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Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Smoothie King in Sheep's Clothing

I walked into the Smoothie King and had to squint my eyes. What a clean, bright establishment! Larger than life photos of happy, healthy people and huge letters encouraging me to "Be Good" to myself wrapped around the store.

But I knew going in that Smoothie King is a sugared-up wolf in sheep's clothing.

I don't normally patronize Smoothie King. But I live in a new town and need to promote my Texas Fit Chicks boot camp, so I visited the establishment in the hopes of dropping off a flier or two and reaching people who have a desire to "be healthy." So my daughter and I decided to throw them some business one Saturday morning.

As per usual when we go out to eat, Zach and I visited the nutrition website to select a healthy smoothie before I was standing at the counter to make a decision.

I was utterly flabbergasted at the nutritional listing of the smoothies. I'd estimate 99% of these things are nothing but sugar bombs. Here are a few of the highlights (review it yourself here). Note that these are for the 20 ounce "small" smoothies:

Remember, to convert grams to teaspoons, divide by 4
- Orange Ka-BAM -- 469 calories, 108 grams of sugar (the equivalent of 27 teaspoons of sugar)
- Lemon Twist Strawberry -- 398 calories, 94 grams of sugar (23 teaspoons)
- Coconut Surprise -- 460 calories, 64 grams of fat, 83 grams of sugar (20 teaspoons)

I could go on and on. And on.

Do you know what sugar is doing to us as a country?
- Weight gain
- Diabetes
- Impaired immune system
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Leptin resistance (causing an inability to tell when we've had enough food)
- Cancer
- Sugar addiction

And more:

I'd be willing to bet that the average person on the street considers a stop at Smoothie King to be a healthy choice. One that is helping, not hurting, their attempts to live a healthy lifestyle.

And then they order the equivalent of 25 teaspoons of sugar.

As a personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist, it is so frustrating to see deceptive marketing everywhere you look. Without guidance or a desire to really find out what is healthy and what is not, the average person does not stand a chance in a grocery store or restaurant.

Now Provides Fiber!

Come. On.

From the LiveStrong website:
Sugar is the first ingredient on the list in Kellogg's Froot Loops. Grains include whole-grain corn flour, wheat flour, which is not a whole grain, and whole-grain oat flour. Froot Loops contains oat fiber and soluble corn fiber. This cereal contains hydrogenated vegetable oil, a trans fat. It also contains natural fruit flavors and several dyes and artificial colors. It's fortified with vitamins and minerals and contains BHT, a chemical preservative. A 1-cup serving contains 110 calories, 1 g of fat, 25 g of carbohydrates, including 3 g of fiber and 12 g of sugar, and 1 g of protein.
Sugar is sugar is sugar. Whether it's coming to you in the form of a banana or Froot Loops does not matter. While it's not popular to stand up and say you ought to limit the amount of fruit that you eat, it is true that we need to keep an eye on our fruit intake in addition to watching added sugar. Which is everywhere!

- Yogurt
- Instant oatmeal
- Ketchup
- Peanut butter
- Jarred tomato sauce

It's everywhere.

Here are some of sugar's aliases:

Ugh. My trip to Smoothie King was weeks ago, and I'm still disturbed by it.

By the way, I did find a smoothie with no sugar in it -- the Gladiator. At 180 calories, 45 grams of protein and no added sugar, it was a good choice in a sea of bad choices. The best choice on the kids' menu was the "Choc-A-Laka" with 210 calories, 15 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein. It's made of frozen yogurt and cocoa, and contains 255 mg of sodium. Ho hum.

Be careful out there, people.


Workout of the Day

P90X3 Yoga

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Six Months Later

Wow, now that was quite a blogging hiatus! Six months later and our life looks quite different than it did on May 28, back in Dallas/Fort Worth making homemade laundry detergent.

The past two years have been turbulent for our family, to say the least. Without going into too much hairy detail, suffice it to say that we have been put through the pressure cooker, and have come out on the other side wiser, humbler, and thankful. Things happened to us that were utterly, completely bewildering to me. In the process I learned that God does not do things TO us, but he does things FOR us...even though at times that was very hard to swallow.

