Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"Gimme Fuel, Gimme Fire..."

Well looky here-I'm posting twice in one week. Lucky reader! Ok totally kidding on that one...

Today's post was spearheaded by this article on a touchy subject that really shouldn't be so; what we put in our bodies and getting enough matters. A lot. It was also prompted by some curiosity into my routine by the folks at upstart stands for Eat the Bear~hard core and fairly creative name, right?

It's been quite some time since I last posted about fueling and much has changed in my routine since then across the board, and changing sponsors is just the beginning of it. I find for that timing, consistency, mindset, and quality and per the article from NPR how much need to be implemented and trusted by the athlete in question.  Disclaimer: information stated here is purely my (mostly) educated opinion, and that I am not a nutritional expert or dietician, and neither do I assert that what I believe works for me will work for you~so basically-take this info, modify it or ask a professional about it....or simply leave it. :) And last time I checked to this day I've never eaten a bear, sadly. 

Still curious? Okay, lets begin. 

Petro at ETB was kind enough to ask some questions so I can just address on the fly instead of making up bullet points myself, but before I get into the what type of fuel goes in, it would help to know what type of car I'm driving and what it's used for-

For those who have not met me in person or whatnot, I debunk the "runner build" stereotype. This used to make me self conscious, now I'm almost a fan of it. I've read some pretty lame books thinking they were great because of their covers.... but  I digress. I consider myself muscular and fairly powerful and am seemingly on the upswing in my training. I am not made physiologically (or mentally) just like anyone else, so therefore my nutrition and workout regime is highly personalized and changes along with where I am in the season and health-wise (or at least I feel like it is!). I fortunately work for myself and have a fair amount of recovery and training time (notice the order of those two terms).

Training as of today took a bit of a shift. For the past few months, I have worked on base mostly with some fartlek and averaging 40 to just over 50 miles per week. Most of it aerobic, but August brought in a little oval action. Today, I started to work on speed after signs were apparent my body was ready. Races this Fall will consist of several cross country races (who say's its just for kids!) and maybe a shorter road race or two. In order to race well, I have to train consistently, and to train consistently, I need to focus on fueling for my workload and overall need and recover like it's more important than the workout. Yessir.

Now to address some of the aforementioned questions:

1. What is my typical fitness routine? The meat of it is daily runs of 5-14 miles 6 days per week with a rest day, either taken right before or right after long run day, which is Saturday or Sunday. Tuesday is track workout day, where I work on specific pacing and becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. The next two days are easy to moderate, so the energy system worked the day before (LT, anaerobic, etc) gets to regenerate. Friday is often a run paced a certain percentage of my race working on focus and strength. I lift weights twice per week, targeting all the major muscle groups but core is the main focus. This session usually only lasts 30-45 mins and seems to get the job done. I also do PT exercises and at least 5-10 mins of core every day, foam rolling is done in the evenings and the lacrosse ball makes an appearance usually after harder workouts. Almost no exceptions unless my muscles tell me they just need a break. Before a key workout or race, I like to do some mental training beforehand: visualizing, choreographed breathing, and set process goals. Most days per week I write in a training journal for perspective. Lastly, sleep is part of training. I may not be Ms. Excitement nowadays, but I am happier and perform better in running and at work, etc. when this takes precedence.

A sample week looks like this:

M: Easy 5-6 miles, core/drills, weights, mileage often done on soft surface
T: AM: Track or Fartlek workout, ex. today's 3 sets of 2 x 200/1 min recovery + 1 x 400 1 lap recovery. Look easy? It's not! Paces range from 5:20-6:30 depending on relative distance. PM: 3-4 miles easy on Alter-G treadmill at Sterling Ridge Sports Medicine or soft surface.
W: 5-mile recovery run at 8:30-9:30 pace, soft surface
TH: 5-6 miles at 7:30-8:30 pace & weights
F: 6 miles at 7:30 out, 7:15 back.
S: Long run of 10-14 miles
Sun: REST! :)

Along with the workouts I typically take an epsom salt bath the evening of and keep my feet up as much as I can in addition to foam rolling and mobility exercises. As for stretching I find dynamic is the way to go for my respective sport if done correctly.

