29 November 2014

Across a foggy Gate: Yesterday's reach

I'm heading back to California next week for the North Face Endurance Challenge Series - although I am entering the meekest of the races, the half-marathon, rather than the 50-miler or marathon. It's a trail race in the Marin Headlands, from which certain vantage points you can see the ocean, the city, the bay and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge in one grand vista.

From a previous visit....fog rolling in from the Headlands
I called the Bay Area home for many years and have made it back for a few short visits since I left to join the Corps. I love it for many reasons and some of my best running memories are from the area: the trails in Redwood Regional Park, the scent of the eucalyptus trees lining the Strawberry Canyon trail, the long, looping run from Chrissy Field up through the Presidio, the Embarcadero run streaks along the waterfront past the piers and the Headlands trails, sweeping from Sausalito, past Muir Beach up to Stinson Beach and climbing to Mt. Tamalpais with brutal ascents and sweeping views at each peak.

The other thing which I miss is the fog, swirling in from the ocean and nestling amongst the hills before crossing the bay and wisping up the Berkeley canyon walls. I loved running through it, collecting perfect beads on my eyelashes, morning swim workouts under its smoky shroud and watching it swirl in, blanketing the bay and settling in, subduing the cacophony below.

The food is cornucopic and glorious, too much so to detail here, but I will be sure to highlight gastronomic delights while I am there.

So, in addition to a law school visit, it is my history that draws me back - my friendships, my favorite places and my memories. I won't be swimming from Alcatraz this time around, but hopefully, I'll take a dip in the Pacific at some point!

A poem in tribute from my Writer's Almanac archives:

The Changing Light

The changing light

            at San Francisco
    is none of your East Coast light
           none of your
                   pearly light of Paris

The light of San Francisco

             is a sea light
                       an island light

And the light of fog

        blanketing the hills
    drifting in at night
           through the Golden Gate
                      to lie on the city at dawn

And then the halcyon late mornings

    after the fog burns off
      and the sun paints white houses 
                     with the sea light of Greece
      with sharp clean shadows
       making the town look like
                             it had just been painted

But the wind comes up at four o'clock

                                    sweeping the hills

And then the veil of light of early evening

And then another scrim

           when the new night fog
                            floats in

And in that vale of light

                   the city drifts
                           anchorless upon the ocean

The Changing Light by Lawrence FerlinghettiHow to Paint Sunlight© New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2001. 

27 November 2014


I am thankful for all the people in my life: my children, my family and my family of friends and all of those people who have come into my life this year, by chance and circumstance, and for this adventure and for all the things I have experienced thus far.

I am thankful that I can put one foot in front of the other and do that thing that brings me joy, teaches me what is possible, pushes my limits and allows me to be part of such a great community of people.

I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in arms, in service and in sacrifice.

Have a great day everyone.....

Copyright: Grant Snider, Politico.com (26 Nov 14)

25 November 2014

Cranberries, please....

Because there can never be too many cranberry sauce recipes....

1 1/2 - 2 c. apple cider
1/2 - 3/4 c. sugar 

3-4 c. (1 bag) fresh cranberries
1-2 oranges, zested and juiced 
ground pepper (black or white)

Cranberry cross-section
Combine the apple cider and sugar in a deep saucepot and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer for 1-2 hours while cider reduces by about 1/3. stirring occasionally. 

Add the orange juice, cranberries and spices to taste. If you've never used cardamom, you may want to go easy as it is an aromatic. Keep heat at medium low and stir occasionally until cranberries pop, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in zest and let cool to room temperature. 

Yields about 2-3 cups and is excellent the next day as a breakfast topping on bread! 

24 November 2014

Rainy morning motivation

Came across these quotes yesterday and they resonated.... 

One of the pathways at the Plaza de Espana in Sevilla, Spain (2009)

The Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Crete (2008)
(pic taken from helicopter)

22 November 2014

I accept

It's been a little over a week now since I had an hour-long conversation with my medical board lawyer regarding the findings of the PEB, their proposed ratings and whether or not I should travel to the Navy Yard and ask them to reconsider their decision in person. I ultimately decided not to make the trip.