We learned about good friends. We learned about tough decisions. We learned about flexibility. We learned about letting go. Here are just a few of the changes in our life over the last six months:

1. We moved to suburban Austin.

Three hours and 200 miles south of our old homestead, we now live in bustling Cedar Park, north of Austin. It did not take long for us to like it here. It is a great place to have a family, with tons of activities, a great library, tons of grocery stores -- a Sprouts just a mile from the house! I was immediately struck with just how nice people are here. It's not unusual for someone to chat with you at the park, and as my commuting husband will attest, drivers actually let you in when you try to merge. It's all very refreshing.

2. We are home schooling our kids.

Considering that my husband just spent ten years in the public school system, you might think that our decision to home school our two children is some sort of statement on today's public schools or anyone who chooses to send their kids there. It is not.

Public schools are very important to our society. Zach continues to support the institution in his current position; in fact, he is able to help more districts now than the single district he used to work for. For many students, public school -- and the wonderful, dedicated teachers who work there -- is among the only positive things in their day-to-day life.

But Zach and I have the desire, the resources, and the ability to teach our children at home. We also have some very fantastic, very bright children. While I admit that my first response to Zach's suggestion that we home school the kids was, "WHAAAAT? You want me to do WHAAAAAT?", it has been among the best experiences of my life.

As our research proved during the decision-making process, I uncovered the fact that not all home schooling mothers wear embroidered denim jumpers and buns in their hair. And when I met the other moms in our home schooling co-op group (where we meet each Tuesday), I found out that these people are smart, talented, and dedicated to giving their kids an excellent education. A classically trained opera singer, a nuclear engineer, an illustrator of books about Mesopotamian hieroglyphics (that is a real thing, apparently!) are just a few of the moms in our group.

I am learning history, Latin, science, and math right alongside my kids, and in the process I learn more and more about the pure awesomeness (put that on a vocab quiz!) of my kids. Our family relationship has grown so much in the last four months. I could go on and on about it, but I'll just jot down a few of the things that I love about doing school at home:

- Learning is constant -- not just 8-3. When the kids were in school, I found it difficult to extract what it was they were learning about, so reinforcement was lacking. Now we learn, then reinforce all day long, and then talk to Dad about it at dinner. We are learning all the time.

- We can go as fast -- or slow -- as we want. Today Kate finished up 1st grade math curriculum, and so we will move on to 2nd grade math.

- Quality play time. We get so much work done in less time, which means more time for parks, Legos, reading, field trips, library visits, imagining, silly games, and more.

- Less stress. Quite simply, I have never seen my children so happy. "I used to dread Mondays," Drew told me a few weeks ago. "Now I look forward to them, because I want to see all the new stuff we're going to learn." That alone makes this decision worthwhile.

3. Zach gets to be home from work at 5:30pm.

This is a really big deal. He is home from work, and work does not follow him home. No one calls, rarely is something looming over his head. Rarely is he brooding about a decision to be made or a tough conversation that has to be had. Work life balance. It's where it's at!

Among the things that have not changed are:

- Our 5am workouts.
- My Texas Fit Chicks boot camp (although my new class starts at 5:30am instead of 5am, which makes a remarkably BIG difference).
- Our general health-nutness. (It's actually much easier to be a health nut in Austin...there are more of us down here.)

All in all, things are good. Finally. For many bitter, angry months we asked ourselves, "What did we do to deserve this?" and now we happily, thankfully ask ourselves, "What did we do to deserve this?"


Workout of the Day
PiYo Buns

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Homemade Laundry Detergent

When people ask me how they can start eating better, I usually tell them to focus on one thing at a time. Don't throw out every nasty thing in your pantry at once; pick one thing, work on it for two weeks, master it, then move on to another thing. Maybe you switch to wheat bread instead of white. Or brown rice instead of white. Then you focus on sugar. Then processed food, and so on.

This is the process we used, and it's the process I'm slowly using to get rid of chemical cleaners in our home, too. I'm already on the vinegar and water cleaning solution band wagon, and you know how big of a fan I am of the magical shower grime killer (see it here).

A year or so ago I decided I ought to look into making my own laundry detergent. That was right after I bought the mother lode (pun intended) of laundry detergent on sale at Walmart. So about 300 loads of laundry later, last week I was finally ready to take the plunge on making my own laundry soap!

I used The Wellness Mama's recipe, as it seemed simple and straight forward.

Here are the ingredients:

Borax: found at Walmart
Super Washing Soda: found...I can't remember where. I bought it a year ago after I knew I was going to make this. It sat faithfully in my laundry room until last week. It was kinda chunky due to age.
Castile Soap: found at Walmart. We've been using this castile soap for several months now. Drew has skin issues and I wanted some natural soap. Zach likes it so much he uses it as shampoo, too. It smells nice and lathers well, even without the sulfates that most contain to make lather.

First, I had to shred the soap. I started with the cheese grater, but as I was grating two bars, I decided to get out the big guns: the food processor.

The recipe says that the soap should be finely ground, so I brought out another attachment:

Then I mixed the following: 1 part soap (I had about 3 cups grated), 2 parts washing soda, 2 parts Borax, plus 2 tsp. of baking soda. Then I mixed thoroughly.

It made quite a bit of soap, and luckily I found some spare Mason jars to store the soap securely. I nearly filled up three jars.

The recipe says to use 1/8 to 1/4 cup per load, and an old scoop from our P90X Results & Recovery Formula measured a little more than 1/8 cup. Perfect!

So making the soap was very easy. Took maybe 30 or 40 minutes. (Clean up was relatively easy and struck me a bit odd..."cleaning" soap. Whatever!) But would it wash our (incredibly stinky) clothes?


I'm so pleased with how this soap washes. It does not get all sudsy like regular soap, but the soap companies just put that stuff in to make you think the soap is working well...it's not really necessary. This soap made my clothes come out smelling like...Nothing! They didn't really have a smell, which is a good thing. It's kind of like when we installed our reverse osmosis water filtration on our sink and the water tasted truly like "nothing."

Lately our clothes had kind of a wonky soap buildup smell. Like maybe the detergent just wasn't ever rinsing out or something. No more! That smell is gone and replaced by pure nothing-ness. I'm very impressed!

Here's the official recipe if you'd like to make your own laundry soap:

Natural Laundry Soap Recipe
1. Grate the bar soap or mix in food processor until finely ground. Use the soap of your choice.

2.In a large bowl, mix 2 parts washing soda, 2 parts Borax and 1 part grated soap. (Add a few teaspoons of baking soda if desired).

3.Store in closed container. If you are using a big enough container, you can skip step 2 and just put all ingredients in storage container or jar and shake.

Use 1/8 to 1/4 cup per load of laundry.

Workout of the Day
P90X3 Yoga, AKA the best yoga ever put on DVD.

Here's Zach doing "Ted's Chair" this morning. I'm amazed every time I see it!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Don't Let Restaurants Derail Your Progress!

A few weeks ago our six-year-old daughter requested to go to IHOP for her birthday breakfast. She's super cute, so we were powerless to tell her no...especially on her birthday!

We all know that IHOP has some unhealthy choices (cream cheese stuffed French toast, anyone?), but surely there are some healthy items to choose from too, right? Like an omelette?

As is our custom whenever we go out to eat, our first stop was IHOP's website to choose what we would order. Does that sound weird? Most people sit down at the table, see what looks good, and order it. Not us! A trip to a restaurant requires research.

If we hadn't done our research, we probably would have made some poor assumptions about the calorie levels of what seem to be "healthy" options. An omelette seems like a good choice, right? Some eggs, some sauteed veggies, maybe a bit of cheese.

- Country Omelette: eggs, ham, cheese, onions. 1,220 calories, 2200 mg of sodium
- Spinach and Mushroom Omelette: 1,000 calories, 82 g of fat

WHAT? How did something as simple as eggs, some meat, and some veggies get to be way more than half my day's worth of calories?

If we had not checked the nutrition information before we walked into IHOP, we would have made BAD choices.

