Athletes Corner: Laura Sanhueza-Miller / Mom, Former pro rower & brandnew IronWoman

When I talked to Laura in July, she had just come off racing a half Ironman distance as preparation for her Ironman debut at Mont Tremblant only 9 months after giving birth to baby girl Mia.

Laura says she didn’t really participate in sports until she entered high-school but she sure kicked things into high gear from there. She competed in triathlons at a high level and then decided to try out for the Canadian rowing team while working full time. A quest she succeeded in.

I remember coming across Laura’s Instagram account while she was in her third trimester with baby Mia. I love Laura’s voice. It’s playful, accountable, engaging, warm and strong. All qualities in women that I admire. I hope that you will enjoy our conversation will inspire you as much as it inspired me.

 

Tell me about your recent half Ironman race:

It wasn’t ideal and I didn’t achieve the goal I had. I wanted to go in with a training mentality to try and have good takeaways from it for my goal race.

What I realized is that I have to eat more – as a breastfeeding mum. I bonked near the end of the bike. In 25km I had over 100 people pass me. You rarely bonk in a half Ironman. I have done them before and could race very fast off of nothing. But the lack of sleep as a new mom and the poor nutrition leading up to the race, having enough pumped milk for my husband those were the thoughts that consumed me.

On the plus side I feel fine today. I was still able to finish the race in a decent time. It is what it is.

How many Half Ironman races had you done before?

Three. But this was the first branded race.

Let’s go further back than 2004. What was the very first sport you were exposed to?

Baseball! I was nine years old. My parents put me on an all boys team. Then I went to an arts school for 10 years, so I didn’t really perform sports until about high school. 

But performing arts included dance, so that’s a sport.

You’re right…

And in High-school you started training for and comepeting in triathlon?

I did. My brother was a triathlete and competed in Kona. He got me into the sport. I didn’t know how to swim. So at 14 I joined 7 year-olds to learn how to swim so I could do triathlons. And I kept doing that until I was 21.

That’s when you switched to rowing

I had just done two half Ironman triathlons and qualified for Worlds but there I truly bonked. I couldn’t finish the race. I didn’t train properly. I had an eating disorder. I was bulimic. Because a lot of coaches said “you’re fat” and “you’ll never be a fast athlete, you have child bearing hips”. When you’re 14 and you hear all that stuff it gets in your head. It was odd because I only had the eating issue during my racing season, which is the worst time because you are trying to compete off of bad nutrition.

So I switched sports and went to rowing and was also taking kinesiology in university, which helped me learn about nutrition, learn about the importance of fueling for performance.

I was mostly in crew boats because I had been focusing more on me, fixing me, and the sports nutrition. But during that phase I also thought why not see if I could get faster each year.

So I would wake up at 4:15 in the morning, commute to a different city and row from 5 until 7.  Drive back, shower and be at work from 8:30 to 4:30, get back out there again to train until 8 or 8:30.

I was working full-time and rowed for six years until I made the national team for rowing in 2012 and I was just married so I didn’t see my husband much for a few years. But he knows who I am and knows how driven I am so he was good about it.

So I was invited to try out for the team and four of us were selected to go in the quad to race in Bulgaria that summer. I was on the national team just for that summer of 2012. It was the Olympic year and there are a lot of politics in rowing but I won’t go into details.

I raced a World Championship in Bulgaria. I feel like all the fringe sports go to Bulgaria :)

Haha, I guess so.

Did you go back to triathlon after that?

Not really. It was the year I started trying out for a baby. First we decided to give my body some time to recover. I was down to race weight. Normally I was about 125-130lbs in weight and I was down to about 118 to 120. I needed to put on some healthy weight. I was also asked to be a lulu ambassador to lead a run club. Which I did weekly and it was good as a distraction from the whole process of trying to have a baby.

What was it like to switch from water back onto land?

Scary, especially if you’ve been at such a high level in a sport. Then you come back to land and you’re not as fast as you used to be. It hits your ego a little bit.

How was your journey of getting pregnant?

Athletically I decided to just have fun. I did a half Ironman in 2013 just for fun. I didn’t train for it. I told myself let’s just do it because I can and to focus on something else than baby, baby, baby. I didn’t do any workouts that compare to what I’m doing now. Speed work, testing myself…

Unfortunately throughout that journey I had two miscarriages. Between 2013 and 2015. The second one being in January of 2015 but I conceived Mia immediately in February of 2015 and I gave birth to her in November.

2 years of trying to conceive is a long time. Do you want to talk about what this was like?

It’s HARD. You need a distraction. Do something that you’ve never done before. It could be exercise but it could also be learning how to draw or play the piano. Just something that keeps you focused and away from stress. When you’re body is stressed it shuts down so it’s not optimal for conceiving. Nutrition is really important. I found out that I had to feed my body. Especially after all the pressure I had put my body through during my career. I needed to get my system clean, I ate really healthy and took my supplements and I drank a lot of water.

Then you got pregnant. Were you worried about another miscarriage?

Absolutely. Our miscarriage was very hard for both of us. My husband and I. I am very open about it because I believe people should talk about it because unfortunately it happens a lot. When we got pregnant with Mia we were cautiously optimistic. We didn’t want to be too excited cause we had just had a loss. We wanted to wait until that 3 month point to get more excited or celebrate but afterwards every check in with the doctor got more exciting. We got to see her heartbeat and see her grow. We had her pictures on our wall and in our wallets. It turned real and very exciting.

Did you get back to exercising while you were pregnant?

Yes. Some people had suggested that I miscarried with my first pregnancy because of working out. But that was plain wrong. I’m used to it. I’m not doing anything new for my body. That’s when I started capturing my journey on Instagram. I don’t have a coach and IG helped me be accountable. My husband would never say “Laura you have to work out” he was more like “come chill out with me”. But IG was a nice community to be a part of and to meet other likeminded moms. I wanted to focus on something I enjoy, among peers without the pressure of a goal.

Now it keeps me sane on days when I haven’t slept much and I’m tired and it’s all baby all day. Mentally I have found that exercising is so helpful to have a bit of a break for yourself.

Did you have to make any changes nutrition wise?

Yes, I didn’t have much of a choice. When I got pregnant I hated everything that was healthy. I ate bagels with cream cheese and I had croissants every day. I couldn’t touch salad. I hated chicken and salmon which is usually my favourite. So yeah, my diet changed to the complete opposite and I couldn’t control it. It lasted my whole pregnancy.

