potatoes

I run. A lot. I am training for marathons basically year-round and I have finally started feeling somewhat comfortable tackling a lot of mileage every week. And I am enjoying it. Weird.

Part of endurance training is figuring out how to best fuel yourself, both before and after runs, but also during them. Generally, an athlete should consume about 100 calories of carbohydrates every 30-45 minutes during runs over an hour in length. That is an approximation and everyone needs to figure out how much and what type of fuel works best for them.

I have a strong stomach, I don’t have any dietary restrictions, and I actually don’t mind eating processed, store-bought fuel, like Gu (my favorite flavors are Vanilla Bean and Roctane Island Nectar) and Shot Blocks. I trust the science that has led to modern sports nutrition… but I can only take so much sugar at one time.

I crave salt when I run. You lose a lot of salt when you sweat and your body needs salt to stay properly hydrated and continue functioning optimally. (Want some science? Joel has some electrolyte science for you.) I tried pretzels while half marathoning, but they were too dry. Then, I saw athletes eating baked potatoes during the Kona IronMan World Championships telecast (you already know that I am sort of obsessed with the IronMan) and I knew I’d found my solution.

Want to try potatoes on your long run? Here is my recipe:

  • Buy the smallest red or fingerling potatoes you can find. Small potatoes are convenient to eat and provide about 25 calories per ounce. A very small red potato is about an ounce, so 4 potatoes = 100 calories. (4 potatoes also have about 2 grams each of fiber & protein and 600 mg of Potassium.)
  • Rinse the potatoes and remove any eyes or bad spots.
  • Steam the potatoes (I used a double boiler steamer pot) for about 20-22 minutes or until they are tender all the way through.
  • Let the potatoes cool.
  • Put the potatoes in individual zip lock bags for your runs and add salt. I added about 1/2 Tablespoon of sea salt to each bag of 8 potatoes (200 calories). That is a lot of salt — about 3600 mg — but I like it. Store the potatoes in the refrigerator until you need them.
  • Eat the potatoes throughout your run with lots of water… or Gatorade or Nuun.

Easy, right?

I have been testing the potatoes out and have eaten them exclusively during my last four long runs. I have felt great. Really great. No stomach problems and I feel less brain dead and drained after my workouts. However, it is hard to say whether that is all due to the potatoes or to my training finally kicking in and making long runs a bit easier.

During my marathons I plan to eat both Gu and potatoes… and probably Twix and Shot Blocks and Luna Bars, too. I eat a lot.

Each person has to figure out what works best for them, but I definitely recommend giving potatoes a try. (Or even sweet potatoes.) Especially if you crave a salty fuel alternative.

Plus, they are IronMan approved!

10k

Last Sunday, my Summer 2012 Brooklyn Team in Training (seen above) ran the The Race at Roosevelt Island 10k. It was a fun day full of firsts for me — my first time on Roosevelt Island, first time on the Roosevelt Island sky tram, first time on a NYC bus! — but the actual race may have been the worst of my life.

Despite wearing my Team Sparkle skirt for the first time, I just couldn’t get my body into race mode. I was in pain with terrible shin splints and my pace was my slowest ever in a race. I am not really sure why it went so badly. I don’t really have an excuse. I ate well on Saturday. I had basically rested for the full week before. I drank plenty of fluids and ate breakfast before the race. My shoes were semi-newish, so maybe that is it… but i wore the same shoes at my triumphant NYC Half Marathon two weeks ago, so I don’t think they were the problem. I guess I’ll just tell myself that I was having a plain old bad day.

Luckily (or unluckily, if it goes as badly) I have a do-over this weekend. Tomorrow, I am running the Scotland Run 10k in Central Park. My somewhat unrealistic goal is to run it in 59 minutes. My more attainable goal is to simply have a better race than last weekend.

Wish me luck!

ok, one more marathon post…

It is hard to tell from this Nike+ graph of my run, but I basically achieved negative splits during the marathon, meaning that I ran a little bit faster as the race went on, with my fastest miles being at the end. I have never really been able to accomplish negative splits as successfully before, even on shorter races.

I really think that the only reason I was able to stay strong during the Marine Corps Marathon was because I ate so much fuel before and during the race. Usually, I hate the thought of putting so much sugar and carbs in my body, but a race is not the time to think about losing weight or cutting calories. I am an eat-tons-of-race-day-carbs evangelist now! Eat those carbs, start slow, and think positive = my new race plan.

