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I ran the NYC marathon for the first time in 2010, back when I was still living in London. It was my second marathon, and I had trained extremely hard with the help of my coach to BQ (sub-3:40 at the time). I remember waiting to start on a perfectly sunny, crisp day. The atmosphere was electric, and I was overcome by emotion as I crossed the start line and took in the amazing views from the Verrazano Bridge.

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Brooklyn was a huge party – I got caught up in the excitement (all smiles pictured above left) and reached mile 13 feeling unusually fatigued. It was way too early to be tired as I entered Queens, and yet every mile was a battle to stay on pace. Cheers from my friends, family and thousands of strangers carried me along 1st ave. I felt my goal slipping away as I made my way through the Bronx and up 5th avenue (where did that hill come from?!), but then something happened when I entered Central Park. I felt a renewed sense of determination and clawed my way back to my goal over the last two miles, unleashing this fury I didn’t know existed. I simply refused to accept defeat – I had worked too hard for that – and found another gear that catapulted me forward to finish in 3:39:36. I was in complete shock as I hobbled my way through the chute. I eventually found my Dad and whispered “I did it” as he gave me a huge hug, which unlocked a flood of tears and a huge smile. My all time favorite post race photo above captures that moment!

That first NYC marathon was a pivotal experience. It inspired me to create this blog, become a running coach, and push myself harder to reach new running goals. It gave me the courage to leave London and go back to grad school to become a dietitian. It solidified my relatively new relationship with E, who also ran that day (his first marathon). It motivated me to coach the Gilda’s club team for the past four years, as I love to share this incredible NYC event with other runners while supporting a great charity. This marathon holds a very special place in my heart, and I had always wanted to run it again – not racing it all out, but at a pace that would allow me to be more present and enjoy every step. This year I finally got to do just that.

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Sunday’s marathon represented many things. Most importantly, E and I raised over $6,000 for team Gilda’s in memory of our friend Noirin, who passed away in June. She started the NYC marathon last year but wasn’t able to finish due to a painful side effect of her cancer treatment. Her DNF must have been very disappointing after training hard and finishing the previous year, but she remained cheerful as always and eager to hear about everyone else’s race. This year, we celebrated her life and finished the marathon for her. As we crossed the start line, I pictured her smile, her laugh, her strength, her determination. It was an ongoing source of inspiration during our race. E and I are so grateful for the generosity of so many friends, family members and co-workers who helped us achieve our fundraising goals – we cannot thank you enough!

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The marathon also happened to be E’s birthday – and what better way to celebrate than by participating in NYC’s biggest block party?! I made special birthday running hats just for the occasion…so silly and fun! (The visor fanny pack will be saved for another time…)

Lastly, the NYC marathon was the first time that E and I actually raced together. We ran two ultras together but these were at a more leisurely pace on trails – very different from racing a road marathon. Sunday actually was a training race for the JFK 50 miler on November 21, which we entered somewhat last minute after being inspired by so many legendary athletes at NESS. E ran it last year (check out his race report) and I had so much fun pacing him, I wanted to give it a go myself! Staying healthy and having fun were our top goals, but since we usually don’t race marathons together, it was a great opportunity for me to pace E to finish in 4 hours. He always tends to go out too fast in road marathons and it was my mission to hold him back, as I know he is capable of sub-4!

One AMAZING thing that we experienced for the first time was waking up in our own beds and going to a marathon start – and hopping on the subway and being back home soon after the finish. I can’t believe it was our first marathon in our home city! I kept forgetting that we were actually running, because there was no hotel or hours of travel involved. AMAZING.

That said, I forgot how logistically challenging this race is! It took us 2.5 hours to get to the start village – cab to ferry to bus to corrals. Getting on the ferry was crazy (took over 30 min to get on due to crowding) and the bus was stuck in tons of traffic. The Wave 1 folks were getting very nervous! We finally made it and wandered around for a bit before making our way to the green corrals. We had more than enough time, there were a billion toilets, and everything was extremely well organized. It was very mild out – turns out E didn’t need that crazy bear suit after all for warmth, but we did get some good laughs!

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We started in wave 2 on the bottom of the bridge, which was a really different experience. Fun but not as dramatic without those great views. It was SO crowded – not at all like in wave 1 five years ago! It was difficult to keep track of E while we each tried to find openings to pass people. I kept telling him not to surge and pass too much to conserve energy but it was difficult given we were constantly slowed down and trapped behind walls of people. By mile 2, we were slightly ahead of pace and I tried to slow him down, which he did but not enough. Those early miles definitely zapped a lot of energy! We finally hit a steady pace around mile 5 or 6, although crowding remained an issue – navigating water stations was particularly challenging – but I guess this is the largest marathon in the world!

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Despite these frustrations, we had an amazing time. The spectator support was even better than I remembered – likely due to warmer weather and the later time. I felt very present and in tune with my surroundings, which was a nice change from my usual tunnel vision hanging on for dear life race experience. Seeing friends was uplifting as were all the great signs (“Never trust a fart,” “Pet for power” with an actual dog in the sign, and so many more), bands, costumes etc. Brooklyn was the same huge party that I remembered and the miles flew by.

