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I just received FANTASTIC news – my acceptance into the 2013 Boston Marathon!!!!

I registered as soon as I got my iPhone back from my parents after finishing on Sunday in 3:33:18, but I wasn’t sure if I would actually get in and didn’t want to get my hopes too high after my failed entry back in 2011. I knew I had 2014 in the bag, but never would imagined that I would be running Boston this Spring!

I’ve been working towards this goal for over two years now. I qualified in NYC, the times changed, I registered and then didn’t make the cut. I had a string of injuries and after a pretty rough race in Portland last year, felt somewhat discouraged. Finally, in Chicago on Sunday, I PR’d by over six minutes, smashed my goal to BQ and finished feeling so strong I now have confidence that a sub-3:30 is in my future. This is pure redemption – and I can’t tell you how good it feels. Think that smile on my face says it all!

It’s tough to focus on school right now as I bask in my post-marathon glow and continue to process all of the amazing things that have happened in the last five days, but I’m trying my best. I have a very challenging three months ahead and now that Chicago is over, I can really focus on my studies and take a mental and physical break from many months of hard training. My one last hurrah will be a 90min recovery massage this afternoon – then time to buckle down.

Congratulations to everyone who raced this weekend! I will be taking a short blogging hiatus – but stay tuned for my Chicago race recap and other news!

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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!!

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!

Just over THREE WEEKS to go until race day! This didn’t really click until I got an email from the Chicago Marathon folks yesterday, reminding me that I should double check my corral assignment. I was extremely happy to discover that they had moved me from Corral C – which matched my qualifying marathon time – to Corral B – which matches my goal marathon time. I’ve been so busy with other things lately that I’ve hardly thought about this marathon, and have kind of been in denial that it’s actually happening, perhaps to avoid getting nervous – now it definitely feels real! I’m really psyched because my 2010 NYC mara time was only a few minutes over the qualifying time for corral B, so I’m glad they let me move up.

This week is my heaviest training week before I begin my taper. My mileage has been so low this training cycle – I’m quite excited to FINALLY hit 40 miles! My legs are a little tired – and my hip is occasionally a bit achey – but overall I’ve been feeling good since the Bronx 10. After the race, I sat down with my empty training schedule to make a plan. I knew I wanted to do one more long run and a three week taper, but wanted to do try some new things mixed into what I usually do leading up to a big race. A friend sent me this article, which had some slightly “unconventional” training ideas for the last four weeks before running a marathon, geared towards someone who hasn’t had the perfect training cycle (i.e. not enough speedwork, recent long runs etc). Although I decided to keep my last long run in the schedule for tomorrow, I am reducing it slightly (aiming for 18 with some MP miles rather than 20) and I tried out a couple other workouts the author described this past week.

On Tuesday, I did a modified version of the marathon pace run in the article – I ran 5.5 rather than 7M, then 3M at MP and 0.5M easy. I usually don’t run 9M during the week, but I wanted to try running MP after having run more miles. My past MP runs were simply 5-6M at MP and that’s it. The MP miles felt nice and easy – it will be interesting to see how that same number of MP miles will feel after having run 15M tomorrow!

On Thursday, I tried the speed/strength circuit in the article, listed under Day 1. I did this at the gym on the treadmill, and modified some of the exercises (I moved the chin ups to the second half, to fit my gym’s setup a bit better, and did them on the machine because I can’t do real chin up…and I did knee push-ups instead of regular/elevated push-ups and slightly easier bench dips…). It was challenging but really fun – and it really was the only way I could squeeze in a quality total body workout including speed work into a CRAZY day of school. The running part took me about 48 minutes and totals 5.25M, and the whole thing, with some stretching afterwards and water breaks, took around 1hr20min. Here’s the circuit if you want to give it a try!

2-mile warm-up, and then ‘Speed-Strength Circuit’:

1) Run 400 metres at 5k pace (I did 6:49 pace, or 8.8mph on the treadmill)

2) Do 12 squat thrusts with jumps (burpees), 3 chin-ups, 12 push-ups, 30 crunches and 24 body-weight squats

3) Run 400 metres at 5k pace

4) Do 10 squat and dumbbell presses with 10-pound dumbbells, 8 feet-elevated push-ups, 12 bench dips, 30 low-back extensions and 15 lunges with each leg

5) Run 400 meters at 5k pace

6) Repeat steps 2-5  

2-mile cool down

After the circuit, I went back to campus for some time in the kitchen (part of a class assignment – catering an NYU event) followed by three hours of class. By the time I got out at 7:30pm, I was exhausted. E picked me up from school to take me somewhere – I didn’t know where, but thought it was dinner or he had said something about a foot massage. Turns out it was a surprise birthday party!!! I am a hard one to surprise and I was SO surprised. Apparently he had been plotting for quite some time with one of my close friends. I am so lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life! I felt very loved. My birthday isn’t until Monday – we are heading to the Berkshires after our long run tomorrow to celebrate – but it was the perfect way to kick off the festivities and such a nice end to a very very long day. The 20-something cupcakes (Baked by Melissa) I ate probably weren’t the best thing for my training, but that’s okay!

