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Now that you’ve read about E’s recent racing triumphs (which continue to blow me away – a half marathon PR two weeks after his first 50k?!), I suppose it’s time I share what I’ve been up to since Boston. I too ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon this past weekend. No PR for me – that wasn’t the goal – but I had an amazing time, which certainly was part of the goal! It was a great experience pacing E two years ago, but I really enjoyed running for myself this year.

The Brooklyn Half has really changed since 2012. The expo two years ago wasn’t memorable at all, while this year’s expo – or shall I say pre-party, as NYRR aptly called it – certainly was unique! It was a trek getting there, but with beautiful views it felt like an “urban hike” and was worth the effort. Definitely the hippest expo I’ve ever been to, with local food trucks/stands, a bar, DJ/live music, graffiti artists customizing racing shirts (also sporting a cooler design this year), a barber shop (?), coffee bar (with excellent baristas and coffee, of course), and prominently displayed Brooklyn Half hashtags (obviously), all overlooking Manhattan. A great celebration of Brooklyn before taking to the streets!

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The race is a LOT bigger now than it was in 2012, with over 25,000 finishers compared to around 14,000. And I thought it was crowded back then! The course essentially is a Brooklyn version of the NYC Half, with 7M of rolling hills in Prospect park followed by a flat and fast stretch on Ocean Ave towards the beach (sure beats finishing in downtown Manhattan). It was VERY crowded in the park, and I found it frustrating at times to navigate around everyone particularly at water stations (next time I’ll carry my own small bottle so I can save time), but once we left the park the roads opened up and it was easier to get into a groove. The boardwalk finish was beautiful but I echo E – not fun to sprint on. I was gunning it towards the finish once I saw the 400m sign but then hit a wall of runners on the tiny ramp onto the last stretch, and it was tough to regain my speed on the sandy, slippery surface of the boardwalk. I guess that’s the price to pay for the scenery!

I had a fantastic race, which was a pleasant surprise. I’ve been recovering fairly well post-Boston but lately my legs have felt unusually fatigued. I spend a lot of time on my feet each day and things have continued to be so busy on the school & internship front that I haven’t been able to prioritze my training nor my recovery/sleep for that matter (working on that). I’m in the middle of my 3-week Staff Relief rotation, which is the culmination of my clinical rotations that started in late January. I essentially cover for other RDs and thus am treated more like an entry level dietitian than a dietetic intern, which means that my preceptors push me to see an increasing number of patients in the same amount of time over the course of three weeks. The goal is to reach 10 – I am currently at 7 up from 4 – which may not sound like a lot but believe me, 7 feels hard right now. This push along with less hand holding is exactly what I need and I welcome the challenge, but it has been mentally and physically taxing. I’ve been getting home from the hospital feeling utterly exhausted, body aching. Going for an evening run at that point is the last thing I want to (or have time to) do, but I’ve managed to get out there and squeeze in some miles a few times a week, which usually makes me feel better (emotionally, at least).

I felt pretty miserable when I woke up at 3:45am to make and eat breakfast on race morning, but that changed to excitement once we got to the start. I was aiming to enjoy the race and get a good workout in; if I felt up for it, I planned to run around marathon effort in the park and then gradually speed up towards the finish. Turned out I felt quite strong! I still refrained from going full-out, sticking with a cautious just below marathon pace effort in the park, but when I still felt good at mile 7, I started to pick up the pace and was able to stay around my usual half marathon range. Only in the last mile did my hamstrings start to ache slightly, but otherwise I was extremely comfortable. The weather was awesome which helped – warm but not too hot (there was shade on a large part of the course too) with a lovely but not overpowering breeze. Made the insanely early morning start worthwhile, as the temps began to rise shortly after our finish!

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I ended up finishing in 1:42:03 (Garmin details here), which funny enough is only less than a minute slower than my NYC Half time with far less effort exerted and certainly less prep work done. The atmosphere at Coney Island was amazing. I found E shortly after I finished – since he finished only FOUR MINUTES after me (he’s catching up!!!!!) – and we headed to the post-race party at the stadium for a nap in the sunshine on our space blankets. It was glorious (SO much better than the way too crowded boardwalk two years ago) – with live music, food, great people watching, perfect blue skies…too early for beer but I had a nice buzz going from my runner’s high. Wasn’t too early for ice-cream though, which we got on the way to the subway!

