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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Exercise and Weight Loss Part II

The holidays are upon as and surely there is no shortage of articles chronicling holiday workouts- ones you can do on the road, ones that burn the most calories, ones that the Hollywood starts are doing, you name it I'm sure it is out there.  Yes, I understand that the magazines and newspapers need to make money, but do YOU? Ok maybe in the deep recesses of your brain you know it, but I think most people forget that when they buy these publications in search of the best workout to keep them form gaining weight during the holidays.  I'm here to save you some money, spare you the frustration and keep you fitting into your summer wardrobe!

Last time we talked about not looking at our workout as a way to merely burn calories.  Trust me, you will be sorely disappointed if you do that.  Not only will you realize that you burn more calories cleaning the house than you did spending your time on that elliptical, but you will realize that the LESS time you spend in the gym the leaner you will be.  NO, that is NOT a typo.  I said it and I meant it.  Let's look at it this way- you are hoping that one hour of your day will some how magically fix what goes on the other 23 hours of the day.  Not. Going. To. Happen.  Ok, so the next step is spending more hours in the gym and trying to burn MORE calories, right? If 1 hour 3 times a week won't cut it, then maybe 1 hour SIX days a week will!

So you set out on that path, certainly burning more calories than you were before. Of course since you are wanting to lose weight you keep your caloric intake the same, or better yet, you may even drop it a little bit -heck that is what all of the holiday magazines are suggesting.  Exercise more, eat less.  The standard prescription for weight loss.  These days you can even find apps for your iphone or armbands to wear that can calculate all of this for you..even better, you can do it without even thinking!! Tell me how that works out for you.. Never mind, let me guess.  For the first week or so, you may actually drop some weight and feel pretty good.  The next few weeks don't go quite as well.  You start to feel tired and run down. You feel 'softer' and have stopped losing weight and may have even put a few pounds back on.  Frustrated you decide to INCREASE the amount of time you spend in the gym. You must've hit a plateau and exercising more to increase your caloric burn must be the way to get through it.

...and so goes the cycle.

Let me fill you in on what is actually happening here.  You have increased your energy expenditure by increasing your exercise, yet you have maintained or even dropped your caloric intake causing a large caloric deficit. This is a rather new state for your body to be in and it hasn't figured out how to fix it yet (read: lessen the caloric deficit) so you lose weight (notice I did NOT say you lose fat. You are most likely losing muscle).  Our bodies are an amazing balance of chemical reactions.  When one thing changes our bodies react in a way to bring things back into balance.  What am I saying? I am saying that if you created a large caloric deficit by exercising more and eating less, your body is going to work hard to reduce that deficit.  It does this by expending fewer calories and asking you to take in more. So the more you exercise, the fewer calories you burn. You head home and then wonder why you are starving and searching for things to shove in your mouth.  Things that once satisfied you now leave you wanting more. Not the recipe for weight loss that you thought you had signed up for. Enter frustration.

So what DO you do? Well, first off stop counting calories. Yes, you heard me.  Stop counting the ones you take in and stop counting the ones you expend.  Stop wearing those silly arm bands and watches that "measure" the calories you burn during your workout.  Stop using the app on your phone that logs all of your food intake and plots it against your exercise. This doesn't work.  (You're welcome) It might work if we did it for a day, but we don't. It might work if all calories were the same, but they are not.  It might work if our bodies didn't respond by expending fewer calories and demanding more be taken in, but they do.

After you throw your armband in the trash, the next thing you need to do is eat something.  Yes, eat.  If we feed our bodies we have a much better chance of accomplishing what we want.  In other words, put food to work FOR YOU.  Lean protein, vegetables, fruits and good fats should be the crux of your diet. Eat small meals throughout the day (every 3-4 hours) and be sure they include the staples I just mentioned. Should you exercise? Yes, of course.  Just don't go into it thinking about burning calories.  As I mentioned in Exercise and Weight Loss Part I  you should look at exercise as a means for making yourself a better functioning machine- for the 23 hours of the day that you are NOT exercising. THAT is what exercise does.

Keep in mind that a large caloric deficit is NOT the way to lose weight.  Eat and exercise, but don't eat less and exercise more.  Eat better and exercise smarter.

You're Welcome.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Early mornings, track workouts, long runs, back-to-back days of running topped of with a full schedule of work, travel and family.  Getting ready for a 50-mile race takes a lot of work.  Yes, I said 50 miles.  Having spent my 38th birthday running 40 miles, I figured that it only made sense to spend my 39th birthday running 50 miles.

It was 6 am as we stood on the start line- well, more like we milled around in the general area of the start line.  Unlike other races where participants are toeing the line ready to take off like cheetahs, ultra runners are a bit more relaxed. There is a completely different energy at an ultra event compared to a road race marathon distance or shorter.  Strong and determined, but in a calm, laid back manner. There is camaraderie amongst ultra runners that you are hard pressed to find in any other group. Ultra runners are a different breed for sure.

The race director signaled the start of the race and we were off. It must have been an interesting sight as you could see nothing but our headlamps and the shine of any reflective gear caught in their path. The wind was cold and I was thankful I was wearing a hat, ear warmers and a hood.  Following the shoes of the runner in front of me I quickly noticed they had been collecting frost making it appear as though we had been running through snow.  I knew it was cold, but that was just ridiculous.  This Florida girl was missing the warmer weather for sure.

This 50 miler had its start and finish at The Mountain Institute in Circleville, WV.  Reading the words “mountain” and “West Virginia” should have been enough for me to realize that I would be climbing mountains, but it was not.  Just shy of 7 miles would bring us to the first of six aid stations, Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia.  There was good running on this leg as the trail was mainly grassy with some pine needle covered climbs a few of which were quite steep. I had mentally planned for about 9 hours and knowing we would be out there at least that long I knew it was best to conserve energy and walk.

Not long after we passed the first aid station we had our first encounter with some questionable terrain.  The trail seemed to be a dried riverbed complete with large loose rocks.  I was hopscotching from one to another to another feeling much like I did as a child running through the woods, I started to laugh. This was fun!

The rock covered trail gave way to a leaf covered trail.  Unfortunately the leaves were covering loose rocks that were covering mud.  One wrong step and you were in up to your knees.  Thankfully my shoes were on tight otherwise I might have lost them!  It seemed to go on for miles.  The longer it continued the less I laughed.  I tried to think of it as one big mud run. That worked for a few minutes before my mind switched gears- that isn’t what I had signed up for. That isn’t what I wanted to be doing.  I just wanted to run.  I tried.  I’d get lucky for a step or two, maybe even three before I would sink into the mud or slip on a rock or even step on a stick whose opposite end would somehow find its way into my other foot. OUCH! I was reduced to walking regardless of the flat ground.

Unlike running a road race some of the inherent excitement of trail running is actually finding the trail.  Following the markers can often be a challenge.  Miss one and you’re in the middle of the woods with no map and no cell phone service.
At one point the ribbons we were following seemed to stop.  I looked around and saw some on the opposite side of the creek.

 Crossing the creek I found myself climbing up the side of a mountain.  Literally.  Huffing and puffing hiking my way up, up, up. Somehow I had already forgotten that we had made our way from Spruce Knob down the mountain to the creek in the valley- OF COURSE we were climbing back up. The climb seemed to go on for miles until once again we were on top of a mountain. A small respite form the climb lasted maybe a quarter of a mile and once again we were headed down. From 4200 ft down to about 2400 ft. Downhill often sounds good when you offer someone the choice of uphill or downhill.  Unfortunately down is not always fun.  Too steep to run, never mind the loose rocks and sticks covered in fallen leaves- oh the fun of fall racing. It is fun to look at pretty leaves when they are on the trees, not so fun when they are under your feet.

