Monday, January 18, 2016

2015 Year in Review & Houston Marathon Recap

2015 RECAP

I'll try not to bore you to tears (no promises), and stick to a bullet list:

Back story - November of 2014 - resume training after taking basically all of 2014 off due to mystery illness, vaguely categorized as an "unclassified auto-immune condition."

January & February 2015 - pull a calf muscle (technically last weekend of December), out for 8 weeks. Doh! Not off to a great start, but I have a goal for the year: re-qualify for the Olympic Trials. In order to do so, I'll need to run a 2:43 marathon. A tall order for sure, but I'm feeling so hungry to compete again, I'm ready for the challenge!

March & April - resume training and start rebuilding a foundation of miles. No high-intensity stuff because I'm out-of-shape-as-balls, AND because I'm trying to protect calf from getting strained again.

Beginning of May - first real road race since Jan of 2014! New Prague Half Marathon, 2nd place, 1:25; the point was to have fun, and I did. I had NO expectations, just grateful to be out on the roads again.

End of May - three weeks later, head to beautiful Des Moines for one of my favorite races: Dam to Dam. This event used a be 20k, it's now a half marathon. On only a few sessions of "speed" training, I'm excited to place 4th and make progress dropping my time to 1:19.

June - gearing up for Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (aka Grandma's Half Marathon), I jump in a local church 5k as a tune-up. After dropping a couple of 5:30 miles to start and feeling good, I end up pulling my hammy on the last turn into the finish line. OUCH! I go down like a ton of bricks. Back on the IR (injured reserve list) for another 8 weeks. GAAAAAAAAA! 

July - while sitting on the sidelines because of hamstring injury, my coach and I make the decision that because of my broken training cycles and lack of base (from 2014 debacle), we're going to call an audible and try qualify for the OT (Olympic Trials) by shooting for the half marathon standard (1:15). It's arguably more difficult, but I'm running out of time to punch my ticket and these injuries keep shooting holes through my sails. 

August - resume training, but coming off of a major muscle pull, Coach Ron and I are cautious about doing too much high-intensity speed work, too soon.  It's troubling to know I need to start doing speed work to hit the 1:15 half mark, but I also can't just flip on a "speed switch" post-injury. Frustration (with MYSELF) is at an all-time high.

September - 3rd race of the year...are you kidding me?! This was NOT how I envisioned my "come-back year." I opt to double in the Victory Labor Day races, competing in both the 10k and then also the 5k less than an hour later as a good workout. Place 4th and 2nd respectively, but am the only top female runner to do both so I end up taking home the double-title. Feels good to race again and make a little progress. I average around 5:50s in the 10k, but will need to run 5:43s in the half to qualify.

October & November - win a local 10k, but SLOWER than previous race, GRRRRR... Also take down the women's title in a SMALL cross-country 8k, but it's hard to judge whether I'm making pace progress because of the course topography.

December - USA Track & Field Club Cross Country Nationals (translation: a lot of fast folks looking to qualify for the US World team). I raced in the same event (different course) in 2013 and missed the World team by one place, so even though I know I'm not in the same kind of shape, I have a bit of "anything could happen" excitement. That excitement was swiftly put to bed when the leaders took off like race horses from the start, literally (we ran on a horse race track for about a mile of the course). I run almost a minute faster than my previous mark, but place 58th (out of 350ish women). It's like a cold glass of water thrown in my face.

January 2016 - last chance to qualify! After two broken training cycles and two major injuries, I feel cautiously optimistic about the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon. Event organizer Richard Clark-Fannin has dubbed the normally small-town race, "The Olympic Trials Project," and it shows. He's attracted about 50 men and 50 women still chasing the qualifying mark show up, work together, and try to punch their tickets to LA (where the OT marathon will be run). Despite near perfect conditions, the pacers go out a bit too hard (:10 per mile on two of the first three miles). It may not sound like much, but it is, especially considering I'm pushing my limits just to meet the 1:15 mark. It's too much, too soon in the race, and I loose the group at the half-way point. I end up finishing in 1:17 (my fourth best time ever), but I am bitterly disappointed that I didn't make the OT cut.