Do you want to tell us how much weight you gained on that diet?

People may not like me very much but I only gained 17 lbs. I know for some that’s impossible. Women retain more water or have other side effects.

How was your postpartum recovery?

It was fortunately very quick. Weight wise I went under my weight within the first 5 days . I tore so I had three stitches. That took 3- 4 weeks to heal so I couldn’t get on the bike. I didn’t run for about 3 months because I didn’t want that pressure on the hips after just having had a baby. And I bled for about 2 weeks, which seems pretty standard.

I was definitely on a high from having a baby for a few days but then my husband had to have surgery and was on bedrest and then I got sick. So that was rough but we survived.

When did you decide to do a full IM?

I decided to do Mont Tremblant while I was pregnant. I always wanted to do a full Ironman distance and especially after seeing my brother do Kona. It’s been a goal since I was 19 so for over 10 years. Now is the time to do it. I’m on maternity leave and have amazing support from family and friends. They help watch Mia when I train. I also train when she naps and at night. But I couldn’t do it if I was working full time while also taking care of an infant.

What length is the maternity leave in Canada? It’s about 10 weeks postpartum here.

That’s awful. You should move back to Germany when you have a baby. Two friends of mine in the US are new moms and we just talked about this. How unfriendly the system is towards women in the US. It’s not fair. In Canada it’s a year…

What advice do you have for women coming back from pregnancy.

Both for women who aren’t that fit. And those that are.

Walking is amazing. Walk to do your groceries, carry your baby. You could walk with the stroller and choose a farther route. Drink lots of water and keep your milk supply up. Walk carrying the baby to get some extra strength training J

Don’t rush into anything just let your body readjust. Do breathing exercises and work on your pelvic floor. Breath correctly when lifting. Core work is very important. After Mia’s birth I remember checking my stomach and there was nothing there.  

For a bigger goal, set realistic milestones and don’t expect to be where you were before you got pregnant. Set mini goals along the way. I set a goal to race a 8km race and then a 12 km race before doing another half IM before my big goal of a full Ironman. Milestones are important. Remember that it’s ok to miss a training day. You are already doing a lot more than you probably would otherwise. It’s a pretty big accomplishment to have a baby and to be balancing it all is awesome. You can replace a run with a walk and that’s fine. Don’t get caught up in all the little stressors of it.

Have you had injuries?

Yes and really dumb ones too. I hurt my Achilles and got that fixed. It was because my calf was very tight. When you have a baby you forget to stretch among other things because when you’re done working out, you have to breastfeed or spend time with the baby. There’s always something that takes priority over you and you are already feeling guilty over taking the time for yourself to train. Foam roll!

Did you have diastasis recti?

Yes, about 2 fingers wide, but I was diligent about my exercise and was able to close it.

Fast round:

Who’s your athlete crush? I have two. Crissy Wellington and Natascha Badmann.

Trail or road?  Road

Pool or open water? Pool

Garmin or carefree? Garmin

Solo or with company? With company?

If you could choose a different talent than rowing and triathlon what would you be?

I’d be an Olympic soccer player. My daughter’s name was inspired by Mia Hamm. So being a high level soccer player would be a dream.

Athletes Corner: Jen Saint Jean - Faster as a Master

Athletes Corner: Jen Saint Jean - Faster as a Master

After meeting Jen at the New York Road Runners Night at the Races, I was inspired to say the least. I watched her race and then chatted with her afterwards. She was approachable, easy to talk to, wicked fast and I was convinced that she had sponsorship.

I was surprised to learn that while she's been tearing up the track, she's not spoken for (yet) but I have no doubt that with her form curve going up and work ethic, that will change soon.

Apart from giving a lot of youngsters a run for their money, Jen is an entrepreneur, mother, dachshund lover, wife and somehow makes it all work and look easy. So I asked to pick her brain.

Read for yourself:

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The Berlin Diaries: Week 6

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Sixth week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 29th (W6/D1): The perfect crisp summer morning to run 8 easy miles with Zola :)  #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 30th (W6/D2): Easy 8 but realized that the recent increase in mileage is making my feet hurt. Bad. Need to find a solution before the mileage increases even more. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 1st (W6/D3): Tempo run at goal marathon pace. Crazy humid so I couldn't hold the pace for the last 2 miles. Those days are disappointing but you gotta shake it off and get back at it! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 2nd (W6/D4): Rest day. Lots of stretching and rolling to losen the calf and achilles. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 3rd (W6/D5): Easy recovery in the country. 8 miles on country roads. So beautiful and serene! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 4th (W6/D6): First 16 miler of the segment. Felt like I was flying. Amazing feeling. Nutrition was perfect and mentally stronger than in any long run this year. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 5th (W6/D7): 8 easy miles to end the week and shake out the tired legs. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

Athletes Corner: Jen Bigham - Mom, wife, elite runner... and check out those abs!

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It appears that I like names that start with a 'J'. After Jessica and Julia, I present to you Jen! I would come across Jen's Instagram when she was postpartum with her second child and think to myself, "wow, what are you complaining about if she can do all the things she does with two little kids". I was seriously impressed with the dedication to breastfeeding that Jen displayed when she resumed racing, so I started following her, then commenting and ultimately asking if she would do this interview. I'm glad Jen said yes, but read for yourself:

How did you become a runner and what is your favorite distance? I started running the summer before 7th grade in preparation for middle school cross country. My dad was a runner and did local races and out of town marathons including the Boston Marathon and we would see him going out and enjoying his running every day. My older brother joined the middle school cross country and track teams the year before. While no one ever told me to become a runner, I naturally drifted to the sport. Running just always made sense to me.

Your son is only 20 months old and you are back racing at an incredibly high level. What is special about racing vs “just running to stay fit"? I think both are important. I commend anyone out there being active, even if they don't have the desire to be fast or a competitive athlete. Personally, I just feel so good when I'm running fast and pushing my limits. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I physically test myself. I like lining up at a race knowing all my hard training is about to pay off!

