Improvement Season: Nutrition

Even though my season isn’t over yet, I had already begun to mentally transition to improvement season: the time of year when the snow flies and the roads get covered in ice and all you can do is hope to hang on to fitness til Spring. I like to use this time to build new habits or break bad ones so that when a training cycle starts, I just have to focus on the training.

My nutrition has never been a major concern but it’s never been a huge strength either. Although I like food, I’m not a foodie and tend to eat the same foods every day. I also have a couple of food allergies (peanuts and shellfish) that limit me. In the past few years, I’ve started to increase the amount of protein and fat that I eat and focused on quality of carbohydrates rather than quantity. This has helped me not be starving all the time

When I met with Kim Evans earlier this fall, we took a look at my diet based on a week of food logging and she concluded a few things.

  1. I wasn’t eating enough for my level of activity and the pattern of my eating left me in a catabolic (breakdown) predominant pattern rather than anabolic or balanced pattern.
  2. I was eating about 50% carbohydrates which is fine for a normal person, but relatively low for an endurance athlete
  3. My diet didn’t meet my needs for many of the major vitamins and minerals

Kim is an athlete too and was really good about recognizing that the middle of a training cycle isn’t the time to make huge changes to diet. I amped up my calories, tried to eat more carbohydrates and added in some power foods daily (sweet potatoes, mangos, dates and quinoa). Unfortunately, the additional carbohydrates didn’t sit well in my stomach so I had to hold on that after a few disastrous long runs with sprints to a porto-potty. I did go back to my old lunch plan of grain + protein + veggie, which worked out really well.

Now that I can tweak things, here’s my general eating plan for the coming months. It won’t be possible to eat my lunch bowls while I’m on surgery (it’s more grab what you can, when you can), but I am planning on Food Prep Sundays so that at least the rest of my meals can be good.

Breakfast: Coffee + creamer, Baked Oatmeal Protein Bar topped with Sunbutter, piece of fruit (I have been doing a cinnamon raisin bagel with Sunbutter but want more nutrition so am trying out baked oatmeal. Here’s the recipe I’m trying this week. The next improvement is to get rid of the fake creamer in my coffee. Gross, I know.)

Mid-Morning Snack: Almonds + dates + second coffee (Right now, I’m eating Toasted Coconut Almonds but would like to wean myself back to natural or at least just salted.)

Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich + piece of fruit + Oats & Honey granola bar (Once Surgery is over, I’ll go back to my rice bowls).

Afternoon Snack: Pretzels + string cheese + guacamole (The 100 cal packs fit perfectly in my white coat pocket. I’m the human squirrel in the hospital, I swear).

Dinner: Big Bowl o’ Nutrition! Grain (quinoa, rice, farrow or sweet potato) + protein (tofu, steak, chicken or pork) + bag of steamed veggies (usually broccoli) + sauce (barbecue, teriyaki, buffalo, italian) Once Will is back from Norwalk and I’m done with Surgery, we’ll go back to making more diverse dinners together. I don’t mind eating the same thing every day, but he definitely does!

Supplements: Liquid Ferrous Gluconate (20 mL = 20 mg elemental iron), Women’s Gummi Multivitamin, Vitamin D, Fish Oil, Methyl Factors

What are your go-to meals? Have you worked with a sports dietitian before?

Race Report: Philadelphia Half Marathon 2015

Short Story: 1:22:25 for 24th place.

First, apologies for a bit of a bummer post. To me, it’s more valuable to be honest about disappointments than gloss over them. As another runner said to me in the Elite Tent yesterday, we often learn more from our failures than our great moments.

Second, it’s always a little touchy to complain about a time that many people would love to run, so please know that it’s not my intent to be ungrateful for the time, it’s just that it is far below what I expected for myself given my training and fitness.

Philly Bib 2015

I’ll get to the positives at the end, but unfortunately, this race was one of those where you just never feel good. I slept relatively well on Saturday night, waking up just twice at midnight and at 4 am. When the alarm went off at 5, I felt rested and ready. In hindsight, perhaps I was TOO calm. I ate my bagel and sunbutter and drank a cup of coffee while I put contacts in and got dressed. I left the hotel by 5:30 and walked to the start. It was oddly warm out but the wind was already blowing pretty well. I tried to stay positive and hoped that it would mellow with the sunrise. Security was relatively seamless and I got to the Elite Tent a little after 6. Headed out to jog at 6:15 and felt okay, but not great. Striders, however, felt totally fine so I figured things would snap together.

