Catching Up

2016 was such an eventful year for me. It was one of healing, finding myself, and defining where I wanted to take my future. After literally “getting kicked off the horse” over and over between 2014 and 2015 and never really getting back on successfully, I realized that I had to take charge of the way that I reacted to negativity and change. No one likes change, right?

I started 2016 with broader resolutions that I had in past years (with the mind set of not wanting to fail at them again). What I didn’t realize was that 2016 was my comeback year, the year of the most emotional growth, and the year that I would start to accept things as they were instead of resisting and insisting for them to be the way that I wanted them to be.

Here were my 2016 resolutions:

Do more things that I love

  • Hike more trails
  • PR in the Marathon
  • Maybe complete a ½ ironman
  • Do a weekend back packing trip

 

Even though these are pretty long and lengthy, it took much evaluation to start realizing where I needed to be in my life at that point in time. I knew that my saving grace from going into a deep depression is the joy that I find in being an athlete. In 2016, I did achieve a PR in the marathon by almost 8 minutes. However, I realized that I was getting faster, but not happier. 2 things happened. During this time, I was training with a group of mostly road runners. I was comparing myself constantly to other people in the group, as there was a lot of internal competition and “click’s”. I also felt that I was constantly injured, sick, or tired. The training program was asking me to run at least five days per week, with speed sessions every week and didn’t give a specific prescription for cross training or weight lifting. I actually started gaining weight, especially in my abdomen. Being that I had just come off a knee injury prior to training for the Knoxville Marathon, I decided to take some time away from the group and try a different approach to training.

I started doing cross fit and functional workouts again after doing a lot of research of my own into nontraditional endurance training. I did the whole 30 challenge to get back into a paleo lifestyle and I started running with people who truly enjoy running rather than the competition between each other or talking about who has the best running clothes and shoes. I started running trails and I set new goals as an ultra-marathon runner. I started enjoying my sport again, actually, I grew to LOVE my sport again. After having to drop out of the 50 miler I trained for two years ago due to constantly being sick, I finally completed my first 50 mile race, as well as 2 50K’s and a 12 hour endurance run and 2 Spartan races. I managed to podium in 2 of these ultras and even had an age group finish (3rd place) for my first 50 mile! Coming into 2017, I feel stronger and more focused. I see food as fuel for my body rather than a treat that I need to reward myself. I challenge my heart rate in different ways and my metabolism/energy is increased due to the cross training. My training plans allow time for cross training and lifting and I have continued to hit PR’s this way. In November I set another PR in a road ½ marathon which proved that this method of training is doable for my life.

I did hike/run more trails. I did not do a ½ ironman due to deciding to focus on ultra-running, but someday I will. I also didn’t “back pack” per say but I did camp, a lot, while traveling for races.

Financial Freedom

  • Pay off my car
  • Pay of credit cards
  • Budget better

 

This was a huge goal for me in 2016. Throughout my life I had always compared myself to others and normalized debt as just being a part of everyone’s life. That is until it seemed like all of my paychecks when to paying this bill or that bill. I decided that I did not want to live my life this way and actually see it as a source of depression and negative thinking now. I decided to live below my means and still am into 2017. I moved into an apartment that was 1 bed room, has the tiniest kitchen, and is in an area that most people do not want to live in. However, it was clean, has been safe, and it took up a very small portion of my budget. What I have realized is that I do not miss all the “things” I used to have. I am rarely home and having the extra room in my budget allowed me to pay of my vehicle loan, 2 credit cards, and make a huge dent in the remaining debt.

I read books and articles about budgeting and am using the Ramsey methods to pay down remaining debt. I know it will take a while to tackle the student loan, but as for everything else I will be debt free by August this year if I continue with my payment plans. I also leave room for some fun, but I reward myself now with trips and experiences rather than clothes and “things” for my home. It has helped me feel free and I have grown so much from this resolution.

Career Development

  • Become a corrective exercise specialist
  • Become a certified weight loss specialist
  • Work on LCSW hours

 

For those who do not know, I basically have two ongoing careers. I am a Licensed Master Level Social Worker and a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. As part of the financial freedom goals, I also focused heavily on career development to go hand in hand with financial freedom. I renewed my CPT and started taking personal training clients as a second job again at the beginning of the year. I continued my education and completed both certifications and it definitely shows with my client population. Most of them have had significant injuries that they are now recovering from and all lost many inches this year!

