Archive for the ‘Food = Fuel’ Category
Great quick succinct write up on gluten-sensitivity (for what it’s worth, the Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is what I have, diagnosed at age 12.) Final word! NO gluten for me!
An estimated 30 to 35% of people have gluten sensitivity. It’s increasing globally due to a breakdown of our immune tolerance caused by increased exposure to chemicals, medications, and stress, as well as poor nutrition. This results in an altered gut microbiome, dysfunctional gut enzymes, increased intestinal permeability, and a lack of vitamins and minerals necessary to support the immune system. People who are gluten sensitive and continue to eat it are at risk for developing autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Two years I’ve been gluten free. A gluten free athlete at that. As I sit here prepping for race #4 of 2013, late October in LA, I can’t help but reflect. It’s the third in a row Rock and Roll LA race I’m running and it was two years ago, on the morning of the first one I wrote about having just gone gluten free. Seems apropos to see what the journey has been all about.
First of all, I wouldn’t change a thing. Sure, I could say I wish I’d gone gluten free earlier, but I’m in such a good place with my health and body that I understand that everything happened as it to lead me exactly to this place right now. And it’s glorious. I’m completely in control of how my body feels, how it reacts and how it moves. Being highly aware is a gift I take seriously. Am I a shrieking fool who lashes out at whoever is nearby because there might be gluten in or touching the food – not even remotely. I actually pride myself a little on being out with people and navigating a menu without anyone necessarily recognizing I’m specfically choosing a gluten free item.
Sure, when I’m at someone’s house and they serve non-gluten free crackers with cheese, it’s going to come up. But nowadays, most people tend to ask “any allergies or diet issues I need to know about?” and there’s the opening. Funny thing is, I really do eat just about everything else (thankfully, as being a food lover, I love trying new things – hello buffalo! – and am not restricted by allergies, politics or fussiness), it’s the gluten that gets me.
Gone are the days of a refrigerator stocked with a chilling bottle of mint-flavored Mylanta, gone are the days a puffy tummy needed to be rubbed or hidden, gone are the days of mild to moderate to severe bloated-ness in the face and generally all over, gone are the days of all-over body inflammation seen and unseen, gone are the days due to that inflammation of consistent weight training and working out without anything to “show” for it meaning why could I never see muscle tone? and now I know and now it shows, gone are the days of brain fogginess – it wasn’t due to overdrinking or over tiredness or overworked-ness, it was most likely the gluten (although, drinking less, getting better sleep and setting real clear boundaries on my time spent “working” does of course positively contribute!), gone are the days of thinking “it’s just the way my body is built” in conceding a particular stomach ache or heartburn or a cold due to a compromised immune system, and gone are the days of knowing deep in my soul that I’m not just an active woman but capable of much more athletic ability and achievement than I (or the people around me) gave myself credit for.
And here are the days, the glorious days, of feeling truly empowered in my body, in the awareness I’ve come to relish, of the education I continue to cultivate in order to have my body run like a well oiled, well fed, well nourished machine. How amazing! How awesome! How breathtakingly engaging! I know what fuels my body and my mind, I know how to take care of them both, I know what makes them purr and hum and thrive. I never apologize for being gluten free because I know it’s absolutely the #1 way to take care of myself nutritionally. I’m grateful I don’t have celiac and am not so severely restricted that even a trace amount of gluten can send my body into swift and major decline. And I’m grateful that to best take care of an auto immune thyroid disease, one I was diagnosed with at age 12, is to be gluten free and that I now know how best to take care of me.
There’s no looking back or blame to throw for when I first diagnosed. There was little knowledge even then about gluten or even celiac disease. It was rare. But as we’ve poured more and more flour into products to act as “glue”, our exposure to it has increased a hundred fold. If you like pineapple juice and drank a cup a day, you’d probably be fine. But if you drank a gallon a day, most likely after many days or even months you’d not only be sick but may develop an allergy or intolerance to it (let alone just a severe dislike of it!) And absolutely, the GMO wheat and barley and other gluten by-products without a doubt have contributed to the meteoric rise in gluten allergy, intolerance and sensitivities. No, it’s not a fad folks. Perhaps for some Hollywood or vain types it’s a fad or trend to try a la Atkins or Scarsdale or even for some vegetarianism. But aside from those, it is a real true issue for many and therefore the gluten free products everywhere. There’s no self righteousness in this decision, there’s no political or “it doesn’t taste good in my mouth” reasons – it’s an honest to God health decision that has completely turned my health and personal outlook into one of educated empowerment and curiosity about the optimal use of my body.
A beautiful side benefit of going gluten free is eating far less processed food and eating much more pure foods. And neither of these things – not eating gluten because of the risks it poses for me or the purity of the food I now concentrate on eating – is anything I would ever impose on others. There’s no lecturing, or eye rolling or turning up one’s nose in the presence of someone eating gluten. It’s “this is what works best for me” and if someone has questions, I have answers or explorations, but otherwise, do what works for you and I do what works for me. Sure, I’d love for those I love to assume better choices for themselves or expand there possibilities but as with anything, one has to come to these conclusions on their own and then make their own choices, or not.
