Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Athlete's Form of Therapy

I'm currently in Oklahoma (as most of you know), celebrating the Christmas and New Year festivities with my husband's family, and enjoying the break from the daily humdrum of life. I wrote last week about holiday reflections and making the most of seasonal holidays to appreciate the brief moments we get to spend with family and loved ones.

This concept was really driven home however when I met a wonderful group of women last weekend, who let me join them on their long twenty mile run. I had established contact with this group before we even arrived in Oklahoma, but during the days preceding our meeting I was informed via email that one of the women from this close-knit group had most recently suffered a terrible loss.

From left to right: Rae Ann, Tonya, Me, Geni, Kyong
 This particular member, whom I had the privilege of meeting and running with, lost her sixteen year old son in a terrible car wreck on December 16th. Her friends had emailed to tell me what had happened so that I would at least be aware of the situation when I met them all for the first time.

I can't tell you how heavy my heart felt when I read the news; I hadn't even met Tonya but my heart ached for her. I thought about my own daughters and tried to imagine spending a Christmas without them; I couldn't do it. And then I asked myself how this woman Tonya, whom I had not yet met, could bring herself to run twenty miles just one week after her son's death and just one day after his funeral.

It took just a short time in her company, and that of her friends, to find the answer to my question. As I ran with one of the women, whose name was Geni, she shared with me some details about the kind of woman Tonya is. She described a woman with a huge amount of faith, strength, kindness, and humility.

At Tonya's home, after the funeral, Geni said she hugged her friend and expressed her condolences, and was shocked (for a brief moment), when Tonya enquired after Geni's ill father. Geni explained that it shouldn't have surprised her at all that Tonya would show genuine concern for someone else in the midst of her own suffering. "That's just the kind of person Tonya is," said Geni.

As we ran past St Gregory's cathedral, a beautiful historical landmark in Shawnee, Geni quickly turned the group around when we were almost at Airport Road, the road on which Tonya's son had crashed his car and died. Tonya quietly nodded her head in agreement, then suggested an alternative route.

We continued to run and talk, and for a couple of miles I listened to Geni and Tonya share stories about Tonya's son Taylor, and the fun and cheerful boy that he was. I kept quiet, but all the while I was silently amazed at Tonya's ability to keep herself together, and even smile and laugh as memories were exchanged.

I remembered at that point the words one of Tonya's friends had said in her email to me. Tonya's close friend Meredith had emailed to tell me that despite the tragic circumstances, Tonya still planned to join us on the long run. "An athlete's form of therapy," is how she described Tonya's reasoning for continuing to run.

I'm not sure many people would understand this way of thinking, but Tonya's circle of running friends certainly understood it, and as I ran with them all I completely understood it too. Running is a gift for those of us who enjoy it, providing therapy in so many ways. It provides relief on stressful days, joy when a little bit of cheer is needed to brighten the day, and on occasion, it also helps to provide healing for an ailing mind or body.

Last weekend, while running with Tonya and her friends, I witnessed the healing power of running in its entirety. I had the privilege of meeting a group of women whose friendship has been sealed by a mutual love of running, and I saw how they all rallied together, using running as a medicinal healer to help soothe the wounds of a grieving heart.

Meredith hit the nail on the head when she said that running is an athlete's form of therapy! But when you combine that with the support of close friends who understand the running pysche, the healing effect is multiplied.

I'm so grateful that I am a runner, and I am so grateful that some of my closest friends are also runners. I'm also grateful that I met Tonya and her friends; these women (and guys) inspired me to no end, and showed me what a powerful thing it is when you combine running, friendship, and courage!

I was fortunate to get one more long run in with this great group!
From left to right/back row: Geni, Brandon, Chad
From left to right/front row: Meredith, Rita, Me, Kyong, Tonya

My thoughts and prayers go out to Tonya and her family, as they continue to grieve for Taylor and attempt to start a new year without him.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Reflections - Taking a Break from Life and Running

I have a confession to make ladies - I was reluctant to come to Oklahoma this Christmas! Not because it meant spending time with my in-laws, but because I had fallen into a cycle of " busy-ness," with a daily " to-do" list that my A-Type personality demanded I try and conquer every day (Carey Clark-Hicks pointed out my A-Type personality trait at the Tinsel Trot 10k, when I, and a few of my WOOT companions, weasled our way up towards the front of the start line to ensure a good racing position).

During the days and weeks leading up to our trip, I tried hard to keep a positive attitude, but I found myself often making snippy remarks to those I'm close to; remarks that implied how much of an inconvenience the timing of our trip was, or remarks about how horribly cold it is in Oklahoma, or dare I say it, even remarks about how our trip was going to interfere with and set me back in my marathon training!

Considering how negative my mindset was the morning we left for the airport, I was not prepared for the pleasant turn of events that lay ahead. One thing about taking a vacation is that you can no longer control the life that you momentarily leave behind. Ordinarily I would consider that a bad thing, just as I did prior to leaving for Oklahoma, but surprisingly it's turned out to be a good thing.