Something else I forgot to add to my epic marathon recap postevery single one of the eleven Brooklyn Team in Training runners achieved a Personal Record on Sunday! Some were running their first ever marathon and got a PR by default, but over half of us were returning marathoners and we all had our best race ever! That is huge. I am sure that some of it is due to the great weather we had that day, but I think most of our success on raceday can be attributed to the training and coaching we got through TNT.

Seriously, if you have always wanted to complete an endurance event, check out Team In Training. Seriously.

no sleep till…

Washington, DC!

Here we go! We are off to DC today on the TNT bus. We’ll be stopping by the Marine Corps Marathon Expo tonight to pick up our race numbers, having a team pasta party tomorrow, and then Sunday morning, we run. I am excited and nervous… but my singlet is decorated (with many jewels), my nails are painted purple, and we’ve packed a giant bag of pre-race food… so I think I am ready.

My bib # is 32036. Travis is # 32037. You might need that info if you want to track us during the race via text message or social media. I will be tweeting my progress on @rljart and I’ll be posting some race day info to Facebook. But, this year I am going to try to concentrate a bit more on racing and try not to wear out my phone battery like last year

My internal mantra is, “This will be my best race ever.” A little ambitious maybe, but it could happen. The weather is supposed to be perfect on race day and I am feeling very healthy. I guess we’ll see on Sunday!

Thank you so much to everyone who donated to our fundraising efforts for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Travis and I are so happy to be running with Team in Training.

taper madness

In an attempt to be a little less aggressive with the running talk this year, I’ve neglected to report on the current state of our training! Travis and I run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, this Sunday!! Eek. I am nervous. But ready. I think I am ready.

At the end of September, we ran the 5th Ave Mile, a quick one-mile race down Fifth Avenue. Of course, we ran the 12 miles there from Brooklyn as part of our training, so my race time wasn’t exactly a speed record. It was fun, though. Such a quick, little race! (That is me crossing the finish line above. Here is Travis.) Of course, we had brunch afterward.

Just two weeks ago, we ran the Staten Island Half Marathon (photos above). It was our last race before the full marathon and it was setting up to be my best event of the year. Travis and I ate correctly in the days leading up to it, we rested, and I created a seemingly perfect race plan for myself that would have given me a near PR. Despite problems with the Staten Island Ferry (we waited for over and hour and were late to the race), my run started out great. I was following my plan and sure that I was going to finish better than ever. But… at mile 10 it sort of all fell apart. It got hot. I got really sore in my feet — weird — and I just couldn’t finish strong. My time was still my best half marathon of the year, but I was six minutes slower than my goal. I would be totally fine with my result, except that the SI Half was meant to be a mini version of my marathon race plan. The fact that I couldn’t quite pull it off makes me worried about what I can realistically accomplish in DC on Sunday.

My goal, of course, is to finish the MCM in under 5 hours. I don’t know if it is possible. I am creating a couple race plan scenarios, but I think the most important thing I can do is stay calm, relaxed, and slow in the beginning. It is hard to escape the excitement and second-guessing that happens at the beginning of a race, though.

So many aspects of endurance running are mental challenges. For example, right now we are in the “taper” segment of our training. Basically, in the last few weeks before a big event, you cut way back on your mileage and try to rest up. But the taper can play with your mind. As your body repairs, you get little aches and pains that freak you out (I had a calf cramp the other day for no apparent reason) and you start to convince yourself that you need one more big run before the event. I imagine it is sort of like people stranded on a raft at sea who can’t take it any more and start drinking salt water. Runners have a hard time resisting running during the taper. I think Travis and I will stay strong, though.

Tonight is our last TNT Group Training Session before our race. We won’t run a lot, but I am wearing my marathon outfit just to test it all out one more time. Gotta make sure it is all perfect! After that, all we can do is rest and try not to succumb to taper madness…

running is my life coach

Running is difficult. SO difficult. I am training for a marathon, but no, I will NOT qualify for Boston. Not even close. People like to ask that…

I know that I sound like I am just being self-deprecating or silly when I say this, but I am terrible at running. Truly. I am slow. It is painful. I am often feeling discouraged.

BUT… I am not terrible at facing a challenge. I will always be grateful to running for showing me that — allowing me to know that I am strong, without a doubt.

I ran my longest run of the training season yesterday. 18 miles. It is the longest run I will complete before the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th. It was 3.5 hours of moving my legs across pavement. It was difficult, and tiring, and painful… and exhilarating, and encouraging, and a little fun.

