Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fridge fess up...part of the overhaul!

I thought I'd take a big step in our friendship and open up my refrigerator to you, from top to bottom.  As you know I am undertaking a training/everything overhaul because of my pace dropping so precipitously.  I think I might as well take some advice on my fridgie-fridge and see how I can improve my running by doing better with the foods I eat, too:

3 types of coffee creamer and skim milk on the top shelf, good priorities in this house!
Cottage cheese, eggs from our hens, blueberries, choc pudding, greek yogurt
Sugar free Red Bull, Spicy V8, Sprite...could be worse
Apples, string cheese, cauliflower, broccoli...
Cilantro, grapes, limes, sandwich thins (love em)
Yep, we bought cartons just for our own eggs...people receive them better this way
TWO pounds of butter, nutella, mustard, PB, salsa, key lime juice
Relish, jalapenos, pickled okra, garlic, applesauce, more mustard, more salsa...
Water filter, low sodium soy sauce, raspberry jelly, salad dressing, balsamic vinegar
2 types of ketchup, BBQ sauce, maple syrup, choc syrup, rice vinegar, more mustard
Yes, I store a lot of food in the pantry (pasta, soups, grains, cereals, nuts, chocolate etc) but I'd like to know, how does my food stack up?  Is this a good start for a healthy running diet?  My junk food taste is more savory than sweet (hence all the salsa and chips) but I won't lie to you, those 2 pounds of butter are going to end up in cookies this weekend.  I don't think my fridge is that bad but I admit, we do share a lot of produce with the hens and we eat elsewhere for lunch everyday since we are at work.  Also I was on a big hotdog kick while studying hence the crazy variety of condiments for two people.

Because we eat at work or out for lunch every day, we don't eat a lot of meat or fish at home, and if we do, I buy just what we are going to cook for that particular meal.  With only the two of us, stuff often goes bad before we can use it so it often goes to the hens instead of into my tummy.

Maybe next I'll share the pantry with you but I'm too short to get good pictures without dragging furniture into the kitchen, easier to wait til D is home, eh?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Epsom salts, old timey + wonderful, dust 'em off from under the sink

Over the past few years I have become a really poor sleeper.  That being said, I don't use any prescription sleep medication, and I'm pretty cautious about over-the-counter sleep aids.  My friend Barb (Leah's mom) has moderate to severe arthritis and she suggested an Epsom salt bath to help me recover from races as well as help in the sleep department and so I bought some and tried them and love them and I wish I had started using them ages ago.  I just wanted to tell you about them in case your mom hadn't told you!  Also, it's summer and overexertion is now in season and this might just be the thing to soothe your aches and pains.

Epsom is a town in England with a preponderance of magnesium salt springs.  Epsom salts and bath salts in general are just magnesium sulfate.  Medically, magnesium is very useful.  At home, you can drink it, bathe in it, or you can make it into a paste and apply to bruises and sores joints or muscles.  

I might just move to Epsom, that's some nice running weather!
 A study of people with arthritis demonstrated that a daily 12-minute epsom salt bath greatly improved arthritic pain relief and without prompting, the study participants all commented on significantly improved pain.  

Per the Epsom Salt Council, bathing in magnesium sulfate is also a way to absorb magnesium which is good for our bodies (if we are deficient).  This stuff has lots of good uses in the garden too. I used to have a garden, and then I got some chickens.  These entities are mutually exclusive.

Anyway, Epsom salt also removes "impurities" but my internet research failed to define what those impurities* might be.

For $0.88 at Walmart I bought a carton of Epsom salts which lasted about 3 baths.  I didn't measure it as I poured it into the bath so it may last even longer.  The package suggests 2 cups of salt for a regular bath tub.  Or do it like I do and just dump some salt in the bath until you think it looks good and salty.

