Thanks to the story of Thomas and his amazing shirt, I have been blessed with a ton of new readers lately! It’s been very exciting for me and it’s also been very interesting to receive a ton of emails from lots of you asking me all sorts of questions about my running, weird quirks, and life in general. With all of these questions coming it, it’s occurred to me that the majority of my readers now have never met me and many of the things that seem obvious to me might not be so obvious to you. Therefore, I decided to solicit questions on my Facebook Page and give y’all a chance to ask me anything you want. For the record, this is a really good reason to “like” my Facebook page – lots of very unique and exciting opportunities to indulge my regular exercises in vanity.
So in no particular order, rhyme or reason, I give you the first edition of “Ask the T-Rex.”
1. “Why do you use Sprite and Oreos as your fuel during races?”
This is probably one of the questions I get asked most often, I guess because it seems completely random. The Sprite/Oreos combination is actually a result of trial and error that has evolved over the past year or so. I have always had difficulties with my stomach during races, starting from about my 4th marathon back in November 2011. I used to take GU gels during races at very precise intervals – miles 6, 11, 16, and 21 – and would only take the chocolate and vanilla flavors because the other ones were gross to me. Then, it got to the point that I could only stomach the vanilla flavors. Soon, I was barely able to choke down any. I still used Gu gels up until early this fall, but I couldn’t rely on them exclusively because ingesting more than 1 or 2 made me sick. I have never been able to drink Gatorade while running because no matter what flavor, it upsets my stomach, so I only drink water. However, too much water upsets my stomach too, so I started thinking about what else I could drink. I have a heart condition, so I cannot have caffeine. Therefore, I drink Sprite if I am drinking soda, and it has always helped calm down my stomach for some reason. I used to only drink Sprite after a race, when I was feeling sick, but eventually I thought I might as well try it during a race. Having had some success with it at a few different races, including my great race at Chicago this year, I finally decided to carry it with me whenever possible. It helps settle my stomach. No idea why, but I’m not going to argue.
As for the Oreos, this actually came as a complete accident. A few marathons and charity bike rides I have done have offered a variety of sandwich cookies on the course, and I’ve always found them delicious. As my stomach has become more and more temperamental over the past year, I basically have to eat “real” food during races to have any hope of not getting sick. I used to eat saltines, but there is nothing more disgusting than a dry saltine during a race. Now, I carry mini Oreos and eat those when I can. Sometimes they gross me out too, but hey, Oreos are like sex (and pizza, and beer) – even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.
2. Why do you get sick when you run?
Seeing this question, it occurred to me that actually I’ve probably never mentioned what is actually wrong with my stomach on this blog. That’s partially because I’m absent minded and partially because we aren’t 100% sure yet. Here’s the short version of the story. Basically, everyone on my dad’s side of the family has stomach problems. The fact that I would have them too (I take after my dad in pretty much everything) was basically a fore drawn conclusion when I was a kid, it was just a question of when, so no one in my family is surprised by this. At the moment, my doctor thinks I have a severe case of chronic acid reflux, known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD, which is basically the most nerdy name for a disease ever). So actually, it’s not so much that I get sick when I run as it is that I get sick all the time, but I also run. I throw up almost every day – you are welcome for that information. Anyway, I have tried all different medicines, diet and lifestyle changes, and nothing has worked. My condition does not respond to what I do or do not eat or what medications (Dexilant, twice a day) I do or do not take, which is why I continue to drink beer and eat random foods before races. I’m going to get sick anyway, so I might as well have fun beforehand.
My doctor has now recommended surgery as the next course of action, but there are still a few other things that could be wrong, so we are checking that out first. Surgery is obviously not high on my list of shit to do, primarily because pictures of me in a hospital gown will be nowhere near as flattering as pictures of me running (and that’s really a pretty low bar already) so I dread having to post those on here. Feel free to scoff at my vanity at any time.
3. How do you take so much time off? How can you afford all this travel?
Well, the first one is sort of a trick question, because I actually take very little time off. I am a master planner of traveling efficiency and I plan each race trip so that I take as little time off as possible, even if it means leaving right after a race or getting in late the night before or after. Some people say that’s not the best way to see someplace, and I’d be inclined to agree. That being said, it’s what works for me and I do always make sure to at least see some of the sights (and visit a local brewery) everywhere I go. Besides, the best way to see someplace is to run through it, and I certainly do that. I tend to work more than 40 hours a week, so when I do have to take an entire day off of work for travel, I often don’t have to spend the full 8 hours of vacation time because of the extra work I’ve done. Most of the time, I have way too much work to do to just not work for an entire day during the week, so I rarely take a full 8 hours off. I’m very lucky to work for a company that allows that kind of flexibility.
People ask me how I can afford all of this all the time. The short answer is: I can’t. The long answer is: I have a lot of help. Also, I have a pretty good job.
- I travel for work regularly and accumulate more hotel points than I can possibly use. I often use these to book hotels for races, so my stays are free (although not always). This is pretty much always true for the races that I have gone to with just AJ.
- In case you haven’t noticed, Team T-Rex travels in packs. That means we (we being whoever is running the race with me) split the cost of everything – the rental car, the hotel, gas, etc. A rental car plus gas that would have cost $120 is now split four ways and is only $30 a person. Much more manageable, right? I would say this has made the biggest difference in cutting back on my costs.
- I save $1 for every mile I run and put it towards my travel expenses. It’s a special savings account that I am actually excited to contribute to, and it also gives me an incentive to run more. It also prohibits me from wasting money on other things (eating out, random purchases from Amazon).
- Sometimes T-Rex Mom comes with me to races and pays for things. She likes seeing me and watching me run, I like seeing her and not paying for things. It’s a good relationship.
