A Summer of FAME

This past summer was extremely busy and went by rather quickly due to starting graduate school again at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM), but I wouldn’t take it back for anything. Sure, I’ve still not been to the Oregon coast and now likely won’t get there until sometime next year, but I did participate in something else that I’ll certainly remember Summer 2016 for: FAME.


FAME stands for Food As Medicine Everyday and it is a cooking series of (generally) 12 weekly classes that combines simple and fun cooking experiences with nutrition education. The two naturopathic physicians who primarily led this summer’s Food as Medicine Everyday series used the recipes from their book  to teach participants simple cooking techniques right in Charlee’s Kitchen in NUNM’s Helfgott Research Institute building. It was so inspiring to watch everyone become so comfortable with a knife, a Vitamix, with spicing foods, and with having fun while cooking, and then return to the dining table as a group to learn about a health and nutrition topic that varied with each weekly class. And by “inspiring”, I mean that my experience this summer has made it clear to me that community nutrition education is an area I want to explore for my career after graduation.

fame8  fame2

My role and the role of the other two or three staff who I worked with throughout the summer was to supervise one of three cooking stations as well as initiate and/or facilitate conversations about meal prep, cooking, or even the nutrition of the foods we were preparing and boy was that a fun experience. I mean, I got paid to help supervise cooking and to socialize with new people who really want to be there. How sweet is that? And how do I know they actually wanted to be there? Well, they told me. But also because they signed up for a class that started at 6pm on Wednesday…in Portland. If you’ve driven near downtown Portland at 6pm on a weekday, you know the level of commitment I’m talking about.

I know that the participants learned quite a lot over the 10 weeks of the class (it was shortened for the summer) such as various cooking techniques, recipes, reading labels, and a great deal on pertinent health topics, but the FAME series proved to be a learning experience for me as well. It is always invaluable to practice skills such as supervising, teaching, listening, and working on a team and that’s what working the FAME series this summer allowed me to do.


I’m incredibly grateful for the experience that I was given and for the opportunity to continue working with the Institute this fall as a blogger and somewhat of an assistant with other tasks. I feel a calling to learn all I can from everyone at FAMI and the work they do and I can actually see myself following their lead after graduating from this nutrition program. I believe that when one is in school, they often learn or experience the most valuable things outside of the classroom and I think FAMI is and will continue to be that valuable experience for me.

In February, the Institute will be putting on their 4th annual Food As Medicine Symposium  and you can bet I’ll be there. I hope to see you some of you Portlanders there, too. Until then…

Happy Eating! And Cooking!



Run Less to Run Faster

You read that title right. Running while in graduate school has been quite eye-opening this summer, but I learned something important that I only had an inkling about prior to this summer: it is possible to run less yet still run faster (in my opinion and experience).

The nutrition program at National University of Natural Medicine where Val and I now both go to school has been incredible on all levels. Meeting new people was and always is wonderful. Learning about nutrition and whole foods as medicine has been great. Getting into the community and visiting local farms was a new and rewarding experience that occurred weekly.  But the busy-ness that comes with school eventually caught up with me and began to affect my running. At the beginning of the program, I had no choice but to keep up with my training. I was scheduled to run The Oregon Marathon 2 weeks into the summer term and so I was still fitting in short speed workouts during week 1 of school and a few workouts during week 2 as well.With only 7 weeks of training after 2 months off from running due to a glass-puncture in my foot, I still managed to run a 3:01 best time at that marathon on July 16th and secured a second Boston Qualifying time. I was thrilled and excited to see what this heightened fitness would lead to this summer, but after the next week of just a few light runs to keep my legs moving yet still allow me to continue recovering, graduate school was definitely in full-swing and my hopes at achieving running goals diminished.

With my energy and ability to train every day newly diminished, I needed to make adjustments to my goals for the summer and fall. I had to reevaluate my desire to run an ultramarathon in August or even September–I just didn’t have the time for the required training–and if I was going to set any shorter distance goals, I had to make the most out of the times when I was actually able to get out for a run . The biggest change to my training was that I was (and am continuing) only running about 3 days (sometimes 4) a week. It wasn’t that that’s all I wanted to do; it was all I had time for. When I realized this, I didn’t want to waste a single one of those runs. I ran some 10 milers and one 15 miler, but I did a lot of shorter distance training runs which were run at quicker paces than I was used to running even on a speed day. I quickly found myself running 7 miles at 6:30 pace without much effort. I had a couple track workouts where I recorded the fastest workout splits of the year that included: back-to-back mile times of 5:18 and 5:19, 400m at 68s, and a 200m sprint at 28 seconds on a wet surface. All of these timed intervals, as well as all of the track workouts I do, were run as part of a workout and not as a solo time trial so I’m never running them more than 90% of my current ability. But it was the result of running a few 6-8 mile runs and hitting a 5:50-5:55/mile pace for a couple miles without intending to do so or feeling like I was putting in that much effort that I knew I had to focus on 5ks to half-marathons this fall.

