A lot changes in a year

A year ago I did to date one of the most epic things of my life. Each year year I give myself different goals: athletic, personal life, work you name it and I try to attain that goal each year, some years I don’t so you just try again.  Last year’s goal was to complete a 100 mile race and live to tell the tale, you can read the recap here. I can say I had a lot on the line that day, a month before I was diagnosed with ammenorehea and an eating disorder, among a few other things. That was my last go at higher mileage because after that I wasn’t allowed to run more than 25 miles a week to keep weight on and change my diet completely.

Telling someone that used running as therapy, who loved to run to not do it anymore or at least that much was like trying to breathe with half a lung. I can say it was a struggle at first to decrease my mileage but then with every appointment and reprimanding I became worn down and eventually just stopped running all together, my drive for it was killed and left like a hooker in a back alley never to be found.

Directing a running program for beginners helped me bounce back a little, it helped me focus on helping others and getting mileage in slowly.  I ran a half marathon in May and bonked horribly, I was on pace for around 2hrs or less then my body just gave up because my fueling methods were drastically changed and I just couldn’t keep fuel down, my body revolted anything I tried to put into it.  I’ve run a few 5ks since then and can still crank out a sub 27 minute race but I have considerably lost fitness over this year.

I signed up for a summer marathon and ultra in hopes to inspire myself back into running, that didn’t help and I ended up canceling anything over a 10 mile run.  I’m at a running all time low, in this funk I can’t seem to get out of and i’m flailing so hard to try to grasp what once was and hope I can get my speed and endurance back.

During all this I became fixated on this 120 number I was told by my doctor to maintain, so fixated that I would cry if I saw anything less than that. It was the complete opposite of the number fixation the year before, but worse. Fixation on numbers for weight, calories…something I wasn’t really fixated on as much before, just how i looked, which was still distorted. When I went back for a recent visit my specialist said things looked better, maybe my body needed this and if I wanted to get back to my higher mileage I’d need to gain 5-10  more pounds.  I looked her dead in the eye and was like “it has been a bitch to maintain that weight, my body doesn’t want it. I won’t be able to do what your asking physically and for the sake of my sanity. My athletic prowess has already taken a backseat”

I’m not about to listen to someone, even a professional, that can’t even do basic scientific design with proper controls..she lacked the proper controls to make a valid point to me. I was told that I was a disordered thinker and was coming at it wrong. Foremost, I’m a scientist, I’m thinking of this logically not from my illogical mind. I can’t say how many times I sat there thinking from every angle, looking at the numbers and hearing what she said but nothing matched up to me. Of course she’s a professional and it’s her area of “expertise” but I felt highly offended that she was treating me as this still broken person instead of listening to me trying to reason with her.

After that meeting I decided that I’m just going to do whatever I want, I want to be happy and healthy, not fixated on something and becoming more neurotic than ever. I wanted my life back, my passion back and if that meant sacrificing somethings then so be it. I can fake a smile, I’ve done it my whole life…I can play good girl when I need to but I will also fight you if I feel very passionate about something. This “diagnosis” and professional was taking away not only something I love but was taking over part of my career, as I running coach I need to lead by example and I can’t have marathon clients if I can’t run a marathon or run the mileage with them.

I had signed up for an experienced marathon program and to this day I have yet to show up for a practice because either the mileage scared me because I knew I had lost a lot or I was working and missed practice.

This past weekend when I had off from both my full-time and part-time job, I  had time to think about what I want for this next year and how I’m planning to move past all that has happened in this year.

Many of my relationships with people got shaky because of my mental state of things and I just didn’t feel like anyone truly understood what all was happening. I withdrew from everyone, including my boyfriend. He and I both have our different demons that we chose to not bring up that we have been dealing with the past few months. Despite all of that we are still sticking it through and it’s my hopes that after this hellish past year for us that it can be seen that we can make it through just about anything. Sometimes you need no words, you just need a long hug and a good cry. I’m also hoping that we can get away for a vacation to just enjoy time together and get away from all the stress factors we have in our lives.

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I’ve left a lot of people out of my life, and I’m sorry but it’s for the best for everyone involved. If I feel like I want to mention it to you then feel privileged that I’ve decided to share. Not everyone truly gives a shit about you, I’ve learned that the hard way. Some people just want to use it against you and it just makes you feel worse that the people you are confiding in make you feel so small. Nobody should feel that way, thus nobody knows my business and I’m fine keeping it that way. Maybe some day I’ll be able to open up again but I’m seriously doubting that.  I’m open to talking about my struggles with the body dismorphia and eating, that will probably never go away but I hope that by me talking about it, it can help someone else out that might be struggling with the same thing.

It was recently that I’ve decided that I’m going to dedicate myself back to my running, I bought a treadmill off a woman for a fantastic deal and I just need to tie myself to it and get a run done even if i’m tired from working both jobs that day or the night before.

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I’ve made it a personal goal to complete an ultra marathon next spring, one that I did the other year and try to win one of the age group or overall prizes as I was close the other year.  I also am putting that 100 mile race back on my radar, it may not happen next fall but maybe the fall after that.  I’m also recommitting myself to trying to qualify for the Boston marathon in the next few years. There was potential for me until I had my miles cut and now I’m starting from scratch.

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My part-time job gives a certain amount of money for us to run races each year, and I had thought of deferring the Chicago marathon that I have in a month because my training is very limited but it’s free through work so why not use it as a way to try to inspire myself back into that push I need?  For now I’ve set myself up with fun races so I’m not taking them too serious and just get back on the horse and then let the horse pickup and take off wherever it plans to go and however fast it wants to go.

So if you see me out on the trail or on the race course, give me a high-five, I will probably need it. Also you can bring me cupcakes, that would probably make me like you even more.

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September 5, 2014. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Dealing with the pain of multiple life changing diagnosis

I haven’t posted in awhile, I had been trying to figure out how to exactly formulate this post since the summer.  Being a female athlete you have many things against you and many women get into sports not because they enjoy them but because they want to remain healthy or lose weight.  At some point for a few it can take a turn down a dark street where you become so fixated on perfection and forget that it’s for fun and being healthy but you wind up actually jeopardizing your health.

I want to preface this post with a little background on me. I had started my endurance running journey in Graduate school after a senior year of partying and studying, while not eating so healthy because I never wanted to be around my awful housemates.  I had gained a decent amount of weight, most of college I was between 95-105 lbs in high school I didn’t even weigh 100 lbs the day I graduated, I’m only 5’2 and I’ve always been petite but at that point I was around 130 lbs, though that may not really seem like much, on a petite frame it can be a dramatic difference in the way you look.

When I got to grad school I decided to start working out and get healthy again, I started to eat vegetarian which landed me becoming anemic until I figured out I wasn’t eating as balanced a diet as I thought.  I started to run a bit more and when I got out of grad school I ran my first half marathon in 2008.  I continued to run after that and kept pushing myself that I went back to the same course a year later and scrapped 30 minutes off my time, that same year I ran my first marathon. It wasn’t fun and I didn’t train as well as I’d hoped but when I got my pictures back I still didn’t like the way I looked.

