New Blog! 

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I have been working on a new site for the past few months and have finally gotten around to transitioning everything over. I have some new things on there and a few new posts so head over to http://www.run4acozz.com to check it out! I will be closing this site out sometime soon so if you want to continue to follow my recipes, races or whatever you can subscribe to my new blog. Thanks for your support 🙂 

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Optimizing Performance

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2015 Payton Jordan 10k where I ran 33:43 on the track pre-inside tracker.

Rewind to about May/June of last year. I had goals of getting back on the track and running fast after a good fall. I had goals of running some competitive races through the summer and ending on a high point at the Sir Walter Miler. But my goals came crashing down as several races went sour as my legs seemingly hit a wall. After mulling over the cause of the tiredness I had been feeling I finally made the decision to invest in InsideTracker. Man, did it pay off.  

I had dealt with anemia prior to transitioning to the gluten free diet, but I had not put 2 and 2 together until after I got my blood results back. I knew what low ferritin felt like but there is difference between the feeling you have when it is as low as 8 and when it’s at 33. After going through the previous races and workouts in my head, it clicked. That dead leg feeling complete with the heavy breathing and instant hatred of all things running, yep that was my ferritin talking to me.

For runners ferritin is a very important blood marker. Having enough Ferritin in your blood makes your stored iron accessible for use in oxygen transfer. If your ferritin is low you could have killer levels of stored iron but have no way of accessing it. Going to your primary care doctor and asking them to check your iron typically doesn’t cut it because often this test does not include your ferritin marker. Beyond that, primary care doctors don’t work only with runners. Technically a ferritin level in the 30’s is considered normal and for a non-runner this would probably not affect their daily life. In fact they probably wouldn’t even notice it. But for runners most people thrive at 50 or higher which brings up one of the biggest benefits of InsideTracker and one of the reasons I ultimately took the leap to do it. InsideTracker takes your blood sample and analyses it to determine the specific optimal ranges for your individual biomarkers. No one person is alike and this fact is true even with your biomarkers. What may be optimal for one person may not be for another. For each biomarker, the interface spits out a chart showing the normal range, your specific optimal range within that normal range, and the ranges that would be considered abnormal. To the right of the chart is an explanation of your value and food recommendations in order to improve that level or keep it the same. For us nutrition nerds there is also a tab for the science behind each biomarker and a video to learn more. Up until using InsideTracker I knew that my iron levels could have an effect on my energy levels but I wasn’t quite aware of the other vitamin deficiencies that could also have an effect on energy and performance such as B-complex, folate, and vitamin D (among others). 

Snapshots from my inside tracker dashboard and bloodwork

Luckily for me InsideTracker helped to me catch my low ferritin levels early enough for me to make some changes with supplementation and diet. I finished that fall with a 1 minute half marathon PR, a new mile PR, a USATF NC Long Distance Series Championship, and a 15th place finish at the .US 12k Championships where I ran my 6k PR twice to finish in 40:21.   

Now fast forward to January of this year. I had all of the symptoms of overtraining and a training log to prove it. I took 3 days off in the middle of my marathon training cycle and turned to InsideTracker. Upon receiving my results there were certainly indicators of overtraining. InsideTracker opened my eyes to the idea of overtraining and broke it down from the standpoint of what is happening in the body because of it. As runners we push ourselves to our limits. We think, “If I am not hitting my splits, I am not working hard enough.” This may be true at times but other times it may be just the opposite, that you’re working too hard. In January I made excuses for my blood work and kept trucking but now that I have accepted what happened, I can rightfully say I did a lot of things wrong. But I have learned from it.

After the trials I went back to work trying to rebuild my strength and focus on the road ahead.

