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Between breaking my 4-year PR at the NYC Half, running my first Boston marathon, getting married and beginning my dietetic internship, 2013 was quite a year! I’m happy to report that I had a very successful (although stressful) semester since my last blog post, as well as a wonderful, much-needed vacation with E to celebrate reaching the half-way point in my internship (2 weeks in California with my family, 1 week in Tulum, Mexico). It was the first time in years that I had time off that was actual time off – no exams to study for, DI applications to complete, wedding planning to do, or anything else to distract me from spending quality time with my loved ones and getting some R&R in between two tough semesters. So much sleep and incredible food. It was awesome, not to mention good timing as we missed some pretty horrendous weather on the East Coast! Bad weather ended up hitting us in Mexico for 4 out of our 6 days, and of course the polar vortex has returned to NYC recently, but at least we got to skip a couple weeks of it! This California girl is not built for extreme cold, that’s for sure.

Here are a few shots from our trip:

Hanging out with my beautiful niece! Ice cream at Bi-rite creamery in SF  SF Two days of sunshine in Mexico better than nothing!

I could use another few weeks of winter break, but overall I’m feeling mentally recharged and ready to get back to it, which is a good thing because tomorrow is my first day of hospital rotations. The hospital is starting me with clinical rotations so I get to dive right into the deep end! It will be a bigger adjustment than starting with food service but this way I get to tackle the most challenging rotations first while the material from last semester is still somewhat fresh in my mind. It’s clear that the next 6 months will make last semester feel like a piece of cake, but I’m looking forward to helping actual patients and getting some great experience.

So with 6 months of hospital rotations ahead of me, as well as another go at the NYC Half and Boston marathons and my RD exam later in the year, 2014 looks to be just as busy, exciting and challenging as 2013. I can’t say that I’m feeling quite as positive about my training as I am about my internship, but I’m doing my best. I’m five weeks into my current  training cycle and with each week I feel like I’m moving backwards. I felt great in my first two weeks while training in California – it’s hard not to when you get run for hours in gorgeous Nisene Marks forest and on the beach in the sunshine! Pure bliss. Also, my hamstring and other niggles seem to have finally healed from all the time off, so although I felt a bit out of shape, I was able to begin speed work again feeling relatively strong.

Cut to being back in NYC and everything just feels ten times harder. I did the exact same tempo run on the treadmill that felt easy in California and could hardly finish it. Same with my interval session. I’m sure not being as well-rested and relaxed played a role, as well as the insanely frigid weather, but it’s still been discouraging. E and I ran 18 miles this past weekend in the coldest weather I’ve ever run in, and 16 the weekend before (which probably was the worst run I’ve had in months). I had three hats on, two pairs of pants, three long sleeve layers/jackets on top of my tank, and resorted to wearing wool socks over my gloves and hand warmers to keep my fingers warm (always my biggest challenge). We were out there for nearly three hours and I’m impressed that we made it to the end. Certainly the type of run that I could not have finished without the company of E and my other running buddies!

I’m not excited about the rest of this training cycle especially since I have to begin training at night, if time even allows for that. My internship obviously takes priority so I’ll just have to see how it goes and fit in whatever I can. It’s looking like Boston #2 may be the first marathon I run without a real time goal, and I’m actually totally fine with that. I ran strong last year and after everything that happened at the finish, I think Boston 2014 is the perfect race to relax my pace and enjoy being out on the course!

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Happy Thursday! I hope you are all enjoying the gorgeous Spring weather this week. Unfortunately, I have been stuck inside the library all day every day but it looks glorious out there. Only 19 more days until the semester is over and I can finally relax and finish planning my wedding (although I suppose those two things don’t usually go together…sigh).

I decided to turn my previous blog post on my Boston Marathon experience (which I edited quite heavily, for those of you who read the original) into a condensed essay to send to Runner’s World, and it was published online in the “Other Voices” blog this morning! I’ve never written anything for RW before, so I found it quite exciting to see my piece on the homepage, even if you have to scroll down a bit to find it.

You can read my essay here. I’ve also included the text below.

Runner's World essay

I’ve been focusing on qualifying for the Boston Marathon for over two years. On April 15th, I found myself in Hopkinton at last. I had spent months training for the rolling hills of the course and was confident that my body was prepared for the challenge ahead. Little did I know that the real challenge would be the emotional rollercoaster I would experience that day, and in the days that followed. Nothing could have prepared me for that.

I am deeply grateful to have finished safely, and that my loved ones were not harmed. Yet I was one block away, hundreds of people were injured and I can’t help but replay Monday’s events in my mind.

Sounds of the explosions were misunderstood and dismissed at the time, and then of sirens, which did not register from too many years of living in NYC. The overwhelming flood of concerned calls and messages alerting me of what had just happened. Disbelief – who would possibly bomb a marathon finish line?

Confusion as I walked 4 miles parallel to the deserted race course – where I had just run with such hopefulness and determination – trying to get back to where I was staying. Heartache as I spoke with stranded runners who weren’t able to finish their race, even though that meant they were safe! My medal hung heavily around my neck with shame, tucked beneath my bright yellow marathon shirt. I couldn’t part with it, nor could I be proud of it.

I felt numb as I watched the news later that evening. I couldn’t – and still can’t – wrap my head around what happened. The physical symptoms of racing have long faded, but the pain, anger, sadness, guilt, pride and other emotions that I have been feeling over the last two weeks are deeply woven into my Boston debut.

While driving to the expo, it occurred to me that somewhere along the winding path towards achieving my BQ, I had lost sight of the actual goal – to run in Boston! Of course I was eager to experience the famed crowds, conquer the Newton hills and earn that amazing unicorn medal at the finish…but if I am honest with myself, it was the challenge of qualifying in itself that had been pushing me to the start line. I wanted to prove that I could run fast enough to gain entry into one of the most honored and historic marathons, to belong to this special club of “serious” runners who wore their official Boston Marathon jackets on long training runs like badges of honor.

