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I have been meaning to write about running during pregnancy for a very long time, yet here I am – finally posting this at nearly 38 weeks pregnant!

Clearly a lot has happened since I ran the Big Sur Marathon last year. That was always the plan – run one last big race, and then attempt another far more challenging endurance event…PREGNANCY! We were fortunate enough to conceive right away, so I cruised from post-marathon recovery right into training for motherhood. We found out the good news shortly after an incredible trip to Hawaii, where we ran almost daily on the beach and had an epic trail running adventure down and around the Haleakala crater. I didn’t realize that I was 3 weeks pregnant at the time (if that even counts) and thoroughly enjoyed our 12 miles of running at altitude, hurling ourselves down the crater and across some of the most stunning and dramatic landscapes I have ever seen. It was my last blissfully ignorant running hurrah – before any of the now familiar pregnant running thoughts and concerns entered my mind. E captured the day quite well in his blog and I highly recommend hiking or running there if you find yourself in Maui – check it out!

Once I processed the initial shock and joy of discovering I was pregnant, one of my first thoughts was, “Wait – what about my running?!?!” I was averaging 30-40 miles per week pre-pregnancy, not training for anything in particular but trying to maintain my fitness after Big Sur for myself, and in case I wanted to squeeze in one last marathon or ultra over the summer. I couldn’t imagine not running. It is such an integral of my life – my “me time,” my release, a way I bond with my husband, and a large part of how I stay fit and healthy. I wanted to keep running as long as I could!

As a running coach, I knew the basics surrounding exercise during pregnancy, including:

  • Don’t start any new physical activities – unless it is something relatively gentle (i.e. if you weren’t active before, starting a walking routine is fine)
  • Limit or avoid sports that have a higher risk of injury/falling
  • Listen to your body and err on the side of caution if something doesn’t feel right – it’s just not worth the risk
  • Ensure adequate hydration/nutrition before, during and after exercise to maximize energy levels and recovery
  • Avoid exercising in heat or other potentially dangerous weather conditions (e.g. ice)
  • Most importantly, follow the advice that your doctor provides you that is specific to YOUR unique pregnancy!

Exercise, generally speaking, is without a doubt beneficial to mom and baby, assuming a healthy pregnancy. There is a great deal of research to support this, leading doctors to encourage most women to perform some type of physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day. But I was already very active – 30 min of walking doesn’t exactly cut it for me – and I couldn’t help but feel nervous, especially during the first trimester, so I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. I knew that many women ran during pregnancy – some even finished marathons in their second and third trimesters – but there seemed to be conflicting information and opinions out there regarding distance and/or high intensity exercise. Could I continue with my previous mileage? What about long runs? What was safe for me and my baby? There wasn’t a whole lot of concrete information available on the topic.

I found myself doing a lot of googling and and blog reading about other women’s experiences. This of course did not substitute my need for individualized medical advice, and it’s important to note that every pregnancy is different, but it was reassuring and motivating to know that other runners were able to have healthy, successful pregnancies and stay in great shape without sacrificing their love of the sport. Did their running change and was it challenging at times to keep running? Of course! Was it worth it? Hell yeah! Did their successs mean that I would be able to run throughout my entire pregnancy? Definitely not. But I hoped I could and I am grateful my little one allowed me to run as long as I did, up until 36.5 weeks!

It also helped that I have a great OB who has been supportive of my running from day 1. With the thumbs up from her, I kept doing what I was doing, with some key adjustments that I have outlined below. My running obviously shifted as pregnancy progressed, but I pretty much followed these guidelines throughout, based on my experience as a coach and long-time runner, my own research on pregnant running, and my doctor’s advice specific to my exercise and medical history:

  • I approached training for childbirth as I would any important race. Preparing for birth (especially if you are planning for a natural one, as I am), is in many ways similar to training for a race. You have an overarching plan that includes all the physical and mental prep work to cross the finish line successfully, but have to take things day by day and adjust that plan as needed to get to that start line healthy.
  • I tried to stay flexible. If I felt particularly tired, queasy, or something didn’t feel right, I shortened my run, slowed down, took walk breaks, cross-trained, or took a rest day. As a side note, I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor  – keeping heart rate below a certain level for healthy pregnancies is old school advice – but simply paid attention to how I was feeling and adjusted my efforts accordingly.
  • Speed was no longer a priority – especially since pregnancy WILL slow you down eventually (for me, this happened later in my 2nd trimester). I cared more about CONSISTENT running. I still did some high intensity exercise to relieve stress and break up the monotony of easier efforts, but only when I felt strong and up until my third trimester, after which I kept things very low key.
  • I paid closer attention to the weather. I’m the type of runner who usually doesn’t get discouraged by a blizzard, downpour, or a hot summer day. That had to change! On extra hot days or if conditions were slippery, I adjusted the time of day that I went running, hit the treadmill, or did some indoor cross-training.
  • I was extremely careful about my running nutrition & hydration. I carried water if running for more than 4 miles, especially in warmer weather, and carried electrolytes/calories if running longer than 8 miles. I also made sure to have pre and post run snacks (always on my radar though, as a dietitian!).
  • I dedicated more time to strength training and lower impact cross-training, especially once my belly got bigger. Running became less comfortable for me around 34 weeks, at which point I started to run/walk and incorporate more spin classes and what I like to call, “Netflix & Elliptical.”
  • I bought a Road ID to wear in case something happened to me while I was running, especially for when I was alone. I also carried a credit card and if straying far from home, my phone (which I usually never carry), in case of emergencies.
  • I invested in a few key items of maternity exercise wear to stay comfortable as I got bigger. I was lucky in that I could keep wearing a lot of my normal gear until mid/late second trimester, as I already had some flowy and stretchy long tops, large running jackets, and some looser/stretchy shorts and pants. I did find a few things useful to buy, including a couple maternity tanks, a maternity long sleeve zip top, and a pair of maternity tights – all on sale from Old Navy and Gap. I splurged on my For Two Fitness “Running for Two” tank and long sleeve top, as they were too cute to resist!
  • I always ran within my comfort zone – and appreciate that this is different for everyone. For example, a half marathon during my second trimester seemed reasonable to me (I did the Staten Island Half at a slower but strong pace), as did running 12-15 miles with my husband on long slow run days during my 1st and 2nd trimesters, but I did not feel that longer distances were worth the risk. During my late second and early third trimesters, I was quite happy running 8-10M and 6-7M, respectively, as my “long” runs. Additionally, I felt solid running on technical trails up until my third trimester, as long as I ran with E and slowed down or walked particularly tricky sections. Our trail running adventures in Asheville, NC (check out E’s post here) at the start of my second trimester were particularly awesome!
  • I tried not to compare myself to other pregnant runners – what my body looked like, how much I was running, or anything else. Every pregnancy is different and the only important thing was to respect my own!
  • I always kept the “big picture” in mind – heathy mom and baby! Sure, I still had fitness goals – run/exercise consistently and as long as possible – but the ultimate goal always was to keep my baby safe. I’ll be honest, it was a bummer to miss a workout or cut things short because I wasn’t feeling well or my doctor wanted me to be extra cautious at times, but in pregnancy, it’s just not worth the risk.