I tried to resume training following the marathon and it didn’t come. I made the ultimate decision at the end of April to hang it up and took an extended training break to ensure that I would come back refreshed. I resumed training at the end of May, starting with low easy mileage. I slowly increased my mileage while moderating the pace. As I started back into training I knew I needed to check in on my blood levels before getting to deep. I was feeling good but it never hurts to check. I retested everything and when I got my results back I could see the comparison of my previous number to my current numbers in chart format. I could see that I had improved across the board. I could see that my cortisol levels had gone down and my cortisol to testosterone ratio had gone up (something I had no clue about until I did
InsideTracker!). High cortisol levels and low cortisol to testosterone ratios can be indications of overtraining and or a suppressed immune system increasing the risk of illness or injury.

For those of you that follow me on my social media platforms you have probably been seeing my recent pushes for InsideTracker. For anyone gearing up for a fall season now is the optimal time to have your biomarkers tested to make sure you are starting your training on a high note. The worst thing would be to ramp up into training and after a few months feeling tired and junky realize you are dealing with a few vitamin deficiencies. Digging yourself out of such a hole while still trying to improve your fitness will not be a fun experience (trust me I have done it!). InsideTracker offers several options to suit any runner’s needs. Sign up before the end of July and you can use ANDIEJULY for a discount on the plan of your choosing! Enjoy 🙂

 
P.s. My Blog is moving to a new site!! I am finishing up the design and will be launching soon so stay tuned!    

Strawberry Protein Bars

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The past two weeks really spread me too thin. From public meetings to car issues, long runs and traveling, my ability to accomplish anything outside of work and running was just about impossible. The daily grind of waking up at 4:30, running, planning my meals, working, doing strength training, going to pt appointments, adding in doubles, running errands, making dinner, and trying to get to bed by 9 really took its toll on me. Needless to say I never made it to bed by 9. Weeks like the past 2 always frustrate me. I love to cook and bake and experiment in the kitchen but when time holds me back I am always too tired to make the effort.

Tuesday this week was like therapy for me. With a couple hours to myself and an idea for a new recipe, I felt completely in my element. I got my jar of the new Strawberry BiPro protein powder last week and I have been dying to test it out. I have been racking my brain with what kinds of recipes I could try and what flavor combinations would work best. My idea for this recipe stems from my need for a high protein, low sugar, healthy post-run option for busy mornings. Typically, I make myself a bowl of whole grain low sugar cereal and then mix some unsweetened cashew milk with a half scoop of vanilla BiPro to pour over top. This is great but also much more time consuming. I also wanted something that would allow me to include Generation UCAN in its raw state. I have made several muffins using UCAN but the baking process changes the superstarch and makes its super powers go away somewhat. When I say super powers I am talking about it’s ability to keep blood sugar steady and tap into fat stores for energy. UCAN used in combination with a protein source has a substantial impact on the recovery process. The protein begins to do its work immediately in rebuilding the broken down muscle and the added superstarch extends the recovery window so that you are able to continue to utilize the protein from your next meal as an aid in the recovery process. The superstarch’s ability to utilize fat for fuel keeps you energized and focused even after a long hard workout or run. I’ll admit the first time I tried UCAN’s protein enhanced version after a workout I was amazed at how much more awake I felt the rest of the day!

Now on to the other star in this show. The strawberry BiPro. When I opened the container I was amazed by just how good it smelled. Like literally strawberry cream savers. Anyway, this protein is gluten free, lactose free, and caffeine free. It is naturally flavored and sweetened with real strawberry pieces. 0g of sugar and 1 g of carbohydrate this stuff is for real. With only 6 ingredients it surpasses many different protein powders, shakes, and bars in that it doesn’t have a laundry list of added preservatives and foreign ingredients. I scoop contains 90 calories and 20g of protein which reaches the recommended grams of protein needed for adequate recovery after exercise. There are no artificial or natural dyes so the protein isn’t any abnormal shade of red. Mixing it with a cold glass of cashew milk is even delicious by itself!

