Arctic adventure begins in two weeks 🐧❄️

In two weeks, I will hop on a plane to Buenos Aires, Argentina, then another to Ushauaia, and last, board a ship to sail the Drake Passage down to Antarctica.

The race is a little over three weeks away and I did something nasty to my achilles on the last, long and very hilly training run. Again, I tried using trail shoes, and again, they didn’t work out. I’m sticking with my road shoes. Hills, rock, and snow be damned.

The problem with an achilles, let’s call it, aggravation, is it takes a long time to heal. I’ve been limping around since Sunday, and that’s walking. Running has been out of the question, and still is almost a week later.

I feel like my fitness level and endurance training will carry over another two to three weeks if rest is all I need to heal my achilles, but I’m not happy about it. I’ve been grumpy and a little down lately as the realization that due to this setback I won’t be running the best race I could.

Don’t count me out yet. Two weeks is still long enough for me to recover sufficiently to get the job done. I just hope it’s enough for the tough arctic terrain that lies ahead.

Race participants received a final informational email from Marathon Tours on logistics, avoiding scams in Buenos Aires and what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled. They said all of this tends to happen quite a bit in South America.

There will be no internet and no cell phone coverage while on the ship or on the white continent. I have an option to register for a ship, text-only, email address. I’m guessing this is a small data channel on a ship-to-shore radio that can allow for a limited amount of communication to and from the rest of the world.

The email also included a few pictures from previous races. The inclines on the race course looked intense. I’ve had some hill work – some that’s nearly done me in – but those long ass hills go up and up forever. Gulp.

Deep breath. It’s going to be fine. Carry on.

There are no ports or docks on Antarctica. Instead, the ship drops anchor and they lob us (hopefully it’s gentler than that) into a Zodiac. A Zodiac is a rubber boat with a motor, think what navy seals use. The Zodiac will bring several of us to land. Then we’ll step out of the boat into calf-high Arctic ocean and walk (or run) to land and ice and snow.

Zodiacs will be used for race day and other activities on Antarctica. Before and after the race there are several excursions like arctic ocean kayaking and penguin viewing. Count me in!

With the help of a check list from Marathon Tours, I’m still narrowing down my own packing list, which I’ll publish when I have it pretty much locked. More to come.

Stay healthy, stay strong. ❤️🙏🏼💪🏼

Supplements and sports nutrition 🎉

Excited to share the good news that I just passed the ISSA-certified Sports Nutrition Specialist certification. It took months of lectures, lessons, lots of studying, a 638 page textbook, a 183 page workbook, more studying, over twenty quizzes, and one big, badass final exam.

I have a deep interest in learning how to fuel athletes for top performance, including the basics, i.e., maintaining the right macronutrients mix, as well as digging into the details, like getting into the nitty gritty of micronutrients, i.e., vitamins, minerals, specific amino acids, sodium, etc.

In the past, I thought if we ate enough spinach and nuts among other things, we’d basically get enough iron, calcium, vitamin C, D, and so on from food.

It wasn’t until 2014, a few months after I ran the Chicago marathon (unknowingly and completely anemic) that I went to the doctor to try to find out why I was so tired and weak during workouts or runs.

Blood tests revealed that I was severely anemic and probably had been for the previous two years or so. My levels were alarmingly low, and yet I just thought that was how I was supposed to feel while running long distances. I figured people get tired when they’re running, so I didn’t question it until my performance was laughable.

The last straw was when my personal trainer at the time had me doing assisted pull-ups and I could only complete four or five. I would just stop mid pull-up and start laughing. I couldn’t manage to get myself up and yet by all accounts, I should have been able to knock out ten of them easily. My trainer asked me to get my iron checked.

After my diagnosis, I started taking supplements on and off while staying vegetarian, but my levels didn’t improve. Maybe because of my veggie diet or maybe because I wasn’t consistent with the supplements, or maybe because of both.

After seven years of a vegetarian diet, my doctor asked me to start eating fish and meat again. Even after that, however, my iron levels still remained low. Not as terribly low as they once were, but low enough that the doctor insisted I take an iron supplement in addition to eating meat and fish. So I did, on occasion, when I remembered. I still had it in my mind that I would and should eventually get everything I needed from food and the supplement was mumbo jumbo. I’d heard that most ingredients in any supplement or vitamin leave the system before it’s taken in, so I didn’t think it really mattered.

For a couple of years after that, my blood tests would inevitably come back low in various micronutrients like vitamin D or iron (again), or I’d have a wonky thyroid number. But each time, I’d try to fix it with food and forget all about the supplements. I’d remove sugar from my diet and add in some black beans for iron. Ironically, after eliminating all processed foods from my diet, my thyroid number went back to normal, but the micronutrients still came back deficient.

