running diet

Nutrition Navigation: Traveling for races

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.


One of the hardest things to navigate through for me as a special needs eater is traveling for races, especially internationally. After being careful and consistent through my training with my diet, it would be a shame to things go to the crapper, literally, before a race. After 3 years of being on the 100k National Team and traveling internationally for those races plus others (like NF100k) and numerous races all over the country, I have devised some strategies to make sure I go into the race feeling good, without stomach issues and also well fueled. 

  1. Pack your bags. Although most countries will not allow you to bring in fresh produce, meat, dairy, nuts or seeds, you can bring in things like gluten free granola, packets of peanut butter (I use individual Justin's Nut Butters), real food bars, gluten free pastas and breads.
  2. Find a grocery store. The first thing I do when I arrive somewhere is fine the closest health food store. In the states, this likely means a nearby Whole Foods but I managed to find one in Australia too. If you have a fridge in your hotel room, stock up on perishables you'll need (like Almond milk for your GF granola) and fresh produce. 
  3. Be boring. I am a foodie (obviously) but before a race, I am not trying to mess with anything new and so I stick to simple things (like salad) that I will know all the ingredients in. Often times I will go to a salad bar for multiple meals before a race (like they have at Whole Foods-with lots of options) and build my pre-race meal for that.
  4. Eat a big breakfast. If I bring my own granola or cereal plus nut butters, I can make a sizeable breakfast by adding fruit and eggs from the morning buffet at most hotels. I tend to eat a bigger breakfast when I am traveling because I am not certain there will always be food available to meet my needs while I am out and about.
  5. Stick to your plan. I have a normal prerace meal I like to eat and while on the road I work very hard to have the same thing: plain potatoes, salad and meat: either chicken or steak, but with no sauce or additions. If you need special accommodations for your pre-race meals, don't be afraid to ask. Most hotel restaurants should be able to make you something according to your needs or point you in the direction of a place that can. Call ahead and plan accordingly.
  6. Get enough. One of the things I struggle with the most while traveling is getting enough food. Often times, before a race when traveling I will be so concerned at not eating the wrong foods, that I don't eat enough or let myself get too hungry. Arm yourself with bars you can eat and pieces of fruit you can supplement with.
  7. Ethnic eats. Thai, sushi, mexican are some of my favorite types of cuisine. They also happen to be predominately gluten free or way more so than American/European cuisine. I seek out restaurants that are ethnic when I need a heartier option than salad. I try to aim for sitdown restaurants of these styles, skipping the processed and fast food style places. But that goes for all eats.
  8. Treat yourself, after the race. This one is two-fold. In the spirit of not doing anything different, it is smart not to add back anything new before the race. It also means saving yourself from potential stomach issues from trying the local delicacies or special treats. After the race, by all means- reward yourself with the local fare or special treats!
  9. Plan for the plane. I am not a fan of airplane food and I try my best to bring my own food for the plane. This is important on the way to a race (so you don't ingest something your body won't like/to stay properly fueled) and equally important on the return trip when you are likely to be radically more hungry.
  10. Ask the question. One thing I got over pretty quickly was the embarrassment of asking for special requests. Need soy milk? Ask for it. Wondering what options they have for a gluten intolerant? Inquire. For example, at our hotel in Leura in the Blue Mountains, Australia, they actually had gluten free bread on hand and all I needed to do was request it. I would have never know if I didn't ask.
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 travel day of meals looked like.

Breakfast: gluten free granola (from home) with soy milk, fruit and scrambled eggs from hotel buffet. Coffee with soy milk.

Lunch: salad and chicken from a local cafe. dressing on the side.

Dinner: thai food out. Got my favorite curry which has potatoes, coconut milk and chicken (though there ended up being about two bites of potato in this). Served with rice.


Snacks: fruit with peanut butter packet from home or a "long-black" and a artisan chocolate.


Boundaries

Road trip, South Africa 2003. Going outside of my boundaries and outside of myself.

When I was little, I loved to be outdoors much like I do now. My sister and I spent a lot of time playing, running, riding, swinging and exploring on Capitol Hill where we grew up. In order to keep us safe, my mom gave us boundaries. These boundaries were physical locations, streets that we could not cross, but we were free to roam about within those bounds. They changed the older we got but I found that even when I earned another street or my territory expanded, my go-to locations stayed the same and I found a great deal of comfort in routine. When I deviated, I always felt like a rebel, even if I was still within those boundaries and no rules were being broken.

