Thursday, May 21, 2015

Evolution of a Cup of Coffee


What athlete doesn't love coffee? We love our caffeine, and research supports that it can certainly help our performance in sport and life (in moderation!). But I don't need to drill down that point anymore, it's well-established. As I sit here drinking my morning coffee, I started reminiscing on all the ways I've prepared my cup o' joe over the years. Think about it in your own life. If you're like me, as you'll see, it's actually an interesting exercise to think back on all the ways we've loved our coffee and how we take it today. It says a lot about who we are and our values. here's my story:

~~~

High school. I drank a bit of coffee starting around senior year of high school, mostly late-night when studying for a big test. It felt "cool" to hit the caffeine then, even if my approach to it was dumb aka drinking it late into the night--probably not the best for test performance, eh? I recall there being a giant bag of M&Ms in that routine as well. There was a short phase when Starbucks was so cool and hot guys worked there so we'd go and get caramel macchiatos, frappacinos or seasonal lattes, and they tasted damn good--extra whip!--but I never continued that habit into college. I probably quit because I gained a decent amount of weight at the end of high school into early college, and realized the high-cal sugar-laden coffee drinks were not my friend. The weight gain is another story for another day.

~~~

College (undergrad). At SDSU I became a daily coffee drinker. I drank it a lot, and into the evenings when I was working at the school newspaper. By this time I had lost the aforementioned weight, and as a result I feared fat and sugar because, yes, I feared getting chubby again. I suppose I was smart to fear sugar, but not so smart to think artificial sweeteners, which I used in abundance, were a better alternative. I was certainly dumb for fearing fat, but that's the world we grew up in. I would brew coffee in the dorms, then onto an apartment shared with friends. Or I'd get it at the Starbucks on campus--at this point it was a Venti Americano, adding Splenda and fat-free milk (or bringing and adding my own powdered non-dairy creamer). I used that powdered Coffeemate religiously, and I would load it in. Normally my artificial sweetener of choice was Splenda, but I'd do Equal, Sweet N Low, or the knock-offs if I had too--anything to avoid real sugar. What's worse, I'd often get coffee from 7-Eleven in a Styrofoam cup (large of course). Sometimes I'd do iced coffees in a Big Gulp cup (complete with what I'm guessing was low-quality tap-water ice), and I would even still try to use the powdered creamer because I was afraid of adding any fat in the form of cream or milk. The coffee I drank was probably the lowest quality--if I bought it myself it was likely Foldgers or whatever was the cheapest and biggest at Costco; you know how it goes when you're poor and in college. I didn't care. My coffee "splurge" was using those sugar-free flavored syrup sweeteners that you can get in a bottle about the size of a wine bottle.

Where was a podcast at that time telling me I was insane! I want to shake SDSU-me by the shoulders and say, "What are you thinking?!"

~~~

Post-grad office job. After SDSU I worked in an office for a couple years, at a newspaper, and I would usually make coffee at home and bring it to work (same formula of Splenda and Coffeemate) then drink more of whatever coffee was available in the pot in the office; low-quality stuff for sure. My addiction Splenda grew and I think there were times where I'd add three packets to one cup of coffee. Goodness!

~~~

Grad school. I quit the office gig to build my dream career. I was back in college for grad school, and back living with the 'rents to save money. I was still drinking a lot of coffee, even later in the afternoons (I had mostly late-afternoon or night classes in those days and that justified coffee drinking late into the day). In my CSUF grad-school days my cup of coffee evolved to consisting of liquid Coffeemate (aka same fake nondairy sh*t but now in liquid form, yippee!), and my sweetener of choice upgraded to stevia. Still the same ol' habit of adding three packs of stevia to a 16oz travel mug. Can you tell that the artificial sweeteners and even stevia can be dangerously addicting?!?!