Waking up each morning with no agenda, except to spend time with my family, has forced me to stop and reflect on the things that matter most in life. It's not too often that I take the time to indulge in a little " down" time and enjoy being with my family. Yes, we're together most days, and we talk and do and share things together, but I'm not sure we always appreciate being together.

I haven't completely put everything aside on this trip; I've managed to get a few runs in, and obviously I'm tapping away on the keyboard right now, like I would back home, but for the most part I'm allowing myself the opportunity to filter out the toxic remnants of my busy lifestyle and replace them instead with the creation of new family memories that will be treasured for a lifetime.

With Christmas on the back side of us now, and a new year waiting to greet us, I hope this post will encourage you to slow the pace down a little too, and enjoy the brief time spent at home or abroad with loved ones. It took a trip to Oklahoma for me to regroup my thoughts and realize that the world won't come to an end if I don't accomplish all my tasks, and that school holidays are actually a time that should be embraced with an attitude of joy and gratefulness.

I also now realize that my sometimes compulsive behavior, which drives me to work hard and stay busy, is a trait that needs to be kept in check if I want my family life to be healthy. If I strive hard to maintain a healthy mind and body, then it follows that I should try to do the same when it comes to my family.

With that in mind, I want to remember this holiday when all of next year's holidays roll around; I want to remember so that I can fill my mind with all the reasons why life needs to be put on hold every once in a while. If it weren't for these brief holiday interludes, it would be so easy to fall into a rut and start taking the time we spend with our children and spouses for granted.

So on that note, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas from myself and my family here in Oklahoma! And to those of you who have your children, spouses, and other family members home with you for the holiday season, I wish you all a time of great peace and happiness together.

Enjoying watching the girls decorate the tree with their grandma

Monday, December 19, 2011

Running through those winter blues

I ran for the first time last week in a long-sleeved top, and it symbolized for me what I most despise: the stinging cold of winter! I've since been able to revert back to tshirts, but I know I have to face the inevitable and accept that it's only a matter of days now before I am going to have to break out my cold-weather running gear.

Not only do I hate cold weather (if there were such a thing as a "cold weather allergy" I'm sure I'd be diagnosed with it), but I also don't care too much for the negative pyschological effect that sometimes accompanies it. In other words, I don't like that I lose my motivation to get up and run when it's wet, cold and dark outside!

Winter, for me, brings with it a "slow" switch that seems to turn on inside of me and bring everything to a grinding halt, my enthusiasm and metabolism, included! I not only gain a few extra pounds, which makes me feel slow and heavy, but I also find that my slow and heavy self no longer finds it easy to get out of bed in the mornings.

I remember training for both a marathon and an ultramarathon during the winter months last year, and feeling depressed at times because I had committed to the training but had no desire to run on those wet and windy days. Winter hasn't even really begun here in Okinawa and yet I have already started experiencing those winter-time blues. I know however, that despite the physical and mental discomfort that will continue to plague me during the cold months ahead, I will somehow manage to  get up most mornings and run.

For those of you who also have trouble staying motivated during the winter, here's a few things that I do to help me get moving each day:

  • Buddy-Up: planning your weekly runs with a friend (singular) makes you accountable to someone and forces you to keep your running date. Notice how I said "friend (singular)," that was intentional. If you make plans to meet with just one friend, chances are you won't want to leave her hanging in the dark if you've agreed to meet early in the morning. If you plan to run with a group of friends however, it's much easier to skip out on the run because you can easily justify your absence by telling yourself that you won't really be missed.
Be careful who you buddy up with though - she might drag you up and over LOTS of hills!

  • Hit the treadmill: It's a last resort I know, but when there's a heavy downpour with no sign of it letting up, the next best thing is the treadmill. I find running on a treadmill terribly boring, but if I absolutely have to run on a treadmill I will almost always opt to do some type of speedwork. Doing an interval workout on the treadmill can actually be both fun and challenging. You can do a tempo run for example: do a slow couple of warm-up miles, then increase the speed and run at race pace for three miles, then cool down with a slow mile; or try doing 4 x 1 mile repeats with 4 minutes recovery between each mile, and a warm-up and a cool-down mile at the beginning and end. You'll be surprised at how quickly the time passes.

  • Be Flexible: If it's at all possible, try to be flexible and have an "open window" of time in which you are able to fit in your runs. There are mornings I wake up and I simply feel too cold to get out of bed, or it's raining hard and the thought of getting all my miles in under a steady shower of rain drops just doesn't appeal. On those days, I allow myself to go back to sleep for a while and I settle for a later-morning run, either outside if the rain has stopped, or on the treadmill at Risner. And if I have other obligations during the day, then I might shut down that window of time and reopen it later in the afternoon, for example while my youngest is in karate class and I have a free hour while I'm waiting for her. Granted, I'd much rather run in the morning but sometimes an afternoon or evening run might be my only option.

  • Cross-Train: If you're not training for a race but merely running through the winter to maintain your weight and fitness, cross-training is a great way to break the monotony and kick-start your will to exercise. Now is the time to start mixing up your running routine by cutting back your run days and doing other forms of exercise that you find enjoyable - spin classes, for example, or yoga, or how about some zumba to spice things up a little! Or how about starting a boot camp that focuses on resistance training; runners tend to neglect doing any form of strength work and yet for females, resistance training is paramount to maintaining good bone density and preventing osteoporosis as we get older.