I never sought to run a specific number of miles while pregnant, but when I realized that 1,000 was within my reach, it become the perfect goal to keep me motivated, especially whenever my running started to feel aimless. The last 50 miles were especially challenging, as I began to feel my increased weight and changes in my gait – a good chunk of those miles were walking – but I’m proud of myself for getting it done. As my doctor told me, my dedication to exercise helped maintain great blood flow to my baby and will likely lead to an easier labor! It also means that my return to running post-partum will not be *quite* so painful (although I know that it will still be pretty tough…).

My path to full-term pregnancy has not exactly been easy – without going into details, we have had many bumps in the road, and the process has been scary/overwhelming at times – but I am extremely grateful to have felt good for the most part and to have been able to stay so active. For the past week, I have only been walking because that is what feels best, but I walk every day for at least 30 minutes and at a good pace. I’m thinking of it as “tapering” for “race day” – I don’t get that same post-run high, but I still feel great afterwards. The finish line is within sight now and I cannot wait to meet my baby girl!

A quick note on training for natural birth – my husband and I enrolled in a birthing class that teaches the Bradley Method. It has been a huge time commitment (8 x 3hr sessions) but SO worthwhile. We knew very little about the birthing process pre-pregnancy and we feel so empowered and prepared now (as much as you can be, that is). E and I have always worked well as a team, often training side by side, exploring trails together, and pacing each other in marathons and ultras, so I knew that I wanted him to coach me through birth. The parallels between running a long race and birthing a baby naturally are actually quite astounding. I have been practicing various physical and mental exercises (e.g. kegels, squats, pelvic tilts, active labor positions, relaxation and visualization, breathing etc.) to help cope with labor pain, and also practicing E’s coaching techniques to make sure that they resonate with me. Kind of like strength training, structured running targeted at your race distance, mantras, and learning the art of pacing, right? Childbirth is not the same as running an ultra obviously, but having run for 12 hours and navigated the physical and mental highs and lows of that experience certainly gives me confidence that I can get through the many hours of labor and delivery!

If you’re interested in hearing more about my experience of running while pregnant, in addition to my coaching and nutrition advice for pregnant athletes, check out this podcast that I did with Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running! We had such a great conversation on pregnancy exercise and I would love your feedback.

I’ll close out with a photo diary of my running and other exercise adventures while pregnant – check out the captions to see how far along I was. It’s amazing how much my body has changed, even if I haven’t gained as much weight as I thought I would (and believe me, I have been trying hard to gain more, especially in recent weeks). Then again, I have always been a small person and can’t imagine my belly being much bigger! It will be a long road to get my body and my fitness back post-birth, but I know I’ll get there eventually.

First trimester:

Second trimester:

Third trimester:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last year, I paced E in the JFK50 – his first 50 miler. We ran together from Weverton (mile 15.5) to Taylor’s Landing (mile 38.4) along the C & O canal towpath. It was inspiring to run part of this historic ultra marathon and watch E finish strong, especially after witnessing some very low points on the canal.

At the finish, my in-laws asked me if I ever wanted to run an ultra. My response was, “NO WAY!” I love to run long, but running 50 miles was incomprehensible to me at the time. And of course here I am, one year and three ultra finishes later…

The JFK50 was a very last minute addition to our Fall race calendar. E and I had just run the UTHC 65k when we met several legendary endurance athletes (NESS at Princeton) who inspired us to search for another ultra challenge. Sure enough, registration was still open for the JFK50. E wanted to give the course another try and I felt (falsely) confident after having run for nearly 11 hours in Quebec. Also, the NYC marathon would be a great training race. E mentioned that we were already kind of trained for it, so why not? (WHY NOT RUN A 50 MILE RACE?!) “Sure,” I said, “why not?” And maybe now you can see how I started running ultras!

We got to the Homewood Suites in Hagerstown late-afternoon to pick up our bib numbers and prep our gear. Strangely, I wasn’t nervous – perhaps because I had already convinced myself that I probably wouldn’t get very far. This is NOT the usual attitude I have in a race, but I had to manage my expectations.

I felt great during the NYC marathon but got some bad right foot pain out of nowhere while walking in flip flops two days later. It turned out to be a cuboid strain and although the pain resolved just before the race, I was cautioned not to run through the pain if it returned, as I could risk a stress fracture. Obviously it’s inevitable to feel some pain with races of this distance, so I would have to differentiate between “bad” pain and more general foot pain. I remained optimistic and grateful to be starting, and told myself that I would run as far as I safely could with E, whether it was 4 miles, 24 miles, or longer. Sounds like a simple plan, right? Run smart, and and if/when the “bad” pain comes, don’t risk injury for the sake of finishing. Got it.

Clearly I forgot that I am a very stubborn person who has never DNF’d and hates quitting. And that the mind and body play tricks on you and hinder your judgment when you have been running for hours and hours. But more on that later…

Gear-wise, I decided not to carry my bladder, which ended up being the BEST decision. This race is incredibly well supported, with 14 fully-stocked aid stations every 2-6 miles! Two 9oz bottles proved more than adequate. It felt great not to have all the weight on my back, and also gave me tons of room in my UD vest to store gels, food, extra layers, and other items. I wore my breathable 2XU compression tights, my favorite Patagonia tank, a very thin North Face long sleeve shirt, my Brooks ultra light shell, Injini socks, Lulu hat, merino wool gloves, and my Brooks Cascadia trail shoes.

