Friday, June 28, 2013

This Marathon Will Cost You Five Pounds

I hate to break it to you, but weight gain while marathon training is not a myth. It's real for some of us. And it seems to defy logic.

Photo Credit: Healthier Happier Bear
I know this happens to a lot of people while training. Just google "marathon weight gain" and you'll see a tremendous amount of information, questions and complaints from frustrated runners. This particular post is just to point out my experience, not to give anyone advice. I just wanted to share an annoying experience with some of you, because you're not alone in it. Let me preface this post with a few things, because weight and nutrition discussions can get heated:

1. I am only referring to my own experience
2. I am aware that I am well within my healthy weight range and I don't have body issues
3. I am not suggesting anyone should come to the same conclusions I have or that anyone should take any advice from me. I am not a professional.

For full disclosure, I have to share my stats with you:

31 years old
117 pounds (post marathon)
112 pounds (pre-marathon)
Pesceterian diet

One year ago, I started training for my first marathon, the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee. At the time, I weighed in at a whopping 112-113 pounds. My weight hasn't fluctuated much at all in the last five years, with the exception of one weird gym phase where I dropped down to an unflattering 108 pounds (photo.) Throughout the last decade, my level of physical activity has been consistent as well. I have always been a runner. I taught aerobics classes. I did a lot of bike riding and walking around Milwaukee rather than using a car. I have always had a really clean diet and I don't really stray from it much, because I don't like many unhealthy foods. Luckily.

At my smallest, looking a little veiny and tired. But still happy! :)
So - back to the marathon. I was really dedicated to my marathon training. I followed the training plans diligently and tried to fuel my body as needed. I didn't really make conscious changes to my diet in preparation for the marathon. If I felt hungry, I would have a healthy snack (nuts, smoothies, etc.) On race day in October, I think I weighed 114 pounds and some change. I was happy with that and didn't think much about my weight at all.

I qualified for the Boston Marathon at that race, and I immediately registered. Then - all the planning for Boston started. New gear. Travel arrangements. Training plans. (Insert Jaws music) and dietary plans. I thought that since the Boston Marathon is such a big effing deal, I better take it as seriously as possible. I overhauled a lot of the way that I normally do things - and I made two major dietary changes:

1. I started eating a real breakfast every single day. (OK nutritionists - I can feel you getting uneasy. Calm down. I'm not going to tell people to skip breakfast!)

2. I started adding protein supplements to my recovery smoothies.

Historically, I am not much of a breakfast eater. I'm just not. It makes me feel gross and heavy in the morning when I am already grumpy. On a normal day, I have a gigantic cup of coffee and some fruit or a yogurt. I have a more substantial mid-morning snack about two-three hours later. In an effort to be "properly fueled" for the rigors of training for Boston, I started having breakfast. I incorporated more eggs, more nuts, healthy grains, healthy smoothies. I honestly thought I was making healthier choices and I would be better prepared come race day. I was also adding several HUNDRED calories to my diet every day. Yikes.

Eat to run, not run to eat! Proper fuel is key.  Credit: Runner's World
I am certain that I did experience some benefits from my diet while training, but there was still an imbalance in caloric intake and expenditure along the way. By the time I ran the marathon in April, I was pushing 118 pounds. Imagine my shock when I got onto the scale. It was something like this:

You mean to tell me - I ran 60-ish miles per week through the winter in Wisconsin complete with snow, wind, ice and rain to come out several pounds heavier? OH. HELL. NO. At first, I refused to believe it. I got off the scale and got back on in hopes that the reading was wrong. Nope. I had legitimately gained FIVE FREAKING POUNDS. Ugh. Gross.

I was extremely discouraged and my initial reaction was to beat myself up about it. I felt grumpy. I ate things I shouldn't. I was mean to the people around me. All totally illogical responses. The more I thought about it,  it was pretty clear that the small changes I made to my routine were the culprit. I'm currently training for another marathon in the Fall, and I am also working on getting back to a place where I feel comfortable with my habits and my body.
Live & Learn!