As I grew up, I didn't realize it but I internalized this framework. I developed boundaries for myself, safe routes, territory in which I was comfortable in. In high school, the boundaries were distance and the territory large, so I never really even noticed them. But looking back now, I can see them. Looking through all of my journeys and all of the places I have lived, I see now that it has been part of my strategy, part of how I frame a place, it is an instant framework that I setup whenever I arrive in a new location. 

Examining it now, I can clearly see this play out. I have somehow managed to be bold and adventurous but at the same time somehow managed to instill boundaries wherever I land. It has been an amazing coping mechanism to get myself oriented and settled wherever I have gone. I can be very spontaneous yes, but subconsciously, I think I am more a creature of habit than I ever real imagined. I can remember living in South Africa and a few of us deciding to go on a road trip to 4 different countries. We had a rental van and a map and I remember being reluctant to go because we had no plan, we had no route, we had no boundaries. I went and it was one of the best times of my life, but I can see now how my subconscious is ordered when it comes to adventure and spontaneity.  

Nothing better in life than exploring new routes and trails with friends.

Looking back it is amazingly evident to me, though I never really thought about it. When I lived in Fresno, South Africa, Pittsburgh, London, Atlanta and when I first moved to San Francisco, my first order of business was develop standard routes to the places I needed to go. I always felt better once I knew exactly how to get to the grocery store or pharmacy or my favorite place to eat. In running it seems even more evident. I am a route girl. I find a route and I set my boundaries and I develop permutations of the route to suit my distance needs. Deviating from those routes always makes me feel like I am on an adventure or being a rebel even if I am not one. 

It is very easy for me to become a creature of habit. I come by that honestly. When a lot of things in life are up in the air and I feel like I am really going outside of myself to do something hard and new and different (starting my own business and writing a cookbook), familiarity is my equilibrium. The boundaries give me comfort. Or so says my subconscious. A few days ago, I set out for a run and realized that perhaps the boundaries, the routes I was limiting myself to were not in fact comforting me, but deadening my senses, allowing me to check out and zone out instead of being present. Its almost like I was sitting in front of the tv, shutting my mind down and allowing myself mindless time. And not in a good way. On that run, I decided to run a new route, I decided to be different. I didn't have a specific workout or speed to go at, so I was free to just explore. It was amazingly refreshing to come to a fork in the road and decide which way to go. I was present in the moment instead of somewhere else or nowhere at all. There is a time and place for routes but I realized that I need to be conscious of how I balance the two things. I think they have gotten out of balance more since I have been training for fast road marathons since the focus is more on paces, splits and miles than when I trail run. I have *less* of this problem when I am out on the trails though I see its presence too. I finished up my run and though it was not remarkable in any way, it felt liberating. Variety is the spice of life and I realize that I need to check myself and keep in balance. Boundaries are not inherently bad, but you have to find a healthy equilibrium between staying within them and pushing past them.

It's really hard to take a picture of yourself splayed out on the ground post long run.

This week I have also been wrestling with boundaries in my training. I am tired. As I mentioned last week, I have been pushing myself really hard and burning very close to the edge. I realized that I had never really stopped pushing the training since December when I started training for Houston. I haven't really taken a step back since then. I raced Houston, took a token light week and was back to it. In my head, I compartmentalized my training for Houston and for LA and didn't see the big picture. The big picture being that I have run well over 90 miles a week with 3 hard workouts a week continually for nearly 3 months. Leading up to Houston, the cycle was so short I never did a cutback week, there was never time. I was doing the same for LA. The only cutback weeks were the taper for Houston, and week following Houston. Not much of a cutback to race a marathon in 2:50. No wonder this week I felt like I just needed to not press into the 100 mile range. I needed to respect my own personal boundaries or likely I would fall to pieces before I was even to the start line. 

