Favorite Snack: Almond Butter on Apple Slice

Let’s start with a simple fact: I love nuts. I have a collection of nuts that I get at the bulk bins of our local store (Earthfare). We pretty much have a trail mix shelf which has everything: dried fruits, nuts covered in chocolate, almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, etc. My favorite nut is probably the hazelnut. I grew up with it and snack on it anytime I can. Unfortunately they are a little expensive on this side of the ocean. It might have to do with the fact that I yet have to see hazelnut trees in this country?

Americans love their peanut butter like French people love Nutella. Well, I wasn’t raised on this side of the ocean. And while I will eat peanut butter, I don’t have the craving for it that my husband displays. If he makes a PB&J sandwich for a hike, I’ll make an Almond butter, honey and banana one. I’ll cook with peanut butter and eat small amounts. But I’m far more interested in other butters. Truth is I don’t eat that many almonds on their own. But grind them and you find my addition. I don’t know what it is but I can eat almond butter like I used to it Nutella.

I like almond butter on crackers with a hint of honey, or spread on bananas. But my favorite way is slathered on a crisp slice of apple. A little match made in heaven.

I usually buy my almond butter in the bulk section. Our store has a grinder and you can make it fresh. However today with one car under repair and the other with my husband at work I found myself car-less and gasp! almond butter less! What’s a girl to do? Well find a good basic recipe for homemade almond butter of course.

It was easier than I thought. The food processor does the entire work. It does take quite a while however. But here’s the kick: you can create the butter you want. I started with almonds and added a little sea salt, cinnamon and honey. It was delicious.

What’s your favorite snack?

Tough 18

My training plan called for an 18 miler this week. Due to working 3rd shift I had to work thins around and make it happen this Wednesday. I’m working 3rd shift tonight, and the next night followed by a weird turn around. There is no way I could have run this on Saturday. I plan to sleep in and maybe to my tempo then.

I’ve been dreading this one a little bit. It sounded scary. 18 miles, really? Sure there is still 8 miles to go to get to marathon distance, but still.
I woke up at 10:30, had a bagel with almond butter and honey. Unfortunately I was out of bananas so I had a glass of chia seeds (aka frog eggs in my head) with a splash of lemon juice and agave syrup.
I started running around noon, it was already 68F outside.

Now let me say it now, I picked a tough run. I knew it, it was on purpose. After all the Blue Ridge Marathon is tough. Not only is it a marathon (duh!) but it’s hilly, as in you climb 1200 feet in the first 7 miles. Not only that but there is a 500 feet climb starting at mile 17 too. So I picked a loop called Squirrel Loop: 17 miles, 810f of elevation change (that does not show in any way how much uphill and downhill are involved) and rated 18 out of 20 on the difficulty level. Yes please, call me nuts right now. Should I also say that I’m on the first day of my cycle? (Women will understand that one).

So tough it was. The first 5 miles are a straight uphill on forest road with the 810f climb on forest road. Then it’s downhill for about 2 miles. The first 8 miles or so I had cramps/side stitches on both sides, I though it might be what I ate at first, but now I think it may have more to do with my cycle. Anyhow, either I tuned it off or it went away by Mile 8ish. I took a break, texted my husband that I was about halfway. I couldn’t bear the though to tun the first crazy uphill of Sidehill trail, so I walked it. I ran on the trail all the way to Bent Creek Rd, then back uphill on South Ridge Forest Rd. I can’t say this is my favorite. It shouldn’t be called South Ridge but the Southern Roller Coaster. Seriously that’s all it does for miles.

Past the Apex I started wanting to walk. I took a mini break at some point and could tell my legs were hurting. But I kept on going, I told myself to walk when I would reach the uphill of Hardtime connector. It took some willpower! I alternated water with GU Brew and GU Roctane throughout my run. But by the end of the run, maybe around mile 13 or 14, all I could think about was the cold Emergen-C water waiting in the car. I swear that water is the only reason I finish running!

I finally reach Hardtime FR and the blissful downhill. Of course I had to add a loop around the lake otherwise the run would have been short a mile. It was tough. I just wanted to be done. I did walk the steep uphill of Hardtime connector but then ran all the way back to the car where I texted my husband that I was done, I walked to the bathroom. I could still pee but not much, I knew I was borderline dehydrated. I grabbed my cool drink and then jogged/walked to the creek were I proceeded to cool off as much of my legs as I could without getting my clothes wet. Heaven!