At 6:50, they asked us to walk from the elite tent to the start so we did. The wind was blowing and it was much cooler without warmups on. 7 o’clock clicked by with no wheel start. Then 7:05. Then 7:10. Finally at 7:13, they sent the wheels and at 7:15, we were off. Needless to say, any benefit of a warmup was gone and I was happy to just not trip over the starting line. From mile 1, I felt clunky and stiff. I tried to stay calm and hoped I would warm up. I went through the mile at 6:10, a little slower than I hoped, but not an insurmountable deficit.

By the time we reached mile 3, however, it was pretty clear that it wasn’t going to be a banner day. The wind was very strong at times, from seemingly all directions, and it was hard to find or hold a pace. Beyond this, my legs just felt punky. I found myself counting the miles very early which is never a good sign. I didn’t feel like I had gone out too fast, I just couldn’t move my legs. At mile 6, I saw my girls (more on that later!!) and had a few moments of feeling good so tried to capitalize on the moment. In fact, I went through the 10K in 38:24, which is a small 10K PR. By mile 7, however, the wheels were off. The 2:43 pace group for the full went by me, I had a shitty water stop (my fault, I didn’t really need it but thought maybe a gel would help) and I was flailing through the hills. Of note, I don’t think the pace group was running the right pace and I’m pretty certain they lost everyone by the end. When I ran Philly in 2012, I barely remember any hills. Today, it felt like mile 7.5 to mile 9.5 was ALL hills. I saw Erin just before 8 and gave her a thumbs down. At that point, I was just hoping for a PR.

The good news is, I never really crashed, I just couldn’t pick it up at all. I never needed to use one of my faster breathing patterns because I couldn’t turn my legs over fast enough. Even at mile 12 when I KNEW I needed to push, I just kept plodding along. When I rounded the corner and saw 1:22, it was all I could do to not burst into tears. I crossed the finish line and made my way back to the Elite Tent, just stunned at how badly things had gone. I think I would have liked to have cried, just to get some of the hurt out, but I honestly felt too shocked to do so.

The run didn’t feel like much more than a workout, so there may be hope to use the fitness for another race soon. I can’t discount the effect of the wind either; at race time, it was a steady 15 miles per hour with gusts up to 25 miles per hour. Even a modest adjustment for a 5 mph headwind predicts a 1:18 without wind. This is very, very, VERY little solace but at least I feel like it wasn’t all on me. The start delay didn’t help me at all either. Looking back, I wish I’d decided to run the first two miles much slower to warm back up. Ultimately, I don’t think it would have cost me a lot of time and I might have actually been able to make some gear changes.

On the great side, my girls team came down to Philly to surprise me. I was sitting in my hotel on Saturday (in my robe, having just showered) when the front desk called to see if I would take a package. I didn’t know who would send me something but thought maybe Will sent flowers. Imagine my surprise when I opened my door to see my girls!! They had been planning it all season and I had NO idea. They came equipped with giant pictures of me, tinsel and all their screaming voices. I will never, ever be able to articulate how amazing that gesture was but they saved the weekend for me. It would have been very easy to mope for the rest of Sunday but having them there made me realize I have to practice what I always preach to them about moving on from rough races.

I'll never be able to explain to them how much this meant to me.

I’ll never be able to explain to them how much this meant to me.

It’s similarly hard to articulate what I’m feeling right now. Devastated, heartbroken and humiliated all come to mind. I know that one race doesn’t define anyone but I don’t know when I’ll get the opportunity to give it my all again. That’s the risk with taking a big chance! You might not get the result you want and when you put it out there and are vulnerable, failure stings that much more. As my sister said when I was pathetically texting her, it’s just going to be raw for a few days. And as the much more brilliant Lindsey said, some days you just don’t have the magic.

For the next week or so, I’ll just take it easy, run when I want and try to figure out what went wrong, what I can do to salvage the cycle and where I want to go from here. If anyone knows a great December half marathon, I’m all ears!

