Diet Changes – How’s it going?

I thought since I had my computer open, the day off from work and the sun and breeze on my deck, I would keep doing blog updates and give a quick update on my diet over the past month or so.

A few months ago there were some days when I was almost ready to quit Ironman training. I just felt pretty miserable before, during and after every workout. I wasn’t recovering well, I had no energy during my workouts and I’ll I wanted to do was be lazy and be a couch potato. I just felt miserable. Luckily, I finally give in and did the food intolerance testing.

Since I got the results back I have been gluten, dairy, egg, soy and whey free. I won’t say that it’s been easy, but it hasn’t been as difficult as I expected it to be. Mostly it hasn’t been as difficult staying away from so many foods that I used to love because I can feel a difference in my body. I no longer feel like I want to sit on the couch and do nothing everyday. Yes, I still enjoy my naps and I still sleep a lot, but I think that’s just because I’m training for an Ironman and I need my sleep. My entire body doesn’t feel fatigued any more.

I’ve had to make a lot of changes to what I’ve been eating, and breakfast has been the hardest. What does one eat in the morning for protein when eggs are not allowed?? Since I was eliminating so much anyway, I’ve also made an attempt to eliminate as many food additives as possible. They are in everything! Luckily, I’ve found a local farm (Jordandal Farms) where I can get “healthy” (ok – healthier) bacon and sausage to give me some additional breakfast protein options. I’ve also been trying to add more fruits and vegetables to my diet and trying new foods. I’m better at trying new fruits, but I’m back to adding spinach to my morning smoothie (which I now make with coconut milk).

One of the other things I noticed once I got rid of all the junk, was I’m actually really hungry now! My coach used to tell me all the time that I wasn’t getting enough calories, but I just wasn’t hungry enough to eat any more. Now I actually feel hunger and am eating real food! I’ve eaten out a few times and have been tempted to “cheat” (like when someone ordered mini doughnuts at breakfast yesterday and the waiter set them down right in front of me!) but actually being able to feel the difference in my body as helped me stay on track so far. The thing that has helped the most is making sure I have leftovers ready at all times. When I’m tired, over-hungry or just don’t feel like cooking, I can’t swing by a fast food place or make a PB&J sandwich at home any more. Eliminating so many foods definitely takes a lot more planning.

I’m going out of town next week for work. I’ll be gone for almost a week. I’m a little apprehensive since I know it will be hard to find food I can eat in the airport. I’m planning on bringing some food with me and I did get a hotel room with a kitchen, so hopefully that will help. No more pizza delivery to the hotel when I get back from work though! (I think I miss my pizza the most). Overall, I’m happy to report that 5-weeks in I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet! I’m happy to be feeling better and excited to know that I’m making healthier food choices!

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High Cliff Half-Ironman Race Report

I know, I know – I’m way overdue for an update but life just gets in the way sometimes. Here’s what’s been going on…

HIGH CLIFF HALF IRONMAN – JUNE 15, 2013

(1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run)

I raced the 70.3 distance at High Cliff last year as my first ever half-Ironman. It was also my goal race last year; it was my primary focus all winter. This year, I feel like it just showed up out of nowhere.  I have spent so long focusing on the big Ironman picture, High Cliff seemed to sneak up on me.

I have been struggling a lot with my running this year, so, like every race, I was most nervous about the run portion. I will admit that I also didn’t feel like I was prepared for the race. I think this was primarily because I wasn’t focused on it for months and months ahead of time. This year I was using the race as a training day; to test out race day nutrition (both before and during the race)  and to try out all the new equipment.

My mom came out to watch the race again this year (partly because I think I had her convinced I was going to die on the run) 🙂 I think I realized this year that I tend to do a lot of “what if” thinking the days leading up to race day, but I tend to be pretty calm on race day. I don’t remember feeling nervous or panicky on the day of the race. This year, I had a new challenge – what to eat the morning of the race. About 2 1/2 weeks before the race, I got the results of my food intolerance blood test and was now gluten, dairy, soy, whey protein and egg free. Between the diet change and race day I had two weekends of brick workouts and one of them turned into a bike in the morning and run three hours later because I was so hungry I had to go home and eat before I could run! Needless to say I was a little concerned about what I was going to eat race morning that would fuel me through the end of the race. (I do use Gu and Gatorade during the race but I needed something in my stomach to keep me full since I wouldn’t be able to eat much of the food offered on the course if I got hungry).

I was certain I had booked a hotel room with a kitchen so on Friday afternoon, my mom and I packed some food to cook in the morning and headed up to Appleton. When we got to the hotel we discovered I apparently did not book a room with a full kitchen – just a microwave and a refrigerator. Just a little wrinkle in the plan, but my mom was nice enough to get up with me in the morning and microwaved my breakfast for me. It did not taste nearly as good as it would have cooked on the stove but I choked down as much of it as I could, along with my regular smoothie.