2. What fuels my workouts? 

A few things. I am loyal to Honey Stinger products for most baseline fueling, not just because I am sponsored by them but their stuff contains mostly organic ingredients and tastes awesome! I will also note that while you'll see gluten-free products throughout, I switched to mostly GF as a personal choice after an experiment and ended up liking how I feel. This may not be necessary or for everyone.

Sample pre-workout fueling looks something like this:

Pre track workout (usually 6-7 miles total but intense effort): Honey Stinger Blueberry Buzz energy bar, Coffee with cream, 20 oz bottle of water (usually slammed right when I wake up and while making the coffee), 30 mins before I hit the track I consume one serving of Electolyte Fuel System EFS by First Endurance. I sweat a lot, A lot a lot and EFS has the highest electrolyte concentration I can find. Given that I live in the Houston area, hydrating is always on my mind. During the workout I like to alternate 1-2 servings of EFS with plain water to change it up.

Pre long run: More fuel is needed so I make it a point to increase my carb intake some the day before. I find lunch makes as big an impact as dinner if not more because it's had more time to digest and assimilate. Examples include sandwiches on gluten free-bagels (or any type of sandwich), anything with rice (sushi is a favorite), and an extra piece of fruit is helpful. Dinner I like some gluten-free pasta and sauce or pesto with chicken or salmon and a bottle of a sports drink if going 14 or more. I drink water almost constantly during the day and like to alternate it with a low-sugar electrolyte beverage, such as NUUN.

Morning of the run (and it is early) I have all my stuff already set up and it doesn't change too much, except I increase the amount sometimes. Go-to's are just like track (coffee, water upon waking) a Honey Stinger energy bar, and a piece of fruit. If I have been feeling more tired lately, I'll throw in a HS energy gel into the mix as well. I fix another serving of EFS and sip on the way to the route/meeting spot.

During the run hydration makes or breaks a run, especially in a fairly extreme environment like The Woodlands, TX. I hydrate early and often, taking 3-4 big sips from a bottle I have on hand every 5-10 mins (that works for me, some like longer intervals between drinking) and an energy gel with water (not sports drink to avoid the "lava lamp" effect) every 30-45 mins. If runs are longer and more fuel is needed (I aim for about 200-300 calories per hour while I'm out) I will take gels either in tandem or more frequently. One thing that I have heard nutritionists say and I am beginning to believe myself is that American amateur athletes (in such a weight-obsessed culture-another subject for another day) chronically underfuel. I believe fueling properly for you and your fitness level, type of workout, helps with the recovery process. If you don't have such a big deficeit then you feel better at your next workout may just be less "rungry" and make poor choices after the run.

3. What supplements constitute the regimen?

I try to keep it simple yet I end up being the butt of all my friends jokes on trips with how many things I pack!

Daily-multivitamin for active women, probiotic AM and PM, antioxidant complex, iron in the midday, 1200mg of calcium at night with 2000-400 IU vitamin D. *some may not need as much calcium as yours truly. Get enough stress fractures, you never skip it! 2000+mg of Omega 3's from fish oil.


Preworkout: I take an adaptogen after breakfast made by Gaia naturals 'Adrenal Health'. Running mileage and intense workouts coupled with daily stress can compound and make it hard for the body to respond. When I don't take this 2 times per day, I can tell. I take another dose in the afternoon. I take Beta Alanine to help with lactic acid buffering when training really kicks up. Like I need to go buy more, like now!

Recovery! In my opinion, the most important of them all, and guess what? It doesn't have to be made so complicated! There are several on the market, but the rule of thumb is a good 200-300 calories of 3:1  or 4:1 carb to protein (what I like as a distance runner) within 30 mins of activity Sports drinks or mixes, such as GenElite or UCAN recovery (another recent experiment I am still undecided about) contain amino acids that are easier to process and absorb right away to start the repair process of the metabolic and muscular systems(or something like that, anyhow).

