Tag Archives: Hammer Nutrition

So Far So Good

6 Aug

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Today is the first day in a very long time (well, maybe not THAT long. Almost two months feels like a long time when you’re exhausted and miserable but in the grand scheme of things, it’s really a blink) I feel something like my normal, happy-go-lucky, energized self. I don’t feel 100% there yet but I’d put myself somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-80% and that’s not bad. Trying to be happy about all increments of change in a positive direction, even the mini ones.

I credit this good feeling to a couple of things. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

  1. I stopped falling asleep in front of the TV. In my normal life, I don’t have a TV in my bedroom. In my Steppenwolf life, I do. And at the start of the summer, I just wasn’t strong enough to turn the damned thing off before bed. In the last couple weeks, I’ve been really strict with myself. As soon as I feel like I’m drifting, I turn the TV off and go to damned sleep. I also have a cup of this “relaxing” tea that I bought in Chinatown two weeks ago and lemme tell you, that shit is the shit. Valerian root, baby. Stuff works. Ultimately, my quality of sleep has improved dramatically. I’m up fewer (or no) times in the night and therefore, I wake up feeling a little more energized.
  2. I started running again with regularity two weeks ago. The picture above was taken in my run along the lake. I made a new playlist a couple of days ago and named it “run for your life.” The longer I run, the more I believe that running will save you 95% of the times. That 5% is reserved for the times in your life when you’re injured or burned out. It doesn’t take very much either. I’ve been going out for anywhere from 40-50 minutes in low zones. Just to get myself moving and get that serotonin flowing through all those little channels in my brain.
  3. I got back into the hot room. Bikram has come to my rescue so many times in my life it’s right up there with running as a total soul-saver. And the lovely thing is that Bikram and running compliment each other perfectly. Bikram postures are specifically well suited for the kinds of overuse issues that all runners suffer from. And the detoxifying effects of 90 minutes of movement in 105 degrees can’t be exaggerated.
  4. I cut gluten out of my diet. I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting everyone cut gluten out of their diets. We’re all different and have different internal chemical scenarios and some people really have no issues with the stuff. But after being glutened TWICE this week at two different restaurants, I am almost certain that this pesky little protein is an issue for me. I’d been off the stuff for six weeks and both of the times I consumed glutenous substances (once at a Korean restaurant–it was own damned fault for thinking I could get away with a Korean rice bowl–and again at an Italian place WITH A GLUTEN FREE MENU) I was having dizzy spells within 20 minutes. After the dizziness came that lovely feeling of looking at the world from the inside of a mason jar. Three hours later, I had rocks in my gut. And twelve hours later I was constipated. So yeah, sensitive to gluten.
  5. I’ve cut down my non-fruit related sugar intake to almost nothing and cut my fruit intake down to one or two plums and a handful of berries throughout the day, but not before 11AM. I did this because my energy had been super super low about two and a half to three hours after waking and it was suggested that that was due to a drastic drop in blood sugar after breakfast. I realized that my morning breakfast bowl included apple sauce, maple syrup AND berries mixed into oatmeal. I hadn’t really thought about how much sugar that amounted to until I cut it out and noticed a marked change in how I felt by noon. Most notably, I wasn’t going down for a nap three hours after getting up. Anyway, it’s working for me. So now I start out the day with a green smoothie that has NO fruit in it. This has taken some getting used to, believe me. The smoothie is almost entirely supplements (1 scoop SuperFood; 1 tsp Maca powder; 1 capsule each ginseng, B complex, probiotic and multi-mineral; and 1 tsp complete omega oil) with one cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and two ice cubes. Then about an hour later, I have a couple of eggs scrambled with kale and vegan cheese with a piece of GF toast.

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So now it’s 2:06PM central time and I’ve been able to run, do laundry, make myself breakfast and lunch (the above photographed gluten-free sweet potato gnocchi over sautéed kale, chicken sausage, shiitake mushrooms and tomatoes) and bake a batch of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies for our second tech this afternoon.

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I’m gonna post the recipe (adjusted from the original posted here on The Iron You–my new favorite triathlon blog). Originally, this recipe was vegan, gluten-free and Paleo. But I baked my first batch with no binder and the cookies were just too darn crumbly.

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So I added one egg to the remaining dough (sorry vegans but I didn’t have anything in the house to sub. If you want to make these, add the equivalent in egg substitute or chia goop) and they second batch is holding together better. I also cut the almond meal by half a cup and added 3/4 up of gluten-free all-purpose baking flour. You could certainly leave out the flour. I just don’t know what the hell holds these babies together if they’re all nuts and no binder.

These babies definitely hit the spot if you’re looking for a chocolate fix. There is minimal sugar in the recipe and they’re packed with good fats. Granted, this cookie is no substitute for a real Tollhouse but, as with most diet-adjusted baked goods, you gotta try to forget about the original and just take the new thing at face value. This cookie is not the cookie you grew up with. But guess what? You’re not ten years old anymore. Your body has changed and maybe you shouldn’t be eating cookies like you used to. Just saying.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Almond Drop Cookies
(makes 3 dozen small cookies)

3/4 cups almond meal
3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
½ teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
½  cup coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp sunflower seed butter
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 large egg
¾ cup vegan chocolate chips
¾ chopped almonds

Preheat oven at 350°F and place a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the almond meal, flour, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, maple syrup, sunflower seed butter and egg until well mixed. Add flour and stir until a soft dough forms. Add chocolate chips and nuts and stir to mix well.

Drop the dough by spoon onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for another 15 minutes. Move to a cookie rack and cool completely.

Oh and just a little note: the black sprinkles on these cookies are actually Hawaiian black lava salt. I picked some up last week and I’m obsessed with the stuff. If you don’t have any (and why would you) don’t worry about it. You can throw a little bit of regular ol’ coarse sea salt onto these cookies and it really works. But if you don’t like your sweets a little salty, then by all means, abstain from the sprinkling.

Race Report: Mountain Madness Half Marathon, Steamboat Springs

1 Jul

Well I didn’t win the race but I FINALLY WON A DAMNED RAFFLE PRIZE! Got myself a sweet Honey Stinger t-shirt and a pair of awesome SmartWool socks. Two Steamboat brands to celebrate my near vomit-inducing finish at the 2012 Mountain Madness half marathon.