Now long runs recoveries call for eating within the first 30mns. I couldn’t. Just the thought of swallowing food made me feel sick. So I drank. I seriously thought that I might feel sick from all the fluids I swallowed. It turns out that I needed that water bad enough that it caused not problem whatsoever.

Once home I had a ripe pear straight out of the fridge. It suddenly tasted like the best thing in the world: sweet,juicy and cold. I did manage to eat a mini luna bar and helped myself to an other glass of chia/lemon/agave to replenish by body and provide some proteins. My next recovery choice was to set myself up for a nap on the deck, bliss! Once I woke up I stretched with the foam roller and told my husband he was in charge of dinner.

And now I need to have dinner and work third shift. I wish I could go to bed instead!

I May Be a Cheap Bar Date, But Not a Brunch One

I realized last year that drinking and running don’t always go that well together.
My running group often meets for a beer after a run. Last year I had lunch, met them at 6pm, ran 6 miles and ordered a beer. Mind you it wasn’t a Coor’s Light. We live in a beer town and micro-breweries abound with yummy treats that have a higher level of alcohol.
Thankfully for me I was on my bicycle, because trust me, one beer was enough. Yes, just one beer and I didn’t feel that driving a car would have been a good idea. I’m that much of a light weight those days. My husband’s friend think I’m lucky because it doesn’t take me much. I don’t because I’d rather know what I’m doing. So any alcohol intake has to come along with some food and pronto.

Between my job making me be home only after 11pm and running, I’ve really cut down on the alcohol. Oh I still get a cocktail from time to time, but I’ve learned to avoid drinking before a run and well right after. So that would make a cheap date, right?

Well drink wise sure, food wise, not so much. As an example, this is what I ordered for brunch after a 9 mile run. I ate pretty much all of it, only saving a little stuffed french toast for later. My husband at that point declared that I was not a cheap date when it came to brunch!

I’ve definitely noticed a difference in how much I can eat since I’ve started running thrice a week. I’m hungry, often and breakfast or brunch is pretty much my favorite meal.

Have you changed the way you eat or drink based on your running?

First 16 Miler

I should be sore today.Getting out of bed should have been hard, I shouldn’t have been able to work out and do lunges and squats. Yet I felt completely normal. I don’t get it, I ran 16 miles yesterday, aren’t you supposed to feel that?

Ok, sure I didn’t push it for those 16 miles. I knew it would be long so I aimed for an easy enough pace so that I would be able to carry on all the way. I guess it worked.

I made sure to get some carbs on Wednesday night and avoid too much soy or beans. On Friday I woke up at the normal night, ate a bagel with honey and almond butter, got ready and went. Truth be told I really wanted to stay in bed and sleep. But I knew it was a beautiful day and that I should just go for it. And beautiful it was. Sunny, temperatures in the mid 50’s when I started and the 60’s by the time I was done. It was absolutely perfect. I was not alone in that train of thought. Many people, mostly bikers were out on the trails.

I planned my route to include a section of trail I’m familiar with and one I’ve only done once. The first part was about 5-6 miles, following the usually Pine and Explorer loop. I tried to trick my body into thinking that was just the warm-up. Somehow it worked because it went by fast even though it took close to an hour. I was around a 10:00 pace and that was fine with me. I still had ground to cover with some good uphill. Then I hopped on Hardtime forest road, followed by the roller-coaster of South Ridge. I took a tiny break at the apex (actually running back to it because I missed it) to put a rock down on the cairn. Then it was downhill until Bent Creek Forest Rd. The fun wasn’t over yet, At that point I knew I had to follow the Forest Rd on a steep uphill and connect with Sidehill whose beginning can’t qualify as flat either. Last time I ran those I had to walk.

I’m proud to say I ran all the way. Even passed a biker. I made it back to the car in 2 hours 41mns and a few seconds. Averaging a 9:58 pace. Not so bad for a hilly 16 miles.

Fueling wise, last time I ran 14 miles I carried Gu Brew with me and got so sick of it by mile 11. At that point I wanted fresh water. So this time I skipped the brew, did water and took regular sips of a Gu gel and 1 cliff shot block. I think I had about 1/3 of the gel at 55mns, a sip at 1h20, another at 1h40 and one Cliff Shot Block at 2hours. Back at the car I had Emergen-C in water and forced myself to eat a Cliff Bar (Peanut Butter).

