! Sometimes that's not the case, but generally it is. Okay, so you may not sign up for the same 5K, bike race or marathon, but you sign up for another race all the same. Well my warning sign above is meant to advise you to use caution during this post-race high where you feel almighty and unconquerable. Just finished a 5k? Bet you can run a half marathon next week. Finished a half-marathon? Shoot for that ultra next month. Only a few more hours of running. You can handle it!...Not so fast. I'm going through this mental period right now. 

I finished the Trail Factor 50K on Monday and Val ran the half marathon race on Saturday and immediately after our runs we agreed we wanted to do one again (despite our nerves and struggles throughout!). So throughout the past week I've literally been on almost every race site for Oregon and Washington seeking to find out next race. Just last night I was contemplating running a 7 hour event in Seattle tomorrow or another 50K next weekend but Val quickly put the brakes on that idea. She was right. I need way more than 4 days to recover from the 50k (this actually goes for any race distance you complete) but I was able to get her to settle for allowing me to run 26 miles next weekend for her birthday! How did I change her mind? Found a 52 mile relay run near Seattle where she and I would split the race into 12 legs of 3-6.6 miles each, accumulating just about 26 miles for each of us. 

Now why am I confessing to this you if I'm talking about taking it easy after a hard race? Well this is me taking it easy. I damaged my muscle fibers a great deal, but as long as I dial my diet in and increase my sleep, I should be completely fine tackling 26 miles broken up in that manner I described. See?? I thought this through. Now what about Val going from a half marathon to 26 mile (what will be her longest distance run so far!)? Well, same thing. The way the race is broken up should make the 26 miles easier to cover (maybe not mentally..who knows). 

So my main point here: CAUTION. I didn't put a STOP sign up there on purpose. You don't have to stop that post-race high. Embrace it. You deserve to feel great after completing any goal, exercise-related or otherwise. I'm just advising that the goals that you make afterward are made with caution, with adequate thought. Val made me actually think through what signing up to run 7 hours 5 days after a 50k race could actually do to my body. Would it jeopardize my continued training for the 12 hour race in July? Likely, yes. Would it take a toll on my health and immune system? Absolutely. Do I want to risk these things? Not really. So I hope next time you are about to embark on conquering the world after conquering that local park race, you think about this post and listen to the people telling you to, not stop, but slow down a bit. Breathe. Think. Consider. Then act.

Happy running!

Some pics from the 50K and half marathon:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Post Memorial Day 50k feelings

I did it. I ran my first ultramarathon of the year on Memorial Day and what a race it was. The Trail Factor 50K was my 3rd ultra I've ran, and with 4,915 feet of elevation gain, it was by far the most hilly.

I knew right away this was going to be a tough one. The race started out going uphill for at least a mile (maybe two), but it was the steep climb that stopped most of us in our tracks at about mile 2 that gave me a true taste of a tough trail race. My previous two ultras were relatively flat compared to most other trail runs. I actually selected those precisely because they weren't technical and were without steep climbs and descents. Even with the Trail Factor 50k the elevation profile of the race is very manageable and not too difficult, but of course I did about 97% of my training on the road which doesn't favor you on the trails.

The roads don't prepare you for switchbacks or for winding turns. They don't let you feel the pounding of going downhill at a -7% grade or the sting of rocks, sometimes jagged, seemingly being smashed beneath your feet. They also rarely turn your 7, 8, 9 minute pace into a walk just to get to the top of the climb. I can say all this now and still almost guarantee you that I will still likely do more than 75% of my training (for a trail run) on the roads. Something about the roads just pulls me to them.

The organization of the race was as amazing as the course. There are three race directors that are responsible for the event and many other races put on by Go Beyond Racing (including my next race) and they obviously work very well together. I got to be a spectator during Val's Trail Factor Half Marathon two days before the 50k and the three of them were just on top of their game in every way. Then, when I got to run my race on Monday, I was able to interact with the wonderful volunteers situated throughout the course at key turns and well-stocked aid stations.

I know I'm rambling and that could be either because I haven't gotten nearly enough sleep that I know my body and brain need to fully recover, or because just haven't written consistently in quite a well. Few more things before I let my brain rest after writing this post:

1) So many people asked me before and after the race, "How can you run for that long?"or some variation of this question. It's quite simple really. If you love something, you will do it a lot, right? You will practice it, if it requires practice, until it becomes second nature or you need to challenge yourself to reach the next level. Well, that's what running has been and is for me. I love the heck out of this sport. I love the way it makes me feel and the perspective it gives me in my life. I love talking about it, reading about it, doing it, being around it...I love it all. So when people ask me that question: I just laugh. I really do. Because my why is so basic and simple: I do what I love. That should be the go-to response for most people regardless of the activity, right?