A possible running week for me looked like this:

Monday – zip.

Tuesday – 8-10 mile run; moderate pacing

Wednesday – zilch.

Thursday – 5-7 miles; intense pacing

Friday – nada.  (or maybe a 4 mile run; easy pacing)

Saturday- 7-10 mile run; combination of moderate and intense pacing

Sunday – 90 minutes of pick-up soccer; moderate activity

There were some inclines and declines and those runs and occasionally I would swap out a moderate run with a track day or if I was lucky I got to run 4 days in a week instead of 3, but I never stressed about it. Why? Because I was getting faster without trying to and all I could do was scratch my head and wonder how this happened. Did I gain a bonus fitness level from the marathon back in early July? Did graduate school somehow give my energy levels a boost? No. None of that. Rather, I attribute my noticeable bump in fitness to more rest. 

Let’s be clear: by  “more rest” I do not mean more sleep, although that wouldn’t be a bad thing; the benefits of increased rest and sleep are well known and supported. Rather, I simply mean that my body was allowed to rest and better recover from linear running more this summer than I can ever recall in recent years of running/training 5-7 days a week. I suppose you could say that graduate school has been a bit of a Catch 22: I get less sleep due to being so busy, but being so busy has been forcing me to take more rest days from running.

Resting and super delicious and healthy Made in Nature snacks? Most definitely part of my summer.

min2 I cross-trained with soccer a lot this summer and still consider this a rest from the demands of road running.

In August, I ran the first ever 5k at the Portland Meadows horse track on a hot August morning and clocked a 19:48 on a sand course which made this 5k one of the most difficult 5k experiences I’ve ever had.


I also raced a 5k this past weekend and I ran my fastest time of roughly 17:03. The best part: it was in the rain, on wet pavement, I started about 3-5 seconds behind the line (no separate time for gun time and chip time as there were no chips), and I ran well in the lead for the entire race. I know my body can go 16:45 with better conditions and am hoping to achieve that this fall as well as achieve a half-marathon PR. With the support of great people and teams such as La Vida Veggie, Nii Foods, and possibly others, I’m hoping for a great fall running season.

I wanted to end with what I think a possible week could be or should be if you were to try and alter your weekly routine to include more rest days. Here’s just one possible scenario and it should certainly be modified depending on your experience, goals, and fitness:

Monday- Rest

Tuesday – 10-12 miles (medium distance run; final couple miles or 15 minutes at a slightly faster pace; include some hills on the route if possible)

Wednesday- Rest

Thursday – 5-8 miles (shorter distance run; a few of these miles–middle to end miles–should be around or slightly slower than half-marathon race pace) OR Track day- intervals can include 1 mile repeats, 800m repeats, 400m repeats, or a combination of these and other speedier short distances)


Saturday- Long run (relative to your goals and fitness; easy to moderate pace); e.g. 15-20 miles

Sunday – Rest

If you’d like help with your own running goals such as running a faster time, running your first race of any distance, or any other goal, I would be honored to have you reach out to me so we can discuss! Comment below or email Wilfredoben@gmail.com so we can connect.

Happy Running!





Vegan & Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m pretty sure it’s been way too long since my last blog post, but it’s okay because:

1) It’s like riding a bike…you know the rest; and

2) I have a really, really good reason for why I’ve been MIA.

I started a Master’s of Science in Nutrition program at the National University of Natural Medicine where Val is studying Naturopathic Medicine and I’ve been pretty busy ever since. I started the program right after July 4th weekend and since then, running, school, and healthy socializing are areas where I’ve been putting my energies.

What’s brought me back to writing a post for ERaD–and for this I’m grateful–is actually an assignment for my Culinary Skills class. Don’t worry…My instructor didn’t go and say, “I know this is a school that believes in ‘food as medicine’ but go on and bake some chocolate chip cookies for homework.”  The assignment was to get us to bake and work with a leavening agent and who can’t appreciate that? So the baking soda that you’ll see in the ingredient list will react with acidic ingredients–brown sugar and dark chocolate chips in this recipe–and cause a reaction that releases carbon dioxide that causes the dough to rise and gives the cookies a more open interior structure. Cool right? You all probably knew this already, I know.

So I rummaged through my cabinets to see what I had and I found everything necessary for some delicious gluten free dark chocolate chip cookies that are obviously vegan as well. So without further ado…

 Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten Free & Vegan)


Ingredients (Makes about 10 small-medium sized cookies)

~Brown Rice flour (3/4 cup + 2 tbsp)

~Coconut flour (1/4 cup)


~Baking soda (1/2 tsp)

~Nondairy milk (1/2 cup; I used almond milk)

~Coconut oil (1/3 cup)


~Brown sugar (1/2 cup)

~Ener-G egg replacer (equivalent to 1 egg)

~Dark chocolate chips (amount based on preference; I used ¼ cup)


~Cacao nibs (1 Tbsp)

~Salt (2 tsp)

~Vanilla (1 ½ tsp)


~Cinnamon (1 tsp; optional)

baking6 Reasonably speaking, it’s hard to go wrong with cinnamon. 


