Supplements + Nutrition + Sleep

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I wanted to dedicate a separate post on what I am doing – and have been doing – over the last three months – that have helped me start to feel better.

**Please keep in mind that I am not a health professional. I am not trained in nutrition or supplement-use. This post is merely from my experience with trying to get some of my levels back up so I could feel normal again!

My diet while I felt lousy wasn’t as great as it normally is. When my stomach hurts, I feel tired or am cranky, I turn to comfort foods. For me that means chocolate, ice cream, milkshakes and sugary candy (Swedish fish and hot tamales are my favorites). I knew that in the long-term these would actually make me feel worse rather than better, but I also felt like now was the time to eat what I wanted, when I wanted. I pride myself on eating very healthy when I am knee-deep in marathon training. This was my window to live a little and satisfy all those cravings that I have. And so I’m sure that my diet was adding to my not feeling as good as I normally do.

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    When Your Mind + Body Are Not On the Same Page

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    After each marathon training cycle, I find that my mind needs a break. Of course my body needs one, but I often find that my mind needs a longer one. A break from following a plan, figuring out how to rearrange all the puzzle pieces so I can fit in the necessary runs and from setting early AM alarms. I have found that it’s usually about 3-4 weeks of downtime. I am still running – but often, it’s a very “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of running. No set paces or distance – more just running what I feel up to running that day. More rest days.

    And then when my mind and heart decide it’s time to resume training, my body immediately gets on board and training picks up. It’s been this way for the last 3 or 4 marathon training cycles.

    This past April was completely different. My mind definitely need the normal break, but when I felt like I was ready to get back into things and resume training, my body was not ready – not even close to being ready.

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      Current State of Running + Why I Run Marathons

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      Check out Instagram for a fun summer giveaway by Nathan Sports!——-

      I drafted so many posts the last 4-5 weeks with updates on running, but each time, I was hesitant to share the progress I had been feeling because I didn’t know if it was permanent. I didn’t want to come here and shout that I was feeling great to only feel like garbage two or three days later.

      Even now, I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m finally on the road to recovery. It’s two full months since Boston – 60 days. Almost 9 weeks. I had what I guess you can call my best week of running post-Boston last week. 44 miles with a whooping 13 mile long run. I know it doesn’t sound like much, especially when Timehop reminded me this morning that I ran a 63+ mile week one year ago. BUT, it is a huge improvement for me – given how I have been feeling the last two months.

      To be completely honest, I’m still not 100% sure what caused me to feel the way I did (and still do to a lesser degree). I think it was a combination of a whole lot of things – nutrition, lack of sleep, back-to-back-to-back tough, breakthrough cycles. And so I’ve been working hard to get those things back in check. Vitamins every day. More sleep at night. Naps on the weekend. Lots of rest and recovery.

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        First Speedwork in 7 Weeks + Some Exciting News!

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        Happy Friday!! I am pumped to be working from home today. We had a big release yesterday evening and unfortunately, I had to do some testing from 11pm-2am. But I was able to sleep in a bit and not worry about commuting into the city!

        I have a few exciting updates to share:

        First, I am taking over Women’s Running Instagram account on Monday. Memorial Day means a lot to my husband and I – we’ve lost a lot of friends due to the war on terror and so Monday is always a tough day for us. I’m racing a 4 miler with “racing” being a loose term since I’m just getting my legs back after weeks of little to no running and zero speed. BUT, I’m going to give it my best shot – and at the very least, it will give me a starting point for the rest of the summer.

        Anyway, make sure you follow Women’s Running (and me while you are at it!) on Instagram so you can follow along on Memorial Day.

        PS. I mentioned this last year, but wanted to share again: If you are planning on running this weekend, consider participating in the Wear Blue: Run to Remember.

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          Things I’m Loving (and Not Loving) Lately

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          Hello, hello! Hope you are having a good week so far!

          I received some questions/feedback on InsideTracker, so I wanted to discuss a couple of things here.