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THE START (Miles 0-2.5)

We missed the pre-race talk due to trouble parking (it gets REALLY crowded) but had plenty of time to hit the restrooms and warm up in the Boonsboro Educational Complex. Around 6:45am, we headed back out into the cold and towards the start line in downtown Boonsboro. I had the strongest sense of deja-vu – but this time, I had my own hydration vest and would not be going back to the hotel for a nap! We timed it perfectly, approaching the start just as the gun went off. We were running before I even had a chance to realize the race had started! The 50 mile race. MY FIRST 50 MILE RACE. Nope, still not registering, still fully in denial.

I felt surprisingly awesome. It was a gorgeous Fall day. The air was crisp but our bodies quickly warmed up as we climbed the first of many hills. Everyone around us was walking, but we kept running at an easy effort level given there were much steeper hills to come that would demand walking. I soaked up the atmosphere, that feeling of embarking on a great adventure with hundreds of other race participants (quite a lot for an ultra). The AT and canal would soon spread us all out and turn chunks of our race into quieter, more solo endeavors.

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THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL (Miles 2.5-15.5, paved road miles 3.5-5.5)

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the AT and was slightly nervous about how my foot would handle it. E and I did a fair amount of training on the AT in NY and VT over the summer, on trails that were very technical. E told me it wasn’t quite as challenging, though last year fallen leaves weren’t covering the trails, which included many long, tricky sections of jagged rocks. The leaves camouflaged the rocks while also making them slippery. Bad news for my foot if I wasn’t careful!

We were barely on the trail when we were spit back out onto pavement. THIS was the hill E mentioned earlier – long and steep. We power walked along, joking and chatting with each other and our fellow runners. That’s one of my favorite parts about trail running – you always get to interact with interesting people. We overheard pieces of a story that a man (in the army or navy?) was telling his friend – something about traveling to various places around the world in search of a resupply but never getting one, and being without any real food except for rice and a few canned goods for 70-something days. Well, then running 50 miles should be a walk in the park, right?! I reminded him of this when we ran into each other later in the race and he wasn’t feeling too great!

We soon rejoined the AT, and the leaves and rocks demanded all of my attention. I still felt good, but feared that with any next step the foot pain would return. Sure enough, my foot rolled on a rock around mile 5 and I felt the first pang of pain. Shit. I had more than 10 miles to go on this terrain! It felt fine as long as I landed flat, but every time it rolled – pain. Not terrible, but not good. With concentration, I was able to minimize the number of times I rolled my foot, but the terrain made it impossible to avoid. E was far ahead of me at this point, as I had slowed down to focus on my footing. Thankfully trail runners are friendly, and I met a lovely woman from South Dakota who helped the miles go by.

I feared the 1,000ft descent to Weverton that E had warned me about, but it wasn’t that bad. A few sharp turns, but otherwise quite runnable as long as you don’t get stuck behind a conga line of walkers (you can’t easily pass on this section). I was so happy when I reunited with E at Weverton – I managed to survive the AT relatively unscathed! Plus, a long flat section awaited us – much better for my foot – and we had plenty of wiggle room with the time cut offs. I made this handy wrist band to make sure we didn’t get pulled – highly recommend!

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THE CANAL (miles 15.5 – 41.8)

Hitting the canal together was a joyous moment. My foot felt okay, the sun was shining, the canal was peaceful, and I was running on a familiar trail with my favorite person. I knew I couldn’t get my hopes up, but I was still in the game and I would continue running as long as my foot didn’t hurt with each step. Or so I told myself. We were running around 11-11:30min miles, nice and relaxed and feeling strong.

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Cut to 10 miles later….get me off this canal! It was beautiful but felt endless. Also, all the foot problems really started at this point. My  right foot started to hurt with each step at around 26M. We were practically wading through the leaves on certain parts of the trail and I had to stop several times to get the leaves and rocks out of my shoes. I love Injinji socks but mine were too low cut. In an effort to keep stuff out, I tied my left shoe laces tighter and miles later, the top of my left foot started to hurt too. I knew I couldn’t run another 20 miles feeling like this and contemplated dropping at the next aid station at mile 30.

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But then our friends unexpectedly showed up at mile 30! Look at those smiles! We stopped for a few minutes and my spirits were uplifted. The aid station was Star Wars themed – this race truly has the BEST aid stations. Not only are they frequent, but the volunteers are also incredible. I forgot about my feet and after saying goodbye to our friends, we went along our way.

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Until we were alone again on the canal and…oh yeah, my feet still hurt. I decided to keep running until the next aid station at mile 34 (Christmas cookies!), and reassess there.

Okay, cookies eaten, said hi to Santa, I think my feet are feeling better? (NOT REALLY NO. LIAR!). My pace started to drag. I decided to continue until mile 38 and then pull the plug – had to get to the red velvet cake 38 special!

This is the point at which I realized I could not be trusted. “I’ll just run until the next aid station” became my equivalent of “I’ll just eat one more cookie.” Continuing to run didn’t seem to be doing much damage at the time – until the pain felt magnified by the time I reached mile 38. I knew I could keep running and finish this race if I really wanted to – but at what cost? It wasn’t worth it.

I was grateful to have made it so far, and now it was time to face reality. I stuffed a piece of cake into my face and told E to finish for both of us. We moved past the aid station and I watched him run ahead until he eventually disappeared. My vision of us finishing hand in hand, experiencing victory and celebrating our teamwork as we did in Quebec was shattered. I was surprised by how upset I was, overcome with feelings of defeat and being left behind, even though I knew that this moment would likely come. I couldn’t help but become invested in this race. I was only 12 miles away from my first 50 mile finish!

Running was off the table, but walking wasn’t quite as painful. I wasn’t sure if I should turn around and drop out (what the “should” voice told me to do) or give myself a few more miles to at least finish that damn canal section (what the stubborn voice told me to do). I kept walking. The noise of the aid station faded away. I felt aimless even though I was still moving forward. Several people passed me including walkers and I was deep into my lowest low when an older man named John walked up beside me. He was a 5am starter and was moving at a brisk pace, but one that I could maintain. I learned that this was his 13th JFK50 and that since getting his hip replaced, he race walks marathons and ultras, including this past MCM. Amazing! I couldn’t believe that I could actually walk the remaining 12 miles and make all the cut offs. I couldn’t have done this alone in the cold and dark – but with company? Perhaps I could finish after all. I felt my spirits lift and even though I knew that this was probably not good for my feet, I felt renewed inspiration to keep going.