  1. “Mise” your prep area as much as you can. This comes from “mise en place” and involves you getting all of your ingredients in place before you start anything. This allows you to see if you are missing anything and saves time when you are making or cooking other dishes.                     baking  All mise’d and ready to go! Brown sugar was added later.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°.
  3. Mix the flours, baking soda, egg replacer, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. baking8 Give the bowl some love, would ya?
  4. Add the dark chocolate chips and the cacao nibs into the bowl and mix. baking4  Heaven in a mason jar. Soon to be: Heaven in a mixing bowl.
  5. Add into the bowl the coconut oil, almond milk, and vanilla extract and stir until smooth.
  6. Form cookie dough balls and place on a pre-greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart from each other. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove and allow to cool before enjoying.

There you have it. Gluten free. Dairy free. They may or may not be guilt free, but they sure as heck should be! Yeah, I just dropped a rhyme for you.

Go ahead and try them out for yourself! One of these would probably be great with your morning coffee or tea about 30 minutes before a run. Oh and while your enjoying your cookie(s), go ahead and check out the programs the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) has to offer. You never know what might strike a chord in you!

Happy Baking…and Running!


Change Up Your Scenery: My Run on Sauvie Island

Sometimes you just need to change it up a bit.

Work ended for me early this year (perks of being a substitute teacher; until I’m a full-time nutritionist of course!) so I decided one morning last week to take a quick drive out to Sauvie Island–located right on the outskirts of NW Portland–and it was such a great decision.


It was about 55-60 degrees–perfect running temperatures–and I managed to wrap up my run right before the grey clouds started to roll in.  Don’t worry. It was early enough where traffic was even lighter than it always is so I didn’t risk anything by taking this bridge picture!


I didn’t know what I wanted to run as I had a bit of flexibility in my marathon training schedule for various reasons. I didn’t want to drive out to Sauvie Island (about 14 miles from my apartment) and not put in a good workout so I knew the run would be a quality one either for marathon-specific pacing or just for endurance. I told myself I would run at least 10 miles and if I felt good, I’d continue to 12 or 13 miles. Well, I felt great early on so I decided I’d make the run a good half-marathon distance of 13.1 miles. I ran it on the moderate-to-quick end of my training pace spectrum averaging 6:50 for the run (went out in 7:34 which was a bit too slow but I hadn’t known I was running a quick 1/2). I closed well with the last 3 miles each under 6:30 pace. It was a really good run especially since it’s not like I planned to run a time-trial half marathon or anything and there were no rest days involved, but I appreciated the change of scenery even more…I think you’ll see why.



Running past sites like these doesn’t happen every day in Portland proper. Portland is beautiful for running, don’t get me wrong, but Sauvie proved to be a very nice getaway run and it’s one that I’ll return to a couple of times before my marathon. It’s no wonder Shalane Flanagan (whom I deeply admire) and her Bowerman TC teammates train out here some days.


Sauvie Island doesn’t have bike lanes like Portland does, but it doesn’t really matter as Sauvie drivers actually follow the courtesies that these signs suggest!  I didn’t have to worry about a car once which made it possible for me to keep my pace steady.

SI12 SI11

This hawk was flying circles around me both times I approached her nest. She was not a fan and the sounds she started to make at one point..let’s just say she helped me to speed up a bit!


The grey clouds (much more grey clouds to the left of this view) were starting to roll in on my way back  to my starting point so I picked up the pace a bit. Someone tell Mr. Fisherman to leave the fishes alone…They’re not bothering him!


I snapped this cool aerial photo of Sauvie Island as I flew past it taking off from Portland airport on route to Phoenix for my connecting flight to Philadelphia’s airport. You can see the bridge from my first picture to the north of this photo crossing the water. It’ so crazy how small the island seems when you’re running on it. It’s not huge by any means, but there’s quite a lot of land on that island!


This run was sponsored by Nii Foods. Okay, not really, but the marathon I’m training for (The Oregon Marathon on July 16th) is indeed sponsored by Nii Foods and I’m so grateful for their support! I love being a member of the Nii Tribe! They make delicious dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, organic, vegan bars that are nutritionally dense, so tasty and in 5 flavors, at least one of which you are sure to love! Try them out!


One of the best benefits of a hard run with an additional afternoon run scheduled for later in the afternoon is an incredibly delicious vegan blueberry chocolate-chip pancakes breakfast made from scratch!  Comment for the recipe or search “3 ingredient pancakes” in the search tool.

