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The Big Sur marathon offers a chance to experience dramatic landscapes along Highway 1 while tackling a challenging course. For this reason, it’s considered a great destination race for runners across the globe. This marathon has been on my bucket list for years, as it combines two things I love: running, which started in high school not far from the finish line in Monterey, and Northern California, where I grew up. Big Sur in particular has always been a magical place for me, in part due to yearly camping trips with my family when I was young, which is why I wanted it to be the first marathon I ran in my home state!

E and I had already signed up for the marathon when an old friend of mine from high school asked if we would join his relay team, We Be Crazies. He’s been trying to get me to run for the last 7 years, but the timing was never quite right. Doing the relay and the marathon seemed a bit nuts, but apparently we could run Leg 1 (4.9 miles) and then continue onwards to complete the marathon. I was on the “A” open female team that won 1st place last year, which meant that I was expected to run as fast as possible for the first 5 miles. Not exactly ideal marathon pacing strategy, but I was never planning for this race to be a fast one, and I was excited for a potential podium finish!

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We flew in from NYC late Thursday night before the Sunday race, allowing us to stay on East Coast time. Very important when you have a 3am wakeup call race morning! We had a relaxing day at my parent’s house in Santa Cruz on Friday, including some nice walks on the beach to calm our taper crazies, and drove down to the expo on Saturday. The expo was small (you don’t need much time there) but had some great speakers. I particularly enjoyed meeting Bart Yasso – he shared an entertaining and powerful story about how he became the Chief Running Officer of RW, and all the adventures and health challenges that he has experienced since. His book is great too!

Bart’s main message was the following: you may not always have your health, but no one can take away your positive attitude or your passion for the sport. This proved very helpful on race day while being blown to pieces by crazy headwinds and feeling unusually fatigued early in the race. I could either think about how crappy I felt, or focus on the gorgeous views and how fortunate I was to be running in such a special part of the world. Attitude is everything!

The race was very well organized, with shuttles in several convenient locations. We stayed at the Hampton Inn (5 min walk from the shuttle at Embassy Suites), which was brand new and very comfy. It also was only a short drive from the expo (note – it says Monterey but really it is one block away from Seaside). The staff was great about letting us use their microwave to reheat our pre-race meals (salmon, zucchini and rice for lunch and pasta with mushrooms for dinner), and cooking oatmeal at 3am. As for gear, I had never run in my relay singlet and it was very big, so I layered it over my usual racing tank and the awkward baton fit nicely into my arm sleeve so I didn’t have to grip it.

The bus took about 75 minutes to get to the start line in Big Sur – a slow ride of peering out into the darkness. We got to the athlete village around 5:30am, which was extremely small and crowded (there isn’t much space to put everyone off of the highway). We were essentially dumped into a convoluted, massive line for the porta potties. Thankfully, the hilarious signs on each one kept us laughing. For example, “Tesla charging station,” “Las Vegas bus leaves here,” “Only for under 40 years old,” “Toasty 75 degrees inside,” and my favorite – “Condo for rent.” Not much of an exaggeration for California! The mile markers also had funny pictures and sayings – the race organizers definitely have a great sense of humor, and I appreciated the laughs while mentally toughing it out on the course.

Despite the crowds, we soon reunited with our fellow We Be Crazies Leg 1 runners. Because the highway remains open until 6am, the start line is only put up right before the race begins. They also load the corals differently – slowest runners first to get them further down the highway and fastest first. My friend encouraged me to start at the very front, which seemed crazy since my “fast” pace is slow compared to the front runners. But hey – it was my only opportunity to start at the very front of a major race, so I figured why not go for it! It was such a rush, running down that hill. I knew I would be passed immediately (and I was) at my 7:07 pace, however it was still awesome.

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The weather was cool and cloudy but fairly protected by the redwoods during my relay leg. It was so peaceful and mostly downhill – though certainly not “all downhill” as everyone kept saying (never believe that statement with regards to this race). There were several climbs though relative to the rest of the course, I suppose they were quite small. I felt strong and happy with my pacing, even though it would bite me later in the race.

After the handoff at mile 4.9, I felt sick. But sick = nice job on the relay! I shifted gears and slowed down to catch my breath and settle into a more sustainable pace. It wasn’t really a choice anyway as this was the point at which the roads opened up and the wind reared its ugly head! Large groups of runners kept passing me by, making me wish I could run fast enough to keep up so that I could get some protection from the wind. This sign definitely rubbed it in – all lies! Those hills felt endless…because they were.