As we were chatting on the canal, a young woman named Aly approached us. “Did I hear that you guys are walking? Can I join you?” She was in the same boat as me – unable to run due to pain but wanting to “step it out.” She had quite an impressive string of races under her belt since running her first ultra (a 100 miler!) in April, including two more 100’s and several other distances. Her most recent race was a 50 miler just two weeks before the JFK50 – no wonder her hip was hurting!

I was particularly grateful to have met Aly, as she waited for me at the next aid station while I put on another layer (a long sleeve merino wool top that saved me) and John continued walking to keep his pace. Eric had left me a sweet message with the wonderful aid station volunteers, who passed along his love and cheered me on as we hit the road. THANK YOU volunteers! I was very sad not to be running with him, but I knew that I would soon be joining him at the finish, one way or another.

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THE FINISH (Miles 41.8-50.2)

It was wonderful to finally be free of the canal. It felt like an accomplishment in its own right, even though we still had 8 miles left to go. There were mile markers counting down to the finish, which was awesome and helped us pace ourselves to beat the cut offs. Aly is a 3:33 marathoner like me, and it was slight torture knowing that such a short distance to run would take hours to walk, but so it goes. At least I was in good company and the scenery was beautiful! The sun set as we walked along the gently rolling country roads, and I felt very peaceful as I took in the gorgeous skies and fields filled with cows.

We calculated that we could keep a 14-15min/mile pace and finish well before 7pm (12 hours), when the finish line closes. I don’t think I would have attempted this had I been on my own. It soon got very dark – we were wearing reflective vests and the volunteers were amazing at helping to keep us safe, although we were still walking on a road with traffic which was a bit scary in total darkness. It also got very cold and I couldn’t get warm despite our brisk pace. My foot pain was getting worse too, although it’s amazing how adrenaline and focus on a single goal can dull pain and make it difficult to objectively assess how your body truly feels. Each mile was difficult but felt manageable with the finish line on my brain and my walking buddy by my side. The awesome aid stations with hot soup and cookies also helped – there were THREE during the last 8 miles! Talk about well supported.

This was my first time truly at the back of the pack, and it was a humbling, emotional and inspiring experience. I loved interacting with other walkers and runners, everyone encouraging one another as we all tried to beat the clock. My favorite part of this section involved a man dressed as Mr. Incredible, who we had seen earlier on the canal blasting music from speakers on his bike. He apparently has done this for years. We were walking in the dark silence with many more miles to go when out of nowhere I heard music and saw the road light up. I looked back and there he was, our live DJ riding next to us, playing great rock tunes and illuminating the road with a spot light. I can’t even tell you how uplifting this was – THANK YOU Mr. Incredible! You made my day.

Aly and I caught up to John and another walker with a few miles to go. I was moving more slowly by this point so Aly walked ahead, while John assured me that I had plenty of time to spare and could slow my pace down if I wished. He kept me company for the last few miles, coaching me along and telling me exactly what was left until the finish. I am fortunate to have found so many amazing people out on the course – this race really was a team effort.

I heard the finish before I saw it. I was shivering and hobbling along, but that sound was energizing. We turned right and I saw an area of light ahead. I remember waiting in the dark and cold for E to emerge from the darkness to finish his race last year. Now it was my turn. I thanked John for his support and started to “run” (ahem, shuffle) as soon as I hit the lit section of the road to cross the finish line. I felt so happy to have made it – shocked, really! My watch died hours before I finished, but you can check out my Garmin details here.

E had finished about 30 minutes before me (check out his awesome race report) and thank goodness had just made it back down to the finish line a few minutes before I arrived after grabbing our bags. Whatever had been masking the pain and kept me moving forward over the last few hours was ripped away at the finish. I went from all smiles and walking with a purpose to sobbing and shivering uncontrollably, unable to take a single step. The pain was brutal. I could barely move and was slightly frightened at what I had just done to myself. Respect the distance, E always told me. Seriously. People run double this distance?!

E wasn’t feeling too hot either, but managed to get me to the main building at the Springfield Middle School, where they had food, drinks, medical etc. I piled on the layers and had a hot drink but still could not stop shivering or crying. Total mess. We went to the medical area where I was treated by some wonderful doctors. There wasn’t much to be done other than ice and elevate my feet, hydrate, and see my sports doctor when I got back to NYC, but they took good care of me. One doctor even walked me to the front of the building and personally spoke with someone in charge of the shuttles to make sure I was taken right to my car, given I couldn’t walk. Everyone was so helpful and kind. I cannot speak more highly of this race in terms of the organization and support. No wonder so many people come back year after year to participate!

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I felt miserable the following week – foot pain and body aches magnified by a terrible virus that kept me in bed for several days.  I felt conflicted about my whole race experience. Had I been stubborn and foolish in pushing myself to finish, potentially injuring myself and making myself sick? Or was I being resilient and should I feel proud of myself for finishing? It was confusing, nothing like my previous ultra finishes.

I am finally healthy again and walking like a normal person without any pain. My x-rays were negative (no MRI yet), though I’m continuing to take time off of running to make sure whatever is going on heals properly. It’s been nice to a break after such a busy running season. I signed up for a two-week Class Pass trial and am loving all the variety from so many different cross-training activities!

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So, was it worth it? That’s the question I’ve been grappling with these last two weeks. I think it was. It was a really tough race – one that taught me important lessons about myself and my body – and how can I not be proud of myself for running 50 miles? The JFK50 was an amazing race – I agree that it’s a great first 50 miler – and I’m glad I came back this year to finish the entire course. That said, I think I’m fine not running an ultra for awhile. I’m respecting the distance – and my body.

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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I’ve had two weeks to process my second ultra marathon, and I’m still amazed that I pulled it off. I wasn’t just attempting to run 65km in the Canadian wilderness; I was flying to Montreal after work, driving 5+ hours to La Malbaie, getting on a bus the next morning at 5am with a small group of mostly French speaking locals to run 40 miles on an unfamiliar trail with a potentially fractured wrist, then driving back to Montreal and flying to NYC the following day. It was a full-on endurance weekend in unknown territory on all fronts. Then again, it’s not the first time I’ve done crazy things in the name of running, and I wasn’t alone on my trail running adventure!

