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Jack Daniels, Tempo Runs, and Nantucket

My high school coach, who I will introduce you more to later, is by far the most knowledgeable person I’ve ever met when it comes to running. Not only did he qualify for the Olympics (but unfortunately was injured and unable to compete), but he recently told me a great story about meeting Jack Daniels, staying with him in Oregon for a period of time, and participating in his research lab (more on that later). He told me that he learned nearly everything he needed to know from Daniels, who I’m sure any running fan out there is familiar with.

This is one of the only pictures I could find of my high school cross country team at the start of a race but it’s funny to look back on. You can only see my leg because I’m hidden behind someone.

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I know I mentioned before wanting to get a sub 1:25 half marathon, which should be a reasonable goal considering my iron levels are normalizing and that slowed me WAY down for a long time. I’ve also managed to stay injury free, which is a big deal for me.

Well, my former coach (who I still keep in touch with frequently), told me the most important thing I can do for a half marathon is tempo runs– otherwise known as an anaerobic threshold run. For a tempo run, I always do a warm up before easing into a steady tempo pace, which is usually about 30 second per mile faster than my target race pace. For example, if I want to run a half marathon at 6:30 pace, I’ll do a tempo run at 6 minute pace. It should feel difficult, but sustainable, and eventually that faster pace will start to feel easier.

One piece of advice is that calculating your tempo pace does vary significantly depending on the event you’re training for. This is a really good calculator to find splits for different races and can help determine your training pace: https://runsmartproject.com/calculator/

On another note…… I am off to Nantucket for a bike trip this weekend. Can’t wait and will take pictures to update when I am back. Have a good weekend!

 

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What to do if you hate running

 

This is a picture of myself, my boyfriend, my brother, and a couple of my best friends after one of our annual trail races. I used to have to BEG them to sign up for anything that had to do with running, and now we all agree that a lot of the races we do are the highlights of the year. Funny things almost always happen, good or bad, and if the race is pretty far we make a whole weekend out of it. Even if you or someone you know hates running right now, it is easy to find the joy in it if you do it with other people or simply stay consistent.

As a side note, the guy on the left did this one without knowing it was ten miles long and 90% uphill. We told him it was around 5 so he would sign up, and halfway through he realized he had five miles left to go. After he recovered from wanting to kill me and all his other friends, he admits it was a LOT of fun. Plus, he finished a race he never thought he could and got a lot of free food. Goes to show a big portion of running is mental.

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If you currently hate running, but want to get started, I have a few pieces of advice for you.

  1. You don’t have to like running. Commit to giving it a try and with time you’ll learn to like it, but there numerous other activities and sports out there as well if you aren’t interested. If you want to be a runner, you just have to suck it up and run for a while. Like most rewarding, beneficial things in life, it is often difficult in the beginning and gets easier as time goes on.
  2. Listen to podcasts. They’ve literally changed my life.  Just ask my boyfriend, who is now competes in Brazilian jiu jitsu after hearing about it on Tim Ferris’ podcast. I have learned a lot from them, and they get me through my long runs. I’ll put up recommendations for some soon.
  3. If there is a day you REALLY don’t want to run, promise yourself that you’ll run for ten to fifteen minutes and then you have the permission to stop. I guarantee that 99% of the time, you will get into the flow of it and will want to keep going.
  4. Focus on the end. One of the best motivators for running is the feeling when you are done. Think about how much better you will feel afterwards, and power through.
  5. Have something fun waiting at the finish. A few of my friends are huge fans of morning runs that end with breakfast at a local restaurant. Eating is always more enjoyable with a bunch of friends after a hard run.
  6. Explore or do “destination” runs. If you have errands, run to them. Run to a friend’s house or to the beach and jump in the ocean. If you’re in college, run to class (who cares if you are sweaty), or if you’re in the city run to a coffee shop and get a coffee and walk home. View running as a means of transportation.
  7. Switch it up. Maybe you hate running because you only try it on the treadmill or early in the morning. Perhaps if you run late at night or outside somewhere you’ve never been you will have an entirely different experience. I know that If I start to dread running, it often relates to boredom regarding my route or the time of day. And I can’t take running in gyms despite the fact that I can go for hours outside.

And last but not least, don’t stress about it. Have fun and leave your watch and phone at home sometimes and just GO!

Anemia in runners

This is a picture of a few of my friends after a trail race we did in Western Massachusetts this past fall. I put this up because this is how my friends felt after the race (dead tired), and although I am not in the picture, I felt like doing that for about a year before I realized I was seriously anemic. I feel like an expert for anyone else who has any questions about how to deal with it or if you suspect that you are.Version 2

Unfortunately, anemia can begin in subtle ways, and the symptoms are the same as 99.9% of any other illness or deficiency out there. Things like fatigue, heavy legs, rapid heart rate and trouble breathing. It EXHAUSTED me to walk up a hill and I found myself needed to take constant breaks as I forced myself to try and run. In retrospect, this was very dumb. Like most runners who are slightly obsessive about what they do, I wanted to simply continue my life and beat myself up mentally over what was wrong. I questioned my training specifically until I finally broke down and decided to pay up and go into the doctor.IMG_2132

Blood tests can be beautiful things. Really, they can open your eyes to whatever is going on  inside your body that you would have had no other way to figure out. I felt oddly relieved despite how severe the anemia was, just because I finally had an answer and thus finally had a solution. It’s no fun to be on a supplement.. but I tried very hard to increase my iron levels through food to no avail. And it was necessary for a while regardless.

