race weight

Strong is the new skinny

The other day someone I know referred to another runner as "Skeletor". They were not using this characterization as a compliment or referencing what Skeletor, He-man's arch nemesis, actually looks like:

They were using it to characterize a sickly, overly skinny, depleted, unhealthy look- much like a skeleton:


When this characterization was made and concerns voiced, I noticed an interesting and somewhat alarming emotion flicker across my consciousness: envy. For the briefest moment, I felt like being described that way (to my face) would be a compliment, a reflection of how hard I have been working in training. I immediately pulled myself up short. I wanted to slap myself around for even thinking such a thing. I had just finished up a killer good workout with 14 miles at marathon pace. During that run, I wasn't worrying that I should weigh less, I was powering along with strength, speed and levity. Why did that comment make feel self-conscious and envious? I knew I needed to seriously meditate on that question and not let an unhealthy attitude slide.

I have thought about it for several days now and have come to the conclusion that that thought comes from the crossroads where racing weight and body image collide. I have written about racing weight before, but I felt more thought was necessary because I am, in fact, at my "racing weight" (i.e. the weight at which I have run my fastest this year) and yet the comment still burrowed into my psyche.

Leading up to the Olympic Trials, I have been covering every detail, leaving nothing to chance and training like it is my job.  I've been absolutely devoted to the pursuit of my goals, working harder than ever and also managing to not become neurotic or overzealous. I am on what Nathan calls the "no fun diet", which is not a diet to lose weight mind you, but a diet to optimize my training and negotiate the pitfalls of having many dietary special needs. The diet also encourages having the right fuel at the right time and ensures that I have enough but not too much. I am doing all the right things to make sure my body is healthy, happy and able to do the incredibly hard work it needs to. 

The reality is, in order to lose any additional weight, I would have to be severely restrictive with my diet while trying to train at the highest and most intense level I have ever done. It would be unhealthy and I in turn, would become unhealthy and unable to do the work. Or get injured. Or get sick.

Running is a sport that prizes lightness and low body weight. It is not a sport that necessarily prizes positive body image or body confidence. The pursuit of race weight often takes on as much importance as the pursuit of the running goal itself. That is seriously out of whack. Getting to a certain weight won't inherently make you a better runner. In fact, racing weight should simply be a by product of hard training and a healthy diet. You have to fuel yourself to go fast, to do the work, to recover and make it to the start line healthy and ready to rumble. You shouldn't be trying to manipulate or dominating your body into doing something it doesn't want to, you should be cultivating it to encourage the growth and improvements. Being a "skeletor" is not something to be envied, it should be avoided at all costs. If you look unhealthy, it is likely that you are. I would never want to sabotage the efforts I make in training by depriving my body of the necessary fuel to hone it into the machine I want it to be. 

The comment, in hindsight, made me realize that I was still sub-consciously using weight as a yard stick of which to measure my progress by. I incorrectly thought that because I am working so hard that naturally I would become lighter. I gave that standard way to much credit. It stopped me from using comparative workout times as my standard of progress or seeing that my routine dropping of running partners was a sign that I am fit. Because, I am fit. That is for sure. 


I realized, upon reflection, that what needs work is my perspective, my body image and confidence. I have long struggled seeing myself "as a runner" since I have a completely different body type than your average female elite runner. According to a recent study, I am in fact 8 inches taller than my average competitor. I feel like Andre the giant lining up next to them. I should instead not compare myself to them. My hard work and dedication should instead fill me with confidence and empower me. 

I made a decision through this whole meditation. I am throwing out the old paradigm. I am making a choice to stop judging myself by the wrong measure. As my sister said recently, "perhaps I need to start embracing my body as powerful (and capable) instead of always worrying about how much I weigh". Being strong and healthy and capable are the proper values, these are the yardsticks. Strong is the new skinny. That is, the thing to be valued, pursued and held up as the ultimate motivator. 

My body is an amazing, powerful, strong machine and as I head into the last 23 days of training for the biggest racing stage of my life, I want to make sure I am doing everything to support that machine, continue to get stronger and faster, and to stay healthy. If anything, this whole conversation (in my head), has made me re-examine what my guiding values and beliefs are when it comes to my body and self-confidence and get my head on right. I love what my body can do. That is my yardstick. That is my value.

Nutrition Navigation:Training as a vegetarian

Welcome to back to my ongoing series: Nutrition Navigation. The idea behind the series is part of the vision behind the cookbook I am working on, that is, bridging nutritional knowledge/needs and great food. In this series, I will focus on specific training periods or training needs (like peak training or post-long run), on a specific nutrient (like Vitamin D) or a specific food (like Kale) and show you how that translates into real, healthy, gourmet meals. Often times that means I will provide a snapshot of a days worth of meals or a collection of ideas, recipes or methods. Have questions or want to see something specific covered. Email me with your special requests! Please note, I am NOT a registered dietitian and these views reflect only what have worked for me as a runner and personal chef.



I get a lot of questions about being a vegetarian or vegan runner. I use to be vegan but it didn't work for me. I thrive on a pretty low grain/bean diet, am gluten intolerant, and dairy free. I like vegetables and protein. However, a lot of the time I eat very vegetarian and I think it can work for a lot of people. When going vegetarian there are a lot of questions runners have about meeting their nutritional needs.

  1. Don't be a junk food vegetarian. There are so many processed vegetarian products and replacement products out there it would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because it is a vegan or vegetarian processed product that it is good for you. Processed food vegetarian or not is not ideal for an athletic diet. Eat real food.
  2. Stay balanced. Not everyone loves vegetables the way I do. My downfall as a vegan was that I only really wanted to eat vegetables and my diet was out of balance. Make sure you monitor your balance of carbs (it can be easy just to inundate your diet with starchy carbs), fat and protein. A healthy athletic diet is a balanced diet.
  3. Think about, but don't worry about protein. As runners, we need protein. Not a huge amount but that doesn't mean you can neglect it. If you are eating a real food diet, just make sure that you are maintaining a healthy balanced diet that includes some obvious protein sources.
  4. Go nuts! Protein, fat,  nuts are quite the runners wonder food. Enjoy them freely!
  5. Get your Omegas. Try Udo's Oil an excellent source of 100% plant based Omega Fatty Acids.
  6. Cozy up with a good book. Well done vegetarian and vegan meals can often times be more complex and flavorful because they aren't relying on animal protein to carry the flavor and thus more effort is taken in building flavor. Invest in some good vegetarian cookbooks to help learn how to build flavor.
  7. Don't overthink it. There is no universal right answer of what to eat. (Oh look a theme in this series). Try different things out and see how you feel. If you keep the above in mind, you should be good to go!
What works for me:

I personally learn from examples. Even though I can understand a list (like above) or a set of instructions, often times I am able to synthesize it best by viewing an example. I thought for this series, I would include an example of what a typical vegetarian weekday of meals looked like.

Breakfast:

Yes, that is real gluten filled toast up there. Yes, I devoured it. Yes, there is an explanation for eating it, enjoying it and not being bothered by it. Unfortunately, no, I am still gluten intolerant. Toast with a butter and a selection of toppings is a great way to fuel up before a run. And a banana. My biggest problem with toast is that I feel hungry about 10 seconds later, I thrive better when I have something more protein and fat rich in the morning. I usually stick with my overnight oats, this week with amazing homemade maple almond butter with chia seeds.


Lunch #1 and Lunch #2:



I eat two lunches and I love salad and feel very incomplete without them on a daily basis. Ditto on the vegetables. Some might say it is too much fiber, but my body likes it, so I go wild with them. I happened to make a brilliant discovery with making my lunch: baked eggs. I had never had baked eggs before, but the idea sounded amazing and I ended up eating the almost identical salad twice.

To make baked eggs take a small pat of butter and melt it in a ramekin. Swirl the butter around to fully coat. Put some fresh chopped herbs, a bit of red pepper flakes and a little salt and pepper in the bottom. Crack two eggs over the herbs. Bake in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes depending on how hard or soft you want your eggs. The baker tells me that baking them in a water bath is the way to roll. I need to try that.

Each salad included:
  • Mixed Greens
  • Leftover sweet potato salad with preserved lemons and green olives.
  • 2 baked eggs with herbs and red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted broccoli (lightly sprayed with oil, roasted for 10-15 mins in a 450 oven).
  • simple vinaigrette


As with my taper week salads, I try and make sure that my salads are balanced with a good source of carbs (leftover sweet potato salad), protein (eggs), and fat (salad dressing). 

Dinner:

I was really excited to do this post and was really good about taking photos of my food all day long. One of the main reasons I picked this particular day was because I was preparing an epic vegetarian meal for dinner since we were having a vegetarian dinner guest. The meal turned out excellent. The flavors were amazing, the colors beautiful. And we gobbled it up without a thought for my camera which I had picked up right before we sat down to eat. So you have to settle for this:

That was a great recipe from Everyday Greens. It was a Indian Curry with Tamarind and Chilis. It was complex and flavorful and packed full of veggies. I served it over saffron rice, though I didn't have any. A great recipe, one that even a meat eater would beg for more of.

Being a vegetarian athlete has become more and more common and it is easy to create amazing delicious meals that also meet your nutritional needs. I think everyone benefits from having a meatless day each week so even if you are just going vegetarian for a day, this is a great place to start.

LA Marathon- Pursuit of the Olympic Trials Qualifier Part 2


When I woke up on Sunday (March 20th) morning at 3:05am, I bounded out bed, flipped the switch for the coffee maker before it could start on its own. I was up, I was awake, it was race morning and I felt, calm, deadly calm. I know I can't fake that feeling but I knew it meant that I had genuinely conquered my expectations and was ready to accept the day no matter what happened. I was ready to just enjoy the race, be present for the race and smile at the rain that I knew was coming. I decided to take the above picture before I headed out. I wanted to be able to look back and say, I went into the race smiling, did I finish that way?

I am happy to say, I achieved that goal. I also had a "Devon Day". But now, I am getting ahead of myself.

Post-Houston/Pre-race

I have talked a lot about my feelings after having such a bad race after Houston. It really messed with my confidence and my head, but in the end, despite feeling like there was nothing redeeming about the experience for a long time, I see now that the bad experience itself was its redeeming factor. Because it taught me a hell of a lot and it gave me experience going through all sorts of things all at the same time (kind of like an ultra, just way faster).

Even though I was bummed after Houston, I got right back up and back in the saddle. I considered my race schedule and decided to do LA marathon. I was helped greatly by rockstar Creative Director of the race Peter Abraham. I am so appreciative of Peter from getting me into the race to allowing me to join him and others in his hospitality suite before the race to introducing me to other ladies going for the OT in the open field to braving the crowds in the corrals to ensure we were up front and had room to get out quick. I am eternally grateful. Thanks Peter for making this experience possible.

Once I had LA on the schedule, it was a matter of balancing recovery from Houston and sharpening for LA. I think I walked a very fine line and part of me was very afraid that I was doing too much, that I had pushed myself over the edge, pushed too hard. And I knew I wouldn't know until things started to shake out on race day.

I headed down to LA on Saturday morning where I was met by Jonathan (aka Bestest Everest) and we headed over to the expo to get a little excited by all the race energy. I didn't need to go to the expo for my number because Peter and friend/Coyote leader/coach/ultrarunner/etc Jimmy Dean had made sure I had all my number, credentials, etc and was completely set. But going to a race expo at a big race is run. LA marathon had 26,000 running! You can't but help getting excited around that kind of energy!

We then made a quick stop at Whole Foods to get all my necessary dinner items and then headed over to my wonderful and gracious host's house. I was lucky enough to be hosted by Kathy Eldon and Michael Bedner at their house on the beach in Malibu. Jonathan works with Kathy at Creative Vision Foundation and they were excited to help support my pursuit of getting my OT any way they could. They were amazing hosts and I felt right at home. Jonathan and I went for a good run, but short and then we made dinner early; nice rib-eye steaks Michael had gotten, roast potatoes and salad. It was a delicious meal, but I ate pretty light overall for the day and went to bed early (before 9) feeling good. I slept really well despite being woken up about every 2 hours by something (first text messages then a faulty iphone alarm). Just after 3am, I was up, eating a hearty bowl of oats with banana and peanut butter and getting my racing kit on.

Excited by the forecast for race day: Lots of rain, urban flooding and debris flow.

Race

It wasn't raining, yet, when I got up but the forecast wasn't that good. The night before it had looked hopeful that it might not rain between 7am-9am and that there would be a lot of rain before and after that but it didn't really play out that way.  But I wasn't particularly worried, I am a battle hardened veteran and after Houston, I wasn't surprised I was again pulling the crappy weather card. I think at this point I should just expect the storm of the century every time I line up. At least there was no talk of canceling the race like there was at Houston.


Jonathan was wonderful and drove me to my shuttle bus at way the hell too early in the morning (arrived at 4:30am). I was able to get on the Coyotes shuttle, again thanks to Jimmy Dean, so that I didn't have to navigate the horrendous traffic at Dodger Stadium as 26,000 fought to find parking or be dropped off or shuttled in. We were to the start and another OT qualifier hopeful, Emily Mitchell, and I made our way from the shuttle up the stadium to Peter's hospitality suite. We met one other hopeful, Joanna Zeiger (who is a badass 70.3 World Champion) and eventually made our way to the start. And waited and waited and waited. Finally after lots of waiting in the cold (thankfully still not raining), they sent the elite women's field off. Then we waited exactly 17:03 and we were off. We were at the front of corral A but we were swimming in a sea of pushy, scraping for the front folks whose bibs indicated they should be way back in B or C. I had my apprehension as we took our first steps and I was cautious. My intuition was right as this dodgy guy next to me accidentally tripped Emily 3 steps passed the start line. She slammed into the ground and I could barely hurdle her and keep going to avoid being crushed my the crowd. It was a bummer not to have the opportunity to run with her but she managed to pull herself together and run a PR of 2:56. Not the day she wanted, but she overcame a lot and had a great race.

I was off and running. Jimmy Dean had sent me some splits the night before for a 2:45 pace adjusted specifically for the course. I didn't memorize it but I noted the mile splits that I should expect to be higher than my needed 6:18/mile pace. All I did was remember that miles 4,5, 18,19, 21 and 22 would be slower to much slower. It provided me a guideline to work with based on my plan to run by feel not by pace. I didn't wear a garmin, I wore a watch and hit lap every mile split (where there was one, only about half of the miles were marked which sucked). I would glance at the split and compare it to how I felt. Simply note it and leave the math for later in the race.



We headed out of Dodger's stadium and proceeded to follow an amazing course to the sea. I really liked the course. It really highlights all the various things you'd want to go visit in LA. It was interesting and despite the rain that started in about 1/2 mile into the race, there was a great deal of crowd support. I settled in and felt really comfortable. My first mile was slower than my goal pace, a 6:20 and I looked at my watch and smiled. Perfect. It was perfect because I wanted to go out slow, I wanted to keep myself comfortable for as long as possible. Especially since I knew, despite some good rolling hills later in the race, that this was a great course to negative split on.


It was raining quite hard by mile 4. We climbed this awesome, pretty steep hill heading out of Chinatown but I actually found it pretty easy to get up, being pulled upwards by the sound of 40 drummers beating in time at the top. Comfortable. I just felt like I was cruising, taking it in, smiling, doing my best to interact with the other runners and acknowledge the crowd. I got super excited at around mile 6 when I saw my fellow ninja, Georgia, who was at the race to help pace her sister to a BQ! She was screaming my name and it gave me such a boost.

I was cruising with a pack of folks including a few woman, Joanna included. One of the guys told me he was shooting for a 2:44 and I felt like I was in the right spot. There were about 8 of us that were roughly together and we made it through 10k in 39:21. Not smoking but within striking distance. After the 10k split, my mile times started getting faster. Partially it was the course, partially I think my body was finally warmed up, partially I think I knew that this was my day and that I should gas it a bit but not get too crazy.

I stuck to my nutrition plan perfectly. I drank a sip of water at every aid station (every mile) and I took my first gel at 45 minutes into the race. I felt like a machine. The running felt easy. I wanted to maintain that feeling for as long as possible. Sure I was aware of my overall time, but not really aware of the math that it would take to figure out if I was going to make it or not. I wouldn't really have a clue until the half way point of where I stood. I decided until then just to keep a smile on my face and the killer instinct in my heart. I was freaking so happy with every step. My body and mind were in sync and I am sure I annoyed more than a few fellow runners encouraging them and carrying on conversation.


The group broke apart a bit but Joanna and I stuck together. We hit mile 13 (which had no marker) and then the half way point was somewhere in there too (also not marked). I asked Joanna, who was wearing a Garmin, what we had hit the half in and she responded right around 1:22. Nice. Faster than Houston by about 30 seconds but I felt 10 billion times better and comfortable at that pace than I did at Houston. At Houston when we were passing the halfway mark, I felt like I was red lining, but now I just felt like I was settled in at that "I could run this all day pace". It was raining a bunch, we'd turn corners and get slammed with a headwind. There was even lightning. My hands were freezing and I could barely get my gels out of my pocket. I took another gel at 1:30 and accidentally dropped my Hyper-vespa which momentarily freaked me out, but then I instantly pulled myself back to the present and decided not to borrow trouble.