I did better than anticipated. Ended up finishing in 1:57:07 which I am hoping means that, barring some sort of race catastrophe, I am done with the 2+hour half-marathon finishes. Assuming, of course, that I don’t take a major training hiatus. But if I can get a sub-2 on THIS race, having lived basically below sea level for the last two years, than I feel pretty good about what’s going to happen when I go back down the mountain in August.

Here are some stats:

  • My Garmin clocked the distance as 13.26 and the race officials made an announcement that the course was, in fact, longer than 13.1
  • Starting elevation: 6,749ft
  • Max elevation: 7,169ft
  • Longest climb: 1.7 miles (!!!!!) at 3.1% grade incline, gaining a total of 276ft

I took a significantly different approach to this half than the last one. Because of the non-stop rollers, I knew it was going to be close to impossible for me to maintain a consistent pace or to shoot for negative splits. So I planned to take it easy until the turnaround at mile 8. But I wasn’t entirely sure what “easy” would mean.

The pack took off like gangbusters out of the starting gate. Seriously, I have never seen a race start like that. The field was miniature (45 runners total; more doing the 10k) and EVERYONE just bolted. I did not bolt. I stayed back and kept it as controlled as possible. So I was surprised to discover that right off I was already cruising at a 9 min/mile. I got a little worried that this was too fast for the first 5K but I was chatting with the guy next to me and felt fine breathing-wise so I just forced myself to hold the 9 until the turn onto the climb at mile 2, when I figured I’d slow considerably.

The slow down wasn’t as considerable as it could have been. The first quarter mile or so of the climb was intense. Just really,really steep. I thought for sure that I was going to have to walk the majority of this hill. But it flattened out a little as I got into it and I managed to keep running. I was very thankful at this point to have a coach who forces us to do bridge repeats every week. And very happy that I forced myself to do hill repeats ten days ago. That workout made this race possible.

The climb got worse again soon after. Mostly because it just kept going up and up and up and up. I passed the 10K turnaround point that I remembered from last year and thought, “You’ve gotta be kidding. We have to KEEP GOING UP?!” I did have to stop and walk at one point and, of course, it was like 100 meters from the highest point but whatever. Ain’t no shame in walking for a minute.

The downhill portion was SUPAH FAST! I had to hold my horses a little actually because I don’t have a ton of experience going fast down steep hills and I knew there was still a lot more race to go once I got back onto the “flat” below. Still, I got a little recovery in and got a few seconds back, which was good. Took my first gel at this point, around 45 minutes in.

Once I got out of the downhill section, it was right turn continuing down River Road for another, oh, 4ish miles. I’ve been biking this road a lot the last few weeks so by now, I know it pretty well. This was good as I was able to pace myself through the ups and downs leading to the turnaround at mile 8. I started creeping down into the 8:19, 8:22 min/mile pace and thought, “I’d better slow my roll” a little. I finished my 10K in well under and hour and was feeling good but I really wanted a sub-2 and didn’t want to lose it before the home stretch. So I did my best to lock it in at 8:44 for as long as possible. The rollers made this difficult but not impossible.

I started catching up to folks around mile 6 and passing people soon after. I absolutely LOVE running without headphones on these races because you get to listen to everyone else breathing. I’ll sidle up next to someone, listen to their breath, hear how labored it is and realize they’re working WAY harder than I am. This gives me a big mental boost and normally I just cruise right past them.

I’ve also started doing this thing–and I’m not totally proud of myself but whatever–where I creep up behind someone who’s in front of me and I just stay there for a minute or so, a few paces behind and just to the side, until they realize I’m there. I know they know I’m there because they will inevitably turn their head back just a little bit to see me. Once I know they’ve spotted me, I stay there for another minute. Sometimes they speed up, sometimes they don’t. If they do, I figure they’re scared. So I speed up too, knowing I’ve got the breath to maintain the increase in pace. If I do this long enough, they either bonk and slow down or I just end up passing them anyway. But either way, they’re psyched out and less likely to try and catch up. Mean, I know. But whatever. It’s the boxer in me.

I was really hoping that I’d be able to cruise down below the 8min/mile mark after mile 9 but it just was not happening. I even ended up slowing down a bit in the last mile. It was my legs more than anything. I took a lot of gel on this run, more than I have in the last few halfs. One 20 minutes before, one 45 minutes in and one (with caffeine) at the turnaround point. I even went back to the caffeinated gel in the last bit of race to see if there was any left. No such luck. I had an extra but didn’t want to waste the time struggling to get it open.

I checked my watch with about 600 meters left and was at 1:53. I had the very fleeting thought that I might be able to kill myself and beat my Key Biscayne PR (1:54:57). But I turned a corner and didn’t see the finish and realized I was already killing myself and since you can’t be more dead than dead, I’d just be happy with a sub-2. When I crossed the finish, I felt OK. Not sick but definitely not in my right mind. I think I said, “HOLY SHIT that was hard,” to the woman taking our bib tags for the raffle. Then I walked it all off for five minutes before shoveling a hand full of Skittles and an orange wedge into my face along with three cups of Gatorade.

The Austrian finished the 10K in something insane like 36 minutes and Danica finished in something equally absurd like 45 minutes. They both got 4th place in their respective genders. This was a really tough field, despite its being so small and I am very pleased with my performance. I ended up 21st overall and 5th in my AG. This is one of those races I was happy about as soon as it was over. Mostly because I followed it up with a Bloody Mary and breakfast at Creekside! Not a shabby way to spend the morning.

