We three kings of Orient are Bearing gifts we traverse afar: A Runner’s Christmas Wish List

Matthew 2:9-12

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The shepherds might have been the first ones to the Christmas party, but the wise men started the tradition of giving gifts. My Christmas gift list isn’t on the caliber of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but then, none of us are the Son of God. 🙂  I’ve made a list of some of my favorite running items and things that may help you (or your running buddies) with running and gift giving.

  1. Devoted Training Journal: I am biased here, but I love my Devoted Training Journal, and I think it would make a great gift for your running friends. The journal covers 4 months, which is perfect for a training cycle or the start of a new year goal.
  2. Milestone Pod: This little pod is such a fun running tool, and it really does help me with running. It’s extremely reasonable in price ($29.95), and you can use the code PodTeamMeridith33 for 33% off of your entire order until December 5th.
  3. Beauty Counter lip gloss: I have always liked running with something on my lips, and for longer runs, you really need a gloss that will last for a while. I found this Beauty Counter lip gloss, and I love that it is also safe for Cadence, who always wants to share. 🙂  There is a great special right now for 3 for $48. You can order from my friend here.
  4. Beachbody on Demand: I was really surprised by how much I like this subscription. I really haven’t used many of the strength programs (although they are great), but I do love the yoga programs! I do not have the time or the money to go to a yoga studio, but for $99 a year, this is a great option.  I signed up for my Beach Body subscription through Heather here.
  5. Shoes: If you are looking for a pair of shoes under the tree, I have had great success with Saucony. My favorite shoes are the Kinvara for racing and the Freedom for training. I always have more than one pair of shoes to rotate during the week. (And the Milestone Pod looks really good on a pair of shiny Sauconys. 🙂
  6. Books: I love to read and run on the treadmill, and I find that I can go through a lot of books that way. One of my all time favorite running books is Once a Runner (followed by the sequel Again to Carthage). It’s fiction, and it will make you love running and feel super motivated. I love everything by Matt Fitzgerald. He adds a lot of research to his writing, and everything is relatable.  I read 80/20 Running for the second time this year, and I used a lot of the training strategy for my San Francisco Marathon. If you like science and biology (for females), you will love ROAR. Finally, not running specific, but getting the heart and head in the right place makes everything better: Nothing to Prove.  And my favorite cookbook of the year is Wellness Mama Cookbook.
  7. Clothes: I ran the Gorge Waterfalls 100k in April, and it was supposed to be chilly and rainy. I bought the Patagonia Houdini at the recommendation of a friend, and it was the PERFECT jacket for the weather. Super light and perfect breathability. For general running clothes, I love Rabbit clothes.  Get 10% off with this code.
  8. Nutrition: I started using the Juice Plus protein powder this year, and it is the best tasting protein powder I’ve ever tried. Plus, it is all plant-based, and I feel confident letting Cadence eat it. You can order yours here. If you just want a stocking stuffer, I love Honey Stinger waffles and Nuun.
  9. Recovery: I carry a Lacrosse ball in my purse and I keep them throughout the house. This is such a great way to recover! For my birthday this year, my husband surprised me with a Boom stick. It’s the kind of recovery that hurts so good and gets so deep!
  10. For your training buddy: If you have followed me for more than a minute, you know that I love the Thule Urban Glide for stroller running. I also love our Kelty hiking pack for cross training hikes with Cadence. We got our pack off of Craigslist, but you can find a new one here.

It’s easy to lose focus at Christmas time with all of the lights, presents, and parties.  At the end of the day, God gave us the best gift when he sent his Son to this earth. Merry Christmas everyone!

What’s on your Christmas wishlist?

Ultra Eating: Fueling for an Ultramaration

I learned a lot about nutrition and fueling by preparing for and running the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run.  Everyone is unique, and different courses dictate different nutrition needs, but I’ve provided some guidelines that will help you best prepare for your race.  Remember the adage “We are an experiment of one” when reading through these guidelines.  What works for one person may not work as well for another. Testing your fueling plan during training is best, but always be prepared that race day may confront you with a new set of conditions.

The distance of an ultra is not always as important to consider, as much as the time that you will be out on the trails.  For a technical 50k, you could be out in the woods through lunch and dinner.  In ultras, one of the most important lessons is to eat early and eat often.  It’s also wise to take a gel within 30 minutes of the start of a race.  Then, continue to consume small amounts of nutrition about every 20-30 minutes.