We just barely squeezed ourself onto the Q train back to Manhattan. I felt bad for the non-runners on that train, pressed up against all of us who had just raced. The mixture of smells was extremely unpleasant and I was contributing to it, so I can only imagine how they felt! The fatigue began to set in by the end of that hour-long standing journey. A nice hot shower and crashing on the couch when we got home felt like heaven!

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I managed to make these quinoa pecan muffins (via NY Times recipes for health, pictured on the left) in the afternoon, which I hadn’t made for years. Super tasty, not too sweet and very wholesome! They make a great pre/post run snack, packed with protein, whole grains and healthy fats. We put a touch of jam or honey on ours to make it a bit sweeter, but on its own it would go great with a savory meal. I had some leftover quinoa and quinoa flour so I tried out another version today – this time adding ripe mashed banana, substituting almond milk for skim milk (which I add 1 tsp lemon juice to make “buttermilk”), and coconut oil for canola oil. Definitely preferred version number 2 (pictured on the right) – extremely moist and a touch sweeter from the banana! I ran out of pecans otherwise would have added them. The black specks btw are from the tricolor quinoa I used (ran out of normal). These freeze very well so I popped a bunch into the freezer for quick snacks in the coming weeks!

So another great Brooklyn half in the books – and the verdict is, it’s even better than it was in 2012.  I highly recommend this race and look forward to running it again next year!

 

 

 

 

 

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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!).

It’s Sunday and growing up, that meant one thing in my house: a big stack of my Dad’s amazing pancakes! I usually make my healthier wholegrain Triple B pancakes, but today I decided to experiment with my new (well, inherited) waffle maker.

I’ve never made waffles before. I wanted a runner-friendly recipe given I have the NYC Half Marathon next weekend – something with whole grains, healthy fats and some protein – that would make a crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside waffle. The results were SO incredible I confess I may be a waffle girl now! Also, the recipe is super easy – a big plus in my book given how much work I have to do today.

Here’s a photo of what I came up with post-syrup pre-loading them up with fresh berries and a dollop of almond butter:

Whole wheat waffles

This was a really nice way to celebrate my return to running after taking a nasty spill on the subway stairs almost two weeks ago. Being the klutz that I am, I managed to fall right on my knee in the exact same spot I fell on last September when I fell off my bike. Pure talent! This was off course two days after I had finished my second 20 miler after a really strong long run sequence over the previous 3 weeks (20M – 18M – 20M) so it was a real bummer. Thankfully I didn’t break anything and only had to take a little over a week off. I ran 14M with some marathon pace miles at the end yesterday without any pain, which was awesome especially in the beautiful weather. I’ve definitely lost some fitness (and wasn’t exactly running as fast as usual before that) so I’m not expecting to break any records next weekend, but I am excited to race! I can’t believe it’s been 8 months since my last race and a full year since my last half marathon. But I digress from my waffles…

View/print my whole wheat banana ricotta waffle recipe or see below for details.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Whole Wheat Banana Ricotta Waffles

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 ¾ cups nonfat or low fat milk (or almond milk, soy milk etc)

  • ¼ cup oil (I used olive oil since that was all I had around – tasted fine – canola oil is a good choice)

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 ½ cups 100% whole-wheat flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

  • 1 ripe, mashed banana

  • ~ ¾ cup ricotta, can do a little more or a little less (I love Calabro brand nonfat ricotta, which my local Whole Foods carries – very fluffy – do not recommend TJ’s nonfat version, their part-skim may taste better).

  • Maple syrup (I prefer to warm mine up before serving)

  • Toppings of choice: fresh fruit (berries, sliced banana, etc), nut butter, chopped walnuts or pecans (you can also put these into the batter), jam, etc

Directions

  • Preheat your waffle iron (mine makes 2 waffle squares, as pictured above).

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, mashed banana, milk, vanilla, ricotta, oil, honey, cinnamon, and baking soda until well combined.

  • Add in flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk together until the large lumps disappear.

  • When the waffle iron is hot, spray or brush with cooking oil and then ladle some batter onto the center of the iron (don’t fill completely as it will then overflow). Follow instructions of your waffle iron – mine took about 3-4 minutes to cook. They should be golden brown and crispy to the touch.

  • Eat as you go as we do or keep the waffles warm until you finish cooking all of them. Serve with pure maple syrup and other toppings of your choice.

Yield:

With my waffle iron, this recipe made about 6.5 servings (1 serving = 2 waffle squares pictured above), which should feed about 3-4 people depending on how hungry you all are (E and I could easily eat all of these ourselves, although we managed to save 4 squares for tomorrow). I have also cut this recipe in half, which makes a good amount for 2 ppl (about 4 squares per person). Keep leftovers in the fridge (each square fits nicely in the toaster) or freeze for another Sunday when you’re feeling extra lazy!

