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Hello from Chicago! E and I arrived yesterday morning and all I can say is that I hope my race goes as smoothly as these two days have gone thus far! Our flight was very delayed and the check in lines at the airport were unreal, yet I somehow was able to check in at the first class desk which switched us onto a much better path. Our unusually friendly agent offered to put us, free of charge, onto another flight which was scheduled to leave at our original departure time. Not only did we land early, but we were also each given $250 vouchers to use on a future United flight. Apparently everyone else on the flight had been bumped from a flight that had been cancelled the night prior and we still got the reward!

Our journey into the city was quick and we had a nice reunion with my parents. We are staying with family friends about 1.5M from the marathon start, with beautiful views of the lake and all of Chicago. After a surprisingly delicious lunch that I made (my pre-marathon diet of bland, carbohydrate rich foods gets boring real fast), E and I headed to the expo. We spent a bit too much time on our feet wandering around, but it was a great expo, much larger than NYC. E got to meet one of his favorite ultrarunners, Dean Karnazes, and we both loaded up on marathon gear. I probably didn’t need FOUR different Chicago tops but I felt justified buying them, because THIS race is going to be a memorable one!

  

  

We relaxed the rest of the evening – we were both exhausted from a crazy week at school/work and the early flight. We both hadn’t run for three days and our legs felt heavy and tired – typical taper stuff, though! We crashed by 9:30pm, as my parents and their friends were out and about on the town until 1am! Talk about role reversal…!

I was a bit concerned about the weather – it really is cold here – but this morning’s 20 minute jaunt on the lake front put my mind at ease. I wore compression tights, a tank, arm sleeves and fingerless gloves – pretty much my exact outfit from NYC 2010. My hands were chilly but with the sun shining, I was sufficiently warm once I got going. I’m not quite sure I hit my MP spot on, but I felt pretty good! My throat was a bit scratchy this morning but I’m trying to ignore it – mind over matter! I practiced my new mantra – “I want it more than I fear it” – which naturally went into mental replay as I soaked up the beautiful views. It was gorgeous on the lake – so many runners out there! Definitely the Chicago equivalent of running in Central Park the day before the race!

It will be cold at the start, with temperatures in the high 30’s, but at least we won’t have to wait for hours on end like we did on Staten Island. My corral closes at 7:20am and I’d like to be inside by 7:05ish to get a good place, so I figure I’ll get there by 6:30 to have time to hit the bathroom lines. As always, that’s my paranoia – not being able to go to the bathroom when I need to before starting the race. I just keep reminding myself that in NYC, they moved us towards the start 30 minutes before the gun went off and I was completely fine.

  

But the REAL reason why I’m posting is to share the unexpected, awesome experience that I just had. E and I were relaxing back at the apartment and I happened to read on Twitter that Paula Radcliffe was making an appearance at Nike Chicago, less than a five minute walk away. I believe it’s the first time she’s been back in Chicago for the marathon since she set the world record here in 2002. She was supposed to speak at 1pm – we were already late and had no clue what it would be like, but we needed a walk after a big lunch and decided to check it out. As we headed out the door, I decided to grab my marathon bib – how incredible would it be to have the running legend herself sign my bib, to wear on the very course on which she made history?! Of course, I didn’t actually expect it would happen – but guess what? It did!

We had perfect timing. She started late, and the interview only lasted about 5-10 minutes. We arrived a minute or two after she began. I heard that she was originally supposed to speak elsewhere (maybe the expo?) and the location moved – perhaps that explains why there weren’t that many crowds. I mean, there were a fair number of people there, but for someone as famous as Paula, I was surprised. Many people didn’t even seem to know who she was! She gave some advice to everyone racing tomorrow – not starting out too fast, hydrating, having fun etc – and spoke a bit about “making it count” on Sunday herself with her own workout. Unfortunately she just had foot surgery – so she won’t be running the race.