 

This morning I was only supposed to do a 4M recovery run, but it was so nice out (and I felt slightly guilty from last night’s indulgences) that I went a bit longer. The real reason was that I finally wanted to check out Williamsburg Bridge – and to run halfway across from my place that’s nearly 5.5M. It was worth it though – beautiful views, some good inclines and a nice change to be above the water rather than next to it! The bridge is a great setup for some harder MP or tempo work – definitely going to make the bridge a regular part of my running repertoire.

Time to head back to the kitchen – our event is tonight and we have lots of work to do!

I’m still buzzing from this morning’s Bronx 10 miler. At last, I set a goal for myself and I didn’t let it slip away (and believe me, I was close)! My target was 1:15 – an average pace of 7:30min/mile – which I thought would challenge me in the context of this week’s training without killing me and would also serve as a good diagnostic in terms of how my body is feeling, with only four weeks to go until the Chicago marathon! I ran a PR of 1:14:52, placing 687 of 5719 finishers, 84 of 2546 women and 27 of 1402 in my age group. I felt strong while I was running, I felt even better after the race and my new shoes rock (despite the fact that they are not purple)!

  

Ten miles is officially my new favorite distance to race! It has all the fun of a half but without the pain of those last few miles. Don’t get me wrong, there’s pain involved, but it’s not as speedy and sharp as a 10k or as drawn out as a half. It’s just right. I must sign up for another one soon!

The course was an out and back, starting right near Yankee Stadium – a bit boring in parts and certainly not flat, but the roads were wide and for once, crowds were not an issue. The only thing slowing me down was myself! I wasn’t feeling super confident about my speed, so I started out relatively conservatively. My motivation started to lag around mile 5 – it was warm and I could feel the effects of not doing enough speed work. I also was out of practice with water stations and was losing too much time grabbing a cup, so I stopped drinking after mile 6, since I was already about 30 seconds off my goal. I knew I could make up the time, and reminded myself of how I had just barely missed my NYC half goal and had a lot left in the tank because I had waited too long to get back on track. I’m often on the cusp and am so glad that I was able to turn my race around, to prove that I can and will dig deep rather than give up when I am fighting for my time in Chicago.

My last three miles were strong and I had one of the best sprint finishes that I’ve had in ages. I must give some credit to a man who yelled out, “Strong finish, come on!” and began his surge with two miles to go. I had already picked up the pace but forced myself to stay right behind him – no backing down! I’ve often served, unknowingly, as a pacer to other runners who thank me at the end for getting them through – it was nice to be on the other end today. I mean, that’s why we race, right? Not only to test ourselves and keep our bodies strong and fit, but also to run with others – to socialize, to help each other out, to fire up the competitive spirit, to be part of something larger.

Here I am with friends before the race…

And after!

 

Because all on my own, today just wouldn’t have been as fun or as meaningful. It’s all about sharing pre-race nerves/excitement on the way to the start line as well as post-race exuberance/pain/frustration etc. at the finish line – that completes my racing experience. I didn’t have E with me today, who visited family this weekend and could no longer race, but I did have the support and encouragement of my running buddy and four of my Gilda’s runners, who all rocked the race and made me proud! Also, I finally met Celia, who blogs at runningseal.com – it was a brief hello but nice to finally meet someone I have been interacting with online for a long time!

Now I’m home and thinking about my last four weeks of training, which I have yet to plan out. Perhaps I should have been aiming for a faster 10M time (1:13ish?) today to match my Chicago goal of sub-3:35. According to my RRCA race predictor chart, my 10M time of 1:14:52 is right in line with a half marathon time of 1:39:47, which is the exact time I ran in the Run to the Beat half marathon in September 2010. These charts are always a bit off in my experience – the marathon times are very generous, and there are just so many variables that affect race times – but I find it very interesting that today’s time lines up exactly with my other half time. If that half marathon time led to my 3:39 in NYC, a much tougher course than Chicago, then maybe – just maybe – I have some hope of getting under 3:35 next month. If nothing else, I think (hope!) I can get a marathon PR!

Either way, I have my work cut out for me in the next couple of weeks. I need to start working in some faster running and I also need to do a bit more hills/strength training. I haven’t been totally delinquent, but not as disciplined as I was a couple years ago. I was contemplating chucking my last 20 miler this weekend but I think I will stick with a long run, perhaps cut down a few miles and add a chunk of MP running. School still has to be my priority this month – and it’s going to be a very, very crazy month as far as my classes go – but today’s race renewed my determination to give it my all in Chicago.

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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