Over the years I’ve battled with not liking the way I’ve looked, in high school I was scrawny and just looked awkward and then years later I felt like a busted can of biscuits.  To this day I can maybe recall only a few times when I really felt comfortable in my own skin. When I had  gained the weight and had to buy more clothes it pained me, I was used to being “so small and cute” and I really didn’t feel like that anymore. I guess I prided myself on being one of the smallest people in my circle of friends. I didn’t like the way the new weight sat on me, I had love handles and my face was chubby.

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high school trip to France, I’m on the right
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1st marathon

Fast forward to a few years and many races later, I was down to 100-105 lbs again and I felt better but still occasionally felt like I looked fat, I strived to have the 6 pack I had in high school and my first 2 years of college. I became incredibly obsessive about the way I looked all the time and no matter if someone said I looked great to me I really couldn’t see that, I still felt like I looked like I did in college.  I didn’t ever want to go back there, part of it was health related because type 2 diabetes and heart disease run in my family but now that I look at it a lot of it stemmed from vanity and the constant pursuit of perfection. I started to take pictures of my stomach every week and I can still see them on my phone and say “dang i looked good, why did I think i didn’t?” I got to the point that last summer I was running every day in pursuit of this obscene goal for myself.  I never really spoke to people about it because they already thought I was crazy for thinking I looked awful, which is why I still don’t really mention it to most people because I don’t want them to think I’m looking for pity or compliments. I don’t comment for pity or compliments and I’m bad at taking compliments anyway.  I still am baffled when I hear someone use the term “tiny” to describe me because to myself I don’t look that small.

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summer 2012, the summer of obsessive runner

For the past few summers I’ve been getting blood work done around my birthday, they do this because I’m an endurance athlete and they want to make sure that I’m healthy and not have issues with anemia. This past summer really changed my life and my perspective on a lot of things, it made me realize a lot about myself.  I got my blood work results back the day before my best friend’s wedding and they weren’t good.

Usually I pass with flying colors, this time everything looked good except I exhibited mild anemia but that wasn’t the worst of it. I get tested for various hormones because of being a petite female athlete and normally I’m in the average range but at the lower limit. My doctor noted in the panel that she was going to have me see a specialist, an endocrinologist because my hormones came back suggesting that I was starting  early menopause, even when being on a  birth control it still wasn’t helping me be “normal”. When I saw that I started crying uncontrollably, I had just turned 31 two weeks prior and this just devastated me, what did it mean? Could I reverse it? Would I be able to have children in a few years?

She sent me for more tests that cost a lot of money, I got tested for Polycystic ovary syndrome.  I spent the whole wedding weekend crying. I had to excuse myself on multiple occasions to go cry it out in the bathroom. What did all of this mean for me in the short and long term?

Two weeks after the test results I went to the endocrinologist with a whole list of questions for her.  I sat there shaking uncontrollably as she talked to me asking about my eating habits and my cycle, trying to get a feel of who I was and what I’m about, how I want my life in a few years.  I told her I wanted children but not until closer to age 35 so I have time to qualify for the Boston marathon, travel and hopefully get married before having kids.  She looked me dead in the eye and told me I didn’t have that long, that I’d be lucky at this point if I could conceive a child. She said I could reverse some of the diagnosis but I’d have to make a LOT of changes: decrease my mileage, change my diet and change my mental outlook on myself.

She diagnosed me with hypo gonadotropin amenorrhea, I’ve talked about amenorrhea on the blog before. It’s basically when a woman stops having her period for more than 90 days because of low hormone levels; I personally had gone almost a year without a period, mind while on birth control that should regulate my cycle. I honestly didn’t mind not having a period, I didn’t have to worry about it getting in the way when I’d go for a race but I really wasn’t thinking of the consequences associated with it.  When a woman has lower hormone levels, especially estrogen, they are more prone to having osteoporosis and having a greater occurrence of stress fractures because the hormones are needed for bone health.  My specialist said I was going down a path like one of her clients, high mileage, disordered eating and that woman ended up with a double tibial fracture and she can no longer run. Hearing all of that scared the crap out of me and I didn’t want to be like that woman, I wanted to be able to enjoy running for many more years.

All this news at once really scared me, I really didn’t know who to turn to or honestly who would understand?  Along with the amenorrhea diagnosis she diagnosed me with severe body dismorphia and also borderline anorexia. I was asked to go see a nutritionist and decrease my mileage to no more than 20 miles a week.   I had started to come to some sort of conclusion that I’d need to see a nutritionist because I realized after a 19 mile training run that I had only eaten dinner the night before, the rest of the week I only ate lunch; as a matter of fact from what I could recollect, I had only really been eating lunch for months. The only times I ate dinner was when I went out with friends, I even realized that I’d go out to eat with the guy I’m dating and sometimes I’d just say I wasn’t hungry and sit there.

A week after my specialist appointment I saw my nutritionist for the first time, she used to run marathons but now does body building and has worked with many people with eating disorders. She looked at my mileage and my fueling and determined that I did in fact have an eating disorder, possibly not completely intentional but I did. I was barely eating 1000 calories a day, most people that are trying to lose weight are told to maintain 1200-1400 and I wasn’t even getting that. Besides the fact I had low caloric intake, my body was using up more than I was putting in so anything I ate it was storing the carbs as fat because I was basically in starvation mode. I was told I needed to maintain no less than 1400 calories a day, my first goals were that and try to eat dinner every night even if it was just egg whites and toast with a protein shake.

The first couple of days were rough, I forced myself to eat dinner when I wasn’t hungry but after a few days I found myself wanting to eat everything in sight. I wasn’t allowed to have a lot of sugars anymore, that meant limiting sweets and significantly decreasing soda and juice.  I wasn’t allowed to have a lot of soy anymore so it wouldn’t skew the hormones, so I was back to eating some meat-mainly poultry and she was fine with that.  For the first 1-2 months I spent most of my time eating out rather than making my own meals because I knew what the calorie content was and if I made it myself I’d be more apt to have it be low calorie, which would negate what my nutritionist was trying to do.  When I got up to making my own meals, slowly with making lunch and making more for dinner I started to get really anxious about what I’d eat, where I’d get my protein and it made me go crazy.

I used to obsessively track my weight, bone mass, muscle mass, fat mass and water weight each day. I got to the point where I didn’t want to see the scale, I didn’t want to know what I weighed because I knew I had to gain some weight and no matter what the number was I wasn’t going to like it.  Going into the doctor I weighed around 108-110 lbs and my bmi was around 18, my body fat they estimated around 12%, normal BF is no less than 19% and BMI 20.

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I did well, I hadn’t weighed myself in about 2 months, my monthly cycle kind of came back and is still irregular but then again it never was since I was 17. I was doing well not weighing myself, I’d avoid the mirror. I just went with how my clothes fit but when by accident the guy i’m dating grabbed my waist it made me self-conscious because I knew I’d gained there, I could feel the skin over my pants when I normally didn’t have that. I asked him to not do that because of how it made me feel, he just said he didn’t think I looked any different, nobody thought I looked any different except myself.