Yesterday, though it was not easy for me to convince myself to do so, I decided to take it really easy.  It became a relative rest day, running only once in the morning with Nathan who is tapering for tomorrow's Napa Valley Marathon. I knew I had a long run planned for today but it still took me nearly two full hours in the afternoon to talk myself out of a second run and I even had to text my sister to tell me not to run. My body was spent, my mind reluctant and my glute/hip thing was not happy. Hello, obvious much! I decided to opt for an ice bath and a concurrent cocktail instead. I have been living an austere yet strict life for the better part of  3 months trying to achieve my goals and really, sometimes you absolutely need to remind yourself that life is too short to be so serious and that being constantly rigid will drive you mad (and make you wander around in your running clothes for 2 hours while anxiously trying to decide if you should run or not).  Respecting your physical and mental boundaries in training is essential and as I sat there in my ice bath, sipping a cocktail, I realized I was doing way more for my training by NOT running, by not being rigid and ridiculous, by not pushing myself too hard and by not giving into neurotic behaviour. 

When I woke up this morning, I was ready to run. I felt refreshed, my leg wasn't bothering me and I was ready to push hard in my 2 hour long run. Since I hadn't been able to do my tempo run during the week, I decided to incorporate some hard tempo intervals into my long run. While last week, I worked on relaxing and not forcing myself to run every long run at or near marathon pace, this week I decided to really push my limits and push outside my boundaries. It was a perfect morning, shorts and t-shirt weather. Sunny and pretty still. I did an out and back into Sausalito. I hit around 6:30 pace to warm-up then once on the bridge started doing 2 mile repeats at 6 min/mile pace or faster with 1 mile recovery at long run pace (between 6:30-7:30). It was hard but it was awesome. There were moments when I just wanted to stop during the intervals and instead, I pushed harder, found the next gear. I went outside of myself and dug deep. I didn't limit myself, I just pushed and burned. My 4th and final interval, nearly 15 miles into my run I was able to clock back to back 5:50s. It felt really really good. 

In the end, I realize that boundaries can mean a lot of things and can exist concurrently. They can provide comfort and security, they can provide a way to navigate the world. They can be limiting or protecting. They can be respected and broken. And they can be all of these things all at once, existing in perfect harmony and balance, if we let it.

Pen and paper


A phenomenal view from Mt. Tam. Definitely not today.

This morning when I woke up I was not motivated. My body was sore and tired. My mind seemed even less motivated than my body. It was a stark contrast to bounding out of bed on Thursday at 4:40am to go meet up with the Ninjas for our thursday morning run the day before. I then heard the driving rain pounding the window outside and I threw the covers over my head and hid. I knew I needed to get out there for a tempo workout, a workout while intimidating, in no way worried me enough to produce the complete lack of enthusiasm for running I had this morning. I worried for a bit that I might be pushing myself too close to the edge and burning out. I wondered if marathon training and its more tightly regimented nature was weighing too much on me. I decided that, whatever the reason, I was not going to run first thing this morning. The Baker came back to bed, sharing my lack luster enthusiasm, and quickly suggested coffee as a pre-run motivator. Since we don't routinely drink coffee before runs or even regularly, it sounded like a nice warming rainy morning treat. I was into it for sure. Anything to put off actually getting out there to run. The coffee was so delicious with a splash of coconut creamer and the caffeine perked me right up. I realized that I have been pushing myself damn hard and that if I can't get it together some mornings, then I need to listen to those messages from my body. If I ignore them and press through them, I really do run the risk of burning out.

Ultimately, the waiting paid off. I had a nice breakfast of my usual oats to power me up and the rain disappeared and I was able to have a nice sunny dry tempo run, knocking out 14 miles and hitting some great intervals in the mid 5 range, even on a really blustery day. I felt pretty good, even though my legs are definitely not as fresh as I might want them to be. When I was running, between tempo intervals, I was doing some thinking about my life and my career and my direction.

Back in 2009, I wrote a blog called "The Delicious Journey" it was a way to separate out my more personal thoughts from my running ones on this blog and my food ones on my fast foodie blog. Ultimately, I brought them all back together to this blog but have taken the observation that I can be "too confessional" under advisement. On "The Delicious Journey", I put it all out there, my goals, my plans and my struggles. Since eliminating that blog, I have hesitated more about the full on "wow, I can't believe you just put that out there" posts. I don't really think this blog is too confessional, I think it is reflective of my life and journey. It is personal, yes, but anyone who thinks it is confessional, probably doesn't know me, yet. I know this because when it comes to writing I am very judgmental of myself. I don't just put things out there without thinking them through. I am highly critical and try to always be complete.  Of all the things in the world that I see myself as, a writer is not primary amongst them.

