Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nun Run 10k Phoenix

We're angels.  It's true.

Saturday, Christi and I ran the Nun Run 10k at Kiwanis Park.   We decided to dress like school girls for the theme, so we ran in running skirts (they have little booty shorts built in), tall compression socks, white tank tops and ties.  There were a few other school girls and a bunch of nuns participating in the 10k run, 5k run, and 1 mile walk.  This was the farthest we had run since we completed our half marathon in November.

There were some interesting factors leading up to this one.  I had been really sick over the past couple of weeks, and had pulled a muscle in my lower back from coughing.  The muscle felt fine but I was still experiencing tightness in my lower back that I hadn't been able to run out during either of the runs that week. Surprisingly, it was sore when we were complete but has completely loosened since.  I think I ran the pain out.  In addition to being sick, I had been able to run the couple of days before the race, but had no exercise for the 2 weeks leading up to that.  I was a little nervous about the distance for this reason alone, but muscle memory helped.  I also had several knots that were bothering me (a large one in my right trap, and a pretty sharp one in my right calf close to the shin bone).  I feared a deja vu moment from last year when the muscle knot nearly halted my 10k.  Luckily, my shoulder stayed loose and my compression socks (and rock tape) kept inflammation from getting bad in my leg, so I didn't even feel the knot while running.  Christi had a sore hamstring over the week that suddenly surfaced on Wednesday's run, so we weren't sure how that was going to hold up during the race (it did).  It was also freezing because of the huge storm that had blown in the day before.

The course was really pretty because it was only partially on the canal and the rest circled through the park through the grass and around the lake. It was green and pretty, but coincidentally had about 8 small hills that we knew we would feel in our legs later (and for the record, I feel it today!).  

I really like races for a lot of reasons:
1. Sure, you have to pay to do the race.  I could run 6.2 miles from my front door if I wanted to.  But you do get a t-shirt, and you get a racing bib to add to the collection.  I now have 6 tacked to a cork board that I look at proudly and fondly.  The money from registration goes towards a good cause, and you also get the push and adrenaline that comes from racing with a bunch of people.  When you are on a typical run, you don't have to finish.  You can stop if you want, no one will ever notice, and there's no one to hold you accountable for your finish time.  But running in a race actually helps you to run faster, because you have other people leading the way, a crowd at the end, people running past you to keep your adrenaline up, and a big Finish Line as the light at the end of the tunnel.  It feels great to go through it. In all honesty, I'm racing myself at this point.  I'm not to a point where I'm going to qualify for a medal, but I am pushing myself to beat the race from the year before.  
You can't set a PR without running the race first.  
We finished last year's 10k in 1:06.  This year was 1:04.  2 minutes faster, and a new goal to beat for next year.  I'd like to finish in under an hour next time.

2. You get to experiment with different terrains that you wouldn't normally run on.  I'm a road runner.  I prefer to run on the street or on the sidewalk on firm, solid ground.  If I'm not running there, it's at the gym on the treadmill (which is not my preference,but sometimes necessary).  To be fair... these are the terrains closest to me.  If I lived in the woods or on the beach, things might be a little different.  However, the races in Arizona are often centered on the canal system, because they don't have to close down too many roads that way.  Some of the canals have a designated "trail" sidewalk, but the majority of them are dirt and gravel, and that sometimes means dips, holes, loose rocks, and/or mud. Kiwanis park also involved running through soft grass.  Because there was a storm the day before, there were a ton of slippery leaves.  Because there was a lake, there was duck poop (I swore that would not be my demise!)  Neither of these terrains are something that I am ordinarily used to (and similarly, neither are my feet and ankles).  Each time I race in these locations, I silently reprimand myself for not practicing on the rougher terrains in training.  It would be devastating to injure myself during a race because I twist my ankle on a rock I am not used to dealing with on a daily basis.