The Difference Between 6 months and 50 Degrees

Friday I ran 13.35 miles. My training called for a 13 mile long run. I’m now hitting the Half Marathon distance with longer runs to go 14, 16, 18 and 20 are looming in the distance. Scary. But I’m not there yet Right now I can bask in the thought that I ran an other Half Marathon distance.

I picked the same loop that I did for my 13 mile training run last summer. A non technical all Forest Road run called Hardtime/S. Ridge Loop. It may be non technical but it’s not flat. Well the first two miles are fairly flat then it’s all uphill for a mile and a half, a little downhill followed by a roller coaster of up and down that takes you all the way up to 2860 feet at mile 9. After that it’s a good downhill and then a flat/downhill back to the car.

My watch says the difference between 6 month ago and this week was 4 minutes. Well good. But to me the difference was more physical. I don’t think it’s all fitness. There is definitely something to account for on temperature, last summer’s temperature hit above 80 pretty much every day, which meant I was sweating a lot more. When I look at my log I started getting pains in my leg on the last three miles. This time? Nothing. Maybe just a twinge right around 1h50mns, and that was that. Temperatures were in the 30’s the whole time.

I also fueled differently: A GU last summer and an entire bottle of water. Gu Brew the entire run this time but I only drank half of my bottle.

I come a long way from my first 6 miler when I spent the rest of the day as a couch potato. Friday, I ran 13 miles in the morning, made lunch, helped my husband and his friend build our deck, saw some wood, made dinner and was ready for bed only around 10:30pm. No matter what the reason is, it’s nice to see progress.

I Can’t Rust

Iron and Iodine Rich FoodWhen I went home, I took the time to meet with my Doctor. Even without health coverage in France, an appointment with her and the blood test she requested for a complete check up where less than what it would have been in the US (free for me in fact because my grandmother and dad were not going to let me drop a penny).

While I’m overall healthy with a great BMI of 21.1, only 18.8% of fat and pretty much everything good there were two issues that came up through the blood tests.

#1 My Iron Bank levels are really low: 16.1

While the reference levels are 11-158, my doctor would like to see me at least at 40. Heck last time I was at 40 (2006) she had me take iron supplements. Women need around 18mg/day. I eat a pescatarian diet (fish, dairy, eggs) which means no read meat. And guess what? That’s where you find not only the most iron but also the one that is absorbed best.

Now being  a runner (and mostly vegetarian) probably has a lot to do with this. This great little article Running and Rusting explains how runners have more blood hence the iron is more diluted. Foot strike hemolysis aka the break down of red cells when the foot hit the ground is also to blame. So being a runner doesn’t help and yet we need iron even more. Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin, hemoglobin carries oxygen and we all know how lack of oxygen in the muscles feels.

Right now I am on iron supplements to boost things up a little. Ultimately I’d like to be off of supplements and just obtain it through my diet. So I’ve started looking into what I can eat to improve iron sources and absorption in my diet.

  • Avoid tea (or coffee) and calcium along with iron intake because they lower the absorption of  iron. So my cup of tea has to been taken out of meal time, same for dairy.
  • Take a source of vitamin C which helps with iron absorption during meals: hello fruit and citrus.
  • Add iron rich foods to my diet: canned sardines (10% of my need for 2oz), molasses (1 Tbsp=15%) (do you think molasses cookies count?), dulse flakes (1 Tbsp=14%), an egg every morning (5%/egg), use the cast iron pan.

#2 My thyroid is working too much. That is likely due to both lack of iron and lack of iodine in my diet.

Iodine is necessary in the function of the thyroid. The thyroid controls the metabolism and regulate hormones. Adults need about 150mcg/day but shouldn’t take more than 1,100 mcg (it becomes toxic over a certain amount).

I realized that the salts we have at home do not have iodine. A lot of table salts contains iodine because it’s one of the only ways to have it unless you live by the sea and breathe it every day. I have been prescribed with supplements for the time being, but again I don’t plan to live on supplements.

Solution: Eat Dulse Flakes which contain 173% of my needs per Tbsp. All I do is sprinkle a little on my salads and voila!