Having now enjoyed 11 races having gone gluten free and about to embark on #12, I’m so very grateful to my friend who pointed me to all the research around Hashimoto’s people going gluten free. I run cleaner, I think clearer and I feel stronger than ever before. Days leading up to races, moments before a run, during a run and post race are much easier on my body and psyche. Having had very un-understanding and discompassionate people around me post races years ago where my stomach would knot up post race and cause me to fall into bed in some kind of delirium for hours before rising again, and now knowing that was the gluten wreaking havoc on my compromised body, I’m forever grateful at the way I’m able to have so much more control over how my body reacts and feels (eating a bunch of roughage and questionable protein the night before a race, while gluten free, will absolutely also wreak havoc the next day…back to the night before light and lunch being the main fueler). No, perhaps we didn’t know back then what was causing some of the consequences of how my body reacted. But the disdain for not just bouncing back immediately was a kind of pressure and shame that felt practically cruel and that I’m gloriously free of now, as I know my body in such a way to be in exquisite control that I take responsibility even when things don’t go well, because I know pretty clearly what I did or didn’t do.
Someone going gluten free for health reasons is nothing to mock or shame or make fun of. I’m actually often asked “oh, are you gluten free for trend or health reasons?” which is to me a somewhat understandable question, and owning it’s for health, well, every time I say that I feel like my body says thank you and stands a little straighter. It’s a little jolt of “yes, I’m taking care of myself!” And what it’s done for my physical self in my running and recovery is a delight as well – while I’ll never actually know, I surmise that the ability to continue running at the level I do and these soon-t0-be last 12 races being gluten free is because I’m tuned into my body and take care of it in a way I didn’t know I could before. And every year you’re on this planet begs you to assess and reassess how you treat your body and mind, how you nourish and feed your soul and how you expand your existence in the universe – and that changes so the ability to remain aware and awake is critical to not survival but real thrival of your life this go ’round.
So thank you Heidi, thank you brain and thank you body for this beautiful adventure of going gluten free. I feel so much better, I feel so much clearer and cleaner, I feel so much more me. Most of all, thank you heart of truly committing to loving yourself enough to take care of your soul to this level.
Very excited and curious to see and feel and experience this next race – it’s an enjoyment of the senses I’m looking forward to!
Been thinking a lot about being gluten-free since my last post about it, and specifically what it means to be an athlete and be gluten-free (gf going forward.) First, I love it. I have more energy and rarely actually need to set an alarm anymore. Gone are the days (aside from recovering from long drives) where I absolutely must take a nap and gone are the days where true fatigue sets in after a hard workout and gone are the days of stomach aches or cramps that I don’t fully understand the origin so I can’t control them or prevent them. In are the days of feeling in control, more so, of my health and actually having a say in it, in are the days of true education of what works for my body not just a blanket affect (such as all organic is better or this supplement or vitamin works for all), in are the days of feeling empowered and excited about the now and future. I can tweak and see my body respond and have a better understanding, I can take a few days off from training and jump right back on the train, I can get off the healthy eating train (not gf train though) and jump right back on and if any negative consequences came about from a slip or a break, they’re mitigated quickly and in a healthy fashion.
And being in control and having a say means asking a lot of questions and doing research about what I put into my body in terms of gf food and product. It’s clear from the beginning that fresh fruits, vegetables and meats (hopefully organic) are ultimately the best direction to head in to embrace being gf. And that living on the West Coast, specifically California is pretty special in terms of all sorts of interesting gf alternative products catering to an increasingly gf community. At first I thought all cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pancakes, pies, breads, pizza, pasta, biscotti, rolls, muffins, pastries, crackers, granolas, cereals, sandwiches, anything breaded or fried and more and more items made with gf products would be ixnayed from my way of eating – and while fine because it means better health and pursuit of athletics for me, still a little overwhelming to take in (especially when you realize gluten hides in a LOT of products, not just the obvious ones.)
And so, heading to the expo before the LA race I realized that all the vendors I usually frequent at these events I now needed to ask “are you gluten free?” Unfortunately, SO many are NOT. Headed to Cascadian Farm who always passes out granola and granola bars – are ou gluten free? Nope, they say. BUT, they are also pushing Lara Bars, which are, they promise. Cool. My many times aforementioned Honey Milk? Jury is still out – one gal said they’re gluten free but not wheat free, another said they’re wheat free but not gluten free, and another said “we’re lactose free!” Which I knew, and wasn’t the question. So, trying to figure it out…and hoping for the best. Pretty sure Muscle Milk, which I don’t like the taste of anyway, isn’t gluten free. Cytomax is (ok, full disclosure – Cytosport owns both Muscle Milk and Cytomax. Some flavors of Muscle Milk are in fact gf, others are not – I would avoid in general.) Jelly Belly Sports Beans are. Promax energy bars are, in fact, gluten free. Yakult, that funky but tasty probiotic yogurt drink is gf. I talked to the folks at FRS Energy, and some of the drinks and the chews are, according to them, gf. I would do more research before jumping in, still trying to find a clear answer online. Snickers Marathon Bar that I used to love the taste of (how can you not? It’s a candy bar disguised as a nutrition bar!) is most certainly not even a little gf. Nor is Power Crunch, made by BNRG, is not (sad, loved those little wafer protein bars.)
So, was feeling a little discouraged, actually – some products I could still do, and I still needed to do some research, such as the difference between wheat-free and gluten-free as well as all the protein drinks and the use of whey, and if that affects me. Just about to leave the expo when I spot a booth I’ve noticed has begun to pop up at the last few expos – PR* Bar. Remember them? They were around in the ’90′s and at the forefront of energy protein bars, big in the Ironman community. They sold it and just recently bought it back and are better than ever. As in, they are gluten free and have a ton of great tasting flavors and really seem to know what they’re doing! It literally was the last booth I stopped at and had actually prepared myself to have them tell me no, they were not gluten free. But in fact they are, and pride themselves on it. I spoke with one gentleman behind the booth and he’s run over 100 marathons, and never was able to qualify for the Boston Marathon…until he started using the PR* Bar. The flavors are great, the taste is good and it doesn’t sit like a rock in your stomach, and it can actually enhance the rest of what you’re eating throughout the day to keep you at peak performance levels.