We left the hotel and drove to pick up two of my teammates, Luke and PJ, so their wives and kids could sleep in a little longer. As we drove to the race venue with three tri bikes on the bike rack, I tried not to think about how much money was hanging off the back of my car! In my usual fashion, we got to the race pretty early so we had plenty of time to set up our transition area. The weather forecast called for thunderstorms most of the day, so there was a lot staring up at the sky and talking about the weather (Spoiler alert – The Weather Channel is never accurate. We had great weather and didn’t get rained on at all).

The race itself was fairly uneventful. The water was a bit wavy and there were times when I felt like I was going nowhere quickly, but for the most part I felt pretty good during the entire swim. The bike ride basically starts up hill which is always fun when your legs are just starting to get moving again. Needless to say, my first mile was my slowest mile. There were some headwinds on the first part of the course and I really could not get my legs moving the way I would have liked for almost the first 30-miles of the bike ride. I wasn’t dreadfully slow, I just felt like it took me a really long time to feel good on the bike. I remember thinking at about mile 25 (when my legs finally decided to start working the way I wanted them to) that “this is why I don’t do sprint distance races). I was happy with my overall pace over the 56 miles, but my first 28 miles averaged almost 4 mph slower than the average of the second 28 miles. I’d really like to work on making my legs behave a lot sooner than 25 miles into the bike ride!

Pretty good swim, pretty good bike… crap run 🙂 As with the bike, the run starts straight up a hill. The rest of the course is a trail (grass, rocks, dirt) through the state park – so not an ideal run course for someone that has been struggling to run on a flat, paved road, but it is what it is and I was going to make the best of it. At least it wasn’t raining at this point (like last year). The run is a two-loop course so I got to see my mom, Zeus and Aaron at around mile 6. I stopped for a Gu and a few words of encouragement before I started my second loop. I really didn’t want to do that second loop! Admittedly, I did walk more than I probably should have. When I came out of the park the second time I was actually running and I saw my mom at the top of the hill. Instead of walking a few steps before running down the hill seeing her helped me to keep running for the final push. Thankfully the huge hill at the beginning is a welcome downhill at the end of a challenging run course. I ran down the hill and pushed as hard as I could to sprint in to the finish.

Overall, my swim, bike and transition times were all faster than last year. My run was a little slower, but I still finished with a 13-minute PR (personal record) over last year’s time. The biggest thing my mom kept pointing out was overall the race did not take as much out of me as it did last year. Last year I was completely wiped out at the end of the race. I was sore, had blisters on my feet and basically didn’t move for days. This year it really was just like any other training day. I was still standing, walking and happy after the race. I was glad when the run was over, but I remember thinking after both the swim and the bike that I still felt strong and could have kept going. Last year I don’t think I could have swam an extra 1/4-mile or biked even another mile. This year I was still feeling strong after both – a really good sign considering I will have to double both of those distances. Now if I can just get the run figured out I’ll be in good shape!

 

Posted in Biking, Diet/Nutrition, Ironman, Running, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Food Intolerances

I’ve heard before that the easiest part of Ironman training can be the swim, bike and run. Lately, I’m tempted to agree with this. I haven’t posted much lately because I’ve been abiding by the rule, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. I have been struggling through a lot of my workouts the past few months. I have felt fatigued, sluggish and overall not satisfied with how my body has been handling the workouts. There have been workouts that should have been easy that completely kicked my ass. There have been more workouts than I care to admit that have contained a few tears or minor temper tantrums. More than anything I’m just frustrated that my body isn’t doing what I want it to do, I know people think I’m just being lazy or making excuses when I try to explain how I feel and I’m just sick of feeling like crap.

I finally broke down a few weeks ago and decided to do food intolerance testing. I am a picky eater so I’ve put off doing the testing for a long time. I didn’t want to have to limit my diet any further! I was at the point where I was really considering if I would be able to continue to train for Ironman though so I knew I needed to figure something out and quickly! I was feeling so terrible one morning, crying in the car while I was driving over to do a core workout with Zeus, that I finally broke down and asked Dr. Dave Heitmann at Integrated Sport and Spine to run the test before my meeting with Zeus. Dr. Dave spent a few minutes talking with me about my symptoms and suggested a few other lab tests that I could have my doctor run as well. I met with my doctor the following week and six tubes of blood later, I had even more blood work done.

I now probably know more about the hormones in my body than any one person needs to know, but I’m hoping knowledge is power. The blood work run by my doctor showed some imbalances in my hormones and we’re working on finding the correct dosages of supplements to correct these imbalances. But the big news was the food intolerance testing… I may never eat again 🙂

I met with Dr. Dave on Monday to review the test results. The test that he ran will highlight foods to which my body has become intolerant. An intolerance is different than an allergy. Eating foods to which you are intolerant, will cause inflammation in your body. Symptoms can include fatigue, joint pain, or irritability, among others. My test showed that I am most intolerant to milk, yogurt, whey, (basically all dairy), eggs, whole wheat and spelt. I think it’s pretty safe to say that my diet was 95% dairy, eggs and wheat. I had a smoothie every morning before my workouts made with milk and/or Greek yogurt. I had cheese or hard-boiled eggs as protein sources in the afternoon and ate a lot of the Ezekial brand English Muffins (which contained both whole wheat and spelt). So basically even though I thought I was making healthy choices, I was eating myself sick. The “healthy” choices weren’t healthy ones for my body.