 

I easily made my way right up to the front and as soon as she finished, asked her to sign my bib. I wanted to say something to her about how much she has inspired me or I hope she feels better soon – but instead I just grinned like an idiot as she bent over and signed my bib on her thigh and then smiled back at me and walked onwards. I was so emotional I couldn’t get any words out!

  

But seriously – how AMAZING is that?! My bib has been blessed! My good luck this weekend must continue – because Paula said so!! I doubt anyone else had their bibs with them – hardly anyone even had a pen – and I don’t think she was hanging around there very long. Wow. Just wow. I feel doubly inspired now to run my best tomorrow – to have a smart race and not start too fast, to believe in myself when I start to really struggle, to overcome my fears of failure and really make tomorrow count!

Good luck runners!!

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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!

I’m finally breaking my month of blogging silence. I didn’t intentionally abandon FFR for this long, but E’s move to NYC, final exams, recovering from final exams, ten days in Colorado, finally setting up our apartment (still in progress) and much more yanked me out of my weekly writing routine. I go back to school tomorrow so I figured it’s a perfect time to get back into the groove.

Where to begin…!!! Colorado deserves a separate post, including a recap of the 15M Continental Divide trail race (which was pretty much equal parts hiking as it was a running – or shall I say shuffling – at two miles above sea level) so I’ll leave that for later this week. It was a fantastic trip, filled with gorgeous scenery, tons of physical activity and ice cream cones the size of my head.

Caught on camera!

As for final exams – suffice to say, I was a stress case as usual, managed to maintain my GPA (just barely) and pray that I will never have to endure summer school ever again (unlikely). E and I celebrated my last final with an amazing dinner at Blue Hill. I had been dying to go back to the NYC restaurant for years, and it didn’t disappoint! I’m hoping to check out Blue Hill at Stone Barns sometime later this year…it’s supposedly even better!

Only after exams ended did I realize just how burnt out I was. And I thought I was run down after Spring semester! Ha. What a crazy summer. Even though I still had so much to do after exams, it was a huge relief to finally have some time off! Simply not studying has been incredibly liberating and restorative. I wish I could say that I’m excited for the Fall semester to begin – I guess I am, but not for it to begin tomorrow. My brain could use another week of recovery…

Speaking of recovery, I’ve been trying my best to err on the side of caution in terms of my training, sticking with running only four times a week and incorporating drop back weeks when necessary to help me reach the Chicago marathon start line in one piece. Race day is less than five weeks away, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about how it’s going to turn out. I still haven’t done any speed work aside from some tempo runs at half marathon pace (I’m up to 17 minutes) and marathon pace runs of 5-6M, and I haven’t done any hill work beyond what I encounter naturally in Central Park and, more recently, in Colorado. I also haven’t done many structured long runs, as I had originally planned. My weekly mileage has only gone above 30 miles a handful of times (!!), including my peak so far of this past week’s 38.7 miles.

But it’s hard to say how I will fare on race day at this stage. On the one hand, I haven’t trained as hard as I had intended to (part school, part injury), and the resulting lower mileage and lack of consistent speed work and strength training may end up thwarting my goal to BQ. My hip pain seems to be under control, but I have to be careful. On the other hand, I am leaner now, running in cooler conditions will hopefully begin producing faster results, all of my Colorado activities made me feel stronger and I have done many more long runs than in previous training cycles. I just completed my second 20 miler this past Saturday, and plan to run another the week after next. This is quite different to past training cycles, which included only one 20 miler.

Normally I race a half marathon to test where I’m at 5 weeks or so before marathon day. I couldn’t find an appropriate race nearby, so I’ve settled on running the Bronx 10 miler on September 9th. I’ve only run one 10M race before, and I ran it as a tempo run, so I’m interested to see how my first 10M racing experience will go, especially having done so little speed work. Hopefully it will give me a better sense of where I stand, so I can adjust my Chicago goals accordingly.

It’s getting late – how quickly my last weekend of freedom slipped through my fingers! I’ll leave you with a couple photo of two great meals I made for myself recently – breakfast soft tacos (veggie scramble with avocado) and an incredible, colorful fig and goats cheese salad. Fig season is the best – I hope to have my own fig tree someday!

