Jen McMahon
Jen McMahon
Thu, Oct 19, 2017 3:14 pm

In Training (3)

Today I want to talk about my training so far. I'm officially on Week 3 of my Ultra Marathon training. Kara (my fellow crazy running partner-in-crime) and I are following Krissy Moehl's 50 Mile training schedule from her book, "Running Your First Ultra". So far it has really been the perfect guide giving us a lot of pointers, workouts, and just good information we need. In full disclosure, I haven't been able to follow the plan 100% because I need to morph her runs/workouts around my work and family schedule.  However, I have been keeping up with weekly mileage recommendations to-date. It has already been a challenge because I have been really adamant about not falling behind, particularly so early in the training process, but I have had random trips and prior commitments already set up that I've had to work around. For example, Week 1 I was in NY for a wedding, so I did my first training run around the streets of NYC, which was amazing! Week 2 I had a family trip planned to take a short cruise to Ensenada for the weekend, so I needed to front-load most of my miles to avoid doing a long run over that weekend. I ended up saving my 5-mile run to complete on the cruise ship last Saturday and my sister-in-law and I ran 15 laps around the deck to check that off the list. Not too shabby!

Week 3 has been a little earlier to work around, but my daughter has a dance competition all day Saturday, so I'm building in some long runs during the week to make up for that. So that is all the technical mileage stuff that comes along with training for me so far. Sounds simple, right? Not so much. What I didn't really expect was to already have some aches and pains coming up so early in the process that have me worried. My right leg has been super tight and sore for several days now and despite my resting, rolling, stretching, icing, heating, and praying, it is still bothering me. So, I have a PT appt set up for next week to have it looked at. Fingers crossed that all is fine.

Another part of the process that I didn't anticipate was the amt of exhaustion/emotion that comes along with running more. The funniest part is that I actually thought I was running a lot before I started this training.  I had this deluded idea that my first few weeks wouldn't feel too different as I ramped up miles. I was wrong! Fitting in anywhere between 25-42 miles/week has been challenging, tiring, emotional, and just straight HARD! I actually LOVE running and really look forward to most of my runs as it is a time for me to connect with some of my favorite running buddies, be alone with my thoughts, or just have a solid hour + to myself to listen to Oprah podcasts or whatever music I'm in the mood for. But, trying to fit in the right mileage has changed my perspective a little bit. I wouldn't say it has taken the joy away for me, because I'm still enjoying it, but it has me a little more 'in my head' about it rather than just running for the sake of running. I actually don't think this is a bad thing, but it is a good reminder that on my recovery weeks, which are built into the program, I want to take a little more time to listen to my body and just run for fun.

Now, fingers crossed that my leg loosens up a bit soon so I can get out of my worry place. Lets be real - I'm sure I'll still be worrying about something, just something else.

Jen McMahon
Jen McMahon
Fri, Aug 11, 2017 5:48 pm

Ultra Shoe Shopping (2)

Hello again! I'm back. Last time I wrote I had just signed up for my first Ultra Marathon, and now I have officially started training. Well, sort of. I signed up for a 1/2 marathon in September that is basically my first race leading up to the Ultra. I'm excited and nervous, but mostly I'm just looking forward to getting moving.  I ran 8 miles last weekend and I'm running my first 10K trail race tomorrow. Looks like there is no turning back now! 

So, once I actually signed up for my race I wanted to get started with my training, but I knew that if I ramped up my long runs too early I could burn out.  So, I decided to get moving on my gear research.  Shoes first, of course. Up until now, my favorite running shoes were most likely my Newton Fates or my New Balance Minimus training shoes.

Full disclosure: I typically prefer to go with a 'barefoot' or minimalist running shoe; something that is light weight and with very little "drop" heel to toe. This has been a preference of mine for the past 2-3 years, but then reading the book, "Born to Run" sealed the deal for me in terms of my shoe preferences. Basically this style of shoe allows your feet to do all of the work, not the shoe. Beginners beware: switching from a traditional running shoe with a high drop (i.e. thick heel cushioning) to a flatter shoe can be a drastic switch. If you're looking to transition, I highly recommend doing some research and easing into it. If you're an avid 'heel striker', this can be a tougher switch. I tend to follow guidelines of Pose Method and/or Chi Running which recommend a forefront and whole foot strike, respectively. I mention all this so you know that this is the criteria I've been using to search for my ideal Ultra Marathon training shoes. 

Here is where I've started (reminder: these have NOT been tested by me at Ultra distances yet). I've now been trying a couple of new types of shoes and will likely also lean on some of my 'tried and trues' as well.  

New favorite light weight running shoe: Mizuno Wave Universe 
New favorite minimalist trail running shoe: New Balance Trail Running
Other favorites: Merrells and New Balance 
Not a fan of: Altra
Next up to try: Merrell Trail

I'd love to hear your experiences with any of these shoes or any of your own favorites! My next research step is likely going to be venturing into the world of vests and backpacks for Ultra distances. I'm new to carrying water and gear during long runs, so I'm looking forward to navigating this new arena. See you soon...happy running!

Jen McMahon
Jen McMahon
Tue, May 30, 2017 8:16 pm

My Journey to Ultra Marathon (1)

It's official!  

I signed up for my very first Ultra Marathon. I can't believe I'm actually doing this but apparently...I am.  For those of you who don't know me yet, I'm Jen. I'm a health coach, a personal trainer, and I coach bootcamps and running camps at Fitness and Fun Transformation Center in Torrance, CA. I love what I do! I love working with people and helping them reach their fitness and nutrition goals. I'm also married to a wonderful and supportive husband, named Mark and I'm a mother of two amazing girls, Hayden and Addison. My family lights up my life and I love being a positive role model for my daughters.