          First, I had mentioned that I went to my wellness doctor/nurse (I call her “doctor” but she’s a certified nurse) prior to getting my bloodwork done with InsideTracker. She’s a close family friend who delivered my godson and has a great practice on Staten Island. I visited her the day after Boston because I felt like something was off – I didn’t know if it was nutrition or something else. I didn’t openly talk about it, but the morning of Boston while I was in Athlete’s Village, I started bleeding. This was pretty concerning to me because my period is extremely regular. I get my period every 28 days. I was 11 days early so it made no sense. Jess and I went to the medical tent and I spoke to the doctor – without going to the hospital for tests, there was really no way to tell what it could be. She said it was likely one of three things: an irregular period, pregnancy or a miscarriage – none of which would be affected by my running that morning.

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            Knowledge is Power

            I don’t post here every day but I share my running, training and life happenings on Instagram daily!

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            They say knowledge is power. And it’s incredibly true in this case. I am grateful that I finally know what has been causing me to feel so incredibly awful the last 4-5 weeks.

            Four weeks where every single run felt like a struggle. Where an 8:00 pace felt like sub-7. Where my legs were as wobbly and tired after 2 miles as they used to feel after 22 miles.

            I love the feeling of being tired on a run – when it’s expected. Those day-after-hard workouts runs where everything hurts and you are running slow. But, this was different. It was week after week of feeling wiped out and not having any answers or explanations why.

            It’s been a hard few weeks for me. Both physically and mentally. More than anything, I missed the feeling of enjoying a run. I felt drained. And running felt more like a chore. So I stopped. I’ve run enough to know when my body is sending signals to slow down. I ran 27 miles two weeks ago. The week before was 29. Took more rest days than run days.

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              InsideTracker: Taking a Step in the Right Direction

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              I don’t post every day but you can find me on Instagram sharing my running, training and everything else related to running along the way!

              As I mentioned last week, I went for a whole bunch of bloodwork the day after the marathon. I received those results and spoke to and received some feedback and guidance from my physician. I knew the results would be a bit skewed the day after the marathon so I wanted to get tested again.

              I had begun interacting with Jonathan – one of the leads at InsideTracker – on social media back in the fall. I had first learned about InsideTracker from Mary‘s blog – she is one of the runners whose hard work and dedication I admire. I knew it could benefit me to have the same type of bloodwork done. But between work, running, family, holidays, I kept putting it off. I have the tendency to stay super organized with things that are fresh in my mind – and completely let other things just fall off. That’s what happened with this.

              Honestly, in the back of my mind, I had begun to question the need. I’ve always been a big proponent of trying to get all of my nutrients and minerals from food rather than supplements. I don’t take any sort of pill or supplement – nothing. If I’m missing something, I’d rather change my diet that take a pill.

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                Fueling: Long Runs, Workouts, Post-Work Runs

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                Back in the fall I discussed some changes I made to fueling during long runs and overall nutrition.

                But other than saying that I was fueling, I didn’t go into specifics of how I’m fueling for these runs. I’ve received a few questions on either Instagram, Facebook or recent posts, so I wanted to address the ways I fuel myself for long runs, workouts and post-work runs.

                Long Runs
                I typically do not eat anything before my long runs (Note: I drink a cup of coffee with creamer). It’s not that I am trying to start on an empty stomach, but I’m often doing these runs early on Saturday morning (5-5:30am) and in order for me to eat something and allow time for it to digest, I would have to set my alarm for 4am – or earlier – something I’m not willing to do on a Saturday morning.

                I started experimenting more with Generation UCAN that last few months. Prior to this cycle, I really only used Gen UCAN for races. But I found that it was the perfect solution to wanting something in my stomach for the long run but not having to worry about waiting around for it to digest.

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                  Nutrition + Fueling for Marathons

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                  Last week I talked about my training for Wineglass. One of the questions I was asked was about nutrition – if I changed anything, how I fueled on runs, etc. You can have the perfect training plan, but if your diet is not meeting the needs of your body, you can get injured, sick or not make it to the start line as trained or healthy as you could be.

                  For many years, I had a general rule of thumb that I fueled on any run over 90 minutes. Even when I was running long in Iraq and didn’t have access to gels (during my 2nd deployment), I still found ways to fuel. I carried little packets of peanut butter or handfuls of peanuts/trail mix in bags in my sports bra.

                  I’m a big believer in making training harder than races. So less fuel, water, carb-intake, etc during the training cycle and during each run than I would give myself on race day. I want my body to be able to run longer miles with less fuel so that on race days, it will feel easier (or at least provide a mental advantage) when I have consistent calories and water coming in.