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So when I decided I wanted to create a protein bar I knew exactly what Ingredients I had to use, some type of UCAN and Strawberry BiPro. I knew the recipe had to be raw so I needed to figure out what I could mix with it to make it all hold together and with good texture. I decided my best option would be to use the plain UCAN superstarch and bring it all together with cashew butter. I love the combination of strawberries and chocolate so I had to find a way to get that in there. If I had a better way of covering the bar in chocolate to fully cover it I would have. Then I used just a bit of agave to sweetened the deal. The important piece of information here is the use of a sweetener that would not spike the blood sugar negating the benefits of UCAN. The chocolate I used was Lily’s Chocolate chips which is sweetened with stevia which satisfies this condition. Now a days its becoming easier to find cashew butter at the store but you can also make your own pretty easily without any added oils! This recipe is raw and very simple to make! Anyway see the recipe below and enjoy!

p.s. any of my followers get 10% off with code: BLOG10

(Fine Print: 10% off purchase and the end date is 3-24-17. Must use valid promotion code. Not valid with other offer, discounts or promotions. Limit one promotion code use per customer.)

Strawberry Protein Bars

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Combine the BiPro Protein powder, UCAN superstarch, and salt if using. Cut in the cashew butter until it resembles a crumbly mixture.
  2. Add in the cashew milk and agave and combine. Once incorporate kneed it all together with your hands.
  3. Once together form the dough into a rectangle. The dough may be sticky so if needed use some extra superstarch on the exterior of your rectangle and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.

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  4. Cut the rectangle into 6 equal bars and space out on the baking sheet. Melt the chocolate and then spread on the bars. To do the bottom, place the bars in the freezer for about 15 mintues then coat the bottom of the bar,

    5. Store the bars in the fridge and enjoy after long runs or hard workouts!

For a printable recipe click here: Strawberry Protein Bar

Elderberry Chocolate Avocado Mousse

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To put it nicely, this has been one heck of a long week. The type of week that invokes the temptation to gorge yourself on chocolate. If it had not been for leftovers I wouldn’t have thought twice about ordering pizza every night. Problem being, I am in base training and this is not the time for letting my nutrition slide.

In the base training phase you are slowly building your mileage back up after a well-deserved break. In running, just like building, you need to have a strong foundation or “base”. Slowly increasing your mileage each week with runs at low to moderate intensity with no high intensity workouts is necessary for injury prevention and sustainability. This phase also involves regaining your fitness and dropping the extra weight and fat you should gain during a training break. Gaining a few extra pounds and extra fat is good for prepping your body for a new training cycle. As you increase your mileage your metabolism lags behind so in essence you are able to operate at a slight caloric deficit without getting hangry and feeling drained. During this phase I try to watch what I eat while indulging when my body needs it. Indulgence in moderation is the key to maintaining a healthy diet.

This leads me into the creation of my most recent recipe…Elderberry Chocolate Avocado Mousse.

 

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When cravings strike and I want something sweet I like to find options that are both delicious and beneficial to my health. This recipe definitely fits that standard. And yes I know, avocado is for guacamole and tacos, believe me I thought the same thing…until I tried this. The avocado makes this recipe super creamy and honestly, it’s hard to believe there is no heavy cream! Avocados are super nutrient dense with heart healthy monosaturated fatty acids. These healthy fats help the body better absorb vitamins and minerals. The fiber in avocados helps to maintain a healthy immune system and contributes to a healthy gut.

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The other 2 stars in this show are of course the Norms Farms Elderberry Wellness Syrup and Generation UCAN chocolate protein powder. If you missed my last post, Elderberry has amazing benefits to athletes! (click this link for more info: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/carl-thompson/elderberry-health-benefits-exercise_b_8171086.html ). The elderberry syrup promotes recovery and a healthy immune system so in combination with the avocado, this recipe will keep you strong and healthy. I would also like to add that the elderberry flavor complements the chocolate flavor amazingly well! The UCAN protein powder contains a complex carbohydrate called superstarch. This superstarch metabolizes slowly keeping energy levels and blood sugar stable while increasing the bodies ability to burn fat for energy. This protein version contains whey protein so if you wish to make this vegan you can use the plain Cocoa Delite UCAN superstarch that does not contain added protein.

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This recipe is raw, gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free, and sweetened with low-glycemic index agave. In light of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, this recipe would make for a great dessert for your planned festiviites! Top with raspberries and blueberries to make it nice and festive!

