Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Food: pumpkins, pecans and changing leaves!

I haven't written a post on food that included a recipe in a really long time, but that is about to change!

I am officially in the off season, taking a few weeks off and lifting weights in the gym, and letting my foot heal before I start training for the Asheville Marathon on March 3rd and then my half-Ironman race (or races...) I did have to go to the bone and joint doctor and my foot issue is an inflamed joint (the joint above the arch that points the foot and helps to bend your big toe,) I am happy that it is not a stress fracture and that some relatively cheap orthotics might be the cure. I will not be complaining about not being able to run since this was going to be my few weeks off anyway, but if  you want to read a post about being frustrated about not running you can find it here.

To celebrate my off season I have been indulging in my absolute fall favorite food - pumpkin! That means Pumpkin Ale, Pumpkin spice bread with chocolate chips, and lots of pumpkin oatmeal to start my day! Over the weekend I was volunteering at a weekend long music/craft/arts festival for an organization aptly called LEAF (see picture below.)
In order to get a cheap ticket to the festival, I opted to volunteer for 10 hours on Saturday - two five hour shifts, one shift selling beer and drinks at the concession stand and one shift cleaning up at the kids village until 11pm when the cold and starry night was filled with awesome funk, soul, and folk music. That meant that on Sunday I was able to just chill by the lake and have a good time, which included having good food!
Those are tempeh tacos with guacamole and vegan slaw plus rice and beans! They were delicious and as you can see I ate them while watching a bunch of kids enjoying the activities on the lake, including ziplining into the lake! In order to fuel myself for this awesome weekend, I made myself protein packed pecan spiced whole grain pancakes with pumpkin butter... yes, all of that is possible in one delicious meal.

Pecan Spiced Pancakes:
3/4 c. Multigrain/sprouted grain pancake and waffle mix (for convenience I use pancake mix, just make sure that it doesn't have buttermilk/milk if you want to keep these pancakes vegan)
1 scoop Warrior Blend SunWarrior protein powder
1 teaspoon maca powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg)
1tablespooon melted coconut oil
3/4 to 1 cup water (depending on thinness of batter)
1/4 c. raw or roasted pecans
non stick cooking spray
Pumpkin butter (Trader Joe's seasonal pumpkin butter is incredible!)
Raw or roasted pumpkin seeds

Mix all the dry ingredients together then whisk in coconut oil and water until the desired pancake batter consistency is reached. Add the pecans last, breaking some of them into small pieces and leaving others as entire halves. Spray skillet or griddle with non-stick spray and spoon batter onto it. Flip when bubbles start to form on the side facing up. I like to make smaller pancakes, about 4-5 inches in diameter. This recipe makes about 8-10 small pancakes and 4 to 5 larger ones, serving two people.
Serve warm with a dollop of pumpkin butter on top plus a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and berries - maple syrup can be added for sweetness. Enjoy with a warm beverage of your choice!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Triathlon season in review

My last triathlon of the season was yesterday, Sunday, in Anderson, SC and was a very well organized and well run Rev3 event with a lot of participants. They really do treat all their racers, Olympic and half distance, like they are pros - from fantastic volunteers and a well marked course to the smallest of details like a name plate where you rack your bike. There were also pros at this race, the first race I've done with pros since the DC Triathlon last year, which added a cool element to the race, not to mention some briefest of moments where I "raced" alongside them, translation, they blew past me!

On Saturday I live-streamed Ironman Kona and became, as they say on twitter, #konainspired. Honestly it was awesome to watch the pros, especially the women, and if I had been able to stay up later I would have watched all the "mere mortals" (read incredible amateur athletes) crossing the finish line. I read Chrissie Wellington's book A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey last month and became thoroughly excited about the idea of one day racing in Kona. I have known for a while that I wanted to eventually do an Ironman distance race, in fact it is on my goals to do one before I'm 30, but I had never felt the extreme desire to make it to Kona until Chrissie's book. Her entire journey makes for an incredible and engrossing read (which I might get into in a later post,) but her writing about this particular World Champion creating race is illuminating. Watching it then unfold on screen, even through the overly advertised livestream on the Ironman website, left me with a drive to one day run that particular race on that beautiful island.

