Sunday, January 5, 2014

Eating Paleo as an Endurance Runner

Run like a Caveman
Before I started eating Paleo, I had a laundry list of minor health complaints similar to what everyone else complained about, and I thought that's just the way it is. Since making the change, I feel SO MUCH BETTER. More energy, easier cycles, steadier mood, better digestion. Most importantly, my autoimmune symptoms are almost completely gone. And as an added bonus, I've lost 33 pounds. It's also affected my running for the better.

I made the switch June 2, so I've now been about 95% Paleo for seven months. The other 5% is the occasional cheat, eating out, and things like family reunions and church potlucks. Even on those occasions, I try to stay within the guidelines as much as possible but don't worry too much about eating a slice of Great Grandma's famous peach pie. And yes, my body does let me know it isn't happy when I do that, which just reinforces that I'm on the right path.

I did have to make some adjustments to the plan because I'm an endurance runner. I need carbs for energy. I used to carb load on things like pasta, rice, and white potatoes. I've given all of those up. Instead, I eat a lot of sweet potatoes, squash, and tapioca. These are carb-heavy veggies, great for children and athletes. They may not be the best choice for someone who is less active and trying to lose weight, but they're essential for me. I also eat a lot of fruit. The natural sugars are great for energy, and they come with the bonus of good, solid nutrition, as compared to cookies and candies. Lastly, I generously salt my food. I didn't realize how much salt I got from processed food, and when I started making everything from scratch I wasn't getting enough sodium. Once I realized this and started adding salt to everything, I felt a lot better.

I used to carry Jelly Belly sports beans and drink Gatorade/Powerade on runs. I had no idea how much high fructose corn syrup are in those things, not to mention the food dyes! I replaced the sports beans with dried cranberries. I make my own sports drink by chopping up a lemon to throw in my Camelback, add a teaspoon of salt, fill with water and shake. I add water as needed, and carry a salt packet to add on longer runs (16+ miles).

And what has been the result? Previously, even after 5 years of running, I felt like I was doing well if I could average 13:30/mile. Now I regularly run 12 minutes/mile on longer runs and recently had a personal-best single mile of 8:51! I've set PRs in both the half by 17 minutes and the full (race report coming soon) by 18 minutes, and expect to set another PR in my next marathon in two weeks. After that race, I plan to increase my running interval even more and hope to finish marathon #6 with an average pace around 11 minutes/mile.

I originally planned to give this eating style an 8 week trial. I now plan to stay strict with it for at least 3 years. At some point, I may experiment with adding small amounts of gluten free grains and raw dairy in, but I want to give my body time to heal first.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Race Report: We Care Half Marathon

My Dad and me. Isn't he awesome?
On September 28, I did the We Care Twin Cities Half Marathon. This was the second year for the local-to-me race. My husband ran it last year, while I helped at a water stop. This year I trained really hard to improve my speed. My previous best half marathon time was 2:40:36. I set what I thought was an ambitious goal of finishing in under 2:30, with intervals of 2 minutes running and 2 minutes walking.

A fun part of running a local race is meeting people I see in training every week but don't really know. A man came up to me at the Expo and said, "Hey, you're Run Like a Mother!" in reference to my favorite running shirt. Yep, known by my t-shirt, and now known by name. I connected a few more faces to names volunteering on the Expo clean up crew.

Race day was beautiful with nearly perfect weather conditions for a fast run. The course is pretty flat and happens to include much of the route I run for training most weeks. I went into it feeling strong and confident. I was also pretty excited about seeing so many people I know along the course. A lot of my team mates were either running or spectating.

I finished the first mile in 10:40, which was faster than I had planned. I was a little worried that I'd set too fast a pace and wouldn't be able to maintain. I kept telling myself, "Settle into your pace. Let your body lead." Turns out the pace I settled into was just under 11 minutes/mile. As I turned the final corner and broke into a sprint, I saw the clock count up to 2:23. I never turn my watch off immediately on the finish line, so I wasn't sure if I was over or under until I checked the official time: 2:22:59.5! I didn't even know they measured to the half second, but I'll take it! I was 7 minutes faster than my "ambitious" goal and more than 17 minutes faster than my previous best. A wonderful day!

