Sunday, February 28, 2021

Miles, Miles, Miles!

Sooooo many miles. I'm officially training for the Tidewater Striders BQ Invitational Marathon on March 27. That's four weeks away! I had been targeting Myrtle Beach, but they postponed the race, so thankfully I had a backup. This meant three extra weeks of training, which I think ended up being for the best. Typically when I train for a marathon I spend 3-4 weeks in the 70's and that's about it. But with this cycle, I've been running high mileage ever since the start of the year. 

Here's a graph of my training since the year started.

This past week, I logged 79 miles, which is my third highest week of all time. My highest week of all time, 90 miles, was not during marathon training, but was done as a special challenge last spring just to see if I could hit it. 

Current Run Streak
I'm on day 66 of my current streak, which started after I took a rest day on Christmas Eve. This run streak has averaged 9.8 miles per day!  

I don't streak for the sake of streaking. Rather, my body can handle running every day without getting injured, and if I feel like I need a day off, I take it. I've been working with the same coach for over six years now, and he knows me pretty well. He knows how to push me without breaking me, and that's always a fine balance to strike.

I logged 302 miles in February, which is more than I get in most months with 30+ days! Thankfully, everything is feeling good, although my legs have been feeling heavy these past few days. 

Why, tho?
I often get asked why I run so many miles, and is it really necessary? If I want to run a 3:10 (or faster) marathon, then yes, it's necessary for me. Some women can run a 3:10 on 40 miles a week because they have natural talent. To get to the next level and have another breakthrough, I believe I need to run high mileage combined with strength training. This is all about seeing what I am capable of and getting to my lifetime peak. I'm 42 years old, so I'll probably start slowing down or plateauing soon. Now is the time to see what I can do in the marathon!

Key Workouts
Typically my weeks look like this:

  • Monday: Hard workout
  • Tuesday: Medium-long run (usually around 11 miles)
  • Wednesday: Easy Run
  • Thursday: Hard workout
  • Friday: Easy Run
  • Saturday: Long Run (often with fast miles at the end)
  • Sunday: Recovery run
I've had to navigate around snow storms and icy roads quite a bit in February so I've adjusted my schedule almost every week! I don't mind doing easy runs on the treadmill, but I really think I need to be on the road to get the full benefit of some of these long, hard workouts. Here are a few breakthrough workouts I am super proud of.

8 x 1-mile with 2-minute recovery jogs (January 21). I had never done 8 mile repeats before; 7 was the
most I had ever tackled! I decided that the only palatable way to approach it would be to avoid the track and run on the road. There is a 1.4 - mile loop near me that has slight inclines and declines throughout which I thought would be a good substitute. That way, I would never pass the same spot during one rep, and all reps would start and end in different places.  I knew that the small hills would mean it wouldn't be as fast as the track but this wasn't a vanity workout—it was about doing the work and making it through the entire 8 reps.

Pacing wise, my coach told me to shoot for 6:30-6:45, ideally at the faster end for most of them. For reference, I had just set a 10K PR at a pace of 6:37. So I was now going to run 8 miles at around 10K pace, with very short recovery jogs. Not walks, not rests, but jogs. It was 28° with very little wind, and I consider this to be very good weather. 

I pretty much wanted to quit after the first two reps. They were long and hard. But after the 3rd rep, things didn't seem so bad and I flew through the rest of them quite nicely. It was difficult to rally for that final 8th rep, so I started out on the slower side but then sprinted the second half to get my average pace down:  6:40, 6:42, 6:34, 6:35 6:35, 6:34, 6:30, 6:42. This is an average of 6:37, which is exactly my 10K PR pace. 

12 x 800m with 400m recovery jogs (February 11).  It was 34°, 7 mph winds and wet snow! I had never run more than 10 x 800m so this was a new challenge. It took me 4 full reps to get my legs turning over at top speed but then I settled into it: 3:32, 3:22, 3:15, 3:14 3:10, 3:09, 3:08, 3:09 3:08, 3:07, 3:07, 3:09

According to Bart Yasso, the average of 10 x 800m predicts your marathon fitness. I averaged the last 10 reps and got 3:09.6, which is exactly what I’m aiming for at my marathon. I was happy to finish strong.