January - two weeks later - my last LAST chance to qualify. After my performance in Jacksonville AND an almost unprecedented adjustment in USA Track & Field's B-standard for the women's marathon (new standard is 2:45!), I go totally crazy and decide that I don't have time to get physically fitter and shave 2 minutes off my half marathon time. Instead of giving up though, I decide to run a full marathon and try for the new, 2:45 standard. What?! I must have been out of my mind, I haven't run a full marathon since April of 2013! 
But for some reason, I have an over-inflated sense of confidence. My reasoning is: I qualified on a whim in 2012, so why not this time too?! 

I qualify for a spot in the elite field for the Houston Marathon, a rock-star running event with one of the most competitive fields in US marathoning. I make a plan to run the first half of the race conservatively and then negative-split on the back half. For maybe the first time in my life, I execute my plan...kind of. I actually run the first half of the race according to plan and am feeling super comfortable.  I was actually smiling...not something that usually happens when you're looking to chew faces off (figuratively, of course). I was also taking in calories via my personal fluid bottles which I had filled with a combo of water and a gel (dissolved in the water). Unfortunately after a great 18 miles of effort, things started getting shaky. Then by mile 20, it became an absolute death march to the finish. I wanted to quit with every step as I kept watching my dreams slip away on the race clocks along the course. But I was absolutely powerless to do anything about it, I was dead. Somehow I made it to the finish in a very unceremonious 2:51:58. My muscles don't feel terrible (they're taxed for sure, but nothing is cramping), but despite that, my body is just d-u-n. Moving is an effort that I don't have the energy for.

Looking back, I'm second guessing everything: 
*Should I have run the half?
*Was it a nutritional deficiency? I drank more fluid than any other race I've run, but was still only taking about 5-10 sips out of each bottle, so even though there was 100+ calories in each FULL bottle, I was probably only getting about 10-20 calories at each aid station.
*Was I not recovered from my half two weeks ago?
*Am I THAT far out of shape and really had no realistic chance to run 2:45?
*Am I still feeling the effects of auto-immune deficiency, and if I am, will I ever get back to where I was (this is an especially interesting/troubling new line of thought considering Ryan Hall's recent retirement and revelation that he's battling testosterone deficiency that has left him unable to run more than 12 easy miles PER WEEK)?


I'm sure it will fade, but right now, whenever my mind isn't occupied (and a lot of times even when it is), I question EVERYTHING about my quest for an OTQ. I can find a small amount of solace in knowing that no matter what "the plan" was at any given point in time, every single day and every single workout, I gave everything. I did doubles, I got up early, I dragged my butt to the track, I hopped on the dreadmill, I lifted, etc. But if I admit that, then do I need to finally concede that I've peaked and will NEVER return to my full potential? Will I constantly be chasing my own impossible standards of performance? Yuck. That's enough of my whining, but the wound is REALLY fresh and I'm REALLY sad about failing.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Too Stubborn? Too Stupid?

Quick update as the summer comes to a close.  As you have probably noticed, my blog, which was born to follow my racing adventures, has been on life-support for the last couple of years due to weirdo illness. 

Lexi & me on the couch on a beautiful summer day last due to sicky ickies. 
                                   Lot of hours on the couch in 2014.

Then after mounting a quasi-comeback and racing in May, the curtain of silence again fell.  Unfortunately it wasn't due to a descent into a serious pain cave of training and getting in amazeballs shape.  Instead, I was dealing with a couple of major injuries.

Quick recap:
⭐︎Illness and injury battles from July 2013-September 2015 (YUCK).

⭐︎September 2015 the "training" resumes with walking and run/walk intervals.

⭐︎November 2015 actual training resumes and I realize I am facing a mountain of work to even think about qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials (which is my ultimate goal).

⭐︎January 2015 pull a calf muscle; out for 8 weeks (seriously, if my calves weren't so big, it wouldn't have taken so long to heal).
             On what was supposed to be a training trip to AZ in January 2015, 
            instead I can only do a moderate amount of hiking due to calf injury.

⭐︎March, April, May start training basically from scratch again.

⭐︎May race Dam to Dam Half Marathon and run a respectable 1:19 considering the circumstances.

⭐︎June, just as I feel I'm starting to make gains and get geared up for Grandma's (officially Gary Bjorklund) Half Marathon, I seriously pull a hamstring racing in a little tune-up 5k. FML, pardon my french.

