Archive for August, 2010


And the race report you’ve been waiting for!! The Back on my Feet 20 in 24 Lone Ranger occurred on July 17-18th, 10am to 10am. I will try to make it less stream-of-consciousness than the Niagara race report.

It took me until the Thursday after the race to compose a summary email to send out to everyone who wanted to know how I did. I went on vacation, and the words wouldn’t come. This post is obviously far more delayed than that. I’m very proud to have completed 67.648 miles in the race, and I raised over 1,300 dollars for Back on my Feet (my goal was $1000). But my mom summed up some of my feelings about the race with this (paraphrased) statement “You sounded more excited when you finished the Philadelphia Marathon than you do right now talking about running 67.648 miles”. Yes, yes I did. Why? I don’t know… I ran slower? More on that later (another post). Here are the details.

I ran 50 miles in 13 hours, took a break for 6 hours (slept for 5), than ran 17 more miles between 5:30 am and 9:45 am. At the start of the race, I was considering going for 100 miles. Then I got off track by an hour (would’ve had to finish 50 miles before 12 hours for the 100 mile goal), so I had to re-evaluate. Part of me wanted to try to run through the night, but then I finished a lap at around 11pm, and my feet and knees hurt, and I decided to rest for at least 2 hours and then re-evaluate again. After watching the Midnight Madness loop start off and shoving some food in my gullet, I decided to sleep for three hours. I figured I couldn’t run well at the moment, and that sleep would enable me to run faster when I woke up. And if I could run faster in the morning, I could get in as many miles as if I had to walk from that moment until the end of the race. I took Ibuprofen and went to sleep. My knees were killing me! They hurt at whatever angle I tried to rest them. I blame my knees for me deciding to sleep until 5am. I woke up halfway at a few points in the night, and my knees definitely hurt less when I actually got up at 5am than when my alarm went off at 3am.

I started off the first lap trying to go slow. Lone rangers were encouraged to line up after the relay racers (since we were probably all starting off slower). The starting line was kinda exciting, but long race starts don’t got nothing on the feeling of getting ready to race a 5k. I barely warmed up! Just unloaded my stuff into Lloyd Hall and made sure I had everything ready for the coming hours. I had to change watches at the last minute because my Garmin had low batteries, so I plugged it in and switched to my watch that just has a timer. The loop started off going up the biggest hill of the loop (which really isn’t a bad hill at all). It was pretty hot already. After reaching the first mile marker and water stop, I slowed down to walk a bit. I got a few comments asking if I was OK. Maybe I was ambulating slower than the average ultrarunner at the start of the race? I was just employing a strategy designed to last for 24hours. I finished the first lap in about 1:30. F aster than I intended, but not too fast. I took a brief break in Lloyd Hall, to get out of the sun and to check my watch (not charging properly?!) My mom was volunteering at the timing table, so I got to see her at the end of each of the first three laps. Coincidentally, as I passed one of the boathouses my friend Lauren exited! She had just finished rowing in the Schuylkill. Perfect timing. We chatted for a bit while I was taking my break.

Lap 2 was relatively uneventful. Still got some comments when I was walking. I finished this lap just under 2 hours. With the fast time of lap 1, I felt like I was keeping ahead of pace and took a longer break. I was wearing my oldest and most comfortable pair of shoes, but after two laps their cushioning was shot. Time to switch shoes! Pair #2 were Asics, recently purchased for the purpose of this race.

Lap 3 was getting really hot! Fortunately, there were small towels at every aid station to dip in ice water and to drape over yourself. I wore mine around my neck, some people draped it over their heads tucked into visors. I tried that approach, but felt the neck drape kept me cooler. I wore my iPod shuffle for this lap. I have a sweet headset that locks the shuffle sitting above my neck, so there are no chords to get in the way. Unfortunately, this spot was where some of the ice water got concentrated, so the shuffle started not working after about 6 miles. I finished this lap in about 2 hours even. On the Kelly drive portion of the lap, someone in a car going the opposite direction called out my name, and slowed down to wave out the window. I found out later it was one of my co-workers. At the end of the lap, another co-worker happened to be driving on Kelly drive on the race side, she was stopped at the light when I finished the lap and was very impressed I had already finished 3 laps and was getting ready for number 4.

