Posts Tagged ‘diet’

The Quest Begins

So it begins. The Quest for 26.2 miles has started. It began yesterday in the bright sun and blessedly cool Sunday morning at SportsBackers Stadium. I am on Team Cocoa, which the coach, Ellie, joked about us looking like UPS drivers if we actually try to wear cocoa colored clothing. It is the slower team of the two intermediate teams. The faster team intermediate team looks like it is made up of human cheetahs. My team, not so much.

The intermediate teams were scheduled to run 7 miles, the novice team was running 4.

Gory details to follow:

Since I had poisoned myself the previous day with too many delicious but wildly greasy carbs at an awesome restaurant called My Noodle, my GI system was completely uncooperative. At the best of times, my pouch and small intestine (minus about 7 feet of it) are unpredictable, but yesterday’s reaction was completely predictable in the worst sort of way. It is the main hazard of being a Gastric Bypass patient and an athlete (dehydration being a close second).

Within the first 10 minutes of the run, despite my best efforts, I knew I was in trouble and I knew the only bathroom on the route was the bathroom in Bryan Park, which would be about the 3 mile mark (yes, I know almost every single open and available bathroom in the City). I suffered for those three miles, but I made it. While shuttered up in that sketchy little bathroom, I did the math and recognizing that there were no other rest stops along the rest of the 7 mile route, I decided to cut off the “Northside neighborhoods” section of the route and went straight back to the Diamond on the Boulevard. That took a little less than 2 miles off the planned route, but it saved me from more misery.

When I hit Brooklyn Park Avenue, where the planned route and my alternate route met back up, I wound up a pack of fast runners from the Green team; those human cheetahs. Most of them were running in the 8:30 minute/mile range and I couldn’t keep up, but running with them and being a half mile from the end, I knew I could damn well speed up. My insides cooperated long enough and I think I ran that last half mile in the 9:45 min/mile range. I was grinning like a hooligan in spite of everything. I could feel a change in my brain. I am really, truly, officially, and finally training for a Marathon.

You would think I would be unhappy or upset that I didn’t make the full distance on my first week of training, but I’m not. I know my body. I know its limits. I know I could have run those two miles if my system had cooperated. It was a beautiful morning and a familiar route. But I also know myself well enough to know that I would have ended up walking, with severe cramping and doing the “two-cheek-squeak” for the last miserable mile, and I would have felt horrible.

Two extra miles was not worth that kind of suffering.

So aside from all the miles I am going to log in the next 5 months, there are a bunch of other considerations to make to keep myself healthy and uninjured.

Diet: I want to limit repeats of Sunday morning’s gastro-intestinal festival, and that means being careful with carbs, avoiding dehydration, and seeking high quality calories. I need the most bang for my nutritional buck that I can get. No 3pm dashes to the vending machine for a rice krispy treat. I am trying to keep my desk stocked with nutritious options for when the mid-afternoon munchies hit. Whole wheat crackers and natural peanut butter (my variety has added flax seeds, for what that’s worth), mandarin orange pieces in no sugar added liquid, and high quality dark chocolates for those moments when chocolate is a must (it happens). Lunches will be lean protein and vegetables. Breakfasts will not devolve into an egg and cheese bagel from Cupertinos; hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurts, and occasionally things like steel cut oatmeal (have to be careful with oatmeal though; I need extra protein or my blood sugar gets a little wonky).

We regularly plan dinners that are pretty healthy, and they are usually planned on a weekly basis, with an emphasis on balancing Byram’s low-purine food requirement, my lowish-carb requirement, and my Mom’s need for variety.

I am making it a point to really focus on getting all my daily supplements in. I know what the FDA says about vitamin supplements, but their recommendations are for the general populace, not someone who has 7 feet of missing intestine and absorbs only about 2/3rds of everything she consumes. For me, vitamin supplementation is a must.