To expand my bath repertoire, I next spent $4.88 on this larger bag of scented Epsom salts, also from Walmart.  I like this particular scent, it is fresh but not too minty or eucalyptic so it doesn't smell medicinal.
Yes you can store your Epsom salts on a pile of dirty laundry
 It makes the whole room smell nice, too.  See in El Paso, in our small home, we don't have a bathroom door, I think this is "a thing" here because at friends' homes, there are no bathroom doors either, I mean, the toilet and shower area are separate and have a door but no joke, our bedroom has an alcove with 2 sinks, a mirror, and a bathtub (well, and a giant laundry monster) but still, that's strange, right?  I digress...anyway I for sure pour too much of this scented salt mixture into the bath each time.  It dissolves well and I notice that it effervesces a tad more than the plain salts.

In all honesty I like the store-brand, unscented salts just as much as the scented ones.  They both work the same, dissolve well and I am a sleepy bunny shortly after bath time.  It's nice to have the scent, but it's nice to save money, too.  I choose the salt bath route about once a week, for after longer runs or when I just can't sleep.

Another Epsom fan
 I haven't noticed yet if the salted bath is better than a plain bath for pain reduction in achy joints and sore muscles but I am not yet facing severe osteoarthritis, either. For me this foray into salt baths started as a sleep aid.  Osmotically it makes sense that a salt bath would draw out fluid from swollen joints etc but I am probably not so in tune with my body that I'd notice.

*By "impurities" I think they euphemistically mean doodoo.  Magnesium salts (like magnesium citrate and magnesium sulfate) are laxatives so I suppose if you were feeling a little constipated you could use the plain Epsom salts and mix a magnesium cocktail per the directions on the package.  I haven't tried it...pre-op bowel prep is no party, this is about the same.  Absolutely do not try this if you have kidney impairment or diabetes or high blood pressure etc.  Actually, don't do this at all unless your medical provider suggests it...please...I don't want to lose my job already :)  And I am 80% sure the paper carton from Walmart does not have a medical license.

Does anyone else like these simple salts as much as I do?  Or do you have your own go-to homeopathic remedies?  Or are you from Epsom and can share its history?

Mommy we took care of that pesky garden for you!

Race report: Mayor's Half Marathon (Anchorage, AK)

Everybody loves a parade but Anchorage loves a half marathon.

These are people who have changed my life
 This 40th Annual Mayor's Marathon half-marathon is responsible for convincing my husband that we should retire to Alaska.  We bought property based on this race and the incredible beauty of the day.  For serious!

Future home?
I ran more slowly than I planned and it didn't get to me as it normally would.  I was really happy to be running with UJ, his CSM, and Dan.  UJ has always pushed me to do my best athletically but we have never been able to compete together before.

UJ's daughter ran the kid's 1.6 mile race in under a 7-min mile pace, putting us all to shame.

The half marathon is a scenic course starting (and returning) to the Delaney Park Strip between 9th and 10th Avenues.  The course sets out along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail with a uber-narrow half-mile trail run in the middle (through Kincaid Park) and a killer hill at the end back to the Park Strip where the race began.  You are not running in the mountains but there are some naughty hills along the way.  Don't let sight of the airport fool you into thinking flat!

I ran this race in 2005, much more quickly, when it was a slightly different course.  I think I placed so well then because it was a chilly rainy day and there was a much smaller field.  This past Saturday was quite different, with sun, many more runners, and great views of the Chugach Mountains to the east and the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet to the west.  

A kid's 1.6 mile race and a 4-mile race also start with the half-marathon.  The full marathon and marathon relay start an hour earlier out east but end at the Park Strip with the half.  The race is always held on the Saturday nearest the summer solstice.  I didn't see Mayor Sullivan there but I assume with one's title on a race he might have been there, at least ceremonially.

Dan loved that this race begins later than most, at 0900.  No groggy morning rush!  There were ample potties at the start/finish and great end of race snacks (Great Harvest Bread Co cookies, drinks, bananas, watermelon, etc).  Nice technical finisher's t-shirt and medal, each distance a different color. Finish-line beer garden for those of age. The aid stations are well-spaced and overrunning with drinks and snacks and music, lots of Psy on this particular day...I guess if you can see Russia you can almost see South Korea too?  Why not.

We didn't look very hard for parking in the morning and we found plenty of spots close by, had we searched a little more tenaciously we could have parked right along the Park Strip itself.  The only downfall of the race was that the start was tight...sardines.  We waited a good few minutes for the crowd to thin and it didn't so if you need a PR in Anchorage, you had better line your tush up in the very front on race day.  The trail is narrow and we were stuck in a thick crowd for about 2 miles. One day, I'd love to meet my goal and break 1:45 on this course, on my turf, in my town.