I think the coffee we used at home was still probably from Costco at that point; it was whatever my mom got (she's innocent; I don't blame her) and at this point in my life we'd never bought anything except pre-ground coffee. The idea of buying beans and grinding them myself sounded absurd and like extra work that wasn't necessary. During summer and/or before/after training for triathlon racing I made giant iced coffees like I used to at SDSU, but at home and I "upgraded" to using nonfat milk (non-organic from cows) and some crappy whey protein.



~~~

Recent years. After grad school, I was living on my own again, and I finally wised up. But not totally. I switched creamers for good and starting using a combo of almond milk and So Delicious Coconut Creamer (original with no added sugar). I was still using stevia (but cut back--only 1-2 packets lol). I started buying better quality coffee too. Instead of pre-ground coffee I bought a grinder and started buying organic beans, grinding them myself.

I started researching types of beans, regions and what are considered the "cleanest" and best quality. I can thank podcasts for helping me on this pass to better coffee, but I think such podcasts can get a little extreme too. For example, there's that whole debate on mold and mycotoxions in coffee (and it gets worse with decaf due to the process of extracting the caffeine--you want the swiss water process). I get it, and I believe some crappy coffees are like that. But you could tear your hair out and go on a wild goose chase (or spend too much money) trying to find "the perfect" coffee.

I tried experimenting with different "approved" and "safe" beans according to "the experts." The coffee certainly tasted amazing. But then I loosened up and broadened my horizons. I started buying beans from local coffee shops that clearly adhere to high-quality standards, or buying brands with great reputations like Stumptown and Blue Bottle Coffee, even if they weren't organic nor single-origin beans (they weren't necessarily cheaper either, though, haha). All tasted amazing and made me feel just as good, and not like crap nor brain fog.

All this experimenting made me believe that we don't have to be super anal about coffee if you're at least buying from a reputable source, a brand that has a quality processing system in place, and buying the actual beans (not pre-ground). From there, you should measure the quality of your coffee based on how it makes you feel.

~~~

My coffee today. Where have I landed? I'd like to think I'm close to my perfectly quality cup of joe. What' more, I try not to have caffeine in excess like I used to do especially in college days. I have it in the mornings and that's it. That is, unless we're doing something crazy like Ragnar or crewing an ultra. I kicked that 3pm coffee habit as soon as I really wised up on what it takes to be healthy and not using the afternoon coffee as a crutch for poor health/poor adrenal status.

So what does "good coffee" mean to me now? Here's where I'm at:

1) I ditched the stevia. Now that I don't use stevia in coffee, I can't even fathom adding the amounts of sweetener I used to add. I love the taste of coffee for the coffee. In fact, I basically have cut out stevia all together and very rarely partake in it, but I still keep some around the house just in case, or if it's in a product that I like I'm ok with it in small amounts and moderation. It was a rather easy habit to kick, easier than the gum. I'm still not convinced stevia is all that safe.

2) I no longer add any artificial creamer products--even So Delicious has sketchy additives (see below)*. However, I am adding milk--in the form of coconut milk from a non-BPA can (BPA free cans verified here; I'm going with TJ's) and unsweetened organic almond milk. But I don't add a lot, just enough so it's not super bitter. That said, there are times when I do keep my coffee just black, especially if it's cold-brew. I love cold-brew black.

I can thank two people for this: one, Dr. Maffetone for his stringent recommendation to ditch the stevia and creamer calling that junk food, and two, me! I wanted to be more of a coffee snob and I think that requires actually tasting the coffee lol. 

3) I drink 50/50 caf/decaf, most the time. If I'm at home it's a 50/50 blend. The caffeine beans are usually a bag I get from Laguna Coffee Co, and decaf is the Bulletproof brand that I bought in bulk on sale. I grind my beans regularly so they're fresh, and I store each kind in separate containers in a dark, cool area. That said if I'm traveling or something special is going on I'll go 100% caffeine.

4) I am also mixing up how I brew coffee. I'll still use the coffee maker if I'm really lazy, but I'm now incorporating a french press and you can surely taste the difference; it's better! The cleanup is a biatch though. Next up I'll start doing the pour-over method.

Lastly: Do I do Bulletproof coffee? (Because I know you're wanting to ask lol.) Sometimes I do, not often though, and my own versions. I don't like it with butter, so that's out. But I will add coconut oil and/or MCT oil with cinnamon, especially if I am having it pre-workout and not eating until after training. I don't blend it, I just stir in the oil(s). Or, I also occasionally have coffee with a packet of UCAN, mixed in a shaker bottle, either the plain or vanilla protein, and the vanilla tastes like heaven. If I add the plain I *may* splurge and add a bit of stevia.

*While So Delicious creamer is the lesser of most evils as far as coffee creamers go, it still has extra crap we just don't need: DRIED CANE SYRUP, COLORED WITH TITANIUM DIOXIDE, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, CARRAGEENAN, GUAR GUM.
Yup, no thanks.

So that's my coffee story. Thoughts? Suggestions? How do you take yours?



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Marathon Week is Here!

I am pretty darn excited for the weekend. A new place to visit, a new kind of race to try out, and finally the chance to see how my body likes this 26.2 thing.... better yet, to see how my (our) moderate and low-mileage training approach has prepared me for this distance and my "loose" goals--loose because my world won't crash if I don't hit the times I'm targeting. And by "our," I'm referring to Dr. Maffetone, who's been advising my training in case you're jut chiming into the blog.

Early morning running, all mine mmmm.