Jen Bigham Could you walk us through a typical day in your life - what do you find difficult as a mother of two young children? There really isn't a typical day for me! My husband works and travels a lot and I fit running in when I can. It might be early in the morning, it might be midday with the double stroller, or it might be during or after dinner! The only typical thing about our days is activity. My husband and I are both runners and our kids are little balls of energy. Outside of running, I'm usually doing something active with the kids. I think it's good strength work and cross training!

There are lots of difficult things about parenting small children! I think the hardest parts for me are lack of sleep and making the time to run. I hear lots of people say the same things whether they have kids or not. Lack of sleep can make recovery REALLY difficult! I can't guarantee good sleep at night and I almost never get a nap. I'm a person who loves 8-9 hours of sleep, but these days I'm very lucky to get a stretch of 7 hours. I do what I can an know that I won't always hit my paces or get my exact workout completed but I do what I can each day and I'm happy with that. I believe you have to be flexible and proud of each time you get out there! Also related to recovery, when I walk in the door, my kids run to me and I switch from "serious runner" to "mom". It's easy to skip my dynamic stretching, foam rolling, post-run fueling and other important little things. My kids now know I do certain stretches right when I walk in and sometimes they join me or help me count them. I will take turns foam rolling with them or make sure I do it before bed once they are asleep. I try to make post run fueling something they can enjoy too like a fruit smoothie or Picky Bars for all of us!

My other big difficulty is making the time to run. My husband and I talk about the next day's run every night and decide when we can each squeeze in our runs. We make it a priority and I'm lucky he's very supportive and understands.

I was blown away when I read that you are still nursing and had read about you planning nursing and racing when your son was younger. Could you tell us if it feels difficult to combine the two or how you made it work postpartum?

Here is a link to a post I wrote about breastfeeding and training and racing. http://www.thelocalelite.com/2014/06/30/breastfeeding-and-pumping-while-racing-and-training/

Yes, I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed and I had the desire to do it, so I knew I would have to make it work with running and racing. I started pumping an extra bottle every day from the first week postpartum so I had a good amount of milk in storage. I will say that it wasn't easy, but it really wasn't that hard. I heard a quote recently to the effect of "it's not a sacrifice if it's something you really want" and I guess that's how I approach everything I do.

Jen Bigham

Could you share some of your race highlights of the past years and the goals you have for the next few years? Since having my children I have accomplished PRs in every distance from 5k-marathon.

Before kids I ran a 18:20 5k. My first race postpartum after my first child (when she was 5 months old), I shocked myself by running 18:06. I now have a 5k personal record of 16:38.

Before kids I ran a 1:25 half marathon. 7 months after having my first child I ran a 1:21 and I currently have a half marathon PR of 1:15:59 (from January 2015 when my 2nd child was 15 months old).

Before kids I ran a 3:14 marathon. 8 Months after having my first child I shocked myself again and ran 2:51. The marathon has been a bit of heartbreaker for me as I have encountered many stomach issues since having kids! I feel I have a huge PR in me in this event given all I've learned over the past 5 years.

My ultimate goal is to qualify for the Olympic Trials for the marathon and PR in every event for many years in the future. I'm 33 and feel I have years of PRs in these legs!

Jen Bigham

You are primarily plant based if I saw that correctly. How do you (re)fuel and do you use nutritional supplements? Yes, I eat mostly plant based. I do eat meat and fish occasionally, but most fruits/veggies/legumes/grains. My favorite ways to refuel immediately post run are: Vega products, Picky Bars, and bananas with nut butter!

I try to get nutrition from food but during pregnancy and breastfeeding I take a prenatal multi vitamin and supplement with vitamin D often.

If you don’t mind me asking, how much weight did you gain in your pregnancies and what was it like during and then getting back in shape? I was very "textbook" in terms of pregnancy weight gain. I gained approximately 30 pounds both times. It felt normal as far as pregnancy goes, and I was lucky the first time to have no expectations of what my postpartum body should look like! Immediately after having my first child, I remember thinking I was so small! After carrying around the baby and extra water and everything else I felt very light. Looking back at the pictures though, I realize I still looked 6 months pregnant or so! The weight fell off gradually, but fairly steadily for me. I was running a few miles daily starting at 1 month postpartum and was taking walks with the baby as well. I decided to chase some big goals around 4 months postpartum and with the more intense training came more baby-weight-loss and more strength. I held my baby almost constantly and noticed my arms were getting really strong! I did a lot of squats and lunges with and without the baby and noticed my legs were gaining strength as well. Within a year postpartum, I felt like I had my pre-baby body back. With my second baby, I knew a little more about what to expect and I think I got back in shape in about the same amount of time. I don't want to act like it's easy! You have to work really hard to get in shape again postpartum. But if you work really hard (and for me this was setting an aggressive goal and working towards it every day) it is possible to get your pre-baby fitness and body back. Some people (including me) find that you can exceed what you thought possible before having kids. I don't attribute my postpartum success magical baby powers. I have more focus and more reason behind my goals now and I train for myself and no one else. That's why I've been successful.

Jen Bigham

Do you work out with a team or coach? If not how do you stay motivated day in and day out? I am lucky to have 2 elite marathoner brothers who are wonderful coaches. They give me training and advice and I'm thankful for them! It is hard to make training work with a team but I try to meet up with the Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds for runs when I can.

I stay motivated by thinking of my goals. I have a lot of internal motivation. Of course my motivation comes and goes, but when it comes down to it, running fast is something I love so it's not hard to get out and do it!

Do you run 7 days a week? What other exercise do you incorporate as cross training? I do run 7 days a week. I usually take one day where I run just 4 miles really easy. It's like my off day, but I like to get out there and have some time alone. I do some yoga as well and I add a little bit of strength work every day. I do the Myrtl routine from Coach Jay Johnson and do Bosu Ball exercises and planks.

What is your favourite indulgence (food or other things)? I love food, coffee and beer. I think all of these things fit in with the running community pretty well! My favorite thing to do is run a great race and then enjoy the post race party starting with food and coffee then finishing off with some cold brews! I love the runner bonding that goes on post-race and could happily share and listen to "war stories" with other runners for hours!