 

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!

          

This summer is seriously flying by. I just wrapped up week four of my Chicago training, including my longest run since the Portland Marathon last October, so I figured it was about time to share how things have been going on that front. My second summer session classes have sadly left little time for blogging lately!

I suppose I also haven’t been writing very much about my training because it’s been pretty uneventful. And by uneventful I mean it hasn’t been awesome – nor has it been horrible. I’ve been taking it week by week, creating a plan as I go (very unlike me, I should add, although I do have my long runs plotted out) and seeing what happens. I’m still only running four times a week – again, unusual for me in marathon training – and my weekly mileage has not been very high (28-34 in the last few weeks) – but it’s still early days (kind of) so I have time to build.

I’m playing it by ear to an extent because I want to make sure that each week I’m really being honest with myself about how my body is feeling. I’ve been plagued by too many injuries – albeit relatively minor ones – to not proceed with a bit of caution. That said, and this may somewhat contradict my claims of being cautious, I am also attempting a more aggressive long run approach – one that includes several 20 milers and had me running 19 miles this past week! That’s a very fast long run progression for me. I’m balancing it out with only four runs per week (for now) and minimal speed work, since my recent attempts caused my hamstring pain to flare up again. The good news is that my hamstring pain has FINALLY gone away – although I’ve learned to not assume it won’t return in a heartbeat. Of course, the moment my hamstring felt great, a new source of pain popped up out of nowhere (as usual) in my right calf/achilles area. So that was frustrating, and led to some unplanned rest days, but it seems to have subsided.

I don’t know if it’s all the strength training I’ve been doing, the extra cross training/rest days and/or fact that I’m actually getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night after months of sleep deprivation (I can’t tell you how much I love my new bed – and my two AC units – in my new apartment), but for the first time in ages I had a really strong running week this past week. It made me so happy, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it wasn’t just a fluke!

Monday I ran 5 miles at marathon pace (averaged 8:05min/mile) – it felt a bit more challenging than I would’ve liked, but I paced it out fairly well. Tuesday was cross training and a killer strength workout, which I really think is making a difference. Wednesday I did my first hill session in AGES – possibly of this year I’m embarrassed to say – which included 1-minute repeats at 6% incline and 7.8mph on the treadmill. On paper it really doesn’t sound that hard, but I was out of practice. It definitely made me realize just how unprepared I am for the Colorado race next month (!). However, I had been procrastinating doing hill training for SO long, it felt good to finally get it over with. Sometimes you just need to get past that first workout to start making real progress.

Thursday was a much-needed rest day and Friday I did 18.65M in Central Park at 9:03 average pace, plus another half mile to the subway. This was the first long run I’ve done entirely by myself in awhile, which was a bit tough, but it was nice to go at my own pace and I ran much stronger than I did in the previous week’s 17 miler. I didn’t listen to music (I only use music on the treadmill), and took advantage of the alone time to practice mental techniques like mantras, counting, breathing etc. I usually don’t mind running alone, but the park is so monotonous, and it was hot out. I ate a half banana right before I ran and to my surprise it didn’t bother my stomach (yay!), and I took three Hammer Gels, which weren’t *too* offensive in taste but the extra slimy texture may make me knock them out as gel contenders. I still have some shot bloks to try, which I know are quite popular. If those don’t work out, I’m giving up for now and will revert to my UK gels, which E is importing for me later this month.

I wasn’t sure how my body would feel after the long run, but I was fine the next day. I did a pilates machine class and took it easy. I was slightly nervous for Sunday’s tempo run, since the last time I did one I struggled! But to my surprise, running 15min at a 7:30 pace felt relatively comfortable (two days after my long run?!), and I felt fine today when I went for my recovery run of 4M.

Again, I’m hoping this isn’t a fluke – it should help that this week is a drop back week – but I guess we’ll know for sure when I attempt my 20 miler at NYRR’s Long Training Run #1. It turns out that E is arriving around 11pm the night before, so I probably won’t be getting a solid night of sleep given I have been waiting nearly AN ENTIRE YEAR for him to finally move to the US and for us to end this long distance nonsense, but that’s okay. It’s not a race – it’s just a group long run, right? I feel worse for him – running long with jet lag is no fun! Thankfully, at least as I understand it, you can do whatever distance you like so he can call it a day when he’s had enough.

Time to get back to studying – bacteria or lactation anyone? Fun stuff. I’m struggling to get excited about my classes this session, but I think that’s more due to general burn-out than lack of interest. It’s been pretty much non-stop since January and I am really ready for a break – and I mean more than a few days. Then again, summer classes are quite miserable, period. I’m just trying my best to hang on – 11 more days until I see E (BEYOND excited), and less than four weeks until summer school is over. By that point, the Fall semester will be right around the corner, but at least I have a few weeks to take a breather, enjoy being reunited with E, focus on training and get our apartment set up before the real craziness begins…

Happy Father’s Day! I’m about to head down to the library to finally start studying for my organic chemistry midterm, but first I thought I’d post a few updates.

I had my first Gilda’s Club NYC Marathon team meeting this past week, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be coaching them this year. In the past, running has mostly been tied with my personal goals – I will of course still be focused on my own training as I prepare for Chicago, but my goals will also be intertwined with those of my runners. It brings me so much joy to be able to share my passion with other people and help them finish their first marathon (or improve upon their previous races).

I met about half of the runners on the team, including two cancer survivors who will be running their first marathon. The clubhouse is very welcoming, and I felt very inspired by everyone in that room! It was a wonderful feeling to put on my “Coach Claire” hat and offer advice and information to get my runners amped up to begin training. I sometimes forget just how much I know about running and what I have to offer runners with less experience – hearing myself talk to my runners reminded me that I DO have a lot of knowledge and experience, which gave me a nice confidence boost. It’s my first time coaching a large group, so I am learning too! Our first group run is on July 8th, and we officially begin training a couple weeks later.

As I touched upon in a previous post, I am on the hunt for a new gel. I went to REI and this is what I grabbed to test out on my long runs (my old UK gel, SIS, is at the bottom). I had already tried a vanilla Power Bar gel and hated it – way too sweet and salty – but bought a couple fruity flavors to see if they were more tolerable. Unfortunately, I think Power Bar is no longer a contender. I tried Kona Punch during yesterday’s 13 miler and it was equally wretched. With SIS, the taste is toned down enough (almost refreshing in a way) that I can take it without water and be fine. With Power Bar gels, I wanted to drink my entire bottle with each little taste of the gel. I suppose I could time my gels with water stations during the marathon, but I’d prefer to have the option of taking a gel in between stations and not gagging. Sorry Power Bar!

The Hammer Gels looked promising from the flavors, so those are next on the list. Someone had also told me that the honey gels are quite tasty – we shall see! I have tried the chews and they do taste pretty good, so I might pick those up too.

Chicago Marathon training has officially begun. Unfortunately I haven’t had much time to actually make my schedule, so I’m going against my own advice and “winging it” at the moment, but at least I have a skeleton of long runs plotted out. My body wasn’t too happy with me (particularly my back and hamstring) after pushing myself in the mini 10k, so I have struggled to hit my harder workouts this week. I did make it through my grueling long run yesterday, though, and managed to get up to 28.3M with my easy 6 miler this morning.

I wanted to make sure I got enough miles in given that this coming week is insane –  I have a midterm on Thursday, after which I am heading to the airport to fly to Rome for a wedding. I am in Rome for 48 hours, get back Sunday and then have to cram for a final exam, after which I have two days to pack and move into my new apartment. It’s definitely going to be a crazy couple of weeks! Ideally I wouldn’t back down to 15ish miles this week but instead get above 30M. However, with my hamstring being so iffy lately and my stress levels soaring, I think some time off won’t be a bad thing.