My LCSW will take a while, but I took on so many new responsibilities with taking a job in Mental Health. I have realized that both of my professions tie together and hopefully someday I hope to be able to work independently to creatively fuse the two together as one job.

Spiritual

  • Go to church more
  • Practice gratitude

 

Ahhh, the most precious of all my resolutions. So when I set this goal, it sounded simple in theory. However, looking back at where I was in January 2016, it was not a good place. I had failed relationships (a marriage), failed OCS, had a huge career change with a pay cut, had started over for like the 3rd time in two years, and was miserable. This was just two years of craziness, let alone multiple other traumas in my life that I had never really “dealt with”. I was in a place mentally where I truly did not feel like I had any purpose to my life anymore and that I was just constantly going through the motions. One day, I was driving and every time I drove over a bridge and saw the water below I could visualize taking my own life. Yes, that is a very scary thought to have.

I realized that day, after I came home and prayed and cried, that I needed to see a way to make things better again. I started reading scriptures and books about spirituality. I started praying again and meditating. I did go to church more, but it wasn’t just about sitting in a “building” with other Christians. It became a practice of taking every day one day at a time and waking up with gratitude. I prayed on top of mountain tops during my runs. Sometimes I would step out of my office at work and go walk and thank God for everything he has given me, even the bad things, because without them I would not be as understanding to my clients. I realized that I am not supposed to “understand” everything all the time and that we all have a purpose even if we haven’t found it yet.

I started to change and it showed. Other people started vocalizing that I was an inspiration to them. At work, I was able to help other see the light that I once was unable to see at the end of the tunnel. My boss even told me that I am a natural at therapy (something I was terrified of doing just because I’ve always thought I was too flawed myself to be a “therapist”). I realized that my problems very minuscule sometimes compared to others and that without struggle and I would never know how great life can be.

I also started seeing a therapist myself. I completed EMDR/Trauma Focused CBT to process multiple demons and traumas that I had pushed way down inside for many years. I realized that despite trying to ignore them, they had a sneaky way disrupting my life and relationships. They were a source of fear and at the same time kept me complacent and avoidant of taking risks. Through healing, my self-esteem improved and I was able to laugh when things didn’t go the way I planned for them to instead of viewing change and struggles as a catastrophe. While I would say that I still have some bad days, they are never as bad as that day on the bridge. 2016 was a beginning; a “new door opened”. I hope to continue to expand on this growth this coming year and I am starting it from a place of being thankful to be alive and present.

 

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Post Ultra Weight Gain- It’s totally Normal.

Phew, October was a busy month for me. I feel like it has been ages since I put up a blog and for those of you who like to follow my progress and life happenings I just want to assure that I am still alive and on the earth!

So, many of you know that I have been training for the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile race in December. I am officially five weeks away now and in my “taper” phase. I wrapped up my last 50k before and have a few longer training runs for the rest of November before I start winding down and getting some fresh legs again. So far this training cycle I did Stump Jump, The 12 hour dirt Circuit (3rd overall female at 41.3 miles) and then last weekend Norris Dam Hard 50k (2nd female and 10 minute course PR!!!!). I have mostly trained on trails, but every other week I still to a 10-12 mile long run and have hit up the greenway where I like to give my legs a break and to also work more on speed and leg turnover. I feel like my training is finally going good. I have been consistent with my plan, having to tweak some workouts here and there, but overall have seen some major progress as an athlete this year.

The first year that I did ultra-marathons, I really did not know much about how to properly fuel before, during, and after races. I lost a lot of weight and took a long time to recover between each race and long run. This year, I have learned some new lessons. While, overall, I have lost about 6 pounds since the summer, my weight has fluctuated a lot around each hard race. After experiencing it and also consulting with other athletes, I have learned that it is not uncommon to gain about 5-7 pounds after an ultra.