Elderberry Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients (except the 2 optional toppings) into a high speed blender or food processor and process until all ingredients are well combined and smooth.
  2. Place in serving dishes and top with whatever desired toppings you choose! I suggest extra dark chocolate and Purely Elizabeth Chocolate Sea Salt Probiotic Granola

elderberry chocolate mousse (click to print!)

Norms Farm Elderberry Protein Bars

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When it comes to optimizing performance in endurance sports so many factors come into play. As I have expressed in some of my other posts nutrition can play a huge role. Eating the appropriate number of carbs, proteins and fats in addition to choosing the right sources is always an important concern, however, the timing of such intake is just as important if not more. Running can cause muscle damage even on a slow easy day so replenishing with carbs and protein right away is necessary. The sooner you eat the better! Getting the protein in right away will allow the muscles to start repairing themselves, suppress the release of the stress hormone cortisol (high cortisol levels in combination with low testosterone can be a key indicator of over-training), and get the metabolism moving. Waiting to eat leaves your muscles and your body in a starvation like state. Just like how we would save our food if we didn’t know when we would eat again, waiting to long to eat convinces the body to hold on to that food for safe keeping, and a smaller portion is shuttled to the muscle for repair. To make matters worse, endurance exercise can contribute immune suppression and inflammation within the body. The temporary immunosuppression puts an athlete at higher risk for infection or illness. Exercise, especially hard workouts or long runs will create inflammation within the body. Excessive inflammation leads to increased injury risk and longer recovery times.

So, here is the exciting part…the amazing benefits of elderberry! I was fortunate to be introduced by a friend and former teammate to Norms Farms, a local NC farm specializing in all things Elderberry. Elderberries contain powerful antioxidants and have anti-viral properties making them known for their ability to fight disease and infection. The antioxidants also have the ability to fight free radicals which the body produces more of after hard exercise. By reducing the number of free radicals in the body, they can help reduce post-exercise muscle damage and soreness (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/carl-thompson/elderberry-health-benefits-exercise_b_8171086.html). Elderberry’s specific antioxidant source comes from the presence of anthocyanins, a  compound also found in mortmorcency tart cherries. In the realm of competitive endurance athletes, tart cherries have become increasing popular because of there anti inflammatory properties due to the presence of anthocyanins. To make elderberries even more desirable, they are rich in magnesium and promote respiratory health (to read more on this click the link above!) Elderberry may just be the new superfood for endurance athletes!

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All that being said, my friend Lauren and I wanted to find creative ways to use elderberry in recipes that athletes would want. We wanted something that could be made on a lazy Sunday and used as a healthy grab and go for post-workout. Something that would have adequate protein and carbs, was low in sugar(compared to many bars out there), and easy to make. So what was our final product?! These raw elderberry protein bars!

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These bars maintain roughly a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio(9:27), 220 calories, 13g sugar (all from natural sources), and of course a healthy dose of elderberry extract. We made this a raw bar to maintain the maximal benefit of all of the ingredients. The ingredient brands listed on our recipe made be substituted but we suggest the ones we chose. The granola we used was Purely Elizabeth’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt granola because contains probiotics and promotes good gut health. It also is sweetened solely by coconut sugar, a natural low glycemic sweetener, and contains chia seeds. We chose BiPro unflavored protein because it contains minimal ingredients and is high quality protein that mixes in unnoticed. The tart cherries we chose were from Country Spoon (ordered of Amazon). These are mortmorcency cherries and contain no added sugar. We highly suggest the use of the coconut peanut butter because it is a natural peanut butter that uses coconut oil. The use of the coconut oil helps to keep it solid at room temperature unlike many natural peanut butters that separate.

For me, understanding why things work the way they do is necessary for making smart choices about consuming them. Every ingredient has a purpose and a value so why not use the best ones possible to maximize the benefits of what we eat!? Hope you enjoy this recipe and look out for more to come. I’m thinking something with UCAN cocao delite and elderberry extract may be coming soon!