After several failed attempts, I finally joined that club at the finish line of the Chicago Marathon. My mantra throughout this race had been, “I want it more than I fear it,” the “it” being a BQ and whatever physical pain I had to overcome to reach my goal. I remember seeing my parents at mile 25 and yelling to them, “I’m going to BQ!” The emotional impact of that statement, as I heard myself say it aloud and knew in my heart, my legs and my tears that it was true, was indescribable. Finishing that race was a spectacular moment – sheer joy and surprisingly, not much pain. Within 30 minutes, I registered for one of the last spots to run the 2013 Boston Marathon.

It was on Boylston Street while visiting the finish line that it finally hit me: I was about to run THE Boston Marathon! I felt proud of my accomplishment but also humbled and inspired by the myriad official race jackets that surrounded me. I had only qualified by two minutes, but I had worked hard for my acceptance and it was time for my 26.2-mile victory lap!

What struck me most about the Boston start was that despite being a major race, it somehow had a small community feel to it. The atmosphere reminded me of any number of UK towns where I used to run local races while living in London, where my dream to run Boston emerged. As I waited in my coral, I felt a unique connection to the runners around me; we all knew what it had taken to get to Hopkinton.

Everyone told me to “enjoy every step” and I tried, but it was a tough course and a good chunk of the middle miles were unpleasant. The euphoria I experienced while passing through the “wall of sound” in Wellesley and again at BU snapped me out of my funk. My pace jumped as I felt a surge of energy from the deafening cheers. I embraced the physical pain while repeating my new mantra, “with heart and courage move I.” I had borrowed this phrase from a Native American friend while she was discussing similarities between modern marathon runners and the Ridge Runners of California coastal tribes. I no longer “wanted” anything as I did in Chicago – I simply let my heart and legs guide me towards the finish, one step at a time.

The final miles seemed endless, but I felt strong as I sprinted to complete my first Boston Marathon. I didn’t get that same feeling as I did in Chicago, nor did I achieve another BQ, but I was proud to have run my second fastest marathon that day.

It took me 25 minutes to reach the reunion area, where I found my family and snapped a few exhausted but happy photos. That’s when we heard the explosions, and everything unraveled into the tragic and disturbing situation we all know too well.

I no longer see the Boston Marathon as just a symbol of athletic achievement. It represents the physical and emotional hills that accompany all of life’s ambitious pursuits- the pain of failure, the joy of success and the multitude of emotions in between. We embrace these worthy challenges and even in our weakest moments, we somehow summon enough strength and courage to reach our goals. It may take several tries, and at times we may lose faith, but with the support of loved ones and others sharing our path, we keep moving forward.

As much as I can’t help but care about my time (I am a runner after all), it’s everything else that keeps drawing me back to the marathon distance, and particularly to the Boston Marathon. I will be at the start line on April 21, 2014 – that is, of course, if I can get in!

Claire is a graduate student in Clinical Nutrition at New York University, a Road Runners Club of America Certified coach and author of personal running and nutrition blog, The Fight and Flight Response

I also wanted to share some screenshots of my official race photos. Some of them turned out really well and it brings me some comfort to see so many smiles.

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 10.53.58 AM   Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 10.56.46 AM   Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 11.01.10 AM   Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 11.01.25 AM   Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 10.53.32 AM   Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 10.54.32 AM

Last but not least, I am excited to report that I will be coaching the Gilda’s Club NYC marathon team again this year! If you’re interested in joining, shoot me an email (thefightandflightresponse@gmail.com) – we have 27 spots available, it’s for a great cause and I promise we’ll have tons of fun.

Have a great weekend everyone!!

I am experiencing the lingering effects of a bad hangover. I’m not just referring to last night (which happened to be my bachelorette party), but rather to an exhausting week filled with tragedy and mixed emotions. The physical symptoms of racing the Boston Marathon on Monday have mostly faded, my legs already raring to go for my next event; it’s everything else that I’m still trying to process…

I am deeply grateful that I finished safely, 29 minutes before the bombings, and my loved ones were not harmed. Yet I was one block away, hundreds of people were harmed and I can’t help but replay Monday’s events in my mind…

Sounds of the explosions, misunderstood and dismissed at the time, and then of sirens, which did not register from too many years of living in NYC. The overwhelming flood of concerned calls and messages asking about my safety and alerting me to what had just happened. Disbelief – who would possibly bomb a marathon finish line?!

Police everywhere, roads blocked, train shut down. Confused spectators and runners. Walking (hobbling) for 4 miles parallel to a deserted race course – in the opposite direction to what I had run not long before with such hopefulness and determination – trying to get back to where we were staying. Stranded runners who weren’t able to finish their race, completely shell-shocked. My heart ached for those runners who were stopped so close to the finish line, even though that meant they were safe! One woman, who had been running for charity, showed me a photo of a young boy on the back of her t-shirt. She had been running for him. My medal hung heavily around my neck with shame, tucked beneath my bright yellow marathon shirt. I couldn’t part with it, nor could I be proud of it.

Empty race course

I felt numb as I watched the news later that evening. I couldn’t – and still can’t – wrap my head around what happened, nor do I expect to. But as I reflect back on my experience and continue to process what happened, running the Boston Marathon has taken on a very different meaning to me.

While driving to the expo, it occurred to me that somewhere along the winding path towards achieving my BQ, I had lost sight of the actual goal – to run in Boston! Of course I was eager to experience the famed crowds, conquer the Newton hills and earn that amazing unicorn medal at the finish…but if I am honest with myself, it was the challenge of qualifying in itself that had been pushing me to the start line. I wanted to prove that I could run fast enough to gain entry into one of the most honored and historic marathons, to belong to this special club of “serious” runners who wore their official Boston Marathon jackets on long training runs like badges of honor.