Recently Read: Orthorexia, Gender Equality and Mental Toughness

Although I have a lot of articles bookmarked this week, I don’t have anything bookmarked about the ongoing doping scandal or the provisional suspension of Russia by the IAAF. I have plenty of thoughts about it, but I haven’t found a way to put them into words that doesn’t just devolve into screaming. I imagine I’m not alone in this. For so many of us, running is pure and simple and scandals like the Nike/Salazar issue and like the systemic doping uncovered in Russia taint everything. It’s hard to look at the success of a runner now and not wonder “Is she doping?”

Orthorexia is an issue with which I’m highly concerned, especially with the proliferation of running and healthy lifestyle blogs. I’ve written about it before but was happy to see this article about the issue. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for healthy eating and fueling the body with real food, but not at the expense of balance or the development of an obsession.

We had QUITE the spirited debate in our house the other night about the issue of equality in running last Friday. With others, Kasie Enman has started a campaign to improve equality in distance running and nordic skiing. At the core of the issue are two facts: 1) teams are not always the same size and 2) distances are often shorter for women. On the first point, I’m in 100% agreement that the teams should be the same size. I cannot fathom why they are not besides some old argument that men are inherently more interesting to watch race than women. On the second, however, I disagree with Kasie and others who are calling for equal race distances and fall more in line with Lauren Fleshman’s view. Injury and eating disorders are extremely prevalent at the college level (in men too, see my sub-point in a moment) and that only goes from 5K to 6K for women. If women had to go from 5K to 8K over the course of the summer, the mileage required and the increase in workout length would increase injuries enormously. From another perspective, it would make developing college level talent difficult on high school coaches and recruiting a nightmare for college coaches. The athlete who is successful at the 5K may not have the ability to stretch out to the 8K. Furthermore, the athlete who excels at the 8K in cross country may not have the cross over to also be your middle distance runner in track. Joe’s perspective on the issue is that there isn’t a compelling reason NOT to have them be the same distance and Alex Hutchinson at Sweat Science agrees. Joe said it “sucked for guys to jump in distance, so why not have everyone do it.” While I don’t agree with spreading the misery just for the sake of fairness, perhaps there’s another way to achieve equality. Why not bring everyone down to the 6K?

Speaking of equality, I loved this YouTube video that kicks off the #covertheathlete campaign.

A great clip with Jenny Simpson about being calm at the starting line. As an athlete and coach, I’m always interested in tactics for race day zen and I loved her quote that This is home. It reminds me of the wisdom my captains brought to the team before the State Meet, gleaned from their leadership class: “Same race, different day.”

Finally, an article shared by my friend Annie who played lacrosse for UVM and still satisfies her need for competition by randomly showing up and running marathons about preparing for the end of a competitive career.

(No) Looking Back

When I was learning to drive, my dad took me to this hilly old cemetery in town to teach me how to back up. Petrified, I asked “But what if I hit one?!” “Then you’ll pay for it.” I proceeded to creep backwards but kept my eyes forward, which prompted my dad to give me some of the best life advice ever:

Look where you’re going, not where you’ve been. 

I’m not sure he said it to be prolific. In fact, I’m quite sure he just wanted me to use my rear view mirror but nonetheless, it’s important life advice. Taper week brings up a lot of self-doubt and a strong desire to look back. I want to look over my last Philly cycle, to see if there’s a crystal ball that will tell me what might happen on Sunday. Will has forbidden this particular activity so I’m stuck looking at the current cycle, which I think is a more productive exercise. I’ve done a lot of work. I’ve run a lot of miles. Not all of my workouts have been great, but I’m fit and not injured and most of the time, that’s all you can ask for. So without further delay, here are the workouts I’ve done in Phases 3 and 4 this year.

  • 16 by 400
  • 15.5 mile long run
  • 5 by mile at tempo
  • 8 by 800
  • 16 mile long run
  • 6 by 1000
  • 2 by 2 mile at T pace
  • Downtown 10K in 38:33
  • 17 miles with 6 at M pace
  • 16 by 400
  • 3 mile continuous tempo
  • 5 by 1K
  • 15 mile long run
  • 3 by 2 mile at T pace
  • 6 by 800
  • 18.2 mile long run
  • 5 by 1 mile at T pace plus 4 by 400 at R pace
  • 4 by 1200
  • 13.6 mile long run
  • 5 by 1000 plus 4 by 200
  • 15 miles with 8 at steady state pace
  • 14 by 400
  • 16.5 miles with 5 by 1 mile at T and 5 by 200 at R
  • 6 by 800 plus 4 by 200
  • 14 mile long run
  • 5 by mile at Tempo plus 5 by 200 at R
  • 3 by 1K plus 5 by 200
  • 3 by 1200 at T pace plus 4 by 200 at R

With that last workout done today, nothing left to do but stay calm and rest up until Saturday!