I stopped running unless I was running with people I coach or I had a race. I get really nervous thinking about starting to train because I’m afraid I’ll revert back to where I was. I know the running suppressed my appetite but after some recent races I realized that maybe it isn’t anymore, maybe I’m used to it. My most recent nutritionist appointment she said it was probably a mental thing more than a physical thing but to just eat things that won’t upset my stomach.

When I went for my second visit to the endocrinologist she was pleased with my progress. I had asked them to not tell me what I weighed, just keep it in their file.  My doctor then comes in and says she’s glad I gained the weight she wanted and then some, I was 120 lbs on their scale. I tried to maintain my composure but inside my head I was absolutely freaking out. I hadn’t weighed that much in years, it was at the edge of my comfort zone and I knew what I looked like if I weighed more and it just frightened me.  She then harped on the fact that when I decided to have kids it wasn’t going to be a cake walk, I’d most likely be trying for awhile and the reality was that I’d most likely end up having to do IVF or hormone therapy to even be able to conceive, that I was very likely to miscarry if I did get pregnant. She also stated that there was no way at this point I could get pregnant because my body fat was still too low and that when I’d want to start trying I would definitely need to gain a bit more weight/body fat than where I am.

I told my doctor I wasn’t intending to have a kid for another few years, my goal right now was to try to qualify for the Boston marathon for 2015 and if I didn’t then I’d hang up my hat because I know my body won’t be able to do that level of training and be able to get pregnant or sustain a pregnancy.  I’m also putting in my head that I may never be able to have children and if that’s the case then I’ll look at other means like fostering or adopting.  That conversation brought me back to years ago when my best friend and I had joked about her carrying my children for me because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to have one (foreshadowing something I already possibly knew?), but she said she would only do it if there was a medical reason. At this point I wouldn’t dare ask her to pony up on her deal from years ago, she’s in graduate school and just got married, she’d want to have her own children first, not mine. I don’t think I could ever ask her or anyone to have my children for me, it sounds selfish of me to ask a friend.

After this appointment I started to weigh myself again, I recall one night that I weighed myself and it said 120 lbs, I just broke down crying. I texted my best friend and she called me. I told her I feel like such a hypocrite because here I am coaching people and telling them it’s ok to love their bodies and be healthy but yet I don’t love my own. I can look at my 14 year old niece and see her as this beautiful, healthy, slender girl but in reality she’s a tad taller than me and only weighs 10 lbs less.  How can I think that she looks good and not see that in myself?  I don’t like over-talking my weight/body dismorphia struggles because I don’t want to bring others down.

I’m now  about 4 months into my treatment, there have been good days and there have been some real lows. I started to journal to get out my feelings so they didn’t fester inside of me. I hit some points were I relapsed and I’m sure it’s still bound to happen as I go through the process. I still get anxious at some meals but it’s for making sure I’m getting enough calories. I recently went to Disney and I planned out all my meals so I knew I’d be getting sufficient calories for the ones I’d be burning.

Can I say now 4 months in that I feel better? I honestly don’t, it’s a daily struggle with myself. Some days I look in the mirror and think I look amazing, other days I’m standing in front of the mirror in my underwear pushing back skin on my stomach and thighs saying “if it would just stay like this I’d be really happy.” I see pictures of myself and think “I really am thin” then other days it’s more like “ugh I look awful, that shirt shows the weight I’ve gained”. I know it’s going to be a battle, it always has been but I try to think of why I’m doing this. I want to not get osteoporosis, I want to be able to have a kid some day, I want to be healthy and happy.

January 16, 2014. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

100 miles, 100 million thoughts

The weekend of Sept 7-8th 2013 I participated in my first ever 100 mile race, the Pinecreek Challenge in Wellsboro, PA.  It is probably the first and last 100 mile race I’ll do, I say probably because I know myself well enough to not count myself out to do something crazy again, or crazier than before. I constantly push that boundary of what is impossible, when in fact nothing truly is impossible if you put yourself in the right mind set and give yourself the adequate means to accomplish that goal.

I have to say I had no greater determination but to finish that race since my doctors told me it was the last ultra I should run in awhile until I got a few medical things sorted out. I honestly can say that I really thought that I would end up bailing about 70 miles in because at that point it would be dark and I’ve been terrified of the pitch black since I was little.  I also wasn’t sure how I’d do because I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the week of because my neighbor was partying every other day playing the music really loud that it shook the walls of my house.

My post on FB pre-race: everyone has a reason they run, some people, like myself run away from their fears & anxieties, the “demons” we hold inside of us because when you’re out there all your doubts and fears slip away & you are just one with your environment.

quiet the demons inside

quiet the demons inside

My weekend started when I left work a little early and then got stuck in traffic around Harrisburg,PA that it took me a good 30-45 minutes longer to get to Wellsboro than I had planned. I unpacked all my bags to see what I had. I made blister kits to put in my first aid kits I’d have in my drop bags, I packed extra powerade powder and even clothes because there was a 30% chance of rain overnight and staying dry is the only way to ward off blisters and chaffing.  Being the compulsively organized person I am I had packed all my bags at least a week prior to the race and had a checklist that I made to make sure I had everything I need.  I set out all my clothes, deodorant, body glide on the dresser of my hotel room. Once I had all my drop bags packed I took them out to my car so I wouldn’t forget them in the morning.  I took a shower, my medicine and I went to sleep but I kept waking up out of nervousness.

I actually set 3 different alarms to make sure that I got up at 4:30am so I could take my time getting situated and be out the door by 5am.  I had some excellent dreams friday night and I woke up refreshed and ready to go, though still slightly nervous but I kept telling myself I’d do what I could, that’s all I could ask of myself.  I chatted with a few people that I had done the race the year before (their first year) and said the course wasn’t bad and the volunteers were great, this settled my mind a little.

Me at the start area of the race ~5:45am

Me at the start area of the race ~5:45am

The morning of the start was really cold, it was about mid 40’s outside, enough that I needed to put on my capris over my shorts and put on a sweater from my car. We started at 6am and it was a bit dark so I put on my smaller headlamp that a friend gave me as a gag gift, that Tinkerbell headlamp did wonders until the sun came up! 🙂

I started my run with a guy next to me exclaiming “So far this is the longest 100 meters i’ve ever run!”, it was funny the first time he said it after the 10th time I heard it, not so much but I eventually lost him.  For the first 23 miles I was doing about a 10:30-11min/mile and told myself I needed to slow down or I’d burn out fast.

