Dealing with ITBS and RWI

I’ve been found guilty of a RWI, but I can’t imagine I’m the only one. That’s right: I’ve been “Running While Injured”.  :/

For over a month now, I’ve been dealing with some knee pain, but the pain isn’t always there. When I wake up, it’s fine. When I walk, it’s fine. When I bike, it’s fine. When I run, it’s not fine. So have I not run since I first felt the injury? I wish I could tell you that I’m always disciplined enough to back off of running completely when I’m dealing with an injury, but in this case, that was not the case.

I wasn’t running every day with this injury, but I definitely wanted to find out what it was, if I was going to be sidelined for a while, and how I needed to manage my recovery. After the first couple of times, the knee pain would set in after 5 miles or so of running and would render my last 2-3 miles a slower, wobbly experience of the poorest running mechanics I could unintentionally muster. So many things to address here…First, I learned that it wasn’t inflammation or bursitis as I thought it could be. It was a condition that I hadn’t dealt with since my sophomore year in high school: Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). ITBS isn’t a fun condition to be sidelined with, but it’s also one of the best injuries to face as it is not that difficult to fix. Continuing to run while dealing with ITBS, however, is not one of the ways to fix this issue which brings me to my next “thing to address” and the main topic of this post: Running while injured.

rwi5Image: Athletico.com

There are some injuries that just don’t let you run and there are some injuries that, depending on the severity, may still allow you to run, but prevent you from continuing to train. If you are dealing with plantar fasciitis, bursitis, or ITBS, you might still be able to log some miles, but I doubt you would feel that the quality of these miles match what you were achieving before the onset of the injury. So if you are logging miles, but not able to mix up your training or increase the intensity at times, are you still training? What’s worse, those miles you are logging might be worsening your condition. I was en route to this being my situation.

rwi3 rwi4

I have run about 6 times or so since a run mid-November when the pain from ITBS caused me to have to walk some of my miles just to get home. One of those runs, a 6.5 miler, was done on snow-covered trails and the blanket of snow provided a layer of soft ground that prevented an ITB flare-up. I had read about the impact of running being a cause for flare-ups in addition to running downhill, but this was the first time I was able to get in a run on soft enough ground where I didn’t feel any pain; regular, non-snowy trails still resulted in flare-ups. So when I arrived in New Jersey, I decided to test out the IT band on a route that had as much grass as possible. I managed to get in 5 miles before the flare-up occurred, but I needed to get home so I slowed down to 8 minutes for the remaining 2 miles to get home without too much regret. I haven’t run since, but have biked and continued my stretching routines and I’ll probably head out and test it again sometime next week.

rwi2 The New Jersey 7-mile run allowed me to feel mentally better than I have in a while, but that massage stick was my best friend for the next two days.

But what caused this ITBS problem to begin with? My educated guess: repetitive speed training. Was this intentional? Not at all. In retrospect, being in a Masters Degree in Nutrition program seemed to have messed with my approach to training and certainly the time I have for runs so I was treating every day as a speed day just to fit in 10 or 15 mile runs. Not good, I know, as this and not stretching after these repetitive training runs is what I firmly believe has led to my current bout of ITBS.

But here’s the good news: I drove to the local track today and logged 3 miles in 21 minutes without any pain. I guess my active recovery training over the past few weeks as been helping.

Regarding Recovery

Proper active recovery is key when it comes to fixing ITBS issues and helping you get out on the road or trails sooner rather than later. See, with a running injury, sometimes complete rest is not the best way to recover. Recovery, in a way, is its own training. There are certain activities and stretches to be done, certain activities to avoid, and even proper nutrition that can help with recovery depending on the injury. (For stretches that I used, see the video at the end of this post.)

In my case with ITBS…

Activities to include:

  • Certain stretches such as stretching my hips–tight and weak hips can result in ITBS.
  • Exercises such as isometrics.
  • I’ve also included biking to avoid losing too much fitness and to continue some general healthy cardiovascular exercise as well.
  • Strength training and squats to strengthen muscles that may have been too tight or weak, leading to my IT band issue.

Activities to avoid :

  • Running too soon; before really giving your stretches and exercises time to work may be defined as “too soon”
  • Certain types of running; I can forget about speed training and hill repeats until I’m recovered.

rwi6

Dealing with ITBS at the end the year has been kind of a blessing. I’ve been forced to pay more attention to my body and stretching which is ever-important and probably the only thing I preach, but practice poorly. Well, my Running 2017 NY Resolution is just that: to pay attention to stretching before and after my runs.