My dad, who also runs half marathons, finished two minutes ahead of me. He thinks that's the last time he'll beat me. :) I think he should do his first Full.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Catch Up Post 2: Summer Training

As I mentioned in a previous post, I downloaded a running app that I just LOVE. I decided to download the 5k companion app this summer. Now, I'm an experienced marathoner. I don't need a couch to 5k training program. But after letting my speed, such as it was, slack off while training for Goofy, I wanted to focus on the running portion of my intervals. I like being an interval runner, I don't really want to be an all-runner, but I did want to run longer and faster within my interval routine. I thought this would be a good chance both to add to my Zombie fun and to work on my speed.

The storyline of this app takes place between the first and second missions of "Zombies, Run!" While not critical to the story as a whole, it does add some nice details to round it out. It was fun to learn more about the background of various characters.

The training program was thorough and could be easily adjusted depending on your ability. When I started it, I was only running a quarter mile at a time (I'd run an occasional mile during my years of running, but I really like my intervals). By the end of the program, I could run a full 5 miles without a walk break! Since then, I've worked my way up to 10 miles of all-running!

My only complaint with the app is that the last mission, the 5k run, is based on time, not actual distance. I'd gotten so fast (for me, anyway), I ended up going almost twice as far. If I'd been running an actual race instead of just through the neighborhood, I'd have had a lot of story left at the end.

I still love my intervals and use them on longer runs, but many of my shorter runs are now all running. And even on interval runs, my overall speed has improved a LOT. More on that in my next race report.

Catch Up Post 1: Race Report

This poor blog has gotten a bit neglected. I wanted to post a race report for my October race, only to realize I never did one for my April race! And I also wanted to update about my summer training, a couple more bra reviews, and being studied. I'll probably have a flurry of posts, and then nothing for months again. ;)

So without further ado, here's my (short) report. On April 26, I ran the Illinois Christie Clinic Half Marathon for the third year in a row. After focusing on endurance for the Goofy Challenge in January, I'd slacked off on speed a lot. In the months between, I worked on building my speed back up and was hopeful of setting a PR. Unfortunately, I tripped on the stairs a few days before this race and badly bruised two toes. It was a minor setback, though, and I was still able to run.

This year, my awesome hubby stayed home with the kids and let me go with my sister, Amy. My dad was also running, so Amy and Mom went around together to see us in several places. It was fun seeing them in the crowd. I ended up finishing with a time of 2:49:08, my (at the time) second best finish despite my injury. In fact my three best times (at the time) all came at this race. I love the course! Next April, I hope to do a full there, too.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bra Review III: Shock Absorber

It doesn't look like this on me...
Over a year since my last bra review, I'm finally getting around to number 3: The Shock Absorber.

I asked my running friends for recommendations, and this was one that came up. It's a compression bra with racer back. I ordered it online and waited with great anticipation. 

First the pros. It's made with cooling fabric (big plus for me!) and comes in real sizes. It does have a short length of adjustable strap in the back to customize the fit. It is very supportive with little bounce. I've had it over a year and it's held up well.

Now for the cons. When I tried it on for the first time, I found I had a cleavage bubble popping out in front and extra rolls of "fat" under the arms. It didn't hold everything in. I thought I had gotten the wrong size (UK cup sizing vs my usual European or American) so I exchanged it for a bigger cup. I had the same problem with the bigger size! I realized it isn't the size that's the problem, it's the cut. It's a compression bra that isn't *quite* full coverage. It compresses the tissue right up over the top and out the sides. Not only does this make for a weird silhouette under my shirt, the extra "fat rolls" get chafed if I don't remember to lube them up. This might just be a problem with the particular style I got, but since it's the one recommended for curvy ladies, it's strange that it wouldn't actually have enough coverage for all the curves.

I give this bra a C+. I do love how supportive and cool it is, but I just can't get past the overflow problem. I don't let it go to waste, of course. This is my go-to bra for speed workouts or stair training where I change pace a lot, get really hot, and have high bounce potential.

Note: I received no compensation for this review. This is just my experience and opinion. If you've tried this bra, feel free to share yours in the comments.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Major Lifestyle Change

I recently started following a Paleo eating plan. How I came to this decision is kind of a long story probably no one cares about, so I'll skip it. I also won't go into too much detail about how to go about following it, because I'm still very new to it and would hate to give wrong information. If you want to know more about the diet, I suggest starting here and here. I did want to share about my results so far.