E and I chatted and ran comfortably for the first half, singing and taking it all in. As we entered Queens, we knew it was time to work it. What is it about mile 13 in this particular race that always gets to me?! I guess the fun of Brooklyn is over and you know the struggle that lies ahead. The warm weather was starting to get to E but he was doing a great job maintaining pace. The 59th street bridge was challenging as usual – I felt like I was encountering an old enemy as we approached it – and sure enough this is where we started to lose goal pace, but we planned on changing gears and getting back on track later on. E was still hanging on in the Bronx, and I was tired but feeling good at mile 20 – uplifted by the Gilda’s cheer station!

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E started to slow down and the wheels came off as we made our way back into Manhattan. He felt very sick and had to walk it out a number of times between miles 21 and 25. It’s funny how the second you need to take care of someone else, your own pain goes away. All I cared about was making sure he was okay and keeping him moving – running ahead to get him water and Gatorade, and using every motivational phrase and tactic I could think of to get him running again. It was a disappointment to see him struggling – we both really thought he had a 4 hour race or at least a PR in the bag – but hey, we were still running the NYC marathon and we were doing it together, and the rest didn’t matter.

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I thought entering the park would have the same motivating effect on him as it did on me many years ago, but he couldn’t shake off his nausea. I took advantage of these miles to work the crowd – drum up more cheers, tell everyone it was his birthday, and admire the gorgeous Fall colors in the park. Reminded me of all those times when I was struggling late in a marathon, and there always was a runner with WAY too much energy waving his arms around trying to get more cheers from the crowd. Finally, I got to be that person! When we hit mile 25, I pretty much ordered him to stop walking with only 2km to go and things finally turned around. “It never always gets worse,” as Dave Horton always says – so true. He finished so strong and I’m really proud of him, clocking in at 4:13, only about 1 min off his flat marathon PR.

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All in all, it was a great day. Despite some painful miles, E had a wonderful birthday run. I did my best to help him reach his goal and am sorry we didn’t get there, but we learned from what went wrong and will try again next time. Running NYC again really made me appreciate just how challenging the course is –  it’s not exactly “hilly” but there are so many long inclines that can exhaust you over time that you need to be very strategic in how you run it. I don’t have a desire to go back and race it again, but I do hope to run it for fun again someday! You can’t find the same energy and crowd support anywhere else in the world.

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We celebrated with dinner at Babbo – the same restaurant we went to in 2010 (left). Delicious as always!!

So next up is the JFK 50. I felt great during the marathon and recovery was going well until a couple days ago, when my foot randomly started hurting a lot…I’m hoping that this passes quickly with rest! Either way, I can be happy with two great Fall races in the books.

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You know those people who run marathons or other races “just to finish?” Certainly nothing wrong with that, but I’m definitely not one of those people. I have a plan and multiple time goals for every race, and each training run has a specific purpose. My plan for a training run may be to zone out and take it easy, or it may be to hit a very specific pace for a certain number of miles – either way, when I put on my running shoes, I know what I intend to do and if necessary I can adjust along the way.

Now let’s cut to my last two long runs – today’s 18 miler and last weekend’s 20 miler (which I ran with NYRR, in their Training Run #1). Remember when I said, waaaaay back in training week number 4 (I know, I’ve been a very bad blogger lately) that I hoped my first strong training week in ages wasn’t a fluke? Yeah, about that…

I was feeling great up until the following week, after a gnarly but awesome hill session. I had told myself that it was time to finally start training in earnest for my Colorado trail race (Aug. 19th), and I guess I got a little too excited. I was just having so much fun with this incredible treadmill at my gym that goes up to 30% incline (!!!!) and goes downhill too. The next day, I felt a hint of pain in my right hip – the first time I’ve had pain in that area for at least 8 months. I had a pretty bad hip injury last summer that completely derailed my Portland training, so as you can imagine I started to freak out slightly. I took a few days off, ran a slow 10M with my team since I had to coach that weekend, and the pain got worse. I took another few days off, which was followed by an extremely nasty cold which set me back a full week – and then it was time for my 20 miler. I was still sick but feeling a bit better,  and E had just arrived the day before and was planning on running the NYRR training run too, so I really didn’t want to skip it. Probably not the smartest move, but – I finished.

And that really does sum up that run. I finished. I had already adjusted my plan for the day – I wanted to run 9ish pace (nice and easy!) with the last few miles at MP. Not too hard, right? HA. E and I ran the first 5M together, and then I took off since I was feeling good and wanted to run 8:45ish. By mile 9/10, I was really starting to struggle. The humidity was pretty intense and despite having my usual pre-race breakfast, taking gels regularly and drinking plenty of water, I was completely zapped of energy. Not too surprising given I still had a cold I guess! (Note to my Gilda’s runners – if you happen to be reading this, do as your coach SAYS, not what she does! 🙂 ) My pace started to slow down, particularly after mile 15ish (was running closer to 10 than 9 by that point) and I nearly quit around mile 16 before the last 4M loop – but forced myself to keep going. “Just finish,” I kept telling myself. That was my only goal. Not “finish strong,” but just finish. And I did. And I was happy. I even managed a nice “sprint” at the end! Surprisingly, my average pace wasn’t all that bad – 9:15 – although I’m sure my garmin was off slightly. Here’s the route if you’re curious.

