Grand Rapids Triathlon 70.3 & The USAT Athena/Clydesdale National Championship – 2018

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The Grand Rapids Triathlon is held the 2nd weekend of June in Grand Rapids, MI.  This year, the race was on June 10, 2018.  The GR TRI has also been the host of the  Athena/Clydesdale National Championship race for the last several years. 

What’s an Athena?  An Athena or Clydesdale is a classification by USAT (USA Triathlon) that is defined by the weight of the athlete.  The athlete must be 165(+) lbs as a woman, or 225(+) for a man.  This type of classification is not found in all triathlon races.  Ironman races will NOT have an Athena/Clydesdale division.  Most other “non-branded” triathlons will follow USAT guidelines and offer it as an option.  If you are an athlete who meets the weight requirements you get to CHOOSE if you want to race in that division.  Its not a requirement.  You may race your normal age group, if you want.  If you choose to race Athena/Clydesdale, you are pulled out of your normal age group and added to the Athena division for which you qualify.  For Nationals, the divisions were:  39 & Under, 40-59 and 60+.

Is there an advantage to racing the Athena division?  Depends on the race.  This can be a very competitive group of athletes.  Just because an athlete is 165 lbs or more, does not mean they are not fast.  We all come in a different package.  We have different strengths & weaknesses.  We are individuals.  I think options are good.  Over the last 10+ years, I’ve seen so many of the non-branded races disappear and get gobbled up by the big dogs.  I like to support non-branded races so that we have more options.  As a result, I felt like it was also important to support the Athena/Clydesdale division at Nationals because if we don’t race that division, it too will disappear.  So, I raced Athena at the USAT National Championships in Grand Rapids.  Race Review below.  Feel free to discuss your opinion on the Athena/Clydesdales division in the comments.  I know its controversial and I’d love to hear your opinion. 

Grand Rapids Triathlon Race Review

I needed an early season 70.3 this year to prep for IM Lake Placid in July.  The early season race that I did a couple years ago (Cutting Edge Half Triathlon 70.3 in Effingham, IL) was no longer in operation.  My options were Grand Rapids or the IM 70.3 Wisconsin in Madison.  Grand Rapids was closer.  Non-branded.  Cheaper.  And home of the 2018 Athena/Clydesdales National Championships. It was an easy decision for me to try Grand Rapids and I am so glad I did! 

It was a 2.5 hour drive to Grand Rapids from the Ft Wayne, IN area.  Straight to packet pick-up.  Plenty of free parking.  Decent sized expo.  Several vendors.  Organized packet pick up & race meeting.  Lots of SWAG.  Race number tattoos!!  Plus a separate area for the Athena/Clydesdale athletes to go for packet pick up and weigh in.  Yes, we all had to weigh in to participate in the championships.  Since my predominant distance is the 70.3, there aren’t a lot of non-branded races that offer that distance.  Therefore, I race Ironman more often than not.  In Ironman, as mentioned above, there is NOT an Athena division.  So I haven’t had much opportunity to race this division.  I was not surprised that I had to weigh in but I was surprised that they had the scales behind a privacy screen.  Everything was very nicely done & respectful in regards to recording our weight.  If we did not weigh in at least 5 lbs over the minimum (170(+) at the expo), then we would have to reweigh on race morning, in our race kit.  Shoes off for the weigh in!  They were very determined to make sure that everyone met the weight requirement.  Not an issue for me.  I did not have to reweigh on race morning. Smile   Photo below from GR TRI Facebook page – if you are one of these lovely ladies in this picture, let me know so I can tag you!

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Race morning.  There were various parking areas around the race site in Ada, MI.  We parked at the Amway Headquarters, then put our transition bags on our back and rode to the race site.  Maybe a mile or so.  The other option was walking or being dropped off, if you had spectators/shepras.  Spectators could take a shuttle but no bikes on the shuttles!  We did ride to the race site in the dark but it was drama free on closed roads which were partially lit.  The weather was cool & overcast.  And there was nothing but smooth water looking out at the inlet of the Thornapple River where we would be swimming. 

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Transition was LONG and narrow.  Very long.  The 70.3 athletes were positioned closest to the “bike out”.  Good news for us.  Transition spaces were not marked individually, just a series of numbers per rack.  First come, best spot!  I got an end spot!  Leslie B’s mom got a picture of a few of us setting up transition.  I’m in the rear right of the photo, my side/back is to the camera.  I’m in a navy & orange kit.

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Team Stella Fly got this photo below of transition, from the front.  I was down the line much further, past the yellow port-o-potty.  This might be 1/3 of transition.  Maybe.  I was WAY past the potties.  But great shot! 

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Swim started at 7am sharp.  1.2 miles.  The Athenas & Clydesdales were in the first wave and we had fresh, calm water ahead of us!!  Of course, it didn’t take long for the 2nd wave to catch up but it was still nice.  5 minutes between each wave.  Start is below (from the GR TRI Facebook page):

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Heading toward a yellow buoy hidden by the trees.  Maybe I’m in there somewhere?  Photo courtesy of GR TRI Facebook page.

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Out of the water in record time (for me!!), even though I swam a little extra.  Smile  Straight to the wetsuit strippers.  Such a nice perk!  I love races with wetsuit strippers.  Since I hurt my back a couple years ago, getting in and particularly OUT of my wetsuit is a real challenge.  The “strippers” really help me so much!!  Thank you!!!!

Long dash to transition, then THRU transition.  Trying not to crash into anyone from the shorter races who were leisurely walking thru the area before their races.  Heart rate was definitely up by the time I got to my spot!  Wetsuit & swim cap down.  Goggles …..ooops, lost my goggles somewhere.  Helmet on.  Glasses.  Shoes.  Go, go, GO!  Out of transition.  Bike mount line.  Plenty of room but its always important to focus on getting on the bike, clipping in correctly and not rushing too much and hurting yourself or anyone else.  I’ve seen so many accidents on or around the bike mount line over the years.  And the people who do the flying mounts, well …. good luck, I’m just going to move to the side and safely mount my bike.  I’m not “flying” anywhere.  Winking smile 

Bike course is an out and back.  56 miles. Lots of volunteers.  Most roads had police or volunteers to direct traffic.  Thank you!!!  A few hills.  2 aid stations (that we hit 2x).  Headwind going out.  Tailwind coming home.  6 miles of VERY rough road at the turnaround.  OUCH. 

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Slow first half.  Faster 2nd half.  My legs were toast the entire time. Quads were BURNING.  I had a poor bike split.  Whether my back is to blame.  Or my training volume for Lake Placid.  Or maybe something was just off, not really sure, but it was a tough day on the bike.  I wasn’t 1/3 of the way into it and both feet were numb & my left hip/glute/hamstring were screaming at me.  I had to be VERY careful when I dismounted my bike and ran back into transition on numb feet.  I was wondering how long the feet would stay numb.  It was a very odd sensation, one I haven’t had before, but alas it passed once I put on my run shoes & got going.  So thankful!  Awesome volunteers below as we were approaching T2.  Pic courtesy of the GR TRI Facebook page.  I just love FB, don’t you?!?!

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I hustled thru T2 as much as possible with numb feet, dodging people who weren’t in as big of a hurry as myself.  But it wasn’t horrible.  Bike back on rack.  Helmet, glasses off.  Shoes on, slowly cuz well, my feet where NUMB.  WTHeck?!?  Race belt.  Visor, no, I don’t need the visor today.  Go, go, GO! 

Out of T2 & onto the run.  Thank the good Lord, I’m off that damn bike.  I have a love hate relationship with the bike.  I love my bike.  Its good to me.  It’s a great bike.  I just want to be better.  A lot better.  And I don’t really understand why its so freaking hard for me?!?!  But I’m running now.  2 loops.  Out and back course.  Aid stations every 1.5 miles.  4 total aid stations on course, which we passed 2x.  Lots of support out there.  Lots of food. Ice.  Water.  Coca Cola.  2 hills, which we passed 2x.