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Cloudland Canyon 50 Miler

Well trained athletes can burn up to 600-1000 calories per hour of exertion.  However, our stomachs can only process about 200-400 calories/hour on the move. This number will vary based on the size of the runner, effort level, temperature, and how easy it is to process the food.  A typical athlete can store glycogen to fuel the demands of 90 minutes or less of activity.

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What types of foods to eat: the desire to consume food wanes the longer you are out on the trail.  That said, the food that you craved at mile 20 might sound very different to you by mile 66.  Conventional running fuel includes: gels, energy chews, sports bars, and sports drinks. Each of these products offer an option with caffeine and/or electrolytes. Gels are relatively easy for the body to digest.  The type of sugar depends on how quickly the energy lasts over time. Sugars like honey act quickly but wear off fast as well.  Maltodextrin offers a slower release of energy over a longer period of time.  During a run, most of your calories will come from carbohydrates.  Make sure to consume fluids with food so that absorption can be facilitated.

 

Aid station food can offer a good variety to the fuel that you packed in your drop bag (gels can get very old after hours of sucking on sugar).  Be careful trying new things, and don’t rely on the aid station to have your favorite trail snacks.  Examples of aid station fare include potatoes in salt, chips, m&ms, pie, brownies, soup, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwich wedges, gatorade, and water.

I had stomach issues during the first ~half of the Yeti 100, and I’m not completely sure why.  The best I can explain is that it may have been nerves. Either way, I knew that it was important to continue eating and drinking.  Otherwise, I did not have any issues eating, but my desire for food started to diminish.  Many runners experience nausea toward the end of the race (another reason to front load the calories if you can).  Ginger chews and ginger ale are good remedies for an upset stomach.

Here is a troubleshooting table that may be helpful to share with your crew so they can help you if things start heading south:

ultra-troubleshooting

Below is an example of the food that I had planned for the Yeti 100. I also had a lot of different kinds of food packed in a bin for my crew to have available just in case I craved an Oreo or a potato chip.  I pumped/breastfed throughout the race, so I also calculated extra demand for calories to produce breastmilk. Toward the end of the race, the only things I could tolerate were Starbucks frappuccinos, Honey Stingers, and Cliff Shot Blocs.

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There are a lot of running books that have complete chapters on fueling for an ultra. Here are a few books that I recommend:

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Do you have any fun fueling stories?  Experiences are the best way to learn!

Goals for the next (marathon) training cycle

img_20161015_172000My husband and I took a road trip this past weekend for a fun weekend of hiking and hanging out with friends.  On the way, I asked him what upcoming goals he has for the future.  (Sidenote: they say the best marriages are those where the couple talks about the future together.) My husband’s response was like any normal person related to his hobbies and his career; mine however, are all running related. Haha.  (No, but really, there are always goals about being a good mom and wife, finally making it to work on time, and organizing my house.)

First, my big goal for this next training cycle is to run a sub 3 hour road marathon.  It gives me a knot in my stomach to even write that, but my coach believes in me, and I’ve gotten faster by running through pregnancy and now running post-partum, especially after training with my coach for my 100 mile race.  So, now I’ve put it in writing, and I can start chipping away at my big goal!

I’ve got my big goal, but in order to give myself the best chance of a successful training cycle, here are my three sub goals:

  1. Nutrition: reduce the processed food that I eat and reduce the sugar in my diet.  I am a chocolate bar-oholic.  I do pretty good throughout the day, but at night I eat a lot of candy.  Sugars increase inflammation, and I am already stressing my body enough with all of my running and strength training.  I’m kicking off this goal with the 7 day challenge to eat real food proposed by mskatieblaze here.
  2. Sleep: I have said this for a year now, but really, this time I mean it. My (one year old) baby is still waking up several times in the night. That means that I really need to get to bed earlier to get a semblance of good rest.  It’s a shame to not give my body time to repair and get stronger after all of my strength work and running.
  3. Stretching/foam rolling: This should be a no-brainer, but I know that I’m not alone in this struggle. We’d all rather get in just one more mile than cut the run short to do some foam rolling and stretching.  I just signed up for a program that sends me a new range of motion activity every day.  I’m excited to see how much it helps my performance and recovery.

What are your upcoming goals?

