Featured Rogue: Jennifer Acosta

jen-1People often ask me, “Why do you run?” and I respond with “Why don’t you run?” In many ways, running has always been a big part of my life. When I was in high school, I was always seen as a “fast” kid. I was on the cross-country, track, and soccer teams. In my junior year of high school, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. What did I do when I first heard this? I asked my parents to drop me off at the track and I ran until I couldn’t anymore. After undergoing treatment and brain surgery, I was told there was a great possibility that I would never be normal again.

My recovery was a rough year, I couldn’t do things I once took for granted. I couldn’t walk, was bound to a wheelchair for six months, had aggressive physical therapy, and was trying to retrain my brain to move my legs again. In addition to my walking abilities, there were other things I couldn’t do like button my shirt, speak properly, or remember things. I worked tirelessly to build up the strength to stand and then to walk around for a couple of seconds before my legs would give out. After a year of recovery, I tried to run again. I’ll never forget this particular run because I made it halfway down the block, felt like everything was loose in my brain, and started vomiting.

Many years have passed since that first run post brain surgery and I have since encountered others who have inspired me, motivated me, and shared my enthusiasm for running. Last year, I found myself once again motivated to go beyond what seems possible by one of my patients, Sharon. After talking for a while, she encouraged me to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Most people don’t understand what a “BQ” is or why “I must run Boston.” In my clinical experience, I have encountered patients who had the same diagnosis as me but their story did not end like mine. They are not by societies standards “healthy and normal.” They are in a wheelchair with a trachea tube, have an abnormal gait, or slur their speech. God has obviously guided me for a greater purpose. I promised myself if I were healthy enough to run, I would run with the best at the Boston Marathon.

jen-2To achieve my goal of qualifying for Boston, I joined Rogue and started running with Coach Larry’s group. Coach Larry suggested I train for the Houston Marathon to achieve my “BQ”. It was here that I bonded with fellow runners over long runs and happy hours. The miles just pass when you’re having a good time with friends! And then there’s Eddie, my best friend that I’m fortunate enough to call my husband. Eddie has always supported my crazy decisions, and is the only person who has patience for my stubbornness. Anyone who has met Eddie knows he hates running, yet he has completed two marathons and helped pace me during our runs.

On January 15th, 2017, the Houston Marathon had arrived. The start was 67 degrees with 97% humidity with mention that the temperature was expected to escalate into the 70s. I had trained in the humidity and heat before, so I thought I was ready to embark on this journey. I told myself that I would aim for my original goal, which was to get my “BQ” and run a 3:35 marathon. I would start off running negative splits and then pick up the pace as the race went on. The first two miles were fun and crowded; there were so many people, it was like a herd of cattle trying to get through a corral. I was on target with paces until mile 16 on Memorial Drive. Eddie told me that if I wanted to keep my initial goal, I would have to pick up the pace. It was at this point I was feeling lightheaded, my legs felt weaker, and my heart felt a little faster than usual. I almost gave up.

I felt like a cloud slowly drifted away and I cried a little. Memorial Drive was never ending. When we reached mile 23, Eddie told me he needed a break but for me to keep going. I guess that gave me some adrenaline, so I kept moving forward. Ironically, I clocked my fastest mile at mile 26, when I felt like I had nothing else left. I’m a strong believer and have a lot of faith…as soon as I crossed the finish line, the sky broke open and rain started pouring down.

It was a sign from above. God was telling me you didn’t meet your goal but you’ve completed this chapter. Not all stories have a perfect ending. Sometimes we must fall before we can learn to walk again. If we never challenge ourselves how will we know what we are capable of accomplishing?

jen-3

A Practical Guide to the Carbo Load (aka, why I love the taper)

By Jeff Knight

If you’re like me, the taper drives you crazy. Phantom injuries, heavy legs, nightmares of waking up to the sound of the starting gun on race day (!) and a paralyzing feel that you are magically out of shape. But, BUT, there is one bright spot among all this. No, its not getting to wake up at 5:00AM instead of 4:40AM (that’s nice too) instead, its these two words: carbo load.

zazzle.com (fun to say, goofy shirts)

zazzle.com (fun to say, goofy shirts)

Yes, I admit, I have – what will undoubtedly be the cause of an actual soft spot if I quit running – a soft spot for carbohydrates. Imagine the scene from American Beauty where the girl is covered in rose petals. I imagine that as bagels instead of rose petals. Or think Scrooge McDuck swimming through a vault full of pasta. Thats me. This, while typically a nemesis of training, I’ve found has served me well for one week of the training cycle.