I spent the rest of Monday eating all of the foods I would no longer be able to eat. Someone had to clean out the refrigerator, right? 🙂   And then I went grocery shopping for foods I could actually eat. No more milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, eggs… There has been a lot of label reading over the past few days.

Along with cutting out all the foods that have probably been contributing to the way I’ve been feeling, I’ve been trying to work on making sure I’m getting enough calories. Zeus and I have talked about this a few times but it’s still something I know I have to work a lot harder on actually doing. We talked about how many calories I should be trying to consume right now, and how many I will need as training continues to reach peak season.

A few months ago I went back to meet with Tracie Hitmann, a nutritionist I’ve worked with in the past, to see how we could make sure I was supporting my body during the training. I met with her yesterday afternoon, food intolerance results and notes about my calorie intake from Zeus about  in hand, to develop a plan of action. After going over the results and talking about what I already can’t eat, we decided that it would be worthwhile to go gluten-free while I’m cutting things out anyway. I was already cutting out so many sources of gluten by eliminating dairy, eggs and wheat, that we decided to just cut it out completely for the next few months and give my body a chance to heal. If I’m feeling better in a few months I can slowly start adding things back in and see how I’m feeling. Tracie also gave me some ideas on different protein sources and some new recipes to try.

It hasn’t even been a week since I cut out just about every food I used to eat, but I think I’m already noticing some changes. I can’t say for sure if everything is related to what I am and am not eating, but I’m hoping it is and that will keep me motivated to keep up with the changes. I’m hoping the first month will be the worst, as I’m figuring out what I can actually eat now.

My workouts have been pretty good the past few days so I was hopeful for my run this morning. It did NOT go well at all. At first I was really frustrated. I was in the middle of Pheasant Branch Conservancy though and at that point there was no way to give up and go home. I had to get all the way around the loop and back to my house so I calmed myself down and really thought about what I did and didn’t do right as I was preparing for this run. First, I realized I didn’t eat enough for dinner last night. I spent a lot of time staring in to the fridge trying to figure out what I could eat, but not a lot of time eating anything. Second, I did not listen to Zeus when he said to eat 30-45 min before a workout. I downed a smoothie about 5 min before I walked out the door. It sloshed in my stomach for the full 6-miles this morning. Not enough fuel and at the wrong time… Lessons learned. Once I thought about all the things I could change to make my next workout go more smoothly, I just focused on surviving the workout this morning. It was dreadfully slow, but I know what I can do to make the next workout better and I got the miles done.

I’m learning that I know how to swim, bike and run. It’s everything else that goes along with the training that I need to learn! And don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. I’ve had some great experiences and have some awesome stories to tell…

Like the first outdoor bike ride on the new bike and an open water swim in Lake Monona, in April, in 50 degree water…

We survived Lake Monona in April!!

We survived Lake Monona in April!!

Bike is ready to be off the trainer...

Bike is ready to be off the trainer…

Before the first brick of the season!

Before the first brick of the season!

 

Or surviving the first Aquathon (still in 50 degree water)…

988452_10200340424177165_1865974518_n

Or just doing a fun run with friends I don’t get to run with as much any more…

913954_10200992382633057_882424875_oAnd now I must go make some dinner and properly prepare for my long bike/run brick tomorrow morning!!

Posted in Biking, Diet/Nutrition, Friendship, Group Workouts, Ironman, Life, Running, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Running: Love it or Hate it??

Running: Love it or Hate it?? I ask myself this question on a daily basis. And anyone that knows me knows that running will be the most difficult part of the race for me. Ironically, I got started doing triathlons through running. Some people seem to be natural runners… It doesn’t appear I am one of these people though! (Yet…)

I hate running is a comment that has come out of my mouth many, many times in the past. I’m happy to report that I am currently at a point where I wouldn’t say I hate running, it just wouldn’t be my first choice of activity. I’m learning to love it… well to at least like it 🙂

I had to take almost two months off from running at the beginning of the year. It’s possible this was the best thing that could have happened for my running. Granted, I feel like I’m starting from scratch again and building up mileage can be frustrating. But, I’ve taken the approach of looking at it as a blank slate. My running form changed A LOT during my two month break from running. I still get frustrated that just a few miles is difficult for me some days, but I can also see a lot of progress right now and that makes me excited.

I’ve been doing some speed work on the treadmill over the last month or so. Zeus has had me doing run/walk intervals where I’m running faster than my normal pace, but only 2-3 minutes at a time. It has really been interesting for me to push myself at different paces. I have found that a faster pace is actually more comfortable for me in terms of my form and cadence, but now I need to work on maintaining that pace over longer distances.