I accepted their findings, which primarily does the following:
  1. Permanently retires me from the Marine Corps
  2. Immutably assigns a final rating for my injuries
  3. Officially advances me to the rank of Major, to which I was selected almost two years ago
It also does a few other things for me: frees me from being subjected to yearly physicals and exams wherein I must justify the severity, improvement or worsening of my conditions, and have my ratings re-evaluated by the PEB and most importantly, allows me to write the last words in this chapter of my life. I await the letter notifying me of my transfer from the TDRL to the PDRL, my retirement certificate and my DD215, which will correct my DD214 for my new rank, and a few other items. 

I am grateful for the leadership and mentorship I received, the lessons I learned, the experience I gained and the people I have met and can call friends and family. I am grateful that there were those throughout this process who looked after me, who assisted me, from the medical and legal side, as well as those who continue to help me transition and move forward. 

I am grateful and humbled that I was given the opportunity to serve; I did my best to do so with honor, with courage and with commitment. Semper Fi.....

Reciting the oath: promotion to Captain during deployment.
My CO, the amazing Col "Phloyd" McCoy. 

21 November 2014

FBF: Autumn rituals

In addition to apple picking and cider doughnuts, which became a yearly thing while I lived in New England, I was reminded of another annual event this week when I received the proofs from the munchkins' school photos. It's funny how these are just a constant, no matter where you are...we all sit for that photo. Here's one from back in the day and a one of the munchkins...oh, and one which just celebrates the season of leaves and frost!

Can you find me? Yes, that does in fact say 1978....
They do sibling photos at their school
Throwing leaves...rockin' the corduroy....
There's been some fun activity at the house this week, one munchkin sick for four days plus our downstairs heater conked out Wednesday evening, and yet, I wake up grateful every morning; I've no reason to be otherwise.

Lots of updates this weekend, plus some swim workouts and my homemade cranberry sauce.....

19 November 2014

Hot cocoa & Hobbes

Life is all about experience and perspective: 

...and hot cocoa, specifically Mexican-spiced hot cocoa....

1 1/2 cups milk (almond or cow, at least 2%) + 4-8 tbsp 
1/4 c evaporated milk (optional)
2-3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
2-3 tbsp sugar (I use unrefined)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch to 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper 
pinch of salt

Heat milk(s) on stove til hot (not scalding or boiling). 

While milk is heating, use remaining milk and in a bowl, combine with remaining ingredients with whisk. Should be a liquid mixture, not a paste. 

Once milk is hot, pour cocoa mixture into the pot, whisking all the while. Pour into mug. Cut two regular marshmallows in half and place on top. Top with a dash of cinnamon-vanilla sugar. 

(Another option is to double or triple the recipe and combine everything in a blender, which is great, just ensure the lid is secure! Also, making the cocoa mixture is key to everything getting blended together and not sitting on the top of the milk.) 

A variation is to drop the cayenne and vanilla, add coriander and add in 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Instead of marshmallows, use a freshly whipped heavy cream (lightly sweetened). 

17 November 2014

Medical Monday

This morning I had an appointment with my PCM to get a referral for both an MRI and a surgeon who could then read and interpret the MRI. It's the same issue that the military doctor indicated when I went for my annual TDRL physical in June, the persistent and sometimes acute pain in my lower right abdomen.

My PCM came to the conclusion that an MRI could reveal:
  1. An inguinal hernia
  2. Growth of scar tissue into/onto/around healthy nerves
  3. Too much scar tissue to see clearly what is happening
The irony is that while surgery would be the option to repair the hernia and/or remove the invasive scar tissue, the long-term side effects are things such as: nerve damage, long-term pain in the groin area, recurrence of scar tissue. Hmm.....maybe I'll just take the ibuprofen? 

On a positive note, the issues I'm having are not aggravated by the running, rather, they come from lifting and twisting (also known as taking care of my kids, i.e. daily life). My PT has debated whether my rehab is causing micro-tears in the scar tissue, which then regrow aggressively because of my hyper-keloidism. 

My PCM did have this to say, though: 

Hoping that I'll have some answers before the holidays arrive in earnest.  That being said, if anyone's available to help me lug a Christmas tree home in early December, that'd be great. 

