Off Season Adventures
As my first year in the multi-sport world, I found myself ranked #1 in the USA for my age group in IRONMAN distances, and 4th in the world! That deserved some much needed time off. These past two months have been spent with minimal running, heavy weights, and no HR monitors strapped to my chest. Oh, and enormous portions of food.
I only had one goal for this winter. Weigh 150 pounds going into January. My starting weight was 131 pounds, so believe me, gaining 19 pounds has been no easy feat.
My “off season” began a few weeks earlier than expected, due to a stress fracture in my shin. This was achieved by attempting to run 4 trail races in 3 states immediately after my last IRONMAN. Being stubborn, I ignored all of my coach’s advice to stop running. (I know better now Matt) Although sadness kicked in at first, I used it to get a head start at gaining all the weight and muscles I lost throughout my first year as a triathlete.
After being on a set schedule for almost my entire year, I was a bit in shock when I went into Training Peaks and nothing would be on my schedule. For me, these past two months have been more of a mental break than anything. For once, it was nice to wake up and choose what I wanted to do that day, not force myself to do a workout I was dreading. Below I laid out a few key things I tried to incorporate in my schedule to obtain this goal of gaining my weight and sanity back.
Lift heavy things (a lot):
During my training season, I tend to lift lower weight/higher reps to maintain my muscles. But with the little miles I ran, I wanted to lift higher weights/lower reps to build more muscles for the upcoming season. This was also a quick way for me to gain muscles and weight. My gym is my social hour and wouldn’t be complete with many laughs along the way! Most of my winter months is spent at Shawn Casey Results Fitness building my entire body so I don’t look like a lean Skelton (for now).
Rest and socialize!
Not just physically, but mentally. Not being on a training plan gave me the freedom to sleep in, and have multiple days where I don’t do anything but eat. From working out almost two times a day for the entire year, it took some adjusting to be able to be okay with just one easy workout, and grasping on to the little social life I still had.
Instead of being stuck in my saddle for five hours every Saturday, I actually was able to get out and go on hikes to new peaks and lakes. This made for a chance for me to re-gain a tiny bit of a social life I left behind during the summer. Don’t get me wrong, it was temping to not want to just run the trails, because you know I already looked up the Strava KOM records for the trails I would hike...
Although I still continued to barley workout, it was a mental break to just hop on my road bike and not have to worry about intervals, time in the saddle or a mileage goal. I really just went for scenery points and getting comfortable being on a bike, since I just started riding one in April of 2017. If I felt like not finishing a swim set, I would stop. This was NO time for me to force myself through a workout if my body or mind wasn’t in it.
Yoga has always been a part of my life, but training plans always seem to get in the way of the class times. Not this time. I have enjoyed taking time to slow down, improve my flexibility and breathing techniques to truly just relax. I prefer Hatha style of Yoga, as it is slower and there are a lot of single leg balances which are great to build up your ankle muscles for running!
Since I didn’t do much running, I read a LOT about training. I bought 6 books about training, Running, stride/mechanics, mental techniques for running. This is something that I am passionate about and I am always striving to become a better athlete, even if I am not training as hard. My nightly routine would consist of: Tea, book/journal and too much chocolate.
It is December 29th and I can proudly say I achieved my goal of weighing 150lbs. I am going into 2018 strong and healthy, and a little fluffy J. I can not wait to get back to my structured workouts and visits to the pain cave. I hope you all enjoy some much-needed time off throughout your year. Your body will thank you!
Before I explain running down IRONMAN's famous red carpet covered in my own poop with a second place overall finish qualifying for my pro card, I should probably start this story from the beginning. This past weekend I packed my bags and embarked on my first journey to the east coast. I was excited and nervous to complete my second IRONMAN in 6 weeks. Thanks to my coach, I felt stronger, faster and ready to race!
If you're new to triathlons, allow me share a few pointers I took away from this race:
1. Don't forget your wetsuit at the practice swim.
2. Just because you have a bad swim does not mean you will have a bad race.
3. If you're travelling solo, make friends. Especially cute ones with cars that can give you rides to grocery stores.
Long story short, a volunteer found my wetsuit for me, not anywhere near the river. Crisis diverted! As the rolling start began, I hopped into the sewage filled water of the Ohio river. The first 1/3 of the course was upstream, though some incredibly murky water. Once I hit the turn bouy to swim downstream I got kicked in the mouth and my lips started bleeding. Unfazed, I swam on. Minutes later a women swam over me and accidentally ripped my goggles off. Putting them back on, I was getting annoyed by constantly swallowing sewage infested water. Only moments later I get whacked in the face again. From this point on, I wanted out. I wanted to stop, to wave my arm and get out of that water. But why travel all that way just to give up on yourself? I was getting frustrated with myself and with my attitude. So when I finally saw I was almost out of the water, I just shook off my one hour and 48 second swim and left all the negative energy in the water.