Instead, during our research we saw that IHOP's "Simple and Fit" menu items were much more sensible.

- Simple and Fit Vegetable Omelette: 330 calories, 14 grams of fat

It was tasty, filling, and did not blow my entire day's worth of eating.

Before you eat at a restaurant (particularly a chain restaurant), visit the website and see if they post the nutritional information. Sometimes it's hiding (IHOP's is WAY down at the bottom of the web page), but it will open your eyes to the completely ridiculous calorie levels of most restaurant food.

Hopefully this knowledge will turn you so completely OFF that you will not be tempted by the fatty, salty food that wrecks your diet.

Curious about the rest of IHOP's food? Here's a link to their 25-page nutritional document. Check it out and be amazed:


If you were to peruse a restaurant's nutritional information, do you have an idea of what might be a proper amount of calories for a meal? When you see 1,000 calories, does that seem like a lot to you, or does it not really ring any bells? 

I'm not going to throw out a hard and fast rule about how many calories per meal you should be eating, because everyone is different. But personally, I eat three meals and two snacks a day. My calorie target for the whole day is around 1400, give or take a few hundred based on my activity level for the day. Therefore I shoot for 300-400 calories per meal, and 100-200 calories for my snacks. 

I will go out on a limb and tell you that I don't know ANYONE who ought to be eating 1,220 calories for their breakfast. If you're not sure how many calories you should be eating, send me a message. I have a formula to help you figure that out. I also have a whole bunch of resources to help you with healthy eating and exercise!

Workout of the Day
P90X3 The Challenge

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Does The 21 Day Fix Work?

Back in February, Beachbody came out with a new workout called The 21 Day Fix, billed as "THE program to help you lose up to 15 pounds in 21 days."

That's your host, trainer/bikini competitor Autumn Calabrese.
The 21 Day Fix comes with seven 30-minute workouts (eight, if you order through a coach like me! www.SmellsLikeFitness.com), and a set of containers designed to help teach you about portion control.

These colorful little containers are what really set this program apart...but more about that later.

Since I had no idea just how popular this program would turn out to be, I took my sweet time in ordering it. Turned out that sucker flew off the shelves, and I wasn't able to get my hands on it until almost April. Sheesh! My bad.

Nonetheless, it actually workout out really well, as Zach and I were just wrapping up the last month of P90X3 workouts, and we wanted to tighten up our nutrition to get some kicking "after" pics for P90X3. We planned to use the meal plan and try out the Fix workouts later.

Immediately upon opening our package, Zach had the laptop out creating a tracking spreadsheet. I mean...within minutes he had a rough spreadsheet up and running with formulas that made a "DONE" pop up in the field when we had eaten our allotted containers for the day. That dude is amazing!

So, here are some of my observations and experiences about the Fix program to help you decide whether it's something you want to do or not. (And if you don't feel like reading all this, here's the skinny: you DO want to do this! It's awesome!)

- Honestly, the Fix is a little overwhelming at first. You figure out your calorie goal through a helpful little chart. CHECK. Then you have all these little containers. CHECK. Then you're supposed to eat so many containers per day. HUH? That's where Zach's spreadsheet really drove things home for me and made it easier to understand. (And that's why I provide it to all my customers who are using the Fix.)

I was in the 1,200-1,499 calorie group. At that level I was able to have 3 greens (veggies), 2 purples (fruits), 4 reds (protein), 2 yellows (carb), 1 blue (fats), 1 orange (nuts/seeds/dressing), and 2 teaspoons (for things like nut butter, oils, etc.).

The Fix guide gives you examples of foods that would be allowed for each color container, and if it fits in the container, you can eat it. No calorie counting! (And thank goodness, because I don't think calorie counting is fun.)

- This is a flexible, doable plan. I loved it because I was eating my regular food, just in the portions the Fix suggests. (Note that this was true because I already eat a pretty healthy diet. If someone is accustomed to Big Macs several times a week, there would be some major changes here. In a good way! You'd be one who would lose the 15 pounds as advertised.)

- I was pleasantly surprised by the portions allowed. When you look at the teeny tiny carb container, you freak out a bit. But once you see it on the plate it doesn't look so bad at all!

- Here is a sample day of eating that I had while on the Fix:
     - 2 poached eggs, 1 slice Ezekiel toast, one pear, 1/4 avocado
        (1 red, 1 yellow, 1 purple, 1 blue)
     - Shakeology with 1/2 banana
        (1 red, 1 purple)
     - Green salad with mixed veggies and dressing
        (2 greens, 2 teaspoons)
     - Cottage cheese with sunflower seeds
        (1 red, 1 orange)
     - Stir fry with chicken and veggies, brown rice
        (1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow)

A perfectly filling, very clean Fix day!

Here's a pretty picture of another day's worth of Fix meals I ate while on the plan:

These are the 3 squares...snacks not shown. 
- The Fix plan is low carb, high protein. I realized that my body works very, very well on this plan! I was not bloated, not hungry, had plenty of energy, and here's the completely weird thing: my cravings for sugar went away!

That was totally unexpected, and totally unlike me. I eat a healthy diet 90% of the time, but you know what my other 10 percent usually consists of? Candy. Chocolate candy from the kids' candy basket on the fridge. During the Fix I lost my urge to eat candy! Instead I started craving fats like sunflower seeds. And it turns out this phenomenon isn't unique to me; Zach experienced the same thing, and so have several friends who have gone through the Fix. I'm planning in the next six months to get a nutrition certification to add to my personal trainer certification, and the first thing I want to know is why a diet higher in carbs causes someone to want sugar, sugar, sugar. Weird stuff! I'll let you know what I find out.

- We went out to eat several times while on the Fix, and managed not to blow the plan. It's pretty simple really: all you have to do is plan. We were going to Outback one night, so I saved myself a protein, veg, and a carb ('cause I wanted some of that yummy bread).

- I've heard people wonder how you use the containers. Here's how it looks when I do a stir fry meal: I cook the rice, then take the yellow container and fill it up, then pour it out onto my plate. Then I take the green container, fill it with the stir fried veggies, and pour it on the plate. Then I do the same with my red for the chicken or tofu I fix with the stir fry. I think it's important to serve on a plate because then your eye gets trained to what a good portion size is on a regular basis.

- Sometimes I went "over" on a category. Guess what? Wasn't the end of the world, particularly if it was in the veggie category. I have a hard time denying myself raw veggies, so I would say that my lunch salads are definitely a little bigger than they ought to be. Now if you're going over in the carb or fat category too many times, that might impact your results. Veggies? Not so much.

- Note on my caption under Autumn's picture that she is a bikini competitor. So, that's your warning that this chick's boobs are, like, ALWAYS on display. If it's not the boobs then her butt cheeks are dangerously close to falling out of her very short shorts. Consider yourself warned! Beachbody Coach and super-nice lady Traci Morrow cracked me up when she posted a picture of how she made the Fix materials "family friendly" with the use of colored Sharpies:

- So Autumn has a pretty unattainable body, which might turn some people off. However, it is awesome that the Fix cast also features Kat the modifier, who is much closer to how most women look when they are starting their fitness journey. She is working hard at the front of the screen, and she'll show you how to modify the moves to make them doable for anyone.

- Our final results? Pretty darn good, in my opinion! I lost eight pounds, plus two inches off my waist (the bloat went away!). Zach lost three pounds. Since then I've gone into "maintenance" mode on the Fix that allows 1 more carb and one more fruit. And also cake. Kidding! The Fix plan doesn't allow cake, but I do allow myself cake once in awhile.

- Once we completed P90X3 (another AWESOME program that you should try), we did a full week of the Fix workouts. These are no joke! Very solid routines with classic moves that will push you whether you're a beginner or a seasoned fitness veteran (particularly that plyo workout. Tough!). Zach and I are now into a hybrid program using P90X, X2, and X3, but we work in the Fix Pilates and yoga routines because they are very, very good.