ITBS has also allowed me to use the winter break to relax and fully recover, mentally and physically, from the year. I’ve been planning my 2017 racing schedule and I’m taking my recovery seriously so that I can return healthy and ready to hit the trails and roads for marathon and ultramarathon training. Current races that I’m looking at for 2017 will be a blog post coming soon so check back for that!

Happy Running and Happy New Year!

I hope 2016 was good to all of you and I hope 2017 will only be better!

This video below is what I used to figure out what stretches I need to be doing. Thanks Physical Therapy!

 

 

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.

run6

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)

Friday

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!

 

 

 

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.

erad4

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. 

erad2

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!

 

 

Almost Recovered!

Okay…I know I’ve been MIA and I’m SOR…RY 🙂

I couldn’t wait to get home from work on February 23rd. It was going to be a great late afternoon and evening. The 23rd was a Tuesday so it was a 10 mile Tuesday for me as I continued my training for what I was hoping was going to be my 2nd Boston Qualifier at the Vernonia Banks Marathon this weekend (Apr. 10). Later that evening Val and I had tickets to our first Portland Trailblazers game which we got for free from her school (pretty sweet, right?).

ew10 We loved our free nosebleed section seats!

What I didn’t love was having to use Val as a human crutch to get from my apartment, up the hill to the bus stop, off the bus stop and to the stadium, inside the stadium, and back again. Why did I have to do this?

ew

That’s why! One mile into my favorite 10 mile route I ran right on top of glass from a broken beer bottle that instantly sent pain and shivers throughout my body. I remember gasping at the moment of impact, and I knew this wasn’t the pain you get from stepping on a random jagged rock with road shoes (also painful, but temporaril). When I pulled the glass out of the shoe, I realized my foot was getting very warm and I could very some liquid pooling in my shoe. Fortunately, I was not far from Val’s school so she was able to meet me and help me crutch over to a bus stop. The pain wasn’t excruciating, but that was probably just adrenaline masking the effects of the puncture.

What was interesting was how quickly I decided to not go to urgent care. I literally have no idea why I was so adamantly against seeing a doctor. Val asked if we should, and without question, I said, “Nope.” I guess I thought I could just go home, wash it out, slap a band-aid on the wound and just eat healthy food to speed up the healing process. I was sorely mistaken. I didn’t consider infection (I got lucky with this one) and Val thought that she didn’t see any glass when she cleaned the puncture site. Well, luck didn’t find me twice because 7 weeks after the incident, I finally decided to head to the Oregon Foot Clinic and lo and behold…

2018

Yeah…sorry friends who tried to help, but in the words of the doctor who pulled this out of me: “No amount of Silicea 30C was going to push that out.”

That’s right…7 weeks of not running. I actually remember jogging 4 broken-up miles 2 weeks after the injury and I had to run so awkwardly that my ankle was sore the next day from the repeated motion. I wasn’t immobile though.  I have been making good use of my gym membership and got a few days of swimming in, but mostly focused my time and energy on the bike and doing strength training. The bike has allowed me to get some kind of cardiovascular fitness training in without causing my foot to pain me and the strength training, I know, will help me bounce back quicker than had I neglected that important part of my training.

ew4 The trainer at home has been another lifesaver, mentally.

 Perfect Fuel  is pictured above and this chocolate + caffeine fuel is so great for half-way through my early morning workouts. One piece is all I need to ease my hunger from trying to train fasted. I definitely need to get back to running to really get my body used to endurance training on lower readily-available calories.

If someone asked me I would do if I were not able to run for weeks due to an injury, I’d have told them, “I’d be balled up in a corner somewhere.” Well, that wasn’t the case…

niipic I was made an official member of Nii Tribe.bw I limped around at a black-tie event with Val.

    2   I hung out with friends…

7…and made lasting memories!

2 I was treated to delicious food by our friend, Carrie, over at Our Stable Table

 12 13  And I certainly didn’t restrict myself to lettuce and carrots solely because I couldn’t run. Thank you Paradox and Back to Eden!

ew6 And most memorably, I attended the USATF Indoor Championships and saw some great competition!

And as I finish typing up this post (I started it yesterday, but the day got away from me), I am giddy because I finally ran a mile this morning. The sutures are out and I am on Day 1 of my return to running normally and consistently! It’s a good day, people.

Happy Running!

 

Injured, but staying positive.

You read that right. I’m injured. This is actually the reason I didn’t publish a blog post at all last week…I just had no desire write about eating healthy or being active as I wanted to eat whatever I wanted and I could’t run so writing bout running and exercising proved too difficult to be motivated to do.