The rolling hills of the Kentucky countryside did not seem to be an issue. The weather however, was. Ranging from humid, hot, rainy and windy, everyone faced almost all types of weather. The wind in particular was quite brutal. My internal bladder on my bike decided it wanted to malfunction, so I had to rely on Gatorade at the aid stations. Remaining calm over situations you can't control is what helped me not have a bad bike split. Overall I had a great ride and enjoyed riding through all the towns seeing everyone cheering for the participants. When your start to feel lonely out there, it's the screaming and encouragement of random strangers that keep you going. By the end of mile 90, people were tired of riding straight into a headwind for hours, myself included. I felt like those last 10 miles were actually 20. But rolling into the transition, I knew I was embarking on my favorite part of the race, running! With a bike time of 5:43, I started my marathon with no idea what place I was in, but feeling ready to attack the run.
The hardest two sports for me are over. It was now time to shut my mind off and do what I do best. Surprisingly I started off with a 7:10 pace the first few miles. Near mile 7 or 8 I settled into a 7:30 pace. I felt comfortable and was surprised how many men and women I passed on my first lap. I had an idea I might be near the front on my second lap so I decided to try to push a little more. Overall my body was feeling "good" and knew I had more in the tank. As I approached mile 18 I had two choices. Stop at an aid station to use the restroom, or allow nature to takes its course during my run. I weighed the options. I knew their were girls in my age group behind me, what if they caught up? What if my legs seized up and I couldn't push my pace once I stopped? I wanted my slot to Kona so much I was willing to run the last 8 miles of the marathon covered in my own poop.
To me, this decision came down to one question: How bad do you want it?
Think about it. If you want something that much, you are willing to do anything you can to achieve it. At this point in my day, I was already 9 hours deep into a race. I could handle one hour of being uncomfortable.
The last three miles was nothing but a sufferfest. I tried to stay at my 7:30 pace as best as I could and ran through the finish line with a marathon time of 3:18, for a total time of 10:13. Good enough for second place female (sans pro). I fought hard for that race time battling the weather, my own limits and my own mind. Getting the slot to Kona was rewarding this time, as my last race I declined in hopes to go next year. I now have a full year to train and not have just a couple triathlons under my belt! I would not be in the position I am in now if it wasn't for my coach, Matt Sheeks! http://tritheos.com/
Qualifying for your pro card is no easy feat, and did not expect to hit this goal in my FOURTH triathlon, but it shows me that I have quite the road ahead of me if this is my first year at this multi-sport world!
Toughest Mudder LA
This past weekend marked the first race of the season for me. I flew down to LA to compete in the 1st ever "Toughest Mudder" presented by Tough Mudder. This was an 8 hour obstacle course that started at midnight and ended at 8:00 AM that morning. Little did I know the biggest obstacle wasn't even on the course map: Hills. Lots of hills. A group of us flew in to LA on Thursday, and rented a cabin up hear Big Bear, where we rented a cabin to hang out and load up on food prior to the race. It was great being able to see Adriane Avalord, Miguel Medina, Austin Azar and Mark Jones. There is something special about hanging out with a group of people who can nerd out on nutrition talk and race strategies.
We spent the first day hanging out around Santa Monica, enjoying the beach and sunshine. After a trip to Whole Foods we headed up to the cabin to settle in for the next few days. Friday morning, we all went on an easy shakeout run prior to the race. Being someone who always runs by themselves, I enjoyed laughing and talking, even if it was just a couple miles. Staying at rest is hard for me, so the two days leading up to the event was difficult trying to conserve energy and rest up. But it gave me the time to do things I don't normally have time for in my schedule. Like play intense card games with friends and complete puppy puzzles while drinking tea.
Saturday morning was filled with nerves. I've never started a race so late, so all day felt like a huge build up until the race stared. It consisted of eating pancakes and napping until it was time to head down the hill for dinner with friends. Knowing my nutrition mistakes from my last event, I brought my own food to the restaurant not wanting to make my stomach cranky.
Arriving to the venue and seeing familiar faces made me even more excited to race. My goal for this race was to run 25 miles in order to qualify for "contender" status at a later race in the year: World’s Toughest Mudder. The race was split into two loops. Each loop is 5 miles long with multiple obstacles. From 12:00 AM - 4:00 AM we ran loop 1, and 4:00 AM - 8:00 AM we ran loop 2. This mentally helped break out the night as well.
I felt good going into the race. I was rested and ready to burn off all the pancakes and peanut butter I ate the last two days. My first lap felt great, and decided to not stop at my drop point to get any additional nutrition. Going into lap two made me realize I needed to incorporate some more hill work into my training. Regardless, I felt great in lap two but was very hot. The question of the night was to wear a wetsuit or not? I opted with wearing a 2mm wetsuit with the legs cut off. By lap 2 the upper part of the suit was tied around my waist. This is where it remained for the rest of the race.
