Writing a New Chapter

This picture was taken July 27,2018. It was the last time I shut down my computer in the office of what had been my dream job for eighteen years.

Shutting Down this Chapter

Working at CLIF Bar as the lead nutritionist was living my dream. It opened my eyes to opportunities, growth, and community. I could nerd out on nutrition strategy AND run at work with an extended family of friends and adventurers. Those friendships will long outlast my butt in a seat at Clif Bar & Company’s office. After eighteen years, it was time for change.

It is no secret that running is a major priority in my life. When I can’t run I am thinking about when I can run or, what else I can do to get outside and play in the dirt. When I interviewed at CLIF in the year 2000 I was told three things that left me with no doubts that this was the place for me. They saw it too because I did beat out ninety other applicants.

Those three things were:

  1. You can take time out of your work day to run or do another workout
  2. The office is closed between Christmas and New Year as additional paid time off to reset before the New Year.
  3. Every seven years you earn a sabbatical.

Prior to working at CLIF my biggest worry was, ” When can I fit in time to run?” ( know this was before kids, mortgage, etc) That worry relieved freed me to do my best work for years.

I enjoyed not one but, two sabbaticals that gave me time to devote to family, running, and writing. I ran my first 50k, explored with my family, and spent more time outside. Called to write, I also signed on with the Sexy Grammarian, Kristy, who I am still working with four years later!

Returning to an office after the second sabbatical was a struggle. Two older kids and a marriage, accountabilities at home were mounting and time at work was maximized in meetings or at my desk. The stress about “when I would run” snuck back in. What really overwhelmed me now however, was “when would I get to run on dirt or in the mountains?”  CLIF has amazing office spaces and even more amazing culture. The “BUT” here was that time in the outdoors was more a priority than ever before for both me and my family.

I began asking the questions, “Could I work in a different way? Could I work in away that prioritized what I needed to produce my best work?” My then boss asked me a very important question. She said, “Tara, what do you want to do?” Her question was work related but, I chose to answer this more holistically.  What do I want and what impact do I want to have overall and, not just within the walls of an office? How I chose to answer these questions lead me down a path of self-reflection and deep personal work I hadn’t done before with some surprising or not so surprising answers revealed. I want:

  • More outdoor adventures
  • More emotional availability for my kids
  • Daily interaction with outdoorists
  • More impact on people with big outdoor goals
  • More writing
  • More running

Lot’s of “mores” on this list that didn’t correlate with how I was currently working or living.

Today, I am working under a new model that is about integrating work with life more holistically. It required setting priorities that aligned with the impact I want to have and how I need to spend my time. It is exciting, scary, and a lot of work based values of adventure and well-being. Everything I do is done through this lens so I can show up.

My inspiration has been the numerous professional athletes I have worked with over the years. Their ability to do their sport depends on their well-being. Talk to any outdoor athlete and it is easy to see how they intentionally design a lifestyle to support their value of athleticism and outdoors. Guess what? It isn’t necessary to be a pro athlete to do this. It is necessary to be intentional with a lifestyle.

Three years later brought me to the point in this photo where I could close down this laptop and hand it over with both melancholy for memories and relief. Leaving a good job was difficult. It was a process inclusive of  grief, anger, recovery, resolve, and determination. Now I can begin writing a new chapter.

*The majority of this post was voice recorded from the trail. Please disregard typos.

Ed Anacker Bridger Ridge Run is On My Mind

A few years ago I had the chance take part in the making of a short film about the community that gathers every year in the Bridger mountians outside of Bozeman, MT to run the four peaks. This race is one that calls you back. The beauty of Montana the and runner comradiere is hard to deny which, is why I am joining in again. Being from Montana, a MSU grad, and an ultra runner, this race and it’s people are in my DNA.

Check out this flick I was part of during my second sabbatical (earned after 14 years of leading nutrition strategy for Clif Bar & Company). I would like to dedicate this years run to someone or something. Any ideas?

Nutrition Daze and Concussion Recovery

Literally it has been a few months since my last post.  Recovery from a concussion incurred when walking my dog has set me back months on 1) Resigning my from eighteen year post as the lead nutrition strategist for Clif Bar & Company 2) Launching my own nutrition strategy company, and  3) Training for mountain adventures!