⭐︎August resume training from what feels like scratch AGAIN.  This is where I start to wonder if I'm stubborn or just stupid.  But, as I say, "can't stop, won't stop."

⭐︎September finally dip my toe back in the racing pool with the local Labor Day Victory Races.  I opt for the 10k, 5k back-to-back challenge, because why not?  I end up running a 36:24 10k and 45 minutes later an 18:30 5k.  Considering what I know I'm capable of (33:00ish 10k and 16:00 5k), this feels like a disappointment.  Then reflecting on what I've been though and the amount of training I've put in, I realize it's a time to celebrate and should be marked in "W" column.
                  Victory 10k-5k, not exactly 1:11 half marathon shape, but it's a start.

Now, I find myself racing the clock (literally) to qualify for the Trials.  I have until January 17 to run a qualifying time (which for the marathon is 2:43).  In the past, I qualified by running a marathon because well, that's the race at hand.  But because of what I've been though and the amount of time I've had to train (or lack thereof), my goal is to qualify using the half marathon race standard (which is 1:15).  Considering I ran a 1:19 in May and then sat on the bench for 5 weeks and could only muster a 36:00 10k a few weeks again, I feel like I'm stepping into the ring against Ivan Drago.  But I KNOW a 1:11 is in me, so getting a 1:15 is more than possible.  It's going to require total commitment to jumping in the hurt locker and embracing the discomfort, but I'm ready and willing to accept that fate.  It's also going to take a little bit of luck to not get injured or sick again...fingers crossed.

I would love to be in 1:11 shape and talking about being a real contender for Rio, but that's not the cards that were dealt to me.  Instead, I'm holding on to a thin thread of hope that I can and will qualify and simply get to bask in the accomplishment of making it to the start line at the Trails in LA in February.

Wish me luck!
                                                Mustaches are fun!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Better Late than Never - Dam to Dam 2015

Hey friends!

It's been a long while since I last posted about my running, but there's finally some news to report.

A few weeks ago (May 30), I actually raced! Yippee! I had the awesome opportunity to jump in the field of invited athletes for the 2015 Dam to Dam Half Marathon down in beautiful Des Moines, IA.  Big shout out to race director Ben Tilus for keeping me on the radar despite my recent disappearance from the scene.

So it was with nervous excitement that I trucked down to Iowa to toe the line for my first real racing action since January 2014.  After some decent workout efforts leading up to the race, but acknowledging I'm a long way from where I was when I left the scene, I was hoping to run a 1:20.  Not anywhere near my PR of 1:11, but a solid, respectable effort.

The morning of the race was overcast and misty; my kind of weather.  And I had the absolute pleasure of riding the bus next to a gregarious, local young runner named Obsie Birru.  After sharing a few laughs and talking shop, we realized we both were shooting for the 1:20 mark and decided to try help one another reach our goals.  This might be something most competitive runners think is nuts, but it's something I love about the sport.  When I'm going for time, I'll take everyone and anyone's help to get there.  I wasn't thinking about my place in the field and certainly wasn't expecting to be near a podium finish, I just wanted to give what I thought would be my best performance.

My pace buddy Obsie (pictured on the right).  I tried to tell her she should do more core work because clearly she's lacking in the abs department.  Pffffft.

The gun goes off and crap... I find myself in the lead pack, but with Obsie.  The first two miles or so have a lot of downhill so I didn't feel like my pace was too aggressive.  Unfortunately as soon as the course flattened out, I realized I was running with a group of gals who were, "above my pay grade."  So it was, around mile 4 that Katie McGregor cruised by and the lead pack went with her (including my POC, partner-in-crime, Obsie).  I was disappointed for sure, but I stayed behind settling into my own race knowing I wasn't ready to roll with the big dogs.

Within a mile, Obsie had dropped back from leaders and settled in alongside me.  The next 3-4 miles were awesome as we each had moments of weakness and strength which the other compensated for.  When I found myself dropping back, Obsie encouraged me and I closed the gap and picked her up again. When Obsie started falling off the pace, I encouraged her to come with me and she did.  It worked great until about mile 9 went we crested a hill and I lost my great pace buddy.