Race Goals
Speaking of him, I talked to Phil the Man last week for an EP podcast released yesterday, and appropriately he wanted to talk about setting race goals and tapering MAF style, coincidentally both topics that could be tied into my current situation with the pending marathon, so at times we used me as an example. He says, in a marathon one can generally race 10-15 seconds faster per mile than their MAF pace. This puts me at sub-8 pace, about 7:50-7:55 in fact, for the marathon. Thank goodness it's a flat course ;)

I don't think that kind of pacing is crazy talk for me; however, being that this is an unknown distance/race for me still (an open marathon very different than marathon in an Ironman!) I am being cautious not cocky, and I know it will come down to not just the last 10k but probably the last 8-9 miles of the marathon where I really find out what I got and if I can hold it together.

Realistically I know I can run a 3:30-3:35, and at the end of the day I'm a competitor by nature so I'm going into this marathon to get the best our of me. But as we always say on ATC, if it were only that easy to just pick your race finishing time.... Who knows?! Oh ya and my goal time also happens to be my BQ time; Boston 2016? We'll see. Just depends where I'm at in life.

Almost Bailing on the Marathon?
Backing up a bit... I'll be honest, there was an email exchange March 30 in which Phil asked if I might want to consider bailing on this marathon and choosing another one later on, so that I could train more specifically for it. I wasn't stressed (probably the opposite--high on life, lol), but I also wasn't showing the traits of someone dedicated to marathon training.

"One thing that keeps coming to mind about your schedule is whether you want to stick with your marathon event, or move it out further in the year, which can reduce some stress. I'll support you either way," Phil said (keep in mind this was the day after my 30th birthday and also the week I got engaged, lol).

He was right to ask that, and it got me thinking for sure. I just wasn't showing that consistent of running, no actual "plan," and just running whenever was convenient. I cared (I always will) but I wasn't all in. I was quick to jump into another kind of workout or activity instead--SUP, cycling, strength training, or a weekend of backpacking, trip to SF, etc. In fact, I think what he was seeing was the manifestation of an underlying fear--i.e. me not wanting to revert back to my old habits, go overboard with training, get obsessed and undo the hard work I've done to build good health. But I had to let go of that, and trust myself and trust my body.

It didn't mean I didn't want to do the race. I told him that I'm doing this marathon no matter what and that it's just my journey, and that I understand I'm probably not going to reach my potential with my "free-spirited" approach but at the same time, my approach was allowing me to build some running endurance while maintaining my health with no setbacks--that was/is my No. 1 priority.

A couple weeks after that exchange I think I finally switched modes and I was all about the run training, and I let go of thoughts that I'd screw up. No fear. I became much more willing to let go of the random crosstraining and get down to run business.

Long Runs
For six weeks I got in weekend long runs of 2.5 to 3 hours at MAF on a route specific to the marathon course (aka flat), which means I gave up my beloved trail runs for a bit. I'd usually get in a mid-week moderately long run too of around 90 minutes give or take, or a triple run (double run one day followed by a third run early the next day). All based on MAF principles.
Finding the flat trails in OC to avoid concrete jungles.
 Loving my new run-specific CamelBak Circuit!

I saw myself maturing in the process of doing the longer runs because I learned to have the discipline to go into the key long ones rested, feeling good and ready to tick of some solid miles, something that as a triathlete I wasn't always used to doing because "I had to fit in s/b/r all the time" and I'd get to the weekend with a decent amount of accumulated fatigue. If that meant forcing it, and running or biking tired or slower than my potential on Sat/Sun, that was OK with me at the time. Don't get me wrong, that worked to some degree--it was essentially overreaching--and it got me in dang good triathlon shape. However, for my body it wasn't sustainable week after week or year after year, but that's the other story. And as you can imagine that's also not the style I was going for with the marathon training this year. I wanted to allow for long runs to be quality so I could actually feed good and have fun with them! So...

For my final six long runs I mapped out ahead of time whether my long run had to be on a Saturday or Sunday (I was putting other life obligations first, i.e. family stuff, etc, which I refuse to blow off to train instead), and then the day prior to the long run would always be off or an easy bike or yoga--even if I felt good. It was certainly a practice in holding back on certain days when I wanted to do more but was "saving" myself for the key run. I haven't always operated like that. But I was proud when I finally got into a Sunday long run feeling good and excited, "So this is what it feels like!"

Now, I'm not saying I felt like I tapered before every long run nor did I feel "race ready" every weekend (no!) but I didn't feel trashed and dragging ass like I remember from triathlon-specific days where Sundays, especially, got to be a real struggle at time--mentally just as much as physically.