We all have our favorite running routes or at least running routes that we are very comfortable running. We know the mileage markers without even glancing at our GPS watch; we know the level of car or people traffic at various times of the day; we know when to speed up or when to save energy for that hill; and so many other reasons for why our favorite routes are actually our favorite. But sometimes it can be a truly wonderful experience to just go somewhere new and run and reduce the monotony of your exercise routine. Mixing things up can help people become less bored and likely to drop the activity which is not an uncommon occurrence with running. Running somewhere new can also help you learn something new about your community or city or state. Heck, like me, you may even find one of your New top-places to run. You really don’t have anything to lose and as they also say, “You won’t know if you like it unless you try it.”

Be adventurous. Take your running or biking or walking or hiking to a new place. Meet new people. See new sites. Explore. And have fun.

Happy Running!




5 Ways to Stay Hydrated For a Run

The official start of summer is almost her, but I’m sure you’ve already experienced some rather warm days or downright scorchers…I know I have! Here in Portland, we had two 100 degree days last weekend sandwiched between a couple 90-92 degree days. “Unseasonably hot” is an understatement to explain those early June temperatures But as they always say, the run must go on!

I have a marathon coming up in July–still trying to decide between two: Foot Traffic Flat or The Oregon Marathon–and there’s no time to waste! My training period is shorter than I’d like to be by at least 4 weeks so I have had to take advantage of every opportunity to run that there has been.

When it was 100 degrees, as previously mentioned, this mentality didn’t shift. Of course, the planned mileage was altered and I didn’t run for 13 or so miles in 2 hours in 95 degrees, but I did run for 10 miles which took almost two hours due to stopping several times to cool down. I had two bottles with me–one was for drinking and so it had an electrolyte tablet in it, and the other was to use on me to cool me down when by body was heating up…man did that help! I remember when my mom was out for a run one time a few years ago and it was 90 degrees and humid back in New Jersey at the time. You were dripping sweat just from walking to your car. Well, she got lightheaded and dizzy after about 2 or 3 miles and called me to pick her up and I’ll never forget the sound of her voice. She knew she was hot and thirsty which she has experienced, but she was actually afraid something was wrong with her because she had never felt like this way before. Luckily I picked her up and she had been standing in the shade to cool off and she was completely fine, but my heart was racing the whole drive to get her.

Please, please, please…Do not underestimate the sun and the heat. It can be very dangerous to do so and the danger can really sneak up on you. I’m not saying don’t run or be outside; just be well-prepared. And hydration is an important part of that preparation.

Here are my 5 ways to stay hydrated before and during a run:

no1        Small Bottle

4  I use amphipod bottles because I like the way they feel in my hand. They are ergonomically designed which makes them, for me, easier to hold which is important because you don’t want to run with any sort of added stress or discomfort other than what may be in your head. This small bottle pictured above is 10 oz and I use it on warm to mildly hot days of mileage anywhere from 8 miles to 14 miles. I have two of them so if I need one to be a water squirting bottle, the other can be my hydration bottle. It’s perfect. Nuun is my electrolye of choice but 16 oz is ideal for a whole tablet and so I only use half a tablet when I use these smaller bottles. It’s a tad lighter since 10 oz is more than 8 oz, but it’s still drinkable and I’m not doing it for flavor anyway!

no2  Large Bottle

5 This larger 20 oz Amphipod bottle is probably one of my best running investments. I’ll use the larger bottle for anything over 15 miles or 2 hours of running in temps ranging from warm to hot. It took some time to get used to running with over a pound in your hand, but I got used to it quickly. The design of the amphipod bottle really helps here. I have two of these bottles and I’ve used both on a run with the same purpose as stated above. I am contemplating using two bottles for the July marathon as one 20 oz bottle proved to not be enough during my last marathon. You may not like the idea of holding a bottle while you run–although I promise you that you will likely get used to it–and so there is another option you may prefer.

no3Bladder pack or pack with pockets


A bladder pack allows you to run with a lightweight, running-specific pack with a water bladder inside and a straw that connects to it. This can be a heavier option depending on the pack you choose and how much water you put in it, but it can be a life-saver for those who run long, in very hot temperatures, and/or those who sweat a lot. When I was training for my first ultramarathon, I was running with a walking-pack with a bladder (not meant for running and so it was on the heavier side) but I realized that I prefer a lighter pack that can maybe hold a bottle in the pack and free up my hands for an additional bottle or two. The Nathan pack pictured above is super lightweight and doesn’t offer much for carrying purposes, but it has two pockets which are great for my cell and for my 10 oz bottle. That way, I can run without anything in my hands, or I can hold another bottle. Also, there is enough room for keys and/or gels or dates if you desire the calories on the run.

no4  Bottle Stash!