The first 23 miles were slightly boring because we ran to the end of the trail ~6 miles then back and forth 2 times each way until we reached 23-24 miles then headed south on the trail until we’d eventually turn around and come back.  I ended up picking up a deputy sheriff and a guy from Dublin around mile 15, the sheriff had run a few longer ultras like this so I kind of let him be my pacer because I liked his pace at that time, also he was rather fun to talk to, as was the guy from Dublin who’s family was crewing for him.  When I say crewing for those of you that don’t run, it basically means you have people that follow you on the course with all your food/supplies etc, some people have pacers as part of their crew.  I personally had no crew for this race at all. My family was picking me up when I was done and that was it.

guys i ran with for awhile, we found a natural spring on the path

guys i ran with for awhile, we found a natural spring on the path

natural spring

natural spring

I honestly can’t remember a lot of the conversations I had with different people along the way, but it was nice to have people to talk to or just listen to them talk for hours.

I have to say that I did learn a few things from my friend Hai’s recent 100miler up in Vermont, he gave me some good tips about efficiency in the aid stations and the best advice he gave me was “there is no try only do” which I kept in my head the whole time, you really don’t have to try you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and make forward progress.

My original goal was to get in as many miles as I could before it got dark, I knew that I’d slow down in the dark because if I was alone, I’d probably be freaking out.  At about half way through I decided to change my shoes because my feet were hurting a tad and I thought it was because they were a bit heavier so I switched to lighter mizunos.  I ended up picking up this woman from the mile 44 aid station until the next 2 aid stations around miles 54, her husband briefly stopped us before the mile 54 aid station to say he saw a bear cross the road. Sure enough, up on the side of the road was a mother bear and 2 cubs. I started to pray that I didn’t see them when I came back in the dark! I ended up making it just past the 2nd to last aid station on the way out before it got dark ~ 60 miles. I hit the 50 mile point a tad over 11 hours; which is a near personal best for me, my last 50 miler was 12 hrs 45 mins, decent chunk cut off.

hard to see but this is the bear cub crossing the road above the trail

hard to see but this is the bear cub crossing the road above the trail

The last aid station before the turn around was at the church, just a few miles before then I had linked up with a gal (Tiffany) and her pacer (Brian) who liked my pacing of  running for 5 minutes, walking 5 minutes ratio to keep myself going. I can say that the 1.5 miles to turn around was probably the longest 1.5 miles of my life. I stopped at the aid station after the turn around and waited for the people I had been running with so I wasn’t running alone.  I checked to make sure everything was in place, grabbed a long sleeve shirt because it was starting to get cooler.

After we turned around Brian decided to take me on as another person he was pacing, which i was very thankful for. I had no crew at all going into this, I think I was the only runner that didn’t have a crew for that race.  Brian went ahead of us and started to get some things from the aid stations ready and he’d take out water bottles and fill them while we’d use the port-o-potties and sat down a little.

I only got cell phone signal at 1 aid station that was mile 44 and mile ~80, when I got there each time I sent my dad a text message to let my family know where I was at so they knew they’d probably have to come up earlier because I was making better time than what I had planned. The first time through I texted my dad “bring tequila to finishline”, i was completely honest, if i was making it through i needed the tequila to kill the pain & celebrate this beast.

At mile 80 aid station Tiffany got a new pacer, at around 2am we came across a porcupine crossing the trail. It got scared it moved itself to place it’s spines towards us, we kept our lights on it and slowly walked past and it went into the woods.  I stayed with Tiff & her pacer for a good 10 miles but my Achilles was starting to really bother me so I slowed down. Then I was alone, my one headlamp had died so I was stuck with my one that wasn’t as bright and I still had another 1.5-2 hrs before the sun came up so I was praying that my headlamp would last or i’d be feeling my way around in the dark or I’d have to wait for someone behind me to run with them or try to catch up to Tiff.  At this point I was mentally and physically exhausted. I started to cry because I was in pain, I was tired, I just wanted the run to be over with, I just wanted to get to the next aid station.  Most of the aid stations were ~5-8 miles apart, this happened to be ~9 miles from the last station.  I was getting grumpy.

When I made it to the next aid station it was still dark, I grabbed a sandwhich and some mt dew, checked my Achilles again, filled my camelbak and thank the boyscouts then I was off for another 8 mile trek to the next aid station. I honestly can’t tell you how great it felt when the sun came out, though it was raining lightly I really didn’t care, I was no longer in the dark and I was slowly getting closer to the finish line. I knew I couldn’t stop more than 10 minutes at an aid station and that I could keep a 22min/mile pace and still make it in by 30 hours because I had gotten enough of a cushion early at the aid station cutoffs.

Coming into the last aid station I just shuffled along, my Achilles at this point was on fire. I wasn’t sure what was going on, I may have torn it but doubted that because i could still bend my foot. I probably bruised it and from the trail being banked it was probably me putting more force on my one side than the other so I kept trying to find more flat ground.

I stopped at the last aid station, by that time I was starving, so I ate another full sandwhich and got some gatorade and then slowly continued on. I got some gauze and medical tape and taped my Achilles a bit to make a buffer area so my shoe wasn’t rubbing against it so much.  I ended up running into the deputy sheriff i was running with early, he was with a guy that looked like a zombie. He ended up flying ahead now that the guy he was with had someone around him.

I did a lot of walking that last 3 miles, my Achilles was hurting so much that I just didn’t want to run anymore. I finally saw the end of the path where i knew the finish-line was coming up. I saw my dad and knew i was near the finish. I told him that I didn’t think I was going to run another 100 Miler, his response was “I’ve heard that before, so I don’t really believe you”  I got up enough energy to run through the finish and as soon as I was done I took a swig of Tequila.

at the finish

at the finish: 27 hours 50 minutes

I stretched a little and got in the car to go home, thank goodness my family came to pick me up because I started to cramp up in the car and needed to get out to stretch. While stopping my car battery ended up dying and my dad stayed with the car to get a jump and go get a new battery.  I got home and ate something briefly then took a nap, I didn’t hear my alarm and ended up sleeping for 4 hours then woke up, ate some pizza and a few hours later went to sleep.

The next day I had to drive back to DC and go to work. I stopped at the grocery store and got supplies for a baking gig I have coming up in October. I’m sure that was a sight to see, a small female gimping around and lugging 50lb bags of baking supplies into a cart then trying to put them in the car was also fun.  The drive back wasn’t that bad but I can say that I was fairly stiff for a few days.

All in all the experience wasn’t horrible, but it is not for everyone as it is a significant mental exercise. I do have to say that if I ever run another 100 mile race I will make sure to have a good crew with me.  As for now that goal is out of the way and I’m making less lofty goals, well kind of. I’m working towards qualifying for the 2015 Boston Marathon. I have a good 30 minutes to cut off my marathon time, then again I haven’t really “raced” a marathon yet because my PR at Baltimore was 4:14 but I ran the day after and was training for an ultra so I didn’t run all out.  Pretty sure I’m around or just under a 4 hour marathon now.  For now I’m taking a chance to recover a bit and then going to Disney in October.  Next goal races are the Baltimore marathon (Oct 12th) and Nike Women’s Marathon (Oct 20th) were I’ll see how close I am to the BQ and then work over the winter to get my times down.

