Chasing 42

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Archive for the tag “nutrition”

My 6-Month Reflection

It’s a bit hard to believe it’s July 1st already. The past 6 months seem to have flown by, and yet I find myself still wishing I had more time to get more things crossed off my ever-evolving to-do list. Regardless, this is as good a time as any to stop and reflect on the first half of the year as I look forward to the second half. I’ve had quite a busy winter and spring, and I’ve commented before on my period of goal-less activity. That being said, I’ve still accomplished quite a bit, and I’m really looking forward to the challenges that await me over the next 6 months!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

31 in 31: I wanted to start the year off right by running every day in January, and it was certainly a successful start to the year! I also pledged to run 2013 miles in 2013 and I’m well on my way to that goal as well.

Marathon PR: My only major race during the spring was the Little Rock Marathon. When I initially registered, I was looking for an early marathon in the spring so that I could plan for multiple spring races. Although I didn’t get a chance to register for any additional marathons during the spring months, I was pretty darn happy about PR’ing in Little Rock! It was a great race and it left me hungry for more speed.

Speed Increase: Although I haven’t been as intentional about my speed work as I had hoped, I’ve still made some great strides has my speed and endurance have both increased. My average paces are continuing to drop, and I’m seeing times that I didn’t think possible even a year ago.

Nutritional Awareness: It can be easy to look to races when talking about goals, but I’ve been really pleased with the work I’ve put into my nutrition research as well. With the beautiful epicurean’s help, I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different foods, and exploring some great endurance nutrition substitutes as I work to remove the GUs and gels from my training.

Marathon Ready: My schedule was incredibly busy the first 6 months as I worked on finishing up my dissertation, and that meant not being able to travel to as many races as I had hoped. However, I pledged to keep my endurance up so I could run a marathon on any given weekend. I’m happy to say I’ve kept my training up, and have run an additional 5 unorganized marathon distances this year.

I’m A Maniac: I’ve talked about wanting to join the Marathon Maniacs since last year, and I hit my race goals to do so. However, I just recently took the plunge, paid my dues, and entered the InSane AsyLum. I couldn’t be happier! I can already tell that this group is a perfect fit for my brand of crazy, and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy meeting other maniacs throughout the country!

The 24-Hour Plunge: I may not have run this race yet, and in fact have many months of training left to go, but I’m pretty darn excited about simply registering! I’m going to voluntarily run for 24 straight hours around a 1 mile track. Brilliant!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

As I look back on just the last 6 months, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have the support of family and friends, and the opportunity to lace up my shoes every day and see where the road or trail takes me. I hope your first 6 months have been full of memorable experiences and learning opportunities. Let’s make the next 6 even better!

Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie Goodness!

My summer schedule has allowed me/ forced me to structure my days without the help of set meeting times or teaching times. I’m spending the summer teaching online courses while working on finishing my dissertation. When I’m not reading feminist theory, sexuality, sexuality education, and educational policy, you can find me breaking up the routine with a cup of coffee (hot, of course, no matter the temperature outside!) and a good book from my “fun read” list. After reading about Murakami’s thoughts on running, I turned my attention to the world of ultra-running. Increasing my distances in the last year has only made me want to push harder and further. This desire has been coupled with a revised healthy eating lifestyle courtesy of the beautiful epicurean. Thus, Eat & Run was a natural selection for my reading pleasure. Scott Jurek epitomizes the benefits of healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle better than any endurance athlete I’ve encountered. The further I get into the book, the more I am realizing just how amazing this guy truly is, and I’ve found something to strive for in his words.


A full review of the book is forthcoming, but I wanted to share a sneak peek in the meantime. One of my favorite parts about the book is his inclusion of some of his favorite recipes at the end of each chapter. He tosses in full meals, recovery snacks, and mid-run nutrition recipes, and I plan to try most of them. My first attempt was a delicious smoothie recipe with an anti-inflammatory focus. Much of our overall dietary focus has been on eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and the positive results have spoken for themselves. This smoothie is both refreshing, rehydrating, and wicked anti-inflammatory to boot. After a few minor modifications, the recipe includes a nice mix of readily available ingredients.