16 November 2014

A tinge of cool

The air finally has the edge that portends winter, and by that, I mean temperatures dropped into the 40s here in North Carolina (while my friends in MT, ID and CO are in the single digits and covered in snow). I love running in this weather, that crisp chill that requires a longer warm-up, but allows you to run without overheating, the air feels fresher and there's always that race against the waning afternoon sun.

That being said, I got remanded to the treadmill for at least a month by my PT in an effort to rid me of this nagging calf injury. With compression socks for both legs, especially if I do the stairclimber (no incline allowed on the 'mill). Whatever it takes to get me healthy, man. 

Fortunately, while I am not a fan of tons of mileage on the treadmill, I respect it and know that it can be a great tool. Below are several of my favorite treadmill workouts.  From my earlier training with Ed Eyestone, it's been ingrained that I should set the treadmill at 1.0% incline for any run where I know I am doing speed work, other than that, there's no need, not that I have always followed that, probably to my detriment!  (For more on that concept, a few reads from earlier this year, from Runner's World which was spurred by this study and from Oesh founder Dr. Casey Kerrigan's blog post.)

To The Barn (any distance /negative split run): 
  1. Do a 1-mile WU at your LSD pace
  2. At every 1/2 mile, increase your pace by .1 on the treadmill (i.e. 6.5 to 6.6), this should equate to approximately 6-8 secs reduction in your mpm pace, (more if you are starting out at a 10:00 mpm pace). 
  3. Continue to increase your pace, it should not feel difficult, if it does, you started out too fast. 
  4. Once you reach your tempo run pace or :30 secs slower than your 10K race pace, run a full mile at this pace. 
  5. Drop the pace back to your LSD pace and do a 1-2 mile WD at this pace (I usually do 1 mile, then walk backwards, and do side cross-overs to loosen out my hips). 
Listen to the Music (any distance/interval & tempo run):
  1. Do a 3-song WU as per a normal outdoor run pace (this will give you anywhere from a 9:00-12:00 WU, time isn't really important).
  2. When the next song comes on, increase your pace to match your turnover/footfall to the tempo of the song. (If you normally have a numbered playlist, I recommend using shuffle or Pandora, as well as having a playlist with varied BPMs).
  3. At the next song, adjust your tempo again, this should ideally be a reduction in tempo, but you can increase it as well, just don't go crazy with the multiple increases. Two options: 1 up/1 down, 2 up/1 down. Going 2 up/2 down usually ends up with a little too much rest. 
  4. Repeat until you've hit your target distance. 
  5. Drop the pace back down to your regular WD pace, 1-2 miles. 
Up and Up (any distance/interval & active recovery combo):
  1. Do a 2-mile WU as per a normal outdoor run pace.
  2. Increase the pace to your regular 800m interval (like a track workout). Run 1/2 mile.
  3. Decrease the pace to .1 above your warm-up pace (so if you warmed up at 6.7, set it at 6.8), recover for 1/4 mile. 
  4. Increase the pace to .1 above your regular 800m interval. Run 1/2 mile. 
  5. Decrease the pace to .1 above your last recovery pace (it should now be .2 above your warm-up pace). 
  6. Repeat the cycle so you get your desired number of 1/2 mile intervals, then reduce the pace all the way back down to your WD pace (you can go slower as well). I have done as few as 4 and as many as 8, but they get significantly harder after 4. 
Also, if you are in need of a few good songs to get you going, here are some stalwarts that are on my playlist, both for their tempo and their lyrics (links are to YouTube; I recommend just listening to the songs rather than watching the videos, since the two don't always match, IMO):
  1. My Body - Young the Giant
  2. We Come Running - Youngblood Hawke
  3. One Minute More - Capital Cities
  4. Come With Me Now - Kongos
  5. Safe and Sound - Capital Cities
  6. Paris - Magic Man
  7. Give It To Me - Madonna
  8. Americano/Dance Again - Glee
  9. At Home - Crystal Fighters
  10. I'm Free (Heaven Helps the Man) - Kenny Loggins (I'm a child of the 80s, he's awesome - c'mon, who doesn't love Meet Me Halfway? Danger Zone? I'm Alright???)
Oh yes, and these two little guys (each about 3 mos old) are the reason that my weekend has been a little crazy...welcome to the family! 
 "Inky" full name: Ingrid Annabelle
"Smudge" full name: Pegasus Jackson
The Bubbaloo and Smudge

14 November 2014

FBF: Mud, sweat and tears

As November winds sweep across the states, many cross-country runners are preparing for the final race of the season. Here to bring you back to 1985 are pictures from my freshman year in high school, where, as a scrawny 13-year old, I ran for the varsity squad at a large northern California school. Boom.