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I like loop and out/back type courses specifically when I have friends racing.  I did get to see several people on the run, some I saw 2x.  I was motivated to not let one of my fast teammates pass me on the run.  So I did push a bit faster than I probably would have normally, just trying to get around that first loop before he passed me to finish.  I made it.  Whew!  Overall a great day.  It was overcast most of the day which helps me a lot.  I melt in the heat.  It wasn’t cool but it wasn’t hot.  And I had the overcast skies on my side. 

Overall, I thought Grand Rapids was a top notch race.  I’ll definitely go back.  I was impressed.  Great area.  Well organized.  Lots of support and volunteers.  Vendors.  Lower fees than branded races.  GREAT swag!  And I was fortunate to be part of the Clydesdale & Athena National Championships where I placed 2nd in my division!  WhooHooooo!

SWAG – Race Tank, Finishers Visor, Event poster, Athena/Clydesdale National Championship water bottle, Quench Gum, HexArmor Cold Rush cooling towel, plus a few other things from the expo.  See photo below.

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2nd place Athena – 40-59 Division.  Me, Leslie B & Nikki W on the podium.  My friend Andé from IL, also got 2nd (with a MUCH faster time) in the 39 & Under Division.  Great to see old friends & make some new ones!

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Up close.  Green medal is the finishers medal for the GR 70.3 with the Clydesdale/Athena National Championship lanyard.  USAT medal for placing top 3 in the National Championships.  2nd place plaque for my division from GR TRI. 

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The Grand Rapids Triathlon is partnered with MI Titanium.  They offer a Double Down Challenge for anyone who does both races.  I guess I’m headed to MI Titanium now on August 19th.  Gotta get that Double Down medal and check out the MI Titanium race.  I’ve heard great things and am looking forward to another race with this group.  Hope to see you there!  Like Grand Rapids TRI, there are a lot of distances & options to choose from, even Aquabike & Duathlon if you don’t like to swim!  See you in August!

Next up:  Ironman Lake Placid on July 22, 2018.

Happy TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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CASS Housing Charity Bike Ride

The 2nd Annual Cass Housing Charity Ride was Sunday, June 3, 2018.  They offered supported 60 & 30 mile rides and a 10 mile fun ride on paved trails.  Ride start times were staggered so that everyone finished around the same time to enjoy a potluck lunch afterward.   The event was free with a request of donations to help support CASS Housing

This is the start of the 60 miles ride.  Lower turnout than last year due to the forecast of storms at the start.  Approximately 70 riders in total.  Photos courtesy of the Cass Housing Facebook Page.

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60 mile route started in Ft Wayne by the Jorgensen YMCA.  We broke into groups.

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Out to Roanoke, then Ossian for our first stop at an aid station at someone’s parent’s home.  Our parents love us.  What they do for us & our crazy endurance friends! 

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Quick photo before the group broke up.  This was the last I saw of the fast group!  I aspire to finish with them next year!!

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Zanesville.  Back to Roanoke.  Aid Station at a park in Roanoke.  Then back to Ft Wayne.  Easy ride.  Flat.  Decent country roads.  Low traffic.  This was a new route from 2017 and I really liked it.  See my Strava map below!

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The CASS Housing project is a charity for developmentally disabled adults who need housing.  The Indiana laws are not great for disabled persons and currently an individual can not get assistance with housing until their parents turn 80 years old or have passed away.  The CASS Housing project is trying to help.  This ride helps raise awareness and funds for their program.  Great charity and I’m happy to ride & support them in this small way.  I hope to see more people out for the 2019 ride.  I’ll for sure be there if it fits into my calendar.  Great event.  Great people.  FUN ride!! 

And a t shirt too.  I didn’t stay for the potluck lunch but it looked like everyone was having fun and they even had Normatec Recovery boots to try!

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** See You Next Year ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Fort 4 Fitness Spring Cycle – 2018

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Last weekend I participated in the 7th annual Fort 4 Fitness Spring Cycle event. This was the 3rd year that they offered the Metric Century (100K = 62 miles).  I participated the first year they offered this distance, 2016, and again this year. 

The event started at 9am for the 62 & 43 mile events.  Then there was a 10am start for 32,16 & 10 mile rides.  Ride day packet pick-up was an option.  Easy in and out in front of the Ft Wayne Art Museum.  The ride then started in front of the art museum with plenty of potties & a row of vendors to scope out before/after the ride.  Plenty of room for riders to line up for the start.

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The 100K ride left Ft Wayne for Antwerp, OH, then returned. Roads were well marked and busy intersections were covered by police & volunteers. 

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The ride out of town & to Antwerp provided a nice tailwind that really pushed us along.  But of course, the return trip gave us a headwind that wasn’t quite as much fun.  Smile Then the black clouds opened up and we had a some rain for a bit.  Mostly country roads with a few busier roads mixed in for connections.  Roads were in decent condition but we traveled thru Amish country so there were some rough patches and spots with horse manure. 

Multiple aid stations provided bathrooms, food & hydration, along with bike support if needed.  I believe there were 3 or 4 stops on 100K route.  Everyone: riders, volunteers & police support alike were in a good spirits and happy to be out and participate.  Riders were spread out pretty well except for the last 15ish miles of the 100K.  Once the 100K riders joined the shorter distances, there were more people but since the course covered low traffic areas, it wasn’t an issue, we just had to be more vigilant .

As we rode back into town to finish in front of the Art Museum, we wound thru some neighborhoods and traffic increased.  The police handled it well and they got us thru all the busy intersections.  I noticed a positive change to the course toward the end.  We did not ride down the Greenway to finish, but instead came thru town in a designated bike lane.  Great improvement from the inaugural ride where it was congested & dangerous at the end as we finished up on the Greenway and were sharing space with non-event riders who weren’t expecting the extra traffic. 

Overall, great experience.  This is definitely an event that I love because it has so many  options for cyclists of all ability levels.  I love that it’s a family event and even the little ones can participate. 

There was an after party in front of the Art Museum.  Beer.  Food Vendors.  Tent with seats.  Fun to be had.  No “free” food this year but our bibs each had a $3 off ticket that could be used at the food trucks.  I heard some complaints on this but a lot of people loved it because they had more variety than usual at a post event party.  I personally don’t have an opinion.  I rarely eat the free food & I didn’t utilize the food truck vendors either.  My schedule was tight.  I was in and out pretty quickly. 

SWAG = Cotton T-shirt & Finishers medal.

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I really like cycling events.  Very low key.  You can go as fast or as slow as you like.  You can stop at every aid station or pass them all.  You get to ride new routes that you would never ride solo.  I’d recommend checking out a local ride this summer!  They aren’t races, so no need to treat it as one, unless of course, that’s just how you roll, then go kill it.  You won’t be alone.  Smile

The next local ride that I plan to attend is the CASS Housing Ride on June 3rd in Ft Wayne, IN.  It’s a charity ride.  No official entry fee but they are accepting donations.  Register now.  GREAT ride, I did it last year. Hope to see you there!

** Go Ride ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Tobacco Road Marathon Race Review

Its been six weeks since the Tobacco Road Marathon but I still want to review the race for those who might be interested in putting this on their future calendar. 

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The Tobacco Road Marathon was on March 18, 2018 in Cary, NC.  Close to Durham & Chapel Hill.  The race venue is the Thomas Brooks Park & USA Baseball Fields.  Race is  traditionally held on a Sunday and requires travel to the area on Friday or Saturday to pick up race packets.  Small expo at a local hotel.  Easy & fast, in and out.  A few vendors, like my favorite girl, Gypsy Runner

If your traveling with the family, there isn’t a lot to do in this area (or maybe we just didn’t know where to look?).  Beautiful area though.  New neighborhoods.  Nice homes.  Cute boutique like shopping areas.  Nice.