What I Did & Didn't Do 
I built up my mileage, and the longest I ran was 18 miles two weeks before the marathon. Those 18 miles were mostly at MAF and also included some walking in the beginning and end, per Phil's request. That was a good weekend overall and the day after the 18-miler I ran another 4 in the morning (felt great!) then hiked. All in all it was at least 30 miles on the feet in 48 hours. Building endurance baby...

Hiking trails in the mountains the day after running long.
What? Smell your armpit? No thanks. #truelove

That said, I never ran 20-milers this time, and I never went over 3 hours in one run. I never had a 50+ mile running week (but I did get to 45ish mpw). I don't think I had any weekly training volume of more than 13 hours, and most weeks were 8-10 hours of training (crosstraining included, even yoga, in that). I rarely ran more than two consecutive days. Originally I thought I'd never run more than two days in a row, but as things evolved there were times I broke that rule because I felt fine or it was planned like the triple run.

I ran most my miles in this training cycle at or near MAF, i.e. 150 HR. I can slip into 150 with ease and that HR feels normal and natural and where my body likes to hang out.

What about anaerobic work or intensity? There were times when I certainly went 10-15 beats over MAF (i.e. HR 160s) whether a fartlek or a trail run/hill climbing or running with a fast friend while also talking (Michelle Barton!), or when I was finishing a long run and just went more by RPE and pace letting go of HR a bit because I felt like it built good mental toughness for the later stages of a marathon. I don't recall ever running with HR over 170 though outside of Ragnar.

My training did not include any specific/planned high-intensity workouts, and the kind of intensity I did just happened in the moment when it felt good and OK to do, not forced. Except for Ragnar, which was certainly the highest intensity I've reached this year. That was forced hard running (the good definition of forced), and definitely a smart move to just go for it--use those "C' races to practice speed and intensity!

Worth mentioning: Depending on my cycle (that female cycle) I also would see higher HRs in running the week or so before Day 1. In fact, I got a whole post I need to write on menstruation and the female athlete, haha....

Taper
Now I'm tapering, which, oh ya, I HATE! I hate the taper. Always have. It doesn't help that I'm about to start my period, and my mood and appetite are certainly affected by hormones right now. Grrrrr ;) Did you know you burn more calories the week before you start? Despite lower training volume and being in chill mode, my appetite is as if I'm running 15 miles a day. This happens every month to me, but this week I'm just making sure to keep it in check as to not add to my race weight lol. (For the record, folks, I weight about 133-134lbs so I'm not as skinny as I've raced at in the past, and I'm happy with my body.)

I'm going to follow Phil's advice and not run the two days before the race, which sounds weird, in fact. Had he not suggested that in the podcast I'm sure I'd do some short runs the couple days before. But I'll give this a try and see. Can't hurt, right? I've always been a conservative taper'er as it is...

Sunday Race Day
UCAN mocha, to die for!
Coffee and pack of vanilla protein UCAN.
We're staying in a VRBO rental and I'll be bringing food to cook for pre-race dinner, and, no, I will not be going to the organized pasta dinner--ha! Morning of the race I'll have my UCAN porridge, PerfectAmino and Vespa, plus coffee with coconut milk.

During the race it'll be water, UCAN, and probably Bonk Breaker Chews or a chia gel when I'm digging deep. Speaking to that, when you are fat-adapted like I am you can handle the carbs/sugar a bit better and those macronutrients can aid in performance in the moment without setting you back in metabolic efficiency/fat-adaptation. That said, have I been training with the sugary stuff? No. Heck no. But I've had enough experience with it that my body knows what to do with it.

In fact, I had a long conversation with Peter Defty about tall this fat-adapted stuff last week... and he also said Vespa works great to prevent and/or cure hangovers, fyi! Haha! So maybe I'll be having Vespa post-race that evening too ;)

Cheers!

Finally how about my version of food porn: A nourishing bowl of farm-fresh eggs and kale sautéed in butter, avocado, homemade bone broth. I've gone back to mostly LCHF and it's going REALLY well, better than ever! I'm excited to share more on this especially for the female athletes out there.










Friday, May 8, 2015

Badwater Salton Sea // Ultra Inspired

This past weekend was a bit of an eye-opener for me. Simply put: I want to do an ultra. I've thought about it before but now I know I want to do one... do many in years to come. And let's put it this way: If you witness Badwater and aren't terrified but, rather, feeling inspired and want in? Well, that says something. I'm not saying I want to do Badwater anytime soon--soooo hard!--but I do want in on an ultra after this experience.