I did a one-on-one run evaluation with Zeus last weekend. It was the first since my back injury and I wanted him to first see if I was crazy or if my run form did change dramatically. If my run form did change, I also wanted to make sure it changed for the better. Although I have been “running” for a number of years now, working with Zeus was the first time I’ve had someone evaluate my form and talk about ways to change it to make me more efficient and eventually faster. I had been running the same way and at the same pace for the past four or five years. I’m still not exactly sure how it seemed to happen overnight, but even Zeus said my form is looking a lot better.

I scheduled the run evaluation with him after our cycling class last Saturday, thinking it would just be a meeting for him to watch me run for a few minutes and talk about my stride and cadence. I didn’t expect to do another whole speed workout 🙂 He started by watching me run at a nice, easy pace – a pace a little faster than my old average pace. He could definitely see a change in my form too. We ended up doing some hard speed and hill intervals. Yowzers! It was right after our cycling class so Chris, Cheryl, Laura, Luke and PJ were all there to watch me suffer to provide encouragement. Well, Luke was doing his core workout and PJ and Laura decided to do that with him. And Cheryl was helping my not fly off the back of the treadmill and giving me a lot of encouragement as Zeus kept increasing the speed or incline. Have I mentioned how awesome my teammates are!! It was great having the core workout group as a distraction behind me and Cheryl and Zeus next to me telling me not to stop. I know I have never worked so hard during a run workout before! I stopped looking at the incline and speed as Zeus kept bumping them up, but apparently at one point I was running at a pace that is three full minutes faster than my average pace last year! It is possible that Zeus may make a runner out of me yet! (I also came home and passed out on the couch after that workout)!!

Now finally getting to the run that prompted this whole post… I had what I’m referring to as a character-building run this morning. Friday I did a two-hour swim/run brick, Saturday I did a two-hour bike/run brick (with speed and hill intervals on the treadmill and an outside cool down with Laura) and today was a 40-min run. First, I have never in my life run three days in a row, and especially not when two of those days were brick workouts. My legs were pretty sore after yesterday’s muscle endurance cycling class followed by speed work for my run so I had a really, really hard time talking my legs into taking me outside for yet another run this morning. I kept telling myself that it was only 40-min, my pace wasn’t important for this run and it would be over before I knew it.

Once I was finally on the road and moving I started out feeling ok. My quads were sore and my calves were tight, but I kept moving. My first mile was about a minute and a half faster than what it would have been last year so that made me feel really good. But things kind of went downhill after that first mile. I had to do some walking and some stretching and talking myself back in to actually running. I finally told myself that my legs would be a lot more tired at mile 20 of Ironman so I better get used to it now.

I spent a lot of time focusing on my form and cadence and thinking about anything but the fact that my legs wanted to stop moving. I thought about my friend Katie and how she did her first 16-mile run yesterday; about Cindy who is just starting to get moving again after ankle surgery; about Cheryl and Zeus standing next to me while I was on the treadmill the weekend before telling me to just keep moving; and I thought a lot about that Ironman finish line. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty in the end, but I’m proud of myself for running as much as I did despite my protesting legs. At about the 35-minute mark some old man pulled up next to me in his car and asked me for directions to the police station (which is about 1/4 mile from my house). I was so tempted to hop in the car and tell him I would navigate! But, I gave him directions and kept going for the last 5 minutes.

There have been plenty of runs in the past that have ended early out of frustration – frustration with my pace, my lack of progress, or just because my legs were too tired. And I hate to admit it, but I’m sure there will probably be more runs in my future that end that way. Hopefully, there will be fewer of those runs and more like the run I had today though. It was not pretty, it was really painful and my legs really wanted to stop but I didn’t let them! I think I am finally starting to see some changes over the past few weeks. I’ve had some pretty great swim and bike workouts and I can see myself getting faster during my runs.

Mentally I’m making some changes too. I said “I can’t do it” a lot to Zeus last week on the treadmill and to myself during my run this afternoon. Instead of stopping when I said it, though, I pushed through and finished the workouts and that feels good. It feels good to get through the really hard workouts even when your body and mind are trying to talk you out of doing them. I was tempted to text Zeus today and ask him if I could swim or bike instead of run this morning, but I finally got out the door and trusted the plan. I’m sure I’ll say “I can’t” about a billion more times during this training, but as long as the “I can’t” is immediately followed by a “shut up and do it” I’m okay with that for now – and eventually the “I can’t” will just go away.

After my run this morning I stood at the bottom of the stairs and took a few minutes to talk myself into getting up them, but as soon as I did, I walked right into the bathroom and filled up the tub with ice cold water and it felt so good! As I was sitting in freezing cold water I realized that those of us training for endurance races are just a little bit crazy… And I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’m loving it 🙂

Ice Bath... Time to start stocking up on ice for the season!