I am 99.9% sure I have an autoimmune disease called Primary Raynaud's Disease. I've never been formally diagnosed, but I have all the symptoms plus a family history. Basically, my body attacks the nerves connected to small blood vessels. When these damaged nerves are exposed to cold, the blood vessels spasm and pinch off. It's very painful. I have extensive nerve damage all over my body from this. I'm 99.9% sure I had an active attack over the winter, because it got a lot worse. The biggest reason I wanted to try this eating plan is because it eliminates foods that can cause inflammation, thus helping with autoimmune symptoms.

Today is day 33. I want to be very honest about this first part: The first three weeks were horrible. Your body detoxes from all of the junk you've been eating over the years. These toxins are stored in fat tissue, and when you no longer take in new junk, the old junk pours into your blood stream so it can be processed. I had headaches, fatigue, stomach issues, muscle aches, mood swings, it was ROUGH. BUT if you can tough it out through this phase, you come out feeling pretty great. (Also, the fat that was storing all these toxins is no longer needed, and the weight often comes off quickly. I lost 7lb the first week and am down a total of 12lb over 4.5 weeks. This was not my primary purpose, but it's a great side benefit!)

I committed to following the diet for two months to give it a try, and then would reevaluate. I'm already seeing fantastic results. This past Saturday, hubby and I were at the Empire State Building at sunset. Once the sun went down, it got cool quickly what with the height and the breeze.

He asked me if I was cold.
"No, I'm not cold."
 He gave me a look and said, "Are you sure, because I'm cold and if I'm cold, you're freezing."
"No, I'm really not cold."
He reached out and touched my arm and said, "Hon, you're freezing."

And that's when I realized, I was cold. But I wasn't in pain! This is the first time in probably 20 years I've been cold without also being in pain. I am rather shocked by this. I was just hoping to prevent any further nerve damage. I didn't really expect the old damage to reverse, and certainly not after only 4 weeks. So I have to say, I'm pretty sold on this eating plan. I'm not completely healed, though. On our way home, we were in an airport restaurant that was really cold. After about 30 minutes, I had spasms in my fingers and feet. But this is still a huge improvement; normally it would have happened in less than 5 minutes.

I'm still working out the kinks of this plan, especially with regard to endurance running. Since I'm not carb loading, I don't seem to have as much energy for long runs. I'm trying to get more sweet potato and squash into my diet on my running days. I also used to run with sports beans and sports drinks, both of which are now off limit. I've replaced the beans with dried fruit and nuts and the drink with fruit infused water with a little salt added, and that seems to do the trick for me. Overall, though, I think I can stick with this long term.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Zombies, Run!

It's been a while since I posted. Thought it was time to review my new favorite running app for iPhone and iPod, "Zombies, Run!" I heard about it from a fellow runner in the start corrals at Disney, and I knew immediately it was the perfect app for me.

This app combines a number of fun factors. First, it's a sci-fi story of the Zombie Apocalypse. The program alternates Orson Welles-style story segments with songs from your chosen play list. Just load the story, pop on your headphones, and start running. The first mission begins a couple months into the end of the world as you fly into a survivor camp in a helicopter. You are shot down in the middle of zombie territory and must run to the camp, guided by the voice on the radio. Once safely inside, you're given the position of Runner 5. Other missions include picking up supplies, warning people of an impending attack, and discovering what caused the disaster. I'm about half way through Season One, and Season Two was just released this week. This is a great motivator to go out for another run so you can find out what happens next.

Second, it's an interval training program using an optional chase mode. When turned on, about once a mile you will hear, "Zombies approaching," followed by beeping to let you know how close they are. You need to run 20% faster for one minute to evade the zombies. I'm already an interval runner, so this is great for me. I don't usually use it on long runs, though, since I don't want to burn too much energy at once, but I love it for short runs.

There's also a couch-to-5k style companion app. It's not crucial to the story, but it does add some supplemental detail as well as give a good 8-week training for beginner runners. I haven't used it, being a more experienced runner, but I may just to try it out for fun.

Third, it's a Farmville-style game. As you run, the game will pick up supplies like batteries, canned food, and ammunition  When you get back home, you can distribute your supplies to build up your survivor camp, deciding if you need to prioritize the hospital, armory, or housing first.

On top of that, it tracks your stats so you can see how well you're doing with your training. I just love it! And  to make things extra-epic, I made my playlist the soundtrack to several big adventure movies: Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars. There's just nothing like hearing Sam say, "Watch out for zombies on your left," followed by Darth Vader's Theme, The Ride of the Rohirrim, or the March of the Dead Pirates.