I know I have a long way to go in terms of learning about being gluten free, about being an athlete and being gluten free, about not just replacing a bunch of non-gf products with gf filler products just because they’re gluten free (for ex, I actually don’t eat a ton of bread, so why buy loaves just because they are made with rice flour? bags of gluten free pretzels? cookies? muffins? yeah, the list of things I thought I’d miss – turns out I never really ate them), learning about even if a product is gluten free it may not actually be the best thing for me, about specific performance products purported to be gluten free and how I can best utilize them for me, and sharing this information with others. Including the super cool fact that one of the top rated tennis players in the world is gluten free – Novak Djokovic – check out his gf prowess here.
So I’m learning, and I’m empowering myself and that feels good. I foresee a great trajectory both for my general health as well as my running career. Yup, that’s what it is. My running career. And I’m going to take the best care of me that I can so that I can take the best care of my running. Cheers and a toast, with a tasty post-run Bard’s GF beer, to being a 100% gluten free athlete!
And so another interesting component to upcoming race #10…been gluten free for a month. Short story is I got some recent news about updated information about how to manage Hashimoto’s, which I’ve had since I was 12 (a thyroid disorder they just throw you on medication for life) and going gluten free, which they didn’t know back then, is a great way to decrease any potential issues from thyroid or immune stuff. So now, I’ve been consciously gluten free for one month. So far, so good.
A few observations:
*It’s not so bad!
*Living on the West Coast or in California particularly, it’s pretty damn easy to find products that are labeled gluten free, whether they always have been or are reconstituted to be gluten free now.
*Some restaurants are starting to place a “gf” next to menu items that are gluten free, taking the guess work out for me (kind of like ‘v’ for vegan or vegetarian).
*Interesting educating myself on all of what is and what isn’t gluten free.
*I’m still learning, and planning to be learning for a while on this, and I’m enjoying that. Plus researchers are still learning and foodies are still learning, and I will benefit from that. But mostly, I like having this to learn about, and applying it immediately.
*Beer. is. not. gluten. free. that makes me sad. especially as a runner, as I like a beer the day before and after a race. Hmmmm.
*Being gluten free doesn’t affect dinner so much as it does breakfast and lunch. Mostly I stay away from bread (although just recently had bread made with rice flour…YUM!) and pasta (no more cous cous! hello quinoa!) which isn’t that hard for me, expect for a few days before a race. But crackers, anything breaded, cookies, sandwiches, wraps and more have gluten and then some in them. Which also affects…cereal. Which I love. More and more options, but most granolas have some kind of wheat in them and therefore most granola bars (key recovery food or hiking bonuses) do too. UDI, I love you!
*I can have amaranth and not kamut. Don’t ask me why, I still don’t know the differences.
*Lots of people have great advice or in-the-field reporting to share, for example, rice pasta is preferred over quinoa pasta, given a fair comparison between most brands.
*Turns out I like polenta, and I can have that. YAY!
*Turns out I forgot I like rice. Also turns out I have to be careful with some, as there can be some kind of gluten in the mix (I still am not sure if it’s thumbs up or down on risotto).
*I’m eating cleaner, and that feels GREAT!
*Speaking of feeling great, it really is a good way to manage the thyroid stuff (and maybe other autoimmune issues?), so very grateful for the information and direction, Heidi!
*Bread baskets at a restaurant are no longer welcome in my world, or breadsticks or anything in that realm, but that’s ok, I have more room to enjoy the food I can order and enjoy (forbidden black rice? yum, and I will eat it all thankyouverymuch).
*Italian food may not be as friendly to me as before, but I’m willing to do research and make it work for me. Plus I have a fantasy of running the long winding roads in Tuscany someday, so I WILL make it work.
*Sushi and I are very good friends; in terms of Mexican food corn tortillas instead of flour please; French – while not a lot of pasta, there is plenty of roux and unhealthiness anyway; Indian – learning more, pretty sure it’s ok (plus delicious!); Chinese food – Dragonwell (SF) and Mao’s Kitchen (Venice, CA) both have a curry rice stick dish that rocks; other food genres I’m continuing to explore.
*Sweets – looks like I can enjoy flourless chocolate cake which is a little too much chocolate for me (I said it) but seeing as how I have to give up a life long love of cupcakes (and the fantasy cupcake shop), I may as well deal (admittedly a little hesitant to try a gluten free cupcake._ There’s plenty other fabulous things I can enjoy, and research and learn more about, and frankly, probably just be healthier overall.
*Even with holidays coming up, what am I giving up? Stuffing? Ok, find bread made with gluten free ingredients. Pie? Enough other choices. Plus I can eat the filling. Overindulging in cookies, desserts, crackers (I’ll eat the cheese), bread products (someone find me a gluten free pig-in-a-blanket) and cocktails is never my favorite part of the holidays, so bring that on too.
*Hmmm, just remembered the corn and rice ‘breaded’ chicken nuggets I had the other day – who needs wheat flour?
*It’s a good thing I like coconut – a lot of gluten-free products include coconut and I have to admit I like macaroons (in moderation.) Plus, cooking with coconut oil and even eating a tablespoon of coconut oil for energy is all the rage.
*I had coconut butter the other day. Peanut butter consistency, coconutty goodness.