My goal was to get 4 laps on the first loop, because I knew the elevation gain on the second lap was going to be far worse. So as long as I got one lap on the second loop I would hit my goal! By lap 3, I spent no more than 30 seconds in the pit, where I slammed down a Glukos Gel and Honey Stinger wafer, and re-filled my water bottle an endurance drink. Although eating sugary food was tempting, I knew my stomach wouldn’t tolerate it.
I finished my 4th lap around 3:50 AM. My fourth lap because extra fun because I lost my headlamp on an obstacle, as it sunk to the bottom of the muddy water. Knowing I didn’t have any other ones to spare, since that was my 2nd headlamp of the night, I had to get my eyes accustomed to running in the dark. With this course being very uneven terrain, this slowed me down a bit to ensure I didn’t roll my ankle. It wasn't until that moment I appreciated the abundance of carrots in my diet.
The second loop opened at 3:45 AM so this was perfect timing to get one last lap in. But then it hit me: I only planned on doing one more lap, but had just over 4 hours left in my race. I was only halfway done. The self-doubt started to creep up on me. Did I start out too fast? Is this pace even sustainable? Not even knowing or seeming to care what place I was in, I grabbed some more Honey Stinger waffles and headed out on my 5th lap.
I was a big ball of sunshine out on that course, or should I say "Unshine"
This lap was brutal. Although I do not know the elevation gain for each lap, both totaled 4,400 feet. It sure felt like all 4,000 was on that second loop. I also knew there were way more water obstacles on this lap, but it was needed to cool your body off after basically scrambling up the hills. I ended up finishing the second lap in just under 1:30. My clock read 5:18 AM. I’ve never felt more confused as to what to do in a race. I already hit my goal. Do I stop and celebrate or go out for another lap? Knowing I still had just over 3 hours left until the finish I knew I needed to head out for another lap.
This was probably my fastest and most fun I had on any lap. I kept telling myself how this was the last lap, and was filled with adrenaline and Glukos gels. The sun even came out that lap, so my eyes were not working so hard. My grip was starting to become tired on the obstacles, but my spirit was high and nothing could stop me.
Well I basically sprinted into the finish line with a smile on my face, until I looked at my watch. 7:12 AM. My heart sank. It wasn’t 8:00 AM yet, and you have until 8:30 AM to complete a lap. I knew if I left immediately I could make it back for another lap. I glanced over at the leader boards and to my surprise I was in the top 5. Was this a mistake? Apparently not. My friend Andrew came over to be just as I was thinking about quitting. He reminded me that you wont always have a good race, and that you need to use this opportunity and keep pushing. Yancy also told me I had to go back out. With those words of encouragement, I went out on the hardest lap of my race.
This is it. This was the last "big" race of my season for 2016. Worlds Toughest Mudder was finally upon me and I had no idea just how far my limits were about to be pushed. I met up with a couple new and old friends at the airport, and we all shared a house just outside of Henderson, Nevada. The night before we feasted over many plates of pasta and race strategies. This race started at noon on Saturday and ended at noon on Sunday. It was a 5 mile loop with 25 obstacles on the course.
This race took the most prep out of any races I have done in the past. The gear list was never-ending, and people on the airplane were very confused as to why I had a wetsuit and headlamps in my carry-on. Although this was an obstacle race, the greatest hurdle for me this race was the nutrition aspect and knowing what to eat and when. Keep reading if you want to know when the uncontrollable vomiting started..
We arrive and set up our table of food and goodies, extra clothes, headlamps, wetsuits and Vaseline (for getting in and out of your wetsuit). Everything was prepped, my stomach was full and felt ready as I would ever be. Standing next to my friend Adriane Avalord we gave each other a hug and started this crazy journey together. The first 5 mile lap was an "obstacle free" lap so we could see what we were in for. I felt great the first few laps, stopping in the pit area to try to keep my reserves topped off. 3 laps later, the sun was setting and it was time to put my wetsuit on. Being in the desert, the temperatures dropped dramatically, and with so many water obstacles, a wetsuit is the only way you are going to get through the night.
Things were going well, I felt like I found a sustainable pace. My strategy was to stop in the pit each lap, and nibble on some food to maintain my energy level. I was eating things like GU and bread and candy (things I usually never eat. This was my first problem). Around 11:00 PM that night I was about 30 miles into the race. I was halfway through the lap when I started to throw up. I kept running because I knew stopping and complaining about it would not get me to my pit area. I run another 200 yards and throw up again. Then 100 yards later I threw up again. I kept throwing up until I had nothing left to throw up. I was cold, and very confused as to why this was happening.
Stumbling into the pit area I sat down and Nicole Mericle was there to support me and try to assess the situation. But once I sat down I felt like all my stomach muscles cramped up. The only way to describe my stomach pain was having someone stab you in the stomach with a pitchfork. Breathing became painful and I succumbed to the fetal position. After a 20 minutes of crying in this position, my body started to cool down. Being in a wetsuit, I started shaking uncontrollably. Hunter Mcintyre made the decision that my wetsuit needed to come off, before hypothermia set in. If you want to loose your dignity really quick, have 3 men you don't know strip you half naked while you cry out in pain.