For those of you who care about such things, my roller coaster splits:

  • Mile 1: 9:09.15
  • Mile 2: 8:51.89
  • Mile 3: 9:42.23 (Part 1 of the big climb)
  • Mile 4: 9:56.52 (Part 2 of the big climb)
  • Mile 5: 8:18.06 (Downhill)
  • Mile 6: 8:44.18
  • Mile 7: 8:41.67
  • Mile 8: 9:03.49
  • Mile 9: 8:38.03
  • Mile 10: 8:33.25
  • Mile 11: 8:42.60
  • Mile 12: 8:19.71
  • Mile 13: 8:25.38
  • Final .26 Mile: 2:19.98

Move Swim Bike Run Drive

22 May

Aliens in the golden hour before TriMiami olympic distance start, Sunday May 20th, 2012

The last two weeks has been its own kind of odd endurance event. Is that grammatically correct? I don’t know. I don’t care. My brain is fudge. The title of this post pretty much sums up what’s been going on. Remind me to never again plan a move three days before a triathlon. And maybe remind me to never again plan to do a triathlon the day before starting a three day road trip.

I got it all done. Well, not all of it. Still on the drive leg of this race. I won’t be officially done until Thursday, when I arrive in Massachusetts to spend the holiday weekend with family. But the move is done–it wasn’t easy; moves never are–and the race is done–it wasn’t easy, races never are (well, I guess they can be if you’re not working very hard) and the semester is over and I am on my way. A lot going on in the next few weeks. Will cover many, many miles by car and no doubt, by bike and on foot. I’m racing again on June 3rd in Chicopee, Mass–a sprint this time–and doing another half marathon over July 4th weekend in Steamboat. The hits just keep on coming. But for the next couple days, I will be enjoying race recovery in my beloved Tito.

Yesterday was a definite learning experience. Good as races go but I’d set a sorta unrealistic goal for myself in trying to come in under three hours. Stupid me, I didn’t factor in my transition times when doing the math. Oh well, lesson learned. But I’d been hoping to do 40 minutes on the swim (thinking that was conservative–it wasn’t), 1:20 on the bike (thinking that would be easy since I’ve been averaging 17-19 mph on my last few rides of about the same distance) and my 10K in anything better than the one at MiamiMan last November (57minutes).

OK, so I got my 10K PR–an overall PR, not just a tri 10K PR–but fell super short on the other two events. That swim, by God, 1500meters is long. It was also not wet suit legal, which is probably a good thing because it gave me a better idea of where I actually am in terms of ability. So again, learning experience. But the water was gross. It stank of sulphur and was full of seaweed. So full of seaweed, in fact, that I had to fight my way through a veritable jungle of it in the last couple hundred meters, which just felt unfair.

The run out from the swim to transition was close to a quarter mile across sand. That transition run counted as a part of my swim time and not my T1. So that added another 2+minutes to my swim. The good news is that y T1 was super fast (1min:11secs fast), as was my T2 (1:12).  My bike was six minutes over what I’d been aiming for. Pretty sure I went out too fast. Lost my legs a tiny bit on two miles in the second loop and then decided to pull way back because I wanted to be able to kill the run. So that worked but my bike time suffered.

The run was hot, humid and totally exposed. I stopped at each aid station for electrolytes which I rarely do. But I knew I needed them. Nutrition-wise, I did great. I feel like I have that pretty much down now. Never felt hungry or tired (except that one tiny window on the bike but that wasn’t about nutrition, that was about lactate) and my legs felt really springing and fast throughout the whole run. I had intended upon starting slow (like 9:30min/mile) and then turning it on for the second 5K, trying to run sub 8s the whole way. But I actually ended up keeping things much more consistent.

Everything was great and then I made a bonehead mistake and missed a sign on the run pointing me to home. I kept going straight when I should have hung a slight left. Luckily, a biker saw me and told me I was going to wrong way. That mistake easily cost me thirty seconds. I sprinted the last couple hundred meters and finished feeling great. So overall, not a bad race, considering it was my first true Olympic (MiamiMan was a short swim). But I’ve always gotta have something to bitch about. This time, I’m miffed that I didn’t get a podium placement. I missed third place by four minutes and once again, it was all about the swim. So once again, I feel frustrated and miffed.

I will channel that frustration and miffedness into harder swim training over the next couple of months. Hopefully my summer at the high altitude will help. But I won’t have my team to train with and that is a little terrifying.

But for the next couple of days, I’m going to avoid thinking about any of this and just try to get to the frozen north in one piece.

13.1 Miles of Amazing

29 Apr

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This is gonna be a long one but there’s a lot to report on post-race. My experiment this morning was a total freakin’ success. I ran the inaugural Key Biscayne Half Marathon in 1:54:51! That is not just a PR, it is a whopper of a PR considering that I ran my last half, the ING on January 29th (exactly three months ago), in…wait for it…

2:04:15.

That is a difference of 9min:24secs.

I shaved 9:24 off my half marathon time in THREE MONTHS. I was aiming for a sub-2 today. Actually, in all honesty, I was really just aiming for was a PR. And that would have been anything better than 2:03:13–the time of my first half back in October of last year.

So, I went in with a pretty simple plan–already a step in the right direction since I ran the last two with absolutely no plan. Just the goal of running sub-2. Without actually knowing what that meant. I hadn’t trained for sub-2 and so, inevitably, I finished those races, not only disappointed, but also feeling pretty sick. I refused to let that happen again.

My simple plan this time ran sorta contrary to accepted wisdom, which tells runners to find a pace they can keep for the majority of the 13.1 and run it. There were pacers out today but at the start, I saw a 2:00hr flag and a 2hr:10min flag group and since I fall somewhere in between this posed a problem. I knew that if I started with the 2hr group, I’d go out too fast and suffer in the later miles. But the 2:10 was gonna be way too slow. Neither of these options worked with my plan so I decided to go it alone and see what happened.

My plan, which I concocted about five days ago, went like this: I will run the first 10K or so at 10min/mile pace. At the midpoint, I will forget about the first half of the race and I will run the final 10K at an 8min/mile pace. This felt ambitious and perhaps a little crazy. But a 10min/mile is slow for me and my normal 10K pace is 8:30. I thought that this plan would allow me to save my legs and then push it in the home stretch.

Conditions were against us. I woke up at 4AM to pouring rain. The rain died down a bit at the start but was pretty consistently obnoxious for the whole race. It did bring the temp down to comfortable low 70s but the sun never broke through and the sky was gray and the roads were flooded in spots. My clothes and sneaks were completely soaked through by mile 3 and yet, somehow, this all added up to a kind of magic for me today. Here are my splits with details:

Mile 1: 9:24.05-This was already faster than planned but my HR was so low and the pace felt so good that I went with it. But I made a deal with myself that I would not dip below a 9 min/mile until after the first 5K.