Cross Training: I know from my history that because I sit all day, my mid-section is kinda soft like a gummy bear, while at the same time, my hip flexors are tight as piano wire. The perfect recipe for injury. Mondays on the schedule are x-training days and I am going to focus most of those days on core strengthening and stretching. In fact, I am going to bring a yoga mat to work. There is a section of the 2nd floor where no one ever comes and I can do a full core workout without any gym equipment and never have to leave my building. Over the summer, when time allows, I might add in some evening swims with Grace at the Y. Being in the water will take my weight off what are sure to be sore muscles, while at the same time, you get some resistance training and cardiovascular benefits. Also, Grace time is Good Time.

Yoga: This goes hand in hand with X-training, but needs to become a regular act. At least on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I need to get up and do a yoga routine in the morning or before I go to bed if I run in the early a.m. during the hottest part of the summer. Again, injury prevention is my main goal; I can’t cross a finish line if I am too hurt to get to the starting line.

Sleep: it’s nature’s Reboot Button. It’s a key element of a good immune system (distance athletes are not famous for their abilities to fight off a cold). It’s when your body builds muscle. It’s when your whole system slows down and recovers from the strain of hard core training. I am going to start aiming to be in bed between 9-10 pm every night because many mornings are going to see me up and at them for early a.m. runs by 4:30 and 5 a.m. A morning glory I am not, but I am going to work on it.

Finally, and probably oddest…

Positive thinking: My mind is my greatest enemy. It is crueler to me than 100% humidity, 90 degree temps, and double digit distances. I have the power to make it my greatest ally. And so I shall work to that end. Stop the self-mutilating mental talks. “I am the slowest person on the team!” needs to become “I am lucky to be running with such amazing folks. I bet I can catch up to them just a little if I push just a little harder.” “Oh my god, 20 miles will feel like forever.” needs to become “I really cherish ‘my time’ and I am lucky to have the next several hours all to myself.” I can work on it, but the mind is the hardest thing to train. Wish me luck.

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I Don’t Need a New Love or a New Life…

I want to give a short addendum to yesterday’s post about low iron count and low energy.

When I tallied exactly how much iron I am taking per day per my doctor’s instructions, it comes out to 1,032% of the Daily Recommended Value (I originally thought it was only 500% but I had underestimated my assumptions about the VitronC supplements).

In someone who had a healthy level of iron or someone whose small intestine wasn’t 33% shorter than it used to be, this level would probably be poisonous. For me, it seems that near poisonous levels of iron have been exactly the panacea that I have needed.

Maya suggested giving my running a little rest this week, which I did, partly because I was forced to by circumstances and partly due to extreme low energy. But 4 days after starting my heavy iron supplementation, I ran yesterday, and I chose the most challenging route I have yet mapped out. A 3.7 mile route east on Main Street, which is uphill for most of a mile, until it hits near vertical levels going to the top of Libbie Hill. For the first time in recent memory, I was able to run some of that hill (I have been limited to walking up that hill for a very long time). Then, rather than being completely blown by the top and having to walk until I hit Grace Street, I was able to resume running. I went and made the full loop around Chimborazo Park, headed back west downhill on Broad Street, and then was even able to force out an uphill sprint back to my office to finish out my run.

Pace was 15-30 seconds per mile faster than almost anything I have managed in months (outside).

Then, in an effort to get a full 7 miles in for the day, I went to the YMCA last night and put myself on a treadmill and pushed out on tired legs another 3.3 miles; not my fastest ever effort on a treadmill by far, but a good sub-11 minute clip. I was tired but not destroyed.

Iron? Rest? More sunlight in my evenings to improve my mental state? All of the above?

Whatever it is, I will take it.

Tomorrow, I run my 13 mile training run (plus a quarter mile). Both anxiety and excitement are gone. All I have for it is a smile. The forecast is calling for light snow; nothing to stick to the sidewalks or streets, but light snow all the same. Now, I despise snow, but the idea of running 13 miles while snowflakes catch in my hair and melt in the warm clouded exhalations of my efforts appeals to me in an almost poetic sense.

“I put one foot in front of the other one, oh oh oh, I don’t need a new love or a new life, just a better place to die.” fun.