2) My race nutrition. I opted to not eat anything before the race as I don't eat anything before my training long runs and it works out best for me. All in all, I had about 50-52 ounces of water supplemented with electrolytes (Nuun or GU Brew that was provided), 2 1/2-3 small PB&J's provided at the aid stations, a few nuts, about 3 slices of orange, and about 1 banana which was actually several eighths I grabbed throughout the aid stations. Oh, and 2 GU's and half a Clif Blok sleeve. So that's about 1,100 calories I consumed in food and energy gels to sustain my body through the probably near 4,000 calories my body used to cover the distance.

3) Definitely wearing nipple protection during my next ultra (Pick Your Poison- running the 12 hour solo option on a 10 mile looped course around a lake). The 50k was my first experience coming close to bleeding nipples and I was not a fan of the pain. Probably took my shirt off just in time to prevent my right one from actually opening and starting to bleed.

4) ?? Nothing left I guess. Brain is fried!

Gotta get back into the whole blogging thing!

Happy Running everyone!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Thoughts on a long run

It's tough getting back into the game once you've been out for so long. .At least, that's how I feel about keeping up with this blog post. It's been so long since I last posted and it's likely that another period of disappearance will occur again soon though I hope this will not be the case. 

Today's post is spurred by thoughts during yesterday's run. Recently, it's been a bit more difficult keeping up with my weekend long runs. I've been hoping to get in a 4 hour run for the past 3 weekends at least, but each weekend morning, for whatever reason, it doesn't happen. So I've been settling for 3 hour runs or 20 milers at times. I've only gone as long as 26.2 miles in my training for the 32 mile trial run I will be participating in on Memorial Day, but I think my fitness and will to finish will keep me going the remaining miles. I just hope Mother Nature's winding trails and elevation gains and drops don't prove otherwise. 

I have been asked many times what I think about when I'm running for hours on end. I would reply that I don't really remember and that is generally the truth. I'm either in a zone where I'm not thinking of much except about my route, my breathing, and my body or my thoughts are bouncing all over the place. During yesterday's run, there was a mix of both scenarios. 

I began by thinking about a fantasy/dream/goal I have which is to complete a run across the country. I even gave this journey a name: "The Long Run Home" as it would be from Portland to my previous permanent residence in NJ where my parents live. I also fantasized that it could be a documentary filled with the raw emotional highs and lows of a long endurance endeavor that are bound to fill any person willing to undergo such a journey. The documentary and journey would be sponsored by Asics (my favorite running company), Clif Bar (I would consume many Clif products incuding electrolyte packages, gels, and bars), and other vegan/plant-based companies as a main focus of this long run would be that I would be completing it eating entirely vegan and GF when possible. 

And at other thoughts become a bit more realistic.

 (not my photograph)

For miles 4-7, I was running on the esplanade along the Willamette River and, as anyone here in Portland will attest, came across many homeless individuals many of whom with dogs as pets. I couldn't help wrestling with my feelings about this situation. Since January, Val and I have seen plenty of homeless persons with dogs, but yesterday was different for me. This one particular dog was just smelling the grass near his/her owner which isn't anything out of the ordinary. What was out of the ordinary is how defined its rib cage was when it wasn't even taking in deep breaths. For the next mile or so I went back and forth with how I felt about homeless people having dogs. There are so many factors that could be considered and one would also need to decide if their major concern is for the homeless person or for the animal...I just had to backspace about 2-3 sentences of explaining my stance because it's just so complicated. If I'm for the animal and don't want the animal in the care of someone without secure means to properly care for an animal, what happens to all of the animals in the care of the homeless in this area? Shelters? Homeless and stray themselves? What's the better situation? These are the kind of thoughts that run through my head. There must have been a hundred more, but that's all I remember. 

This is part of why I run, though. I run because I just love it and you should do what you love. But I think I crave it at times because I just need to clear my head sometimes and get my creative juices flowing even if these creative juices only remain ideas in a cloud somewhere in my head. 

I'm eager to continue blogging and I may begin to include posts about our recent love-interest with hiking as well as my experience as a track coach during this current season which ends in just a couple of weeks.  

This post is very wordy, so I promise next time to appease those who prefer more pictures and broken up posts. 

Until then,

Happy Running!