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As a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, I thoroughly enjoy helping others achieve optimal health and peak fitness performance through creation of custom menu plans and personalized nutrition coaching with my company Fuel Factor as well as creation of custom sports drinks with Infinit Nutrition, I company I partially own and serve as Chief Formulation Specialist for. As a long-time athlete, having competed at the ITU, 70.3, and Ironman World Championships, I use my own practical experiences on the ‘field’ as well as the latest research in nutritional science as means to establish daily training and race/game day nutritional strategies for my clients. I am also currently working putting the wraps on research for my book, Performance Ingredients and Supplements for the Athlete, with a hopeful release by my publisher Human Kinetics late in spring 2013. I am currently expecting my first little speedster due to arrive in May of 2013. After she is born, I will be striving to knock 9 minutes off my current marathon PR of 2:52 to secure a spot at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Reflections of 2012: A Year of Firsts

January: I kicked off the New Year with my first official beer mile, polishing off 60 ounces of Guinness and running a mile in just a smidge under 15 minutes. As I non-drinker, I was impressed I was still standing at the end though I did finish a good 9 minutes behind the leader and in stride with Goofy (yeah, the Goofy). Guess this proves I am never going to be a professional beer miler.
Blurry caption of me bringing up the rear of the pack with Goofy during my first NYE beer mile

February: Joined my friend Andy in his efforts to raise money for Got Your Back Network, a charity I hold near to my heart having worked professionally with and being friends of many who serve our country proud including my friend JT, a Navy Seal, who lost his life fighting for our freedoms in August of 2011. Got Your Back Network raises money for the families of fallen soldiers. For his 35th birthday, Andy ran 35 miles (I ran 21 with him and our friend Mike) and raised over $3,000 for the great cause.
Having fun with the Cardiff Kook and giving back to families of fallen soldiers
 March: My running kicked into full gear in March and I successfully conquered my first back-to-back racing feat, running San Diego Half Marathon (and finishing 4th overall in 1:21) and 7 days later trekking up to LA for a windy version of the LA Marathon where I finished 12th overall in 2:59. I dedicated both races to my grandpa, who will always be a huge inspiration to me and someone I will always try to emulate in life. He passed away just two weeks shy of his 102nd birthday and one week after I completed my back-to-back racing efforts in his honor.
Nearly 102 years of wisdom from this amazing man

Striding proud towards the LA Marathon finish in honor of my Grandpa
April: Joined my friend Mark to watch my first playoff hockey game at the Staples Center and while sadly it didn’t include our favorite team, the Chicago Blackhawks, it was neat to see the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the LA Kings, lay it on the Vancouver Canucks.
First NHL playoff game at Staples Center in LA
May: May was a busy travel month as I trekked up to Vancouver, British Colombia for the third year in a row to experience a brand new (gorgeous) marathon course that took us on the ultimate tour of the city, including a 10km trek around the famous Stanley Park seawall (picture snowcapped mountains and water on one side and large pine on your other side). I obviously was in awe of the scenery because I was able to knock another 4 minutes off my marathon PR, finishing in 2:52:01 good for 4th overall women on the day.  One week later, I travelled to St Pete Beach, Florida, to present on the topic of sports nutrition at my first major conference geared towards Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians. I took advantage of being on the East Coast and enjoyed a quick visit with friends in Atlanta.
Enjoying the scenery as I cruise to a new 26.2 PR in Vancouver
Adventuring with my friends Jono and Nick in Hot-lanta

Out on Atlanta with my college friends Angie and Allen

Captured the solar eclipse in Phoenix en route home

June: Am I really 36 years old? Certainly don’t feel it and I proved that by running my fastest 13.1 miles on home turf, finishing the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Half in 1:20, good for 7th overall behind some Olympians and professional speedsters. I also was busy at work finishing up work on my first book, The Athlete’s Guide to Sports Supplements, which I am happy to say is slated for release (finally) by Human Kinetics this upcoming June.  I'll keep you all in the loop on the official release date.
Bounding past my (younger) competition

July: Enjoyed celebrating wedding festivities for my longtime coach and good friend, Paul Greer, and his beautiful bride, Callie, which kicked off with none other than a 5k “race to the altar” and finished off with a gorgeous ceremony at University of San Diego and reception along the marina. It honestly was the largest congregation of “dressed-to-the-nines” runners I think I have ever seen. Also took part in Joggin' for Frogmen, an event that honors soldiers lost fighting for our freedoms and raises money for the Navy Seal Foundation and Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The event has raised over $50,000 for these foundations!!!