Endurance running isn’t complicated. Just get some good shoes, eat enough fuel, and drink enough water. The rest is just staying mentally strong and enduring pain. I don’t like the pain, but I like the challenge. I like knowing that I can be fatigued and in pain and keep going. (I should add, even though it isn’t complicated, endurance running shouldn’t be jumped into… I have been working my way up to these long distances for over a year.)

Here I am yesterday at an earlier stage of the run, feeling quite enthusiastic:

Travis and I are training for our marathon with Team In Training. It is a wonderful organization and we are all raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you’d liek to donate, check out our fundraising page.

on fitness

So, I have already complained quite enough about my complete lack of talent in all areas of athletics, but I am working hard to change my attitude, cancel the pity party, and work with what I DO have — which is determination and a love of exercise.

I’ve been so discouraged by what seems like zero progress in my training (read: speed) that I stopped appreciating what I AM able to do… and I’ve actually been doing a lot.

On Thursday, I tackled another tough session with Coach Jaz at Pace4Success boot camp. The boot camp classes are so difficult because we do strength exercises that are unfamiliar and work your full body, not just major muscle groups. I am always sore after the sessions, but I can tell that I am getting a little bit better at keeping up during the workout. I can do real pushups (not many, but still) and hold a plank for at least a minute. That is something!

On Saturday, I ran a four-mile race in Central Park. The photo was taken at the starting line with my teammates Suzy, Casey, and Archie. I concentrated on my form during the race and ended up with a pretty acceptable time (for me) — 39 minutes, sub-10-minute miles. I wasn’t full-out racing the event, or pushing myself to major discomfort, but I was taking it seriously. I am glad to have finally had a solid race and a faster pace.

On Sunday, Travis and I managed to get ourselves out of the house by 9 am and meet friends for a long run. We finished 10 miles in the hot sun down Ocean Parkway – I am pretty impressed with our comittment to our training schedule!

And today is my rest day. Whew!

—–

How much exercise does one need to do in order to be considered fit? That is a hard question, because despite all of my effort I still feel that I have a lot further to go…

I have done a lot of exercise in my life. Starting with a childhood full of hard core dance, a high school experience full of volleyball, track, and cross country, a marathon at 19, running clubs, gym memberships, Jazzercise, Pilates, TaeBo, spinning, a cross training club, more road races that I can count, yoga, Zumba, boot camp, and even the Gwyneth Paltrow endorsed Tracy Anderson Method — I feel like I have done it all! (And, yes — A few of my readers have let me know that I may have an unhealthy obsession with Gwyneth. I will seek help.)

I watched the IronMan World Championships on Sunday and compared to those competitors I might as well be a couch potato… BUT maybe I am getting there… not to IronMan status by any means, but by the time I complete my third full marathon this October, I think I will be on my way to actually feeling like an athlete. A slow, silly athlete, but one just the same. And if I can accomplish my goal of losing a few pounds and adjust my attitude on beauty, I think I’ll be in a really healthy place! Maybe I’ll train for a triathlon next…

What do you think? What does it mean to be “fit”?

on dieting

Logical: I love my body. It is healthy and strong. I have muscle and my legs have carried me many miles, including through two full marathons. I know that I am extremely fortunate to be in good health and I am thankful every day for what my body allows me to accomplish.

Illogical: I hate my body. I want to look like a combo between this seemingly genetically engineered super-human and Gwyneth Paltrow. (see: on beauty)

Thankfully, I am getting older (30!) and the logical side of my brain is starting to win the argument. Most of the time. So, why, you might ask, am I on a diet?

1- See “illogical” above. What did I just say about getting older and smarter? Despite my best intentions to be a mature woman, I will always have body image issues. Sad, but true.

2 – Marathon training.

I have done a lot of different diets — calorie counting, vegetarian, juice fast — but I always seem to come to the conclusion that it isn’t worth the trouble and return to relatively normal eating. Reason number two is the motivational kicker this time around. (Positive motivation is much more powerful that guilt or shame.)

According to Runner’s World (and my own favorite Coach Joel – thanks, Joel!) for every pound lost a runner can trim their mile pace by about 2 seconds. Doesn’t sound like much, but if I can lose 10 lbs by October, I could automatically drop almost 9 minutes from my marathon time. That, plus some speed training, may possibly get me the sub-5-hour marathon time of my dreams!

So, how do I plan to do it? First, Travis and I have cut out dessert, which is a big step that I had hoped would be enough… but if I want truly serious results, I need to take serious steps. SO… I took more of my encouraging Coach’s advice (despite immediately telling him that there was no way I’d count calories), and downloaded the free Lose It iPhone app. It is a user-friendly app that helps you track calories consumed (food) and calories burned (exercise). I am only on day two of using the app, but so far, so good.