Another option is to hide your bottles of water or hydration beverage along your running route. This option requires a bit more time to place your bottles (depending on your route), but can be pretty convenient if you really don’t like running while holding anything whether it be on your back or in your hands. You can stash a bottle in a bush somewhere or behind a tree that stands out. If you are running on a looped route near your home, an option is to leave a bottle on your porch or maybe your mailbox. I haven’t done this before as I don’t mind holding anything, but it’s definitely a good option for staying hydrated during the run.

no5Hydrate Before

1  6

And I’ve saved the most important for last! You can plan to down two 20 oz bottles during your weekend long run, but if you haven’t hydrated or are actually dehydrated from the beginning, those 40 oz will likely not prevent you from feeling the effects of poor hydration. Muscle cramps. Tiring. Slow paces. Increased effort to run. Fuzziness or dizziness. It’s all possible when you’re dehydrated from the start. Throughout the week you should obviously be drinking plenty of water, but it’s important to be getting all of your electrolytes through proper nutrition as well. Fruits and plenty of vegetables are great for this, but make sure your sodium intake is good as well especially if you will be running in the heat often and even more especially if you are a heavy sweater. To help with my hydration and electrolyte intake, I try to always have coconut water (my favorite is C2O) waiting for me in the fridge to help out with my potassium and sodium (not high in sodium though) levels.

There you have it! Five options for staying hydrated before and during your summer running (and even your fall, winter, and spring running).

Run smart. Run Happy.


Hills Need Love Too

(Note: This post has been slightly updated since its original posting in June ’16. One important update for this post was that I did end up running a personal best marathon time of 3:01 and qualified for Boston. I ran that time with only 7 weeks of training due to my injury and I couldn’t be happier with that result.)

Running has been going great. Like really great. Aside from not having 100% power in my right foot and having to turn my whole body to make a right turn while running, it’s almost as if my 9-week injury (stepped on glass during a run that punctured my foot and cut a small tendon) didn’t occur. I’ve been consistently back at it for 2 1/2 weeks now and I’m already considering a marathon next month. But of course I’m me and I’m not just satisfied with finishing a marathon, I want to run a personal best time.

My current personal best is a 3:04:10 which is a Boston Qualifier by 50 seconds, but you want to run faster than your age group’s Boston Qualifying standard to improve your chances of being accepted due to the popularity of the race and high number of applicants. The base training for this marathon came from a 12 hour ultramarathon (Pick Your Poison Relay) that I  ran last July, so I was able to just focus on turning that endurance fitness into speed stamina which I was generally able to do (I PR’ed by a minute in two 5k’s a week and 2 weeks after the marathon), but I wasn’t able to nail my marathon race strategy so that’s why I’m looking to do it again. I just hope that a summer marathon isn’t the worst choice in the world.

One thing that I know will help me with this goal is hill running and the rest of this post is focused on this part of training.

Hill5 See this hill? I’m going to sprint up it. And then do it again. And again.

Running hills has incredible effects for one’s running:

  1. It inadvertently reinforces proper form/posture (unless you are running them with improper form such as hunched over or leaning back).
  2. It improves explosive power which is really helpful for sprinting and short distance racing such as 1 mile, 5k’s, and 10k’s.
  3. It strengthens leg muscles that you may or may not typically use when running on flat routes. This improves your general running ability which is very helpful for distance running.
  4. Running hill repeats speeds up lactic acid build-up in your legs and continuing to run them or run after you complete the workout teaches your body to run through lactic-acid build-up (or better use the ATP-energy-that lactic acid generates) which is what causes your legs to feel like lead unless you’ve properly trained to be able to push through this feeling.

There are more benefits to running hills, such as enhancing your mental fortitude and discipline, but just these four reasons alone should be enough to get you to start incorporating them into your exercise routine no matter if you run, cycle, swim, walk or participate in any other activity or sport.

Here are a few ways to include hills into your workout and give hills the love they deserve:


  1. Hill repeatsEasy – Going to that steep and/or long inclined hill that you always pass by is a great first step. The next step is to run up. And down…and repeat. For an “easy” option, simply run or jog up the hill at an easy pace and just focus on breathing and proper form. Make sure your arms are still swinging and your breathing is controlled. How many repeats (up and down counts as 1) you should do is up to you and depends on multiple factors such as your goal/purpose, the grade or slope of the hill, the length of the hill, and even your fitness, but two to three is a good starting out goal.
  2. Hill repeats – Hard- Nearly the same as Easy but instead of an easy pace, you are running hard, resembling a sprint. Hill sprints can really build that explosive power if that’s what you are looking for and they will certainly speed up the lactic acid spreading throughout your legs. I wouldn’t recommend hill sprints if you are just starting to add hills into your workouts; wait until running up hills is a bit more comfortable for you. When sprinting hills, proper form and breathing is going to be even more important so make sure those arms are swinging and you are aware of your breathing.
  3. Hilly route- An easy way to incorporate hills into your routine is to simply find a running route that includes them! Rolling hills. A mostly flat route with a few hills to climb. A flat route with one really steep and long climb. If you know where the hills are, just go run around that area.
  4. Don’t cut corners- Starting with where #3 ended, if you know where the hills are, don’t avoid them! We all know that cutting corners is cheating ourselves out of something so don’t do this with your running. If you come across a hill on a new route or if you typically turn around or make a turn to avoid a hill, opt to run the hill(s) instead. Either run up the hill, go back down, and continue along your running route or run up the hill and keep going (if you can) to possibly discover a new route you may really enjoy.