Running generally gives me plenty of time to think.  Not this time, I had to concentrate so hard on where I was putting my feet, where the rocks were, where the sticks were, where the ribbons marking the course were that I couldn’t think about anything else. Those distractions helped me avoid the thought that I would have to turn around and run back the way I came. Five hours and 48 minutes after the race began I reached the 25-mile mark. Time to head back up the 2000 ft we had just descended.

It was during this ascent that I realized a few things.  I realized that I am not a good hiker.  I had never hiked before. Not a real mountain anyway, and I didn’t want to be doing it today.  Today I wanted to run. I found myself becoming more and more frustrated.  Knowing I would be dead in the water with a negative attitude, I tried to turn it around.  All I could think of was the movie Happy Gilmore when Adam Sandler’s character says “I’m a hockey player, but I’m playing golf today.”  I was thinking, “I’m a runner, but I’m hiking today.” Happy Gilmore, I understand your frustration! I wanted to cry.

I also realized what it felt like to want to quit, to really want to quit.  I was so frustrated, so over slipping, tripping, stabbing myself with sticks. Over hiking and climbing and trying not to trip down the mountain.  I was done. I knew I would make it to the next aid station before the cut off time. I didn’t care. I wanted to quit.  Then it happened, I thought of my clients.

I asked them to do challenging things all the time and I wouldn’t let them quit.  No matter their challenge I wouldn’t accept their quitting. What would they say if I quit? How could I let myself quit if I wouldn’t let them quit? I actually had this argument with myself, thankfully I was hiking uphill and did not need too much brain power to concentrate on my foot placement. Trudge, trudge, trudge.  I kept going.

I arrived at aid station #4, the 33.6-mile mark, 45 minutes before the nine and a half hour cut off. It had taken 2 hours and 45 minutes to get there from the 25-mile mark. Eight and a half miles, two hours and forty-five minutes. Miserable.

My friends were waiting for me smiling and cheering.  I feigned a smile. I could hardly say anything. I was afraid to open my mouth, I knew that if I did I would cry. 
I have no idea what Katie asked me.  She either asked how it was going or how I was doing.  It didn’t matter the answer was the same “pretty miserable, awful” was all I could manage as my eyes started to tear up.  She gave me a knowing look and just patted my shoulder “you’re doing great”.

I knew I wasn’t.

I’m not sure why, but I kept going.

Maybe 45 minutes later another runner, Dan, came up behind me.  Poor guy, he was trying to be nice and ask how I was doing. Mumble, mumble, mumble. I don’t even remember what I said, but I’m sure that it wasn’t very inviting or positive.  I had a negative remark for everything he said.  I even thought to myself, “Sheesh, just stop with the negativity!” but it kept coming.  He finally said “how are you on the downhill?” 
“Depends on the footing,” I said and off he went.

A few minutes later a thought ran through my head: after the next aid station I would only have 10 miles to go.  I could go 10 miles. I had gone 10 miles so many times during my training.

Then I had another thought: if I finish the race, but it takes more than 14 hours I will be disqualified. There was a strict 14-hour cutoff; cross the line at 14:01 and instead of having that time posted next to your name you would have the letters ‘DQ’.  If I didn’t post official results then this race wouldn’t count in my quest to run a race in each of the 50 states.  I would have to run West Virginia again.  No way was THAT going to happen.  I wasn’t going to be out here for hours climbing mountains and not have it count. 

I have no idea what specifically it was that brought about those thoughts, but I am sure it was something my fellow runner, Dan, had said. I started to run. Hop scotching from rock to rock as I had done some 30 miles earlier. I caught up with Dan at the next aid station.  I was thrilled to learn that we would follow along a creek for almost 2 miles before turned back into the trees and hit more mountain.
“C’mon, let’s run until we have to climb, “ I said as I started to jog away.  He was right behind me.  We must’ve run for a mile or so when my foot slipped on the edge of a rock. Didn’t seem like a big deal, but as I tried to take the next step the pressure on my toes was unbearable. I let out a few choice words and tried to keep going with a limp.  It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to work very well.  I couldn’t tell if my toe was broken or if I had somehow ripped off a toenail. I sat down, took my shoe off, gingerly rubbed my toes and told him to keep going.

I was afraid to take my sock off knowing that if it looked bad I would feel like I needed to take care of it.  If I didn’t look then I could keep going.  Nothing felt too out of place and I put my shoe back on. Nope, that wasn’t going to work.  I took the shoe off again and started to run with my right shoe on and left one in my hand.  That worked for a few yards, but as soon as I stepped on some sharp rocks I realized that it wasn’t such a great idea.  Darn it, not now.

I refused to let it knock me out of the game at this point.  Had my head been where it was a few miles back, I may have gladly used this opportunity to exit. Mentally I was in a different place.  I had decided I was going to finish the race and I was not going to let this stop me.  I put the shoe back on and tried to once again take a step.  No dice. I tried to run. It still hurt but it was better than walking. Ironic, the thing I had wanted to do, that I had been unable to do for hours was now the only thing that I could do.  Thankfully it wasn’t too long before I had Dan back in my sights.

Together we dodged mud, rocks, bugs and sticks on our way to the 46.2 mile mark.  That was the last aid station and I knew that Katie and my friends would be there.  It was somewhere around 6 pm, 12 hours after starting the race, when we reached the aid station.  What a difference 13 miles and a new friend can make.  I was waving my arms in the air and shouting as we approached the stop.  Katie, Jenny, Don and Bobbie were there to greet me with smiles and cheers of their own.  I was truly a different person than the last time they saw me.  The excitement on their faces showed they recognized it as well. 

It’s Dan,” I said. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him.”

Somehow in my walking with Dan, I had left behind the hopeless frustration I had felt miles earlier.  It had been replaced with positivity, excitement and a “can do” attitude. 

Dan and I headed off toward The Mountain Institute. We had just under 4 miles to go and had 2 hours to do it.   Crossing cow pastures, scaling barbed wire fences and even doing a little running.  We were closer and closer by the minute. We knew what was waiting for us in the last mile. A half mile climb, pretty much straight up, fondly referred to as “cardiac” followed by a relatively runable path down to the finish.

This last hill was not going to get the best of me.  “Just remember, it isn’t as long as the rest of them,” Dan said.  It was true; this one was only a half mile long.  Then no matter what it was only a half-mile to the finish. 

Dan went on ahead as he is a much stronger hiker than I am. I was doing the best I could; my heart was pounding and I was huffing and puffing. As I got to the top of the hill I took a deep breath serving as both a sigh of relief and a means to return to a normal pattern of breathing. One half mile of grassy trail to go, I was running to the finish.

As I neared the left turn that would bring me down the hill to the finish, I saw Don and Bobbie.  I was so overwhelmed with happiness that I wanted to cry. Crying doesn’t work well while running; I did my best to hold back the tears.  I could hear my name called over the loud speaker as I neared the finish.  Now the tears were really starting to come.

I’ve never been one to throw my arms up in victory as I cross a finish line, but this time I did.  I didn’t even think about it.  With all that I had experienced that day I was so thrilled to have survived and crossed the finish that there was no way you could’ve kept me from doing it.  There, as the sun was setting Katie and Jenny were waiting for me and so was Dan, we had finished.  Not only had we finished before the 14 hour cutoff time, we had finished in under 13 hours! Twelve hours and fifty-nine minutes to be exact.  I couldn’t have been happier. 