E and I found the North Face sponsored Ultra Trail du Harricana (UTHC) race somewhat by chance, when searching for a “fun” ultra that fit into our restrictive fall schedule. E ran the JFK50 last year and originally wanted do a longer ultra closer to home on his own, but we had so much fun running the North Face ECSDC 50k in April – my first ultra – that I convinced him we should take on our next challenge together. UTHC was appealing in that it offered a point to point course on trails at a distance that seemed like a reasonable next step up from a 50k (in retrospect, JFK50 would have been easier). I’m very much a solo racer on road, but out on the trails I love company, especially for a race that advises you to carry a bell to ward off bears, only has four aid stations and isn’t heavily populated. Also, it was my birthday – what better way to celebrate entering my mid 30s than eating delicious food in Montreal, driving to middle-of-nowhere Quebec, and running together for 11 hours? That sounds like a romantic, fun weekend – sign me up!

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After a long day of driving, we arrived at Le Mont Grand-Fonds (the race finish area) in Charlevoix around 5pm the day before the race for packet pickup. It was a gorgeous day – not a cloud in the sky and quite warm. I had feared icy rain (common weather this time of the year, apparently) and was very grateful the skies remained clear for us! As we wandered up to the finish line to take a few photos, I had trouble believing that I was racing the following day. I had barely run for two weeks, so my legs felt heavier than usual during a taper. Although I had received the all-clear from my sports Dr to run, he was concerned about the weight of my splint (potential strain to my neck) and the risk of me falling again and worsening my injury. My MRI was scheduled for two days after the race, so we didn’t even know if my wrist was broken or sprained, and my legs remained bruised from my fall. As if I needed more reasons to be nervous! I promised myself that I would try my best and pursue three goals, in order of importance: be safe (i.e. stay upright), have fun, and finish (if able).

UTHC offered several distances – 125k, 65k, 28k, 10k and 5k. Most of the people we met were doing the ultras. We explored the finish line area, which mainly consisted of a merchandise stand, an info tent, and a couple food/sports product stands. I was shocked that the race did not include a t-shirt given the North Face sponsorship and the price to enter – it was the first race that I have done that didn’t give one with entry! I caved and forked over $30 for a t-shirt…cool wolf logo, though didn’t have our event distance on it sadly and wasn’t great quality fabric.

We attended the small opening ceremony, thinking the race organizers would explain important details about the course, but it mostly included speeches in French about the history of the race. We had a TON of organizing to do back at the hotel, but we were glad we stayed to experience the energy and excitement of the other runners. They had a translator on site, which was a nice touch for a race seeking to attract more international participants (there were only a few other “yanks” this year). Too bad no one was around to interpret the key race details that were announced right before the gun went off the next morning, such as what color flags to follow and which to avoid! Thankfully I speak a little French and we caught the important bits.

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Back at the hotel, we frantically crammed our hydration vests with everything we would need for the race. We stayed at the Hotel-Motel Castel del la Mer – highly recommend for a comfy, affordable room! The first floor with handicapped shower was a plus (amazing for post-race). Poor E had to do the bulk of the packing given I had limited use of my right hand, and just when we thought we were done the outer strap broke on my vest, so we had to get creative to keep my jacket in place. We managed to cram in 22 gels (I used SIS Go-gels orange flavor, PowerGel Vanilla, and VFuel citrus), 2L of water, salt pills (S-tabs), light jacket, extra calf sleeve (which I used under my splint to prevent chaffing), whistle, and a variety of smaller items. My original plan was to use 400 cal of Tailwind instead of some gels, but I wasn’t able to grab the bottles with my wrist in the splint. Packing took forever, but we had just enough time to put our feet up, watch some horrible French dubbed TV, and get to bed early for our 3:30am wakeup!

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Runners in the 65k event had to catch a 5am shuttle at the finish area, which is about 20-30min drive from the hotel. This worked well, as that way we could drive home after finishing, and we were also able to leave a drop bag at the start that would be driven to the end so we wouldn’t have to forfeit our warm clothing. Everything was very well organized – we got on the school bus and were shuttled in the darkness to Hautes-Gorges National Park. It took about an hour to get there, at which point the sun was rising and the sky was neon pink. The bus stopped in a parking lot and no one really knew what was going on – we started to trickle off the bus and runners wandered in all directions. Only a few people spoke English. Eventually some race officials turned up and pointed us towards the start area, where there was a welcome center (warmth! bathrooms!) and then further on, the actual start line. Well, for us at least – for the 125k runners, it was just another aid station!

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We started at 7am with beautiful mountains in the distance. I had expected some great views from the tops of those mountains, but our course didn’t seem to have any – we were more in the thick of things – still beautiful though! We started out conservatively, my usual pacing strategy, plus it always takes me at least a few miles to wake up in these early, long trail races. Sun was streaming through the trees and the air was cool and fresh. Runners quickly spread out once we hit the trails, and we ended up towards the back of the pack. Fast field!

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Although we had read the course description and studied the elevation profile (above), the course was not quite what we had expected. Actually, we didn’t know what to expect! We knew there would be challenging terrain and some tough climbs, but we had hoped the trails would be a little more runnable than they were…to us at least! Many runners were flying over sections that we had to power hike. We encountered pretty much every terrain you can possibly imagine – paved road, packed dirt, sand, rocks, roots, mud, SERIOUS mud (thigh deep, the kind that suctions you down), streams, all forms of sketchy moss covered planks and bridges with huge holes, gravel, fallen trees, trees trying to trap you and poke your eyes out, bushes smacking you in the face, dusty fire roads…you name it, it was there.

Amazingly, except for the quicksand mud and the water we ran through, we had managed to train for all of it throughout the summer, during our trips to Hawaii, Vermont, and throughout NY. The terrain was particularly challenging given I had to be extra careful not to fall, and could not use my right hand to grab onto trees etc while circumnavigating various obstacles. We did a lot more walking than usual to avoid taking risks on tricky technical sections. It was amazing to see runners pass us and quickly disappear – especially the 125k runners! Truly inspiring. 

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One of my favorite things about running trail races is making new trail buddies. We thought everyone had passed us as we made our way towards the first aid station when we met a lovely woman from Nova Scotia tagging along behind us. I was beyond grateful for her company, between her helping me through the insane mud to laughing together at E when the mud ate his leg to chatting about music among many other things. Trail buddies are the best and certainly help the miles go by! We separated at the first aid station (pictured below) and were happy to see her cheering for us at the finish line later that day. She was one of many DNFs that day – 10 in the 65k and 34 in the 125k! Really tough course!