- I have lots of tricks to save money on registration. First of all, I joined the Marathon Maniacs and the 50 States Club, both of which offer discounts to different races for their club members. Second, I sign up for races as early as possible and make sure I know when the price increases are. I always plan out my registration schedule so that I’m never registering for more than one race per pay period, and I always Google for different discount codes just in case. Also, I am an Active Advantage member because I register for enough races (and so do my friends) that it makes the membership fee pay for itself very quickly.
- Running a lot of races means you have a lot of friends, so I stay with them whenever I can! Not only is it fun to see your friends, it’s cheaper and way better than a hotel because you don’t have a checkout time.
- Mostly, I just don’t really spend money on very much else. My social life is running, so you won’t catch me spending a lot of money out at bars. The vast majority of my expendable income goes to running and related expenses, as well as the occasional pair of Frye boots.
4. Why do you call yourself “T-Rex Runner?”
You can read that story here.
5. Where does “Sorry I’m not sorry” come from and what does it mean?
The origin of “sorry I’m not sorry” can be hotly contested, so I can’t really give you a real answer. I can tell you that I heard it first either a) from Wedding Crashers b) from my friend Lauren c) through independent invention or d) from this kid below.
“Sorry I’m not sorry” has evolved into kind of a lifestyle thing for me, as cheesy as that sounds. It’s like YOLO, but less awful. What I mean is that when I say “Sorry I’m not sorry,” what I am really advocating is living life unapologetically, as long as you aren’t being a total asshole. Examples include “Sorry I’m not sorry for running as many races as I want” or “Sorry I’m not sorry for writing the funniest running blog on the planet” (so I hear) or “Sorry I’m not sorry for being so sarcastic.” Basically, live life how you want, and as long as you aren’t really hurting anyone else in the process, that’s all that matters. You don’t have to apologize for being who you are, liking Bud Light, running as much as you want (no matter how many people say you’re crazy), thinking dirty jokes are funny, or living a life other people are jealous of. Remember, haters gonna hate. Live your life how you want to, be good to other people, and don’t apologize for having your own ideas about how you think things should be. Be proud to be yourself.
Time out for a group hug.
6. What is your training schedule like?
It’s cute that you guys think I have a training schedule. No, in all seriousness, it’s all over the place. I ran a lot this spring – about 5 days a week, no matter what my race schedule was like – and rarely did long runs on the weekends because I had a marathon every other weekend or more. At that time, I was running only at whatever pace I felt like and for as far as I felt like. No more than about 10 miles on any given run during the week. Then my back got really messed up, so I cut back my mileage a lot, and this summer, I started building back up while also starting triathlon training. I have a triathlon coach who is getting me ready for a hypothetical Ironman, so now I run about 3 days a week, bike 2 or 3 days a week, and swim once a week. That includes about 1-2 rest days a week, so 2 of those workouts are usually on one day. I am nowhere near close to the actual races themselves, so I am just trying to get in general shape. He also assigns me speedwork and all sorts of crazy workouts and I’ve noticed a big difference in my speed, which is part of why my stomach issues have been so frustrating. I can feel my legs wanting to go faster, but the rest of me can’t hold up. So yeah, that’s annoying.
7. How do you recover so quickly from races?
This is just a fortunate genetic gift I’ve been blessed with. Some people run really fast, I recover really fast. I’ve never been the type of person who gets particularly sore no matter how hard I work out, and whatever soreness I do have evaporates very quickly. You will probably see me walking painfully the afternoon after a race, but by the next morning, it’s like it never happened. I am very luck to have that capability, as I have friends that have been running for years and get sore after every single run. If I was like that, I wouldn’t run, so hats off to you guys.
8. Do you prefer loud pump up music or peace and quiet to clear your mind before a race? Why?
Neither. I almost never run with music in general (unless it’s been a really bad day at work and/or I feel like having a Taylor Swift sing along) and I never do at races. I prefer to talk to my friends and fellow runners before and during a race, so I have no need for music. That being said, when I trained for my very first marathon, I trained and ran alone, and the music I listened to was mostly steady, mid-tempo stuff. I tried not to listen to a lot of pump up music because I found it made me go out too fast, while slow music made me go too slow.
9. What do you use to take pictures during your runs?
I physically carry my digital camera with me. It’s a Panasonic Lumix, and I bought it before my trip out to San Diego with Team in Training for my second marathon. I didn’t start carrying a camera with me until the Knoxville Marathon in April of this year because I was afraid that I would mess up my camera by sweating on it. Fellow Maniac John assured me that was not the case, and I’ve been carrying my camera with me ever since. When I get sick, Amanda carries it for me. Now that I carry my camera, I honestly can’t imagine running a race without it. I am afraid to carry my phone with me because 1) if my phone broke, I’d die and 2) that would mean T-Rex Mom would be able to text me during races and expect me to answer. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
10. How do you keep your hair so luxurious?
I don’t dye my hair, I use relatively inexpensive shampoo and conditioner(it can be purchased at Walmart, if I ever went there, which I do not), and I blow dry and straighten it (with a ceramic straightening iron, obviously) every day. Because I travel a lot and can’t be bothered to bring shampoo with me, I wash it with whatever is at the hotel, meaning my hair never gets used to any one type of shampoo. I cut it once a year, maybe twice if I am feeling squirrely, including trims. I never, ever put hair products in my hair with the occasional exception of spray stuff that protects it from my hair straightener. I couldn’t even tell you what said spray stuff is called. It changes depending on what my mom sends me. That’s it. Mostly, I’m just lucky.
Do you have a question for me? Leave it in the comments and I’ll answer it in an upcoming edition of Ask the T-Rex this week!