Badtwater Salton Sea... from my air-conditioned car ;)

Why? Mainly it comes down to the adventure aspect. Being out there in random places having to navigate through a foreign place often all alone or with just a pacer or teammate--I love that. Pushing the body in a new way? Sign me up. Even though I wasn't running, and I was "just" crew, this was still an adventure for sure.

Anza-Borrego Desert Park.

So anyway, it started when my friend Michelle Barton asked John and I to be the crew for Badwater Salton Sea, a team ultra, which she was running with Majo, an ultra freak from Canada (originally from Slovakia). This is not the original Badwater in Death Valley, it's a newer one down in San Diego that's an extremely similar format as the original, in this case: 81 miles with 40 miles on the desert floor (90-100 degrees), an 8-mile climb out of the desert on the trails, transitioning into the forest, temperatures dropping, ending with a gnarly climb up Palomar Mountain (triathletes, you know Palomar--famous for riding up a big ass mountain). I think the whole race has like 9k ft elevation gain; the course profile is nasty and not forgiving.

I was stoked to be invited to crew, as was John! We took this position very seriously, especially knowing that Michelle and Majo are elite/top ultrarunners. When Michelle asked she thought I might be too busy to do it, to which I said, "I am busy, but these are the kinds of things I want to be busy doing. I'm in." I've wanted to crew for a while and this was a perfect opportunity. We prepared a lot and realized it was going to be no joke given the terrain.

In fact, we documented the ultra on an Endurance Planet podcast coming out May 13. It has audio clips from pre-race planning, during the race and post-race. It's close to 2 hours total (!), and if you're into ultra or if you want to learn how to crew from a couple amateurs who figured it out, take a listen. I also shared some thoughts on the race in this new ATC podcast.

You can also watch this YouTube video Majo made.

Below is my story of why this weekend was so special for not just me, but our team....

~~~

Decorating my outback, the team car!
We got into town Saturday (the race was Sunday-Monday), and my car was all packed with a million race supplies and 25 gallons of water, seriously that much. Did I mention it would be hot? ;) We went to the pre-race meeting at Borrego Springs Resort, also where we were staying that night, and honestly I thought who would want to go stay at that resort just for fun? I can see camping in the area and I had no problem being there for our purposes but for a getaway "resort"?

Chris Kostman IS THE MAN!
Michelle's good buds with Chris Kostman the RD so I got to meet and hang with him, and by the time I heard him conduct the pre-race meeting, I was a fan. He's a solid dude with a brilliant mind, slightly crazy (he has to be right?!), and funny.

Sunday we were up at 4:30am, off by 5:30 to drive 35 miles farther southeast, nearly to mexico, to the race start at the Salton Sea. This place was a total trip. I've been to Mexico a lot, I've driven to San Felipe in a bus, and the terrain brought back memories of those days. It smelled like Mexico but even worse with the giant Salton Sea, which way stinnnnnky. There are millions of birds and fish, and their dead skeletons cover the sand. Ironically we drove those 35 miles only to have the runners go back to where we started, literally, as the resort was a timing check point.

Race morning over looking the Stinky, I mean Salton, Sea. #enduranceplanet
Normal.
The crazy ultrarunners ;)


Off for an adventure!


The gun went off and very casually about 50-60 people started running away, but not stupidly fast like you see in your local 10ks. John and I slipped into our role quickly. The next 40 miles basically entailed John and I stopping every 2-3 miles to mix handheld bottles of Vitargo and ice water to our team. Majo and Michelle had different ratios they wanted of mix, so we were trying to keep those bottles separate along with keeping vitargo bottles separate from ice water bottles. We figured out a system as we went, and, man, next time we will be so pro. We learned so much. They were drinking a ton so there was really no significant downtime those first 40 miles, we were always working, always thinking two steps ahead of what had to be done. We were also rolling ice bandanas, grabbing other supplies at their request, navigating, running to the market for more ice (40 lbs total were bought), and so on.


Hot desert. Minimalist shoes. Majo said it was hotter than his sauna that he was using for heat acclimatization, literally.

Team headquarters. 
I loved every second of this process and was 100 percent in the moment, enjoying the adventure and more so enjoying watching our team KICK ASS!!!! Right away they settled into the top 4 and never dropped from there. Michelle was the only female out of the top 5 teams (maybe more), and she'd eventually set the female course record by a couple hours I think. John and I knew that they were the "in it to win it" type, and we played along accordingly :)


At mile 40 they "left us" for nearly 3 hours as they climbed a trail out of the desert, no car access. Prior to the trail, we made sure they had something like 200 oz of fluids to stuff in packs. When they jetted off we then had the job of moving Michelle's car to Lake Henshaw so it'd be close by post race the next morning. Meanwhile, so many random things happened along the way including a giant cricket storm and the famous "Rancheti" statue, sounds weird but it's true!

Off on the trail section... "Goodbye for 2-3 hours! Hydrate!"

Michelle had her phone to catch some great images on the trail.

Watch out for cactus, Michelle got slammed with some in her elbow!