Elderberry Protein Bars 

*gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free, raw, high-protein*

Ingredients

1/2 cup Earth Balance Coconut Peanut Butter

1/4 cup Pure Maple Syrup

1/2 cup Elderberry Extract

1/4 cup Oat Flour

2 scoops BiPro Unflavored Protein (44g)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Purely Elizabeth Chocolate Sea Salt Probiotic Granola (if not using this brand I suggest adding a tbsp of chia seeds for a the added nutritional benefit)

1/2 cup Country Spoon Dried Tart Montmorency Cherries

Directions:

1. Line an 8×8″ pan with wax paper and set aside

2. Combine Peanut butter and maple syrup in a saucepan over low heat. Mix until combined and then remove from heat. Let the mixture cool a bit and then add the elderberry extract and mix well. Make sure to remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to begin cooling as heat can kill some of the beneficial properties of the elderberry extract.

3. In a separate bowl combine the protein powder, oat flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the peanut butter mixture to this and mix until well combined.

4. Next, fold in the granola and cherries. Once everything is combined press the mixture into the 8×8 pan making sure it is spread evenly. Place a sheet of wax paper over top and refrigerate overnight.

5. Enjoy as a snack or post workout!

Moving Forward

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Ever since my DNF at the Olympic Marathon Trials I have been in a state of dizzied confusion. My head, my heart, and my body have all been fighting. My heart wants to push on and overcome this all. My head wants to figure out what’s going on, make the right decision. My body is telling me that I’ve still got it, but maybe not right now? It’s all really a jumbled mess and all I really want is for someone to tell me what to do. To tell me “everything is going to be okay.”

Looking back it is pretty clear that I made some mistakes in my marathon training. Upping my training volume too quickly, forcing too much, taking on a training style way different than what I am used to. I treated my marathon training as a different beast where logic didn’t apply. Feeling sore for 2 weeks after the hardest half-marathon of my life was okay because I was training for a marathon…dumb…

I took 3 days down after feeling dreadful and then did a blood test with inside tracker. This gave me some good insight into what was happening from a biological standpoint. I felt more at ease after reviewing my results. I had a few concerning levels pertaining to my liver and hormonal bio markers but overall I wasn’t in too deep. I did know that I needed to be careful over the course of the next month. I payed closer attention to how I felt but this didn’t trump the things that I felt I HAD TO DO to run well.

After dropping out I sat on the curb, trying to process the events that had just transpired. Was I dehydrated, out of shape, over-trained, just plain sick, or scared? I was full of regret and full of questions. What were people going to think? How could I let everyone down? Where did I go wrong?

The race I had worked so hard for and was so happy to have qualified for had just gone up in smoke. I felt worthless. It was a wasted opportunity. One question reverberated through my brain that day and it is still burned into my thoughts, “Am I going to be okay?”

I needed some time to figure this out. I took some time to rest with easy miles and then decided to pick myself back up. I am capable of qualifying for the 10k At the Olympic trials and that was my plan. Surely dropping out when I did would allow me to skip the lengthy recovery from running a marathon. Surely I would be just fine! After all, I didn’t run a full marathon, I have no excuse for being tired.

In the weeks coming back, I began training with my beloved Wolfpack team. I jumped right back in and started to have good solid workouts. I felt good, until I didn’t. My legs had suddenly reverted back to the heavy crappy feeling they felt in January.

Once again my confidence waned and my Olympic trials dreams were out the door. It hurts to feel like I wasted the opportunities I worked for this season. I hurts to think about how well I was running just 6 months ago. I have never raced in Eugene and I guess this would once again not be my time.

Ultimately I had to make the decision to take a rest. Making that decision made me finally feel at peace with myself. It was the right decision despite what my desires would be. I had to think realistically and realize that there will be more opportunities  if I keep digging the hole I’m standing in I will just keep getting deeper.

