Sunday, December 30, 2012

Running Lessons: Food as fuel for body and soul

Phew! It's been a busy couple of weeks. With Christmas concerts, dinners with family and friends, shopping for and wrapping gifts, finishing two more Christmas stockings (this time for my sister and her husband) and occasional runs, the days have been full. Still, I managed to squeeze in a little reading by the fire and, while a winter storm rages outside today, hope to catch up on blogging, email and a bit of volunteer work.

A few days  ago, I finally finished Scott Jurek's Eat & Run (highly recommended). What an amazing athlete he is! Among his many other accomplishments, he's won the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run seven times, including in 2005 when he went on two weeks later to win the Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles).  Like many long distance runners, he says ultra-marathoning is about much more than talent and good training. It's about mental discipline, spiritual development, and a desire to win as well. It's also about fueling with good food. He himself follows a strict vegan diet for environmental and health reasons and he makes some pretty persuasive arguments that diet has been key to his success as a distance runner. It's making me think even harder about my own dietary choices.

Husband and I stuck to a pretty strict vegetarian for a number of years before falling off the wagon when I got into running marathons and decided I needed more meat protein in my diet. Over the past few years, we've tended to eat meat 2-3 times per week but have tried to eat locally raised, organic meats as much as possible.  During the past few months, we've begun transitioning back to a more vegetarian diet and haven't missed meat very much, but it's hard to imagine giving up animal-based protein all together. We both like eggs and cheese too much!  But perhaps we'll try a few of Jurek's vegan recipes and see if they taste as good as he says they do.

The other thing about Jurek's book is that it got me thinking about my running - specifically, what my running goals are for the coming year. I'm struggling a bit with what's "reasonable" given my other commitments. I've also put a few pounds in recent months (a good thing since I was too thin) and haven't been doing any tough training, so it's hard to imagine gearing up for another marathon. On the other hand, it's also hard to imagine not running a couple of long races in 2013. Despite (or maybe because of) our ambitious renovation plans, Husband is encouraging me to get back into more serious training, and there are quite a few races that interest me, including the Bluenose Marathon and Cabot Trail Relay in May, the new ultra in Cape Breton in August, and the Okanagan Marathon and Cape to Cabot 20k in October.

Still, as I sit by the fire writing and sipping eggnog, I find myself wondering if I have what it will take to train for and run even one or two of those races. My body's been mighty cranky lately and I've not been sleeping well so running often feels more difficult than it used to. Maybe it's time to think about slowing down a bit.

On the other hand, I ran a terrific 10k two weeks ago (at less than a 6:00/km pace which is relatively quick for me) and felt pretty darn good running a 12k LSR with my friend David the next day. Then, last Sunday, despite damp cool biting winds and a little too much wine the night before, I completed a solid 14k LSR through Shubie Park and genuinely enjoyed most of it - especially, running through the off-leash area of the park - where dozens of dogs and their human companions celebrated the festive season by frolicking on the shores of the lake, cheerfully barking and calling out Merry Christmas to those they met on the trails.

So maybe I'm just suffering from a case of the running blahs brought on by too much socializing, too much sitting on my butt, and too much rich food. After all, our diet these past two weeks has included lobster, scallops, roast turkey, roast goose, roast lamb, Acadian pork and chicken pie, baked brie and large numbers of cookies and pies. Though all that delicious holiday food has been good for my soul, it's not been especially good for my body. Perhaps, if I draw up a good training plan, get back to doing yoga regularly, clean up my diet and register for race or two, I'll feel energetic enough to train through the next few months of cold, snowy weather.

But not today. At the rate the snow is still falling, it will likely be sometime tomorrow before before I make it out for a long slow 16-17 kms.

Don't get me wrong, I love running on snowy winter days.  So long as I'm wearing my long wool socks to keep my feet and legs toasty, a warm gaiter and mitts, a good hat and one of my favourite Smartwool shirts, I'm happy to run in just about anything. However, until the snow stops and the plows have been through, it would be foolhardy to run along the shoulder of the highway into town.

So, dear readers, what races do you plan to run in 2013? Do you like winter running? What are your tricks for staying warm and dry when temperatures plunge? Would you consider giving up animal-based food if you thought it would improve your running performance?


  1. I hear you on the over-indulgence of the holiday season, Janice - I'm looking forward to getting back to routine and healthier food! Seems I give myself permission to eat crap over the holidays when I know I shouldn't!

    I've written down the name of the book and will look for it - sounds interesting. As for giving up animal-based food, most likely not (although we don't eat a lot now - with the exception of eggs, cheese and milk). Races for 2013 - a full in May and 50K in September. And not happy about winter running!

    Happy New Year :)

    1. Happy New Year to you, Janet!

      Of course, I'd be happy to lend you my copy of Jurek's book.

      Yesterday was a tough day for winter running with all that wind but looks like today will be better so I hope you can get out and enjoy it! :-)