Fortunately another young little whippersnapper by the name of Lauren Versweyveld (recent winner of Nashville Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon) went shooting by me like a tiny little fluorescent pink rocket (she was wearing a pink jersey).  It was at that moment that I was pumped to realize my old racing instincts hadn't completely died, and she and I worked our way to the finish in a great back-and-forth fashion with me coming in ahead by the slimmest of margins.

You can see the Pink Rocket aka Lauren Versweyveld photo-bombing like a champ in this shot.  Notice my abs do NOT look like Obsie's...weird. Props to Jolesch Enterprises whom I' have clearly borrowed this image from.  ;)

1:19:17 for a final time in 6th place.  My worst Dam to Dam performance to date, but arguable my most satisfying experience considering where I've been (physically) and the amount of training that has been put in.
Fun photo leaderboard from the race.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

2014: A Year To Forget

Howdy friends!  It's been a while.  My poor blog has been on life support for the past year along with my running career.  So here's a recap to bring everyone up to speed...

I was running really fast.  Then I wasn't.  I felt sick all of the time.  No one knew what was wrong.  I went to a million doctors.  I tried a bunch of crazy stuff.  I suffered through an entire year of trial-and-error treatments, a hiatus from running, and moments of losing my mind and my body/health.

After all of that, the sad truth is nothing definitive was ever discovered to explain why I got sick.  Sure I tested positive for a few weird viruses and bacteria, but on their own, these positive results weren't things that should have been causing me to be so sick.  I also had a serious deficiency in some vitamin levels (mainly the B vitamin group) and bit of a hiccup in my Kreb's Cycle (which produces energy), but nothing extremely serious.  Additionally I was having an odd sort of detached feeling with my legs, but no one could/can explain why, despite testing for all of the likely culprits.  And most recently after noticing a pattern between when I was ill and when I moved into my new home, I discovered I had an extremely high level of mold in my environment (which has since been taken care of).

Although it's an odd mix of random factors, taken together they apparently formed the perfect storm of "ew" in my body.

So that leads me to today.  After being on a crap-load of supplements for about 3 months (enough time so they could have an effect), doing some mold remediation in my home, going through months of acupuncture, physical therapy and chiropractic treatments, along with a handful of other tweaks to my body, I THINK I'm on the road to recovery. Woo-hoo for cautious optimism!

 This is just a sampling of my current menu of daily supplements to keep me on the road to recovery.

Unfortunately, since I don't know exactly what caused me to get sick in the first place, I'm unsure of how to avoid a repeat episode in the future.  And I'd be lying if I said I was 100% better.  At best, I'm currently about 75-80% on the Crusher spectrum of health.  The weird, detached/uncoordinated feeling in my legs (left leg mainly) continues to persist and is troublesome. And don't even get me started about being in shape.  I'm in shape, but my shape is a round circle of goo...not the shape of a lithe, fit runner.
                                An "infographic" which represents my current fitness level...

HOWEVER, my head is back in the game and that is a critical first step.  Additionally my training with Coach Ron has resumed and although it's light, mileage-wise, and relatively tame when it comes to intensity, I'm doing it.  It's ugly and slow, but I'm doing it and I'll continue to do it everyday with an appreciation for what my body has been though and wherever it goes from here forward.

My plan since 2012 has been to rise in the ranks and be considered among the top female American distance runners, as well as get back to the Olympic Trials in 2016.  Unfortunately my health mess of 2014 has put a bit of a kink in those plans.  Instead of achieving my goals, I've essentially fallen off the map when it comes to being a "known" competitor on the racing circuit, LUNA dropped me from their sponsored athlete roster, and I haven't posted a result since my abysmal performance at the 2014 Half Marathon Championships.  BUT I refuse to give up.  I've come out of the woodwork before, and I know I can do it again!

My new goal is to qualify and compete at the 2016 Trials, not worrying about the actual race in LA.  At this point, simply qualifying would be an amazing feat.  And you can bet I will be giving it the full beans from now until Feb 13, 2016.
I believe in the power of the jinx, so I'm cringing as I post this pic from 2012. Fortunately I also believe in the power of visualization...can, will, do...LA, I'm coming for you!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

When A Runner Can't Run...