Today, the weather was far more brutal – I didn’t think it was possible to be more humid than last week, but it was, and very hot. The run was a bit shorter – I was going for 18M including my run to the subway (so 17.5 in the park) – and I finally shook my cold, but I felt just as crappy as I did last weekend. Once again, I had a plan as I jogged to the subway – run 9-9:30ish with my running buddy and then the last 6M or so around 8:45. And once again, that plan went right out the window! At the last Gilda’s Club meeting, several of my runners had expressed concern over their extremely slow paces in this weather and I assured them that it’s just the weather and not to worry about it. You have to adjust to conditions. I really should just show them my garmin details for today’s run – my average pace (10:16) says it all!

What felt like 9-9:30 in effort level was actually 10-11ish on my watch. Within a few minutes of starting, I was already trying to bargain with myself – “maybe I’ll just do a shorter run today and run long next weekend” which my running buddy immediately helped me squash. That’s when my new “just finish” mentality took over. And finish I did. I’m not sure it was a good thing that I finished, given how horrible I felt by the end, but I did finish! I took FIVE gels – I normally take 3, maybe 4 – because I was struggling so much. I only happened to have 5 because I was practicing running with my gel belt (E brought a lifetime supply of our UK gels back with him, so my mission to find a new US gel that I don’t hate has been abandoned for the time being). When I stopped, I got very dizzy, then felt sick to my stomach, and my hip started to hurt again. So yeah – not my best run. I know it’s hard to have a great run in these conditions, but it’s still frustrating to feel this crappy. And here I thought I had finally adjusted to training in NYC summer weather! Clearly I have to change something – perhaps my nutrition/hydration – and I need to sort out my hip. Just when I was finally starting to feel strong again…

Which brings me to my current Chicago goals. I’m wrapping up week 7 right now – that’s nearly the halfway point  – and I certainly am not where I had hoped to be fitness wise at this stage. I believe that I can get a PR if the weather cooperates – but sub 3:35? Not so sure. School and everything else going on in my life right now have made it really hard to focus my energy on training properly – and clearly my body isn’t coping as well as I had hoped that it would. The stress of school has really taken a lot out of me. There’s still time – I’m certainly not going to be running Chicago “just to finish” no matter what happens – but I also want to be realistic and admit to myself that BQ-ing, as badly as I want it to happen, isn’t at the top of my list of priorities right now and may simply not be possible. It makes me slightly angry to verbalize this because I feel like this is similar to what happened last summer with Portland, and in the last year and a half, I’ve had so many unmet running goals. We’ll see though – I’ve been taking my training week by week so far and I’ll continue to do so.

In more positive news, E is finally here! Although we still don’t have the apartment set up at all, it’s been so wonderful to finally be together. Currently, we just have an amazing bed and an awesome TV – the essentials, clearly! As a result, we’ve been sitting on the floor quite a bit for meals and to watch the Olympics. After running 18 or 20 miles, I can assure you that this really isn’t pleasant! Hopefully we will have everything sorted with furniture in the next week or so. I’m really looking forward to our new place feeling like a real home.

My second summer session has been a bit tough – motivation is at an all time low – but thankfully I only have a week to go. My final exams are next week and I CANNOT WAIT to be done! Hopefully I won’t be such a delinquent blogger after that. I’ll leave you with a few photos of my recent meals on the floor – it’s been really nice having someone else to cook for! I’m far more motivated to make pretty, yummy things when it’s not just me. Oh, and don’t be fooled – I really don’t eat this healthy all the time but hey, I’m a nutrition student so I guess it’s no surprise that most of my meals look something like this (plus some meat and fish a few times a week – just realized I’ve been vegetarian quite a bit recently!). Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

          

I’m starting to think that the races I go into with relatively low or neutral expectations are often the great ones. Not to say that setting ambitious goals for yourself isn’t worthwhile – this is what I usually do, and it’s what led me to BQ in the NYC Marathon, for instance. However, my perfectionist tendency to put so much pressure on myself and over-analyze the journey to the finish can sometimes backfire rather than motivate me – it’s a fine line!

Take my very first half marathon, for instance – I had taken a week off due to a bad cold and didn’t really know what I was capable of achieving. Rather than plot out a detailed race strategy or obsess about pace bands, the gun went off and I just started running. By the second mile, I realized how strong I felt and gradually pushed harder and harder until I reached the finish. I ran a 1:37 and am still trying to beat that time! I trained hard for that race, but my ability to remain so focused and in tune with my body was equally important. Just run forward as fast as you can until you are done – it really felt that simple. And yet most of the time, for me, it never is that simple!

I didn’t break any personal bests at yesterday’s Mini 10k race, but I did exceed my expectations and had a fantastic race. I went into it utterly exhausted (I haven’t really slept much in the last two weeks – part insomnia, part organic chemistry), I didn’t feel like running, my stomach was upset and I wasn’t prepared for this race (I’ve done minimal speed work since March). Hence the low expectations! This race was supposed to be a diagnostic to assess my fitness level as I launch my Chicago marathon training, but my real goal was to improve my NYRR race “best pace” of 7:39 so that I could be placed in a higher corral going forward. It wasn’t a very lofty goal, given I normally run a 10k much faster, but I wasn’t sure I could even manage a 7:38.