Nutrition info per serving (2 squares):

Without  toppings and using olive oil, nonfat milk, nonfat ricotta, and 1 medium banana, 1 serving is about 245 kcal, 10.5g fat (mostly unsaturated), 30g carbohydrate, 9.7g protein and 3.2g fiber.

Claire’s been busy with everything since Boston, so we thought it was the perfect time for a guest post on my recent trail race in upstate NY. Enjoy! — E

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When people ask me why I love running on the trails, it usually comes back to the same answers: simplicity, beautiful scenery, softness of pine needles and earth under your feet. There’s nothing quite like an oasis from the relentless miles of pavement that plague being a runner in an unforgiving concrete city like New York.

What a sweet and beautiful delusion.

Back in the real world, the mountains devour their young, feet first, followed by the legs…with plenty of room left over for dessert. The North Face Endurance Challenge is one of the tougher race series in the U.S. While reasonably accessible to the trail novice due to the lack of high elevation, these courses make up for the comforts of sea level by blistering ascents and quad crushing scrambles. Bear Mountain, in upstate NY, kicks off the 2013 series and as expected, the race did not disappoint. Even the half marathon distance was a gnarly, toothy beast that left many a runner bloody, broken and wondering why they didn’t just stay in bed that morning.

This man is delusional.

This man is delusional.

I knew something was wrong the minute I got to the race site. The transportation was flawless, the weather was perfect, and the facilities 1st class, including internet stations, post-race ice bath/massage tents and even a gas fireplace to keep you warm before the start (sadly, no smores). There may as well have been a trail of breadcrumbs leading all the way to a pot of boiling water. Sure enough, at 8AM, 700 runners started up the side of the mountain to one of the more rocky starts I’ve ever seen.

ice baths!  ok - let's do this thing!

I’m pretty sure if there was a rock, boulder, or pebble this side of the Appalachian Trail it was left on Bear Mountain that Sunday. It seemed like every time there was a section that was runnable, I would turn a corner and the shards would poke out of the ground like gophers at an amusement park, slowing my pace to a stagger.

The stakes kept on going up. Every step increased the risk for a turned ankle, face plant, or branch in the face. Fatigue made that all the more likely. Navigating your way through the rocks required a heightened sense of awareness. It’s an unfortunate maxum that you run better when relaxed and in a rhythm – alas, there was no taking your eyes off the road and no room for complacency.

mile 9 why DO you mock me so....

mile 9 why DO you mock me so….

The race profile really doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the course. It really had everything: roots, low hanging trees, downed trees you had to climb over, steep ups, steep steep downs, wooden bridges that worked, wooden bridges that buckled like a trampoline, stream crossings, road, scree, dirt, mud, pavement, scrambles, slab, and grass. A punishing course to be sure, but it was still a lot of fun and well worth the price of admission.

Just a few scratches...

Just a few scratches…

Here are a few more highlights and insights:
– Dean Karnazes, again. I think that guy is stalking me. He was at Boston, Chicago and now here. Leave me alone, ultra-skinny man.
– Hot day. Why must we always over-dress for the heat? Admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it – get with the program, son!
– I must have kicked several rocks during the race and knew it would be trouble later; didn’t slow me down but two days later: it’s black toe city.
– Had a major trail shoe failure – Brooks Cascadia are awesome, but they just didn’t do the trick this time around – blisters 2 miles in. Too much lateral shifting.
– If your blisters don’t pop, then ride it out – two days later and all healed without doing anything other than applying some patience.
– Hydration vest new gear success – Ultimate Direction AK pack; real helpful for the balancing act over uneven terrain to have both hands free and enough fluid for close to 3 hours on the trail.
– Still loving Tailwind Nutrition. Also incorporating SHOT blocks with extra salt and once again, zero crampage.
– Ok, let’s climb over a tree. Now under a tree. Now over a tree. You get the idea.

Come on everyone - the beer is THIS way!

Come on everyone – the beer is THIS way!