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard me complaining about not being able to run because of this mysterious, lingering health issue.  Unfortunately the mystery remains unsolved.  And although I'm TRYING to ease back into running (we're talking 20 miles per week of sad, slumpy jogging), what has kept me sane through this entire ordeal has been the fact that I have been able to continue strength training.

As such, I figured why not do a little spotlight piece on the man, the myth, the legend that has been keeping my body in the best shape possible considering the circumstances.  So last week, I sat down with Luke Carlson, owner and trainer at Discover Strength, to pick his brain about strength training and runners.

Quick background on Luke:  he is the founder and CEO of Discover Strength. Luke is a practitioner, speaker, and author on the topic of strength training and evidence-based exercise programs. Luke is an American College of Sports Medicine certified Health and Fitness Specialist (HFS) and holds the unique distinction of being an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Cancer Exercise Specialist (CES). He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and a Master of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology from the University of Minnesota.  Luke has been working with strength training for distance runners for over 12 years.  Over those 12 years, Luke and the Discover Strength staff have worked with hundreds of runners ranging from first time marathoners to Olympians and everything in between.  He is the co-author of the book, "The Female Athlete: Train for Success."  (Basically, he's a BA...and if you don't know what that is, you're not one.)

                                                 The Man - Luke Carlson

KB: So, we all know runners love to run, but there's more they can do to improve other than just hammering more miles, for example...strength training!  What are the biggest benefits of strength training for runners?

Luke: There are really two broad categories, and both are incredibly important.  
Firstly, strength training contributes to injury prevention.  By strengthening the muscles, tendons, connective tissues, and bone tissue, we have an improved ability to withstand the physical demands of distance running.  Great performances are largely the product of sustained periods of uninterrupted, injury free running/training.  So first and foremost, strength training should be viewed as a means to prevent injury (and in order to do this, it has to be done correctly).  
The second category is performance enhancement.  Of course, by remaining injury-free, we see improvements in performance because an athlete can actually complete prescribed workouts/runs over a sustained period of time.  The real performance benefit of strength training appears to be enhanced running economy.  Running economy is defined as the amount of oxygen we use to run at a given speed.  If we can maintain the same speed and use less oxygen, we have improved our running economy.  Running economy is highly correlated with race performance.  Literally every research study conducted on how strength training impacts distance running reveals that strength training improves running economy.  Interestingly, runners, running coaches, running magazines, etc. spend an enormous amount of time and energy experimenting with and touting the benefits of so many different aspects of running/training: mileage, pace-work, speed work, plyometrics, tempo work, flexibility, hill training, (and the list goes on)… When interesting, there is very little scientific research that definitively proves that any of these variables is the "key" to great performances.  While on the other hand, most coaches and runners ignore one training element that the research very clearly supports as being effective for enhancing performance: strength training.  This never ceases to amaze me.   In addition to these benefits, strength training also improves body composition and even enhances cardiovascular function.    
KB: Great answer, but I'm still going to have runners who are reluctant to give up their time to run because they're skeptical.  What's the biggest misconception runners (specifically distance runners) have about strength training?
Luke: The biggest misconception is that strength training isn't beneficial (when in fact, all of the research supports it's efficacy).  Other misconceptions abound and include how many reps a runner should do, a focus on "functional" training, and the myth that strength training will make a runner "bulky."  Even those who support the importance of strength training for distance runners fail to navigate many of these misconceptions.  

KB: Of course I think everyone should come see you and the great team at DS, but if that doesn't work, what are three lifts every runner should be doing on their own?
Luke: If a runner could choose only thee exercises/lifts, they would be: 
1. Leg Press/Squatting motion, 
2. Pull-up or Pull-down, and 
3. Chest Press or Pushing movement.  
These 3 exercises incorporate the vast majority of the musculature in the human body.  Notice, I didn't mention any "core" work.  Research indicates that a balanced approach of upper and lower body strength training is more beneficial than emphasizing "core" work.  The overemphasis of the "core" may in fact be one of the largest myths pertaining to strength training for distance runners.  