Once upon a time, that was not the case. Once upon a time, I was a writer. And let me tell you, if you think I am confessional now, you should try and get your hands on one of the many  100 page compendiums of poetry I wrote in high school and gave to family and friends as gifts for the holidays. Those were confessional. And teenage angst riddled poetry aside, I was actually quite a good writer. I loved it, which was more important and I did it without any hesitation or thought of whether or not it was good enough, worthy or some day would be considered something special (by someone other than my mother).

Through a series of unfortunate events, I stopped believing in myself as a writer. The particular death knell was my high school graduation dinner. Several family members rallied together and denounced my dream and goal of being a writer. As is usual at these events, my family asked "what are you going to do now? What do you want to be?" I told them, a writer. Their response was to completely and totally attack my dream, my goal, list all the reasons it was a stupid idea and stamp out the fires of my passion until not even an ember remained. They were successful. While I left mid-meal, fleeing the restaurant in tears dragging my poor best friend Erin with me, the damage was done. Just when I was taking flight into my future as an adult, my dream was taken away from me. I didn't understand at that time how powerfully that night changed me. It would be easy to think that I should just be able to brush it off, but it was injurious and I didn't address the wound it caused fully for a long time. The irony of that conversation was that I was on my way to college to study pre-veterinary medicine on a full basketball scholarship. Not exactly your typical, I am pursuing my dream of being a writer path but I was a very practical teenager, my mother taught me well. I KNEW that being a writer was something I could and would do no matter what my career was and I had other career interests. Being a writer was something I considered to be a personal passion that might someday take shape into something more. I wasn't banking on it or being impractical.

I can be much more timid than you think.

Ultimately, I didn't become a vet and did ultimately complete my undergrad in English, Creative Writing. However, even going through that program, I rarely wrote. I struggled with the words every time I set down to put them on paper. I wrote one brilliant undergraduate thesis under professor Linda Bierds who had, only a few years before, won a "genius" grant. It is the only time in my undergraduate career that I ever felt like a writer, the rest of the time, I felt like a pretender. Like someone would soon call me out on being an impostor. I had full on F.O.F, I was paralyzed by it.

From the television show Family Matters:


Steve: “You don’t wanna take that test because you have F.O.F.”
Carl: “What is F.O.F?”
Steve: “F.O.F is fear of failure. Even the most confident people have moments of fofnoscity.”
Carl: “Are you calling me…a fofnoficator?”
Steve: “When you’re feeling nervous, when you’re trapped in that emotional pit of doubt and despair, that’s when you dig deep into your character; and, peel away the layers of cowardice, self-doubt and nay saying until you get down to the raw steel of yes-can-do; and, then, you hot dip that steel, and fortify yourself.”
I never got back to the feeling of "yes-can-do". I saw my thesis as a fluke, a reflection of a time (my time in South Africa) which was so emotionally charged, I couldn't help but write. I kept it and value that body of work. But I soon gave it up completely and moved on. I don't write in a journal, I don't write short stories, poetry or books. 
Therein however, deep seeded and undeniable is the desire to write a book. Last year, I thought I wanted to write a book about my time in high school but realized that that was uninspired, that I didn't actually have any desire to write about that at all. But the feeling doesn't go away. Clearly from this blog it is evident that when I find my inspiration, I can go on and on and on.
For a long time, I have had this sense "I want to write a book" but every idea that comes to me, I freeze with terror before I even have the first paragraph written. I flash back to that high school dinner and I give it up "knowing" it is futile. How ridiculous is that? It has taken me a lot of mental energy to even get to the point where I can really even understand my fear. Simply, I developed this sense that if I am going to write, it must be a success, it must make it. I never start because the idea is never fully formed from inception and therefore my insecurities are fed. 
I do want to write a book. In the past few years, I have really decided that I want to write a cookbook. But like my business, I was sitting back and waiting for things to unfold on their own. I was waiting for my big break but was doing nothing to create that reality. And that is backwards anyways. I want to write a cookbook, so hell, I should just write a cookbook. I don't need some publisher to give me the go ahead, I don't need my family to tell me it is ok, I don't even need to care if it ever exists except to myself. Its not a vague idea I have, it is a concrete one. I believe in my food and I believe in my desire to want to share it. So why not try?
I am going to try. I am going to pick up pen and paper (ok, I'll type) and write. I think there is a place in this over-saturated world for my voice too. I think runners and athletes who want to eat healthy but gourmet food would love a cookbook designed for them. I think people trying to bridge the "eat real food" with "ok what do I eat then" would love my recipes. And even if no one does care, I surely want to remember the amazing things I am throwing down in the kitchen (clearly I cannot be trusted just to blog them). I feel driven and motivated to not let one night define this part of who I was and who I am to be. I feel that I want to foster my own courage in life by defeating my biggest foe and biggest fear.
No more fofnoficating.
What are you a fofnoficator about?