Lap 4 started off normal. I saw my friend Gabi eating lunch by the Art Museum steps. She made a sign for me! I felt like I was reasonably on pace. Half way through the lap at the aid station, a runner from the Reading area started talking to me. I wasn’t sure if he was just chatting at the aid station, but then he kept pace with me for a mile, and then made me promise to finish the lap with him. He had a bunch of races under his belt, and he was aiming for the 100-mile mark. He helped me drop my pace this lap back down to about 1:45. He encouraged me not to walk as much as I wanted to, and had some entertaining stories about running in Reading. At this point, my ultimate goal was to get to 80 miles. The breaks I was taking between the laps were taking up the time and put me off the times I needed to hit in order to get to 100 miles.

Lap 5 I had a pacer! My friend Kate started working at the timing booth after my mom, and was able to leave her duties earlier than planned in order to run with me. I grabbed some food, got pictures with Kate and Gabi, and headed out. Kate and I talked about lots of stuff, it was awesome. Lap 5 took about 2 hours.

My friend Billy was willing to pace me later at night around 10pm, but after lap 5 it was getting dark, and I was behind my original schedule, so I called to see if he wanted to run with me for lap 6. He was down, so I rested for about 30 minutes waiting for him to arrive. Runners were supposed to wear reflective  vests at night, so I was sporting a super hot yellow reflective vest. It was weird running in the dark. Philadelphia doesn’t really get dark because of all the street lights. I had a headlamp with me just in case, and I did turn it on at some bridge underpasses, but it was in no way necessary. I had changed out of the wet clothes into dry ones for the night (figuring it would be colder and I wouldn’t need the ice towels). Unfortunately, the humidity didn’t go away! Though it was technically cooler, I felt hotter because of the dry clothes. Billy runs faster than I do, so he was able to get me to push the pace for this lap, we finished in about 1:50. This was the big 50 mile mark!! I finished at about 10:53.

Now the debate began. My feet were really sore during lap 6. I wasn’t sure I would be motivated to keep running if I headed back onto the course alone. I wanted to see the glow in the dark midnight madness runners, but didn’t feel like running. I decided I could at least take a two hour break and watch the start of the midnight madness loop. I soon decided sleep was in order, not more running. I mean, I made it to 50 miles! I wasn’t racing anyone, nor any previous times, so I figured the amount of recovery I would get from sleeping was very worthwhile. And I guess I wasn’t ready to have my first Ultra event involve sleep deprivation. I went to sleep around 12:30.  I aimed to get up at 3 or 3:30, but that didn’t happen. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t make the same decisions when I am in the process of waking up that I would make otherwise. More sleep always wins over anything else, unless the motivation is really high. So at 3:30am, my knees were still sore, and I was still sleepy. I set my alarm for later.

I had motivation to get up before 5:30am when the pajama loop started, because a friend was running it and we promised to see each other. I managed to get up at 5am, and pull myself together enough to get back on the course. I was wearing my third pair of sneakers, also bought exclusively for the purpose of changing shoes in the middle of this race. I heard the pajama loop start, and then I left walking in the other direction. I wasn’t sure I would be able to run again, but I was able to walk at a 17min/mile pace at first (thank you Garmin for that useful information). I was able to speed up the walk to about 15min/mile at some points. After about 2 miles, I saw my friend running. After that, somehow I managed to start running again, and running at a reasonable pace (10min/mile). Walking fast takes mental fortitude, and I was impatient to be moving, so I guess after warming up for 2 miles, running stiffly was better than trying to walk fast. I saw my aunt on the bicycle tour. I noticed she has exactly the same bike that I do. Did not remember that… my family and Aunt and uncle used to ride West River Drive on Sunday mornings when it was closed in the summer. I managed to finish lap 7 in 2:15! I was now confident I could get a second full lap in.