But back to Sunday's race, I felt fully inspired to tackle this mere Olympic distance race, (and remember that this is only  my second ever time with this distance!) My foot was still bothering me post half marathon training and racing but since this was actually a slightly shorter distance on the run than the previous Olympic+ distance race, that I could get a better time. I did get a better time, but I may have sacrificed my foot for a few weeks... The swim portion of the race was not my best because I wasn't used to swimming in my wetsuit, even though I practiced in the lake the day before. It was a chilly 65 degrees in the water, although the outside air was colder to start, so I don't regret wearing the suit, I just wish I had more practice in it - my breathing felt restricted so for the first 300-400 yards before I stopped to tread water and loosen the zipper in back a little bit, I was not swimming smoothly. The bike went well, a nice rolling hill course, the bike mechanics had helped me make an adjustment the day before so I felt really comfortable in my aero bars. The run was hillier than I expected, I kept an even pace, not pushing my foot, but the ups and downs but a lot of pressure on it. I got passed the girl in my age group that came in third (I got fourth) and was really tempted to up my speed and chase her down, but I held myself back. I did sprint to the finish and somersaulted across the finish line (can't wait to see the finish line pics!)

I went to the A.R.T. (active release therapy) tent after gathering most of my gear and throwing it haphazardly into my car (I still need to wash off my wetsuit...) and the wait was only 10 minutes so I signed up and waited. Really I knew I had a 2 hour drive ahead of me and was hoping to get some of the stiffness out of my neck and shoulders (remember I adjusted my bike so my back wasn't totally used to it) before sitting in a car for a while. The lady who worked on my neck/shoulders did a wonderful job so I went ahead and asked her to take a look at my foot. Well it hurt quite a bit and I couldn't point my foot without pain, basically I had lost flexibility and range of motion in my foot and she thinks its due in part to swelling post race, and scar tissue build up. She kneaded some of the scar tissue out, to where I have been icing my foot on and off today under my desk at work, but I am probably going to see a sports specific doctor about it this week, especially if the range of motion of my foot stays this poor. Luckily I am not signed up for any more races so I can take a long break from running if I need to in order for this to heal. I need it to heal so that I can eventually start my training for Ironman 70.3 Raleigh next summer and possibly the half distance of Rev3Tri Knoxville, because right now I am definitely Ironman inspired!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A New Chapter

This blog is no longer “the healthy undergrad” because I graduated from Tufts University back in May. Since then I was homeless for a couple of months bouncing around between Washington D.C., Dallas, Boston, Vail, and my new city of residence: Asheville, NC.

My move to Asheville as a post-grad was decided before I even obtained a job here, but the job solidified the move. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA working for the city school district as a volunteer and outreach coordinator at the city schools preschool. Additionally, after two weeks on that job I was asked to temporarily take on the job of volunteer coordinator at one of the elementary schools as well because their new hire dropped out. That temporary addition started over two months ago and I still work half time at the preschool and half time at the elementary school although that should finally end in the middle of November. This additional work of course didn’t result in any pay raise since I get paid a stipend, not a salary or even an hourly wage. All I have been getting is the benefit of added and varied experiences working in these two positions.

With all the moving and the job fluctuations alone I have stayed busy, but I have also been training and racing! I started off my triathlon season with a 3rd place finish in my age group at the local Asheville sprint triathlon back in July. In August I ventured to Charlotte for an Amica 19.7 Spring series race (I did their Boston and Newport, RI races last year) and bested both of my previous times in that series. Also In August I placed first in my age group in a sprint race at Lake Lure, outside of Asheville. September held the race I was working towards, my first Olympic distance race at Lake Junalaska called the King of the Smokies Triathlon (the run was over 7 miles so it was really an Olympic distance + race.) Although the field of women in the international distance was small, I unbelievably placed first overall in the women’s race in my first ever at that distance!  To finish September I raced in the inaugural Cherokee Harvest Half Marathon in Cherokee, NC and bested my previous half marathon time even with my training cut two weeks short due to foot pain, (my longest training run in the run up to it was under 9 miles.) And next week I have my last triathlon of the season, the Olympic distance Rev3Tri in Anderson, SC.

The only way I have been able to participate in these races is with the financial help of my parents who supported two of the pricier entry fees. As you can guess, I don’t make much money at all – in fact, I am on food benefits since my stipend covers just a little over twice my monthly rent. Even still I have been able to train and race and feed myself enough to cover that training.

Now that I’ve come to the nutrition part of my life I’ll mention that since the day I moved to Asheville nearly three months ago, I have had a fully plant-based and mostly vegan diet. The only reason I say mostly is because I have not been super particular about honey in the occasional processed products I’ve eaten and if I have accidentally bought or been served at someone’s home an item with traces of dairy or egg in it then I have not been wasteful and thrown it away. But the basis of my diet is plants: beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Before I would occasionally have eggs, and often have cheese (to the detriment of my digestive system.) Now I have not had any digestive issues, I have fueled myself through all the aforementioned races, I feel healthier, my mood is elevated and I crave certain whole food plant based foods – I have honestly had no cheese cravings.