After several failed attempts, I finally joined that club at the finish line of the Chicago Marathon last October. My mantra throughout that race had been, “I want it more than I fear it,” the “it” being a BQ, and whatever physical pain I had to overcome to reach my goal. I remember seeing my parents at mile 25 and yelling to them, “I’m going to BQ!” The emotional impact of that statement, as I heard myself say it aloud and knew in my heart, my legs and my tears that it was true, was indescribable. Finishing that race was a spectacular moment – sheer joy and surprisingly, not much pain. Within 30 minutes of attaining my BQ, I registered for one of the last spots to run the 2013 Boston Marathon.

It was on Boylston Street, while visiting the finish line that it finally hit me – I was about to run THE Boston Marathon! I felt proud of my accomplishment but also humbled and inspired by the myriad official race jackets that surrounded me. I had only qualified by two minutes, but I worked hard for my acceptance and it was time for my 26.2 mile victory lap!

Race jackets Number pickup

Finish line Finish line

On race morning, a friend from college who has run Boston many times before and who runs a similar pace to me offered to pick me up and drive me to Hopkinton before the roads closed. We relaxed and kept warm at her friend’s house in Hopkinton until an hour before our Wave 2 start, allowing us just enough time to drop our bags and wait in the long bathroom lines. Speaking of which, tip to runners – don’t wait in the crazy  lines in the village as we did – there are tons of toilets near the corrals, so drop your bags and head over there!

What struck me most about the Boston start was that despite being a major race, it somehow had a small community feel to it. The atmosphere reminded me of any number of UK towns where I used to run local races while living in London, where my dream to run Boston emerged. As I waited in my coral, I felt a unique connection to the runners around me; we all knew what it had taken to get to Hopkinton!

Wanting to BQ but knowing I didn’t have to meant that the pressure was off, so when my hamstring started to hurt early on at mile 6 and I felt fatigue setting in much earlier than anticipated, I decided to stop looking at my watch. I was two minutes off my pace band but I didn’t care – I knew I would be better off running according to feel. Running as strong as my body would allow and finishing in a respectable time were my new goals!

Everyone told me to “enjoy every step” and I certainly tried, but it was a tough course and a good chunk of the middle miles were  unpleasant. The euphoria I experienced while passing through the “wall of sound” in Wellesley and again at BU snapped me out of my funk. My pace jumped as I felt a surge of energy from the deafening cheers. I embraced the physical pain while repeating my new mantra, “with heart and courage move I.” I had borrowed this phrase from a Native American friend while she was discussing similarities between modern marathon runners and the Ridge Runners of California coastal tribes. I no longer “wanted” anything as I did in Chicago – I simply let my heart and legs guide me towards the finish, one step at a time.

Team Claire – which was much larger this year – awaited me at the base of Heartbreak hill, infusing me with the strength I needed to reach the top. I love the two photos that my Dad took, especially the first one with the random guy on the phone and my expression (hill? what hill?!).

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Shortly thereafter, I spotted my friend from college. We pushed each other through some of those long, final miles, which was refreshing given that I usually run alone, 100% focused on my own race. I must have pushed a little too early since my pace began to slow with over 2M left and one more unexpected hill, but I knew E was waiting for me at the Citgo sign (mile 25), which kept me going.

mile 25 mile 25

The final mile seemed endless, but I felt strong as I sprinted to complete my first Boston Marathon. I didn’t get that same feeling as I did in Chicago, nor did I achieve another BQ, but I was proud to have run my second fastest marathon that day, paced extremely well to boot (check out my Garmin details). Considering the talent of my fellow runners, I am very pleased with my placements.

Boston Marathon 2013 splits & placement

I found my friend at the finish and we shared our race experiences while hobbling along to receive our medals, get food and collect our drop bags. It took us at least 25 minutes to finally reach the reunion area, where we each found our loved ones and snapped a few exhausted but happy photos. Such big smiles!

P1090197 P1090198P1100745  photo-2

That’s when we heard the explosions, and slowly everything unraveled into the tragic and disturbing situation we all know too well. As much as I try to make sense of it all, I just can’t. What happened was senseless. All I can do is appreciate my own experience and keep running strong in honor of everyone who was killed and injured.

P1090200 IMG_4124 IMG_4125

It’s worth noting that Boston came right on the heels of my not matching to a Dietetic Internship, a huge and unexpected disappointment. Just days before the race, I commented on how much I appreciated the timing of Boston just one week after Match Day, as it would remind me that there are other things in my life that I failed to achieve on my first try, but with perseverance and belief in myself, I made it happen. I wanted to run strong in this race to prove that I refused to give up on myself. And I did just that.

I no longer see the Boston Marathon as just a symbol of athletic achievement. It represents the physical and emotional hills that accompany all of life’s ambitious pursuits; the pain of failure, the joy of success and the multitude of emotions in between! We embrace these worthy challenges and even in our weakest moments, we somehow summon enough strength and courage to reach our goals. It may take several tries and at times we may lose faith, but with the support of loved ones and others sharing our path, we keep moving forward.

As much as I can’t help but care about my time (I am a runner after all), it’s everything else that keeps drawing me back to the marathon distance, and particularly to the Boston Marathon. I will be at the start line on April 21, 2014 – that is, of course, if I can get in!

Six months and nearly a full marathon training cycle have passed since I last wrote in this blog to confirm my acceptance into the 2013 Boston Marathon. So much has happened during this time that I don’t even know where to begin – but I do know that it wouldn’t feel right to cross the start line of the Boston Marathon this Monday without saying a few words here first! The creation of FFR was, after all, inspired by my first BQ in the 2010 NYC Marathon, and through this blog I’ve documented the many ups and downs that ultimately led me to my second (and more importantly, accepted) BQ in the 2012 Chicago Marathon.

