Life

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!    

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Southen Bird Camp Reflection

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20150712_114936000_iOSA month ago I got the opportunity to spend a long weekend with 18 other amazing Oiselle women. I was able to share my story with them and I hope I was able to make a difference in their running journey. They may not know it but I learned more from them through this experience than I think I taught them. The reflection on my own story and the mistakes I have made really resonated with me as I was planning my talk and I realized one important thing that I hope every runner will hold in their heart especially when things get tough. That one thing is that we as runners are all the same. No matter what our pace, no matter what our body type is and no mater how old we are, we each struggle, we all get down on ourselves, and we all feel inadequate at times. Elite athletes have bad days. Every run is not sunshine and rainbows and if anyone tells you that they feel amazing every race and workout they are liking lying. Things don’t always go as planned and we deal with it. So no matter what you are feeling trust me it is normal. One bad day will not be the end it just means tomorrow will be better. The one thing I heard from a lot of these women was that they worried they weren’t fast enough and were scared to come to camp and be the slowest but I can tell you from experience that putting yourself in a situation that feels uncomfortable will only make you stronger. In running you have to willing to be uncomfortable and that works in 2 ways. You have to be willing to push yourself in a race to a place that feels uncomfortable if you want to reach your full potential. You also shouldn’t be scared to come in last which is uncomfortable but that is how you get better. I went to NC State because I wanted to be surrounded by people who were better than me and now here I am today thinking about the marathon Olympic trials. Its nice for confidence to run some races and place well but sometimes its good to go to a big race and just put yourself out there. I raced at Freihofer’s 5k for Women this year which I can say was both terrifying and humbling. I fell off the elite pack immediately but ran my fastest road mile. If running were easy everyday there would be no challenge and where is the fun in that?! I don’t run simply to win races, I run to get better because that is what really matters.

Oiselle Haute Volee

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photo cred @olivenright
photo cred @olivenright

Last year around this time I was recovering from a disappointing race at the Mt. Sac Relays. After a rough end to my final collegiate season and now a poor first season post-collegiate I was borderline ready to give up. I didn’t have any sponsors and I felt a little helpless. My confidence was low and I didn’t think deserved anything but for some reason Oiselle still decided to give me a chance. They extended me a spot on the Volee Team and I accepted. I didn’t know what would happen from there but I was excited to start over new. What I also didn’t know was what being a part of Oiselle really meant. I quickly found out was that Oiselle is a team of strong women of all ages and abilities all working together to lift each other up. My wonderful Oiselle NC team graciously accepted me into their group and gave me the support I needed. By the time the Indianapolis Monumental half-marathon rolled around I was feeling great and back to myself, something I couldn’t have done without the opportunity Oiselle gave me. Now a year after I wanted to give up, I am honored and proud to be joining Oiselle’s Elite Haute Volee Team. Running professionally is a dream I’ve worked for and I am excited to take that step up. It’s going to take a lot more work but I’m ready to take on the challenges this new opportunity will present me with. Thank you to all of my family, friends, NC State teammates and coaches, and Oiselle teammates and supporters, I wouldn’t be here without you!

Monumental Weekend

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I can’t believe how long it has been since I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half-Marathon and qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon but I can say I’m still sometimes shocked by it. When I turned the corner coming into the final straight away I could see the time and could not believe what I had done. I was so overjoyed I felt like I could run another! Luckily I remembered how those last 3 miles had started to feel and just stood there in the finish shoot just taking it all in. After my struggle from last year this season has been a huge testament to me as to why I need to always keep moving forward. Hitting what felt like rock bottom last year feeling like maybe this was it for me was exactly what I needed. I am everyday thankful for Oiselle and my coaches for still sticking with me and giving me the chance I needed to give it one more go. Of course now I realize what I have ahead of me, marathon training. A whole new beast and a whole lot of work. God’s work is never done and the same will be for me.

The thing I am most grateful for is not that I qualified but more about the people that this whole experience has introduced me to. Seeing Alana Hadley, a 17 year break the marathon course record and qualify for the Olympic trials. Being in the company of a 92 year old running a half marathon world record and Hailey Danisewicz setting the world record for one leg amputees is so far beyond my accomplishment and is humbling to me. What those people have done is so incredible and such an inspiration. I was blessed with being roomed with an extremely talented Dawn Grunnagle whom helped me figure things out on race morning (I’m still pretty naïve to road racing!) and gave me advice and encouragement going in.

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salming 2

Coming back to NC I was also able to make a connection to Salming, a shoe brand out of Sweden just starting to put down roots in the US including a place here in Raleigh! This opportunity is great and I cannot thank them enough. I will soon be a part of growing this brand and I can’t wait to see what the future will hold here. The team, the managers, everyone involved in this company has been fantastic! Putting together a group of not only great runners but also great people was the key to drawing me in. They put a strong value to supporting local elites in the community to help grow the hometown love and I can’t wait to get the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of all runners young and old.