 Right after getting fluids back in (Priority #1!), have a mix or bar available containing protein and I like to look for about 30 or more grams of carbs (and 8-10 or more grams of protien). A high quality protein powder that agrees with any dietary restrictions is a good start. When available, I will also go for some powdered greens to mix in water-that or order an omelette with extra spinach and such right after.

Timing of supplementation and refueling is the most important according to those who know more than me and the protocol I follow is 1. Start re hydrating. Like right when you hit "stop' on your watch. Then don't quit until about an hour before bedtime. 2. Get protein in within 30 mins. Powder, chocolate milk, yogurt, smoothies, etc. Within 45-1 hour I then like to get a good-sized breakfast in. Go-to's for me are GF pancakes with vanilla protein powder and an egg or two, omelet with toast and jam, Oatmeal with chocolate milk or eggs on the side. BIG smoothie with greens, berries, protein, and some sort of juice. Yeah.

Oh, and if I'm not around a restaurant or near home, I stash a bagel with peanut or almond butter with me or have some sort of powder available. A little extra EFS in the summer never seems to hurt either!

4. Drills and stretching routines to prep for workouts

This is where probably the biggest changes have been made for good.

Before most runs and I make it mandatory before workouts and races to do dynamic and muscle activation. According to my coach and I now believe him, doing these drills AFTER runs seems to have some magic to them as well because I am leaving an imprint on my brain and body (aka the neuromuscular system for nerds like me) that this is the correct way we move, not the tired and hot shuffle or poor posture that can result from fatigue.

Since June, almost every day I have gone through this routine at least once per workout from Running Times (as opposed to jogger's world).

But what about including_____? Have you ever tried________? Maybe, but my best piece of advice in a world full of wonderful routines, exercised, and viewpoints is to form your own by selecting exercises that A. you like, B. fit your schedule and are actually willing to do them and C. are relevant to your goals. In my case it's increased stability, which creates better durability, and then faster turnover. And seriously, am I not the only one who appreciates but gets annoyed by rapid fire suggestions of what to do and what's the next hottest thing in fitness and running? Sigh. Ok rant over.

Besides the drills, I get on the ground and hit parts of Jay Johnson's pedestal routine and mix in some stability ball work-hamstring curls, "stir the pot" exercise, basic crunches, and planks. My physio routine includes hip hiking on a step, single leg bridging, leg raises at an angle, clams, and bird dog/hydrant exercises. Short on time? What I do is set a timer to cook my breakfast in the microwave or toaster and hit some reps during idle time.

Our legs basically hang from our core, so picture your body as a two-seated swing set-you want to just swing naturally from a structure you trust. I like to pair an image to really drive home what I'm doing.

Speaking of images, I always seem to train and race best when I visualize what I am about to do, doing it well, AND navigating adversity and challenges. Fuel the mind like you fuel the body, and you've got one well-running and efficient machine.

Summing up, hope this long post has some bits of info one can use, but make it your own. Find products you trust, time your meals, find a small group of individuals and sources of which you trust info from and get to work. What may look and seem like a lot at first can become just like clockwork. They say, after all that the best athletes have learned to "live like a clock".

What fuels you?

Stay the course.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Throwin' on the Spikes: Friday Night Lights XC Open

"Every race has a moment that sticks." -Lauren Fleshman

It's that time of year again. The weather is (slowly) changing, school has started for the area students and last night The Woodlands hosted their annual Friday Night Lights Cross Country Races. Given I do a lot of work in track and cross and the event is practically on my way home from the office, I have attended regularly over the past few seasons. After having to scratch last year due to injury (shocking, I know...), I was able to throw on the Oiselle singlet and a pair of Saucony spikes and try my hand at something so familiar yet so new for me and I may be working on a new favorite surface to race on!

While it was just a fun community race put on to fundraise for the local HS girl's team, I took quite a bit away from this very fun experience.
Luke's Locker's Giant Finish chute: a welcoming sight
in the Texas Summer Heat!

What I loved was that race day was such an ordinary experience; I saw some clients in the morning, did my usual notes and paperwork in the afternoon, and even got in a power nap before leaving for Bear Branch Park for the evening race-yes, I finally summoned the ability to take a pre-race nap and it was fabulous! After a very positive phone call with Coach Doug the night before my mind was gravitating towards a positive place where it hasn't been consistently in quite some time. I simply planned on going out, having a good time, pushing myself and letting my legs just turn over. The rest will unfold as it will. I had a time goal range, mostly because it was 95 or so outside and fixating on numbers is almost useless in a situation like this.