Strawberry Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie 

2 cups water

1 banana

1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries

1/2 cup frozen mango

1/2 cup frozen pineapple

1/2 cup smooth silken tofu

1/4 cup dried coconut flakes

3 tablespoons Flax Oil

1 tablespoon brown rice protein powder

1 1/2 teaspoons miso

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced

Nothing left to do but blend!

Nothing left to do but blend!

The original recipe called for shelled edamame in place of the tofu, but that proved rather difficult to find in Iowa, ironically enough. The Flax Oil replaced Flora Oil 3-6-9 blend, with the omega-3 content being fairly similar. Be careful with the turmeric as well, since it has a nasty habit of staining just about anything in sight! Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, you have only to toss them all into the blender and mix on high for a minute or two, until it is smooth and pourable. It definitely helps that we a Vitamix, the Bentley of blenders as well 🙂 The recipe should make 2 12-oz. smoothies, or one 24-oz. smoothie if you aren’t in a sharing mood! We have now made this smoothie twice, once before a long run, and once afterwards. It has proven to be amazingly hydrating, and a fantastic energy boost as well. This anti-inflammatory smoothie goodness will definitely be finding a place into the regular nutritional rotation!

It only seemed appropriate to serve them in our recently earned Exile Brewing glasses!

It only seemed appropriate to serve them in our recently earned Exile Brewing glasses!

My 2013 Endurance Goals

It’s easy to avoid committing to something when it only exists as a series of passing conversations with friends. Over the years, I’ve had the best intentions to complete quite a few things, but they’ve never gotten much further than a passing comment or an adrenaline-fueled pronouncement. Now, this is not to say that I haven’t kept myself busy, because I certainly don’t have any empty time just lying around waiting to be picked up by another great adventure. However, I’ve shared before that my race goals for 2013 have been a bit up in the air following the Little Rock Marathon, and I knew I needed to get things set in stone before the heat of the summer set in. Otherwise, the reasons to avoid the heat would begin to overwhelm my desire to run. As such, I am considering this my official “no turning back” endurance announcement.

My first commitment is returning to the scene of the crime for RAGBRAI 2013. You may be wondering how often I’ve gotten out on the bike this year, what with all the running miles I’ve been logging (I’m sitting at around 1100 right now). The answer is…none. Well, I suppose I can count the handful of rides I’ve done on the trainer in the basement, but that’s about it. That’s why I’ve decided to pick one day of RAGBRAI (Tuesday, July 23rd) and run the route instead. This particular leg weighs in at about 50 miles, and is close enough to home that I won’t have any of the travel and lodging concerns that typically come with a longer race. I’ll be running from Perry, IA to Des Moines, IA.


While riding RAGBRAI last year, I saw several folks throughout the week that were running portions of the course, and I was extremely impressed to say the least. Over the past year, my passion for endurance races, ultra-marathons, and other crazy running adventures has exploded, so this seemed like a logical challenge! At some point in the future, it would be amazing to attempt to run the entire RAGBRAI course, but I’m not quite there yet. It’s never actually been successfully done in the 40 year history of RAGBRAI, but there is an amazing guy attempting it this year, and I wish him the best of luck. Hopefully I’ll even see him out there on the road. By running, I’m guaranteed to see pretty much the full scope of riders, and I’m sure to have some great interactions with people throughout the day, which I’m really looking forward to as well. In addition, it’s the closest leg to home, so many of my friends will be riding as well, so I’m sure to run into them.

ragbrai spandex (flat small)3

Interestingly enough, this happens to be the same week that I’ll be traveling with the beautiful epicurean to Maine to run the Great Cranberry Island Ultra. Not only will this be an amazing and challenging week of running, but it will be a good training benchmark as I prepare for an even more significance 2013 endurance goal. After my first 50 mile race last fall, I was completely hooked on ultra distances and wanted to continue pushing my body. Running a 100k race seemed like the next logical step. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a race that worked with my fall schedule and didn’t involve a significant financial commitment. However, we were already planning a trip to Phoenix during the holiday season again this year, so I thought I’d scan the race schedules and see if anything was being held while we were there.