3.  You learn a lot about how to handle interesting situations while running. For example, it was 48 degrees during yesterday's race. If I was on the track or running downtown, I could take long sleeves and stop to take them off if I got hot (they recommend dressing for 20 degrees warmer, since your body temperature rises so much while running).  During a race, I'm not going to stop, take my headphones and armband off, etc.  So I just froze during my first mile in the tank top and skirt, until my body temperature rose. This meant a numb face and numb appendages.  I also had to make big adjustments to my breathing patterns, since I was still fighting off a cough and the cold air restricted the air in my lungs.  I also had to navigate around a lot more than I normally do.  The 1 mile walk began on our second lap through the course, so this meant running through 100 people who were walking at a much slower pace.  Runners on the course may decide to walk suddenly, and halt directly in front of you.  Busy race courses can be frustrating, but helps me practice how to communicate with other runners and tests my reflexes a bit.

4. You really know how much food and water you need to prepare for the race.  On a normal run, if you run out of energy, you just stop.  But during a race, this isn't an option.  I don't generally stress about it, but made sure I had a good dinner (had pan fried tofu, a baked potato (vegan butter, of course), and roasted vegetables), and got up early enough to eat 2 hours before my start time (leftover tofu and potato, and applesauce).  The food sat very well and I had enough to keep me full until about an hour and a half after we completed the race.  (I've been starving since, but that's besides the point).  I was happy that I am figuring out how to fuel my athlete moments on a gluten free, dairy free, meat/egg free diet.  Powered by tofu is right! :)

Speaking of interesting situations, I may or may not have dislocated a rib yesterday.  I'm honestly not sure how this could be possible, since there wasn't an "incident" that I can pinpoint causing it, but that's what it feels like.  During the second loop, I started to feel pain under the left side of my rib cage.  I chalked it off to being a side stitch, because I knew my breath was restricted a bit due to the temperature and the small cough, so I was probably breathing a bit more shallow than normal.  The pain didn't worsen during the run, but was very tight and sore by the time I cooled down at breakfast.  Side stitches don't take very long to go away, and it should have stopped right after I stopped running.  The pain is under the lowest bone from the front along the flank around the side.  It's just as bad today as it was yesterday, and it worse when I cough, breath deeply, bend over, pick things up, etc.  If it persists tomorrow, I'm heading to the chiropractor to check it.  Figures... everything else during the race was a breeze, but I have to incur SOMETHING. Ha. I'm not sure if it was a result of the cough/back problem, something I did while running, or a combination of both?  Answer TBD...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I'm a repeat offender when it comes to learning my lessons the hard way.  Several years ago, I had a wonderful woman named Noelle in my life who was our work's health/life coach.  She told me on several occasions that if I didn't eat dairy or wheat, I would see a huge transformation in my health because they are both very inflammatory foods (and ones I ate a lot of), and my body wasn't handling them well.  She also stressed the importance of integrating fermented foods and a probiotic into my diet, to help strengthen my digestive and immune systems. Did I listen?

No.  And here I am today.

Coming down off of what feels like the 5th cold/flu since Thanksgiving, I have about reached my limit with my health.  I swore that this year, I was going to feel amazing, be healthy, and stop uttering the words "I don't feel well."  I was always very proud of how little I got sick and attributed that a lot to my diet.  Since I have messed with my diet so much over the past 6 months, and my body is going through a detox, my immune system is clearly weakened and I am getting hit very hard when cold/flu viruses come my way.  I gave in this time and went and got an antibiotic (which helped profusely, by the way), but the fact of the matter is: I don't like being on medication.  I don't like how I feel when my body is loaded with medicine and drugs.  I wish I didn't need to get to the antibiotic point.  I am going to do what needs to be done, obviously, but not only was my body loaded with medicine nonstop for the past week and a half, this was coupled with no exercise, no strength training or running, and poor food choices (eating only comfort foods and very little fruits/vegetables). This resulted in me just feeling soft, fat, and worn down.


Time to go back to the basics:
1. As soon as I am done with my antibiotics, I am going on a probiotic.  I've been resistant to this idea for so long (mainly out of stubbornness), because all of the ones I was seeing either had to be refrigerated  or contained some type of milk/dairy.  My co-worker gave me one to try (TruNature) that is a vegetarian capsule that is Abby-Diet approved.  Win.
2. I'm back to making smoothies (in my fabulous new Vitamix!! Thanks Jay! <3), and juicing fruits and vegetables.  Nothing bad can come from this.
3. Time to load up on immune boosting foods.  I truly believe I can do this the natural way, and I am hell bent on doing so.