Race day started bright and early like always.  Getting to the race site required some planning.  There was a local pick up area in Cary called NetApp, where people could park & get shuttled to/from the race site.  There were a few onsite parking spots that required pre-purchased parking passes.  Then there was runner drop off at the venue.  Fortunately, my daughter now has her license.  GASP!  She was able to drop me off, then drive back to the hotel with her little brother, then return to pick me up.  This race would have been challenging, logistics wise (as a mom with kids & no other adult to supervise), had she not been able to drive.  I’ve taken them to a lot of races & I usually pick a hotel on the race course or close to the start/finish so they can sleep in at the hotel, then come to the race when they are ready.  This race started at the park, then ran to the American Tobacco Trail, stayed on the American Tobacco Trail, then ran back to the park for the finish.  You need access to a car to get to packet pick up and to/from the race.  No shuttles for local hotels.  No way to spectate without access to a car.

On to the race!  The important part, right?  Please note that the majority of these photos are courtesy of Amy at Gypsy Runner.  I wanted to ring the PR bell, so knew I couldn’t waste time with photos.  Thanks, Amy for always helping me out!  I love seeing your smiling face at expos and out on the marathon courses! 

We got to the race early.  The race started at 7am but the parking areas shut down at a certain time.  I think they wanted everyone in the parking area by 5:30 so that the shuttle buses could come/go without issue.  It was cool.  Probably upper 40s at the start and while we were waiting.  I rarely take throw away clothes but did this time because I wasn’t planning to check a bag.  The plan was to run the race, finds the kids, leave.  We were headed to Disney World for Spring Break & this was just a pit stop for momma to grab another state! 

The race started promptly at 7am.  Start/Finish area was easy to find, just down from the row of port-o-potties.  It was still dark when we started the race but the area was well lit around the bathrooms & the start/finish area.  Photo courtesy of the Tobacco Road Marathon Facebook page:

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We left Thomas Park with an incline to get out of the park and onto the road.  Key to remember because that’s a downhill to the finish line!  Couple other rolling hills in the 2.5 miles from the park to the American Tobacco Trail.  Then the marathoners had 21 miles on the ATT.  Very few turns.  If you are ever afraid of getting lost, this is the type of race for you.  There was never any question as to where to go or where to turn.  It was very well ran, volunteers were great.  All road crossings were patrolled. 

The race was advertised as fast & flat.  As a Midwest gal, I know flat.  Any race that claims to be flat, will probably have more hills than I can get when I make an effort to FIND hills to run.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with this race.  I will say that it was pretty flat.  There were a few rollers to/from the ATT.  Once on the ATT (where we ran 21 of the 26.2 miles), it was pretty flat.  This was an old rail trail.  So the inclines/declines were not visible, you’d just feel it in your legs.  On a slight decline, you could feel the load lighten and the pace got easier.  On the incline, you couldn’t really “see” it but you could tell you were going up because it took more effort to hold the pace.  But honestly, I heard some people complain post race about the elevation, Garmin showed 735 ft of gain, Strava showed 819 ft for the entire race.  Small gains & losses over time.

The ATT was a mix of crushed limestone and asphalt. Mostly tree lined with giant pines which provided a break from the wind and the sun.  Temps started in the upper 40s but climbed to the 60s while we ran.  Humidity was low to non-existent.  I don’t do well in heat & humidity so while I did notice that it was getting warmer toward the end, it didn’t effect my performance.

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There were 9 aid stations on course, most of which we hit 2x since the trail was an out and back.  All stations were well stocked with fluids, food items & there were port-o-potties! 

On the ATT, we headed out to the north initially, then flipped between mile 8 & 9.  Then headed back south, past our point of entry until another turn around between mile 18 & 19.  As always, that last turn around always feels great.  I also am a huge fan of out and backs, particularly when I know people running.  Watching the other runners makes me happy. I like to encourage them, cheer for the fast people at the front & it distracts me from the task at hand. 

Not a ton of spectators.  Logistics put most spectators at a trail head that intersected with a road we were crossing.  Some dogs.  A few signs.  But everyone was enthusiastic & encouraging. 

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I really liked this race.  I picked it for a few reason.  Fast, flattish, few turns, smaller number of runners & the fact that most of it was on a rail trail which would feel a lot like my old training runs.  Some people run better on Saturday mornings with their friends than at big venues with long waits & a bazillion spectators.  I’m probably more of the Saturday morning girl than the “wait & shiver for 2 hours before the major marathon” girl. 

I knew I wanted to try to run faster since I’m not allowed many races this year.  I’m in the midst of training for Ironman Lake Placid.  When I run less races, I’m faster.  No brainer there.  And my back is feeling the best it has in several years.  I’m not 100% but to be honest, this is probably as good as its going to get.  Also, it was important to plan and execute a race strategy, just to know that I can do it.  After Lake Placid, I’m going to take a break and then see if I can qualify for Boston.  This race time was not anywhere what I need to run a BQ but it was all about planning & executing. 

I did have a snafu leading up to the race (pulled something in my foot) so went with Plan B vs Plan A, in the name of being smart & facing down a lot more training for Lake Placid in the next few months.  I started with the 4:10 pacers with the plan of running away from them before the finish.  I figured I could easily gain a couple minutes and drop into a 4:08 before I hit the line, if I was smart.  That’s really the hardest part, being smart.  And patient.  The first half of the race feels so easy, its hard not to just go with it and run faster.  Well, take my advice, going faster than the plan is a good way to blow up.  I used to run less races & try to go faster but I always blew up.  I would go out too fast!  Every time.  That’s really how I started running more races.  I decided that I worked too hard for ONE race, for it not to end in the result I wanted.  I decided I could run  A LOT of races and have a A LOT of fun, and  really my times weren’t any slower than going out too fast & blowing up. 

Anyhow, shout out to the 4:10 pacers.  They did a great job.  I even dropped back 2 different times to get something out of my FlipBelt.  The one pacer checked on me both times & basically “yelled at me” to close the gap & regain contact.  I will say that the added pressure that someone was waiting on me did help to make sure I didn’t fall off pace.  They even told the runners to start floating away from them as we got close to the finish, that a pacers job was to finish alone, on time, with all their runners ahead of them.  Smile  I had already started moving ahead after we got off the ATT in the last 2.5 miles.  That was the last thing I heard them say as I was pulling away.  And I was able to ring the PR Bell at the finish!  4:08:09 was my chip time.  Good day!

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Overall a great race.  There were 1088 full marathoners that started the day, 884 finishers.  The half started 2277 runners & 2202 finished.  Great race, if you are looking for a fast run.  Since most of the race is on the trail, the camber of the road is not as much of an issue as in other races.  Not too crowded. Just enough aid & support.  Low entry fee!  Definitely a good one. 

This was my 27th state, 49th marathon.  My 50th marathon will be at the end of Ironman Lake Placid.  Now that’s going to hurt.  LOL!

** Hope you are all healthy & running happy ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

The Skinny on Healthy Fats …. What You Need to Know

Let’s follow up the Healthy Living 101 post with something equally as important, Healthy Fats.  What’s the “skinny” on healthy fats?  Isn’t that a loaded question.  If you are in your 40s, you probably spent a bit of time eliminating fats from your diet during the “Fat Free” craze of the 90s.  How many Snackwells did you eat?  I ate a lot.  I was skinny.  I was not strong.  Well, “Strong is the New Skinny”, right?  The neat thing about being in my 40s is that I no longer care what is “in” or what is “cool”.  Not that I was ever
“in” or “cool”, let’s be clear on that.  But my focus now is laser sharp on me.  What makes me feel good. What doesn’t.  I’ve discovered that healthy fats are essential to our diets.  All of us.  Not just athletes.  Not just people who want to lose weight or get strong.  This is what I’ve learned, feel free to use whatever possible to help you and your family.  And the disclaimer still stands.  I’m not a nutritionist, registered dietician, or health coach.  I’m just an enthusiast who wants to feel good each and every day and I want the same for you.   