– People still wear iPods; I really don’t know why TNF doesn’t ban them. Yet again, my calls for “passing on the left” were ignored. Just say No to music in the woods (I hope the Bear ate ‘em ).
– Even walking the ascents (hands on legs), I still placed in the top 35%; think that’s more a comment on the challenge of the terrain over my leg-speed.
– I could really see the difference in technical skills on the descents; I had the afterburners on for the ride downhill, screaming past people that were faster than me on the ups – so walking the uphills didn’t really make a difference.
– One section was at a 45 degree sideways slant; destroys the ankles and the spirit.
– Lots of roots, a few river crossings – and even some bog to make me homesick for the UK.
– Lots of bloody knees at the end of this race. I didn’t see any casualties; maybe they left them in the woods as a peace offering for The Bear.
– By the end, I was begging for asphalt and ashamed for saying it out loud. So sad I have forsaken you, noble forest!
– There were more than two sections of road/pavement – more than I would have expected. However, it did mean an outhouse if people needed to pit stop; I didn’t use it but talk about 1st class accommodations – I wasn’t kidding.
– Two words: false summit – talk about tricks on the mind. These false summits just kept on coming – no way to run it out; think I counted 5 consecutive monster hills in the last 2 miles – there was just no stopping the bear…

OMG - What did I do?!?!

OMG – What did I do?!?!

I finished in just over 2.5 hours and felt pretty good about it even though my road time is now approaching 1:48 ( the sprint finish with a 61 year old probably didn’t help my ego, but still ). Road runners will be shocked at just how slow one travels off-road, but it is “good thing” to be humbled by the environment. The elements cough you up like a Jonah and this experience will pay dividends in the future. Given how many sections were so treacherous, I was going to be happy with any time that put me ahead of the cut-offs and out of harms way.

The true measure of any race is not the time it takes to get it done, but the quality of the experience. Running the trails is a great way to keep perspective and hopefully bring it back with you to the road. TNF Bear Mountain was a great experience and I expect to do many more in the future. I’m almost positive that by next year the bite marks will heal.

Barefoot Victory!

Barefoot Victory!

Links:

TNF Endurance Challenge

Ultimate Direction Hydration Vest

Brooks Cascadia

Tailwind Nutrition Products

CLIF Shots – Margaritas w/Con Mucho Sol

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

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

Caught on camera!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

It never ceases to amaze me how much better a great run can make me feel. I’m still only running three times a week, but man did I make those three runs count.

Monday was my usual 5-6M at an easy pace, this time including 1M at E’s tempo to make sure I could “feel” the right pace. I nailed it. I love my Monday morning runs – they always clear my head and help me focus. There’s way too much stuff buzzing around in there!

Wednesday’s tempo session of 6M, including 5 at E’s goal half marathon pace, was exactly what I needed to blow off some steam after a stressful start to the week. I hopped on the treadmill, turned up the music and banged it out. It felt good. Well, I still felt a few slight hamstring pangs every mile or so, which worries me given I haven’t done any speed work for two months aside from these slower-than-usual tempo runs (if I were training for my own race, I’d be running 7:30, not 8:20 min/mile), but so it goes. Five miles is the most I’ve done at E’s pace so I’m just trusting that I can carry on like that for another 8.1 next Saturday…

This morning’s 8.25M run at 8:36 average pace was relaxed and glorious. Slightly hot, yes, but my poor sun-deprived body from too many hours in the library really needed it. I felt pretty miserable when I got up this morning (too little sleep, too much stress) so I wasn’t sure how it would go, but everything clicked right into place as soon as I started my watch. Running really does make everything better! Now if only it would also make my last two finals go away…

I have Nutrition & Health on Monday afternoon, and Physiology (the one I REALLY need to study for this weekend) early Tuesday morning. Not thrilled that the final is at 8am, but I guess it will be nice to get it over with and have the whole day ahead of me to catch up on things like laundry (which I haven’t done in ages), cleaning etc.

More importantly, it will give me time to prepare for E’s visit! I haven’t seen him in two months and I can’t wait – he lands Tuesday evening, and even though I won’t get to see him that much between his work schedule and my trip to California, it’s better than nothing. I really hope we get good weather for the Brooklyn Half Marathon next weekend and that I am able to pace him to his goal. A part of me wonders if I’ve lost so much fitness since the NYC Half that I won’t be able to maintain 8:20 for 13.1M, but then I think back to what my usual pace is and I think I should be fine…it will just be slightly more challenging than usual. I’m extremely excited to run our first race together – even if we don’t succeed in reaching his goal, it will be a great experience.