  

My running buddy met me bright and early at Columbus Circle, where the race began. Racing is always more fun with friends! I decided to test my running skirt out in a race – figured wearing a mini skirt would be appropriate for the all-women’s “mini” 10k – and my skirt didn’t disappoint. I might have to buy another one…

The race started at 8am and we really lucked out – it was supposed to be a hot one and the sun was kind enough to hide behind clouds until later in the day. This was my first all-women race – I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to do an all-women race, but I loved it (minus the crazy long toilet lines – they definitely needed more toilets!). The course was challenging but awesome and being surrounded by so many women runners was inspiring. Without all the men in the way, I was right up front – I could see the elites (Desi Davila, Edna Kiplagat and many others)!

The beginning (running up Central Park West) was crowded and I was feeling pretty apathetic about the whole situation, but at some point during the first mile, my attitude shifted. I don’t know why. Maybe being surrounded by so many other female runners and feeling proud to be part of something much larger motivated me – or wearing my Claire tank, which I usually only save for big races – or looking at my watch at Mile 1 and seeing my 7:20 average pace. Whatever it was, something stirred within me and I felt that fighting spirit come back. “Slow down!” my brain yelled, but my body said “screw it” and kept pressing on. The roads opened up as we entered the park and I was able to get “into the zone.”

It’s really tough to toe that line successfully in terms of pushing as hard as you can without crashing and burning before the finish – but in a relatively short race, you can afford to be a bit more risky at the start and I decided to just go for it. The hills were a bit brutal, reflected in my slightly slower split at Mile 4, and I was losing a little steam in Mile 6, but I managed to keep up the momentum for the most part. The downhills felt incredible (why do so many people fail to use the downhills to their advantage?!) and I LOVED the fact that the last part of the race was similar to the NYC Marathon course, including the same finish (minus that horrible hill at the end – I could’ve done without that). It brought me back to how hard I was working at that stage of the marathon to reach my goal and motivated me to keep pushing.

Finally I reached the finish – it took me a long time to catch my breath. My official time was 45:58 – just 54 seconds shy of my 10k PR, which I ran on a flat course several years ago. I really left it all out there on the roads – it’s been awhile since I’ve pushed that hard, and I’m really proud of myself given my current fitness level. What a great starting point! I really am more of an endurance runner and usually don’t like 10k’s because they are so fast, but I was really happy crossing that finish line and it was actually really nice to be finished in 3/4 of an hour! I placed 287th out of 6,122 women overall and was 77th in my age group, 30-34, out of 1,146. My average pace was 7:25 – great news for my future NYRR corral placements. Here are my Garmin details.

This bodes very well for my Chicago training, assuming I can keep myself injury free. Clearly I have more speed in my legs than I previously believed – surely helped by the fact that I’ve trimmed down slightly since I raced my last 10k, over a year ago. My hamstring felt fine during the race, but it has occasionally felt a bit sore after workouts so I just need to keep up my strength training and be very mindful of how my body feels.

  

After the race, my friend and I enjoyed our popsicles and other post-race goodies and chilled out on the grass, stretching and listening to the live music. She got a PR so we were both really amped up.

  

We were about to leave when we noticed a crowd around one of the tents – turns out Edna Kiplagat (who won the race – she also won the NYC marathon the year I ran it) and Desi Davila were there signing medals and taking photos with fans. Awesome! I LOVE Desi so it was such an honor to meet her. I’m kind of obsessed with this photo. I couldn’t believe how tiny she is in person!

Both women signed my medal – Edna wrote “good job” and Desi wrote “Claire, run happy!” Best medal ever.

We finally left the race area and on our way out, we saw Desi running with her coach. They were speeding along, doing some cool-down miles presumably. I can’t wait to watch her run in the London Olympics!

I’m definitely doing this race again next year. Great course, great crowd and truly inspiring to see how far we’ve come in the last 40 years – GO WOMEN RUNNERS!!!!

Happy Sunday – I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine! Unfortunately, I’m stuck inside today studying for my written Food Science exam tomorrow (our cooking lab final exam is on Wednesday). As you can imagine, I’m seriously counting down the days until my last final on May 15th. I get an entire TWO weeks off from school (including a week in California to visit my family) before organic chemistry hell begins – so I’m very excited.

Over the course of the semester, I’ve noticed that I’ve left studying more and more to the last minute for each exam…kind of just started studying for this one yesterday…I’m sure it will be fine. Time to learn the fine art of cramming, given I have already mastered the art of procrastination. 🙂

Thankfully, I got to enjoy the slightly chilly but beautiful weather yesterday during my first long run outing to Prospect Park. I can’t believe it took me this long to run in Brooklyn! I wanted to check out the first 7M of the Brooklyn Half Marathon course and also just needed a break from Central Park. I am definitely going back – was a slightly longer journey but worth every extra minute. It was relatively quiet during our first few laps (my running buddy and I started nice and early), super green, had a different vibe that I liked and somehow the smaller loops made the miles go by quickly. I had feared doing four + loops would get really boring, but those 12 miles flew by! Maybe it was just the fact that we were in a new environment.

As for hills, I was trying to gauge if it was about the same as Central Park, so I could prepare E given he won’t have a chance to check out the course before May 19th. If you run counter-clockwise, there is one big hill that isn’t quite as steep as Harlem hill but it’s longer (about 0.4M). You run two loops, so you hit that hill twice. I think it probably ends up being about the same. I compared last week’s 11.25M Central Park run to yesterday’s 12M Prospect Park run – and they were both around 430ft elevation gain, and that was with us going out of our way to get more hills in yesterday (we did one loop in the opposite direction, which was a bit harder).