Packet pick up was the day before the race.  No race day registration or pickup available.  They let Dan and I pick up UJ's number, a convenience I wish more races allowed.  We didn't have a lot of time to explore the expo but the official race ambassador greeted us there.  He has a prosthetic leg and there are more than a few wounded warriors and others with prosthetic appliances running the race.  It's Alaska, so there's not much judging going on.  Run with legs or without.  Or with your dog.  Or a stroller.  Or walk.  There were for sure all skills, ages and abilities present.

The four of us running very much appreciated the 50% military discount. We will be back to run this again.  Annually, if I had to guess. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

PowerBar Energy Blasts winner

Cecil Vermule...
...send me your address to realworldrunner [at] gmail [dot] com

Super!! Enjoy!!

I will also send you a PM :)

North to the future...back from Alaska!

Lately I have been ignoring the simple fact that stress is negatively affecting my running.  Where I used to be a solid 7:45-7:51 minute per mile runner, for the past month or so I am thrilled just to hold 8:30s or so.  I'd love to blame the arid triple digits but I know that the stress of the boards and the trepidation in waiting for score reports just about knocked me over.  We planned a week trip in Alaska immediately after my test day to enjoy some stress-free (oh my gosh, what a joke, waiting for scores was actual test stress x ONE MILLION) time off together and with friends.

I lost a lot of sleep while waiting for scores but I finally found out last Thursday (while standing at a mosquito-laden river landing at 0500) that I passed the boards and the best part was that I was in Alaska with my "family," the mentor who started it all and gave me the courage to keep pushing forward with my studies and army career.  I have been friends with UJ and his wife CB for 7 years and I would not be myself without them.  They have also adopted Dan into their family and we love their 3 beautiful and spirited children as our own. 

We found time to eat way too much good food with our great friends

This is about oh, 9 at night
 And celebrate UJ's change of command

i would never be so lucky to have UJ as my boss one day
Fish for king salmon on the Deshka River (we took pictures of all the fish we caught as you can clearly see)

True.  There are no fish in any of our pictures.
Ride horses up the butte in Palmer 

up a IS funny
 Cruise around Portage Glacier 

Run a half marathon

photo of a photo...only the best for you
 We enjoyed the midnight sun and we successfully shopped for real estate.

The biggest victory of our trip north was finally convincing California Dan that we should retire to Alaska.  Our last visit (his first) was in winter and not surprisingly, skiing through blustery -9F did not win him over.  The summer sun and beautiful landscape and opportunity for so much coffee (seriously, I've never seen such dense per capita coffee shops) and he was hooked (unlike our fish, sigh).  Maybe he just drank in too much clean air.  Or coffee.

Either way, we now have 2.3 acres of an empty wooded lot with some nice views of the Kenai Peninsula...and we have a few more years to decide (argue) what to do with it!

For now the running is not going too well.   The halfsie was a beautiful course but I just held a nice pace and didn't push myself.  I couldn't.  I changed shoes, training plans, hydration, everything, and still I can't trim the fat off my pace but I am content to work with this slower pace for now and then ease back into it.

It's nice to be back home.  The chickens did fine without us and their abandoned heap of 12 eggs demonstrated yet again that they'd be terrible mothers.  Nugget enjoyed her time at sleep-away camp.  Back to running, back to hoping I can clean up my pace!

Any suggestions to overcome my training troubles?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Giveaway: PowerBar Energy Blasts Chews

Last week I wrote a little piece on my thoughts about these chewy wonders.  If you haven't tried em, I've got some at home (lots and lots!) for you to try for free, and I'll even send them to your door direct from lovely El Paso, TX! 

I promise...they'll be in unopened bags (unlike these fellas)
 If you'd like me to send you these delicious chewy pals, tell me something below about how you fuel for exercise and thanks to a random number generator, you might find yourself with an excess of PowerBar chewies in assorted flavors to try out.  I hope you like them as much as I do!