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By mile 10 I was exhausted and the wind and slanted roads were taking a toll. I focused on how lucky I was to be there and on one of many long hills, the following mantra popped into m head: “Never ever ever give up.” I repeated it to myself over and over again and particularly while climbing hills to the rhythm of my feet.

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The taiko drums before hurricane point really locked in my mantra. You feel the sounds reverberate in your soul. These drums are a call to battle – in this case, the battle within against the never-ending hill! The fluid, powerful movements of the drummers were inspiring.

At the top of hurricane point it was so windy I literally could not move forward. It stopped me in my tracks and nearly blew me over! Good thing I ran during some crazy snowstorms back in NYC – who would’ve guessed it would be great Big Sur training? Usually you can make up time running downhill but the wind was so strong, it wasn’t worth the energy to push against it.

Bixby bridge was magical. We didn’t have blue skies like the last time I visited Big Sur, but the views were just as beautiful. You could hear the piano way before you even saw the bridge – the music floating faintly in the wind with sounds of crashing waves down below. This race clearly was not going to be a fast one, so I made sure to stop and really soak it in.

Just after the bridge, E cruised by me! I was beyond happy to see his face. He was looking strong and I could barely keep up with him at first. We settled into a slow but steady pace for 10 miles or so, occasionally saying a few words but mostly focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.

Around mile 22 or 23, I finally got my groove back while E started to fall behind. I needed to keep moving so we parted ways. I hit the strawberry aid station – yes, an aid station with super sweet, fresh local strawberries – where I ran into an old friend from college. Turns out she lives in the neighborhood, and since they’re blocked in for the day they have a party!

The slant of the roads was tough on the body – I tried to find a sweet spot on the road but getting comfortable was nearly impossible. It was the first time in a marathon I wanted to walk but somehow I kept myself running. Knowing my parents were waiting for me at the finish helped me finish strong – it was the first time they were watching me race a marathon since Boston 2013. I saw my parents screaming in the spectator stands and was proud to finish in 4:08. It was my slowest marathon time ever but I still fought hard for it and took time to soak in the scenery – and that’s what matters.

E finished shortly after me in 4:16 – it was a strong run for him, given it was only a few minutes off of his flat course PR. The medals were awesome – ceramic with leather cords. Definitely a unique one to add to our collection!

Our relay team’s success certainly sweetened my slow personal finish! We Be Crazies won four awards – 1st overall, 1st open male, and 2nd and 3rd open female. My team won 2nd – we missed 1st by 15min – but we still rocked it with a time of 3:19!

After the awards ceremony, we celebrated together with an Indian buffet before heading back to Santa Cruz. As much as I love the solo nature of running and racing, I also enjoy being part of a competitive team. It’s not just about you achieving your personal goals – people are counting on you, which make you want to push that much harder. Doing both the relay and the marathon was a real challenge, but it was pretty cool to race hard for my team and then be able to battle it out for myself. I highly recommend this race – you can choose one of the shorter distances if you wish to experience the course without committing to the full 26.2!

After Big Sur, we got to relax in Santa Cruz with my family. As much as I love NYC, I hadn’t been home  in a year and I can’t tell you how amazing it was to be back. Our bodies ached for several days but we quickly recovered with daily beach walks, lots of delicious food, and massage. One week later, my legs felt refreshed and I had one of my all-time best beach runs, from La Selva to Seacliff (10 miles)! Perfect conditions – low tide and sunny with a cool breeze – combined with an awesome playlist led to some unexpectedly fast miles.

A trip to California wouldn’t be complete without a run in the redwoods. I did a couple short runs with E on the trails in Nisene Marks as well as a hike and meditation session with a close friend down by the Buddha bridge, my favorite spot in the forest. It was the perfect way to end a beautiful, active week!

Happy New Year! My race calendar is mostly empty for 2016, but after a packed Fall running schedule, that’s fine with me. Next up is the Big Sur Marathon in April – 16 weeks from today! Being from Santa Cruz, I’ve visited Big Sur regularly since I was little. It’s one of the most gorgeous places on earth, and this marathon has been on my bucket list for a long time. I can’t wait to soak up those coastal views while doing one of my favorite activities. I mean, doesn’t this photo almost look fake? Northern California never ceases to amaze me with its beauty.

