Thursday, March 31, 2016

Low Sugar Dieting

A couple of months ago I started to take a hard look at my diet. Now, I had put on a couple pounds over the past year, but that didn't bother me so much as the fact that I didn't seem to be eating as healthy as I should be. Half marathon training and then full marathon training had given me an excuse to pig out and I full took advantage of it (fun fact- a lot of people gain a bit of weight when marathon training because it makes you want to eat everything).

I started to get concerned about the level of sugar in my daily intake. Now, I didn't actually track sugar content, but I had an inkling that eating a sizable handful of chocolate chips every night was not exactly a healthy intake of sugar. It was time for drastic measures.

I'm not completely mean to myself, so I decided to cut sugar out starting the day after I got back from Cuba. And by cut out, I mean I would not eat or drink anything where sugar was one of the first 3 ingredients, but I could still have natural sugars and honey. This meant no Kraft peanut butter, no ketchup, no bottled salad dressing, no cheap spaghetti get it. Sugar is in everything! I also decided to shorten it from 1 month to 4 weeks because March seems very long when you really want some candy.

The idea of this whole experiment was not to lose weight (lol beer and nachos were still a-ok) or to stop eating sugar forever (sadface), but just to lessen its sweet, sticky hold on my daily diet. I am happy to say that it went pretty alright! I did cheat a few times, as there were a lot of birthdays this month, but over the past 4 weeks I had 3 pieces of cake (and one was really really small!), one cookie, and one serving of ketchup! I also had Gatorade and energy chews that may contain sugar on my long runs. That is not too shabby though! Especially when you remember last weekend was Easter! I have stored my haul away until Friday, which is my break sugar fast day. I plan to break it by going to Sweet Jesus for some ice cream!!

I would also like to mention that I didn't have any pop! And for someone who used to drink 3 Coke Zeros a day, and then finally moved to 2-3 regular cokes a week...this was a big step! I gave up "fake" sugars awhile back so there definitely wasn't cheating in that way.

I am actually feeling pretty good after 4 weeks of a low sugar diet. It is amazing to feel like I cheated so much, and yet that would have seemed like NOTHING with my old diet. I am definitely going to try and avoid sugars now as much as possible and just save them for fun treats. Like ice cream. And cookies. And ice cream sandwiches made with cookies.

Oh! I also meant to add, my physiotherapist said that there is evidence coming out that a low sugar diet can help with inflammation and that this is an excellent move to help my leg heal!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Marathon Training: Week 11

Total kilometers run: 434.2km

This Week: 15km

Week 11's runs:
Tuesday: Missed
Thursday: 5km easy (6:00 min/km avg pace)- on treadmill
Saturday: 5km easy (5:36 min/km avg pace)
Sunday: 5km easy (6:04 min/km avg pace)

Look at those piddly numbers up there! Ugh, it is so frustrating to be injured!! And on Thursday I must admit I didn't get a full 5km in, but only because my Chinese food came early and Chinese food will always trump the treadmill (stupid freezing rain forced me indoors). I think it was like 4.5, so close enough.

Thankfully, though, the rest and the twice daily stretches and exercises the physiotherapist gave me seem to be working. I went to my follow-up appointment on Monday and exercises that previously hurt my knee now didn't bother me at all! Yay! So she gave me clearance to run a bit further on my runs now, but I am not allowed to do really long distances yet. However, she suggested I do a bit of my long run on Sunday and then switch to the bike so I can keep up my cardio training while resting my knee. I am also supposed to shorten my strides (which I thought were pretty short to begin with), which lessens the work on the knee. So yay for a plan! 

She also worked out my IT band for a long time (think of it like a single leg massage...that hurts you) and I go back on Thursday for another session. Thankfully she has not ruled my marathon out yet and seems to be very positive in getting me there. It is just over a month away so obviously I am getting nervous since I only will have 3 solid weeks of training left (you generally don't train hard the last two weeks in order to rest the legs for the race). 