My long time coach, Paul Greer, and I at his pre-wedding "Race to the Altar"

Remembering our fallen brave

Running proud for our fallen soldiers en route to the overall win
August: It was back to my travelling ways as I trekked up to Edmonton, where I not only ran my 3rd sub 3-marathon of the year but also clinched my first overall marathon victory earning myself a nice little paycheck for the effort.  Instead of relaxing like many do after a marathon, I rewarded my effort by spending several days hiking and exploring the absolutely stunning Canadian Rockies of Banff and Yoho National Park with my brother Kevin.  And, one week later, I decided to check another “must try” race off my bucket list, joining 11 other amazing runners and people for the infamous Hood to Coast Relay, which takes runners on a 200 mile journey from the top of Mt Hood in Portland to the cute coastal city of Seaside, Oregon. Definitely a memory that will last forever and I am happy to report that my team, the Slug Hunters, were the fastest mixed team to cross that finish line!!!

Winning the Canadian Derby Edmonton Marathon
Takkakaw Falls, Yoho National Park
Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Team Slug Hunters atop Mt Hood

September: It was back to running-themed wedding festivities as I joined my good friends, Lyndsey and Jon, for their Disney wedding in Orlando.  It was such a neat idea to have the reception in coordination with Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival and close the fun day with an amazing dessert party and fireworks display.  After indulging on dessert (yeah, dietitians do indulge too), us runners do what we do best…”run it all off”.  The next day, the wedding crew hit up some of the local parks and then raced the Tower of Terror 10 mile race where I am happy to report the bride and I swept the top 2 spots before hitting up the thrilling rides at Universal Studios.
The beautiful bride and I at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

October: The biggest news of the year came a day after returning from Orlando, where my boyfriend Dan & I learned we were expecting our first child, a girl, in May of 2013.  It explained a lot of the fatigue and nausea I was playing off as “being at the peak of marathon training”.  Ha…rookie mistake.  Our little speedster-to-be joined me for my 4th and final marathon of the year in Niagara Falls at 8-weeks pregnant. While the morning sickness made for an interesting 26.2 (I puked 3 times the back-half), I thoroughly enjoyed the journey that took runners from historic downtown Buffalo, New York, across the Canadian border, alongside the Niagara River which was laced with beautiful fall colors, and ultimately to a finishline backdrop that included the scenic Horseshoe Falls with a rainbow halo.  I can guarantee my little girl and I were the fastest duo out there as I finished 4th overall and while not at the speed I had originally anticipated, apparently 3:07 is not too shabby for being pregnant. Dan & I couldn’t be more excited to meet our little tough-as-nails girl this spring.

It's a girl!!!

Beautiful Niagara Falls
November: I enjoyed closing off my third year of helping coach high school cross country at Bishops, a private school in downtown La Jolla.  It is such a pleasure working with these kids and neat to see our boys team clinch their highest finish ever and our lone girl’s qualifier, a freshmen, post a huge PR at the California State XC Championships in Fresno over Thanksgiving weekend. Dan and I also had fun taking on Thanksgiving, starting off with a "gut check" 10k trail turkey trot and finishing with a full home-cooked turkey dinner for my visiting parents.

Enjoying some quality time with the p's in Old Town
December: To cap off a brilliant year of firsts, I was recently recognized as San Diego Track Club’s Runner of the Year for 2012.  SDTC as well as Saucony, with whom I have been sponsored by for 3 years now, have truly been a second family for me and I look forward to many more racing successes to come.  I am now back in Chicago where I am enjoying quality time with family and friends over the holiday.  I have so much to be thankful for this year and am beaming about the great things to come in 2013 and beyond.
Dan & I on a holiday sunset cruise

Next goal? Qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials!!!

Wishing you health, happiness, and lots of fun adventure this holiday season and into the New Year.