Heart and Mind: Craving the right things

A couple of years ago I read the book Made to Crave by Lysa Terkheurst, and it really influenced my thinking. I don’t think that I’m alone, especially amongst the runner population, when I recognize that there is something in me, a craving, that pushes me to keep chasing down the miles.  I love this quote, “God made us capable of craving so we’d have an unquenchable desire for more of Him, and Him alone. Nothing changes until we make the choice to redirect our misguided cravings to the only one capable of satisfying them.”

During the month of October, I am focusing more on croimg_20161021_224000ss training and letting my body recover from my 100 mile race, so I thought it would also be a good time to make sure that my heart and mind are in a healthy spot too.  (I also feel a lot more motivation to stay healthy on all fronts now that I am raising a little girl who is watching my every move.) The book is primarily written with a focus on food, and I have definitely been there too.  Food can be the perfect salve to a long day, and my candy shelf in the pantry is proof that I don’t have much discipline in that area. (I love the quote that is listed at the end of this post–wow, so true!)

But in this season of my life, my “craving” has definitely been more about getting faster, running longer, and pushing my body harder.  I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with the physical satisfaction that I feel with running, but it is important to know your heart in these things.  My identity is not in running. My identity is in Christ.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has had issues with overindulging, whether it’s overindulging in food, exercise, or trying to keep the perfect house.  We were designed to crave, but those desires are meant to be focused on our Creator.  And when we get the cravings directed to the right Purpose, all of the other desires seem to fit into place too.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • The more we operate in the truth of who we are and the reality that we were made for more, the closer to God we’ll become.
  • Food isn’t sinful. But when food is what Satan holds up in front of us and says, “You’ll never be free from this battle.  You will always bounce from feeling deprived when you’re dieting to feeling guilty when you’re splurging. Victory isn’t possible.
  • Being ruled by something other than God diminishes our commitment and will make us feel increasingly distant from Him.
  • Yes, eating healthy and exercising get our bodies into better shape, but we were never supposed to get the satisfaction our souls desire from our looks.
  • Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • It is good for God’s people to be put in a place of longing so they feel a slight desperation. Only then can we be empty enough and open enough to discover the holiness we were made for. When we are stuffed full of other things and never allow ourselves to be in a place of longing, we don’t recognize the deeper spiritual battle going on.
  • Some actions are not sinful in themselves, but they are not appropriate because they can control our lives and lead us away from God.
  • I was made for more than being stuck in a vicious cycle of defeat. I am not made to be a victim of my poor choices. I was made to be a victorious child of God.
  •  Life as a Christ follower will always be a learning process of depending less on our own strength and more on God’s power.
  • Obviously, the core of Eve’s temptation was she wanted to be like God, knowing good and evil. But we can’t ignore the fact that the serpent used food as a tool in the process. If the very downfall of humanity was caused when Eve surrendered to a temptation to eat something she wasn’t supposed to eat, I do think our struggles with food are important to God.

This little baby is definitely watching my every move.  That’s a scary responsibility, but I’m thankful that God gave us wonderful friends and family to be part of our village.

Do you have a craving that you sometimes need to redirect? 

 

Protein bar recipe: when you know that you shouldn’t snack on candy bars

I’m the first to admit that I have a sweet tooth (my husband just came backIMG_20161013_082943.jpg from Costco, and my candy SHELF in the pantry has been replenished), but these homemade protein bars have been a great alternative to eating candy bars when I’m hungry.  Below is my go-to protein bar recipe.  There’s room to add or change some of the details according to your preferences. If you don’t take anything else away from this post, here’s my contribution–please consider never rolling another protein ball again.  Save yourself a ton of time and just press the “batter” into a pan, cut squares, and refrigerate.  🙂

I double the recipe and most of the time my husband and I go through both batches in a week.  If you don’t eat a double protein bar platter in a week like me (ha!), you can freeze what you don’t eat and save yourself the time of making weekly batches.

First, mix these ingredients:

  • 3 c oats
  • 1 c flaxseed
  • 1 1/2 c almond butter, peanut butter, or any other nut butter (below I have hazelnut butter and peanut butter)
  • 1/4 c coconut oil
  • 2/3 c honey
  • ~1/4 c chia seeds (optional)
  • 6-8 scoops of protein powder (this ends up being about 1 1/2 c of protein powder.  Below I mixed vanilla whey and chocolate creatine)

Save these ingredients for later:

  • 12-16 pitted dates
  • ~1/2 cup dried tart cherry
  • ~1/4 c cocoa nibs (optional)
  • Can also add coconut flakes or any other healthy goodies

After mixing the ingredients, divide the contents (because a double batch does not fit in the processor) and put in the food processor.  Blend and then add 6-8 pitted dates and about 1/4  c of the tart cherries. The dates and cherries help hold the bars together.  You can substitute with something else, but make sure that its consistency is on the sticky side.