And while the skeptics out there may call carbo loading a product of the evil grain lobby, I disagree. I believe carbo loading has some real value and that’s what we’ll cover today. I’ll break down why we should carbo load, give some historical context, talk about current methods and provide a practical guideline. So grab a potato and read on.

>>WHY CARBO LOAD?<<

Before we take this as a hall pass to stuff our faces with croissants, lets understand why we stuff our faces with croissants.  Just like a car engine, our bodies use fuel when we run. However, we are more like a hybrid car in that we use a mix of fuel sources. The two main fuel sources we use when running are carbohydrates and fats. And while there is some interesting talk of high, HIGH-fat diets being the new silver bullet for endurance running, currently, the most important fuel source for marathoners or half marathoners is carbohydrates.  (On an unrelated note, if you ever want me to get on my soap box, ask me about low carb diets for runners.)

Why are carbs so important? Lets look at a graph…

….Stay with me!!…

….its just one graph…and maybe a table but one graph for now! Silly picture will come later.

Relationship between running pace and fuel usage.

Relationship between running pace and fuel usage (numbers and such are hypothetical and simply represent the relationship).

The above graph shows the relationship between the type of fuel we use when exercising and the pace at which we exercise. As you can see, the distribution between fats (green line) and carbs (orange line) are opposite. If we start with a walk, we use primarily fat. As we speed up to an easy-paced run, we sill use primarily fat but a little more carbs. Then as we get to marathon pace or half marathon pace, the two lines cross and we find ourselves using more carbohydrates than fats. We can continue this all the way to a 400-meter sprint where we use virtually zero fat as fuel.

“as we get to marathon pace or half marathon pace, the two lines cross and we find ourselves using more carbohydrates than fats.”

“So what?” you might ask, we use more carbohydrates than fats when racing. Well, carbohydrates are stored in limited supply in the body. Normally we carry enough around to run ~16 miles at MGP. A la, “the wall” at 16 miles. This means fuel and NOT fitness is going to prevent us from reaching a goal.  That sucks! (This is in comparison to fat, which we store enough fuel to run like 1,600 miles.) But, BUT, what’s even more crazy is under a normal diet, we only keep our glycogen fuel tanks full to 90%! And, the good news is we can do something to store more carbohydrates than we normally do. We can do something to fill the fuel tanks that final 10% and that is carbo loading.

To summarize, the crux is carbohydrates are the most important fuel source during the race and we don’t store enough under normal conditions to sustain race pace beyond ~16 miles. Then the question becomes, how can we store more fuel than normal? How do we store enough fuel that, in combination with gels/chews, that fuel doesn’t limit our race performance?  How can we go into the race with the fuel tanks topped off instead of leaving them at our normal point of 90% full?

>>HISTORICAL STUDIES<<

(I like this stuff which means you have to suffer through it with me – XOXO) Back in the 1960s, some grad students were sitting around bored. (I’m assuming) They were probably runners or cyclists and they had some equipment to look at how much carbohydrates they could store in the muscle (e.g., a muscle biopsy).  They also knew that if you worked out really hard, ate a lot of bread that you’d have more carbohydrates stored in your muscles than normal. Knowing that carbs were an important fuel, they did what any bored grad student would do, they started screwing around with the best ways to maximize carbohydrate storage. One of these guys was names Ahlborg and so this went on to be called the Ahlborg method.

The Ahlborg method went like this. About a week out from your key race, you run yourself to pieces. Think a monster track workout (maybe 6x1M at 10k pace). After that workout, they would essentially starve themselves with an Adkin’s Diet (2010, yall!). After starving for a few days, they would do ANOTHER monster workout except this time, they would go carb-crazy post workout. Then over the next few days until their race, they would eat and eat and eat every carb in site. The end result was the fuel tanks would be at 100% entering the race. Moving those tanks from the normal 90% full up to the now, topped-out 100% is called supercompensation.

See any problems with this? How about two huge workouts the week of your race? How about a low-carb diet the week of your race? We also know how important carbs are to recovery (chocolate milk, anyone?) and not having that after the first workout?