Moving forward, I am excited to be thinking about the future.  Thinking about what it’s going to feel like to start feeling good again! Who knows all of this work may finally come full circle if I just give my body a rest. I’m looking forward to the pain and suffering that comes with growing your fitness. The feeling when you hit your stride running at a hard pace that feels surprisingly smooth and easy . I am ready to move on. I am ready to think about what’s to come, including a new debut marathon. Indy monumental, Here I come!

 

p.s. I will be racing this Sunday at the Rocket Mile in Rocky Mount to close my season. Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me through this rough time. Having family, friends, and teammates to remind me that they will always be there has made all the difference! My sister gave me the best compliment in the world when she compared me to my uncle and grandfather who have passed. I am reminded of this every time I question myself. So thank you!

 

Olympic Marathon Trials

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I have tried to put on a strong face. I have said the things I know I need to be thinking but I am still having trouble accepting it. It’s hard swallowing the fact that no matter what fitness I could have been in prior to racing, it probably would have ended the same way. At the same time, I can’t help but think that yesterday’s short coming was more than just being sick. Maybe I wasn’t ready, maybe I burnt out my legs, maybe I tapered too much. All of these I will never know for sure but either way I must move on. I know I will be asked how it went and I will have to put on a brave face and relive what happened but I know from my past that I will get over this.

For the record, I dropped out just past halfway. My legs had been feeling heavy and dead since around mile 3 and I felt awful. Before the race I felt fine and I figured my chest cold wouldn’t bother me but just past halfway I suddenly felt like I couldn’t breathe. I panicked and it got worse. I couldn’t get air in and knelt down. I got back up but still couldn’t breathe. A lot of people told me I made a smart decision to stop but honestly, I would not have made that decision. I wanted to keep going and I would have if those spectators had not come to my rescue. They took me off to the side where a few of my Oiselle teammates happened to be cheering. They sat me down and got me water. Up until that point I hadn’t realized how weak I felt. At this point all I could feel was regret and disbelief that all the work I had put in had ended this way. All I could do was cry. When the medics got me, they checked me out and everything was fine so let me go as they left to attend to the numerous others who were dropping like flies in the LA heat. At this point I felt fine but was disappointed. My family headed back towards the starting area and my boyfriend and I left to collect my things and head back to the apartment. I worked my way through the masses until I finally got back to the VIP area where I picked up my bag from gear check. I watched the Women’s winners cross the finish line and then just wanted to be home. We were stopped on a corner in a mass of people unable to move any which way. I remember getting angry at a kid pushing people out of the way waving around his athlete assistance credential and that was when things went south. I told my boyfriend I felt really tired. Then I told him I needed to sit down and I collapsed. He caught me so I didn’t hit the ground and I never lost consciousness. I was positive I could get back up but before I knew it people were propping up my legs putting cold water on my neck and propping up my feet. Before I knew it the medics arrived and I was hooked up to an IV. I was shivering and cold and my part of my arms were starting to feel numb. The medic informed me I was having heat exhaustion and they would be transporting me to the hospital. After getting to the hospital and receiving fluids I began to feel better.

It still hurts to know I couldn’t make it to the finish line of the event I had been dreaming about since qualifying at the Indy Monumental Half-Marathon back in November of 2014. Coach Pete Rea of ZAP Fitness in Blowing Rock, NC made a comment that no matter what happens at the end of any race, workout, or run, you have to find your small win. Whether that be that you finished it, or that you didn’t trip, you have to find the positives of each and every day if you want to get better. My win for yesterday is that I still have my health. I am still strong and I am still the same runner. While all of the work of the past few months did not come together for this event it will come together for the rest of this spring. The marathon trials may not have been in the cards for me and that is all right because everything happens for a reason (thanks Tierney for these words of wisdom). I still have a shot at being in Eugene this summer and I will do everything in my power to make sure that happens! As for my teammates, I am incredibly proud of all of them! I am so blessed to be among 18 strong amazing women that were able to qualify and I know this is just the beginning for all of us. Oiselle has made created an atmosphere to help women thrive in both life and in pursuing dreams. If yesterday wasn’t evidence to that then I don’t know what else is.

As for the marathon, there will be a debut marathon (take 2) in my future, guaranteed.