Friday, September 25, 2015

Three Bean Salad


What do you do when you want a healthy meal but don't want to cook? With it being so freaking hot here, I haven't wanted to cook at all. Most of the time I am anti-cooking, we get take-out, but it's not exactly healthy all the time. Instead of getting take out, here's a recipe for a quick and healthy three bean salad. It's full of vitamins and minerals, anti-oxidants, protein, fiber and healthy fats. I add plenty of seasoning for flavor instead of tons of oil. You can have it for lunch or dinner, after a workout or whenever you're in the mood for something good that doesn't require leaving your house. Works for me!









Three Bean Salad
(makes at least 4 servings)

1 15-oz can of black beans (aim for BPA-free cans or even the boxed variety)
1 15-oz can cannelini beans
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 green pepper, diced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tbs Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning (I got this from the Savory Spice Shop in Encinitas but plain old chili powder will do, or whatever seasonings you like)
8 cups baby spinach, divided into 4 bowls.
1 avocado, diced and divided into 4

Mix all ingredients up to the spinach. Place about 1-2 cups over the spinach and top with avocado. Eat! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 Noble Canyon 50K Race Recap

The 2015 Noble Canyon 50K is in the books as one of the toughest races I've done. This was the second time running this race and this year was tougher than last year. And while it's a race that kicks your butt, I do think it's a rite of passage for any San Diego ultra runner. It's part of the San Diego Slam, which includes the also tough PCT 50, SD 100 and Cuyamaca 100K. I've done 2 out of the 4 in one calendar year but not sure I'll ever do the entire slam in one calendar year. That's crazy tough!

The week leading up to the race was not a good one, as I mentioned in last week's Thinking out Loud Thursday. In fact, the entire last several weeks have been tough more on a personal level with some stressful situations at home. I firmly believe mental and emotional stress far outweigh physical stress. So I felt pretty depleted by the end of the week. But I made it to Pine Valley Friday night with my friend Jean and we stayed at the lovely Pine Valley Inn.

Me and Jean at the start
Race morning began early for me as I did not sleep well. Awake at 3:00, I just laid in bed until it was time to get up. I was congested with a headache, so that wasn't giving me much confidence. But we got ready and headed over to the race start. After our check in, the race started at 6:30am and off we went. It was slightly chilly but I knew it would be hot before too long. Weather reports were saying high of 87 in Pine Valley. Yum.

As we made our way on Pine Creek Road and onto the Noble Canyon Trail, we could immediately see differences in the trail from the last time we were there over the summer. The rains over the past few days really gutted sections of the trail and there were more rocks than ever on the already-rocky trail. It felt like we were running in rocky riverbeds which just isn't comfortable. Things were still feeling ok when we got to the first aid station so we just checked in and then kept going. Then we started to climb. For some reason my shoes were feeling really loose. I don't know if it was just the very unstable terrain combined with the climbing that was causing my feet to move around in my shoes more than usual or what but my feet were screaming by mile 6 or so. When we got to the second aid station at Big Tree I tightened them up and that helped, though there were some blisters I could feel from the movement. Awesome.

After Big Tree we continued to climb to Penny Pines. The sun was in full force at this point and while it was still tolerable, things were heating up. My nose had been running since we started, which is usual for me, but it was ridiculous this time. My nose was already chafing from wiping it with my buff. So I mustered up some confidence and blew my first snot rocket. Now before you tell me I'm hideous, let's just understand how monumental this is for me. I hate snot. Like with a passion. I'm getting nauseous just typing this. I can handle vomit and other disgusting things, especially since I have 3 kids. But for some reason snot makes me sick. It's awful. So I've been hesitant to try the snot rocket thing because I was afraid I'd get it all over me and then vomit. But it was a matter of necessity at this time and I have to say, it was quite successful. And I felt much better because I could breathe. That is always helpful. So if for no other reason than the snot rocket, the race was a success for me.