Many of you may be shocked by this, as I was. How can you burn 3-6,000 calories (or more), not even come close to putting that back in, and gain that much weight? For someone who has always been self-conscious about their weight and body, I gave myself a hard time and literally sent myself into panic mode. When I didn’t fuel properly the first year of ultra-running I experienced significant weight loss after each race (10lbs after my first 50k), which was not healthy. Now that I am taking in approximately 100 calories each hour during an ultra, I am gaining this much weight? It didn’t make sense. Also, I had felt so bloated and puffy like I couldn’t fit my legs in pants (hello dresses and leggings for about a week after each race).

After doing some research and also talking with other athletes, this amount of weight gain is perfectly normal and does eventually go away. For instance, before Stump Jump I weighed about 126. The first day after I weighed about 132.5, second day 128, and eventually went down 2 pounds from my original weight to 124. The same occurred the next two events. Apparently, this weight gain is a combination of electrolyte consumption from the sports drinks, gels, and salty snacks runners take in. It can cause your body to retain excess water weight. Additionally, your body goes into a panic mode where it starts to store everything you eat because it doesn’t know when you are going to stop running or if it will need the calories for a few days. Thirdly, you are literally wreaking havoc on your joints and muscle tissue so your body holds on to excess fluid (in the process of inflammation) in order to repair the trauma it is experiencing. Eventually, the puffiness will go away and if you kidneys are functioning properly will “pee it out”.

So basically, while it is annoying and somewhat shocking, it is perfectly normal and even healthy for your body to hold on to a few extra pounds for a few days. If you are doing the right workouts (adding in intervals and weight training mixed in with slow long distance runs) as well as eating the right foods, you shouldn’t be gaining weight and keeping it on during your race cycle.

I am not afraid to admit that I am a little self-conscious about weight, but overall this year I have learned to love my body for what it can do and its strength. It is easier said than done when we live in a society that demands for women to look a certain way to constantly check their weight so that you are in the lower range of a “healthy BMI”. However, I am trying to challenge my negative thoughts associated with weight with “look at what you have accomplished and survived”.

 

It’s not always about winning.

Hey guys, so I had a new experience this past weekend running in the competitive wave for the Fort Campbell Spartan Sprint. I have always ran in the elite heat for Spartan races in the past, but thought I would give the competitive heat a try this time since it became an option this year. There are not much differences between the two waves- the competitive just allows you to use discount codes, etc. where the elite wave does not accept many discount codes. Both waves are filmed so that you get disqualified if you do not abide by the rules.

thA0ICRA2F

image taken from quotesgram.com

 

Thought #1- I like that the elite heats are separated by gender (yes I am saying this as a feminist, just hear me out). Most of us as athletes are always competing against those in our own gender category. They still tally up the overall results where you can see where you “chicked” all the guys in the end with the timing chip, if you are extremely fast. I love the feeling of being in the starting corral with all of these strong, fierce, badass women right before the race. In the competitive wave I had guys that I knew were going to be slow try to keep getting in front of me, as if I was not going to beat them. That just gave me incentive to run harder and smile when they miserably looked at me when I passed them up!

Thought #2- I did place third OVERALL (!!!!) female for the competitive wave, but I still felt like I was missing something. Even though I have never had an overall podium at a Spartan event, I have placed in my age group, which shows me that with more training I could be in the top percentile of these events. Even though I know I may not place in age group, as in the Asheville race, I feel accomplished that I am out there with extremely difficult competition and keeping up. It forces me to push my limits so that I can grow as an athlete. In the competitive wave, there were some girls that were “complaining” about the height of the walls and the difficulty of the course. You never hear whining and complaining in the elite heat! It is just a different mind set between the two options.

Thought #3- Even though I may say to myself that I am just going to show up and run “for fun”, I know deep down that I am competitive. So back to thought 2, I want to push my self in every way possible so that I can get better and start placing. That being said, I am totally looking to just buy an annual race pass next year so I can get better in this rapidly growing sport!

Cocoa-Matcha-Energy Bars

Ingredients: 

1 cup of dried dates (Make sure they are pitted)

1 cup of dried figs

1 cup of shelled pistachios (unsalted)

1 cup of unsweetened coconut

3-4 tablespoons of matcha powder

3-4 tablespoons of dark cocoa powder

2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil

3 tablespoons of chia seeds

3 tablespoons of hemp seeds

Directions: 

Throw all the ingredients in a food processor (Mine is a Ninja) and blend until smooth-ish. If it looks too dry add a few extra dates or coconut oil to moisten. You can either roll the mixture in to ball shapes or throw in a baking dish and cut into squares later. I put mine in a 9×9 baking dish and covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can then cut into squares to be eaten later.

