Thursday, October 30, 2014

The 10 things I've learned in 10 years of marathon running!

This past Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of my first marathon. In 2004, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon for the first time. At that point, I had been running for 17 years but hadn't yet done a marathon. It wasn't my first stab. I trained for the 2003 Marine Corps but had to defer my race entry due to injury. It was horrible to have to accept it wasn't going to happen that year, so getting to the start line in 2004 was a victory in and of itself.

That first marathon changed my life. It brought me lifelong friends that mean the world to me, it paved the way to a new career as a running coach and it brought new meaning to the phrase, "anything is possible." I've learned a lot in the past 10 years of running marathons and ultramarathons. I could write pages and pages on what I've learned, but here are the 10 most important things I've learned, in no particular order. And while I know there's still so much to learn, I'd be honored if you'd join me as I look back at the past 10 years.

1. The race is the easy part. My first marathon was done before I had my first baby. So, needless to say, I've done more races since having kids than before. Trust me, the race is easy compared to training on so many levels. Scheduling runs around obligations, weather, vacations, sleeping, breastfeeding, etc., gets pretty hairy. You have to become a master at multi-tasking. Race day is one big party after months of juggling things around. At least it should be.

2. Runners make the best friends. I have come across some of the best people through running. The ladies I trained with for my first marathon are now some of my best friends, one of which is the godmother of my children. In fact, some of the most important people in my life are those I've met through running. If they train with you, they know everything about you (and then some) come race day. If they are friends but not training partners, they at least know and can relate to things you're dealing with. Running connects people on so many levels and every runner I come into contact with is a future friend.

3. You can get through anything, physically and mentally. Training and running a marathon is definitely a test of your patience and perseverance. There are so many things just waiting to derail you from your goal. Your perseverance and persistence in getting through them is more important than actually running the miles. And those victories along the way are just more weapons in your arsenal come race day. Telling yourself, "Well, I got through X, I can get through this," may be all you need to get to that finish line.

4. Running is therapy. While running is a social event at times, I cherish the solo runs as well. It can be a time for so many things: to relax and reflect, organize my to-do list, tune out, get away from my family, deal with my emotions. There was no better therapy for me during the most tragic time in my life. In 2009, we lost our second baby. We lost our son about half-way through the pregnancy. Giving birth to a baby we could never hold is the most horrendous, the most devastating experience I have ever experienced. And you can't understand unless you've been through it. And yes, I know there are harder things for people to go through, but this was the hardest thing my family had ever been through. I still feel like there is someone missing from my family. But in those months following our loss, it was only running that helped me. I actually didn't want to be around anyone, so going for a run was a good excuse to get away from people. But it wasn't fun. At first it was awful. I would cry more than run. I'd make it about a half-mile down the street before I'd have to stop and sob. I still think about this section of bushes where I would hide, sit and cry. But those stretches of running got longer and I got to the point where I could finish a run without crying. Those times became my therapy sessions and I don't think I would have been able to get through the year after our loss without them. It was also at that time when I quit my last office job and decided to make running my career. I felt there was no better way for me to give back to the sport that helped me so much than devote myself to it personally and professionally.

5. Running gives you the freedom to love and care for yourself. For some reason, when we enter adulthood, taking care of ourselves becomes shameful. Taking a day off from work because you're sick: you're selfish and not a productive employee. Getting a massage: you're selfish and indulgent. Going for a run: you're selfish and not a good mom/dad/whatever. F that. You cannot be a good mom, dad, spouse, friend, employee, person without taking time for yourself in some way. You will falter and burn out and be useless before too long. You know that saying, "He/she snapped!" I guarantee that person wasn't given the opportunity to have a little me-time. Everyone has their go-to way of de-stressing and grabbing some me-time. For me, it's running. It's my time for myself and without it I'm not a happy person. That's why injured runners get depressed. And with running (or any exercise), you're more likely to eat better, get the sleep you need and generally take better care of yourself so that you can keep running. Running is the gateway drug for better health. So when you go for a run, or think about starting a running program if you're not a runner, don't think of it as a selfish thing away from your obligations. You will find a way to balance everything and you will be a better person because of it.