So what happened? Glass…Glass happened. That’s right. No straining of a muscle. No tripping and falling and getting banged up. No stress fracture from my marathon training. Glass. Specifically, a broken bottle on the side of the road that decided to not get out of my way as I just finished mile 1 of my goal 10 miles for last Tuesday. Tuesday has been Tuesday-Ten Day for me lately and I was so looking forward to this run. It was a beautiful day too and I was feeling so, so good. I had just heard the faint ding-ding of my Garmin go off just 30 seconds prior to…the incident…and I had my eyes on the construction happening on the building that Under Armour has decided to move into here in Portland (that means Adidas, Nike, and UA will all have a strong presence here in PDX). Then, instantaneous pain.

6 Sorry for the graphic, but that’s what I’m dealing with. It’s the spot of the wound that is killer, because I literally haven’t been able to step down with any pressure until just yesterday (4 days after the injury). 

I’m still amazed by how quickly my body reacted to having stepped on the broken bottle, which prevented a much, much worse puncture wound. But there was nothing I could have done to prevent the puncture that already occurred and so the only thing to do was to heal…to recover. And while I accepted that there was nothing I could have done to prevent the injury, I still allowed myself to internally mope about it.

3 All swolled up.

The timing wasn’t great: At the time, I was  1 1/2 weeks away from my first trail marathon and approaching my middle phase of training for the Vernonia Marathon in April where I hope to qualify once again for Boston. I am still healing which is going very well (being engaged to a naturopathic medical school student has its perks), but while I haven’t been able to run yet, I have been able to stay in a good state mentally and to reduce too much fitness loss by getting on Val’s bike trainer as often as I can.

20 Watching some Sage Canaday vids on YouTube while I cycle.

Being injured has been downright annoying and sucky, but I’m so grateful that it wasn’t worse as most injuries that occur on a run generally sideline a runner for weeks if not longer. I am hoping that I can be back to running–heck I’ll take speedwalking–within a few more days. I know I’m going to be even more ready to get back out there as my  first stint as a head coach for a high school track team starts this week and I couldn’t be more excited (and slightly unprepared!).

I’m also excited to resume training for these marathons on my calendar as well as the ultramarathons I want to run after April 10th comes and goes. One of which is a race I ran last year and just missed winning by 30 seconds or so: the Pick Your Poison race by Go Beyond Racing.

pyp5 pyp3                                        VegStrong RunLong!

I chose that race to be my first 12 hour timed ultra and I had a blast! Henry Hagg Lake is incredibly beautiful; the organization of the race was excellent; the volunteers were outstanding; and my overall experience was a very positive one. I’m hopeful to race it again this summer and to get redemption at the 12 hour solo road option. The 24 hour option, the trail or road option, as well as the option to run the race on a relay team means that this race offers a little bit of something for everyone! You really do have quite the pick of your poison. Let me know if you plan on running! I’d love to see you out there!

pyp2 pyp4                                My best support system.

Being injured didn’t render me in a corner feeling sorry for myself; I was still out and about…

2

Val and I had free tickets to the Portland Trailblazers game the evening I got injured. The plan was to get a great 10 miler in and go enjoy myself at the game…none of that happened, but I at least tried to enjoy the game. It was my first Blazers game, so that wa cool.

14 I couldn’t work the next day and I couldn’t run so the only way to turn my frown upside down was to treat myself to a lunch and some reading. I drove and hobbled over to Paradox Cafe for a delicious veggie burger and some of their house potatoes. #nomnom.

13  15

I did go into work two days after the injury occurred and I’m glad I did. 1) The school let me use a set of crutches to get around and 2) I was a mile away from Back to Eden’s SE Portland location. Normally I would have eaten my lunch and been completely satisfied, especially after having gone to Paradox the previous day, but it was 65 degrees and sunny and I would have been crazy to not have gotten some of their delicious dairy-free soft serve.

bw  Three days out and I can hobble just a bit better. Val had a black-tie fundraiser event at her school (National College of Natural Medicine) so we classed it up and enjoyed a Friday night out with friends.

2 23

7 Saturday night we said, “Safe travels” to our friend, Kelsey, and I think the vegan taco night and the desserts at Portobello got to us a bit. Annette decided to turn my fiancee into…something else. At least they had fun! And now we have just another reason to head to Colorado sooner!

And that brings me to today (Sunday is when I’m writing this). Val and I slept in, then I hopped on the bike trainer for a little over an hour until we went upstairs to babysit for our neighbors. Carrie, the metaphorical pen and literal mind behind OurStableTable.com, and her husband Lance treated us to the most delicious gluten free and vegan blueberry muffins I’ve ever had. Not kidding.

2  3

I’ll just end it here and once again, because I can: #nomnom.

Hoping for a continued speedy recovery and getting back to training!