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So how’s life been?

So for those of you that follow me on Facebook, it is pretty obvious from my pictures and posts lately that I am officially in the throes of my end of summer race season. I haven’t posted in a few weeks due to life being extremely busy, but I have several updates.

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What has life been like post whole 30?

So Whole 30 was great for my body and I needed the reset, however it takes a lot of time and money to prepare meals ahead of time and eat 100% clean for 30 days. I am still eating a mostly primal diet (I am saying primal rather than “paleo” because I am eating organic cheeses, yogurt, milk etc.- which is not allowed with paleo). One thing that I added back in was dairy because it is a great affordable source of protein, but I make sure to buy organic and without a lot of sugar. I am also eating some gluten free oatmeal and cereal for some extra carbs now that my mileage is back in the double digits. Also… Peanut butter. I am sorry, but this is my number one vice. Things that haven’t worked out well so far are breads and Mexican food for some reason- I tried this last week at a training and was sick for 2 days. Not sure if it was just the restaurant that catered or the fact that I had not had tortilla chips, beans, or those seasonings in over two months.

What have I been doing?

So in the past month I have done a lot of running and racing! 3 weeks ago I ran the new trail ways at Norris Dam with friends and then did Mt. Leconte the following day- so a total of 20 miles for Sat./Sun. Then the next week I competed in the Xterra Panther Creek ½ marathon and placed 1st in age group!!!! Then… Last weekend I did my first Spartan in a year and a ½ and ran the Asheville Super Spartan. I ran the Spartan for fun, but realized that I do need to improve grip strength and stamina on the hills. I am hoping to do much better when I do the Carolinas Beast in October, with new training ideas. I placed 23 in age group which was okay considering the competition that was there in the women’s elite heat.

August is a busy month for some reason- it is for sure the hottest here in the south, so I am pretty sure that race directors are just sadistic and want to put on a race every weekend to torture us! This weekend I am doing Haw Ridge Trail Race and the following weekend is the Tennessee Spartan Sprint. Both of these races will be shorter distances- I am hoping to do well, but realize that you can’t realistically perform your complete best with little to no rest. This month is about pushing my mental limitations and amping up my training for the winter.

I have been continuing to do cross fit mixed in with my runs. My body is finally adapting and I am not left so sore that I can’t move after the workouts now. I can tell my grip strength is improving (something that is important for OCR) and I am so determined to get some strict pullups again. We are currently doing “summer of deadlifts” and I am now at 135 pounds this week. We will work up to a one rep max and build from there. I am noticing a huge difference in core strength and my speed is improving on hill workouts, due to all of the glute and hamstring work with deadlifts and squats.

What’s coming up for Me?

So I officially lost my mind and I have signed up for the Georgia Death Race (68-ish miles) for next April. To prepare, I will be doing a couple of 12/24 hour endurance events, 50K, and 50 Mile (Lookout Mountain Chattanooga) in December. I just want to finish these races since I consider myself new to ultra-running and haven’t done a 50K since November 2014.

What does a typical day of training look like?

With having two simultaneous careers going currently, I have to be creative with planning my workouts. When I am doing personal training- I get some mobility and core work in with my clients that are advanced- jumping in on some parts of their workouts also pushes them to test their own limits.

Tuesdays/Thursdays are dedicated to running. I will do a hill workout and a speed workout on either day. On my day off is a long run, usually on trails. If I am not too sore I will add in an extra day in the week to do an easy 3-5 mile run.

M, W, F- are usually cross fit days. I try to do some other cardio for cross training as well such as the stair climber or rower. Sometimes due to my workout schedule I have to combine days and will do my run then do cross fit or vice versa. I try not to do that as it ends up being a two hour workout on those days and I am depleted for work the next day.

I also try to do Yoga at least once a week- usually Sunday or Monday.