Fifty-four people started the race, 28 finished.  It could have very easily been 27.  I had never wanted to quit so badly.  I just wanted to stop the misery I was feeling.  I wasn’t thinking any further into the future.  But now, after having crossed the finish line I was so glad that I did not quit.  I finished.  I did it. It was hard.  It was very hard.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done.  It wasn’t even what I had trained for.  I had trained for running, not mountain climbing. Without Dan’s company and his unknowing gentle encouragement I may not have realized that I did have the ability to succeed in this environment. Had this been any other race, I could have been left behind.  Not in ultra running.

Running isn’t about the actual journey itself, it is more about what we learn on that journey.  I learned that in life there are many things we encounter that we think we aren’t ready for.  Paths that we are sure should be different:  wider, flatter, and easier to traverse.  The thing is those paths don’t really lead us to our ultimate goals.  It is the narrow, steep, rocky path that allows us to really achieve great things, to conquer our fears, our doubts and ultimately ourselves. On these paths in life, with a little help from others we discover more than we ever thought we would.


When you are climbing a mountain, literally or figuratively, find someone who has done it before and walk beside them.  Do not expect them to carry you, to do it for you.  You must do it for yourself.  It is only then that you will be able to walk with  the next person and encourage them.

Thank you to everyone that encouraged and supported me- I love you guys!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Exercise and WEIGHT LOSS..Part I

"Wow, you must burn a ton of calories running!" This was the reaction form a client when I told her about my upcoming 50 mile race. My face must've evidenced some confusion as she continued to say "well, running that far.."

Wow, I hadn't ever thought about it like that.  Well, I mean, OF COURSE I realized that I was burning calories.. heck as long as we are still living we are burning calories.  What I mean is that I never looked at my running as a way to burn calories.  That has never been my intention.  I love to run. I have goals to accomplish with my running which require me to train to become better. I run to improve my performance, not to burn calories.  In fact, the more I run, the FEWER calories I burn doing it.  No, that is not a typo.  The more efficient I become, the better I am at covering a certain distance at a given speed, the less it costs my body to do so.

This little interaction highlighted a major error in thinking. Thinking about exercise as a way of burning calories for weight loss.  Yeah, yeah, I know you burn calories when you exercise, but you burn calories just being alive and no one seems to look at THAT as a way to burn calories and lose weight (although we should).

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  Well, it isn't actually a secret, just something that most people don't know.  When it comes to things that affect how many calories you burn in one day exercise is responsible for a VERY small percentage (maybe 12-15%). Want to know what IS responsible for the majority of calories burned? YOU!!! (60-70%) That's right, the cost of your just being alive is what burns the most calories.  This should highlight AGAIN, the issue with our focus of 'calorie burning' during exercise for weight loss.  What if instead we focus on ways to make ourselves burn more calories in every moment of our life, better yet, on ways to NOT store fat? That, my friends, is why we exercise and what we should be focusing on when we exercise.

Physical stress (resistance training exercise) causes a host of chemical and hormonal changes within our body making the environment conducive to metabolizing ("burning") fat.  Even better, when we are burning fat, we cannot be storing fat- YES, this is what you are looking for. Wait, it gets even better.  A well planned weight training program will build a body that costs more to run- meaning burn more calories just existing... talk about the answer to your prayers!! 

Will just any kind of training do? Nope.  Weight training is a must.  Without that the proper hormonal environment is not created.  Will just any weight training do? Nope. The stress on the body must be something that it cannot easily overcome (read: you must work HARD).  If you pick up a weight for an exercise and can do 25 reps, it is NOT heavy enough.  Not heavy enough to stress the body.  Not heavy enough to cause change.  Not heavy enough to burn fat.  Not heavy enough to get you the results you want.  Not heavy enough period.  There should be a gradual increase in the amount of weight used.  What was a challenge before will not be a challenge now. No challenge? No hormonal change. Period.

Follow me? When you hit the gym forget endless hours on the treadmill or elliptical. No more Zumba marathons.  Find the free weight area and DO WORK.  If you aren't sure how to properly perform the exercises or how to develop a proper training program, hire a trainer.  That is what we are here for. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

What is your goal?

Here it is- Friday night. Seems like the talk around town is of Gator Football and rightly so, the first game is tomorrow. I bet you're thinking that I am planning who I'm going to meet up with for tailgating or where I may go to watch the game..umm no.  It is Friday night, so what does every good little runner girl do on Friday night?? YES, sits down and plans her running route for the next morning.  After all, it IS almost time for bed.  Have to hit the sack early if I've got to get up early. Yes, last week I was up at 330 and I may very well be up that early again.  Why am I telling you this AGAIN? Excellent question.. I thought you'd never ask.

As I was running this morning, I couldn't help but think about what I was doing.  Not the actually running part, but getting up early in order to get my run in before I needed to be at work. Early enough, in fact, that MY alarm went off before my husband's did.  Not something that generally happens when you are married to a resident- talk about a crazy schedule. I was up, out the door and on my run while most people were still in bed.  Most of those people probably had intentions of getting up early as well. Maybe they were going to get up early and head to the gym.  Maybe they were going to head out for a run.  Maybe they were going to workout in their living room.  Either way, I was up and running while many well intentioned people (maybe even YOU) were still tucked snuggly in bed.  How does that happen?  I guess a better question would be WHY does that happen?

I know why I got up. That is an amazingly simple answer. I mentioned it last week- I'm training for a race. Period. I have a goal and a training plan that will help me reach that goal.  All I have to do is follow it.  Doesn't get much easier than that.

So why are so many people still sleeping while I am out running? I'm guessing because they do not have a plan.  And because they do not have a plan, they must not have a goal.  Surely if they DID have a goal, they would have come up with a plan- or they would have hired someone to make one- to get them to their goal.
Maybe they picked a goal but they aren't really invested 100%.  Why whould that be? Well, maybe the goal isn't their goal.  Maybe it is something someone else suggested they do.  Or even worse, maybe they are doing it for someone else.  Either of those scenarios would explain why they are still sleeping.  They haven't bought into their goal.  They don't really want to do it.  If you REALLY REALLY want to do something you won't let anything stand in your way.  Think you can't? Then you don't really want that goal.

Think I'm being hard on you? I'm not.  Just doing something most people are afraid to do- I'm being honest.

I get busy, heck I have about 5 jobs.  I travel. East coast, west coast you name it.  I know what my training plan is and I make it work.  I may have to move a run up or back a day depending on where I am, but it gets done. My husband is in his chief year of residency.  For the past 6 years he has managed to fit in his training and his healthy eating. NO MATTER WHAT.  Why? Because he is committed to his goal 100%.

Next time you find yourself saying that you don't know why you haven't arrived at your goal take a step back and assess the situation. Do you really have a goal? Are you 100% committed? DO you have a plan that will take you there?

Do I ever hit the snooze button. Unfortunately yes, then I remind myself why I always need a goal.
It is as simple as that. Goal, plan, follow, achieve. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

I love my job!

It is 10pm and I am sitting in my hotel room reflecting on a weekend in Dallas with GNC.  This weekend was the Vision Women's Expo- a gathering of all type of vendors catering to women. Clothing, jewelry, shoes, cooking demos, CPR classes, teeth whitening, you name it it was here.  Women of all ages attend, often lining up outside before the doors open.

Going into these events with my GNC family, we know our booth will be a big draw. It always is. Offering samples of multi-vitmains, fish oil, meal replacements and protein shakes we find ourselves busy all day while some vendors are left wondering where their customers are.  Although we know we will be a hit, we never know just how many lives we touch until the event comes to an end.  That was the case again this weekend.