6. It's ok to lose control. As a Type A personality, it's hard to relinquish control of things. I have to credit running with my becoming a more Type A - or Type B + personality. With running and racing you can only control so much: your training, your clothing/shoes, your nutrition. You can't control the weather, people, race routes, etc. You can only prepare and then you can only prepare so much. Do what you know to do, trust in that and then go along on your merry way. If you obsess over every little thing, you're going to lose your mind and then the fun is all gone. After that, what's the point?

7. Running transcends all aspects of your life. Really, what I mean by this is that running accomplishments, however big or small, transcend your everyday, non-running life. Get through an especially hard 10-mile training run? Well, that project at work may not seem so daunting now. Complete a crazy Tough Mudder race? Well, giving your kids a bath isn't as much of a physically demanding thing anymore. With every run I complete, I know my everyday life is going to benefit. And I don't just mean I'll be a better mom/wife/coach, etc. I mean I will have the confidence to get through whatever ugly action item may be looming in the background. Confidence is huge and without it, life is pretty unsettling. Without running, I probably wouldn't have the confidence to do half of the things I do, from the big action items like public speaking, to the small action items like introducing myself to someone new. Confidence is a game-changer and I have running to thank for that.

8. You have to learn to accept defeat. This was a big lesson for me and I learned it early on in my running career. Things don't always go your way. You get injured. You have major stomach issues during a race (at least I do and they suck). Sometimes life gets in the way and you can't run a race you want to, you can't meet friends for a run because your spouse is out of town or you get sidelined by work and can't run as much as you need to. It happens to every runner. No runner can say they've had a seamless, perfect running career. There are low points. There are bad days. There are days that are so bad you regret even being a runner. But when you learn to accept these defeats and not let them overcome you, define you, you become a better runner. You learn from the failures, you prepare better and you learn to roll with the punches. Doing this as a runner has helped me so much in my non-running life, I can't even put it into words. Sometimes it takes several defeats, several failures to truly learn how to change things. And once we learn to do this, running is so much more enjoyable. Don't let that first setback stop you. Stop, regroup and carry on. It's worth it.

9. Running changes the way you see the world. And I don't mean is some spiritual, philosophical way, though it does. I mean in a more down-to-earth kind of way. I think runners are more compassionate people. We run to raise money and awareness for certain causes, we volunteer more of our time to things (we all know how important our race volunteers are so we like to give back!). I know we probably pay more attention to other runners and pedestrians while driving since we don't like to be run over. We look at sidewalks, city streets and trails and wonder how they'd be to run on. We plan trips and vacations around races. We look at the world as one big running route and do our best to keep it happy, clean, safe and around for a long time for all the future generation of runners.

10. Running is the easiest and hardest thing to do. Running is easy. Put on shoes, go for a run. Simple. There are things to look forward to like fun runs, beer runs, endorphins, runner's highs, race finishers medals, post-race food and massages. Running is the best! But is it? What about thinking about pace, stride rate, running efficiency, negative splits, VO2 max, lactate threshold, the talk test and specificity? How about overuse injuries, chafing, blisters and bloody nipples? And let's not forget pre-sunrise wake up calls, absolutely no motivation, sore muscles and The Wall. It's a love-hate relationship, really. But it's working through those most-hated moments that allow for us to experience those moments we love. Honestly, I wouldn't change a thing. Well, maybe chafing. That's no fun.    

So what have you learned as a runner? Whether you're a new runner or have run around the block a few times, chances are you've picked up a few nuggets of wisdom. I'd love it if you'd share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

I love me some soup, especially when the weather starts cooling down. Here in San Diego, we have had a hot, dry few months but the last few weeks have actually felt a little like Fall (I am not thinking about the heat wave that's on the way for this weekend). I'm taking full advantage of the short reprieve from typical SoCal Fall weather and enjoying my soup while I can.