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                    Homemade Tomato Sauce

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                    I’ve never been one to eat out constantly – it’s not that I don’t enjoy the food or the “time-off” from cooking – but I much prefer to know what’s in the food I am eating. I find that I feel much more bloated and just “blah” after a meal out at a restaurant than I would if I ate a similar meal at home.

                    But I also really love cooking. I credit most of that to my mom who cooked six nights a week for us when we were growing up. Dinner was always a time to sit down at the table, as a family of six and talk about the day. I’m thankful that the boys are such great eaters – I don’t ever have to make them something special when we eat – I cook one thing and we all eat it.

                    One of my go-tos is a made-from-scratch tomato sauce that takes ~30 minutes. There’s nothing fancy about it – but it’s a meal that my little guys LOVE – and it’s light and easy enough on my stomach to eat the night before long runs. I can also use it on a variety of main dishes – whole wheat pasta, black bean pasta, broccoli, chicken (for chicken parmigiana), salmon (baked in the oven with the sauce).

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                      Staten Island Advance News + Race Week Checklist

                      Wearing my sparkly soul headband at the 2011 NYC Marathon!
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                      I’m really excited to share that I have teamed up with my hometown newspaper, the Staten Island Advance, to talk about all things related to the NYC Marathon. I’ll be writing a few posts/articles that will be shared here, on their website and in print a few times over the next 10 days.

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                      Race day is just 9 days away…which means we are about to enter race week. It’s that time in training when you are running less miles than you have the last 12-18 weeks. Race week is always filled with a lot of free time. And if you are like me, the decrease in running and increase in extra time goes hand-in-hand with elevated stress levels and thinking about next Sunday.

                      But rather than sit around and stress about race day, I try to plan ahead and ensure that everything is ready for the days and hours leading up to the race. Having a detailed checklist keeps me on track and focused and makes race week feel less stressful.

                      Below is what goes on my list:

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                        The New Meta

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                        Have you ever looked at various aspects of your life and felt overwhelmed with all the things you’ve wanted to change or improve upon? I’ve learned that it’s best for me to start with something small. When I focus on improving one small area of my life it seems to have a snowball effect – the rest of my life starts to fall into place as well.

                        For example, once I make it a habit to go to bed earlier, I begin to get up earlier (so my runs happen in the early AM), which means I have more time during the day to spend with the boys. I also have more energy throughout the day, I eat healthier and I end up drinking more water. All from shutting my eyes even 30 minutes earlier each night.

                        Meta, the new line of products launched by Metamucil®, is based on the same principle – one small change can lead to good things – also known as the Meta Effect.

                        Meta offers a new line of health products to support wellness with MultiHealth benefits to help keep you healthy from the inside out. The products featured in the Meta Line are:

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                          Healthy Snacking for Marathon Training

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                          I’ve written several posts the last couple of years on my fueling/nutrition for marathon and Ironman training. I feel like I’m always tweaking or changing something to try to find what works best for me, what’s going on in my life (pregnant, nursing) and what I am training for. I’ve gone from a non-restrictive diet (Ironman training) to one that was pretty close to being vegan/vegetarian (last fall for Philly).

                          For the past six or seven months, my husband and I have settled into a diet that gives us the energy we need to train while not feeling restrictive. The staples in our diet have returned to things like greens, raw veggies, beans and quinoa – similar to how we were eating in the fall. But we are also eating meat and dairy more frequently these days.  Most importantly, however, are my smaller meals throughout the day – something that I have not been the best with.

                          As I’m sure anyone who has their hands full with work, kids or a combo of both know, if you don’t plan ahead for your meals and snacks throughout the day, you’ll end up eating something unhealthy and/or not getting the nutrients that your body needs. That was the routine I found myself in at the start of the summer. My main meals were healthy and packed with the good fats, nutrients and calories I needed. But the smaller meals throughout the day were empty calories, high in fat (not the good kind) and often whatever was easiest and quickest.

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                            Vitamix S30 Review and Giveaway

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                            Source: Vitamix.com

                            Over the holidays, our blender broke (totally my fault since I put the glass container within reach of the boys). My husband and I used the blender on a fairly regular basis to make smoothies and shakes and were looking for a good sale on a new one. About the same time, I was asked if I wanted to test out the new Vitamix S30, the personal blender, and obviously jumped at the opportunity. Perfect timing!