The Fix has now hit the infomercial airways, and I expect it to be super, super popular. The results photos coming in are fantastic, and here's the thing: if you follow the plan...IT WORKS. You invest 30 minutes every day in exercise, and use the containers for your food. It just works! Thankful for another Beachbody program that hits it out of the park!

Workout of the Day
P90X2 Total Body

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

If I had never done P90X...

A few mornings ago Zach and I were in our gym working out to P90X3, and my mind started to wander (as it tends to do sometimes to take my mind off the temporary discomfort of the "Kablam" move and other torture inspired fitness moves that Tony Horton has created for this program).

What if we had never started doing P90X? Where would I be right now?

It seems so trivial. I mean...it's a workout program. Some DVDs in a case.

The first answer that popped in my head was "bed." I would probably be in bed right now if I had never started doing P90X at 5 in the morning nearly six years ago.

Then I started thinking about all the deeper ways this program has impacted my life. How it jump started my interest in fitness and nutrition. How it spurred a third career as a personal trainer, allowing me to fulfill my second career of stay-at-home-mom.

It's pure speculation, but here are some of the things that would have happened if I hadn't started P90X:

- I would be 20-30 pounds heavier than I am now.
Thanks to an active childhood and a commitment to jogging, I haven't ever really had a weight problem. What I did have was a white bread and mayo problem, which meant that even before children I was hovering around 150. My guess is that if I hadn't gotten my head on straight in the nutrition department, that would be more like 160 or 170 now.

- I would still be eating this:

Yes. Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff used to be a regular on the menu at our house.

- Zach and I would not have the great relationship that we have now.
In August 2008 Zach and I committed to a shared goal of completing 90 days of P90X at 5 in the morning. When we finished that 90 days, we were so impressed with our results and so pleased with our energy levels (despite "waking up early") that we were afraid to stop. That shared goal has blossomed into our shared hobby, shared business, shared "thing" that we do together. The kids join us sometimes, but our time in the morning is "our time." A year ago when I started my boot camp, losing "our time" together three days a week was the thing that most bothered me. Now that we have several programs that are 30 minutes or less, we now work out at 6am as soon as I get home from training and before he has to leave for work -- that is how important it is to us.

I'm not saying that if we hadn't started working out together that we would be headed for divorce or something. The fact of the matter is that we have always worked out together. But I know that before we started the 5am thing, I was starting to feel like I never saw him because of his long hours at work. Like we never got to talk. Like we never got time together when there weren't two kids around. This P90X thing gave us an outlet that makes our relationship stronger.

- I would have had to found a "J-O-B" by now.
This stay-at-home mom thing was always supposed to be temporary. When Kate went to Kindergarten, the plan was for me to wade back into the job force. But after five years without a cubicle, I was not anxious to go back. A few years before she was headed for school, I committed to coaching with Team Beachbody, with the understanding that if I could just bring home about $1,000 a month, then it would be worth it for me to stay home. Then I decided to pursue a personal trainer certification and start a boot camp for women with Texas Fit Chicks, which allowed me to make my schedule to fit my family and help women find their fitness too.

The past six years have taught me how valuable my time at home is. I love being able to pick my kids up at school. I love planning and cooking meals for my family. Zach and I are committed to eating together as a family most nights of the week.

Could we be bringing in much more money if I got a regular job? Yes. Would it be worth it to us? No. We only have one life to live and one chance to bring up our kids. We want it to be about quality, not quantity.

- I would not have seen Zach accomplish one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
Zach ran 100 miles in 24 hours and 30 minutes. It was terrifying and awesome at the same time.

Zach's running has sparked an interest in running in both of our kids, and we regularly enjoy family jogs down at the land. Drew is shaping up to be a pretty awesome runner in his own right.

- I would not have an opportunity to impact people's lives.
Last summer a neighbor came to me asking for help and guidance to lose weight. She had seen me post on Facebook and wondered if there was any way I could help her. I volunteered our gym and told her to use it and our workout programs whenever she wanted. I gave some suggestions on food, and helped her navigate the difficulties of starting a new program. A year later, she is nearly 50 pounds lighter and has a completely different attitude toward life. I could not be more proud of her!