Ice Bath… Time to start stocking up on ice for the season!

Posted in Friendship, Group Workouts, Ironman, Running, Team Sisu, Triathlon | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Diet and Nutrition

For starters let me clarify what I mean when I mention the words “diet” and “nutrition”. In this blog – diet is referring to what I’m eating on a daily basis; it’s not referring to dieting for weight loss. If I talk about nutrition I’m referring to during the race nutrition and fueling. Diet = daily food / Nutrition = race fueling

One of the areas in which I’ve been struggling with during my training is my diet. My energy levels during my workouts have been unpredictable, I’ve slowly been gaining weight (which is kind of the opposite of getting back to a “racing weight”), and I want to make sure I’m supporting my body so that I don’t get back to where a was a few years ago – sidelined with adrenal fatigue and slowly killing my body and throwing everything out of whack. My only goal for my first Ironman is to finish it (preferably without having to sprint to the finish to make sure I’m in under 17 hours) 🙂 My goal during training is to not kill my body. I have complete confidence that Zeus will structure my training so that the workouts themselves won’t be more than my body can handle and so that I will finish well under 17 hours. My job during this (aside from actually doing the workouts) is to make sure I’m supporting my body so that it can do all that will be asked of it.

I finally decided that I needed some extra support to get the diet piece of the puzzle under control. A few years ago I worked with Tracie Hittman (itsyourplate.com). At that time I was was still eating out a lot and wanted to get a better handle on eating healthier. Her philosophies about food seemed to make sense to me and I appreciate the fact that she didn’t just tell me to eat more vegetables. I was a little hesitant to start working with Tracie again, first because I didn’t want to spend money on something I already knew. I also knew that some of what she suggests takes some work and planning and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make that commitment again. But after a few more low energy workouts, another few pounds gained and a few sleepless nights (which is how the whole adrenal fatigue started last time) I decided to at least sit down and talk with her.

Tracie offered me her free 20-minute session to sit down and talk about her services, what program might work best and if it would be a good fit for me again. Since I had already worked with her I knew what I liked and didn’t like about the program. I went in and outlined my goals and expectations:

  1. Get through Ironman training – I know I struggle with eating enough calories (especially healthy calories)
  2. Find a program that fits with my schedule – I know getting back on the right track will take some work on my part, but I don’t want to have to count every calorie or gram of carbs and protein. Last time I worked with Tracie she was just developing her program and I felt that I was spending a lot of time counting carbs and protein to make sure I was eating balanced meals.
  3. See results! Although not my primary goal, I do want to lose the weight that I’ve been slowly gaining despite my increased training (and I’d like to stop gaining weight despite the increased exercise).

We talked about each of these goals. Her philosophies are the same but she has adjusted her plan slightly in the past few years so that it shouldn’t be so focused on counting everything, but will still be balanced.  And I am in a different place physically, mentally and emotionally than I was a few years ago. I have learned a lot about myself in the past few years and have already changed so much about my lifestyle that it should be a lot easier to fit her principals into my life and goals. I also like that Tracie does body composition analysis so we can tell if I’m losing fat, gaining muscle, what my resting metabolism is and all of that fun stuff. Working with someone will also give me the added accountability to make these changes so we decided to give it a try for the next few months and see how things go.

Our first meeting was last Thursday. I wrote down what I had been eating for the few days prior to our meeting so she could get an idea of my current diet. We started the meeting by doing the body composition testing to get a baseline. We’ll probably do this once a month to make sure things are moving in the right direction. I had the benefit of being able to compare these results to our last test a few years ago. Some things were better, some things were not. We also talked about my diet for the few days leading up to the appointment. She was able to highlight some meals that weren’t as balanced as she would like and some foods that we should probably eliminate. I am usually hungry right before bed, so most nights I was eating a bowl of cereal before bed. Tracie pointed out this this a carb heavy meal so it may satisfy my hunger but it’s also probably what wakes me up at about 2:30 every morning. The carbs weren’t balanced with any protein so my blood sugar was spiking and crashing. This adds stress to my body and could be the reason I wake up hungry again or just unable to sleep in the middle of the night. She’s not opposed to eating again if I’m hungry, she just gave me some ideas of foods that might be better to eat). She also noticed that I’ve been eating an English muffin with peanut butter and jelly before my workouts. I thought I was on the right track eating solid foods (instead of my milk and banana smoothie) and using natural peanut butter and jelly with no junk. She pointed out that the English muffin (with all of its processed and unnatural ingredients) is a lot more difficult for my body to digest. I just made the switch from the smoothie to the English muffin a few weeks ago and now that I think about it, this could explain why the last few 90-min Saturday mornings bike classes have been miserable and spent trying to find the energy to get my legs moving. It could also explain why I spend the entire class burping up the taste of my breakfast and drinking even less water than usual because it feels like there is no more room in my stomach. It probably would have taken me another three months (or maybe never) to make the connection between what I was eating for breakfast and the success or failure of my workouts. I just thought I was having a string of bad workouts.