The four of us - P.S., D.J., F.W., S.M. 
Friggin' wood chips.....
Post-season party! 
A few more CC items from the memory box.
(I also attended a second high school, hence the second letter set).
I have no idea why I saved the BenGay and the Tiger Balm. 

11 November 2014

Into the woods: Sand trapped

Where to start with this race recap?

In early October, an e-mail went out to all registrants that the race would be cancelled but that more information would be forthcoming within the week. The next e-mail stated that the race would be relocated approximately six miles north of the original course, still in the Croatan National Forest. The terrain would be different; however, described as hard-packed sand, very flat and some roots with a few loose sandy areas.

Tents and gear staged pre-race. The trail is part of the loop course. 
Patsy Point Trail in the Croatan National Forest
Pre-race, still layered at 40F! 
Before I go further, I have to give major kudos to race director, Brandon Wilson, for being able to pull this race off after all the last minute changes thrown at him courtesy of the Nat'l Forest Service. Not only was the support and organization well-executed, but the overall tenor of the race was that of one that had no disruptions at all. A big thank you and well-done, sir, especially with the ceremony and the GOH, Frank Bozanich. (FYI, Frank is a Marine veteran, served in Vietnam and was inducted into the ultra-running hall of fame last year. Check out the links at the end of the story to read more on his incredible running career.)

That being said, the course was not quite as advertised....

I would reverse the described volume of hard-packed sand with that of the loose sandy areas and add that the course had multiple stretches of undulating terrain of loose sand covered by pine needles. Not hilly, but a rapid series of up-down-up-down-up-down varying by every two strides or so.

The entrance to the trail loop. Yes, the race folks painted the tree limb yellow.
At this point, I was like, hey, this isn't a sandy course....
Sand and pine straw....
....more sand...less pine straw
Oh wait, more sand.....
I had some trepidation about this race to start with: 1) having not truly run in two weeks and 2) not knowing how much I had healed since I hadn't tested the calf, so after trotting around the course once, I really started questioning how far I would go.

Each loop was 2.23 miles, which made it easy to hydrate and eat, which I did every two loops or so and the weather was quiet cooperative, sunny and in the low 40s at the start, getting to the mid-60s with clouds by the afternoon, then dropping back down to the 40s for the evening. Wind was negligible.

But the sand was everywhere, being kicked up with every stride, spilling into shoes through toe box mesh - even those with gaiters were not saved from its invasion. Footing became tactically measured as did one's path along the trail: which line to take, where would one find firmer stepping, how much harder did one work going wide vs going narrow, where were the undulations less severe. As the day wore on, most adopted the strategy of running/walking/running in accordance to the sand density, which meant quite a bit of change-up during each lap.

What kept me going? Two things: the company of other runners and the visitors I had during the day. I was fortunate to run multiple independent loops with three veterans: one an aviation communications Marine, another a retired Navy corpsman and the last, Frank. I also ran over 10 miles with a young man who began running only this past February and had achieved some great milestones, including a 3:45 mountain trail marathon prior to this race.

I also was the beneficiary of a visit from one of my favorite (and chillest) officers, who also happened to be a former CO and who is now stationed at Cherry Point. I last saw him before I left for intensive out-patient physical therapy in 2011 and I missed his change of command. We've kept in touch throughout the years and he was gracious enough to keep me company for almost seven miles in the mid-morning hours (this after having attended not one, but two, USMC Birthday Balls back-to-back). Serious gratitude for his endless encouragement, support and for understanding my sense of humor.

