Life, post-Elimination Diet

It’s Christmas morning and I am cross-eyed and drooling in the Denver airport with two hours to go until my flight. I got up at 2:30 a.m. in order to catch the shuttle from Laramie. $90 less in my pocket for that.

Now that the gluttony of Christmas eating is upon us, I feel freshly compelled to sum up my #foodjourney experience, which came to its rightful (if not somewhat hasty) conclusion about a week ago.

I could have stretched the damn thing out and kept studying everything from tomatoes to walnuts, but after identifying what I felt were the more common allergens and suspects, I focused on those and gave more thought to my eating habits as a whole.

IMG_20141206_193527

Wheat dinner : Cauliflower alfredo, salmon, and avocado spread

So, to be entirely anti-climactic, I pinpointed NOTHING as the enemy food. Which is all fine and honestly what I was expecting. BUT I still learned plenty about what my stomach doesn’t tolerate, and that is valuable information.

I took semi-regular notes as I went through each reintroduction and monitoring period (some of them were downright uneventful), but the details aren’t interesting or important to anyone.

Here is how I proceeded:

  1. Soy
  2. Peanuts
  3. Dairy
  4. Wheat/gluten
  5. Corn
  6. Alcohol
  7. Beans
  8. Coffee

Confession: by the time I got to the last item, I basically declared the whole thing over with and went through no monitoring period. Reason: we decided to go to Fort Collins for a day and I was not going to miss out on beer and bar food. SORRY NOT SORRY.

BINGO

BINGO

I figure I’ll just steer clear of coffee, then? (Edit: already failing)

So after all that work, what the heck did I conclude?

For one: a clear preference for plant-based, whole foods eating. Which is how I eat for the most part (Colorado beer festivals and holidays aside) when I have regular cash flow* and ample time on my hands.

*as opposed to opting for thrifty purchases like canned vegetarian chili and marinara sauce

Check out this book for plant-based recipes and a crash course on plant-based health!

Check out this book for plant-based recipes and a crash course on plant-based health!

I can attest that in the one week since completing my challenge and promptly “letting myself go” in the *spirit* of the holiday season {peer pressure}, I feel awful. I spent a 36-hour period chowing down on bar food, beer, and cookies & ice cream and STILL went out to eat Mexican food three days later and lemme tell ya that was not enough time to recover from the first poor eating incidence(s) before doing it again and I shamefully admit I almost threw up TWICE in those THREE days from overeating while out on the town….

…. elimination diet….what’s that?

Thus,

RULE #1: Eat mostly plant-based, whole foods for optimum feel-good-not-sick-ness.

RULE #2: Minimize overeating (and by extension, eating out – although I can really gorge myself on kale salad and that causes intestinal fireworks of its own.)

Portion control

Example 1: portion control

So these “rules” really aren’t so much about what I learned in the elimination diet as they are things I generally know to be true about good eating habits and health, and which certainly everyone else knows to be true as well (whether wanting to admit it or not). Because yeah no shit – who doesn’t feel like garbage after binging on mustard pretzel bites and giant pizzas?? Mind not blown.

But eating like shit really pisses on your motivation, energy levels, and work ethic. Running has felt like an awkward, uncoordinated slug-fest, whereas a month ago I felt weightless and nimble. It’s hard to run comfortably after a weekend of drinking and eating my weight in beer and fried food. Fuck it’s hard to sit on the fucking couch and watch Family Guy comfortably.

As far as the actual foods are concerned (intense details omitted for readers’ sakes) …

I had the most “adverse” effects (ranging from “backed up” to “shit storm”) from dairy and coffee. Beans behaved a lot like my kale salads (gurgle). And soy produced a lot of {harmless} flatulence. But after looking at the bigger picture and pulling from previous experiences, I can sum up a general prescription for eating these foods.

RULE(S) #3-7: Limit dairy. Limit intake of peanuts and beans before workouts. Severely reduce caffeine consumption, particularly before workouts. Routinely eat a variety of whole grains. Avoid excessive fat and oil intake, especially at night or before workouts.