Do you look over your training cycle to gain confidence or does it just make you more nervous?


Week in Review 11.9.15 to 11.15.15 and Goals for Philly

Taper begins…

Monday: 9.2 miles at practice.

Tuesday: 5 by mile at T pace (6:00, 6:08, 6:08, 6:06, 6:02) and 5 by 200 at R pace. Felt pretty clunky but once I focused on cadence, everything felt better. Legs afterward.

Wednesday: True beginning of taper with an off day, prorated at 5.4 miles. Drills and arms.

Thursday: 6.3 miles easy with striders on the track. Calves very sore.

Friday: Me versus the wind. Again. 3 by 1K (5:38 pace) plus 5 by 200 at R pace. Felt clunky again but got it done. 2 times through leg circuit after.

Saturday: Ran 2.5 with the girls at New Englands (they kicked butt!!!) and then did 3 easy with Will when I got home.

Sunday: 8.1 mile “long” run with 8 striders on the track. 1 set of arms after.

Total: 50.2 miles

The start of taper is always met with such mixed emotions. On the one hand, it’s nice to know that you are done with all the hard work. On the other, you instantly begin to think about all the things you should have done or could have fit in. Things haven’t been too bad thus far because I’m actually pretty sore (I’m hoping from the 200s) and happy to have the easier days.

I also spent most of last week harassing Will about what he thought I could run. Not trying to sell myself short, but the 1:15 just seems out of grasp given the way my fall went. I’m not disappointed in this training cycle but definitely could have used the 6 weeks I spent feeling awful in August/September! I’m a huge fan of A, B and C goals so here are mine:

C Goal: PR (under 1:21:45). I’ll be honest that I’d be very disappointed if I couldn’t better this time, excluding crazy weather which we aren’t forecast to have.

B Goal: Break 1:20. This is essentially where most of my race plan is focused. 1:20 is a big mental barrier for me but also a major entry point into many of the top level races that I’d like to be a part of going forward.

A Goal: 1:18:30. Just under 6 minute pace, this would be a great run for me.

Race Plan: I’m not planning on wearing a watch and will approach Philly much like I did the first time: ease into the first 2 miles, steady state effort til 6, tempo effort til 10 then send it for the last 5K. One adaptation to this may be that I connect with a group of women going for the Trials Standard in the full, who I imagine would go out right around 1:20 pace. It’s far easier to pull along with a group, so if the opportunity presents itself somewhere between 5:55 and 6:05 pace, I’ll be trying to chug along with them to pass some miles. The other adaptation will depend on how I feel in this final week; if my tempo miles tomorrow start to show taper pop and I’m down around 5:50, I’ll have a little more confidence to go out at 6 minute pace and hold it, rather than accelerating through the race.


Week in Review 11.2.15 to 11.8.15

Back from an awesome weekend in DC. Somehow our little group of friends has turned into a big group of families. We had 15 adults, 2 teenagers and 5 kiddos under 3 in the very grown up house of the newest married couple in the group, the night ended at 6 pm and the only person who ended the night without pants on was a 3 year old. The times, they are a changing!

Monday: 16.5 mile run with workout embedded. 5 by 1 mile at T pace (6:09, 6:09, 6:07, 6:09, 6:11) and 5 by 200 at 34 seconds followed by enough running to make it to 2 hours and 10 minutes. Legs afterward.

Tuesday: 7 mile recovery run plus reffing XC lacrosse.

Wednesday: 8 miles on the complex plus striders.

Thursday: The first meh workout in a while. 6 by 800 (2:48, 2:52, 2:54, 2:56, 2:51, 2:53) plus 4 by 200. 10 miles total. Legs afterward.

Friday: 14.2 mile long run before the flight to DC.