Jen Bigham

Have you had to overcome (running related) injuries? How did you do it? When I was in high school and college I was constantly injured. I had stress fracture upon stress fracture. I took 8 years off hard training and competing after college and have had very few injuries since (none have been bone related since college). I think I'm smarter about everything now. I'm smarter about nutrition and smarter about knowing when to push and when to back off. For example, right now, I'm supposed to be gearing up for a big half marathon. Just recently, my Achilles tendon started acting up for the first time in my life. I ran through it a few days, tried to ignore it, took a few days of VERY short runs, and did everything imaginable to try to heal it while not taking time off. (This is a very simplified and non-dramatic view of a tough few weeks.) At this point, a younger Jen would keep training and run that goal race, hoping the injury will be ok until planned rest after the race. The older, wiser Jen knows that it's smart to let the problem heal so it doesn't become a major problem later. I'm really upset because my training has been solid, but I can accept it and move on knowing there's always another race!

What advice would you give someone who is a running novice or looking to get fit later in life and particularly if they are mothers with a set of responsibilities, tight schedules etc.? Be happy and proud of yourself for every little thing you do. I might have 10 miles on the schedule, but I'm happy if I fit in 6 on a crazy day. I might just do one plank for 60 seconds right before bed, but just like that, I've done some strength training today. I give myself more pats on the back than I probably deserve some days, but I think it's important to be proud of every step you take! Don't feel guilty about taking time to get in shape. My kids still have days where they plead "don't run Mommy!" It rips at my heart, but I also know I am helping them in SO many ways by making fitness a priority. Don't feel guilty about taking days off. Sometimes things happen. You are truly too tired, too busy, whatever the case may be, it's fine! So many fitness plans are derailed when someone misses just one or two days of working out. Deal with it, make peace with your situation and make sure you get out there again as soon as possible.

How would you describe the emotional benefits of running, given that it is a sport that comes with a lot of highs and lows over time... You know, I've had a lot of disappointments with running, particularly when it comes to the marathon. The thing that keeps me coming back is - I enjoy the journey. I enjoy the feeling I get every time I have a great workout and race. I love the way running makes me feel on a daily basis. I love the energy it brings to my life. I love that my kids think being active is normal and natural. Even at my lowest points, I know I'll be back to training hard before long because I love chasing those "highs".

Quick questions:

Athlete crush? No particular person, but I crush hard on muscles. Big or small, doesn't matter. I love muscle definition!

Trail or Road? Trail

Long runs or Speed Work? Speed work

Garmin or carefree? Garmin

Solo or with company? Company

If you could choose a different talent than running fast? What would it be? Everything you need to be a rockstar

Athletes Corner: Julia Webb (runner, mother, wife, coach)

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I am very pleased to present a second person in my series of inspiring women. Julia Webb wears many hats, she is an accomplished runner, mother to Joanie, wife to Alan Webb (American record holder in the mile), and running coach. I first saw her pictures with hilarious captions on there Instagram account (@runteamwebb) and then read her blog posts on her website which center on topics such as exercise, nutrition, pregnancy and much more. I love how sincere Julia describes the ups and downs of being an active mom, before, during and post pregnancy. In the interview below, you can read more in-depth what her thoughts are on making time for exercise, fueling during pregnancy, scheduling a busy day and keeping motivation high even on days that feel 'off'. After speaking to Jessica in the last interviews, Julia is another example of how amazingly women deal with the added responsibilities of motherhood and how the physical demands of pregnancy can sometimes make you a stronger athlete postpartum. Thank you, Julia! 

How did you become a runner and what is your favorite distance?

I started running as a last resort to participating in a sport as a senior in high school. I never thought i’d ever become a “runner” as I saw it as boring, unathletic and something my mom likes to do. (she was never competitive, but always jogging throughout my childhood- my dad the stud basketball player and good at any sport he tried was my role model). My first “race” my mom successfully convinced me to run in was a local 5K the weekend before school started in fall 2000. Wearing a baggy sweatshirt, basketball shoes and no warm up, I got 2nd (21:15) to a coach who asked who I ran for. I explained this might have been my first 3 miles ever run in a row. My previous training was all geared toward basketball - lots of time on the court, regular time in the weight room and the occasional mile on the treadmill or around the school block to warm up for my lift. I had a miserable experience my sophomore and junior years playing basketball -despite my love for the sport and strong dedication, I had some major clashing with the coaches and lacked the power to be on our starting line up. We were a powerhouse but I didn’t have what it took, along with my lack of confidence, spiralling me into depression. I decided to quit before senior year but was desperately seeking a new athletic opportunity.

After the race, I decided to show up for cross country practice. My first day I was amazed at how fun and easy the 5 mile run went by. A few weeks later at my first race, I put all my frustration from my basketball days into that competition, proving that I was good at something and gutted out a 7th place finish at a big invite. In complete agony, dying the final straight when everyone was kicking it in.. I ran a 15:40 4K time, beating my teammates by over 2 minutes. I found my sport. Something I was good at. I had never experienced anything to that degree, the nerves, pushing through the pain, being in complete control of my result. All I had to do was run hard and get from start to finish and the post-race high made it all worth the mid-race struggle. Not only the races, but the miles our team put into practice was the highlight of my day. From there I went on to run in college and have never lost my passion for the sport 15 years later. My favorite distance remains the 3000m steeplechase on the track. I love that its not as brutally long as a 5K on the track, but just 10 minutes of grinding and pain. The barriers add another challenge that favour my long legs and remind me of cross country, my second favourite event. I was fortunate to run it my freshman year (at UW-La Crosse)and with some great guidance in early steeple drill training, I was able to place 3rd at the national meet with a PR of 10:50. I finished 1st and 3rd, three more times at NCAAs and ended my college career with a 10:22 PR. Post collegiately I’ve run at three USATF Outdoor Championships (including a top 10 finish), a PR of 9:55 set when my daughter was 10 months old. I can’t wait to race it again, with my goal being- get on the 2016 Olympic Trials starting line with a 9 month old (currently pregnant).

Julia Alan Webb
Julia Alan Webb

You race quite a bit and not even a pregnancy (or two) can stop you? What is special about racing vs “just running to stay fit"?

I am addicted to racing! Some people like to go out with friends, others go out and dance... I get my high from racing! You can’t duplicate the energy and adrenaline the race environment provides. No matter what stage of fitness I am in (or condition - as in being pregnant), I don’t shy away from opportunities. I love testing to see where I’m at, using a competitive setting to push me to get the best out of myself. If I just ran to stay fit, I would definitely get bored fast. I need to mix up my training every 2-3 days with some form of speedwork. If I’m not sore a couple times a week, I better have a good reason! While I’m at it, why not reap the rewards of your fitness by doing a race.