Limiting dairy is dogmatic of me, I admit. Since reading The China Study in September, I severely cut back on my dairy intake, and I plan to keep it minimal.

I liked exploring gluten-free grains (buckwheat groats are unusual but tasty), and there are plenty of other grains to get acquainted with besides wheat. Whole grains are delicious – nutty and chewy – and very diverse. I plan to keep mixing things up and will try to avoid too many refined grains and pastas. I will confirm that gluten-free grains are easy to digest (even shortly before running), but I found no need or desire to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle.

The fat/oil part occurred to me after going a little overboard with the coconut oil and avocado (in one sitting). Fats take longer to digest, so it may be worth limiting oil consumption before running and at night (and eating a whole avocado is probably not considered moderate… just a guess).

Trying new things: cherimoya

Trying new things: cherimoya

That’s it, folks. Keep up (and improve upon) a plant-based, whole foods diet with plenty of variety in grains, moderate fat intake, and limited dairy and caffeine. For me, working out earlier on a relatively empty stomach might also be part of a winning combination.

What now? I have a gazillion recipes to add. I’m actually dreading it. I intend to continue blogging my recipes occasionally (as opposed to exhaustively), with more focus on developing my own creations (as opposed to rating things from Veg Times). Stay tuned…

 

 

[Edit: finally posted 4 days after Christmas, just hours before another cross-country airport drool-fest]

 

When life hands you sour lemons…

This is a reminder to myself. A personal sticky-note on the bathroom mirror. A dog-eared page in the runner’s bible.

Setbacks happen and they can be unexpectedly necessary.

I am half-way through my recovery month. A month that has intentionally prescribed lower mileage and required no workouts. A month scheduled for base mileage.

Two days ago, I hit the ground. Literally. My bike tires skidded over a patch of ice and both knees smacked the frosty surface. I recovered myself instantaneously, numbed as much by embarrassment and shock as by the icy contact. Within hours, my left knee was stiff and aching. In my attempt to catch my fall, I must have planted my foot so firmly on the ground that my knee hyper-extended and buckled before I ultimately collapsed anyway.

The next day I was cringing to bend the joint. I scratched my head about how to reach my mileage for the week and cursed myself for wasting my day off on the day I had the accident.

And then I let go. 

Who cares about 25 miles this week or 5 miles today or tomorrow? During a month where I imagined myself putting in more hours cross-training than running, how had I suddenly gotten so caught up in monotonous miles?

Instead, I went to the gym and pedaled the stationary bike and enjoyed a weekend morning yoga class.

Now I feel refreshed, my knee has loosened up, and in hindsight I am grateful for the excuse not to run. Yes. Grateful.

Sometimes we need breaks and don’t realize it. Sometimes we think we are giving ourselves a break but really aren’t. Sometimes we need horse accidents and bike accidents and colitis to stop us in our tracks.

Sometimes, a step back yields two steps forwards.

My shins were a little tender, my form a little sloppy, and my mind a little fatigued. I was marching, head down, towards a brick wall. Then today I ran a slow, short teaser. I was healed. I allowed myself an extra day off, and my body and mind had rebuilt themselves.

Do not curse unexpected setbacks. Embrace them for allowing you to pause and check your surroundings. Run away with the opportunity to try an alternative activity or simply rest an extra day. I guarantee you will bounce back stronger and smarter.

When life hands you sour lemons, add some sugar and make sweet, sweet lemonade.

 

What it’s Worth: Turkey Trot Race Recap

When my alarm went off around 5 am on Thanksgiving morning, I considered the task ahead and almost rolled over to go back to sleep. I went to bed late and slept poorly, and was now faced with an hour+ drive to get to Fort Collins, where upon arrival I’d have the great pleasure of chalking up $50 for a race, and then, finally, there was the race itself. I spent several moments having a furious debate in my head. Worth it? Would I regret not racing? I answered yes to both questions and rose, phantom-like, out of bed.