As luck would have it, I found a race. At this point, I should mention that I’m pretty good at rationalizing just about any decision I have my heart set on making. So, although I had initially been looking at 100k races, I knew I had found the perfect fit when I saw the Across the Years  6 day & 24, 48, & 72 hr Footrace. Now, I don’t have any experience with timed races, but this truly seemed like too amazing of an experience to pass up. Although I wish my body was capable of running for 6 straight days, I was immediately drawn to the 24-hour option. After doing the math, running for 24 hours straight seemed to be the training equivalent of a 100-mile race. This is certainly a jump past the 100k mark I had initially set, but I have six months to train, and already have an excellent base to build on. The race itself is going to be as much mental as it is physical, and that challenge excites me even more. I’ll be spending 24 hours running a 1 mile loop over and over again…perhaps Einstein’s definition of insanity is coming to mind at this point?


I’ve finalized my training plan and began week 1 this week, leading to the December 28th race. I am certainly not naive enough to think that this is going to be an easy task, or that I have plenty of time. I know that I will need to focus on my training and nutrition as much, if not more, than I ever have before. Ultimately, that’s what excites me about both of these challenges. My mind thrives on being pushed to extremes and testing what I’m capable of, and the next 6 months are going to do just that. I’ll be experimenting with a lot of different nutrition and gear options, so you can look forward to those reports as well.

It's nice to have company when you are running for 24 hours, right?

It’s nice to have company when you are running for 24 hours, right?

So, I am putting these goals down in writing not because I have any interest in a pat on the back, but to make them real. Each of us has goals we want to achieve and things we’d like to accomplish that we maybe think are just out of reach. However, unless you really stretch yourself, you’ll never know! Feel free to share your goal…put it down in writing…make it real!

My April Marathon: Run, Forrest, Run

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed keeping my training and mileage levels up since a heavy fall race schedule. The early part of the winter/spring meant training for the Little Rock Marathon, but I am now finding myself in a bit of a race gap. I am registered for a relay event in May, and I’ll be running Dam to Dam in June, but my next longer distance race isn’t until the Great Cranberry Island Ultramarathon at the end of July. I thoroughly enjoy organization and planning in general, and I find that it helps keep my training on track as well. Thus, having races on the schedule is a good motivator to keep lacing up and maintaining the mileage from week to week. Although I could certainly register for numerous races taking place, they all cost money. Between travel and registration costs, the expenses can add up quickly, and in case you weren’t aware, graduate students aren’t exactly a part of the 1%.

Thus, I resolved to run my own distances races. I’ve verbally committed to myself and I’m now committing to the great vastness that is the online expanse that I will run at least one marathon every month, on my own. Each Saturday, I get together with an amazing group of friends for longer planned runs, complete with water stops set up by whomever happens to be in charge of the route that week. These runs serve as the foundation for my monthly marathons, and allow me to simply begin running early, with my own water and nutrition, and build the weekly route into my total distance. I did just that this past weekend and had a great time in the process!

Good morning!

Good morning!

I woke up around 5:00Am in order to be out the door by 5:30AM. Now, I’m sure seeing this time flashing on the clock is a regular occurrence for many of you. However, I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON and it isn’t a typical morning if I haven’t silenced 4 separate alarms and hit snooze on numerous occasions. Luckily the beautiful epicurean is of the same disposition, so you can typically find us staying up far too late, regardless of when we need to be up in the morning, and even then, still forcing ourselves to fall asleep. This is all to say that 5:00AM is not natural for me in any way. However, I knew that if I could get out the door by 5:30, I could get in around 2 hours of running before meeting the group at 7:30AM.