There are many reasons why people experience weight gain while training for a physical event, particularly endurance events. Some of those reasons include:

- increased muscle mass which is heavier than fat
- water retention
- increased food intake, because of over-estimating the number of calories burned
- entitled eating "I can have a brownie because I ran today. Make it two." 

The lesson is to pay attention to your body's needs. We are all different machines with similar but different requirements. Don't feel defeated if and when you are a victim to the creeping scale numbers, but do take a look at the food choices (including liquid choices) you are making - then adjust accordingly. I recommend a food journal to track your activity and your intake. And last but not least - even if you gain a couple pounds in your training - don't let it stop you from achieving your goal. 

**If weight loss IS your goal, be sure to incorporate other physical activities into your routine. Running is not the most efficient means for losing weight - that is another myth. And remember - no amount of working out can fix a yucky diet.** 

What about you? Can you relate to shifts in weight while training? How did you handle it?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Wishlist - Running Gear

Every season has a different wardrobe - this rule applies to your athletic gear as well! Like we need an excuse to go shopping. Here are some of the lovelies I've had my eye on.

1. Mizuno Musha 5 - $89.99 Retail - Light weight and fast at 6.0 oz. We'll see how these compare to my beloved New Balance 1400s. (I already ordered these bad boys!)
Photo Credit: Feet Elite
2. Oiselle Diamond Roga Short - $52.00 Retail - Cute pattern, 4 inch inseam, pockets and a drawstring? Yes. Sign me up. My running friends that already have these LOVE them. #flystyle
Diamond Roga Short from Oiselle
3. Lululemon Track Attack Crop - $98.00 - Obviously, adorable and functional with pockets and chafe-proof seams. I love the details and pattern on this option.
Lululemon Track Attack Crop
4. Nike Pro Aztec Alibi Bra - $55.00 Retail - I LOVE this funky pattern and the full support of this bra. Who likes to bounce? No one. That's who.
Nike Aztec Alibi Bra
5. Pro Compression Marathon 4th of July Sock - $50.00 Retail - Are you running on the 4th? A Firecracker Run or a marathon, perhaps? These are the perfect accessory to show off your patriotism! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

To Compete Well, Eat Well - No Cheese Lemon Cheesecake

Everyone loves cheesecake. Absolutely 100% of the population. Cheesecake is a naughty, naughty dessert that we all feel guilty after consuming, so I thought I would test out some alternatives. Greek yogurt to the rescue (Greek yogurt is like the duct tape of food, right?!) Nothing can beat the real thing, but this recipe gets pretty close. Perfect for a summer splurge or a post-workout reward! I see a 4th of July party recipe in your future...

Where's the cheese? Who cares! (photo Yahoo! Shine)

No-Cheese Lemon Cheesecake

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (6-8 whole crackers)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter (plus 1-2 tsp for preparing pan)

Preheat oven to 300° F. Break graham crackers and place in food processor.* Pulse until ground into medium-fine crumbs. Put into medium mixing bowl, and stir in butter and sugar. Turn out into a buttered nine-inch springform pan and, using your fingers, press mixture into an even crust along the bottom. You can also use a buttered glass pie plate and form the crumbs into a traditional crust along the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10-15 minutes until firm and dry. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack.

Lemon Greek Yogurt Filling:
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 tbs. cornstarch (or 2 tbs. flour)
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups plain Greek Yogurt (whole or 2%)
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice (or key lime)
1 tsp. lemon zest (or key lime)

Pulse eggs a few times to beat (or use an electric mixer). Pulse in sugar, cornstarch, salt, vanilla, and yogurt until light and slightly bubbly. Add lemon and lemon zest and pulse or beat briefly to incorporate. Pour mixture into prepared crust (it's fine if the crust is still warm).

Place in center of oven. Start checking cheesecake after 50 minutes and then every 5-10 minutes after that. Shake pan gently. The filling should look creamy but firm at the edges, and still appear slightly jiggly in the center. It will firm up as it cools. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight) before serving. (Recipe adapted from Yahoo! Shine.)

Top with your favorite berries! Here is a naughty but yummy lemon glaze that I used - it really brightens up all of the flavors and adds a little zing!