1.  What are Healthy Fats?  Healthy fats are fats that are found naturally in food.  Real, whole foods.  Once a food is processed, then natural fats are generally stripped out to modify the food in some way.  Dairy is a perfect example.  Cows produce one type of milk.  One kind.  Yet, there are how many different options of milk at the supermarket?  Whole (real milk), 2%, Skim, 1%, Chocolate, Strawberry, etc.  Take this a bit further to the yogurt aisle and depending on where you shop, you may not even be able to find real, whole milk (grassfed) yogurt.  The food industry processes dairy products to strip out fat & insert sugar, fake sugars & flavors to make it taste better.  The sugar & chemicals inserted by the food industry activate the same part of our brains as the drug heroine.  Its addictive.  If we are addicted to sugar & chemical laden foods, we eat and BUY more of it. 

So if you want to eat healthy fats, you need to stick with whole foods.  And as always, buy organic and from reputable brands to ensure that you are getting the best possible nutrients that are not contaminated.  See the list of foods below that will offer the best healthy fats available:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts  & Seeds – Raw, unsalted nuts.  Almonds, Macadamia Nuts, Walnuts, Chia Seeds, Flaxseed, etc.
  • Nut & Seed Butters – Be careful with these!  Look for Natural, Organic products.  Always read the ingredient list.  It should be short and just include the particular nut/seed + maybe salt.  See the ingredient list from the one I just pulled from my cabinet for reference:  Organic Roasted Peanuts, Contains 1% or Less of Salt.

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  • Full Fat Dairy – Organic, Grassfed, if possible.
  • Eggs  – Farm Raised, Locally Sourced, if possible.  You want chickens that are walking around eating bugs and different plant materials.  They will make the best nutrient dense eggs.
  • Salmon and Tuna  – Wild Ocean Caught, not farm raised.  Sustainability is an issue with anything from the ocean; however, farm raised fish has issue with diseases due to dense populations.  Secondly, farm raised fish are usually fed a kibble type product that is a combination of soy & corn, among other things.  The majority of soy & corn in the US is contaminated with GMOs.  Lastly, farmed fish, salmon in particular have up to 50% less Omega 3s, the healthy fat that you’re looking for in the first place.  PLEASE NOTE – If you shop at Costco or places that sell “fresh” fish, look at the ingredients label.  I noticed awhile back that most of the “fresh” salmon at a major retailer, has dye injected into the fish, along with preservatives, to keep the salmon looking pretty as it sits on the shelf.   I buy frozen Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon now. 
  • Olives – Check ingredient labels.  A lot of olives have extra “stuff” in the ingredient list that we don’t need.
  • Oils – Avocado, Coconut, Nut/Seed Oils (Walnut, Pine, Cashew, etc), Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil.  Be careful with Olive Oil, many of those sold in the US are not a good quality or contaminated with GMOs.  I tend to use Avocado Oil as my default. Good reputation.  Nice Consistency and great flavor.

See the graphic below for additional healthy fat options:

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2.  Why Healthy Fats?  This was certainly a BIG question for me personally after avoiding fats for so many years.  The idea of buying full fat milk and real butter was just almost more than I could wrap my brain around.  However, the science is there.  Real science that’s waiting to be read, shared & acknowledged.

  • Supports brain function.  Our brains are made up of fat themselves, almost 60% actually.  Healthy fats stimulate new brain cell growth and improves memory.  Helps the absorption of key nutrients that are required for cognitive health.  Protects the brain from toxins.  And improves mood & alleviates depression.
  • Supports Metabolism.  Increase fat burning and energy production.
  • Keeps us full between meals.  Fats are burned at a slower rate.  They also trigger the release of hormones to tell our body we are full.  Keeping us satisfied longer.
  • Helps the body absorb key nutrients.
  • Improves body composition thanks to increased fat burning capabilities.
  • Builds muscle faster.

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Image Source from The ChalkboardMag.com

3.  How Much Healthy Fat Do We Need?  THIS is the million dollar question.  I think we have a bit of a “fat” craze going on right now.  Many of my friends are super skinny after adopting a ketosis type diet.  Terms like Metabolic Efficiency and Fat Burner are becoming common.  Carb Cycling is happening at every gym in the area.  So what’s normal, for someone who just wants to be healthy?  It looks like the the average dose of healthy fats for a normal person is 2-3 servings per day.  What’s a serving?  1 TBS of a clean oil or a thumb size chunk of an avocado.  Or a few nuts in the palm of your hand.  If you have salmon for dinner, plus a veggie & half of a sweet potato with butter, then count that as 2 servings of fat.  The salmon & the butter on the sweet potato.  When its broken down like that, its not so hard. 

4. Warning About Healthy Fats.  Super easy to overeat. Fats taste GOOD!  Yum!!  I’ve been eating healthy for years but just consciously added healthy fats into my diet over the last year & a half.  Initially I did too much!  I even used a Metabolic Efficiency program once but the guidelines were very loose.  The participants kept asking “how much fat do we need?”.  The program designers would just say, “eat some with every meal”.  Some?  How much is that?  So I’d eat 3 eggs with a side of avocado & bacon.  Or Avocado Mayo Egg Salad with a side of Avocado.  Salmon, 1/2 sweet potato w/ butter & a salad with avocado oil dressing. 

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Everything tasted AMAZING but I suffered from free styling the program.  There weren’t set guidelines.  No macro counting.  Not enough information for me & I was doing it wrong.  I didn’t feel awesome.  I gained weight.  Yep.  Too much healthy fat!

I’m currently doing a carb cycling program with HiggsLifestyle.  Lots of info.  We were told exactly what to eat, in what portions & exactly how much fat.  Our current fat percentage is about 50% of our daily diet.  THIS is working for me.  I’ve dropped all my weight that I’ve been holding onto for the last several years.  However, this may not be the right combo for everyone.  My sister is currently doing a carb cycling program with her gym & they are using 70% fat for the day.  I know from past experience that this would probably be too much for me but its working for her and the participants in that program. Bottom line, there are lots of different programs currently focusing on healthy fats & how to kick start the metabolism as a result.  Be careful & don’t get stuck in one that doesn’t work for you.  Be dedicated to yourself, your health and finding what works for your body.  And know that if weight loss (better body composition) isn’t something you need, then 2-3 servings of healthy fats each day will lead to optimal health.  Adjust as needed based on how you feel, that’s just the guideline.

As always, the healthiest eating plan is one that is focused on natural, organic, whole foods.  Eat a rainbow of colors.  Each color of fruit/vegetable has different nutrients.  Make food a priority in your life, not just an afterthought on the way home from practice or a sporting event.  Incorporate all aspects of foods:  Lean proteins, lots of veggies (some fruit), healthy carbs (legumes, brown rice, quinoa & sweet potatoes) & healthy fats.  Drink water.  Keep your daily added sugars under 24g per day (36g for men).  Limit or avoid alcohol & sugary beverages/treats.   Good luck, all. We have one life.  One body.  Let’s do the best for it that we are able. 

** That’s the Skinny On Healthy Fats ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Healthy Living 101 … Comprehensive How To Guide For Busy Families

At a point in time when families are becoming busier every day, there are a lot of excuses floating around as to why we don’t have time to be healthy.  Why we don’t have time to make real food for ourselves and our families.    Why we can’t exercise.  Why our bodies are tired and broken. The majority of people are becoming more tired, sicker and heavier.  The food, medical & pharmaceutical industries are booming businesses, becoming wealthier every day.  Lets think about this for a minute.  How do you feel?  How do your kids feel?  Is it possible to make some small adjustments that will pay huge dividends in regards to the health of you and your family?

