Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Little Things

I've got mad hops

It's race week. Not THE race week but a pretty big race week nonetheless: Miwok 100k. Since Lake Sonoma 50, I have been training hard. I didn't really take much time after LS50, in fact two whole days, then got back to it. Right after LS50 I decided that I really needed to commitment myself to upping my game. I have always known that the supplemental work is what is going to really take my running to the next level, but I have always failed to execute it. For the most part. I have been really good about getting weekly massage at Psoas Massage and Bodywork. I have gotten better about stretching. But I knew that wasn't enough, I needed to do more. I wanted to do more.

When I was a basketball player, my favorite part of my training was the conditioning and running (surprise right?). While I loved to do drills, practice and play ball, I really loved getting into the gym and lifting weights, doing plyos, getting quick, strong and agile. Since I have taken up running, I have never had a clear directive in the strength, agility, balance department. So I decided to change that. I got a trainer, Josh Moberg at Diakadi Body and have been working with him since right around LS50. On his suggestion, I also started doing pilates as well. I have been really good about stretching and getting on the foam roller. And wow, in just a short amount of time, I really feel the difference. My core is stronger, I am developing better body awareness (especially through pilates) and I really feel like I am starting to see how much of a benefit this is going to be to me. And Josh hasn't even started to put the hurt on me yet, there just hasn't been time. But between a weekly session with Josh, one on my own and pilates, my bodyfat dropped almost 1% in 4 weeks. I don't want to get wrapped up in numbers and things like that as I have said numerous times, but it is an interesting marker.

I feel like between my coach Howard and I, I have got the running part dialed in. I feel like I have been better this year than ever before in running really specific workouts and pushing myself. I look forward to continuing that for the remaining weeks before States. But the supplemental stuff is boosting me in a way that I didn't think it would. I am not lifting heavy or hard, I don't come out of sessions feel sore, but I can see and feel the difference. It really is exciting to think to the long term gains and fitness. I am stoked to continue, that is for sure.

I am feeling ready to go. I have, for the most part, handled this taper with more grace and ease than I usually do. I don't really feel overwhelmed by the feelings of being slow, fat, sore and out of shape. Instead, I just feel ready to run. That is not to say, I am feeling like superwoman, but I am just happy that I am not feeling awful. I feel like I just "am" right now. I feel very calm. Good or bad, I am not sure. 

Miwok is a great stacked race. There are many great runners coming out for the race. I want to go out and have a good day, feel good and run well. I also don't want to lay it all out there either, because as my friend Gary said to me at TransRockies last year, "you don't want to win the battle and lose the war". And it's true. I really plan on keeping my eye on the true prize which is States. I want to run well there and though doing well at Miwok is of course something I really want, I am going to play it smart, strong and see where the day takes me. I'll report back after it's all said and done, but also feel free to follow along on Whatever happens, it is going to be a beautiful weekend with great friends and awesome trails.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Do or do not, there is no try.

I have been ruminating a lot lately on what to do with myself, my life, my career lately. I started writing a personal manifesto recently and though I have only finished it up to 40 items, it is clear to me that I want to do much more with my life, experience much more, live a full and happy life. It is also clear that I don't want to spend my time trying to figure out it anymore. What is it exactly? Well if I pull back the layers, take away the pieces then the only thing in my life that I am dissatisfied with is my career or lack there of. I have realized more and more recently that my personality may not lend itself to just doing one thing for the rest of my life. I don't care about having a career in the traditionally defined sense but I do want something other than my running to do (which would also pay the bills, as running definitely does not). I could see myself having many and more manifestations as a writer, photographer, baker, nutritionist, massage therapist, trainer, cafe owner. 

I was reading an article today on The Art of Non-Conformity and the author talks about playing a little game. He writes: 

"If time and money were no object, what would I do today?” This is a fun game to play, and it’s even better when you realize that you wouldn’t change much about your plan."

