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How To Not Crap Yourself On A Run – RunHaven

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It seems I have become the poop counselor. The fart correspondent. The shart expert.

I am not sure if it is favorable to be a pro in this area. I fear that one day I will be asked to testify in a court of law and that I will be qualified as an expert in poopology. I guess there could be worse things, but I can’t think of what they might be.

I received a question from a reader that went exactly like this:

You seem honest to a fault, so I’m hoping you can give me some tips. I haven’t run more than a 5K because (and this is embarrassing to admit) I have “digestive issues.” I’m terrified to be miles from home without a bathroom. Before a 5K, I swear, I’m in the bathroom ten times because of nerves! How do you handle long runs and races?

“Honest to a fault?” She makes it sound like a bad thing.

All kidding aside, this subject is a very important one. Runners notoriously suffer from bad cases of the trots, or at the very least, an upset stomach. Although I’ve heard many theories explaining this tendency, the most predominant one is that when we run, the blood goes to our muscles and neglects our digestive system. This shunting leads to cramps, turtling, and severe panic about crapping one’s pants.

You may be a liar, or you may be the exception, but this need to evacuate has happened to the best of us, to most of us. I, in particular, have been a victim one too many times.

I’ve done my best to figure out what works to avoid this messy conundrum. The following are a few surefire ways to minimize the risk of crapping one’s pants while running and racing:

  • The single most helpful thing for me has been to eliminate or drastically reduce fiber, dairy and fatty foods up to 36 hours before a long run or race. Typically, my diet is pretty rich in roughage, whole grains, beans, etc. But, I really do change things up the days before the race. I take in lots of water and reduce my intake of fruits, vegetables, yogurt, cheese and any higher fat foods. I’ve had great success with this plan.
  • Overly exerting myself makes things worse. On long runs, I stick to long-run pace (60 to 90 seconds slower than my ideal marathon pace), which helps significantly. In races, I am usually exerting a great deal, so this plan doesn’t work well under those circumstances.
  • Don’t laugh, but I try to get on a strict poop schedule. I train my body by eating and sleeping with a routine in mind (as much as possible). A cup of coffee in the morning usually gets stuff going. Nine times out of 10, if I can get something out before a long run or race, I’m good to go. Occasionally there will be a lingering nugget in there that causes problems, but not usually.
  • It helps to not eat the two hours before a long run or race. Give your body time to digest your pancakes. Once, in all of my naivety, I ate a huge bowl of beef stroganoff right before a run. This decision was a like a huge practical joke I played on myself.
  • Pre-race nerves are clearly an issue and can get stuff moving when you wish it would stay put. That’s why I’ve been known to take multiple dumps on an airplane. I hate to fly, and I’m nervous. Do everything in your power to minimize any extra anxiety on race day. Give yourself enough time, breathe deeply, and think about the nap you will take later. Distraction is a great tool because the mind can only think about one thing at a time. Don’t let it take you hostage.
  • I never mix gels/chews with sports drinks. I choose one or the other. I find that mixing various sugar types and chemicals doesn’t bode well for my colon and me. Ever hear the saying, “Sports drinks and gel, your stomach will give you hell”?
  • I hate to stop and do business during a race. But, it does help to have a backup plan in your mind. Know your potty options. Plan long runs around your favorite bushes or gas-station bathrooms. Study your race map or drive the course so that you know your potty-ops. Taking charge and knowing what to expect may reduce some poop anxiety.
  • I know some people take Imodium to calm things down. I have not tried to mostly because that stuff constipates me. Yes, that is the point, but I find it really messes with my system. I have a hard time getting back to normal, even days later.

Here’s to crap-less runs!

Has anyone had similar experiences or other tips to share? Ever had a bathroom emergency on a long run or during a race?

Transgender Runner ‘Terrified’ By Harassment After Transition

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As a transgender runner, I spend a lot of time talking and writing about how running is different now versus before I transitioned. Mostly, I focus on the performance aspect — I’m much slower now. What I should be talking about is harassment and safety.

In reality, I have no idea what it’s like to be a man — I never actually was one — but I do know a lot about what it’s like to be seen and treated as one. I know the things I didn’t used to have to worry about while running.

Before, when I wanted to run, I ran. I didn’t put any thought into the presence of daylight. Would it still be light at the end of my run? Didn’t matter. Will there be people around? Didn’t matter. I didn’t plan my running route around what roads were the safest. I ran at night, in the dark, a lot. I loved it.