Not even sweating......
I have a mouthful of potato in this picture.....he does not.
By late afternoon, I was in need of another pick-me-up. The air was chilly, my pace was slowing and I wasn't hungry. I had added tape to my calf and had a weird ache in my left ankle where I'd broken it in March. I wasn't feeling leg muscle soreness or fatigue, really, but my hips and hip flexors were definitely cranky with me. And that's when the munchkins arrived.

They met me on the back end of the loop, cheering me on and wanting to run with me, and their energy and exuberance lifted my soggy mood. While I grabbed some boiled potatoes and salt at the food tent, they each selected a cookie and skipped to my staging area, where they proceeded to go through my food, partaking in whatever looked good, which, hilariously, included the Bubbaloo sampling my pickle juice and then trying to wipe it out of his mouth.

After a quick clothing change, I took another lap without the munchkins. They started the next one with me before becoming enchanted with one of the ponds, where I kissed them adieu. They explored the area with K. before returning back to Wilmington. (Much gratitude that they came up.)

Darkness came quickly after that and as the streetlights came up, many runners broke down their staging areas and stepped off the course, their days complete. Under my tent, myself, a woman whose husband is MARSOC, and the corpsman took our requisite pauses to add clothes, headlamps, change socks/shoes, and roll out stiff muscles before heading back out onto the course. Few were still running and when we did, stumbling, tripping and falling ensued. Even not lifting one's foot high enough to get over a sand rise was sufficient cause for one to go off-balance.

I got to 50 miles and felt heartened that I had not encountered any major obstacles and decided to keep going. During my lap to just under 58 miles, I started drifting across the trail. I tried adjusting my stride to shake off the cobwebs but that only caused me to go askew even more and I saved myself from several face plants by only a lucky footplant. My hip flexors and outer hips, just in front of the glutes, scolded me with every step but weren't refusing my requests to continue.

I knew that 60 miles was next, so that was an easy lap. After that, I was in limbo. I had time to make it to 70, maybe 75 miles, but I also had, by good grace, been granted a PR with that last lap. The upcoming races loomed in my head as did the fact that the munchkins would be back home and under my care shortly, whether or not I felt up to the task.

I went back and forth in my head about my options and, weighing what I had accomplished on an injury and two weeks of no training and what I still had ahead of me, decided to call it a day. I also feel like one shouldn't take a nap during a 24-hour race, and that the test of the race is not just the distance but the ability to keep on one's feet throughout. I know this is not an opinion shared by all, but when I stop moving forward, for whatever reason, it means my race is over. (Others go for 10-12 hours, take a nap for 2-6 hours, then head back out on the course until time runs out - just differing strategies, I suppose, and there are no rules against it. Would like to hear others' opinions on this.)

So, that was it. A distance PR, no new or aggravated injuries and enough time to rest so I could be what I needed to be first and foremost, mom to the most important people in my life.

Packing it up at midnight....a good day's work. 
By the numbers:

Total time run: 15:52:39 hours (0800-2352)
Total mileage: 60.21 miles (96.89K)

Sock changes: 4
Shoe changes: 3
Layers of clothing at end of race: 4/3 (top/bottom)
Number of blood blisters: 2
Number of regular blisters: 0
Toenails lost: 0

7th woman overall
4th in AG
32nd overall

Thank you to all who pledged for this race: link to make your donation here.
(Time: $15.52 or Mileage: $31.10)

*More info on Frank Bozanich: Ultra-running Hall of Fame induction and some of his race results. He has been running ultras since the 1970s. Did I mention that he turned 70 this year?

10 November 2014

Get your hockey on: raffle winners

The winners of the Matt Moulson & Buffalo Sabres raffle are: 

Victor W.
Eric A. 

Thank you for all who entered (online and off)! 

Victor & Eric, I will be contacting you via email later this evening to gather further details. 

Happy Birthday, Marines!

To all my brothers and sisters, never forget our history and stay faithful, always. 




08 November 2014

Into the woods: Just a little shuffle

Race day!

I'll leave the house at 0430 (Romeo for you Zulu time folks) to reach the headquarters/competitors staging area around 0630, similar to last year. The race starts at 0800, so I'll have plenty of time to set up my area, with a 10x10 shelter tent, lay out my tarp and get my clothes and gear sorted, as well as my food.