Lap 8 started after a brief break. Garmin watch ran out of charge, so took it off again. Got music again, it was playing well since it dried out overnight. I resolved to not let it get too wet so it would last through the entire lap. At each aid station, I had to pick up a bracelet in case I didn’t complete the full lap they would know how far I got and could credit me. One lady at the 4 mile aid station had been there the night before. I guess she stayed up all night. My parents happened to drive on Kelly drive on their way to pick me up, and they saw me =) I missed one of the last aid station bracelets, but I knew I was going to finish the lap within the time limit so it didn’t matter. At about 9:45 I roll into Boathouse row for the final quarter mile. WHOOOOOOO, oh man, how awesome. I got to the timing chute and they say I could go ONE MORE mile if I can get to the aid station in 13 minutes. I thought about it for a second, because I was running within that pace still, but decided against it. I wanted food and chair!

Here’s the official results (the splits include the breaks I took):

#241 Baumgarten Joni Philadelphia PA F 24

Splits: 1:35:55, 1:56:30, 2:26:35, 2:04:36, 2:14:07, 2:37:00, 8:48:42, 2:02:52

Overall place 71, Female place 19, 8 laps, 67.648 miles,  23:46:17

I would’ve jumped up to 58th place (15th for females) if I had run that last mile. Oh well, I will know better for next year =)

My parents hung out with me while we saw the awards. The winners were literally handed cash (no envelopes), which I thought was a bit risky. The top male and female winners both broke the course record, so they won an additional $1000 on top of their first place winnings. I had my crocs on, and was meandering slowly in the directions I needed to go. My parents were great. They carried most of my stuff to the car, had food ready for me, and drove me home. We stopped to pick up more fruit for me to snack on. My mom washed all my dishes while I sat and ate some more, and my dad prepared a couscous salad (some for him to eat) for me to eat off of the rest of the day. I showered, sent them off with the reassurance that I was OK, and crawled into bed. I slept for about 4 hours, woke up and watched TV, then slept for like 8 hours. I was really in a haze that evening. I was feeding myself, walking around relatively easy, and watching TV, but everything felt surreal.

For the rest of the week, I could walk pretty well, but I was definitely exhausted through Wednesday. I found myself staring off into space a lot. I’ve been tired in the past month after the race, but I got right back into the swing of Ultimate starting on July 25th (Wildwood, baby!), so that was a part of why I was still tired. Maybe next time I should schedule my Ultras not during the busiest Ultimate season.

So in conclusion, I had a great time, and I’m definitely preparing to do more Ultras, probably doing the 20in24 next year (though I have to remember that the race negatively affected my Ultimate summer, hmm, tough decisions). The next scheduled race is the Toronto, and I’m tentatively planning to break 4 hours (we will see how I run when I start focusing on this training again).

Categories: recovery, running, Ultras

Dreams and hallucinations

The other day I was talking to some co-workers about dreams (there was an article about the psychology of dreams in the New York Times which was an inspiration for this conversation). The article basically says that interpreting dreams in psychotherapy doesn’t help patients get over nightmares, but talking through the dream and creating an alternate ending and changing the dream from scary into something else is successful at helping people stop having horrible nightmares. My co-worker wondered if that technique would work for stress dreams. I commented that I have always done this technique. I remember waking up from nightmares about fires (or something equally scary) and it was past the time when I could run to my parents room. And sometimes part of the nightmare was something that threatened me if I left the comfort of my bed (maybe giant spiders on the floor?). I would lay in bed and go over the dream and change it to make it less scary, maybe add another section past when I woke up that resolved the scare into a happier ending. My other two co-workers said  “You clearly have a strong mind. No wonder you ran 67 miles!” Thanks? I never thought the ability to not have nightmares would be connected to the fact that I have the perseverance to run for long distances. And I never thought of this dream-technique as something other people didn’t know how to do.