I didn’t worry about any of these things because I didn’t have to. My running was uneventful. No one bothered me. No one talked to me. Nothing ever happened.

These days, I don’t get to be so reckless. I need to put my safety first. My runs need to be planned. Gone are days where my calendar simply says “8 miles” on Wednesday. Now, it’s “8 miles” at 6:30am on Wednesday when I know the sun will be up. If a run doesn’t happen during daylight hours, it doesn’t get to happen at all. Runs have become real calendar events instead of things I squeeze in wherever I have time. 

No longer do I get to head out for my beloved night runs. At least not without a running partner. A male running partner, to be more specific. The darkness is dangerous. The darkness is where potential attackers are.

That’s the sad part. My mindset has shifted from not paying mind to other people to having to keep active tabs on every man within sight. Few men are actually a threat, but I don’t know which ones are and which ones aren’t. I’m forced to treat each one as though they see me as a potential target. I keep a running escape plan in my head in case someone attacks me.

It’s not just physical attacks I fear, but mental and emotional ones as well. Catcalling is never a compliment. I never want or enjoy this. Catcalling doesn’t validate my identity as a woman. Catcalling doesn’t make me feel beautiful. How do I know which comments are harmless and which are a really a warning sign? I don’t.

Having men — and it’s always men — yell and whistle and honk at me as they drive by or as I run by them as they sit on benches in the park, overtly eyeing each passing female runner up and down, serves as a reminder that, to them, women are there for their enjoyment, their pleasure. We are not human, we are their single-use gratification to be disposed of afterwards. I don’t know how to think like a man, but I do know the things men say when women aren’t around. If I didn’t, maybe I wouldn’t be so scared.

I remember the first time the weather started to warm up after I had transitioned. I packed my tights and warm layers away along with any bit of piece of mind I had from the winter. With the shorts and tank tops came the stares, whistles, honks, and comments. One time, my wife and I were out for a run together in our old neighborhood, one of the safest places I’ve ever lived. About a mile in, a car slowly crept up from behind us. As he gotnext to us, he slowed down even more to keep pace with us. For a good twenty seconds, the man behind the wheel of this car drove next to us while staring us both up and down. I didn’t make eye contact. I felt used and devalued. 

Slowly, my normal running route began to change. There were houses I no longer felt safe running by. Teenage boys playing basketball in a driveway became a deterrent. Sure, these boys probably wouldn’t hurt me, but they almost always made comments. One even took it upon himself to start running alongside me for a couple hundred feet. I was terrified.

I also learned to fear people coming up from behind me. Before I transitioned, I was quick, I ran sub-7:00 miles on training runs. Few people passed me. These days my pace is anywhere from 8:30 to 9:30. I get passed often. I don’t wear headphones when I run so I’m able to hear people come up from behind me. Each time, my heart skips a beat. “Is this another runner or is this someone who wants to hurt me?” I don’t know until they pass me.

Going out for a run used to mean going out to work hard, get fresh air, feel good, clear my mind and burn off that extra serving of fries from dinner last night. Now it means fear of physical, mental and emotional abuse. Even when nothing happens, the fear itself is my abuser. 

As a transgender woman and activist, I fight for people to understand that I’m just like any other woman. In reality, I’m not. I’m different. Not in how much of a woman I am, but because I actually know what it’s like to just run and to do so without fear.

Amelia is a transgender athlete who started running seven years ago to get in shape and lose weight. She’s since become obsessed with the marathon and chasing her spot at the Boston Marathon. When not running, you can usually find Amelia at her day job as a software engineer at Tumblr in NYC, snowboarding, or at home in Jersey City under a pile of cats. Follow Amelia at her blog or on Twitter

Father’s Day Gift Guide

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What do running dads want for Father’s Day? Mostly they want time to go for a run, perhaps with kids in a baby jogger, on bike or as running partners. But, as a second-best gift, they would likely be pleased with any of the following.

Farm to Feet Asheville 1/4 Crew Run Light Cushion Socks $15

These American-grown and manufactured socks are burly enough that they come with a guarantee for life. The quarter-crew Asheville run is lightweight with mild cushioning. They are constructed with itch-free merino wool for its natural wicking and antimicrobial qualities.