30 mins at marathon pace, 30 mins at threshold (February 17). This was an hour-long run: 30 minutes at marathon pace, 30 minutes at 6:50. My coach prescribed marathon pace at 7:18 but I ran by feel and ended up being slightly faster. Plus, if I want to run a sub-3:10, then I’ll need to be just under 7:15.

It was 31° with 8-10 mph winds which were brutal in some portions. It was originally scheduled for Thursday but I moved it forward a day to avoid the snow storm. This meant just one easy day since my hard effort on Monday. I warmed up for 2 miles and then started the work:

30 minutes, 4.16 miles: 7:15, 7:13, 7:12, 7:11 (7:14 for the 0.16)
30 minutes, 4.39 miles: 6:50, 6:50, 6:50, 6:50 (6:46 for the 0.39)

This was one continuous run, no stopping, which ended up being the 8.54 miles at an average 7:01 pace. I kept thinking I would have to stop early because it got hard during the last 15 minutes. But I kept saying “just one more minute” until I reached 60. I can’t believe I hit those paces so perfectly and I do think I have the fitness for a 7:14 marathon pace!

Hopefully these hard workouts, high mileage, and strength training will get me to 3:10 level. I just need some decent weather on race day. I think I have addressed my digestive issues so I don't run into the same problems I had during my last marathon. The Maurten Drink Mix and gels have been amazing and so far I have had no issues with them. Greg will also be running this race, and I would love to see him have a major breakthrough as well. 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Let's Talk About Food

On Instagram, my followers frequently ask me about my eating habits and nutrition. I have answered this question so many times that I figured I should write a blog post with all the details.

Why I rarely post about food
While I often write about my race nutrition strategy, I almost never talk about my typical "diet" or eating habits. This is somewhat intentional and somewhat not. It's not intentional because the topic of food is not all that interesting to me and I'd rather talk about my training. It is intentional because I don't really have a plan or guidelines I follow that I think are worthy of being shared.

In my early 20's, I developed anorexia. I restricted my calories down to about 800-1200 per day and then I also burned about 600 of those at the gym. It had nothing to do with being thin or my physical appearance. I was simply trying to eat more healthfully and all the articles I read in SHAPE and other magazines told me that the fewer calories the better. I received a free body fat assessment at my gym and even though I was at a healthy weight, I was told that my body fat was too high.

I could write many, many blog posts on eating disorders, but that is in my past and I have little interest in it now. I gradually recovered in my mid to late 20s as I got into long-distance running. This shifted my focus away from food and weight and towards training for a goal. Much of the anorexia was driven by perfectionism and the desire to achieve, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't bring that same mentality towards my running initially.

It wasn't until my mid 30s when I started working with a sports psychologist (which I have blogged about extensively and written a book about) that I truly freed myself from perfectionism and addressed the other issues that were fueling the eating disorder. The two therapists I saw when I was in the depths of my anorexia were not at all helpful and likely did more harm than good.

Because I was obsessed with food, nutrition, calories, and weight for many years, I no longer have an interest in it and so it's not something I talk about on my Instagram or in this blog. 

My mindset regarding food
It's pretty simple: I eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full. I try to eat healthy foods by having them around the house, but not everything needs to be healthy. I obey my cravings, especially for sweets, so I am by no means the model of perfect nutrition. I snack frequently. I have breakfast, lunch and dinner. I sometimes eat out. I don't track/monitor/record my food intake like I did in my early 20s. I rarely weigh myself (maybe once a month). I don't try to gain weight or lose weight. I don't follow any specific diet or plan. 

Overall, I grade nutrition a "B". Some days a B+ and other days a B-.  It's pretty good but it definitely could be better. I could eat more fruits and vegetables. I could limit my sugar intake. But I'd rather have a healthy mindset about food instead of being super rigid. 

