In Defense of the Food Diary for Runners

Snackin' and Trackin'

Snackin’ and Trackin’

I should preface this article by saying it really infuriates me when people assume running is only a means to get a number on the scale or a size on a pair of jeans. It’s an understatement to say that running is so much more than that. Unfortunately, though, it often seems that women’s running magazines and websites, in both their articles and advertising, seem to assume looking hot is our prime motivation.

That aside, to some extent our weight is tied to our physical health, and the way we look is often tied to our mental well-being. As anyone who started running as an adult can attest, running changes us. The changes can range from weight-loss to muscle-gain, a smaller bra to a stronger sense of self, from overcoming depression to something as simple as a watch tan-line.

Running has also helped me feel more present and aware in all aspects of my life. That’s why, two months after my big PR marathon, following a training segment that included the highest mileage and toughest workouts I’ve ever taken on, with the calendar edging closer to fall, I noticed that my clothes fit differently, that I was chafing in new places, and that my weight was creeping up despite running over fifty miles most weeks. I grudgingly admitted to myself that I let my mindfulness about eating slide, and I decided the time had come to force myself to think about my eating habits. It was time to keep a food diary.

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The Lowdown on Marathon Training with McMillan Running

imageHere at Salty Running, we’ve talked about a myriad of ways to train in our training logs and recently in our popular marathon training plan reviews. So far we’ve taken a look at Hansons, Pete Pfitzinger and Lydiard training plans. Now, we’re going to talk about Greg McMillan.

I know quite a bit about Greg McMillan’s theories about optimal run training, because I’ve been training with McMillan Running since 2013, under one of Greg’s protégées, coach Emily Harrison. Under coach Emily’s care, I’ve PR’ed in every distance I’ve raced from 5K to 100 miles. McMillan Running is for runners of all levels and distances, but his expertise seems to be the marathon. 

McMillan training plans have most definitely worked for me, but how do you know if they’re right for you?

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Running and Faith

Photo of a runner's legs.

Will it all pay off?

In college, I ran 12 track races that were PRs, most only by a second or two, but over 25 that weren’t. I ran about 10,000 miles in college, including miserable workouts that left me rereading my training log and wondering why I was bothering to put myself through this, terrible long runs where I found myself in the middle of hilly suburbs desperately needing a toilet, but also a lot of amazing, exhilarating runs as well. I went to bed early, ate reasonably healthily, and generally tried to always “live the life,” as my coach would say, but would often wonder if it was worth it.

My point is that running is hard. There are lots of times it inconveniences me or the other people in my life, and there are times at which it is straight-up miserable. But for every reason to quit, I have one reason to keep at it that, so far, beats them all: faith.
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More than Lipstick: How Avon Brought the Women’s Marathon to the Olympics

If our foremothers could have seen the future, they would have been pretty impressed.Early last Sunday morning, we huddled around our computers and TVs to spectate the ultimate in women’s running: the 2016 Olympic Marathon. We watched amazing athletes from across the globe run 26.2 miles at paces many of us can’t even hold for one. The race culminated with a stunning finish, Kenyan Jemima Sumgong crushing Bahrain’s Eunice Kirwa with her finishing kick. In the team showings, for the first time ever, three members of Team USA finished in the top ten, the only nation other than Japan to have ever achieved that feat.

Watching these runners is awe inspiring, but, with this being the ninth Olympic women’s marathon, I’m reminded that it wasn’t so long ago that there wasn’t a women’s Olympic Marathon at all.  In fact, not that long ago women couldn’t even enter any marathon. But thanks to the unlikely champion of women’s running, the makeup company Avon, women the world over run marathons, including the 133 world-class athletes who finished the 2016 Olympic Marathon in Rio.  Read more

Running and Mono: My Story

imageThree months ago, there I lay: the fluorescent lights burning my eyes and the sound of tissue crumpling beneath me. I couldn’t help it. I was so tired that I fell asleep on the table in the urgent care examination room while I waited for the doctor. I’m not one to make much of being sick, but at 41, I’m also reticent to take good health for granted. I’ll admit it; I was a little scared. I had never felt sick like this before, so sick I no longer cared about the fact that I was missing many runs of the marathon training plan I started three weeks earlier. Twenty-four hours later, I’d learn that I was one of the rare adults over 40 to contract mono.