The benefits of hill running will present themselves rather quickly. Initially, your legs may feel dead the next day or even the first week of doing them, but after a couple weeks or maybe a month if you are only adding them once a week, you should start to see results such as increased leg strength when working out or running, not getting as tired as soon, running quicker paces with more ease, and/or other positive effects.

Another immediate benefit, depending on where you live, is realizing that the view really is better at the top!


Willamette River. Portland, Oregon.

Hill2 Mt. Hood


Happy Running!



Fuel Up with Run Gum

I’m finally back to running and it feels so, so good.  The only part that doesn’t always feel good is waking up and getting out of bed. While my hand and fingers can move at lightning speed to snooze my phone alarm, sometimes the act of keeping my eyelids open while in bed is more strenuous than a 3 hour run.

Once I’m finally up and out of bed, getting out the door is easy. I brush my teeth, feed the cats, turn the electric kettle on to heat up water for my coffee for when I get back, grab my shoes and proceed to lace up on the porch. It’s a routine and that routine helps me get through the pre-coffee part of my morning. But since I don’t have the time to wait around for coffee, sometimes the run can be somewhat of a struggle.

As I said, I have no problem getting started, but when I’m tired, it’s pretty difficult to get to the pace that  I’m happy with or shooting for. Sometimes I like an 8 minute mile pace which is doable even in my pre-coffee stupor, but other times I’d like to get to a 7:30 or under pace and that’s not as easy. So what do I do when I want my morning runs to be at a tad quicker pace? Recently, I’ve turned to Run Gum.


Run Gum was created for athletes by Nick Symmonds and his long-time friend and mentor Coach Sam. They offer three flavors of Mint, Fruit, and Cinnamon so pretty much everyone’s taste buds are covered here. With Caffeine, Taurine, and B-Vitamins as Run Gum’s most important ingredients, Nick and Sam engineered a gum that is, biochemically speaking, a purely energy-boosting food that does not involve food sitting in your stomach. As a long-distance runner that sometimes trains for and runs ultramarathons, eating food while on a run is important to do, but when I want to run early morning workouts and when I want to get in speed training even when my energy is low, food in my stomach is generally not a good thing.


A few minutes before I head out the door for my run (either morning or afternoon after work) I pop a piece in (two pieces in a packet) and I chew it throughout my whole run. Some athletes I know just chew it for 5-15 minutes, but I chew it for at least 30 minutes, sometimes for much longer. And yes, it works. Within minutes I feel lighter on my feet due to a quicker turnover; basically: I have more pep in my step. And this feeling lasts for the entire run or workout. Last week Val (my fiancé) and I played our first full-field 90 minute soccer game in several years and we were both drained at half-time. As soon as the whistle blew to signal the end of the first half, I grabbed some water and then ran to my car to get some Run Gum that I kept handy. We each popped a piece in right before were about to take the field and her exact words after the game ended were, “Babe, that gum is magic.” Yes, Val. It is like magic. Does that makes Nick Symmonds the Harry Potter of energy boosting foods? Or perhaps Dumbledore?

That’s what’s great about Run Gum. You don’t have to be a runner to enjoy its benefits. Just like coffee or caffeinated tea, it can be consumed in similar scenarios. Studying or working late? Feeling the 2 o’clock sleepies? Give Run Gum a shot to keep you alert and energized.

rg6 Sometimes I even Bike Gum! 

Val and I are playing our weekly soccer game tonight and you can guess what I have ready in my bag. This time, though, I have plenty to go around! I’m confident that they’ll love the boost they get from the Fruit-flavored RG I have for them. The only thing I’m not sure of is whether they’ll think Nick is running’s Harry or Albus…

Some just chew gum.


I Run Gum.

Happy Running!

—————–Want to give Run Gum a try? Order it here.



Lesson Learned

This spring season hasn’t been what I thought it would be. Receiving a puncture wound from stepping on glass during what should have been an “easy” sub-7 minute 10 miler back in February was not part of the marathon training plan! I promise…I wrote it myself!

I thought that once the sutures were taken out of my foot after waiting far too long to seek proper professional care that I’d be able to run just fine. Admittedly, I started to think that part of why I was hesitant to step down normally on a light jog was because I knew the sutures were still in my foot. I can tell you now that the presence of the sutures was not the reason for my cautious running mechanics…pain was actually present.


