By Laura (The Gluten-Free Traveller)

With the 2012 Olympics kicking off in London tomorrow, Triumph Dining decided to find out what it’s like living and training as an athlete when you also live with celiac disease.

I had the pleasure of interviewing US Olympian Amy Begley last week.  Amy runs medium and long distance, mainly the 10,000 meters, and currently lives and trains in Beaverton, Oregon on the Nike campus.

Amy was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2006 so it was interesting to find out her take on running and training whilst on a strict gluten free diet!

 

Hi Amy! Tell me a little about who you are and what you do.

My name is Amy Begley. I am 34 years old and run professionally for Nike. I mainly run the 10,000 meters but I have been injured for over a year. Finally the Doctors told me to take three months completely off to heal my leg but thankfully I will start running again on Friday July 20th. I am really excited about this 3rd comeback of mine.

To keep myself busy I have a few websites and businesses that are currently in the beginning stages. My main website is amybegley.com  The information on all of my websites, including a new site I have kicking off this fall, can be accessed there.

 

When and how were you diagnosed as celiac?

I was diagnosed in 2006.  I had been sick for about 10 years and I had a lot of things diagnosed along the way:  lactose intolerance, IBS, hypo-thyroid, osteopenia, amenorrhea, stress fractures, depression, anxiety, and the thing that affected me the most was chronic diarrhea.  I could not run more than 30 minutes without using the bathroom.  I was in Atlanta when I was finally diagnosed as celiac.

 

How has being celiac affected your running/training?

Before I was diagnosed with Celiac, I couldn’t run more than 30 minutes without a bathroom.  My day and training was planned around where I could find a bathroom. I also couldn’t eat within 6 hours of running. I was dehydrating in short races like 5,000m.

Now that I’m on a gluten free diet my bone density is slowing increasing and the diarrhea, bloating and stomachaches are gone. I can now eat before I run without much worry. I feel much healthier and stronger.

 

What do you like to eat before a race?

The night before a race I pick a place that has a dedicated gluten free menu. I find that these places are more likely to have special areas for preparing gluten free meals. My go to places include PF Changs and Outback.

The morning of a nighttime race, I usually eat something I brought with me. That could be gluten free bread like Udi’s with almond butter and a banana.  Alternatively I will have Chex cereal with almond or soymilk. About two hours before a race I will then have 1.5 packets of Generation UCAN.  If I am running a morning race, I would just have the Generation UCAN and maybe a banana.

What do you find is the most challenging thing about being celiac?

Worrying about cross-contamination before a meet.  We rarely race at home so on the road we have to trust the restaurants.  If I am unsure of a place or food, I will just eat what I have packed or buy something at a store to prepare and eat.

 

Check back next week for part two of my interview with Amy and find out how she found eating gluten free at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing!