Runners Tell All: Nutrition

Today I’m linking up with Runners Tell All. For the link-up, participants write about a specific running-related topic once a month and share their posts on Amanda’s blog. This month’s topic: nutrition.

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There was a time when I had this nutrition thing all figured out. I knew what worked for me, and I executed it with ninja precision. HIYA! See, like that, but with gu. Somewhere along the way, my body changed its mind, and I’m re-learning what works for me and what doesn’t.

Before I run

This part, thankfully, hasn’t changed too much. The day before a run, I eat the same stuff I’d normally eat. If I’m going to be running a longer distance (more than 6 miles) or racing, then I have pasta with a veggie mixed in for dinner. Too easy, right? My morning fuel is a piece (or two) of toast with peanut butter and jelly.

I’m not much of an afternoon/evening runner these days. It’s too darn hot in El Paso for that and when I was living in Germany, it was too darn dark. Way back, though, in my Allen days, I ran in the afternoon and even had a few night-time races. Randomly, I discovered that pizza lunchables (just go with it) made for the perfect evening fuel.

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During: hydration

A few years ago, I hopped on the Nuun train and haven’t hopped off since. I know that some people (me included!) don’t like the bubbly-ness of Nuun, but my insider tip (that I learned from a more seasoned runner a few years back) is to put the Nuun tablet in your water bottle the night before. When it’s time to run the next morning, the bubbles will be settled. Since I live in the land of no water fountains, I carry water on my person (I love saying that phrase!) in a handheld water bottle.

During: fuel

This is where things get all confuzzled. For years (YEARS!) gu was my go-to. Chocolate was my main jam, but peanut butter was good, too. My SPIbelt has little gu loops, so it was easy to carry and kept me going.

Gu-ed myself.

Gu-ed myself.

Somewhere during El Paso Marathon training, my tummy decided that it didn’t like gu any more. I’d feel bloaty and burpy and all kinds of not good. Upon a reader’s suggestion, I switched to Swedish Fish (yes, the candy) with great success. I’d pop one or two in my mouth every four-ish miles. Now that I’m training for a 10-mile race, I feel like I can experiment a little more. (Experimenting on say a 15 mile run is dangerous! I find it’s better to experiment on a shorter long run.)

After

So smooth! So healthy!

So smooth! So healthy!

After is my favorite part! During training, I usually follow-up a run with a good ol’ fashioned homemade smoothie. Depending on the distance I ran, you can swap out “smoothie” for “grape cream slush from Sonic.” If it’s following a race, however, all I want is Mexican food. Give me chips, give me salsa, give me a place to put my feet up, and I’m golden! Let’s be real though, all I ever want in life is chips, salsa, and a foot rest.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on nutrition/fueling/hydrating! What have you found that really works? What tips or tricks do you have?

Conversations With My Soldier: Vacation

Our post-deployment vacay is squared away!

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Back in April we were agonizing over our options. There were just too many possibilities, and it was making us more frustrated than excited. Turns out, one of my former colleagues is getting her feet wet as a travel agent, and she was willing to help us out! Via e-mail she asked me questions, did all the leg work, and produced multiple vacation packages to different destinations for us to consider. With the field significantly narrowed, Stephen and I zeroed in on the (hopefully) perfect vacation location: The Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica!

It makes deployment so much more bearable when you have something fun to focus on. We’re already discussing what kind of excursions we want to take and how many drinks we will be drinking. Stephen even bought himself some vacation shoes. I can’t seem to get him to budge on the speedo or full monty action though. He will most likely be sporting a regular ol’ trunks. Can’t blame a girl for trying!

Somewhere Else

I’m sitting at the desk in my home office looking out the window at my street. I’m supposed to be somewhere else. I had plans, oh, grand plans! Gather ’round, and let me spin this sad tale for you:

Way back at the beginning of the year, my aunts and cousins came up with this great idea for a female family vacay. Since I was starring down the barrel of deployment and knew that I’d have plenty of free time on my hands, I jumped at the chance to spend a week at the beach with my aunts and lady cousins. Great way to break things up, right?

Then I went and got this new teaching gig. School is my district starts soon. Like, end of this month soon. Unfortunately, that means no more week at the beach for moi. It also means that I had this non-refundable plane ticket on my hands. I had a stroke of genius to use the flight to fly home to Dallas before school starts. My vision was a quick trip, just long enough to spend a day with BFF Mary Beth and a day with my mom. I’d get some face time with my favorite people, some de-stressing, professional help with back to school wardrobe shopping, and a pick-me-up before school starts.

I called the airline – changing the flight was easy. I called the vet – got Geronimo scheduled for a few nights boarding there. I ran around all day yesterday securing the odds and ends before my crack-of-dawn Tuesday morning flight. I was fixing to start packing my suitcase Monday night when I got the call: the flight was cancelled.