Houston Marathon Race Report



Houston, we have a problem....


I am having a hard time being inspired to write this race report. It is weird. Yes, I am disappointed in my result but it is not because of that that I am uninspired. I am clearly very able to be inspired to right about disappointing days. I think that it was an uninspiring race in general and my uninspiring performance just means that the way I usually write a race report is not as applicable. My race reports are usually an emotional journey, I like being a story-teller and carrying you through the journey with me.  Houston was a very short story in a lot of ways. I did however, learn a great deal and I think that is much more of what I want to focus on and share. I didn't meet my goals, any of them, with the exception of the most basic one: whatever happens, just don't quit.

The story


Race week didn't go as planned. I had to fight off a virus/cold/flu (so I didn't miss my 4th race in 2 years because of illness) and took down heavy doses of vitamins. After seeing Dr. Maderas at Marin Natural Medicine for a immunity boosting IV push, I was feeling pretty darn good and was just a of a lingering tired feeling from the virus. I got it early enough in the week that I was hoping it wouldn't affect the race. I traveled to Houston on Friday, brought along a bunch of my own food and tried to stick to my own "safe" foods before the race and not start adding back anything too drastic, while still getting in my carbs before the race. But my stomach felt off Thursday, Friday and Saturday was a mess. I attributed it to a case of nerves, this was after all my first road marathon in over 2 years and I was looking to PR bigtime. I attributed it to the rice I ate with lunch since I hadn't eaten rice (or any other grains) in two months. By bedtime Saturday night, I was feeling ok and just figured that a bad race week usually meant a great race day. 


It is what it is ultimately and I didn't get too stressed out over how the week went. It is the breaks of the game. I was happy to have made it to race day, excited to see if I could achieve my goal of running the OT standard and just get back into marathoning. I am especially thankful for the Terranovas as they gave me a place to stay both Friday and Saturday night, let me follow them around like a puppy dog and comforted me after the race. Not to mention Paul was pacer extraordinaire for the 2:39 pace group!


When I woke up Sunday morning, I was very happy there was no lightning. They said that there was a high chance of thunderstorms and that would have meant the race would have been cancelled or delayed or stopped and restarted. We started on time, but the weather was not fantastic, it rained a pretty constant drizzle, there was a heavy downpour at one point and it was very very humid. Before the race I ate 2 bananas with peanut butter and hoped that my stomach problems had worked themselves out. I drank a cup of coffee and we headed to the elite starting area. I felt calm, ready to go but not exactly how I wanted to feel. My body didn't feel that energized. But I also reminded myself that I am in completely uncharted waters here. Heck, as good as my training was and it was very good and hard and on point, I was trying to run in a way my body had never really done. Go hard from the start, be uncomfortable and keep going. Ultras I am very comfortable, marathons are a whole different ball game.


What I really was hoping for was what Ellie Greenwood dubbed a "Devon day". I trained to have one, I am the fittest I have been that I can remember, I even achieved my goal race weight. I was ready to not only make the 2:46 standard, I was ready to push the limits and get close to 2:40. Or so was my thought, hope, prayer. As I warmed up, it started drizzling and my legs didn't feel like wild horses so energetic I needed to rein them in. They felt just fine. And then we were off into the early morning light, splashing in puddles, dodging raindrops but not lightning bolts. 