 

Not like I’ve been working that hard lately, generally speaking – this past week I’ve been quite the slacker. Who can really blame me given the weather lately? Instead of studying, I had a picnic in Sheep Meadow. I made pizza (shallots, tomatoes, mozzarella, kale and mushrooms). I read the Hunger Games (note to self – NEVER EVER start books you know you’ll want to finish in the middle of a four-week orgo class – “just one more chapter” – ha!). I watched TV. I did some online shopping for new apartment stuff. I suppose it was a good move for my mental health – my motivation really has been at an all time low this week to study – but with a midterm and a final exam both in the next week and a half, that probably wasn’t the smartest move. Oh well!

Before I sign off, here are a few race photos – one from the Brooklyn Half and a couple from the mini 10k.

  

I watched my finish video and not only did they call my name out (they never call my name) but I also noticed that Mary Wittenberg, president of NYRR, finished right behind me!

Lastly, here’s a funny someecards E sent me the other day – made me laugh. That was me, not that long ago – now I eat cupcakes AND run marathons!

My news for today is that I registered for the Chicago Marathon! I’ve had my sights set on this race for awhile now, but with the craziness of registration these days, you never really know what the calendar will hold until you see an email like this:

So, October 7, 2012 will be the big day – the day that I reclaim my BQ!! At least that’s my goal…I’m announcing it now to make sure I stick to it! Racing 26.2M in 3:30-3:33 is a bit ambitious considering how busy I will be with grad school, work etc, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I know that I’m capable of achieving it if I’m lucky enough to remain injury free throughout training, run strong on race day and of course have favorable conditions. This race is notorious for hot weather in recent years, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take in exchange for a relatively flat course. And if you’re wondering about the 3:33 upper limit – that’s because Boston still adheres to a faster runners get priority policy. After the fiasco of last year’s registration (where I qualified but missed out by 50 seconds), I’m not taking any chances!

And hey – if I fail, I fail – but that’s how these things go. You work hard, you set a lofty goal (but within your reach), you go for it and hope for the best! If you don’t succeed, then you pick yourself back up and learn how to improve for next time. Easier said than done for sure, but it’s the way you grow and achieve greatness.

Either way, whether I qualify or not, I’ll have E by my side. Well, not technically speaking – we never actually run races together – but we’ll be in it together, supporting each other every step of the way from registration today through post-marathon celebrations in October. We ran our first marathon “together” in NYC 2010, my first BQ race. I was incredibly grateful not only to have achieved my goal, but also to be able to celebrate with someone I love who understood exactly how I felt, down to waking up the next morning and hardly being able to hobble to the bathroom! I am fiercely independent and I love my alone time, but shared marathon experiences – whether they are with friends or romantic partners – are far more meaningful to me. At least that’s what I’ve found based on my own races.

Equally as important, I’ll also have my parents supporting me on the sidelines – Team Claire back in action! I missed them in Portland and am so pleased that they decided to make the journey to Chicago from California. They’re always superstar spectators and knowing that they’re waiting to see me really helps to keep me going when things get tough.

And since we’re on the topic of tough, I got my butt whipped on the track yesterday! That photo above is my post-track “holy crap I survived” face. What seemed like a hard but not overly strenuous or long workout ended up being a 9+ mile, VERY challenging session. I’m sure doing strength training for the first time in ages the day before and not really sleeping much for several days due to late nights of studying didn’t help! I ran 1.1M easy, 7M at the track: 2x [1200 @ half mara pace (400 rest), 2×800 @ 10k pace (200rest), 4×200 @ 5k pace (200rest)], 1.23M easy. I aimed for 7:24 (1:50/lap), 7:13 (1:47/lap), and 6:55 (0:50/200m) approximate paces. My average splits were relatively close to goal times (except my second set of 800s), but my lap splits were pretty inconsistent, at least with my 1200s and 800s (went to fast then too slow – ie second 1200 was 1:48, 1:49, 1:55; first 800 was 1:45, 150).