A New Distance and an Old Problem

After a crummy blood work report, I am on a stringent new (not really new) schedule to take my supplements. I try pretty hard to aim for full disclosure when it comes to my gastric bypass surgery; this is one of those areas that is not all rainbows and unicorns. Blood work, I mean. A healthy person should have iron levels between 35 (threshold for acceptably low) and 60 (healthy male). My iron level was 12 last week. Two points lower, and I would have ended up with an IV infusion of vitamins and iron. I kind of wish we had just gone that route anyway.

It is of course not uncommon for gastric bypass patients to get low on all of their vitamins and minerals, but when you are an idiot caught in a bad cycle of feeling low and blue, and you simply stop taking your vitamins because it is too much hassle, it can quickly lead to your blood being only slightly thicker than water.

Feeling low, stop taking your vitamins. Feel lower because you are low on vitamins. Vicious cycle. That’s where I am, but after a really good talk with my Nurse Practitioner and getting a plan in place, I am trying to turn my vitamin levels around and get something resembling energy again. CVS got $41 out of me this week for prenatal vitamins (I have written in big black marker “NO I AM NOT PREGNANT” on them since they sit on my desk), Vitamin D3, and VitronC (iron is absorbed better with vitamin C) and I am taking them on schedule, without sabotaging things by say like taking iron with coffee and creamer (caffeine and calcium hurt the body’s ability to absorb iron). I am even making the effort to make sure I take the iron pills and prenatals with something like a V8 or eating a couple of clementines first, just to help boost my absorption.

So most people know: no iron = no energy. It is hard as hell to train for a half marathon when your iron levels are not just in the basement, but more like buried under some pavers in the back yard. It does explain why I have struggled so much more this cycle than last time. I have had to modify my schedule a bit. The team I am running with is using the Intermediate training schedule from the Sportsbackers training team. I trained last summer and fall using the Novice schedule, so I knew that going up to the Intermediate schedule would be a challenge in the first place. Add in severe anemia, and I have really struggled. So some of those weekends in early January when they started running double digit distances, I changed it to 7-9 mile distances and do them on my own. Or like last weekend, when they ran 12+ miles, I modified the route to drop off about a mile and a half. It worked and I felt like I did pretty well.

So this weekend, we go all in. The distance is 13.27 miles. MORE than a half marathon. This is a good thing but a bit daunting when I haven’t run 13 miles (or more than 10 actually) since November 10th. I have never done a 13 mile training run. That distance has always been race day for me. In fact, given that the route is just a hair more than 13 and a quarter miles, this will probably be the longest distance I have run, ever.

That’s a thought that is both exciting and a bit scary. And yet cool all at the same time.

Eating Well at Our House

The experiment is over and I really can’t add anything more to yesterday’s wrap-up except that it was lovely to eat real food for breakfast and lunch. I might have dropped some water weight, but because I have developed an aversion to stepping on a scale, I cannot base my success or failure rate on my actual weight. In fact, I prefer not to. I base my success or failure rate on how I feel and how I am doing back (so far) on a solid food diet. And as I said yesterday, I feel this was a success based on my higher energy levels and the lack of carb cravings. Even my sweet tooth has relented. I have several varieties of high quality chocolate hanging out in my cabinet here at work and I am content to let them lie until a moment I have earned them or to soothe over ragged nerves on a bad work day.

Even with the low caloric intake (I was getting less than 800 per day), I was not energy deprived. I survived a tough 1 hour spin class last night where the instructor took us up and down a lot of hills. I felt like I worked hard but was not destroyed by the end.

In an effort to get all of us back on track, but especially Byram, who has struggled with weight gain due to injury and medications, we have gone back to a low-carb lifestyle. I find it can be tricky to balance the needs of the non-low carb family members (my mom and Grace) with those of Byram and me, but we’re working on it.

I almost never rely on recipes. I primarily cook with a “formula” that rarely goes wrong and changes with whatever I happen to have in the fridge.