I’m not advocating that everyone adopt a fully plant based diet immediately, but I am advocating taking elements of a plant based diet because you’ll discover new foods you love and might start craving kale chips more than potato chips. I experiment with making a different type of dip/hummus every week – my favorites so far are black bean walnut hummus and sundried tomato hummus. I make my own salsa for my fiesta kale salad. I even bought a nut milk straining bag and make my own almond milk and coconut milk. Oh yeah and did I mention I’m on food stamps? Through the farmer’s market (which accept food benefits by giving tokens for a swipe of your EBT card) and the bulk section of the grocery store, I have been able to easily eat and cook in a very nutritional whole food way. What about eating out at restaurants? I am very lucky that Asheville is a super veg-friendly town, but most restaurants can make accommodations and ethnic food restaurants are usually your best bet (veggie burritos with guacamole instead of cheese are still delicious and vegan!)

My life has gone through a lot of changes in the past few months, some harder than others (being vegan by the way hasn’t been one of the hard changes!) I have always been focused on paths, goals, the next thing, and I still am, but I am also very happy to wake up in the morning, take a look out the window at the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding me and be content with where I am right now. For at least the next 10 months I will be racing, training and eating right here in Asheville and I couldn’t be more happy to have the beginnings of my journey into the post-grad world in this place. This blog will now follow me into life as a healthy post-grad.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Marathon

This is going to be a long post:

As most people know by now, the temperatures during the race yesterday reached 88 degrees, great if you want to drink on the beach, not so great for running a marathon. Lets back track a little bit though. I saw the weather was supposed to be in the 80's last Wednesday and started freaking out a little. I'd been training in cold wintry Boston, hoping for a perfect race day in the mid-50's! I got even more freaked out when the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) sent out an email warning runners who aren't experienced or who didn't qualify (I'm a charity runner so I didn't have to qualify) to think about not racing, and gave the option to defer to next year's race. Deferment is pretty unprecedented for Boston, I think they allowed some runners to defer in 2010 during the Iceland volcano ash incident that grounded flights out of Europe. I discussed it with friends and my parents (who flew up to watch me) and decided it would be a game day decision but for now I was going to run it. A friend who is a 2:49 marathoner came up from DC with my boyfriend and he (and my boyfriend who has also run a couple of marathons) were indispensable for their advice and calm about the whole thing and it definitely rubbed off on me.

The Tufts Marathon Team had a big dinner for friends and family on Sunday night before the race and our very experienced team captains gave words of wisdom, especially regarding the heat. They basically said that with this heat expect to run the race anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half slower than you originally expected. After my stress fracture I was hoping for a little over 10 minute miles for a time of around 4:20 to 4:30. Now I was hoping for under 5 and half hours. After the lovely dinner I went home and set everything out for the morning, my race singlet, shorts, fuel, I froze a water bottle, a sweatshirt to sit on while waiting before the race, my race number bib, and my hat, sunglasses and watch. Then I had the hardest time falling asleep and woke up sweating at 5:25 am. I ate some pretzels with my breakfast for some added salt and got to our team bus at 6:10am. The team bus was taking us down to the Boston Common to catch the official BAA buses to the athlete's village at the start in Hopkinton. We got there and had to wait in line to get on buses and got separated from each other in the process but many of us regrouped at the athlete's village. Once there we found a spot in the shade because it was in the 70's by 9am and I sipped on watered-down gatorade and ate a little bit more. Then at around 10:20am the third wave of runners were sent to the starting corrals (we were corral nine.) I finally started running at the starting line at 11am!

It was hot, I wasn't even as mentally prepared as I thought but I had a plan. Run 10 and a half minute miles and walk through water stops where I would have gatorade at every other mile and water every mile (either to drink or dump on my neck and head) until mile 9 where our family and friends and coach were waiting for us. They were at an animal clinic in Natick run by a Tufts trustee so I was able to use a real bathroom there! I grabbed the energy chews (Honey Stinger) I was having my boyfriend hold onto to give me there and I was off again. I lost the buddy I had been running with for the first nine miles when I used the bathroom but I found other Tufts people to run with until around the half-marathon mark where the heat really hit me. It was the first time I walked without it being a water stop but I didn't want to overheat and I'm pretty sure that this was one of the hottest parts of the day, around 1:30pm.