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Let me help you by sharing some of the things I have learned over the years.   Disclosure:  I’m not a nutritionist, registered dietician, health coach or have any certifications to my name.  I’m a health & wellness enthusiast who has spent countless hours and dollars researching food and nutrition.  Feel free to use any information provided to make the best life possible for you and your family.  Know that nobody is perfect.  That’s not the goal.  Overall health, making the best choices possible and FEELING GOOD is what’s really important.  Side effects may include:  weight loss, happiness, enhanced performance, more $$ in the bank for vacations, less $$ going out to healthcare. 

1.  Clean Proteins & Veggies.  Most of my audience resides in the United States.  Therefore, the majority of our food is contaminated with chemicals.  Pesticides.  Growth Hormones.  Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).  Antibiotics.  Etc, etc.  Although we’ve been told our entire lives that these “additives” are not harmful to our health, there are studies that prove otherwise.  Whether you agree or disagree about the necessity of “clean” foods, you may want to do some research on the topic.  There is a reason why organics, “non GMO”, antibiotic/hormone free is now showing up on signs and packaging at the supermarket.  What can you change?

  • Buy Organic
  • Read labels if you are buying processed foods.  Look for ingredients that you recognize.  Short, simple ingredient lists. 
  • Find your local Co-Op (click for a list of some co-ops per state, mine isn’t on there so list is not complete, just a reference) for clean foods and info on local farmers.
  • Buy in bulk directly from the farmer.  This may require investing in a chest type freezer for the garage but clean grass-fed beef, poultry, pork and wild caught seafood will go a long way to keep the family healthy.
  • Local Farmers Market.  While many of you may not frequent the local co-op for fresh veggies year round, most do have local Farmers Markets with seasonal fruits & veggies!  Make it a weekly stop for the family.  Let the kids pick out new fruits & veggies they have never tried!

2.  Be prepared.  Yes, FOOD PREP is a must!  As life gets busier, the pizza delivery man knows most of us by first name.  What kind of night is it?  Pizza, Chinese, Fast Food?  Let’s be honest.  How many times a week do you eat or carry out food?  Is it really necessary?  Sometimes, yes.  Most of the time, no.  A little thought goes a long way.  As I started this post, I went to my fridge to see exactly what I had prepped and ready to eat, now.  Yes, like right now.  Or within a minute or two of plating. 

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This is what I pulled, ready to go from my fridge.  I’m not even counting the leftover ham & mashed potatoes from last night, the chili from Super Bowl Sunday OR the pizza that hubby ordered on Monday while I was in Chicago for work. This is food I personally eat.  Starting from left top:  quinoa, ground turkey, roasted broccoli & asparagus.  Left bottom:  roasted sweet potatoes, shredded chicken, and two individual portions of sautéed veggies & turkey with 1 TBS avocado oil (full meal, ready for me to consume without any additional time unless I’d like to warm it up).  My lunch from today is below.  Chicken, broccoli & asparagus, all from above.

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Is that overwhelming?  Probably as a whole, yes.  But I’m a normal person too!  I didn’t do this all at once.  I don’t believe in “meal prep Sunday” where people spend an entire day prepping food for the week.  It does not have to be that time consuming.  I toss in an XL baking tray of veggies when I notice I’m getting low on veggies.  I’ll use whatever I have on hand.  I like the colorful shortcut carrots, precut broccoli & cauliflower, brussels sprouts, zucchini, green beans.  Really anything I can get easily.  I buy in bulk at Costco.  One giant bag of precut broccoli, yes please!  I rinse, then toss on an XL baking sheet.  Drizzle with Avocado Oil, Himalayan Pink Sea Salt & garlic powder.  Mix by hand to coat veggies with a little oil/seasoning.  In the oven at 410 for 30 minutes and walk away. Cut veggies pictured below.  I cute up 3-4 zucchini (big chunks) & threw a bag of multi colored shortcut carrots on the baking tray.  Probably took me 2 minutes once I had the zucchini cut & everything tossed with a little oil/salt/pepper/garlic.

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Yesterday, I threw a bag of frozen chicken in the crockpot on high.  I added spices.  Sometimes I add a jar of salsa.  Sometimes, I use taco seasoning (non gmo, gluten free).  Sometimes, I go with Italian spices. Cook on high a couple hours.  Shut off.  Let cool.  Shred.  If you aren’t home during the day, use a crock pot with a timer.  Your crockpot can be your BEST friend when it comes to preplanning meals and food prepping.

Over the weekend, I browned 2#s of turkey with a box of mushrooms & various spices.  Last week, I dumped an entire bag of frozen shrimp (tails off!) into a pan, added butter, lemon, Cajun seasons & a bag of frozen green beans.  Let cook down, pour off liquid, put in a container for future meals.

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I cook in bulk.  If I make stir-fry, I do 3x the veggies & protein that I want for one meal, then immediately divide upon cooking into containers for other days.  I frequently do these things when I’m already in the kitchen cooking something for the family.  Or when I’m making lunches.  Time management.  Use your time to the best of your ability.  Stir-fry below:  Various veggies & ground turkey (any protein will work, use whatever you have prepped in the fridge).

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Enough about food prep.  I’m sure you get the picture.  If you don’t already hate me because I’m firing the pizza delivery guy, then just wait!

3.  Protein Powder, Shakes & Smoothies!  Say hello to a very controversial topic. We all have to decide for OURSELVES what we want to put in our bodies.  Maybe you have clear cut guidelines for yourself, maybe you don’t.  Regardless, beware of what Jane Doe & her friends are selling you. A few suggested guidelines are listed below:

  • Ingredients matter.  Look at the ingredient list.  Can you recognize what’s listed?  Can you recognize sugars & fake sugars alike?  Did you know that women are only allowed 24g of added sugar per day (36g for men)?  How many grams of sugar per serving?  Did you know that ingredients are listed in descending order.  Meaning the ingredient with the LARGEST quantity, is listed first.  So if the first ingredient is xxxxbitol or xxxxulose, that means the biggest ingredient is a fake sugar.  Be informed. 
  • Artificial anything in a shake or protein powder is not desired.  Jane Doe may tell you that some of the deadliest things on Earth are found in nature.  That is true!  But at least I know what I’m up against (and not to eat it!).  I don’t know or understand what that artificial ingredient, made in the lab, is going to do to my body. 
  • If it tastes like a milk shake, then it’s a milkshake.  I’m tired of hearing complaints on the taste of a decent protein powder.  Grow up.  Clean up your diet.  Cut the sugar.  Then you’ll get your taste buds back and realize that real food actually tastes good.  You shouldn’t need sugar, fake sugar and/or artificial flavors to be able to swallow food.  This is about nutrition, what your body needs, YOUR health.  

Some great protein powders that I’ve tried are below, these 3 are vegetable based (Vega One, SunWarrior, & Aloha – I have no affiliation with any of these products).  Also a peak at how my smoothies look.  I change up the ingredients but they always taste great.   My two favorites:  1 Scoop Chocolate Protein, 1 TB Natural PB, 2 Handfuls of spinach, Ice, Water.   Or 1 scoop Vanilla Protein, 1/4 cup blueberries, 1 TB Coconut Oil, 1-2 Handfuls of Spinach, Dash of Cinnamon, Ice, Water.  Both produce green smoothies but I can’t taste the spinach.  I swear.  If the green color grosses you out, try it with your eyes closed.  Good, I promise!

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  • Fruit in your smoothie!  Fruit is better than sugar, right?  Yes.  But fruit converts to sugar and some fruits are inflammatory.  I’m not going to tell you to never eat a banana but if you are looking for weight loss as a side effect of your healthy eating, then you need to drop the banana & grab the blueberries.  See the list of anti-inflammatory foods below from LiveLoveFruit.  Inflammation may lead to Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes, Anxiety, Allergies, Brain Fog &  Excess body fat, to name a few.

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4. Supplements.  Another million dollar question.  Do you need them?  NOT a one size fits all answer.  If you are eating a CLEAN, anti-inflammatory diet with lots of leafy greens, then you don’t need a lot of extras.  A few items that may be beneficial, depending on your lifestyle are listed below.  But once again, ingredients matter.  Use reputable companies!   