*Nuts substitute a lot too in gluten free products. Damn good thing I don’t have a nut allergy. What if I live with someone who does? Figure it out.
*Potatoes! I can have potatoes in many ways, yes?
*Did I mention I’m eating cleaner – eating more pure food, less processed which wasn’t the initial set-about but a fantastic side benefit!!!
How does this all fit for running? I mean, who hasn’t heard about carbo loading? Pasta dinners the night before (I’d never recommend that…if race is Sunday morning, do it Friday night or in moderation for lunch on Saturday!), lots of carbs for long term energy, ability to tap into reserves stored in the body during endurance runs – tons of processed athletic performance products are about carbohydrates (but don’t necessarily include gluten…). When I first committed to being gluten free, I googled “gluten free runner” and had to laugh at the first five or six links it pulled up – let’s just say it was bleak (one even said “not good for runners, there is no way to get the right carbs, it is not recommended for runners to be gluten free” – awesome, thanks, that was helpful) and could have been discouraging.
See, here’s the deal. This is what I’m doing: I’m going gluten free, I am committed to that and I am a runner, I am committed to that. So I will make this work for me, even if it means eating a pile of brown rice and peanut butter the days before a race. I have a bit of a streak of defying the odds, especially if told I cannot do it or it’s not possible. Watch me. Maybe I’ll be the poster child for successful gluten free running. I refuse to believe it’s not possible. In just a month, I feel better, clearer headed, less foggy, it’s managing my moods, my digestion and yes, my physicality – my runs are getting stronger again, I’m feeling stronger again, I can push harder without too much lightheadedness (which is beginning to dissipate), I’m not riding a rollercoaster of fatigue or sleeplessness, I am in fact craving healthier foods, and…I’m in control of this. That, in and of itself, is an incredible gift I’m giving myself – it’s not out of my hands, it’s up to me to do this better, this life, and in just a month I’m noticing a difference from a) being this conscious and aware and b) eating better for my body and health. If I have to make adjustments or reassess, cool, I can do that too.
I am looking forward to seeing what a real long distance run feels like on this kind of fuel, this cleaner running engine.
Ah, the best laid plans. Went to Kauai, thanks to draining Alaska Airlines miles and scrappy saving, for a yoga retreat. Was a little apprehensive for a variety of reasons – the time away from work (and would I actually not work), the cost, the cost of the activities I wanted to do, the kumbayah aspect I assumed would be a part of it, the down time to let my body and spirit breathe (I know, something to look forward to, but…) and the time away from running already, which I really have only just started to embrace fully again without my body rejecting the idea.
Therefore, I planned. A lot. To do a lot. Hmmm, maybe if I am constantly occupied, I won’t actually be faced with some very real emotions and feelings, get to keep my guard and walls up. I planned for what appeared to be free afternoons kayak trips, helicopter trips, boat trips, ziplining again as well as long runs on the beach at sunrise, extra yoga when I wanted, catching up on work and yes, writing every day on this blog. HA! How about none of that?
Imagine my surprise at doing, really, none of that. Not one run, not one ride, not one entry – hell, I didn’t flip open the lap top after the first full day there. What? Scuse me? How is that possible? How did that happen? And I was so excited mostly to get a bunch of writing done! Sigh.
Here’s what happened – Kauai took over and dropped me down into the very simplicity of the island, and the grounding yoga and I just was in the moment (as much as is possible for me.) And yes, trying not to beat myself up not “doing”, but that’s the thing. So focused on doing and being and perhaps even proving to myself, and maybe others, that I have so very much going on and do have such amazing things going on in my life that while I’ve gotten very good at creating and going after incredible opportunities however they present themselves, it doesn’t actually mean that I have to race around and always be “doing” something. And yes, I’m learning so much about being “in the moment” and enjoying the moment. That’s part of the motivation to go after not-to-be-missed opportunities (what if I don’t get this chance again? mentality) and I’m also learning a new, if you will, kind of being in the moment.
I’ve had so many aware in-the-moment events, especially with running, training and traveling for races and I love them all. As well, all my adventures in life provide those opportunities too. And no doubt a helicopter ride around and over Kauai would have been spectacular and kept me in the moment, and anything else to have seen on that magical island would have provided the same, but it suddenly became the most exquisite version of ‘in the moment’. The juicy papaya each morning, the freshly cut up pineapple each day, the coffee klatch with housemates at 7am, the yoga on the beach, the view of the ocean, the sound of wave after wave, the bubbling and rippling across class laughter during yoga, the seemingly unending flow of tears at time, the surrender to an emotional onslaught and just letting it take over for, being truly present, the subtle feel of resisting and then not the confusion of life – not needing the answer right this second, the smell of the earthy pungent guavas for miles in the jungle, the feel of the street or the beach under bare-feet-for-days, the strength from a held hand or heart to heart hug or sweet encouraging smile, the out of nowhere we-have-so-much-in-common conversation, the easy conversation with a stranger-but-not local, the never-tiring majestic view of the mountains, the victory of the, for me, near-perfect chaturanga dandasana, the instant relaxation of floating in the salt water, undulating with the waves, the fresh local simple and delicious food flavors, the delight of another rainbow spotted, the embrace of another quick storm of warm raindrops nearly always perfectly timed, the recognition you’re not alone, the understanding head nod from a new friend, the Saturday morning yoga where I was truly naturally present for 100 straight minutes, the heady rush of jumping in a cold waterfall pool and the amazement swimming right underneath the falls which nature had everything to do with and man nothing, the relaxation of a group dynamic falling into place, the quiet mornings punctuated by roosters, the perfume-y never-duplicated scent of plumeria, honeysuckle and tuberose, the vibrant colors of flowers, trees, ocean, coves, ponds, sky, clouds, mountainsides, the gentle breeze and sway of the surrounding trees, the slowed-down breath of watching the silent sunset.