As for exercises, I am currently doing a quad stretch, a hip flexor stretch, the clamshell exercise to strengthen my glutes (which is way harder than it looks when your form is correct!!), and now I am adding in foam rolling to work on the IT band. I do the stretches 30 seconds each leg x3, in both the mornings and evenings. I do the clamshell every evening for 3 times per side with 20 reps each. And now I do the foam rolling every evening and after running on both the IT band and my quads. It actually takes a lot of time! But I am being very religious with it because I need to get better!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Update on the Ol' Knee

My knee pain came back with a vengeance on Monday. I guess it was not as healed as I thought when I did my 16km run. So rather than spend another week icing and complaining, I made an appointment to see a sports doctor and a physiotherapist. I don't have the doctor's appointment for a few more weeks, but I did get to see the physiotherapist yesterday and it was extremely enlightening!

She asked a lot of questions about my running, exercise, marathon plans, etc. She specializes in running injuries and definitely knew what she was talking about! Then she got me into a pair of shorts and bare feet and had me do all sorts of maneuvers, a lot of which involved me lying on the exam table while she bent my legs all over. And it turns out it wasn't quite the runner's knee I had self diagnosed myself with, but a lack of muscle toning in my hip flexors and glutes, mixed with some limited flexibility, which caused my IT band to tighten and get irritated from the running. Also, my left side is weaker than my right, which is why the issue has shown up there. Apparently runners should really cross train and do strength training. Oops.

The IT band is the iliotibial band, which connects the hips to the knee. It is a pretty key part of running and a very common place to injure!

The PT gave me some stretches and exercises to do every day to help relax my muscles to help relax the IT band. She also manually treated the leg by applying downward pressure with her forearm along the injured band- it hurt!! I knew it was going to hurt, though, because so many runners complain about stretching this muscle post run.

Anyway, in good/bad news, she did clear me to keep running, but only 5km at a time. I go back in next week and I am hoping she clears me to run farther if I show some improvement!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Marathon Training: Week 10

Total kilometers run: 409.2km
This Week: 24km

Week 10's runs:
Tuesday: Missed
Thursday: Missed
Saturday: 8km easy (6:16 min/km avg pace)
Sunday: 16km steady (6:44 min/km avg pace)

I took off the entirety of Monday- Friday this past week to rest my bad knee. It was actually super frustrating, even though I knew it was the best thing to do! It's funny because I used to be a pretty lazy person who was quite content to sit on the couch all evening, but man alive did I ever want to run! I felt very bored all week!

I did get out on Saturday and Sunday, and my knee seems about 80%. It would hurt randomly on my runs, but not continuously like it did the weekend before and definitely not as sharply. I am continuing to ice and rest as much as I can to continue to help it heal and  I've also been doing a lot of stretches, multiple times a day. Fingers crossed that it goes away!

Anyway, not much else to say about this week, so here is a cat gif!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Runners Knee

Remember how after my 30K on Sunday I mentioned my left knee was not too happy? Well it actually hurt quite a bit as time went on, and I did some googling and it exactly fits the description of runners knee, which basically means there is an issue with my knee cap/cartilage and it is mad at me. It really hurt to go down stairs or down an incline on Monday, though otherwise my legs were fine.

I have been resting and icing it, which is the best medicine for this type of injury. I also picked up some supplements that are supposed to help with joints (Glucosamine, Chondroitin & MSM). The jury seems out on whether these supplements actually help runners knee, but I figured it can't hurt! Lastly, I went to my chiropractor last night and she performed some voodoo magic on it and my back, pelvis and neck, so hopefully that will help as well.

I am also doing a lot of research into exercises and stretches to stop the issue from coming back. A lot of evidence seems to point to a poorly supported knee cap being to blame, so the exercises aim to strengthen the muscles around the knee. I always thought I had pretty strong legs, but I guess my knees are my weak spot. Plus I have fallen arches and I run on hard surfaces...both of those are hard on the ol' leg elbows.

Thankfully every day the knee has been feeling better and better! I skipped my Tuesday run, which was so hard, because otherwise I feel great and really want to run. But hopefully I will be back at it this weekend! And plus, this week IS a rest week, so cutting back is all part of the plan. It is a good thing I keep getting injured right before my rest weeks!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Marathon Training Week 9: Experimenting with Nutrition on the Run

Total kilometers run: 385.2km
This Week: 59.1km

Week 9's runs:
Tuesday: 9.9km easy with sprints at end (6:41 min/km avg pace)
Thursday: 11.2km tempo (6:06 min/km avg pace)
Saturday: 8km easy (6:22 min/km avg pace)
Sunday: 30km steady (6:35 min/km avg pace)

This was a "peak week", where my mileage ramps up to an all time high. Next week is a stepback week where I have low mileage to rest my legs and I AM SO EXCITED FOR THAT.