I have been a runner for about 12 years now. I ran my first marathon in 2012 and I've been running various races and distances ever since. I've run three marathons and more half marathons, 10Ks and 5ks than I can count (and even a few mini triathlons). For those new to distance running, an Ultra Marathon is defined by as any running race distance greater than a full marathon (which is 26.2 miles). The race I signed up for takes place in April 2018 and is 50 miles long. Yes, FIFTY. It's called American River 50 (AR50) and it's in Folsom, CA. Thanks to my adventurous and courageous friend, Kara, who convinced me to join her on this journey, we'll soon be heading into the wild world of ultra training. And since that obviously wasn't enough for me, I've decided to blog the whole thing. So that's TWO new adventures I'm diving into 1) the Ultra Marathon and 2) blogging about it.

I'm not sure which one intimidates me more, but here I go with both.  

My plan is to take you through my whole experience from signing up, to training, to gear research, to nutrition strategies, and beyond. If you're considering training for your own Ultra Marathon or breaking into a different adventure that excites you, I hope this brings you some inspiration, raw emotion, do's and don'ts, and all the good, bad, and ugly that goes along with breaking out of your comfort zone into the unknown. Please follow me on this adventure and feel free to reach out and share some of your own running or fitness experiences as well!

So let's get started.

Sign up day: I can't tell you how nervous I was just even for this fairly basic step, just imagining all of the training, knowledge, and time I would need to prepare myself.  When I got the text from Kara saying that she signed up, I felt the pressure rise.  Its a bit silly when I think about it, but what it really meant at that moment was, "are you IN or are you OUT?". I wanted to be in, but now it was time for me to dig deep and figure out if I really meant it.  

So, I went to check out the website (www.ar50mile.com). After that, it didn't take much. I read a little about the course and watched a few videos about other people's experiences and I suddenly felt like I HAD to do it.  I had this overwhelming feeling that I would be sincerely disappointed if I didn't GO FOR IT.

For me that means reading ALL the books I could find on the subject and doing the best I can do prep myself even before it is time to begin training.  Obsessive?  Possibly.  Helpful?  Definitely!  It has been incredibly fun and tremendously motivating reading about others that have paved the way for me, so to speak. Drawing from their experiences has been endlessly inspiring and also been very humbling.  Here I thought I was already running 'a lot' only to find I need to increase my weekly mileage to over double what I'm currently running just to BEGIN my training.

Now, you may be wondering, "how are you going to find the time to run all those miles when you have a job, a business, a husband, and two little kids?" and my answer to that is simply, "good question!".  My first step will be to lay out my training calendar and start booking some shorter training races to prepare for along the way.  I'm also so excited to say that not only is my family super supportive, but a few of my running campers and friends have generously offered to help be my race crew! No ultra runner does it all alone and I'm very comforted to know I have such a great team in my corner already. I can do this!

Jen McMahon
Jen McMahon
Tue, Aug 23, 2016 11:04 am

What is a GMO anyway and why should I care?

First off, GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  Does that clear things up?  Probably not. Here is a definition of GMOs from gmoinside.org: "Genetic modification, or genetic engineering, is the process of manipulating an organism’s DNA to display specific traits [1]. Gene splicing introduces new genetic material into an organism’s DNA, resulting in a genetically modified organism (GMO).

Are you wondering, "what does this have to do with me?"

According to gmoinside.org, "More and more foods are being genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients. Here are eight of the most common and commercially available GMO crops to look out for. If a product contains these ingredients and is not labeled as USDA-certified organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, it is likely genetically modified:

Corn
Soy
Alfalfa
Canola
Cotton
Papaya
Sugar Beets
Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash
Note: Dairy, meat, and other animal products are at high risk of being sourced from livestock raised on genetically modified feed. The majority of animal feed is made up of genetically modified soy, corn, alfalfa, and cottonseed."

There is still some controversy out there among health industry professionals about GMOs and the level of damage they cause us, if any. However, as more and more research is done in this area, the effects are becoming difficult to ignore.

According to the author of Seeds of Deception, Jeffery Smith, reports have shown that simply removing all GMOs from the diets of livestock has shown to improve a myriad of conditions in the animals such as improved gastrointestinal issues, reduced diarrhea, reduction in necessary medications, and in illnesses such as colds and flus.  

These improvements have been seen in more than just livestock; similar reports have been shown in household pets as well and even in humans. Removing GMOs from the human diet has shown similar and even additional benefits such as improved gastrointestinal disorders, immune function (asthma and allergies), headaches, skin disorders, weight problems, and even in behavioral issues.

You might ask, "if GMOs aren't required to be labeled (yet), what can I do to protect myself and my family?"

Here are a few suggestions to get started:

1. Buy Organic when possible
2. Reduce or remove processed foods from your diet
3. Check out the iPhone app, 'Shop No GMO'
4. Check out the website, nongmoshoppingguide.com for more choices

About 9 years ago was the first time I experimented with removing processed food from my diet; this step alone can be life-changing. The amount of chemicals, preservatives, and sugars in processed foods can be extremely damaging, even if you're not concerned about the effects of GMOs. I highly recommend experimenting with each and all of these steps to see how you feel when you start cleaning up your diet. I'd love to hear your experience with removing GMOs or with any of the steps above! 

As with any dietary information you may read about, be skeptical and do your own research looking at all angles and figure out what works best for you.