Happy Trails,

Coach G

Ps: a few more pictures from my race

lots of toads on the course at night, almost stepped on a few!

lots of toads on the course at night, almost stepped on a few!

pretty bridge around mile 40

pretty bridge around mile 40

IMG_4540[1]

red salamander

red salamander

finisher mug

finisher mug

September 16, 2013. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The Female Athlete Triad

Since we were little we have been subliminally bombarded with the perfect body image, more so for women than for men.  As endurance athletes some information presented to us lays out that the less we weigh the faster we will run, it’s partially true but there are other factors that come into play such as oxygen capacity and many others.  Today I want to go into why this topic is important to me and why I think it is a good learning tool to teach our daughters or any female athlete that we coach or have in any part of our lives.

A common disorder in many high school and collegiate female athletes is what’s commonly known as the female athlete triad. Females struggle with body perception way more than men and thus are more likely to suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. As I’ve noted in another article about disordered eating this isn’t just disorders like anorexia but encompasses a wide range of varying adaptations people make with what they do to fuel their bodies.  What women don’t understand is that low energy availability can lead to amenorrhea and osteoporosis either of these alone or in combination can pose significant risks to physically active females. Some of these consequences can potentially be irreversible and emphasizes the critical need for prevention.

The complication with the triad is that the outcome can be detrimental to the female later in life. The cost of the eating disorder ends in a low caloric intake, thus the body fat percentage dips below 12%, a normal body fat for females should be above 18% so anything under that should be a root for concern. The female athlete may see an enhancement to performance due to weight drop which can add to the continuation of the disordered eating. The female will be able to maintain decent performance for up to a year or a little over before a decrease in performance will take over because of muscle loss and lack of fuel for the activity level.  The lack of calories isn’t just bad for performance but when a woman’s body fat drops below 12% the body has problems manufacturing hormones that are needed for a normal estrus cycle and thus the female begins to have cessation of a menstrual cycle for more than three months, what is known as Amenorrhea.  Amenorrhea can also come from excessive exercise and not eating enough calories leading in a decrease of estrogen production. Without estrogen release, the menstrual cycle is disrupted and can result in her periods becoming irregular or even stop all together.

There are two types of amenorrhea:  A female who has her period and then stops menstruating for ninety days or more is said to have secondary amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea is characterized by delayed menarche (onset of a menstrual cycle), which can delay secondary sexual characteristics.  Secondary amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea is mostly seen in athletic women.  When menstral dysfunction is found doctors will do a medical, menstrual, reproductive, family history and ask questions specifically related to disordered eating. [Joy et al] Laboratory testing for secondary amenorrhea can be seen in Table 1 below, it is important to rule out pregnancy and polycystic ovary syndrome as a cause for lack of mensus.

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Table from Joy et al Am Fam Physician. 2009 Mar 15;79(6):489-95.

Production of estrogen is needed to restrain bone resorption and promote bone formation. Low energy availability such as any type of disordered eating can impair bone health, especially when athletes exercise for prolonged periods of time without increasing their dietary intake. Energy availability can change daily but the effect on menstrual status might not manifest for months and the effect on bone density may not be detectable for at least a year.

Lack of energy availability can cause a reduction of physiological mechanisms that reduce the energy needed for cellular maintenance, thermoregulation, growth and reproduction. Even if an athlete is diagnosed amenorrheic; if they have a stable body weight it can suggest that energy balance can be restored even when energy availability is low. Energy availability can be reduced in many ways, one is by increasing exercise so that more energy is needed more than the amount put in or you can reduce energy intake more than you use it. Even if an athlete does not have a clinical eating disorder, those that don’t meet all the criteria for them are classified as having an eating disorder not otherwise specified (ED-NOS).

Disordered eating is found in 25-31% of elite female athletes, while in the normal population it only accounts for 9%. The percentage of amenorrhea increases as a female athlete adds more mileage to the training routine, but this is not true for all women, just those that have disordered eating. The athletes with a greater risk of low energy availability are those who restrict dietary intake, exercise for prolonged periods, those that are vegetarian or those that limit the types of food they will eat.

The health consequences of the female triad from sustained lower energy availability can extend beyond a physical manifestation, it can also present as psychological problems such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety disorders. Females can also start to present complications in the cardiovascular, endocrine, reproductive, skeletal, gastrointestinal, renal and central nervous systems.  Amenorrheic women are often infertile due to the absence of ovarian follicular development, ovulation and luteal function.  Even though in some cases women can recover and begin ovulation after their menses is restored.  Athletes that suffer from luteal deficiency may be at risk for infertility due to poor follicular development or failure of implantation thus have a higher chance of miscarriage. In animal experiments a reduction of dietary intake by more than 30% caused infertility and skeletal demineralization.

As the number of missed menstrual cycles goes up the bone density can start to decline and the female athlete may start to have more stress fractures, female athletes with menstrual irregularities have a 2-4 times greater chance of stress fracture than a female with a regular menstrual cycle.

Screening for any part of the triad can be challenging because the health consequences are not always readily apparent but if an athlete presents one part of the triad they should be screened for the other two to cover all bases.  Patient history of dietary practices, weight fluctuations, eating behaviors and exercise expenditure should be obtained. In many athletes with disordered eating they may present a fear of weight gain, menstrual dysfunction and disturbed body image. Any athlete that presents disordered eating should be referred to a mental health professional for further evaluation.

If an athlete with disordered eating or an eating disorder is determined they undergo initial laboratory assessment that includes: electrolytes, chemistry profile, complete blood count with differential, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, thyroid function tests, and urinalysis. There is often a wide range of normal values even in the severely undernourished and health care professionals should be careful about normal results. For evaluation of secondary amenorrhea it would include a pregnancy test, gonadotropin measurement, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone and to rule out ovarian failure while also check the ratio of LH/FSH to check for polycystic ovary syndrome. If menses isn’t restored a reproductive medical specialist may be useful to look at females that have lacked menses for 3-6 months.

Noticing and recognizing this triad or any part of it early in a females’ athletic career is vital to not only her current but her future health.  Society teaches us from a young age that skinny and frail is sexy, but that is not case, it is unhealthy. Teaching our daughters from a young age to feel comfortable in their skin and not harp over food can help them successfully avoid being in this triad.  We also have to recognize that there will still be some that will manifest this triad and we need to do our best to support them through all the endeavors. Those of us that work with young female athletes should be able to reconize some of the symptoms so that our athletes can remain healthy and reap the benefits of regular exercise.

August 8, 2013. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Programs, programs, programsssssss

After deciding to come on board to do the Nike Women’s Half Marathon through Team in Training, I came to this idea of how I could fundraise but give back to those that are providing me with donations.

I baked for a few people, which I love but really we’re all in it for the running so I offered to make custom programs for a discounted price while I’m fundraising for TNT.  I’m still fundraising up through April, so there is still time to get your own personalized program for your spring, summer or fall races. I’m offering 5/10k programs for a $25 donation and half marathon/marathon programs for a $50 donation.  I’ve made about 5 different programs so far.

