Summer Wildflowers on Bay Area Trails

In the spring, I catalogued the ten most common wildflowers on the trails in the San Francisco Bay. Now that summer has scorched the hillsides, most of the spring flowers have faded, replaced by a new crop of summer beauties. If you’re out running on the trails, look for these interesting flowers—

soap plant

Soap Plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum):

If you go for an evening run, look carefully at the surrounding brush for delicate, white, lily-shaped flowers dangling from the end of a thin stem. These are the flowers of the soap plant, which only blooms at dusk. Native Americans would dig out the plant’s bulbous roots and pound them into a paste that they used for soap.

winecup clarkia

Wine Cup Clarkia (Clarkia purpurea):

Wine cup clarkias sit like little jewels in the tall grasses. The plant’s genus was named in honor of William Clark, the famous explorer who led the first expedition to the Pacific coast with Meriwhether Lewis in 1804. Continue reading “Summer Wildflowers on Bay Area Trails”

Running From Crohn’s Disease

Measuring nineteen feet from end to end, the small intestine is anything but small, and it deserves a lot of praise. We like to admire the runner’s swift feet, his graceful stride, her powerful quads, his steady mind, her unwavering heart. But the intestines go unnoticed, humbly absorbing the nutrients our bodies need to propel our legs at top speed, without a single compliment.

Molly Stephens knows more than most about the importance of the small intestine, and its little brother the colon (or large intestine). She suffers from a severe GI disorder known as Crohn’s disease, which inflames the GI tract, causing debilitating abdominal pain, ulcers, stomach upset, and in some cases fever, diarrhea, or constipation. When I asked Molly to define Crohn’s disease in her terms, the first word she told me was “incurable.” “That is the scariest part of the disease,” she added. “Unlike other [GI] disorders, there is no cure for Crohn’s; you can try to keep it in remission, try to keep it in control, but you never know when it might come back.”  Continue reading “Running From Crohn’s Disease”

Heart Rate Variability and the iThlete App

The black plague has hit my community, and runners of all ages are dropping like flies. For three weeks now, I’ve been battling a sinus infection turned to a general head and chest cold. Every morning, I play the guessing game with myself—should I do the workout I planned to do, should I alter it a little, or should I just call it a day and try to rest? Training and racing requires that we push through pain to achieve the best performance, but sometimes it’s difficult to tell what pain is ok to tolerate. As they say with most injuries, the simplest and best answer is to listen to your body and use common sense.

sneezing manFor those of us who are a little too neurotic to accept the “listen to your body” solution, the question remains: how can you tell when you can train through a cold or illness, or when it’s best to take a day off or change your workout? I’ll pass along a couple of tips I’ve picked up from coaches and friends. First is “the neck-up” rule—if your cold or illness is affecting your body from the neck up (headache, sinus congestion, itchy eyes, etc) then it’s generally ok to keep training. If your chest is congested or you’re feeling feverish, you should try to rest. Continue reading “Heart Rate Variability and the iThlete App”

Stop and Smell the Wildflowers- A Catalogue of SF Bay Area Wildflowers

The past couple weeks of warm weather have scorched the San Francisco Bay Area hillsides. As the green grasses fade to California-golden brown, a variety of colorful wildflowers have popped up to take the spotlight. On my trail runs, I’ve been cataloguing the different wildflowers I encounter, and I came up with this list of the ten most-common wildflowers blooming right now in the Bay Area. So if you’ve been wondering what that sweet-smelling, white tree blossom is as you sprint by it on the trails, I hope this list will give you some insight. Continue reading “Stop and Smell the Wildflowers- A Catalogue of SF Bay Area Wildflowers”

5 Easy & Original Oatmeal Creations

The Portable Recovery Oat-meal!

When my younger sister and I were little, we used to dump different kinds of colored sprinkles on our oatmeal and watch them magically coalesce into brown sludge as we stirred them in the hot mush. These days, I still love my cup of oats in the morning, but I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit. Oatmeal is a great breakfast—it’s portable, can be made ahead of time, and if you put the right ingredients in, it can be a well-balanced recovery meal.oatmeal in container

After some experimenting, I’ve come up with several easy recipes for oat-meals. I have tried to include a primary source of protein and fat in every recipe to facilitate muscle recovery. When I know I’m going to have a busy morning, I make these the night before and pack them with my lunch. The round Gladwear containers work great! You can stir everything together in one container and stick it in the microwave. Just remember to bring a spoon. If cold oats is a problem for you though, you can enjoy them fresh from the microwave—just slightly Continue reading “5 Easy & Original Oatmeal Creations”

Unbroken: lessons that apply well to the distance runner [BOOK]

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Book By Laura Hillenbrand, Random House: 2010

A coach of mine recently had the pleasure of having dinner with Louis Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. When I asked her what he was like, she said, “You know when people ask you, ‘If you could talk to any person, living or dead, who would you choose?’, well, I would choose Louis.” After reading Unbroken, I would have to answer the same!

In Unbroken, Hillenbrand tells Louis’ incredible story. Guided by his older brother Pete, Louis transforms his willfulness and tenacity into a passion for running and competition, becoming one of the best high school milers in the country. Louis’ running career culminates with a trip to the Berlin Olympics, where he competes in the 5K. But the most grueling and compelling chapter in his life comes later when he enlists in the US Army Air Force during World War II. Continue reading “Unbroken: lessons that apply well to the distance runner [BOOK]”