And related to my dreams: hallucinations when tired. Many people have hallucinations in 100-miles races. One race report I read reminded me that I need to consider this aspect when I do a 100-miler. I have had multiple experiences when I am half asleep basically hallucinate something I do or something going on around me. This morning I hallucinated/dreamed that I had an alarm set for 6:45am when my alarm went of at 6:30 and I didn’t fully wake up, and thus slept in until 7:30. I have imagined multiple times that people are having conversations around me as I drift off when they are silent. I have hallucinated/dreamed that I am studying when I am in fact drooling on my textbook. It’s kinda fun, especially if I wake up from a good dream and I can stay in a dream-like state and keep the script rolling for a bit. But I think if I get in this state on the trail it could be really dangerous. I imagine I take the right turn, but actually continued straight… I imagine I’ve been eating but I haven’t… I don’t think I’ve ever had any hallucination/dreams while standing up, only when sitting or laying down, but it’s just something to remember. Maybe look forward to?

Categories: Ultras


At some point last week while talking about something related to training, I realized that I can’t completely relate to other people about workouts anymore. I think someone was talking to me about Broad Street (the famous 10-miler in Philadelphia). I didn’t know what to say when they talked about how it’s hard to run 8 miles (or whatever they said). It’s not that I don’t get tired, it’s not that I don’t get sore, it’s not that I want to deny that there are lots and lots of workouts out there that are challenging, it’s not that I think running 8 miles is easy (especially if you are pushing the pace). It’s just that I have entered a new mental state where none of it feels out of reach to me. Or maybe I just feel like I’ve heard it all before. And I think I am actually in pretty good shape (a shock for me to acknowledge, at the beginning of the summer I probably would’ve said I was in better shape in high school even though I completed marathons and was biking everywhere and was playing Ultimate), so some things that other people find challenging really are easier for me. I just have left the plane of existence in which distances under 50 miles phase me. Does that count as a super power?

Next step, run a trail 50-miler with lots of hills/mountains. We will see what perspective I gain after doing that successfully. That stuff ain’t easy.

Categories: training

Race Report: Niagara Ultra

Yes, yes, this race was back in June… I still wanted to do an official write-up of this race before I wrote about the 20in24.

The Niagara 50k:

This race was on the Ontario side of the Niagara River on Saturday June 26th. I took a long weekend and left Philadelphia Thursday after work. I hopped up to Bald Eagle State park and set up my tent for the night. I got there at 12:30am or so. Fortunately, my new tent is super easy to set up alone. (I love my tent. It’s a Marmot Limelight 3, so I can use it for backpacking or bike camping if I ever get around to doing that, and it’s perfectly roomy for a 1 person tent, especially because I am 5’2″.) On Friday, I hopped up to Four Mile Creek State Park in New York. This campsite was only about 30 minutes from my race destination. The race started at 7:00am on Saturday. I left the campsite at 5:30am, because I was worried about the border crossing. The lady who checked me out heard about the race, and when I said I was doing 50k (31miles) said “I would never run over a half marathon!!”. The course was an out-and-back course which started at Niagara-on-the-Lake and followed a bike path up to the turn-around just above the falls (for the 50k). I got to the start early enough to get a decent parking spot. The lady who directed me to the spot was super nice and encouraging. When I walked by her on the way to registration we chatted a bit more, me mentioning it was my first Ultra. Check in goes smoothly, the race shirts are amazing red sweatshirts! I can’t wait until it’s cold enough for me to wear it. The starting line is pretty nondescript, just a timing pad to go over, heading into a grass field. Everyone at the start is pretty chill, there aren’t that many of us. The race director starts us using a megaphone. We get to the bike path after a mile. At about mile 2, I’m thinking “What the freak is wrong with me? I’m on vacation and I chose to get up at 5am this morning, and I’m trying to run 31 miles. What the hell?! I could totally quit now, and no-one would care.” Then I reassured myself that I was not warmed up yet, I would feel much better by mile 5, and I can’t quit now that I’ve started. I’m trying to run slowly because I’m treating this race as a training run. I started to mix in walking after 20 minutes of running. One guy who passed me while I was walking commented “Lady Death Strike, that’s scary!” he’s barefoot. When I pass him when I picked up the pace and was running, I reassure him that Lady Death Strike is merely the name of my Ultimate team (I was wearing the white version of the jersey). At kilometer 12, there’s a sweet hill. I love hills! I try to jog up it, over taking some people, but do walk for a minute or two. The lady from the parking lot is cheering at the base of the hill, and she recognizes me and says how strong I look. I think this will be a good hill to run down at the end. All along the road we are following are some ice wine vineyards. I note the interesting ones to perhaps visit after the race is over. We pass between the giant power plant building and the river gorge, which is awesome. The building is covered in ivy, and the view of the turbines is pretty decent, though there is not shade. We pass the botanical gardens. Somewhere around the power plant, I think, the leading guy in the marathon passes me. They started at 7:30am. I’m excited to see the first few women who pass me for the marathon and try to cheer them all (women and men) on (until there were too many to guess what place they were in). Even though it’s getting later in the day, the heat isn’t too bad. The course is pretty shady except at a few sections. When I pass the marathon turn around point, I feel proud to be one of the crazy ones who’s doing the 50k. There are suddenly fewer people on the course. The ones who have already turned back are really encouraging “You look great!” “You too!” “You’re almost at the turn-around!” The turn around is in the midst of the tourist section, so it’s time to dodge tourists who are more focused on their cameras than a few crazy runners with numbers on them. One lady asks how far the races is? “It’s about 15 miles up ahead when I turn around, then I get to head back for a total of 31 miles!” Wheee! I feel really awesome now. The falls are freaking beautiful. The spray from the falls is cooling. The turn around is literally at the top of the falls, so you get a great view of everything. I reach the turn-around at exactly 3 hours. Now just to maintain my pace for 15.5 more miles… some of the people behind me are really struggling. We only have 7 hours to finish the race, I’m pretty sure some of them are not going to make the cut-off. When I get back to the marathon turn around, I catch up to some of the slow marathoners who I’m able to pass (Score! Motivation!). I’m worried I haven’t consumed enough calories because I haven’t really eaten any of my gels, I tasted one and threw most of it out because that was NOT what I wanted at that moment. I get some ginger ale at a few of the rest stations, and it’s good ginger ale, not the weak version Seagram’s and Canada Dry have become recently (I’m totally writing a letter of complaint: Dear Seagram’s, why does your ginger ale verge on tasting like 7up? I need more ginger!). I pass the power station, and am ready for the hill! I think I can run the whole way down, but the experts don’t lie when they say going downhill is hard on your quads. I have to stop for a bit to give my muscles a break from the pounding. Two people I hoped to stay ahead of pass me at the bottom of the hill. Damn. I keep running relatively strong. Lots of walking breaks. I am around a group of people when we pass the marathon mark (42k), and get excited to be still running! Officially the longest I’ve ever gone! Soon though it gets as painful to walk as it is to run. WTF? I was leapfrogging with two guys and one says about my observation that walking hurts as much as running: “It’s so painful because we are so close to the end!” The final mile marker was ahead, and I managed to run the whole last mile (and stay ahead of the people who I was leapfrogging with). I try to smile at the camera as I turn down the final 100m dash. I think I pick up the pace again, and make sure to pass over both timing mats. Slowing to a stop, I get my medal and some dude takes the chip off my shoe. Success!! I didn’t see the exact time, and I forgot to stop my watch when I stopped running, but I know I finished at about 6:15. I was aiming for 6, but I am happy with the time. When I check later, the official time is 6:16:17. I stagger into the food location, grab some pizza and coke, and go outside to cheer on more people. Eventually I decide it’s time to shower and move along, and on my way back to the car, the lady from the beginning of the day spots me! She says I looked really strong at the finish, and congratulated me, and asked about my trip in general. I think she was impressed I came all the way to Canada by myself to run a 50k. Talking to her was a great way to finish off my first Ultra, especially one in a different country when I knew no one. The shower unfortunately was not right next to the food. I managed to stay upright and get clean. Fresh clothing and no dried salt on my face made a world of difference. My plan for the rest of the day was to go some place along the Niagara Gorge and rest in the shade and finish my book. Getting back into the car was nice, and I drove along the road where I just ran to get to one of the parks. It was interesting to see where I just ran from the perspective of an air-conditioned vehicle. I passed one winery I had spotted on my run, and made a quick decision to stop in. Instead of spending money on any touristy stuff (I had been debating trying to do the Maid of the Mist in the afternoon if I felt alright) I was going to buy the region specialty, ice wine. The wine was phenomenal. If you haven’t had ice wine, you gotta try it. The grapes are left on the vine to freeze, which concentrates the sugars and adds lots of complexity to the flavor. With the ice wine successfully purchased, it was time to find a place and be horizontal. I found a sweet spot I had noticed while running which was right on the gorge and far enough off the road so the cars didn’t dominate the background buzz. I noticed there was an entrance to a trail that lead down into the gorge, and I played with the idea of talking a nice slow descent to the river, but ended up just reading. I talked to my mom and she thought I was crazy to even consider a trip down into the gorge. I guess that’s just something to do next time I go to that region.