Lastly, I loved that we were able to end our run right at a farmer’s market. I always take the train back to Union Square after a Central Park run and get to hit the market there, but it’s not the same as finishing a run and immediately refueling with a coffee and some well-deserved goodies. It reminded me of being back in London and hitting Borough Market after a river run.

Wandering around farmer’s markets after a long run is dangerous though – I somehow managed to resist eating everything in sight, knowing I had another long day of cooking ahead of me. It hasn’t been the healthiest week, with bread and pastry classes as our last two labs, but it’s been fun! Here’s a shot of *some* of the baked goods we made (many were still in the oven when I took this, including my carrot-raisin muffins) – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many muffins, cookies and scones in one day. It’s a good thing I ran long on Saturday!

On Friday night, I did a huge shop at TJ’s to stock up on all kinds of things so that I could practice cooking for my Food Science final exam. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the show Chopped on the Food Network, but that’s essentially half of my exam. The first part is testing our knife skills, then the second part is testing us on three of the MANY techniques we’ve done, and lastly we get four secret ingredients and must turn it into a fabulous meal. Our professor, along with my Physiology professor, will serve as our panel of judges, walking around and tasting/critiquing everyone’s food. I’m surprisingly nervous – I love to cook, and I think I can make something good, but I am a relatively slow cook and I’m not a huge fan of the chaos in a busy kitchen. I would NOT survive as a professional chef, that’s for sure!

So, what have I practiced so far? On Thursday morning, I made poached eggs, which I placed on top of roasted sweet potato and onions. My eggs didn’t come out perfectly – I was using medium sized eggs so I didn’t have as much white as I would like – but I think I have the technique down. Friday night, I made quinoa, which was a bit challenging given I don’t have a lid for my pot, but a plate sufficed (kind of). I pan seared some chicken and attempted to make my first sauce – used white wine to deglaze and then added chicken stock. This is very simple, except that I was very tired after a long day (I had been up in the Bronx for a City Harvest training – which is going well btw!) and didn’t pour off the hot oil. So, of course I set off the smoke alarm and my sauce was a disaster. Thankfully, the chicken tasted great as did the roasted Brussels sprouts and fennel, and the braised fennel I had made earlier. For the sprouts, I did what my teacher told us and put aside a bunch of leaves, tossed them in some olive oil and salt and roasted them separately after the sprouts to incorporate some nice crispy leaves into the rest of the dish.

Yesterday’s menu included mushroom risotto, pan fried chicken and pan fried fish (I wanted to practice breading and pan frying things, as I never do this for myself), banana muffins, braised chicken legs and making sauce thickeners (roux and slurry). I didn’t get to the last two items, but everything else went quite well! For the risotto, I used a Lidia’s Italy recipe, although I used baby bella mushrooms and sauteed them after adding the onions and shallots. Super easy and so delicious – I can’t believe I haven’t made risotto before. My arm hurt from all the stirring though!

Making muffins was my food science experiment – I took an old recipe for “healthy” banana bread that I’ve used in the past and tried to improve it based on what I’ve learned in class. I won’t go into the science here, but as you surely know, each ingredient (sugar, fat, type of flour etc) plays a specific role in the outcome of a baked product, and you can’t randomly add ingredients as you can do (to an extent) in cooking.

Now that I am starting to understand the science behind it all, I looked at my old recipe and it didn’t really make sense – I don’t even know where I got it from, or if I made it up, to be honest. Why was I using more baking soda than powder? I never really understood the difference between the two until now, and it seems like it should be the other way around. Why water and not milk? Why was I using all whole-wheat flour? Surely to be healthier, but it leads to a different texture and volume than half whole wheat half white. Why egg whites and not whole eggs? So I thought I could play with the ratios and ingredients to make it better while also practicing the “muffin method” of mixing: sift your dry ingredients, in a separate bowl combine your wet ingredients, mix them together with a few strokes and then put them into your muffin pan and into the oven.

I’m not an experienced baker and don’t have many pieces of equipment in my apartment (like scales) so I still didn’t really know how much of each thing I should be using – for instance, if I was balancing the apple sauce and mashed banana with the appropriate amount of flour, sugar etc – but I tried to look at different recipes and the info in my textbook to make an educated guess. I made my own applesauce by slicing two granny smiths and cooking them with a little water and cinnamon, and added a dash of lemon juice at the end. SO GOOD and so easy. I removed the skins (and ate them – yum!) and added them to my two mashed ripe bananas. I used two medium eggs rather than three egg whites; two teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda; one cup whole wheat and one cup white flour; 1/2 cup milk rather than water (kinda guessed on the amount – but wanted to try using milk); 1/2 teaspoon salt; about 1/3 cup chopped walnuts; and one teaspoon each of cinnamon and vanilla. Here’s the result:

So what was my verdict? The flavor was GREAT – definitely improved upon the old recipe (although to be fair, it really needed improving – tasted way too healthy). The egg yolks added some fat which made them more tender and added flavor, as did the milk; the white flour improved the texture/volume and together with the altered chemical leavener ratios, made the muffins less dense than my previous batches. They didn’t have any oil or butter though, and I’m not sure I got the dry to liquid ratio quite right – the were a *tiny* bit dry, so maybe I could’ve used a bit more milk or even lowfat rather than nonfat milk, or a little vegetable oil, but for a healthy muffin I was VERY pleased.