And just writing that now, I understand better why Kauai took me by the shoulders and essentially benched me for my own good. It’s ok I didn’t run, it’s ok I didn’t write and it’s more than ok I just…was. If there’s any one place to do just that, it’s there. So used to going, doing, being, rushing around to see and do all, and here I just stopped literally smelled the flowers. So much of the island I didn’t see. And that’s ok. I promised myself I will go back someday. And not to check off all the things on my lists of “to-dos” over there, but to capture some of that magic that Hanalei Bay and Kauai so readily and unselfishly offers. To check back in and say “chill the f out my friend!”
Since I’ve been back the knowledge that race #10 is right around the corner has taken hold (crap, am I close to ready?), as has work and general life stuff. So now how to still bask in the moment, reach to feel grounded, stay present as best as possible? Well, learned a few things and while it can’t be duplicated, I can tap into some of the more, if I may say, zen moments of the experience and close my eyes and place myself back there, if just for a minute. And take a deep breath.
And I will write more and do more and be more and play more and work more and run more and laugh more and cry more and love more and experience more. And I will also breathe more. Mahalo, Kauai, for a truly special week. I’m ever grateful for the time, the experience, the beauty and more. If I could offer a piece of that place to everyone, I would.
On a side but not unrelated note: Ok, life, I get it. You think I made good lemonade. In fact, apparently I make fantastic lemonade. Hell, I think I could write a bestselling cookbook of lemonade recipes. Got it. Could I ask a teensy favor? Could you please stop hurling those lemons for said lemonade at my head and heart at 90 miles per hour? Or even a break would be nice. That lemon fast ball is impressive, the curve ball mindblowing. It’s just I may run out of creative recipes and my arm is getting a little tired stirring. Thanks, much appreciated. However, yes, sure makes life interesting, so if you keep pitching, I’ll keep making lemonade. Anyone want some thai basil blueberry guava lemonade?
Oh Sonoma – you were indeed the charm. Third wine country run, all through Destination Races, and it was the best one for a number of reasons. Healdsburg last October was a great course, but super rainy the night before and pretty wet on the course, plus the bus to pick up 250 of us runners at the Santa Rosa Hyatt never showed so a bunch of us started the race late and stressed (reminder though that no matter what, your time never starts until your chip crosses the start line.) It was my best run time up till then, so that was pretty exciting for me. Plus being able to sip wine post-race and then go back and cheer runners in was a blast. Santa Ynez, well, the hills killed me and I wasn’t in top form for the race mentally or physically.
But Napa to Sonoma – while the Expo was a little trampled on by the time I got there Saturday afternoon, all in all it was a great experience. I’m used to many of my races being Rock And Roll organized and anywhere from 20K to 35K runners involved. So, a smaller race can be a refreshing change as well, can be not as well organized with more glitches which of course can affect the race experience. But to be able to start at a winery my family used to drive by on the way to visit my grandparents and end in the Sonoma Square, creating new memories for a special place, was just perfect. The hills were rolling, the scenery was beautiful and the weather ideal for a race. Granted, I was almost a little disappointed it wasn’t hotter, only from the standpoint of some introduction to what the next two to three races might be like. As a stand alone race though, ideal weather – cool, not too cold, light mist and clouds, opening up to a stunning sunny gorgeous day.
And what a treat for me – my friends Bob and Carl invited me to stay in their guest cottage at their home in Santa Rosa. Just the perfect relaxing way to unwind before a race, get a good night’s sleep and relax post-race. And to have them eagerly support me – getting up at 5am to drive me 45 minutes to the start of the race, knowing they’d be there at the finish line, and they were, so excited for me, it got me even more excited about my time and how the race went. To be able to share details about the race right afterwards and see and hear them get inspired to explore the possibilities for them, I don’t know, it’s hard to put into words, but it was exactly the kind of support literally and figuratively I needed for this race. Not that I’m not capable of pulling of one of these weekends completely solo (hi, Chicago!) but it was really lovely to have dear friends so generous of their time and support in such a positive way. Truly a weekend that that made a difference and was so appreciated.
Granted, the tough part for me was going out to dinner the night before, being told it’s a 20 minute wait, and since we’re in Healdsburg, walking exactly next door for a wine tasting. It took every ounce of will power I had not to have more wine that night than I knew was smart or responsible of me. Thankfully I can pull up the memory of Phoenix in January and practically feeling the ill-self-advised second beer on mile four, thinking “oh, there it is, and hello unwelcome and could’ve-been-avoided dehydration to help me say no, I’ll wait till after the race to have a second glass. But oh, wine country, you make it so hard! Then again, I’m working on finding the balance of better enjoying these race weekends, whether location or friends or both, while still remaining as competitive as I can, as makes sense for me. If there’s any place to work on that, it’s a wine country race.
