Wednesday, February 27, 2013

GI Distress: The Joys of Runners' Trots

I'm all for being lady-like, but be warned: I'm about to talk about some shit. Literally.

Cartoon via
If you are a runner or an active type, you have probably run into a situation that called for immediate attention: a severe case of diarrhea. (Insert Jaws music. Ba dum...)


I feel your pain - your burning, churning, very urgent pain. I didn't always have GI issues as it related to my running, but it started up in a very scary way during college. After about 4 or 5 miles into any tempo run, I would suddenly feel like my guts were in a choke hold. Being the competitor that I am, I would always run through the cramping until I put in the miles required that day.

Over time, the problem got progressively worse. Instead of having cramping and discomfort during my run only, I would end up with residual cramping for up to 4 days after a tough workout. The pain was so debilitating at times, I thought I was dying. True story. The best way that I can describe the pain at this point in my digestive journey was like my intestines had their ass kicked and were bruised for their entire length. Still - I didn't go to the doctor. Nope. I'm a tough girl and I assumed that all of this nonsense would stop on its own. Of course, I was wrong.

We needn't get into the gory details, but at one point - there was blood like something you would see in a vampire movie. It was then that I decided I was dying and yes, I better see a doctor. 

After a billion tests and almost a billion dollars in medical bills, the diagnosis was "activity induced Irritable Bowel Syndrome" - you might be familiar with it's street name, IBS. And the doctor's advice for curing my problem....wait for it....

"Have you considered not running?"

Haha - surely, you jest, Mister Doctor. No effing chance. I have always been somewhat defiant, even when it comes to my own well-being. So, I have carried on with this awful beast on my back every time I go for a run. I have learned to deal with in a way that you deal with visiting your in-laws: it is going to happen and when it does, you will cringe through it. 

I have tried a number of things to help minimize some of, but with varying degrees of success. I pay a lot of attention to the things I eat, particularly around races and hard workouts; this can be tricky, because of the whole vegetarian schtick.  I am sure to stay hydrated. I keep all of my electrolytes in balance. I pay attention to the cue's I've come to recognize from my body. But - it is still not fail-safe, and I'm always on the lookout for the nearest bush, alley, port-o-pot along my route. 

Based on several recommendations from my Twitter friends, I will be trying Salt Sticks for the first time. A lot of people claim success stories and I am willing to try anything with Boston looming. We will just agree that training for marathons has been interesting. It cannot be interesting when the race begins. There will be too many spectators to make a quick dash into the woods and too many cameras to have an accident on the course. (Nightmares about this!) 

Appropriately named.
So, fellow sufferer of the trots, rest assured that you are not alone. All those dudes you see running with a bandana on, that is emergency toilet paper.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fifty Days and Counting...

I am not sure if it is terrifying or awesome that time is moving so quickly - but either way - the 117th Boston Marathon is a mere 50 days away. AHHHHHHH. (Don't freak out. Don't freak out...) In all seriousness, I'm just getting insanely excited.

Training has been going pretty well. I have to say that I'm comfortable with my progress and I feel strong. I've been doing a ton of cross-training during this cycle, which is a little bit different from the last time around. I've also been getting in great speed work every week. My long runs are up to 18 miles right now - which means that taper is just around the corner. (How is that possible? TOO SOON!) 

The only concern at this point is staying healthy. No illness. No injury. Thank you very much. I was getting a little bit nervous earlier in the week, because I had a distinct sharp pain over my left knee (which I consider my good knee.) It felt like my knee couldn't hold weight and wanted to collapse inward. I'm not sure what that was all about, but I imagine it had something to do with running on ice and snow all winter. I didn't feel it at all today on my long run - so hopefully I am in the clear. 

So - for the remainder of my training, the goals are as follows:
  • Stay healthy
  • Stay rested and fresh
  • Stick religiously to training plan
  • Clean up diet (my diet is good, but not Boston Marathon good)
  • Stay crazy excited. Enjoy every second of the anticipation and build up! 
Photo Credit: Her Life With Books

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I know that this has been much more "food" blog than "running" blog lately - but it is just because I've been having really great food lately and I feel obligated to share with friends!

Even the healthiest eaters have to celebrate or indulge from time to time! I made this Pineapple Upside Down Cake this morning for Mr. Lace & Race's birthday! Try it - you'll like it. (But then go running, because this is the definition of a calorie bomb!)