I got wrapped in a dry robe, and Nicole stayed with me to make sure the situation didnt get any worse. I spent over an hour and a half trying to warm up and calm my stomach down. It was beyond frustrating. My legs felt great, I wasn't tired, but my body was giving out on me. Miguel Medina was also in our pit area helping out Austin Azar. He was asking me about my nutrition and it dawned on me: I was eating too much, and also eating things my body wasn't used to. I was eating what "everyone else was eating" but that clearly backfired.
Around 2:00 AM Hunter and Miguel told me that I needed to get my wetsuit on and get back out on the course. Are you crazy? I didn't travel and pay money to sit in a tent all night, so I knew that they were right. My dignity was lost again as they squeezed me into a VERY cold wetsuit, and put a headlamp on me. I remember hearing "Just start walking" and that's exactly what I did. I walked the entire lap. It was the coldest, slowest most painful lap of the whole race. I took many penalty laps and thought about giving up, questioning why I even put myself through this.
Around 4:00 AM I see Adriane on the course, and we run for a bit. She was in the top 10 for Women and I couldn't have been more proud of her. It was time to go back in the pit area to fuel up. I was nervous. What if I eat and start throwing up again? I listened to my body and decided to eat what I normally eat, which goes against everything you "should" eat during an endurance race. I ate almonds and peanut butter. But for once, my stomach wasn't in pain and it didn't give me any issues. Normally a fat source wouldn't be eaten during a race like this, but it worked for me.
I saw Adriane on the course again just as the sun was coming up over the horizon. I have never been so grateful to see the sun. We even shared some tears at that moment, never being more grateful to see a sunrise. By around 9:00 AM I knew if I kept going, I could hit my baseline goal of 50 miles. I used everything I had to make it through three more laps. On my second to last lap I remember trying to run up Mt. Everest obstacle, and running directly into the wall so hard I started crying. I wasn't hurt, but my body finally reached its limits. I knew I no matter how much I wanted to get up that wall, I couldn't do it by myself. Finally some more people showed up and used the last bit of energy I had to get up that wall. You know you've maxed out when tears are flowing from out of no where. Any obstacle I did, my arms gave out and was consumed by penalty lap after penalty lap for not being able to complete the obstacles.
I go into the pit and eat peanut butter and mac and cheese (it sounded great at the time) and mentally prep myself for my last lap. There are few parts of the last lap that I remember... But I do remember having this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, although my body was not happy with me. I've had a few emotional finishes and this was one of them. I had some major setbacks in the middle of my race, but overcame them to still get 50 miles in. Knowing I did my best was all I could do.
I can not wait to do this race again this year, but knowing what to eat and when to eat will make the biggest difference for me. I learned that you need to figure out what works for your body, not just eating certain foods because that is what works for your friends. Take the time prior to the race to eat what you are going to eat on race day. My go-to food these days? Pretzels and rice cakes.
Under Armour Run Camp -Death Valley
Just before OCRWC, I found out I was one of a few lucky people from around the world to attend Under Armour's Run Camp in Death Valley. For two days, they put you in the worst desert conditions possible, and you are forced out of your comfort zone to push your limits. The only piece of information that was given to me was my flight itinerary and where to get picked up. We were instructed not to even bring any clothing as everything would be provided. For someone who likes to know what's going on at all times, this was incredibly hard for me. Yes, even underwear was provided and let me tell you, Under Armour has some of the comfiest underwear I have worn. I had no idea where we were staying, when we were running or what kind of food I was going to be eating.
They picked us up and we were transported to a nearby hotel in Las Vegas. It was there where I met the other people I would be spending the next couple days with. After dinner and introductions, they gave us a card, informing us that our wake up call was 3:00 AM... I was reading this as I was crawling into bed at 10:45 that night and a long day of travel. I knew I was really in for something at that point. A couple hours later we scramble into vans with our designated teams. I quickly made friends with people from Panama, Germany and Canada. The "leader" on our team was Kyle Dietz, an ex MMA fighter who has become a professional trail runner for Under Armour.
Of course, we had no idea where we were headed, because the element of surprise was everything at Run Camp. After driving for quite a few hours, and miles of dirt roads later, we appear at an old mining town in the middle of Death Valley. I realized then we would have no cell service for the weekend. It was something I really enjoyed because it caused everyone to interact with each other and stay present in the moment.
We were greeted by a run coach and many cameras. We were informed to fill our water packs up and to start running "that way". Again, we had NO idea how many miles we were running, or where the next aid station was. We were followed by a film crew as we ran through miles of winding curves, not knowing when this run would be over. As the sun rise over the peaks of the canyon, the heat really became a factor.