The formula almost always starts out the same way: dice an onion and heat it in olive oil in my big skillet on medium heat. I almost always add garlic and some salt while that is happening, and frequently mushrooms because they are a cheap, low carb, and family-friendly way to boost the bulk of the meal without adding much in the way of calories. Usually after that, I add whatever meat I am cooking with, be it chicken breast or thighs, pork loin, or whatever cut of beef I pull out of the freezer — cube steak, flank, skirt, eye of round, etc. With our cow share dwindling, it is getting spotty for beef cuts these days. I let the meat start cooking, add seasonings of my choice (with props to Penzey’s for helping open my eyes to what it means to season food), and then usually frozen veggies like broccoli or green beans, or sometimes fresh ones like sweet peppers, zucchini, or summer squash. Sometimes I throw in a jar of our canned tomatoes from the CSA.

Yes, it is formulaic, but it is fun, easy, usually cooks in less than 30 minutes, and it is infinitely interchangeable. Some of the formula meals can be served over pasta or rice if you aren’t bent towards low carb, and if you have an eater in the house who cannot abide their food touching (we do), you can usually pick the meat and veggies out and separate them on the plate pretty easily (I don’t *always* succeed in this; particularly if tomatoes went in and it is more “saucy” looking).

So when I plan a menu for the month, it is pretty hard to specify what nights I know I am just going to make formula meals; maybe I should just put “Formula Meal w/ Chicken” (or whatever) on those days rather than try and name a specific plan? I don’t know. Planning our menu a month in advance surely does help keep us nutritionally on track, out of restaurants, and helps my Mom know what to expect each day, whether she or I am doing the cooking, but it is hard to know 3 weeks from now what will be on sale at the store or what veggies might suddenly be 10 for $10, like sweet peppers were last week. Suddenly, I am cooking with sweet peppers!

Tonight will be a formula meal out of the skillet though. Tomorrow, I want to make a stuffed pork tenderloin. Sunday, for the upcoming birthdays we are celebrating, I am making the most terrifying cut of beef I have in my freezer – a standing rib roast — prime rib. I did a mediocre job on the last one, overcooking it to medium; a sin against an amazing cut of meat. With this being the last one in the freezer until we get a new chunk of a Bessie Cow, this is my last chance to get it right.

It feels really good and like a genuine accomplishment to plan for and get back on the nutritional bandwagon. While we were talking about our weight this morning, I told Byram that I estimate, based on the fit of my clothes, that I am back to around 160 pounds, or about 15 pounds higher than I want to be. Now, it is all relative, and given that I had lost 125 pounds (at my lowest point last March), 15 pounds doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is for me now. I have learned that it was much easier to drop 15 pounds when I was 270 pounds pretty fast. Not so at 160. Back in the bad old days, it wasn’t uncommon for me to lose 15-25 pounds in the space of 6 weeks. Of course, it would creep back up, and I would have to do it all over again…but that was the normal.

Now, I avoid the scale and base my feeling about my weight based on what clothes fit or don’t. My size 6 pants I wore last spring do NOT fit. My 10s that I couldn’t wear last spring because they would slide off me, fit just fine though not snuggly, fortunately. My 8s still fit as much as they did last year, but without the slack I used to have in them. I will be happy when I can get back into my size 6 pants and when my small sized t-shirts are no longer too tight to wear. But I don’t think I am ready to bring the scale back into my life. Maybe when those 6s do fit, and then just to congratulate myself on whatever number it is I find that put me back in my size 6s. But in general, I don’t want to fight that emotional battle with numbers on a daily or weekly basis ever again.

Have a great weekend and I hope you are having a great start to 2013.

Worthy Challenge

It’s the last day of my Reboot 3-day Fast and even though I intended to give a full review of it tomorrow, I can express a great deal about the experiment now that I am over 90% of the way through it.

I “ate” three meals a day though I would have gone up to a 4th shake if I ever felt it necessary for blood sugar control or intense hunger pangs.