1 box yellow cake (no pudding)
1 small box powdered vanilla pudding
1 large sliced pineapple (8 slices or more)
15-20 maraschino cherries cut in half
1/4 C chopped pecans
1 C pineapple juice (from sliced pineapple can)
1/2 Greek yogurt container
2/3 C brown sugar
1/2 C butter
1 T vegetable oil
4 eggs 
*1 - 2 T Bourbon (optional)

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees
2. Melt butter in bottom of cake pan (I use two 8 inch round pans instead)
3. Sprinkle brown sugar (and bourbon if including it) on melted butter
4. Cover bottom of pan with pineapple slices, cherries and pecans. Make it look pretty!
5. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, pineapple juice, eggs, yogurt and oil - mix until smooth
6. Pour batter over fruit and nuts
7. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes, until toothpick is clean


Monday, February 18, 2013

To Compete Well, Eat Well: Veggie Shepherd's Pie

I make a mean Shepherd's Pie. My dad rants and raves about it whenever I make it. Since winter is still upon us (sigh,) why not find some comfort in a hearty dish?

Super yummy and not terrible for you Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie!
Prep Time: 20 Min
Cooking Time: About 50 Min
Serves: 4-6

Base Ingredients:
olive oil
1 package Morning Star Grillers Recipe Crumbles (ground beef or lamb if you're a carnivore)
1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
1 medium carrot (chopped)

1 parsnip (chopped)
1 stalk celery (chopped)

1 T minced garlic
1/2 C peas (canned, no sodium)
1/2 C yellow corn (canned, no sodium)

1/2 C garbanzo beans or black beans
1 1/4 C beef or veggie broth
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 T tomato paste
1 T dried parsley
1/2 T dried thyme
1 tsp cinnamon 

 a splash of red wine
 salt and pepper to taste
Mashed Potato Topping:
6 large red potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 C Milk or Cream
1 egg white
1 T butter
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Boil large pot of salted water for potatoes. (I add a veggie bouillian cube instead of salt.) When water is boiling, add potatoes and boil for 15-20 minutes.
3. In a dutch oven or oven proof pan, heat splash of olive oil over medium-high heat.
4. Add onions, carrot, parsnip, celery and garlic to hot oil. Cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Stir frequently.
5. Add Morning Star Crumbles to vegetables. (If you are using beef, add to veg, brown and drain fat before moving to step 6.)

 6. Add beef broth, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and red wine to mix. Stir thoroughly and simmer for several minutes (4-5.) The liquid will begin to reduce and thicken.
7. Add cinnamon, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper, mix thoroughly. Simmer for an additional 4-5 minutes.
8. When liquid is thickened, mix in peas, garbanzo beans and corn. 

9. Flatten the top of the mixture with the back of a spoon, as the potatoes will be spread on top of the beef/veg mix in the next steps.

10. Drain boiled potatoes.
11. Mash potatoes with butter, milk, egg white, salt and pepper. Potatoes should be creamy but light.
12. Spread potatoes over top of veg mix in a thick layer. Use a fork to add a cross-hatched design to top of potatoes for easier browning.
13. Sprinkle potatoes with paprika, mostly for color.

14. Put dish in the oven, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until the potatoes begin to brown on the tips and edges.
15. Serve when hot and with a Guiness, of course!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lace Em Up & Race Me Up

Nike Running and I think alike.


For the Love of Running

Happy Valentine's Day, runner friends! In response to #RunChat's contest, I thought I would share a few reasons why I am head over heels, butterflies in my stomach in love with running:

1. Running clears my head. It is my meditation and my escape from "real life." 
2. Running makes my body feel strong. I like to push my limits and see what I can do.
3. Running allows me to eat what I want! Duh.
4. Running helps me to set goals and work to achieve them.
5. Running lets me be out in nature, participating in the world instead of driving by and missing it all.
6. Running brings a wonderful sense of community and friendship!
7. Running gives me something to talk about at family functions.
8. Running gives me an excuse to buy new shoes regularly.
9. Running is fun!
10. Running makes me happy. Isn't that the only reason that counts?!

If you're not yet a runner, get laced up! All of these wonderful reasons could also be yours. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Operation: Mental Health Day

'Tis the eve of a glorious affair - one hard earned mental health day. You heard me right - I am not going to work tomorrow, because I need to recharge. (Read: I am not going to work tomorrow, because I am afraid of punching someone or having a total melt down.)

I am very in tune with myself - with my physical health and my mental state. Lately, my 9-5 has been just...not fun. I'm a teacher and I work with kids; it should be FUN! Today, I actually thought I was going to have a panic attack. My heart started pounding in my chest and I couldn't catch my breath - all because I was frustrated with my students' behavior. I have a history of anxiety and that is how I know that I need a day to myself to do the things that reduce my stress and increase my smiley fun time. 


Choose Happiness Print from Design By Calani
As grown ups, we have these really cool but challenging choices to make - like choosing happiness above all else, like knowing when to stop, like knowing when to ask for help and when to take a break. I am choosing to listen to the little grumpy Michelle in my brain that is like, "Dude - WTF? You have to chill out." Loud and clear, sister. Loud and clear.