Love always,


Sunday, May 13, 2012

RUN VAN 2012

In 2010, as fate would have it, an Icelandic volcano, whose name I have never been able to pronounce, erupted and caused air space in Europe to shut-down, ultimately flushing my London Marathon dreams and Euro-travel plans down the toilet. Stuck in Chicago (fortunately with family) not being able to fly outbound, I decided to look for another race, another city to vacation in and low and behold, BMO Vancouver Marathon was the first race to pop into radar as it conveniently fell just 2 weeks after London. And so a revised travel agenda was created. While my European bust of a vacation was a huge downer, I am a believer that things happen for a reason and in this case, the crazy random volcanic eruption lead me to what I can now honestly say is my favorite race (and I've raced A LOT) not to mention allow me to meet some amazing people and develop new friendships.  So, thank you Eyjafjallaj√∂kull for pissing lava that fateful day back in April 2010 and directing me to Vancouver!

It just keeps getting better...

When Run Van race organizers announced they were creating a new course for 2012, I was excited. While I love the original course, I am always game for a new adventure, especially when it entails exploring a beautiful city like Vancouver.  I was beyond excited though when the announcement was made that they were shutting down the famous Stanley Park seawall to allow the runners to traverse its post-card beauty from miles 20-25 of the marathon.  And so the training began mid-January.

Training for 26.2

Every since making the call to shift gears from a triathlon-to-running training focus after racing the 2008 SOMA Half Ironman Triathlon less than a year removed from surgery to correct several tears in my shoulder and bicep, my heart was set on breaking the covenanted 3 hour barrier in the marathon. I just didn't know exactly how to get there having spent the better part of my post-collegiate athletic career racing triathlon.  I did know that my typical 30-40 mile per week run mileage was going to need to come up and cross-training volume come down.  After 3 years and 5 sub-3 efforts along with my lastest PR (more on that later), I think I have found my sweet spot.  So, what is that sweet spot?  For me, it entails the following:

Mondays: 45 min aerobic run, 1 hr pilates
Tuesdays: AM: ~8-12 miles w/20-30 min of interval training and 10x20 sec strides
                 PM: ~30-45 min aerobic run
Wednesdays: 45 min aerobic run, 1 hr functional strength training (squats, lunges, plank, plyo-drills)
Thursdays: AM: 4-10 mile tempo or progression run on rolling hills, 10x20 sec strides
                   PM: ~30-45 min aerobic run
Fridays: OFF
Saturdays: AM: 8-12 miles w/20-30 min of interval training and strides, PM: 30-45 min aerobic run
Sundays: AM: 1:30-3 hour effort-based long runs followed by 1/2-1 mile swim

I follow a 3-week build with the 4th week dropping in volume by 25% to allow adequate recovery and the training to truly soak in. In addition, I like to keep "race fresh" by jumping into several races of which I run as a slightly faster than normal tempo effort.  These also serve as a great opportunity to practice race day nutrition. In prep for Run Van 2012, I ran Coronado 10k (36:39, 4th OA), San Diego Half Marathon (1:21:56, 4th OA), and LA Marathon (2:59:47, 11th OA). My marathon mileage generally fell in the 50-70 mile/week range with a peak of 75 miles 3 weeks out from race day. My marathon taper entails a ~25% reduction in training volume each week starting at my peak.

In general, my mileage is lower than a lot of the athletes I compete against but, between managing and running my own business as well as taking on writing a book, it is all that I can squeeze in.  I am not sure my body would gain anything from adding upon this load anyways. 

Arriving in Vancouver

Unlike last year where I flew into Seattle and then had an equally long busride from Seattle to Vancovuer, I opted for a direct flight compliments of Air much nicer although one of these years, I think I'll try the train route from Seattle as I have heard it is a gorgeous trip.  The only hiccup in my travel agenda is that I happened to arrive at perhaps one of the more popular times for weekend get-aways, leaving me standing in customs line for well over an hour before truly making my arrival.  Fortunately, I was entertained in line by members of the San Jose Earthquakes (professional soccer for those of you who don't know) who happened to be playing the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. Wish I would have gotten a picture!  I have always been a big soccer fan, having been my #1 sport growing up.  Greeting me at the gate was Frank Stebner, one of the many wonderful race volunteers, along with fellow elite athletes, one of which had spent 2 obstacle-filled travel days from Ethiopia!  Yeah, guess I shouldn't have been complaining about my 1 hour wait in customs!