I would be lying if I said people aren't excited to get free samples- trust me, they are.  But what they are even happier to get is an answer to a question that has been haunting them, sometimes for years. It often starts with a seemingly innocent comment or question: "Will this curb my hunger?", "Do you have anything that will help me lose weight?", "A friend told me about this product, does it work?" It takes an ear to hear the words coming out of their mouths, but a brain to hear what they are ACTUALLY asking: "Can you help me?". A chance meeting between two people leading to the clarification of  permanent fat loss and dispelling of nutrition myths is a freeing and empowering experience.  Seeing the tears in someone's eyes as they are pouring their heart out to you and the relief and excitement when they realize that they NOW have the answers that they have been longing for is absolutely priceless.  I am so thankful for the opportunity I have to help those around me.  Thank you GNC for affording me this amazing opportunity to help change people's lives.  Live Well!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Common Questions

It has been a while, but please don't confuse my absence from blog writing with an absence from WANTING to write! Lots of great things going on in my world, unfortunately they all require time which subsequently eats into time I had set aside for other things. Ehh, that's life, right?

It is 4am as I am sitting here writing this. Yes, I said 4am.  You're probably thinking that I had a hard time sleeping and am just using my new found time to get caught up.  You couldn't be more wrong.  Nope, I was sleeping just fine.  In fact, I was a bit confused when my alarm went off at 3. Yep, 3am on a Friday morning.  Shouldn't we at least get to sleep in as the week comes to a close? If you are most people then that answer would be a resounding "YES!" As the week draws to an end and the weekend is peeking around the corner most people let out a sigh of relief as they are dreaming of a long, comfy night in their bed. Or maybe even a few nights in a row! Ok, enough of the ramble.. why am I up so darn early? Why, for goodness sake, will I get up far earlier on the weekend than I will during the 'work week'? Easy answer.  I'm a runner and I am training for a race. Period. If you 're a runner you understand.  If you're not, you think I'm nuts.  I'm ok with that.

This blog has been swirling in my head during my runs. Now it is time to bring it to life.  As I am running I often think of the questions that people often ask me when they find out that I run ultra marathons:

1. You run all that way (30 or 40 or 50 miles) all at one time?? How long does that take?
2. Don't you get bored?
3. Do your knees hurt?
4. Why in the world would you do that?
5. What do you think about?
6. What do you eat when you do that?

Sure there are others, but those are the most common.  Generally even after those questions are answered I get another "you're nuts" comment.  I don't mind.  I just smile. Lately I have been smiling even more. And giggling, on the inside, when people ask these things.  I can't overlook the parallel in confusion- you see these are the SAME questions I'd like to ask a non- runner.  Someone that sits on the couch all day doing nothing.

1. You sit all that time? Watching reality show after reality show? How long does that take?
2. Don't you get bored?
3. Do your knees (and your back, and every other joint in your body) hurt?
4. Why in the world do you do that?
5. What do you think about?
6. What do you eat when you do that?

We are both 'confused' about what the other does on a normal basis. Funny though, I welcome the questions and use them as an opportunity to enlighten people about the wonderful experiences I have had during my races and my training.  This is more than I can say for the outcome of MY asking these questions to a couch dweller.

Just something to think about...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Science please!!!

It has been quite some time since I have just gone on a rant..and lucky for you I'm feeling it today.  I do appreciate your patience as I have been blogging about my running and all kinds of other fun things, but really, let's get back to what started all of this.  Bull$hit.  Yes, that is what got me started ranting about things, and it is exactly what is bringing me back to you today.

I have had enough (again) of the bull$hit that people are saying, writing, posting and passing on as fact regarding nutrition and health (..and exercise, but we'll leave that for another day). Just because a reputable establishment posts a sign saying something- it does NOT mean it is fact.  I agree with you- it SHOULD be- or they shouldn't post it, unfortunately that is not always what happens.  It goes back to caveat emptor. Let the buyer (or in this case the reader) beware.  Yes, you should beware..and incase you are not let's call a few things out:

Don't eat after 6pm
     You will not die- or turn into a pumpkin -or anything else if you eat after 6pm. Is this 6pm eastern standard time or 6pm in Madrid? What if I woke up at 4:30 pm? What if I workout until 7pm? What if i will be awake until 3am?
Dumb. Period.

Drinking water before taking a shower will reduce your blood pressure
    I don't even know what to say to this as it is probably one of the craziest things I have ever heard.  Yes, staying optimally hydrated is a great idea for many reasons, but drinking a glass of water before you shower?????? I'm not even sure I could make up something like that!
Dumb. Period.

Drinking a glass of water before bed to avoid a stroke 
   Yeeeaaahhhh, what??? There is a study that looks at hypernatremia secondary to another condition POST stroke, but in NO WAY does it say that drinking water would have prevented the stroke.
Nevermind drinking it before bed. Again, I do agree that drinking water is great. But this statement is just plain dumb. Period.

Drives me nuts that statements like these- with no scientific basis- are promoted AND accepted by people.  Yet with reams of science supporting the safety and effectiveness of creatine it is still seen as the devil. *** Banging my head***

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bloomberg give soda the 'POP'

Banning large size, full sugar soda is Mayor Bloomebrg's solution to the obesity epidemic in this country and he is aiming to start his campaign in New York .  His plan is to prohibit restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street-carts from selling sugary beverages larger than 16 fluid ounces.

I had to laugh as I read this article.  Not because it was written with any humor, but because I find it hilarious that someone would seriously think this plan of action would do anything to slow or stop the obesity epidemic.  In fact, this country has a history of attempts such as this one intended to stop various other things- alcohol consumption (prohibition followed by drinking age laws), zero tolerance drug policies, gun control and speed limits. We could go on and on with this list, but there is no need.  None of these afore mentioned problems or epidemics were stopped after a law was passed making it illegal.  And it isn't going to work this time either.

Making something illegal seems to be the 'go to' answer for people.  Why? Maybe they aren't smart enough to look at what WOULD actually have an impact on the situation, or maybe they don't really WANT to help solve the problem.  Actually wanting to solve the issue would require action on such a large scale, involving many in the government as well as some of the largest companies in the country.  Making changes on that scale would result in many unhappy billionaires and politicians.  That will never happen.  It is far easier to pass a law to give the appearance you are doing something, all the while keeping your backers happy.  However, removing personal responsibility no matter what the circumstance is never a good plan, never mind the fact that it does not address the problem.  It has zero ability to deliver the intended outcome.   What is the intended outcome here? Slow the drinking of soda? Well, maybe this approach could help a little.  Is the intended outcome to slow or stop the rising obesity rate? Reducing the size of soda bottles does not translate to that.

While obesity is a multi-factorial issue, research demonstrates a connection between insulin and obesity.  The inability to control one's blood sugar and subsequent insulin production can lead to obesity and diabetes.  Can 'foods' containing sugar such as soda have an affect on this? Of course. However,  most people recognize that soda contains sugar.  The most dangerous 'foods' are the ones hiding the fact that they cause just as much of an insult, if not more, than soda.  I would argue that highly processed foods claiming to be sugar free and 'healthy' are far more dangerous than any 32 ounce soda.  Teaching people to look at soda as the cause of obesity will only cause them to fill that 'soda void' with something else equally as offensive. Teach them the truth. It doesn't matter if it is a soda, a candy bar, or a cracker, processed foods have the same effect on blood sugar levels as they do on waistline measurements.  They increase them. Period.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A true runner of steel

I'm sitting in my hotel room, two and a half hours before the start of the Pittsburgh Marathon but my mind is still busy processing the events of my last marathon.  Big Sur was by far 26.2 of the most challenging miles I have traversed, but also the most beautiful.  The pictures you see, and the stories you hear pale in comparison to the actual beauty you experience when you are standing on the edge of the world.  With those thoughts still fresh in my mind, I couldn't help but wonder what Pittsburgh would bring.  The bragging right of this race- upon finishing I can proudly proclaim that I am a "Runner of Steel" and that I have conquered the "City of Bridges".  This would also be the final event in my challenge of running 3 marathons in 20 days.  I set out to find the race start with a smile on my face. Enjoying the ride was my goal.