                            So first, let’s talk about the Vitamix S30:

                            • First personal-sized blender created by Vitamix
                            • Allows you to create individual servings and small family meals
                            • 20-oz container (fits in most cup holders) turns into a travel cup with a flip-top lid and handle
                            • 40-oz container blends small batches of soups, sauces, frozen deserts and more
                            • Small size (20.3 x 8 x 9 in – h x w x h) takes up little room on your counter
                            • Variable Speed Control to achieve textures from coarse to smooth
                            • Pulse Feature – chops quickly for easy ingredient prep
                            • Dishwasher safe (containers, lids, and blade)
                            • Comes with a cookbook FULL of recipes for beverages, dips/spreads, dressings, soups, sauces and desserts
                            • 5 year warranty

                            I’ve tried a few of the recipes from the book (they do not disappoint) including the Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri – easy to make and SO delicious!

                            I’ve also started making my recovery/protein shakes again (I was doing this a lot last summer during Ironman training).

                            It’s incredibly easy to use and clean and I love that the small container doubles as an individual to-go container which means less to clean!

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                            So now for the fun part!! Vitamix will be giving away one S30 Personal Blender which retails for $400+! There are multiple ways to enter – see below!

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                              What is Glycogen Depletion Training?

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                              After I mentioned that I did not fuel or drink water during the 20 miler last weekend, I got a few questions about the reasoning behind it, so I wanted to share my thoughts (and in more than a sentence or two on IG or twitter).

                              Let me preface this post with a few things.

                              • I did have some fuel in me during the 20 miler. I drank 16 oz of water mixed with one packet of Generation UCAN – an energy drink that slowly releases glucose without the spike and crash you get from sugar. So technically it wasn’t really a glycogen depleted run.
                              • I do not do this on every single long run. I feel much more tired after a run like this and so I limit them to a few a training cycle.
                              • I am not saying that everyone should try or do this – if you are a newer marathon runner, this is probably not necessary. I’ve had some issues with bonking during my last few marathons and so I’m hopeful that a bit of glycogen depletion training will help.
                              • I didn’t feel the need to drink water because it was very mild out (35 degrees)  and I wasn’t really sweating a whole lot. I did have water outside my house if I needed it, but decided I didn’t want to have to stop for a sip or two of water once I got past the 15 or 16 mile mark because I knew it would be tough to finish the run if I saw the boys up and playing.

                              In it’s simplest terms, Glycogen Depleted Training is a fasted run – no fuel before or during – so that you are basically running on empty to teach your body to burn fat stores.

                              Most people don’t have the glycogen reserves to make it all 26.2 miles of a marathon at a fast pace without running out of fuel. So our bodies look to both our fat stores and our glycogen stores when we run. The easiest way to stay ahead of the bonk is to continually fill the glycogen stores (during the run) with gels, blasts, etc (often every 30-45 minutes).

                              BUT, if you can train your body to use it’s own fat stores (rather than glycogen stores), it can help prevent the dreaded “hitting the wall” or bonking (bonking is the total depletion of glycogen in your body). So Glycogen Depletion Training is training your body to use more fat vs glycogen stores for energy during longer endurance events.

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                                Ironman Lake Placid (T – 12)

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                                Happy Mother’s Day!!  Hope you all had a wonderful day!  Special Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and mother-in-law – I am blessed to have two amazing women in my life!!

                                We started a tradition a few years ago (when my niece was born) of going out to brunch. This is the one “holiday” that my family goes out to eat for and skips the home cooked meal, and I have to say, it’s REALLY fun.  This year, we chose a nearby Mexican restaurant.  The food was so delicious and the drinks were even better =)

                                We all went back to my sister’s house after brunch to have cookies, cake, and coffee.  (PS. My sister is due ANY day with her 2nd child – YAY!)

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                                With only 11 weeks to go until Ironman Lake Placid, I’ve decided to dedicate one post each week as a recap of my training – I will try to update on Monday since that is {now} my rest day.

                                I spent the first part of last week recovering from the NJ Marathon on Sunday.  Although I wasn’t terribly sore on Monday, I knew it would pay dividends later to take a few extra days off – I wanted/needed to be 100% rested and ready for the final 12 weeks of Ironman Training.