If I ask myself that question on any given day the answer would be: "run, cook, bake, run, run, run, cook, bake". The weekends are my favorite because I spend my time just doing that. I wouldn't change a thing about my plan. I feel free, I feel levity, I feel no stress. 

But during the week that is a different story. I have to pay the bills somehow and frankly, I would like to do that in a way that interests me, challenges me and incorporates all of me. I have asked myself time and time again "what must I do?" and now I realize that I have been and am ruled by fear. 

It’s backwards, but it seems that fear of not realizing your potential keeps you from doing anything to achieve it. It’s easier to live with the uncertainty than to try and come face to face with the fact that maybe, just maybe, you didn’t have what it takes.But at some point you have to make a choice. You have to decide that it’s more important to do what you must(even if you don’t know what that is), than to let uncertainty rule your mind. (Source: Illuminated Minds)

I don't decide, I don't act because I am afraid of failing. Again. You see, I feel like I have "tried on" several things, several careers that I thought were "it", thought were an expression of my passions. I went to grad school and got my Masters in Library Science. I went to a holistic natural chef program and got my Natural Chef certification. Now, as I ruminate on where to next, I have become afraid of investing in another dead end. Don't get my wrong, I don't regret my degrees and education, but I also don't want to further educate myself merely as a distraction for a time. Expensive distractions. 

Recently, I applied to and got into another Bauman College program I am interested in, the Nutrition Educator program, which would eventually lead to doing the Nutrition Consultant program and I would be a certified nutrition consultant when it was all said and done. I am interested in nutrition sure and it would be awesome to have a clinical level of certification. But I go back to the question above and the answer is not this program. I desperately want it to be but I need something more dynamic, I need to be doing, I need to be creating.

No, the answer would be: go to a "real" culinary/baking school. If time and money were no object that would be the answer. Probably, San Francisco Baking Institute. Why? When I look at my manifesto and I examine my daily life, the thing I keep coming back to is eventually opening a bakery and cafe. In fact on my manifesto it is written in BIG BOLD LETTERS. With my current level of skills, it would be a big dangerous leap. I am relatively confident in my cooking skills but baking skills on the level I dream of, I am not. Thus I would love to study more, learn classic technique, work under some masters and then go forth from there into my realm of choice (gluten free baking) and ultimately, open a bakery. I mean other than running, I don't geek out over much else except food.   

But I am governed by fear. I remember when I decided to go to grad school in Pittsburgh I had no fear. I barreled ahead with zest and relentless abandon. I was young, I was enthusiastic, I was willing to take out massive student loans. I did and now I feel like I pulled my one ticket for that train. I know that is not true, I am just afraid. I need to find a way not to be. Period. I need to rediscover how to live my life bodly and move forward, take risks and embrace (this part) of my life.

For now, no answer, no resolution. But a realization instead.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

THE Workout

Sunny, dry and warm like this, Sundays run was not.
Photo courtesy of Salomon Running.

Last year before I ran the WC100k, I had two phenomenal workouts in the course of 6 days. The first was a 40 mile road run in 4:46 and 5 days later I ran 35 miles at the same pace. Over my three years of ultrarunning, I feel like I have had a few of those workouts leading up to races but I never cease to surprise myself with those workouts. Pleasant surprise, naturally. Even though I knew I had been training hard, working at it, training smart, fueling and resting well, on a day to day basis I don't necessarily feel like I am floating effortlessly along, everything working in perfect harmony. I am more than happy to save that feeling for race day (hopefully). So when these workouts happen, I am always throughly tickled. Especially when they come in the nick of time, just when I am feeling downtrodden, dejected, demoralized and otherwise throughly destroyed.