Happy (and safe) running everybody!

 

 

4 Foods I Gravitate Toward When I’m Not Feeling So Hot

I woke up two days ago not feeling too great. I wasn’t shivering or sweating profusely, but there was some swelling around my throat and my sinuses were congested. Feeling anything more than the occasional sniffles only happens once (maybe twice) a year since I started eating a plant-based, vegan diet, so when it happens it’s not just an “Oh, I’m due for a cold and body aches” kind of  moment. Nobody is ever due for that. What’s happening is my body’s way of telling me I took it passed a certain point without caring for it the way I usually do. This is actually how things have been the past few days.

I haven’t been eating junk, but I’ve been eating a bit more sweets than usual and less raw vegetables all the while putting in some really good running workouts. If I wasn’t pushing my body with my running, I may have gotten away with the brief lapse in proper nutrition, but I should have known better. Here what I think: Anytime you get sick, it’s your body telling you not that you have done something wrong, but that you haven’t been doing something right. A cookie (vegan for me…hopefully for you too) or slightly healthier dessert after dinner isn’t going to get you sick. It’s the lack of proper nutrients that will likely be the culprit. So if you’re sneaking a leftover dessert to enjoy while on lunch, fine. But don’t forget to leave room for the fruits and veggies in your lunchbag.

So, when I’m feeling not so hot, I like to reflect on what my food intake has been like. I described this part above and so when I check that step off, I then have to do something about it. So what do I do? First, I figure out when to run. There are plenty of studies that show that sweating boosts the immune system so as long as I don’t push my body to exertion, a good run and a good sweat are a must for me. Next, I figure out the gaps in my recent nutrition. Once I figure those out, I resolve to get back to my proper-eating routine ASAP. Lastly, I start to make a more conscientious decision to intake certain foods that I know will boost my immune system and help me recover as quickly as possible while also helping other systems in my body and preventing other issues from arising. I consume almost all of these foods daily anyway, but sometimes I may forget to incorporate them and so a check-in can be very helpful.

So what are the foods I gravitate toward? Here are four of them:

Turmeric

Turmeric is an antioxidant powerhouse. What this means is that it has antioxidants which fight free roaming radical chemicals that travel through the body and damage healthy cells and cell membranes. When you exercise free radicals in the body are amplified initially which is why proper and smart/targeted nutrition is key to helping your body recover and keep your systems healthy. Increasing one’s antioxidant intake is essential for optimum health. Because the body can’t keep up with antioxidant production, antioxidants (vitamins, minerals, enzymes) must come from one’s daily food intake.

Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, is high in antioxidants and is very ant-inflammatory so it’s something I need to be including in my diet daily to take care of my body’s needs.

Val and I include turmeric in every dinner. We could be having veggies, beans, cooked tofu, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, mashed white potatoes…it doesn’t matter; there is turmeric in the dish. I’ve included it in oatmeal before just to see if the peanut butter and cacao powder I also use can mask the taste and I’d still get the benefits of turmeric, but uh…that didn’t really happen. It wasn’t disgusting, but it wasn’t something I’m going to repeat. At least I got even more turmeric that day!

Cayenne Pepper

cayenne Photo from NutritionFacts.org

I have to first mention that cayenne pepper is of the Capsicum family and so the benefits of cayenne pepper spice are also the benefits of most other peppers in the Capsicum family. Capsicum is an excellent course of so many key nutrients and properties that truly boost one’s health. Rich in antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin C, and many other properties, Capsicum and cayenne pepper is extraordinarily good for immediately boosting the immune system. Capsicum is well-supported to almost immediately improve blood flow and circulation in the body as well which is incredibly important for recovery from exercise. If circulation is poor, unwanted issues can arise which is what makes cayenne pepper a staple in my pantry. Capsicum is also really helpful in improving one’s digestion so why adding it to my food is a no-brainer.

I sprinkle cayenne pepper onto my veggies, brown rice, lentils, quinoa…essentially, anything that I cook for dinner.

 

Ginger

I don’t use ginger as often as I should, but it is a food that when I’m rarely feeling under the weather (once, maybe twice a year), I always want to go and get.  What I’ve come to learn about ginger is that there is such a concentration of its properties that you don’t need to consume a large amount of the food in order to reap its positive health effects. So what are these health benefits?

You could write a book about the studies of ginger and the possible effects on the human body (perhaps preventing cancer; fighting gastrointestinal issues), but for purposes of this post…Ginger is antiviral and antibacterial food and it is also anti-inflammatory and has antioxidants. Whew! That’s a lot of anti-anything. This makes it a good for preventing sicknesses and for fighting them. After exercise, the body experiences inflammation and free-roaming radicals that can cause unwanted health issues and fight passed the immune system to render you feeling not so good. For this reason, you want to be sure to take in the best foods possible to reduce the chances of you getting sick after a hard workout.