Mio ALPHA 2 Watch $219

If your dad is a techy-type but doesn’t like to wear a chest strap, you can help him keep track of his ticker with the Mio ALPHA 2 wrist-mounted heart rate monitor that uses optical technology to measure the beats and marries that to Bluetooth connectivity and a built-in accelerometer so that your father can know just about everything he’d want to about his run, including speed, distance, pace, calories, and his heart rate stats. He can log those into a number of apps, including Strava, MapMyRun, Endomondo and others and store up to 25 hours of running data. The rechargeable battery lasts up to 24 hours between charges and the unit is water resistant. It is light, cool-looking and even syncs wirelessly.

lululemon Commission Pant $128

How quickly we go from thinking our fathers are the coolest men on Earth to knowing they dress like a dork. And a lot of the uncoolness emanates from their choice in pants, right? Well lululemon’s Commission Pant will take care of that with water-repellant two-way Lycra Chino fabric and cuffs that roll up with reflectivity for nighttime safety.

Hydrapak Stash Collapsible $18

To keep your pop well hydrated, the Hyrdrapak Stash is a collapsible soft-walled bottle that shrinks down to 2 inches and then expands to fit 25 ounces of liquid. It is BPA- and PVC-free, naturally antifungal and uses welded seams so that the bonds are actually stronger at those points, rather than weaker, like some competitor products.

Nathan Orion Strobe $30

Dad’s normally think of themselves as the protectors of the family but you probably know they can be pretty dumb when it comes to their own safety. And running in the dark is one thing you can solve for him with the Orion Strobe that will help him see and be seen. It is mighty powerful with 30 lumens and comes with a waist belt so he can clip and run. There is a strobe feature for safety and the weather-resistant little unit is easily charged via a micro-USB flip-out.

The Feed Starter Box $10-50

Dads like to eat. No. Dads love to eat. So get them a subscription for “The Feed” and they’ll get periodic boxes of healthy energy food and hydration mixes. Your father spoon fed you baby food and now you can return the favor with tubes of Clif Organic Energy Food or squeeze packs of Justin’s Nut Butter. Or hundreds of other sports nutrition products.
Performance Box (Legacy)

Tracksmith Charles Cheater $198

As an expression of gratitude for the many times he bundled you up, a gift of the stylish and functional Charles Cheater from Tracksmith will shield your father from the elements. The water-repelling, wind-resistant jacket features a stowable hood and is made of two-way stretch fabric. The lining is soft and pajama-like.

Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts $59

We know you love your father. But you don’t necessarily love the way he smells, right? Here is a subtle way of reducing his odor without causing any hurt feelings: Patagonia’s Nine Trail Shorts are made with a Polygiene built-in liner for permanent odor control. The outer short is durable, well vented, moisture wicking and styled with a modest 8” inseam so you don’t have to see too much dad.

5 Things Successful Runners Never Do

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I know who you are. You are the type of runner who wants to be better, stronger, more motivated. Yet, you’re stuck. Maybe all you need is a gentle reminder of what not to do if you want to be successful:

1. Compare yourself to others

We’ve all had the experience of completing a kick-ass run, then going onto Facebook or reading someone’s blog and immediately feeling like crap. Why does this depression happen when, just moments before, we felt victorious? This phenomenon occurs because we have compared ourselves to some other runner who maybe ran farther or faster than us. With running, as with most things in life, you’ll be much happier if you relish in your accomplishments and stop trying to be or beat somebody else.

2. Skip rest days

Taking rest is just as instrumental in making you a strong runner as those days you do intervals or cover long distances. Without rest, our bodies simply can’t repair, rebuild and strengthen. If you feel guilty or weak for taking a recovery day, stop being so damn hard on yourself and look at the big picture.

3. Dwell on the bad runs

I can remember one run in particular that chewed me up and spat me out with such ferocity that I decided maybe running just wasn’t for me. I was too tired, too sore, too slow, too crampy, too hot, too discouraged. What I failed to realize then is that to have amazing running days, you have to suffer through the crappy ones. When this experience happens, get some perspective. Acknowledge that the run sucked and move on. One horrid run does not define you as a runner.

4. Get discouraged by discomfort

The bad asses in the military use the expression “Embrace the suck.” This mantra means that when you are suffering, you need to stop resisting and welcome it into every cell of your being. Many of us think that when running becomes tough (as it always does), we should stop, go home, eat a donut and watch football. Not true. In fact, the most successful runners have learned how to accept their discomfort and recognize it as part of the experience. Remember – what you resist persists.