  • Reverse the Situation: I often resort to a bit of reverse psychology whenever I'm tempted to pass on my run and take a day off; I do this by reminding myself what I will feel like later on in the day if I don't run. I know this sounds like a cliche, but I often feel like I really was "born to run." From as far back as I can remember, I loved more than anything the invigorating feeling I experienced whenever I ran, and which I still experience today. So even though there are days when I don't feel like getting out of bed and running, I know that the feeling I'll experience later in the day from having not run, will be far worse than the discomfort and lack of motivation that temporarily hits me first thing in the morning. And I also know that my family appreciates (and likes) me much more when I get out and run - that helps to motivate me too!
Marivel posted about these tshirts a few days ago - so true what it says! I think my husband would order one of these for me if he knew about them. Heck, I may as well order one myself! They're available, by the way, at

One more thing I want to say - when a new training cycle begins and I start ramping up the mileage, there are days when I feel as if I literally can't get up and run. If you find that your training starts to get a little intense and your body starts to pull back the reins and slow you down, it could be that your body is trying to tell you that you actually do need a day off. This is a classic sign of overtraining and you'd be wise to try and discern if the sluggishness you're feeling is more than just general fatigue. I'll talk more about overtraining in a future post, but for now, the best advice I can offer is to use common sense and be kind to your body (now if I could just learn to take my own advice......). 

FYI: It's already gotten much colder since I wrote this last week!!!

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Destination Races

    By Anna Boom

    Have you considered traveling to your next race? There are many, many, many lovely running races all over the world for you to try.

    A few of us WOOTers have done exactly this. The first destination race was just a, hey let me run this by you idea, by Kathleen Lennard. And the first destination race she chose for us to do together? Sunrise to Sunset or S2S Trail Ultra/Marathon. In. Mongolia. Yes, a place I had never desired to travel to, popped up on my radar for the excitement of the unknown. I began to wonder, could I do it? Could I run 100Km (the ultra distance), could I get to Mongolia and did I want to run there?

    The answer was a quadruple yes!

    As a wife and mother of two little ones, who were 3 and 5 at the time, I knew I would be traveling there alone. There was no way this was going to be the summer Disney family vaca in California. I asked my hubby what he thought of me running in Mongolia with some of my friends. Hunh? Why Mongolia and then, No. He was nervous about me going there and then when he found out it was an ultra trail run, a quadruple NO. His image was of me running lost in unknown place, not able to ever find my way home. It makes sense in that I didn't know the language, anything yet about the culture, didn't know anyone that had traveled there before. And where exactly is Mongolia again?

    After a few days of gentle persuasion and discussion, I was given the go-ahead. Yay! I think. I emailed my friends and found out, they too, were all in. Here is where I reference a quote to emphasize the value of friendship: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." C.S. Lewis

    Our plans set quickly in motion with 7 of us women (Kathleen bringing her two teenage daughters) traveling to Mongolia to run a trail ultra or marathon. Two of us signed up for the 100Km Ultra distance and started running early Saturday and Sunday mornings. I mean early too; Andrea and I were out at 0415 some mornings and would be out all morning. We do this now too when training for our next marathon or ultra. We will wake up and meet before WOOT on Saturday morning, get some mileage, run with our lovely running friends and get all that happy energy, then finish with more mileage. Great way to get our long run in.

    With our training done, we all traveled over and met in Ulan Bataar with the race coordinator. The great part of some of the more exotic destination races, is that everything is done for you, for the most part. Once we arrived, the S2S folks took care of us. They told us to be at the hotel lobby and shuttled us to the airport, where we flew over the beautiful, desolate lands of Mongolia. Not a tree in sight the entire way. Then we grabbed our bags and got into vans, the type that are set up for four-wheeling over paths that have been driven many years but are not paved or even maintained. Those inclined to motion sickness did not fare well, especially after the prop flight we just took. It was a grueling 4 hour ride to the camp, located in a National park, on the banks of Hovsgol Lake.

    After arriving at camp, we were kindly greeted by the other race coordinators and assigned our sleeping tent, called a yurt. All racers and their crews stayed in this same camp together before, during and after the race. It was like summer camp for adults and was a blast. People came from all over the world to run this race and we all had that in common. We spent our time chatting, learning about the other amazing people there and relaxing. The camp also offered other activities such as ride Mongolian horses, go mountain bike riding, or hike and run the trails.

    The race was gorgeous and we all did great, but the best part was spending time with my girlfriends again, much like the slumber parties I loved as a girl. Remember your first slumber party, when you thought the girlfriends around you would always be your best friends? We spent more than one night, giggling about boys we thought were cute (Jason Statham!) and enjoying time together.

    Second best was seeing a whole new place, and learning about the Mongolian culture.

    Mongolia Campsite
    Since then, we have also traveled to New Zealand together and then to Portland, Oregon.