One of the greatest things about our "team" that was formed was the respect we had for each other., On that first run regardless of everyone's ability, we all stuck together. It would have been easy for the guys to run ahead or for people to break off and do their own thing, but for us, Run Camp was so much more. It was the ability to run with people from across the world who share the same passion: Running.
We finished out run about 12 miles later, and were mysteriously greeted with the same van that dropped us off. Crazy logistics right here! We were greeted with a large box of all kinds of food. Later it became the joke of the trip about how much peanut butter I eat on a daily basis. Lets just say every time they put us in that van, I sat directly in front of the magical snack bin. We got transported to Jeeps, where we got a tour to see how "beautiful" Death Valley is. There was something kind of magical about a place that is so bare and dry.
Sitting back next to my bag of snacks, they took us down and long dirt road that felt like it was literally in the middle of no where. When we got out, the van quickly left and we were greeted with tents, sleeping bags and some food. Camping, running and no showers? I'm in!
We were left to "figure out" what to do. As camp was being set up, we were met with a survival expert. He taught us crucial skills on how to find water (even in a place like Death Valley) start a fire, and create shelter. It was incredibly informative and I even learned how to signal for help! As he left and the sun began to set, our group went from being too hot to freezing cold in a matter of minutes. Luckily we were given clothing to keep us warm through the night. We "somehow" were able to transport Fireball to the campsite, so seeing some of people have it for the first time was quite hilarious.
After all of us ate our freeze dried macaroni, we decided to take a walk to visit some of our other friends at Run Camp down the road. Later that night we would all eventually find our way into our tents after many laughs. At 4:30 the next morning our van had somehow appeared and we were instructed to eat breakfast because we had a yoga class to attend to. For someone who loves yoga I was excited, but not at all surprised we were awoken at such an odd hour. By this point I gave up on asking questions and really embraced "not knowing what's next". We were taken to the highest peak in Death Valley and were instructed by an incredible yoga teacher while watching the sun rise. It was one of the most incredible yoga classes I have ever been a part of and will never forget it.
After this calming morning, the spirits were high, and so was the body odor. Back in the van, and spoonful's of peanut butter later, we were instructed to clean our campsite and they took us to another "drop point" for us to run. When we arrived, we saw all the other "teams" and were lead for some more group stretching before heading out to tackle this long run.
Again, we had no idea how long we were running, or where an aid station would be for water. Our group started this process together, so going into this run, we knew we were going to finish it together no matter what it took. After a few miles in, we were trying to determine how to keep a pace that would work for everyone. A few more miles in, we decided on the word "pineapple". Anyone in our group would say it, and that would tell all of us to slow down a bit, ensuring that we all ran together. We even started running with other people who wanted to get into our game of pineapple. Let me tell you, when you don't know how long your going to be running for, you start to make things up to pass the time, like this Pineapple song below:
For some of our teammates, the heat completely took its toll on them. Vowing to all finish together, everyone encouraged everyone to push through. At the end we ran in with linked arms. Finishing that run meant so much more to me than just "getting a workout in". It was about coming together to encourage other people and knowing that everyone on that run was going though the same struggles. It wasn't about pace, it was about perseverance. It wasn't about "winning", but about all experiencing the same emotional rollercoaster we all went though for 17 miles, and finishing the journey we all started together.
Clearly this was early into our run, as I'm still smiling
17 hot, sweaty miles later, we were greeted with massages, a food buffet, but most importantly: Showers! After stuffing our faces with food that night, we had a dance party. It was so fun to be doing an activity that didn't make you sweat. As the party died down and most went to bed, a few of us took a night dip in the pool, but the security guard didn't think it was that fun.. Eventually I made my way back to bed. The next morning I got in the van one last time, packed some more snacks for the flight home and said goodbye to many of my new friends.
UA Run Camp is something I will always remember. When things are getting tough in my training, I think back to that weekend. I still stay in touch with people from Run Camp and seeing their progress inspires me to push harder. I am forever grateful to be given this opportunity and look forward for more to come.
Meal Prep Sunday
Happy Sunday! This day of the week holds a special place in my heart. Why? I reserve this day for meal prep. Below I am going to share with you how I prep for my week on this day. I want to first want to say if you hear people talk about how much they love doing meal prep, they must actually enjoy cooking. The amount of time that it takes out of my day is inconvenient and I am still a work in progress in the kitchen, but the reward of having your fridge stocked with all your food for the week is absolutely worth it every time, and that is what keeps me coming back every Sunday. Not having the proper food on hand can lead to poor nutritional choices and can effect my workouts by having low energy and will lead to poor performance.
I start off my afternoon with a trip to Costco. I buy my protein in bulk here, as well as any other organic items I might need for the week such as apples, green beans, and eggs. I choose to eat organic and not put any added chemicals in my body. I look at it as an investment in my body and health. If there are any items that I couldn't purchase at Costco, I head to Whole Foods.