Runner's Passport  Last 20 miler in my Boston gear!  Pace bands

It’s Boston Marathon weekend at last and I finally have some time to take a step back and appreciate how hard I’ve worked to get here. Before I comment on my training and how I feel going into this epic weekend, let’s give this race some context with some highlights from October – April!

 Before the start  Crossing the finish line  Beer at the finish  Post-finish with E

October of course was all about crushing the Chicago Marathon and getting one of the last remaining Boston Marathon spots, with registration closing the following weekend. My semester became really challenging, hence the extended blog hiatus, which meant that I didn’t have the opportunity to finish writing about my wonderful experience coaching the Gilda’s Club. The NYC Marathon in November was of course cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy (which is another story, given E and I practically live on the East River) but many of my runners completed other races and made me very proud. I really hope that I get the chance to coach Gilda’s again this year!

Post-engagement in Nisene  At the beach before sharing the news!  Redwood forest

Thankfully November wasn’t just about natural disasters…E proposed to me on Thanksgiving morning in Nisene Marks, in the middle of a long run (obviously) on the most gorgeous day. Forget about Chicago or Boston – that will always be the best run of my life! We’re getting married this June in a beautiful outdoor venue amongst the redwoods – basically a wedding-appropriate version of Nisene. Check out that staircase – what an entrance! Planning this event from across the country while in grad school, through marathon training and everything else has been a huge challenge, but everything will come together….eventually…I hope!

My accomplishments of December – February  included successfully finishing a hellish semester, celebrating the New Year with E, making progress on wedding planning in CA, kicking off Boston Marathon training and completing my Dietetic Internship applications (which took FOREVER). By this point I felt like I was just in one endless marathon without any recovery time, which is I suppose a fairly accurate description since I started this program in January 2012.

Leading a pack of men!  PR woohoo!  NYC Half finish line

In March, despite not being able to prioritize my Boston training and fighting off an old injury, I somehow managed to PR in the NYC Half, beating my previous best time from 4.5 years ago (the Royal Parks Half Marathon, in London) with a time of 1:37:21. Granted, it was a PR of only 13 seconds or so, but I hadn’t even come close to this time since I set it. The fastest I had run up until this race was 1:39:47, 2.5 years ago, so this was a very long awaited victory! The best part was that I felt so strong throughout the race and at the finish. My supposed peak training week that followed the race, which I spent in CA doing another week of intensive wedding planning, was pretty much thwarted by a bad stomach flu followed immediately by a cold, but at least I had my shiny new PR to build confidence for Boston!

And that brings us to April…which thus far seems to resemble the start of the Boston Marathon course, with a lot of downhills throughout the first half. Actually, the last week has felt more like someone came up from behind and shoved me off a cliff. You’re probably wondering what on earth I’m talking about so I’ll share – Match Day was on April 7th and I did not match. DI matching is an insanely competitive process, but to say that this came as a shock to me is a massive understatement. I haven’t talked much about it since I found out because, quite frankly, it’s embarrassing. It’s the first time I’ve failed at something significant in my life – I’m trying to put a positive spin on it by telling myself it’s a healthy thing to experience (ha!). It’s true, but after how hard I’ve worked since starting this program, and with everything building up to Match Day, receiving this news was a huge blow. Thankfully, I can continue to work on my Master’s (I have about two more semesters left anyway) and reapply to DI’s next year, so not the end of the world!

It took me a few days to accept what happened, mainly because I couldn’t make any sense of it. And I still can’t. But hey – if I’ve learned anything from Boston, it’s that you may not always succeed the first time around and if you want something, you just have to pick yourself up and try again. I qualified nearly three years ago, but my time was rejected and it took two more tries to get my acceptance! So, the timing of this race is perfect. I need a reminder that not everything comes easily, and I also need something positive and exciting this week to help me move forward, literally and figuratively.

That said, the sleep deprivation and anxiety I’ve been experiencing have not been so great for my marathon prep and despite my half PR, I’m not quite sure what to expect on Monday. I’m exhausted. And it’s been awhile since I’ve run a tough marathon course. My sights are still set on attempting to run a 3:35 again – would be pretty cool to BQ in Boston – but the great news is that I don’t have to! My Chicago time qualifies me for next year’s Boston, so if on Monday I want to focus on enjoying the race more than racing it, or if I race it and just don’t have a BQ in me that day, no biggie!

I want to run a strong race but it’s a relief not feeling the pressure I felt before running Chicago. In Chicago, I was there to get the job done. In Boston, I’ll be at the start simply grateful to be a part of such a historic and incredible race – and hoping not to get my ass handed to me at the finish. I’m really looking forward to driving to Boston with E and my parents (who flew in from CA to watch me race), focusing on this long-awaited weekend and leaving everything else behind me. No homework, no DI stress, no to do lists – just Boston, my loved ones, my fellow runners and the amazing crowds.

I can’t wait! Good luck to everyone else running on Monday! If you want to track me, I’m 14865. 🙂

In exactly five days, I will have completed the Chicago Marathon, hopefully in less than 3 hours and 35 minutes! E will have also just crossed the finish line, where I hopefully watched him crush his PR by 20-30 minutes. Visualizing this makes me incredibly excited – it’s been a long time since I have raced such a major marathon, with the support of both my parents and E, and I can’t wait.

However, right now, I’m a mess! I have mountains of school work to do this week, as well as a midterm and several assignments immediately after the race, and I can’t focus on any of it. I thought I could distract myself by concentrating on school, but I’m completely useless. Every time I attempt to be productive, I obsessively check the weather (which is looking increasingly chilly…), revise my pre-race menu, search for Chicago marathon news, freak out over phantom leg pains or watch videos of the course (for whatever reason, this one really scared me – what’s with the music?! I was practically crying by the end!). This taper is driving me INSANE.