Saturday was not one of those uplifting, feel good workouts. In fact, from the time we left the car I was skeptical about my body being willing to hang in there for the 26 miles we had planned. I was dragging. I felt exhausted, just spent. Done. Cooked. Over. I couldn't talk myself out of it. I focused my attention on just trying not to complain. After climbing the 900 feet up Rodeo Beach, I just wanted to lie down. As we turned down Bobcat, Nathan says (not knowing yet how terribly I was suffering), "Somedays just suck and don't feel good. Today is one of those days and I am okay with that". I responded, "oh thank goodness its not just me". In my head I was really thinking, "oh thank goodness, he has bad days too. I was beginning to wonder" and "I wish I could run like that on my bad days". We have a few in our core training group that make it look effortless and I am hoping some day that will rub off on me.

We continued on and I just hoped things would get better. I have been known to come back to life in the second half of a run and be a totally new person. I was hoping for that but not banking on it. And then I truly, epically fell apart. We were going up Coastal towards Pirates Cove and I just stopped and threw up my hands and declared myself toasted. We walked for a bit and all of my resolution to not complain fell apart and complaint gushed from my mouth. It's a downward spiral, you feel bad and then you feel bad about feeling bad and end up feeling even worse. It was bad enough that I physically felt spent, slow, fat and horrible, but then to feel mentally weak, unconfident and self-doubting is even worse.

At the top of Coastal, it would have been easy enough to just cut over to one of the numerous trails that would take us back to Tennessee Valley which would be just 3.7 miles back to Rodeo. But I didn't want my bad day to ruin our workout. So I lead us down Pirate's Cove and we opted out of "poison oak central" i.e. Redwood Creek and Miwok trails as per our plan and went back up Middle Gulch. I was able to run after my breakdown and got it together pretty well. We ended up with 23 miles. Not super quality or pretty but they were there. And we were both glad to be done with it.

After the run, I was a bit afraid though. I was afraid or worried because I knew that the next day we had planned a killer workout. I was afraid that if I didn't miraculously bounce back, it would be more horrible than it already inherently was. We had planned to do repeats from Muir Woods Road up to Pantoll Ranger Station and back. Four times. 3.43 miles, nearly 1500 feet of gain each time. Oh yeah and the weather report was for heavy rain, wind and cold. Afraid, yes, yes I was.

Sunday morning I was feeling okay but opted to drink coffee pre-run in order to give me some extra pep in my step. I have started only drinking coffee on weekends and usually just post-run. It was a nice treat and definitely had me bright-eyed and moderately bushy-tailed. We headed out to the base of Deer Park Road and began in earnest. I have found in the last year that I have to make a serious effort in making friends with large uphills. I have to tell myself I like it, I have to run it a few times and I have to be successful on conquering it well in order to achieve this. As this climb is the biggest in the Miwok 100k race in less than 3 weeks, I definitely wanted to have it tamed.

This workout would become THE workout. THE workout I was wanting, THE workout I was needing. It was an arse-kicker. Each time I would try and stay with Nathan as long as I could (say 200-300 meters ha) and then keep him sighted for as long as I could. The first climb up my legs felt amazingly better than the day before. It was lightly raining and cool but not cold. I made it to the top in 32 minutes, with enough energy to surge on the relative flat last 3/4 mile. On the climb up, I told myself to just tuck in and do the work. Don't be afraid of the work. Doing things that are the hardest are where the biggest gains come from.

I had anticipated that I would just be able to cruise back down hill at my usual downhill speed which is pretty quick for most, but Nathan said he wanted to work on his descents, so we hammered really hard down the hill. Under 20 minutes for the descent, we decided at the bottom that the others would be slightly more reasonable of a pace, especially since the trail was getting more and more muddy as the rain intensified. 