KB:  Sweet, more pull-ups, less crunches...check!  Any insights about the timing and/or frequency of strength training?  For example:  before vs after a run; on high-mileage days vs low-mileage days; how many days per week; how many days between lifting sessions; etc.
Luke: We would recommend 1-2 strength workouts per week.  In a perfect scenario, try to piggy back the strength workout after a hard effort (speed work, tempo, or even a long run). A morning tempo run can be followed by a strength workout later in the day.  In this instance, the runner can spend the following day recovering from both the tempo and strength workout.  It is imperative to have a minimum 2-3 days between strength workouts.  

KB:  I must say, before this whole health debacle that I'm going through popped up, my work with you played a big part in my break-through performances last spring and early summer.  The question then becomes this: in the metro area, which is so saturated with gyms, personal training studios, crossfit groups, etc., what makes DS different or how would you describe the DS philosophy? 
               Last summer when Luke and the DS team had me in top form!
Luke: Our approach can be summed up with the term "evidence-based."  This mean that rather than adopt fads and trends, or listen to the testimony of "experts," gurus, or successful athletes… we base our exercise prescription on the preponderance of scientific research.  An evidence-based approach to exercise ensures better results and a safer training experience.  I'm always shocked that the concept of research based exercise isn't incredibly popular to all runners (and exercisers in general).  If you aren't implementing evidence-based exercise, you are simply throwing darts at a dartboard.  One of our company's 4 Core Values is "Science-based Programming" and we will never, ever deviate from this.  
In a nutshell, the 4 things that really make us unique are:
  1. Educated, expert staff (not people who simply like fitness, but who have degrees and advances certifications in bio-mechanics, physiology, motor control, etc.)
  2. Efficient.  Our workouts are 30 minutes in length and we recommend 1-2 workouts per week.
  3. Evidence-based.
  4. Strength training focused.  We love all forms of exercise, but our only focus is strength training.  We make a conscious decision to focus in this one area.  
So, there it is.  Straight from The Man's mouth.  Hopefully any and all readers, whether runners or not, will gain a little insight on strength training.  Now, go pump it up!  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

To Detox, or Not To Detox, That Is The Question

Bad news:  no race recap of the recent 15k Championships because I had to withdraw due to the continuing mystery surrounding my health.

Bad news #2:  traditional docs keep insisting that I do NOT have Lyme's disease.  And although there are a few other potential diagnoses floating around, until I go to the neurologist, nothing definitive to report as to why I don't feel well.

GOOD NEWS!  Yeah!  A friend of mine who happens to be a chiropractor and health coach reached out asking if I'd want to take part in his spring detox program.  He didn't by any means suggest that this would "cure" me, but he thought the detox might alleviate some of my discomforts (headaches, body aches, low energy, etc.).  At this point, I was feeling so miserable that I that I thought, "why not?"

A little background info first...

I am VERY skeptical of detoxes and cleanses because I feel the body does this naturally.  However after hearing about TrUe North's program, I realized this was legit (  This was not caloric deprivation and/or a lose weight quickly scheme (which I was NOT interested in), this was all about enhancing the regular detox processes of the body. The support products were not stimulants or anything else weird, they were FDA-approved nutritional supplements.  Also, I think it's noteworthy to mention that this was something I took on at the suggestion of Dr. Chris, but I paid for the service and support.  My review is not based on their "sponsorship" of my participation (but good news for TrUe North...I would TOTALLY urge anyone/everyone to do this detox!  For reals).
                                   Docs Shamanie Haneca & Chris Frykman

Ok, so what's this detox all about?  It involved 10 days of detoxing.  No deprivation, eat whatever, whenever, but eat only the approved foods.  Approved foods varied throughout the course of the 10 days, but the guidelines were pretty simple:  no gluten and no caffeine (which I was already doing), plus no GMOs (genetically modified foods), nor dairy and/or processed sugar.  You might be wondering what the heck you eat then, but I found plenty of delicious options.  At the beginning and end of the detox things like g-free oats, quinoa, and white rice were game.  And throughout the detox, I could stuff myself with as many delicious fruits, veggies, and wild fish as I wanted.  Plus, during the 10 days, I also was taking Metagenics products:  a few capsules of a "vitamin" called AdvaClear and a shake-like drink called UltraClear Renew.  Again, both products were medically developed and FDA-approved to enhance natural detoxification.  No magic potions, no stimulants, no wonky side effects, etc.