My taper started on my 31st birthday, which capped off five days of celebrating and decadent eating. I had a great time and thankfully my last long run slightly offset my indulgences, but I’ve watched my racing weight slip away since then, which isn’t good because that of course equates to precious speed lost. With my reduced mileage and carbo loading beginning on Thursday, I guess I just need to concentrate on not doing any more damage. Funny how quickly your body can go from toned to squishy! I’m sure part of that is the usual taper crazies – i.e. thinking your muscles are wasting away, legs not working, imagined pain etc. We’re only talking a few pounds at most. E and I have been trying to keep each other on track – here’s a note I found in the fridge (I have a weakness for almond butter):

I haven’t felt this nervous prior to a race since I ran NYC. I know I just need to take a deep breath and remind myself that I’ve trained to the best of my abilities and am ready to kick butt on Sunday. I can’t wait to see my parents, see Chicago, experience the energy of the crowds and celebrate yet another marathon victory with E. I believe that I can achieve my goal – at the very least I can certainly PR – but I’m still terrified. I vividly remember how hard Portland was for me – how I fought (unsuccessfully) to maintain pace and how I practically collapsed at that finish line. But I also remember how troubled my training was before that race, especially how I only reached 18M once. I had just completed an intensive RRCA weekend and felt mentally fatigued. With three 17-18 milers, one 19 miler and two 20 milers under my belt, I am WAY more prepared for Chicago than I was for Portland! Okay, maybe school is causing an equal amount of mental fatigue, but still – I got this!

There are three main obstacles that could stand in my way:

1. The weather, which is out of my control so I will just have to roll with whatever happens. Freezing temperatures aren’t ideal but I suppose I prefer that to high 80’s! So much for my running skirt…time to bust out my compression tights and arm sleeves!

2. GI issues, which will always be my greatest paranoia. That is somewhat in my control, but still you never know. I just stick to a specific menu three days before the race and pray that I will never again suffer through what I experienced in Paris. Never. Again. (PLEASE!) My stomach has remained strong in my last two marathons so I just hope everything goes well this time too!

3. Myself – it’s so tough in the second half of a marathon to keep negative thoughts at bay, particularly if you are struggling to stay on pace. I just hope I have enough mental strength and faith in myself to not let failure be an option! That is how I BQ’d in NYC, and that is how I will BQ in Chicago. I know I can push my body further than I think it will ever go because I have done it before – and I will do it again. I’m eager to find out what I can accomplish!

As impatient as I am right now, my body needs this time off to recover from so many months of hard training. I incorporated more long runs into my overall plan, which is a first for me, and squeezed in a few challenging speed/strength circuit workouts after the Bronx 10 miler. My hip isn’t 100% but I hope it will remain okay for the race. As for marathon pace, my attempts have been somewhat hit or miss lately. I think when the time comes, I will have a general sense of where I need to be (8:10/11) and will try my best to remain on pace until mile 20. I must run my own race and not get overly excited at the start, given I am way up in corral B. I have started out slightly too fast in every marathon so far and have certainly paid the price (especially in Portland). I created my own pace bands with Races2remember as I usually do, so that should help!

The decreased mileage is making me feel sluggish, but that is normal – by Sunday I will feel revved up and ready to go. The nerves come in waves – my stomach is churning as I write – and I am trying to let them wash over me. Now it’s time to relax, do one last short MP run (tomorrow) and focus on the task at hand. Oh yes, and maybe do some school work so I don’t fail my classes.

I’ll try to say hello from Chicago – but in case I don’t get the chance and you’d like to track my progress, my bib number is 3824 and I am in the first wave at 7:30am. Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!

How many of you take a multivitamin or other kinds of supplements to ensure you are meeting your body’s needs for vitamins, minerals and other substances? My guess is a fair number – whether it is to improve bone health, fight a cold, get your dose of omega-3 fatty acids, raise your iron levels, improve your performance in your upcoming race….or any of the other countless claims you’ll find on the back of a supplement bottle.

Source

Some of these claims are valid, supported by numerous scientific studies that have been published in reputable journals – others not so much. Will those B vitamins really give you energy, if they have no calories and you are already consuming enough from food? Are those daily mega doses of vitamin C really preventing you from getting a cold or are you just producing expensive urine? I’m not trying to knock supplements – they can be very useful (even essential) during pregnancy, for vegans and vegetarians, for calcium and iron supplementation in deficient individuals, and for all the people who do not have the time, energy or desire to think about what they are eating and whether or not they are meeting their dietary needs.

All I’m saying is that when it comes to supplements, it’s important to take what you read with a grain of salt and never think of supplementation as a substitute for certain foods (unless you do not eat that food in your diet). The goal should always be to meet your needs as much as you can through food because some things, like phytochemicals for example, can’t be bottled – well, they CAN but they won’t give you the same, or any, benefits. Obviously, if you do not eat certain things – such as animal products – you’ll probably benefit from taking supplements of certain vitamins that are predominantly found in animal sources, like some of the B vitamins. But if you eat a wide variety of nutritious foods, you can easily meet your needs through food alone.

In case you’re wondering why I’m writing about all this – I have my last midterm this afternoon for Nutrition & Health, covering protein, vitamins, water and minerals. As I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, I thought it might be helpful to do a quick rundown of the important vitamins and minerals to test your knowledge (and mine!) and perhaps introduce you to a few new pieces of information. I’m short on time so I’ll just review the vitamins today.

Vitamins

Vitamins are essential nutrients but differ from the macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein) in that they are non-caloric and needed in very small amounts. Some vitamins are fat soluble – vitamins A, D, E and K – while others are water soluble – vitamin C and the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, B12, B6, biotin and pantothenic acid). What does this mean? Simply that some are stored in the liver and fatty tissues (fat soluble) and thus do not need to be consumed as frequently, while others (water soluble) are readily excreted by the body and thus need to be consumed on a more regular basis. This also means that toxicity is more of a concern with fat soluble than water soluble vitamins because they can build up in your tissues (particularly the liver) – but most often this only occurs from over supplementation or chronic consumption of fortified foods.

The Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin A is predominantly known for its role in vision, as severe deficiency of vitamin A results in permanent blindness. Other roles include maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, regulation of gene expression (protein synthesis), maintenance of the cornea (the transparent outer front part of the eye), skin and mucous membranes (things like our digestive and respiratory tracts), and it also supports immune function. The most active form of vitamin A in the body is retinol, which is found in animal sources such as fortified milk and other dairy, liver (the richest source, since vitamin A is stored in the liver) and eggs.

Surely at some stage you’ve been told that carrots are good for your eyesight – that’s because the precursor for vitamin A is beta-carotene, which is found in plant sources such as sweet potato, apricots, carrots, mango and other fruits and vegetables within this yellow to red to orange color. The body does not use this form as efficiently (12 micrograms of beta-carotene is the equivalent of 1 microgram of retinol), but they are still great sources of vitamin A and have been linked with reduced cancer risk, perhaps because of the phytochemicals they contain. Spinach and fortified cereals are additional sources of vitamin A.

Vitamin D plays an important role (along with calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body) in maintaining bone health during growth and throughout life. Vitamin D may also help prevent chronic disease development, but research is ongoing in this area.

Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins that we can make ourselves, with the help of UVB sunlight. Sunlight transforms a cholesterol compound in the skin (one of the reasons why it is important to have cholesterol in our body!) into a vitamin D precursor, which is then absorbed into the blood and sent to the liver and kidneys to be converted into the active form of vitamin D. However, the goal is to obtain vitamin D from food as well – good sources include fortified milk, egg yolks, enriched cereals and fish products (salmon, canned tuna and cod liver oil, for example).

Vitamin E is best known as a powerful antioxidant. It protects the body against damage by free radicals, or highly reactive oxygen molecules formed during normal cell metabolism. Good sources include vegetable oils (fresh, raw oils like canola oil are best, since vitamin E is destroyed by heat, food processing and oxidation), green leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts, wheat germ and whole grain foods (lightly processed).

Vitamin K‘s main function is to help activate proteins involved in blood clotting. It also plays a role in bone health in that it assists in the synthesis of bone proteins, which bind minerals (calcium and phosphate) to bone. Like with vitamin D, our body can create vitamin K (our intestinal bacteria or healthy gut flora does this) so we are able to meet our needs both from food and from within our own body. The only rich animal food source is liver, while the richest plant sources are dark leafy greens (1/2 cup of dark leafy greens exceeds our daily needs). Other sources include oils, fortified cereals and grains, cabbage, cauliflower, soybeans, milk and eggs.

The Water Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin C is probably most well known for its role in supposedly fighting the common cold, in addition to preventing scurvy (which I believe we all learned about in grade school??). With regards to the latter, vitamin C maintains the connective tissues in the body, playing a critical role in the formation and maintenance of collagen (which is why without vitamin C, we see symptoms including bleeding gums and loose teeth, which indicate collagen breakdown – at least I remember reading about that when learning about scurvy many many years ago…). Vitamin C supports immune system function and protects against infection, and some research has shown that it may decrease the duration and severity of symptoms, but it hasn’t actually been shown that it prevents a cold. So when you pop those vitamin C pills, there’s probably more of a placebo effect going on, as well as a weak antihistamine effect if you’re taking large doses. Lastly, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant – in particular, it protects iron from oxidation in the intestine (and helps us absorb more iron from certain foods if eaten in the same meal) and helps conserve vitamin E, another antioxidant.

The best sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers and broccoli. Since it is water soluble and breaks down easily, try to cut your fruits and veggies right before you plan to eat them. Also be sure not to overcook your vegetables or steam them directly in water – use a steamer (or even the microwave) or blanch your veggies to retain their nutritional value.

The B Vitamins are a group of vitamins that play important roles in the metabolism of energy yielding nutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins), protein synthesis and cell synthesis, among other things. These are the vitamins that often require supplementation, particularly folate for pregnant women and B12 for vegetarians/vegans.

Thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), biotin and pantothenic acid all help release energy that is stored in the macronutrients – the first three in particular play important roles in energy metabolism, and are all found in fortified grain products. The latter two are usually not of great concern in terms of deficiency, as most people meet their required needs.

Thiamin is also found in moderate amounts in most nutritious food sources, including legumes, potato, lean pork chop and sunflower seeds, for instance. Riboflavin is present in dairy products (this is why milk is packaged in cartons rather than glass – because riboflavin is destroyed by light), eggs, and some meat and vegetable products. Niacin appears in many protein foods, including dairy, eggs and poultry, and it can also be converted within the body from one of our essential amino acids. Thus, if you are consuming enough protein, you are most likely meeting your niacin needs.

Folate is crucial in the synthesis of new cells (helps create DNA) and in normal protein metabolism, while vitamin B12 helps to maintain the sheaths that surround and protect our nerve fibers. Both vitamins work as a team to make red blood cells, and depend on one another for activation. Folate is usually taken as a supplement in the form of folic acid, which is more readily absorbed than folate, by pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects. Enriched grains are a good source of folate – this is actually why our grains are enriched! The defects occur in the first days or weeks of pregnancy, so it’s important for women to ensure they are meeting their folate needs before they get pregnant. Other food sources include green leafy vegetables, avocado, legumes and seeds. B12 is only found in foods of animal origin, so if you do not consume animal products, this is where a supplement is very useful.

Lastly, vitamin B6 plays an important role in protein metabolism, and helps to make hemoglobin for red blood cells (which is what carries the oxygen in our blood) and maintain blood glucose levels, among other things. It also helps with the conversion of the essential amino acid tryptophan to niacin – another example of how the B vitamins work together and depend upon one another. Animal proteins are the best source of B6, but you can also find it in beans, legumes, and any soy-based products.