Lemon Glaze (via Taste of Home:)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Fresh raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc.

In a small heavy saucepan, whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and peel until blended. Add butter; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and coats the back of a metal spoon. Add food coloring if desired. Transfer to a small bowl; cool for 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Spread glaze over cheesecake; top with fruit if desired. 

I made baby cheesecakes with store bought crusts too - still delicious!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Run Gear: FlipBelt Review and Giveaway

At some point in every distance runner's journey, they come to this conclusion, "I wish I had a way to carry some of my stuff with me, because I am tired, hungry and I have a blister." So - we all come up with creative and/or practical solutions. Belts. Socks. Pockets. Straps. Some of us even go as low as carrying our gels and cash in our sports bras. Well - no more, my friends! Enter the FlipBelt from Level Terrain Apparel. Problem solved.

Look at all the cute colors! Even more available on the website.

I first encountered the FlipBelt at the Boston Marathon Expo. I caught one of the reps giving a demonstration of the functionality of the FlipBelt, so I stopped to watch. It seemed so simple to use and the best part, it stayed in place! Up until that point, I had been running with a very basic strap with a zippered pouch, but it couldn't hold very much and the zipper is hard to deal with while running at warp speeds. So I thought, "Why not? Let's try the FlipBelt." I bought a gray one on the spot. I am so glad I did!

Let's explain how the FlipBelt works. No zippers. No pouches. No velcro. No bounce. It is simply a wide, fitted band with all sorts of room inside for your stuff. Your items will be easily accessible, but also secure in the FlipBelt. Just insert and flip!

Even though I initially used my FlipBelt for running, I found it to be really practical for other activities - playing tennis, riding my bike, hiking and lifting days at the gym. I even wear mine when I go out and I don't feel like carrying a purse; I just throw it on over some leggings and hit the town! People have even asked me about my "cute belt" not realizing that it is so much more functional than a belt. Think about the fashion options with all those colors available! 

The FlipBelt Highlights:
- Turn items & pocket access up/down/inside as convenient
- Flip to lock in items
- Reflective logo - 3M Quality Reflective
- Non-Bounce, Even Design
- No buckles to cause uncomfortable chafing
- Machine washable & Machine Dryable
- Great for holding medication on the go.  Inhalers, insulin pumps, Epipens, etc...
- EPA Certified, Odor Resistant, Pilling Resistant, Anti-Bacterial High Tech Poly Spandex Fabric
- Available in colors, accent your workout wardrobe

Feel like shopping now? FlipBelt has generously offered a 10% OFF coupon to all of my wonderful followers: 10OFFLACE

Thank you all for entering.
Congratulations to SUN (@storke10) of Eat. Host. Run. Style!
Please head over to Sun's blog for healthy living tips and recipes.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

To Compete Well, Eat Well: Mexican Style Quinoa

I know a lot of runners are looking for ways to fuel their training in healthy and fulfilling ways. One of my favorite diet staples is quinoa - the wonderful little "whole grain" complete with all 9 amino acids thus making it a fantastic source of protein. I've almost eliminated the use of rice and couscous in my house, because I've replaced them with quinoa.

Quinoa is as versatile as rice or many pastas, but my favorite way to prepare it is with some Mexican flair. This particular dish can be served hot as a replacement for Mexican Rice or - chilled and dressed up to make a cold Mexican summer salad. The recipe below will make a lot - enough for a main dish or to have leftovers for a few days!

Mexican Style Quinoa

- olive oil
- 2 C water
- 2 C quinoa
- 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with chili peppers (or fresh tomatoes/chili peppers)
- 1 can black beans (rinsed)
- 1 bouillon cube (veggie or chicken)
- 1 Tbs chili powder
- 1/2 Tbs cumin
- 1 avocado (cubed)
- 1/2 C white onion (chopped)
- 1/2 C red onion (chopped)
- 1/2 C green bell pepper (chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
- S & P to taste
1. Cover bottom of large skillet in olive oil and heat on medium high
2. Add rinsed quinoa to skillet to lightly brown (stir frequently.) When the quinoa starts to pop around in the pan and smells like popcorn, stop! 
3. Transfer quinoa to separate bowl and set aside
4. In skillet, lightly saute garlic, onions, bell pepper until onion is translucent 
5. Add quinoa to skillet with water, can of tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and bouillon cube
6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally
7. Check tenderness of quinoa - it should be softened, but still firm. You can add more water and continue cooking as needed.
8. Let sit for 5 minutes to allow it to set
9. Lightly toss in rinsed black beans and avocado
10. Serve as a side, as a bed for a meat (shrimp, chicken) or as a veggie taco filling