    One of the bonuses of traveling overseas is you sometimes meet some great runners; we met Barefoot Ted in New Zealand (read the book Born To Run if you've never heard of him)

    Happy to be reunited with our fellow WOOTER Amy Hester - in Portland
    Where is our next journey? Any suggestions?

    I have to agree with Anna; traveling and running in other countries with great girlfriends is a wonderful experience! Granted, it's not possible for everyone, especially those with children, but if you can make it happen, it's a fantastic way to reward yourself for all of the hard work you do as a runner, a mother, and a wife. (Jannine Myers)

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    The 2011 WOOT Christmas Gift Guide

    Post by Jannine Myers

    If you google " Holiday Gift Guide For Runners," you will inevitably find several websites that have published a list of gift recommendations for runners. I love checking out lists such as these, not because I want to get online and start buying everything that's listed, but because every now and again I come across a clothing or accessory item that might actually become one of my favorites.

    With that in mind, I decided to enlist the help of some fellow WOOT gals and compile a list of running essentials and favorites that might help you find that "special" item too. But first, here's a little piece of advice - if you do happen to see something you like, I suggest that you do one of two things: a) leave your laptop screen open on the page of the item you like, and then position your laptop where it might "accidentally" be viewed  or b) write down the name and details of the item with a memo that says, "Add to Wishlist," and then leave the note lying around where a certain significant other might just stumble upon it. I'm just saying.......

    Getting back to the list, here is our 2011 WOOT Christmas Gift Guide:

    1. Running skirts are of course a running girl's best friend, especially if you're a WOOT girl. In the summer months you've seen us sporting skirts from Runningskirts, SportSkirts, and Nike. With the colder months approaching, there's no reason why we still can't get out there in skirts - here are a few great running skirts with longer capri and even ankle length tights underneath:

    Nike Womens On The Go Skirt - $65

    Under Armour Womens Skapri - $65

    RunningSkirts Subzero skirts - $88

    Runningskirts Capri Skirts - $72

    2. Hats - we ALL love our hats, well most of us anyway. Here's a couple you might like: the first one is a favorite of one of our original WOOT members, Tiffany Powell - the Lululemon Womens Speedy Run Hat - $32. See the little zip pocket on the side? It's just large enough to tuck your car key or door key into - so convenient!


    The second hat is from Bondiband; all of their hats and headbands are made from a special wicking fabric that absorbs sweat and keeps you dry.
    Bondi Wicking Ponytail Hats - $20

    3. Now that it's starting to get cooler, it's time to lose the larger hydration packs and multiple-bottle fuel belts, and slim down to the smaller handheld single bottles. Anna Boom and Karla Armes both like the Amphipod Hydraform Handheld 20oz. bottle ($17.95); it comes with a handy storage pouch that can hold a key, ID, and a gel packet.

    4. While out running with a good friend recently, I was feeling a little chilled and my friend was kind enough to give up his arm sleeves so I could get warm. Since I already own several pairs of arm sleeves, I had an expectation of what the borrowed pair would feel like, but I was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly warm and comfortable these particular ones felt (these will be going on my wishlist for sure - thank you Mark Busam): Mizuno Breath Thermal Arm Sleeves (and Gloves) - $23.95

    5. I'm pretty sure you're all moving on now from the compression sock and calf sleeve craze, but let me throw out one final pitch: Zensah Calf Sleeves ($40 pair) feel absolutely wonderful after a long run or a half or full marathon; I wear them for recovery all the time and they are super comfortable, not to mention cute. They also come in various colors, including pink, red, orange, and bright yellow. Oh, and they were also voted "Runners World Best Gear."

    6. Winter thermal and wool apparel doesn't seem necessary here in Okinawa, but some of us (ahem, girls like me), feel the cold more than others and really do need to layer up in warmer running clothes. Josaline Curry recommends Nike's range of cold weather gear: here's a couple of their items:

    Nike Element Thermal Pant ($65) - these are a relaxed fit made from a thicker fabric to really protect you from the cold.

    Nike Wool Dri-FIT Half Zip ($80) - made from a blend of wool and moisture-wicking Dry-FIT fabric, to keep you both warm and dry.

    7. If my feet are cold, the rest of my body feels cold! I was introduced to the Balega range of socks last winter and love them! Made from Merino Wool ($12), they are warm and comfortable:
    Balega Merino Enduro Quarter Socks

    8. And last but not least, our very own WOOT TShirts and Tote Bags. Bet you didn't notice this before, but our WOOT models share the same pose (think they might be related??)

    Not being biased (okay, maybe just a little) - but every female in my family (that would be three), owns one of these super cute tshirts. At only $15 each, you could easily add one to your wardrobe too :)

    As for the Tote Bags below, they are also a must-have ($15). Okay, not necessarily a "must-have," but they are cute aren't they!

    There's no link for the WOOT TShirts and Tote Bags, but come to our WOOT run and Christmas Gift Exchange this weekend, and you can buy or order these from Anna and I :)

    Happy shopping girls! And don't forget to use the WOOT discount codes if you make purchases from and

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    One week till the Naha Marathon - what to eat?