Zach and I have led two different small groups for our church through a study on taking care of your body through healthy eating and exercise. Through my boot camps I have the opportunity to teach women not only how to exercise, but also how to truly live a fulfilling, healthy life with proper nutrition, rest, movement, and positive mental attitude.

A few years ago I started wondering why I continued to work so hard at our workouts. "There has to be something more to this," I thought to myself. Paying it forward and helping others find their health. That's what the "more" has turned out to be.

- I most definitely would not have abs or arms like these:

P90X3 and 21 Day Fix "After" Pictures - April 2014
36 Years Old
I'll be the first to tell you that fitness is most definitely NOT about how you look.
But I will also be the first to tell you that it sure is a nice byproduct. :)

One small decision. Big impact on my life. Thanks, P90X.

Workout of the Day
P90X Plyometrics. 
Hard six years ago. Hard today!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

100 Miles

February 1, 2014
Huntsville, Texas
Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Run

Zach and his friend Mark ran a 100-mile ultra marathon through the piney woods of the Davy Crockett National Forest a few weeks ago.

- 100 miles.
- Must finish in 30 hours or less.
- Five 20-mile loops.
- Start at 6am in the morning, finish sometime early the next day.

I cannot pretend to understand or explain what motivates my husband to run 100 miles. In fact, Mark's wife and I were conspiring to hire Tonya Harding to go to our husbands' school and bust some knees prior to the race, as we were considerably worried about their health (and sanity).

However, it was a pretty cool experience to witness, and I would imagine you have a few questions about how one goes about training and completing a 100-mile run. I will answer a few questions that I hear a lot and share some of the pictures from that very long day. 

Waiting for Dad to come through the Park Road aid station.
Do they run the whole thing? Yes and no. They are constantly moving forward, but often times they are walking up hills and running downhills and flats. Mark and their friend Brian, who was so kind as to pace them for the last 40 miles of the race, were forced to walk the last lap due to Mark's blisters.

Do they eat? Yes! You must refuel your body. On an ordinary day Zach eats around 1800 calories. A rough estimate of calories burned per mile is 100, so 100 miles run = 10,000 calories burned. During the race the runners come to an aid station roughly every 3-6 miles and are able to refuel with food (peanut butter and jelly, bananas, pretzels, trail mix, quesadillas, sausage, chicken soup, mashed potatoes, etc. See the overall salt theme? Salt is important during an ultra). They also have energy/sports drinks, salt tablets, water, and coke.

Despite a very harsh winter, race day was quite warm and humid -- 65 degrees.
Until the front came through around 3am.
How many people sign up? More than 600 people signed up this year.

How many people finish? This year, less than half completed the race.

Drew was able to run a 3-mile section with Zach. He only fell once!
How do you train for an ultra marathon? A runner cannot go out and run 50-100 miles for training; it's just too hard on your body. The way Mark and Zach trained was to do back-to-back long (14-25 miles) runs on the weekends. During the week they did one fast (7-minutes per mile) 5-7 mile run, and during the rest of the week they trained using P90X, Insanity: The Asylum, and other Beachbody workouts in our library.

If Zach were writing this post he'd also give a shout-out to Shakeology, which he used once as a snack during the race and as post-run fuel, as well. He said the shake during the race was among the better-digested items he ate that day, and he felt like it gave him a pick-me-up when he finished, as well.

A screen shot from the live feed of the race. Zach is on the left.
Did Zach have any trouble during the race? There was surprisingly little trouble on the course. His feet were mostly fine, with the exception of stubbing both his right and left 2nd toes so often that the toenails are going to fall off. He didn't have trouble with blisters like Mark did, but that is because his feet are freakishly soft and baby-like at all times. No calluses, no blisters, no nothing, no matter what he does.Weird!

He did have stomach issues on the 4th lap that caused him to visit a few trees (that he told me were most likely going to be dead by spring). A nice Irish worker at the aid station gave him some crystallized ginger to suck on and a cup of soup and told him to get on his way. On the 5th lap he mostly stopped eating which calmed his stomach down.