The app says that for someone of my height (5’6″) and weight (somewhere within the normal range, but more than I’d like) can eat about 1500 calories/day and lose about a pound a week. Plus, you can add more calories to offset exercise. The plan seems very doable. Almost too doable, so we’ll see if it works. If nothing else, it doesn’t hurt for me to pay more attention to what I am eating before runs to determine what helps me feel the best overall.

I’ll report back on my progress! (Hopefully, soon I’ll actually be wearing a bikini instead of just photoshopping my head freakishly on to Marisa Miller’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit pics… hey, she has nice abs!)

Juice Cleanse – overall recap

One last review of the juice cleanse experience…

My thoughts on my 3-day, raw, vegan, Organic Avenue juice cleanse:

  • I continued the cleanse all day yesterday, but then had a dinner of chicken and potatoes and greens (plus some tiramisu) at about 7 pm.
  • I was really excited to eat solid food again, but it didn’t satisfy me as much as I was anticipating. I also was really craving salt. The cleanse must not have had any sodium…
  • I feel really good this morning, surprisingly. My stomach was upset when I woke up , but I drank coffee and soy milk and then felt fine while running 7 miles – a miracle. I was really amazed that I felt so good on the run.
  • Overall, I was hungry on the cleanse, but more than that, my stomach just would not accept more straight vegetable juice. The instructions say you don’t have to finish all of the juices, and I didn’t, but I was really surprised by the fact that I didn’t want to. I didn’t anticipate that.
  • I think I may have lost a tiny bit of weight – some tight pants feel a little looser – but nothing dramatic.
  • I did not officially “cleanse my colon” – I stayed nice and regular. However, if I had stayed on the cleanse for more days I think there may have been some bathroom drama… sorry for TMI.
  • I don’t know what I was expecting from the cleanse, but I don’t think it did anything extreme to me. Maybe my skin is a little better? Maybe I have some extra nutrients floating around inside? Maybe I got in better touch with my body’s expression of hunger? Sure. I guess. I cannot say that I found enlightenment or inner fulfillment.
  • Basically, I don’t think the cleanse was worth the money (especially at full price), but I guess I am glad I satisfied my curiosity and tried it. I do feel really excellent today and happy with my run, so there’s that.
  • Despite what I just said above, I could see myself doing a 1-day liquid diet in the future. Not for any miracle results, but maybe just to recover from an especially decadent weekend. We’ll see…

What do you think? Are my results typical? Should I have stayed on the cleanse longer?

Juice Cleanse – Day 3

Oof. Good morning, I guess… Welcome to Day 3…

As you can tell by the video, I am not quite as happy about this liquid diet today. I am hungry and my stomach has been feeling upset, but that isn’t even the bad part. The really bad part is the constant green juice!! Every morning I get to drink a fruit juice (today a tasty ginger lemonade) but then the rest of the day is vegetable juice. I thought I had a very high appreciation and tolerance level for veggies, but I think my body is refusing more green juice. I actually would rather not eat at all (despite the hunger) than drink the juice!! I have most of a Cucumber juice and a Beet blend juice left in the fridge from yesterday that I didn’t finish… and plenty more that I am supposed to drink today! Ugh.

I mostly stuck to the plan yesterday. I tried to eat that raw, vegan “burrito” before my boot camp class, but couldn’t finish it. It consisted of mashed up sunflower seeds and pine nuts wrapped in a kale leaf. Crusher wouldn’t even eat it!! That is a bad sign.

Boot camp went ok. I completed it and only felt a little light headed. What makes me most worried is that I didn’t eat anything afterward and so I am afraid my muscles didn’t start repairing at their highest capacity…

Negatives: As you can tell, pretty much everything. No, that is not true. I actually feel ok other than my total revulsion when it comes to green vegetable juice. If this cleanse had more fruit juices, I think I would be much happier! Also, I am drinking coffee with soy milk again today.

Positives: I haven’t had any bathroom issues. yay! I think I have had some very slight weight loss results, but I don’t weigh myself so I can’t give you numbers. I was able to complete boot camp last night. Biggest positive: I am almost done!

—–

Now a confession: I think I am going to stop the cleanse a little early and eat dinner tonight. I don’t want to go through my Friday night miserable. Plus we are training with our running group tomorrow morning and I want to have the energy I need. I know that I am going to have vegetable juices left over and I hope to work them in over the weekend. Maybe I’ll force Travis to drink some…