It wasn’t until I put myself on a high quality, steady (meaning I took consistently it every day without skipping) one-a-day vitamin, plus additional vitamin D, calcium, and raw iron supplements, did my blood work – and more importantly – energy levels, recover sufficiently.

I never knew how good I could feel because I thought tired and weak was how everyone felt when running, until I was on a solid vitamin and mineral regiment. Now, I run long distances and feel strong.

If this is you, there’s hope. Of course, check with your doctor on what’s right for you. But if you’re feeling tired or weak, a blood panel might give you an indication of why. You’ll probably have to ask specifically for them to test for iron deficiencies. It’s not included in a regular blood test.

All of this is why I decided to specialize in sports nutrition. It’s important and personal to me.

If there are other people out there like me, who believe they can get all the nutrients necessary to perform at peak levels without vitamins and minerals or additional supplements but still struggle to do so, I’d like to share my story and the science with you.

Not saying my story is going to be yours, but the transformation in my diet has helped me perform at a higher level, recover faster, and I get to keep running without injury.

If only I knew this back in my thirties, but those days are gone.

Right now, it’s time to celebrate. 🎉

Stay healthy, runners. 🙏🏽

8 mile long run

Put down eight miles this weekend. It was a good, strong, slow run. I was lucky to avoid most of the downpours in the bay area, but it was still windy, wet, and hovered around forty degrees, rising to forty-three degrees by the time I was finished with the run. Colder for the bay area, but not close to Antarctica cold.

I’m still a mile behind my training schedule for the long runs, but with how I’ve been feeling while running (💪🏼), I’m okay with that.

It’s four weeks until we leave for Antarctica and the race is exactly five weeks away. I can’t believe how fast it is approaching. I still have a lingering cough, which I can’t attribute to anything but that damned flu shot I received weeks ago. I just want it to go away.

As far as race gear, the plan is to wear a long sleeve performance tee under a warmer three-quarter zip fleece, which will be topped with a waterproof shell. Depending on how cold it will be on race day, I will increase the thickness of the waterproof shell. So I’ll probably bring two. Not sure yet.

My gloves are half fingerless with mittens that pop on top of them. Really great for both warming, cooling, and operating my iPhone, Go Pro (if I bring it), zipper on water bottle bag, etc.

Bottoms will be warm running tights with shorts on top. Again, if it’s really raining or sleeting or the wind is over 25 mph, I’ll add thin, waterproof shell pants.

I’ve got great trail shoes, warm (and proven) running socks, a warm beanie and if needed a balaclava. I haven’t landed on my sunglasses yet, but have a backup pair if I don’t find what I want in the next few weeks.

As far as nutrition, it’s only 13.1 miles, so I’ll likely stick mostly with water and dates. I might add a CLIF bar in my pack for a just-in-case scenario. Maybe I’ll lose more calories in the cold than I realize, so I’d rather be on the safe side.

It’s all getting so close. Will continue to keep you posted as the weeks count down.

Until then, stay healthy. 🙏

Five weeks to Antarctica race

low storm clouds over running trail

Training is almost back on schedule. I’m still running about a mile short on the weekend long runs (seven miles), but feeling nice and strong during the run and recovering quickly.

Rainy weather has made for interesting conditions in the bay area, but still nothing like Antarctica. Not a snowflake to be found, just a lot of rain and wind.

Luckily, I have a couple more training trips to cold places that should help at least expose my lungs and body to the frigid temperatures anticipated on race day.

Also, I don’t feel like I’m getting the hill work needed in what’s expected on the Antarctic race course, but I’m doing my best to get to the trails.

The run I get to do most days is just outside my doorstep and this is a training no-no. Even though it’s so easy and convenient and connects to the bay trail, which goes on for miles, it’s not even close to what I am expecting in Antarctica.

If I can’t make the time to get to the trails and put in the work, I will pay for this dearly in Antarctica in the way of tired legs and a lot of huffing and puffing. 😟

That two-week sickness really set me back, but I have five more weeks to turn it around. 💪🏼

I still need to finish my packing list as well. The race company posts their recommendations, but I feel like it’s missing quite a few things that will make my race a happy – or at least more comfortable – race. Will post my complete packing list once done.

Until next time, stay healthy. 🙏

It’s official, I’m bulletproof

It is with mixed feelings that I wrap up my bulletproof experiment.

On one hand, I lost weight, felt (and ran) strong, and rather enjoyed the coffee concoction as a meal supplement. Being a black (no sugar or cream) coffee drinker, the butter coffee was a sweet treat.

On the other hand, I experienced a little discomfort along the way, which mainly consisted of morning or late night hunger pangs, occasional heartburn, and forcing my meals into an eight hour window.

This last one was particularly tough socially. On weekends especially, my family and friends would get together for big breakfasts around 8am, before weekend activities commenced. If I partook, it meant I needed to wrap up dinner by 4pm. Who eats dinner before 4pm?