**If you want to use this is a cold salad, chill the quinoa for 1-2 hours after step 7. Add chopped, fresh veggies after the quinoa has cooled completely. I add chopped roma tomatoes, chopped red onion, avocado and a splash of lemon juice. YUM.**

Monday, June 17, 2013

Race Recap - 2013 Lighthouse Run 10 Mile

On Saturday morning, I ran the Racine Lighthouse Run 10 Mile race in my hometown. I have been looking forward to this race ever since I finished last year! If you recall, I "won" the 4 Mile LHR last year.

On Wednesday night, I got a sore throat - and immediately thought "Oh no! Please don't be sick!" Sure enough - I got hammered by some kind of icky flu/cold/sinus infection. I even considered not running on Saturday, because I was having a hard time breathing without running. But I know myself and I would have been really disappointed if I let a cold get in my way, so I adjusted my goals a little bit and got ready to run.

Mother Nature was not particularly cooperative on Saturday morning - 60 degrees (yay) and consistent rain showers (oy.) And wow - they were consistent! I lined up with the other runners and took off at a moderate pace, feeling things out. I ran the first mile in 6:34 and it felt ok. I knew that would still end up being too fast to maintain, so I eased up a little but and settled around 6:50 - 7 min/mi pace. Around mile four, I could really feel burning in my chest. I had a persistent need to cough and clear my throat. On top of it, the pouring rain was making my sweat run right into my eyes - which was stinging like hell! I literally ran with my eyes closed for 5 seconds at a time. Haha - I'm sure I looked nuts.

I'm not crying. That's rain in my eyes!  Photo: Journal Times

Once I got to the 7 mile mark, I knew that I would be able to maintain my pace - and come in under 1:10 (sub 7 min/mi was my goal.) I played my watch closely, not pushing anything too much and taking advantage of any declines or flats where I might drop a few easy seconds. I crossed the finish line in 1:09:31. I was the 8th female overall and 2nd in my division. All things considered, I was pretty satisfied with that performance! 

The Journal Times included the lovely photo above in Sunday's paper, which prompted my dear father to say, "You look like a drowned rat." Can you feel the love?! Haha. Hopefully, my health and the weather are on board next year. The Lighthouse Run really is a beautiful race along Lake Michigan - and a wonderful community event. I'll keep running it as long as my legs let me.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Amen - A New Training Cycle Begins

Officially, a new marathon training cycle begins today! YES! More than anything, I feel really relieved to be back on a schedule. The last several weeks (since Boston) have been really challenging - minor injuries, busy work schedule, coaching, working out when I can, bla bla bla. Being a teacher, I have the luxury of a summer off. My summer is pretty much dedicated to my training - so really intense, focused training/diet/sleep/life begins on June 12th. SO EXCITED!

I love that training is a regimented schedule that I get to base the rest of my life around. "Do you want to come to my birthday party?" "Oh - I'd really love to, but I can't because - you know - marathon training." haha. God, I sound anti-social. But in reality, I do love the structure and predictability that comes with a training cycle (is my Virgo showing?)

I plan to race throughout the summer, starting with the infamous Lighthouse Run ("the revenge of the Slow Champ") on June 15th - but my fall marathon will be a repeat performance of the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee. I love that race! I'm also really curious to see how my time changes with a year of dedicated training. Last year, I ran 3:18:45 at LFM - I would like to CRUSH THE SHIT out that time. We'll see on October 6th.

I am looking to work in several races between now and then. Anyone have must-do races for the summer in the Midwest? I love to check out new races in the area.

What are your goals for the summer racing season?