Basically, runners would feel like shit for three days in the final week before their A-race and they would sometimes get hurt from the low-carb diet. How is that for the final week of the taper?? Super good for the head, right?!?!

yeah…umm…no

>>CURRENT METHODS<<

Fortunately there are some new methods that are almost just as good as the Ahlborg method when it comes to storing carbs and far superior when it comes to not being a mental wreck on race week (think sobbing, fetal position, dark corner).

Thankfully, in the 1980s, some even more bored grad students got tired of feeling like shit on race week. They found out that you can get the tanks to 100% without the supercompensation effect.  These guys basically found that if you just do your normal diet (50% carbs) up till the final 3 days before your race and then stuffed your face with every carb in site, you could fill the tanks up to just about the same level as Ahlborg and Co. “What type of running did the do?”, you might ask. Basically what we would do for a taper. A basic drop in mileage each day with all runs at a moderate pace.

Man, thats like so simple. Like, why the hell didn’t we do that in the first place? That said, everything was a little more gritty when it came to endurance sports in the 60s.

1960 Rome Olympics - Marathon (no Hokas in that one)

1960 Rome Olympics – Marathon (no Hokas in that one)

Anyways, thank goodness for these guys. They should get an award.  Like maybe we should name the method after them!

Nah…lets just call it the Non-depletion Method (not my choice!). Poor guys.

Anyways, there are still some practical problems with the Non-depletion Method:

  1. Carbs make you bloated. Everytime you store carbs you store water. Carbs love water. Thats just their chemistry. While this water isn’t bad from the perspective of race-day hydration but it does make you feel like a fatty.
  2. Along the same lines, no one likes to feel like a fatty the day before a race.
  3. If you typically don’t eat a ton of carbs, carbo loading may cause stomach issues on race day if you don’t provide time to normalize.

As a result, here is the method I like for carboloading

T-7 Days T-6 Days T-5 Days T-4 Days T-3 Days T-2 Days T-1 Days Race Day
Mixed Diet Mixed Diet High-carb Diet High-carb Diet High-carb Diet High-carb Diet Carb-heavy breakfast, normal diet the rest of the day. Eat food that makes you feel fast. Is that smoke from my shoes?

**The running portion of this method is your normal, taper-week running. 

First off, if you skipped my asterisks (never skip the asterisks!), this method does not require you to do anything different with your running. Just run like normal. Next, up until 5 days from race-day, just eat a normal, mixed diet. The mixed diet is a roughly a 50/50 mix of carbs to fat+protein.  I define this as normal because thats probably true for most folks. On any given day, a distance runner is probably going to derive half of the calories in their diet from carbs while the other half comes from a blend of fat and protein. Running isn’t a strict science so lets not go crazy here either. Ballpark 50/50.

Next, starting 5 days from race day, ramp up that carb intake. At this point your want to derive 70% or more of your daily calorie intake from carbs! Yep, its time to feel like a fatty. A grumpy-cat, fatty.

au.news.yahoo.com

(au.news.yahoo.com) Cat pictures help you get up-votes on reddit

Keep eating every delicious, beautiful carb until T-1 day. Finally, on the day before the race, you should taper off of the carbs and start eating like normal. Maybe do a late breakfast/brunch with pancakes or french toast but from there on out, eat what you like. Whether thats salad, grilled chicken (protein) or maybe even rice. Whatever it is, I strongly encourage you to normalize that day before the race.

I believe this method will help you top the tanks off to 100% 36-48 hours out while allowing you to keep those tanks and get your normal diet into place when it matter most. Plus, plus, this may help give you a little wiggle room if you don’t quit nail that 70% number on all 4 days. In otherwords, say you travel 2 days from your race and you don’t quite get 70% of your calories from carbs, no worries, you’ve been nailing it your other days.

>>DUDE, I TAKE GELS.<<

Now a rebuttal to a question that wasn’t even asked. If you take gels on race day, carboloading may be considered a safety net. In fact, some exercise physiologists would argue carbloading is pointless if you take gels on race day but, as a coach, I disagree. While we gel on race day, most of us don’t take in near enough fuel to fully support the effort.  The recommended fuel intake during a marathon is 1-1.2 g/min…so 60 to 70 g of carbs per hour. If one gel is 25-28g of carbs, you’d need 2+ gels per hour or two gels and gatorade per hour. Who does that out there?