Mile 2: 9:23.86–I saw the negative split here and opted to slow my pace a bit. My HR was still low and I was still feeling very much in control but wanted to play it safe.

Mile 3: 9:24.78–See above. I credit my conservatism here with my success later on. The bridge was looming not far off and I really didn’t want to lose a whole lot of time on the first ascent.

Mile 4: 9:18.32–Part of this mile was going up the bridge. The wind was with us so that made things better but my HR started creeping up into Zone 4 and I didn’t want it to go any higher.

Mile 5:  8:43.28–Part of this was the bridge descent. I used it and the wind to my advantage and got a little time back. I also grabbed a gel at the turnaround aid station. It happened to be a Tropical Hammer Gel. They have 25mg of caffeine in them. For a moment, I thought about NOT taking it. And then I thought better, realizing that this would be the exact moment when caffeine could be useful. I took half the gel, deciding to save the other half for the last 5K. I had two other, non-caffeinated Hammers in my shirt also. Took a whole one of those between miles 7 and 8.

Mile 6: 8:57.85–Part of this mile was heading back up over the bridge. The wind was, of course, against us at this point and the rain was really blowing in by now. I was psyched to be wearing my new Tifosi Slips with the red lenses. Those coupled with my USAT dry fit cap kept me pretty well protected against the water. I lost a little time here but made it up on the descent. When I was back on the flats, I started to feel my calves. Not in a bad way, just in a way that made me aware of them. Like they might potentially start to cramp up. Unfortunately, the aid stations didn’t have any electrolytes, just water, for the first half of the race. Or I didn’t see any, at any rate. I kept calling out for them but none of the volunteers had any. I’d been sipping water as necessary but I was sweating a ton and knew I was gonna have to get some sodium/potassium/etc… really soon or else the calves might cause a problem.

Mile 7: 8:51.16–By now, we’d made a turn off the causeway onto Virginia Key so we got a little respite from the wind. This is where I mentally committed to forgetting about the first half of the race. I even said out loud, “Here is the starting line. You are reborn.” And it worked! I just sorta let the first 10K go and allowed myself to dwell in the fantasy that I had totally fresh legs.

This was a quick down and back jaunt on the Key so I got to see the folks ahead of me as I headed towards the turnaround. That’s when I saw the 2hr pace group again. They were only maybe a minute ahead of me so I decided to turn it on just a little to see about catching up. I’d been waiting for mile 8 to do this and that 2hr flag was the motivation I needed. I checked my Garmin and saw I was into negative splits now, still in low Zone 4. My breathing felt awesome and nothing was hurting–I’d found electrolytes by then and they were fixing everything–so it was time to seize the moment.

Mile 8: 8:43.11–This was a big mile. Back on the main road. The 2hr flag was in sight and so freakin’ close. I could tell that I didn’t have to do anything other than lock in my current pace and I’d just catch up. So I popped into cruise control and voila! There they were, there I was. Seriously, this was one of the most thrilling moments of my racing life. It was one of those moments, you know, when you realize that hard work and mental strength and perseverance totally pay off. I got very emotional. The tears came and then my hypothalamus threw open the flood gates and my body was suddenly just bursting with endorphins. That feeling can be a dangerous one because it’s so delightful that it makes you want to run harder, faster, which can cause problems when the endorphins subside and you look around and realize you’ve still got 4+miles left.

I kept telling myself to stick with the group. Just stay with the group until mile 10, Edith, I said, and then you can pass them. DON’T PASS THE GROUP, EDITH! DON’T! I knew by then that if I kept my pace consistent, I was guaranteed a PR. I managed to stick with the group for about two minutes and then I just breezed on by. It just happened. I didn’t push. I couldn’t stop myself.

Mile 9: 8:32.23: Mile 9 was my kryptonite in the last two races. It’s where I lost my steam, started to feel my body breaking down. It’s where my pace went from solid to slow. This is where I gave up on my goal at the ING. So when I got to mile 9 this morning running an 8:32, feeling fucking great, I just had to give myself a pat on the back. The race was already won because I wasn’t feeling like I wanted to die. By now, I’d decided that if I could get to mile 10 feeling this good, I would push for continued negative splits and try to run a nicely competitive final 5K. I passed some folks I know from training and made some quick chit chat about the weather or how they were feeling, etc… and then pressed on.

Mile 10: 8:34.01: Best laid plans. Not to make excuses but this mile was oddly twisty and sort of treacherous. Cracked concrete, roots coming up through the ground, lots of puddles, etc… So that’s where the extra 01min:38secs came from. But I was still very happy with the thought that I had already run the majority of the race and the end was nigh.

Mile 11: 8:17.70: I checked the Garmin and saw this pace. My body was still feeling great and I still had a smile on my face so I had no excuse not to push it to the max; leave it all on the pavement, as they say. I decided I’d try to run sub-8 minutes for the last two miles. I knew I could do it. I did it!

Mile 12: 7:56.05: This was the only point in the race where I got into my lactate threshold and started to feel some stuff. I was breathing a little harder but was still in control. I kept checking in with my form: elbows in, arms swinging nicely, fast cadence, landing mid-foot and falling forward. I lengthened my stride, got my knees up a bit and just let ‘er rip.

Mile 13: 7:35.32: I’d been looking forward to this mile for no other reason than I knew I’d get to use Susan’s mantra. “It’s the last fucking mile,” fit the rhythm of this pace like a glove and kept me moving forward with focus. Around the middle of mile 12, I dropped in with a dude who was about six inches taller than me and very, very fit. He was wearing a “Swim Bike Run” t-shirt so I figured he was probably a good person to try to overtake. I kept up with him until the very end, nearly passing him at one point. He dropped me in the last 400 meters. I sprinted the finish and ran the last .18 mile in 6:54. Right after I crossed the finish and got my medal and yelped with delight about my finishing time, the tall, fit triathlete came right over to me and said, “Way to give it all you got. 25 years I’ve been doing this and you almost caught me.” It was a moment.