It was less than 12 hours until take-off, and I was frantically calling people (the airline, my mom, MB, messaging Stephen), and scratching my head. There were no more early flights out on Tuesday. That close to flight time meant that switching to another airline was going to make my essentially already paid for trip cost me an arm and a leg. I couldn’t adjust my days because I have to report to work for staff development this Friday. I had no options.

I sighed, and I cried (just a little). The trip was off.

It’s not the worst thing ever. It’s not even the worst time a flight of mine has been cancelled. Still, it sucks. The practical side of me is disappointed (and kinda stressed) because, y’all, my clothing situation is sorry. I may be a grown woman, but I cannot dress myself. I need legit help in that department. The sensitive side of me is sad that I don’t get to see my mom or my best friend. I especially hate it when I don’t know when I’ll be seeing them again. It’s always easier to take when I can say, “okay, see you in xxx month!” Not to mention, deployment makes me feel fragile. Little things and medium things feel like big dark cloudy things.

So yesterday, when I would have been on a shopping spree with Mary Beth, I was instead sitting on the couch in my PJs watching Grey’s Anatomy from noon until 7 pm with steady stream of snacks close within arm’s reach at all times. It was a little wallow-y, but it made me feel better.

I’m so lucky, though. I’ve got good people. My mom and I are already talking about when she can come visit me next month. (Fingers crossed!) Mary Beth facetim-ed me. I got to see her little girls and their new dog. I’ve enlisted battle buddy Julie to brave the mall with me tomorrow. See? My people are the best!

I’ll get over being bummed, I’ll get some new clothes, school will start and life will go on. But today I’m a little blue because I’m sitting at home, and I’m supposed to be somewhere else.

My Non-Plan Training Plan

I’m five weeks away from my next big race: The 10 Miler in the Heat.

Last year's race flyer. You get the idea.

Last year’s race flyer. You get the idea.

For the last few months, my focus has been on 5ks. Running ‘em and running ‘em fast. This race kinda snuck up on me! I didn’t realize how close it was getting and that I needed to start upping my mileage. Whoops! I’ve been running consistently, but each run is usually only 3 miles, a mile more if I’m feeling fancy. That’s not going to cut it! Time to switch gears from short and fast to long and steady.

But what training plan shall I use?

I’m a girl who loves a plan. Tell me when to run, how far, how fast, I’m there! Most recently, I used (and loved) Run Less, Run Faster. I’ve had past success with Hal Higdon. Lately, I’ve been seeing the Hanson Method popping up left and right. My girl Julie is a fan of Runner’s World: SmartCoach.

I’m going with none of the above. In fact, I’m going with practically nothing for a training plan. The non-plan plan, if you will.

I know, it’s so un-me! And maybe not the smartest approach. I’m usually one to crave structure and a plan and an outline. This time around, though, I just wasn’t feeling the need for a plan. Maybe it’s because this isn’t a goal race for me in terms of time. Maybe it’s because I feel confident in my fitness base right now. Maybe it’s because I’m too lazy to develop a plan. (<– We’ve got a strong contender with that hypothesis!) I just know that this time around, I’m feeling laid back (it’s a very strange, unfamiliar feeling), and I’m gonna go with the flow.

Jennifer, one of my friends from the weekly running group I’ve joined (Wear Blue: Run to Remember) and home girl Julie are both also running the 10 miler.

Fort Bliss Wear Blue circled up before Saturday's 6 mile run.

Fort Bliss Wear Blue circled up before Saturday’s 6 mile run.

I’m running long runs with them on Saturdays, whatever distance they do at an easy-ish pace. During the week I will run two or three times at a distance that totals my long run. For example, Jennifer told me she plans to run 7 miles on Saturday, so this week I will run 3.5 miles twice leading up to it. That’s about as simple as it gets! I have no idea how well this will prepare me. Well, that’s not true. I get the feeling that this will prepare me well enough that when it comes time to run 10 miles, I’ll be able to do it. That’s my only goal.

Matt over at No Meat Athlete recently wrote a post recently about not settling for boring runs. His thought is that running should excite you and when it becomes stale, you should change things up. I totally agree, but I see the flip side, too. I commented that lately I need boring in my life. I need routine and familiar and average. I love that no matter how crazy life is, running stays largely the same. It’s comforting. I’m running the same boring paces and places, and I like it. Having a non-plan for this race seems to fit in nicely with that.

If all goes well, I want to step things up after the 10 miler. I’ve got my sights set on a half marathon at the end of October, and golly, a PR would be awesome. That will take a lot more work and an actual training plan. For now, boring, non-plan it is!

Friday Five

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1. Vroom vroom: The Gold Nugget (my car) got some new tires this week. That’s one of those purchases that is really hard to get excited about. Alas, it had to be done – there was a bubble in one of the tires that I had been ignoring for months.

