CJ’s Lessons Learned – Biting Off More Than I Could Chew

As some of you know, I picked up running again in the spring of 2008 after almost twenty years away from it. After finishing Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner by Dean Karnazes, I was ready to start training for a 100 miler! No sweat, right? I remember how humbled I was after running 6 miles for the first time. After that outing along a treacherous Ohio highway shoulder, I decided to tone down the “100 mile zeal” a bit by signing up for a 50k trail race and a road marathon.

At this point, it was the end of April. The 50k trail race was scheduled for the third weekend in August and the road marathon would be the last weekend of September. Did I mention these would be the very first races I would be running after a 20 year running break? Let’s just skip the 5k, 5 mile, 10k, 10 mile, half-marathon, etc.

I weighed nearly 30 pounds more than I do now and had absolutely no clue what I was doing. No plan, no coach, no rhyme or reason in my training. Just head out the door and see what happens. I was a decent basketball player so I just figured I’d naturally get the hang of this running gig. How hard could it be?

Carnage on the Potawatomi Trail…

By the time the Silver Lake 50k arrived on August 23, the longest training run I had managed was 18 miles. Now I had to run 31 miles on one of the toughest trails in the Midwest…the vaunted “Poto” trail in Pinckney, Michigan. What’s another 13 miles?

When the gun fired at 7am it was 70 degrees with 80% humidity. There were over 40 brave souls who shuffled off into the woods and another 25 in the 50 mile race on the same trail. By the 18 mile mark (coincidence?) of this brutal course, I was a walking zombie. Turn out the lights, the party’s over. My legs refused to turn over any faster than a 13 minute-per-mile death shuffle over the last 10 miles. It’s a scary feeling to be in that kind of misery with so far to go.

5 hours 31 minutes later, I crossed the finish line in 92 degree heat with 85% humidity. I was thoroughly defeated and humbled. What are those famous words we utter after outings like these?

“Never again.”

Oh, but wait. Remember that road marathon I signed up for? It was now a month away and the dread washed over me as I anticipated it while slouched in a lawn chair. I’m not sure I ran one step during the week after the 50k. When would the soreness in my legs subside? Did I do permanent damage? Was the road marathon even an option?

After the Silver Lake 50k…Stick a fork in me, I’m fried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Carnage in Akron and Beyond…

September 27th arrived sooner than I would have liked. My body was still having a hard time forgiving me for what I had put it through the previous month. The gun fired and over 3,000 of us began our journey on the streets of Akron. My goal was to run a sub 3hr 30min race. Things were on pace until that mystical 18 mile mark (seeing a theme here?). It was then that I began to experience the dreaded cramping in the hamstrings.  “Nooo…not now!!”

I thought I’d done a fairly good job of fluid intake. Nonetheless, I was forced to pull over to the side of the road and stretch. At this point, both hamstrings began to seize up into grapefruit-sized knots and I was in shear agony. Seeing my discomfort, a kind police officer came over to see if he could help and offered me his bottle of water since I was between fluid stations. After what seemed like 10 minutes, I thanked him and began attempting to run. Imagine someone trying to run with two stiff, straight legs and you’ll have an accurate picture of what I must have looked like. Spectators probably gasped as I hobbled by. Haile Gebrselassie’s marathon world record (broken several times since then) was certainly safe on this day.

Eventually, my stride loosened up and the cramping eased, though not completely. It was a great feeling to finish inside the Akron University football stadium where thousands of friends & family members awaited their loved ones. After all was said and done, I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 45 minutes.

Again, I was humbled. Again, I uttered those famous post-race words…never again.  Did I learn my lesson? You be the judge…a few days later, I signed up for the November 6th Lithia Loop Trail Marathon in Ashland, Oregon. Again, I suffered. A few days after that race, I signed up for the December 5th Tecumseh Trail Marathon in Bloomington, Indiana. Again, I suffered…this time in 24 degree weather while running in 2-3 inches of fresh snow. Had my sanity returned after this outing? It took one more “pain and torture” fest before I finally got the hint. The race that finally broke me completely was the Way Too Cool 50k in Cool, California the following March. I sometimes refer to it as the Way Too “Cruel” 50k.

Lesson Learned…

Something finally sank in after running that last “cruel” race in March 2009. My training was not only woefully deficient but I wasn’t exposing my body to the kind of rigorous terrain I would encounter at many in these races. For example, I lived in Findlay, Ohio at the time where it’s flat as a pancake. The Way Too Cool 50k contains a significant amount of downhill that can grind a person’s quads into hamburger if they haven’t practiced downhill running. Sure enough, my quads were finished in that race by the halfway point. I simply didn’t have access to that kind of downhill terrain in NW Ohio.