You are also a mother, wife and coach. Could you walk us through a day in the life?

There are two versions of what’s normal in my current life - when my husband Alan is traveling and when he is home. It can be as much as 50/50 being a single mom (although, we try to travel some too when convenient). Currently I’m in the middle of a 6 week stretch when Alan is overseas training and competing in triathlon. Here’s a normal week day - 6:00 wake up , light breakfast, check emails, etc 6:45 2.5 year old Joanie yells “I up! I up! I up!” - the only baby phrase she has not dropped out of habit from when she first learned to talk 7:30 drop off Joanie at her “school” - 3 days a week has part time care 7:45 - Run / follow up w/ core/strength 2-3x a week. Once during weekday do quality workout. 9:00-12:15 - follow up emails, coaching, etc… and eat :) 12:30 - pick up Joanie 1:00-3:00 naps for Joanie, I usually crash for an hour (only have been since pregnancy started, since 2nd trimester just began, feeling less the need for the nap!). Clean house, chores, more time on computer 3:30 snacks w/ Joanie and play or grocery shop- lately been swimming in our pool every afternoon, core/yoga session w/ Joanie if i skipped in AM. 5:30 cook dinner, eat 7:30 start bedtime routine for Joanie (bath, stories, jump around and sing) 8:30 - bed time for Joanie 8:45 - catch ⅙ of a movie I’ve started on netflix, call Alan 9:30 - bedtime

On days she is at home, I will either run with Joanie in the stroller, head to the gym for the treadmill/bike/pool (and utilize their childcare) or occasionally get up before dawn while its cool to run 1000m loops around our gated apartment complex with her monitor audible outside our apartment. If she wakes up mid-run, will let her watch a show in her crib while i finish up or drag the stroller out.

Julia Webb planking
Julia Webb planking

You choose to keep a running and fitness regimen that puts many of us to shame. How do you (re)fuel and do you use nutritional supplements?

I definitely take advantage of eating lots of calories! Especially during pregnancy, I feel like I can burn through anything, but have to be careful not to have a massive meal at once or I get severe indigestion. So my go-to strategy has been to have something light before an early morning run (lately just started trying the product UCAN - a form of carbs/energy that should sustain me through a run - but typically I am starving 20 minutes in if that’s all I used, so have been adding a half energy bar = favorite is regular old Powerbar vanilla/chocolate or a GU as well). I always have a little coffee pre-run (no more than a shot worth of espresso now that I’m pregnant). Since its so warm here in Arizona, I have been running w a water bottle/sometimes with NUUN added, carry it a mile into the run, drop it in the bushes to access at some point. I can’t stand having a water belt. I stash candy or GU in my shorts for any carb needing emergencies :)

Post run hydration is key with an immediate source of carbs/light protein. (apple and rest of my energy bar for example) to tie me over while I make breakfast.

Breakfast - my favorite meal of the day - usually a massive bowl of oatmeal made with milk, with berries, bananas and nut butter added as a dipping sauce. Lunch - varies (and have food on my mind w/ different cravings all the time being pregnant) - fruit, either sandwich, salad, chips ; or pasta/salad or burrito ... Snack - fruit, dark chocolate, nuts or small bar Dinner - varies - tons of veggies, more fruit, rice/pasta/potato base and meat - (beef, chicken, fish, pork…) - typically take my prenatal or Proferrin iron supplement. Favorite cusine - thai food!!! Snack - cereal w/ milk

Julia Webb Nike Track
Julia Webb Nike Track

If you don’t mind me asking, how much weight did you gain in your first pregnancy and what was it like during and then getting back in shape?

Initially in my pregnancy I gained a good 8 lbs my first trimester and up to a total of 25 lbs by the end of my second (started at same weight I was before second pregnancy). However, due to severe indigestion and extreme discomfort when I ate to any level of fullness, I gained 0 lbs during my 3rd trimester. Obviously the baby continued to grow, but I must have lost some body fat. She weighed 7 lbs, 15 oz, completely healthy, although my midwife had me checked a few times because I was “measuring small”. Getting back in shape postpartum was not much of an issue. When Joanie was one month old I was back to looking “normal” for me. I held onto 10 pounds for at least 2.5 months, but then I went through a very stressfu l cross country moving experience, and baby Joanie picked up some severe collic which made my life very difficult w/ lack of sleep and digestion issues-- from month 3-6 I dropped an additional 18 lbs (was at lightest post high school weight ever- while continuing to breast feed) - all due to stress. I was also very frustrated with a debilitating hip injury I sustained during the beginning of my 2nd trimester, still not healed and it had been going on for over 9 months, where I was unable to run without pain. I realized how unhealthy my weight was after friends began to comment, and got myself back into eating more and thankfully got some support in helping Joanie out. I got back to my former go-to race weight of 125lbs. By 6 months, with some physical therapy I was able to run painfree and got back into fitness very fast with the help of my coach. Only 3 months in of regular run training and intense workouts, I was back to PR shape, only to eventually be even better - with a  more relaxed race day attitude, an even greater level of toughness my natural childbird experience taught me, elevated blood levels from the pregnancy. So, during my 8th season competiting at in the steeplechase, I dropped 20 seconds off my PR and also a good 10 seconds with only one attempt at the 1500m.

Julia Webb pregnant
Julia Webb pregnant

Do you work out with a team or coach? If not how do you stay motivated day in and day out?

Currently I am living in Arizona due to my husband’s triathlon training group, so at the moment I have been doing 90% of my runs/workouts solo. I don’t mind that I have complete control of what I’m doing now that I’m pregnant - so I can really read my body and not be tempted to go too hard to keep up with someone. In Beaverton, Oregon (our home), I typically meet up with teammates/friends at least 3-4 times a week, typically at Nike headquarters right by my house. Two of those sessions include hard workouts. I run for Bowerman Track Club and work part time as a run coach at Nike campus Sports Center when I’m back in Oregon. If it wasn’t for my teammates (Kristen Rohde, Karlee Coffee, Anna Connor) and my coach Jon Marcus - I would NEVER be able to reach my potential and push myself to the degree that I do during these sessions. I have been trying to really grasp the concept of recovery and backing off big time on my easy days. If I’m not fully rested going into harder sessions, I will be dropped in an instant. My motivation rarely ever wanes, I love being an athlete and constantly testing my limits, with my only desire to reach a higher level so I can justify living my life the way I do :) My husband is the true professional athlete in the family, so I always ensure that my needs are second to support him first. Until I have the opportunity to make any money in the sport, I will continue to see it as a hobby.

What physical activities do you do on *gasp* rest days?

Typically reserve the rest days for spending energy in the sun or playing with Joanie. I definitely try to move around on those days so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. The worst thing to do is sit inside all day if you’re “resting”. I try to pretend I’m a normal mom who doesn’t like working out. I try to remember to save the energy for the next day. Typically I take a full day off every 2-3 weeks. Getting a massage is also a great way to splurge on a day off.

What is your favourite indulgence (food or other things)?

Running :) obviously.. but outside of that, I LOVE coffee. Thankfully with pregnancy and living in a hot dry climate, my cravings have dramatically dropped, but still look forward to a daily cup of pour-over or coffee shop Americano. With pregnancy I’ll make a full strength cup but rarely drink more than 6 oz of it.

Have you had to overcome (running related) injuries? How did you do it?

Yes. Aside from a month long hip injury I sustained during over-stretching in a yoga pose during track season in college, I have had one serious injury to date and it was during my last pregnancy. It was probably one of the toughest things mentally I’ve had to deal with. I was running some pretty quick workouts feeling very strong and getting respectable race times in my first trimester of pregnancy #1 until I started noticing my right hip started aching right when my belly first started growing. I ignored it, thinking “I get aches and pains all the time, but this couldn’t be anything serious”. Ignoring it and running through it proved to be a terrible decision. Despite stopping all run activity, the pain worsened as the pregnancy went on. It took 6 full months postpartum to be pain free. I got all kinds of wrong answers during pregnancy, with doctors suspecting a stress fracture, etc.. I only realized post pregnancy it had to be a ligament or possibly a labral tear in my hip. Back in Portland after 3 months of no successful healing, I got exercises from my coach and saw a local physical therapy place for rehab and eventually it cleared up as I resumed training.

What advice would you give someone who is a running novice or looking to get fit later in life and particularly if they are mothers with a set of responsibilities, tight schedules etc.?

Create a time to workout in your calendar. No excuses as if you have to attend, block out the hour each day! My saving grace has been joining a gym with a childcare option. I have up to 2 hours to workout/shower for a very reasonable rate. Get support from your spouse, and if they are gone, find other moms who could possibly swap care to workout. Get a jogging stroller! Also another savior and offering me complete freedom to workout when I am without my husband. Starting as early as 3 weeks you can run with your baby (forward facing attachment) and weather conditions don’t apply (I’ve ran in torrential downpours - with Joanie nice and cozy under the rain cover, to negative temperatures (bundled up nice and cozy again!) . There are no excuses. If you work full time, run during your lunch hour or get up an hour earlier to fit it in first thing in morning (with coffee ready to be made, clothes laid out). Find a local running group that meets regularly to find same-level training partners and new workout friends. Sign up for a race to keep you motivated in training!

Julia Webb Alexi Pappas
Julia Webb Alexi Pappas

How would you describe the emotional benefits of running, given that it is a sport that comes with a lot of highs and lows over time…

Aside from my year long injury, I have experienced much more of the upside on emotional benefits! Yes there are days which turn into complete disappointments, you just feel plain terrible, or go through a funk where you don’t want to get out there or complete the workout. But I always try to push through those bad times, knowing they will all be worth it. In my first trimester just recently, I felt absolutely terrible on most “easy runs”, especially if I didn’t get out when it was under 70 degrees in the desert sun . I would frequently look at the side of the trail and think, "wow that looks like a great place to lay down" and just have runs when I couldn’t wait to finish. But each of those runs, when I did finish, I would be so thankful I got it done, because my trusty runners high would set in, and make me feel I could take on anything the rest of the day (with a nap of course!). I am so thankful for this sport, but try to keep my perspective that it is a gift and can easily be taken away. I try not to get carried away in making it my all, and see my faith in God, family and overall health as #1.

Quick questions:

Athlete crush? Alan Webb - up and coming triathlete… American record holder in the mile ;)

Trail or Road? Trail! Have never done an official trail race, on my to-do list

Long runs or Speed Work? A combo of both - get the best of both worlds - I rarely do straight up long runs. Often my weekend long run is part of a grinding interval session!

Garmin or carefree? I have only run with a Garmin once during Hood to Coast and got made fun of by my old school coach. I prefer coaching athletes with a Garmin though, so i have a better sense of measure.

Solo or with company? With company!! I really miss my Oregon training partners !!

Review: Vega Sport Workout Energizer

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So this review is long overdue but what better day than Labor Day, to release it? I have just finished my biggest month yet. 180 miles in August (and super lucky with the weather). Tempo runs, speed work on the track and long runs and I feel good. As mentioned in my last review of the Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, it's almost like a magic potion. I work hard, I drink it, I feel much better the next day without losing the adaptation in my body.

So the next logical step was to see if I could step up my game by using the vega sport pre-workout energizer and the sugar free energizer during sessions.

The way I used them was to drink one before a workout and the other during particularly during a track workout. The flavours I had were 'lemon lime' and 'Acai berry'.

Full disclosure, following the recommendations for drinking the pre-workout energizer only 20 minutes before heading out for a tempo run, didn't work for me. I am quite fond of the recovery accelerator flavour but this one, wasn't as easy on the stomach particularly a stomach that was "nervous" about hitting target paces. But I spoke to the team at Vega Sport and they suggested to use more water (makes sense, duh!) and I started drinking it up to 75 minutes before heading out.

It worked. I was able to hit paces in the tempo run that I haven't seen since my active athlete days and maintain them at a good heart rate over the course of 5,6,7 miles. Apart from feeling physically strong I also felt mentally strong. I remember telling a friend of mine recently that I felt like "I was flying". I finished all of those workouts strong and that definitely made me go into the next similar workouts more confident almost looking forward to them... almost.

As for the sugar-free energizer, it is one of my big pet peeves. I think the first thing people should eliminate if they are serious about making progress, is sugar. So I was happy to hear that this product is sugar free. The taste is ok, it goes down easy and I used it during recovery laps at speed workouts. It is not too heavy so I didn't feel like I needed to flush it down with water. I would usually drink water before and after the workout.

To sum these two items up:

  • Taste: good - not as good as the recovery accelerator but never over sweet;
  • When to use: mentally and physically hard workouts. Speed and tempo will fly by easier and you will be able to stay focused and strong;
  • How often do I use them? One of each, once per week. Which leads me to:
  • Price: $29.99 for the 12-pack the pre-workout energizer will last you through 2/3 of your marathon training plan. The sugar-free energizer for $49.99 is a bit on the pricier end, but you get 30 sachets that will last you a while.

I also just saw that Vega Sport is selling a starter kit on sale for $19.99... click on the link on my blog page and make sure to check it out. That way you can also see what flavours you like and then decide on the bigger packs or tubs.

Enjoy and good luck training for your next race!

Roma

It wouldn't be a workout that makes you better, if it were easy. Would it now? ;-)

vega sport review

Athletes Corner with Jessica on how she fuels, trains and why she runs in skirts (Part 2)

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R: As a distance runner you train a lot! How do you (re)fuel and which nutritional supplements have you found helpful? Jessica: Yes, I eat ALOT! My husband says I eat more than him and he is over 6'4" and 200lbs! But I've always eaten health consciously, even before it was cool. I have celiac disease and have known for almost 15 years, long before all these gluten free options existed. So I made my own bread and found healthy alternatives. I have tried eating vegan as well, but in the end, I struggled to get enough protein for as much as I was training. So my nutrition goal is to get as much of my nutrition from whole plant sources as possible, and supplement that with eggs, fish and foul.

I think of my body as a fine-tuned machine, from which I desire top performance. I don't put junk in it. Rather I try to get the most bang for my buck when it comes to food. For example, when I bake or make smoothies, I add as many super recovery foods as possible. I add flax, chia seeds, and pumpkin to my waffles. I add chia, beets, and kale to my smoothies. I love the science of fueling your body to be the most efficient and powerful performance machine it can be.

As for supplements, I love Hammer Nutrition's line. I was so elated when they chose to sponsor me, as I already was in love with their products. I love their tissue recovery supplements, which have been amazing for me. Their endurolytes are critical for maintaining electrolyte balance during extended efforts. My favorite long run and/or race fuel are Picky Bars, Bonkbreakers, and Honey Stingers. I HATE goos and gels. My favorite beverage is coconut water, when I can get it. Gatorade and I do not get along.

R: Why do you like to run in skirts?

Jessica: I'm not quite sure, but I think it's a toss back to my restrictive childhood. I avoided any skirts and dresses for years, but now I really love running in a skirt. They are flirty and cute, and make passing boys so much more fun! From a functional perspective, if you have trouble with shorts riding up (as I do), skirts may solve your problem. They are like wearing spandex shorts, (which is what's underneath) but with more class and sass. Lululemon's skirts are my favorite!

R: Do you work out with a team or coach?

Jessica: I have a coach who makes my workout plans, but then I amend it according to my schedule. I try to run with him at least once a week, preferably to do speedwork. It is REALLY helpful and keeps you accountable to your goals. I have some fast friends I run with occasionally, but many live far from me, so it's a treat to have their company. But we communicate regularly and share our workouts through strava, so it feels like we are a virtual team. So I often run alone, or my husband will ride along with me, especially on long runs. He carries water and fuel for me and helps keep me on my splits. Like I said, he supports me in so many ways. I am so lucky!

R: What physical activities do you do on *gasp* rest days?

Jessica: I don't take a lot of rest days, but I am going to try to take one day a week off for the next training cycle and see if that helps me with recovery. It is really hard for me to take a day entirely off. Often, I will do the ellyptical on rest days. As for other activities, I love to ski in the winter and wakeboard and paddle board in the summer. So fun!!

R: What is your favourite indulgence on "cheat days" (food or other things)?

Jessica: I do love pizza, chocolate, and gelato like anyone else. I try not to keep in the house except for special occasions. My favorite guilt-free indulgences are regular massages and buying lululemon running clothes.

Athletes Corner Jessica 4

R: Have you had to overcome running related injuries? How did you do it?

I've had several stress fractures in my twenties and when my twins were babies. I had to run in the pool. It was mentally very difficult. But wow, did I appreciate running at any pace or distance when I could run again! It made me resolve to always stay healthy. It's easy to get tunnel vision when you are focused on training for a specific race or goal time, but I try to always keep the big picture in mind. I want to be a healthy runner into my 80's, and so I always use that to mediate my short term goals. Now, I chronically struggle with piriformis syndrome (butt/hamstring) pain. I've had it since the giving birth to the twins. But I manage it with regular physical therapy, massage, ice, foam rolling, and targeted functional strength training. It doesn't stop me but it's annoying. I find it's best to stay on top of it. The PT and strength training has really helped me recognize areas of weakness and target those for improvement.

R: Athlete crush?

Jessica: Shalane, Kara, Lauren. :-) SOOO love women who kick ass and make it look easy. Then share their struggles and you realize that they are just humans who work really, really hard. And I love how it gives me hope.

R: Trail or Road?

Jessica: Both are essential, IMO. I do about 50/50, depending on time of year. Road is essential to running fast, hitting your splits and preparing your legs for road racing. Trail is vital to forcing you to slow down and recover your mind, body, and soul. And I think it is a much better full-body workout. I enjoy trail a thousand times more, but I love how fast I feel on the road. And PS I absolutely abhor the treadmill, but it definitely has it's place. If you have to run on the treadmill, make it fun. Play mental games on it. Do speedwork. You'll be amazed how fast the miles fly by.

R: Long runs or Speed Work?

Jessica: Again, both. Long runs are a must for increasing endurance and stamina. Speedwork is essential to honing your speed and increasing vo2 max and lactate threshold. My favorite runs are a mix of both. I love long runs with intervals in them. For example, 12 miles with 2 mile warmup, 3 x 2 miles at 1/2 marathon pace, with 1 mile recovery between each set, followed by 2 mile cooldown.

R: What is your advice for new mothers who want to get fit again?