Yep, that mono: the mono that prevents many a college student from partying hard, that gives high school students an excuse to miss first period, that was threatening my marathon training plan and my entire summer.  Read more

Readers Roundtable: 10 Questions About the Rio Olympics

We would show you this photo, but NBC has more lawyers.Now that the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympics are over, we have so many things to talk about. We couldn’t choose only one question this week, so we decided to ask you ten! We’d love your opinions on all, some, or one, or feel free to share your commentary on some other aspect of the Games.

  1. Best race overall
  2. Best individual performance in a race
  3. Most likely doper
  4. Biggest disappointment
  5. Best athlete back story
  6. Worst NBC commentator flub
  7. Best display of sportsmanship (or sportswomanship)
  8. The one thing/person you loved that no one else seemed to appreciate
  9. The one thing/person that annoyed you that everyone else seemed to love
  10. What grade would you give the Rio Games and why?

All questions are geared to the running events, but if you have strong opinions about other events go ahead and share!

My Sunday Long Run as Told by NBC Olympic Commentators

NBC Loves me[voice of NBC announcer Tom live on the scene]

Tom: Welcome to the most popular parking lot for runners in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio. This morning, these nondescript sedans and family cars will provide the backdrop for the start of Dill’s much anticipated Sunday long run.

Today we’ll be following the journey of this legendary mother of two as she attempts to finish twenty miles at thirty seconds slower than her goal marathon pace. But her journey didn’t start here on this hot and humid morning. Here’s Bob to take a look at the difficult journey Dill endured just to get herself and her minivan here. Read more

North: An In-depth Look at a High School Cross Country Team

The North High Women's Cross Country TeamWhen the sky turns silvery blue with those big puffy clouds and the first leaves threaten to turn from green to gold, even while the temperatures say it’s still summer, cross-country season begins. In power-house districts, mostly concentrated in wealthy suburbs, huge teams of teens congregate in parks for repeats, drills and strides through meadows and trails. But in some, like Eastlake North, a Division I school in the working class suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, it can be more challenging to amass a dominating team. Other area high schools of similar size have dozens of girls spread out over freshman, JV, and vasity teams, but North has a total of ten: ten inspiring, determined girls you will get to know over the course of this season. Read more

Should You Do a Workout in a Race?

It can be fun to do a workout in a race: less pressure!

It can be fun to do a workout in a race: less pressure!

The perfect race scenario goes something like this: You’re in the middle or at the end of a hard, satisfying training cycle. You’ve had this race on the calendar for a while and now you’re rested up and ready to go. The weather forecast looks great, and you’re prepared to leave it all out on the course, experience a little race day magic, and nail a huge PR. 

A lot of the time, though, it doesn’t go that way. Maybe you have a three-mile tempo at 10k pace on your training plan and your school is putting on a 5k this weekend. Maybe you’re on vacation and your whole family is running a road race during your base-building phase. Maybe there’s a half marathon starting a mile from your house and you conveniently have twelve miles at marathon pace in your training plan for that day.

Should you do it? Should you ever hit up a race to do a workout or should you only enter races to race?

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Pete Pfitzinger Marathon Training Plans

imageYou did it!! You just signed up for your (1st, 10th, 147th) marathon. Once you hit submit for your online registration and receive that confirmation email, it’s final. Sometimes we sign up for races a long way out and other times we sign up the week of. Regardless of how far out, some form of training plan is suggested. It’s kind of hard to wing 26.2 miles.

NOW WHAT?! Naturally, running comes to mind. But with so many plans available, how can you decipher the good from the bad and what will work best with your current life situation? A simple Google search of ‘marathon training plans’ reveals over 5 million results within half a second. Here at Salty Running, we have outlined the Hansons and Lydiard methods, but because we are all different and we know that there are few things better than variety, here is the low down on the Pete Pftizinger Advanced Marathoning plans.

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Who Should Women Runners Fear? It’s Not Who You Think

Slack for iOS Upload (21)As I ran this morning on the treadmill, I watched Fox News cover the story of the female runners who had been recently murdered while out on a run. I watched the story transition from one about potential connections between the murders to one where a trained individual showed two women how to protect themselves from a stranger attack while on a run. He mimicked running behind each runner and using their ponytails to yank them back and pull them off balance.

The image was almost panic-inducing. I imagined myself, out on a run, often the only person running on the trails around my local urban park. I found myself watching carefully to see what tips I could pick up to protect myself should I encounter a serial killer on my run.