The other issue probably was from overmixing, which leads to too much gluten development and thus a tougher product. One of the important things about the muffin method is NOT mixing until the batter is smooth – a few lumps are okay – so you just mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. I struggled with this because I needed to mix quite a bit to get all the dry ingredients moistened, which perhaps means I didn’t have enough liquid. I know I overmixed because there were some holes in my muffin – otherwise known as tunneling. They also were a bit less tender than I had hoped, but overall the texture was good considering the ingredients. I had a few this morning for breakfast and they were delicious with my coffee – not sure they will stay fresh for very long though without any oil or butter, so I put most of them in the freezer for future snacks. Here are a couple photos – kind of looks like a smiley face, a kind of evil this-is-what-you-avoid-when-making-muffins face!

Right, well it’s now getting late and I still have hardly studied for my exam, so I better get to it!

Happy Monday folks! I am entering my second week of NYU Steinhardt after three solid days of staring at books (I don’t have class on Friday). I could say reading but it’s still questionable how many of those words actually decided to stay in my brain. Although my eyes hurt and I am very tired (I have grown more accustomed to the noise in my apartment but now the stress has kicked in), I am finally caught up on my assignments, as of last night at least. The cycle begins anew today…!

I think week one went very well (minus a few mini meltdowns here and there) so I am hoping that week two goes even more smoothly. I enjoyed all my classes, and met more people in my program during my Wednesday Food Management Theory class. Apparently there are 29 of us in total (which is considered to be a large Spring class), but everyone is at varying stages of their DPD/MS, so only a smaller group is starting with me at square one. I even met a few people from San Francisco, so we got to commiserate over the cold and craziness of the NYC. I hope to get to know some of my classmates better through the new grad student nutrition seminar, which begins Tuesday night.

My Food & Food Science lab also begins this week (Wednesday from 9:30am – 12:15pm), so that means I’m losing quite a bit of my “free” time but that’s okay. I’m excited for lab! I’ve never had any formal cooking training, so I think it will be useful, plus some of the recipes we’re making sound awesome. One of the chapters I read for lab last night was on plating food and various techniques to make food look beautiful – so much fun! I could do that all day long.

As for the mini meltdowns…well, I already mentioned in my last post that I am simply too slow with my work – I need to pick up the pace. That’s going to be an issue for awhile most likely but at least I was productive over the long weekend and checked many items off my list. Still, at times I felt very overwhelmed by the insane quantity of material I need to learn, and all of the other things that I wasn’t tending to because I was studying. Things like running errands, responding to emails, applying for grants, finding a volunteer opportunity, finding a job, seeing friends, speaking to my family, strength training/anything at the gym (which is essential for injury prevention), and so much more. I’ve also been stressing myself out way too much about money – trying not to go out to eat, trying to walk everywhere etc. The financial aspects of attending NYU are very scary, but it’s also tough getting used to not doing things I used to do regularly when I had a steady income. But hey, it’s only week two, and I’ve been holding myself together for the most part. Change is a process!

Speaking of change, I got this card in the mail from my mother on Wednesday, along with some things from home that made me happy – specifically, my own sheets, my bathrobe and a really soft warm blanket that will be great for studying on the couch when I”m cold. She mailed it to me on my first day here, when I was really struggling to adjust to my new surroundings. Things are MUCH better now, but the card (and the package) were still extremely comforting. Change CAN be beautiful, it’s true – it’s tough, but it’s how you grow. It’s also how I’ll finally have a career that I will (hopefully) love!

Before I get back to the books, I’ll sum up my week in running and food.

In terms of training, I had a strong mileage week – hit 34 miles which is the highest I’ve gone in awhile. I know that’s nothing for anyone training for a marathon, but I felt pretty good about it since I’ve mostly been in the mid-high 20s since running Portland in October. I ran an easy 10.5M with some friends in Central Park on Saturday. We started at 9am and the park was practically a running highway, perhaps due to the relatively mild weather. It was a great study break, particularly the social aspect since I have not had a chance yet to get in touch with even a small fraction of my NYC friends since I got here.

The run made me realize a few things. First, I really really miss my California running spots. The park is great once in awhile, particularly the people watching, and every time I visited NYC I LOVED running there, but it’s a bit boring to me now. The East River is getting even more boring. I haven’t yet been to the West side this month, but I did tons of running there during my visit in November – it’s pretty but it grows old quickly. A friend pointed out a long path near Brooklyn Heights that’s on the water, which could be nice, and there’s Prospect Park (but that’s small I think). Is that really it for NYC running?! California and even London spoiled me for running spots. I can’t tell you how badly I wish I could run on the beach or in Nisene just once! In London, it was so easy to hop on a train and get out to the countryside. I guess that’s just how things go in NYC though. I suppose I need to stick to the park and the West side anyway, since that’s the NYC Half course. Speaking of, I haven’t yet posted my training log for that race – here it is! Still a work in progress, but you can see what I’ve done thus far. Be warned – it’s a somewhat random, pieced together plan…

Second, I realized that I really need to hit the “reset” button my legs. I shouldn’t have felt that fatigued after 10 miles. I’ve been taking two full rest days recently (mainly due to not having time for the gym) but I think because I’ve been so busy and have neglected strength training, am no longer running up mountains in California and have thrown in new things like track workouts, my legs aren’t quite as strong as they used to be. So this week is a drop back week. Also, starting today, I’m going to make time for cross training and strength training. My gym is five minutes from campus – really, no excuse!