I ran a 6:18 first mile. There was an overpass about 200 meters in and the little climb kept everyone honest. Paul took off at his prescribed 2:39 pacer duties pace and I knew right away I wouldn't even try to hang on. I scooted ahead of the 2:46 pace group (6:18 pace) and ran my next mile in 6:00. From there, I ran virtually alone for the next 11 miles. Through the non-descript streets of Houston. We were in neighborhoods still sleepy with the early hour. We ran past Rice University. There were fans but when you are running alone, down (painful) concrete roads, it is lonely and hard to keep your own time. Which is why pacers are provided and why they are important. I was in the nether realm between the two OT qualifying standards pace groups. I knew if things started going wrong that I could slow up and hitch my wagon to the 2:46 pacers and cruise in with them. There were suppose to be two of them, one for the first half and one going the full distance.

I hit my splits pretty well for the first few miles, still feeling comfortable around 6:07-6:12 pace. I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard. I knew I would need to start challenging myself but one thing I couldn't figure out was when? When do I go? When do I push myself into the uncomfortable place and hold it? Pretty quickly there after, I had an answer, but it was not what I really meant. My stomach had felt disquiet but manageable during the first 5 or 6 miles. I hit the 10k at 38:45 which is 6:14 pace. But then my stomach started to go. I was drinking water but the disquiet became barfing. Not projectile, sweeping heaps but the small contents of my stomach, mostly liquid. I'd struggle to keep pace and my stomach would object. I had to utilize my ultrarunning skills and barf and run. Didn't even get it on my shoes. I was forced to back off. I was upset, I knew if I couldn't get my stomach under control then I would not be able to let me legs do their job. From mile 6 until 10, I tried to maintain but started to slow into the mid 6:20s and even 6:30s after mile 10. Just before the half way mark, the 2:46 pace group caught me. The pacer told me to jump in with them and I replied, "I've been waiting for you guys!" I was very happy to see them because I felt that I could just switch off my brain and tuck in and run the pace set by others. We ran through some bigger downpours but it stayed humid which I am sure didn't help my stomach.

We hit the half in 1:22:49 and the first half pacer peeled off. There was a pack of 8-10 ladies and we all looked around for the other pacer. No where. Not to be seen, no one had seen him at all that day though the day before he had introduced himself to all of us. Within a half mile the group obliterated and try as we might to hold ranks, the group fell apart. Only 1 out of the group made the standard. Let me tell you, running with a pacer really helps. The race provided pacers for 5 different elite women's speeds (3 of those speeds were basically personal pacers for the top 3 women) and it makes a difference. That is why I chose to do a big marathon, I wanted company. I didn't want to run alone (into the wind) like I did in Boston.

My stomach wouldn't settle. I would take nips of gel when I could, drank water but nothing helped. I got slower and slower. Once the group obliterated and I started hearing that I was on more than a 6:20 pace and slower and slower, I had a hard time convincing myself to do anything but run at a pace that didn't disturb my stomach. From miles 15-23 I pretty much just did everything in my power not to quit. I didn't push, I just ran. I just resolved to have pride and not step off the course despite being sick and not being able to achieve my goals.

I saw Meredith at mile 20 and I told her not to wait for me at the finish line and to go with Paul since I wouldn't be just a few minutes behind him. She cheered for me and I remembered that she had given me salt caps before the race to deal with the humidity, which up until this point I hadn't taken. After I ran by her, I decided, what the heck, I downed some salt caps with a swig of water. And then something weird happened, around mile 23, I started to feel a bit better. Not great but I was able to drop my pace back down to the 6:20 range instead of the upwards creeping 6:45, 6:50s I had seen in there. And I got my pride back. Damnit Devon, I said, even if you can't get the standard (I calculated quickly in my head), maybe you can still PR (my PR is a 2:49:51). I focused on the girl I was running close to and put a move on her. Then I focused on a guy ahead and reeled him in. I pushed and pushed and could tell by how easily my legs responded that it was clearly not my legs that had failed me on this day, it was my energy, it was stomach.

As I pushed the last miles, all those tempo workouts, all those track workouts proved their worth in gold. It felt effortless to push the pace, with the exception of the now intense gusts of wind that was hit us full on in the face every 30 seconds or so. I cranked and my stomach held. I couldn't do the exact math but I figured I would be close to my PR and would at least finish with my pride. I knew I would have to run nearly sub 6 to realistically make it but ran as hard as I could, without looking at my watch.