And that concludes the vitamins! I probably lost your attention by now, but if not, hopefully you learned something. 🙂 Now it’s time to go test my knowledge – last midterm of the semester!

But first – a big shout out to all the Boston marathoners out there, including Kristy (Run the Long Road). Good luck with the heat today – stay safe and have an awesome race everyone!

As much as I’m bummed not to be running Boston today, I guess it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t make the cut during registration. I’ve never run in this type of heat! Then again, I’d take Boston in any weather! 🙂 Really hoping I get lucky in Chicago and get a nice cool day!

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!

Portland Marathon week 12 was a relatively big training week (37.3M), as was week 11 (30.8M). Now that I’m well into week 13, my legs are REALLY feeling it…

Typically, I would never increase my mileage for weeks on end, as I’ve been doing since I started to run again post-injury about six and a half weeks ago. Also, I usually avoid bumping up my mileage from week to week by as much as I have been doing in the last few weeks (7.5 – 10M increases). Instead, I try to build gradually for three to four weeks, and then cut back on my long run to allow my body to recover, and avoid 10M jumps.

So why have I not been following my own advice? Well, with so little time to train for Portland, I didn’t feel that I had time for cut-back weeks. I know that’s dangerous reasoning – the goal is to reach the start line feeling strong and fresh, but in order to feel strong and fresh, I have to both train and rest sufficiently! I’ve been toeing the line between over-training and hitting a healthy maximum (relative to where I’m at with my injury – compared to what I was doing in my last training cycle, my mileage has been low). I’ve been trying to be careful, but I admit that on many days I have purposely overstepped that line because I wanted to complete a run, which isn’t smart. After struggling through several speed sessions recently (for example, my VO2 interval session last Wednesday, my threshold intervals yesterday, and my MP 6-miler this morning), I know my legs just aren’t getting enough recovery time from my usual one or two rest days to give me the high quality sessions I’m demanding of them. Too much overloading, not enough backing off.

This morning, in particular, was tough – I remember killing a MP run on the beach last year, perfectly pacing 5M starting at 8:15 down to just under 8:00. Today, however, for my 3M @ 8:30, 3M @ 8-8:15, I was fighting to hit 8:30 for the first half, and then just barely managed to up the pace on the way back. I was ready to keel over by the end of this run – it was challenging last year too (running MP on sand, even packed, is hard!), but I shouldn’t have been that fatigued. I thought – maybe – since I’ve lost a few pounds in the last couple of weeks, that I should be a bit faster, so running MP wouldn’t be as difficult, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Hopefully once I give myself some proper time off, during the taper and after the race, I will see the benefits (if I can keep off the pounds, that is!).

At least I’m looking more athletic! I’ve tried multiple times to slim down this year, without much success, so I’m really pleased with my (unintentional) progress in that area. It’s often when I finally stop focusing on it that it actually happens! I’ve been eating as I normally do, but not snacking as much since I’ve been so busy running around doing a billion things rather than sitting bored at my desk, and of course I have been training more, so it makes sense. It’s such a pleasant surprise though, since I gained weight (partly muscle of course) when I trained for my last two marathons, and I almost always gain weight when I go home, since I drive more/walk less.

Anyway, I plan to keep my 18 miler in the schedule for this weekend – just going to try to get through it as best as I can, without worrying too much about pace (at least it’s not on crazy trails this time). However, this morning confirmed that unless I miraculously start to feel better, I need to cancel my 20 miler the following weekend. I wanted to try to squeeze one last long run in two weeks from the race, to boost my confidence levels, but I think it will end up doing more harm than good. Better to just do a “short” long run of 10 miles and let my legs rest up for the big day.

It’s not an ideal place to stop, but it’s not like I haven’t done a marathon before! Which brings me to my race day mantra – which when I’m not simply counting to 12 in groups of 3 (matches my MP cadence perfectly), is, “I WILL do this. I CAN do this because I HAVE done this.” I say each part in counts of threes up to 12 (“this because” flows together in one set of three beats). It’s very simple, but is in line with how I feel at this stage – I may not be as fast as I’d like to be, but I know I WILL finish because I’ve completed the distance twice before. Running one more long run isn’t going to change anything dramatically!

So 18 miles will be my stopping point. I happened to plan this run for this Saturday, the morning of my 30th birthday. I know, smart move right? Then again, it makes sense in my schedule, and it certainly will justify all the amazing food (and cake!) that I will be eating throughout the day. I’ll be in so much pain (judging from 15 miler at least) that I’ll even get a head start on feeling what it’s like to be OLD! 🙂 But best of all, I’ll have a running buddy who will most likely be in more pain than me – not only because he is five years older, but also because he’ll be super jet lagged! Haha!

Yep, E is flying into SFO tonight from London for a ten-day visit, and I can’t be more excited. Although I’m keeping my actual birthday fairly low key (an intimate bbq with family and a couple close friends who live locally), I’ll be having a party up in San Francisco the following weekend. Yet another reason to skip that 20 miler – so I can devote more energy to celebrating!

Lastly, I can’t help but mention Boston 2012 – I know my chance of getting a spot with my NYC 2010 qualifying time is extremely slim, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up hope entirely just yet right?!

According to the BAA website calculator, if there are any places left, registration will open to me on September 19th at 7am California time. I know the race will most likely fill up before then, but you know what concerns me more? Even if (when!) I do qualify again with the new time of 3:35, they are maintaining the new registration process which gives priority to faster runners. That doesn’t exactly give me confidence that I’ll ever get to run from qualifying, given that it probably fills up with people who run at least 5 minutes faster than the BQ. I do feel confident that I can get a 3:30 at some stage, but the point is this: so many people run that race year after year, I wish they would give priority to those first time Boston marathoners who have worked their butt off to qualify and are dying to run! Hopefully I’ll get a spot someday…

I very rarely enter competitions, but when I came across the Cheribundi Marathon Challenge, I simply HAD to enter.

