Gluten Free Athlete Profile-Pamela Kropf

Pamela Kropf trail runner extraordinaire

Pamela Kropf trail runner extraordinaire

Pam has a very cool blog, make sure to check her out! Here is her story in her words…

My name is Pamela Kropf and I am a 32 year old wife/mother/athlete living in Sacramento California but was born and raised in northern New Jersey. My number one accomplishment is being a mother to a very active 1.5 year old who is my world. I’ve been an athlete since before high school with soccer, basketball and softball filling my parent’s calendars on week nights and weekends. I have been a runner since college. I became a tri-athlete in my late twenties and more recently a trail runner looking to do her first Ultra. I’ve run over a dozen half marathons, four marathons and have completed in an Ironman. I have also coached women to train for and complete their first ever sprint distance triathlon. I love being active and I love helping other people be active, especially my family.

I was diagnosed sometime in 2003. I had been living in California for almost 3 years and even though all my life I have had “digestion issues” (that is what I called it) I never thought to get tested until one day I realized: A. I had health insurance and B. things were getting worse. I am 5 ft 7 inches tall and I weighed in 115 lbs. In college my roommates thought I was anorexic and staged an intervention. It wasn’t that I was anorexic; it just hurt too much sometimes to eat so I lived on bread because I thought that was helping me. I was skin and bones although my energy levels were never low my iron levels would occasionally dip below the normal level and my liver started to go haywire. I was losing control of my bowels and was prone to fainting at weird times.

I don’t think I know what my specific trigger was other than living away from home at college without any parental guidance. In high school I was not skinny in fact I was quite large and muscular. The summer after my freshman year of
college I did lose weight when I was first started running (after gaining the freshman 15) and it was probably from that
point on where my body continued to be slim but I have had the digestive issues all my life. When arrived in California and
started working full time and supporting myself is when I started noticing more problems with my liver and iron stores. On a side note, my mother passed away from a massive heart attack when I was 17. We will never know if she had celiac or
not but she did lead an unhealthy lifestyle of no exercise, smoking and poor diet. I vowed from her passing that I would lead a healthy lifestyle. Recently my father sent me my baby book and I discovered quite a few shocking things. I was never breastfed. I was given wheat in the form of cereal and formula when I was just a few weeks old and I was continuously given some high allergic and potentially damaging foods before I was one years old. I am strong proponent for breastfeeding and keeping wheat and dairy away from an infant until they reach the age of one especially if there is a family history of problems.

Training regimen:
Now that I am a mom my time for training is limited. Sadly, I have not done any triathlons in few years but my running is
back to a level and pace I am happy with. I follow the Furman Institute FIRST training plan (http://www.furman.edu/FIRST/fmtp.htm) which consists of 3 days of running including a speed workout, tempo run and a long distance run. It works for me and it works for my family. I get my workout days and my husband gets his. Any cross training is done with a jogging stroller or bike carrier. This training routine allowed me to run a marathon 7 months after my daughter was born and while I was still nursing. It is a wonderful training plan for busy people. (Bold is editor emphasis. Holy mackerel that’s awesome!)

Nutrition:
My nutritional philosophy has changed over the years. When I was 3 or 4 years old the doctors decided my “digestive issues” was nothing more than lactose intolerance so because of that, I refrain from having dairy. Since my diagnosis of Celiac, I am able to tolerate more dairy but I do mostly lead a dairy free lifestyle. I became a vegetarian at the age of 16. When I was diagnosed with Celiac eating out became a big problem. What could a vegan celiac order? Needless to say, I started to incorporate fish into my diet more and more although I generally only eat fish when dining out. Currently, I have moved into a life style where I have now eliminated any artificial sweeteners from my diet (I was a HUGE Diet Coke addict) and a lot of unnecessary sugars (huge candy addict as well). Since having done this, I feel tremendously better on all fronts. Back in my “skinny days” as I used to call them I could consume anything I wanted and not gain a pound. Those days are long since gone and now I realize I have to be more conscious of what I put into my body.

Favorite Pre and Post Workout Foods:
Because a lot of my trail runs and races are away from home, I tend to bring with me some pre and post race fuel. Pre Run tends to be a banana sliced lengthwise smothered in peanut butter or just recently GlutenFreeda’s Gluten Free Oatmeal (http://www.glutenfreedafoods.com/oatmeal.html). I was overjoyed when I discovered this gluten free oatmeal. I love the Banana Maple with Flax flavor best. My favorite post run recovery lately is Silk Chocolate Milk in the single serve container. A perfect blend of carbs, protein and is easy to digest and travel with.

Favorite Sports Supplements:
Like most athletes I use Gu on occasion and SCaps for long hot runs. I generally just drink water while running. I also love PureFit Bars (http://purefit.com/nutrition-info.html) because they are gluten free AND they don’t melt. So I can chop one up and toss it into a baggy and take it on a long trail run as some additional fuel. I always keep one in my running bag too for a post race snack if needed. I also love Amazing Grass products. They keep my immune system healthy and they too are gluten free (www.amazinggrass.com) and help with recovery.

Upcoming competitions/plans:
My upcoming plans include running the NIKE Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco, the California International Marathon in December and my ultimate goal is to run the Way Too Cool 50K in March 2010. That will be my first ever ultra. I am using the marathon as a way to increase my mileage and therefore I am not racing the marathon as much as I am running it to have fun and increase my mileage for the future ultra. Way Too Cool is a very competitive ultra to get into so I will not know until mid December if I am selected to run it.

Advice for other gluten free athletes:
You can be active and you can live a gluten free life. All it takes is a little bit of preparation, determination and a positive attitude. Being celiac you already know how important food is in your system and how it can cause your body to react. Most athletes are more in tune with their bodies than the average person and most celiac are even more aware of their bodies. Living and training gluten free can only improve your performance.

I struggled with the gluten free diet a lot. I am Italian and for me to give up bread and pasta was a hard thing to comprehend. I would go off and on the diet more times than I can count. I was in denial. My first ever marathon I was on
the diet throughout training and racing. I finished with a time I was proud of and felt great post race. The following year I ran the same marathon but stopped following the diet during my training and during the race. Needles to say, I bonked hard at mile 20. I had also lost about 30 pounds during the training months without realizing it, and post race I could barely walk my entire body shut down. It damaged my body so badly that I could not run for months after that. I had to skip the same marathon the following year because I still was unable to run. That was a big eye opener for me and I should have learned my lesson.

I did realize that I needed the diet when I was competing. My body could not handle it otherwise. But there were times I
would still cheat. Of course I would feel awful but I would deny it was the gluten making me feel that way. Now, I am a
mother and I realize I need to be around for my child for a long as possible. I cannot afford to be sick and not mobile. I
also want to be a good role model for her.

Check out Pam’s Trailmomma blog

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  1. I am a surgeon, father of two athletes, and ceo of my own company. Along with a PhD in food science, I created a healthy, gluten free protein snack. In fact, we were the official snack of USA Volleyball, which includes the gold medalist Olympic team. Please check us out on the web, as we go live tomorrow, because the web site is being redone. Please give Dr. Steve’s Pro-Bites a try to not only meet your gluten free needs, but also to provide your entire family a healthy snack that will help you build a lean, toned, fit body.

    Thank you.

    Dr. Steve

    Steve Snodgrass, M.D.

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