I know I just used many words to tell the tale of this experience but really, words still somehow fall short. Because a) if you’re not a runner, you may not be able to comprehend the vast difference between a 2hr:04min finish and 1hr:54minutes finish, b) if you are a runner, you still may not be able to comprehend the feeling of shaving nearly 10 minutes off a race without feeling like shit and c) whether you are or are not a runner, you will never be THIS runner and so I can tell you I felt great but I can’t magically transfer that feeling to you through this blog. I wish I could, but alas, I am not that powerful or that good of a writer.

However–and yes, I know this is a super long post but just stick with me for another couple paragraphs and a bulletted list–I will tell you what I did that worked for me. Some of these things are old standbys and some are new tricks. If you are a runner or you want to be a runner (and everyone should want to be a runner) maybe some of this will help you one day achieve the feeling of happiness, ecstasy and total personal contentment that I felt today.

  1. I ate some extra carbs at lunch yesterday but kept dinner light on the carbs and heavier on clean, easy to digest protein and vegatables. I also ate dinner at 6PM, giving myself plenty of time to digest fully before the race. I did not carbo-load with a giant bowl of pasta.
  2. I ate two pieces of toast with maple syrup and tofu cream cheese for breakfast and drank 10 oz of diluted Gatorade approximately 2 hours before the race. I also took two ibuprofen.
  3. I got all of this “out of my system” half an hour before the race. Except for the ibuprofen. That remained.
  4. I ate half a Clif bar 20 minutes before the race, chewing very slowly and deliberately.
  5. I took half a Hammer Gel with caffeine around 50 minutes in; had a full gel with no caffeine about an hour in; and the second half of my caffeinated gel around mile 10.
  6. I did wear my Newtons; I did NOT wear my iPod. This made a HUGE difference as I was able to keep a more consistent pace when I needed to and I paid way more attention to my breathing. Mainly because I could actually hear other people breathing and that forced me to focus on my own cardio. It was really eye-opening. In the first three miles, there were many folks passing me huffing and puffing like little steam engines. I dropped all of them after the bridge and never saw any of them again.
  7. I went out slowly and locked into certain paces for specific miles. I made deals with myself about when I was allowed to speed up. This made for a run with almost all negative splits. And when I did lose time, it was never by more than 2 seconds.
  8. I wore my Garmin. This was my first foot race with it on and it was amazing. I didn’t check it obsessively, just mid-mile throughout the race to see where my HR and pace were.
  9. I paid close attention to my hydration needs and knew when water would cut it and when I absolutely needed a sports drink. I stopped and walked through the aid stations which gave my legs a momentary break and made me feel like I was starting fresh each time.
  10. I kept my elbows in! Or rather, I focused on keeping my elbows in and my arm swing straight back and forth. This is totally thanks to Frank DiPadova for making me aware that my chicken-wing arms were robbing me of valuable energy I might need to conserve on longer runs. Like this one.
  11. I said really nice things to myself both out loud and in my head for the whole race. I never got down on myself. I congratulated myself after every mile and kept reminding myself about how great I was feeling in comparison to the last race. I kept telling myself to “hold onto that feeling.” I also kept asking myself how badly I wanted this sub-2 finish. The answer was always, “VERY BADLY.”

All of that combined to make a great race with an excellent finish. Here’s the official word:

I was 11th/87 age group, 69th/567 gender, and 243rd/1088 total field. I would also like to mention that the overall female winner, who ran a 1:30:25, was 61 years old. And all of that is fine but the best part is that my body didn’t hate me after the race. In fact, my feet even feel fine which is heartening since I’ve never had great feet.

I’m gonna wrap this up now mostly because the Muscle Milk and two muffins I ate right after the race are starting to wear off and I am hun-gry. But I can’t sign off without first thanking my awesome coaches Andy, Frank and Ale for pushing me to achieve my full speedy potential over the last few months. And also all my Alien Endurance teammates and MultiRace for putting on a great show (as usual) despite the nasty weather. I sincerely hope that everyone out there reading this has felt or will feel this feeling at some point in their lives. It can’t be beat by anything.

Multiview 5: Alessandra de M Castanho

19 Mar

Ale is a Brazilian, ex-competitive volleyball player. And yes, she looks exactly like the picture your mind just created. She’s got the legs of a gazelle and the speed of a cheetah. I tried to pace with her during the ING half and realized very quickly that it would be wise to let her go. After that race, I started tailing her on training runs because I figured if I could stay like five feet behind her at all times, I’d end up getting faster. Ale is a great coach: motivating, knowledgeable and tough when she needs to be. Also, everywhere she goes in this town, there’s a biker or a runner calling out her name and screaming at her Portuguese. She’s got an awesome accent and a very cool speech rhythm, both of which were magically present in her original written response to these questions. I’ve edited this very little in the hopes that you’ll get a sense of what it’s like to have a conversation with the writer. Here is Ale’s story:

Name: Alessandra de M Castanho (Ale, to those who know her)
Hometown: São Paulo, Brazil
Current Town: Miami, FL
Sport(s) of Choice: Triathlon
Longest Distance Covered and on what (feet/bike/skis/snowshoes/etc…):
Running: 26.2 miles-Nike Women’s Marathon, San Francisco, 2007
Bike: Bike Across Florida, 150 miles, 2007
Triathlon: Half-Ironman-Miami Man 2008 and 2010
Occupation: Content Planning Sr. Manager

Gimme a brief history of Ale in sports. What did you do as a kid? Have you always been athletic? How did you get into triathlon?

Yes, I’ve always been very athletic; I played volleyball in school, started when I was 13 and later on I became part of a team (on a local athletic club in Sao Paulo). Two years later, I was part of a Municipal Team, even receiving a “symbolic” payment (they gave us lunch, the complete uniform, including the tennis shoes and paid for our transportation). I had to quit because I wanted to become a journalist and in Brazil there was no such a thing as a University promoting sports.