If you’re into smoothies, add a thing slice or two of ginger into your blends. Like to stir fry or just want to keep it simple with brown rice tonight? Grate some garlic and add it to your dishes for an extra kick and some super tasty flavor. You could even grate some ginger and add it to a glass of room-temperature water with some lemon and cayenne spice to give your immune system the wake-up call it may need. Try it!

 Garlic

garlic

The very same sulfur-containing compounds that give garlic its off-putting odor are some of the very compounds that make it one of the most-supported foods for promoting good health. Just one clove contains about 5mg of calcium, 12 mg of potassium, and tons of sulfuric compounds which makes garlic a no-brainer when it comes boosting the immune system. What’s more, a key property of garlic is allicin which is known to kill certain bacteria and to fight off infection; there are other properties of garlic that have these abilities as well.

There are many ways to consume garlic and many forms it comes in, but Val and I usually slice and dice and then cook it in our dishes. What I’ve learned so regarding cooking garlic is the following:

To get the most out of your garlic, cut the clove open and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before starting to cook with it or consuming it raw. When a clove is left open, allicin starts to form which is where the power punch of garlic really comes from. Cooking the                     garlic does stop the sulfur enzyme from forming, but once the allicin has already started to form (after the clove has been left to sit for up to 10 minutes) it’s my understanding that the allicin has become more heat resistant and can be cooked in low heat for 10-15 minutes without the allicin being destroyed.

 

The body is a marvelous thing. It’s astonishingly good at being Ms. Prevention and Mr. Fix-it at the same time, but it doesn’t mean we can just sit back, eat popcorn and Twizzlers, and simply be along for the ride. We have to be willing to always be in the driver’s seat and to give our body the best care we can give it. It may be okay to put Regular in the gas tank every now and then (I certainly do it), but we should always strive to give our bodies the Premium it deserves.

Some references:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78 

http://www.cayennepepper.info/health-benefits-of-cayenne-pepper.html

 

Recovering from the Marathon and Bouncing Back for 5ks

So I’m really excited to write this post. Really excited.

It’s been 1 week since I qualified for Boston with a 3:04:10. It’s likely I won’t actually meet the cutoff time to register for the most renowned marathon in the world, BUT…I got the BQ. I guess the old saying is right: Third time’s a charm (the Portland Marathon was my 4th marathon, but only my 3rd time going after a BQ).

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Val rarely misses a race. She’s definitely my biggest supporter.

I knew before marathon day that I would need to really focus on recovery immediately after the race. It was highly likely that a local food bar company, Betsy’s Best bar none (B3N), was going to be sponsoring an upcoming race and I had a feeling it was going to be really soon. Turns out I was right. They decided to sponsor two races and the first, the Race for the Rescues, was yesterday. I opted for the 5k distance as there was no way I was going to push my body to race a 10k only a week after giving the 26.2 everything I had. So with a 5k to get my body ready to race, proper and speedy recovery was absolutely necessary.

I’ve never had to actually try to recover. What I mean is, I’ve only just let recovery happen naturally. Typical stuff: sleep more, rest more, run a bit less, eat well, etc. But with just less than 7 days to bounce back, I needed to be much more active in my recovery approach. Below are sectioned details of how I consciously sped up my recovery in order to race a 5k one week after a personal best and Boston qualifying marathon time. I was hoping for my fastest 5k time (previous PR set back in 2012: 17:50), and despite some confusion and running off-course and through dirt, I was able to achieve that in what was approximately 17:04.

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And they’re off! Sporting Betsy’s Best bar none who sponsored me for the Race for the Rescues 5k. 

Nutrition during the week: I didn’t set out to eat more calories and I didn’t set out eat less calories. Instead, I ate every calorie with a purpose. Granted, I may have eaten more calories but as I don’t count my calorie intake, I have no way of knowing for sure and, in any case, I didn’t plan to do so. I knew that hydration was something I really needed to focus on so I increased my water intake by quite a lot. As you lose electrolytes every time you pee, I knew I had to make sure that I took in more electrolytes than usual. For this I looked to extra bananas (3 a day at least; a couple of days I had 5) and I also added salt–for sodium, which is the electrolyte that is most lost when you work out and sweat–to my breakfast oatmeal and my dinners. I ate a very good amount of starchy carbohydrates in the form of oatmeal or muesli (every day for breakfast), pasta, and potatoes to restock my glycogen stores. Lastly, I made sure I had protein at every meal. In the morning, I added cacao powder, flax seeds, and chia seeds to my oatmeal. For lunch, I brought along a Nii bar to ensure some protein intake although I eat nearly entirely fruits and veggies at lunch (apple, bananas, carrots, spinach, celery). And for dinner it was a mix of lentils, quinoa, and soy (tofu or tempeh) with veggies and a starchy carb.