  • D3 – I’m sure you’ve heard of the benefits of being outdoors in the sunlight?  D3 is the answer if there is no sun.  Some call it the “Sunshine Vitamin”.  D3  can increases immunities, increase bone/joint/teeth health, regulate mood, help the absorption of calcium & phosphorous (imperative for bone health) & fight cancer.
  • Probiotics – Healthy Bacteria!  Focus is gut & immune health.  Lots of natural probiotics so you don’t need to automatically grab for a capsule.  Use active live culture yogurts (if you can do dairy), Keifir, Sauerkraut or Kimchi.  You’ll specifically find the ever popular Kombucha missing from this list.  It contains a small amount of alcohol which turns to sugar and its relatively controversial. 
  • Omega 3 – Commonly known as “fish oil”.  Omega 3 is the ONLY Omega you need.  Don’t get pulled into the supplements that offer 3, 6 & 9.  Your body only needs “extra” of the 3.  We get enough 6 in our diet.  And our body makes enough 9 that we don’t need to supplement.  Omega 3 helps to fight inflammation (and related diseases), helps improve cognitive function & brain health.  I’ve also read that it’s good for skin health.  If you eat a lot of fatty fish, like salmon, you can probably skip this one.  Its also found naturally in nuts & seeds.
  • Magnesium.  If you’re an athlete, have trouble with constipation, get frequent headaches, have PMS cramps, or you can’t sleep, then Magnesium might be your new best friend.  Magnesium comes in a couple different forms.  Magnesium Citrate is what you want if you are constipated.  Magnesium Glycinate is what you need for everything else:  help getting to sleep, help in muscle repair, headaches, eye twitches, PMS cramping, sore or twitching muscles from physical activity, and it helps calcium absorb.  Its also reported to help with anxiety and increase energy.  If I only had one supplement in my cabinet, it would be magnesium.  You can combine the Magnesium Glycinate & the Magnesium Citrate to get the desired result(s). 

I don’t know about you but my brain is about ready to explode.  That’s all I can personally process for one post.  That’s probably MORE than most can process at one time, if they haven’t been studying this stuff for a long time.  BUT, I wanted it all here, for reference.  You may also be interested in some of my related articles below.  My level of education on nutrition has increased over the years but one thing remains, passion.  I’m passionate about being healthy.  Learning as much as possible.  And living the best life I am able.  I know this isn’t easy, especially if you work, have kids, and are busy.  But its worth it.  I wish each and every one of you the HEALTHIEST life possible. 

Related Articles:

** Go Forth & Be Healthy ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

2018 – New Goals

My primary goal is to run a marathon in every state.  However, I also love triathlon.  I’ve been meshing my love for running and triathlon for many years now.  I believe my first triathlon was in 2004 and then I really started doing more events in 2007.  However, Mr. Michael made his appearance in 2009, shortly after I caught the Ironman bug.  Little man is 8 now!  Time flies …..

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As a working mom with two kids and a hectic life, Ironman was put on hold.  I didn’t even ride my bike for several years after Michael was born.  I ran.  Because that is something I can do anywhere, for any amount of time and it helps me relieve stress. But the time on the bike was just too much for me as a working mom with a new baby.  So my bike sat on the trainer for 1309 days without seeing the light of day.  I rode occasionally for workouts but never outside. Once I dusted off my bike, I decided to focus on races that I could manage with the family, job and my other responsibilities.  I decided that I would “specialize” in the 70.3 distance.  Not register for an expensive race and haul all my gear unless it really counted.  It had to be worth it for me to be away from the kiddos.  Once Michael arrived, that’s kinda how life went.  Cut the crap.  Keep what’s really important.  I didn’t want to lose sight of myself but I also didn’t need to run every 5K in town unless there was another reason to go, like when Aby started running.  Aby’s first 5K below in spring 2011.  This race had free daycare for Mr. Michael.  So freaking awesome (Ringing In Spring 5K, Valparaiso, IN).

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This was also the time that I really started embracing the long run.  Michael was a crazy baby.  He was not happy unless I was holding him and to be honest, I just needed to get away sometimes to clear my head and leave the screaming behind.  I loved my little man but yes, I needed a break.  To this day, I see women who refuse to leave their babies to even go for a run, and I cringe.  Most mom’s need time away from their babies to think and reflect.  I could never do that while pushing a jog stroller, constantly handing the little one snacks, stopping to pick up juice cups, etc.  There were times that I ran with the stroller because the choices were treadmill or stroller run.  I’ve also ran plenty 20 milers on the treadmill for lack of other options.  I did what I had to do but honestly, I cherished my solo long runs more than anyone could possibly imagine.  Through this time, my love for the longer distances really developed.  Hey, the longer I ran, the longer I had quiet time, it didn’t matter if I had to run in the dark to get it.  Eventually, I cut most other distances to focus on the marathon.  Best bang for my buck and the marathon is ALWAYS a challenge.  I didn’t want to leave the kids unless it counted.  So I pared down my races to the distance I felt was worthy of time away from the kiddos. 

Enough chit chat.  Now, what’s the big goal for 2018?  I’m sure you’ve already figured it out.  Ironman.  I registered for Ironman Lake Placid, July 2018. 

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My first, and quite possibly only, full Ironman.  Yes, I’ve been waiting for this since 2008.  Yes, the time is finally here.  In case you’re not familiar with triathlon type races, this is a 140.6 mile event.  2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, 26.2 miles of running.  There are non-branded triathlons which cover the same distance; however, Ironman has made a name for itself as offering some of the best triathlon races in the world. 

I picked Lake Placid almost by default.  I wanted a race that I could drive to so that I didn’t need to ship my bike.  I wanted a race that was not during XC/Football or Track/Baseball season.  That really narrowed things down.  Lastly, I wanted a new state.  The marathon at the end of the Ironman counts as a state for the 50 States Marathon Club.  This made the outrageous registration fee a little more palatable.  I get to tackle something new, a bucket list item per se, but I’m also still moving me forward in my 50 State goal.  Win, Win.

So if you’re in Lake Placid, NY over Ironman weekend, look for me.  I’ll try to post more as my training gets under way.  Until then, if you need me, I’ll probably be riding my bike.  You will find me at a couple warm up races this spring/summer.  But everything is in prep for the big day in Lake Placid on July 22nd:

At some point, I’ll figure out post IM season.  But for now, this is it. 

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Cheers to a Happy, Healthy 2018.  I hope that you get to try something new and move something from your bucket list into the DONE column. 

** Life is All About the Story ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

2017 in Review …..

The year never seems phenomenal until you take a minute to look back at what has been accomplished.  Before looking back, I remembered having a lot of lack luster races, running some really hot races, having a lot of back pain and performing poorly on the bike due to nerve damage from my back injury. Nothing really stood out as amazing.  Then I remembered marathon training with Aby & her friend early in 2017.

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All the fun we had running up and down every hill we could find.  The laughter & giggles of the good days.  The tears of the not so good days.  And really, that’s how life is, the good mixed with the bad.  Each and every day.  Easy to remember the bad but we have to search a little further to pull up the good memories. 

2017 in Review:

  • 9 – Marathons (Little Rock, Georgia, Nashville RNR, Lincoln NE, Hatfield & McCoy, Monster Mash (Dover DE), Atlantic City NJ, Indy Monumental & the Wildwood Trail Marathon in MO. 
  • 1 – 50K (Huff 50K Trail Run)
  • 1 – 1/2 Marathon (RNR Chicago)
  • 1 Olympic Distance Triathlon (Pokagon)
  • 3 – 70.3 Triathlons (IM Muncie 70.3, IM OH 70.3, IM Steelhead 70.3).
  • 1 – 100+ mile bike ride (Dam to Dam Century, Wabash IN)
  • 1 – Volunteer Stint (IM Louisville)

It was a year of firsts.