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The bubble finally grew so big that it was time to register it for kindergarten. I knew it had to be eradicated. Have I mentioned before how much I hate taking care of the cars while Stephen is away? Ugh. But in happy Gold Nugget News – the title to the car arrived this week! That’s right, we own that bad boy 100%! Huzzah!

2. Special delivery: As if I didn’t already have a huge crush on Andria at The Military Spouse Book Review, look what she drew on the packaging of a book she sent me this week!

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Stephen’s response when I showed him was, “Qur dog has been immortalized in art!” We agree that it should be framed and displayed in The Louvre. We’ll settle for hanging it up in our house.

3. Remote control: Party of Five is out and Mixology is in.

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I watched all 143 episodes of Po5. I loved it, but I could tell by season 6 that it had run its course. I was disappointed by the final couplings. Some people got married who I thought shouldn’t have gotten married. Other people who I wanted to get married didn’t. (Probably because some people had to go off and have movie careers.) Still, it was good, and I shall miss the Salingers with their sibling squabbly ways. After the last episode’s credits rolled, I immediately leapfrogged over to Mixology. Much LOLing happens during this show. It’s a little edgy and very funny. It feels more like a movie than a TV show. Turns out that there are only a paltry 13 episodes, and that’s all there will ever be because ABC cancelled it. Damn you, ABC!

4. Because I can’t go too long without talking about podcasts: I’m obsessed with this song right now-

This American Life did a live version of their show, and it just oozes juicy goodness. This particular segment is a Broadway-style version of a previously aired story. Creative and catchy to boot. Although when I shared it with Stephen, he wasn’t impressed. (If you’re interested, this is Stephen’s favorite video clip right now. Caution, super not safe for work or the gentle ears of little people.) If that isn’t enough, Stuff Mom Never Told You re-broadcast their “Why Do Men Have Nipples?” episode. Admit it, you’ve wondered about that yourself.

5. Sleepy time: Yesterday was my 4th day in a row without a nap. Because of this whole “going back to teaching” thing, I am quitting napping cold turkey. (The habit I’ve developed is almost embarrassing. It must be stopped.) I think I’m struggling more now with giving up naps than I probably did as a child. If it turns out that I was worse with nap-weaning back then, I’d like to offer a public apology to my mother. Based on how cranky I’ve been this week, I’m sure I was a real treat as a toddler.

Go forth and weekend, my friends!

IEDs and Things That Go Boom in the Night

I debated writing about this topic. Part of me feels like it’s not mine to talk about, that it doesn’t belong to me. Then another, bossier part of me says, “Of course you can talk about it! Your experience is yours to tell.” Bossy Amy always wins, so here we are. My goal in writing about this is to simply tell my story and illuminate my experience as an Army wife while my husband is deployed. I’m not looking for sympathy; I’m just looking to share. Heads up that there are pictures of a destroyed vehicle. I know the images would stress me out if I randomly came upon them on someone else’s blog; feel free to peace out if that’s something that is potentially triggering for you. {Spoiler alert: everyone was fine.}

Stephen and I have been very fortunate to have regular contact during this deployment. It’s a huge step up from deployment number one. Although it might seem that knowing when he’s “working,” as we call it when he’s out on a mission would be stressful, it actually hasn’t been. I didn’t think anything of it when he told me he’d be out of pocket a bit longer than usual for a mission last month.

I did my best to stay busy  during that time (read: nap) and go about my business (read: take more naps). I was being Chill Amy, Cool-as-a-Cucumber Amy, No Worries Amy. But as the time from when we last talked grew longer and I still hadn’t heard from Stephen, I started to worry.

The little cloud of fear hovering over me grew and grew. I had a gut feeling that something bad had happened, but my gut feelings result in bupkis 90% of the time, so I take my gut with a grain of salt. (That sounds like a gross combo, I know.) I tried to calm myself down by being rational, something I’m not good at in even the best of times. My “best-case scenario” reasoning was that someone had been injured (thus a communication blackout and no word from Stephen), but that it probably wasn’t Stephen since I hadn’t been notified. That didn’t stop me from peeking out the front window at regular intervals to see if there was someone out front waiting to notify me of something bad. (See how irrational I am? How would I even know what the car of a notification officer would look like?)

After plenty of fretting and hand wringing and sweating, I finally heard from Stephen.

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It’s never a good sign when he’s terse like that.

I hopped on Skype, and he was able to tell me that yes, something happened, but yes, he was okay. His exact explanation was, “I got blown up.” The words every wife longs to hear. During the mission, Stephen’s vehicle hit an IED, flew up into the air, and landed hard.