No matter how a head injury is obtained, it is no joke. After a febal attempt at slowing down for two weeks and coming back to full speed the third week post concussion, I set myself back further. Big plans and big ambition have had me in over drive for the last year. When my doctor said take two days off and take it easy for a few weeks, she had no idea how ampt up my baseline was.

Leaving one of the best offices and companies to start my own business from the mountain town of Truckee has been a year in the making and had me in a whirlwind of driving, texting (not while driving, thank you!), learning, planning, strategizing, and running with my running people to stay sane. I have been living out of a bag for months, leaving my family every week , and “spare bedroom surfing” in the Bay Area to make it all work. Then SMACK, enticing my dog to run between my legs and hanging my head down at her level, we cracked noggins.

One month later, my head is still not straight but, it is better enough to share with you my nutrition regimen for concussion recovery. While the science isn’t certain on this methods, it certainly can’t hurt. Here is my nutrition prescription for healing mind and body rocked when dog walking:

  1. One five gram scoop of creatine powder blended with plain greek yogurt, banana, and nut butter (daily)
  2. 2000 IU Vitamin D
  3. 2000 IU Omega 3
  4. Topical arnica on shoulders each evening
  5. Arnica tablets as directed on bottle

Setbacks are rarely planned. When the inevitably hit there is a process that must be respected (reminder to self).  I realize this incidence could have been much worse.  Finding gratitude in even the slightests of struggles can help bring comfort in doing just what we can today and the patience to not push ourselves for more all the time.

Stayed tuned on progess towards and ways to work with me in the near-er future.

Running Out of Gas

The last two months have been a practice of going inward and reflecting on everything from career, parenting, running, and relationships. This has resulted in no recent posts. No apologies necessary. This is just a time of year I go inward.

My career coach, mentors, and long-top therapist have all said in separate instances that ” it is time to get out of your head and into the world.”

Nothing proved their point more than the circumstances that brought about this photo!

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Let’s just get to the point. My car ran out of gas thirty-five miles outside of my mountain home. I was returning home after my weekly working-in-the-office-stint in the Bay Area, listening to Jenny Blake’s Pivot Podcast, and reflecting hard on my next career move when they car began decelerating up the mountain pass.

I quickly realized that the car was dying still, with no idea why, pulled over, called my husband and said, “Something is wrong with the car.” He says, “How? It is a brand new car.” It was then that I saw the gas light. “How many miles do you have? Do you think you can make it to the gas station?” Nope. The indicator says “zero miles” and the car won’t start.

I had driven nearly two hundred miles to this point and stopped mid-way to fill up my body’s tank and get groceries. Not once did I get out of my head long enough to think about gas for the car. Indeed, it is time to get out of my head and into a new year where I will get back to posting stories on nutrition and adventures both mountain and in the day-to-day.

So, there I sit at the bottom of the exit ramp off Interstate 80 calm as could be on the phone with roadside assistance. As roadside was attempting to find my mountain pass location a flatbed tow track came backing down the I-80 on-ramp like a mirage out of the darkness ( it was 9:30pm). Wow, roadside, that was quick!

Turns on this kind man and his wife were traveling east on the highway and saw my hazards when they decided to reverse down the on-ramp and see if someone needed help.

That someone was me! “Let me just throw your car on the truck for free and drive you the one point five miles to the gas station. You will wait forever for roadside.” Roadside highly advised me to wait for their service provider but, I took a chance on the kindness of this man and his desire to help. Indeed I was taking a chance on humanity but, it was going to save me at least sixty minutes so I went for it.

The next day I had a call with my career coach. I knew that running out of gas meant something. I took away a few things from this:

  1. Grandpa Eric is right, “It is just as easy to fill up the top half of the tank as it is the bottom half.” Don’t wait. Just fill it
  2. People do like to help people with whatever means they can
  3. It is time to move out of the thinking mind and into action
  4. When something goes wrong, I will know what to do

 

A North Face 50K Birthday Present

Spending my birthday getting dirty running the trails through Golden Gate National Recreation Area, John Muir Woods, Muir Beach, and over the Golden Gate Bridge with a bunch of runners and, my family at the finish line, is my kind of celebration. This is exactly how I will be celebrating not only my birthday but, the fact that I get to be at the The North Face 50K in the first place.