  • First time I got to run a marathon with my daughter (who was only 15 at the time!)
  • First Century Ride, or longer
  • First time volunteering at a bit event

I got a couple new states in my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states.

  • Georgia
  • Nebraska
  • West Virginia
  • Delaware
  • New Jersey

A few moments hit my 2017 “BEST” list.  Possibly the best, if not favorite, fitness related photo I took in 2017.  Aby & Annika running their first marathon in Little Rock.

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Best Race – Hatfield & McCoy Marathon in WV.  Low dollar.  Fun.  Great course with variety in sites & terrain.  Excellent aid stations & support.

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Best SWAG – Huff 50K handmade soup mugs.

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Best Race photo – Wildwood Trail Marathon gives out free downloads for race photos.

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Best Selfie – Julie & I after IM 70.3 Muncie.  Her first half IM, her 2nd triathlon.  She looks SO happy!!

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Best detour – Philadelphia Art Museum to run up the steps like Rocky Balboa in the old Rocky movies.  We had ran a marathon in Dover DE & were headed to Atlantic City NJ for a 2nd marathon.  Not a lot of people would have felt like taking the detour. Julie did.  Great memory.

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Best non fitness related trip.  Niagara Falls.  The kids & I did the Canada side & the American side.  Great trip. 

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Overall, a great year.  I hope that all of you made some great memories too.  Cheers to all of us having an even better year in 2018.  Let’s start making new memories & get this year started right!

** Happy New Year ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

How to Guide on Homemade Bone Broth …. Liquid Gold for our Bodies!

I’m currently sipping on a cup of bone broth.  This has been my project of the week.  A labor of love which I started on Tuesday.  Just finished.  Actually, not exactly finished but I’m in the final stages so that counts, right?  My beautiful bone broth below.

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Very recently, someone in the house had to go gluten, dairy & sugar free (realistically low sugar, as in low added sugar, not natural sugar).  There is an issue with leaky gut and an imbalance of several hormones, vitamins & minerals in the body.  We also have a history of digestive issues for myself and the maternal side of my family.  So anything that can help with digestion & healing is a win in my book.  The bone broth was the next step for us in this journey.  I have spent years studying nutrition and its effect on health & wellness.  This knowledge has transformed my lifestyle and changed the types of foods that I buy and feed my family.  Disclaimer:  I’m not a nutritionist or a dietician, just an enthusiast who wants the best for myself and my family. 

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So why bone broth?  Here is an excerpt below from Whole 9 LIfe:

What kind of nutritional benefits does bone broth offer?

Bone broth is a source of minerals, like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium,  and potassium, in forms that your body can easily absorb. It’s also rich in glycine and proline, amino acids not found in significant amounts in muscle meat (the vast majority of the meat we consume). It also contains chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, the compounds sold as supplements to reduce inflammation, arthritis, and joint pain. Finally, “soup bones” include collagen, a protein found in connective tissue of vertebrate animals, which is abundant in bone, marrow, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.  (The breakdown of collagen in bone broths is what produces gelatin.)

What are the benefits of consuming a properly prepared bone broth?

Proline and glycine are important for a healthy gut and digestion, muscle repair and growth, a balanced nervous system, and strong immune system. In fact, a study of chicken broth conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that the amino acids that were produced when making chicken stock reduced inflammation in the respiratory system and improved digestion. (There’s a reason your mom always made you chicken soup when you were sick.)

The gelatin in bone broth can help to heal a leaky gut, which may be of specific benefit those with inflammatory or autoimmune disorders. These compounds also reduce joint pain, reduce inflammation, prevent bone loss, and build healthy skin, hair, and nails.

 

For me, I wanted to make the bone broth verses buy it.  One, its easy to make.  Two, its inexpensive.  Three, it makes a large quantity and I’m hoping I won’t have to make it again for awhile.  Smile   However, it does take time, which means it might not be a project for everyone.  Steps to homemade bone broth below.

You might be wondering where to get the bones for the bone broth. You can use bones from any clean source.  If you, your husband or parents are hunters, have them save the neck bones from the deer they tag during hunting season.  If you are getting ready to butcher a cow from a local farmer that specializes in grass fed, hormone free beef, then have the butcher save the beef neck bones & oxtail.  Or call your local co-op or butcher to see what they have or can save for you.  Chicken carcasses, necks or feet are great too!  If you buy from a source like the local butcher or the co-op, then you’ll need to pay for the bones.  I paid $0.89 per pound for the beef neck bones.  And then I also used chicken necks from my local co-op.

After obtaining the bones, first roast them in the oven.  425 degrees – 1 hour.  Turn half way thru.

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While the bones are roasting, cut veggies and add to your slow cooker.  Any veggies will work, they are used to flavor the broth and will be discarded later. I used carrots, celery, leeks, garlic & ginger (small chunk).  The fun part about this is that nothing needs to be prepped or peeled!  Just wash, cut into reasonable chunks and toss in the crockpot.  If you are using an onion or garlic cloves, no need to even peel those.  The skins from the onions & garlic add to golden color of the bone broth.  So fun! Even the kids can help!

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I also added pink Himalayan sea salt & ground course pepper (or peppercorns), plus a tablespoon or 2 (splash) of Apple Cider vinegar.  Don’t forget the vinegar, it helps leach the minerals out of the bones!

Once the bones are roasted, add to your crockpot.  If you’re overzealous like me, your crockpot might look like this:

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Thankfully my friend Sara P was on standby and told me that my crockpot was WAY too full!  So I split my very full crockpot (hey, I got the lid on, so it looked good to me!) into a second one.  Therefore, I advise this to be a 2 crockpot project.  Smile Bones need to be completely covered with water and water should be to the top of the crockpot.  Then cover & cook on low for a minimum of 24 hours.  I did about 30 hours. That’s what worked for me and I wasn’t in a hurry.

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12 hours into the cooking, I added a bit more water, increasing the water level to the top of the crockpot …. cuz Sara P told me to do it.  This is what it looked like at 12 hours before I added more water.

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At 30 hours, I turned off the crockpot and let cool.  At 36 hours, I drained the liquid from the veggies, meat & bones. Instead of tossing everything, I fed what I could to the pups for breakfast.  They were in heaven!  I gave them the carrots, cut up the beef pieces that came out of the neck bones and gave them some of the chicken necks too because I was able to crush the neck bones between my fingers (which I did for each neck before I put into their food bowls).  However, beware if you do this:  1)  If your dogs aren’t used to a rich diet, this may give them digestive distress.  I have 3 dogs.  I split the meat & carrots from one crockpot between the three of them for breakfast yesterday.  2)  Don’t give your dogs onions, chives, garlic or leeks, this is a poisonous category of foods for them.  3) Don’t overfeed them since this is more dense then a kibble.  I put the veggies & meat from the second crockpot into the fridge for this morning’s breakfast.  The first two photos below are what was pulled off of one crockpot.  Then the resulting broth in the third photo.

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After I strained off the meat/veggies/bones, I put in the fridge to cool.  The purpose of this is so that a layer of fat forms on the top and can be easily skimmed off.  I left it in the fridge for 24 hours.  A time issue for me, I couldn’t take care of it sooner.  If you are on top of it, you could pull off the fat layer much sooner. Save the fat for cooking or discard. 

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After the fat layer is pulled off, then the broth needs to be strained with a wire strainer to remove the tiny chunks of meat that might remain.  I actually just strained the bottom of the batch.  I wasn’t worried about perfection. 

After removing the fat, how are you going to store your bone broth?  It will only last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.  Some people can it.  Others freeze it. Since mom just had surgery yesterday, canning wasn’t an option cuz I would need help with that.  Freezing was what I chose.  Mom had read on the all knowing Google, that the broth could be frozen into cubes for ease of use.  2 cubes equals a 1/4 cup and easy to add to recipes, etc.  So thanks to the Dollar Tree, I secured some inexpensive ice cube trays for this project.  I also saved a gallon water jug that I had emptied.  I’m not super coordinated and I didn’t want to lose any of my broth!  So I funneled the broth from my giant pot (hubby calls it my “Witches Brew” pot) into the gallon jug, then poured it into the ice cube trays.  I’ll freeze, then store in freezer bags in the freezer. 