    Okay ladies, some of you are getting ready to run the Naha marathon this weekend and while I'm sure many of you have a good idea on how to fuel yourselves this week, I'm equally sure that some of you have no clue. So with that in mind, I've posted below a great article on carbo-loading, by internationally known sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD.

    Does carbo-loading mean stuffing myself with pasta?

    Should I avoid protein the day before the marathon?

    Will carbo-loading make me fat...?

    If you are a marathoner who is fearful of "hitting the wall," listen up: proper fueling before your marathon, triathlon or other competitive endurance event can make the difference between agony and ecstacy! If you plan to compete for longer than 90 minutes, you want to maximize the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles because poorly fueled muscles are associated with needless fatigue. The more glycogen, the more endurance (potentially). While the typical runner has about 80 to 120 mmol glycogen/kg muscle, a carbo-loaded runner can have about 200 mmol. This is enough to improve endurance by about 2 to 3%, to say nothing of make the race more enjoyable.

    While carbo-loading sounds simple (just stuff yourself with pasta, right?), the truth is many marathoners make food mistakes that hurt their performance. The last thing you want after having trained for months is to ruin your performance with poor nutrition, so carbo-load correctly!

    Navy bean and pasta soup, bread rolls, and a glass of red wine - too much??

    Training Tactics

    The biggest change in your schedule during the week before your marathon should be in your training, not in your food. Don't be tempted to do any last-minute long runs! You need to taper your training so that your muscles have adequate time to become fully fueled (and healed). Allow at least two easy or rest days pre-event.

    You need not eat hundreds more calories the week pre-marathon. You simply need to exercise less. This way, the 600 to 1,000 calories you generally expend during training can be used to fuel your muscles. All during this week, you should maintain your tried-and-true high-carbohydrate training diet. Drastic changes can easily lead to upset stomachs, diarrhea, or constipation. For example, carbo-loading on an unusually high amount of fruits and juices might cause diarrhea. Too many white flour, low fiber bagels, breads, and pasta might clog your system. As Marathon King Bill Rodgers once said "More marathons are won or lost in the porta-toilets than they are at the marathon..." Fuel wisely, not like a chow hound.

    Be sure that you carbo-load, not fat-load. Some runners eat gobs of butter on a dinner roll, big dollops of sour cream on a potato, and enough dressing to drown a salad. These fatty foods fill both the stomach and fat cells but leave muscles poorly fueled. The better bet is to trade the fats for extra carbohydrates. That is: instead of devouring one roll with butter for 200 calories, have two plain rolls for 200 calories. Enjoy pasta with tomato sauce rather than oil or cheese toppings. Choose low-fat frozen yogurt, not gourmet ice cream.

    Meal Timing

    New York City Marathon Queen Grete Waitz once said she never ate a very big meal the night before a marathon, as it usually would give her trouble the next day. She preferred to eat a bigger lunch. You, too, might find that pattern works well for your intestinal tract. That is, instead of relying upon a huge pasta dinner the night before your event, you might want to enjoy a substantial carb-fest at breakfast or lunch. This earlier meal allows plenty of time for the food to move through your system. You can also carbo-load two days before if you will be too nervous to eat much the day before the event. (The glycogen stays in your muscles until you exercise.) Then graze on crackers, chicken noodle soup, and other easily tolerated foods the day before the marathon.

    You'll be better off eating a little bit too much than too little the day before, but don't overstuff yourself. Learning the right balance takes practice. Hence, each long training run leading up to the endurance event offers the opportunity to learn which food-and how much of it-to eat. I repeat: During training, be sure to practice your pre-marathon carbo-loading meal so you'll have no surprises on race day.

    Following are some important things to remember as you prepare for your Big Race:

    Weight Gain

    Runners who have properly carbo-loaded should gain about one to three pounds-but don't panic! This weight gain is good; it reflects water weight and indicates you have done a good job of fueling your muscles. For every ounce of carb stored in your body, you store almost three ounces water.


    Be sure to drink extra water, juices, and even soda pop, if desired. Abstain from too much wine, beer, and alcoholic beverages; they are not only poor sources of carbs, but can also hinder your ability to perform at your best. Drink enough alcohol-free beverages to produce a significant volume of urine every two to four hours. The urine should be pale yellow, like lemonade. Don't bother to overhydrate; your body is like a sponge and can absorb just so much fluid.


    Many marathoners eat only carbs and totally avoid protein-rich foods the days before their event. Bad idea. Your body needs protein on a daily basis. Hence, you can and should eat a small serving of low-fat protein-such as poached eggs, yogurt, turkey, or chicken-as the accompaniment to most meals (not the main focus), or plant proteins such as beans and lentils (as tolerated).

    Event Day

    Carb-loading is just part of the fueling plan! What you eat on marathon day is critically important and helps to spare your limited muscle glycogen stores. By fueling yourself wisely both before and during the event, you can enjoy miles of smiles.

    Copyright: Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD
    Nancy Clark is also author of Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions. Her book is available at

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    More Food, or Carbs, For Thought!

    By Anna Boom

    Eating carbs:
    So yummy but is there more than meets the eye and waistline?

    If you are like me, you find carbs delish: any type and color of fruit, the fresh whole grains, ice cream. Here is one of our moments of friendship punctuated by, "You too? I thought it was just me!".