 

My weekly post obviously wouldn’t be complete without a photo of what I’ve eaten lately, so here’s my current breakfast obsession – eggs in toast (or egg in a hole, egg in a basket, toad in a hole or whatever you want to call it). A friend gave me this idea when she posted this recipe, and reminded me that I hadn’t eaten this in years, and had never actually made it before. Easiest thing in the world. I didn’t follow the recipe – I simply cut out holes in my bread (and ate them, obviously), cracked the eggs into the holes, flipped them over and voila – awesome breakfast. So much more fun than putting a fried egg on top of the toast and it sliding around everywhere (although I do like piling on smoked salmon, avocado etc with a fried or poached egg on top). I used cooking spray rather than butter – I’m sure butter would’ve tasted great and I have tons left over from all my cooking exam practice, but after eating an entire pint of ice cream last night (the perils of final exams…) I figured I should show some restraint!

Time to get back to studying – I’ve done very well on my other three finals so I’m hoping I can maintain this momentum for the next three days. It really does feel like the end of a race though – it’s all about mental endurance. I feel burnt out from an intensive semester, but I haven’t worked this hard to slack off now. Three more days – and then a well-deserved break!

Enjoy the sunshine and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday, I ran the NYC Half Marathon in 1:40:17. I just barely missed my sub-1:40 goal, but I am still very pleased with my effort. My primary goal was to prove to myself that I still had it in me to perform well in a major road race, to give myself confidence for my Chicago Marathon training – and that I certainly did!

While living in London, I used to run so many races – both in the UK and internationally – that these events practically became second nature to me. Each unique training cycle and race experience helped me learn how to better prepare for the next (I’m still learning!) and eventually, racing became a natural part of my life: the training programs; expos; specific pre-race meals; nutrition and pacing strategies; early wake up calls; the logistics of getting to the start line; summoning that fighting spirit to make it to the finish; and of course, the post-race celebrations! Before each event, I would stare at my growing race wall and find comfort – and confidence – in all those bibs and medals that I had earned. Some races went extremely well (NYC marathon), others not so much (Fleet half marathon – but I’m still smiling), and many were somewhere in the middle (Portland marathon).

   

Things have changed since I moved to NYC to begin grad school. I simply don’t have the time, money or energy to race as frequently as I used to do. In fact, yesterday’s NYC Half Marathon was my first race since I ran TNF’s Endurance Challenge half marathon, which I did for fun back in early December. The last race I actually RACED was the Portland Marathon last October, and I hadn’t raced a half marathon since I ran Fleet last March – a year ago! Crazy.

With so much time having passed since my last road race, I expected to be really excited and hungry to get out there and FIGHT for my goal time! I knew I wasn’t at my best, with my hamstring feeling a bit sore and my training lacking a few key components, but as I said a couple days ago, I really wanted to prove to myself that I still had it in me. Plus, I was back on the streets of NYC – how could I not be excited to run down 7th avenue and 42nd street with more than 10,000 other runners behind me, and an impressive field of elites leading the race?!

However, I couldn’t quite get myself into the racing spirit when I woke up on race day. Granted, it was 4:30am and I had hardly slept, but it concerned me slightly. I’m guessing I was just a bit tired, nervous and out of practice – not only had I not raced in ages, but I also hadn’t once practiced things like getting up early to eat my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with water, cinnamon, honey and banana. I hadn’t worn the shorts I planned to race in since the summer, because I hadn’t anticipated such warm race day weather. Most of all, I wasn’t sure how my hamstring would hold up, and I really had no idea what race pace I would be able to maintain given my spotty tempo and hill work. All those variables made me feel pretty uneasy – I definitely called upon all my race memories to reassure myself that everything would be just fine.

E and I made the mistake of getting to Central Park a bit too early – we arrived at 6am for a 7:30 start – but I guess it’s better that we allowed plenty of time than be late. It was my first race starting in Central Park and involving a complete loop of the park. I’m never in the park at night or in the early morning, so that was interesting too – definitely looked a bit eery in the fog, and with so few people out and about! The weather was perfect – slightly chilly, but great once you got going. We decided not to check bags (we brought garbage bags to keep warm), as I had assumed that the baggage drop would be a huge pain, but it actually seemed to be very well-organized, so next time I will bring a bag.

Waiting for the race to start wasn’t too fun – my stomach wasn’t feeling great and I just really wanted the race to be over with. That really isn’t how a runner should feel waiting for the gun to go off at the start line at a major city event…but alas that’s how I felt. Not excited, just wanting to knock out a sub-1:40 and get on with my day.