Saturday: 5.25 mile recovery run with KC and Emmy! Super humid.

Sunday: 8.2 mile run on surprisingly hilly roads near KC’s new house. Legs pretty wiped but presumably poor sleep for two nights didn’t help.

Total Miles: 69.1 

Not my most focused week. During my workout on Monday, I kept finding myself thinking about something else only to realize I was in the middle of a tempo mile. On Thursday, I just couldn’t get my effort right and my legs felt exhausted from the first step. I don’t know if I was just not recovered from Monday or if I’m starting to get antsy for taper, but this week felt scattered. I’m glad I got the mileage in that I did but I’m hoping this coming week brings a little more focus.

Taper starts midweek, so I’m looking forward to all the crazy that goes along with that! I’ve already been bugging Will about what time he thinks I can run and how he thinks I should approach the race. More on that later this week…

Recently Read: Sportsmanship (?) and the real purpose of coaching

In the last few years, there have been some high profile “assists” at the end of races, including last year’s Division I championships. The debate over these assists reignited when an Iowa runner was disqualified for helping another runner across the line long after he had finished. The runner was not his teammate. Twitter exploded with arguments that it was sportsmanship, while others argued that it was unnecessary. Honestly, I don’t know where I stand on this. As a coach, I would never help my athlete across the line. There are medical professionals there and as happened this weekend, when one of my athletes crossed the line and collapsed, she was scooped up by the officials in the finishing area and I met her in the medical tent. Also as a coach, I’d be pretty upset if one of my runners stopped or slowed her own race to assist another athlete in the last hundred meters of a course or if she ran out of the finishing chute to help someone. Way out on the course? I’d leave it up to her to use her discretion. If someone is in significant danger, no race finish is more important. And neither is a DQ. My impression, however, is that most of these scenarios are athletes who are just bonking. We’ve all been there or at least close. Crawl in, recover and figure out how to race smarter in the future.

What do you think about this? Do you see the proliferation of these assists as an example of sportsmanship? Do you think the Iowa runner should have been disqualified?

My Athletic Director shared this article last week and I thought it just hit the nail on the head 100%. Running is a little different than other sports because in fact, many girls will go on to run as a hobby even if they hang up their spikes. I have never coached with the idea that winning is everything. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I have minimal respect for high burnout (but high win count) programs like Fayetteville Manlius or even programs in the state of Vermont. As I said to an athlete today, when we all back up, the State Meet doesn’t matter. What matters is that we learned to work as a team, to support and push one another and appreciated all the amazing things our bodies can do.

Does this dad/coach nail it? What do you think about the part where he talks about knowing his child could handle the disappointment of missing a penalty kick?

Week in Review 10.26.15 to 11.1.15

Monday am: 15 miles with 8 at marathon pace. Ended up being 6:23 pace, so I was psyched with the effort.

Monday pm: Drills, 1 mile warmup then legs in the weight room.

Tuesday: 6.5 mile recovery run.

Wednesday am: 9 mile recovery run in what turned out to be miserable weather.

Wednesday pm: Drills, 1 mile warmup then striders.

Thursday: 400s on the track. Given the crazy wind on the home stretch, rotated start points around the track. Goal was 85, result was pretty dependent on Mother Nature. 84, 83, 84, 83, 82, 85, 82, 83, 85, 84, 85, 85, 86, 85. Legs felt totally awesome but it was admittedly frustrating in the wind. Legs afterward.

Friday: Unplanned rest day (I planned to take it on Saturday) courtesy of the dogs, who accidentally knocked me down in the driveway. Knocked the wind right out of me and banged me up pretty good but after laying there for a few minutes panicking that they had broken my leg, I determined that I was mostly okay.

Saturday: 4 miles in the early morning before we headed out then another 4 around the States Course. Amazing day for us, with some great teamwork and some stellar individual performances too. We beat Burlington by 1 point to qualify for the New England Championships, which was our team goal for the year. Doesn’t get better than that!

Sunday: 8.9 miles with striders.

Total Miles: 65

Total Miles for October: 282

The upside of a flexible schedule is that I can push my long run to tomorrow since my legs (and body and soul) are tired from yesterday. The downside is that it makes me feel like I’m messing up my training because I’m not following some arbitrary schedule. This downside is obviously all mental – my body doesn’t care that tomorrow is Monday. Still, it irks me!