Not only do things have to be good in life to run, things also have to fall in place to get fit enough to run! One of the most challenging parts of training  is carrying on with all the other responsibilities liking working, parenting, dog-owning, home-owning, teacher conference-ing, doctor appointments, stomach flu (the whole family), volunteering, home-work helping, and traveling two-hundred miles between home and office twice a week (in temporary transition – ask me later). To me, all of this is actually part of endurance training (or is running training for all of that?). I am doing all those things and yet still I insist on adding training to the list. Why? Because running is me and, without it is too easy to lose me.

So happy birthday to me!

 

 

 

Running Rim to Rim to Rim

Choices are hard sometimes . I had already begun to imagine the dirty trail beneath my feet, the view, the exhaustion, and the gab session when my running-mom-partner-in-crime (Lisa) asked me a random question to distract us from the inevitable fatigue that would set in while running the Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) of the Grand Canyon. I just couldn’t make it happen this round.

Perhaps the decision not to join in the R2R2R fun was what propelled me to plop down on the couch with a glass of wine with my laptop and proceed on a race registration “bender”. Late August I put another set of challenges of no less equal magnitude on my race calendar: The North Face 50km, Cal International Marathon, Seven Summit Series by Ragnar, The Truckee Half Marathon, and the furthest out and most outrageous, Comrades Marathon in South Africa (running-mom-partner-in-crime from college made me do that one – Stephanie).

Some people online shop in the late evening hours after their family is in bed; I sign up for races.

More than the wine, it was having to decline the great adventure of running the Grand Canyon. The R2R2R, I have discovered,  is one of those things runners do not as an organized race but rather, a collective challenging adventure that produces stories and memories for years to come. It is roughly forty six miles of rough running down, across, up and back again in one of our countries most beautiful, natural landmarks. It sounds ridiculous but, it is available to all who of the desire to see the entire Grand Canyon on foot. Last April another running crew I associate with went out as a seventieth birthday party with our high school cross country running coach we are all still in touch with.

Tomorrow morning my running friends from CLIF embark on this great adventure, starting before sunrise.  Not joining them was  tough decision. Instead, I am on a different kind of adventure, exploring the nutrition and running communities of Chicago and bringing new insights back home from a nutrition conference. Blah, blah but, don’t worry. I will make those insights worth it.

This R2R2R crew is so on my mind that last night I dreamed I had the weekends mixed up and that they were actually running it next weekend instead. I could join the after all! Alas, it was  a dream. It is impossible to “do it all” after all.

Given I have a an ultra and a road marathon coming up I will be putting in some miles between nutrition sessions. My Grand Canyon crew on my mind all the while. Just knowing they are out there will motivate me to cover the twenty two miles on my training plan tomorrow while I think of them having to go twenty-four more miles to meals, showers, and bed (likely in that order). Enjoy every spectacular minute!

 

We Run in Good Times

We get to run when all is well. Right now all is not well in the communities where I work and play. Waking each morning this week to the smoke-filled air has been too eerie. The smoke represents devastating amounts of loss happening in the North Bay communities where friends and families live. Ash is falling from the sky and it is hard to think of anything but what that ash is from and what we can do to help.

We wear facemasks, stay in doors if we can, and try to breath softly. We mobilize our networks, remind ourselves what important work really is, and try to do something, anything truly meaningful when feeling helpless in light of yet another tradegy, this time much closer to the place we call home.

Running and recreation are luxuries to be grateful for doing. When things are good again remember, no matter how ” bad” it feels, it is good.

In gratitude for running times.

Fourth in a Four Part Series on Getting High: Nutrition Considerations at Altitude

Got iron? I am continually challenged by low iron storage (aka pre-anemic state). My first experience with low iron was during my high school running career when I decided that I didn’t like meat, not for any other reason than I preferred bread and pasta. Being the avid, OCD, calorie counter I was back then, I swapped protein calories for carbohydrate calories.

This of course was not smart but at sixteen,  it made  perfect sense. The most absorb-able source of iron of course is red meat. As my meat consumption decreased so did my iron status. This is important because iron is the critical mineral in transporting oxygen to muscles, and when muscles are running they use more of it. This little dietary stunt sent my long-distance running, low-iron-storing, menstruating  female body into declining athletic performance that cost me my entire senior year of competition and athletic scholarship.