The winner not only receives a free trip to Las Vegas, including a spot in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on December 4th, but also gets to meet and run with ultramarathoner Scott Jurek and blog about the entire training and racing experience on Cheribundi’s website. Apparently Scott may even pace the winner for part of the race!

Hmm – let’s see – I’ve never been to Vegas (shameful for a Californian!) and have been dying to go for ages; Scott Jurek is one of my running idols; I will have just turned 30 (what better place/what better way to celebrate?!) and received my RRCA coaching certification; I’m looking to do a late 2011 marathon to chase after the new BQ time (and this one, although not at my preferred time of day, looks awesome); and I obviously love to blog about running and traveling.

Sounds quite perfect for me, no?!

This would be an amazing opportunity, so I may as well give it my best shot! I have submitted my “entry” on Facebook – essentially, a wall post stating why I should win, above the NYC marathon photo that appears on my blog. To vote for me, you first have to click the “Like” button at the top of Cheribundi’s Facebook page, and then scroll down the wall and click the “Like” button beneath my photo (this is what gives me the vote). The more likes I receive on my post, the greater my chances of winning! I’m currently in second place but quite a bit behind the leader, so please take a few seconds to help me out and I will be extremely grateful! You can unlike Cheribundi after liking my photo, if you wish.

Thanks for the support!

Scott Jurek (photo borrowed from the "Vegetarian Star")

I woke up this morning with an urge to practice my “marathon pace,” which I’ve put in quotes because I’m not actually signed up for a marathon at the moment. As you may have guessed, I’ve caught marathon fever from yesterday’s London and today’s Boston marathons! I feel a renewed determination to get back out there and chase my next PB – 3:35, or perhaps even 3:30 on a flat course, if I put my mind (and body) to it.

I managed to churn out a relatively fast 7.45 miles as I looped the river, averaging around 7:56 min/mile – although I think maybe Garmin got a bit excited during my first mile (it’s been taking forever to find reliable satellite signals recently), so perhaps more like 7:59 average. Either way, I was very pleased, especially given my long run on Saturday and my lack of sleep these past few weeks! It reminded me that even without regular hill sessions and interval training, my overall running fitness is still quite strong.

Well, relatively strong. Every time I think about the average marathon pace of an elite woman runner, it is just mind boggling – impossible for me ever to attain, obviously, but still very inspiring.

Speaking of which, if you weren’t following the Boston Marathon coverage earlier today, you missed a very exciting race. I was only following via my Twitter feed, so I can only imagine what it must have been like live or on the television – what a nail biter! I am a bit disappointed that Americans Desire Davila and Ryan Hall didn’t win (so close!), but was truly impressed by the performances of these as well as many other runners today.

Davila came in second with a time of 2:22:38, only TWO SECONDS behind winner Caroline Kilel of Kenya. That placed her as the second fastest American woman marathoner in history!

Ryan Hall unfortunately only ranked 4th place, but his time of 2:04:58 awarded him the title of fastest American runner ever. Yeah, I think I’d be pretty happy about that!

Geoffrey Mutai, another Kenyan (of course – they’ve dominated many of the recent big marathons), won the men’s race in 2:03:02, the fastest marathon time ever recorded by nearly a minute! Unfortunately, however, it didn’t qualify as a world record because the Boston course has too much downhill from start to finish to be eligible. Yes, another reason I want to run this race!

So it’s been a marathon-filled couple of days, and I’m now really craving a big race for myself. It’s great being a spectator, but nothing beats participating in – and finishing – a major event!

For now, however, I’ll be enjoying some shorter challenges – the 17km Kentmere trail race, the New Forest 10 miler, and perhaps a London 10 miler and the Iceland half. E tried to convince me to enter the Swiss Alpine marathon (or 30km) in Davos, Switzerland in July, but I quickly vetoed that idea, having heard horror stories from my coach’s experience, which you can read about here. I think we would need a bit of preparation for that one…

In the meantime, Boston and London 2012 are calling my name. Which one will it be? Given that both require a lot of luck to be on my side (assuming I do not run for charity), I realize the answer might end up being neither, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

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

Grateful for quality time this week with my little pumpkin! 🎃😍 Happy Monday from California! I haven’t posted any running pics for a long time as I’ve been dealing with a hip injury for the last few months (and zero running for the last 5 weeks). 😓 I haven’t run a race, even a short one, in over a year - so different than how I imagined my postpartum running life to be. It makes me sad that I can’t run especially while in Santa Cruz, but I’m trying to stay active in different ways, be diligent about my PT, and remain positive even though the road to recovery feels endless at times. Yesterday, E and I went on a beautiful beach walk in the morning and then I did a hike with a friend and our babes in the afternoon, where I normally run in Nisene. I miss running but hopefully will get back to it soon, stronger than before! Baking “for the baby” tonight (so I say as I gobble up these delicious treats). Made mini pumpkin muffins (and a few mama sized ones), recipe adapted from @babyfoode. So easy to make - I added full fat Greek yogurt and almond butter to include some healthy fats. I think Arielle will love these - if for some crazy reason she doesn’t, more for me!! 😂 Nice work on tonight’s dinner, @trailz.io!! So good I’m going back for seconds. Veg bake with layers of eggplant, red onions, tomatoes, zucchini, ricotta, breadcrumbs, & spices with arugula on top. 👌🏻 Surprise package in the mail today! Thx @rxbar - stoked to try out the new gingerbread flavor. Speaking of, how on earth is it already the holiday season?!?! #rxbar Love @siggisdairy triple cream yogurts - perfect to satisfy a craving for something sweet and indulgent while providing 9g protein, relatively few calories (170), and calcium. The chocolate flavor was so delicious! #dailysiggis

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