I only started to get jittery after I switched to the spikes (my first time in my adult life to use them) and we started to line up. There was a nice mix of ages and abilities up there with youngsters decked out in kid xc shoes and singlets, members of local racing teams to masters runners. The gun went fired and off everyone went in the typical fury to get in position. I started faster than I usually do, but since it was just a 3200, I could hang on if I needed to.

The first mile came up quick and the pack started to become less chaotic and I had more running room. I was loving the quick feel of the xc shoes and bounding up and down the inclines (just to be clear, there were no hills in sight!) and there was virtually nothing in my brain for some of that stretch in third female position. Then I came up on the two girls ahead of me-and I will add they were considerably younger than the overdressed sharply dressed,  old experienced girl bearing down on them.

Even though lactate bomb was slowly ticking down, this is where the 'moment stuck': I could take the lead, so I surged a little and made two quick passes. Of course this is part of tactical racing, but after seasons of racing decent, but not to my potential and considerable confidence loss- as soon as I had no other chicks in front of me my mind went from basically empty to all kinds of positive and I felt strong and just made sure I held off the others through the finish. ~I didn't have to be so cautious and deferential in races anymore~not that I ever really needed to be in the first place.

The last half mile I was feeling the temps and the work, but I wasn't going to let my mind talk me out of easing up this time. I found the energy to kick hard at the end and kept my lead snagging First OA Female in a sprint finish. Once the wooziness went away, I walked around pleased not as much with where I placed, but how I pressed and raced differently that I have in the past-more focused, more enjoyment, and more confidence. The new surface and format vs. the roads and triathlons seemed a refreshing change, even  after just one event, I'm now shopping other open Cross Country races to participate in-this stuff is no longer just for the kids and college students and these races are starting to pop up more. It's fun and freeing to run in the woods and on the dirt!
Get your game face on, people!
Photo by Jon Walk.

After just a summer of mostly base, the time wasn't crazy blazin' but I am only going to get faster from here and I could feel the strength I was building in the hot months. What was awesome about racing in Bear Branch Park, where I train several times per week, was the energy and hearing people cheer for me that I knew-whoever you were, you guys were really helpful when it was starting to hurt!

While I have mentioned this in previous posts, I have been working on my mental game a lot more than seasons past-emphasizing enjoyment of what I am doing and focusing highly on good experiences and thoughts vs. the static that overstimulates. If it works for my clients, why not consistently do it myself! I think with my head in the right places, I can only get faster from here. Here's to new races and more fun!

Anyone else try a new type of race lately?

Stay the course.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Grown Women go to Camp: Oiselle Style!

After returning from Seattle/Leavenworth, WA on Tuesday night, I am finally getting my thoughts and time together to write up one of the better experiences of my 'run career' to date. Many other Oiselle teammates have posted some really great reaps, and here be my version of a week not to be forgotten anytime soon:

I have raced for various brands over the years, but never got the chance to spend extended time learning how things really work or training with them. While I have always appreciated the sponsorship and support of various levels, I never truly felt like I was really a 'part' of something when running for other companies. That all changed when Oiselle decided to take me on last year.

Flash forward and I am in my second week of serving as a Team Leader for the Texas Volee squad and every day I am practically interacting with teammates; many of who I spent time with last week at Oiselle's second annual Bird Camp. Yep, #birdcamp: a running camp for grown women-
Awesome women. Inspiring women. Speedy women. Women of all different backgrounds and levels, from professional to those like myself who are professional in something other than running. Oh, and Sally Bergesen, the creator and CEO of Oiselle was there and seemed to very much just be "one of the girls".

Even though I am long since graduated from school, this was my first in-depth sport camp experience-and what an experience it was. I could go on forever about my reflections and things we did at the amazing Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort in Leavenworth, WA (if you ever get the chance to go-do it!), but I'll spare everyone and just give some of the many highlights of the trip.