I headed out the door in the dark, my red light blinking to announcement my presence to the random cars actually on the road, and quietly peeled off the miles. Although I don’t enjoy getting up early, it doesn’t take me too long to wake up, and the fresh air makes it even easier. In a small community such as ours, the early morning hours on the weekend mean I can run for extended periods of time without seeing any other movement, let alone someone else on the street. There is something very calming and relaxing about this running solitude, and it is an excellent time to collect my thoughts, and prepare for the remainder of the run, as well as the work that awaits me for the weekend when I return. The first 12 miles seemed to fly by, and I felt great when I arrived to meet the group. I was ready for the excited energy and friendly conversation that I have come to expect with every group run, no matter who I might be running with on any given day.

The route- not bad for minimal planning.

The route- not bad for minimal planning.

The next 12 miles were equally energizing and relaxing, and offered a sharp contrast to the solitude of the previous 12. As always, I had some wonderful conversations about all aspects of daily life, experiences, weekend plans, and other various philosophical topics, and I hardly noticed the distance as I continued. When we arrived back at the start of the group run, I had less than 2 miles left, and was about that far from home, so I waved goodbye and journeyed home, hitting 26.7 miles as I walked up to the door and quietly entered the house. The beautiful epicurean was still sleeping. Did I mention that we weren’t morning people?


When I hit 26.2 on my watch, I subtly smiled, and kept pushing forward the final half mile. There were no volunteers at the end to put a medal around my neck or hand me a bottle of water, and I wasn’t surrounded by other finishers, but it didn’t matter. When I’m out running and given the opportunity to connect with friend, old and new, I get everything and more from the sport I love. I didn’t actually know I was going to run my April marathon when I set out that morning, but I was feeling good and enjoying the conversation so I just kept going. Afterwards, my friends made the requisite Forrest Gump jokes. He was a fictional character, but I realized then just how much I identify with him. I may not run like the wind blows, or even like the wind, but I certainly do love to run.

“Now you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows. From that day on, if I was going somewhere, I was running!”

Running Clean: The Gluten & Allergen Free Expo

I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to gluten-free eating, but I’ve learned quite a bit over the past year. In large part, that has been the result of tagging along on the beautiful epicurean’s dietary adventure. As I’ve learned more about it in general, I’ve found myself giving more thought to the role it already plays and could potentially play in my training. Just as gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance  and full-blown Celiac’s Disease diagnoses have exploded in recent years, so too have the products marketed at those living with these conditions.

I find it very interesting that these products typically find their way into the health food section of most supermarkets. They have been quickly embraced by the health-food community, and folks have flocked to adopt a gluten-free diet without much information on the overall benefits of these products. As I’ve indicated before, I have fully embraced many facets of a healthy diet, and I continue my quest for the perfect running fuel to sustain me during longer and longer distances. As such, I’ve made it a point to keep my mind open to as many new nutrition products as possible in the hopes that one of them will provide that perfect energy!

Enter the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo. These events, which are being held across the country, bring together food and natural health product vendors from across the country, all hoping to make their mark on the gluten-free demographic. We had read about the expo several weeks ago, and were already planning on going when we entered a drawing at our local grocery store for free tickets. As luck would have it, we both won a ticket, so we were able to attend the expo as guests of HyVee!


After driving around for a bit more time than either of us had patience to accommodate, we found the expo nestled in a convention space that was located on the grounds of an amusement park of some sort. After living in Iowa for 8 years, I’m sure I’ve heard of the park before, but I really had no idea what it was, and it proved to be a strange cross between a wild west ghost town and Pleasantville. There were over 100 vendors on hand to display their wares, so we had plenty of exploring to do. While walking around and sampling food, it was refreshing (especially for the epicurean) to be able to casually taste all of the samples without worrying about the gluten content. We tried everything from soup to beer, although a large majority of the vendors were showcasing various baked goods and mixes.