On the 5th lap he began to have trouble with his knee, which caused him to have to walk a considerable amount of the last seven miles (and was the cause of him missing the 24-hour mark).

Last bit of trouble? His personal aid worker (me) neglected to give him his jacket on the last lap. When the cold front came in at 3am he was c-o-l-d, as he was in a T-shirt and shorts.

In his research prior to the event Zach read (and we have heard) that ultra marathons are emotional events, with the runners' emotions running the gambit from high to low to wanting to quit. Both Mark and Zach were very narrowly focused on completing the race, and I never once saw them do anything that indicated they wanted to quit. They were very even keeled the whole time.

Park Road aid station, 4th lap. 6 miles to the start of the 5th lap.
Head lamps help them see in the dark.
What did you and the kids do while you waited for him? The race is at a state park, and we brought the camper down. Zach's mom, the kids, and I walked the runners to the starting line before dawn on Saturday. Throughout the day we calculated where and when we could see them on the course, then made sure we were there to see them go by. It's a relatively small race, so when someone goes by you can see and talk to them. At the main start, the runners linger for a little bit to change gear (shirts, shoes, etc.), and Zach had a detailed list of supplements and supplies that I was to have ready at each lap.

In the middle of the night the kids slept in the camper while I went around the corner and waited at the starting line. I saw them at 12:30am before the start of the 5th lap, then went back to get a few hours of sleep before the expected finish time of around 5:30am. I needed to drive us home that day so it was important that I get at least a little sleep.

We started waiting for Zach to come across the finish line at about 5:30. It was cold and had started to drizzle. He didn't come and didn't come. We went inside the tent and waited by the heat lamp. Finally at 6:30am he slipped into the corner of the tent with a dazed look on his face and sat down. It was over! Rather anti-climactically, I might add.

Mark and Brian were still on the course; Zach told us he had left them shortly after the first mile of lap five because Mark was unable to run with the blisters on his feet.

"I just ran 100 miles! Thanks for the belt buckle."
After we got him warm(er) and fed him some soup, it was time to get Zach into the shower and into the camper to sleep. I didn't want to leave him alone in the men's shower, so I peeked into the ladies' room to see if it was occupied. One lady was taking a shower. "Ma'am? Ma'am in the shower?" I asked. "My husband just ran a hundred miles and I need to help him shower. You mind if I bring him in here?" "Nope! Bring him in."

The lukewarm shower wasn't all Zach was hoping it to be, but it got the grime washed off. Then he huddled over the sink for about 10 minutes and brushed his teeth. I kept wondering if maybe he was sleep brushing, but he seemed to be at least slightly coherent, so I just let him do his thing.

As we stepped out of the bathrooms we saw that the bottom had dropped out: it was pouring rain. I felt so bad for Mark and Brian. I got Zach into the camper, fixed the kids a snack and set them up with a movie, then headed back up to the start to wait for Mark and Brian with Zach's mom. At around 8:30, they finally made it.

Thank goodness for those trash bags.
They were freezing cold, but they made it all in one piece.

Yup, a belt buckle.
Mark and Brian had slept in tents the night before, and with the rain and cold I couldn't imagine that they would get any rest before trying to go home. It was a sloppy mess at the campground and there was a lot to pick up.

Not fun. Even when you hadn't run 100 miles.

So we pretty much threw everything into the camper and the back of the truck, slammed the doors, and took off down the road to downtown Huntsville where the biggest, thickest, most delicious pecan pancakes awaited us. Along with eggs, bacon, hash browns, sausage, and biscuits.

And then we drove home!

Zach got out of bed the next day unassisted, and even went to work. The sleep deprivation was pretty brutal, and we both went to bed really early the whole following week. And the following weekend there was a snow day that allowed us to have three consecutive nights of 10 hour sleeps. Felt so good.

Zach's knee continues to bother him; it appears to be a fairly severe case of patellar tendonitis (runners knee, don't ya know).

As I told several people after the race, it was amazing. And awful. I didn't like seeing him in pain, but at the same time I was amazed at the perseverance both he and all of the runners showed. Will they do it again? I honestly hope not.