My splits show that I was pretty solid with my 200s, but a bit all over the place with everything else. Aside from really trying to force myself to slow down in my initial laps during my next track session, I might also slow down my goal times to see if that helps achieve more consistency. REP ONE: 1200 – 5:30.2 overall time, 1:49.93 avg lap time; 800 – 3:35.9, 1:47.95; 800 – 3:37.3, 1:48.65; 200s – 50.92 avg (50.5, 50.8, 51.6, 50.8). REP TWO: 1200 – 5:33.6, 1:51.2; 800 – 3:38.1, 1:49.05; 800 – 3:37.1, 1:48.55; 200s: 50.47 avg (50.9, 51.0, 50.2, 49.8).

In school news, things are still going great! I had my first Food & Food Science lab this morning in the department kitchen – love my instructor and the section I’m in is mostly made up of grad students, which is nice given that all my other courses have tons of undergrads. I bought my chef’s knife and instant read thermometer today – just need my chef’s coat and I’ll be ready for official culinary training! I’m continuing to meet great people in my program and am feeling more and more like this is where I belong. The work is still overwhelming and challenging, but I know I’ll get through it.

Here’s a delicious dish I made for myself after a very long day in class:

This was so easy to make and extremely tasty. I literally grabbed whatever vegetables I had left in my kitchen – in this case, shallots, baby zucchini and red pepper – sliced/diced and sauteed them with some golden raisins, added the mixture to the quinoa (which I cooked in chicken stock to add flavor), and then threw in some toasted pine nuts (which I LOVE in quinoa). Sprinkled feta on top plus some cherry tomatoes and that was it! I used about a cup of dry quinoa and it made two servings – the leftovers were great for lunch the next day on top of salad, which I really appreciated during an endless study session in the library.

And I’ll leave you with a sign I saw above Marion Nestle‘s NYU office which I love – if it were my sign, I’d replace “cookie” with “dark chocolate peanut butter cup.” But hey, I’ll take cookies too!


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

This morning's breakfast bowl isn't exactly pretty, but really delicious and filling! Two fried eggs in a pan with black beans (I used 1/2 cup = 1 serving), a little feta, a few spoonfuls of ricotta, some pesto (random but had some leftover and tastes great with eggs), and 1/4 avocado. Cooked all together for a high protein tasty breakfast! Awesome @onepeloton endurance ride earlier today with my buddy @mattwilpers before enjoying some family time outdoors on this beautiful day. Arielle came to visit afterwards and clearly is a big Peloton fan too! Speaking of which, check out the latest episode of the Clip Out (a Peloton fan podcast) - had such a great time talking all things nutrition and Peloton with @clipoutcrystal and Tom, who are hilarious btw! (Link in bio - my segment ~20min in). Wishing everyone a very happy first day of Fall! 🍁🍂 It's my favorite time of year to get out into nature and go for a run. L'Shana Tova to those who celebrate! We started the New Year with some apple picking at @wilkloworchards on our way back to NYC yesterday. Was so much fun, and Arielle was a great little helper! We don't have much food in the house after being away so these crisp local apples with almond butter will be our tasty, healthy snacks today. Getting ready for the loooong drive back to NYC after unplugging in Lake Placid for my bday! Fueling with a bowl of 5% plain Greek yogurt, bananas, peaches, and apple cinnamon granola. Not much of a view from our balcony this morning of Mirror Lake - swipe right for our view yesterday! So beautiful and peaceful here - minus screaming baby, of course. 😂 #Tbt to earlier this week, when one of my awesome @nutritionenergy clients surprised me with a @levainbakery cookie after we talked about them at our last session. I had planned to save half for my husband (those cookies are seriously dense!), but it was so delicious, I changed my mind and had the second half later in the day. Did I feel bad about it afterwards? Did I end up skipping dinner or working out more to compensate? Nope! I had already eaten a healthy balanced lunch, and it's not everyday that I enjoy such a decadent treat (although you will find me having smaller treats quite often 😀).

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