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.