                                                            Support Products

Now, by no means was I a perfect example of healthy eating before this detox.  I LOVE dessert and sugar, but no wonder, apparently sugar is 8x more addictive than heroine!  But I don't have a caffeine habit, I love veggies, and I had already eliminated gluten.  So, not to say this was going to be easy, but I found that I had fewer negative side effects than some of the other participants (oh yeah, this was done as a group, so there was a private Facebook support page, access to health coaches via phone/email, and a couple of weekly conference calls to discuss how everyone was doing).

My biggest challenges during the detox included:
1) The lack of processed sugar.  I'm proud to say that I did not cheat once on the detox, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't dream of nutella or drool over my bf's ice cream.  The urge was definitely there, but surprisingly, fruit was a decent substitute.  I ate a lot of strawberries, blueberries and bananas when my sweet tooth would strike.  Or if I was really feeling on edge, a handful of raisins.  By the end of the detox, those alternatives usually hit the spot.  I won't say that I'll stay sugar-free for ever, but I definitely felt the benefits of eliminating it from my diet.

b) Social situations that involved food.  I felt a little bit like a weirdo around others when/if food was involved.  For example, at a morning work function, I sat politely sipping my water while everyone else gorged on coffee, muffins, and yogurt (remember, no dairy!).  When I had dinner with my bf, he got to stuff himself with delicious homemade chicken enchiladas while I munched on broccoli and fish.  When a girlfriend suggested dinner out, I had to pass because I didn't know if there would be anything on the menu that I could eat.  This isn't to say that I would have rather been eating differently, it just was a bit awkward at times.

4) Lack of imagination/variety.  Having new restrictive guidelines and a busy life, I found myself eating the same meals over and over again.  I'm sure if I would have put a little more time and effort into research, I could have come up with some fun meal options, but fruit for breakfast, veggies & hummus for lunch, and fish & veggies for dinner was kind of the repeating theme for me throughout the detox.  Not bad, but kinda boring.
                                  Standard dinner fare:  fish & vegs...delicious!

Now, the good stuff!  The pros of my experience far outweighed the few cons.

During and after the 10 days I experienced:
1) Decreased headaches!  Oh my gosh.  I couldn't tell you the last day I didn't have at least a slight headache before this detox, but by day 2 of eating cleanly and taking the supplements, I was and stayed headache free.  A miracle!  (Side note:  other participants going through caffeine withdrawal had worse headaches those first two days...just thought I should warn any coffee drinkers: it apparently gets worse before it gets better.)

b) Decreased body pains!  My aches didn't disappear completely and I still feel a lack of coordination which makes running difficult, BUT day-to-day my body felt much better than it has in months.

4) Happy stomach.  Despite going gluten-free in October, I was still experiencing random bouts of tummy troubles and nausea.  I didn't feel nauseous once while doing the detox.  And even though I didn't weigh myself or plan on losing weight, I think I might have dropped an lb or two during the process (which is exceptionally impressive considering my activity level has dropped significantly lately).

r) Increased energy.  Now, there may be a little more to this than just the detox.  My latest doc recommended a sleep aid because I was suffering from persistent insomnia and the body needs sleep to function properly, so I have been sleeping more, BUT...the combo of 8 hours of sleep and eating clean gave me more energy than I've had in a long time (meaning, I didn't need a nap).

Overall, I really enjoyed the detox.  Despite the few drawbacks, the experience highlighted just how important nutrition is/can be in wellness.  I believe every participant in my group reported feeling not only better physically, but also emotionally.  I'm not saying that everyone became their perfect self or that everyone will stay on the completely toxin-free regimine forever, but we all agreed that there was an increased sense of vitality that came from clean eating and the nutritional supplement support.

If you're at all considering some kind of detox or cleanse, I would strongly suggest this program.  Like I said, it wasn't a fad or a gimmick, and it wasn't about deprivation.  It was simply enhancing the body's natural processes. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

USATF Half Marathon Championship

Well, the 2014 USATF road racing series has begun!  I'm pumped.  Let's do this.  Unfortunately it started in January with the Half Marathon Championship.  Arguably my favorite and best distance, the half marathon was a race I ran well at last year in Duluth in June.  However, because of world competition considerations instead of having until June to get in shape, the race took place this past weekend.'s been almost six months since I've raced over 7.5 miles.  This was going to be tricky.