Spring literally sprung on Monday with temps of 10 degrees and sun! It looks like we are not going to dip below freezing again so I am super excited. I think I run better in the sun. My paces have been terrible all winter and I really think that is why. But yay! Spring! Thursday I really pushed my tempo run and I am very happy with the pacing and it seemed to hold well through the rest of the week so perhaps my mojo is back!

And on Sunday I ran 30km!!! That is the longest I have EVER run. My original training plan had me capping out at 25.7km, but I felt that just wouldn't mentally prepare me for running 42.2km, even if I am sure there is some science behind why it stops so low. So I changed two of the long runs in my plan to 30km and 32km. The run was TOUGH, and my left knee is a little "WTF just happened?", but I am really glad I did it because mentally I was really good through it, which is encouraging.

I ran past the Polar Molars!

I also started playing with eating on the run and I have incorporated Gatorade back into my long run. There are a lot of options for run nutrition- you can bring your own snacks like nuts and dried fruits, or buy pre-made stuff, which includes gels, chews, and cookies. I decided to try one of each to see if I liked them on the run. I took one at 8.5km, 16.5km, and 25km.

Here is what I tried:
1. Vega Sports Gel- Orange Flavoured
This one was pretty good! I heard a some reviews that gels were messy and sticky, but this one wasn't like that at all. It was kind of gritty and not too sweet? Sounds weird but the texture didn't bother me at all. I did find it kind of hard to get out of the package.

2. Honey Stinger Waffle- Honey Flavoured
This one was SO yummy and didn't have sugar in it, which I like because I am on a no-added-sugar thing right now. But it was really hard to chew and took me a full 2 minutes to eat the cookie, which is no bueno because I can't run and do that. It could be that it just got a little cold and maybe this would be a better summer snack. But ya, really yummers.

3. Gu Engery Chews- Watermelon Flavoured
These came 4 to a pack and I ate one at 25km and one about 26.5km. They were much easier to chew than I thought they would be as they were very soft. Some people complained that chews were too hard to eat on the go, but I could totally run and eat these at the same time! Flavour was pretty good too!

Overall, eating on the go was a big success. My stomach didn't react negatively to any of them, they all tasted good and went down fine, and I liked the added energy they gave me. Plus I just love to eat so running towards my next snack was very motivating!! Next week I have some new chews and gels to try- Clif shot blocks, Honey Stinger chews, and a Vega gel that is raspberry flavoured. There is SO much on the market so it will probably take some time to settle on some favourites, but I will keep reviewing them as I go!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Cuba 2016!

FYI- this post is gonna be photo heavy!

Last week I flew off to Cuba with my friend Ginny and her family. Originally Gin and I had been planning a last minute girls getaway, but a few weeks before we left her family mentioned also wanting to do a trip this year so to save money and vacation time we decided to combine our trips into one! I've known Gin's family since I was knee high to a grasshopper so it was a complete nondecision to have them come along! We had such great weather down there too. The first couple days were low 20s, which felt so nice to our winterized skin. Then on day 3 it got much hotter! It was sunny every day and no rain! I went through 3 bottles of sunscreen.

Our Resort!

The whole fam- Me, Dad, Gin, Ang, Kim, Mom and Jake

The pool we spent a lot of time at

We stayed at a resort called Roc Barlovento in Varadero. I went to Varadero back in early 2011 and I loved it, so I knew we would have a blast when they asked to go there. It is a great area because you can actually leave the resort and go explore. Plus the beaches in Varadero can't be beat! 20km of beautiful white sandy beach and turquoise waters! We got a great deal on our 6 day getaway too! SO CHEAP!

The hotel was great. It was adults only and definitely seemed to be full of the older crowd and families with grown children. 100% not a party scene, which was perfect for us. The rooms were a little run down, but the beds were comfortable and the staff were all so friendly. Also, the food was not half bad for Cuba, which is known for being meh in the food department. Always something to eat and lunch at the snack bar was always a big BBQ of yummy! I liked the pasta bar at dinner the most, but the line was always too long so I only went once or twice. The drinks at the resort were also good, though they seemed to have issues keeping the frozen drinks frozen so daquiris were better enjoyed in the a.m.!