So the wrap up: First 15.5 miles in 3 hours, which is about 11:30min/mile pace. Second half in 3:16 which is about at 12:30min/mile pace. Ideally I wouldn’t slow down that much, but c’est la vie. I finished, and I still had energy to contemplate a hike down into the Niagara gorge! An overall success.

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing at my campsites. I stayed in the same campsite Saturday night, had a sweet fire going. The campground was on the edge of Lake Michigan, so I spent some quality night-time sitting on the edge of the lake, trying to discern Toronto in the distance. I headed back to PA on Sunday, setting up camp at Little Pine State Park, which was beautiful!! Took about an hours easy hike Sunday evening, and got to see a bald eagle and its rather large baby (baby in that it was born this year, it was flying around like a pro). This campground was really tucked into the mountains. I couldn’t get good cellphone service, and the “highways” to get you there were just back country roads. It looked like there were a variety of good hiking trails you could take from the campsite, so definitely a location I would visit again.

On the recovery: I didn’t feel very sore the day of this race, nor during the next few days. I was running slower than when I ran the Philadelphia marathon, but I ran for longer, so why did I recover easier? And I think I was in more pain at moments during the race. All I can say is I didn’t go wrong by laying down on the grass and reading for a few hours, nor by doing an approximately 30 minute meander around my campsite in the evening.Nor by walking a decent amount on Day 2. I want to see how I recover after running another marathon at a similar pace to Philly 2009 because I want to disprove to myself what Hal Higdon said in his recovery week for the marathon training plan I was following. He said to not do ANYTHING for three days after your race, and on day 4 you could jog again. I don’t have the exact plan in front of me, but I got the impression he didn’t even encourage walking for those first few days. In my life of activity, I feel like I recover better after a hard workout when I do light activity the next day. I can only base these findings on how I feel, and maybe I’m wrong, but I think Hal saying don’t do ANYTHING but rest on Monday after a marathon, and rest-rest-rest on the next couple of days might be putting too much value in sitting. I think the guide I need to follow for myself is to make sure I leave more time for sleep on the days after a race, but I should keep moving at different periods of the day. Not sprinting, obviously, but I could walk home from work (3 miles) if I felt up to it.

Categories: recovery, Ultras

The marathon maniacs club (written June 16th, 2010)

So if I complete the Niagara 50k I’m planning to do on Saturday, I can officially submit an application to be a marathon maniac, bronze level (meaning I ran two marathons in a 14 day period). I ran the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut marathon this past Sunday in 5:15:37. It was a freaking hot day. I paid more attention to ingesting Gu and Cliff Shot Bloks than in the Philadelphia marathon because I read more about Ultra race nutrition since then. Your body can only store a certain amount of energy, which generally lasts you through 20 miles (I knew that in November), but there’s also a limit to how much your stomach can absorb in an hour, and those calories you ingest go towards another easy mile when your body’s stores run out. It’s about 200-300 calories per hour you can absorb, so if you don’t want to hit “the wall”, you should be consuming 200 calories per hour from the start of the race (and staying hydrated). I was more vigilant about that in this marathon, and though I slowed down at the end, I didn’t feel as shitty as I did at the end (mile 22) of the Philadelphia Marathon (although I didn’t run the last two miles continuously… a goal to work on! And I sprinted harder at the end of the Philadelphia Marathon). I will have this weekend to pay even more attention to calories. The thing is, I don’t really feel like eating Gu and Shot Bloks every hour, especially not in the first hour. I just gotta remember my poor body needs energy in advance of mile 16.