Great sleep in the cozy cottage, and another early start. Is it weird I’m getting used to 4:30am wake up calls? But I turn on the coffee, get my yogurt and banana bad self moving, stretching it out and trying not to get back into bed. Start my morning of routine, and suddenly get a 4:45am “go get ‘em” text which was pretty spectacular – do you know what it does to my energy to know that someone out there made a point to get their ass up, even more a minute, just to send me that text? It’s not all solo out here, I guess. My energy is building and I’m now pretty excited to get this race going, got my racing outfit on, bib number pinned, KT Tape laid on, and my hip and shoulder aren’t too awake yet, so maybe that’s a good sign. Bob and Carl are waiting for me in the kitchen and we’re off. And then here come the nerves! I know they’re considered a good sign, and I take them that way. Never quite sure when they’ll kick in – night before, during the night, when I wake, at the start line or what.
While it’s the wine country and the way to get to most places is really just one road, the traffic isn’t impressive, which is impressive. Not long before I’m in the right-before-the-start ritual of a porta potty line, making conversation with those around (we runners are a chatty bunch!) and dropping the gear bag. Every runner has a story, including the Novato woman who had her ACL scoped in May and this was her first race back, she was just hoping to finish, that was her goal. And that inspired me too – especially when I saw her in he eight minute mile corral! Something just felt good about this race – people were in good moods, the course started with a hill and really nothing tougher after that and great spectators.
And when I say great spectators, it was fun. While this time I did have my music, which I admit I thoroughly enjoyed, occasionally you could hear them yelling for people. People they didn’t know but could yell their names. See, again because it was a smaller race, the bibs had your first name on them. So every once in a while I’d hear “go Gretchen!” or “keep it up Gretchen!” or “Yay Gretchen!”. And crazy enough, knowing full well they weren’t someone I knew, it was awesome. Once I even turned around as a late reaction thinking I knew them, cause I’d just heard my name, but didn’t and I smiled to myself for the next mile. And watching some of the http://www.ccteamchallenge.org/ coaches double back or run with some of their runners, or just stand on the side of the road and cheer their folks on was also pretty inspirational. And the big tall that-guy-would-crush-me runner who stopped to cheer people on, I ran right by him and this big deep voice bellowed out “keep going, Gretchen, you got this!” was awe-some. Hell ya. And the best was coming in down the 12 into the final stretch and some of the elite runners, including a number from Kenya who I can’t believe we’re in this little itty bitty race, cheering the rest of us in, and hearing one yell “Go Gretchen, looking good!” Wow. Talk about making my day. Almost don’t care about my time, the experience was just so good. Wait, is that balance?
Speaking of – yes, was scoping out for mile 10 and trying to spot the wine tasting. When I got that email a few days before the race announcing Gundlach Bundschu was going to be serving wine tasting around mile 10, I thought, you know, why not. I’m talking about enjoying these more, why not. No other race I’ve done before had this, and perhaps no other will (ok, a random bar on the course in Vegas last year served shots of beer, but not the same…) so I got to try it. Got to the mile 10 marker, didn’t see anything and though, “wow, I really just made something crazy up in my head, it was a dream email, not for real?” and the – AH HA! Was a little past mile 10 and at the winery entrance. Now, I wasn’t sure for sure at that point that I even felt like having a taste or a sip of wine – not exactly what you’re craving at that point. And so I ran past, thinking, c’mon, feeling good, playing with your gait, only three miles to go. And then I stopped, and doubled back and grabbed a cup. Again, when else is this going to happen and I just had to try it. Now, it was just a sip, and I wondered if I’d taken more if I would’ve felt it and would it have affected my last three miles. As it was, a couple sips of it did nothing except burn a little going down and for a few seconds. I did see others stopping and I appreciated that we all made the effort. And now I can say I did it. But it was weird, no doubt about it.
So another one down, and already number seven. Race #7 in the 7th month, on the 17th day. All seems appropriately laid out, as it should be. Can’t believe seven are already done, and only have four to go. Definitely in the review and assessment thus far phase. Wondering about my time goals, and how busy life has gotten and how it’s kind of taken me away from the kind of training I wanted to do to get there, and if it’s about getting the 11 done in ’11 and doing fewer next year, but going for faster times. Don’t know, still thinking about it in different ways. We’ll see. One thing I know, is I loved this race, it felt good, it was fun, I had great support and they were totally into it which got me more into it, the course was beautiful, I made some new memories in places I’ve been wanting to, my hip is so far so good one day post, and I all in all it was a great weekend. Thanks, Napa to Sonoma – great set up for a great experience.
Never have I been so happy it’s a taper week, given my schedule. Which means, I’m glad I don’t have to fit a bunch of runs or training in this week – cause I don’t have the time! Can’t find the time or the energy. What? So it just happens to be soooper helpful that race NUMBER FIVE is on Sunday, so I had to pull back this week anyway. Funny thing is – woke up Monday and Tuesday so very jazzed for the race. That’s usually a great indication for how the race will stack up for me – I’ll get enough rest, have the motivation I’m looking for, eat right the week leading up and pay close attention to what my body needs. Be aware.
But overwhelmed by client work (I know, I asked for it, but it’s still a lot) and figuring out a new-ish schedule, and new types of training and frankly spreading myself a bit thin has left me gasping for air, like a thirsty man in the desert. Now my excitement about a race this weekend isn’t just about the run, the expo, the course, the people, the crowds, the endorphin rush – it’s also about the ability to get away from it all, have an hour and a half all to myself, nobody needing anything from me, just carved out time to move my body, get in a zone, feel the rhythm, work the groove of the asphalt in conjunction with the sway of my body. And that, I definitely can’t wait for.
What else I can’t wait for – just started working with a nutritionist who also specializes in coming back from injury and sports preparation. And when I told him I wanted to run December’s 11th and final race in Miami in 1:35 – no hesitation, no raised eyebrow, no smirk, just a straightforward “oh, we can do that, that’s not much at all – we’re going to make some real adjustments and make it happen.” Oh happy day – I can’t wait to see the increased energy, the even quicker recovery, the minutes shaving off my time. Bring it on, Sam!