This is the part of my post where I want to thank the citizens of greater Boston for their complete amazingness with the heat. Fire stations had hoses and sprinkler tunnels set up but so did random houses! People were out with bags and buckets of ice that I filled my hat with before putting it back on my head, some were handing out cold orange slices. The only injuries I have today are three blisters on my feet from running through so much water and letting my socks and shoes get wet but I know a lot of people could be a lot worse off today without those hoses and buckets of cold water. The kindness and cheering of strangers really has to be one of the best parts of the Boston Marathon.

I had decided that I would walk up the Newton hills and run the flats and downhills, including the dreaded Heartbreak Hill (which isn't the worst of the hills, its just the last one.) By this time I was running alongside a friend on the team and she was thinking about dropping out at mile 16. I told her I would help her get to mile 20 and from there I promised its only six miles, totally doable! I'm not sure why I was so optimistic at this time, I really never lost the smile on my face whether it was from random onlookers yelling my name or Tufts, or high-fiving Wellesley girls and little kids till my arm started hurting. I knew I was in this for the experience and I wasn't letting someone who had helped pace me during grueling cold weather runs abandon the race after all that hard work. I told her we would walk the uphills and coast and recover our legs on the downhills and thats what we did for three more miles, until I lost her at around 19 miles. I had hoped that I got her far enough to finish on her own, and that she'd gained some confidence back. Then I started running with another Tufts runner and he said he wasn't sure his legs could take him all the way. I told him I'd help him finish the hills, and that's what I did, we got over the top of Heartbreak hill!

I lost him when I got to Boston College and I swear I felt like I was sprinting! So many students were out (it felt like a day on the beach after all) and their drunk cheering was better than the Wellesley cheering. Everyone yelled my name, I high-fived hundreds of people, they were cheering for Tufts, they were saying five miles to go, it was an incredible feeling. I swear I teared up at some point when I realized I only had five more miles until I would finish the Boston Marathon! I had run into a few Tufts friends handing out water at different water stops on the course, but when I got to mile 22 with a giant grin on my face I sought out one of my sorority sisters and gave her a big hug! Four more miles! I knew I would have a lot of friends waiting from there to the end of the race. Two groups of sorority sisters were lined up on Beacon street and a few sisters ran with me a little bit, always encouraging! I kept alternating watered-down gatorade and straight water until the very last water stop, determined to stay hydrated without being over-hydrated. With less than two miles to go, our previous university president, Larry Bacow, who founded the Tufts Marathon Team (originally the Presidential Marathon Challenge) ran with me and urged me on! With less than a mile to go I teared up again, I was so close! I was still smiling! And other than blistered feet I felt good!

I took a right on Hereford, then a left on Boylston, then it just became noise! I didn't know if people were cheering for me (some were) or if everyone was just cheering for everyone but it gave me a push as I passed the 26 mile marker and pushed on to the finish line! When I crossed the finish line, again, with a giant smile on my face, I found and hugged my coach and our current university president! They both congratulated me and sent me on through to get my medal and water. The space blankets that they usually wrap people in during cold weather were put on people with the reflective part on the outside to keep the heat out! I went to go find my parents and my boyfriend and there were hugs and pictures all around. When leaving the finishers area to go to my parents hotel, I saw my friend I had paced to mile 19, she had made it to the finish and we shared a long embrace!

My legs were feeling it by now so I changed into a new pair of socks, assessed my blisters and kept walking around to keep blood flowing. I got to my parents hotel and took a nice bath, and weighed myself: even though I took in water and or gatorade at every stop and eaten a pack of sport beans, energy chews and a couple of orange slices, I had lost almost 7 pounds! When I got to my house my housemates all chanted my name and hugged me. Then I went out to dinner, had a cold beer, a lot of bread and a great meal.

I told you this was a long post but there's only a little bit more I promise!

This marathon was an incredible experience for me, not only because it was my first marathon or because it was the Boston Marathon but because I learned a lot about myself. It turns out not only can I keep a smile on my face after miles of running in 88 degree heat, but I can help others to grit it out as well. I learned that high-fives and hearing my name get called are two of the greatest gifts that a stranger can offer me. I learned that there are some days not meant to be races but instead are meant to be tests of stamina, willpower, energy, compassion and determination. I probably could have pushed myself to run up those hills and through water stops, but instead I finished with a gigantic smile on my face, some blisters, and a sunburn, and I enjoyed every single minute of my day!

