Where do I even begin. Last November I was all over the map. I had a solid streak of training and racing in early fall before our family started the packing, (stressing- well me) and moving down to Arizona for the winter months. After 3 days of close to perfect behavior for a 2 year old on the long drive from Portland to Phoenix we made it. The weather was perfect and I had a month to get my body back in order before my USATF Club National race. Moving is something I should be used to by now, since in the past 7 years I have gone from Indy-Charlottesville-Reston (2 places)-Portland (2 places)-Charlottesville-Portland-Phoenix, but it never seems to get easier.
By fall I had also reached the busiest point in my life juggling coaching, seeking new job opportunities, being a mom (and of course training). To go along with the chaos I picked up some bad habits. My desired afternoon nap during Joanie’s had become non-existent, so to replace extra sleep I tried to fend off my cravings for my 2nd round of coffee and a sugary treat (think cookie or muffin) with little success. I also had fully adapted my diet to less vegetables to accommodate my frequent racing schedule. I found when I ate less fiber I had less time spent waiting in portopotty lines or having GI issues on hard workout days. I was still avoiding wheat going on year 2 after thinking this would be the key to absorbing more iron.
Typical Diet – Thai take out, white rice, gluten free bread, pasta, cereal, oats, chips
dairy, eggs, meat, fish, peanut butter
juice, coffee, Gatorade
fruits – banana, apple, orange, apple sauce, pineapple (in Pineapple Fried Rice)
vegetables – avocado, carrot, marinara sauce, salsa, small salad, ketchup
and of course – processed treats (gluten free cookies) or low fiber energy bars.
I believed I was getting at least 3-5 fruits/vegetables and never got fast food. I was doing good. I was an idiot. And still far from having constipation issues, so kept at it.
Once in Arizona, after some terrible workouts and runs trying to adjust to the “heat” of mid 70s and the dry air feeling like it was simulating the same affect of altitude training, I believed I was doomed for Club XC. One day, as I was exploring personal triathlete websites and educating myself on Alan’s competition. I started looking at their sponsorship pages and came across Jarrod Shoemakers. I was intrigued by InsideTracker. This was exactly what I wanted to find out. What was going on inside my body!? Beyond a simple ferritin and iron count which I regularly got tested and always getting the report of a less than desired result, (despite my supplementation and meat consumption)– what else was going on with me? I had never seen readings of my testosterone, cortisol, inflammation…
So once I explored further, I was set for getting my first test! The results were embarrassing but definitely matched how poorly I was feeling. My “inner age” was calculated at 40.5 years old (and I was only 31)! What I didn’t realize is that one of the greatest benefits of the InsideTracker blood work was giving specific easy to follow dietary recommendations on how to improve all your weak areas. This was where I was way off – not missing another iron supplement – but missing entire foods that my body was desperately craving — a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains (including the forbidden GLUTEN!!!). So within 30 minutes of seeing my results, I had so many light bulb moments go off in my head and was determined to make lasting changes. I made a long list of groceries of foods I hadn’t ever purchased and also decided to include smoothies in my diet as a way to fuel up appropriately and hydrate.
Alan loved the change. I was cooking more, bringing in new foods and providing him half of my crazy smoothie concoctions and best of all feeling better!!! (Happy wife – happy life). Within a week of making some needed adjustments, my nap and 2nd coffee cravings were literally gone. Instead of coffee/cookie I would get an apple/dark chocolate square and nuts. The more I added in vegetables back in, the more I was desperately craving them at the next meal. My training saw huge improvements as well. Just after I took the blood test (and before I saw results) I attempted a 10K road race. It was miserable. I struggled to maintain a 5:52 per mile pace (36:31- a time I should be able to run in a workout), feeling like each step I was just barely getting off the ground. I didn’t even catch the turkey with the spatula (offering a free prize for the first male/female to pass after her 5 minute head start). Had I waited 2 more weeks to race, the result I believe would have been much more impressive.
A month of improvement, lead to me feeling invincible. Despite a very stressful few days and long travel the night before the Club Race, I still ran to a solid 39th place 6K in a personal best of 20:48 (5:34 per mile on grass) – finishing 4th on my team to lead to 5th overall finish. Given another night sleep and adjustment to East Coast I believe that would have been an even better result.
The workouts that followed were mind blowing. We headed back to Wisconsin for a couple weeks and I didn’t even mind the bitter cold. My energy was through the roof, my long runs felt like I could go forever and 5:40 pace felt like it was in the 6’s. I started dreaming and scheming my plans for 2015 which included a variety of obstacle races (Spartan, Atlas) and then hopefully back to USAs for the steeplechase in summer. Until the day I returned to Phoenix and it was as if November Julia had returned. Surprise surprise it was the pregnancy (see my last blog- due September 2015)- with my symptoms occurring right at 4 weeks in.