From that point forward, I decided not to sign up for races in which I couldn’t properly train on similar course terrain & grade. I would do a much better job researching the course layout and knowing the specifics of things like fluid stations, course markings and elevation gain/loss. If I was going to continue this wonderful sport of running, I owed it to myself (and my body) to learn from my failures and also to glean knowledge and wisdom from more experienced runners.

A nutritional lesson learned…

In the Silver Lake 50k race, I broke one of the cardinal rules in the area of nutrition…

Thou shalt not introduce thy digestive system to a new food or drink on race day!

Have you ever looked inside your race bag of sponsor goodies and decided to try something in there for the first time…on race day? This is precisely what I did a few minutes before this torturous 50k was to begin. Inside the race bag, I found a Clif Shot “Double Espresso” flavored gel. I thought to myself, “Mmm, I need all the energy I can get going into this race.” I quickly downed the 100 calorie pouch and almost immediately felt the caffeine coursing through my veins. Unfortunately, my stomach would protest about 30 minutes later, having never experienced this flavor previously. Talk about high octane fuel!

It’s a good idea to stick with fueling sources that your body has been used to during training. It’s also a good idea to find out ahead of time what the aid stations in your races will offer in terms of food & fluid. If Gatorade will be served, you may want to practice using Gatorade in the weeks leading up to race day. How about gels? Will the race have GU? Hammer? Clif? Your other option would be to bring your own food or fluid of choice. Either way, try to eliminate as many surprises as possible on your big day. After all, you’ve trained too hard to have something like nutrition ruin your race.

May you never bite off more than you can chew…but if you do, may it digest well 🙂

 

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Juicing: A Great Way to Boost Nutrition Around the Holidays

Juicing itemsRecently, my wife and I watched the award-winning documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead for the second time since it released over 10 years ago. In the film, Joe Cross, an overweight Australian business man sets out to live on fresh fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days to see if he can reverse his autoimmune disease and get off all medications. Along the way, he inspires others to take on this juicing “reboot” as he refers to it. I won’t spoil it for you other than to say it’s a very well done film with valuable information, inspiration and humor along the way.

Needless to say, we were motivated to buy a Breville juicer afterward and begin our own one week juicing reboot. We started the Saturday after Thanksgiving in order to detox our bodies and reset the system. My wife’s goals were to lose a few stubborn pounds and also try alleviating some soreness she had been experiencing due to inflammation caused by diet. She also wanted to see if her allergies would clear up. As for me, I had added a few pounds I could stand to lose and I also wanted to increase my fruit & veggie intake and get my body craving those things daily. We were eating salads and some fruit on a weekly basis but we had also fallen into some bad habits with sweets and things like pizza (one of our weaknesses).

On any kind of fast, whether it’s a water or juicing fast, the first 3 days are always the worst. It’s during this time that the body is trying to figure out what’s happening. If you’ve been used to consuming loads of caffeine, alcohol or sugar, you better believe your body is going to demand those things. As a result of “starving these appetites”, it’s quite normal for people to experience mood swings, headaches, and even some sluggishness. We certainly experienced those things, although not too extreme. I had some minor headaches on days two and three due to refraining from my two cups of daily coffee. Shelley didn’t experience the headaches since she drinks mostly decaf teas. We both experienced the sluggishness and also some mental fog those first three days.

Turning a Corner

I would say we began to turn a corner on day number four. It’s not uncommon for many people to begin experiencing more mental clarity, energy bursts, and decreased craving for unhealthy foods. This was the case for us. Trust me…once you get past the first three to four days, you’re home free. Unfortunately, many people bail before they turn that corner due to the addicting nature of food. Another thing you can expect is sharper senses…sight, smell, taste, etc.

When a person consumes a glass of fresh juice, the stomach receives it as though it’s simply water. Without the extra fiber, fat and protein, the digestion system doesn’t need to send in all the extra tools it normally would to help digest those things. Yes, you get some natural sugar rush, but you also get a rush of nutrients flooding your system. Since the body isn’t working to digest anything, you get the bonus of feeling that extra energy almost immediately. I will say that bowel movements do change with each passing day. As the body detoxes those first few days, you can expect to visit the bathroom quite “regularly” as the body gets rid of the extra baggage. Once you’ve emptied your bowels (each person could vary in terms of the time it takes), the body will simply process the fresh juice as water and you’ll be mostly peeing.