After checking into my sweet accommodations for the weekend, Coast Coal Harbour Hotel, I met up with the extremely athletically decorated elite coordinator, Lynn Kanuka, and some of the elite athletes also competing on Sunday for dinner.  It's always so cool meeting athletes from all walks of life and truly fascinating hearing about the training and racing adventures each persevered through to prepare for Vancouver. One of the female marathoners (2:32 PR, Nigerian born, now a US citizen), Mary Akor, spent several months training in Morocco leading up to the US Olympic Trials!  Several of the Kenyans spend several months at a time training in various areas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico in preparation for racing.  Interestingly, I was one of the few athletes who ordered pasta...guess it's just an American carbo-loading staple!

Dinner with Run Van volunteers and fellow elite athletes
On Saturday, I did one final shake-out run, 25 minutes, along the gorgeous seawall of which I'd be racing on a mere 24 hours later.  To give you an idea of the double-take scenery I have fallen in love with:

And, then it was off to the expo where a few of the marathoners, including myself, were participating in an Elite Athlete "Meet and Greet" session.  After running my first beer mile to kick off 2012, I declared that this year was going to be a year of many firsts for me.  And, low and behold, I got to sign other runners race bibs complete with a personal inspirational message; it's definitely a first for me to be autographing anything!  I am hoping it served as a nice tune-up for my anticipated book signings later in the year.

26.2 athletes represent at Canada Place

Elite Athlete Meet & Greet
Giving 26.2 racing tips and autographing bibs
After the meet and greet, it was back to the hotel for a pre-race briefing, more carbo-chowing and chill time before hitting pillow for sweet pre-26.2 dreams.

Race Day!!!
Race morning always brings an early wake-up call and Run Van 26.2 is no different although the marathoners did get to sleep longer thanks to an hour later start than the Run Van 13.1 athletes. Hahahaha, lol.  As always, I started with my ritual pre-race meal of the easy-to-digest, low-glycemic Pure Fit Nutrition bar, 100% juice, and Diet Mountain Dew (my pre-race caffeine). And then we were off to the race start in this cool San Francisco-like trolley:

Unlike last year, where I made the mistake of forgoing a warm-up, I ran an EASY 10 minutes in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park and did some ballistic movements to properly prepare my body for what was described as a "humbling" first 16 miles followed by a more forgiving back 10.  As I warmed up, I kept my blood sugars and blood volume up by drinking my Infinit run sports drink. I also received some great racing strategy tips from my friend Greg and chatted up the infamous Vancouver Canucks MC, Mr. O'Canada Mark Donnelly, who was singing the National Anthem for racers that morning.  I asked him how it tasted to watch the 'Hawks bring the Cup home a couple years

Thanks for the race-day tips Greg!
Mr. O'Canada Mark Donnelly & I temporarily holding down the peace....GO 'HAWKS!!! Dig those Blackhawk colors you are sporting!
Before I knew it, we were being shuttled down to the race start and apparently I have held onto a part of my pre-race "serious" look (think the contemplative guy in the backdrop shared my

Please let my body cooperate, please let my body cooperate, please let my body cooperate ALL 26.2 miles =)

And then I was off running with the masses, some 15,000 between the half and full marathon!

I'm cresting the hill in the backdrop...can you spot my pink?

As I was warned, the first 16 miles or so brought some significant climbs, including nearly a mile up an outer Torrey Pines-esque grade around mile 5 (for my non-Cali friends, come experience Torrey Pines as part of the La Jolla Half Marathon for some hill love).  Fortunately, I had prepared with several runs up Mount Soledad (3.5 miles up), some hilly trail runs, and a hilly 26.2 at LA Marathon in training so I felt solid throughout it all.  I honestly had a smile on my face the bulk of the race as evidenced in my race pictures:

Midway thru LOVING the scenery, sporting my stereotypical "rock on" hand signal

A smile speaks a thousand words...enjoying the scene around Kitsilano, some 18 miles into the race
LOVING the Run Van spectators at mile 20

You give a little energy, a WHOLE LOT more will be returned. Thanks Run Van spectators!