So, how does it all fit in? No idea. I’m taking it one day at a time, just asking for a little guidance and a lot of support, finding some within, some surrounding. And in a whole new way, looking forward to a little downtime meditation during my up tempo race. Yeah, it makes sense to me!
Wow – that might’ve been the best last-run-before-a-race run I’ve had yet! Just ran an hour and it felt awesome. Clean and thorough, strong and nearly effortless. Was a little concerned after a two-a-day yesterday – tough training session in the morning, and yoga at night, combined with almost a week off from running (see weekend of skiing before…) But incredibly happy with the results – both the energy before, during and after. Very little fatigue. And it just makes me that much more excited for this weekend. AND I got my shipment of Honey Milk in, so starting to really be able to train with that, which I will also bring with me to the race this weekend.
And my mama is coming with! So far so good on getting friends and family to join me for these races this year. And actually have almost all races planned out in terms of who might actually be there so feeling pretty damn happy about that too. New Orleans should be a hoot – a very different atmosphere from what I’ve done before. Want to lay low Saturday afternoon and evening, rest up for Sunday. But also want to enjoy what NOLA has to offer, especially in the food area. Think we’ll go kind of big on Friday night, good lunch on Saturday and then chill out. Course, there’s got to be some celebrating *after* the race.
So here I come Big Easy – might just have to go all out on this one. Got great support, feeling even better than I did before Phoenix, trusting that will last, and I’m looking forward to the course and getting a chance to really see NOLA. Bring it on!
Day after race. Expected to sleep not so well, restless in the morning. And then IT happens. The first time I swing my legs over the bed and gingerly put my feet to the floor. Oh my, muscles stagnant all night? Barely moving? Any lactic acid just pooling somewhere in my muscles? Ugh. Never a big fan of the feeling. Usually takes a step before it all travels literally from the heel of my foot, up the back of my calf, through my hamstrings and quads to my lower back and holy stiff everything.
But wait. What’s this? Nada? Zilch? Nothing? Let me try that again. Swing legs over bedside. Feet hit ground – shouldn’t they at least be sore? Nope. Ok, take a few steps. Bracing myself for cramped tight calves. Not so much. How about the hammys? No? Just a little stiff. That’s it. And it’s probably from the two flights and endless hours on BART.
What the what? How did I manage this? Hmmm, did I run a two hour half and just not exert that much? Maybe not giving myself enough credit for how I trained, what I ate, how I prepped, my post race ritual?
Ok. Seriously. This is nearly the complete opposite of how I felt in December. When I could barely move and slowly stepped around my house for a day. Hell, I could go for a run now.
I’m in shock. Happily. Clearly I don’t want the pain or stiffness or soreness, and am thrilled beyond English verbage feel this way. Now to figure out what I did so I can do it again!
Didn’t take a nap post race. Didn’t stretch. Least amount of walking post race in four half marathons. Only iced one knee for five minutes. Ate well – orange half, water and a chocolate Honey Milk. Downed that. Even driving back to Kelly’s house for a half hour in the car – totally prepared to be stiff. Nothing. Nearly hopped out no problem. Covered my legs in Biofreeze Performance. I did have a couple Tecates. Maybe it’s true what they say – Tecate’s Good for the Body? Had enough carb/salt/protein post race. But mostly relaxed without actually laying down, and ate light. Ah – I know!
It was the trampoline!
Ok, maybe not. But something was different. And I want to know what! Really, could it be the Honey Milk? Could it be not laying down? Whatever it is, I’ll take it. And then some. Here’s to the next race recovery being right on par.
And… oh yeah. A new PR. 1:47:04. Wasn’t even trying for one. And yes, I can easily trace exactly where those four+ seconds were spent that could’ve had me breaking 1:46. Next one…
Ok, I don’t really think of it that way. I went into today’s race just excited to be back out there. Excited to be feeling good, ready and even nervous. I like the nervous feeling – let’s me know I care about all of this internally.
Got up at 6am and started the race day ritual – yogurt, banana, emergen-c and coffee. This time I got to add some of the Honeymilk to my coffee, which, frankly, was awesome. I made sure to finish food by 6:30 so I had a full two hours before the gun went off to digest etc. Got my run clothes on, safetypinned that number on myself and enjoyed the build up of anticipation. Kelly came downstairs, saw me in my clown costume and probably wondered what the hell she was doing up so early.
Hopped in the car and made our way to the drop off area. Have to say – being able to stay at a friend’s house and have that kind of support was awesome – sometimes a necessary distraction away from just the race, and nice to share it with someone who was really interested in what I was doing. Got dropped off with plenty of time to hit the loo and drop off the gear bag and find corral 4. This time I had a few minutes to stretch out a bit while in the holding area, and settle in as opposed to literally running to the starting line.
Ah, wait, what’s the scent wafting over the corral? As we all start to glance at each other, those of us who noticed start to smile. Some lovely spectator on the side has lit a joint. Yeah, THAT’S the scent you need to smell at the start of a race. Super energizing. Someone makes a joke about upping the ante for munchies on the run. Seriously, did that just happen?
Ok, run begins, it’s a slow wave after wave start and finally we go. Shuffling through crowds of feet and legs and arms, finally able to find a pace. And yes, again, started with Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing – why stop using that now? Works for me.