Running to the finish with a smile on my face with an official time of 5:23:09 on an 88 degree day!

Monday, April 9, 2012

One week till the Boston Marathon

After over five months of training, a stress fracture and recovery, there is now just a week left until my first marathon. With such a cut back on my training I feel like I'm just waiting for Monday to arrive. I've put in a lot of hours, a lot of hard work and a lot of mental and physical energy. I feel prepared but I also feel anxious, just wanting the day to be here already! I'm reminded of my favorite quote from one of my favorite books: "First with the head, then with the heart." Mentally I have prepared, a week from today my heart has to take over everything that my head has done.

I can't wait to get those pre-race adrenaline jitters. I can't wait to hear the sounds of the crowds. I can't wait to pass all of those historic Boston landmarks. I can't wait till the moment I'm able to say "I just ran the Boston Marathon!"

I'm eating a lot of brown rice with fruits and vegetables this week - burrito bowls being my favorite with with a combination of brown rice, black beans, roasted sweet potato, kale, salsa, and avocado. I'm also drinking a lot of water this week, including coconut water and trying to get a full 8 hours of sleep every night so that I am hydrated and rested going into the weekend.

My goal this week is to take care of myself. My goal a week from today is to run a marathon!

P.S. I'm still fundraising so if you are a friend who reads this then please consider donating! Go to http://www.tuftsmarathonchallenge.com/runners/lizziesager

Monday, April 2, 2012

Only Two Weeks Till the Marathon!

Only two weeks until I'm running from Hopkinton all the way to Copley Square in downtown Boston! Right now I am in my tapering phase, which means reduction in mileage, intensity and duration. Those of you who have read posts from my triathlon training know that this is also the time when I go completely vegan and dedicated to solely whole foods. I'm currently snacking on apples and almond butter, my lunch was half a baked sweet potato, spicy black beans and brussel sprouts and breakfast was my superfood oatmeal. Much of what I eat over the next two weeks comes from No Meat Athlete my go-to vegetarian/vegan running resource. 

My legs feel good, my foot feels great. I am a little concerned about not being able to do as many long runs as I wanted to with my stress fracture, but with my intermediate distance runs between 12-15 miles I felt really good and my almost 18 mile run post-stress fracture was awesome so I think I'll be fine. My pace will be slower than I had intended at the start of marathon training but I won't let that phase me, its my first marathon and I just want to finish it with a giant smile on my face!

I'm already looking forward to getting back into triathlon training and logging more miles in the pool and on my bike. I haven't picked out any races yet because I don't quite know where I'll be after I graduate but once I do know, I'll probably pick a couple of races before I find a place to live! Marathon training has been exhilarating, and I love being a part of the Tufts Marathon Team, but I do miss multi-sport training!

Now I have to put in a fundraising plea! I still need to fundraise a little less than $500 for nutrition, medical and fitness programs at Tufts University and for the Friedman School of Nutrition program to curb adolescent obesity.

I'll take any encouragement though! My friends from Texas sent me an awesome care-package (see photo below) full of nutrition goodies and words of support! A big thanks to Alicia, Jenny and Taelor!

This is my runner page that gives more information about the team and where our fundraising efforts go towards: Tufts Marathon Challenge 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

17 miles on the 17th

Spring Break just started for me, and before I leave for the beach tomorrow I decided to get in one of the long runs that I had been unable to run while my stress fracture was healing. So in St. Patrick's Day fashion I ran 17 miles on the 17th. Many of the miles were hills, especially between miles four through ten, and my legs felt really good on them so even with my one month long break from running, my cross-training routine was very effective.

I needed this long run to figure out what nutrition on the run worked for me. (My wonderful boyfriend drove to specific points and had water and gels for me, plus words of encouragement!) I ate about every 5 miles, and drank water more often than that. I had tried clif shot blocks before but this time I tried a different brand of organic energy chews by Honey Stinger and I liked them a lot. Plus I had a bite or two of a more dense Larabar at about 10 miles when I was feeling a little on the hungry side.

My times weren't like I wanted them to be when I started out training, but since the injury I'm pretty happy with them and I don't want to push it with a month left. During spring break I have an awesome opportunity to do some running and conditioning on the beach plus swimming, oh and relaxing...

After break I will have to start on the nitty gritty things like cutting out drinking and keep up a more vegan diet. After break will also be when I start my taper when I'll be running less weekly mileage and run with less intensity. Until then, I hope to have a fantastic, relaxing and safe Spring Break!

Oh I also now have my official team uniform!