So which foods are best?  There are a lot of different websites on the topic, but the majority of them have the same lists.  Here is a list that I have compiled on my own.

1. Chicken Soup
They always say to eat chicken soup when you are sick.  Except for I don't eat chicken.  I wanted to know WHY they always say this, other than it being something your mother or grandmother always said.  

Turns out that chicken soup is high in an amino acid cysteine, a powerful nasal stimulant that helps detoxify the body of chemicals and breakdown extra mucus in the lungs.
Other sources: yogurt, egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onion, broccoli and oats.

2. Onion and garlic
Both onion and garlic contain numerous antiseptic and immunity boosting compounds.  I've never been a huge onion fan, but I am not sure I could live without garlic.  Garlic is high in allicin, which fights infection and bacteria.  

3. Mushrooms
Sad face. I can't have these right now. But maybe if I did, I would be healthy again. :)  Mushrooms increase the production of cytokines, which help fight off infection, as well as increase the production of white blood cells.  They also have polysaccharides, which support the immune system. Mushrooms are rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B, and calcium, and high in beta glucans, which activate/modulate the immune system. Medicinal mushrooms for sure. :)

4. Citrus Fruits
High in vitamin C.  Enough said.

5. Yogurt (or good bacteria)
The good bacteria in yogurt was one of the reasons I was drawn to this food for so long. However, since I can't eat yogurt anymore, any food with "good bacteria" will suffice. Good bacteria has live cultures that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease causing germs.  
Other sources: Probiotics, apples (high in pectin), sauerkraut (fermented and contains lactobacilli plantarum and reduces growth of detrimental yeasts), and miso. 

6. Hot tea
Green or black, it has the same effect.  Tea helps to thin mucus and provide hydration, and contains flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants.  They also both have the amino acid L-theanine, which boosts immunity.  

7. Ginger
Ginger contains a chemical called sesquiterpene that targets the rhinovirus.  It's also a natural pain and fever reliever.  

8. Honey
Honey contains antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that help fight infection, bacteria, and fungus.  

9. Black pepper
Wards off sneezing! It is also high in piperine, which is known for its anti-fever and pain-relieving qualities.  

10. Fish
Shellfish contain selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokines, which in turn help clear flu viruses from the body.  Other fish are high in Omega-3 acids, which help fight inflammation.  This keeps airflow moving and protects the lungs from colds and respiratory infections.

11. Beef
<-- look at that face. How can you eat that? :) 
I'm obviously not going to, so my option is to look for other foods high in Zinc.  Zinc is an immunity boosting mineral that also aids in the development of white blood cells, which help recognize and destroy bacteria and viruses.  
Other sources: fortified cereals, wheat germ, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, dried watermelon seeds, dark chocolate/cocoa powder, peanuts.  

12. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes, besides being delicious, are high in beta-carotene and vitamin A, which translates into happy, healthy skin.  Your skin is the first line of defense against bacteria and viruses and should not be overlooked.

Other sources: carrots, squash, pumpkin, and cantelope.

13. Antioxidants in general!
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that protect and repair cells from damage, and can help ward off chronic diseases, while making your immune system strong.  There are 3 major variations:
1. beta-carotene and carotenoids (apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, canteloupe, greens, carrots, peaches, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, etc).
2. Vitamin C (berries, broccoli, citrus, yellow/red peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, etc).
 3. Vitamin E (broccoli, carrots, chard, greens, mangoes, nuts, pumpkin, spinach, sunflower seeds)

14. Coconut and coconut oil
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which converts into monolaurin once it's digested.  Monolaurin is the actual compound found in breast milk that strengthen's a baby's immunity.   Added bonus: coconut water is super high in potassium and is an excellent source of hydration. 

15. Blueberries and Raspberries
Both blueberries and raspberries are incredibly high in antioxidants.  Blueberries, in particular, are potent immune boosters.