There's really not a whole lot to do in the morning, it's just a matter of telling the feet and legs to start and then to keep going. I have tried a new on-the-go energy food recipe that I've liked, so I made it for this race: brown rice squares, layered with semi-sweet chocolate chips, re-hydrated apricots (like a jam, just not as sweet) and crushed roasted cashews. We'll see how they taste at two in the morning.

Rice squares, gingerbread, mint tea, RuckPack
and protein smoothies. Pickle juice is in the green container on the left.
I saw this posted the other day and I'm adopting it as my mantra for the next six months, starting with the race tomorrow.

If you want to check in on me throughout the race, you can do so here:  Croatan24 Live. I am #75, (White bib group - there are also Red and Blue bib groups).

This is a MARSOC Foundation fundraiser and the longer I run and the further I go, the more I hope to raise. If you've been following me for a while, you know how hard this race is going to be.  I am asking for one dollar for every hour I complete or .50 cents for every mile I cover.  Email me to make a pledge. Following the race's completion on Sunday morning, I will post and tweet the total mileage and total hours and the link to donate.

Thank you.

06 November 2014

A bullet and a philosophy

This is not my story. But it is a story that resonates with me because it is about a man whom I admire, not only for his willingness to put himself in harm's way but because of how he took hold of his new life and charged forward, still seeking to serve and give back.
During deployment in Afghanistan
Capt Derek Herrera, a MARSOC Marine, was conducting village stability operations in southern Afghanistan on June 14, 2012, when shots rang out. The first hit his sergeant in the neck, the second lodged into the left side of Capt Herrera's spine. As he tried to pick himself up to move the sergeant, Capt Herrera realized he couldn't move his body. He was paralyzed from the chest down.

After months of hospitalization and rehabilitation, Capt Herrera rejoined his unit at Camp Pendleton. He also began a new mission.

In his words: "I have always lived by the philosophy that I cannot waste any energy on things that are beyond my control. Instead I focus on the things I can control."

For Capt Herrera, that meant returning to an active lifestyle, replete with triathlons, road races and marathons, as well as massive strengthening in his upper body for his next challenge. What was it? To get back on his feet, literally. Capt Herrera is working with ReWalk Technologies, utilizing their ExoSkeleton technology to take those steps.

But to get to those first steps was an incredible endeavor. Because the technology was in clinical trials, it was not covered by his insurance nor was it approved for use by military personnel. Capt Herrera persisted, and, after garnering approval to utilize the ExoSkeleton for rehab and with the direct help of MARSOC Foundation, was able to obtain an ExoSkeleton. It is now an integral part of his therapy, and he hopes that eventually, it will be part of his everyday capabilities.

I had the privilege of meeting Capt Herrera at the MARSOC Foundation's pre-race dinner for the Marine Corps Marathon, where he was the guest speaker. I have known about him since he was injured, but to be able to meet him was humbling and an honor. (For the record, he finished 3rd in his AG and 25th male in the hand-crank race, with a PR, no less.)

I share his story with you, because as he stated during his speech, "It is those who are willing to give to strangers, to help others in their fight to recover, to find a way to be of service, that make this nation great."

He also acknowledged that it is hard to ask for help, difficult to reach out and say, 'I can't do this on my own.' Capt Herrera and his wife have received assistance from the Semper Fi Fund to help retrofit their home to make it wheelchair compatible and MARSOC Foundation raised the money for the ReWalk device. In the video below, you'll hear Capt Herrera talk about paying it forward. I believe that's what it is all about.

My run this weekend is a 24-hour race. With my calf injury, I know I won't cover as many miles as I had planned, but I am going out there to cover as much ground as I can, and I ask you for your help in supporting my efforts to raise funds for the MARSOC Foundation. One dollar for every hour I complete or .50 cents for every mile I cover, your choice.  Email me or make a comment on this post on Facebook to make a pledge. Immediately following the race's completion on Sunday morning, I will post and tweet the total mileage and total hours. Thank you.


1) Derek Herrera's Blog & Website
2) Derek Herrera'sYouTube channel
3) U-T San Diego story on Capt Herrera's injury and recovery
4) MarineTimes article on ExoSkeleton
5) Task & Purpose article on Capt Herrera's appointment as CEO of RuckPack.