I hit downtown and spotted a string of 6-7 guys scattered various distances ahead of me, each looking tender footed and hurting. I passed them with such conviction not a single one of them even had a chance to try and keep up. I came down to the final turn and hit the home stretch. There was one more guy I could get. The announcer was calling marathon finisher's names and he recognized that I was in hot pursuit. "Andrew, andrew" he said to the guy in front of me, "Watch out Andrew you are about to be passed by a girl". I flew by him crossing the line in 2:50:55. My second fastest time ever in the marathon. I was 18th woman overall and have to be proud of my effort on a day that didn't unfold as I liked.

I was escorted back to the elite area, met up with Paul and Meredith, commiserated with my fellow 2:46 hopefuls who didn't make it and headed back to the hotel room. It took a long time before I could eat anything and my stomach refused to settle for days afterwards. I headed back to San Francisco that evening and am now considering the all important question: what now?


Checkpoints5k10k15k20kHalf25k30k35k40k
0:19:160:38:450:58:321:18:341:22:491:38:281:59:112:20:452:42:00
 Start OffsetPaceProj TimeOfficial TimeOverallGenderDiv
-0:06:32 2:50:5560188



Lessons learned

  1. Sometimes it doesn't matter how well you are prepared, your chance will come when it comes. Good days don't always fall on race day.
  2. Running at the edge of red line is very hard. It takes practice to know how to handle it. I am thankful for this race in that it gave me experience with feeling out my body at that speed.
  3. I need to get a flu shot and stop getting sick before races.
  4. Concrete hurts. Humidity sucks. Flatter is not always better. And everything is funner with another runner (pacer!).
  5. You can be thankful that lightning doesn't strike, but still get caught in the storm.
  6. I love love loved my training for this race and my nutrition plan too. I feel very fit and feel like I am moving in the right direction.
  7. Ultimately, missing a goal is not the end of the world. I have more chances to get there and it is still an adventure to see if I can do it. 
  8. Even when things aren't going your way, adjust and take pride in your effort. I would have felt a hell of a lot worse about the way things turned out if I had wallowed in things and slowed down or given up. Don't give up, unless of course they are putting an IV in... and even then, don't give up, just listen to the doctors orders.
  9. Remember it is suppose to be fun. The reality is that I am unlikely to make this or any Olympics (statistically speaking and realistically as well) and so I can set goals and pursue them whole-heartedly but also remember that this is my passion, my love and I am not defined by it. (And the same is true even if I do make the Olympics).
  10. There is always a next time. And the next time and the next time.


Watch on the right half of the screen, light blue top as I sprint past a guy and chick him 10 feet before the line. I am not very nice :)

Exceptions and Rules

Sunrise on Tam. An exceptional day.

This morning I headed out to do my tempo workout of the week. I was scared, I was intimidated and nervous. I knew how significant this workout would be. It is a big week in my training for Houston which is just over three weeks away. I also knew that I had struggled through my "track" workout on Tuesday and been reduced to a crying, shaking bag of bones and not necessarily in a good way. Needlesstosay, I knew that this workout would be telling. The workout was a very stout 10x 1 mile tempo run at race pace minus 10 seconds. Ideally, I wanted to hold 5:58s or better. As I ran my warmup down to the polo fields in Golden Gate park, I pondered whether the paces I have been holding in previous weeks tempo workouts were the exceptions or the rule. I knew THIS workout would make that clear. And it did.

The main reason I had been contemplating the concept of exceptions and rules is because a friend of mine inquired about my reference to being on an athletic diet leading up to Houston and urged me to write a blog post about what that means to me. The friend is a world class Ironman athlete and even she says that she gets confused. I can relate to that, I think a lot of athletes understand a bit about nutrition but not necessarily enough to implement a plan for themselves that coincides with training.

I was hesitant to write this blog because I don't believe in defining myself strictly and also because in the past giving myself rules created a great deal of anxiety around my food choices, including peanut butter. In the past year, I have had the healthiest relationship with food in a long time and while that meant I raced slightly heavier in 2010, the reduction in anxiety and obsession and time spent thinking about nutritional content and quality was worth it. I raced well and learned to trust myself. I realized I eat very mindfully, healthfully and don't need to stress about my food choices, since even my indulgences are most people's health foods.