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Peanut butter chocolate-chip toast and chocolate chip pancakes…Carbs right? 

I was very conscious of my nutrition this past week and was overly set on eating mindfully to ensure I was taking care of what my body needed to recover well.

Running: I knew I needed at least a couple of days of complete rest. I could have perhaps got a couple of miles in on Tuesday but I decided to give it another day just in case. As you will be able to see, I eased into running again with an easy 2 miler and since I felt good, I decided to run another 4 later after work. Thursday’s and Friday’s runs were really able to get the movement back into my legs. I didn’t test speed until Friday’s 5.5 miler, when I decided include a two miles between 6:28 and 6:35 pace to get some decent speed and turnover back into my legs. I was careful not to overdo any of the running and took a complete rest day Saturday to let my legs rest up for the 5k.

Sunday: Marathon

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 2mi AM run (easy pace); 4mi PM run (7:34/mi avg.)

Thursday: 5mi easy pace

Friday: 5.5mi (6:58 avg.)

Saturday: Rest day (aside from stretching my legs with some dynamic stretching and light jogging < quarter mile)

Sunday: 5k (17:04 watch time)

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A huge majority of the people at the race ran with their dogs. It was so cool to see so many fit four legged friends out on the course! 

b3n2

Betsy’s Best bar none is a super tasty food bar unlike any other food bar I’ve had before. They have unique flavors such as chili chocolate chip (pictured; talk about a kick!), savory rosemary, and orange poppyseed. Their peppermint chocolate chip and chili chocolate chip have to be my favorite though. They’re Portland-made so I love that I can support a local business and fuel with their product as well. Vegan, soy-free, gluten free, organic…it goes on and one with B3N.

Sleep: Another important part of recovery is sleep. I didn’t increase the amount of hours I slept, but I never felt any kind of fatigue that was unusual. I sleep and slept anywhere from 6 – 7.5 hours.

So that’s how my recovery has been. I’d like to say that I’m completely recovered, but there is not way that is possible only a week from a marathon race. Even though I had a great 5k race yesterday and am not sore or feeling sluggish in anyway, I know I need to still think “recovery” for this week. As I have another race this coming Sunday with Betsy’s Best as my sponsor, I’ll be tip-top with my nutrition, stretching, and running just enough and nothing extra to ensure a healthy race.

Question time: How do you recover from your races? What does the following look like for you: nutrition, running, rest, stretching, sleep, etc.? What’s the shortest or longest amount of time it took you to recover from a race or hard workout and what was the distance or workout? I’d love to chat about these topics and any other comments or questions you have!

CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who has been racing this fall season, especially to those tackling racing and/or new distances for the first time! 

Portland Marathon Recap

The alarm on my phone rang. In one swift move, I snatched the phone and silenced the alarm before it could further disrupt my peaceful slumber. The time on my phone showed 4:50am. It was Marathon day.

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Great motivation shirt from Nii Bar to keep my spirits high and my clothing layered. 

I had been training for the Portland Marathon since the very end of July, although I suppose you could say that finding the beginning of my marathon training is a bit more complex than that. In May I ran a 50k that I had trained for for several months and then I amplified that training in volume to prepare for July’s 12 hour timed ultramarathon. So my base training was taken care of. All I needed to do was work on my speed to get my legs to be able to keep the marathon pace I would need to get a Boston Qualifier.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon was something I had tried to do twice before in the Philadelphia Marathon and New Jersey Marathon, but was unable to accomplish. My first marathon–Philly–back in 2012 was my fastest marathon (3:13 and change) before Portland and the New Jersey Marathon in April 2014 was a slower 3:19 due to inadequate winter training. But on Sunday, I was ready. I had put in the work. I had several mile repeat workouts, temp runs at faster than marathon pace, and even a half-marathon 3 weeks before Portland at a 6:25 pace which was much faster than I’d run, but felt great afterward. My confidence could not have been higher going into Sunday’s race. Of course, I still got the marathon jitters, but I was cool-headed and everything was going well.