This version of sweet potato soup is by far my favorite. It's rich, creamy and so filling, you don't need anything else with it for lunch or maybe just a small side salad for dinner. It's quick and simple and actually buying the ingredients will take more effort than making this soup. And you get so much out of it: it's high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. The cashews add protein and healthy fats. Soaking them beforehand helps with digestion and allows you to absorb more of the nutrients, but it's not a requirement. So much for so little? You can't beat that!

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup 
(this serves 2, so be sure to adjust your ingredients as necessary)

1 medium sweet potato, peel on
1 medium carrot, washed, top and tip removed but skin not peeled
1 cup raw cashews (soaked in water for 30 minutes if you have the time)
2 cups low-sodium broth of your choice (I just used water since I didn't have broth)
1 tsp ground chipotle, divided

Fill the bottom of a sauce pot with 2 inches of water. While waiting for the water to come to a rapid boil, slice potatoes into 1/2-inch slices or cubes. Place the potatoes in a steamer basket on top of the sauce pot. Steam until the potatoes are tender, about 5-7 minutes. While the potatoes are steaming, wash your carrot, removing the top and tip. Cut into chunks. Using a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix, add your broth (or water), sweet potato, carrot and cashews. Turn the blender on and quickly increase the speed to highest setting. Blend until everything is combined and smooth, about 1 minute. Place the soup into bowls and top with chipotle. Yum!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure San Diego is November 2!

Today we have the pleasure of hosting a guest blogger: Jaclyn Acree, media contact for the Susan G. Komen San Diego Race for the Cure. Read below for her release on the upcoming Race for the Cure here in San Diego on November 2nd!

There are more 5K events than can be counted, but none have the same community impact on breast cancer as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. And the San Diego race is set for Sunday, November 2 in Balboa Park. With $1 million invested this year alone, Komen San Diego continues to be the County’s largest provider of free breast cancer treatments, services and support.

“The Race is our largest fundraiser that provides critical funding for women who are in need of life-saving services that they may not otherwise be able to afford,” said Laura Farmer Sherman, executive director of Susan G. Komen San Diego. “We provide free mammograms, education, financial assistance for living expenses, food assistance, transportation and more – all thanks to those fundraising and participating in the Race.”

The Race for the Cure raises significant funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer, celebrates survivors and honors those who have lost their battle with this heartbreaking and increasingly occurring disease. When San Diegans participate, their donations go directly to help breast cancer patients in San Diego, as well as toward research grants internationally.

New this year, San Diego Chargers players, place kicker Nick Novak and safety Jahleel Addae, will serve as the Honorary Chairs. Novak and Addae both have someone close to them who has been affected by breast cancer. They will be the Chargers’ spokespeople for the Race and encourage fans to join Team Chargers.

Participating in the Race helps Komen provide free services for every step of the breast cancer journey:
  • Diagnostic mammograms, biopsies, MRI’s, ultrasounds and more for qualified women who have nowhere to turn when breast cancer strikes
  • Temporary financial aid – including rent, mortgage, prescription drug payments and more 
  • Meal delivery for a woman and her entire family 
  • Intensive patient navigation – complete with emotional support for all
  • The world’s largest investment of breast cancer research – next to the U.S. government. Right now, $42 million is at work to find the cures!
  • Wherever there’s a gap – Komen fills it

This year’s honorary survivor, Lorraine Hutchinson, will join forces to stand up against breast cancer along with more than 15,000 San Diegans. Hutchinson, the first African American woman Deputy Chief in the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, was diagnosed with Stage IB breast cancer four months after being diagnosed with diabetes and struggling to lose 35 pounds. After having an initial mammogram she was asked to come back for a follow up. Hutchinson took her time going back in because she was not too concerned as she did not have a family history of cancer. Six weeks after diagnosis, she underwent a mastectomy of her left breast followed by four treatments of chemotherapy. Hutchinson no longer has breast cancer or diabetes.

“I did not have a family history of breast cancer so I didn’t believe that I was at risk. I hope my role as the Honorary Survivor will help educate San Diegans, especially in the African American community, that early detection and education is imperative,” said Hutchinson. “I want people to think about how I fought it, how I won, and how I came out even better on the other end.”