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E wrote a detailed, awesome description of the course on Trailz.io, his trail running site. Check it out! He captures the spirit of our race and covers all the gory details, so I won’t rehash it all here.

However, I do want to talk about race cut-offs. I am usually a mid-pack runner and have never had to worry about them before. UTHC had cut-offs at the last three aid stations that they called “very generous.” I think that’s a stretch, but I understand that they were for safety purposes (mostly, to match hours of sunlight). It never occurred to me that cut-offs would be an issue for our race, but after having done a LOT more power hiking than we had planned to do, we found out that we were already running at cut-off pace at the first aid station (mile 13). We started to panic – had we done all that training and come all this way only to be pulled from the course? We had to pick up the pace or else!

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I continued to feel strong and as the hours ticked by, the idea of not being allowed to finish when I knew I could made me angry. There was no f-ing way we were not going to finish! (So much for being goal #3).

I wish I had been able to enjoy the beautiful scenery a bit more and chill out at the aid stations, but racing against those cut-offs actually made our race AMAZING. It lit a fire inside of us and made us truly run as a team. And that sense of teamwork – of accomplishing something great with the man I love – that is exactly why I wanted to run another ultra with E!!

The following moments stand out to me.

*Passing runners after the first aid station – slowly reeling them in after they left us in the dust hours earlier! One of my strengths is pacing over long distances, and I love that feeling of passing runners in the later stages of a race as I hone in on my goals. I don’t say this from a competitive standpoint – UTHC’s tagline is “Je suis loup” or “I am wolf,” pointing to running as a team or wolf pack, and supporting one another throughout the race. That’s what trail running is all about! Passing people wasn’t about placement, but rather about making progress, coming back to life, and seizing control of our race. Each runner I passed gave me energy.

*Flying down a dusty fire road towards what we thought was the first official cut off and thinking we had over an hour to spare (nope – that would be the next one)! It was crazy hot by this point. We had run out of water. I somehow never had any severe emotional or physical lows in this race, but I certainly felt fear and doubt at this point.

*Coming across bear (or some big animal we didn’t want to encounter) poop on the trail. E singing Taylor Swift loudly – really E?! Okay, I sang too.

*Fighting to make the real first cut-off (3:30pm at 46.5km). The distance between the second and third aid stations seemed relatively short (~7km) and yet we needed every minute we had to cover it. The trails were technical and we had to hike many sections. Finally hitting a steady downhill that we could run was a relief. The trail remained technical, yet I had a mantra that got me in the zone – “focus, small steps.” I said this aloud to myself over and over again for several km to stay focused and avoid a fall. Every step was intentionally placed. E and I seemed to enter an altered state – each focused intensely on our own bodies and yet moving together, cursing under our breath, “we’re going to f-ing make that cut-off,” practically sprinting towards the aid station down a fire road. By the time we got there, I felt superhuman. I have never experienced such intense euphoria like that before. After a brief refuel, I took off up a hill and E had to calm me down so I would better pace myself for the next tough section!

*REALLY fighting to make the last cut-off (4:53pm at 54km). We had another 7km to go and it was HARD. I didn’t crash but that high ended. We had a long climb ahead of us and E was hitting some pretty bad lows. Lots of power hiking and words of encouragement got him through. We finally hit another glorious downhill and morphed back into our crazed, focused states. We had actually trained for this exact moment – we raced miles from the top of Bear Mountain all the way to Manitou station, sprinting down the final hill to make a train. Little did I know how important that training run would be! We flew into that last aid station with more than ten minutes to spare. It was a glorious feeling. Only 8km to go and no more cut-offs to worry about. This photo says it all – YES!

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Those last 8km were BRUTAL. “Oh, this will be easy,” we thought. “No more cut-offs.” Ha! Turns out sprinting downhill after having run for nearly 10 hours does not feel so good. And the easy downhill mostly road course that I had imagined in my mind turned out to be more mud, more climbing, painful steep downhill, some grass, and uphill to the finish. Of course. By this point, my achilles and ankle were bothering me – surprisingly not my wrist, neck, hamstring, quads or the bruised parts of my leg. Finishing was painful, but spirits were high, and we were eager to bring it home.

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We finished in 10 hours 51 minutes and 48 seconds. We came in 178th and 179th – 15 runners finished the 65k after us, the last runner finishing in nearly 15 hours! After all that, we learned that the cut-offs were not actually being enforced…SERIOUSLY?! In truth, I’m grateful for those cut-offs – I can’t imagine taking any longer to cover that distance, and no way in hell was I running in the dark without a head lamp!

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It was a very proud moment, crossing that finish line hand in hand.

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The race finish area was great and the party had been going on for hours, given the first person finished our distance around lunchtime and we arrived at 6pm. There were hot showers, a tent with free food (veggie chili, soup, etc), and another tent with local music and beer. We could hardly move but eventually managed to get semi-cleaned up and partake in the festivities. By the time we got in our car and drove back to town, we were wrecked. We had meant to go out to dinner for a nice post race meal, but instead stopped at a grocery store to get some food (not knowing the restaurant was literally next door to our hotel). We were half asleep randomly grabbing things, and ended up with ice cream, beer, prosciutto, cheese, and apples. I swear, I really am a Dietitian!

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The next morning I was very stiff, but by the end of the day was moving fairly well. It’s incredible how the body adapts, and how much stronger I’ve become over the last five years since I started to run longer distances.

A few more details on nutrition and gear: I only ended up taking about 15 gels. It was hard to stay on top of my two gels per hour goal, but I was also eating at aid stations and my energy levels were good. Stomach felt solid. My Garmin died after 9.5 hours, but you can see what it captured here. Watch fail! My Brooks Cascadia trail shoes worked well – I had some ankle and achilles pain at the end, but I think that was more the distance not the shoes. They held up well through water and mud. Lululemon shorts were solid. My Ultimate Direction vest was a disappointment – mostly because it is new and it broke – so that will be returned.

Overall, my second ultra was a huge success – all three goals achieved – and the race organizers did a great job. Big thumbs up to UTHC! I’m recovering well and slowly easing back into training, with the NYC Marathon less than a month away. I’m nursing my sprained wrist – it will be a couple more months until it heals. I am right hand dominant so it is a challenging injury, but I know things could have been much worse. I am grateful.

