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. Papa Runner 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.