This is why I believe a combination of carboloading and gels are the best way to ensure you do not bonk on race day. (If you don’t gel, then carboloading is KEY!!)

>>PRACTICAL APPROACH<<

That whole 70% carbs thing is confusing. Sure there are apps and stuff but I have I also have an easier method.

Math. First off you need your weight. Get on scale but before you do it flip it over and flip the switch to the unit that all the rest of the world (except Madagascar) uses, KG. If you have a discriminatory scale, you’ll probably want to Dogpile “how many kG are in [insert weight in lbs] lbs”. Or if you’re really old school, you’ll take your weight and divide by 2.2.

#calculators

From there, the goal is to get 8-10 g of carbs/kg of bodyweight. Meaning, if you weight 50 kg, you would need 400-500 g of carbs that day.  Lets check my math, assume 4 calories per gram of carbs. That makes 1,600 to 2,000 calories from carbs. If you normally eat 2700 calories per day, that would mean you’d get you 60-75% of your calories from carbs. Not bad. This is much easier for me because all you need to do is look at the back of packages and boxes. Or yahoo “how many g or carbs are in [insert item]?”

Be aware though. This is a lot of carbs. Like a lot. Here is an after-hours text message from one Chris McClung.

IMG_5181

This is a sampling of after-hours texts between Rogue Employees #supercool

If you mess this part up its because you totally estimate how many carbs you are taking in so below I’ll give you an example diet as well as some ideas for getting some bonus carbs in.

>>DIET<<

For this example, lets take person that weighs 150lbs (male or female), thats 68kg. According to the conversion of 8-10 g of carbs/kg of bodyweight, that person would want to ingest between 550-650g of carbs per day during the carbo-loading phase.

Lets see how that might break down:

Breakfast

  • Cinnamon Raisin Bagel – 55g Carbs
  • Honey (1 tbls) – 17g
  • Taco Deli – Black bean, avocado, pico – 30g
  • Smoothie – 55g
  • Coffee with cream and honey – 10g

Mid-morning snack 

  • Skratch (16oz) – 20g
  • Muffin – 50g
  • Apple – 19g
  • Honey Peanut Butter – 8g

Lunch

  • Stir-fry (a la White Chicken and Broccoli from Zen) w/ extra rice – 75g
  • Melon (1.5C) – 22g
  • Picky Bar – 28g

Afternoon snack 

  • Fruit, Plain yogurt, Honey and Granola – 42g
  • Coffee with cream and honey – 10g
  • Skratch (16oz) – 20g

Dinner

  • Pasta with veggies and sauce – 55g
  • Garlic Bread (2 slices) – 15g
  • Strawberries (1C) – 12g

Post-dinner snack 

  • Two slices Toast – 18g
  • Jelly (2 tbls) – 30g

Grand Total: ~591g Carbs

Whew! I’m stuffed!  So whats the theme here?  To me, its a few fold.

  1. Eat sweet and eat often – think fruit, honey and grain everywhere. Smoothies are particularly nice because they are so dense. Snacks between every meal are key!
  2. Drink it – Skratch, Sports drinks (beware of 0 calorie!) or Juice. Also, add honey to coffee or tea even if you don’t normally.
  3. High quality – While processed grains (white rice, white bread) are more dense, you can get by with the whole grain types. Also, notice you could add soda, cake, donuts or other low-quality stuff in there but you don’t have to. Keep that in mind!
  4. Cook it and pack it! – Eating this much takes planning.

When its all said and done, race day will be here and you will be prepared to rock and roll. And, if you are like me (e.g., carboholic), this is the best part of the training cycle (outside of the neurosis), so grab a fork and chowdown with the same tenacity as you hit those miles.


headshotJeff Knight is the head of all things training at Rogue Running. He loves to use “his scientific background” as an excuse to make everyone run as many hills as possible. He also coaches Team Rogue el Jefe, where they run a lot of hills.  You can reach him with and and all questions at jeffknight@roguerunning.com

Shades of Grey

by coach Amy Anderson

You’ve decided to run a fall marathon.  It was your choice, your decision.  No one is forcing you to do anything you don’t want to.  And even though fall may seem like a long hot summer away, all of the decisions that you are making in May, June, July and August are affecting your race.  With every decision you make about running, strength work, nutrition, hydration, and rest, you should be asking yourself, “Is this choice advancing me toward my goal?”