The Local Presenting Sponsors are Jerome’s Furniture Store, Ralphs and Food for Less. The Local Presenting Media Sponsors are CBS 8, JACK FM and 760 AM. Platinum sponsors include Chevron, Anderson Plumbing, Heating and Air and Reputation Impression.

For additional information about the San Diego Race for the Cure, forming a team, fundraising, recruiting team members or to register click here.

About the Race for the Cure
The Komen Race for the Cure is a unique event, designed and implemented to promote positive awareness, education and early detection of breast cancer. It has proved to be an enormously effective way to reach many women and men with the message that breast cancer doesn’t have to be fatal if regular mammograms and breast self-exams become routine. As well as being a road race for runners, the Komen Race for the Cure is an emotionally charged event that attracts many first timers and recreational runners. It is an opportunity for thousands of women, men and their families, running or walking, to share a message of hope and inspiration with their communities.

About Susan G. Komen San Diego
Since its inception in 1995, Komen San Diego has raised more than $12.5 million to fund local non-profits who provide everything from free diagnostic mammograms and surgeries to meal delivery, child care and temporary financial aid. Seventy-five percent of every dollar raised stays right here in San Diego County to fund free diagnostic mammograms, treatment and services for qualified women and their families. The remaining 25 percent funds international breast cancer research. In fact, next to the U.S. government, Susan G. Komen is the largest funder of breast cancer research in the world. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Powered by Chia

By now, you all know I love me some chia seeds. They are just tiny seeds of goodness. High in fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and more, they truly define the saying, "good things come in small packages." You can add them to smoothies, salads, pasta dishes, yogurt, cereal, etc. There is just so much you can do with these little beauties to spruce up your diet, as well as your health.

As I've mentioned before, chia seeds have been around for centuries and grow primarily in Central and South America. They became popular in the running community through the book Born to Run as the chia seed was described as the dietary staple of the members of the Tarahumara Indian tribe, providing long-lasting nutrition and the source of the tribe's everlasting stamina.

But you don't have to be a superhuman Tarahumara Indian to get the benefits of these little beauties. They can help with weight loss, regulation of blood sugar levels, gastrointestinal issues, as well as aid in hydration and nutrition for endurance athletes. Chia seeds are loaded with heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and so much more. They are easier to digest than flax seeds, so you can eat them whole. When added to water, they absorb the liquid to create a gel. When eaten, this gel helps control body fluid levels, helping to prevent dehydration. It also helps slow the metabolism of carbohydrates, which means the carbs you eat will fuel you longer. This also helps stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing that horrendous sugar crash. 

Now, if you're like me, eating while on the go has become a mainstay in your lifestyle. While it's not ideal, with our busy schedules, it's become a way of life to grab a snack like a portable energy bar. But most bars on the market are high in processed ingredients, fillers, preservatives and other yucky stuff that just aren't good for you and certainly not worth the cost. That is, unless it's a bar from Health Warrior. Health Warrior has an awesome array of healthy chia seed bars that can fuel you when you need it. At 100 calories a bar, you're getting all the benefits of chia seeds in a small, portable package. The bars are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, 100% vegan and 100% delicious. With flavors such as apple cinnamon, acai berry, mango, chocolate peanut butter and dark chocolate berry, there's a yummy flavor to suit anyone's palate. Grab one of these bars as part of your breakfast, a good post-run snack or for just a quick bite to eat while on the go.

Now you can enjoy Health Warrior goodness for free! We're giving away an awesome prize pack of one full box of Health Warrior chia bars (flavor variety of your choice) and a 16oz bag of chia seeds to add to your smoothies, yogurts, salads, etc. And stay tuned for future giveaways of the boxes left over ;)

All you have to do is leave a comment here, on our Facebook post, reply to us on Twitter or like/comment on Instagram @SoleHealth.

We'll take comments/likes/responses through Sunday 10/19 and announce the winner Monday 10/20.