When we hit Penny Pines aid station, we fueled up and filled up our packs and headed onto the PCT. I knew this section would be a good one so we were able to get into a groove. We were about 12 miles into the race and I was finally starting to feel good. We ran into friends Vito and Dave, who were just running the course to see friends and it was a great morale boost. As we continued running, we were talking about my feet hurting and how my rhythm was off. This somehow led to Jean making an awesome Wham! reference (Careless Whisper - "guilty feet have got no rhythm"), which I proceeded to sing for several minutes. We got to Pioneer Mail. There's an aid station here but you must first run past it, run up a tough climb and then come down. Rude. It was a bit windy up there but not too bad. At the aid station they had pickles, which I enjoyed. I think I had 3. The salt and vinegar really helped to settle my stomach. We got some more ice in our packs and were on our way to the back part of the course that includes Pine Creek Mountain and Indian Creek trails, Champagne Pass back up to Noble Canyon.
Delirious on Wham!

Climb before Pioneer Mail aid station
Finally a prof race photo I like! 

This is the soul crushing section of the trail. It's just so hot, super exposed, has more rocks and you want to kill yourself at least once while running this section. And it's only 5 miles long, so you go through all these terrible emotions in only a relatively short amount of time. I knew the evil of this section and had prepared mentally so we kind of crushed its soul. Only until the end as we were making our way back to the Big Tree aid station. We kind of lost our mojo at that point. I told you that section will suck the soul right out of you. It will get you in the end. They had popsicles at Big Tree which was a bit boost. I filled up my pack, poured some water over my head and off we went.

At this point my feet felt like they were on fire. There was nothing I could really do other than just keep going, albeit painfully. We hobbled through more rocks and riverbeds only this time on tired legs, so footing was very unsure for me (guilty feet have got no rhythm). When we got to the last aid station we were getting down both mentally and physically. Wham! was no longer keeping me occupied. We got an awesome dousing of ice water, I drank my final shots of cola and off we went. The last 4+ miles were not pretty by any stretch of the imagination. It was very hot, my feet hated me and we still had rocks to trip over. But eventually we made it to the finish. We both bested our times from last year, so that made us happy. We stuck around the finish area for a while, chatting with friends, eating and just trying to cool off. We checked the weather and it was 90 when we finished. They had some tents and misters going, so that was helpful.

Jean and I kiss the rat

We hit Calvin's on the way out of Pine Valley for a celebratory beer. We cursed Noble Canyon a few more times, vowing to never run it again. The heat, the rocks, the 5200+ ft of elevation gain. It's a tough course. But now that I'm a few days out from it, I wouldn't say never again. Who knows, some day I may want to do that slam. But not any time soon.

Celebratory beer at Calvin's!
Race day duds - Ink n Burn A New Leaf shorts and Altra Olympus
(black tank too salty to display)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Thinking out loud Thursday: September is being stinky!

September is always a busy time for us. The start of school, our oldest's birthday, family visiting, busy at work, blah blah blah. I have been having a hard time keeping up with things in general, and right now I feel like it's out of control. Even something as simple as writing this blog seems way too complicated right now. So I'm just going to spew some random thoughts with the hopes that getting it all out will ease some stress and allow me to move on.

Before I delve into these thoughts too deeply, I'm linking up with Running with Spoons Thinking out Loud Thursday blog link up. Check her out; she is hilarious!

Anyway. Yes. September is sucking. Hard. So to help me deal with life, I need to uncrowd my brain of these thoughts.