First few miles felt awesome – I felt SO much better than the Vegas race, and even so much better than just 24 hours before. The pre-race jitters were just what I needed to get back in the zone. Music choices were nearly perfect, and I felt like I was settling into the groove. Huh, must be running for a while, maybe hitting the 5K mark soon? Oh, oh yes, why there it is. Those first three miles went pretty fast! This is good! Keep it up, feeling strong.
Wow, is it just me or was the mile between three and four actually about five miles? How did that happen? Oh boy, settle down, then in, that’s what I forgot to do. Ok, let’s try this again.
Ah, ok, there’s the 6mile marker, the 10K has got to be coming up. Why do I keep looking for these? Mmmmm, just keep running. Half the pace time markers are not working, which is ok, because I’m totally off what my start time was, so not even sure what I’m doing. Did I start five minutes past the gun? Four? Six? How much do I shave off the official starting time?
Observation – I love seeing young teens running. Guessing they’re about 12, maybe 14. Loping along, but keeping up. Always wonder why they’re doing it – part of school? Raising money? Just love running? A challenge with a friend or family member?
Settled in and realizing I *really* like these Newton shoes. Feet feel good, legs feel strong. Feels kind of like that run in Woodside recently where my legs took care of me while I figured out the rest.
And the weather is perfect – sunny, a few clouds, not too warm, definitely not too cold. Wait. What is that? Ohhhhh, here come the “hills”. This should be interesting. Oh, right, I train with hills, what am I worried about?
Rolling hills don’t always correspond with the pace music. Sometimes I’m zipping a little too fast. Oh, really don’t like that occasional light headed feeling the creeps in waves after mile 10. Must look into that.
Oh, here’s a nice distraction. The tall hot twins Kelly and I saw at the expo just ran by. Shirtless. WOW. There’s a reason to run faster, just to keep up with that view. Hello boys! (for one of you, your wife is rather lucky!)
Another observation – a lot of schools and community groups have great cheering sections along the way, some in costumes, some unique, all energetic and super supportive. I’m usually too in the zone to high five on the sidelines, but I do appreciate the effort. Also – anyone know why some people were carrying a single drumstick?
Mile 11 – hilarious double take by me from a dad on the sidelines with a kid in his arms he’s “curling” like biceps curls, and his two very small boys doing pushups on the ground on either side of him. I think I did a triple take and flashed them a huge grin. Great random thing to see along the course. Tiny pushups are hilarious.
Ok, I grabbed water three times this race, much better than last race. But admittedly walked for a few seconds each time. Hmmm, I don’t like that but wanted it. Consumed one FRS energy bite starting at mile 9 and that was about it. I’m thinking it wasn’t enough, considering the waves of lightheadedness and nausea that again greeted me towards the end.
Ah. The elusive 13 mile marker. What a damn tease you are. It’s always so lovey to see you but hell if you aren’t actually the finish line. .1 to go. Do you know how insane that .1 can actually make a normally level headed woman? Always must prepare the best music for that last stretch to counteract the insanity.
Ok, push, just keep pushing it. YES. Crossed the finish line. A little wobbly but keep walking. Keep walking. Bottle of water. And yes, an attempt at an ice pack for the outside of the right knee. The medal – oooo, that’s a nice one. I think I’ll have Nate wear it when I see them. And then a picture – why not, it’s official and lord knows I’m committed to documenting this year.
Oh look, they have orange wedges and Snickers Marathon bars. Grab a few of those, try to rewrap the ice, no avail, sliding down sweaty leg, take a look – oh, right. I kicked the inside of my ankle a handful of times and turns out I took a decent divit out of my ankle. That’s gonna sting in the shower later.
No banana, had enough this past week (but it makes a difference, that’s for sure) – so now where… Gear check – to grab phone and call Kelly to see where they are. Truck 28 where are you – oh HI Kelly, Nate and John! Awww, how cool, they came to find me.
Awesome. SO great to have people there at the finish line to greet me (ok, close enough)! Kelly brought my chocolate Honey Milk (instead of regular chocolate milk post race which I swear by.) Gave Nate my medal to wear – pretty big grin on the seven year old. Kelly’s dad John was excited to be part of it all. One runner walked up to me and said what was music to my ears “Damn, I tried really hard to keep pace with you, but you got away from me, I just couldn’t keep up!” Thanks, mister. Along with everything else, you made my day! Got some great pictures, moseyed back to the car (love the walk cool down post race) and headed home.
Not too stiff after the half hour car ride, great sign. Grabbed some light snacks, told stories, checked out pictures and sat down to watch the Seahawks get their ass handed to them (final score a bit deceptive.) And enjoyed a few Tecates – always tasted SO good after a race – whether a glass of champagne, a celebratory cocktail or an ice cold beer – goes down so smooth. Oh, and right to my blood thinned head.
Tried something new post race – trampoline! Unbelievably fun. If only I could find one to jump on at the end of each of the races this year. Now that would be a story.
Unlike the nine hours it took me to go from Phoenix, AZ to San Francisco, CA. Two flights with a two hour hold in LA, then the trip from SFO to Oak to get my car, waiting lonely there since autodriving it there Friday night. But made it home, added some arnica to my bedtime ritual and plan to sleep in, curious to see how the body, muscles, and joints feel tomorrow.
All in all, a GREAT first race of this 2011 journey. Great company, relaxing atmosphere, with friends who care about me, and cared about the event overall, good course, great weather, body felt good, stomach felt good – both much better than December’s Vegas race. If this is how all of them are, I’d be thrilled. Couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to this fun and likely illuminating chapter…