A quick background, I’ve been making training programs for myself, family and friends since I started to get into distance running. Using what I’ve learned and been taught over the years I’ve figured out that what works for me and for others may be drastically different; everything from workout intensity, weekly mileage and even eating habits. I’m not a registered dietitian  so I can’t help you with that aspect but I can put you in touch with someone that can. I am a scientist by trade so I understand how the body works and what you can manipulate to get the best results from anyone. A lot of distance running is learning to be at a balance with your body and it can take a little bit of playing around to figure the best combination for each person.

So what the heck is involved in a “personalized” program and how can you do it virtually if you aren’t near where I live in DC? That’s pretty simple….you contact me with your goal race, the pace you currently run, any other races you may have before you goal, and some other information provided to me by filling out a small detailed questionare and I take 1-2 weeks to tailor a program for you.  For my normal pricing I offer different types of programs that range from just a standard program that you can follow or ones that have more interaction with me where we can adjust as needed throughout your training season.

I have a few different types of coaching programs that you can select for each racing distance; pricing adjusts depending on which program and distance you select. Ex. A 5k program takes less time to create than a marathon program which takes into account a lot more factors.  Regardless of which plan you decide upon, I will do my very best to help you reach your goals and will be available to take any questions during your training. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or bounce ideas off me, I’ll give you whatever support you need so you’ll never be on your own.

Below are how I classify the programs I offer and my typical prices:

Face to Face coaching:  If you live in the DC metro area and you would like to have a personal coach help you with your runs this service is for you. Face to face coaching allows 1 run/wk at your pace for the whole workout (up to an hour workout).  The first month will include an in-depth, in person evaluation, detailed training plan, getting proper footwear, and going over simple strength training exercises. This gives a more hands on coaching program, regardless of your ability level, I’ll work with you one on one and address any specific needs you have while we are together.

Online coaching or virtual coaching: For those in the DC metro area or anywhere for that matter; we’re all busy and don’t have a lot of time on our hands and maybe this is what works best for you. Communication with this type of program is done mainly through email or phone.  In the first month you’ll receive a phone consultation where I get your background information to tailor a program for you and find a local running store where you can be assured a good shoe fitting. Upon receiving your program you will be doing it on your own but with weekly or bi-monthly check-ins to see your progress. I may even ask for a quick video on occasion to assess form and other quick fixes to help your running be more efficient.

Small Group Coaching: Personally, I love participating in group coaching because you get to have such a great support system going through the same training as you. If you have a group of friends interested we can form a small group and work on everyone’s pace. This particular program can be done in person if you are in the DC metro area or online if outside DC. Each group member will receive their own consultation and training program adjusted for them as well as simple strength training exercises. There is a 3 person minimum for group coaching. I may even ask for a quick video on occasion to assess form and other quick fixes to help your running be more efficient.

Training Plans: Maybe you don’t need individual coaching but want a training plan tailored to you for a specific event you want to run. We can work together to create a program for your specific goals and needs. This program includes an initial consultation to determine your current fitness level, health, and your goals. Along with your program, I’ll send you video links/information about form, hill workouts and stretches that can be useful to you during your training.

*if you decide on this option I will only need to get certain information from you and will build your program. I won’t contact you to check in, but I will be available if you have any questions throughout the course of the program*

Other types:  I personally am no stranger to doing races on back to back days such as Disney’s Goofy Challenge, so I can work with you on pricing and tailoring programs for events that are similar to that with back to back running days.  These types of training require a bit more mileage and different approach to speed training than a typical marathon or half marathon program. Currently I’m not providing ultra plans but that will be in the works in the future

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Reason for the first month costing more than subsequent months:

The first month I will take a lot of time meeting with you to gather information so that I can tailor your program to your needs and not overwork your system. Building a program will take anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks turnaround time. Here’s a brief outline of  how the program building process goes:

1)     1st meeting in person, over the phone, or via email: go over your goals and figure out a schedule that works for you.

2)     do a speed trial or  take a recent race time to determine your pacing for your training.

3)     2nd meeting in person, phone or email, whichever you prefer, to go over the schedule I’ve made and address any questions/concerns you may have.

4)     Depending on the type of program you select we will pick a day for me to join you for a workout or I will have a day each week where I check in to see how your training is going.

I tailor each program I make to the individual based on the following criteria:

1)   Goal race, or running expectations/aspirations

2)   Current mileage

3)   Current pace

4)   Days they can devote to running

5)   Current cross training activities

6)   How busy their life is

7)   How hard they want to train, I adjust based on experience etc

8)   Current or past injuries

9)   If they want hands on or off coaching

10) Trial races to adjust schedules if needed

If you are interested in getting a program you can contact me and we can get you started, email me at GRoth124@gmail.com If you would like to do it as a TNT donation (up until April 10th) you may donate on my page and then send me an email about which distance you are looking for for a program. (http://pages.teamintraining.org/md/nikewhlf13/pixie)

Happy Running,

G

March 20, 2013. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Team in Training

Team in Training.

February 7, 2013. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Team in Training

This spring I decided to run with Team in Training for the Nike Women’s half marathon in DC.  I had always been interested in joining TNT for a triathlon since 2010.  A woman in my first group that I ever coached was a cancer survivor and fantastic person.  Towards the end of the season she started struggling and she pulled me aside one practice and said “Gwynne, I’m really afraid that my breathing issues are this cancer coming back, it seems just like before.” She had been talking to other survivors of her same cancer and either they stayed in remission or they relapsed into the same cancer again or it developed into leukemia.

The next month she started to go to NIH clinical center to get a diagnosis, months later they still weren’t sure what was wrong with her.  Eventually they determined that she had relapsed to have leukemia and was taken to Texas for treatment. She was in and out of treatment in Texas for a few months, lost her hair but she never lost her fight. She was such a positive inspiration.

Last fall, I found out via her husband on her facebook site that she had passed away, the leukemia had finally worn down her body so much that she could no longer fight.  Her light for life and her high spirits despite that surmounting devastation it was doing to her body she could no longer keep up.

My initial plan was to do a triathalon through TNT, because it was a new challenge to me and I figured the best way to honor her was with a big challenge to myself. However I do not have the time at the moment to train for a triathlon but I am able to work training for a half marathon into my schedule alongside my coaching.

If any of you are reading this and you are able to donate, even if it’s just $10 it would help me reach my fundraising goal.  I’d really like to raise more than my fundraising goal but for now I’ll stick to the basics.

I’m hoping that this time with TNT will allow me to then give back to them as a mentor or coach for future aspiring half marathon/marathon runners.