I still need to get in the calories before my workouts, so Tracie suggested trying the Ezekiel Sprouted Grain English Muffins instead. These should be easier for my body to digest. And here’s where we quickly (because I know this is getting long) talk about how I’ve changed over the past few years. A few years ago I would have make a face at her, rolled my eyes and said ewww and that would have been that. I would have just kept eating my Thomas’s English Muffins and kept having crappy bike rides. This time, I said I’d try them… They may not taste as good, but peanut butter can mask a lot of flavors and I can’t keep having crappy workouts for the next 8 months.

During the last 6 months or so I’ve started doing a lot of cooking on Sunday so that I have food to eat for the entire week. Trying to find time to balance work, workouts, seeing friends, seeing my little sis (from Big Brothers Big Sisters) a few times a month, and getting enough sleep, it makes it so much easier to avoid take out if I cook once a week and have food ready to grab and go. (I’m also trying to start cooking a little extra and freezing some stuff since I know my Sunday’s are going to be filled with much longer workouts once we finally get rid of the snow). I left Tracie’s office on Thursday with her new workbook that we will be working through, her cookbook and some goals for our next meeting in two weeks.

One of those goals was to find and try 5 new recipes over the next two weeks. Yesterday I made:

  • garlic chicken in the crock-pot – A “Tracie-Approved” recipe that I found on Pinterest. (It was okay but I will make some adjustments to it next time)
  • Zucchini Gratin – from Tracie’s cookbook – yes, I made a vegetable recipe and it was good!
  • Chocolate Pudding – another pinterest recipe that uses avocado and that I’m pretty sure will be “Tracie-Approved” – Yup – Amy’s getting in another fruit that I normally wouldn’t eat! Here’s the recipe – http://www.forgivingmartha.com/2011/06/avocado-chocolate-pudding.html (and I also added a tiny, tiny bit of Almond Extract). A few spoonfuls of this will be a good way to satisfy chocolate cravings!
  • Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal using steel-cut oats – from Tracie’s cookbook – I had this for breakfast this morning. Yum!

So only one more new recipe to find and try and I still have a week and a half. I’m still on the lookout for easy carb/protein snack ideas too. So far I’m feeling positive about this “diet”. If it’s going to help me with my workouts and get me across the finish line healthy, I’m ready to give it a shot. I’m a totally different person than I was four years ago when I first walked in to Tracie’s office. I have completely different goals this time around and I’m excited to see how making a few changes to what I’m eating can have an impact on my workouts. She’s probably not going to get me to eat fish, but I may be willing to try a few other new foods 🙂 I’ll keep you posted…

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It’s Been So Long…

Back by popular demand… (well by the request of a few loyal friends anyway)

2013 has been a year of changes and adjustments so far. Both my personal and professional life have changed a lot in a short period of time. I’ll try to be as brief as possible, touch on a few lessons learned and provide a good base for hopefully more regular blogging in the future.

At the end of 2012 the company I work for was bought out by one of our competitors. Before the buyout employees knew the company was being purchased but we weren’t allowed to know by whom or how things would change. The announcement at the end of December (right before Christmas) brought the end to some speculation and the start of new concerns. Some of us, including myself, are still not 100% sure how our positions will evolve to adapt to some of the changes that are being made, but assuming my job stays around (and I think that I’ll still have a position, just one that is different from what I was doing previously) I think the change will eventually be for the best. There is still some uncertainty and a lot of changes happening with my job description, but I’ve always tried to believe that everything happens for a reason so I’m going to trust the process. I also know that there is only so much I can do about the whole situation, so I’m trying not to stress about it too much; complaining and worrying are not going to change what’s happening.

Aside from the mental challenges of trying to stay sane when I didn’t know for sure I was going to have a job and I’m still not sure how my job will evolve, I’ve had to completely adjust my schedule. My day is not quite as flexible as it used to be. And I’ve been about 100x busier than I was in the past. Some of the projects keeping me busy would have happened with either employer, but I’ve added a new project to my schedule and have to help in other departments when I’m “available” which now basically keeps me glued to my desk/computer for 8-10 hours a day. After spending that many hours in front of a computer screen, updating my blog has been last on my list of things to do 🙂

I was also semi-sidelined with a back injury. I woke up on Jan 2nd with extreme lower back pain. I spent two days in bed not able to move before I could finally make it to my sports medicine doctor. Long story short – I took a week or so off with no exercise and then slowly added swimming and biking back in when I could (taking two or three breaks in the middle of cycling class to get off and do some exercises for my back). The first time I tried a full cycling class after I hurt my back I couldn’t get off the bike and stand up straight! I’m still not sure exactly what I did to hurt it, but Dr. Jeff, Zeus and I have been working on getting me back on track. I’ve been doing back and core exercises and have finally started adding running back in to the mix.