Fall Race Schedule 2016

Hey everyone! So I have had a hard time deciding on where to take my running adventures in the next several months. While I really would like to continue to work on speed and potentially qualifying for Boston some day, my life and stress levels have been at an all time high the past couple of months. I have been getting on the trails again and that seems to be the one and only solace that is helping. So the decision has been made to attempt to pursue a 50 miler again. The last time I attempted this was two years ago- when I wrecked havoc on my immune system and had strep throat that wouldn’t go away. Now that my tonsils are gone, hopefully I can train without getting so sick this time. I definitely learned some lessons from my last attempt. For those of you that don’t know, the longest run I have completed was around 38-40 miles (we weren’t allowed to have GPS and it was an unmarked course). I have developed a race schedule so that I can attempt some longer distance runs and ultra’s working up to it, but I feel like this is the time to work on achieving a 50 miler!

courage quote

image from quotesgram.com

 

2016 Tentative Fall Race Schedule:

  • July 30- Panther Creek (trail) 1/2 Marathon
  • August 6th- Holston River Challenge (this one is a “maybe”)
  • August 13th- Haw Ridge Trail Run 7-ish miles
  • August 20- Nashville Spartan Sprint
  • September 24th- Virginia Super Spartan or the Big South Fork Trail Race
  • October 1st-Stump Jump 50K (training race)
  • October 8- Rock and Root 30K (training race)
  • October 15th – The Dirt Circuit (probably going to attempt 24 hours)
  • October 29th- Carolina Spartan Beast
  • November 12th- Norris Dam 50K
  • November 19th- Secret City 1/2 Marathon
  • December 17th- Lookout Mountain 50 Miler – Chattanooga TN

I am still working out the schedule and making sure I will have the funds of course- but trying to add some longer distance races so that I have some support and other people to run with for my longer training runs. Wish me Luck!!!! I am hoping to make it to the finish line this time. If I can make it through the fifty miles- I am hoping to apply to run the Georgia Death Race in the spring which is about 72 miles.

Whole 30 – Day 30!!!

So yesterday was my last day of the Whole 30 Challenge. It was an emotional process at first, but I must say that I am so glad that I did it. I am going to list the pro’s and con’s here in this blog post and some lessons I learned. Yesterday I finished the day off with a 10 mile run- with a 5k built in. I was able to get a PR (kind of unintentionally) which to me is indicator that my overall health is improving. It was the first race I have ever done where I did not have any stomach pain or cramping whatsoever. I did try some Halo Top ice cream (pictured below) when I got home because I felt like I deserved it after all the hard work- so far- no adverse reaction to the dairy. I really think it was the wheat and other grains that I was having problems with before the challenge.

So here are my (terrible) before and after pictures. I can see some differences, though they are not that drastic, I can tell a huge difference in my abdomen. I don’t look as “bloated” and can see some definition in my abs. I wish I would have had someone else do the photos so that you can see them better.

Pro’s:  No stomach pain, I lost 6 pounds with out having to use portion control and the foods I ate were actually good and flavorful, No bloating or stomach cramping, my strength at cross fit seems to be better, Better sleep, I know what goes in my food now, no sugar cravings, no afternoon crash at work, clearer skin, I had a 5k PR, it seems easy to wake up at 4:30 AM now, more energy, I learned new recipes and cooking styles, and I saved some money not eating out anymore.

Cons: This challenge makes it hard to eat out with friends and family (especially if they are not supportive), You do spend a little bit more on groceries (however, you can make this very low budget if necessary), you do have to cook most of your food at home, You will start wishing for new Tupperware containers and cook ware instead of new clothes and shoes, you pretty much obsess over your meals, you spend hours reading labels and ingredient lists to find out almost everything has soy and sugar in it these days, and you will go through a detox phase where you feel sick and fatigued (but it does eventually end).

Overall this challenge helped me learn more about how the ingredients I put into my body made me feel. While I will not be so strict and hard on myself I will stick a mostly paleo diet for the next few months to see if the progress can stick. I will post some blogs about my weekly meal prep and possibly continue to take progress pictures throughout my next marathon and strength training cycle. Thank you all for following along and if you have any questions at all about trying this challenge shoot me an email or a comment! I may do it again in January just to help clients get on track after the holiday season!