 

Food-wise, I had a pretty great weekend! On Friday – my day of studying and not leaving my apartment (I don’t recommend that btw if you live in a tiny place like mine – got very claustrophobic) – I made myself a “study break scramble” which was delicious. I’m loving those chicken mango sausages I got from TJ’s. I keep them in the freezer which is handy on busy days like Friday. Here’s my recipe if you’re interested.

On Saturday, I had a friend over for dinner – my first real apartment guest, as well as the first time I tried out the oven! Thankfully, it works. My place doesn’t have a real table, just a coffee table, but I did my best with the space and it looked quite nice.

I made a starter salad and a grilled veggie pizza with cheese (mozzarella and feta) on whole wheat pizza dough. It was delicious! I am convinced that shallots make everything (savory) taste wonderful – I’m obsessed with them. For the veg toppings, I used sauteed mushrooms, shallots, garlic, red, yellow and orange bell peppers (sliced very thinly), cherry tomatoes and baby zucchini. We ate all but two large slices, which made for the perfect lunch (with salad and fruit) on Sunday while I was studying in the NYU library grad student lounge.

After dinner, I had what I realized was my first drink since, possibly, New Year’s Eve! Since I’m not going out much these days, and I’m not a big drinker to begin with, I just haven’t really been drinking much. I had a nice glass of Viognier – it tasted so good.

 

I wrapped up my night with a dark chocolate peanut butter cup (my favorite candy) and some sliced blood oranges with cinnamon – very refreshing.

Sunday was a much-needed rest day for me. I spent all day studying, and rewarded myself by going to see My Week with Marilyn with a friend. SUCH a great movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it! We both really lost ourselves in it, which is exactly what I needed after focusing on school for so many hours.

This week is going to be insane – I’m tied up with non-school stuff this weekend so I need try to get ahead in the next four days so I can take a couple days off this weekend. Bring on week two!

The last time I wrote about the joys of winter running and racing was almost a year ago, after completing a frigid 10k race in London.

This morning’s early morning long run in Central Park reminded me of winter’s true meaning. That day in London last year wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t 23 degrees (16 with wind chill), windy and snowing. My eyelashes weren’t frozen together. I didn’t have icicle brows. I wasn’t freaking out and getting ready to call it a day because my hands were so painfully freezing.

❄ Welcome to New York City in January! ❄

Or, as a friend said to me, “You’re in NYC, babe. Nothing’s easy. Welcome back!” Ha!

I know, I know – NYC certainly isn’t the coldest place in North America! Many of you are probably rolling your eyes and telling me to go to Minneapolis, Montreal, Chicago or wherever else. I’m not sure if you’ve read the book Just a Little Run Around the World by Rosie Swale Pope (it’s awesome – very inspirational), but having read that, and knowing that many of you probably ran in FAR worse conditions today, makes me feel slightly ashamed to be bitching about today’s weather. But what can I do? It’s in my California blood – more than a decade of winters hasn’t eliminated the fact that I’m a total wimp in the cold. But I’m not a quitter, which is why I wouldn’t let the weather beat me down today!

I had made plans to meet a friend in Central park at 7:30am this morning. I wasn’t too excited about the early time, given I still haven’t managed to switch to EST, but I figured it would be nice to get the run out of the way. I always feel so pleased with myself when it’s only 9:30 or 10am and I’ve already finished a tough, long weekend workout. Also, it would help me get on an earlier schedule for classes, which begin on Monday!

Everyone always says that having a running or exercise partner helps you stick to your goals – it’s so true! Had I not made running plans, I definitely would not have gotten up at 6:45am, even if it hadn’t been snowing. Had I seen the view below out of my window (which I took at 7am, right after it started to snow), I may not have done my long run at all, especially since I still haven’t created a NYC half training plan for myself yet (schedules help keep me motivated). However, someone would soon be waiting for me out in that weather, so I bundled up, made an “I really don’t want to go outside” face and forced myself out the door.

  

I wish I had brought my camera – Central Park was completely white and very pretty, at least from what I could see through my frozen eyelashes! My last run in Central Park was a wonderful 10 miler on a sunny, crisp morning the day before the NYC marathon. What a transformation!

I met my friend at the 59th street entrance and we planned to do two complete laps of the park, which would total around 12.2M. I also jogged to and from the subway stations, adding an extra 1.35M or so (it was WAY too cold to walk). The Manhattan Half Marathon (which had been turned into a fun run, for safety reasons) started 30 minutes behind us, so it was relatively quiet in the park at first but there were quite a few runners out and about by mile 4 or 5. I was pretty impressed by the number of runners who showed up, and even more the volunteers for the race! The race photographers took some photos of us (will try to track them down) and various people kept asking us if we were doing the half marathon. Nope, we’re even crazier, I responded. We’re just here.