But not three days after the sutures were out, I ran a 5:49 mile. I shouldn’t have and I wasn’t supposed to. I intended on finding a pick-up soccer game (plenty of those around here in Portland), and the last field I checked out ended up being the track near my apartment where I run my track workouts. I decided I’d jog a mile or wo to make up for not playing soccer, but afer jogging a mile and completing a training hurdles routine, I felt really good and decided to run a second mile; I had no idea I’d run it in under 6 minutes. That effort, coupled with a week of about 30 miles and a slight muscle strain I felt while playing soccer the following weekend, have rendered me back to square one on my recovery road back to running.

asics4 Square one includes having to wear my old Asics clunkers as the extra cushion prevents my foot from hurting when I run.

I rushed back into running. My favorite thing to do was put on pause for 2 months and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. It would have been one thing to just jog a mile or two a day for a week and let my foot and leg muscles remember what it is to run; it’s another thing to run 5 miles one morning and 5 mile in the afternoon or to run 8 miles in one run two days in a row. I should have known better. And I should have listened to the podiatrist who told me to ease back into running and to still take it easy for a few weeks. Well…I learned that lesson the hard way.

I had to take an additional five days off from running last week due to the constant throbbing of my foot whenever I ran. I continued and continue to play soccer as, almost miraculously, running in my soccer cleat results in no pain whatsoever, so I’ve stayed in decent enough shape. It stinks, though, that I went from training for a personal best Boston Qualifying marathon time (my first one was last fall here in Pdx at the Portland Marathon) to being tired and tight after a 3 miler at 8 minutes per mile pace; but I did this to myself.

The moral of the story is clear: If the foot doctor says you need to ease back into running or activity, you should probably listen. 


Don’t rush things. I love running and I couldn’t to get back to doing it, but this means two things: 1) I have enough passion that won’t allow running to ever get away from me and 2) I need to learn to respect the stress that running has on the body especially when recovering from any kind of injury.

Train Smart & Happy Running!

Injuries Suck!

No pictures today, but I think you’ll survive.  The reason is two-fold:

  1. I just don’t have any. And,
  2. Even if I did have some, working them into a post while I’m at work takes way too much time.

We’re always pressed for time aren’t we? There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish we had at least 1 more hour in the day. 25 hours. It sounds like a great number, doesn’t it? That’s an extra hour to get errands done; to spend with our loved ones; or to run. But alas, we only have 24 and we have to work with what we’ve got. So if I have to go to bed at 11 because I’m catching up on shows or writing up track workouts and I have to wake up at 5:00 or 5:15am to get a decent run in, then so be it. I’ll sacrifice the hour of extra sleep to make sure I get to do what truly makes me feel fully alive, especially after not being able to do it for 8 of the last 10 weeks.

Returning from an injury is something I haven’t experienced in years and not running for 2 months really did leave something unfulfilled in me for that time. I started to get used to not running after the first few weeks of my injury. I started frequenting the gym during that time–cycling and strength training saved my sanity and shortened the time it would take me to bounce back–but it wasn’t the same as being outside and moving my body through the world around me. Over the past two weeks of running, I’ve been hyper-aware of the pure bliss that I feel from running. As I climb the hill, turn out of my apartment complex, and embark on another daily running journey, I feel invigorated and anew and so grateful for the body’s ability to heal; the body truly is a remarkable thing.

It was upsetting that I would get injured right before the track season officially began. For months, I had imagined leading my group of distance runners on a long road run. I heard that hoots and hollers as I sped around the track, showing my sprinters earlier on that it is indeed possible to run more than 5 sub-30 second 200 meter sprints with less than a minute rest in between each one; it just wasn’t meant to be this year. So instead of coaching by modeling, I had to coach on the sidelines. But now I’m back to running and I feel like my energy has magnified. Literally. It’s like all of my neurons are firing and my coaching brain is at 110% lately as I’ve begun strategizing the heck out of the girls and guys teams to get as many kids as I can to qualify for Oregon Track and Field HS State Championships down at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene in a few weeks. One thing that I’m having to deal with on this road to high school greatness is something I preferred to have behind me: injuries. Not mine…but I still feel their pain.

Calf tightness. Pain in the hip flexors area. Strained hamstrings. Moderate, but painful shin splints. When you push your body to the limit, there is likely to always be something that’s not going to feel 100% all the time, but seeing my high school kids continue to show up and–for those who can– put in 100% of what they have left is so inspiring.

Injuries suck. But injuries teach us a lot such as how to cope; how to avoid re-injury after healing; and how much we actually love what we can no longer do or do normally. We may have to take a few days off or even a few weeks or months, but generally, the body recovers if you let and help it to do so. Injuries come with the territory, as it is said. With love comes anger and with running comes injury. What’s good about this combination is that injuries, a majority of the time, merely fade into lessons and memories.

In the wise words of Amby Burfoot : “You could spend a lifetime regretting the days when you continued running; you’ll never regret the three to seven days of rest.”

Be smart out there.

Happy Running!




Make the Park or Your Backyard Your Personal Gym

Attention parents (and babysitters, guardians, older siblings, etc.): Want a surefire way to get exercise into your day? Use your child.