  • Oiselle Headquarters, aka "The Nest"- Seeing where it all happens and where our uniforms and clothes are designed was really cool, just like the people working in Seattle's open-concept office. My favorite part was all the pics and race bibs on the wall featuring Oiselle athletes doing great things in track and road running. Before leaving for Leavenworth, we toured the nest and went for a group run around nearby Green Lake. While swapping stories with new Oiselle gal and speedster Sydney Marshall I never noticed we were rocking along at a low 7-minute pace...something that would be a difficult feat for me in the SE Texas summer temps but very comfortable in Seattle. Maybe I'm in better shape than I thought!! 
  • Unknowingly passing a bear during a cross-country style team 5k. I somehow missed my time because I chose the 'predictor' option and ran without a watch, At first I wanted to know how I did for reference, but chose to just let it go because I simply wanted to just get an honest effort out of myself  see some mental toughness out there that I have been lacking in the past year.
    No wildlife in sight! 
  • A "Career-Defining" moment. Or something close, anyhow. Dr. Sarah Lesko, the brains of the camp graciously allowed me to do one of the workshop activities with the girls on goal-setting, mental side of running stuff. Cool, right?! Try doing a workshop on goal setting with Lauren Fleshman! Yep, I was on stage talking about one of my favorite things with one of my favorite runners! In attempt to keep it real, I figured that I should just let it out before getting in to the material stating "I'm working with Lauren Fleshman-this is crazy!" and after that I feel I gave one of the best talks to date and really enjoyed having LF on stage with me giving her insight and experience. She really is a cool chick! I hope  those who attended the talk enjoyed it half as much as I did. It's not everyday I get to talk about two of my biggest passions, running and sport psyc, in such a synergistic environment. 
    Talking about goals with one of my heroes. Thanks LF! 
  • Hiking up to Lake Colchuk. The two hours or so it took to get up the mountain was totally worth the view for our lunch spot. I could have stayed up there and stared at the scenery for hours. Being from Texas, I have never seen an Alpine lake. Simply Amazing. I had the opportunity to traverse among a number of different ladies, and enjoyed some fun conversations going back up and down to the trailhead. I also learned that chipmunks will leave you alone while eating on the trail if you give them jalapeno chips! 
    Serenity at over 5000 ft! 
  • Lastly, it is a rare feat to get over 100 women together for multiple days on end and it produces positive results, but this was different than any retreat/camp/function I've been to where the energy seemed totally positive. Never once did I hear one negative thing about another person. Not once. I'll admit to feeling a little guarded at the beginning, and being the type who needs time to warm up in crowds (unless I'm speaking to one, apparently!), but each teammate I met and spent any amount of time with I learned a little from each of them.
What resonates most about this experience is how the company's mission and values, astutely written in their manifesto or "Flight Manual"-grow the sisterhood of running, be fans of one another, set goals, and believe in yourself and believe in others-was on full display. It was really neat to see the mix of professional, amateur, and business exec mesh together almost seamlessly.

In sharing our stories with one another-something that takes some risk I might add-myself and I'm sure others walked away feeling stronger and more supported in the pursuit of our goals. After talking with a number of women, I realized that I have not been giving myself full permission to chase after mine; something I ironically discussed during the group session previously. It takes courage to be vulnerable, to get out of your comfort zone, to experience new things. I think this is why even in adulthood grown women take some time to get back to the basics through doing something they love with others. Give it a chance, the results may just surprise you.

From here, my role is to help organize and facilitate Volee team activity in the Houston region, keeping the story and the comraderie going. What good is it to keep everything from one gathering on the inside and not continue it?

Enjoy the view, enjoy the ride.

We were treated exceptionally well during our stay at Sleeping Lady and several Thank You's are due:

For the swag, expertise, or just making this thing happen:

Dr. Sarah Lesko
Sally Bergesen, CEO
Kristin Metcalf
J.J.,Sydney Marshall, Heather "Feather" Stevens and everyone else at The Nest
Lauren Fleshman
The Hutchinson Family 

Stance Socks
Picky Bars 
Hoka One One
Wild Friends