05 November 2014

Into the woods: Chow is continuous

A constant in the world of runners, nay athletes, are the food rituals. What to eat for training, the long run, the short run, the swim, pre-race consumption, while racing, immediately post-race, and, of course, the recovery.  If you read my earlier posts on what I packed for food for my previous two ultras, you'll know that I am more of a "real food" runner - what with the mac'n'cheese and crackers and pickle juice. I am also not terribly rigid about my regular meal intake  and I don't follow any prescribed diet except that the food on the plate be colorful and recognizable to its origins (no Spam here) and no heavy cream sauces (just the basic bechamel, if you please).

I have been training and competing for teams since 1989, and have tried more products than I can shake a stick at, especially coming from northern California, where many of these products came into being. I also find that advocating for one type of  energy or nutrition over another can be tricky, mostly because what works for one does not necessarily work for another. HOWEVER (comma, crazy eyebrow, pause for effect) I am going to go ahead and give you the lowdown on my picks for training and racing, because I believe in the efficacy and the integrity of the below products.


Skratch Labs - I got turned on to this by a fellow Marine, who found it while racing with her cycling team in Colorado. I like this because it is all natural, no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors, which is rare to find in sports drinks. I also like that it is not overly sweet, so no watering down required. I have tried Heed, Accelerade, and a bunch of others that hit the market in the 90s but this trumps them all for me. My flavor picks:
  • Exercise Hydration Mix: Raspberry - A straightforward flavor, not too sweet, and no chemical aftertaste, which is awesome. I sometimes mix this with the Lemons + Limes to get a psuedo raspberry lemonade.
  • Exercise Hydration Mix: Matcha + Lemons - If you've had iced green tea, and liked it, this might work for you. It's got a true lemony flavor, but with my penchant for iced tea, this is great, plus it has caffeine. 
  • Exercise Hydration Mix: Apples + Cinnamon - I have tried this once, as a taste test, as it is intended to be hot, and it is lovely! This will be perfect for the winter training and racing, although I am not sure it will be a carry-along, more like a fuel stop or a post-run warm-up. 
  • Hyper Hydration Mix: Mango - This is intense and I will be taking this to Morocco without a doubt. It has significant salt overtones but the mango tempers it and it fits the bill perfectly for those runs/races of high-electrolyte depletion, much like my beloved pickle juice. 

And, I also have to say, that Gatorade, specifically the Frost series, which has less sugar, are a great short run drink (by short, I mean around an hour). I still dump ice into it to dilute it a bit, but it's an inexpensive way to go for hydration.


RuckPack - Another Marine, my buddy Mosi S., who is an amazing ultra-athlete, told me about this and I have to say that I was a little skeptical initially, but after trying it, I can't say enough about it. There is no caffeine, which is great, since I've found that my pre-race coffee intake plus my race tea provide enough (plus the one time I tried a caffeinated shot, I felt terrible as my heart raced and I felt jittery and nauseated.)  

The new flavor, Blood Orange, is pretty tasty; while it has a vitamin-heavy overtone, there is no lingering aftertaste. The energy boost is sustained, and I took half a bottle before the start of the YT50, which I think accounts in part for how rapidly my first 20 miles went. There is also no "crash" as it wears off.

A disclosure, which just happened after the MCM: I was selected as a RuckPack ambassador! Why I am humbled and honored: the company is veteran owned/operated, they are not a gimmick, and the company believes in giving back - 10% of their profits are given to military charities.

GU - I discovered GU back in the late 90s, when I was dividing my athletic energy between road racing, triathlon and Masters swimming. I remember the initial conundrum of tearing off the top while running/cycling and then finding a place to put that little foil so as not to litter. I also remember loving the chocolate flavor, like pudding. I have tried a myriad of other gels and I always come back to GU. This is a stalwart in the energy world and I still use it for long runs and during my races. If anyone has used the Octane gel or the recovery drink, I would love to hear your thoughts! (Disclosure: They were a product sponsor for me for my 2000 Marathon des Sables race.)
  • GU Energy Gel: Chocolate, Mandarin Orange, Salted Watermelon and Just Plain.
  • GU Chomps: Blueberry Pomegranate, Orange, Raspberry

Honey Stinger - If you've ever shopped at World Market, you may have come across the StroopWaffel. I first encountered the SW while in grad school (1995!!) at the local coffee shop, where they placed one with caramel over my cup of coffee so by the time I got to my seat, the caramel had softened into a gooey, lovely cookie treat.