Runners eventually started to arrive and line up in the corrals. The sky brightened, but not into the sunny warm morning I had expected – I probably could’ve gotten away with wearing my 2XU tights and leaving my sunglasses at home – but that’s okay. I was just grateful to have E with me – we hadn’t done a race together since August – and his presence was very comforting. E was back in the 9,000s and I was in the 5,000s, so we said our goodbyes around 7am.

I still felt a bit blah as the race gun went off – a bit more revved up but not quite as much as I had hoped. My stomach had been acting up until the very last second but thankfully I was able to sneak into the bathroom just in time before my corral set off – I was rock solid after that, which was a relief. I was actually pretty surprised that I was so far back – based on my previous times, I should’ve been more towards the 3,000s, but so it goes with these large races! As a result, the first mile was a bit crowded and I lost some crucial seconds in the early part of the race, but it forced me to start out slow and ease into my race pace.

The park loop was fine – there seemed to be more hills than I remembered, despite having run that loop countless times in the last two months, but they weren’t that difficult. Some runners got in my way as I tried to open up during the downhills to make up time, but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Still, those 6M went by pretty slowly. I was just following everyone in front of me – trying to gauge how hard I should push myself and how much I should hold back. Trying to keep myself engaged and interested – that was a slight challenge.

Finally, we made it out of the park and onto 7th avenue, which is where things started to pick up a bit for me, both in pace and in morale. I was grateful to be out of the park and done with the rolling hills – and it was pretty awesome to run down this wide, slightly downhill avenue through Times Square. I love this aspect of the new course – getting the harder half out of the way and knowing that the rest of the course is nice and flat. You can really start to build your pace from there on out!

My plan was to take it relatively easy in the park and then start to push once I reached the West Side highway. I had about 45 seconds between me and my sub-1:40 goal (my Garmin was quite off from the tall buildings and the tunnel later on, so I ignored my average paces and just looked at time) – a bit more than I would’ve liked, due to the crowded start and the hills, but I knew if I paced wisely and really dug deep in the later miles, I could knock off those 45 seconds without a problem. The course was very conducive to getting a negative split!

I was feeling a bit tired from the park so I focused on maintaining a solid race pace of around 7:35 once I hit the West Side highway rather than start pushing. I figured, if I could just stay relatively steady until mile 10 or so, I would have it in the bag. But for whatever reason, I waited until mile 12 to shift gears. I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the mood or I was afraid of blowing up too soon or what – I knew I was right on the cusp (as I almost always am in races, lately) – and it would all come down to whether or not I really had it in me to fight for my goal in the last few miles. I pushed, but a little too late and not hard enough. The tunnel in after mile 12 threw me a bit – I hadn’t expected it and it was pretty long. I kept reminding myself that I had a mile to go and should keep gradually pushing the pace, but mentally, not really knowing when the tunnel would end, and what the course was like in that last mile made me hold back a touch.

We emerged from the tunnel with a short uphill and with 800m to go. Man, that little uphill felt tough! After that, the road was narrow and bumpy, with several sharp turns. I had to weave quite a bit around other runners, which once again forced me to pull back slightly in my pace. After one last turn, I finally made it to the last stretch – 200m with the finish straight ahead! I realized as I prepared to unleash that I had a bit too much left in the tank – I hadn’t dug deep enough and 1:39 was probably out of my grasp by now – but I would still give it my best shot. I started my sprint and out of NOWHERE this photographer jutted out into the course to try to get a runner in front and to the right of me to go to the side to take a finish photo – she slowed down and veered left. I practically ran right into her and almost fell over, finally got around her and then struggled to regain my pace and open back up into my final sprint. WTF?! Infuriating doesn’t even begin to explain how I felt! How NYRR can allow such a thing to happen in a major city race is beyond me. The fiasco only cost me about 5 seconds – but it was still pretty frustrating and completely interrupted my flow.

Now that I think about it, something similar happened in Portland – the photographers positioned at either side of the course have helpers who wait on the sidelines and try to get runners to run in front of the cameras for better photos. That may be fine for people who don’t care about their times, but it is NOT okay to get in the way of runners sprinting to the finish! I care about my TIME not my stupid finish photos!