Triathlon came to my life seven years ago: I decided to fund raise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and in return, they prepared me for my first race. Little did I know it would become a lifestyle. To make a long story short, on June 12, 2005, I crossed the finish line in Maui, Hawaii and completed my first Olympic distance triathlon. I was 5th in my age group and 13th overall female. Since then, I’ve completed many sprints (always on the podium in 3rd, 2nd and 1st places), Olympic distances (also making to the podium) and two half-Ironman races. I’ve also finished a couple of half marathons (my PR was 1h40min) and a full marathon in San Francisco (in 4h16min). In 2010 I was invited to be part of the Power Bar Elite group, because of my achievements as an athlete and I qualified twice for the USAT National Championship in Burlington, Vermont.

Speaking of which, you’re headed to USAT Nationals this year as an age grouper! Will this be your first time attending? And what are you doing to prepare yourself mentally and physically?

YES! I’m very excited about it 🙂 Last year I was not able to attend and I was very happy (and surprised!!) to have qualified again during Miami Man. I’ve started training for the Nationals but it’s one week prior to the Ironman race [in Canada], so I’m just very excited to be part of the event, and I’m training hard to be fit, strong and in my best shape. I’ve been reading more about nutrition and I wanna become truly an expert on the subject, not only for me, but to help the group! I have also been very good with my strength training (another must!!). I just need to be more attentive to my sleeping hours; I haven’t had much of a rest!

Describe a typical training day.

Wake up around 5am, have my morning “ritual” that consists of eating something light and allowing my body to “wake up”. Leave my house for whatever is in my schedule and most of the time, come back for a shower, stretch and breakfast!!! If not possible, I’ll shower at the gym and will have my breakfast ready in my lunchbox, so I can eat it right away! I’m usually very hungry in the morning!

What do you normally eat?

Prior to training: almond butter and half of a fruit or if the training is too intense will add a gluten-free waffle to the mix. For breakfast, I’ll have the other half of the fruit with cinnamon, glutamine and a spoon of granola (for crunchy!). Plus a toast with very little “buttery spread” (made with vegetable oil) and 1/4 cup of egg whites (that sometimes can be replaced with a slice of cheese). I’ll usually have a snack at 11-11:30am, which is a short latte with 2% and half of a protein bar (my snacks vary, could be a fruit with cheese or almond butter, pretzels etc). Lunch varies too. The salad bar in Whole Foods is my best friend! I try to go there as much as I can. Dinner: I prepare something at home. I love chicken and roasted potatoes (sweet ones!!) and I like sushi, etc…

Now that I’ve bla bla bla about this subject, I’ve realized that you might wanna know about training only. Sorry. So, during a workout I try to be as “natural” as possible, so I like the Honey Stinger products; I love the Heed from Hammer Nutrition for my long rides and the Elixir for electrolytes (which I always have in my bottles).

You recently started coaching for Alien Endurance. How do you balance the demands of your own training with your new coaching obligations? What do you like about coaching?

Although we train in a group, triathlon is very individual. I can be out there and guide you on a bike ride, or a brick workout but at the end of the day, you will be at your pace and I’ll be at mine, otherwise neither of us will be really training. So, I guess the sport itself allows you to balance coaching and your own training. One of the greatest things about this sport is the people you meet. They are usually very enthusiastic and eager to learn about the disciplines. When I like something you’ll have to ask me to stop talking about it: I can go on and on! Being a coach allows me to speak about it and to help the athletes that are just beginning.

You’re in the process of training for Ironman Canada. Have you competed in a full Ironman before or will this be your first? How are you prepping for it and do you have any expectations about the race?

(Big sigh) Yes! I’m in! This will be my first one and I’m scared! I don’t know if scared but for sure, anxious! I’ve been focusing on strength, swim and nutrition!! They are my main concerns and my goal: I wanna be the strongest, most efficient in the water and a JEDI when it comes to fuel. I will cross that finish line tired, but strong! Not sick, but happy to have conquered such an accomplishment along side Andy, Frank, Hans and Magui!

Can you recall a particularly challenging moment in training or racing? How did you deal with it?

It was during my first half-Ironman in 2008 at the Miami Man race. At the run, mile 10, I didn’t have anything else to give, and my body was asking me to stop. I was sick of my stomach and dehydrated. I kept on going, and this is why nutrition has become such an important subject to me (and this is why I want to help more with this matter).

Any interesting/funny/inspiring stories you want to share from training or racing?

Funny, yes! It was during a trilogy race. At the swim, I got caught up in the middle of the “turmoil” and one of the girls hit my leg and took my chip off my ankle!! So, I decided to swim back to the shore and call it off. It was when the lifeguard scream at me asking if I was ok. I screamed back saying: “I’m good, just lost my chip.” And he said, “ I found one! What’s your number?”…753… “I have it, wait on!” Then he swam with his board towards me and play the prince charming saying, “Give me your foot!”  Oh well, 12 minutes later, I was leaving my slowest sprint swim to cross the finish line 9th in my age group!

Talk to me about equipment/product. What do you wear? What do you ride? What gels do you like?

I love trisuits, but I’ve been racing in two pieces because of the longer distances; I do have to pee in a half-Ironman and I do stop and go to the bathroom (sorry!). My favorite brands are 2XU, Louis Garneau and Orca.

Shoes: Newtons for run and Adidas on the bike. I ride a beautiful Maserati, also known as the Kestrel 4000 Pro SL. The chewy Honey Stingers are delish! Not a big fan of gels, but lately found the Ignite quite good and they’re gluten free (which for me, during training or racing it’s a must!).

Any advice for the “noobs” out there? Just have fun and listen to your body!

Race and train within your own limits. We are not up for the Olympics anymore and we have to be smart about it, and not get hurt!

Multiview 4: Carola Chaurero

18 Mar

Carola is one of my teammates. She is impressive because she’s admitted that riding her bike in traffic makes her nervous but she does it anyway. You’ll read about her history in the water below–she started out last year with NO SWIMMING ability. But did she let that keep her from getting into triathlon? Nope. Last week, we went to Whole Foods together and the majority of what she purchased was for her dogs. She is a big time animal lover and an unapologetic poster of puppy pics on Facebook. She is also a huge Seinfeld fan and has a dark, sarcastic sense of humor. So we get along really well. Here’s Carola’s story:

Name: Carola Chaurero
Hometown: Maracaibo, Venezuela
Current Town: Miami, FL
Sport(s) of Choice: Endurance/Triathlons
Longest Distance Covered and on what (feet/bike/skis/snowshoes/etc…): 29.2 International Distance Triathlon
Occupation: New Business Director at Alma, a Hispanic Advertising Agency

How long have you been participating in your sport of choice and what got you into it in the first place?