In just one week, both Shelley & I experienced some nice results. I lost 8 pounds and she lost 7. Her allergies cleared up by day four. We came off of the juicing fast with a fresh desire to eat clean and significantly increase our fruit and veggie intake. Not only are we now beginning our day with a green juice but we also intend to do a 5-7 day juicing fast four times a year to cleanse and reboot our bodies.

What a privilege to have access to fresh fruit and vegetable produce all year round for juicing. If you have farmers markets in your area, take advantage of them as much as possible. It’s especially helpful to buy produce when it’s in season.

I highly recommend watching the free documentary and doing your own juicing reboot for at least 4-7 days. Doing something like this after the holidays would be especially beneficial and will launch you into 2018 with a bang!

Here’s to juicing…the legal way!

Below is a recipe we used quite often and now begin our day with:

“Mean Green” Juice

-1 cucumber

-4 celery stalks

-2 apples (Granny Smith or Gala)

-8 leaves of kale (curly or lacinato) with stalks

-1/2 lemon (remove outer peel)

-1 inch piece of fresh ginger

Makes a 20oz glass of fresh juice…cheers!

Don’t have time for juicing raw fruits & vegetables? I’m also a big fan of PerfectGreens by BodyHealth. In my opinion, this is the best-tasting green juice powder available with a sweet apple flavor. Each serving contains the daily recommended amount for fruit & veggies, all with the convenience of being juiced and ready to go! Whether you begin your day with a serving or incorporate it into your post-workout smoothie, you’re going to love it. Give it a try by using code HITZ10 for 10% off your next order.

CJ drinking juice

Caramel Apple Cool Down Smoothie

Caramel Apple Cool DownIf you’re a fan of caramel apples, this is a smoothie recipe you’ll want to try. This recipe also reminds me of the Caramel Apple Pops that Tootsie Roll makes…but with much healthier ingredients (and no weird chemicals added). Apples are a great source of dietary fiber which helps bind up waste throughout the body. Not only do they contain plenty of antioxidants but Granny Smith apples are slightly higher in potassium than other varieties. By the way, eat the skin (only if organic) also since it contains a high amount of vitamin content.

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 organic Granny Smith apple (cut into 4 pieces)

4 soaked and pitted Medjool dates

½ Cup raw  organic baby spinach

1 Tbsp. honey

1 scoop BodyHealth Perfect Greens Formula – apple flavor (use code HITZ10  for 10% off your order)

PerfectGreens is the best-tasting green juice powder on the market with a sweet apple flavor. Each serving contains the daily RDA for fruit & veggies, with the juicing done for you! Give it a try today

Perfect Greens Formula

 

 

 

 

 

2-3 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients until smooth

*Training Tip

Similar to a warm-up, a cool down is essential after a hard workout or race in order to loosen muscles and help rid the body of lactic acid. I generally like to do a solid 1-2 miles of very easy running post-race or workout. A cool down will allow your next run to feel even better!

CocoMint Christmas Cheer Smoothie

Christmas smoothieBaby, it’s cold outside! But smoothies can be enjoyed all year round. Here’s a seasonal smoothie recipe from my book Smoothies For Runners 2.0.

This is a great recipe to bring out during the Christmas season with mint being a constant theme. The fresh peppermint leaves will ensure that this is technically a green smoothie. Peppermint has long been shown to be a remedy for indigestion or an upset stomach. This herb also aids in breathing (a benefit for runners) and can help relieve symptoms of colds related to allergy. Take a deep breath and enjoy!

Ingredients

1 cup vanilla or chocolate coconut milk, depending on your
preference
8 fresh mint leaves
1 frozen ripe banana
1 scoop Garden of Life® Smooth Vanilla Organic Plant Protein
1-2 drops Peppermint oil extract (optional for stronger mint
lovers)

Blend all ingredients until smooth

*Training Tip

For whatever reason (weather perhaps?), many people seem to have the idea that a good time to take it easy with training is around the holidays. In my opinion, this isn’t always smart. Not that you have to train like a maniac during this stretch but it’s a good idea to still stay consistent. Slacking off too much will lead to a loss of heart (cardio fitness) and an increase in weight. We all know it takes a lot longer to gain that precious fitness than it does to lose it. It also takes more effort to lose those stubborn pounds than it does to gain them.

It’s really easy to get out of our routines around the holidays but staying consistent in our exercise habits can help us stay strong mentally and physically. My wife knows how important my daily run is to my overall state of mind and gladly sends me out the door.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good run!

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