The good news is that I have been feeling much better, in general, without gluten in my life.  See ya later, gluten!  I thought, given the shape I was in, shooting for a 1:15 in Houston (the site of the race) would be realistic.  Then somehow I was able to whip out a near personal best of 4:57 in the mile at a recent indoor track meet.  Given this development, I felt optimistic that I might be able to drop a 1:12:00 or small feat, but within my reach.  You see, before my "break-through performance" of last year, 1:18 was my best half, and I felt super human at that!  So to be sitting and having a conversation with Coach Ron about realistically running a 72-73 was kind of surreal, but that was the plan.

The race took place in Houston, and let me tell you, it was wonderful.  It was January and in this magical place called "the south," winter wasn't miserable!  I walked around the streets the day before the race in amazement that there was no snow or ice to deal with, the sun had warmth, and I was comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt!  Jeans and t-shirt?!  I did a shake out run and I actually broke a sweat that didn't immediately turn into frost on my skin.  Glorious!  But I digress...

Race day recap:
4:15am - Wake for a quick shake out mile.  It is pure fog/mist in the air.  The humidity is basically 100%.  This magical weather could be problematic...

4:30am - Breakfast and ready myself.  Fashion choices for the day include sweet New Balance warm-up and race gear, and a spectacularly neon yellow Twin Cities Track Club jersey.
                                                 Only photo from the weekend...

5:30am - Board the elite bus for the shuttle to the start. 

6:00am - Warm up time, which was a bit absurd.  Basically the race officials had this great tent area blocked off for elites, but then only allowed us to run about 1/4 mile up and down the start area for warm up.  We were not allowed to leave that area.  My TCTC teammate, Stephanie Price, and I must have done about 20 "laps" of this ridiculously short and crowded warm-up corral.  Everything else about the race and race organization was great, but they totally dropped the ball on this.

6:55am - Go time!  The men and women started together, but within about a minute, the dudes were gone.  They are so darn fast.  Ridic.  I settled in with a lead pack of about 10 women and felt like I was jogging.  That 4:57 mile on Monday had given me a new perspective on speed and pace.  The bad thing about that is that I went out faster than I probably should have.  I have been doing decent mileage, but not enough and at a high enough intensity to support the way I started the race.  But I don't regret it.  This was a great test of my fitness and it was a golden racing/learning opportunity. 

Back to the mile 3 I knew I wasn't going to be able to stay with the lead pack.  The fact that I threw up in my mouth was a good reminder that this was no regular field of competitors.  They were putting me in the hurt locker and my body was letting me know.  I backed off a bit and got passed by a handful of solo ladies.  Each time one went by, I tested for a few steps to see if I could hang, and it just wasn't happening.  I spent miles 3 to 7 convincing myself that I would make it to the finish.  It wasn't going to be a day of glory and a PR, but darn it, I was going to give whatever I had.

At mile 7 a group of about 6 ladies came up on me and I forced myself to get pulled along.  I knew I was over half-way to the finish, and if I kept letting people pass me by the result could get real ugly, real fast.  This was a field of pros.  Not many of them were going to fade as the race neared the finish.  If anything, they were going to turn on the after-burners.  From miles 7-10 I hung on for dear life to my pack which was good, but required a lot of effort.  At mile 10, the pack made a little move and I had no response.  My legs were dead. 

Miles 10-13 were a grind.  Saw only one other woman and we had a bit of back and forth, which was good to keep me engaged in the race, but in the final 1/2 mile when she re-passed me, every fiber in my brain was screaming, "GO WITH HER," but every fiber in my body was like, "mehhh...." 

I crossed the line in 1:15:05, 21st place.  Not bad, but not good.  Mediocre.  And to be honest, it's a bit of a kick in the pants because 1:15 is a benchmark in the running community.  There are more race opportunities and perks if you can say you've run sub 1:15...grrrrrr.  I was disappointed, of course, but I'm trying not to beat myself up too much (good luck with that).  No excuses, I didn't have the talent this past weekend, but there's a lot of time left in the season and I'm ready to work smarter and harder than ever...