1. I have a race on Saturday. It's the Noble Canyon 50K and I am so not into it. I did it last year and it kinda sucked. I wasn't planning to do it again this year but was persuaded to by a good friend. And it fell into my overall training plan very well, so it really wasn't a hard sell for her to convince me to do it. Therefore, this isn't really a race race but more a training run. But because of the busy-ness, I haven't even thought about it in the last few weeks. And now it's the day after tomorrow. WTF!?! Hopefully it won't be deathly hot and I'll be able to get through it.

image courtesy of totalgymdirect. com
2. I am training to become a Gravity instructor at work. What's Gravity? Well, remember those old school Chuck Norris commercials for the Total Gym? Well it's the Total Gym but kind of re-worked and pretty darn awesome. I know it sounds totally crazy and hokey and why would anyone want to use this thing? Well, let me tell you that it's a great workout that can be as easy or hard as you'd like. In fact, I took a class on Monday and haven't been able to raise my arms since then. The pull-ups work the shit out of your lats and I want to cry a little. Remember Randy from A Christmas Story? How he couldn't put his arms down in his snowsuit? That's me only I can't lift my arms. I may have screamed and fallen and squirmed on the floor like a dying bug. The home-based Total Gym got a bad rap for being a bad piece of equipment. But the new re-worked Gravity machine, which is what we have, is a very effective method of working out with cables and a pulley system. It's very low- to no-impact, making it great for anyone but especially those who are dealing with injury. I can't wait to start teaching classes and torture help my clients in this new way.

3. I really miss my CSA. We used to belong to a great CSA here, where we bought into a local farm and got a huge box of organic veggies every week. It forced us to eat things we may not necessarily seek out for ourselves. We ate a ton more veggies than usual. Well, when I say we, I really mean me. I ate the whole box of veggies every week. And while I really love veggies, I am only one person and it was a lot. Even for me. So I canceled the subscription and now I must buy my veggies on my own. I just don't think I'm eating nearly as much and I feel gross.

4. I am sick of pumpkin spice crap and I haven't even had any. It's still summer here in SoCal and the thought of fall makes me angry. There is no chill in the air, no need for a light jacket for my walk on crisp fall mornings. There is nothing crisp except for me baking in the hot hot sun. It's been over 90 degrees here this past week. So there really is no need for pumpkin spice anything. We still need popsicles. Maybe we should have pumpkin spice popsicles. Hmmmm....

5. I mentioned how my oldest's birthday is in September. That joker is turning 10. Yes, my little tiny baby is now going to be double-digits. When I tell people I get one of two reactions: either a blank stare suggesting that I'm an idiot for thinking it's a big deal or a look of total compassion that my little tiny baby is not a little tiny baby anymore. Really, people. My first born child is going to be 10 years old. I have been a parent for a decade. I don't know. I'm having a really hard time dealing with this. I just feel that it's the beginning of the end. He's going to be a teenager soon and hate me. Then he'll graduate from high school and leave. I remember the day he was born, I was holding him and started crying because I knew he would leave someday and I knew at that moment, in my very short stint as a parent, our time together was limited. That's the one bad thing about kids - they grow up :( Sure, I should be excited about the person he's becoming and know that we shaped him and prepared him to survive in the world. And I am. But if I'm being perfectly honest, I am sad that he's growing up and there will come a time where he won't need us as much and we won't be the most important people in his life. So...I am going to focus on the time now and soak it up as much as possible. I love him more and more every day and I will just focus on the wonderful kid he is and how much being his mom means to me. Love you buddy.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How do you track your fitness?

Fitness trackers are big business these days. They have been around for a while (think back to those dinky little pedometers you attached to your belt loop) but in the last few years they've really gained momentum. There are several different options from Jawbone, Fitbit, Garmin, Apple Watch and more. But do you really need one?

Before I continue to answer that question, this is part of The Tuesdays on the Run blog link up with My No-Guilt LifeMCM Mama Runs and Run the Great Wide Somewhere. When you're done reading here, be sure to check them out!