Two grocery stores and two hours later I unpack and survey how I am going to arrange my food for the week. For the most part I eat about the same thing each week, but I have become clever on how I season and cut things. This way it doesn't taste like i eat a lot of the same items.
When it comes to meal prep, staying organized is crucial. Buying matching containers was a cheap and necessary investment. I have different ones for lunch and snacks, that way I don't even have to think when I open the fridge for a snack vs. a lunch. Trying to figure out how much to prep can be tricky as well. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I just cooked three pounds of chicken but am amazed on Friday when I am scraping the bottom of the container for the last chicken breast. The more you prep, the better understanding you will have for how much you really eat in a week.
Everyone's meal prep is going to be different. A 35-year-old body builder's meal prep will look a lot different that mine. I strive for protein in every meal, lots of greens and complex carbs. My protein starts off in the morning with four eggs mixed in with spinach, olives and chicken. When cooking protein I usually try to bake it. This is for no other reason than pure laziness. Lunch consists of a protein (ground turkey or chicken), sweet potatoes and green veggies.
My meal prep wouldn't be done without prepping all my snacks. I am a grazer and eat about every two hours. Making sure I am fueling my body with the right snacks to give me energy is important. I go through cycles with my snacks until I get tired of eating the same thing. Lately I have been making my own trail mix of almonds, cashews and pumpkin seeds. I nibble on this throughout the day. I enjoy an apple with almond butter in the afternoon, and enjoy a mid day salad. Right before I workout I eat rolled up butter lettuce with turkey slices in Havarti cheese. I always keep extra protein around (see a pattern here?) so having a tupperware with tuna is important post-work out.
Exercise and cross training is important to my running, but such a critical component is how I get my energy is coming from what I eat. Having all my food prep takes the stress off cooking each night, and leaves me with confidence knowing when I get hungry, I can always make smart decisions that wont have a negative impact on training. Its a love/hate relationship with Sundays because how much time my meal prep takes, but at least I am not setting the smoke alarm off every time.
PS: If you get bored with food, just put salsa on everything. If you want to get crazy, alternate your salsa brands for different types of food.
This weekend I packed my bags again and headed south for Portland to run the Battlefrog Extreme (BFX). This was my first Battlefrog race and seemed like a challenge I was ready for. The race consisted of running as many laps of the 5 mile course you can. The first lap starts at 8:15 AM and your last lap must be started by 2:45 PM. This course contained over 25 obstacles; the biggest hurdle was the heat. The expected high was 105 degrees that afternoon. Being born and raised in Seattle, 105 degrees was a daunting number for me.
After checking in for the race, I dragged my supplies to our pit area. Here is where I met the other group of people who shared the same crazy idea to run in the heat all day for fun. One of my favorite parts about these races is the people and friendships you create. The teamwork and level of respect for one another is unmatched to any competitive event I have been apart of.
As for my supplies here is what I brought to keep me fueled:
10 GU Packets
4 Glukos Packets
2 bottles of Pedilyte
6 bottles of water
A tub of Macaroni
3 packages of Gummy Bears
1 tub of Almond butter
The few days leading up to this race increased my carb intake and decreased my running. That helped me to store energy that I would desperately need on mile 25 when I became delirious. Everyone had their own quirky list of items they brought to eat, it was cool to see what other people use for fuel and compare nutrition ideas.
In the starting area, I was already sweating. By 8:15 it was well over 80 degrees. Growing up in Seattle, 80 degrees is scorching. This was going to be a mental challenge for me and I accepted the fact that I was going to be hot and uncomfortable all day as we sprung out of the starting line.
On the first lap I used my usual race tactics, I found the fastest girl and stayed right behind her. I was unsure if people were going to take it slow their first lap, or try to get ahead of the pack. Quickly I learned that people were not taking this first lap easy. By the third mile I was still right on Danielle's tail. I met her in the pit area and immediately became friends with her because she had a foam roller and endless amount of GU packets. When we got to the rig obstacle, I completed it, she had to try again. This put me in the lead and I didn't want to give it up. I felt the pressure to constantly push the pace. Completing my first lap went smoothly and headed into the pit area to stuff my face with Pediylate and peaches. Just as I was feeling good and shoving GU packets in my sports bra, Danielle came into the pit area. I gave her a high five and immediately started my second lap. I knew she was only 1-2 minutes behind me, and new this was anybody's race. A lot can happen in 7 hours.
In lap two I picked up the pace. I felt comfortable making this move because I typically get into a rhythm after mile 6. This helped spread the gap between 1st and 2nd place. I was still feeling fresh and the obstacles were challenging but I wasn't fatigued. I had noticed the heat having an effect on my running. Even though I was maintaining a good pace, my whole body felt slow, like the sun was trying to suck my energy out. I came into the pit area after lap 2 and took a salt tablet. (This replaces all the salt you sweat out and allows your muscles not to cramp.) Just as I was catching my breath, I saw Danielle on the last obstacle (Tip of the Spear) before coming the pit area. I needed to leave before she finished, I headed out for lap 3. I wanted to keep a lead for a couple reasons. I could slow down on the obstacles and I also had a pee spot that I would stop by each lap. This was a good sign, knowing I was staying hydrated.