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                                  Two Weeks Off From Running + Scotland 10k this weekend

                                  First ride in the wagon!

                                  I loved reading all your comments on yesterday’s post – glad to know that my husband and I are not the only ones who struggle with both fitting in working out daily.

                                  Ever have a day where everything seems to go your way?  Yesterday was one of those days for me.  Started with an amazing ~20 miles of the Lake Placid Ironman Course  on the trainer.

                                  This DVD is amazing.  I am so thankful that Amanda recommended it to me.  My plan is to use parts of the DVD for at least one bike ride a week so that I can become intimately familiar with the course.  The bike course at LP is 2 56-mile loops.  This DVD takes you through one complete loop with Coach Troy with pointers and tips for the course along the way.

                                  Both boys slept later than usual (6am for the oldest and 8am for the youngest) AND had joint naps (for a little bit) which allowed me to shower, work on training plans, respond to some emails, do  laundry, and clean the house.

                                  Then I had a few deliveries.  First Fedex dropped two huge boxes off containing this:

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                                    Long Run Fail

                                    Don’t forget to enter the Ava and Liam Giveaway!

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                                    I like my marathon training cycles to be on the longer side – at least 16-18 weeks with my long runs beginning at 12-14 miles.  One of the reasons is because it gives me a few extra buffer weeks in case I have to miss a long run.  Being a mom to two little ones (with one that’s exclusively breastfed) means that a good night’s sleep is totally out of my hands and despite my best efforts, a long run (or successful long run) is sometimes not in the cards.

                                    I’ve being extremely satisfied with my long runs this training cycle.  Until this weekend.  This weekend’s did NOT go as planned (and it had nothing to do with the little ones).

                                    I intended to run 16 miles early Friday morning (5:30am) following a similar route as last weekend’s 22 miler.  I knew from the first few steps that it was going to be a tough run.  I was working harder than I should have been to maintain a pace that last weekend felt so easyI wasn’t out of breath – instead, my body felt fatigued, exhausted, and unable to move any faster than what it was already running.

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                                      Menu Planning for Ironman Training

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                                      Don’t forget to enter my Motivational Sign Giveaway!!

                                      After my first week of swimming for Ironman training (coupled with marathon training), I realized I needed to make some major changes with my daily routine.  One area I knew I needed to focus on was my family’s meals – especially dinner.  They had become boring, sometimes very unhealthy, and often lacking in the nutrition that I would need to swim + bike + run.

                                      The last two weeks I have been meal / menu planning throughout the week for our weekend supermarket trip.  I’ve tried to include 2-3 new recipes each week while also ensuring a few are crockpot recipes.  I have found that trying to cook past 5pm is often difficult with the two little ones – they are much more self-entertained in the early afternoon hours.

                                      Some of these recipes have come from cookbooks, websites, blogs (check out The Lean Green Bean and Making Good Choices for some yummy recipes), Instagram photos…

                                      I’ve been posting some of the dinners on Instagram and have been asked to share the recipes.  Let me preface this all by saying a few things:

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                                        PowerBar Product Giveaway

                                        Some of my favorite PowerBar products

                                        I was honored to be a member of PowerBar‘s Team Elite this past year and had the opportunity to try a ton of their products.  PowerBar is going to give away some of my favorite products to two readers – just in time to kick off the new year and spring marathon training!

                                        Energy Gels: Since my very first marathon in 2002, PowerBar Energy Gels have been my go-to refuel for long runs and races (Note: I’ve tried out a few other brands over the years, but have always come back to PowerBar’s gels).  They have gotten me through long training runs, marathons, and my first ultra.

                                        The energy gels  provide the carbs and electrolyte of a high end sports drink and contain 4x the sodium of leading competitors.   The gels are formulated with PowerBar C2MAX dual source energy blend, a 2:1 glucose to fructose blend found to deliver 20-50% more energy to muscles than glucose alone and improve endurance performance by 8% (source).

                                        I can happily say that I’ve never cramped or had any sort of GI issues during a race – which I attribute to my use of energy gels.  They come in 11  yummy flavors – some with caffeine (1x or 2x) and some without.  My favorite flavors are Strawberry Banana, Green Apple, and Chocolate – they taste SO good and have just the right amount of caffeine!  I typically take one right before a race and then every 5-6 miles (depending on how I feel/how fast I am running).

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