You can donate by going to this page: http://pages.teamintraining.org/md/nikewhlf13/pixie

Coach Gwynne

December 14, 2012. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Running Journals, the best kept secret

Keeping a running journal is one of the best ways to know where you’re going with your training and to see where you’ve been. It can help you track your progress, avoid past pitfalls and even inspire you to new accomplishments. A journal can be as simple as a few dashed notes of the distance and time you ran each day, or more detailed with lengthier entries about your route, the way you feel, and the stuff you thought about on the run. You can keep it as a written journal, a calendar, or even log it online; whichever you feel is the easiest for you. I typically keep a small notebook in my running bag or I’ve progressed to documenting what I can with my Nike+ application on my smartphone or using Dailymile. Having something like Dailymile can be a great way to interact with other runners and get encouragement from them during your trainings and be inspired by what others are doing.

Some things that I typically  put in my journal:

1)    Note when you buy shoes and keep track of the mileage on those shoes, typically you shouldn’t run more than 300-500 miles depending on the model. The mid sole will start to break down and you’ll start to notice your knees or hip bothering you. When you are about 200 miles into your shoes it’s best to go buy another pair to start breaking them in. Some shoes will allow you more mileage (Newtons/Vibrams) but then it also depends on the way in which you run. I’ll post about shoes in another segment.

2)    Course: note where you run, what kind of surface it was, what you liked about it, if it was difficult, you had to leap over puddles etc- this can also serve as beneficial if an injury arises.

3)    The weather, I know it sounds odd but sometimes the weather can really affect your running: winter weather is tough on a lot of people, so is high pollen or high humidity seasons.

4)    What you ate before and after your run, how it made you feel during your run. This will help you figure out what your dietary needs are to fuel you during your run, what doesn’t sit well with your stomach, what makes you drag, what really helps you recuperate post workout.

5)    How do you feel afterwards, do you still have energy or are you dragging (if so look at what you ate). Are you sore? if so where, this will help you diagnose an injury ahead of time or it could have been the trail surface you were running on that bothered you.

6)    Any major accomplishment for that day, did you just run for a mile straight without walking? Write that down and put a star on it, it’s great to keep track of your new accomplishments. Did you reach a new distance, got faster for longer period of time, anything that you find made you smile for that day.

7)   Any future goals you have for yourself: may it be to run half of the time for a workout and walk the rest, make it 2 laps around the track before you have to walk. Make it up that really big hill on your running route, not to get lost on the trail, anything you want to work towards that you can then see as an accomplishment.

8)    Definitely track your mileage for each workout, or at least the time you were doing that cardio, this becomes very important as you start to increase your weekly mileage and train for further distances.

9)    Note your cross training days, they can be very important to look back on, especially if they negatively impact your workout-or maybe they will positively impact your workout.

10) Note if your clothing bothered you at all, so you know not to wear it again.

These are just a few of the things you can mention, but it’s your journal so ultimately you can write whatever you want in it!

Happy Writing & Running,

Coach Gwynne

September 21, 2012. Training Tips. Leave a comment.

Hydration, the perfect balance

As we quickly approach the first day of summer the temperatures continue to rise, though they’ve been unseasonably warm all winter/spring. The past few weeks in the DC area we’ve had almost record highs, up in the 90s.  With heat comes a lot of warning in prep to get our bodies used to the temperatures/humidity it’s going to face during the next few months.  It takes about 2wks, sometimes a bit more for our bodies to acclimate to the warm temperatures and the first few hot days are the time when a lot of people  overheat which can have very serious consequences including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Strenuous physical exercise in very hot, humid conditions can be difficult because the body is inefficient at cooling itself down. When you sweat in conditions with lower humidity, the sweat quickly evaporates into the air leaving you cooler. When in high humidity shows up sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly because the air around you is already saturated with moisture. The high humidity causes your body to work harder, putting out more sweat in an effort to cool down and you end up a sweaty, tired and even irritable.

As it’s getting warmer please dress smart – light colored or white shirts reflect more of the sun’s rays and are a better choice in the heat, bringing along a hat that is well ventilated can keep you cool, though some may find it too hot. Experiment and find what works for you. Try to do your training runs in the early morning or evenings when the sun is just rising or setting.

One of the most important things about running in hot/humid conditions is hydration which  is crucial for making your muscles work efficiently. Maintaining your water/fluid intake during a workout is important for many factors, it keeps the blood moving and keeps your bowels moving around so your stomach doesn’t get sick/cramp. It helps with muscle cramping, many times a side stitch or cramp is due to improper hydration.

If you’re a heavy sweater it is incredibly important to keep your fluids up to replace what you’ve lost, but sometimes water isn’t enough. Depending on how long you’re running or how much you sweat you’ll also need to replace the various salts you lose while you workout. For long distance runners having salt tabs such as succeed are good to take while running. You can also eat a banana, it’ll give you much-needed potassium but also some sugars.

The main reason you need to replace salts boils down to basic science: muscle fibers need salts to contract. All cells have ionic pumps that pump sodium/potassium/calcium in and out of the cell in a very specific balance, if that balance is thrown off then our muscle fibers don’t fire like they should which will cause cramping and fatigue.

Here’s a little science video about muscles…just because I’m a science nerd! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2NPtiYNuNrE

It’s good to take a swig of water every 10 minutes or so, best to do before you are thirsty because if you are thirsty you are already on the start to being dehydrated.  If you find after these really hot days that you have a headache or your muscles are cramping, drink more water-if you sweat a lot definitely replace the salts you lost with an electrolyte drink.

I know many of us like some beer during the summer especially after our runs, which can provide your body with some carbs but also take into account that drinks like beer or anything with a lot of caffeine in it can significantly dehydrate your body.

You don’t have to drink water to hydrate either, if you find water boring grab some type of fruit, which research has recently show may hydrate the body twice as efficiently than water alone and provide you with nutrients or salts that you are losing.  A few good fruits/veggies to try are:

CANTALOUPE, PEACHES, STRAWBERRIES

All these fruits are mostly water and rich in potassium, an electrolyte lost through sweat. “Potassium and sodium work together to maintain fluid levels in the body,” says Wendy Brazilian, Dr.PH., R.D., author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet, “which helps regulate your heartbeat and circulation.” One cup of each contains between five and 10 percent of your daily needs.

WATERMELON, KIWI, CITRUS

Vitamin C  can help maintain cartilage and joint flexibility, and all of these fruits provide at least 1/3 of your daily need per serving. It also plays a role in protecting your skin and vitamin C counters those effects.

TOMATOES, BROCCOLI

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene; studies link this antioxidant to a reduced risk of lung, stomach, prostate, breast, colon, and cervical cancer.  Broccoli is 90 percent water, even though it doesn’t appear that way, and contains compounds called isothiocyanates. A 2010 study in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry found isothiocyanates block a defective gene that causes cells to become cancerous.

PINEAPPLE, CHERRIES

Both of these fruits may help you recover and rehydrate postrun. Studies show the enzyme bromelain, found in pineapple, may reduce inflammation and speed muscle repair. “Tart cherries contain anthocyanins and melatonin, which reduce inflammation,” says Russel J. Reiter, Ph.D., professor of cellular and structural biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center

If you’re a numbers person here’s some numbers from a Runner’s World article that shows the amount of fluid you should consume for each mile you run based on your weight and the temperature outside.