The sun was shining and the race was off without a hitch.  I found myself admiring the neighborhood restaurants and hangouts and cheering for the crowd support. Yes, they need support too! The miles were moving pretty quickly which I was quite happy about. Not because I wanted the race to end, simply because you can never be sure how your body will feel 7 days after 26.2 miles of wind and hills. We hit the first bridge and I was happily surprised to find that it was relatively flat.  Pre-race talk of bridges immediately brought me back to the Running for the Bay Marathon in Apalachiacola, Florida. Miles and miles of bridges- over the bay- high enough for large boats to maneuver under (read: steep grade). To say I was relieved to cross a bridge that was relatively flat would be a major understatement. Another highlight of the bridges- this is where I first spotted someone dressed as Steve Prefontaine.  Shaggy blonde hair, mustache, tiny running shorts and 1970's striped socks.  Perfect! 

The relief that I felt having crossed five flat bridges faded quickly as we began to climb Forbes Ave. From there on out it was all rolling hills just in different neighborhoods. The temperature was rising.  Thankfully the neighborhood trees provided ample shade over the course. I was using my experience from Boston regarding my hydration- some in the mouth and some on the head. A delicate balance. It seemed to be working. The last three or four tenths of a mile was an up hill climb on a freshly paved road. Ugly. Hot. But I was still smiling. Three marathons in 20 days. Done. I was officially a Runner of Steel!!

 The next morning I gathered my things, stepped out of the hotel and hailed a cab. Time to head home. Small talk in the cab is something I am used to.  Conversation with the driver, a middle aged man speaking in a distinct accent, was no exception.   It started out innocently enough as he asked if I had been in town for the race. I confirmed his suspicions and he began to tell me that he had run a few back in the day.  I didn't think too much of it as he moved on to asking me about all of the ins and outs of how the timing chips and corrals worked. The races he had run had nothing like this. Very interesting I thought. Before I knew it he was telling me that he was forced to run marathons. 
"Really?" I asked.
"Yes" he confirmed.
The distinct accent I was hearing was one of a man from Iraq. He had lived there most of his life. His marathon experience was one of celebration- only not HIS celebration.
Every year a marathon was run on Saddam Hussein's birthday, in his honor.  Athletes were collected from every area with a sports program.  Basketball, boxing, soccer, it didn't matter. A minimum of twenty athletes form each area were collected and forced to run in the celebratory marathon.

I was in shock. It is challenging enough to run a marathon when you train for it, when you want to run it.  I could not imagine being an athlete whose sport requires maximum 20-30 seconds of effort before a rest and then being forced to run 26.2 miles! That is a TRUE runner of steel.

He went on to tell me that growing up in Iraq great athletes were not allowed to play for successful teams in other countries, as is quite common for athletes in other parts of the world.  They were forced to play for their own country. They were threatened before hand that if they did not win, they would be severely punished and thrown in jail for an undetermined amount of time.  I recalled reading stories of the Iraqi soccer team and cruel punishment, but to hear it from someone who lived it was a completely different experience.  

The drama and sadness of our conversation then turned to an update of the sports teams of today.  He told me that since the war, things were getting much better. Athletes were more successful and were allowed to take their talents to the teams of their choice. Freedom meant so much more than just life without a dictator. It meant having the ability to enjoy every aspect of life whenever and wherever. As an Iraqi he was thankful for the war and for the new life it brought to his country.

I was so elated to hear the positive impact of the efforts of the United States and our military forces. Their efforts not only freed a country from a horrible dictator, but also revived the county's pastimes.  People were allowed to take part in sports that they chose and were no longer forced to run marathons to entertain others.  

I am thankful to live in a country where I know people will not only fight to maintain the freedom I have to choose to run marathons or not but also fight for those same freedoms for others.  

Happy Memorial Day and thank you Pittsburgh for this amazing experience!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

We arrived in Monterey, California a few days before The Big Sur International Marathon- the capping event of the Boston to Big Sur challenge. We had scheduled our trip this way so we could take in the sights and have a day or two of RnR.  We walked around Cannery Row,  made our way through the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and enjoyed lunch while the harbor seals barked playfully.  Life was good, and then...somehow in all of our preparing for this trip, we seemed to have missed the part about having to take a bus, at 3:30 am, an hour drive to the start line of the race. Now I KNOW that surely this would not have been a detail that any of us would have missed.  That means getting up at 2:30 am to eat, dress and drive to the bus pick up. WHAAAT???! There are other races famous for this sort of thing- Disney is one of them.  Ok, you may not have to ride in a bus for an hour to get to the start, but the race starts very early in the morning.  Both NY and Boston require a long trip to the start coordinated by either buses or a combination of cab, boat AND bus.  I certainly had ben warned about those instances.  So why had we not heard about this? Hmm, oh well.  There wasn't any other way to make it happen so we just put on our happy faces and did it.

The hour long bus ride was an experience.  We were thankful it was pitch dark outside.  None of us wanted to know how it was possible that Houdini, the driver, was able to maneuver a school bus along the cliffs of Big Sur. We were distracting ourselves with the cool blend of Usher, Michael Jackson and some mariachi bands looped over the PA system.

Arriving at runner's village we were greeted by a few thousand runners and some volunteer's who obviously had a sense of humor. Some were wearing funny hats and outfits and some had placed playful signs on the porta-potty doors.  The humor definitely livened the early morning crowd.

 It was a bit chilly and we were eager to get started.  The forecast called for a great day- in the 60's, sunny, and no wind.  PERFECT!  The first few miles were downhill through a beautiful park in Big Sur. The redwood trees were gorgeous, constantly commanding my gaze.  "Wow, this is gorgeous"...Yes I actually said it out loud. After 5 miles or so we came out of the trees and into the grasslands.  I couldn't decide if I was in another country- like Ireland- or if I was in a commercial. Specifically the commercial for happy cows from California.  There are a few- either about milk or cheese-in either case they talk about happy cows and the fact that they live in California. Yes, indeed they do.  This was breath-taking. Rolling green hills with happy cows that seemed to be smiling.  They were either smiling because they were happy or laughing at the silly humans that were running down the street being chased by...nothing.  Weird.

Just about that time, as I was reveling in the beauty, I felt it. The wind.  Not just a light breeze, but real wind. Things started to get chilly and the fog was closing in on us. I was cursing myself for tossing my gloves, but just kept moving forward.  I tried a few times to draft off some of the taller people in front of me.  It didn't work too well but at least it kept me out of the wind for a step or two.  I did mention that it was a HEAD wind, right? One step at a time I just kept going and then I heard it.  Someone behind me said, "Look, it's the ocean".  I looked down to the left.  I could barely see it through the fog, but it was there.  The ocean crashing against the cliff. "AMAZING", I thought to myself. After a half a mile or so the fog lifted and I could see it- the ocean, it was breath taking. Here we were running along the cliffs of California, with nothing between us and the water except the salt air. I took a deep breath in and smiled.  I couldn't help it.  I must've been smiling from ear to ear, I was so thrilled to be exactly where I was at that exact moment in time.

The views didn't stop. Twenty-six point two miles of the most magnificent views.  Sure there were hills.  In fact, one was 2 miles long (see below).  THAT one also had some of the strongest head winds.