Having done a lot of loop races, I find motivating for multiples of the same thing pretty simple. I know how to talk to myself to get it done. Ascent #2 felt less peppy than the first but I tucked in and worked and worked up the hill, telling myself that at the top I would be done with half of the ascents! I put on my ipod but found the music distracting. I was trying to get in the zone and the music was either too mellow or too fast to work with what I wanted to do. I made it to the top within a minute of my first climb and grabbed a few sips of water and we headed back down. There is an exposed section at the top of Pantoll and we were getting blown to pieces and soaking wet. The trail was getting quite slick and as we descended my insoles in my shoes slid forward pushing the hard plastic under the ball of my foot. I had to stop and adjust it but minutes later it was forward again and extremely painful. We were again very quick on the descent but much more comfortable than the first. When we got back to the car, I had a Roctaine, took out my insoles (the inserts I wear under my other insoles that is) and changed my shirt. I was soaked to the bone and grabbed my gloves to try and help keep me warm.

Ascent #3 I felt great. I was in my groove and though I couldn't keep up with Nathan I bettered my fast ascent by more than a minute. I hammered it hard and left it all out there. I knew that meant the last ascent would really suck but I didn't want to play it safe. I tried to spend as little time as possible at the top so Nathan, who waited patiently for me each time at the top, didn't freeze to death. We jammed down the hill and I pushed it a bit more, hoping I might actually be able to tire my quads a bit. The trail was slick and there were rivers of water cascading down the middle of the trail. Hitting the bottom, it just felt so good knowing there was only one left. I sucked down another gel as quickly as possible and we set out for our final attempt. 

I could feel the cumulative effort as I headed up the fourth time. My foot hurt where the insole had been and I was cold and cramping from it. But I pushed with everything I had. I ticked off each marker or tree, grunting and howling the whole way. It was slow and it was not pretty but I dug deep and ran the whole thing. When I emerged from the wooded part near the top it was pissing rain and so windy and cold, I wished I could simply cease to exist right there but pushed up to the top. Nathan was there (freezing) and I had to kneel down for a second because my foot hurt. I was so happy to be at the top though. I had done it. I had made it four times up that damn hill. We didn't linger and headed back to the car. I ran my normal pace downhill, feeling good dancing and skipping over the now soaked and crazy terrain. I was motivated by the need for warmth, it was just miserable. Truly miserable.

When I hit the bottom, I opened up the hatchback, turned on the heaters and seat warmers full blast and relished in being done. It felt so good to get warm (though it took several hours) and even better, I didn't feel sore or tired. I did the 27 miles in 3:30. That is 6,000 feet of ascent and still that pace. Crazy. It was awesome. Miwok is not my goal race, States is. But this workout gives me confidence that I am moving in the right direction for where I want to be for that race. I will be going back for more leading up to the big day. Looking forward to bringing the pain!

And don't forget to enter the FRS giveaway. I made it easier than ever! 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Weekend Long Runs Brought to you by FRS (a giveaway!)

End of the first loop, heading up to Rock Springs.
Photo by Jim (Endurables and Hydrapak)

After a great weekend last weekend in Sonoma with a big race, great friends, amazing food and wine tastings post-race, you'd think I'd be able to bask in the post-race revelry for a bit longer. But there is no rest for the weary and the wicked. I took Sunday and Monday off, had some good runs Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and then took Friday off as I was having some tightness issues in my right leg. I spent most of Friday on the foam roller and using my Trigger Point ball. 

By Saturday I was feeling much better and we headed out to meet our Endurables Running Club friends for some time on Mt. Tam. We went nice and light for the first 12 miles, staying with a big crew, then continued on for another 9 around the North side for a good 21 mile day.

Sunday we set out from Muir Beach with the intention of running "not so light" and hopefully also getting "not so wet". I wore my Salomon Fast II Jacket, what I fondly refer to as my "rain preventer". It did its job preventing rain until we reached Rock Springs for the third time in two days. It was very windy and cold at the top and we hustled to a more covered trail. About 10 miles in, we stopped and had a gel each and were on our way. I had only brought one gel, mostly on accident (I thought I had more in my bag but didn't) because I usually don't need more than 1 gel on a 20 mile run. I had stashed an FRS gel in my handheld, just in case. Which turned out to be utterly helpful. 