Dietary restrictions
While I don't have a ton of rules around food, there are plenty of foods I avoid for various reasons:

  • Beef and Pork. I eliminated these at the onset of my eating disorder and never added them back in because they simply don't appeal to me. 
  • "Impossible" meat. I once had one of those synthetic burgers and it tasted way too much like a normal burger, which grosses me out. And it did not sit well in my stomach for the following 3 hours.
  • Heavy cream sauces. I am slightly lactose intolerant and Alfredo sauces or mac 'n cheese cause me major digestive distress. I once had a whole milk latte by mistake and that was very painful. I eat ice cream in small portions and I'm generally ok, but not always.
  • Spicy foods + pepper. Yes, even table pepper burns my mouth. I have been trying to work on this. I can do horseradish but crushed red pepper makes me cough and I'm super sensitive to Asian spices. If a restaurant coats my fish in pepper (but I didn't ask them not to) I have to eat around the pepper. 
  • Hazelnut. Makes me nauseous just thinking about it. I must be the only person in the world who will not go near Nutella.
My eating schedule
I wakeup at around 5:00-5:30 and I am not hungry. I start running between 6:30-7:15 depending on the season, and I do not eat before I run. If I am running a workout that has 5 or more miles of speed, then I have half a scoop of UCAN energy powder. This usually only happens during marathon training. For long runs, the same holds true, although now I am experimenting with Maurten as opposed to UCAN. 

They say that you are supposed to have protein shortly after a hard workout but I typically am not hungry. Running suppresses my appetite and I usually don't want anything to eat until about an hour after I finish my run, which is about 9:00. If I run an extraordinarily hard workout and put a major strain on my body, I have some cottage cheese immediately afterward for a quick dose of protein to help in recovery.

I usually have a small snack between my 9:00 breakfast and my 12:00 lunch. Then I will snack once or twice after lunch before having dinner at around 6:30. I usually have some form of dessert at 7:30 and then I am done eating. 

I recently realized that this means I do not eat for about 14 hours, between 7:30pm and 9:00am, and this is what they tell you do in intermittent fasting. It's supposed to be good for you, but I don't know how much I believe that. My dinner is usually pretty big, I don't wake up hungry, and then running suppresses my appetite, so it's just a matter of not wanting food during that 14-hour stretch. I never get hungry while running, and I can't imagine wanting food while running. 

Rarely, I have to use the bathroom mid-run and I hate it when that happens. I won't need to go to the bathroom before the run, but suddenly my stomach will hurt and if I don't find a bathroom within 15 minutes I am in big trouble. Thankfully I know where they are around my most common routes. Thankfully this hasn't happened recently but it can happen as often as twice per month. Our track has porta-potties which I have definitely taken advantage of.

My most common breakfasts are:
  • Bagel with cream cheese or butter
  • Cottage cheese with nuts (Friendship brand lowfat cottage cheese)
  • Steel cut oats
  • Cream of wheat
  • Grits
  • Smoothie made with frozen fruit, soy milk and yogurt (in the summer)
  • Yogurt and granola (Siggi's brand of yogurt)
  • Yogurt and fruit
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Kodiak Cakes pancakes (usually on the weekends)
My most common lunches are:
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich with tomato and avocado on whole wheat bread
  • Tuna melt on whole wheat bread
  • Pizza, usually topped with chicken and veggies
  • "Bowl" from Cava (mediterranean) or Moe's (Mexican)
  • Poke Bowl
  • Soup with a side of crackers or bread - I like chicken noodle and minestrone
  • Salad with some kind of protein (tofu, chicken, egg and/or turkey)
  • Leftovers from last night's dinner
Greg cooks dinner in our house and there are a few meals that we eat regularly, like 2-3 times per month. Typically we aim for a protein, a vegetable, and a carb. We love getting freshly baked bread and having that as an appetizer with a gourmet cheese. Here are the meals we eat frequently:
  • Turkey burgers with tomato and avocado
    Greg making eggplant parm
  • Chicken thighs: either baked or on the grill with a side of veggies
  • Baked fish: salmon, halibut, and rockfish are most common with a side of veggies
  • Scallops with a side of spinach and/or fennel
  • Chicken parm or eggplant parm
  • Pasta with ground turkey meat balls
  • Shrimp scampi
  • Mushroom risotto
  • Oven-baked turkey or chicken, usually with a side of butternut squash
  • Chicken stir fry with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and broccoli
  • Chili made with ground turkey, topped with light sour cream and cheese
  • Homemade chicken noodle soup with veggies
  • Pasta with chicken, spinach, sun-dried tomato in pesto sauce (common before long runs)
  • Pasta with ground turkey and tomato basil sauce
  • Crab cakes or crab legs
Common vegetables accompanying our dinners are Cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, peppers, squash, fennel, leeks