Next up for me is the National Endurance Sports Summit at Princeton University this weekend. I’m one of four speakers on the Nutrition Panel on Saturday morning, followed by an amazing lineup throughout the day. Here’s a great article on Competitor.com covering the event – visit Elevateendurance.org to register. It’s only $75 and if you use code cs10, you’ll get a 10% discount! Will be a fun weekend.

Lastly, thank you to everyone who has donated to our fundraising efforts for the Gilda’s Club. If you haven’t already done so, please consider supporting us. Any contribution is greatly appreciated as we honor our friend Noirin while supporting a wonderful charity!

Oh, and yes, we’re already starting to plot our next ultra. These things are addictive!

E and I both like to read something inspirational leading up to a big race. It doesn’t have to be about running, but any story that captures the journey of chasing a goal, overcoming a challenging situation and accomplishing something spectacular. As I train for my upcoming ultra, I’m enjoying a book called “The Ultra Mindset” by Travis Macy, a very accomplished endurance athlete. This book is all about changing your attitude, and is not just geared towards athletes. I’m only about halfway through, but I’m enjoying the various exercises that he has you do to rethink the obstacles you face, such as negative stories you tell yourself that can be reframed, all in the context of his own story about becoming the athlete he is today.

One tidbit that motivated me through some tough long run miles is something Macy wrote while narrating his solo race across Zion National park. He was pushing to the finish and said to himself, “You can do it. The harder it is, the stronger I get.” That last sentence resonated with me – a great new mantra – and it is also very true! The last two weeks have been my biggest mileage weeks in a long time – 45 and 41 miles, respectively. Granted, that’s nothing for most ultra runners, but for me recently and especially while rehabbing my hamstring, I’m pleased! It certainly hasn’t been easy, but I feel myself getting stronger. Strong enough to run 40 miles in the mountains? Not so sure about that yet, but I have a few more long runs and trail excursions to work that out.

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Over the last two weeks, I’ve been including a longer midweek run on the East River to boost my mileage. The run pictured above right is one such morning – it was gorgeous out and the miles flew by. The following Saturday, I ran 16 miles on Summer Streets NYC, which if you’re not familiar with, involves closing Park Avenue to traffic from 72nd street down to the Brooklyn Bridge for runners, cyclists and everyone else to enjoy. It gets a little too crowded for my liking but if you go early in the morning, it’s pretty cool. Part of this run was spent coaching the Gilda’s Club team, which is going well with two coached runs under our belt. We enjoyed many of the “rest stops,” including the coconut water station complete with a hammock (dangerous – I almost didn’t get back up).  I won’t lie – this was a tough run for me. My body was not feeling great after mile 12, but I managed to finish and thankfully recovered well for the next day’s adventure.

We are trying to do back to back runs each weekend to practice running on tired legs, with a long run Saturday and if able, a trail run/hike outside of the city on Sunday. Last weekend, E and I ventured back to the Appalachian Trail, but this time to Bear Mountain. We took Metro North to Manitou and ran along a quiet road (Manitou Station Rd –> Manitou Rd –> S Mountain Pass Rd) that intersects the AT after about 1.3M. We could have gone along the main road (9D) to the bridge like everyone else on our train, but we wanted to get away from the cars and people, while maximizing our trail time.

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Like in Vermont, this section of the AT was rocky and technical, but that was short lived. We soon hit a long stretch of road – 9D and the bridge (above) that takes you across the river to Bear Mountain and into the park along a paved path that hugs a lake and eventually leads to the trailhead. It was a gorgeous day, but we were still surprised by how many families were having huge loud BBQs by the lake. Everywhere smelled of smoke and kerosene. It looked fun but it’s a shame that they permit it in what could be such a peaceful place.

The trail to the top of Bear Mountain is essentially a stone staircase that turns into a trail and crosses a road 3 or 4 times. The trail and the top of bear mountain were PACKED – all in all this excursion was not the escape to nature that we had envisioned but the view was nice and we certainly had a great workout!

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Trains are infrequent from Manitou and when we realized that we would just barely be able to make our train with the next one several hours later, we booked it down the mountain. Nothing like racing 5M on a hot day after a big mileage week! Flying down those steps was SO fun – and great practice. I’m working on gaining confidence on steep downhill running and we were MOVING.

We had 3M and less than 30 minutes left on rolling hilly road when we both really started to feel it. At one point E said “I don’t think I can make it,” to which I responded, “we WILL make that cutoff.” He perked up and that suddenly became our motto – make the cutoff! It sounds silly but we are running the 65km race together and being able to motivate one another and work as a team is really important. Also, cutoffs really are a concern if you are a slower runner (as we will be in this race given all the hiking we’ll be doing), so it was a good motivator! We made the train with two minutes to spare – ending the run at 11M, tired but feeling very strong. After eating the healthy lunch I packed for us on the train, we beelined to Davey’s Ice Cream in the East Village (one of my fav spots) for a well-deserved summer treat. Dietitians need dessert too and this stuff is seriously worth the calories!

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Gear update: I’ve been using Saucony’s Omni Progrid as my road show for years and have been on the hunt for a good trail shoe as my feet were not happy after I ran the 50k in my Omni’s! I tested out the cliftons by HokaOneOne. Those are road shoes too but E swears by them protecting the legs over long distances. They were super comfy at first but they had to be returned as they were too narrow for my feet, causing a gigantic blister to form after just an hour. Ouch. On Sunday, I tested out the Brooks Cascadia 10 pictured above. This is a popular trail shoe with much more structure than I am used to, which means more protection from rocks. They held up well during our part trail part road run. Much better traction on rocks for sure, although still trying to decide if they are comfy enough with the structures upper. A longer run will surely tell! I’m grateful for the awesome return policies that these two companies have, as it’s impossible to tell if a shoe will work until you’ve done a long run in them, and shoes are really expensive!

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As for this past week, I threw in some cross training to mix things up. On Monday, I participated in a super fun Ironstrength group workout with Dr. Jordan Metzl aboard the Intrepid with 1000 other people! I’ve done one other Ironstrength class before in Central Park and love that it’s free (usually), open to anyone, and takes place all over the city. It was a gorgeous night, and although E and were sore from our big weekend, we had a great time working up a sweat in such a unique location. On Wednesday, a co-worker and I tried out a spin class at the Peloton Cycle studio in Chelsea with Robin Arzon, a fellow ultra runner (E and I saw her at Endurance Challenge DC) and all around bad-ass and inspirational athlete. She is gorgeous and her energy is infectious! The studio and the bikes are amazing too. Obviously I’m a huge fan of Peloton and will be back! I did a short shakeout run after the class and ran into E on the river – I wish I could run commute home from work!