There were hills, fog, headwinds (which we later learned were over 40 MPH),  canted roads and virtually no crowd support. Somehow, through it all I was smiling.  No one was complaining.  Not one person. Runners were stopping, taking pictures of the views all the while smiling and laughing.
The local newspaper renamed the Boston to Big Sur Challenge -Boiling to Brutal. No doubt Boston was hot, and this was by far the toughest course I have run, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. The views were enough to lift us out of our suffering; or at the very least to distract us enough that we failed to notice any longer.

 It was after the race, when we were all reliving our individual experiences that we solved the mystery surrounding the early morning bus ride.  After experiencing the energy and grandeur of the edge of the world  no one could remember the unpleasant moments endured to get there. This happens a lot in life.  We have to endure some not so pleasant things.  Things we would rather avoid, but in the end the payoff is so great, we would gladly do it all again.  No matter what.  This is exactly how it is with The Big Sur International Marathon. If it isn't on your list of things to experience, put it there.  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ohhh Boston

I have never been registered for a marathon in which I received not one, but three emails urging me NOT to run.  I guess there is a first time for everything.  My first Boston Marathon, the first time it would be near 90 degrees on race day, the first time I received emails urging me to sit out the race, and the first time that the Boston Athletic Association was allowing, actually urging people to defer their Boston Marathon race experience until 2013.

A weather advisory email landed in my inbox Friday, Saturday and Sunday prior to the Marathon. The first  mentioning that if a cold front didn't come though we would be seeing temperatures in the low 80s.  The second urging those who were not "highly fit"or had only trained in a cooler climate to NOT run the race.  The third warned that this year's race would take place in the "red zone" acceptable only for high-level elite athletes. If a person decided to run the race, the B.A.A advised a much slower pace- adding a few minutes per mile to your time- and walking.  Warning signs of heat illness were highlighted: headache, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, nausea, vomiting. Anyone experiencing any of theses signs was told to stop immediately and see medical attention. The Boston Athletic Association was not taking any chances. Their words swirled in my brain
  •  you should adopt the attitude that THIS IS NOT A RACE. It is an experience.
..isn't it always an experience? I had already decided that I was NOT aiming to make any land speed records at this race- just cross the finish line.  Walking or crawling, I was going to get there.

The morning trek to Boston Commons to catch the bus was actually a bit chilly.  Hmm, maybe things would be cooler than anticipated.  The 45 minute drive to Hopkinton gave everyone plenty of time to discuss race plans, prior race experiences, eat some snacks, listen to music, zone out or even nap.  We departed the busses in still cool temperatures making our way down to runner's village where we would wait.

As we waited, the temperatures slowly crept higher.  The warmth felt good, but I knew that standing in the sun would only raise my core temperature and make it more of a challenge to stay 'cool' during the race.  We headed to the shade. What I had anticipated to be a long wait at runner's village went faster than I could imagine.  No sooner were we in the shade when it was time to begin the journey to the start line.  The 3/4 mile walk was topped off with a bit of a run to the starting coral. Standing in the coral, I could feel the energy around me. We were all ready to go, regardless of what Mother Nature had planned.

The first few miles were amazing- all downhill and some the shade AND I was running with Leigh Armstrong West. An incredibly talented athlete and all around wonderful person. We lost each other near one of the first water stops- the crowd was huge and everyone was heeding the warnings to stay hydrated.  Lost in the shuffle I was on my own.  Just me, my thoughts and the sun. Generally speaking that is how it goes.  This race was a bit different.  I had run New York and was expecting large crowds like we had there, but what I experienced was something completely different.

The spectators were prepared for us- not just with their encouraging and amusing signs and cheers, but with their hearts.  They were out there WITH us. Adults and children and everyone in between were lining the streets offering everything from oranges, bananas, ice pops, ice cold wet paper towels, ice, water, hoses to spray us with, squirt guns. Anything and everything they could find or think of to help us make it safely to Boston. One group must have grabbed everything in their kitchen- they had cut up sponges and towels and soaked them in ice water. When I stopped to grab one, they handed me a potholder. I laughed to myself for a split second.  The humor in the situation was fleeting as I was overcome with thanks for their efforts.  I could imagine them at home "Just grab everything you can find, they will need it!" I cooled my face and my neck and handed my potholder back "Thank you SOOOO much" I said with a smile.

 Looking around it dawned on me that I had never run a race where it looked as though everyone had just crawled out of the water.  We were soaked.  You could hear water squishing in people's shoes. I ran through every sprinkler and hose I could but somehow it never seemed like enough. The cool reprieve lasted only for a few short minutes and then the heat returned.  I had goose bumps- my body's feeble attempt to cool me off. I started to get a slight headache.  Weird, I thought, that never happens.  I couldn't decide if I had to go to the bathroom or if I needed to throw up. I coughed and my abdominals cramped. No fun.  I was walking at this point and was trying to keep moving while stretching them out.  I kept thinking to myself: "please don't let anyone see me". I knew that if they did chances were pretty high that they would make me stop until the cramps subsided. After managing to avert that I attempted to start running again. Then the rest of the cramps started. Right calf, left adductor, left calf and then both hamstrings.  I probably looked like I was trying to do some kind of dance.  Gingerly I placed one foot in front of the other and slowly the cramps subsided.  I have no idea where I was in the race, the miles seemed to take forever to pass.  Walk, run, walk, run.  Just keep moving forward.

Somewhere in the last few miles of the course I came up on 2 young boys- maybe 6 or 7 years old.  Each of them had a gallon jug of water that they were offering up.  Just standing there with their little arm outstretched waiting to help.  I ran over and stopped in front of one of them.  He lifted his gallon a bit higher and just dumped it on me.  I have NEVER been so thankful as I was at that moment for little boys and ice cold water.  There is no doubt in my mind, I would NOT have made it to the finish line without him.  I wish I could find that little boy and tell him just how much that helped.  Because of him and his gallon of water I was able to run the last few miles and accomplish my goal- crossing the finish line.

My memories of The Boston Marathon are not of Heartbreak Hill, but more of the heart of the spectators.  When they say Boston is all in..they mean it! 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Put the Easter candy down!!

Sometimes I guess I miss out on things by not sitting in front of the T.V. or reading the newspaper.  Thank goodness for Facebook!

Apparently CBS News ran a story following last weekend's 60 Minutes segment with a tag line stating "New studies support claim that 'sugar is toxic' ". Great timing - a week away from Easter, the biggest candy consuming holiday.  Really cool, dramatic, eye- catching lead, but NOT new. Nope, we've known about the effects sugar has on us, our brain and our bodies for a looooooong time.   Then why is everyone gasping about this? Maybe they forgot about it.  Maybe they didn't want to believe it the first, or second, or third time they heard it.  Maybe they were somehow caught up in the 'fat is toxic' foolishness that is still being passed around.  Who knows. The point is, NOW people are paying least for a week or so.

Ripples from this segment have turned to 'added sugars' vs 'natural sugars'.  Pushing people to avoid the 'added sugars' and look for more 'natural sugars'.  That is all well and good, but it doesn't tell the whole story, or even the REAL story.  Yes, it is good to look at those things, but for goodness sake, don't stop there.

All carbohydrates are saccharides (sugars).  All carbohydrates must be converted to glucose (by our bodies) to be used for fuel or stored as fat. This means that all carbohydrate foods, even those that are sugar free must be converted to glucose for use or storage. Natural or not, the rate at which this happens affects a whole host of things including cravings, fat storage, insulin production, and other hormonal malfunctions. The faster this conversion takes place- the more it is like swallowing sugar straight. Natural or not.  Dump a large amount of sugar into your body and you will pay the price. Natural or not. You may remember reading about this in one of my earlier posts.   If not, I suggest you go back and read it now.  The glycemic index/glycemic load of foods and food products cannot be ignored.