But as I ran ostensibly safely on a treadmill inside a large, local big-box gym, I started to really think about the message this coverage was sending. Are we really in this much danger when we run and, if we are, what obligations do we have to protect ourselves?  Read more

I Beat Michael Phelps and Other Tales of Superstar Humanity

Parsley swimming at the U.S. Olympic Training Center around the time she beat Michael Phelps.

For two years I was part of the U.S.A.’s modern pentathlon team, during which I trained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. There I crossed paths with many famous athletes. One of my favorite run-ins was with Michael Phelps. Sure, he’s not squeaky clean, but that just shows how human he is … outside of his twenty-eight Olympic medals, of course. When I saw him sitting in the hot tub recovering from practice, he seemed down-to-earth, talking about normal stuff. If anything, he was a little bit goofy.

But besides my assessment of his personality, I took one look at him and thought, Wow, this person was born to swim. His torso and arms are so disproportionately long compared to the rest of his body, there’s no doubt his body was built to be that of a swimmer, an Olympic gold-caliber swimmer.

And I beat him once.  Read more

Getting High: The Effects of Running at Altitude

imageMy happy place is the mountains. I dream of owning a mountain home and spending my summers backpacking, hiking, lake lounging and kayaking. This summer, I had a taste of mountain life. I spent a lot of time in the Sierras, which was interesting as I’ve also been following a rigorous 50-mile race training plan.

As you might imagine, running at 8,000 feet has been slightly more difficult than running at my usual sea level: my legs are heavy, my breathing rapid, and while warm, I feel more clammy than sweaty. Worried about how this was affecting my training, I fretted over the impact altitude running was having on my body. Was I still maximizing my workouts? Was dehydration taking its toll? Or, like the elites who spend time at length in places like Flagstaff or Park City, was I gaining a zillion new red blood cells?

Just what exactly is altitude training, and does it mean anything to amateurs like me? Read more

What I Learned from a 30 Day Run Streak

imageIn the spring, I noticed a trend after posting my training logs: immediate and crushing guilt. I could see plainly on the screen, and in the notes that I keep so religiously in my phone, that I wasn’t doing my best. I wasn’t pushing hard enough. In fact, I was barely pushing at all. I read other training logs and compared my own work to everyone else’s. Not in a negative way, but rather, invisible, positive peer pressure. I know I have a long way to go before I get as fast or as mileage-heavy as everyone else. That was not my concern: my concern was that I was only running three-ish days a week when I knew I could do better.

I was making every excuse in the book. I work odd hours. True. I live in an inconvenient location. True. It’s too hot.  I’m way too busy. True-ish.

After having a self-intervention and lots of time to think on an 8-hour flight, I decided that the problem was that I made no time for running. Naturally, the only solution was running every day. Running thirty days in a row, in fact. The only remedy was a run streak.

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Readers Roundtable: Was Ayana’s 10,000 WR a Feat or Fraud?

Alax AyanaAyanaThe Rio Olympic track and field events kicked off with an amazing day, most notably with the insanely aggressive running of Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana in the Women’s 10,000 meters. Almaz didn’t just demolish the incredibly competitive field, she bested Wang Junxia’s 23-year-old dope-enabled world record by 14 seconds! With so many high-profile distance races run tactically, seeing an athlete of Ayana’s caliber going for time and pulling so many other great athletes to epic performances including eight national records, was a sight to behold!

Even before the top runners crossed the finish line, Twitter was aflutter with doping allegations. Yet, looking at the results of the top six runners, every single one of them ran personal bests. The USA’s Molly Huddle ran a big PR and a nine-second American Record. Fifth place, Betsy Saina who is a Kenyan athlete, but has trained in the U.S. also ran a huge 10,000 personal best. Tirunesh Dibaba, who won gold in the 10,000 in Beijing and London, who took almost two years off of competing when pregnant and recovering from having her son, ran the fastest time she has ever run …. and she is fast.

Who is doping? Why do we think they’re doping? I personally do not know, but I’d love for us to lay out all the evidence both for and against the idea that this 10,000 was anything more than one for the ages. Because in this era of corruption and suspicion surrounding our sport, wouldn’t it be nice to have that?

After the jump, I’ll include some resources that I’ve collected. Please share others in the comments! Read more