Once blended, press into a pan.  I like to use a ziplock bag on my hand instead of using a spoon.  I also started pressing bars into the pan instead of rolling into balls because it saves a ton of time and stores nicely.

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Next add cocoa nibs (of course this is optional).  I like to blend mine to chop them into smaller pieces.

Once you have the first half of the batch pressed into the bottom of the pan, you can go ahead and cut the squares or wait until later.  Add wax paper on top.  Blend the other half of protein bar mix and press on top of the wax paper.  Add the second portion of cocoa nibs on top and cut into squares.  You now have two layers of protein bars in one pan, thus saving time and space.

If you cut the bars into 6×10 portions for each batch, each bar is ~50 calories and 3 g of protein.  Refrigerate or freeze the bars and enjoy!

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(If you want to see pretty pictures of food (and tasty recipes), I suggest you check out Katie’s blog.)

Do you have a favorite special ingredient for your protein bites?

Nutrition with a cherry on top! The miracle of Tart Cherries

Now that I am having to slow down and recover from my surgery, I decided to take a bigger look at my nutrition to see where I can make improvements.  Given that I am a candy-oholic and a dessert-oholic, this is an easy task. I’ve heard a lot of podcasts and read articles that mentioned tart cherry as a superfood to try, but I wasn’t sure that I was sold on the benefits.  As I noted in my post about Diet Cultsthere are a lot of hocus pocus ideas about the value of superfoods, and I thought that tart cherry might qualify.  But it only takes a quick journal search to see that there is a lot of documented research on the efficacy of tart cherry for the athlete.

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These tart beauties have become one of my favorite snacks!

Tart cherry is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been proposed as a potential natural substitute for ibuprofen, or other NSAIDS. Right about now, I am pretty familiar with the urge to take pain meds to relieve discomfort from my surgery, so it is good timing to learn more about natural substitutes for pain relief!

Tart cherries are rich in anthocyanins, a class of antioxidant phytochemical found in plant-based foods. All red fruits and vegetables are said to have this property, but tart cherries pack a bigger punch. Tart cherries are known to protect against heart disease, cancer, insomnia, and other age related issues.  Importantly, several studies have also corroborated the efficacy of tart cherries to help protect muscles during strenuous exercise and to facilitate the repair of damaged muscles.  Great news for the endurance athlete.

Research conducted at the University of Vermont on 14 male participants against a control group showed that cherry juice decreased symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage after being consumed twice a day for eight days. Most notably, four days after eccentric exercise, athletes showed strength loss averaging 22% with the placebo but only 4% with the cherry juice.  

Another study, titled “Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial,” showed that endurance runners who consumed 355 mL bottles of tart cherry juice twice daily for 7 days prior to the Hood to Coast relay race, and on the day of the race, experienced significantly less pain after running about 26 km over a 24 hour period compared to the control group. The researchers concluded that ingesting tart cherry juice for 7 days prior to and during a strenuous running event can minimize post-run muscle pain. (I ran a 200 mile relay race in 2014, and I can tell you, any reduction in pain for an event such as that is worth investigating!)

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I haven’t tried the tart cherry juice, but that is next on my list.

So how much tart does one eat?  I found a few different suggestions, but the most consistent serving size that I found was that one serving of cherries is equivalent to ½ cup of dried cherries, 1 cup of frozen cherries, or 1 cup of juice.  There are 100 tart cherries in every 1 cup (8 oz) glass of juice. Study participants most commonly consumed two 8 oz servings a day.  I recently started buying dried tart cherries from Sprouts, and I have no idea how many servings I eat in a day, but I love going to my pantry and grabbing a handful at a time.  I also started adding them to my homemade protein bars.

What superfoods are in your running arsenal?  In addition to tart cherries, I also like to add chia seeds and cocoa nibs to my treats.

Do you take pain relievers before or after a hard workout?  I try to avoid medicine as much as I can, especially while I am still breastfeeding.  It’s tempting sometimes though!