Sometimes the answers are black and white.  Drinking all night on Friday and skipping your Saturday run clearly does not advance you toward your goal.

But sometimes the answers are… shall we say, “shades of grey”?

For example, your department at work may have happy hour.  Perhaps you decide to go, because you wish to bond with your team, but you promise yourself one beer, water to chase, and an early night. Is that one beer a hard limit?  Or a soft limit, depending on how good it tastes and how much fun you’re having?

As you train for your fall marathon, consider your daily nutrition choices.  If there are Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos in the office kitchen, do you grab a handful?  Or do you exercise some {ahem} restraint and decide that you’ll save your splurge for homemade cake on your sister’s birthday next weekend.

You’ve got an early flight to catch, and there’s no way you can fit in the 6 miles on your training schedule.  Do you skip it altogether for extra sleep?  Or are you willing to squeeze in 3-4 miles and call it close enough? Which choice advances you toward your goal?  Is it black, white, or some shade of grey?

In any scenario, you may not be comfortable with what another runner is comfortable with. However, you are the only person training for your race.  You get to decide.  But make it an informed decision, fully aware that the choices you are making today are affecting the race you run in the fall.

What’s in YOUR water bottle?

by Holly McKee

The big thing in news today is BPA (Bisphenol A), a chemical previously used in polycarbonates (such as Nalgene Bottles). Without going into a polymer chemistry lecture, here are some things you need to know.

Other plastic have risks too.  In fact all plastics do, but we can’t avoid them.  We’ve been told that it takes plastics forever to biodegrade, but plastics have many components and some leech out faster than others.  There are things you can do to keep your bottles from degrading so fast, and steps you can take to keep your water safer.

1.  Don’t microwave your plastics – not bottles, not tupperware, not anything.  Even if it says “microwave safe”, extreme heat breaks things down faster.  This goes for leaving your water bottles in the car in Texas for long periods of time.

2.  This goes along with the heat issue in number one. Hand wash and air dry your bottles.  If your dishwasher has a delicate cycle and you can turn off the drying cycle then go ahead and put them in.  This is what I do with our baby bottles and water bottles.

3.  Cheap free water bottles are just that.  The cheaper the plastic the cheaper the materials used in making it.  It’s time to get rid of that big bin of water bottles you have.  Any water bottle older than a year or two is past it’s prime.  You can recycle it with the City of Austin or Ecology Action.

4.  Check your stainless steel bottles.  Stainless bottles have a plastic coating on the inside, which is a variation of the same plastics used for making water bottles.  Again, bottles that are a couple of years old should be taken out of you hydration routine.

5.  DON’T reuse the plastic water bottles you get when you buy bottled water.  Refilling it once or twice won’t hurt.  Washing and using them for days on end isn’t a good idea. Those bottles are rated for a single use and  should be used just for that.  I know you feel guilty and don’t want waste things; save them for a craft project or recycle them, then try to stick with reusable bottles.

6.  Every 6-12 months  go through and look at your bottles.  Are they yellowing?  Do they smell sort of sweet or funny? Are they not as flexible as before?  Is the shape deformed?  If so, recycle it and get a new one.  I don’t keep my bottles more a 12-18 months.

7.  I know some of you are thinking, “I have that water bottle from my first (insert race here) ten years ago.”  If you’re attached to it, keep it.  Just put it on a shelf and look at it.

Recycling information for Austin can be found here:
http://www.ecology-action.org/index
http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/sws/

Is natural best?

Whether you are a barefoot convert or think that it’s all a bunch of hype, you can’t deny that the difference between a bare foot strike and a shoe-clad foot strike is significant. Whether all-natural is best or if shoes are an improvement on evolution remains a heavily debated topic within both the running and the science community – your thoughts?

From BBC News:

Birth Control and You

Ladies, this article is for you.

Are you on birth control? Are you considering beginning to take it? Have you ever thought about the effect it has on your health, body, and thus your athletic performance?

There aren’t a lot of definitive answers when it comes to hormonal contraceptive, but there are certainly things to consider and be aware of. Take a few minutes to read this article from sportsmd.com – it’s important to be informed!