I was starting to get excited the closer I got to mile 16 for a few reasons. First, I knew that if I hit mile 16 feeling good that I would never falter. Why did I know this? I am not sure. Second, I knew that Jonathan, bestest everest would be waiting for me to hop in and run me in. Despite there being 26,000 in the race, there wasn't much of a crowd upfront and he was nice enough to be a volunteer pace rabbit for anyone who wanted to get in under 2:46.

Joanna and I ran passed the Chateau Marmont and I turned to her, as she had slipped behind me a few steps, and said, "just stay on my shoulder, hold on. I have a friend coming who will take us in under the standard". But I was accelerating and feeling strong and I was soon on my own.


I didn't have to be on my own for long. Jonathan jumped in and we were off to the races. In fact, looking back, my splits for the mile leading up to him and mile after picking him up were an average pace of 5:44. I was flying. And still smiling.

Jonathan cautiously checked in with me and all I could do was beam. "I feel great!" I said. I knew I needed to stay smart through the upcoming miles, especially since I didn't exactly know what the hills of 18,19, 21and 22 would entail. Thankfully, Jonathan had run the final 10 miles on Friday with Jimmy Dean and so he was able to talk me through each section and let me know what to expect.

I was so happy to be sharing that run with Jonathan. It was a beautiful thing to share. I simple was absorbed in the run, floating along. I would just suddenly get the goofiest smile on my face or say something out loud like "smile at the rain". We made it easily past the bumps of mile 18 and 19. I had to laugh because they were so little (especially compared to that first giant hill) but my pace was slightly slower as we rolled upwards. At 2:15, I tried to get my last gel out of my pocket but my hands were frozen blocks and I struggled for a good 30 seconds while trying to keep pace to get it out. Thankfully, I managed. I took my last gel and a salt cap and started to get serious.


I don't mean serious in a bad way. Like deadly ninja assassin serious. Like I am about to do one of my patented Devon closes. Like I am about to see how many guys I can chick in the final miles. I stayed smart and cautious through mile 22, getting up and over the final hump before a nice gradual downhill finish. Just after the last climb, I encountered the most serious urban flooding I'd seen all day (which is saying something since I went through some major flows). I splashed through ankle deep water that covered the road and then began the hammer drop. I was still happy on the inside but I had donned my ninja mask and was ready to fly. I was ready to put myself in the pain cave, I was ready to run "eyeballs out" as my friend Hollis says. I had been comfortable and cruising all day, now I needed to see what I could squeeze out in the final 7k. At 35k, I was running 6:16 pace, arriving there in 2:16:53. I finally took time to consider if I was going to make the 2:46 standard or not. I was feeling really good, but had I run smart enough and fast enough to make it? I couldn't do the math but I wasn't sure. It felt like it was going to be close so I put it on the line.

Something happened in that moment. I clicked over into the next gear seamlessly and my body didn't resist. My mind somehow had been able to communicate to my muscles "it's ok, we have enough energy to do this". It felt like no effort at all. And my mile splits got faster and faster.



I would occasionally look over at Jonathan or grunt a small command to him as I went for a water cup or to take the higher more even ground. I knew Jonathan was running quite possibly as hard as he could at that moment and I let that propel my forward letting out even more than I thought I had. I still didn't hurt, so I gave more. Mile 22-6:16. Mile 23-6:14. Mile 24-6:04. I was flying at this point, passing other racers like they were standing still, offering them not even a chance to respond or hang on. Mile 25-5:43. "Holy crap" I exclaimed. "We just ran a 5:43 mile in my freaking 25th mile". Jonathan beamed. I knew I was going to do it. I knew I was going to realize my dream of making the Olympic trials. I knew that I could push and push and enjoy every last soggy, cold, windy step of this race.

Thanks @zkiraly for the screen shot!

We made the turn onto Ocean avenue with just under a mile to go. I just kept pressing, now against the most intense wind I had felt all day. I could see the finish line. I knew the crowd would have no idea how important this was to me as I soldiered into the wind, all alone now (as Jonathan had to jump out of the final section as to avoid the shoots). It was my moment, I was all by myself facing down the finish line. I was the first woman in the open field and I would be the only woman from the open field to make the Olympic Trials. I pushed back against the wind with a final 1.2 miles in a blistering 5:42 pace. I crossed the finish line in 2:43:28. I thrust my hands in the air victorious. You might have thought I'd just won the race I was so excited. But I won my race. Peter Abraham was there and raced over to me to congratulate me and told the finish line emcee that I had just made the Olympic Trials and that I was the first woman from the open field (I think they thought I was just the last woman in the elite field). The emcee got back on the mic and excitedly told the crowd who I was and what I had just accomplished. I was interviewed for the news and wrapped in a heat blanket. I finally realized how cold and wet I was. I was soaked. But I was riding high. I felt like I just wanted to keep on going forever I was having so much fun.


Cool race info from Runpix.com. This is where I stood in the overall field,
excluding the women's elite race. My favorite stat was that in the final 4.5 miles I chicked 9 guys. I also like that it says "for the record, you were ahead of about 100% of the guys".


02:43:28
DistanceMAR
Clock Time02:43:32
Chip Time02:43:28
Overall Place44 / 19761
Gender Place10 / 7768
Division Place5 / 1205
Age Grade82.8%
Pace6:14.2
10K0:39:21
15K0:58:41
20K1:18:18
25K1:37:39
30K1:57:19
35K2:16:53
40K2:35:40



Wow. What an experience. It was a "Devon day". It was my day. And not just because I made my goal, but even more so because I did it with the same smile on my face that I started the day with. I ran happy, I ran without expectations. I simply ran the way I love to run. After Houston, I left a little lost,  felt a little void in my running self, felt a little question mark hanging over me. I just felt like I wanted it all (achieving my goal) to be over. After LA,  I was overwhelm with relief. It is exciting to achieve your goals, but it is also a great relief when you have pursued it hard after a failure. I feel invigorated, I feel excited, I feel absolutely renewed. I feel totally in love with running again. I couldn't have asked for a better experience. I am beaming and for once, I am going to take the time to bask in my accomplishment to let that feeling wash over me. It is deep and satisfying to achieve a goal, no matter what that goal is. It is a rare and genuine gift. I fully intend to take my time savoring it.

Nutrition Navigation: Taper Week

Welcome to my new series: Nutrition Navigation. The idea behind the series is part of the vision behind the cookbook I am working on, that is, bridging nutritional knowledge/needs and great food. In this series, I will focus on specific training periods or training needs (like peak training or post-long run), on a specific nutrient (like Vitamin D) or a specific food (like Kale) and show you how that translates into real, healthy, gourmet meals. Often times that means I will provide a snapshot of a days worth of meals or a collection of ideas, recipes or methods. Have questions or want to see something specific covered. Email me with your special requests! Please note, I am NOT a registered dietitian and these views reflect only what have worked for me as a runner and personal chef.


I am nearly all the way through my second big taper of the year (already!) and thought to myself, this would be a great time to launch that series I've been meaning to do on my blog. After all, taper is the time when most people are thinking, what the heck should I eat? For me, leading up to the race, I have a few simple "rules" to guide me as I make my daily food choices:

  1. Don't introduce or reintroduce anything new. Through much of my training, I have been following a very specific diet to help support my peak training as well as navigate around all of my various stomach issues and intolerances. 
  2. Keep it simple. Keep it consistent. What has worked for me through my peak training should continue to work for me through taper, although my daily needs are lower, I am eating the same foods I was during training. For me, this means that my diet for most of my taper is still 40/30/30. That is 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. I often feel like taper week is a "best of" from the various training meals I have enjoyed. I eat a normal healthy diet.
  3. Don't be restrictive but remember you are running a lot less. In peak training, I can be doing upwards of 120-140 miles per week which means I am taking in a huge amount of fuel during those times. During taper, my appetite may still be revved up but I am burning less calories. Find a happy balance between being satisfied and tapering your calories in accordance with your miles. You want to make sure you are fueling for your race and that means eating good fuel and eating often. Remember this shouldn't be a restrictive thing because if you keep in mind #1 and #2 you should have nothing to worry about.
  4. Carb up, without a depletion phase, in the last 3 days. Science has shown that you don't need to precede a carb loading phase with depletion. That means I eat my normal healthy diet Monday to Thursday and then start up'ing my carbs and lowering my fat and protein on Thursday to start powering up.
  5. Don't overthink it. There is no universal right answer of what to eat. Some people have iron clad stomachs and some people are hyper-sensitive. Look at what has worked for you and model after your own best practice.
What works for me:

I personally learn from examples. Even though I can understand a list (like above) or a set of instructions, often times I am able to synthesize it best by viewing an example. I thought for this series, I would include an example of what a typical taper week day of meals looked like.

Breakfast:
Throughout my training, I have developed the habit of having gluten free oats virtually every single morning. In fact, it is a rare day that I do not. Thus, during taper, I keep the habit alive. I believe in eating a hearty breakfast and setting myself up right. 


My favorite method of making oats is prepping them the night before, so when I return from my morning run, a warm creamy bowl of oats is only minutes away. I call this "modified overnight oats". Overnight oats are by far not an original creation, but since I like my oats hot, I don't just eat them out of the fridge.

Before I go to bed, I combine in a large jar:
  • 1/2 cup gluten free oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of cinnamon
  • teaspoon chia seeds
I put all the ingredients into the jar, seal tightly, give a little shake to combine and throw into the fridge.

In the morning when I return from my run, I take the jar of oats add 1/2 cup more water and pop into a small pan. I heat over medium heat, until it starts to bubble. When this happens, I take a whole banana, peel in and using my fingers, pinch of pieces and mix them into the oats. Once the banana is added, I stir frequently for 2-3 minutes, breaking up the banana further with a spoon. After 2-3 minutes, the mixture will have started to become thick and creamy. I turn off the heat and add 1/2 cup of liquid egg whites to get some good protein in there. 1/2 cup of egg whites has 12 grams of protein and only 60 calories. You get great bang for your buck on that and plus, they really make the oats smooth. I pour the oats into a bowl and top with two tbsp of nut butter. This morning I was enjoying some homemade roasted cashew and almond butter. The nut butter is key as it gives you some good fat and will keep you satisfied for a few hours. 



Lunch #1 and Lunch #2:


I eat two lunches during my training and therefore I eat two lunches during my taper. I use to only eat one giant lunch in the middle of the day but that left me feeling way too full for a while and then starving by dinner time. Now, I eat two moderately large lunches broke up by 3 hours. I like it way better than normal snacking. Typically my lunch #1 and lunch #2 are going to be a permutation of the same ingredients. Today, we went to the farmer's market before lunch so I was able to pick up some beautiful greens, kale and broccoli to highlight in my lunch.

I love salad and feel very incomplete without them on a daily basis. Ditto on the vegetables. Some might say it is too much fiber, but my body likes it, but I wouldn't recommend you take on salads in your taper week if you haven't been eating them in abundance in training. 

Each salad included:
  • Mixed Greens
  • Kale massaged with 1 tbsp of Udo's DHA Blend oil.
  • 1/2 cooked sweet potato
  • 1 1/2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted broccoli (lightly sprayed with oil, roasted for 10-15 mins in a 450 oven).
  • Mustard and Apple cider vinegar
Kale getting a massage

Salad #1 awaiting broccoli

Homemade grape kombucha on the side

Salad #2, three hours later with a glass of Nuun.

Clearly, I am like an elephant and like to eat my own weight in broccoli and leafy greens. In training and in taper, I actually have to think about ensuring that I have a good carb source (sweet potato), protein (hard boiled eggs) and fat (Udo's oil) to make sure I am getting enough in these salads. 

Dinner:

The Baker and I, over the past few months, have been pre-planning all of our dinners. We sit down together and figure out what we are going to have for dinner each night of the week and build a grocery list accordingly (I am going to be launching a series of blog posts called BYOPC- Be your own personal chef to highlight our menus and plans). Thus, it is easy for me as dinner time nears to execute our plan and not have to ask the question "whats for dinner". 

During taper week in our house, the taperer gets to lead the menu planning because of some of the aforementioned bullet points. For me, that means eating lots of veggies, sweet potatoes and potatoes and some lean meat.  Tonights dinner was a buffalo and veggie stir fry with sweet potato (for me) and rice (for the Baker) included:
  • ground buffalo
  • bok choy
  • red cabbage
  • carrot
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • gluten free tamari
  • roasted red chili paste
  • coconut oil
  • scallions
  • peanuts for garnish
  • sweet potato for me, coconut rice for the Baker

It was a pretty simple stir-fry. I heated a tbsp of coconut oil in a large pan and then put 1/2 of the garlic and ginger in the pan, cooking it for less than 30 seconds before adding the buffalo. I let that brown for a minute, added a couple teaspoons of roasted red chili paste, and cooked for another few minutes. I added a splash of tamari and then removed the pan from heat and put the buffalo in a bowl. I added a tbsp of coconut oil to the pan (since buffalo is so lean there was no fat left) and cooked the vegetables with the remaining garlic and ginger, which I had shredded into the same size (carrot, cabbage, red bell pepper and white parts of the bok choy. I added another splash of tamari, added the bok choy green parts and let that cook until the vegetables started to get tender. I added the buffalo back, tossed it all together and served. I served mine onto my sweet potato and Nathan's onto the reheated rice, topped with scallions and a scant tbsp of peanuts. Delicious!


As I said, these eats worked for me. It was a pretty easy running day and I felt sustained throughout the day. I really, really enjoyed all my eats today and feel like I successful married my nutritional needs with my desire to eat incredibly delicious food. Taper week nutrition couldn't be easier. Stick with what you know, stick with what you like and don't do anything new!

Race Weight

 

A bite of gluten free muffin. Not a quandry.

Over the years I have been blogging, I have posted at least once a year about race weight- mine, diets, weight loss, "looking like a runner", etc. As the first major efforts of the year are creeping closer and closer, I am again thinking about it. Most of the thinking has been prompted by reading the book, Race Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. This book is geared towards endurance athletes and focuses on more than just beginners.

As someone who knows a good deal about nutrition, healthy eating and food, it is nice to read a book that does offer simple steps/ practices to move towards race weight. The book isn't touting any certain type of diet, though it is in line with what I already believe and practice, a very Michael Pollen-esqe "eat real food" type recommendation. It is informational yes, but in the end it runs me into the same road blocks/questions/conundrums that I consider my biggest hurdles in achieving my race weight.

Currently, as of this morning, I am about 5-6 lbs over my lightest race weight. I could go as much as 7-8lbs down and still be within a healthy range for me. If I am being honest, I would definitely like to achieve something like that weight this season preferably before WS100. I also don't want to sacrifice health and training and such just to be lighter. Fitzgerald says, your ideal race weight is the amount you weigh on the day you run your PR. I care less about the number, than I do about how I feel on race day. Weight is, ultimately, an arbitrary number.

Fitzgerald argues that the best way to lose weight is to increase your training. I agree it is much easier to run 5 more miles (and not up calories accordingly) than to cut 500 additional calories out of your diet when you are in training (at least for me it is). The really big roadblock that I continually run into and did with this book is: calories in to lose weight, but eating enough not trigger hormonal imbalances, muscle loss and fat gain. I have been in the position where (when vegan) I wasn't getting enough calories, got hypo-thyroid and ending up gaining fat/losing muscle because my calories in/calories out were too far out of balance. Thus, I find myself when training hard constantly wondering if I am eating too much (to lose weight) or eating too little for the mileage I put in.

I have had my BMR checked and would wager based on my weight that I burn, maybe 90kcals/mile. Thus, on an average weekday during February in which I have been doing at least 100mpw, that I run (say 20 miles over 2 runs) and work (seated/computer) that I would be burning about 3500 calories per day. My average calories in (weekdays) is about 2400-2800 calories. In theory that means, I should lose a bit of weight each week. But that is not happening. Which means, I am either overeating (which is what I am always convinced I am doing, but not necessarily true) or undereating and freaking my body out. Trying to figure out which one, could drive you insane. Instead, I just try to listen to my body and my hunger. I eat an incredibly healthy diet, so I am not really concerned about the quality of my diet at all.

I know that I could be like some of the elite athletes in the book/that I know/that I have been at one point or another and be completely rigid about my diet. But that is the second roadblock I run into. Do I want to be so strict about my diet that I don't enjoy my life? Do I want to abstain from wine with friends, coconut ice cream out of the container after a long run and trying new things at restaurants or going on weekend trips designed around all the places we can eat? I don't. Being overly obsessed with food and weight is unhealthy and alienates you from everyone and everything. I don't think that running is a free pass by any means, but I think moderation is completely fine.

I don't like to even thinking about race weight or weight at all, but as Fitzgerald discusses, we think about it as elite endurance athletes because it makes a difference. We can feel it. I am less worried about achieving a certain number than I am about feeling a certain way about my body.

Thus, as the season thrusts itself upon me, I am devising strategies to encourage my body towards race weight or better described, race body feeling,  while being happy, healthy and fueled enough to do the good hard work. At the same time, I am remembering that the things I will remember most about my training days are the fun I had with friends running then refueling, not how fat or fit I felt on that day.

 
Post run treats with speedsters at Flying Apron