I didn’t eat any food while I was waiting around to leave my apartment. I did though, have about 3/4 cup of coffee–just enough to get the bowels moving, but not enough to make me have to empty my bladder during the race. I relaxed as much as could with a bit of Gotham on Netflix and rolling my legs with a massage roller stick. When it was nearing the time to leave, I changed into my racing gear, inserted 4 energy gels into the loops of my bib/fuel belt, and was out the door. It was a cool morning with temperatures around 53 Fahrenheit at the time, but I still appreciated Val driving me to where I would only need to jog about a half mile to my corral group instead of the 2 miles from our apartment. The jog was just enough to get the blood flowing.

I won’t go into too many details of the race, but I will offer a breakdown of main points to prevent me from rambling on:

COURSE: Overall, it was quite a flat course with wonderful scenery. The only real marathon runners really had to consider was the quarter mile steep incline that occurred around mile 16.5 when approaching the St. Johns Bridge. The marathon route took you a little bit into each quadrant of Portland, but is well routed to avoid suburbs and and minimize turns. I loved that there was such a good turnout of spectators and supporters as well as musicians and pirates (yes…pirates) to keep the energy up.

sjb

St. Johns Bridge (not my picture)

I would definitely recommend this marathon for a PR attempt and/or a Boston Qualifier attempt.

RACE NUTRITION: I have to admit that I was quite surprised that no energy gels were going to be offered throughout the course. They didn’t ban them, of course, so I was still able to bring mine along. Instead, they offered gummy bears and pretzels as well as water and Ultima electrolyte fluid. Even if the gummy bears were vegan, I couldn’t imagine trying to chew hard (it was chilly out) gummy bears while running. I did have a few pretzels toward the end of the race and to avoid running low on my preferred electrolyte replenishing drink (water and a Nuun tablet) I did grab plenty of Ultima that was offered. Too bad they weren’t filled more because with my quick-ish pace and the inevitable sloppiness of the cup exchange, I was only ever able to get in a few sips of the electrolyte replacer at any water station.

PERSONAL NUTRITION 

  • Week before race: Not much specifics here. I slightly increased my fats and carbs. About 3 days before the race, I started to dial back (not remove completely) on the high fiber foods so my digestive processes weren’t going to have to work extra hard before the race day. I start to really focus on hydration as well, not necessarily removing coffee, but increasing my intake of water and foods with higher levels of electrolytes.
  • Day before race: I don’t carboload all in one day. I think this is a common thought, but can have repercussions if it’s taken too far. For example, eating two big bowls or plates of pasta may not be able to be completely digested before you have to leave for the starting line. In my experience, I’ve found that my body likes it better when I ease up around lunch time on the day before the race and eat easily and relatively easy digestible foods all day such as potatoes, fruits, quinoa, and tofu. I also make sure my water intake is high.
  • Day of race: I generally don’t like to eat the morning of a race and that was the case for the Portland Marathon as well. I stuck to a small cup of coffee and that was it. Throughout my training I had been training my body to use fat as fuel which involved me not eating before any of my runs (which took place almost always in the morning and included sprint workouts and 20+ mile long runs). Because of this, I knew that I could get at least 45 minutes into the marathon before taking an energy gel to make sure bonking wasn’t going to be an issue. Three more gels and a few pretzels helped ensure bonking didn’t happen.

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Feeling like Bolt at the marathon expo. Ready to race!

What I learned and my final time go hand in hand. I decided to run with a 10oz Amphipod that I use frequently and filled it with water and a Nuun tablet for electrolytes. It knew that would not be nearly enough fluid to get me from start to finish, but I didn’t want to run with a bottle in each hand and I knew there would be Ultima on the course. What I didn’t realize was that at each station, I’d barely get a few sips of the much needed electrolyte drink. By mile 18, after the steep incline and bridge crossing, I started to feel some tightness in my calves. Unfortunately, I’m very experienced when it comes to this situation so I altered by stride and favored my other leg just enough to let the tightness of my calf muscle subside. I started to grab a water cup and an electrolyte cup at the stations, but I knew the damage was done. I managed to avoid cramping, but at the expense of taking it too easy on the declines and inclines, resulting in a slower pace in the last 5 miles than I would have liked to have been at (about 7:10/mile instead of the 6:50 I wanted to be at).

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But I have to be happy…and I am. I qualified for Boston with a 3:04:10 which is more than 9 minutes faster than my first and fastest marathon time. I really wanted to go under 3 or at least 3:02:30 to have a better chance at actually making the 2017 Boston registration cut as a time faster than the official qualifier is often needed as of late. It looks like I’ll just need to run the Eugene Marathon in May to hopefully reach my sub-3 goal and ensure a Boston Marathon for 2017.

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Stay tuned for my next post about how I’m taking recovery and how I’m trying to bounce back for a couple of 5k races coming up (first one is this weekend!).