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After the JFK50, I was really hurting, between a terrible cold/flu and my busted foot. My whole body felt broken yet I somehow managed to avoid serious injury and within a couple weeks, felt like my old self again. I wanted to give my foot plenty of time to heal so I took a month off running and other high-impact exercise, and it was exactly what I needed! I did a two-week free trial with ClassPass, which was perfect. I had the best time trying new activities around the city – spinning, strength training, pilates, barre, deep water running, you name it! Some of my favorites – Peloton, Flywheel and Swerve for spin, Uplift and Throwback Fitness for strength, RJ Valentin’s deep water running, and FlexPilates. There are so many other great studios on there (e.g. MHRC, boot camps etc).

It was fun to try so many new things, and the variety did wonders for body and mind. I lost some of my running fitness by mid December, but I felt stronger, mentally refreshed, and hungry to start running again. Now that I’m running regularly, it doesn’t make sense to pay $125 for the full membership, but the 5 classes for $75 per month option isn’t bad, considering what these studios charge otherwise per class!

I’m quickly regaining my running fitness, and am now extra committed to incorporating non-running activities into my exercise routine. My running goals for 2016 are simple. Forget time – all I want is to be consistent, feel strong, and remain injury free. The end of the year was filled with too many accidents and injuries. I don’t wish to repeat that!

Most of all, I want to keep my running and other physical activities fun. I recently accepted two new jobs in addition to working full time at the hospital – I start this week as a private practice dietitian at Nutrition Energy Tues/Thurs evenings (we accept insurance, so get in touch if you’d like to book a session!), and will continue coaching Team Lipstick once a week. I’m super excited for these opportunities, but it means even less time to myself. Exercise will have to be my “me time,” so I have to make it count!

I started 2016 on the right foot (pun intended!) in the fun running department! E and I did NYRR’s Midnight Run on New Year’s Eve – 4 miles of fireworks, crazy costumes, glowing shoe laces, and all around awesomeness. I haven’t had such a great NYE in years! We aren’t huge fans of NYE, but felt like we finally found our scene. No cover charges, no dressing up, no fuss – just lots of people drinking, dancing, running and enjoying themselves. Yes, please! We were lucky enough to score two entries on behalf of the Time Warner-HBO Fit Nation team, pictured above. I look like a marshmallow as I was literally wearing five layers to stay warm. I know this year was “warm” compared to usual, but I’m a wimp when it comes to cold!

The race doesn’t start until midnight, but from 10pm there was a huge dance party and other fun things going on near the start. It felt like a huge outdoor party! I was surprised by how many non-runners hanging out and celebrating, and after the race started, cheering us along! I suppose it’s a nice free alternative to Times Square.

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The race itself was great. I was amazed by how awake and good I felt – I’m usually half asleep by midnight, and am not used to running after having a drink! We started the race with fireworks, which made it hard to run as I wanted to watch and couldn’t do both without falling on my face! This race obviously wasn’t one for time, so we stopped a few times to take it all in. We also enjoyed the DJ’d sparkling cider aid station – nice touch!

After we finished, we made our way to a bar on the UWS, where HBO had kindly sponsored our post-run party. We were the only runners in the place, so we got a few strange looks, but I think they were just jealous. It was awesome to drink and dance until the wee hours in our sweaty, crazy outfits and comfy shoes – who needs heels! We finished the night with a 4am pitstop at our local deli for ice cream – we had earned a treat after hours of running and dancing. All in all, a great evening and wonderful start to the new year.

I wasn’t able to run long this past weekend due to my work schedule, so I kicked off this training cycle with a long run this morning. It was freezing but sunny and clear on the river today. I reached 12.5 miles and felt strong. For that, I am grateful!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, active and fun 2016.

If you have resolved to run a race, improve your diet, lose some weight, or achieve any other health/fitness resolution, get in touch! I’d love to help, with your nutrition and/or training goals. Check out www.eatforendurance.com for more information. 

I’ve finally reached my Portland marathon taper weeks – only a week and a half left until race day! For awhile, I wasn’t sure I would make it this far and thus am grateful my injury has healed enough to carry me to the start line, and hopefully the finish line too.

