Tuesday, November 14, 2017

In Defense of Walking

Why walk when you are training for a marathon? 

It seems counter intuitive to take walk breaks while training for a race.  Are you practicing going slower?  Shouldn't you be pushing through the pain? 

I've spent many years running long in the mornings, and while I'm not the fastest runner on the planet, I do have LOTS of experience.  And I prescribe to Hal Higdon's advice:

"Walking is a perfectly acceptable strategy even for intermediate runners, and it works during training runs too.  While some coaches recommend walking one minute out of every 10, or walking one minute every mile, I teach runners to walk when they come to an aid station.  This serves a double function:  1) you can drink more easily while walking as opposed to running, and 2? since many other runners slow or walk through aid stations, you'll be less likely to block those behind.  It's a good ideas to follow this strategy in training as well."

Since I use a water belt for my long runs, I tend to take my walk breaks at stoplights or at street crossings.  It gives me the chance to take a sip of water or bite into a Skratch gummy or two while I am not bounding down the street.  It also teaches my body to jump from a higher heart rate to a lower one and then back again.  It gives your body a chance to rest and you'll be able to run longer distances with short walk breaks.

Higdon is spot on when he says "It's best to walk when you want to, not when your fatigued body forces you to.

So get out there and try and run just a little bit longer next time.  It's okay to walk.  And it keeps the group happy too.  When you take short breaks, your running buddies can regroup and enjoy the run together, sharing stories and getting to know each other a little better.   And that, my friends, is a good thing. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fat Intake for Endurance Athletes

Repost from Teamusa.org 


APRIL 25, 2016

You are training for a much-anticipated event. You have your training schedule. Check. You possibly hired a trainer for plan personalization. Check.  Now you are searching for the perfect balance of calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fats to improve your performance and achieve weight goals to improve your time. One nutritional element often pushed aside when evaluating a nutrition strategy is dietary fat.

Fat. If you were a blossoming adult in the 1980s you cringe when you hear the word. Fat was blanketed as the culprit responsible for metabolic disorders and diseases, namely type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and heart disease. To be honest, my undergraduate and graduate education in nutrition didn’t paint a favorable picture of fat either. It wasn’t until I was approached by Ben Stone of Sigma Human Performance to be Director of Nutrition that I started to look at fat differently through his research, guidance and our work together coaching athletes. I was skeptical because my sports nutrition education focused primarily on carbohydrates for fuel, protein for recovery and fat fell to the wayside. But after working with athletes, the results are there and so is the research. Increasing fat in your day-to-day nutrition improves performance.

Let’s start with the basics. For the most part, fat is categorized as animal-based, plant-based (mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated) or as trans fat. Animal fats are considered saturated fat and include animal proteins and dairy products. Plant fats are primarily unsaturated and include avocados, nuts, seeds, olives and oils. Trans fat is a saturated fat found in mainly fried foods, baked goods, and in shelf stable processed products. Now I am not saying eat a bunch of steak and butter, but more research is surfacing concluding the correlation between saturated fat and heart disease risk is not as staggering as once believed and in many cases non-existent. Trans fat, however, can be eliminated. Trans fat raises “bad” cholesterol (total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein or LDL) and lowers “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins or HDL). So far, you can see not all fats are created equal. Which fats are best when increasing them in your diet? This is why I saved mono- and poly-unsaturated fats for last. I like consistency in conclusions and what is consistent are the health benefits of mono-unsaturated poly-unsaturated fats, which is why I recommend them as your main fat source when increasing fat in your diet.

Now that you know more about the breakdown of fat, let’s look at the benefits mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats have on your health and performance. There are a multitude of benefits that could be explored and discussed regarding fat intake and performance, but we will just look a just a few here.

Your Body Utilizes What is in Abundance for Energy

If you consume fat, you burn fat. At rest, your body wants to use fat as an energy source. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the energy needed to function adequately at rest and makes up 60-75 percent of your daily energy expenditure. That is a large percentage of energy better expended utilizing fat. The energy yield of carbohydrates and fat work independently of each other to define an individual’s BMR. Increasing mono- and poly-unsaturated fat consumption allows your body to metabolically rely on fat as an energy source, decreasing body fat mass and your dependency on carbohydrates. Stone explains it well in his blog: “By putting your body in a chronic nutritional status which demands fat usage, you are putting a stimulus on the multitude of systems responsible for breaking down fat which force them to, effectively, get better a doing their jobs… Even while you are sleeping. It’s the exact same adaptive process (call it ‘usage principle’) that forces your muscles to get bigger and stronger in response to continual stress applied to them.”