This weekend, E and I ran 18 miles yesterday, partly on Summer Streets. We managed to run at least 6 miles on trails, between the bridal path and north woods in Central Park, and a dirt trail that ran all along Riverside Park! Pretty cool. This run was tough but overall I felt better than last week, and the tape on my hamstring still seems to be helping, as I didn’t feel any pain throughout. Our experiment of the day was testing a new nutrition strategy, as we are still trying to nail down our plan for race day. We used Tailwind Nutrition endurance fuel naked flavor in our 16oz handhelds. We ran for ~3hrs and used 1.5 scoops per bottle x 3 (450 cal). It tasted great – not too sweet, especially with all the ice we used in that first bottle – but after 2-3 hours and with warmer water I found myself craving plain cold water, even though I had been drinking a lot (we were filling our bottles at fountains along the way). Also, I’m not sure how I would use it during the ultra, given we’ll be running for 10+ hours with only 5 aid stations. I could put it in my hydration vest bladder, but it’s much harder to gauge how many calories you are drinking this way compared to a handheld. Overall it’s a great product that I would like to experiment with more, and I wonder if in colder weather I would have had a different reaction. It could be useful in conjunction with food and/or gels, although I realize that their motto is “all you need, all day, really.”

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Today, we opted to stay in the city and hit some “hills” on the Williamsburg bridge for 8M rather than do another trail excursion out of the city. It was hot, but overall I felt quite strong, which gave me a confidence boost.

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On the cooking front, I’ve been making all kinds of good stuff lately that you can check out on my Instagram page. I’ve included a few photos here too.

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I’m in the process of setting up my new Eat for Endurance nutrition counseling website (finally!!!) so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to get in touch (thefightandflightresponse@gmail.com) if you wish to work with me, either for nutrition counseling or run coaching, in person or online. Have a wonderful week!

This post is very belated, but I am still very excited to report that I graduated from NYU with my Master’s in Clinical Nutrition a few weeks ago! Passing the RD exam in September was an amazing feeling, but finishing my graduate degree and celebrating with my family, friends and classmates was even better. Graduation was held in Madison Square Garden and was very entertaining, with dancing, singing, and a hashtag screen for #Steinhardt2015.

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I often forget that my decision to become a Registered Dietitian stemmed from the creation of this blog nearly five years ago. It has been such a long, challenging road, and I am having trouble believing that it is finally over. I recently perused some of my old blog posts and it amazes me just how much has happened in my personal, professional and athletic life throughout this time. I am forever grateful for the support of my family, friends, and most of all my husband for helping me succeed in my professional journey. Going back to school in your 30s is a very daunting task!

I’m still adjusting to the idea of no longer being a student. I keep thinking that this is just a break and summer classes are right around the corner. I can’t even express how relieved I am to finally be done. I am still working full time as a clinical dietitian at Montefiore, but I am cherishing my new “free time” on week nights and weekends. I think I will need at least a month or two to catch up on sleep and recover from 3.5 years of craziness. I am also looking forward to my first true vacation in ages – a week of R&R in Maui, starting tomorrow, followed by a long weekend in a log cabin (literally) without TV or phone service in the Catskills! E and I are celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary, and I can’t think of a better way to do so than some quality time out in nature, completely unplugged from the rest of the world.

I plan to focus on next steps professionally once I’m back. I will begin coaching the Gilda’s Club NYC marathon team for the 4th consecutive year, and will continue to coach private run clients and counsel private nutrition clients through Physical Equilibrium (get in touch if you’re interested). I also plan to build the website for my new nutrition business, “Eat for Endurance: Nutrition counseling for longevity in life and in sport.” In the meantime, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @eatforendurance for nutrition and fitness tips!

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E and I have been enjoying some down time on the running front since the Brooklyn Half Marathon a few weeks ago. And we are so thankful that the weather finally turned – how gorgeous were those Spring blossoms?! My hamstring has been bothering me recently, but I hope I can start training properly again later this month with the NYC triathlon relay approaching! After having such a blast at our April TNF ultra, E and I are on the hunt for an exciting a Fall race. We haven’t picked one yet but did come across a 65km trail race outside of Quebec in September that sounds intriguing! I am slightly concerned, however, about the bell that is on the “recommended” (not required) list of gear to ward of bears…hmmm.

I hope you are all enjoying the beautiful warm weather! Happy running!

This was my third consecutive year running the NYC Half Marathon. Although conditions were brutal this year and I didn’t have the amazing race I had last year (PR of 1:37), I enjoyed the new course and got a good sense of how I will perform in Boston. I didn’t hit my sub-1:40 goal, but my knee felt fine, no GI issues, I ran smart and held back the pace slightly as soon as I felt I may risk straining my hamstring in the cold, and finished feeling very strong. Overall, a great training race!

A 1:41:24 finish was about right for me today given the frigid temps and my current fitness level. My head also wasn’t exactly in the game – I find it hard to motivate sometimes when I’m that far away from a PR or when I haven’t raced in awhile – so it was really good for me to get back into the racing mentality before the marathon, even if I decide not to give it my all.

I missed E at the start (he ran the past two years but didn’t get into the lottery this year), but certainly appreciated his support. He was kind enough to wait 45min for me in the cold to see me run by at mile 10. Don’t I look like I’m enjoying myself?! This was right after I passed a water station and was handed a solid block of ice in a cup. No joke.

NYC Half 2014

E also scooped me up at the finish with several jackets on hand, given I opted not to check a bag. The security this year was pretty hard-core – metal detectors to get into the corrals and no bags of any kind after security (even my clear ziplock with a few pre-race items). It’s amazing how things have changed since last April. I know security will be pretty nuts at this year’s marathon – for the best of course, but it still takes some getting used to.

Boston is on the horizon – just two more long runs left then taper time! It was awesome to see so many Boston runners in my corral this morning. Got me excited for April! E and I both decided to enter the lotteries for the NYC marathon (I still dream of running a marathon where I actually live) and also for the Marine Corps Marathon, so we’ll see if we get in. After such a crazy winter, summer training doesn’t sound half bad (I’m sure I’ll regret that statement later!).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Welcome to FFR

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

My PRs

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

My latest photos

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

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