When the original Fitbit first came out, I had to get one to see what all the fuss was about. Actually, I think my gadget-loving husband had to get one. Because of my job, I kinda need to be up on fitness-related technology so I didn't balk. This was the version that clipped onto your belt, like an oldschool pedometer. Yeah, not much fanfare there and we got bored. Those original Fitbits ultimately died (actually I think my husband's broke apart somehow...don't ask). We then tried the next generation that was a wrist band. This was a little more sophisticated and I could see how people would like them. You could get fancy wristbands to match your outfit and link up to friends through the Fitbit app. I think the Fitbit is a great, especially for those that are trying to get more active and need the push to get up and out. In fact, having something like a Fitbit can help someone go from sedentary to ultra-walker, just ask David Sedaris (I love him, so I had to include his Fitbit story. It's well worth the read). It's also great for those of us that think we do lots and lots of activity but maybe we're not exactly as active as we think. And it's even great for those of us that like data and seeing our steps add up and more. The social aspect is also very helpful. You can have "friends" in the Fitbit community, create challenges and support one another in your fitness endeavors. The new trackers that actually have your step count and other data points on the wristband, making it easy to see without having to check in with the app, are really helpful. They also connect to other apps that you use to track your health data points such as food intake like My Fitness Pal and Lose it!

For me, the Fitbit just got tedious. I had to wear too many things on my arm at once and it got cumbersome for me. When my Fitbit needed to be charged, I took it off to charge and just never put it back on. I needed something streamlined. Enter the Fenix.

Back when I was getting ready for the PCT 50, I needed to update my Garmin. My old Garmin was dying and the anal side of me needed something that would last throughout the race. I had a cutoff to be aware of and I didn't want to rely on others on the trail to gauge my time. So I cashed in my birthday and Christmas money for the next 3 years and sprang for the Garmin Fenix 3. It's expensive and crazy but I really love it. It's big and I'm allergic to it (the back of the watch is nickel, and I'm apparently allergic to nickel. Who knew??) but it's nothing a wrist band underneath the watch can't fix. It tracks my mileage, pace, cadence, ascent, descent, the weather, my steps, my sleep and so much more. I can use it indoors, outdoors, cycling, swimming or kayaking. Ok, I don't kayak, but if I did I could keep track of my progress. You can graph everything, which makes my heart sing. There's the Garmin Connect app for the phone and the watch connects to it through bluetooth. I never have to hook the watch up to the computer to log my runs. I can also have people track me through the app, which is an added safety measure. It tells you to move if you've been sitting for too long. And you can have your text messages and other notifications come to the watch if you'd like. There are a lot of other features but I think you get the idea that it's a great watch. An all-in-one watch.

Bottom line - I don't know that you need to have a fitness tracker, especially if you're certain you will exercise every day or are fairly active to begin with. But with all the capabilities of fitness trackers now, aside from just counting steps, they can be another tool for you to stay on top of your progress and help you to reach your goals. They are affordable and a fun, motivating way to stay on top of your fitness.

Do you use a fitness tracker? If so, which one?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Wanna Hit the Trails? You Must Have This Gear!

My trail running programs are in full swing now and I couldn't be more excited about how everyone is doing. And even though I feel like we just got started, we are actually almost to race day already. There's just over 7 weeks until our goal race, the Lake Hodges Trail Fest. Which means there's plenty of time to try out new gear and be ready to rock on race day. In general, most of the "rules" of road running apply to trail running as well. But there are certainly a few tweaks here and there that will make trail running more enjoyable, and the gear you use along the way is no exception. Here are some basic items that really help improve your experience on the trails. Keep in mind, these are items for summer or warm-weather trail running, as well as the type of trails I typically run. Things change as the temps change, and the type of trail you run may require different gear. But for the warm-weather trail running we're doing, the below gear will help the most.