Expires 10pm mountain time (midnight eastern) on June 13.  You won't receive them in time for Father's Day in case you are thinking of parlaying these into a cheap gift for pop.  Of course, I do know some fathers who might really like to receive a big pile of gummy energy chews...not mine, otherwise he'd be receiving these too :)


Monday, June 10, 2013

Barefoot running...lit review

I am pretty set in my ways and never caught on to the minimalist or barefoot running technique, despite some friends who insist on it.  I'd actually forgotten the whole issue until a few days ago when I saw a gentleman character running barefoot on a treadmill at the gym.  Yes, gross and confusing at the same time. 

So I did a little more looking into this barefoot running thing.  Reading about it in a popular magazine is somehow just not satisfying.  To the library, then, to investigate how the scientists study these matters!

The take home message in the study I read (Altman and Davis, above) regardless of the shoes you have?  No more heel strike for you...heel strike was linked to elevated pressure in the front of the lower leg (since you have to keep your tibialis anterior contracted to maintain dorsiflexion, I assume), and injury in general occurred 2.5 times more frequently than in people running with midfoot and forefoot strike.  We're talking back, hip, knee, ankle and foot pain, derived from the increased transmission of ground forces through your bones and joints when heel striking.

All that being studied, I've decided to stick with my shod ways.  I am not particularly a heel-striker.  The change I've made, though, is to completely avoid using that treadmill in the gym...

Of course, the researchers admitted that long-term top-tier research studies on this shod vs barefoot subject just don't exist yet.  I'm willing to collect some data and do some research:

Gonna need some input from minimalist types, subjectively, what benefits do you derive?

Best foods for runners: Midsummer resolution

Kale- don't love it but I should.  Thx wiki for the pic.

A weekend full of Grand China Buffet and El Taco Tote left me feeling bloated and sluggish this morning, so I did what anyone would: drank a bucket of coffee and searched the web for "best foods for runners" and was consequently overwhelmed with the lists I found, and their disparity from what's getting into my belly (no frijoles refritos? wha??): 

22/29?  Not so bad!

I'm not doing too poorly on purchasing these recommended foods, but let's be honest, partaking of them is a different story.  I have a pretty substantial quinoa collection that I'm not eating too often because it tastes awful.  Why does the entire internet think quinoa is so transcendentally nutty and wonderful?  Yes it's as salubrious as beets (thanks Calvin and Hobbes) but it tastes like metallic yet flavorless and chewy warm fish eggs to me (no offense to fish eggs, I love you my salty sushi sprinkles). 

Evidence!  Some healthy food was removed from this picture at some point!
I still need to reconcile which foods are best vs what I like to eat best, but for lunch I ate a sweet potato with cottage cheese and cilantro, which seems to jive with a few of the internet lists and my tastebuds.  In any case, a step away from the Chinese buffet in any direction has got to be a good move :)

It's no secret, my running has been suffering as it loses out (on purpose) to more pressing things. The part of that I can control is what I eat in order to properly fuel myself (bye bye GCB and the Tote) and I hope to further clean up my food act a bit this summer.

Any thoughts on your favorite nutritious yet delicious foods?  Quite clearly I also need quinoa recipe suggestions :)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Perfect sports bra: found it!

This struggle to find the perfect sports bra is very close to my heart (ha, ha) and I'm happy to report success!  I received a sports bra as a lovely gift (last Christmas) -- the best bra I've found yet -- the Lululemon All-Sport Bra.  I waited these months to really assess it fairly and I can say it's made a significant difference in the long run (oh geez another pun) in terms of chafe-age.  I suffer from perennial left-sided underboob chafe and short of a new ribcage or other drastic anatomic alteration, it will always be there as part of my running gestalt, though lessened, thanks to Lululemon. 

Not so tight that it cuts off thoracic circulation, and chafe-free!
My go-to sports bras are from Champion and Reebok.  I find them at Marshall's or Target, about $12-$18.  They are ok, but regardless of the brand, I get the left-sided chafe and they will stretch out after a few months of use.  They are then downgraded for road biking or lifting weights or other less impacting activities. 