Besides my fall on Friday, this week was actually a great week of training. I’m starting to feel really strong and am continuing to improve in workouts. I don’t have a lot of “big” work left before taper, which will start the week after next. My long run tomorrow will be long: 2 hours 15 minutes with 5 by mile at tempo pace and 8 by 200 hard at the beginning. With the tempo miles, this will be about a 17 mile effort. Later in the week, I’ll do my long run on Friday because I’m headed to DC this weekend to see my best friends for our Friendsgiving. I’ll be running while I’m there but it’s much less stressful when I don’t have to get a 2+ hour long run in.

Quiet the Doubts in Your Head

In the vein of Halloween, some workouts haunt you forever. Steady state long runs are one workout that spikes my anxiety enormously, dating back to the first real disaster I had training under Will. It was my birthday and we had a meet so I needed to get my workout in early and headed to the bike path. It was something like 13 miles total with 6 at steady state pace, which was probably 6:45 pace that year. Within a couple of miles, it was clear that the workout wasn’t going to go well. I couldn’t breathe, my legs were heavy and hitting 6:45 pace seemed impossible. I ended up crouching on the side of the bike path because I was crying so hard at my “failure.” I remember dragging myself to the meet, not wanting to make eye contact with Will because I was so ashamed. I would later be introduced to the term “misfire,” which is what he writes in his coaching spreadsheet when a workout goes awry. A cute term, but challenging to bounce from as an athlete. Later that cycle, I would try the workout two more times with full success, even noting in my training log that it was “easy” the second successful time.

I had a similar workout on the calendar for Monday: 2 hours with 8 miles at 6:30 pace. Despite the fact that I’ve run longer workouts at a similar pace with no major issues and that I just raced a 10K significantly faster, I launched right back into the mode of “this is a workout that I can’t do.” I told Will 1000 times that I was anxious about the workout, that I didn’t think I could do it, that 6:30 pace was too fast. Although it was three years ago, the memory of crouching by the bike path thinking “failure, failure, failure” felt like it happened yesterday.

As most workouts do, my run on Monday turned out fine. In fact, it turned out great. With a very honest steady state effort, I clicked off 8 miles at 6:23 pace and 15 miles total. Despite this, I wasn’t excited after my workout, I was just happy that it was over. Why is it that we’re so willing to dwell on one bad workout for years but won’t celebrate a good one for even a day? When another steady state run comes up, I guarantee that I’ll think back to the “failed” one and not remember the one from Monday where I felt fit and fast.

What workouts haunt you? How do you erase the memory of a bad workout or race? What workouts always make you smile when they show up on your schedule?

Week in Review 10.19.15 to 10.25.15

Somehow another week has passed and we’re now a month (!!!!) from Philadelphia. Just a couple more weeks of hard work left until taper.

Monday: 8.2 mile recovery run plus hip core.

Tuesday: 7.5 mile run with the team. Lower back bugging me.

Wednesday am: Workout. 5 by 1000 plus 4 by 200. My Garmin was misbehaving on the track and had a variety of distances for 2.5 laps, all equally 5:38 pace. Didn’t time the 200s but they felt fast.

Wednesday pm: 2.4 mile shakeout run plus legs.

Thursday: 9.55 mile recovery run. Legs pretty darn tired but I took it really easy. Arms afterward.

Friday: 8 mile easy run plus core.

Saturday: 8.5 miles before the meet.

Sunday: Swapped my long run workout with a regular run because of the wind, so just 8 miles of easy running plus strides.

Total Miles: 62.3

This week was an average week of training: nothing great and nothing bad either. My legs are feeling a bit crummy again, but I suspect that’s because I’m finally able to push myself again rather than fighting chronic oxygen debt. I’m not sure why my lower back is bothering me, but I’m hoping that stretching plus the magic of taper will resolve that before November 22nd!

I’ll do my long run workout tomorrow (2 hours with 8 miles at marathon pace, 6:30). Because I pushed my workout to tomorrow, it makes the end of my week crowded with a Thursday/Friday workout combo. The State Meet is on Saturday, so I won’t aim to do any of my own running that day, but will be cheering and running all over the course.