Trail Shoes

Many trails have tons of rocks, roots and other "items of nature" that line the path ahead. Sure you could get away with wearing road shoes. But these trail conditions can be very unstable and depending on your form, your pace and your shoes, can be very difficult. Remember, when conditions get difficult, shorten your stride, slow your pace and walk if necessary. But something that can help you are good trail running shoes. They differ from road-running shoes in that they're lower profile (lower to the ground), which reduces the chance of ankle rolls with a high heel. The rugged tread offers better traction on muddy, wet trails as well as on rocks. They should fit snug in the heel but have room in the toe box. There are tons to choose from, all with varying bells and whistles. Shoe brand aside, you should go with: what feels the most comfortable, has the best tread/lugs on the bottom to grip rocks, and toe protection so you don't stub your toes should you hit the rocks or roots oddly while running. Brands that make great trail running shoes are Altra, Montrail, Salomon and Brooks trail running shoes (the Cascadia is a good one). Most manufacturers like Hoka, Asics, New Balance and Saucony make trail running shoes.


Hydration System

No trail-running-gear list would be complete without the mention of a hydration system. You will need to replenish fluids and electrolytes on runs that are over an hour. And if you plan on doing an actual trail race, it's important to note that most races will require you to carry fluids with you. Trail races have far less aid stations than road races, which is why you need to bring fluids with you. Practicing your hydration system before the race is key. I recommend a belt or vest over holding something. Believe it or not, holding something while running can alter your form, especially on super long runs. It affects your arm swing, which can throw everything off. It also creates tension in the arms and hands, wasting valuable energy. Look for a belt or vest that is adjustable, holds the amount of fluid you need, has a pouch (for phones, gels, keys, etc) and any other features you may want. 

Personally speaking, I prefer a hydration vest to wearing a fuel belt. I have never been able to find a fuel belt that fits me just right. And when on the trails, I typically drink more fluids and need more fluids than what can be carried in a fuel belt (usually only 16-20oz in a water bottle). Usually there are no water sources out on the trails so you need to bring all of your fluids with you. That leaves a hydration vest as your best option. You can get one with a 1 liter bladder or a 2 liter bladder, depending on your needs. You can also get a vest that not only has a bladder but also has room for extra stuff. Some brands to try are:

Amphipod
Nathan
Fuel Belt
Ultimate Direction
Orange Mud

Medical Supplies

Whether you're running 3 miles or 30 miles out on the trail, there is always a chance of a fall or other brush with nature. Throwing some bandaids, wipes, anti-biotic ointment, sunscreen and lip balm in your pack is a good idea. You can put everything into a plastic bag and keep it in the section of your pack that you don't need to access during your run. I also recommend adding some tissues or toilet paper. If you're lucky, there will be a bathroom at the trail head, or beginning of your trail. But typically, the woods are your bathroom. You never know when the need will arise and it's better to be prepared than not.


Socks

Of course you need socks for any run. But trail running, in my experience, requires a different type of sock. Socks that are thicker will help protect the feet from sand, rocks and other pieces nature that happen to get into your shoes on the run. Socks that come up higher on the leg are also helpful for protecting your feet. Personally, I wear trail running socks from Balega and Bridgedale.


Gaiters

If you don't want to wear high socks, or thicker socks for that matter, another option is to wear shoe gaiters. Gaiters attach to your shoe and add another level of protection to your feet. They not only prevent nature items from entering your shoes and causing blisters, but they can also prevent nature items from scratching your ankles and calves. Some trails have a lot of low brush that can get sharp in the dry conditions. When it scratches against you, it doesn't feel great. This pic shows my gaiters from Dirty Girl Gaiters and they have a ton of patterns and colors, not all of which are pink cougar (meaning, the guys can find some as well). Gaiter size is dependent on shoe size as they need to cover the shoe correctly in order to work properly. Also, you may find some really high gaiters, or thick water-proof gaiters, in your travels. Choose gaiters based on your conditions. Smaller ones will be better for typical SoCal trails but larger, thicker gaiters are better for trails with high brush, water crossings or snow/slush/mud.


Hat/Visor/Sunglasses

Just like with the socks, you obviously need a hat or visor and sunglasses while running on the road. But they are essential when running trails. In our area, the trail systems are typically very exposed, meaning there is little-to-no tree cover. It gets hot and the sun is unrelenting. Protecting your eyes with sunglasses or a low hat or visor is very important. Not only do you need to protect your eyes from the UV rays, but it can also be very disorienting on the trails when the sun is in your eyes. And some trails, such as clay trails, tend to be blinding in the sun. Sunglasses make it easier to see.