No one. Dinner, my last meal was made and served closer to 7pm. So it was awkward and anti-social to miss one of those meals. Loved ones thought I was starving myself, and sometimes it felt like it.

There were a few other side effects worth mentioning.

Slight heartburn or indigestion happened a couple of times, about two hours after the bulletproof coffee. It lasted about fifteen or twenty minutes and then went away.

Headache. Early on, in the first ten days, I had a couple of headaches that lingered all day. But once I got into a routine, these went away completely.

Dry mouth. Especially before my first meal, my mouth felt cottony. It’s not bulletproof sanctioned, but to avoid an awkward situation I’d pop in a piece of gum before walking into a meeting with questionable breath.

Mid-day sleepiness. Every fourth or fifth day, around 2pm, I felt tired and sluggish. This occurred much less after two weeks into the experiment.

Noisy tummy. After the coffee concoction, which was mostly decaf for me, my tummy would get loud. It didn’t hurt. It was just annoying and distracting, and if anyone was in earshot, embarrassing. This wasn’t limited to the coffee either. When I’d eat a meal, randomly, my tummy would get noisy. Really noisy. No bathroom issues post noisiness, it just loud.

Overall, intermittent fasting with the bulletproof concoction drove weight loss and performance strength. I ate far fewer calories on the fast. No big surprise here, but I wasn’t expecting to eat that many fewer calories without being hungry all the time. Sure, sometimes in the mornings or late at night I felt a little hunger, but after the coffee concoction, I felt good.

Lunch and dinner consisted of around 500-650 calories each. If I needed a sugar fix, I’d add a couple of dates to the end of dinner, but even with that, I didn’t come anywhere close to the 1800-1900 calories I usually ate. I felt the results mostly in my middle, which thinned a little.

As mentioned, the bulletproof coffee had probably improved my performance. While on it, I recorded the best 5K time in several years. It could have been the fitness training (and a myriad of other things), but I believe it was a combo of the oils, clean eating, and consistent training.

For anyone debating on trying it, I say do it and start slowly. Charlie Norton did a writeup on his bulletproof experience that still makes me chuckle. You want to ease into the butter and oil or you’ll feel it.

Start with whatever you’re comfortable with, but still within reasonable guidelines. A little white rice or granola might not hurt if you keep the overall calorie count down (although diehards would argue), but you can’t expect to see results if you’re downing a six-pack, bottle of wine, or pack of cookies during the week.

Until next time, stay healthy.

First 10k

I got in 6.2 miles last weekend. It’s a mile short of where I need to be on my half marathon training schedule, but given I’ve been so sick, I’ll take it. It’s my first 10k in many years.

Although neither bothered me too much on the run, I’m still suffering with a sore throat and wicked cough. The coughing attacks have been so bad, my back is sore from muscle strain.

While few people believe me, they insist it must have been something coming on before, all of this has been the direct result of a flu shot. I was perfectly healthy walking into the travel consultation and perfectly sick walking out post-flu shot.

I just didn’t expect the effects to take this long to blow over. It’s been eleven miserable days. Sick or not, I have a training schedule to stick to, so I got out there and got in a 10k.

Typically, experts recommend following “the neck rule” when determining to run while sick. The neck rule basically states that if you have pain or agitation anywhere on or below the neck, i.e., sore throat, stomach issues, fever, congested chest and lungs, etc., you should not run. Anything above the neck, i.e., stuffy nose, watering eyes, or simple cough, you’re probably okay to run.

Even with the neck rule in place, health professionals encourage runners to use common sense and check in with themselves.

For me, I had a sore throat, but was able to knock out six miles comfortably. Afterwards, I needed lots of rest. It knocked me out for the following 24 hours.

The run started off slowly. The first mile being the hardest followed by the second mile being the second hardest. After the third mile, I fell into a rhythm with my footsteps and breathing and moving forward.

I overdressed with long pants and a three-quarter zip over a performance tee. At 54 degrees, I could have run in a tee and shorts and was from start to finish.

Overall, it was a comfortable way to spend the time. No coughing, nice and warm, listening to music, getting some vitamin D. If you’re feeling a little off or down, I’d encourage you to get a run in. It doesn’t have to be six miles, but just something to warm up your body and muscles.

I also took a solid thirty minutes post-run to stretch, foam roll my legs and IT band, and ice my knees. The self-care felt wonderful.

Cold and flu season is upon us. My recommendation to anyone debating on running is if you can do it without hacking up a lung, go for it.

Skip the hard stuff (intervals, speed work, hills, etc.) and plan for a solid rest and recovery time post-run. You’re gonna need it.

Stay healthy. 🙏 💪🏼🏃‍♀️