All in all the one person that really spoke to me this weekend was an incredibly strong Oiselle woman whom joined me in the City of Oaks Marathon Relay the Sunday following my half-marathon race. She apologized before the race stating that she hadn’t been able to train much and that she would be slow. I told her not worry and that we as Oiselle birds fly together and to just have fun! She anchored the last leg of the race and I watched cheering proudly as she came through to the finish. She ran the entire 6.2 miles! I found out later that she had been struggling with MS and had been unable to run. Her attitude and perseverance is just so inspiring to me. Ever since hearing this news I have been in awe over her. If she reads this I want her to know how strong and how absolutely amazing I think she is. I am proud to call her my teammate!

city of oaks

My Past, Present & Future

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My last race of my collegiate career was one I try not to think about too hard. That devastating last race came 2 days after a 13th place finish (top 12 qualify for nationals) in the 10k at regionals, an event I had qualified for nationals for in the previous 2 seasons. I carried the feeling of defeat I felt after my 10k into my 5k and as I stood on the start line I felt the world falling in on my shoulders. I had already lost that race before it started. In the hours and days after that race I felt like my feet had been pulled out from under me and I was lost. I couldn’t believe my collegiate career was over just like that. It took me a couple days to come to terms with what had happened but after the fact I realized this wasn’t going to be the end for me.

When I started at NC State I was a good runner but not a great runner. I wasn’t nationally ranked and my times were middle of the road for collegiate running. Most people wouldn’t have had me on the radar for becoming an All-American and after my freshman year, no one, including myself, would have thought I had shot at even an All-ACC finish. However, in the years that followed things began to change. My sophmore year I was placed on a gluten-free diet for medical concerns. Then in my junior year I finally saw the light. In the months prior to my 2011 spring track season I got back involved with my church, regularly attending and finally actually understanding the message. I was regaining a relationship with God and it started to play out on the track. I put my trust in God and began pursuing each race with him in mind and it was almost unreal what happened. I placed 2nd at ACC’s that year, dropped over 2 minutes off of my previous 10k time, and finished it off with a 2nd Team All-American finish at nationals. I could barely believe I was even in contention for nationals going into that last lap at the 2011 NCAA regional championships. When I stepped across that finish line I realized, God has more in store for me.

Now today I feel even more called to pursue a professional running career. While the hit I faced at the end of my collegiate career was hard I realized it was a message to me that I need to change my mind set. I had become too obsessed in doing everything right and lost some of my trust in God. To me it also served as a wake-up that I had a lot more work to do. I had become better but I needed to be brought back down to earth. The professional distance running aspiration would mean a whole lot more improvement on my part and as hard as that regional finish was, it was just what I needed. I want to get to a point where I can inspire others and show them what God can do. I feel like I have a story and now I am just trying to make it worth sharing.

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Why We Run

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A couple of weeks ago I went for a 13 mile run and came back an hour and 46 min later having run 15….It was of course completely on accident and I paid for it. When I told my coach I accidentally ran 15 miles she gave me that yeah right look and said “how do you accidentally run 15 miles??” I guess reading this story you are probably thinking the same thing. I went out on a loop I mapped out on MapMyRun but somewhere along the way I made a wrong turn. I knew immediately my run would end up long but I anticipated 5 minutes…not 15. I was asked why I didn’t walk (I wish I had) but during the run I kept telling myself “It’s not that much further” and “don’t be lame, keep running.” Even when the 30mph gusts hit me straight on as I was running up a hill feeling like I could lie down that very moment, I kept running. My coach laughed when I told her the story and said “only 10k runners.” I realized that moment she was completely right.

We distance runners will put ourselves through whatever we have to in order to get where we are going, and I mean that literally and figuratively. We watch what and when we eat, which happens to be often. We have the tendency to get hangry (anger brought on hunger). We run through ice storms and will run 72 laps around an indoor track to get a 9 mile run in when we can’t run outside. We have to fight out obsessive compulsive nature to keep us sane when things don’t go as planned. We put our bodies through torture just to hit that perfect split at the end of a long interval workout. We do all of these things in the name of competition, in the name of perseverance, and most importantly, in the name of what it means to reach that next level. As Steve Prefontaine so perfectly said it “We run to see who has the most guts.”

Needless to say I came back from that 15 mile run ready to go to sleep at 5:30. I would have if I hadn’t picked up my tablet to work on customizing this very blog. I had also spent the last 45 minutes of my run thinking about the pizza I planned to make myself for dinner…

pizza

So worth it.

Gerald Cornell aka “Coach” aka my Grandpa. 1922- 2014 RIP

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Grandpa

At first I was a little nervous having my first post be on such a sad note but then I realized how perfect this was. My grandpa was my greatest inspiration. He was my hero and I idolized him. He was the person that molded my athletic career and as my running career first began taking off, he was the one I always looked to. He was the strongest man I ever knew. Even at 70 he could do things that even some college athletes couldn’t do. In addition he left an impact on so many people’s lives. Being at the calling hours and funeral this past weekend I heard stories I had never heard. Stories about the way he helped people and the accomplishments he had along the way. His life was admirable and it was just the life he wanted. He and my grandmother never had much but they gave what they had to help others and I will forever cherish this.

My grandfather believed in hard work. He was tough and pushed his players so that they could meet their potential. He truly loved each and every one of his players and wanted them to succeed both in life and on the field. In my career he would go out of his way to help me succeed. I could see the joy in his face when he got the chance to coach me and witnessed the happiness he felt when he got to see me race. He presented me with my first state championship ring and I feel honored more than ever knowing he was so much more than just the man I knew as Grandpa.

Now in the post collegiate realm unsure of my ability to run professionally I feel even more driven to make it because of my Grandfather. The last thing he said to me was, “When I get better I am going to come down there and see you race.” I always get choked up when I think about this but then I remember where he is now. He is in a place where he is happy and healthy and can be at each and every one of my races. He is in heaven  and at peace with God. From here on out my 10k life will be in tribute to him.

2/2/2014 RIP Grandpa Gerald: My Hero Forever.