    I recently read an interesting book, Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream, by Jennifer Ackerman that covers everything that happens in the day of a life of our body. Parts of the book were not so enticing (ear canals and drums, how your nose hairs stop colds) but one part struck me; how different body types handle carbohydrates. The book introduces a study that was able to isolate the bacteria, B. theta, in our guts that processes carbs into fat. The more of this type of B theta you have, the more (I cringe at this thought!) efficient your body is at processing carbs into...fat. If we did not have that type bacteria in our guts, carbs would sail on through without stopping to be turned into energy. Yes, that also means the banana I eat and the banana you eat may have a different calorie count. My carb processing bacteria may extract 100 calories worth of carbs where yours may only break down 70kcal.

    So what do we do, what can we do? Keep running, keep your healthy lifestyle on track, keep carb count, or not. Ahh, the subject of another article.

    Foster library has the book, Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream by Jennifer Ackerman, 2007, if you are interested in reading more.

    Additional thoughts by Jannine Myers:

    After reading Anna's post above, I couldn't help thinking about Thanksgiving this week and how I love the holidays because, well, I love to eat! And I love to eat carbs! I have no idea how much of the bacteria, B Theta, I have in my intestinal tract, but the rebel in me is screaming at me to "eat more carbs!" In fact, my sweet tooth got the better of me this weekend and I couldn't resist baking a batch of pumpkin chocolate brownies - nothing wrong with getting a little head start on the festival cooking right?
    Happily working my way through these with the help of my daughters - there's more in the fridge :)

    Well actually, maybe I DO need to curb my sweet tooth a little, and cut back on those carbs. Especially during the holidays when every supermarket aisle is filled with all kinds of luring treats, and when holiday parties start to quickly fill up the calendar.

    The temptation to either overeat, or eat more of the "unhealthier" types of carbs, is going to frequently challenge you over the next few weeks, but as runners, you have a definite advantage - you have the ability to burn more calories than your non-active friends and family members. And  furthermore, because running has taught you to be disciplined, you also have the ability to eat those carbs in MODERATION! And therein lies what I believe is the answer to the carb dilemma - simply eat mostly wholesome and healthy foods, but don't be afraid to enjoy MODERATE portions of your favorite, but less-nutritious foods.  


    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Traveling during the holidays?

    By Jannine Myers

    Many of you have commenced training for the Okinawa City marathon and some of you, like myself, may find that due to holiday travel, your training will have to be interrupted. But don't despair, there are always things you can do to either stay on track with your training or at least make modifications to minimize fitness deterioration. Here are some steps that I have taken to ensure that I can get some of my training runs in while we're visiting my in-laws in Oklahoma at Christmas:

    First of all, to give you some idea of what I am facing when we travel to Oklahoma next month, my in-laws live in a one-traffic light town with basically one main street that's considered the "business district." You have to understand too, that people in this town do NOT run. So whenever we have visited in the past, and my husband and I have ventured out to run through and arounds the skirts of the town (a whole 4.8 square miles), it's hard not to notice how people stop what they're doing and peer at us as if we're the freak circus show that's just arrived. For this, and other reasons, I've planned ahead and done some online research, something you can quite easily do too.

    • The first thing I did was enter a google search for running groups in Shawnee - this is a substantially larger town, relatively close to where my in-laws live (about a 40 minute drive). I managed to find at least two organized running clubs and was able to establish contact with Meredith Hadley, a local runner from one of the clubs.

    • After an initial response from Meredith, I proceeded to inform her that I recently started  training for a marathon in February, and that I was looking for company on one or two long runs while we were in Oklahoma. I also gave her some indication of my long run pace so that she could hopefully put me in touch with other compatibly-paced runners. As luck would have it, Meredith runs her long runs at a similar pace and is currently training with friends for the Arizona Rock 'n' Roll marathon in January; she was able to send me their long run training plans for December.

    Meredith Hadley (second from left), with some of her running friends.
    Meredith assured me that this was a " dress-up"  day!
    • With my long runs potentially planned, the next step was figuring out how to meet up with these ladies who so warmly extended their acceptance for me to join them. I generally don't like driving in the States since I'm from New Zealand and a left-side driver, so if I can avoid having to drive I will! Fortunately for me, there is a place in Shawnee that my husband is never opposed to visiting, hence twisting his arm to be my early-morning driver was not difficult at all. Our dialog pretty much went like this: "Honey, would you drop me off in Shawnee for my long run meet-up, and wait for me at IHOP until I get done?" "Yep, no problem!" Long runs sorted!

    • The next thing I needed to find out was what type of running apparel to pack. I sent another message to Meredith enquiring about the weather conditions and her recommendations on what to take with me. I can't say I was thrilled when her response was, "three layers on top, two layers on bottom, gloves, and a warm hat!" Still, I'd rather be prepared and know ahead of time what to expect. Oh, and she also mentioned that the only reason they'd cancel a run is if the roads were covered in ice! Those of you who know me are already feeling sorry for me, brrrrr!