So where does all of this leave me today… Busy! I know everyone says it, but until you experience it, you really don’t get it (at least I didn’t). Ironman training is a whole new ballgame, people! I’m still 8 1/2 months out so I’m no where near peak training and already I’ve learned a lot about myself, my training, my health and what it’s like to have a jam-packed schedule. I trained for my half-Ironman race last year so I thought I kind of knew what to expect but either I’m blocking out last year’s training or so many other things in my life have changed that it’s impossible to compare the two seasons. (And actually it’s probably a combination of both). I got to work (later than usual) at 9:00 a few days ago and realized that I’d already been up and worked out and taken care of stuff at home for 4 hours before I even “started” my day. I still have the benefit of working from home so I don’t have to look presentable when I get home from the gym and have to start work. Very helpful! I’m also learning to multi-task at work (squats at my desk while I’m on hold or on the phone with a co-worker) 🙂

I’m also really starting to “be one with my body”. (I really can’t come up with a less cheesy way to say that at the moment). When I was running once or twice a week what I was eating and how much I was sleeping really didn’t appear to affect my runs all that much. I’m learning that what I eat, even days prior to a workout, how much I’m sleeping, and even “what time of the month” it is have a huge impact on each workout. My hormones and monthly cycle may actually have the greatest impact on my training right now – and poor Zeus hears all about it 🙂 But I’m starting to realize how integral everything is to the eventual success I will have on race day, and the daily success or failure of each workout, so I am working very hard to get everything in order.

I talked with my doctor during my annual exam about my overall health and hormone issues. We are trying a few new things to minimize the roller-coaster my body seems to go through each month. I am working hard to get enough sleep. Right now I am getting up at 5:00 every morning, which means starting to think about bed around 8, and getting in bed around 8:30 or 9. I’m usually asleep by 9:30. Once our open water swim classes start I will probably be getting up at 4:00 or even a little earlier, which means trying to be asleep by at least 9. I’ve also decided it was important to really start paying attention to my nutrition. I’ve found that if I spend a few hours on Sunday preparing food for the week, I’m much more apt to eat regularly and avoid take-out during the week. My Sunday ritual is becoming a habit I enjoy, but I know I still need to work on focusing on eating enough, eating at the right times, and eating a balance of carbs and proteins.

My daily diet is something I knew I wouldn’t be able to tackle on my own. Zeus and I have worked on it a little bit by trying to count calories to make sure I was getting enough to fuel my workouts, but not over-doing it either and just talking about some of the struggles I have with my diet in general. I finally took the plunge this week and went back to the nutritionist I was working with a few years ago. And since it’s time to get to work I’ll leave you all wondering about my plans for tackling my diet struggles!

I will actually try and do another post tonight because there’s a lot to talk about with diet and nutrition. But now that I’ve done the “catch you up on my life” post, hopefully I can try and get to blogging more often. (I’m using my rest day morning to write this morning).

Overall life is pretty great right now. I sometimes complain about the terrible run I had or the cycling class where my legs literally wouldn’t move but I get in bed every night kind of excited to do it all over again the next morning. Work is busy and challenging but I think overall I’m happier at work than I’ve been in the recent past. My workouts are also challenging and I’m trying to enjoy the process, and focus on the improvements and good workouts instead of how far I feel I still need to go and the workouts that make me not love running.  I’m learning some important lessons about taking care of my body and taking steps to learn even more. I’m learning how to be busy and multi-task. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think I would change a thing! And most importantly, I’m blessed to have friends who want to hear how my training is going, support and encourage what I’m doing (and understand the night’s when I’m in bed at 7:30 or 8:00 to catch up on some sleep)!! I’m excited for the journey and have no doubt that I will be learning a lot about my eating habits in the weeks and months to come. (And I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated on a more regular basis. Thanks for pushing me to do more blogging…)

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Still Calorie Counting

Knowing my love/hate relationship with food and what I’ve always heard from other people I expected this post to start with, “I hate calorie counting” when I’m actually going to say I may actually enjoy calorie counting.

I’ve been using an app called myfitnesspal to keep track of my calories. (You can also use it to track workouts and how many calories you’re burning but I haven’t gone that route yet). My coach, Zeus and I decided we should be tracking calories to make sure I was actually getting enough calories to fuel my body during the workouts and to see what nutrients I was (or more likely was not getting in my diet). The interesting thing about the calorie counting and why I thought I was going to hate it is that we first tried to take a much easier approach by just having me text him pictures of my meals. He didn’t get very many pictures…

In my mind I know writing down foods to track calories and nutrition is really the same thing as sending pictures of my food. I think the Type A part of my personality likes the structure and guidance that the calorie counting provides though. In the past three weeks I’ve learned a few things about my eating habits and the benefits of calorie counting.