After reaching West Point Inn we started heading down and down and down through Muir Woods. I started to feel like I was heading for a serious bonk. It was weird since usually doesn't happen, especially not at such a short interval from taking a gel (about 5 miles later). I could tell I was going down into the land of tunnel vision as we hit the road for our final few miles back to Muir Beach. I didn't want to take another gel, it just didn't appeal and we were close enough to the end that I thought maybe I could gut it out. Then I remembered my little FRS chew. I unwrapped it and gobbled it up. With a minute or two, the bonk was busted and I was able to make it back to the car without it being a death march. It would have really sucked to have slogged through that last 2 miles on the road as it was pouring and really windy.

Maybe this all sounds like shameless promotion but my little FRS save yesterday reminded me that I have been sitting on top of an FRS goodie bag that I was going to give away to one lucky reader! I love FRS. It is not a highly caffeine, "fake energy" drink. It is loaded with B vitamins and antioxidants which help me to recover from my workouts and keep going strong during my workouts. Anyone who knows my "Fast Foodie" philosophy, knows I take very seriously the stuff I put into my body.

But make up your own mind, enter the contest and find out for yourself!

How to Enter:

Step 1: Follow me on Twitter: Fast Foodie Cooks
Step 2: Follow FRS on Twitter: FRS
Step 3: Tweet about this giveaway. Something like:  Enter the @FRSHE Healthy Energy Giveaway by @Fastfoodiecooks here:
Step 4: Leave a comment on this post saying you did it.

1. Visit FRS website and check out their products, then post a comment with a flavor you'd like to try (and grab a free sample while you are there!)


2. Become a fan of FRS on Facebook, then comment back here with your facebook name and that you did it.

The winner will be picked at random when I have 100 comments on this post which is about 90 more than I usually get.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Big bowl of nutrition

I eat healthy, nutritious, real food. Even my indulgences (like a certain muffin obsession) are healthy and can be consumed on a regular basis without question. I think back to my diet when I was a high school and college basketball player and shudder, it was pretty opposite to what I eat now, though I have always been a fan of fruits and vegetables (thanks mom!). Despite being a super healthy eater, someone who eats a salad every day for lunch and a green drink every day with breakfast, sometimes I still crave a dish that take nutrition to the next level. Something akin to nutrition squared. It may sound weird, but sometimes all I want is a plate of brussel sprouts or a steamed head of broccoli.

Before I headed off to France for Advanced Week, I was seriously craving some nutrition squared, especially since I had no idea what kind of food would be in store for me upon arrival in Bedoin (thank goodness there was lots of salad and they made me separate gluten free dishes! Found most of the fare to have pretty light and healthy options).

To tame the raging craving beast, I came up with this fruit, tofu and green salad. I have to say, sometimes when you think something is going to just taste "healthy" you can be blindsided with outrageously great flavor. The fruits were not overly sweet, but perfectly ripe. There was a great playfulness in the levels of crispness and crunch of the apples and the smoothness of the mango and papaya. This salad could make an appearance at breakfast, lunch or dinner and no one would blink an eye. Not only was it nutritious, it was easy and of course delicious. It kinda made me want to break into what my dad calls my "I'm so good" dance. Oh yeah. I'm so good. Now, I need to come up with another muffin recipe to bring the nutrition ratio back to just plain nutritious, not nutritious squared.

Chia Seed Fruit Salad

  • ½ mango, diced
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • ½ cup papaya, diced
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • 1 serving baked tofu, diced
  • 5 medium strawberries, sliced
  • 4 cups mixed baby greens
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon flax oil
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Real Sea Salt


In a large bowl, place mixed baby greens. Toss together fruit, tofu and avocado and put over greens. Drizzle with apple cider vinegar and then flax oil. Sprinkle chia seeds and nutritional yeast. Salt to taste Enjoy!

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