    • Now all I had left to do was fill in the extra training days, and as I mentioned above, running in the small town that my in-laws live in is a bit of a problem since I don't really enjoy being the center of attention. There is however, another town about a 20 minute drive away that's slightly larger (it has a Walmart at least), and one or two fitness centers! On mornings that I don't dare to brave the cold weather, or the unwanted attention of curious onlookers, I'm willing to settle for an indoor treadmill run. I'll just be sure not to wear my standard WOOT attire as I'm sure the cute skirt will also result in unwanted attention.

    I think I'm set for our holiday trip and whether I'm able to fit in all or just a few of my training runs, the main point I want to get across to those of you who are also traveling, is that it's possible to continue training with a little bit of advance planning. And if for some reason, it really isn't possible to run, then just do the best you can to be as active as possible. Choose to walk whenever possible; if your family or whoever you are visiting has a dog for example, offer to walk the dog. Or try and schedule activities into your itinerary that require some type of physical exertion. But most importantly, have a GREAT time! Maintain a positive attitude and if it turns out that you are unable to run much at all, then tell yourself that an extended break from running gives your leg muscles the opportunity to fully recover and regenerate themselves.

    No stressing ladies, it's all good!

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    It Pays To Train For Those Ultras

    By Anna Boom
    Alaska Ultramarathon - September 2011 Equinox 64k

    You may wonder about the cooler temperatures of Alaska. Oh yes, it is quite chilly after the Okinawa summer. I trained with you all summer in the extreme heat, humidity and intense rays.

    Arriving here on September 11th, I realized how under prepared I was for the cool. You know how hard it is to pack clothes for 50 degree when it is 89 degrees and 90% humidity. Until we had a chance to shop, I layered three tops and threw my sweatshirt on top and was still chilled.

    After arriving in Fairbanks, we ran around doing important pre race things such as a hot stone massage and pedicure, Chinese food for lunch, and race bib pick up. We talked a bit with some other runners and read through the map. This year the ultra ran a new course that was 64Km. The new section was described as rooty and a bit of a climb. Pause for more foreshadowing...

    The race course was intensely beautiful. All around Fairbanks, there are trails for every outdoor activity you can think of: running, biking, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, snow machining. Everywhere you look, you find birch trees that in mid September turn yellow with the fall season. Throw on the bright alaskan sunshine, which starts around 7AM and ends around 8:30PM and the whole path is a golden corridor.

    On Saturday morning we got ourselves ready and headed down for the 8 AM start at 50 degrees. It is a combined marathon, marathon relay and ultra start and it was only around 1000 runners. What set each group of runners apart was the color of our bibs, marathon was pink, relay yellow and ultra blue.

    The course was lovely, leading through gently rolling trails, nothing too extreme, yet. When we hit mile 8, right before we started climbing, my dad was waiting to cheer us all on. Having your own cheering section is a huge mental boost, isn't it?

    At the top of Esther dome, I looked over all of Fairbanks all the way to the Alaskan mountain range, so far away. Breathtaking. You could see for hundreds of miles in every direction. The course took us back on trail that climbed and climbed. I had anticipated this climb as it has always been part of the race course. At the top, I caught wind of some awful odor (unfortunately not body odor) and down on my left was a rotting moose carcass that had seen better days a week or so ago.

    This single track path, is an out and back so as we climbed, we saw the leaders running right by as we stepped off trail to let them fly by. Inspiring. Many runners would see my blue bib and yell, "Go Ultra!", which then became my mantra.

    After we finished that portion of the course, it was mile 16 and we were presented with the next challenge, The Chute. It was very steep with large rocks and was complete quad crusher. At the bottom, we took a sharp left and came onto three miles of golden rolling trail. At the end of this was mile 19 and after a mile on unpaved road, the ultra (Go Ultra!) runners peeled off to the left while the marathoners and relay continued on to the end of the 26.2. So hard taking that left...

    Soon, being undertrained for this race started to become more of a reality for me. My legs were feeling like cement logs and picking my feet over small trip hazards like roots and pebbles became a mental task I had to focus on constantly. If I let my mind wander in the least little bit, like about enjoying the beauty and serenity of the trail or what time it was, I would trip and stumble. One nice part of the race course was that every mile was marked. All I had to do was count one mile at a time til I saw 39.
    Sure, just count to 39! Easy peasy!! Uh hunh, yah right.
    The race ran back over the same part of the earlier trail until we got to the first drop bag area at mile 28. I grabbed a quick bite and moved onto the single track out and back. As I turned right, I looked ahead and almost broke down. In front of me the trail headed straight up for a mile plus. I said aloud, "you've got to be $h!tt!n me". For a moment I felt the wind knocked out of me but followed those in front of me and kept moving forward. I do not know how long it took me to complete this portion but mentally it took everything I had. As I came back out of the trail at mile 33, I dumped my pack into my drop bag and planned on finishing this race as soon as I could.

    I had hoped the race would just finish on road. Instead I found myself looking down and yelling at myself to pick up my feet. I hit the last aid station at mile 37 manned by a few high school runners who happily told me the finish was just over two miles. Just two more miles. I replied that that was the worst news I had ever heard (drama much?!). My normal happy runner was nearly cramping, exhausted and wanted to be done, now. Two miles seemed undoable, as crazy as it sounds now.