My shakes each consisted of one scoop of GNC’s 100% Whey Protein Powder (vanilla), and then most often 8 oz of 2% milk, though at least two shakes had to substitute water. I did include a couple of flavorings a few times: I added a small amount of espresso powder a couple of times, and today at lunch, I added a teaspoon of homemade “Russian Tea” from a coworker (instant tea powder, Tang, cinnamon, cloves) which was absolutely delicious — sort of creamsicle-like with a spiced undertone. I might take the mix home and do it again for my dinner shake. I know there is sugar in the Tang and instant tea, but I used such a small amount, I was unconcerned with its potential effects.

I drank a lot of peppermint tea, plain green tea, and most of all, a Green/White tea blend from Stash Teas that I keep at work. I added lemon or lime slices to all of them except the peppermint tea. Each morning I poured myself a restaurant sized pitcher of water and brought it to my desk and drank it completely before Noon with lemon or lime slices in it; the citrus really helped me get through my water better than I normally do. I gave up Crystal Light additives long ago, but still find plain water difficult to drink; particularly when I am cold (which is all the time).

In the evenings at home, I made bullion broth a couple of times. Very high sodium, I know, but I am not really getting much sodium anywhere else (only 100 mg per protein scoop), and it was comforting and savory; a much needed change from the citrus or vanilla flavors I have been consuming. I will probably do so again this evening.

My two cups of coffee per day plan worked well. I never suffered a caffeine headache, nor did I suffer the jittery hand tremors I sometimes get. I think I would like to drop back to 2 cups per day in general from this point on.

So day by day, how did it go?

1/1/13 – It was the First Day 5k and I was a volunteer, not a participant. The lack of calories and the cold dampness contributed to me feeling cold and tired, as did the late night of New Year’s Eve. I got and took the opportunity to take a nap though, and felt good when I woke up. Made dinner for the family and in general felt okay.

1/2/13 – First day back to work. I decided to buy milk from the café downstairs to mix my shake, and that cost me $1.10 for a pint! So lunch was a plain shake with water. I was feeling pretty good yesterday, able to manage my hunger and able to get in a lot more water than normal for me, partly because I didn’t have to manage the timing of no food/water within 30 minutes of each other. I kept experiencing weird emotional sensations like I was breaking a habit; literally it felt like I needed to eat something just because it was Noon, or there was food in the fridge for me, or something, even though I wasn’t actually even hungry. It was an interesting mental sensation.

1/3/13 – Today has been the best day yet in terms of mental and physical energy. I feel remarkably good. That said, I am also very much looking forward to tomorrow and enjoying solid food again, but it will not be Food Truck Friday like I have been celebrating for months. It will be a meat and cheese roll up for lunch. Maybe some sliced cucumbers, or tomato slices on fresh mozzarella. I have all kinds of weird food cravings right now, mostly for savory things or vegetables, or warm, tender meat. But what I am NOT craving is bagels, pizza, burritos, French fries, or fried chicken. I seriously want some left over ham slices with our homemade mustard or some sautéed mushrooms with greens. This is the best feeling I have had in a while; I have a grip on my cravings. I can indulge in the things I want because they are smart and nutritious choices. And I am looking forward to doing so, in appropriate quantities.

I dub this experiment a success, and might be something I even incorporate into my life once a quarter or so. I am not suggesting it was easy; I have had hunger spells, I have had longings for whatever delicious smell I catch at random moments (it was Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches today), and I have come close a couple of times to giving it up. Yesterday, I spent 30 minutes just ogling paleo-centric food blogs and fantasizing about prime rib, chicken and mushrooms, and even fish chowder. My tummy is rumbling right now just typing about all these delicious things, so yes, it has been a challenge to stick to this fast, but I think it was a worthy challenge. I feel I succeeded in rebooting my brain relating to my food choices.

Tonight, I am going to a spinning class, and Saturday, I am going to go run those 9 miles, even if I do them alone. It’s going to be a challenge, but I think it will be a worthy challenge.

If it isn’t hard, I’m not working hard enough, right?

The Muddaubber’s 2012 Thoughts

I don’t really want talk about resolutions. I want to talk about reality. Things that have to happen for me to succeed at the goals I have set for myself this year.

