Springy 10 miles

Yesterday I killed a 10 mile training run – my first double-digit run since the marathon. It went surprisingly well considering the rough days I had before the run.
On Friday night, my piano playing neighbor had a sing-along party. I’d fall asleep for like 30 minutes and be woken up to european college kids singing Imagine. Repeat until about 3am. Oh, and I had to be in at work at 6 am on Saturday. I pushed it to 7:00, but it was still rough. After a full 8 hour shift, I came home, took a nap, and then it was out to watch the Pacquiao fight. It’s a good thing he won because we were the only table full of Asians in that place. The night ended, as all “good” nights do, with a trip to Olneyville New York System. I don’t know if I can adequately describe the full experience but I will sum it up by saying that you ONLY eat hot dogs-covered-in-meat-and-onions at 3am, however probably SHOULD NOT eat it the night (morning?) before running 10 miles.
I got a little sleep and the sun forced me out of bed at 10. Pre-run, I ate two Feed Zone cinnamon bites and a little peanut butter, with some Starbucks instant coffee. It was a perfect day for running. Breezy, overcast, and already 60 degrees by the time I got to the trail. I even left my phone in the car and ran without any music. This is how I felt before the run:
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During the run, I ate two Feed Zone chocolate rice balls. My brother gave me  Cytomax to try and I couldn’t even stand the smell of it when I was mixing it up. but I drank 8oz of it at half strength during the run. It was barely tolerable. I’ll go back to Nuun or Gatorade. Or this:
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Anyway the run itself was really good. I felt good, it was a beautiful day, and I didn’t say I never wanted to run again. Was it the hot wieners? Who knows. It was 4 pm by the time I showered and cooked, and sat down to my first real meal of the day: made bourbon french toast. After eating “brunch” at such a weird hour, I had a small dinner of quesadilla with kale salad. Quesadilla on a low-carb tortilla has been my thing this week, possibly forever. The kale salad can go away though.april13_dinner

I must not have eaten enough yesterday because today I devoured a chicken pesto panini and felt guilty about it, especially after the french toast binge the day before. I’m stuck in this cycle of 5 days of clean eating, then eating all of the bread in sight. but let’s not get into that now.
I have one more long run left before a half marathon and I honestly don’t know if I will be able to PR because I haven’t been paying attention to times.  Considering how I’ve lost my motivation for running, if I don’t improve in this race I’m going to be really depressed. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen.
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Marathon training: final run

On Sunday, I set out to my final long run for marathon training. The goal was to get in 23 miles, and I felt so lucky that the weather was a freakish 65 degrees that day. It should have been perfect but it was a big flop.

Short version: I just couldn’t get into it and only jogged 16 miles then completely walked the last 4.

Long version: I didn’t map out my route beforehand, which I did the last few times. I don’t follow/ remember the route exactly but it helps me determine a general direction. So as I set out to run, not only was it just one of “those days” where I was mentally not able to get into it, I encountered a lot of hills early in the route. At one point, I decided I wanted to get to a certain area, so I walked up a very steep hill. I kept slogging along, mentally frustrated and annoyed that I couldn’t zone out, and then at around 15 miles my ankles and feet started to hurt. That was new to me At that point, I was just defeated. Every runner has those days where they can’t seem to move and this was my day. I walked to make it an even 20.

New things I tried, in addition to new route:
– lighter carb loading in the days prior
– more water in the days prior
– eggs & rice for breakfast
– wore compression socks during the run

Food eaten during the run:
– 1 Feed Zone cinnamon roll, 100 calories
– 1 serving of “Energems“, 45 calories – Got these as a sample. It’s supposedly the equivalent of a cup of coffee or an energy drink. I am trying to minimize this crappy stuff but I was desperate for a boost.
– Water + 25 oz of Nuun

In the days following, I was really beating myself up over it. I really wanted to do 23 miles to lesson the pain of the final 6 miles which everyone says is the hardest. I was also mad that I wanted to finish on a high note. I didn’t like going into the marathon knowing that my last session was a big fail. I don’t like being tripped up this late in the game. Today, I suppose I’m over it. I’m disappointed but not as angry. All I can do now is get my game face on and look ahead. It’s more important for me to get optimistic and psych myself up than to dwell on the bad stuff.

I just got the pieces for my costume so I have some more work to do. In less than two weeks (it was 2 weeks from Christmas) I will be getting on the plane for Florida!