Cottage cheese, mango, dolmas
I often have dessert after dinner which is typically something we bought from the grocery store like a pie or cake. Cookies and ice cream are also common.

As I mentioned above, I snack a lot. Common snacks that I keep in the house, or that I used to bring to work when I went into the office:
  • Trail mix
  • Mixed nuts
  • Cottage cheese
  • Pretzels, chips or crackers, sometimes with a dip
  • Granola
  • Fruit (apples, grapefruit, mangos, strawberries, grapes)
  • Olives
  • Cheese
  • Cookies
  • Dark chocolate bar (not the whole thing, just a few pieces) 
I mostly drink water because it's easily available and I need to stay hydrated for my runs. Here are some other things I drink:
  • Decaf latte made with soy milk or coconut milk, usually flavored. I probably have 3-4 of these per week with my breakfast. There is a Peet's and a Starbucks very close to my house and I alternate. I
    Lemon martini at a fancy restaurant
    don't want to become caffeine dependent so I make it decaf always. 
  • Caffeine-free tea, during the workday or at night before bed. I love lavender and camomile.
  • Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice: I've really gotten into this over the past six months. I get it from the grocery store and it's a good way to replenish calories in a healthy and refreshing way.
  • Soda. I usually have 1 soda per week. I love a Pepsi or a Dr. Pepper after my long run! When I worked in an office and soda was free, I had one almost every day. I'm glad I cut back.
  • Alcoholic beverages. If we go out to a nice dinner I typically order a mixed drink. One of the sugary ones! I rarely drink wine because I don't like the way it makes me feel. I drink beer more than any other alcoholic beverage. I like craft beers and I have one with dinner several times per week. Usually I have about 3/4 of the beer which is enough to satisfy me without making me tipsy.
Dining out & ordering in
Greg and I do not eat out nearly as much as we used to, but we still do on occasion. In an average week, we cook 5 meals, and the other two are takeout/delivery or going out. We have sushi a few times per month and have Thai food delivered about once a month. 

When we go out to eat, we usually order an appetizer and/or dessert, plus the main course. I typically order fish, seafood, or chicken. I absolutely love French fries, so I treat myself when we go out! I'm a picky dessert eater in that I do not like tiramisu, anything hazelnut, whipped cream, or cheesecake. Nor do I like the chocolate/peanut butter combo. I go for ice cream, cakes, and pies. Greg and I always share the dessert. 

Post-race and post long-run
As I said above, I usually do not want to eat anything until at least an hour after I am done running. Sometimes as long as two hours. I always follow my cravings, and my most common cravings for after the run are:
  • Tacos
  • Pizza
  • Pepsi or Dr. Pepper
  • Chicken fingers/fried chicken sandwich
So. . . that's it! Nothing too complicated or fancy. I tend to think that I'm a generally healthy eater who enjoys her daily (or twice daily) dose of sweets. I will say that being married to Greg has helped a lot. I don't know how to cook most things, and when I was single I lived on boca burgers, veggie nuggets, and cereal.