People use their children all the time. They’re the perfect excuse to go out for ice cream. They’re “the only reason” you have cookies in the house, but because you want your children to be healthy you limit them to one per night and then you grab three when they are in bed!  Oh and let me guess:  You ordered all the classic Disney films on DVD because you don’t want your child to miss out on the wonders of these cinematic stories you experienced as a child, right? Sure…Like your heart doesn’t flutter when you see this on the screen:


Hey, I’m not judging you. I’ll likely do the exact same when I have children. I pull that ice cream move on Val all the time as it is! It works for gluttonous pancakes, too… Just saying.

But kids can also be used to get some healthy exercise in even if you’re not necessarily wiping sweat from your brow. You read that correctly. Your babies no longer have to be a reason for why you don’t have time to work out.

Like most people, you probably wish there was more time in the day. I definitely wouldn’t have a problem with a few more hours. We’re all knee deep in work, emails, and other errands. You’ve got deadlines, bills, and to-do lists constantly on your mind. But being the super parent that you are, you still try to make sure your child gets fresh air and Vitamin D by getting outside. For those of you who sit on the park bench or swing or watch your children from your kitchen window: join them instead! The park and/or your own backyard is a great place to get a quick workout in while your children are playing.

Here’s how to lifehack the great outdoors and make it your personal gym:

  • Monkey bars: I know what you’re thinking: blisters and calluses. Probably true. But here’s what you can see from now on: pull-up bars. Why not do some pull-ups or the classic monkey bar swinging routine while you’re watching your children? Challenge them to a “Who can do it faster” contest or try to cross to the other side as many times as you can without letting go. This can make it more fun for them and difficult for you!
  • The physical space: Tag! You know what playing tag looks like? Running. You know why? Because you are doing just that. Playing tag is such a great way to engage your children in healthy exercise—not that they’re not already running around like they haven’t seen green grass in years. This game involves you and your children engaging in cardiovascular exercise that is really good for the muscles, immune system, and so much more. All of the stop-and-go involved in tag is also a benefit for your fitness!
  • See-saw: What does see-sawing looking like? Come on…Nothing? Okay , I’ll give it to you: Squats! Suggestion: Hold onto 3-5 lb dumbbells or strap ankle weights around your ankles for more of a workout for you (and maybe for your child?).
  • Park bench: Instead of sitting on the bench, use it as workout equipment. Dips are great to do on a sturdy and stationary park bench. The act of dips targets triceps and your core. Extend your legs straight out instead of bending them for added difficulty.

post3  post4

  • Trees, light post, or something similar: Just wrap a resistance band around something of a cylinder shape and you’ve got the perfect station for some arm workouts. Of course you can use resistance bands without anything to aid you, but something sturdy may make the workout a bit easier to do. Simply pulling the handles or gripped ends to you can be enough. It’s difficult to explain these workouts, but a quick search on YouTube should help you out.post5post6

As you can see, the park is a great outdoor workout gym. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the park playground is really a condensed bootcamp facility for children. The colorful equipment may trick them, but it sure as heck isn’t tricking me anymore! Seriously, though: Next time you go to the park, imagine the rubberized ground or woodchips as mud and tell me you don’t see a military-style obstacle course.

Your backyard can also be your gym used for similar workouts or more.


If your backyard has stairs similar to those in the picture, this is a great way to get a quads and glutes workout in. Start at the bottom and walk up slowly, skipping at least 1 stair but maybe even two (this may feel a bit like doing lunges). Be sure to engage your glutes and your core for the most benefit. Walk down normally and repeat several times. You can add dumbbells or ankle weights for added resistance.

Do you have a seating area in your yard?


Where you see chairs, I see a dip station.


Do you just have mostly grass where your child brings games and toys outside for fun?


Know what I see? A lot of space for playing any variation of tag (Sharks and Minnows, anyone?) and also performing exercises such as push-ups, walking lunges, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and so much more.  There is actually a great chance that if you make it sound fun, your children will even join you in these exercises!

Here’s an idea that will probably help get your children to be more interested in joining you for your exercises (not that they have to be!): If you have one or choose to invest in one, set up a Bluetooth compatible speaker with your smartphone and have a playlist or station ready…one with music and songs that your child loves or will enjoy. Every minute or two or every time you are ready to switch up the exercise, change the song and have a good time exercising with your child. During your rest, don’t rest! Have a freeze dance competition with your child(ren) and show them that mama or papa’s still got it!

There you have it. So, the next time you head to the park with your kiddos, don’t forget to pack the yoga mat, light dumbbells, resistance bands, and whatever else you would like to bring with you. You may just decide to leave it all in the car and just chase your child around the park for 20 minutes and that’s perfectly okay!

Playing and cardio? A resounding Yes to that!

PS: You obviously don’t need a child to tke make use of what’s included in this blog post!