When I encountered the Honey Stinger Waffles, I was elated that my treat was completely compatible with running six-hour races! They are organic and made by a company out of Colorado that began in the 1950s. I have never had a digestion problem with them, and they're not too sweet, which I find to be a problem with so many of the energy items out there. I've tried all the flavors except strawberry but have ended up with only two: Gingersnap and the original Honey.



This is a weird one, because I have to be careful about too much dairy since my surgeries. I used to love chocolate milk but now I do unsweetened almond milk with a vegetable protein powder, chocolate syrup and blend it up. Sometimes I add a banana and spirulina powder.

I actually really enjoy the Bolthouse Farms Protein Shake in Mango (dairy-free) and their Vanilla Chai Tea (dairy-free), the latter which I often bring to my ultra races. The mango protein shake is great post-race/post-long run, although I can only drink half at a time.

I was obsessed with Orgain Protein Shakes last year and still use them occasionally.

My other recent recovery snacks are 2% Fage greek yogurt mixed with pine nuts, honey and banana slices and, for a quick recharge, I grab a tablespoon, scoop a bite of Nutella and then cover that with cashews (roasted and reduced salt).

I still rely on the "real-food" staples that existed before the energy food market came into play, but the products above have found a permanent place in my training and racing arsenal.

03 November 2014

Into the woods: A last chapter

This week is the second of my injury recovery/rehab, with several more certainly to follow. It is also five days from my next scheduled race: the Croatan 24-hour Race from Saturday to Sunday (for which MARSOC Foundation is the charity recipient).

It is also a week of final decisions. I received word from the Physical Evaluation Board that I have a green light to permanently retire. That I will be fully, completely, entirely and unremittingly separated from the Marine Corps. It is not a bittersweet thought, rather, a conglomerate one of anger, frustration, wistfulness, sadness and, ultimately, relief that I can write the last words to this chapter and truly move forward. It means I no longer have to endure medical examinations that quantify the "extent" of my injuries, no more reliving the trauma under questioning from line officers and "wizards" probing to see how I react, no more defending my quest to put one foot in front of the other and see how far I can go.

I will receive notification of my transfer from TDRL to PDRL and that will be that. I will still go to therapy, and am still adjusting to my new left and right lateral limits, physically speaking, knowing they have narrowed out of necessity. There are no vertical limits though, and I will push my flight ceiling as high as I can, and, in continuing to strive upward, help others do the same.

Sunset over another Arabian desert circa 2008

[Don't forget that the MARSOC Foundation hockey raffle runs through next Monday - any game, home or away, so even if you're a west coast bubba, you get the goods! (Each package is worth over $600.)]

Click on the image to enter

01 November 2014

Get your hockey on!!!

What in the H-E-double hockey sticks?!? That's right, it's time to lace up your skates, grab a stick and hit the ice....or at least watch your favorite player do so...We've got the ticket for you!


Matt Moulson is originally from Ontario, Canada. He was drafted in 2003 by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Entry Draft, and after graduating from Cornell in 2006, signed with the LA Kings. He spent two seasons with them before heading to the opposite coast for five seasons with the NY Islanders and then headed upstate to don a Buffalo Sabres jersey and serve as their "A" captain.  

How did he get involved with giving back to injured military and their families?

"My wife and I started our involvement with the Armed Services after a fundraising dinner we had attended one summer (while I was with the Islanders). We wanted to to get involved with the troops and after listening to several service members who were injured in action speak, we knew we wanted to concentrate our efforts towards injured veterans.
We have had wounded warriors as our guests for the past couple of seasons and getting to meet them after each game has been an incredible honor. We are always seeking ways to expand our efforts to help the true heroes." 

Raffle runs from November 1st - 10th - the TWO winners will be announced at 5pm EST on November 10th.

100% of raffle proceeds will go to benefit the MARSOC Foundation.