Buff

A buff is a piece of fabric (look for technical fabric) that is in the shape of a tube. You can use a buff for so many things while on the trail: sun protection, scarf, sweat wiper (technical term ;-) ), headband and more. I personally have used my buff for ear warmers on cold trail runs and sweat wipers on hot. I have also completely saturated it with water and used it as a cool towel on especially hot runs. It's definitely a useful item to have. May favorite is my "I eat mountains for breakfast" buff from Run Pretty Far. They have the best stuff if you ever want to buy me a present :) 

My sweat-wiping buff! 
Happy trails to you!


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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Boost your hydration with food!

Image courtesy of http://www.saargrolleman.com/blog/fuel-long-flight/
This post was originally from May 2014, but when I saw that this week's Tuesday on the Run topic was hydration tips, I knew it was time to dust it off and update it.

The Tuesdays on the Run blog link up is with My No-Guilt LifeMCM Mama Runs and Run the Great Wide Somewhere. When you're done reading here, be sure to check them out!

I'm kind of a lunatic when talking to my clients about hydration, especially here in San Diego. In our warm, dry climate, it's more important than ever to be diligent about hydration as the temperatures rise. But hydration goes beyond just drinking a lot of water. We all know to bring water or sports drink while on the run. And that's all we need to do to run and feel our best, right? Not exactly. To feel your best while on the run, it's all about the time in between your workouts.

First of all, hydration is important because our bodies are about 50-65% water. Proper hydration is responsible for regulating our body temperature and blood pressure, keeping our blood volume correct, ridding our bodies of waste products, and much more. Oftentimes, the way a person feels largely depends on their hydration level, running or not. When we feel fatigued, have headaches, or general nausea, it's often due to being dehydrated.



The general consensus for meeting your hydration needs to is drink 8-10oz of water every hour you're awake. The Institute of Medicine has set general water intake recommendations for women at approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water from all beverages and foods every day, and men an average of approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water. Keep in mind, these are general recommendations for the general public. Athletes will have higher requirements. Notice, though, the IOM's recommendations count water intake from both fluid and food. Many people don't realize that a great way to boost your hydration is to eat foods high in water content, which are mainly fruits and vegetables. Not only will you get a boost to your hydration, you'll also get tons of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, electrolytes and fiber. We lose electrolytes when we sweat, so eating foods high in potassium and magnesium, for example, will help runners more so than just drinking water. And foods high in antioxidants will help us recover better, so we're ready to tackle our next workout.

The best foods to boost your hydration are your juicy foods like melons, cucumber, berries, grapes, pears, peaches, citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, etc.), tomatoes and kiwi. But foods that may not seem so juicy can do the trick too, like broccoli, bell peppers, lettuces, zucchini and cabbage. And it just so happens that all of these foods will provide substantial amounts of B vitamins, vitamins A, C and E, potassium, magnesium, powerful antioxidants and fiber.

The best way to add these foods to your diet is to eat fresh, locally-grown varieties. Farmer's markets are the perfect source for all sorts of produce that you may not be able to find at your grocery store. You can find a list of all the farmer's markets in San Diego County through the San Diego Farm Bureau.

Some things to keep in mind regarding hydration:
  • Drink about 8-10oz of water every hour you're awake. All day and every day.
  • By lunchtime your urine should be a pale yellow color. We wake up in a dehydrated state, so it's important to start drinking your water as soon as you get up.
  • Don't use thirst as a guide. We're already dehydrated by the time we feel thirsty. Instead, make a hydration plan for yourself (when you should drink and how much each time) and aim to reach that every day.
  • You can boost hydration by eating foods that have a high water content. See above for examples of foods to boost your hydration.