Can you see what I mean?

What was fairly consistent among the vendors was the reality of processed food. Now that I’m looking more intentionally at gluten-free products while shopping, I’ve increasingly noticed just how similar the products really are to everything else on the shelf. Stores are placing gluten-free products in health food sections and marking them as such, but they often contain just as much processed sugar as their gluten-laden counterparts. Now, I will definitely say that a larger percentage of these products are going to be better for you overall, but I have no doubt that as the demographic increases along with diagnoses, I will see more and more gluten-free versions of the same foods I avoid already.

Vendors at the expo.

Vendors at the expo.

Part of the difficulty in trying to flush out the role of gluten-free products seems to be the marketing and regulation of gluten-free products in the food industry. The FDA has been discussing how to regulate gluten-free products since 2005, and is just now reaching a conclusion on industry standards that they can enforce in content and labeling. They have been holding open forums and inviting feedback and questions from the public, much like they do with other new regulations they are considering implementing. It looks like they are going to settle on a designation of 20 ppm as the threshold for a product being labeled gluten-free. Many products claim to have far less gluten than this, but the scientific testing hasn’t advanced far enough for these claims to be substantiated. In addition, many products right now may indeed be free of wheat gluten but still contain rye or barley gluten. The choices for consumers have never been more difficult! There are currently two organization, the Gluten Free Certification Organization, and the Celiac Sprue Association, that certify products as gluten-free, so looking for their logos can give you some indication that the product has been tested for all possible sources of gluten, including vague classifications such as artificial flavorings.

A GF product explosion!

A GF product explosion!

Now, much like so many other subsets of the population, the running community has been swept up in the gluten-free discussion as well. There are countless recipes out there for gluten-free nutrition, energy sources for runners, and post-workout meals. In addition, gluten-free living is being linked to cleaner eating, and vegan diets more and more. Although these are not the same thing, there are some connections. Amazing runners, such as Scott Jurek and Rich Roll are making this healthy diet trend that much more compelling! However, if you don’t suffer from CD or Gluten-Intolerance, then simply giving up gluten but continuing to each processed foods is not going to aid your running performance. Nutritionists will still tell you that a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains is important for energy, endurance, and recovery. In addition, the stories I read about ordinary runners who are cooking and eating gluten-free tend to all have something else in common- healthy, fresh foods, and a lack of processed sugar.

In the end, the expo was a good reminder for me that eating healthy isn’t simply a matter of buying the right products. I certainly enjoyed hearing more about a host of products I had never tried before, and we walked away with quite a few samples to try. Choice is everywhere in our lives, and eating healthy needs to be a part of a healthy lifestyle, which ultimately permeates everything I do. The increase in gluten-related sensitivities will certainly continue to play a significant role in the health of our population, as well as the products we consume. For those individuals that are forced to adjust to these changes, the influx of gluten-free products is definitely a positive sign of increased awareness on the part of the general public. As with most things, however, increased choice and increased access to information means being a responsible consumer is that much more important. Running clean will always be more than simply what you eat. Running clean is about how you live!

But I’m Not Thirsty! Winter Hydration

It is perhaps perfect timing for me to be thinking about hydration and longing for the hot summer months as a winter storm bears down on the entire state of Iowa. As I’ve discussed before, thinking about hydration comes pretty naturally during the summer months when you feel like you can’t possibly drink enough water to keep up with the sweating, and you wish it was socially acceptable to run naked just so your core temperature was a bit lower. Ok, perhaps running naked would present its own challenges, but you know what I mean. However, when winter sets in, the temperature drops, the snow falls to the ground, and the wind cuts through me like a knife (at least in Iowa, where there is nothing to break it!), the last thing I’m thinking about consistently is hydration. I guess I’m just much less likely to feel thirsty when the snot is freezing to my face 🙂 However, at the point where I’m not feeling the need to hydrate, I need it even more!