I maintained a steady pace on lap three and four. At the pit I stuffed gummy bears and peaches into my mouth. Lap five was where I felt it. Deep. Exhaustion. This is when the singing began. When your'e running for over five hours you need to keep yourself entertained. I started talking to myself. Theses were not normal conversations. Other racers on the course probably thought I had lost my mind, but at that point I was focused on doing everything I could to mentally keep going. I yelled "You got this Kayla! You are so strong! Yeah hill I am going to conquer you!" Eventually I turned these little outbursts into songs in rhythm with my stride.
I got extremely emotional. With tears streaming down my face I knew I was truly pushing my body and mind to new limits
After mile 25 it was a mental race, I told my body to put one foot in front of the other. At lap 5 I was faced with a dilemma. If I crossed the finish line I would win. But if Danielle went out for another lap, she would win. I had no choice but to go out for lap 6 to ensure the win. I did not know she did not go out for the other lap.
My last lap was long, slow and brutal. It was over 100 degrees and everything in my body was telling me to stop. My hips were tight and my knees numb from the constant pounding. If I stopped my body would collapse. I stumbled through all obstacles with a lot of singing out of tune.
I crossed the finish line and fell into the arms of some local medics. After my adrenaline surging for so many hours, I finally was able to feel how dehydrated I was. I remember yelling the word "electrolytes!"and I sucked down some liquid a medic gave me. They put 7 bags of ice on my body and in my armpits to cool me down. An hour later I was able to stand up and hobble back to my car. Something was wrong with my left knee, but I won and I was okay with that trade. I really believe in the end it was the gummy bears covered in mud that I would stick in my sports bra that kept me going.
This race took everything I had. Pushing my body to its limits is a thrill for me. This will not be my last BFX race. This race has inspired me to set higher training goals and allowed me to mentally become stronger. First, I will be in my physical therapist's office for the next couple of weeks. Until then, I might need recommendations on places to take signing lessons.
Terrain Race 10k - Portland
a.k.a: My battle with monkey bars and hypothermia
My birthday weekend finally arrived. My celebration wouldn't be complete if i didn't run a race. So I hit the road and drove to Portland for the weekend. I somehow managed to convince my incredible aunt who lives in Portland to enter this race with me. With this race having two options; the 5k or the 10k, I knew she was fully committed when she eagerly jumped at the chance to sign up for the 10k.
This was a really cool experience to have her with me from the beginning of the race day, because all of my other races I complete by myself. It was really awesome having breakfast made when I woke up that day at 5:00 AM, as well as having someone to dance to gangster wrap to get pumped up before our start time. We registered and got our brown bands to wear, meaning we were in the "elite" heat. This meant that if we could not complete and obstacle our bands would be taken and could not qualify to podium.
After stretching and watching the elite males take off on the course, the elite women were corralled into the start gate. It was nice to see a few familiar faces of woman that I have previously raced with. Racing in a different city is always nerve-wracking because you don't know who the "locals" are or if they have ran this terrain before. I gave my aunt the "We got this" look, and a miniature canon sent us through the start gate and my nerves went away. I knew I wanted to be slightly above my pace the first mile so I could establish a good position in the race and make sure I had no other runners next to me when completing the obstacles. This was well established and knew I was in second place without anyone next to me. Around mile two it began to rain. I first embraced this and enjoyed being slightly cooled off as I was running up these horse pastures. But after a few water obstacles, my attitude on the rain changed. My first lap felt really good, and I was ready for the second lap.
On my second lap, I was hoping over this 5" wall and I see my aunt about to submerge herself into another obstacle with water and mud. I try to yell her name but all that came out was this awkward, out of breath scream. To my surprise she turns around and yells across the field "SPARKLE BABY!" I gave her the thumbs up and the thought of me "sparkling" pushed me over the next two walls I needed to tackle. I approach the dreaded monkey balls. (see picture below). This contraption required you to use every ounce of grip strength you had, and if you failed you would plunge into cold water. I spent about 10 minutes on this obstacle and then my hands started to bleed while my arms cramped up. But there was no way I was going to give up my brown band. At this point the race director comes up to me to suggest I go into the medic tent due to the possibility of hypothermia. I told him there was no way I was giving up. I tried several more times but my bloody hands had enough. He told me that if I completed 20 burpees I was able to continue because I was able to complete it the first lap.
I might mention this obstacle brings quite a crowd to watch people try to tackle this. So as I am trying to block out all these people starting at me wondering why I don't give up, I see the girl that was in third and fourth place overtake me. After my burpees were complete I was in 5th place and determined to get back to my second place spot.