The resort had tons of stray cats and dogs, which seemed cared for and were all so friendly. We made friends with an adorable dog our first night there. We were searching in the dark for the snack bar to get a late night snack and we found this dog by the pool. We asked him where the snack bar was and I kid you not this dog got up and led us there. We named the dog Snack Bar ("Snacks"), and he hung out with us all week! I am sure the sausages Kim kept sneaking him had nothing to do with that ;).


The first couple of days we were there the beach was SO windy and cool and we couldn't swim in the ocean due to a strong riptide. We were all super sad, but the pool was nice and the wind was blocked there so it was nice enough! Finally on our third day the ocean was "opened" and we dragged our lounge chairs out there to enjoy the swimming and sand! One day the four of us girls even took a catamaran out!

On the catamran

Gin holding on for dear life

We also took lots of walks in town and once and awhile took a horse drawn carriage around. The old cars which served as taxis were sooo cool, but with 7 of us the horse was the better choice! Be careful though- one horse guy really tried to rip us off and was a bit of a black spot on the vacation. That day we were heading to Waco's Club for dinner, which I would 100% recommend! It was a pretty high end establishment, which I totally didn't expect, but the lobster was SO big and delicious and not terribly expensive. We all had a great time there. Make a reservation though!!

A bunch o us on the carriage

Overall we had a great time and I got so much relaxing done (when I wasn't running!).We are all hoping to book another trip as soon as we can!

A coconut from this tree fell a foot from my head! Shade is dangerous down south

Monday, March 7, 2016

Marathon Training Week 7/8

There was no update last week because I was in CUBA soaking up some vitamin D and pina coladas! I will recap my trip later, but for now let's talk marathon training for the past couple weeks.

Total kilometers run: 326.1km
Week 7: 48.1km
Week 8: 51.6km

Week 7's runs:
Tuesday: 9.5km easy with sprints at end (6:28 min/km avg pace)
Wednesday: 10km tempo (I don't remember the average pace as it was on the treadmill)
Saturday: 6.8km easy (6:54 min/km avg pace)- IN CUBA!
Sunday: 22.5km steady (6:49 min/km avg pace)- IN CUBA!

Week 8's runs:
Wednesday: 9.5km easy with sprints at end (6:41 min/km avg pace)- IN CUBA!
Friday: 10km tempo (6:29 min/km avg pace)
Saturday: 8km easy (6:55 min/km avg pace)
Sunday: 24.1km steady (7:18 min/km avg pace)

What an exciting couple of weeks it has been! I did my first (and hopefully last) treadmill run of my training thus far. It was late because I was packing to leave for my trip the next day, and it was freezing rain out too. I was within an inch of not going at all when I reminded myself that I might be even lazier in Cuba and not do ANY of my three scheduled runs while I was there so I better do what I could before I left. So I went! and it was hot and boring and sucky...but I survived :)

Oh, and thank you for all the well wishes on my knee and shoulder from week 6! Everything healed up nicely!!

And then I left the cold and snowy Canada and flew off to Cuba for 6 days with my friend Ginny and her entire family!! We had SO much fun. And I actually stayed on track with my runs! I just would get up at 6:30am so I could head out around 7:00am since it was so hot and humid there. The first day Gin joined me for a bit of the run, but after that I ran solo. We were staying in Varadero, which is extremely safe and full of tourists. The only issue I ever had on my runs were stray dogs and hills! Oh those hills. My poor legs aren't used to them since Toronto is so flat. But the view sure helped keep me going. And the thought of my victory buffet/pina colada :)

Then it was back to Canada, which had gotten even more snow while I was away, making my runs a little slushy and cold. Sunday I decided to head east instead of my usual westwards and it was SO much more snowy. I ran probably 15km of my run literally through the snow. I am going to use that as the excuse for why I ran so slowly. My legs hurt!! But next week spring is supposed to suddenly hit, so this is probably the last snow run of the year!

And with that- I MADE IT THROUGH WINTER TRAINING!! Sure helps that it was one of the mildest winters ever and we had so little snow. But yay!! bring on the spring!!

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