~~~

After the trail section the race dynamics changed. It dropped 20+ degrees, it was windier, getting near dusk, and they were needing less fluids. Michelle even went to a cup of noodles before sunset to get something salty.

Nothing wrong with a power nap, right?!
As it neared sunset John and I were driving these beautiful random roads waiting to see two little runners pop into view every so often. I don't really know how to describe it--it's like we were road tripping, stopping to see the sights, just moving slowly, but with an added bonus of having a purpose to take care of a couple people. There was one time where I was alone waiting for them and I spent 10-15 minutes simply observing some quails and how they behaved together. Then there was the time I saw a herd of cows far in the field and I did what my mom used to do when we were kids and on road trips--the "Come Boss" cow call. It never worked for my mom, but she loved it because her grandma used to do it. Well I gave it a shot and holy hell it worked! It was the funniest moment ever and I was dying in laughter. We even had traffic stopping to see the cows up close.

Coffee chugging in action... See those cows out yonder?

My "Come boss" cow call going down....

.... and holy shit they're actually coming!

Hi bossy!


Curious like a cat.

~~~

There were other times when we'd hang with other crews at various stop points, and everyone we met was so cool. It's like the good vibes you get in triathlon, but more intimate. More random, like "what the fuck are we doing out here?!" But you just love it despite the randomness (and heat)...

How crews stay entertained at ultras ;) Dude on left listens to my podcast!

Also random, one of the timing check points required that the crew called in at the time the runners passed the designated point to log the time--how cool is that?!

After the sun set I think my respect for Michelle and Majo grew even deeper, if that's possible. I was sort of cracked out from working like a robot and copious amounts of caffeine (I started chugging cold-brew from the bottle at some point as you saw above). As John put it, we were twired--tired but wired. There's no way I wanted to sleep, nor could I if I tried (it wasn't even late), but I had that feeling like I'd been partying all night. Meanwhile our mountain goats were still running, and now running up a giant mountain. Even though she was a bit hesitant to do so, around sunset I had michelle change sports bras, put on a long-sleeve top, and a fresh hat aka my Betty Designs trucker (which she loved so much that I let her keep it!). She was a little too cracked out herself to make "smart" decisions like that and I knew she'd thank me later for staying just the right amount of warm. On the other hand, majo wore the same tank and shorts all day, just adding arm sleeves at night. Thos Canadians, eh.

Golden hour. 
They just don't stop, these two.

And we don't stop either! #goodtimes
The darker and later it got, the more often John and I stopped to be there for them. But not for fuel so much anymore; rather, simply for support (and also guidance at random street turns). We wanted them to know we were with them every step of the way, and give them something to look forward to--it helped them to be able to think, "Just get to the car to see them again...." The mental strategy of taking a race in bits and pieces works from my experience in long triathlons, and Michelle told me it's even more important in these ultras. She wanted us there often, and I was a bit afraid that we'd (I'd) get annoying to them or they'd get sick of us, especially my cheering! They were quiet at times, but I could tell they always appreciated the closeness. I tried not to ask too many questions and instead let them tell us what they wanted, but at times I couldn't help it--I just wanted to baby them with stuff. "Do you want this?" "Do you need that?" Or then the times where we'd blast music (we played all running-related songs!) and I'd be cheering my brains out in the night stillness sounding like a psycho--John and I questioned whether we were going to piss off nearby neighbors.

An example of me being me.
Then there were the times late into the night when John and I were totally alone going up Palomar. We'd stop and get out of the car and it was quiet as can be, just the wind blowing through trees. It was a full moon and we were overlooking gorgeous open space of undeveloped land. You couldn't quite make out exactly what it was, but you knew it was vast and amazing. We even saw a lightening storm way off in the distance, and a fox! I got so happy thinking, "Who does this on a sunday night?! We do." I am so grateful John and I COULD be doing that on a sunday night and not have to be at a desk at some blah job somewhere come Monday morning.

The night, the full moon, and our runners coming up (those lights are them)....

I had packed a cooler of food in advance for John and I so we had plenty to keep us going including barbecued chicken thighs, bacon, kerrygold cheese, go raw flax crackers, coconut chips, avocados, carrots, basil pesto, eggplant dip, cold-press green juice, cold-press coffee, a 32oz growler of kombucha, dark chocolate, paleo cereal, nuts, UCAN, sardines, and probably even more. It was all perfect convenience food and our style. We didn't eat all of it but it did keep me well-fueled starting saturday night though monday afternoon.

When michelle and majo were less than 10 miles to the finish it seemed like it all had gone by so fast and that it would be over in no time, but at that point there was still roughly another couple hours I'm guessing. It was a grueling unrelentless climb. Majo said he was breaking it into km's for he and Michelle--baby steps--while they shared a coke. They were still running/jogging, rarely walking. I was floored by that, especially michelle! Majo did great in the cold night whereas Michelle was stronger in the heat earlier. They were a perfect team in that sense. She kept him going in heat, he kept her going late in the cold.

The last mile looked to be downhill on the map, but sadly we fed them false hope and it wasn't totally a descent. They had to finish running up a long, steep driveway into the garage of this gorgeous house that served as the finish line! Yup, Chris Kostman, the man, rents out a giant "lodge" on Palomar that sleeps like 20 people, and the garage of the house is the finish. "Welcome home" -- right?!