It was cold but I felt okay during the first lap. I’ll take fresh snow over slush or ice any day. I had slightly more trouble chatting than usual at a 9:30-10min/mile pace, due to the freezing air and of course the two hills, and the weather was far worse than I had expected it to be, but I was hanging in there. I was wearing my 2XU tights, warm socks, a sports bra, tshirt, lightweight long sleeve shirt, thicker high-necked long sleeve shirt, lightweight water/wind resistant jacket, winter hat, baseball cap, lightweight gloves and hand warmers in the gloves. My core was fine, but my legs, hands and face were not. The warmers didn’t seem to be warming up quite enough (they did later on, so next time I’ll open them up well before I begin running) and my water bottle was tough to hold because I couldn’t hold it while making a fist, to warm up my unbearably freezing finger tips.

My hands reached danger zone as we were about to begin our second lap. Mentally, I was losing it – if my hands are cold (and I’m talking EXTREME pain in my fingers), I really struggle, even if the rest of me is fine. I simply couldn’t get warm. The rest of my body started to hurt. I tried holding the bottle under my arm but that made me run awkwardly. My friend encouraged me to stop but I wanted to at least go another mile or two – I’m stubborn and wanted to at least reach 8M – so she kindly carried my bottle for me as I desperately tried to warm up.

Just as I was getting ready to throw in the towel, we ran into a mutual friend, who had run part of the Manhattan Half course and was about to head home. The distraction of seeing and chatting with her – as well as inheriting her set of hand warmers, which were far toastier than mine – snapped me out of my dark place. Suddenly, my inner temperature spiked and I was raring to finish the second lap! I had come all the way there, why turn back now?! And so we continued. My legs started to ache and my pace slowed a bit in those last few miles, but I slowly recovered feeling in my fingers, returned to my chatty, happy runner self and most importantly, I finished! My Garmin didn’t work during the first lap (it was that cold), but based on my friend’s timing and the park mileage, we ran an average of 9:50 – 9:55min/mile. I was very pleased.

Mental toughness needs to be trained like anything else, and I think it’s safe to say that this one was one of the more challenging runs I’ve done in quite some time. Obviously you should never risk injury, but if it’s something you believe you can safely push through, go for it.

A big part of my discomfort was due to my gear fail. I’m sure my body simply hasn’t yet adjusted to the below freezing temperatures after so many months in California, and I need to give it a couple more weeks to do so. However, I also am lacking a few crucial items, namely thicker running tights and warmer gloves (perhaps ones that I can layer over the thin pair I wore today). I didn’t become a regular runner until I moved to London, and although I ran in some pretty horrendous rainy and snowy weather, I don’t think it ever got down to extreme temperatures. I discovered this new REI in Soho (their first NYC store) the other day, so I guess I have a good excuse now to check it out! If you have any suggestions as I shop for gloves or tights, at REI or elsewhere, please let me know!

By the time I finally made it back home, I was frozen again. My hands were back in the danger zone, and, as luck would have it, the front door to my building wouldn’t open. There’s a lock box (before a second door with a key) which is finicky on the best of days, and the cold somehow made it refuse to open. Thankfully, the guys in my local deli helped me and I was back in my apartment soon enough. Phew! I immediately made myself a cup of hot tea and took a post-run I can’t believe I just ran for two hours in that weather photo. I kept those hand warmers in my hands for the rest of the morning and afternoon – they stayed warm for so long!

  

Speaking of teas, I want to share one of my favorite kinds of herbal teas at the moment! Aside from my usual peppermint (which I have every night after dinner), I love Good Earth Sweet & Spicy tea. It’s amazing – no honey or sugar necessary! Really gets you nice and warm. I just finished a huge cup of it to get me all toasty before bedtime.

After a LONG hot shower, I made myself a delicious brunch: a huge mug of Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company coffee and a spinach, tomato, garlic and feta omelet (Trader Joe’s “Pastures of Eden” sheep’s milk feta is AMAZING – in eggs, salad, wherever) with a small fruit salad on the side. YUM. It was right up there with the previous day’s breakfast – a twist on Bircher muesli, made with 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 skim milk, 1/3 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt, and cinnamon, agave, blueberries, dried cranberries and almonds to taste (stir together and let sit in the fridge for at least 30min, or overnight, and serve cold). I love breakfast!

  

After I finished eating, the plan was to not move for the rest of the day…but as many of you know, relaxation isn’t my strong suit! Instead, I proceeded to clean my apartment, do two huge loads of laundry and pick up my textbooks, so I can get a head start on my reading tomorrow before classes begin. I know, I’m such a nerd. I even bought an insulated purple lunchbox and reusable ice cubes (both made by Thermos), which I plan to bring to class on days I can’t eat at home to save money and ensure I eat nutritious, homemade meals! I tested it out on Friday in between my various orientation sessions – I LOVE it! Less messy and more environmentally friendly than my usual plastic bag. Here’s my colorful salad including edamame hummus (another TJ favorite), cheese, fruit and nuts.

  

One thing I didn’t do was a post-run stretch – I may regret that tomorrow (oops) – but I did squeeze in some TV and vegging on the couch. Getting to bed way too late as I often do (the noise is still making it tough to sleep, but it’s getting slightly better), but all in all, a productive Saturday! I definitely earned my rest day tomorrow…that makes two full rest days this week! My body is craving it, especially since I have a big week ahead – at last, my first week of grad school!! Stay tuned…

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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