Still smiling at mile 21 as I pass the Inukshuk, a symbol of the human spirit
And still smiling with a thumbs up as I round the famous Stanley Park Seawall 22 miles into the race
Just to capture the extent of how flippin' beautiful this course is. We ran under Lions Gate Bridge around mile 23

And then ran through this cool!

Another thumbs up as I roll pass the lighthouse
Coming off the seawall, only 1 gradual uphill mile to go!!!

Marathon FINISH!!!
Officially 2:53:35, 4th OA lady, 41st OA runner to cross that finishline.
When you go into a race as the 8th fastest marathon time and you finish 4th OA with a new PR, it's a good day.  Plus, my pacing was the best its been in a marathon as my splits were pretty even on both sides (1:25:24, 1:26:20). It became even better when it was announced that the course was about 500 meters long due to a goof-up on cone placement at the midway point of the race.  Converted time is 2:51:44 (6:33 per mile pace).  Previous PR: 2:56:08 (6:43 per mile pace). How sweet it is!

Post Race Festivities

Immediately after finishing, I was whisked off to the elite tent where I congratulated other athletes and talked to race organizers. As I have every year running in Vancouver, I met some amazing people that I'm excited to keep in touch with and cross paths with again at forthcoming races. Just 85 seconds ahead of me was Catrin Jones, a Canadian runner with a 2:48 marathon PR. 

Catrin Jones (#3)  & I (#4) all smiles post-race

And then it was off to the award's ceremony to celebrate everyone's accomplishments on the day.

Run Van makes us happy! Gezahgn Eshetu from Ethiopia (kneeling) won the men's marathon in 2:21.
Women's Top 3: Mary Akor (Left, 2nd OA, 26.2 PR of 2:32) ran 2:46, Ellie Greenwood (center, 1st OA) is an ultra-marathon bad arse who also PRd on the day with a 2:42, and Catrin Jones (right, 3rd OA, 26.2 PR of 2:48) ran 2:52. Nice work ladies!

Being recognized as 4th OA lady

After the awards, I took inspiration from women's ultra-marathon star and women's winner, Ellie Greenwood, and stayed on my feet for another 3-4 miles to explore the wonderful sights of Vancouver.

Stunning, eh?
And then it was back to meet up with the crew for a night out on Vancouver!  Gezahgn was kind to bring Lynn (the elite coordinator) traditional Ethiopian apparel to party in.

Lynn sporting traditional Ethiopian apparel for the special night out.  Thanks for all your hard work in making Run Van a special one for all of us athletes!
The Run Van crew
Post Marathon Recovery Cheers: That is a TASTY burger (and sweet potato fries & local brew)

Run Van, it's been fun, see you again next year!

Giving Thanks

Huge thanks go out to...

-Lynn Kanuka, Frank Stebner, Thelma Wright, Greg White, Teresa Nightingale, and all the wonderful Run Van race organizers and volunteers who made this event truly one to always remember fondly.  I'll definitely be back again!

-All the athletes I met over the great Run Van weekend!  I hope to see you all in San Diego at some point in time!

-My awesome Coach, Paul Greer of San Diego Track Club, for helping lay down a training program that has continued to allow me to improve as an athlete these past 12 years!

-The great Coach Kevin McCarey for leading fantastically tortuous training sessions on Saturdays down at Ski Beach.  I'm one of the sick crazies who LOVES torture, aka SPEED!

-All my girls on Team SDTC, training peeps, friends, and family who have supported me and kept me inspired throughout this journey.

-Armone's Core Connection (pilates, functional training) for keeping me strong, no doubt helping me log more quality miles and improve

-Saucony for keeping me equipped in the finest running apparel and shoes and inspiring me to keep finding my strong these past 3 years. LOVED seeing you representing at the race!

-Infinit Nutrition and Pure Fit for helping fuel my 26.2 performance 

Love you all!

Next up: San Diego Rock n' Roll Half Marathon on June 3rd (my birthday weekend!!!)