The lesson was clear. Study nutrition and begin enjoying steak at least once in a while. Even now, as a meat eater and someone who knows that iron absorption from green leafy vegetables can increase when consumed with orange juice, I really have to work during training to keep iron levels out of the pre-anemic state.

The pre-anemic state is no big thing when the muscles aren’t demanding tons and tons of oxygen. A runner however, can feel the effect of low iron storage even before meeting clinical criteria for anemia. I have had to convince my doctor to test my ferritin levels (iron storage) despite not showing signs of anemia.

Any low iron state will be exaggerated at altitude because iron has the job of carrying the limited oxygen available around the body to the muscles. Getting a baseline blood test as training for a mountain objectives begins can allow time to adjust the diet and take a supplement if needed. It can take six to ten weeks of iron supplementation and increasing iron-rich foods to get stores back up.  There can be however, side effects of too much iron. Diets consisting of iron rich foods won’t likely put someone over the top but, before hitting the supplement bottle based on an assumption, get that test.

Running on low-iron felt to me like moving in slow motion beginning at about mile three of any run. It can feel a lot like over training, and it can be very discouraging to then increase training only to worsen performance. I found it very satisfying after running my first fifty kilometer trail race to discover my iron status was in the dumps. Why? Because I knew how to fix it. Get the test.

Practice Discipline in these Three Areas to Support Athletic Performance

Speaking on a panel at the Spartan World Championships in Squaw Valley, California may be one of the most interesting angles I have come at nutrition from yet. The panel topic is discipline.

Learning to eat in a way that supports what you set out to achieve – in this case completing thirty plus obstacles, over thirteen or more miles while running up and down mountain peaks at elevation – requires discipline to change from eating behaviors that do not support what you hope to achieve.

For many non-competitive athletes who want to improve and achieve in sport as a hobby they first have to shift in mindset from exercising to burn calories to then be rewarded with food  to that of an athlete who exercises to train and who eats to train for the reward of achieving something more than the calorie credit to eat lots of pizza after a race.

How does someone begin to change the mindset? Well, in my experience as an athlete and working with the pros I have found applying discipline  in these three areas can change the reward mindset to one that makes the participation in the sport the reward rather than loads of food.

Three disciplines to practice daily:

 

Eat to train. Don’t train to eat. Skipping meals, skimping on food during training and events lasting longer than one hour, and delaying eating after activity have major consequences on how well the body can feel during the activity. Stop holding  out on providing the body  the right fuel at the right time through out the day and through activity.

Eat with purpose.  Eating with purpose is being conscious of what is going into the body and why. The purpose could be anything like to nourish, energize, recover, and even to celebrate or relax. This empowers the eater to make the food choice with feeling deprived while also eating the right to suit the occassion.

Eat before, during, and after hard training and events.  Eating an energy dense meal the hours before like a big bowl of fruit and yogurt will top of energy stores in the muscles. Eating an energy gel or three energy chews every twenty to thirty minutes during activity lasting more than an hour will give you the edge over competitors who skip it. Eating a protein bar or drink after the effort to kick start recovery helps to get the body prepared for the next challenge.

Discipline isn’t holding off or delaying gratification. Discipline in sports nutrition comes from learning what to it when and  changing the behavior mindset so it isn’t all about will power but rather, a healthy routine if eating the right food and the right time to suit the occasion, even if that occasion is a celebration!

 

 

 

 

Adventure Mamas Must Adapt

Day-pack stocked with provisions, water bottles filled, sunscreen on, hats, helmets, Xtracycle loaded, scooter in too! Adventure is on for me and my seven and eleven year old sons.  What is adventurous is relative and, as kids grow from infant, toddler, to school age adventure mamas have to learn to adapt. Things that previously were far from a challenge or an adventure suddenly become so when adding kids’ wheels and human power. A casual bike ride down an asphalt trail turns into an epic day with active “big kids” heading to Soccerfest followed by bike park. The xtracyle ( a cargo bike that can carry both my boys on the back) is both back-up when they poop out AND strength training for my self-care day of mountain running.

My boys and I know that the journeys we take are not going to be cake walks. Talking with them ahead of time prepares them when things are inevitably difficult or tiring They have come to expect challenges like big climbs, tired legs, hungry tummies, and short tempers, and have fun despite them. For me, it is teaching them the character- building joys of “type two fun”.