Monday, August 20, 2012

Marathon Monday: Having a cow

I am training for the Columbus Marathon and following a schedule loosely based on the "Train Like A Mother" finish it plan. These posts document my training.

The week, in running:
Tuesday: 5.01 miles (+stroller)
Thursday: 5.4 miles (+stroller)
Friday: 5* miles, tempo
Sunday: 16.1 miles, long run

*This run was supposed to be a 1 mile warmup, 4x1 mile tempo with 0.25-mile recovery, 1 mile cool down. I tried to shorten this to a 6-mile run with 4 miles at tempo to accommodate Mark's schedule but ended up cutting it short because of stomach troubles.

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I ate a half-piece of cheese yesterday. Frozen yogurt, too. To cap off the day, I had a super small scoop of ice cream with crustless apple pie.

Obviously, I know how to live it up. More obviously, I'm struggling to live a dairy-free life.

"Why dairy-free?" you ask. "Didn't you try that before?"

To put the chicken before the egg, yes, I did try dairy-free before. It was suggested to me when I was nursing Miles in an effort to ease his acid reflux but more than likely his issues were my low supply + his temperament.

My choice to go dairy-free this time is a bit more selfish and lot more personal health-centric.

Running long this summer has been no easy task. In the early part of my marathon training, as mileage ramped up, I found myself feeling sick during runs. Like, "I need to stop or I'll throw up even though I'm running a 10-minute mile" sick. I thought it was the heat, hydration issues and my decision to play around with my fuel. However, no matter what I did, I kept feeling sick to my stomach and was forced to cut runs short.

I was frustrated and ready to give up the marathon but as I made tweaks to my schedule, I realized that I should make tweaks to my diet. I'm not sure what place the decision came from - educated or otherwise - but I decided to start limiting dairy. I began by cutting the obvious things  -  skim milk in my oatmeal, cheese on a burger, ice cream in the evenings. Within a week, my stomach pain during long runs was gone and I was running better than I have all training cycle. My belly also felt less bloated, and I dropped three stubborn pounds.

At the same time, though, the weather took a turn for the better. Was it possible that the weather was responsible for the shift in gears?

The answer: No.

I indulged on Thursday. I had a hot chocolate in the afternoon and creamy chicken and noodles for dinner. Friday morning, I went for that tempo run. If there was  reason to call a run crappy, this run was it. And I'll leave it at that.

According to a 2006 article, "Foods to avoid when running," as many as "60 percent of runners experience varying degrees of nausea and unpleasant stomach issues during or following a run." Much of the cause is the stress that running puts on the body, the physical impact jostling the GI tract, fiber, sweeteners, some vegetables and - wait for it - dairy could cause problems. While only 15 percent of people of European descent are lactose intolerant (source), milk, cheese and ice cream can trigger stomach pain because lactose is just plain harder to digest.

Dairy products don't ordinarily cause me severe problems but if I do a mental rewind, a slight lactose intolerance is likely. According to WebMd, lactose intolerance is characterized by some very sexy symptoms: bloating, cramping, gas, nausea and/or throwing up and changes in No. 2. I don't think details are necessary but I definitely experience a number of those symptoms on a regular basis.

The symptoms, though, have never caused me great issue. Until now. It's my personal, likely unfounded belief, that the additional mileage is putting additional stress on my body, aggravating that slight lactose intolerance.

My plan is to continue to avoid dairy as best I can but let's be honest: It's a very difficult undertaking. Dairy, in some form or another, is in a lot of processed foods: bread, potato chips, deli meat, nutrition bars and peanut butter.

Yes, peanut butter. I might give up cheese but you cannot take away nut butter from this runner.


  1. what a pain, literally and figuratively. Hopefully this helps the stomach woes. The percentage for lactose intolerance is now closer to 30% and as that article suggested, it's hard to digest, even if you can. Mainly because the people who can? They have mutated genes. We're not supposed to be able to digest it after infancy/early childhood. We had to learn all about it in both my bio and nutrition class.

  2. You will also notice that breathing becomes easier. Dairy products create a film of phlegm and after you don't eat them for a while you will notice that you will be able to take bigger breaths and exercising gets a little easier.
    We are the only mammals that drink another animals milk! Have you ever seen a goat sucking on a cows teet?
    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE dairy products, but I have really cut them down, and I have completely cut out milk. There are a lot of great substitutions (except I can't find a good sub for cheese). Not to mention, dairy+morning sickness= feeling horrible all. day. long.
    Good luck, I hope you can tell a big difference with your running!

  3. Wow, I hope it gets better.

    I've recently started having lactose-intolerant problems myself, but I'm not sure it's due to pregnancy woes. I did read that dairy is more easily digested if in cheese or yogurt form, not sure where I read it though.

    I cut out the milk and finally found a good alternative: Silk Almond milk - half the calories & sugar of real milk. The taste is pretty good too so just thought I'd pass it along.

    Good luck :)

  4. I'm totally with you. Since cutting dairy I dropped 3 pounds (and I NEVER "drop" pounds), feel way less bloated, and feel much stronger on my runs. What if you just went totally dairy-free the two days or so before your long runs and the rest of the time tried to be very limited with it? I don't read labels for dairy, but just try not to eat it on my own or cook with it, if that makes sense. It definitely has surprised me what a difference it makes in running!

  5. I try to avoid dairy as much as possible, but it's difficult. I also avoid meat, but that's much easier. This entire year, I've been working off a near-vegan diet. I'm feeling healthier, stronger, and overall better. Plant Strong!

  6. I am a dairy lover, well really, just milk. I don't think I could do with out it but I find that if I have too much butter, ice cream or cheese before running then I have some problems. I was just thinking about why milk doesn't bother me and then I realize...duh...I drink lactaid because my husband is lactose intolerant. ME=BRILLIANT hahaha :) I also have stomach/digestive issues post long runs and I find that that happens because I don't eat enough after running. So weird but when I eat more, stomach pains go away.

  7. I had to cut my run a quarter mile short last weekend because of stomach issues too. I had definitely had dairy multiple times the night before. Hmm, you've given me something to think about here. I do love my cheese but maybe it's a no go before long runs.

    With you on the peanut butter too. Josh has to take it out of my hands on ocassion.