But how do I drink the water in the first place?

But how do I drink the water in the first place?

There are a number of considerations to keep in mind during the winter months with regard to hydration:

1. You still sweat– This is probably the hardest fact for me to remember at times! When I’m out in the cold, my core temperature warms up eventually, and even my fingers and toes find some heat after about 6 miles, but I never have the reminder of sweat dripping down my face. It’s not until I step inside out of the cold that I realize my base layers are soaked pretty thoroughly.

2. Lower humidity The cold hair is typically much drier, unless it happens to be precipitating. This means you are at an even greater risk of dehydration.

3. Access to Water- During the summer months, I can head out for most of my runs around town and not even bother bringing a water bottle. Our community has a wonderful park system, and water fountains are everywhere. However, these fountains are obviously turned off during the winter months so the pipes don’t freeze. I still have the option of stopping at gas stations and other retail locations, but my overall access to water is much more limited. Carrying it becomes that much more important!

4. Water freezes- I know you are shocked by this revelation in science. When the cold sets in, the ability to drop water along the route or even carry it with you becomes compromised. Carrying water doesn’t do you much good if you end up with a block of ice in your hand after 45 minutes! Now, adding sugar (as in most nutrition beverages such as Gatorade or Powerade) does lower the freezing point of the liquid, but I try to stay away from sugary energy drinks, especially if there is some sugar in my solid nutrition.

5. Your blood thickens- As the temperature drops, blood viscosity increases. This means your heart is working harder to pump blood to your limbs, and you risk not getting enough oxygen to your extremities. This makes hydration, and the use of electrolytes that much more important!

I’m certainly much more likely to stay hydrated if I remember to bring water with me, as opposed to designing a limited route that stops at the various locations where I still have access to water. This year, I’ve been using the Salomon pack below for most of my long runs. The bottle is insulated, which means my water never freezes, and there is plenty of storage room for all of the nutrition I need, no matter the distance. You can find plenty of insulated water bottles online as well, and incorporate them into the gear you already own/use.

Salomon Pack

Salomon Bottle- 2

If you are looking for some more information on winter running, you can check out these resources below, courtesy of HowStuffWorks:


31 in 31: Starting the Year Off Right

It’s the R & R time of year. Reflection and resolution. The media top 10 lists are in full swing as everyone reflects on the best, worst, strangest, longest, shortest, weirdest, funniest, etc. In addition, if my Facebook feed is any indication, then everyone is also reflecting on their own 2012 as they look forward to 2013 and set new goals for themselves.


I’ve never been big on resolutions. I think I’ve always been of the mindset that if you want to make a change in your life, then waiting until January 1 seems silly when you can start immediately. In addition, the whole idea of New Years resolutions has been so over-commercialized that it ends up being more about a gimmick for companies to make money.  The gyms are all packed in January, but by Valentines Day, things are backed to normal.


Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly still support people setting goals for themselves and making changes in their lives! In fact, one of the common goals I’ve seen people sharing involves setting mileage goals. Thus, I thought it would be fun to set up a challenge for anyone interested! The idea is simple. Run at least 1 mile every day in the month of January and start the year out right. Start the year with a run streak:  31 in 31. 🙂

Rules (barely):

1. Run at least 1 mile every day in January. If you can’t run on any given day, you can make it up with a second run on another day.

2. Commit to the challenge publicly. You can comment here, or anywhere else.

That’s it. You don’t need to spend hours planning and scheduling. Heck, you could run around the block a few times every night when you get home from work or when you wake up in the morning. As long as you log a mile every day, you are good to go!

The prize is just as simple- you start the year out committing yourself to a healthy lifestyle. With 31 in 31, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your running goals!

Are you up to the challenge?!

Are you up to the challenge?!

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