Jessica: My keys to running success over the years is to focus on longevity and sustainability. Surround yourself with friends who support and push you, even in your low and slow times. My friends pushed my twins in the jogging stroller until I was strong enough to push them. They constantly think I am capable of more than I think I am, and they are usually right. Seek out friends like this. Minimize your exposure to unsupportive people. Also, build it into your life like you make time for a shower. Make it a non-negotiable habit. Recruit the people in your life to support your endeavors. As for getting back your pre-baby body, I cannot say enough about strength training. Running helps you lose weight, but lifting weights will help shape your body. Priceless. Even at 40, after 4 kids, my skin "fits" me better because I lift weights. And as a new mom, a treadmill and a jogging stroller can be your salvation.

R: What are your favourite running apps, gear, apparel and shoes?

Gear: - Garmin Forerunner 620 GPS watch - Iphone (for music and camera) - Nathan hydration pack - Headsweats Visor or Beanie - Lululemon running clothes essentials: >> - cool racer back tank >> - all sport bra >> - run swiftly long sleeve >> - run inspire crop or pace rival skirt - Strength Training: bosu ball for functional strength training and an AB wheel for core (priceless - my six pack secret!).

Shoes: - Nike lunar glides for road - Brooks Cascadias or Ghosts for trail

Apps: - Instagram (the IG running community is awesome!) - Strava - log your run app - pace calculator - pandora

Athletes Corner with Jessica: runner, mother of 4, wife, anesthetist (how she does it all...) - Part 1

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As mentioned a while back, I will use these blogposts to interview inspiring people who do things that we are used to seeing pro athletes do, while maintaining relationships, working, raising families and performing at incredibly high levels. My first interviewee is well known and loved in the runners community on Instagram. Her running action shots feature beautiful trails and her selfies feature radiant smiles. It's hard for me to believe that she can fit everything she does into 24 hours but she does AND she is aiming to run her first 2:59 hr marathon this year.

After only a few email exchanges, Jessica has captivated me with her story and personality. I am sure the same will happen to you :)

R: How did you become a (speedy!) runner/ marathoner?

Jessica: I grew up in a very conservative fundamentalist religious sect that required all women to wear long skirts and dresses. Running or any type of sport that required shorts or pants was highly forbidden.

I started running in secret when I was 14. I felt soooo free for the first time ever (even in a skirt)! I eventually borrowed some shorts from a friend and would drop my skirt behind a bush a few blocks from home. I went further and further. It was the most addicting feeling ever! By my senior year, the cross-country coach at my high school had noticed me running and asked if I would like to come out for the cross-country team. I wasn't allowed to, so I told my parents I was joining the marching band. I practiced in secret and went to meets without them ever knowing. By the time track season rolled around and they finally found out, I had a track scholarship offer from a small local college. In our church, we were not encouraged to go to college, rather we were to marry young and have no less than eighteen children. I jumped on the opportunity to "run" away. I went to college and I never looked back.

Since then, I've never stopped running. Despite having children early, it became part of me, and I've been running continuously for 26 years. After college, I started doing local 5 and 10k's and eventually did my first marathon 11 years ago. I was hooked.

My speed at longer distances did not come naturally. Two years ago, after over 10 marathons, I had yet to break 3:30 hrs. I was frustrated! I always sounded like a steam engine when I ran and I couldn't figure out why I couldn't get faster. I hired a coach who promptly upped my mileage to 75+ miles/week, and added speed work and strength training. I went to see a pulmonologist and discovered I had pretty serious asthma. I started taking medications to help with breathing and on my next marathon, dropped ten minutes off my time.

Since then, with continued strength training, speed work, and high mileage (upwards of 90 miles/week at peak training), I've dropped 10 more minutes. I'm shooting for a sub-3 hour marathon this year or next. It's the goals that keep me going. Also, surrounding myself and training with friends that are just faster than me, always pushed me to aim for the next level. I think, if they can do it, why not me?

Athletes Corner Jess 1

R: You just ran #bostonstrong! What is special about the runners community?

Jessica: We have such an amazing running community with an unspeakable bond. There are no words to describe what it was like to run the Boston Marathon this year. Even though it was my 5th time, 2014 will absolutely go down as one of the most special accomplishments of my life. After last year's events (which I was also present for), we comforted each other, held each other up, encouraged each other to return, and that we did! We returned in force, we rallied, we ran together, we finished #bostonstrong, and we reclaimed this sacred event for the amazing city of Boston and for runners everywhere. We proved we don't run scared. I hold our running community in the highest regard.

R: You are also a mother, wife and anesthetist. Could you walk us through a day in the life? Jessica: I am blessed to have four beautiful children, ages 18,16, and twins 9. And I am beyond lucky to be married to a husband who supports me in a thousand different ways. Without him or my 18 year old daughter, things would be quite different.

A work day for me typically starts at 4 am, sometimes earlier. My primary job is to provide pediatric anesthesia for a large dental company that has over 30 offices all over our state. So I begin my trip early to arrive by 7 am for set-up and begin cases by 7:30 am. I'm usually finished by 3-4 pm and begin my journey home. Since my travel often takes me over Oregon's many mountain passes, I'll often stop and run trails on my way home. Or I head to the track for speed work or do my favorite 10 mile loop when I get home. Then it's homework and dinner time, and my husband and I tag team these chores. Several times a week, after the little ones are in bed, we'll head to the gym for some quick strength-training. Before bed, I prepare and restock for the next day's cases. I then fall in bed exhausted and sleep like the dead. On my days off, you will find me in the mountains, either on foot or on skis, far from any operating suite. :-) Work hard, play hard.

Athletes Corner Jess 2

R: Could you share some of your race highlights of the past years and the goals you have for the next few years?

Jessica: Well, every Boston Marathon has been amazing, and I guess that's why I keep going back. The last few years, I've had some major breakthroughs with new PR's, which had been so rewarding. There is nothing that reinforces all your hard work, as when you see significant results. It's the best feeling! I highly recommend the St. George marathon if you need a shiny new PR. It consistently delivers.

As for future goals, I truly want to run a 2:59 this fall, but if not, I'll keep chasing it. In the end, it's the journey that counts. And my ultimate goal is to keep running and stay fit for my lifetime, so it's important to keep that in perspective.

R: As a distance runner you train a lot! How do you (re)fuel and which nutritional supplements have you found helpful?

Jessica: Yes, I eat ALOT! My husband says I eat more than him ... (to be continued)