Oh, the goals?
– Run 2 half marathons
– Run 2 obstacle/mud runs
– Contemplate and evaluate the possibility of running a full marathon in 2013
– Lose 15 pounds of body fat and add 5-10 pounds of lean muscle mass

Do you know which of those goals is the hardest one? If you guessed the body fat for muscle mass swap, you guessed right.

I am about 155 pounds right now, give or take about 2 pounds on any given day. My BMI is in the healthy and normal range. But I carry a lot more body fat than I would like and I have a lot less physical strength than I used to.

In order to make the swap, I really have to tighten up my nutrition. The fact that I run as much as I do is the only reason I am not packing on a lot of new weight. That is the ONLY reason. If I let my training slip or if I became injured and was off my feet for a month or two, I can easily see me putting on 5-10 extra pounds in no time flat. I have let lots of excuses come between me and a cleaner diet, but with my husband’s renewed commitment to healthier eating, it is becoming easier for me to do the same.

There is too much sugar in my diet. Way too much alcohol. Barely enough protein and too many worthless carbs. And did I mention way too much alcohol?

I don’t want you to assume my diet is complete crap. It really isn’t. What it needs is tweeking; pulling out the crap I have allowed to slip back in, and boosting my protein intake above and beyond the required 60 grams per day necessitated by my RnY bypass.

My mission is to go back to how I ate early on post-gastric bypass; cut out the white simple carbs (excluding dairy), increase my protein above and beyond 60 grams a day (I want between 75 and 100), and cut the processed crap back.

I will continue my running and training for the half marathons I have signed up for, but I am going to really focus on adding in cross-training on those rest days (Sun., Mon., and Fri.). My cross-training will focus primarily on weight lifting and yoga. Yoga on Sundays and weights on Mondays and Fridays would probably work best given my half mary training schedule.

Next up: how to create and implement a plan I can work with.

Post-Race Blues

I posted my write-up on the Virginia Warrior Dash Race over at my regular blog; you can read it all here.

After such an insane weekend, post-race blues are setting in a bit, combined with two bits of bad news. The first is related to the length of time my beloved dog has left to be with us (hint: only a few more days) and the second was the single worst hemoglobin reading I have ever had taken in attempting a blood donation, in spite of heavy Fe supplementation over the past month.

I need to address some health issues, nutritionally and habit-related.

I also need a new goal to work towards. Warrior Dash is over and I have no races on my schedule until April at the earliest. I have been desperately searching for some kind of New Year’s eve or New Year’s day race, but the only local one I found was already sold out of spaces. I thought it would be really need to set the tone of 2012 with a race.

I am more depressed than ever that I am not running the half-marathon on November 12, like I had so badly wanted too. Money issues and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever set in at the exact same time that I needed to sign up and start hard-core training. I set aside my 13.1 mile goal at that point. Too sick and too poor to even get off the ground.

I am looking for charity runs, 5Ks, 10Ks, mud runs, whatever. I am also trying to avoid conflicting with major SCA events. Rugged Maniac on May 5, 2012, is therefore out. Henricus Dauber Dash (is there not a more perfect race for me?) is a possibility as it will run the week AFTER Pennsic next year, but that is mid-August and I need something to run soon. Like now.

I could run the Ukrops 10K in April next year, but honestly, the race sells out every year and it is capped at 40,000 entrants. I really don’t want to run with 40,000 other people unless I am going into something really big like a half or full marathon. Crowds give me issues, and it was tough enough running in a wave of 500 last weekend.

There is the MGD Filthy 5K, which is part of the Dominion River Rock games, next May. It is cheap ($25), within walking distance from my office so I can hit it straight up after work, capped at 2,000 participants, and looks like a ton of fun. Again, it’s in May.

I just stumbled across this Pumpkin Run at the end of the month. It hits all the right things for me. Close, inexpensive, running for charity (autism!), and family friendly (free kids run).

Maybe that’s what I will go do.

But first, I need new shoes.