Review: The Feed Zone Cookbook

As I finish training for my first marathon, and as my need for weight loss slows down, my big struggle is figuring out how to fuel for long distances without gaining weight. I wanted to read The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes because I wanted to know real athletes do it. I know I’m nowhere near a professional cyclist or a marathoner, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from their tricks. Plus, the book is written by a sports physiologist/cycling coach and professional chef duo (Biju Thomas and Dr. Allen Lim), which is a bangin combination for a nutrition cookbook. Lucky for me, the publishers gave me a copy to review.
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The cookbook has sections that suggest what to eat before, during, and after endurance activities, as well as some treats. There are many grab-and-go recipes that you can prep beforehand so that you have a nutritious breakfast or fuel on the go. Things like a waffle sandwich, burritos, savory muffins, and the popular rice cakes are all things I can have ready in your freezer for early morning race days.

Each recipe also has the basic nutritional breakdown. Since this is a cookbook for athletes, these recipes are not necessarily for people looking to lose weight. The dinner recipes come in at around 700+ calories; not exactly diet foods. If you are an experienced dieter, it wouldn’t be hard to adjust your portion sizes or the amount of carbs to make it fit your diet. I can incorporate the dinner recipes into rest days or short workout days by simply reducing/removing the rice and potatoes. I love that the recipes are totally in line with how I try eat normally – fresh, whole, unprocessed foods, veg-friendly, small amounts of meat. Another thing I like is that the meals are written for 2 servings. It works out perfectly for my house of two.

The recipes themselves have a lot of variety. It isn’t just brown rice, salmon, and broccoli every day. Since the recipes are meant to be fast and easy, I looked at some of them and wondered why I had never thought to put together these simple combinations of ingredients or put them in a different context. For example, eggs and rice were a standard “instant” meal for me growing up and here they appear as an easy to make, easy to digest athlete breakfast. Another “a-ha” is making mini frittatas bulked up with rice or potatoes right in with the egg to make it a small calorie-dense meal perfect for hiking, backpacking, or ultramarathons. The dinner recipes are real, normal food that are full of flavor, easy to make, and low in fat. Some recipes that I bookmarked to make: chicken tacos, veggie burgers (yes, from scratch!), wine and soy mushrooms, grilled chicken skewers with orzo, and spiced bison.

I have already made three recipes:

Allen Lim’s Rice Cakes, which I ate for breakfast before a 20 mile run. (Learn how to make them here) / text version

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Pasta Salad with Blue Cheese and Nuts, eaten for dinner the day before the 20-miler:

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Added to the pasta is chicken from the Whole Roasted Chicken recipe. I am terrible at roasting whole chickens and I only do it a couple of times per year. Brian was in charge of the chicken this time and it came out perfect. He decided that we need to do this more often. Ooh look – the chicken is also a free recipe / (text version). The chicken and pasta meal was so good that we made it twice.

When I read Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for Athletes, I wondered why the recipes often used rice instead of bread. For example, why make a jelly “sandwich” out of rice cakes instead of just putting jelly between two slices of bread? It turns out that my question was answered in the intro of the first book. The authors spent a season cooking for a cycling team that decided to go gluten-free that year. They already developed many gluten-free recipes during that season and included them in this book. The chefs also had anecdotal evidence from professional championships and the Tour de France, where some athletes had positive results going gluten-free. That said, the authors are honest about the fact that they don’t advocate one type of diet over another. They just point out that gluten-free works well for many athletes while other athletes don’t like it at all. I appreciate these options because, I have noticed that when I started to “carb up” in prep for long runs, I felt bloated from the excess breads. I have been feeling much better now that I’m using rice as a primary carb source. I have cut back on rice in my everyday diet and being Asian, I miss it. At least there is room for it when I’m distance running 🙂

I also followed their advice which said that a slow moving athlete doesn’t need as many carbs as the blanket information given to athletes. I was told that with a long run pace of 13:00+/mile, I don’t have to worry as much about finding quick starches to digest because I’m burning a lot of fat. In practice, I have cut down on the fueling during these long runs and my times haven’t suffered. I used to take Clif blocks for things longer than 6 miles; generally one serving (100 Cal) for every 3 miles. For a half marathon distance, I used to eat 400 calories of Clif blocks (pure sugar) but now I would just take one or two servings (200 Cal total) of a Feed Zone Portable recipe. I think I need to experiment longer to know for sure how this works.