I realize though that it was mainly other factors – tactical errors in my pacing, motivation issues and problems navigating the course towards the end – that led to my just barely missing my goal in the NYC Half. That’s all stuff that comes with practice, of course, and getting into that killer instinct on race day. I should’ve finished with nothing left – instead I paced too conservatively, pushed but not hard enough and too late and finished feeling tired but a little too energetic. Within a few minutes, my breathing was back to normal and I felt fine – well, my hamstring didn’t feel so great, but that was to be expected. Surprisingly, I crossed the finish line feeling really happy – because I finished feeling so strong. Later on, yes, I started to over-analyze my performance, got annoyed about the photographer, and felt slightly bummed with the time, but after the race I just felt good. It wasn’t the easiest course and I wasn’t having my best day, but I still ran a great time. I hadn’t been overjoyed to race, but once I got into it, I enjoyed the experience. It felt good to get back out there again and test myself. I didn’t fight hard enough, but I didn’t succumb to ambivalence either, as I did at Fleet last year.

Here are my Garmin details as well as my official results: I placed 2,312 of 15,331 overall, 510 of 7,876 women, 132 of 3,198 age place (30-34) with an average pace of 7:40.

Here are a few photos at the finish – me with my ridiculous space blanket cape (thank goodness though, as it was freezing and I had nothing with me to keep warm), with my running buddy (who also just barely missed her goal) and with E (who got a PR by about 15 seconds, but felt that he hadn’t pushed himself hard enough until it was too late). Next time for all of us, I suppose!

   

Clearly we were all pretty happy – it was a fun morning, and races are always more enjoyable when you have friends with you at the end.

After the finish, I didn’t feel that extreme runner’s high that I get after an exceptional race, but I felt positive and proud. I also knew that I had it in me to run much faster, which makes me confident for training this summer. That’s all I really wanted – to feel like I still have it in me to conquer those roads. The real challenge will be staying injury free – that has been a problem in recent training cycles – so I will just have to remain committed to strength training and resting when my body calls for it.

We all grabbed some coffee to warm up and then E and I headed home to take hot showers and get cleaned up for lunch. Sadly, I had NO hot water for some reason, which was very unpleasant, but I guess it forced us to give our sore muscles a bit of icing! After relaxing for a bit and watching the race highlights online, we headed to Five Napkins for my favorite post-race meal – a burger and sweet potato fries. They even had my favorite pear cider! I was very very happy.

  

E is on a plane back to London right now and Spring Break is officially over, so today is a bit of a sad day – back to reality!! The next two months are going to be extremely challenging, but I feel ready for it. The sun is shining all week long, my brain is feeling relatively refreshed after a nice study break and I am very happy that I got to spend some quality time with E.

As for racing…I feel like I need some redemption, as does my running buddy, so we are on the lookout for a nice flat half marathon in the coming months.

My race photos just came in – looking VERY focused, as usual!

   

E is visiting me this week, which reminds me that I am VERY overdue in posting his race recap from JANUARY! Better late than never though, right?!

Holyhead, Wales – Endurance Life Half Marathon Race Report (2012)

For awhile now, I’ve been drawn to trail running simply because it takes you to more interesting places, not to mention the fact that the people who are attracted to these races are an insane and rare breed. Misfits. Maniacs. Mental. We all share something unspoken that no one will ever tell you: getting to the top is important, but sharing the top with others who understand what it takes to get there is what keeps us coming back for more.

Karma runs deep on these trails and when races are small, the journey is hard and the smiles few and far between. It’s the people you meet out there that change you forever.

We’re all looking to find someplace serene and natural to plant our footsteps for the very first time, all in the name of adventure. And of course, there’s the pain, the blood, the guts left all over the earth that make you appreciate being alive – we’re just not satisfied until every ounce of whatever it is you’re made of is left out there in the wild. Just let the coyotes lick it up – we’ll be long gone by the time they arrive. Hopefully.

The Race

While residing in the UK, I’ve run a number of trail races; this was my first coastal race sponsored by Endurance Life. My first impression was that the organization was excellent – very professional setup for such a small race. There were only about 500 people running the 10k, half marathon, marathon and ultra, but they had enough people out there to organize an invasion of Ireland (believe me, we were that close to the border) as well as coast guards for the inevitable plunk in the drink. They also had great sponsorship from CLIF bar with a very cool selection of pre-game food and schwag – both free and for sale (choice of t-shirt, leg warmers, or bandana on the free side). Let’s be honest – it’s ALL about the SCHWAGGG!

Trail races in the UK are really not the same as in the US – in the UK, you have a lot less space to work with so the trails tend to go UP more than OUT. The race course was about 40% fell (i.e. up/down a mountain), 30% trail and 30% road. It felt a lot worse because the trails were also grass/dirt. All of this meant VERY slow going. Most of us doing the half marathon added an average of 1.5 to 2 hours to our road time – that’s to be expected but I really didn’t appreciate just how much harder this would be. Under-gelled and over-lubricated, I scrambled when the proverbial gun went off only to wait in a queue at the first bottleneck. It was then that I realized the field was comprised of a bunch of X-special forces/SAS types and the rest were people like me: those wondering why everyone else was former special forces/SAS type.