Week 14 was really fun, mostly because E was visiting and we had planned to spend some time in Big Sur and San Francisco while based in Santa Cruz. So, not only did I have a running buddy, but also some new routes to explore! I also reaped the benefits of incorporating extra rest days into week 13, which was key to a successful speed session on Thursday and stronger running, generally. Yet another reminder of the importance of listening to your body and giving yourself sufficient time to recover, even if it means three full days off of exercise (normally I only take one or two days, max).

After recuperating from my 30th birthday 18-miler, I kicked off week 14 with a 5M trail run in Nisene Marks. I had scheduled a hill interval session, but figured a hilly trail run with 1,016ft of elevation gain would probably qualify as a substitute. It certainly was more interesting than running up and down a road in my neighborhood, that’s for sure! Plus, after my somewhat creepy 15M run by myself on the trails, I was eager to go back with E so I could actually enjoy the scenery.

The run was fantastic – we drove 3M along the fire road so that we could start directly on the Loma Prieta Grade trail, which begins just past the gate above. It was a beautiful day, which meant that the forest was far brighter than the last time I had run there, but still nice and cool from the redwoods. The sun shining through the trees completely changed the feel of the run – far less eery!

E loved it – I knew he would as he’s very much into trail running and this particular landscape is quite unique to Northern California. I didn’t have my camera on the run (had to focus on not falling into ravines or tripping over things), but here’s another shot of the redwoods near the gate:

Later that morning, we drove down the coast to Big Sur, where we spent two wonderful days hiking, eating and relaxing. Big Sur is one of my favorite places on earth – if you haven’t been, you must go. Here’s a shot of the coastline later that evening after the fog lifted – absolutely stunning.

Tuesday called for some cross-training. I love to hike and had never done more than a short, easy walk in the area before, so we set off on a challenging 7-8M loop in Andrew Molera State Park, starting with a flat trail to the ocean, then some steep climbing up along the Bluff/Panorama trails and then back down and around via the Ridge, South Boundary and River trails. We had to fight our way through a forest of poison oak in the last few miles which wasn’t exactly fun (the trail was very overgrown and difficult to find at times), but otherwise it was an awesome hike! We both couldn’t resist running for a few minutes here and there…

Is this trail made for running or what?! Ocean views and sunshine for miles (before the fog set in, that is)!

Looking back on the Bluff trail after some climbing:

The following day gave us an opportunity to run a gentle 5 miles through the redwoods of Pfeiffer State park, although admittedly, it didn’t feel so easy after the previous day’s hike! Finding a flat route as we were trying to do in Big Sur is very difficult, so we had to do some loops on the roads leading to the camp sites. Still very pretty though!

Thursday was my last full speed session, which I was very much dreading. My prior interval sessions hadn’t gone too well, and it was hard to get back on a treadmill after running in such inspiring scenery. Much to my surprise, however, this run went incredibly well – night and day compared to my previous week’s session! Simply having taken more rest days the week before meant that my legs were recovered enough to get through my five 3min intervals without any problem. It was a much-needed confidence boost as I approach race day!

Friday was a 5M marathon pace run, which wasn’t paced very well due to the fact that I had to run on an undulating road. Flat routes are a bit hard to find where I live too. I also haven’t quite determined what my marathon pace actually is, which certainly doesn’t help – somewhere between 8:11 (3:35) and 8:34 (3:45) at the moment – so I should probably figure out my racing strategy ASAP! Realistically, I’m guessing I’m closer to the 3:40 – 3:45 range, but we’ll see.

Saturday was a well-earned rest day in San Francisco, and Sunday was my last “long” run of 11 miles, brought down from 20. I ran along the water with E on my usual route from the Embarcadero to Fort Point, and it went fairly well. I hit MP for my last few miles as planned and averaged 8:45 min/mile for the run. It’s a good thing that I opted for a shorter run so close to the race – my hip started to ache slightly towards the end and I think two weeks would not have been enough time to fully recovery from a 20-miler!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a long run (for me, at least) without a post-run caffeinated beverage of some kind. These smiley face cappuccinos definitely helped me celebrate finally reaching my taper weeks. They were too cute – had to share!