What is my point with all of this? The point is that you CANNOT simply eye the Nutrition Facts, scan for grams of sugar and consume.  You CANNOT simply read the ingredient list, scan for 'added sugars' and consume. It is entirely possible to run across food items that will list zero grams of sugar in the Nutrition Facts and will not have any 'added sugars' listed in the ingredients list (rice cakes, cereals, bagels, breads, crackers etc)   This DOES NOT mean they are a wise food choice.  So while looking for added sugar is a great thing to do, you cannot stop there.  You'll have to do a bit more homework.

While I'm at it, I may as well give you this information too. Studies indicate that fructose consumption has been linked to the proliferation of various types of cancer including colon cancer.  Too much fructose, whether from high fructose corn syrup or from fruit is not a great idea. Natural or not. Thank you 60 Minutes for giving sugar the spotlight, but people you cannot stop there.

Put the Easter candy down and do some research.

Remind yourself of your goals

In the words of the great Don Smythe “if you are going to run marathons, you have to decide if you want to run them fast or run a lot of them”.  Those may not be his exact words, but his point is this: you cannot simultaneously run your best time AND run marathon after marathon after marathon.   You need to decide which is more important to you- to run a great time, or to run many marathons.  Don said he decided very early on in his running career what his plan was and he has been very successful- completing his 74th marathon just a few weeks ago.  His words echoed in my head today as I was out for one of the last few runs before the famed Boston Marathon. 

What did I want? Interesting thought to ponder.  My goals have evolved just as my running has.  When I started back into running my goals were simple- run a half marathon.  That was it.  I checked that off the list pretty quickly and was quite happy about it.  After being talked into running my first marathon my only goal was to survive the experience, to cross the finish line.  That was two and a half years ago and things have changed a bit since then.  With each step I was reminding myself of my current goals:

·      Enjoy Boston
·      Set a new PR
·      Run a marathon (or longer) in each of the 50 states
·      Run a 50 miler for my birthday(I’m sure this number will grow every yearJ )

Looking back over the last seven months recounting the events I have participated in, I kept reminding myself of Don’s words. In October there were the Triple Lakes 40 mile trail race and the Rocks 50 mile Relay exactly six days apart.  In November, the Savannah Rock N Roll Marathon and the St. Augustine half (actually 14 days apart).  In December, the Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon and then six days later the Jack’s 50k. January was rather quiet but then February brought with it the 26.2 with Donna Breast Cancer Marathon and seven days later the Five Points of Life Marathon. The goal for March was recovery and the Tobacco Road Marathon wasn’t a go until the last minute.  Seven races Marathon distance or longer in the last 6 months most of which were separated by a week or less and now here we are 8 days out from Boston, the first of the string of 3 in 3 weeks.

Writing it all out this way helps me to see that while I have wanted to hit a new PR I haven’t set myself up with a schedule that will allow me the best opportunity to do so.  I’m not one for giving up on my goals. I’d rather strategize better and see if I can hit them all!

So while three marathons in three weeks may not be the ideal time to aim for a PR, it is the ideal time to enjoy some fantastic runs.  I’ll run what I run and I will have a fabulous time.  As I said before my goal is to FEEL great.  Running the Boston Marathon is a dream come true.  How could it be anything less than fabulous? Besides, I haven’t run a marathon in Massachusetts so that knocks that state off for me.  The Big Sur and the Pittsburgh Marathon also move me toward my 50 states goal, as I haven’t run in either California or Pennsylvania.  After these races I’ll be 9 states in, with a total of 15 races of marathon distance or longer.

No, I’m not giving up on reaching a new PR.  I’m merely shifting my focus to working toward another of my goals.  That is the wonderful thing about having a few different goals.  You think you may have fallen off course until you step back, assess your path and realize that you are, in fact, still on track!!!  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

There is more to running than trying to beat the clock

I think I may have mentioned that I have three marathons coming up in the near future.  I may have failed to mention that I did, in fact, run a marathon last weekend.  If I am going to be totally honest, I didn't really leave it out, per se.  I actually wasn't sure if I was going to run it or not. It had been on my schedule since January, but based on the terrible experience I had at the Five Points of Life Marathon here in Gainesville, I wasn't sure I was ready to get back to a full 26.2 miles.  I was on the fence until the day before we were scheduled to leave.  I had scaled back my training- both in the gym and on the road.  My runs had finally started to feel normal again.  My heart rate was back where it should be and the effort level to maintain my regular pace was on track as well.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to chance anything.  After all my goal is to feel great while running Boston...and California..and Pittsburgh, but especially Boston.

I knew I would have a great time, after all we would be staying with Katie's family and they are absolutely amazing. Her dad, Don, is a member of the 50 States Marathon Club- meaning he has run a marathon or longer in each of the 50 states. He actually finished his 74th marathon today. Her mother, Bobbie, is an avid runner and both of her brothers (Matt and Brad) are ultra runners often running 50K, 50 mile and 100 mile races.  In fact, it was Katie's brother Matt that ran across the state of Florida back in January.  I accompanied Katie, her dad and Matt on this truly awe inspiring journey. So there was no doubt in my mind that the weekend would be amazing.  It was the marathon I wasn't so sure about.

Turns out the race went really well.  I started a bit slower than normal and planned on just taking it easy letting my body dictate the speed.  I felt stronger in the second half, actually felt like I was 'on', and picked up the pace just a little bit.  Should I? Should I hold back? I just wanted to finish the race still feeling great.  I went with it and in the end was still smiling and feeling great.  I collected my gear I found my way to where Bobbie and Jenny were standing.
"How did you feel?" were the first words out of Bobbie's mouth.
"I felt great", I said.
"Oh, I'm so glad" she said.

She couldn't be more glad than I was..or could she? A family of runners, dedicated distance runners knows what this sport is all about. Feeling good, finishing strong and enjoying those around you. Less experienced people or those who do not understand the true meaning of the sport may have asked "What was your time?" or "What was your pace?".   No, not this family.  "How did you feel?" THAT is the true measure of the race.  I would be lying if I said I didn't have a goal time in my mind.  I do.  I want to run my goal time AND feel great.  Running a decent time and feeling awful is NOT my idea of a good race.  Ever.  I consider this a much better race than some in which my clock time may have been faster.  You heard me right, this was slower than some of my previous races and I consider this race more of a victory!

You see, running is more about conquering yourself, your fears, and coming out on the other side feeling great and less about the time on the clock.  I'm looking forward to coming out on the other side of Copley Square smiling and feeling great and when you see me, ask me how I felt and not what my time was. Then no matter how new you are to the sport, you'll sound like a pro!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Marathon Madness

People ask me all the time why I run or what I think about while I am running, but very rarely do they ask what I was thinking when I decided to run. When I say 'decided to run' I am referring to a certain race..well, ok, maybe a certain FEW races..that happen to be located very near each other on the calendar.  Open virtually any instructional book on running and you will see the often repeated recommendation to run one marathon a year-- or maybe one very six months if you are crazy.  So why on earth would I decide to do 3, in 3 weeks? Well, why NOT??

I have run a marathon and a 50k (31.1 miles for those of you not too quick at converting) in the same week and that didn't turn out too bad.  I will admit that my last attempt at 2 marathons in 7 days did NOT go well.  I know it is not all to blame on this, but the weather for those races was ridiculous..the first was 30 degrees and 14+ mph winds and the second-SEVEN DAYS LATER (in the same state) was 70 degrees and 85% humidity with 20mph winds.  Talk about having your first humid Florida run happen in February during a marathon.  What are the odds??

So what DID make me want to do this.  You'd think I was crazy if I told you.  Nothing.  Really, it just worked out that way.  I know what you are thinking, most sane people would just say "I have a race planned already so I can't do the other one." Hmmmm, yeah, doesn't really work that way with us.  You see, we are Team Hot Legs and we are also Marathon Maniacs.  For real. I'm sure you all have seen Facebook postings about Team Hot Legs and our travels across the country for races. If there is a race and we're free..pretty much count us in.  At least one..or two of us.  That is just how it goes. And yes, Marathon Maniacs ..look it up. It is a REAL group.  We (Team Hot Legs) are not the only ones who do this sort of thing.  There are a whole bunch of people who find this sort of thing fun.  A challenge. A goal. Something to inspire us to take the next step, to (literally) go the extra mile. We just don't normally talk about it in public to people think we are nuts.

So back to how this all worked out..I reached one of my goals while running the New York Marathon back in 2010.  I qualified for BOSTON! Having grown up in Massachusetts, I was thrilled to have qualified to take part in such a icon of Boston history. Being a runner, qualifying for Boston is akin to finding the Holy Grail.  I was elated! Unfortunately I had qualified for the 2011 race after the race quota had been met. Meaning I would have to sit out the 2011 event.  Thankfully that race qualified me for 2012 as well.  In the meantime Team Hot Legs had been scheming to get as many of us as possible to head out to California to run Big Sur.  This race has views that are grander than its hills, or should I say cliffs.  How could I pass that up?  Especially if all of my BFFs would be there.  Couldn't let that happen.  Sign me up for Boston to Big Sur.  Yep, that is actually a real event.  Google it.  Those of us determined enough to run 2 marathons on 2 coasts inside 13 days. Thirteen days? Heck that's almost 2 weeks.  That is an eternity! (insert sarcasm)

Ok, so that's 2 marathons, where does the third one come in? Sometimes things just seem to fall into your lap almost as if the Universe is saying "here you go.." My travel schedule for GNC had me working the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 6th, seven days after Big Sur. Huh, why NOT just run it??  I'm going to be there anyway. Sign me up!

As I sit here writing this we are just over five weeks away from the Boston Marathon.  I am still working on getting myself back up to speed, literally and figuratively, after the miserable marathon showings I had in February.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and looking back I was definitely experiencing some signs of overtraining. Inability to sleep, not feeling like myself, impaired performance, elevated sub- max heart rate and decreased appetite.  I was looking at these things as if they were separate entities, not looking at what they were all pointing to.  THAT is what lead to the miserable showings.  No, the weather didn't help, but I wasn't paying attention.  As an athlete preparing for an event it is hard to slow down, to back off, to take a rest day.  Especially if we are the only ones gauging our progress or lack thereof.  We are so attuned to pushing through those rough days, calling on our inner drive to complete every last step that we miss the signs our bodies are sending.  Slow down for a minute and take are you feeling? Have you been sleeping well? Too much? Too little? Do you have a hard time falling asleep? Is your resting heart rate elevated? Does the same amount of work you had been doing now feel as if it takes an extraordinary effort? Is your heart rate abnormally elevated during your training? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions it may be time to back off a bit.  If you feel one of these things every now and then you may just be having an off day.  That is not the same as overtraining. The key is knowing the difference and adjusting accordingly.

If you are over training, what do you do?  What did I do?

  • First and foremost, back off on your intensity and get some rest.  I scaled my training volume back- on both my running and my weight training- took plenty of naps and went to bed as early as possible. 
  • Be sure your nutrition is on point. Taking in adequate calories as well as high quality protein sources to help your muscles recover.  My diet tends to be pretty good. Throwing in a few extra servings of Glutamine and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) really helped.
  • Reduce stress in other areas of your life.  All too often we look at overtraining as the inability to recover from the stress of our training when in fact we forget about the REST of the stress we have to recover from: the stress that we encounter each and every day.  Scaling back on training and failure to address other stressors may lead to a short respite and then an eventual return to overtraining-land.

After a few weeks of scaling things back I am feeling much better.  My body is back to responding in its normal way to the stimuli it encounters.  Beautiful signs as far as I am concerned.  Now is the time for caution. Jumping back to full scale too soon will leave me pahkin tha ca in Havahad yahd instead of cruising the streets of Hopkinton, Ashland and Framingham.  I would end up shopping in Copley Plaza instead of running through Copley Square. Not me, I'm smarter than that.  Besides I have 3 marathons to run!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cowboy up!

It seems that quite often my husband and I will have conversations about people that just can't seem to 'Cowboy up'.  You know, just gut it out.  Be hard core.  Suck it up.  Focus and 'just do it' as Nike says.  It doesn't matter what the situation is. It could be at home, at work, at the gym.  Dealing with health, finances, whatever, it applies to all situations.  Why is this? Why are some people able to Cowboy up and others are not? How do you change this?

Every time we talk about this, it seems as if we come back to the discussion about sports.  Almost any sport, but most definitely bodybuilding. Some would argue that bodybuilding isn't a sport, but bear with me here. Most sports require a certain level of dedication to training.  That training at times may be intense.  It may require you to push yourself to the limit.  To the limit you have in your head..and then push a little bit further.  You see, the limit is the exact place that you think you need to stop.  Where you THINK you cannot take another step, push any more weight, run any faster or jump any higher.  But you CAN.  You just proved you could.  You dug deeper. When you faced the challenge you didn't give up, you pushed further.  You conquered the challenge. You didn't stop and cower or run away.  You did it.  That is what I mean by 'Cowboy up'.  Sports teach us how to do that.

What happens if you didn't play sports and you didn't ever face that challenge? Maybe you faced the challenge but just tucked tail and ran?  Chances are you probably fold in the face of adversity.  Let the challenge run you into the ground.  Give up.  Roll over and die.

My history in the bodybuilding world is no secret.  I competed for 15 years in fitness and figure competitions as an amateur and a professional.  My husband competed for years in bodybuilding competitions.  For those of you that have never done this or for those of you that have..but only gave half-hearted attempts, you have no idea what you missed.  This is a sport like no other.  It requires a selfishness of sorts, because YOU are the only one that can do it.  No one can help you.  Sure people can tell you what to do- what to eat how to train, how to pose, but YOU are the only one that can do it.  YOU have to do all of the training. YOU have to do all of the dieting. YOU have to do all of the posing.  You have to do it every day.  This isn't like golf or football or any other sport where you practice a few hours a day and then go drink beer, eat burgers and sleep until noon the next day. This is 100% dedication, 24 hours a day.  No matter what.  You have to do it when you are tired, hungry and cranky. You have to do it during the week while you are at work and on the weekends when you are not.  You do it while you are on vacation, on your birthday and Christmas and New Year's too.  There is no rest, there is no off day.  There are no excuses. You Cowboy up.

So for anyone trying to figure out how to take that next step, to figure out how to Cowboy up. How to dedicate yourself fully to something. How to just suck it up and do whatever it takes to reach your goal, I suggest doing a bodybuilding show.  Heck do a few.  I promise you that you will learn more than you ever thought you could..about yourself, about nutrition, about training, about commitment .  You will redefine what you thought was possible.  You will effect changes in yourself, both physically and mentally that no other process can match. It isn't all glamourous, it isn't easy and a lot of times it isn't even fun.  But it IS worth it.  I have learned things over the years that I otherwise never would have learned. The commitment and dedication necessary to survive in the bodybuilding world carries over into all aspects of life. Healthy eating, proper training, but most of all how to Cowboy up.