First of all, the half marathon was not 13.1 miles – sorry, you didn’t read the fine print – it’s actually 15.5 – well, that changes everything. But WAIT – there’s more. We’re also now going to put a 15 mph headwind into you for about 50% of the race – oh yeah, side-wind too – just in case you felt like getting blown off the mountain and into the Irish Sea. Awesome. Oh, and rain – yeah, you saw that one coming too didn’t you. You betcha, governor. These will sting like bullets. Battling the elements was to be expected – I mean, it’s Wales in January – still, there were periods where after a tremendous slug through the marsh, I broke through a downhill section, the wind died down and the sky opened up to one of the most majestic views I’ve seen in some time – it’s these high moments which I really live for. The trail was also sprinkled with traditional south downs “gates” and up & over passing – which, when trying to move fast – really take their toll on the pacing and quads – a very unique characteristic of England trails in general I’d say. To demolish ones quads to know thou hast lived!

Around the time I realized I did not have enough Power Gels with me (mile 11), I picked up Sam. She was working hard on an uphill and about to quit – so I started talking to her to help her up the mountain. I typically make jokes when I’m having a hard time but as I was feeling pretty good I wanted to give back some Karma. I sent a few jokes her way and we proceeded to slog out the rest of the course – making deals with the devil inside of us as we went.

She was my responsibility now – we were going to get to the finish line but it was my job to get her there. I didn’t want the job, but it felt like the right thing to do – and heaven knows someone’s going to return the favor for me soon enough.

Ok, I’m almost positive there’s a beer at the top of this hill – what, no beer?!?! I’ll kill em – OK, maybe that next hill. I learned she was a 4:20 marathoner so we were probably about in the right pace group, so if I was having a better day I wasn’t going to kill her to push her up the mountain. Ok – we’ll run the flats and walk the uphills – come on, that’s the deal. In the end, we helped each other out – with me leading the pace and her staying behind – we kept that freight train moving – in the final breakaway I ran ahead to finish a few spaces in front of her – but when she finished – WOW! I went in for the high five and she gave me a HUGE hug – “I could not have done that without you!” she said – maybe likewise; sure felt great to lend a hand.

I really am not telling you to pat myself on the back – typically, it’s me needing the help – but it was great to be able to give something back. I can see why Seadog is so good at doing the same thing for me from time to time; it really does feel great when you can help a random (or less random) person through something tough – what a wonderful moment. My friend Clive also showed up to support me – seeing him at the end was an added boost. Truth be told, though, it’s the friends you make along the way that stay with you – I’ve never had an experience like that, where I got strength from being the one doing the pushing.

I finished in 3:09 moving time (3:20 overall); think the moving time is important because sections were blocked on the single track and virtually impassable (like 10 minutes at the start waiting in a queue – “anyone for a cup of tea?”). I didn’t come in DFL (dead f*ing last), but got pretty close. The half marathon winner only finished in 2:10 so I was pretty stoked at not doubling that time – that’s typical pacing against the number one spot for me.

The going was tough but a week later I’m still buzzing from the experience – I also definitely couldn’t have done it without all of the prep in California the week before. Yosemite and Santa Cruz put me to the task! Without that, I’m 100% positive that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the day so much.

Postscript: The Lectures

The other nice thing about the race is that they have a lecture series the evening after the race – ordinary people, doing extraordinary things. It really was an excellent event. I’m not sure if it’s a function of the trail running community or the “stoic Brit” mystique, but the speakers were both inspirational and down to earth.

Gary, one of the organizers, talked about a brilliant event in Sweden called the Otillo. Billy Isherwood gave a great talk on how running saved him from alcoholism. Dave Cornthwaite – who’s done pretty much everything – described his paddle boarding adventure down the Mississippi. John (runningandstuff blog) talked about how/why he ran across the US (apparently his friend called him a wimp for only wanting to run the first 300 miles – yeah…I know…). If you get a chance, I recommend checking out their blogs, books, etc – all of the speakers were amazing.

The best part was that the audience included everyone who had run the race, so you could mingle with other runners in an informal setting, have a drink, and meet some new friends. This was really special given that most of the time people just do a race and then depart. I can’t wait to attend another lecture series – although perhaps I can wait a little while to run another one of these races…

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

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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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