Image via Flickr: Peter Mooney, license | Modifications made by RunHaven

5. Forget to be grateful

Too often, runners get caught up in the drama of judging themselves for how fast or how far they can run. There is constant talk about getting PRs (personal records), qualifying for Boston and hitting outrageous weekly mileage goals. We forget that the true beauty of running is the ability to do it at all, that our bodies are letting us engage in this wondrous process of rapidly placing on foot in front of the other. To be able to run is a gift and one that should not be taken for granted.

Any other traits you think successful runners have in common? Share them in the comments section below!

For more from Beth Risdon, visit Shut Up and Run!

Expectation vs. Reality: 5 Ways I Thought Running My First Marathon Would Be Different

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Expectation vs. Reality: 5 Ways I Thought Running My First Marathon Would Be Different
Expectation vs. Reality: 5 Ways I Thought Running My First Marathon Would Be Different

Beth Risdon

My entire life I had never been a runner. In fact, I hated running. Then in my 41st year of life, I decided to train for and run a marathon because I needed to get out of the house. It would be the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon on January 18, 2009. Suffice it to say, I was naïve about the ways of the marathoning world.

1. Start Line:

Expectation – I imagined that I would calmly and serenely make my way to the start line, taking time to do some quiet mental preparation as I consumed a nice, light breakfast consisting of a bagel and a banana. Perhaps I would take a moment to warm up and visit the porta-potty for some pre-race unloading.

Reality – As I stood alone on the dark corner in front of my hotel at 4 a.m., I was nearly crapping my pants with anticipation. The bus that would take me to the start arrived late, further fueling my anxiety. I could not eat a thing because I was nauseous with nerves. Arizona in January is freezing in the morning. I had no clue about bringing “throw-away/thrift-store clothes” to the start line. I stood shivering beside a generator for warmth for an hour, all the while sucking in exhaust fumes. Never made it to the bathroom.

2. Fueling:

Expectation – During training, I had tried to take in a gel every hour or so. My carefully orchestrated fuel plan for the marathon included consuming one gel every six miles or so for a grand total of four gels. I meticulously safety-pinned these gels to my singlet (I still have no clue why I didn’t use pockets – newbie move, I guess) and didn’t give it a second thought.

Reality – At mile 18, it was time for my third gel. When I finally got it unpinned (!) and attempted to squeeze the oozing strawberry/banana GU into my mouth, I gagged. I had only taken two gels during the race, but my body fought back when I tried to give it more. Force the gel down and I might throw up. I threw it on the ground, preferring not to puke during my first marathon.

3. The Participants

Expectation – I was terrified of the other runners. They would all be crazy fast, fit and snooty. They had all probably run 20 marathons before this one and were so seasoned they wouldn’t give me the time of day. Hell, they might even trample me at the start.

Reality – The runners at the start and throughout the race were some of the friendliest types I’d ever encountered. As we nervously made small talk waiting to start, I realized I was amongst an inclusive, not exclusive, group. Runners are cool!

4. Mile 20.1:

Expectation – Having never run further than 20 miles in training (or in my entire life), I had no clue if I would even be able to complete the last 6.2 miles of the marathon. I questioned my training. I wondered if I would cry, crawl or quit. My greatest fear was the unknown reality that would lie beyond the 20-mile mark.

Reality – I hit 20 miles and started to suffer. My body knew we had never gone this distance before. It became a struggle to just put one foot in front of the other. I had not “hit the wall,” but I was in hell. I did learn, however, that I was stronger than I thought I was.

5. Finish Line:

Expectation: If my body could take me the full 26.2 miles, I would cross the finish line with tears rolling down my face and a smile full of accomplishment and pride. I would immediately fall into the arms of my waiting husband and two children who would shower me with kisses, hugs and words of congratulations. I would drink a frosty cold beer and someone would rub my feet.

Reality: I did make it to the finish line. I did cross it with a forced smile and tears of happiness because it was over and I could finally take a dump. I spent the next 30 minutes searching for my husband and two kids. I cried again because I was tired and could not find them. I stole a popsicle from some tent and sat down on the hot asphalt and waited. When my family found me, they thought I smelled, so the hugs were short and distanced. I did, however, know how proud they were.

Was your first marathon (or race) different than you thought it would be?