~~~
After midnight at the finish line, aka in the garage, with the superstars of ultra!




They finished at 12:02 am Monday, 17 hours and 2 minutes after starting, earning third place overall, and Michelle the female course record. The first place team went 15:09, which was a new course record. Conditions were "ideal" for a record-setting day. We were all stoked beyond belief and it was actually hard to wind down to go to bed that night after what I just witnessed. In fact, Chris ended up giving John and I a bed in the house to make life easier on us, as our sleeping arrangements were up in the air. Now, that's friendly treatment! Meanwhile Chris stays up all night bringing in the runners, and never seems to get tired. What a guy! I woke up the next morning with a window view from my bed of runners still finishing.... imagine that.

He got his IPA at the Finish!


The "Kostman Lodge" -- finish line lower left corner.
My car liked this trip.
Majo and Michelle were obviously on Cloud 9 when I woke them up (I did let them sleep in!) and absolutely stoked beyond words despite being desperately tired still. I felt like our team was more like a family than random friends at that point--in just a couple days we had already been through so much living. We saw them in deep spots, and we helped keep them alive basically. Meanwhile, John and I just fell in love with the whole ultra thing--the adventure, the planning, the executing, the teamwork, the organization, curveballs, the ability to adapt and overcome on the fly, the mental aspect, the endurance, the sheer grit to keep going, all of it. Personally I watched these runners and I wanted to be one...

Now that all said, let me point out: It's easy for me to sit back and dream of doing an ultra after watching Michelle and Majo gracefully kick ass. I got spoiled seeing the "glamorous" side of ultra (maybe glamorous isn't the word--they certainly did suffer). But our guys mostly ran that damn course, which just isn't normal! Meanwhile, IMO, they were soooo low-maintenance to care for it seems. But I know it wasn't/isn't like that for everyone. I know these things are brutal, I know people suffer, I know people have to pull out, I know it hurts and there are probably even darker periods for some than what I saw with our team, and the longer they take I'm sure the harder it is in a way--just like Ironman. I know Michelle and Majo suffered and gave it a 100 million percent (including their training leading up!), but they were 10+ hours faster than some who did this... those extra 10 hours out there must just be insane for runners and crew. I saw it even at this race, those guys who took 26-27 hours, I watched them walk up that mountain. I'm not naive to this sport, and I don't expect to go out and magically be like Michelle. I've learned so much about ultras from Lucho and my podcast.... No matter what I'm confident that, personally, getting into some ultras will be good for my mind and body, and give me that new kind of adventure I'm craving....