I assumed that this book was written for a “real” athlete, not a slow novice like myself. Whether that’s true or not, I learned a ton of new information about what the body needs to go hard. I feel like I’ve been “dieting” for so long that this book helped me see how I can continue to eat while not being on a diet. This book is so valuable for any athlete – from beginner to advanced; even if you’re like me and don’t consider yourself an athlete.

Check out the Feed Zone Cookbook’s free recipes here

Check out Dr. Allen Lim’s Ted Talk

Feed Zone Portables – Cinnamon Rolls

I made another recipe from the The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes. In case you missed it, this cookbook specializes in making real, wholesome energy-dense foods to replace things like gummies and gu that athletes use during long physical training. It’s written with cyclists in mind but I’ve been trying it out for marathon training.
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Last month, I made the recipe for Cinnamon Roll Bites and I’ve been using these regularly on runs longer than an hour. There is also a variation for Pizza Roll Bites (!!) which I really need to make soon. The recipe was very easy to make, which is true for almost all of the Feed Zone recipes. Some reviewers complain that the recipes hardly even count as “recipes” because they are so simply but the book is so valuable. I would never have thought to put some of these things together and use them for nourishment. For example, a “rice sandwich” with jelly in the middle is barely a recipe, but have you seen it anywhere else? No. These writers are so smart!
As I was saying, the cinnamon bites are simple. Dough, cinnamon, salt, and sugar.
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 Each bite contains approx 100 calories, about the same calories as a gel pack There are about 16g of carb in a cinnamon bite (according to the book) compared to 24g carb in the strawberry Clif Shot gel. As you can see, it takes up barely more space than a gel would. They freeze just fine. I wrapped them up in packs of two and pull a pack out of the freezer as needed. When I make them again, I will cut the recipe in half because it is taking forever to finish this batch.
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Performance

I tried one fresh and still warm from the oven. In this context, the flavor was mild and not very exciting. When I ate them mid-run however, they amount of flavor was just right. I appreciated that they were not sugary sweet. It didn’t leave my palate feeling all icky like the corn-syrup based gels. It went down just fine with a gulp of water. During my 17 mile run, I only ate one cinnamon roll in addition to one rice ball. During my 20-miler, I ate three. I’ve also taken just one right before an evening workout when my energy felt a little low. They aren’t moist and buttery like a true cinnamon bun, however it doesn’t sit in your gut like a real cinnamon bun either! The texture is like a piece of bread. I preferred the familiar texture of the bread more than the cold rice in the rice balls I made earlier.
I didn’t get the surge and subsequent crash of energy that I used to get when taking gel or Clif Shot Blocks. Instead, my energy level stayed constant. Because I didn’t have the sugar crash, I didn’t feel like I needed another gel jus to help recover from the last one! I only had three (300 calories) for a 20 mile run. And true to their promise, I had no trouble digesting it.
The cinnamon bites are indeed a success, though I want to try out more of the gluten-free portable recipes. I always rolled my eyes at people who were all “wheat is bad! go gluten-free” when they did not have Celiac’s disease, however I noticed that I really do feel better when I carb up without the use of wheat products.
There is actually a prequel to Feed Zone Portables. It’s
The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes. The authors draw on their history of feeding Olympic and champion athletes (yes, including Lance Armstrong) to guide you on eating well before, during, and after endurance events. The publishers were nice enough to send me a copy for review, so I’ll be cooking up some of the recipes this week in preparation for my 23 mile run! The running goddess is looking out for me because the high temp this weekend is supposed to be over 40. Hallelujah.

The 20 mile run

I did it! 20 miles.

When I started off for my run, the weather app said it was 25 degrees, “feels like 9”. The wind was also crazy. Nice, huh? It really made me angry because last weekend when I didn’t have a long run scheduled, it was 55. Whyyyyy.

At the beginning of the run, I warmed up quickly and I was feeling fine for 7 miles. Then I noticed I wasn’t feeling so warm. Meanwhile, I was wearing my Fuel Belt, and the tops were leaking. I know for sure that they were closed properly; it’s that the water drips out of the spout that you drink from even though I know it’s pushed down all the way. My jacket is slowly getting wet from the water. Then I notice that the leaking water is starting to turn to ice! Both on my body and on the outside of the bottle. The wind was not letting up either. It was so fierce that street lights and street signs were rattling around. I was just plain cold. Seeing the ice in my water was the breaking point. I said, “Really? Ice water? Fuck this shit.”

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