Improving Performance by Increasing Fat Utilization

If your body is comfortable using fat as a fuel source, it will burn it more efficiently at higher exercise intensities before your body switches to carbohydrates as an energy source. Why is this important? First, your brain and your muscles are competing for carbohydrate during endurance activity. When you are able to utilize fat as an energy source more efficiently, you gain a mental edge. Secondly, the adaptations your body makes by consuming more fat creates a glycogen sparing effect during exercise by decreasing carbohydrate dependency. And finally, the more trained you are in endurance activity the better you are at oxygen consumption (evident through VO2 max testing), which is a key component in fat oxidation. If fat is in abundance, the increased oxygen in your bloodstream will be readily available to break fat down for energy. The increased capacity to oxidize fat is related to increased exercise capacity and improved performance.

My Experience with Athletes and Dietary Fat

As an athlete you are already ahead of your fat game. Regular exercise enhances your ability to oxidize fat through adaptations in fat metabolism pathways. Being able to oxidize fat efficiently decreases inflammation, insulin resistance, hypertension, LDL concentration and chronic deposits of fat tissue. What I have seen across the board with clients that adhere to my meal plans is an increase in energy, improved sleep, decreased hunger, a decrease in carbohydrate cravings and improved performance capacity. It is very important to note that everyone is different. I recommend you work with a registered dietitian to tailor a nutrition plan that works for you, and consult a medical doctor before significant changes are made. I tell my clients that by week three with me, we should have their nutrition needs dialed in.

Katie Rhodes, owner of OWN-Nutrition, is a registered and licensed dietitian in Little Rock, Arkansas, with a Master of Science in clinical nutrition. Through her experiences training elite athletes and working in the clinical setting at Arkansas Children's Hospital and the Central Arkansas Veterans Association, Rhodes understands that what we are putting in our bodies directly affects our performance, quality of life and longevity. She's worked with triathletes for six years on their nutrition year round as well as focusing on race day nutrition. Rhodes primarily works with clients remotely, through phone calls and Skype for communication, to supplement unique, personalized nutrition plans.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Crown City Classic 12k gets TWO THUMBS UP!

I LOVE a good tradition.  Coronado Island for the Fourth of July has been a part of my family's tradition for as long as I can remember.  Uncle JB has been organizing this trip to the golden speckled beaches of Coronado for at least 35 years --  coming to the magical Hotel Del Coronado with it's fabulous red roof and white walled grounds.  Ahh, there's really nothing better than escaping the oven of Phoenix, AZ and five hours later rolling down your windows to 75 degree temps and cool ocean breezes as your turn the corner onto Orange Avenue.  It's as close as we get to heaven on earth every summer.  

Along with this tradition comes the www.crowncityrun.com a 12K run that curves around the eastern side of the island with a start and finish in Tidelands Park.  The race used to be a half marathon, then it became a 15k and now, in honor of the 4th of July, it's a 12k -- 7.4 miles on 7/4.  Get it?!

I have to say, this race is FUN!  The race directors have made so many improvements to this event. I love the packet pick up/registration which scans your name onto your bib number automatically instead of standing in lines for A-F or G-N.  You can walk up to any line to get your bib, eliminating those lines with no people in them and volunteers waiting around with nothing to do. 
Another fun improvement: running under the huge American flag as you start the race!  The spectators hold the flag on each side of the start line and as the runners take off under the red, white and blue.  I felt like an elementary school kid who was playing under a big billowing parachute circle.  What a great way to get the crowd feeling pumped for the next seven miles.  

And I will never forget the reading of the list of names of military servicemen and women who had died in the previous year on active duty.  The reading went on for much longer than I had anticipated and brought to light the sacrifices of our true American heroes who have given their own lives to make ours better.  The moment of silence was emotional and heartfelt.  

The course is flat and fast, and I mean pancake flat with nary a bump in the road.  It winds around the golf course then out and back past the hotel and under the bridge to the awaiting Fourth of July crowds.  You can smell barbecue coals getting started as most of the park goers this day are here for the long haul.  They've set their picnic chairs out to spend their holiday playing on the edge of the sand and then getting prime views for the evening fireworks displays.  
Put this race on your TO-DO list.  It's great way to burn some calories before you dive into the party food you'll be consuming all day.  I will continue to sign up for this race for as long as I can.  I love everything about it.  Thanks www.crowncityrun.com for outdoing yourself this year.  See you next year.  And stay classy, San Diego. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Escape from Alcatraz -- FAILED ATTEMPT

Spoiler alert:  I did not escape from Alcatraz.  The swim was cancelled -- the sea was angry that day. Race officials delayed their decision until the last possible moment, calling off the swim portion of the race and then scrambling to salvage an antic-climactic duathlon to appease the 2000+ disappointed athletes.  In 37 years of its existence,  the swim has never been called off at this event.  But white caps were forming in the Bay, and there was just no way the support watercraft could safely maintain their positions in the water.  Definitely a hard call for the race directors.  But the show must go on.

To the bike/run.  The truth of the matter is I've done this race.  I "escaped" five years ago, attending the race with my husband, daughter and her then fiance.  I came back to San Fran this year with the crew, plus my newest cheerleader who calls me grandma!  'Cause grandmas can conquer that Alcatraz swim too.

Here's the thing -- Escape from Alcatraz has lost some of it's mystique for me.  I felt the entire weekend was one endless "wait in line".   Wait in line for registration.  Wait in line for the race numbers to be applied as temporary tattoos.  Wait in line for the bike pump on race morning(can't fit that on a plane).  Wait in line for the shuttles to get on the ferry.  Wait in line for the boat. Get on the boat, get off the boat, wait in line for the shuttle to get back to Marina Green.  Then wait and wait and wait for the call to start the duathlon.  The du started about 9:30am, near the time that most of the racers would be finishing the original event.  But the individual send off by race numbers meant I had to wait for 1800 athletes to start the race ahead of me.  Keep in mind the winds are gathering momentum throughout the day, so both spectators and cyclists were getting pushed around by the annoyingly strong gusts of continuous wind.

Whine. Whine. Whine.  Does somebody want to call the "whambulance"?  On a positive side, the bike and run were great.  The course is challenging but oh so scenic and beautiful.  The views of the majestic Golden Gate and the twists and turns into Golden Gate Park made up for the terrible morning fiasco.  This year I was ready, I had prepared. First, I did a lot of hill training which helped on the run and especially on the sand ladder.  Second, I took my road bike and left the tri bike at home.  This decision saved me when it came to the windy conditions on the bike.  I would've been all over the road with my deep dish wheels and aero position.  I ended up in the top third of my age group -- and I'll take that.

Will I be back? Eh, not sure.  The racers were guaranteed priority entry in either 2018 or 2019.  I have time to decide.  In the meantime, I'll mull over these pros and cons and get back to you.

Beautiful course (especially for a ROAD BIKE)
Bragging rights for a bucket list event
Great place to spend time before and after race with friends and family
Amazing food/restaurants  *Salt and Straw
Highlights:  Alcatraz Island Tour, Muir Woods, Golden Gate Park and the roaming buffaloes

Race entry (around $750)
Tri Bike Transport (around $350)
AirBnB (over $1000 for three nights)
Pricey food/restaurants
Rental Car (I liked having a car to shuttle back and forth from AirBnB to event, but parking was hard to find and usually cost $$)
The endless lines and waits

My takeaway is that this race needs some serious organizational improvement.  Having racers stand for hours in the sun on the day before an event is not acceptable.  The line to apply the race numbers by volunteers was totally unnecessary.  We all know how to apply a temporary tattoo.  Move those volunteers in other areas to improve the flow of registration.   You've got a good thing with Escape from Alcatraz, WTC, just strive to make it better.  You've got room for improvement.

Here we come, SFO!

Windy welcome and long waits.  Grateful for patient cheerleaders

I'd say about five knots of wind.  Who am I kidding?  Just lots and lots of wind

Admiring the city from Alcatraz Island

Make your reservations for this tour the minute you know you're going to San Francisco.

Definitely a highlight of our weekend, the Muir Woods is spectacular.  Carve out a half day to discover the beauty of the California redwoods.  

Then hug a tree.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Everything You Need to Know about Oceanside 70.3

Oceanside 70.3  What you need to know:

Set in the quaint town of Oceanside, California, you know you've arrived when you see the distant surfers catching waves in the breathtakingly beautiful Pacific Ocean.  The breezy salt air will kiss your face as you get out of your car and walk to the Junior Seau Amphitheater, where the expo is held.  Don't miss walking the pier to Ruby's Diner, where you'll get to admire this visual from a different perspective -- fishermen, blowing kites, waves and sandy beaches.  Ahhh, Oceanside!

A few things you may need to know as a first timer:

TWO TRANSITION ZONES Head to the expo without your bike.  After you pick up your race packet, you have time to get out for a quick spin on your ride to double check any mechanical issues that may have arisen on it's journey to the event.  The transition zone with the bike rack is about 1/2 mile from the expo.  Before you head off to drop the bike, make sure you have your stickers in place on the bike frame.  They won't allow you into the transition zone without these in place.  You can put a plastic bag over your seat if that is your thing, as your bike will be spending the night in the transition zone.

SWIM  The swim in 2017 was a self seeded swim.  You placed yourself with swimmers who had similar swim finish times as you.  The clock started when you jumped into the water.  No mass starts here.  This was a bonus for me.  But some swimmers were a little disheveled when they couldn't find their right "time groups".  Some were quite near the front and if you were a latecomer, you had to fight your way through the crowds to get where you needed to be.

The swim is mostly in a protected marina, which keeps the waters fairly calm.  About halfway out, you hit the high seas, but then it's a quick turn around to the boats and docks, where the waters calm down and you can finish strong!

BIKE  Don't let the elevation profile fool you, this course has LOTS of hills.  And not just the big ones at mile 28 and 31. Be prepared for those steep climbs, but also be prepared for rollers the rest of the time on the bike.  Prepare wisely with lots of hill training.  The terrain is spectacular and Camp Pendleton has some of the most majestic views you'll ever see of the California coastline.  The flatest part of the bike is in the last five miles, where you can get into your aero bars and really gain some speed.  But don't forget about the speed bumps and hairpin turns you encountered on your way out, they will slow you down a bit as you enter T2.  

RUN   Rollers, rollers and more rollers.  Get ready for a challenging run that meanders it's way through the famous beach houses of So. Cal.  The bonus for this course is that the spectators fully embrace and support this race.  You'll never run too far without a cheer or shout out from a friendly fan.  Music is blasting from audio systems inside and outside the homes, lending to a festive atmosphere to keep you smiling as you endure this long, sweaty run.  Again, hill work is great prep for this race.  The course is an out-and-back twice situation.  So you can gauge yourself against your competitors as you pass them or they pass you on the run.  The last mile of the run veers off into a finishing chute which is a welcome site after your day of endurance.

FINISH LINE  I love the amphitheater where finishers are directed to sit and recover post race.  It's an easy place to meet up with your supports as a "see-and-be-seen" meeting spot.  The food for the athletes has always been top notch.  And once you're out of the finish line madness, you can spread out to hydrate and recover.

Add this to your race calendar if you've never done this race.  It's a good one.  You'll leave happy after a hard day's work.  Sunset dinner at a beachside cafe is a perfect way to top off your stay in Oceanside.  It even cools off enough to don the famous California style:  hoodie and shorts.   XOXO California.  You're always in my heart.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A New Kind Of Race

My mother has Alzheimer's.  We got the diagnosis three weeks ago.

I typed that out just now and had to let that sink in before I could type more.

My memories of my mom consist mainly of her being the outgoing, energetic, creative mom of six, grandma to 24, and great grandmother of one.  She excels in crafts, handiwork, decorating the home for every holiday, and preparing Sunday dinners for her entire family each week.  Her quilts are intricate, beautiful pieces of art.  She walks miles everyday with her best friends and neighbors.  And she has lived an independent life since my father's death in 2008.

But things have started to change.  We noticed an anxiousness that overtook her when she had to step out of her routine.  She had extreme anxiety when it was time to get to an event, like my daughter's wedding.  She'd stress over who was going to take her there and pick her up.  The mom who never stopped talking, over time, was the first to hang up in a phone call.  "Chow! Chow!" would signal the end of the conversation.

We saw the family practice doctor and he performed some simple tests.  "Table, apple, penny, remember those three words," the doctor would say.  Then he'd ask her to do a series of simple math problem and then went back to ask her to recall the words.  She could not say all three.  Ever. Cognitive Memory Impairment was her first diagnosis.

She was referred to a neurologist who did the similar line-up of tests.  But she struggled.  Perhaps most shocking was to draw the face of a clock and put the big hand and little hand at ten minutes to two.  She was confused and embarrassed when she couldn't draw the answer onto the white board. Through a series of more tests, doctors and scans, her neurologists eliminated the other possible outcomes of CMI and diagnosed her with Alzheimer's Disease.

So today, my focus turns to a different type of race.  The race for time.  For memories.  For interaction and conversations with my mom.   For the ability to tell her that I love her and let her know she was the perfect mom for me.  You see, our family has been down this road before.  We lost my father-in-law to the ravaging effects of Alzheimer's on January 2, 2016.  

This disease will steal your loved ones from you.  It will leave you heartbroken and devastated.  It lingers around and gives you glimpses of hope.  And then slaps you back to the reality that IT is in charge.

I turn my focus now in her direction.  There will always be another triathlon. My training plan, my nutrition, my race schedule will always be under my control.  But I can't escape the overwhelming cloud called Alzheimer's that is rolling again onto our horizon to rain down it's sadness and despair onto all of US.  She's starting to slip.  And I need to catch her.

This race is different. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fast After 50, by Joe Friel

Yep, 50.  I'm here.  And yet in my mind, I'm 20 and can walk the halls of my college campus and fit right in....right?  Okay, not so much.  My KIDS are now in college.  

Everything ever written says the forecast for aging athletes is grim: metabolism slows, race times drop and that little layer of fat begins to increase around the middle.  Ugh.  Not fun, especially when that mind I was talking about still wants to add in classes for Fall Semester.

Leave it to author Joe Friel to make us feel better about life after 50.  Friel's book, Fast after 50 is a must-read for any athlete who wants to get inspiration to keep going.  There's a lot to live for and train for in the later stages of being an athlete.  He says it best "If you decide you have some degree of control over your destiny as a senior athlete, then you are taking the first step toward improved race performances.  AGING IS FIRST AND FOREMOST AN ATTITUDE.  WHETHER YOU DECIDE YOU'RE OVER THE HILL OR NOT, YOU'RE RIGHT. "

Friel, who is now over 70 years old, advocates acquiring a great aerobic base first, then mixing some high-intensity training with a good dose of quality sleep and balanced nutrition.  It's a good recipe for a well rounded athlete, whether you are in your 20's or 80's.  He researched this stuff because he wanted to keep going.  I know I do too.

So here's to the next 50 years of triathlon training.  I'm in!  My times may drop, but my belief is that there's more to gain in my triathlon journey than PRs and fast times .   I enjoy getting on my bike for an epic ride.  Outside is the place for me.  I'm not taking this aging thing in a rocking chair.  It will have to chase me down on a dirt trail -- 'cause there's a lot out there for me to see!


Thursday, January 12, 2017

I'm Still Waiting

This post is dedicated to those who have ever been through divorce.  To those who have ever uttered "I'm going through a divorce." "My parents are divorced."  "I am divorced."  "My child/grandchild is getting divorced."  It's a word that, unless you have ever been through it, does not convey the elaborateness of experience.  For anyone who has ever let that word define their situation: I apologize.  I am sorry that I did not recognize what you've been through on any level.

Until you have felt the heavy burden of such this short, two-syllable word, you cannot know the meaning of it's message.  In short, two people have dealt with sadness, betrayal, chaos, heartbreak, tears, rumors, gossip, anger, shame, distrust, blame, envy  -- the list of negative verbs is endless.  It's a word that strips a person of all the happiness in their lives and rips their world into tiny pieces.  And we sum it all up in one.  little. word.  When that couple drops their announcement into the big pool of family and friends, the ripple effect begins to dissipate into the lives of all who they love and who have loved them.  Sadness envelops more lives than that couple will ever realize.

Divorce was not a word ever uttered in my family.  Sure it has happened.  But not within my immediate six siblings.  We are a proud family of married-forever believers,  We endure to the end. Then it struck one of my own and we were forced to look divorce square  into it's heavy ugly face and watch it affect grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and in-laws.

The heartbreak is overwhelming and as a mother, there is nothing you want more than to take every burden of your child and heave it onto your own shoulders. You want to pronounce to the world "You are wrong!  She is good.  He is good!  It just didn't work." If only I could do that.  Because I have seen the poison of malicious gossip seep into the cracks of a broken person and burn their soul.  I have heard the cries of agony and have felt the heaviness in the air of sadness that seems unrelenting. I have watched as lives can be destroyed by a simple whisper of deceit.

Through it all I try to give advice, to look for the bright light at the end of the tunnel.  Because there is an end.  It comes when new relationships form and old ones fade away.  That word divorce will soften, I'm sure.  It's abrasiveness will heal with time.  Rumors will become non-issues because we..."move on."  Forgive and forget, they say.  But like the Dixie Chick sing, I'm still waiting.

Today I will mourn the loss of a once-happy love story.  I will force myself to smile as I watch new relationships blossom.  And I will empathize with anyone who shoes have walked this same path of despair with grace and elegance.  I applaud those who come out on the other end as a better person.

My Apple watch reminds me daily to ....breathe.  Take a minute, focus, slowly inhale, then...exhale. For now, that's enough.

Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True