I will close with one last highlight of week 14 – all the AMAZING food I ate! Remember those few pounds I trimmed back in weeks 12 & 13? Yeah, those are definitely back on. I obviously had to take E to my favorite California restaurants – not so great for my racing weight, but it was worth it! Our last meal before I took him to SFO for his flight back to London was a late brunch at Green’s in SF – check out these poached eggs baked in polenta, with sugar snaps, a variety of incredible mushrooms and grilled bread. Delicious – and had we not started with cakes and muffins with vanilla infused butter on top, after having already eaten a big breakfast right after our run, it would’ve been a pretty healthy meal too! 🙂

And now, it’s time to rest up and prepare for the race, as well as my coaching certification course that takes place the two days prior. By rest up and prepare, I actually mean frantically do all the things I neglected during E’s visit, including my grad school applications which are due very soon! Hopefully I will also be able to exert some self control and get back to a healthier diet before I start carbo-loading, which I normally do three days before my marathon.

It’s going to be an intensive four-day visit to Portland, and I’m not exactly sure what to expect from it all, but I’m excited to find out…

By some (30th birthday) miracle, registration for the 2012 Boston Marathon remains open in week two, meaning that any qualifiers (including myself with my BQ by 24 seconds) can attempt to get a spot. As you can see below, I just registered – YAY!

Apparently the fastest entrants within each age/qualifying group still get priority, and we won’t find out until later this month as to whether or not we are accepted, so all I can do is stay positive and keep my fingers and toes crossed! If all goes well, I’ll find out that I got into Boston just before I run Portland – similar to how I found out I won a place in the NYC marathon lottery just days before running my first marathon in Paris.

I’m trying SO hard not to get my hopes too high before I know for sure that I’m in, but it’s hard not to at least get slightly excited when I didn’t think I’d even make it this far. I know so many runners who are dying to run Boston for the first time and are in the same boat – I truly hope we all get a chance to finally run this race after working so hard to get the opportunity to register!

In the meantime, have to focus on Portland training…today I had planned to do hills, but I’m SO not in the mood. I think I may take E to Nisene Marks instead to show him that gorgeous trail I wasn’t able to fully enjoy on my own the other week. And then – off to Big Sur for a couple days! I love California…

P.S. I think we still managed to get our hill session in – check out my Garmin details and elevation profile below (1,016ft elevation gain – not too shabby). Awesome run – what a great way to start the week!

Welcome to FFR

Hi, I'm Claire! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RD, CDN) and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. This is where I share my latest adventures in running, racing, food & travel! If you'd like to work with me, please visit my professional website, Eat for Endurance.

My PRs

Marathon (Chicago): 3:33:18
Boston Marathon: 3:36:14
Half-Marathon: 1:37:21
10M: 1:14:52
10k: 44:52

My latest photos

Let the baby food making begin! Gotta say, I'm really excited. Got the @beaba_usa food maker and it is SO easy to use - as in you push a button to steam, then turn the button to puree - kind of feel like I'm cheating 😂 Started with puréed butternut squash (using mostly organic produce for her but this one wasn't), froze most of it in 2oz containers, and left a few out for A to try! I expected her to spit it out but she liked it! And because it's literally just puréed veg, I eat whatever she doesn't. 😜 Now that Arielle is nearly 6 months old (this week!), we finally took our new @thule running stroller out for a spin on @summerstreets. Running with this thing is not easy - esp pushing uphill (E and I took turns pushing) - but it was so fun to be active together as a family. Bonus - A slept almost the whole time! 👍🏻 How are you making exercise fun this weekend? Friday night pizza night! Can't remember the last time we made pizza - so much fun and so tasty! Got the whole wheat dough from TJs, cut it in half (otherwise dough is too thick), and made one large pizza to share and two personal pizzas to enjoy tomorrow (okay, we split one of them as seconds because it was so yummy). Topped with shredded cheese, portabello mushrooms, spinach, sundried tomato, olives and ricotta. 👌🏻 Pictured - the small pizzas before popping in the oven! Thanks for the samples, @barillaus! Excited to try these products, especially as I start to train for my first post baby races (a trail half marathon and possibly a marathon later in the year). #eatforendurance Tried out another bean based pasta tonight - @traderjoeslist black bean rotini with pesto sauce, tomatoes, artichokes and parmesan. I prefer normal wheat based pasta, but it was pretty tasty, super filling, and packed with protein and fiber! Good morning!! I love to bake healthy (and not so healthy) treats and realized I hadn't done any baking since the week before the baby was born (nearly 6 months ago!), so I whipped up a batch of my fav Superhero muffins from the #runfasteatslow cookbook to enjoy throughout the week. Made a few modifications this time (added flaxseeds and coconut flakes, as well as some chopped pecans instead of walnuts) and they are soooo delicious! Have a fantastic Monday!

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