I save my Lululemon bra for my longer runs when I know I'll be hurting and bleeding out the front of my shirt (so gross!) and even just wearing it conservatively (once or twice weekly), it's made a difference and my chafe area heals much faster.  I also like the ample coverage, smooth seams, and fun colors on the cross back.  The fabric is smooth and silky yet completely supportive and I look forward to my longer runs now because this bra is a ta-ta treat!
fun colors to distract from the unkempt bedroom eh
That being said, there's a pretty steep price tag ($52) and so I only own one and I probably won't buy enough of these for daily use, though I would like to receive another for my birthday (hint hint, D).  The size runs true (I'm a 34B - size 4 in this bra) and for me, it's a great fit, less chafing than any other bra I've worn throughout the years.  This is the only Lululemon product I own as their prices are quite intimidating, and while they garner positive reviews across the board, I'm happy to save half my money and purchase most of my daily running accessories on Amazon or at Target. 

In the future, I for sure would skip bras like this $33 bra from Adidas/Sports Authority:

It's almost as expensive as the Lululemon All-Sport and while made of the fabulously wicking Adi-tech fabric, it is super tight around my ribs and not-so-supportive where it counts.  I bought it a year ago in a hurry without any familiarity with their sizing charts so I'll accept blame, but I'm not sure that a size smaller (or larger) would have fit me better. 

What are your splurge products that you love?  Or how about a sports bra that you love?  Any other suggestions for ameliorating chafe?  I can't be the only one....

Friday, June 7, 2013

Off topic: 30 months later...

Guess what?

...I now have a master's degree...(not sure it made it into the picture!)

Couldn't, wouldn't have done it without you!
BF Leah was able to take some time away from work to share in the morning's celebration and of course D and my classmates came through as well as some of the bigwigs...

Couldn't have asked for better classmates and coordinator!

We ensured job security/celebrated National Donut Day with our post-graduation refreshments.

Dan and I will celebrate later with a bike ride- more specifically, a spin on my new 29er, the Giant Anthem.  I have never had a women's-specific bike before, or a bike with disc brakes, much less a 29" and with dual suspension!  I can't wait to try it out on the rocky trails near home.  I am not the tallest kid on the block and I love having a frame that fits so well. I also love the Giant brand (my other bikes are a Giant SE Rincon from 2000 and a Giant OCR 1 road bike from 2002) and the folks at our great local bike shop set me up with the perfect fit.  I am not one to make big purchases lightly and I'm happy to have found a great bike we will keep for years to come.  

I am far more excited about the new bike than the new degree...but I only got one because of the other, so that's saying something I guess :)

Did you have a big week?  Or at least get a free donut?  

Either way, here's to having a big weekend!

International and advice?

One of the particular joys of travel to new places is getting to explore while on a run.  

Though I've dodged cars through the narrow streets of Osaka and Tokyo, stopping to do pull-ups at tiny little parks, and nearly died along the banks of the Han River in the August humidity of Seoul, and my brother and I did a sibling jog together in Plitvice, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
by the bluest water you'll ever see, my only international race experience was the 2005 Auckland Marathon. 

A friend and I had two weeks of leave planned in New Zealand and the highlight of our fall trip was a spring marathon!  We arrived the day before the race -- everything was as smooth as could be -- we had fun exploring the city to find packet pick up and the starting line, just as you'd do for any big race in any city that's not home.  Race day, my friend dropped back into the 10K race due to an untimely injury and I spent the remaining 20 miles converting between miles and kilometers and back again while asking some very concerned fellow runners, "how long is this race?" because I hadn't bothered to consider that a 26.2 mile marathon measures just over 42 km, and that a nation on the metric system might not post mile markers.  I admit, the fun of the mental math kept me busy.  To this day, every time I run a race that's only marked in miles (ok, so pretty much every race in the US, even 5Ks and 10Ks) I smile and remember my past confusion...while eagerly waiting for someone to ask me, mid-marathon, "how long IS this thing?"
Running the Auckland Marathon, you won't soon forget that bridge!
In fact, my experience at the Auckland Marathon gave me the idea to do more destination races, combining some vacation time with a running event, which is why I am heading back to Alaska in less than 2 weeks (for the Mayor's Marathon Half) and is exactly how I ended up at the Salt Lake City Marathon in April of this year as well as the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa, Florida in 2010.  

In any event, the Auckland Marathon was and still is a PR for me, the highlight of a great trip.  I've gone back to New Zealand since then and it's one of my favorite places on earth and always will be.  I hope to run the Auckland Marathon again; it feels like a hometown race to me now.

I would like to do another international event, any suggestions for great race/vacation combinations?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Product review: PowerBar Energy Blasts

Off day today for me- no running (well, maybe I'll go for an evening run if time allows, no promises though!) as tomorrow is a big day in my career and I have lots of prep to do for it.  Exciting stuff, I'll share after the big day :)

For now, let's talk about sweets!  My favorite type of candy has always been on the "chewy" end of the lickies-and-chewies spectrum...those big bins of candy at bulk stores?  I love me some cola bottles, cinnamon bears, peachy penguins, green apple frogs...really anything made by The Happy World of Haribo is at the top of my list, so it's no small wonder that I prefer gummy-type exercise sweets over gels.  My local grocery store stocks Power Bar Energy Blast Gel-Filled Chews.  I usually find them on sale for $1.00 per bag, and in three flavors each with a different level of caffeine:

Raspberry is my favorite and even has some vit C
So what is the big selling point here?  How are these better than a handful of jellybeans?  PowerBar touts their proprietary C2 Max energy blend...which is just a 2:1 glucose:fructose (fruit sugar, honey, corn syrup) sugar ratio.  These monosaccharides are very similar (in fact, glucose + fructose = sucrose, aka table sugar) but the reason they are included in this proportion in these Power Bar Energy Blasts is all based on these guys and their time-trial of cyclists:


Currell and Jeukendrup reminded me that the transporters that take nutrients from your intestine to blood stream come in many different permutations.  In a very simplified manner, when there's a lot of glucose to be put into the blood (ie, after a meal), the glucose transporter (SGLT1) can get backed up with glucose traffic.  When glucose and fructose are combined, the fructose uses its own separate transporter (GLUT5) which is off limits to glucose, and everyone can get out of the intestinal lining and into the blood more efficiently via the backdoor from the intestinal cells into the bloodstream (GLUT2).  This is especially important in exercise as we need energy more quickly and don't want to wait for glucose to file out.

The researchers determined that a ratio of 2:1 glucose:fructose (1.2g to 0.6g) was more effective (an 8% decrease in the amount of time it took the cyclists to complete their cycling time trial as compared to 1.8g of straight glucose (which showed a 10% improvement over the placebo group who just had water without carbohydrate).  The scientists also indicated that the ingestion of the glucose:fructose blend staved off the body's need to use liver glycogen stores, allowing for these stores to be accessed later in the time trial.

So this is maybe how PowerBar formulated the 2:1 C2 Max blend.  I am glad to see there is real science behind it.  Do I personally need a perfect monosaccharide blend?  Nah, I am not nearly on that end of the performance curve.  In my "research" (sample size: me) I do notice that after having some gels or candies after about an hour into a marathon or century cycling event that I perk up a bit.  I also feel more energized after having regular foods, too, like a few graham crackers, or sips of carbohydrate beverage, so I know there's something to it and it's not particular to fancy lab-created food blends- in my case, it's probably a combination of the added glucose/fructose and a placebo effect.

I like a chewy candy while I run.  It fights boredom and doesn't gag me like some of the gels which seem more like a dentist's fluoridated sealant paste.  It's also easy for me to unwrap a few packages of gummies pre-race and put them in a small sandwich baggie and tuck into my sports bra or shorts pocket which doesn't cause the same level of underboob chafe as the scratchy edges of the gel packs.  Plus, it's easy to share a few chewy candies with a stranger, don't get me wrong, I love people and all, but I'm not letting all y'all have a quick suckle on a shared PowerBar Gel as you run past.

I'll continue to buy this type of stuff for my longer runs and races.  On the road bike I can pretty much dig into leftover Kung Pao chicken and not suffer tummy trouble.

Does anyone know more about this fructose/glucose nonsense?  What's your favorite pick-me-up during a run?  I'd love a diagram or at least an interpretive dance of the intestinal luminal cotransporters...