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Stephen assured me that everyone was fine, which was my first concern. (This would be quite a different story if that wasn’t the case.) Instead, we were both cracking jokes and laughing about how he almost died. (That was the phrase he used to describe it.) We didn’t talk for too long as he had immediately called me on returning to base and hadn’t had a chance to shower or change his clothes. I knew he was tired, so after getting all my questions answered, we wrapped it up. I hung up the phone and instantly burst into tears.

I was overwhelmed. I felt embarrassed for crying (yes, in the privacy of my own home), but I also felt sad and scared and relieved. Of course, Stephen told me afterwards that I could have cried to him, which I know. (I’ve cried to him over a lot less than that during this deployment!) Everything hit me all at once. Like an IED. Okay, lame joke.

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My support system was invaluable. I was on the phone with BFF Mary Beth right after I found out. Like a good friend, she listened and validated my feelings. I also got to talk to her 2 year old daughter, Whitley. How could anyone not smile at that? Shortly after, I talked to my mom and even my dad. Battle Buddy Julie met up with me for a run a few days later and let me complain about everything. (Oh and complain I did!) Thanks for that, y’all.

One of the absurdities of it all is that Stephen wants things like this to happen. Not this exactly, and he certainly doesn’t want anyone to get hurt (don’t misquote me here!), but he didn’t go to Afghanistan to spend 9 months away from family to sit on his butt. Hell, he didn’t join the Army to sit on his butt. He wants to be in the fray. And I want that for him. That’s part and parcel of being an Army wife, at least in my experience. Strangely, it’s not hard for me to simultaneously want this for him and to be scared of it.

I’m incredibly thankful that no one was hurt. It’s crazy to see the destruction that one IED can wreak. Those things mean business. Alas, this is the reality of deployment. Only 4 more months to go.

4th of July 5k Race Recap

I hope y’all had a wonderful 4th of July! I opted to skip the fireworks (and crowds!) this year, but I didn’t want to do nothing. When my buddies from Wear Blue said they were participating in the 5k put on by the local running store, I ran home and signed myself up! The race started at 7:04 am on the far side of town, which meant an early wake up time for me. Go figure, I slept horribly the night before. My first thought when I was getting ready was, “I’ll be napping later!” Gotta love a woman that plans her afternoon nap as her 5 am alarm goes off. :)

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We huddled up before the race to recount the Wear Blue mission and for a short prayer. It felt very appropriate given the holiday. It was also fantastic to have a group of people to hang out with before the starting gun. I have plenty of practice going to races alone, but it’s always more fun with friends!

Right at 7:04, we were given the signal and the mob of people took off!

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Mile 1: 8:10

In true Amy fashion, I took off way too fast. I know full well the importance of even splits, yet I can’t seem to help myself when I run 5ks. I get swept up in thrill of the race wrongly thinking that 5k isn’t that far. Well, it feels far when you’re going faster than you should! Still, during the first mile, I didn’t look at my watch and just focused on running as fast as I could. I ran this same course in December, so I knew it was hilly. I wanted to bank as much time as I possible to prepare for what I’d lose on the hills.

Mile 2: 8:20

And, my-oh-my, those hills certainly were hilly!

Do you see that crest! It's steep!

Do you see that crest! It’s steep!

I’m pretty good about hill strategy (pump your arms, shorten your stride, run through the hill, use the downhill), but my inexperience comes through in how I feel on hills. Where I live and run is muy flat, and I’ve been all too happy avoid hills. It’s not really doing me any favors. I know with a little bit of hill work, I can do a lot better.

Around the middle of the race, I was looking for my friends. The course is essentially a lollipop instead of a true out and back, so I didn’t get to see everyone, but I had fun shouting out the names of the people I did see. Everyone looked like they were doing great, so it spurred me on to keep pushing, too.

Mile 3: 8:37

The last mile was all mental. I was gassing out from overdoing it on the speed and the hills, but I knew that I could will myself to continue. One of the biggest motivators was attempting to pick off the women in my vicinity. That kept me from quitting on myself or walking, but I wasn’t successful in passing very many people. The last quarter mile involves one final hill, and I knew there was no catching anyone else at that point. I’m surprised to see my split wasn’t slower because I sure felt sluggish!

My stats:

  • 3.1 finish time: 25:30
  • Average pace: 8:13

Not a PR (still a minute too slow), but 8 seconds faster than when I ran this course in December. Hey, I’ll take it!

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After I made my way through the chute and grabbed a water, I took it upon myself to be the unofficial race photographer, snapping pics of all my peeps as they came in. {You might recognize Jen (and her husband) from her blog! We’ve corresponded online and this was our first time to meet in person. Not surprisingly, she was incredibly sweet!}

I hung around long enough to enjoy some watermelon before trekking it back home. You besta believe that I enjoyed a nice long nap that afternoon!

Up next, I’ll be switching gears from speed to distance as I prepare for the 10 Miler in the Heat on August 16.