I was unintentionally yo-yo dieting – The first thing I noticed is that in the past my daily calorie intake was probably all over the place. Some days it was probably under 1000 calories and other days it was probably over 2000. It was like I was yo-yo dieting on a weekly basis (unintentionally of course). I have found that there are some days when I’m really just not that hungry. There are also days when I can get wrapped up in a project at work, or while I’m out running errands and just not eat. There are still some days when I get to the end of the day and have 700 or 800 calories left to eat. And then there are other days when I am really hungry and can’t stop eating. Now that I’ve realized this I’ve been working on ways to balance out my days a little better.

Calorie counting helps you make better choices – While there are some days that I am still too far under my calorie goal, there are also days when I’m dangerously close to the upper limit. Between all of the workouts and consciously trying to increase the amount of healthy calories I’m taking in, there are actually more of these days then days when I’m under now. Knowing that I only have so many calories to use throughout the day I’ve started choosing grapes over chips or water over the sugary Starbucks drink after our Sunday morning runs.

Food isn’t “good” or “bad” – I used to look at food as good and bad. I am a picky eater so of course I thought all of the food I liked was “bad” and all the foods that I really don’t like were the “good” foods. This didn’t give me the most positive outlook on my eating habits (which is really probably why I didn’t want to send anyone else pictures of what I was eating). Over the last few weeks of tracking my food I’ve learned that I actually do like a variety of healthier foods. Just because I don’t eat a lot of the foods people would classify as “healthy” (fish or vegetables), there are a lot of healthy foods that I do like. When I am tracking my calories I am intuitively making better decisions. I am not looking at foods as good or bad anymore. I am simply looking at everything I eat as food. I choose to eat grapes or yogurt as a snack instead of chips because I know I can eat more grapes and yogurt for the same amount of calories. I don’t pick the junk food because I feel like being “bad” and I don’t pick the fruit because I feel like today I need to eat something “good”. I pick the good foods because I only have so many calories I can eat in a day and I want to get the most out of those calories.

I’ve also stopped feeling like I’ve been “bad” when I eat foods that aren’t as healthy. I’ve started to realize that I have choices when it comes to my food. Last night, for example, I went out to eat with some wonderful friends. I knew we would be going out for dinner, so I made some different food choices earlier in the day. And when I ate some cheese curds and french fries at dinner I didn’t feel bad about it. A few months ago I would have eaten the same foods but would have at least once or twice (or three or four times) felt really guilty about what I was eating and frustrated that I was eating unhealthy options. I would have been down on myself and probably not eaten much the next day. Now, I knew I planned for the night by making different choices (not good or bad choices) during the day and that I would be able to do the same the next day and the rest of the week, so last night I simply enjoyed what I was eating. I workout at least once just about every day and now I’m picking better foods most of the time so I’m finally able to enjoy the times I get to the world’s best cheese curds.

I don’t “waste” calories anymore – I have started to make better food choices just by realizing I don’t want to “waste” calories. I’ve stopped mindlessly eating and only eating when I’m actually hungry. I made recipe a few nights ago for some Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Walnut Pancakes. (I’m still working on finding the perfect recipe so I’ll hold off posting a link to the recipe). I should have added the recipe to myfitnesspal before making the pancakes, but now the lesson is learned for the future. After adding the recipe I realized that the peanut butter chips I had put in added 320 calories to the recipe (a 3-serving recipe). After eating them I realized you could hardly taste them and it was basically a wasted 100 calories. I could have enjoyed a glass of milk with them instead. Last night at dinner I didn’t really care for one of the things I ordered so I stopped eating it instead of just eating it because it was there.

I’m trying not to get too crazy about knowing the calorie content of every food I eat, but a Hershey Kiss has 24 calories. I now look at that little kiss and usually realize I don’t want it enough to waste 24 of my calories. (And some days I look at it and realize that I really want it even though it means I may have to cut something else out later in the day).

I plan better – Since I’ve started keeping track of calories I’ve started to plan my meals a bit better. Once a week or so I’ve been working from my friend Cindy’s house to keep her company while she’s recovering from ankle surgery. I’ve started packing snacks and meals to bring over instead of just grabbing things she has to eat. It’s not that I don’t like Cindy’s food (she’s actually a really good cook) but when I bring my own food I already know the calorie content and portion sizes.

I know a lot of people that have difficulty with calorie counting and find it tedious or get really caught up in getting the exact number of calories. I have found it very beneficial. I have a much better relationship with food, am working hard to get a more balanced diet and since myfitnesspal also tracks other nutrients I can start seeing where I may be deficient (like my iron levels probably). I was very hesitant to try counting calories because of all the negative things I had heard and I had assumed I would be one of those that struggled with eating “good” and “bad” foods or freaking out when I go over my allotted calories for the day. Luckily, I’ve found it’s had the opposite effect. I’ve learned that I can make choices about what I eat, that I don’t need to look at food as good and bad and with some planning I can still enjoy the foods I used to think of as bad (and I don’t actually choose them as often any more). It’s a little bit more work, but I actually don’t mind it now that I have the hang of it.

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