I’ve been doing some thinking about the fact that I am mentally not worried about doing a marathon and a 50k within a week. Most of the world wouldn’t even consider doing a marathon, much less two within 3 months, and even MUCH less two in seven days, with those races being long race #2 and #3 of their running careers. And here I am, having run a marathon on the weekend, I didn’t promote my accomplishment at all, and I’m doing a longer race this upcoming weekend which I also haven’t really promoted. Dude at gym who got me to sign up for personal training lessons: “I haven’t seen you in a while, what’s going on?” Me: “Umm, I ran a marathon this weekend, so…” Him, super impressed: “How’d it go?” Me, replying like the accomplishment wasn’t huge, and making an exit. I think my attitude is that I want to be able to do running events, and then continue my life (i.e. play Ultimate), so I’m not pushing myself to my limits in these races. I don’t want to run so hard that I vomit. I want to see how far I can run. I guess that is a similar attitude to people who are marathon maniacs. Some of them seem to have running careers where they ran marathons and pushed the pace as low as possible, but that got boring for them so they switched their focus to running really far. My thinking hasn’t produced any results about why I feel this way yet. I just know that thinking about running 50 and 100 miles in a row doesn’t phase me anymore.

Categories: marathon, training


I don’t know how to start this post. I think about nutrition a lot, but I don’t have a story to tell about my habits. There are things that I do, but how can I recommend them to others? My decisions are based on life experiences plus a slightly obsessive tendency to read the nutrition advice in all magazines I open, more recently the Health section of the New York Times online, and various food-related books. That doesn’t mean what I do is right for anyone else. But I guess I have two main points to say, in case you didn’t get the memo yet. 1) Eat less processed food for a more healthful diet. 2) Being vegetarian is probably good for the world, so any reduction in your personal meat consumption is a step in the right direction.

I was a vegetarian for two and a half years, until I started training for the Philly Marathon. I wasn’t the *best* vegetarian; I changed my habits for environmental reasons and I never stopped liking meat. My biggest weakness was chicken wings, and when drunk would occasionally buy wings. In August I went on vacation with my family and was camping, and it was easier with the camping-cooking set-up to eat meat, so I took a vacation from vegetarianism. When I came back, for about a month I verged between going back to vegetarianism and officially eating meat again. I think one day I came back from a run, and really wanted meat, and decided satisfying my hunger was important. Now I am trying to eat mostly vegetarian. I tend to not cook meat and get it when I go out.

Here is the environmental insert: Meat takes ten times as much plant calories to produce the calories you actually consume. In a world where farming space is limited and people are multiplying, it makes more sense to eat plants directly than animals that eats those same plants. That isn’t the only aspect of the complex problems with farming, shipping food, and making sure the world is fed, but if you just look at the basic problem, more people can be fed off the limited farm land if all the land produced plants that were directly consumed by people. So please, consider cutting back your consumption of meat. Even a few meals a week that you eat vegetarian can make a difference. (Although if you are replacing meat with highly processed soy products that have the texture of meat, that switch may not make a difference from the energy perspective).

I think I eat pretty damn healthy. I eat a lot of vegetables and fruit, I tend to eat whole grain things over processed grains, I cook a lot of my food, I have reduced my consumption of sugared deserts, and I think I use less salt than other people when cooking. With that said, I also like beer a lot and I like being full.

So I’m not perfect, darn.

I recently got “Food Rules” by Michael Pollan, and I think these 64 rules are a good summary of my basic beliefs about foods. Other books I really valued reading were “The End of Overeating” by David Kessler and “Food Matters” by Mark Bittman, which is half cookbook, half compilation of food related info. I think one of the more interesting perspectives these books provide is that the food we eat today is driven by what the government promotes and subsidizes, which is driven by companies who want to make money, not by people who know about health.

Categories: nutrition