Morning after. ALL smiles. We wrapped up with a brunch for all racers/teams at the Kostman lodge, hosted by the Badwater crew. How cool.
~~~

 How about a few more pics:





I was clearly happy about this lol!!!








 


Yes please.

































Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fat-Adapted Breakfast Recipe and A Reminder on Nutrition

I've been getting creative with UCAN in my breakfasts before a long run, starting to dial in what I'll eat race morning before my marathon. This one kicked ass:

Strawberry Orange "Porridge"
gluten free, soy free, dairy free, sugar free, GMO-free, low-carb,
and promotes metabolic efficiency

Ingredients:

- 1-2 scoops Mt. Capra Deep 30 Strawberry Splash Protein
- 1/2 cup(ish) shredded coconut
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 cup(ish) almond milk; pour enough for everything to absorb
- liberal shake of cinnamon
- dash of sea salt
fyi - no extra sweetener needed

Directions:

In a regular size cereal/soup bowl, mix the dry ingredients first breaking up any clumps from the powders. Add nondairy milk, mix well, and let chia seeds absorb a bit (at least 5min is fine). That's it, and you're good to go. 

Tastes like a creamy tropical explosion, in a good way.

~~

I had that about 90 minutes before starting my long run. Who knows, but it was one of the best long runs in a long time--not just the data but how I felt. I'm doing this thing prescribed by Maffetone himself, since he knows that I'm not a high-mileage gal, and I guess it's his way to tie in volume without putting one over the edge:

- walk ~20' 
- run 2:00-2:20ish, mainly @ MAF (me, I'm using a MAF range)
- walk another ~20-25'  

So you get in 3hr or more on your feet, without it being all running. We'll see how it pays off!

My running portion this past time was more than 2hr at an average 8:20 pace. Kept HR in 150s. If it crept up 160+ I would stop and walk. I also stopped several times as well regardless of HR to switch podcasts/music or check how my athletes were doing in races. Important business ;)

I felt strong and full of good energy, better than the last run for sure, and looking back at it, I am pretty pleased with those numbers considering my marathon goal is ~3:30-3:35. Given the HR being totally in check with the 8:20 avg on this long run, as long as I can suck it up to hand on in the last 10k of the marathon, I should be good.

Also, pre-run I had a Vespa, which is another new product I'm liking. That's the hornet juice in case you were wondering. And no I do not have a reaction to vespa due to my bee sting allergy (I was a little nervous the first time but it's all good whew). The vespa keeps you in good fat-burning mode and also gives more mental clarity even late into a workout, I find.

During this run I took in 1.5 L water and ~250 calories of a concoction of raw nuts/honey/coconut/sea salt (yes, I can eat solids like that when I run). It was more insurance rather than feeling ravenously hungry for calories. All that worked because I finished feeling just as strong as when I started.

Nutrition Lesson
On that note, my personal reminder in nutrition had to do with the bonk the weekend prior on my long run vs. success this past weekend. It got me thinking... The bonk coulda just been a fluke. It happens, and who knows? It doesn't happen often at all to me, so don't overthink it, right?

But I don't like that answer, so, a few things I was thinking: 

1) Fuel smart. Proper fueling for long and/or key runs is still important even for the fat-adapted athlete. Nutritionally, this doesn't mean you have to carb-load or force-feed yourself before workouts, just be sensible to your individual needs. Have the right fuels pre-workout and during that will allow for the quality and most the time aim fuels that will keep you metabolically efficient. That UCAN/Mt. Capra recipe nailed it for me. The weekend before when I bonked, I was not fasted or anything like that, but I ran at an odd time of day and had eaten but with less thought put into the meal. I think I set myself up for that bonk, made worse by not bringing emergency fuel just in case.... 

2) Terrain matters. Not sure if this is really reaching but hear my out. I know on trails I can easily run 2 hours with nothing but water. But lately, I've been doing these "long" runs on a flat/faster route specific to the marathon course so I am able to hold my faster paces nonstop for long durations, unlike hilly terrain where pace/effort is always changing. Running 2-3 hours flat and "fast" (even MAFish) is arguably harder on the body than hilly trails--physically, annnnd mentally ;) I feel the same way about cycling on flats vs. hills. Flat TTs are way harder than hilly courses IMO. That could play a role in how one burns through calories.

3) Recovery. The bonk didn't ruin me nor my pace/performance but it certainly didn't feel as good as the well-fueled run. Even more importantly, I could tell my recovery was worse after bonking too--it was super obvious in fact!

These concepts of bonking are nothing new to me, they're nothing new to exercise science, but they're a good reminder.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Speaking of Opening Up....

... A few weeks ago I was interviewed by my buddy Vinnie Tortorich. I really didn't know what he was going to ask or want he'd to talk about, but prior to our chat I had given him links to my blogs so he could decide.



It wasn't my first time on Vinnie's podcast. Here we are in 2013 with Ben G.
Turns out, Vinnie wanted to get real with me, and ask some "tough" questions. In fact, apparently one of his training clients had some beef with my facebook default photo of the Betty girls and I at the Kona Underpants Run--and how we were impossibly fit/too skinny. Hm... well I will only speak for myself and I know I was somewhat broken at that point (it was the UPR 2013). That said, I know the gals in that photo, and I don't think they're the ones I'd pinpoint as unhealthy endurance athletes--I mean it; I think those gals are pretty solid! But I see the point and how it could appear that way. Whether it's the Kona UPR or athletes racing Ironman or whatever situation in endurance sport and/or female athletes there's no doubt issues are rampant, as I've been discussing more and more...

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my time on Vinnie's podcast. Partly because I respect Vinnie and he makes the conversation go so easily (he truly gets the art of interviewing); and partly because it was a chance for me to start opening up about some personal things in my life on a bigger platform for thousands to hear--and I was not afraid! That felt good.