I have skipped races before. Several of them I had already signed up for. It is an awful feeling of selfishness and defeat to turn off the alarm and return to sleep. I always seem to wake up around start time and feel the pangs of guilt that I skipped out instead of answering to a challenge.

But I have run most of the races that I set out to run. And yes, sometimes that alarm feels a little too early, and going through race-day prep is the last thing I want to do in the pre-dawn light of a weekend morning. But the reward is accomplishing the task. Throwing down and crossing a finish line is a high that lasts the rest of the day week. Considering I am not a morning runner, getting a race in – and all the prep work – before most folks have had their weekend cup-o-joe is nothing short of remarkable. Bottom line: I have never regretted showing up.

I made hot cereal and pulled on my kit. My bag was packed and my post-race snacks prepared. The boyf rallied shortly after 6, and by 6:30 we were in the car.

Turn down for what?! Already worth it.

Turn down for what?! Already worth it. I see very few sunrises lately.

As soon as we parked the car in Old Town Fort Collins, we both looked at each other and said, “Yeah, we really need to come down here more often.” Okay… definitely glad we made the trip.

Pre-race boozing at the bar jkjkjk

Pre-race boozing at the bar jkjkjk

I registered and picked up my bib in this new bar on College and set out to start my warm up. It was still chilly, a little hazy, and the streets were wet and slick. I couldn’t decide between shorts and pants… turns out I could’ve gone with shorts, but I would rather overheat slightly over 4 miles than pull something.

I headed to the start line and ran into Roost teammates and former co-worker M! Good to see familiar faces. I lined up in the “elitist” wave (the announcer kept calling it that, so I guess we were all a bunch of snobs?) with every member of the Boulder Track Club and a host of other Colorado superstars like Scott Dahlberg.

As the announcer starting counting down the start, I muttered to myself, “Just chill.”

My attack plan was simple. Keep it conservative during the first half (uphill) and save the higher gears for the end of the race (downhill) to avoid burnout. I was slightly thrown off by the 4-miler (I thought it was a 5k until about a week before the race), and I ran, like, two 6ks in college. Anyway, I often struggle with “going out too fast” in 5ks, but the Old Bill’s race proved to me how much will be left in the tank if the first mile is the slowest.

I had settled for 6:20 pace to start. I figured I was in sub-19 shape for a 5k, but this 4-mile was really messing with my head. And I was confused about whether the 2000ft elevation drop from Laramie to Fort Collins would matter. Anyway, my real goal was to shoot for sub-25.

The first two miles clocked around 6:18 and 6:15, and they felt smooth. The course was indeed uphill. I knew I had it in me to run faster, but I was worried what mile 4 would be like if I picked it up. Conservative.

Half-way through the race I started changing gears, which was easy since it was moderately downhill. I held a steady 6:00 pace, nice and controlled.

It was a long stretch down Mountain Ave. during the second half of the race. My shoes were slipping on the dewy roads, but I tried not to worry about keeping perfect form – I just wanted to avoid eating shit. I hit mile 3 around 18:45, and I passively wondered what kind of all-out 5k I could’ve put in judging by the effort of today’s race.

I continued to pick up the pace as the familiar “end of the game” sensations came into play. Back struggling not to arch, forearms becoming tight with lactic acid, legs turning rubbery. I was hovering under 6:00 pace before I stopped watching and started competing. I was picking off some people, but in particular I had my eyes on coworker M, on whom I had been slowly gaining down Mountain. “Get him.” I closed the gap between us, but turns out he had a kick left too and I didn’t catch him. I finished seconds behind him. My last mile was a 5:45.

This wasn’t one of those races where the competitive thrill was a game-changer. I wasn’t bound to win this race. The glory and satisfaction from this race came from a solid execution of pace and strategy over a distance I am not familiar with. There was some competitive drive in the last mile or so, but I was racing against myself first and foremost. This wasn’t Old Bills.