For anyone who suspects anemia at all, go see your doctor and get tested. You will probably have to supplement for a while, but then you can slowly change your diet so you get enough. One problem a lot of vegans/vegetarians have (including me) is that your body does not absorb the type of iron (non-heme) found in plants as well as it does in animals (heme iron). So when everyone tells you spinach is a wonderful source of iron, think again. I eat a hell of a lot of spinach, and it just didn’t cut it.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask or comment. I will soon post some food ideas for anemic runners, because a lot of times the answer is combining certain foods to make the iron as bioavailable as possible. For example, combining vitamin C with iron rich foods will help with absorption.

 

Peanut Butter Powder : To buy or not to buy?

I’m going to start out this post with something I bought not too long ago that I love– Peanut Butter powder. I know most people love peanut butter itself, and this is good if you’re one of those people or if you don’t eat peanut butter for some other reason. I personally had to stop when it started to give me hives out of nowhere, but I know a lot of people who try to cut back on it due to the calories, processing, etc. I put a picture of it below. It’s made up literally of  peanuts, salt, and 1 gram of sugar and way less processed/less calories/decent amount of protein than normal peanut butter. And the sad thing about all of this is that I’m not even getting paid by them to write this. But I should be.

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Summer is a good time to drink smoothies when cooking sounds hot and terrible. Especially now that it’s been 90 degrees for nearly a week straight (which is a lot for Massachusetts..). So here is my smoothie recipe for the day:

1 cup of milk

2 scoops of whey chocolate protein powder if you use it

1/2 frozen banana

2 tbsp protein powder

ice cubes

Here is another recipe if you don’t like protein powders, which I often do not:

1/2 cup of whatever milk you use

6 oz vanilla yogurt

1 tbsp cocoa power

2 tbsp peanut butter powder

1 tsp honey

 

 

Ride Your Bike

I am sure most of you grew up riding a bike in some form or another. Maybe it was a means of transportation to a friend’s house or to school or just for fun. And then somewhere along the line, between working long hours and commuting on congested highways, your bike ended up in the back of some garage. Never to be seen again.

Well, I’m here to tell you to get it back out if you’re one of those people. In college I came across a LOT of other cyclists who knew that it was the most efficient way to get around the city, but the suburbs are another story. I see people ride their bikes for exercise occasionally, but that’s it. IMG_0056

This is a group of myself and some friends in Martha’s Vineyard, outside the hostel we stay in when we go on a bike trip there. This year it will be Nantucket, but biking as a means of travel and exploration is AWESOME. You see so much more than you would ever notice while in a car. It’s a cheap trip between the hostel and the biking, and there’s no waiting in long lines of cars or parking to worry about. But– you do need a solid bike to enjoy the ride. Meaning, one that fits you appropriately and is suited for the landscape you’ll be traveling on. I’m going to have my boyfriend or my brother do a guest post about this soon, because he knows bikes very well. Here’s another picture of eating food after biking to dinner, and food of course tastes much better this way.

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I am horrible at taking pictures and have no photos to show for my most enjoyable bike trip from Plymouth, MA to New York City — completed in 24 hours. I saw SO much of Rhode Island, New York and Long Island that I’d never been through before. It was tiring but when I got home after a night in the city I felt extremely satisfied .. like I’d finally accomplished and done something new. You do NOT have to go far to do these types of things, and they make life a lot better.

Travel Locally: Adventure is a state of mind

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A picture from Mt. Lafayette in New Hampshire. Hiking is a great way to get away for a day and feel like you actually accomplished something or saw something new. And it requires earning the view, which is the best part. I swear any experience is significantly better when there is some work involved. When I hiked Mount Washington last year, it was hard to enjoy the parking lot at the top, with a restaurant and people who drove with a bumped sticker that read “This car climbed Mount Washington”. Whenever I drive through a beautiful place, I feel very detached from it, kind of like I’m looking at a photograph, compared to the times I have been able to immerse myself in it through an activity.

This brings me to my next point. It is a HUGE mistake to fall into the trap of thinking you need to go somewhere far away to have an adventure or a vacation. It is very possible to do it close to home. This past weekend I went paddleboarding on parts of the Charles River, which runs about 80 miles long, and saw portions of it I had no idea existed. It felt like an entirely new place in a different state, and it was a fulfilling day trip that ended with a good dinner around 9 PM. Sometimes going far away it worse and more expensive when you can drive one to two hours somewhere and have just as much fun. It really is a mindset and an attitude to get creative and look at your surroundings to determine what you can do that you have not done before. It’s easy to dismiss one’s immediate surroundings, but it’s a mistake to do so.

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In the next few posts I’ll give some day trip/local adventure ideas.