To be honest, I should have stopped and went into the medic tent. I started getting slightly delirious on the next obstacle and I really don't remember a good part of the race. I don't really remember passing the girl that was in 4th place either. Somehow I got through the rest of this course finishing in 3rd place. I do remember striping off my clothes in the changing tent as if there were no other women in the tent. There was no concern for privacy at that point, only warmth.
I remember watching my aunt cross the finish line and I thought this is what a proud parent feels like. For her to battle though two laps of those not-so-easy obstacles and not let the cold get to her really inspired me. I'm so happy she went though the whole experience to see what I love and to get an understanding for why I do it. I may have created the next Journeywomen's world champion of 2017 (stay tuned).
As for my podium photo, all the mens photos were taken first. They all took their photos without their sweatshirts on, so I assumed that is what us women were going to do. Apparently I was the only one with that crazy idea.
Snohomish 1/2 Marathon
Attempting to not look like I have the beginning stages of hypothermia.
I could not think of a better way to spend mothers day than running a race my your mom! I am so grateful my mom for signing me up for races when I was 7 years old. Maybe she would rather pay my race entry than for a babysitter? I am tall now, but back then i was tiny, even for my age. I always tried my best to keep up wither her while trying not to get trampled by the other runners.
I was nervous for this race, wanting to do well myself, but also wanting to impress my mom. As we parked in a school parking lot, there was a public school bus wrangling up all of the participants to drive us to the starting line. This morning was windy and cold, so warming up was even more crucial than usual. I can usually get a good feel for who I will be pacing with at the start of the race, so I was excited to be surrounded by some very inspiring women in their 30's. At the start, they had pace runners. These women ran at the pace that was posted. If you wanted to run this half marathon in two hours, you would huddle with the woman holding the 2:00 sign at the start gate so you know how to pace yourself. Being conservative, I started out with the 1:50 group. By the first mile about half the women slowed down. Feeling slightly full of myself telling myself "why aren't you pushing yourself harder?" So I pushed my pace faster. I managed to get close enough up front that I saw the woman in first. I knew at this point I had found my pace.
A lot of things go through my head when I run over 10 miles. Sometimes I wonder why I am doing this to my body? How important are my knees anyway? Other times I gather inspiration and ideas for a new food recipe or try to solve complex situations. Wondering if I don't text whats-his-name back, maybe he will think i'm mysterious. I remember on this run I didn't want to look down the road, because I was looking at how far I had to run. I picked a women and ran right behind her staring directly at her calf. Her right, pale and freckled calf became the focal point of half my race. No, not her left calf, just her right one. I also tried to solve this mystery of why I wasn't inclined to look at her left calf. I never did solve that reason. This allowed me to forget about what mile I was on. I didn't focus on how much more I needed to run, but let me be in each moment, deciding knees are overrated, focusing on each stride.
Around mile 10 it started to rain. I do not mean sprinkle or a shower. I am talking about a torrential downpour of cold pellets slapping my face. My arms started to get so cold I could feel my muscles tightening up. At this point I let my body take control of my arms, and focused on getting through these last miles. Not being able to feel my arms, I can imagine I looked like an awkward puppet crossing the finish line. I finished 13th overall with a time of 1:42.
I cheered my mom on as she crossed the finish line. clapping and jumping up and down as she crossed the finish line, not too many words were spoken because we were so cold. Without needing to say anything we both had the same idea to get as warm as possible. I ran to back check and put on the warmest clothes I had trying to not let any more heat escape my body. Putting on clothes with numb limbs is not an easy task, trust me. As I reflect on this mothers day race, it felt great seeing how far I have come from trying to not get trampled at the age of 7 to being in the front of the pack on this race day.
After the coming down from my "Runners High" from my previous Spartan race, I was thirsty for another event. Franticly searching the internet for a local race around my area, I stumbled upon the Sammamish 10k. To be honest, 10k (6.2 miles) is probably my most hated distance of running. Its not fast enough to maintain my 5k pace, yet not quite long enough to get into a half marathon pace. So I signed up to be uncomfortable for about 40 minutes this Saturday morning. As I approached the starting line I was crowded with extremely fit women who had their kids cheering them on along the sidelines. Knowing I was one of the younger women I knew I had something to prove.
My strategy was to pace with the fastest woman there, who I found fairly quickly. I stayed with her until mile 2 and made my move up the hill to push the pace. I'm glad I did this at that time because for mile 3 it was all a slight down hill. Although this was great I knew this was an out and back course. This meant I would be running all the way up this hill around mile 5. Using the longest strides I could, I gained quite a distance from the other women at this point. Once I hit the turn around point I could see the other women were about 1 minute behind me. The dreaded hill has arrived and I thought to myself "The quicker you run up this thing the shorter time you will have to struggle with this hill." So that's exactly what I did. I kept this pave through mile 6 determined to win women's overall and I hobbled across the finish line thinking its about time for new running shoes.