Table of hydration in fl oz, of amount of fluid to consume based on weight and temperature

June 4, 2012. Training Tips, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

For the love or hate of food

Lately there has been a resurgence of focusing on food and fueling during your training. Runner’s World even had an article they put out the other week that struck home with me. It was an article highlighting how many endurance athletes become disordered eaters or how disordered eating and exercise go hand in hand. I’ve found this to be fairly accurate, as I myself could probably be considered a disordered eater and a few marathon runners I’ve known also were disordered eaters. It is a general trend that the lighter your frame the faster a runner you are, but this isn’t all fact.

Speed also has other factors into play such as: your lung capacity, how you process fuel, leg turn over, your gait can sometimes be a factor, your ability to push yourself.  When people look at me they think I’m a really fast runner with my being 5’2 and thin but 1) i don’t always push myself in races because I have another one coming up and don’t want to hinder my training and ability to keep running 2) depending on the season my asthma gets worse and my lung capacity isn’t as great and there are probably a few others.  You compare me to a 6’2 guy that weighs 200lbs, he may still beat me in the long run but honestly I’m only competitive with myself and I just strive to survive to run again rather than put everything out there at once- seriously I won’t ever make the olympics so why try to kill myself- I just enjoy the run

A lot of disordered eating stems from the whole wanting to be in control aspect, many individuals begin running and working out to lose weight and feel that if they restrict themselves they’ll lose more. One may start to really scrutinize nutrition labels on all packages looking at saturated fats or restricting carbohydrates. Thinking like that can get you in trouble very fast, as you need to realize that when you start doing endurance training you need to actually increase the amount of calories you take in, especially on days where you’ll have increased activity such as a speed workout or long run day.  Fats are useful in distance running and provide a good source of fuel, but are not readily utilized unless carbohydrates are present to burn the fat.

It’s not just anorexia or bulemia that plague some athletes but a more common condition is orthorexia, which as defined from a webpage on eating disorders is “an obsession with “healthy or righteous eating”. The phrase was first created in 1997 by California doctor Steven Bratman, and refers to people who create severely limited diets in the name of healthy eating. It often begins with someone’s simple and genuine desire to live a healthy lifestyle. The person may choose to stop eating red meat, but eventually cuts out all meat; then all processed foods, and will eventually eat only specific foods that are prepared in very specific ways”  This can also categorize those that have ‘quirky’ or weird eating habits, such as eating only a certain number of foods, which though not as bad as anorexia or bulemia, can still lead to significantly undernourishing the body. Many orthorexics do not really consider themselves to have an eating disorder because they don’t see it as restricting their diets and because they are making “healthy” choices.  A major problem with orthorexia is that it could potentially turn into a more severe eating disorder if not properly taken care of. 

Orthorexia is becoming more popular as people try to restrict processed food intake, and restrict carbs, sugars or any other diet that completely removes certain food groups that are beneficial to an athletic body to function properly. Many of my friends after seeing the articles come out about the new types of eating disorders told me they thought I had orthorexia. I might, but there’s a slight difference between purposely restricting your diet and having to modify your diet because your body doesn’t process those foods the same way it used to.  I’ve learned to adapt to my sensitive stomach issues but still can eat a lot of the foods I used to eat, I just eat a lot less greasy, processed foods as my body sees that as not suitable sources of fuel.

There are as many types of fuel supplements and energy drinks as there are people out there and not all are created equal, not all will work for you like they do someone you know.  Our bodies all process the things we eat in different ways and my personal routine might make someone else weak, irritable and under-nourished but for me it’s all my body requires to get the job done and still survive another day of training. I’ll provide a list of a few I’ve tried and played around with at the end of this article.

Being a marathon runner I’ve gone through the turmoil that is finding foods to fuel my body but don’t upset the delicate balance my body needs.  Unlike most of the people I run with I can’t eat everything after finishing a long run nor can I eat before I start- running suppresses my appetite and literally has decreased the amount of food that I can process. I’ve found that the best for me is a very strictly regimented food combination that seems odd to others. My long run breakfast is a  20 oz bottle of powerade, during a long run I can’t take fuel until 6-8 miles in or I’ll be throwing up on the side of the trail. After I’m done I have to eat small light meals the rest of the day. I consider my stomach an always sloshing full washing machine that with putting an extra 3 pieces of laundry in will make it spill over onto the floor.

My body needs time to jiggle around a little before I introduce food to it during a run or I’ll just have an awful time. I’ve found that quiznos torpedos are just enough food for a post long run snack but can’t be consumed until about 2 hours after my run is completed, which goes completely against the “rule” of trying to eat something within 30 minutes of finishing a workout.  If I attempt to eat anything in that 30 minutes it’s a handful of pretzels of a small strawberry smoothie.

My body in and of itself as become this finicky machine that subsists on a delicate balance of foods, which has only been harder to acclimate as I try to transition into become a vegetarian runner. This is an experiment as I’m sure I’ll come out of it realizing that my body still needs to eat some meat to function properly. I’ve decided that for the meantime I’ll try to work with a dietician to make the process as smooth and healthy as possible. I’ve become so inclined to look into what I fuel with that I’m thinking of switching fields to nutrition/kinesiology.  I’ve pretty much just started a list of foods I can eat rather than those I can’t, as I find it a much smaller list.

Energy Replacement items I’ve tried, you may find some useful:

  1. Cliff shot blocks, bars or gels
  2. Luna bars
  3. Gu chomps-by far a fave, they are easier to chew than shot blocks
  4. Gu- i’m in love with the mint chocolate flavor, the mint soothes the stomach & chocolate is yummy!, jet blackberry has an extra hint of caffeine that is good after 18 miles of running
  5. Gum with caffeine this was awful, had a bad taste
  6. PBJ sandwhich- this was like the nectar of the gods during a trail race I did, I think it did what a defibrillator does to a person whos heart stops-it literally brought me back from a bad place
  7. Honeystingers chews
  8. Sport jelly beans-these are good when you just need some simple sugars, some have extra caffeine in them
  9. Coconut water- personally I didn’t care for the taste

There are way more options out there than what I’ve briefly mentioned, I’ve found what works for me but it’s good to try out a few things or even trading with running buddies to help save you money until you find what works for you.  I have friends that eat caramels when they run (each is 100 calories) and it gives you simple sugars that your body immediate processes. I tend to also munch on pretzels for runs over 15miles.  My go to drink is either watered down powerade or a mixture made by powerbar (i’m not sure they sell it anymore) that came in individual packets so you can easily tote them in your hydration pouch.

There’s more to hydration, which I touched on in an earlier post. A lot goes into endurance running and figuring out what works for your body and for the mileage you do doesn’t come  over night. It took me a few years to figure out what worked for me and it still changes a little from year to year as my body learns to process fuels a different way and I figure out what is the minimum and maximum of certain things I can utilize during my training runs or even during a race and in what combinations.

Happy Running,

Coach G

February 28, 2012. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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