I am thankful that I have not felt the effects of low iron and iodine yet. But I don’t want to let it go to that point so it’s important for me to take steps now. I’m even considering having red meat maybe once a week to help with the iron.

Have you ever dealt with low iron and/or iodine, what did you do to help?

Failing to Fuel

MST Folk Art Center-Cravens Gap

Winter view from Lunch Rock on the Mountain to Sea Trail

Ten days ago was one of my worst run ever. Sure I was a little ambitious, picking a 10.22 mile run which went way uphill (1000 feet) but I could have done it. My  biggest mistake was not eating enough and not taking something with me.

You see I’ve done long runs of 9-10 miles where I don’t need anything, so I completely underestimate what this one would do to my body. All I had before I left home was a Cliff gel. One. That’s it.
I’m an idiot.

The run started fine. My goal was to do the Out and Back from the Folk Art Center to Cravens Gap following the Mountain to Sea Trail. It starts flat, then a light uphill, followed by somewhat flattish, a good uphill (which I stupidly thought would be the worst one, Ah!), then the trail follows the crest so it’s a little easier, and suddenly you hit this steep section. It was relentless and I walked most of it.You think you’re almost done, but then the trail goes downhill (which you know will be uphill on the way back) and then it goes on and on and on until you reach a crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The uphill took a lot of my energy out. I think if I had taken some energy gels with me and had proper food prior to running it would have been hard but doable. Instead I started stopping a lot on the last 2 miles, checking the directions I had recorded on my phone, thinking the BRP would be right there. Well not so much. It took me  a whole hour to do 5.11 miles. I took a break at the gap and texted my husband so he wouldn’t be worried that the run was taking me longer than planned. But the rest was not enough, I needed energy and didn’t have anything to fuel because I left it all in the car.

I have to admit that the whole way back was a daze. I was low on energy and I knew it. I was only focused on returning to the car and eating the Larabar I had in my purse. I was worried about the risk of fainting but thankfully that did not happen. I did however walk in section I would normally run without any problem. I did stop. But I knew I was somewhat ok since I could still talk to the people I met on the trail.

Back at the car I chewed the Larabar slowly and processed to drink even more water. That was my second mistake. I think so much water on an empty stomach and a tired body did not go too well. Not to mention the smoothie I drank on top of that for fast refueling. I ended up feeling nauseous for the next three hours and so low on energy too.

So lesson learned, next time I go on a long hard run I need to have a running snack with banana and more and pack things with me. Better to have it and not need it.

Have you ever gone really low on energy during a run? What was your solution?

GU Isn’t Just for Sport

GU SampleOver the summer I ordered a bunch of GU product through The Climb. I’ve barely used them so far and I’ve had to try to keep my husband’s hands off of it. He thinks he needs it for a 4 mile run, I think it’s unnecessary until you start running an hour.With the little running I’ve been doing they’ve been mainly staying on the shelf, until Monday night.

Monday night I was scheduled to work an overnight shift: 11pm until 8am to cover the night manager currently on vacation. We had had a debate at work regarding what is the best thing to use to stay up:
-“Coffee” one said. I don’t drink coffee.
-“Red Bull” is what my manager swear by. I don’t remember it doing anything to me.
-“No, 5 hour energy drink is what you should take, you don’t get the caffeine crash” was my colleague suggestion.

Well I kind of procrastinated and by Monday night was still debating what to get. So when my husband suggested I just take  GU with me since it has caffeine, I thought why not? I could always drink Coca at work if it didn’t work. So the Jet Blackberry went in my pocket.
The week prior to my overnight I made sure to go to bed as late as I could, 2am the night prior. So until 3am I was fine. At that point I had my “lunch” a salad, since I couldn’t fathom real food. By 4am I started to feel the night, so that’s when I pulled out the GU. I’m not sure how fond I am of the taste, a little too chemical for me, I’ve enjoyed the mandarin one much better.
But guess what? It worked. At 6am I was still up and running. And while I’m sure that the walk through I did of the hotel helped as well, I had enough energy to make it through the night and drive home after 8am.

By then the effects were wearing off, which is just fine because my bed was waiting for me. I slept until 1:30pm and then went for a small 3.6 mi run to shake it off.

I read the back of the package and GU contains Coca leaf, no wonder it helped. That’s what the inhabitants of the Andes use to stay awake and feel neither hunger nor thirst. It might not be the use GU intended but if I have to work an overnight shift again, I’ll have a GU in my pocket.