    I ran alone on the trail over the next two miles hoping I was going the right way. When you have run that far and are that completely pooped, seemingly easy tasks like following signs or easy directions are very challenging. Also, this thought remains at the back of your head that you don't want to face, what if I went the wrong way?

    I kept running to the end of the trail, where we popped out back at the start line area. And there was my dad, Steph, Larry the Denali bus driver, who I had just met earlier in the week (at guess where- Denali!), and everyone they recruited cheering for me! It was what I needed to make a strong finish at 7 hours 40 something minutes seventh woman overall.
    Go Ultra!!

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    WOOT - Women On Okinawa Trails

    Post by Jannine Myers

    Earlier this week Anna posted about our sister group, WOOP, also known as Women on Okinawa Pavement. In today's post, I want to touch base with you all and kind of "virtually" regroup so that we can be reminded of what WOOT (Women on Okinawa Trails) is about, and how running on trails and other non-paved courses can help improve your running and also take the monotony out of your every day pavement runs. Here's how:
    • Regular running on hard surfaces, such as pavement, causes your feet and legs to endure an enormous amount of impact with each foot strike; trail running on the other hand is more forgiving on your body. Because of the softer surface, there is an increase in shock absorption and a consequent decrease in potential damage to the joints and tendons. Even if you're a die-hard pavement fan, you will benefit from getting off the road now and again and hitting the trails instead.

    • Trail running is a GREAT way to get faster and stronger! You are challenging yourself in a different way when you're running up and down trails - the constant surge of hard effort as you're climbing, followed by easier downhill spurts easily simulates what runners call a "fartlek" workout i.e. a type of speedplay that stresses both the aerobic and anaerobic systems, a necessary part of training if you want to see gains in speed and strength.

    • Remember my recent post about how to psychologically get in "the zone?" Well some athletes are convinced that running on trails opens up greater opportunity to do just that! When you're out running on trails, you don't have to worry so much about paying attention to traffic, noise, and other obstacles - instead you can run freely while letting your body and mind relax (this is of course, when you're not enjoying the social chit chat of your WOOT companions).

    • Your health will also benefit from trail running in the sense that you're getting out of the mainstream path of traffic, and consequently AIR POLLUTION! One of the nice things about running beside trees instead of cars is that you're breathing in clean air as opposed to toxic car fumes.


    • SCENERY - I think for me, one of the things I love about early morning WOOT runs, is stepping away from all forms of civilization and into a more natural environment with trees, water, and rocks around me, and then reaching a summit somewhere as the sun is rising. It's a much more tranquil and peaceful experience - a nice break from being surrounded by either lanes of traffic or shades of gray (concrete houses and buildings).

    These are all reasons why running with WOOT is a great way to mix up your weekly running routine. But ultimately, the main concept behind WOOT and why it was formed in the first place, is that we aim to provide a safe, fun, and social environment for women of all running levels to come out and enjoy some quality time together!

    Sunday, October 30, 2011

    WOOP - Women on Okinawa Pavement

    Post by Anna Boom

    By now, most of you, or all of you, have heard that we have a new running group for women called WOOP.

    One of our lovely WOOT members, Sarah Pevehouse, sent me a message asking if she could start a new group to help her continue her solid marathon training, while enlisting the help of other women runners. She thought there would be others of you out there, looking for partners to run during the week, on road, with or without strollers, maybe running sprints, or an easy 6-10+ miler or hitting the hills. What a fabulous idea! Many of us are training for the next race: Naha Marathon, Honolulu Marathon, Okinawa Marathon, and having a running peer there to meet you at 0500 is the motivation she was looking for. Heck, it is the motivation many of us need, including myself.

    Sarah started posting WOOP events early last month and had a good first turn out. Since then she and some other wonderful ladies who joined WOOP, have been posting more frequent events in various locations.
    If you are nervous about not being able to keep up or not being able to handle hills or not being able to go the distance, do not fret! Seriously, our new running group, just like WOOT, is not about belittling or embarrassing any woman. Part of our group running style is support. We will push and encourage you to go farther and faster, in a gentle way (except for Ivette; she is a killer ;)), and you will surprise yourself with how well you will do.

    I hear it every single week and feel it myself. Just recently, for example, I had an easy 6 miler on my training schedule, and decided to join WOOP to run with them. My tummy was acting up a bit (might have something to do with the NZ apple and half pound of cherries I ate for lunch yesterday...and the Acai Berry cleanse probably didn't help either, come to think of it :)). I was thinking, oh man, what if I am too slow, what if I can't hang on...I set my alarm and did it anyway.

    And I am so glad I did. Not only did the run fly by, I got the chance to catch up with some of the women I love to chat with and see some faces I haven't for awhile. My tummy is still grumbling but I got my run done so it can gurgle all it wants! (Note to remember, avoid Acai Berry cleanse before any longer runs you have planned.)
    You've heard of and hopefully tried, Trails, but Pavement opens the door up to weekday runs too. WOOP-on my lovely friends!!

    See you out running soon :)