I started training for triathlons just a year ago, when by pure peer pressure and a little bit of a teammate annoyance (she knows who she is), I was pushed into the sport. To begin with, I didn’t know how to swim. More so, I didn’t even like to get into the water, not even to cool off during a beach day. My idea of a beach day was just to lie on the sand and get a tan–did that rhyme?

But before getting into triathlon, I was running. That inspiration came from a friend from back home, who currently lives in North Carolina. He and his wife are avid marathoners. One day after seeing his FB status update indicating that there were x amount of days left for the Chicago Marathon registrations to open, I asked him if he thought I could run it, and of course he said “of course.” This was in 2010. I registered and trained with them virtually, until I hurt my knee and had to go through therapy. Bummed about not making it to Chicago, I signed up for the ING Half Marathon in Miami as a consolation. The day I registered I updated my FB status and a friend from high school, who also lives in Miami, told me she was doing it and that I should join her group. The friend: Karla Rooks. The group: Alien Endurance. This is how I became one of Coach Andy’s aliens.

Describe a typical training day.

Training days vary, but one thing is constant: waking up at 4:45 or 5am everyday, except Fridays. I wake up earlier because I have two dogs I must leave fed and walked. I follow the schedule as much as I can to get my workouts in. Mondays are recovery runs. Tuesdays & Thursdays we swim. Wednesdays we have a bike ride. Saturdays & Sundays we do bricks, which is either a combination of swimming and biking, or biking and running. Sometimes, swimming and running. To that, we need to add speed and agility class on Wednesday nights, bridge repeats (that’s going up and down the Rickenbacker bridge in Key Biscayne) on Thursday nights and strength training, which I suck at. It’s a tough schedule, and I confess I haven’t been able to do everything it says in one week.

What do you eat?

I’m not very good when it comes to eating. I’ve never been a big eater nor am I someone who salivates at the thought of food. As a little girl I ate because it was my pass to go out and play with my friends, just like brushing my long hair. I eat because I have to, and quite frankly sometimes I don’t do it very well. On top of that, I’m a vegetarian, so I’m limited with what I can eat on the go. I’m not big on cooking, but that said… I try to eat a lot of grains and greens. I have big smoothies to which I add protein powder and chia seeds. My breakfasts include a bagel with peanut butter, especially on training or race days, and a smoothie and coffee. Lunch can be a sandwich, pasta or grains I’ve prepared at home. Dinner is the most difficult one, because I get home tired and the only cooking/serving effort I can do to feed the dogs, because I am a responsible dog mom.

How do you balance work-life and training-life?

Well, work-life is the priority because it pays for the training-life. In general my two worlds get along very well. I don’t do a great amount of traveling, so I have the time to train. I think in that sense, I have it easy.

What are your goals? Either short or long-term? How are you preparing for upcoming races?

In terms of the sport, I would like to do a Half-Ironman this year. My goal is to do the one in Augusta, GA. Our coach says it’s one of the best ones to do. Additionally, there are races our coach wants us to do as a team: Trilogy #1; Escape to Miami & Miami Man, apart from the upcoming Nautica in April. Last year I completed 7 races. This year I won’t do as many, but will train harder, especially if I’m doing the Half-Ironman.

Can you recall a particularly challenging moment in training or racing? How did you deal with it?

See below.

Any interesting/funny/inspiring stories you want to share from training or racing?

I think my signature story is the one where I almost drowned in my first race. I still didn’t know what it was like to swim in open water, much less in a lake. I discovered that day the huge difference between salt water and sweet water swimming: the buoyancy. The water was cold and as soon as I put my head into the water my heart started racing and I couldn’t breath. It was terrifying. Yet, I threw myself into the water as soon as our wave was called. I swam a few laps and asked for the floating device. I rested a little bit, threw it back and continued swimming only to ask for it again. I made it to the shore 19 minutes later with the device. I was obviously the last one and, yes, disqualified, but I continued racing until the end. I was so happy to be out of the water, I jumped on my bike and continued like a champ. I made so many other mistakes, yet I finished with a huge smile on my face, and feeling like I had won first place overall! I feel very proud of that day. Very. And I now swim.

Talk to me about equipment/product. What do you wear? What do you ride? What gels do you like?

I can tell you that now it’s easier for me to go out shopping for tri apparel than for regular clothes. For swimming I like to wear men’s long lycra shorts. They are much more comfortable and I don’t have to worry about something sneaking out of my bathing suit.

For running I wear Newton shoes. Aliens are known for having a thing for Newtons.

In terms of apparel, the majority of my clothing is Zoot. I like the brand but also I have been lucky enough to find great deals at tri stores, so it’s a preference that is based both on performance and pocket.

I’ve traded my Nike dry-fit caps for Alien Endurance ones. I’m very proud of wearing my team’s name and colors as much as I can.

I ride a Cannondale road bike, which I bought brand new for $600 when I started last year. I really didn’t want to make a huge investment on a bike, as I didn’t know if this sport was for me. Now, I’m open to the possibility of a triathlon bike. Let’s see how things unfold so I can get one.

In terms of nutrition, I like the Gu gels, but I’m starting to try other ones Hammer, the ones with the “Bees” that are all natural. I used to fill my water bottles with Gatorade, but now I just throw in a tab of electrolytes. I will start testing with more natural things like coconut water (which I confess I hate) mixed with other organic concentrated juices. Let’s see how that goes.

A little piece of equipment I absolutely love is my Garmin Forerunner 310. I cannot live without it. At the beginning of my last bike ride I was having some problems with it. It wouldn’t turn on. I felt so lost. How would I measure the distance? Heart rate? Time? Cadence!!!???? I felt like I had lost my cell phone.

Any advice for the “noobs” out there?