What do you use sports energy product for other than sports?

Attempting to Eat Chia Seeds

This summer I received a $25 gift card to try out product from Swanson Health Products. I liked the fact that they offered several organic products. To me it was the opportunity to try out something I had heard a lot about: Chia seeds.

The package arrived quickly and I got my seeds. I’ve heard a lot about it in other running blogs: antioxydants, Omega-3, fibers, proteins, etc. I think it’s one of those plants some people call a superfood, like quinoa or blueberries.

According to the package, one of the easiest ways to use the seeds is to soak them in a hot or cold liquid for 5mns and then add them to a smoothie for example.

That’s what I did. And that’s when I had a hard time. The pretty grey seeds turned into a gelatinous mass upon which sight I couldn’t help but think about frog eggs.

But you’ve got to be brave in life, so I still added them to my smoothie. Thankfully the gelatinous effect disappeared, but texture wise it wasn’t quit it for me, the crunchy effect of the seed disturbed me a little. Not worse than when I used raspberries mind you, but it was there. I tried it in yogurt too but that really did not work.

Maybe I need to try it with different fruits or try with other recipes like muffins?

Do you eat chia seeds? How do you use them?

If you’d like to review some of Swanson Health Products as well, check out this post.

Detox Week-End

Cucumber Basil Water

One of the last time I saw my chiropractor, she recommended that I do a detox. There are a million ways to do a detox, from ready-made powders to liquid only. I went for the basic rules of avoiding: processed foods, processed sugars, gluten (wheat mainly), alcohol, dairy (meat too but that’s not hard since we eat vegetarian).

My biggest concern was fitting the detox in the middle of the half marathon training. Because let’s be honest, I need carbs and proteins to run and my metabolism runs pretty. Thankfully that week-end I was not running so I could give it a shot.

Day 1
Breakfast: 3/4 apple cut into slices with some almond butter spread on each slice.
Several cubes of watermelon.
Basil-cucumber infused water with a teaspoon of lemon.

Lunch: Arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, blueberries, pecan and a walnut oil/balsamic vinaigrette.
1/2 cup of quinoa with a little lemon, walnut oil and paprika.

Snacks: Nuts and dried fruits, remaining apple and half of a banana with almond butter, watermelon slushie (frozen watermelon and a few leaves of basil).

Dinner: lightly sautéed vegetables. I sautéed some chopped torpedo onion, added a finely chopped clove of garlic and some fresh ginger. I added some purple green beans (they turn green when cooked),  some green pepper and some cherry tomatoes, a few drops of toasted sesame oil and I had a yummy bowl of goodies. I also had a few hazelnuts as a snack.

Thoughts on Day 1: It was a little harder than I thought. I was fine with breakfast and lunch at work, the staff cafeteria options weren’t exactly temptation. However I wanted something crunchy and “wheaty” when I got home. I had a good fruit snack that filled me up and helped. But the hard part was when my husband decided to have a grilled cheese tomato sandwich for dinner.

Day 2

Breakfast: Blueberries, a banana and almond butter, cucumber-basil infused water.

Lunch: Veggie sauté left over from the previous night, watermelon for dessert.

Snacks: carrots with a little lemon juice, 1/2 apple with almond butter.

Dinner: I couldn’t keep it up. My husband had a staff get together and while i ate a lot of veggies I did dip some in the ranch sauce and had some chips. Looking back I wish I had simply not eaten anything there. We ended up having dinner at home anyway because they didn’t have veggie sausage.

I made a tofu, cole slaw soft taco at home even if I wasn’t all that hungry but I felt I needed to eat. So I didn’t do perfectly but I tried.

What do I take from those two days?
Well it’s harder than I thought because of the psychological aspect of knowing you can’t have something even though it’s available on your shelves.
Do I feel any different. Well not really. I felt like I needed to eat more fruits and veggies to cover hunger but it was doable.
I do feel though that I can add more vegetable or fruits in my diet and would do just as well that way.

As a side note my chiropractor also told me that root vegetables are great for athletes. So I can add potatoes and more to my next attempt. I think it will make it a lot easier. I’m thinking of attempting more light detox like that.

Have you ever done a detox? What were your thoughts on it?