Why I Drink Coconut Water to Replace Lost Electrolytes from Running

It’s officially my favorite season for running and being outdoors! But just because it’s not 90 degrees anymore, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to properly hydrating for and during your run.

During your hard runs and your long runs, you are likely still getting a very good sweat session on, so you should know that your body needs to replenish what was just lost from such a taxing workout. After sweating so profusely, your body is in need of you replenishing two vital things: water and electrolytes.

run

Photo of me while running the Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon on July 4th. This was during a heat wave and it was already about 75 degrees at 6am when the race started…hence the bottle in my hand.

You need to drink water. We all know this. But water isn’t the only thing that is needed after cardio workouts and profuse sweating. If you only drink water to hydrate before or during hard sessions of cardio exercising, you will further deplete what your body has also lost while sweating: electrolytes. As the linked article can explain in further detail, excess water causes you to urinate more and when you do this, electrolytes are lost (FYI: electrolytes are always lost when you pee and sweat).

There are several major electrolytes for proper body function but the top ones on most scientists’ lists are: sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. Of the many functions of electrolytes, the most important roles they have are to keep fluid levels balanced (includes water levels), to maintain muscles’ ability to contract, and to transmit nerve impulses. Each electrolyte has a different responsibility in the body, but they are all required for optimal functioning and they need to be balanced in order for each of them to function properly. Therefore, runners and those who engage in other forms of cardio exercise need to make sure they are replenishing the electrolytes lost when they sweat. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “sweater,” you should still make an effort to keep up on your electrolytes and hydration.

So…we need water and we need electrolytes, but how can we achieve balance? My answer: coconut water.

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There are so many coconut water products on the shelves of most grocery stores nowadays so it’s likely you’ve at least seen coconut water if you haven’t had it already. For years now, my top choice for coconut water has been C2O. Sure, there are other good coconut waters out there, but C2O isn’t messing around. They’re coconut water is never from concentrate; they don’t add sugar to their product; and C2O tastes amazing.

See, concentrated coconut water means that the natural waters of the fruit was heated down to a syrup before water is added later. When this heating occurs, the nutrients you bought the coconut water for in the first place are mostly lost and enzymes are denatured in the process. Simply put: It loses its nutritional benefits.

Coconut water is a beautiful thing. Some people can’t stand the taste, but taste buds can change so I always suggest they give it a try due to the benefits of this natural drink. So why is coconut water my favorite natural sports drink? Let’s get right into it…

Here’s a rundown of its nutrition content as provided by WebMD:

It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.

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So let’s discuss this nutrition breakdown. A 17.5 oz can of C2O (pictures above) contains nearly 25g of sugar. Not good right? Wrong…unless you need to closely watch your sugar levels for a medical purpose of course. Your body just used up so much of the glycogen that was stored in your body. Sugar, especially from natural products such as coconut water, is great to begin replenishing glycogen stores which you Need to do anyway. Next: Sodium. It’s an electrolyte so it is absolutely essential. A 17.5 oz of C2O has about 135mg of sodium which is not a lot compared to the sodium that was lost during a hard cardio workout so I just make sure to add sodium into my consumption by way of a tablet or foods with sodium. And lastly: Potassium. C2O coconut water of the same size as has been described has about 600mg of potassium. What makes potassium so important for runners is its necessity for muscles contracting properly. One thing is that for the body to properly absorb potassium, adequate magnesium levels need to be present. A 17.5 oz of C2O provides its consumer with just over 8% of the daily requirement of magnesium so more is needed and can be gotten from leafy greens, beans, some nuts, brown rice and sweet potatoes.

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This is why Val and I love having some C2O in the fridge for after a hard workout. And when there is only one can left…let’s just say it can get fierce. I want to point out that coconut water shouldn’t take the place of water which should be drunk mostly and often, but instead of drinking 16 ounces of water after a workout, in this case coconut water should be used to replace those lost electrolytes.

I often bring a bottle with me when I’m running in warmer temperatures. I never drink plain water on a run. It’s either coconut water or water with an electrolyte tablet for me. Last year, during a 6 hour race (Montour 24), I discovered coconut water with an electrolyte tablet boost. Race-changing discovery. My goal is to ensure I am consuming the electrolytes mentioned earlier which are being lost as I’m sweating and which I need if my muscles are going to continue to allow me to use them by maintaining proper functioning.

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See the bottle I’m holding? I’ve learned the hard way that properly hydrating during a long distance event or warm race is absolutely essential. Adding coconut water ensures you’re getting natural electrolytes, but making that coconut water C2O ensures that your natural sports drink also tastes good too.

What are your go-to drinks for electrolytes? Do you bring a bottle while you run and if so, what’s it filled with? Let’s talk in the comments!