Don’t be discouraged if you are not good at any of the three sports, or all three of them together. Training makes a difference. Work hard, stay focused and you will see the magic happening. If anyone ever says anything about you being slow or makes a light joke about you almost drowning, believe me, it can only make you better!!

Anything else you want to tell us about yourself or your sports life.

I think I’m living the best time of my life. I wish I would’ve started 10 or 15 years ago, but I am also a true believer that things happen at the right time, when they really need to happen. So now it’s my time and I’m enjoying it as much as I can. Mind you, there are days I just don’t want to train!

Multiview 3: JD Trammell

16 Mar

JD and I are teammates. I attribute my recent PR at the 2575 Miami Triathlon to JD’s presence about a hundred meters from the finish line. By the end of that race, my legs were liquid and I didn’t think I had anything left. But as I came off the beach and headed towards the chute, JD started screaming at me to sprint it out. So I dug deep and did just that. I wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been there. JD is one of the fastest guys on our team both in the water and on land. He’s also extremely focused and very competitive. He’s about to get married in a few weeks too. Here’s JD’s story:

Name: JD Trammell
Hometown: Buffalo, NY
Current Town: Miami, Fl
Sport(s) of Choice: Triathlon to compete, NFL Football to watch
Longest Distance Covered and on what (feet/bike/skis/snowshoes/etc…): Approximately 70 miles on bike. One weekend (my first year of triathlon) I decided to ride from South Miami to Lantana. I rode out to South Beach and all the way up US1. Took almost 6 hours!
Occupation: Licensed CPA – Internal Auditor at Royal Caribbean Cruises

Gimme a brief history of JD in sports. What did you do as a kid? Have you always been athletic?

I’ve always been involved in sports. I’ve played almost every organized team sport I can think of outside of ice hockey and lacrosse. The earliest sports I can remember competing in were soccer, tennis and swimming. From 2nd grade into 8th, I was most competitive in swimming, often winning my events and competing in relays between a YMCA team and my grade schools team. I played football and track and field all four years of high school. I was an offensive and defensive lineman in football and threw the shot and discus in track.

Congrats on winning your age group in the 2575 Miami Triathlon last week with a super impressive sub-1hr20min finishing time. You are, in general, pretty freakin’ fast. Have you always been fast or is this something you’ve had to work on?

I was never a runner, though I’d often come in first when running the track during football practice. I casually got into running more and more after college, gradually doing more road races and longer events. My father, however, was an All-American in track and cross-country in both high school and college. So I guess I get a bit of that speed from him. Its my mother’s Italian/Irish genes that really hold me back. 😉

Describe a typical training day.

I find it really hard to keep a steady routine. I try to get up and run 1-2 times a week in the morning and maybe get out for a bike ride. Most of my training takes place on the weekends with the group. I have yet to actually complete one of Andy’s training routines verbatim.

What do you normally eat?

Anything I want. I need to control my diet better!!!!

How do you balance the demands of training life with the demands of every day life?

My employers (both past and present) have always had full gyms with showers on site. That has been an awesome way to keep my personal life and training life from colliding. My fiancé also has different work hours than I do (working 2:30-9pm on Saturdays and 8:30-5pm on Sundays), so that has also allowed me to get in weekend training without impacting our time together. She is very supportive of me though, and always happy when I do well at a triathlon.

What are your goals? Either short or long-term? How are you preparing for upcoming races?

My goal for 2012 is to break 2h20min in an olympic distance race. However, I’m not really doing any olympic distances this year, it’s mostly international. So I have to break down the races in order to figure out what I’d like to do. Ideally, I’d like to end with running a 10k at 7:30/min or better. Since I’m getting married in March and don’t plan on getting into the bulk of my race schedule until June, I still have time to assess my goals and preparation.

Can you recall a particularly challenging moment in training or racing? How did you deal with it?

I’ve been pretty lucky thus far in terms of race challenges. Most of my challenges have been in the form of losing my endurance or cramping up. I have yet to have any major mechanical issue on my bike. Last year’s Miami 70.3, for example, was a race that I had prepared pretty hard for, but the conditions just killed me. I spent way too much energy on the bike and burned myself out to where I called it a race ½ way through the run. I’m dealing with that small defeat by working on my run this year more than ever. Thus far I’ve PR’d in my first 2 races of the season (7:20m/mile pace in the ING Half Marathon and 6:52m/mile pace at the 2575 Triathlon) and plan on keeping it that way for the rest of the season.

Any interesting/funny/inspiring stories you want to share from training or racing?

My first year in racing I did only two races. First was the Mack Cycle Sprint Tri and then a few months later the Escape to Miami olympic distance. Doing Escape as your first foray into triathlon is essentially trial by fire. If you can finish that race then you can pretty much do any race. I had a used road bike (2007 Jamis Ventura Sport) with clip-on aero bars as my first bike. Luckily for me it was the proper size and was tuned up well, so I was able to maintain a pretty good pace on the bike.

Toward the end of the race (last 3 miles) I was riding next to this 20-something-year old kid with a bright yellow carbon fiber bike, aero helmet, full disc bike with all the trimmings. This thing hummed, and you could hear how nice it was when he changed gears. I was moving just as fast as he was though! And before the last u-turn, with about 2 miles to go I said to myself: I don’t care what kind of bike this kid has, after this u-turn I’m going to click up the gears and kick his ass. Sure enough I did, and didn’t see him for the rest of the race. Those moments are especially gratifying for me.

Talk to me about equipment/product. What do you wear? What do you ride? What gels do you like?

I am currently in desperate need of some new tri clothing. My tri-top and shorts right now are Pearl Izumi. I can’t wait to get the new Alien Endurance apparel! I ride a 2011 Felt B16 with Williams Carbon Clincher wheels (56mm front & 80mm rear). I prefer gels that have more substance over those that are watery. So, Gu and Hammer are my favorites.

Any advice for the “noobs” out there?

Even though racing is meant to be fun and you’re always happy to just finish a race, I encourage you to pick out little challenges for yourself and overcome them. During a race, if you see someone who’s biking or running as fast as you are, focus on them and tell yourself that you trained harder than they did and there is no way they’re going to finish this race before you are. Accomplishing little goals like that during a race will make the experience more fun and more gratifying.