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The 2 crockpots yielded about 2 gallons of bone broth.  This was a combo of beef & chicken bones.  Using different types of bones in your broth is beneficial, so mix it up and use what is readily available.  The result is a rich, dark colored broth that is thicker than traditional broth found in the store.   You can then drink it straight or cook with it.  Super fun project.  Amazing health benefits. 

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Well, my first batch of bone broth was a success thanks to the help from Sara P, my mom and the ladies at the Fresh Food Hub in Auburn.  Thankfully the Fresh Food Hub had some chicken necks on hand that I could buy and LaOtto Meats saved some beef neck bones for me.  Hoping this bone broth helps aid in happy, healthy digestion in the future. 

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Happy Friday, all!  Hope you have an amazing day & enjoy the upcoming weekend. 

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Rock N Roll Marathon Series – Nashville TN – #RNRNashville

Saturday was my first time at the Rock N Roll Marathon Series  event in Nashville TN.  While most are talking about the unprecedented heat (93 degrees & 86% humidity) or maybe the many hills that Nashville presented to us over the course, I want to talk a little bit about the SPIRIT of Nashville.  The crowds, the volunteers, the residents, the race officials and the overall good vibe from the city as it welcomed us with open arms.  And by “us”, I mean me & 25,000 of my closest friends.  People further than the eye can see.  This photo is as we were attempting to get to our corral for the start. 

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This is one of the largest Rock N Roll races in the country with only RNR Vegas being larger.  If you’re a half marathoner & making your rounds, do put RNR Vegas on your list too.  It’s fun & so awesome to run the Strip at night.

Finally we were into the corrals & ready to go.  There were 40 or 41 corrals in order to ease congestion on the course.  But the race was busy.  The entire way.   Both with runners & spectators.

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We started out on Broadway heading east toward the river.  This is otherwise known as “Music Row” and we ran past all the famed “Honky Tonks” that make Nashville & its various artists famous.  If you like country music, live music or bars in general, this might be the town for you.  Plenty of places to grab a drink & hear some live performers.  Grab a group of friends & make a weekend out of it!

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Quick trip down Broadway, then over & back up Demonbreun to pass the Country Music Hall of Fame & the new Nashville Music Center (location for expo & packet pick-up).  I just love the architecture of the Nashville Music Center.  One of my favorite buildings in this town, pictured below, on the left, brownish building. 

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Then a quick pass by the start line & all the runners still awaiting their start in the corrals. 

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Photo Credit:  Julian Smith, visiting from England!

Next up, the Visual Arts Center & Music Square, which features Carnival Music & the RCA Studios. Thanks to Mr. Julian S. for grabbing a few photos of this area (below).  This is the location of the famous “Studio B” from RCA that recorded early greats such as Elvis & Dolly Parton.

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On to Belmont University (pictured below, photo courtesy of Julie Molenar), Troutt Theater, McAfree Concert Hall,  Children’s House of Nashville & the Battle of Nashville Monument Park. 

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Between mile 5 & 6, somewhere around Gale Lane Community Park, we saw our first collapsed runner.  Others had seen one down much earlier around mile 3, but by mile 5 to 6, everyone was really feeling the heat.  RNR did an excellent job with aid stations that were close together.  The medial teams were well staffed.  Sprayer hoses, ice, cold water, Gatorade, oranges, salt packets, Glukos gels/chomps, cold towels/sponges.  It was just a matter of getting from aid station to aid station.  And that’s pretty much how most of us had to think about the race, just one small segment at a time. 

On to 12th Avenue where there were lots of shops, restaurants, and spectators.  I’ve got to give it to the spectators, residents of the city & volunteers.  They were tireless (and hot too!) as they moved around to help out the runners.  The neighborhoods that we ran thru were in full on party mode.  Music, beer shot stations, Krispy Kreme donuts, bounce houses for the kids, local bands.  It was fun, fun, fun!   Another pic from Julian below of the neighborhood parties.  Great selfie, Julian!

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Back around Belmont University & Jane Ayres Academic Center (Julian S’ photo below), another loop thru downtown.  As we headed back out of the downtown area, we caught a glimpse of the Tennessee State Capitol & then split with the 1/2 marathon runners around mile 11.5.

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Shout out to the Nashville Rescue Mission for all of those cheers as we passed at 11.75 & 15.25.  YOU all, rocked our run!  Thank you!  Then we rejoined the half marathoners at mile 16.  That’s when reality really hit.  We could see probably 1000 or more people on the half marathon side, all walking.  Not one runner.  Just  a sea of people in good humor walking & talking.  Heading toward their finish line.

I was a bit surprised that we had so many people on our side for the full marathon.  It wasn’t packed like the side for the half, but there were still a quite a few toughing it out with us.  We were never alone.  Those of us who ran the full got a special treat too as we were able to loop the field at First Tennessee Park.

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Next up, Musicians Hall of Fame & Woodland Street.  The finish line was off Woodland in the Nissian Stadium.  We said good bye to the half runners for the final time around mile 17-18.  But not before some of us took a run thru a fountain in the business district!  I may or may not have instigated the fountain running.  Michael would be proud of me.  Smile 

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East Park, 5th Street & Davidson Road along the Cumberland River.  One loop around Shelby Park & then we FINALLY headed back to the finish line at Nissan Stadium.  Long race.  Took us 5 hrs & 18 minutes and no that’s not a personal worst.  We’ve had some really hot races.  We don’t run well in the heat but we have learned how to survive.  If you find yourself running a really hot/humid race, I suggest:  1)  stay on top of your hydration – drink before you’re thirsty; 2)  plan to use extra fuel because your body is working harder & you’ll be out on course longer; 3) use any means necessary to keep cool – ice, water sprayers & cold towels work great, 4)  wear a visor to keep the sun off your face but it will in turn allow the heat to escape thru your head, 5) use sunscreen cuz if you burn, your skin can’t breathe & 6) make sure you have access to salt tabs.  When you are taking in a lot of water to stay cool, your tummy get sloshy.  You may throw up.  The chances of vomiting & dehydration are less if you can get that water in your tummy to absorb.  Salt/electrolyte tabs/capsules will help the water to absorb. 

Huge shout out to all the runners who managed to FINISH RnR Nashville despite the heat!  There were several points where some of the full marathoners got turned around/diverted due to weather & cut-off times.  Please don’t get discouraged if you got cut-off at this race.  The heat was bad.  Nobody was hitting the times that they trained to run.  It happens.

Stats:  2,445 marathon finishers, 67 marathon finishers that got cut-off/turned around at the 10.7 mi mark, 18 marathon finisher that got cut-off/turned around at the 18 mi mark, 20 marathon finishers that got cut off at the 20.2 mile mark, 17,821 half marathon finishers, 2,776 5K finishers, 841 mile run finishers, 12 half marathon wheelchair finishers, & 11 full marathon wheelchair finishers. 

Congrats to all the runners! Thanks to all the volunteers, medial staff, police, spectators & the bands that kept playing even though the sun was beating down on them too!  The spirit of Nashville really showed throughout the weekend but especially on race day.

SWAG:

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Quick note about the marathon finisher jackets.  The cut is the same as last year but they are longer.  The length now goes over most of our rumps, at least for the ladies.  I’m tall, if it goes over my bum, it will probably go over yours.  Utilize the sizing station at the expo to determine the correct size.  You may want to size up if your bum is bigger than your waist.  Otherwise you won’t get this jacket zipped.  Example below. 

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** Run Happy, all! ** Rock N Blogger – TooTallFritz**