So - what do I plan to do with my mental health day? I'm not entirely sure yet, but I plan to do a lot of selfish, satisfying things and here are some of my ideas:
  1. Sleep until I wake up. No noisy alarms allowed!
  2. Have a big satisfying (mostly healthy) breakfast - with coffee and coffee
  3. Go for a long, easy run to clear my head
  4. Take one stressful thing off of my plate (like attacking the pile of laundry in my closet)
  5. Snuggle with my dog while watching a chick flick
  6. Read something not related to work
  7. Talk to both of my parents - oh hell - go see them! They're great!
  8. Sing loudly by myself in MY HOUSE
  9. Write a handwritten letter to someone to make THEM feel happy
  10. Paint my black toenails
  11. Paint something else - like real painting full of badly painted artwork
  12. Bake a thing
  13. Seriously consider a date with myself: lunch and a rom-com? Lunch and a haircut?
  14. Cook a beautiful healthy meal for my mister - because he should be happy too
  15. Go to bed early in clean sheets with a pup and a homeboy by my side
We'll see what unfolds, but I am really looking forward to taking care of this lively spirit that I have. She deserves to be happy and free. So does your lively spirit. Take care of it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

To Compete Well, Eat Well: Spaghetti Squash

I made one of our household staples tonight: Spaghetti Squash with fresh veg and garlic shrimp. (I'm sure there is a technical Italian name - like a Scampi of some kind - but I don't know.) If you're not already using spaghetti squash instead of actual spaghetti pasta, you should start immediately! Here was tonight's dinner. Delish!
Preheat that oven, kiddos - 425 degrees!
Half the spaghetti squash. Be careful! Clean out the innards.
Found this little sprout in mine. How did that happen? Jesus sprout!
I had to save him! I'm taking it to work where I have grow lights!
Brush with Olive Oil. Salt. Pepper. Garlic. 425 for 1 hour - face up!
Chop lots of fresh veggies while the squash bakes. Saute them lightly.
After 1 hour, scoop out shredded spaghetti squash! Add sauteed veg.
I like to add pine nuts, basil and parmigiano reggiano shavings.
Voila. Dinner is served. Add shrimp or a marinara sauce to it if you like.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

"Running Is Bad For You"

At work the other day, a co-worker said something to me that I have not been able to get out of my mind. I was walking out after a long day, and I saw a group of male co-workers - so I did the nice thing and I said "Have a good night." One of them said, "Are you heading out for a run?" to which I replied "OF COURSE!" Another guy, the youngest in the group, piped up and said "You're going to die soon."
My head whipped around like I was straight out of the exorcist. First of all, "you're going to die soon" is probably something you should never say - unless maybe you're a doctor. Also - this idiot does not know me well enough to something like that so casually. He justified himself by saying, "Running is bad for you. You only get so many heartbeats in a lifetime and you're speeding yours up."

This is nothing new. We've all seen the very depressing and scary articles that try to bash the benefits of a runner's lifestyle. I swear I read a new one every week. Here are the "reasons" why running is the equivalent to downing a pint of cyanide:
  • Running will ruin your joints 
  • Running will is a boring waste of time
  • Running will put unnecessary stress on your heart
  • Running is an ineffective way to lose weight
  • Running will cause you to implode when you reach an unspecified number of miles
Don't send me a bunch of hate mail; I am not saying that these risks do not exist to some degree for some people. Running can be intense and it does have some risks. More importantly, I am saying this: I think all of these articles about the problems associated with running are IRRESPONSIBLE. They do not paint a complete picture including the many proven benefits of running. I know way too many unhealthy, inactive people that don't need someone to say "running is dangerous and you shouldn't start." DO NOT ENABLE INACTIVITY. DO NOT ENABLE OBESITY. I've already been lectured by extremely over-weight family members because "Running is bad for you. You need to take it easy." Guess what else is bad for you? Sitting and bacon. All things in moderation, homies.

My second problem with my co-worker's complaint and the message in these articles is that it devalues a huge part of my life. I work really hard to be a competitive athlete living a grown-up's life. This means making a lot of sacrifices (time, socialization) and healthy choices (diet, sleep, whole-body work outs.) Runners put an incredible amount of thought into most, if not all, of the choices they encounter in a day, because they can't be successful without good choices. No, I am not saying that non-runners are not thoughtful - but I don't want my work and careful choices to be bashed by people that do not understand what they are saying. The fact of the matter is that running has greatly improved every part of my life - particularly my sanity - and I will live with that "research" over what I read on some shitty blog.