A morning on the trails, currently the exception in my training :(

My training for Houston has been different in a lot of ways as I have discussed. It is also significant because it is the first time I have put myself on a strict race related diet. As I prepared for this race, I finally was able to synthesize the idea of periodization for my food/diet just like I do for my running/training schedule. I made modifications to my diet, changed the rules and exceptions and even implemented some things with no exceptions. The final two weeks of December I transitioned to the eating plan but let Christmas eve/day include exceptions (after all, I needed a glass of wine-believe me and HAD to have a slice of my mother's Stollen on Christmas morning, it's tradition) but after that, it's been on the plan! So what does that plan look like? With the help of my trainer Josh and my friend Ronda and my own experience, experimentation (as well as a few tests which determined food intolerances/allergies), I developed the following plan, rules and practices.

Typical day:
Addendum (1/7/2011): This is the baseline plan, I don't weigh my food and add in additional items as I see fit based on hunger or need. I developed it as guidelines to help me with timing, general portion and content.

Example of a dinner from two nights ago: Ka Pra Grow (fresh ground pork, garlic, gluten free tamari, red chili, coconut oil), Quick cooked Asian Greens (cabbage, mixed braising greens, coconut oil and gluten free tamari) and a side of roasted carrots (for my starchy veg, while Nathan had rice).

Last nights dinner: Bacon, shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and brussels sprouts topped with homemade fire roasted bell pepper one pan "stir fry" and roasted winter squash.


Rules and Practices:

DO NOT EAT
  • Wheat/Gluten
  • Sugar (refined)
  • Sugar (non-refined)/ artificial sweetners
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy
  • Grains (except oats), Sweets, pastries, cereals, or baked goods
  • Avocados, Pineapple (allergic)
  • No processed foods
Practices (notes from my trainer):


  • Practice a modified paleo type diet- focused on the vegetables and lean meats. 
  • Add back in a select few natural, starchy carbohydrate sources to support training. Time these to support workouts and recovery.  Still keep less ideal sources – sugar, juices, pastries, bread, pasta, flour, cereals, etc. OUT of the diet.
  • Starchy tubers would be a good choice – yams, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes. Corn tortillas and oats are other options. 
  • If carbs goes up, dietary fat should come down.  
  • Reduce added sources of fat (condiments, oils, nuts, seeds, etc.), and just get your dietary fat as by-product of your animal protein sources (eggs, fish, meat, poultry).
  • Spread food intake out over 5-6 meals. Drink lots of water.
  • Eat 1g of protein per 1lb of lean body mass.
  • Eat 1-2g of carbohydrate per 1lb of lean body mass.
  • Combine a serving of protein with a serving of starchy carbohydrate – both about the size of a deck of cards – with each meal and snack.
  • Starchy carbs (rice and potatoes) are better than fruits for athletes because fruits are sugars, natural sugar, but sugar nonetheless.  They are preferentially stored as liver glycogen whereas starch is preferentialy stored as muscle glycogen (which is what we want as athletes).
  • Continue to eat unlimited amounts of vegetables with any meal or at any other time.


My training and body have really responded to this nutrition plan and I feel great. It is not that terrific of a departure from how I normally eat. I normally eat approximately the lunch listed above, but was eating it in one sitting instead of split into two. I actually like splitting it up. My nutritional timing is way better and more effective. In fact, I have been more creative in the kitchen than ever before and plan to continue to eat this way long term but with room for exceptions. Outside of peak training, if I want something from the "no" list than I can have it, its a welcome exception as long as it is an exception. I have learned that peak training nutrition just means NO Exceptions and that normal eating whether during building phase or time off can be more flexible. As much as I joke about it, I am not chomping at the bit to have the foods I am currently excluding.  I look forward to a post-Houston treat, enjoying a celebratory toast but I also value how I feel currently and plan to continue to be a mindful eater. This plan is currently working for me, it is personalized to my needs and based on my own personal experience and understanding of how my body works. I don't for a second think that it would work for everyone, I don't believe in one size fits all nutrition. I also believe that being neurotic or a perfectionist about your nutrition intake is infinitely more harmful than helpful, so even in times of peak training nutrition a light hearted approach is encouraged. I think the one thing that everyone can take away from this is that peak nutrition is a time to eat a very clean healthful diet, it really does support the hard work you are doing out on the roads and trails. There is a time for (gluten free) muffins and a time for perfectly timed carrot sticks. Right now, I am enjoying food as much as I always do and loving just as much the nutritional benefits I feel.