Let’s just say from January 10-early February the entire thought process involving food, consumption and preparation was pure misery. A trip to the grocery store was a horrid experience. I could barely shop, with waves of nausea hitting me hard as I passed by everything in the store except brats, cheese (and pie). Dang you Wisconsin girl. The ONLY food choices that actually looked appealing. I tried my best to stomach the greens, nuts, berries and whole grains, but even the thought of looking at them made me want to throw up. Most plates that I filled with healthy options remained untouched and I ended up eating buttered toast or a slice of pie to make up for lost calories. I resorted to “Alan I’m not cooking” and “can we please just do take out” or “you make something I will attempt to eat it” mode. This definitely did not help my test 2 InsideTracker results.
The good news, one day my nausea and food aversions started to ease up. I made a big salad with some creamy (unhealthy) Caesar dressing and it tasted amazing. ALLELUIA! The first time in almost a month and I handled it and wanted more. By week 9 the tiny “blob” had evolved into a tiny little baby and I had surpassed the most critical growing period and thankfully my body was back into more of an equilibrium. Vegetables tasted AMAZING!!
Follow up InsideTracker Test
February 26 – exactly 3 months after first test
– just shy 11 weeks pregnant
The vast change in my blood amazed me. It shows why all pregnant women deserve a huge break from all loved ones when they seem like they are about to fly off the handle (yes Alan and mom thank you for giving me mine). Your body goes through the ringer when a new life starts to form within you. Although I may not have started exactly “showing” til late first trimester, my mood and temperament took a big hit! Here were some of what the InsideTracker test revealed —
The Good —
The majority of my biomarkers were optimized. This includes inflammation, liver functioning, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, magnesium, potassium, triglycerides… The big ones I struggled with saw improvements —
Cholesterol – Despite my struggle to eat healthy for a solid month with severe nausea and cravings, I still saw a solid drop in my LDL (lousy) levels, while my HDL (healthy) levels remained steady. I am still not in the “optimized zone” but chipping away at it and certain I’ll get there.
Glucose – You always hear about how your risk for diabetes increases while you are pregnant. So far so good for me! The 2 months of “good” canceled the month of bad, as I crept a notch closer to “optimal levels”, despite heavy use of Gatorade or processed sugar during my runs going beyond the 60 minute mark and pie as last resort for late night calorie consumption. I was the most nervous to see this result, as I know I had room for improvement on coping with the pregnancy. Progress to be made, yes, but aiming in the right direction!
Somewhere in the Middle —
Testosterone – Not really a surprise here, but pregnancy definitely has an affect on your sex hormones. With my testosterone going from non-existent to the optimal level; my sex hormone carrier shot to way beyond the normal end of high (which is actually not a good thing – it limits availability of actual testosterone, affecting energy levels, muscle development and sex drive) hmm. Why I am desperately needing a nap. Their blog does a much better job explaining, but either way.. I like seeing a healthy green zone for testosterone after my test result in November. Especially if I want my little man to become a man 😉 (our prediction – a boy- no confirmation but high level of suspicion from early ultrasound visibility)
Ferritin- Horray for me! I set an officially measured PR in my highest recorded ferritin ever at 70! Previous best was in the 50s postpartum 2012 and not running.
Everything bumped up except…
Hemoglobin – Not so great. (below optimal levels at a pathetic 12- a .3 drop). So all that stored iron won’t go to much good if it doesn’t have anyone to transport oxygen. Big handicap if I want to continue to run fast and feel energized.
I am bumping up my supplements and happy to be craving red meat and lots of greens and mushrooms to help boost my levels.
The Bad —
Cortisol – Mowie Wowie. Not at all surprised to see this bad boy go up, but not at all a fun time experiencing high levels of stress. Thanks to this huge red flag InsideTracker waved at me with my out of range levels, I am vowing to chill out and seek things that will give me joy and peace! This means regular massage, getting my butt into a prenatal yoga class, getting into Confession, running more with friends, spending more time watching comedy, prioritizing sleep and getting out on more dates with Alan. That first month I was a stressed out wreck and have seen vast improvements in my overall mood and demeanor. It still doesn’t get easy with Alan being away for another 3 full weeks. Looking back at pregnancy #1 I had it made. Being a mom to a very strong willed 2 year old Joanie has been tough at times. Recently she has increased tempers and screaming to get her way. I thankfully have support with some wise mentors and 3 days a week of part time hours at Tutor Time. I still love her, but will easily admit, my kid is not even close to perfect!
Today marks the final day of my 1st Trimester for baby #2. (14 weeks as of 3/21) The nutrition side of things is just one piece of the picture. Overall goal – return to a high level of running within my baby’s first year. In the mean time continue to strive for optimal health through good lifestyle and food choices, exercise and run at appropriate levels, enjoy life to the fullest, stress less and be a better mom and wife!
There is excitement but definite nervousness of knowing the growth of my belly is about to fully launch into “good bye normal jeans” and “see you later feet” when I look down… Along with that also comes the indigestion, unknown aches and increased risk of injury with running as I go through the extreme changes in my hips. This baby being 1/3 of the way done with his relaxing quiet place before he has a real voice is another. I have 2 more trimesters to ready another Webb into the world (hopefully a little less stubborn than that of Joanie!). My goal get my mind right for putting my own hopes and dreams (literally) to the side with the lack of sleep and becoming once again a human milk machine. The joys of meeting my guy will strengthen me in the challenging times and end result of having another person in our family will be well worth the journey!!