My official time would be 24:26 – well under the 25:00 goal I had in mind. I mused to myself on the way home that I probably could’ve dipped under 24:00, but like I said I was playing conservatively at the beginning, and I think that paid off well. My watch split me 6:05 average pace, and perhaps I could have hit 6:10s for the first two miles and shaved those 26 seconds off. Hey – it doesn’t really matter.

Here’s the Strava page for my race – yes my Garmin tried to power off right when the gun went off, so I lost about 5 seconds of data while I was resetting it.

What excited me the most was the realization that I bettered my 6k PR in this race. Of all the can-count-them-on-one-hand XC races I finished in college, the best I ever ran over 6k was about 24:30. Which I can confidently say is not a good time. I did the math – during this race I hit 6k somewhere around 22:40, which would be an eye-brow-raising D-III time (truly excellent would be under 22-minutes, but my lack of really caring about XC has me going “but who’s counting?”) #nerdalert!

I wrapped up my cool down, and the boyf and I sat in the bar with some Roost friends for a bit. Neither of us was in any rush, and I was driving so I enthusiastically encouraged him to drink. (Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a fucking beer in Colorado, but this damn elimination diet…)

Sometime around noon, we loaded up the car and drove back up the street to Laramie. Then a full day of feasting began, including my soy reintroduction (for another post).

Just a teaser... Homemade soy nog in a pint glass and pumpkin bread with vegan cream cheese//no haters

Just a teaser… Homemade soy nog in a pint glass and pumpkin bread with vegan cream cheese//no haters

This week, I am happily enjoying “off season.” I forced myself to finish at 30 miles last week, and then I took two days totally off. Like, gluttonous-sleeping-in-and-napping-later-too off.

My plan for this week is “minutes, not miles”… I’m aiming for the equivalent of 29-30 miles in minutes. I couldn’t care less if I only run 10 miles this week (almost there) as long as I get in several hours of cross-training. I spent an hour at the gym earlier this week and I have been biking around town. Any runs are easy efforts (although it’s crazy how hard “30 easy” feels), and I am ditching the long run this week.

Here are those   bike   rides … Yes, you can travel the ENTIRETY of Laramie in an hour by bike.

To rack up bragging points, I researched equivalent race times over other distances based on the turkey trot.

1500 m 5:03.3 3:22.2 5:25.4
1 mile 5:27.7 3:23.6 5:27.7
3000 m 10:49.6 3:36.5 5:48.5
2 miles 11:41.2 3:37.8 5:50.6
5K 18:43.5 3:44.7 6:01.6
8K 30:41.5 3:50.2 6:10.4
10K 38:48.9 3:52.9 6:14.8
10 miles 1:04:18.5 3:59.8 6:25.8
20K 1:21:07.2 4:03.4 6:31.6
Half marathon 1:25:53.4 4:04.3 6:33.1
30K 2:05:03.8 4:10.1 6:42.5
Marathon 2:59:13.1 4:14.8 6:50.1

From this neat website Running Calculator! (WARNING: may cause excitement)

And by extension… 5k equivalents at other altitudes…

sea level 18:22.6 3:40.5 5:54.9
1000 ft (305 m) 18:26.8 3:41.4 5:56.3
2000 ft (610 m) 18:31.0 3:42.2 5:57.6
3000 ft (914 m) 18:35.2 3:43.0 5:58.9
4000 ft (1219 m) 18:39.4 3:43.9 6:00.3
5000 ft (1524 m) 18:43.6 3:44.7 6:01.6

Man, I wanna go to sea-level soooobaddddd.

I know I know don’t get carried away by races that have never happened. Time predictions are meaningless unless you train to show up and race it. But it’s motivating. When the time comes to start training again, I will set out to own some of those race times this year. Uncovering potential… now that’s a reason to race… any day.

Moral of the story: after considering bailing on myself, I showed up to race, accomplished my goal, and had something to thank myself for afterwards. #thanksgiving