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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.

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Tired? Sore? Trouble sleeping? Struggling to complete your workouts? Not meeting your race goals?

These are just a handful among many possible signs of overtraining, which can derail your progress towards achieving your athletic goals. Check out this article on the Under Armour blog with tips from me at the end to see if you could be overtraining, and if so, ways to escape the vicious cycle!

Happy Friday! Last weekend’s Ultra Trail du Hurricana 65km race was pretty epic, and I promise to give a full race report soon. For now, E and I are beyond pleased to have finished the race safely, under the cut off time (just barely!!), and in great spirits, crossing the finish line hand in hand in 10 hours and 51 minutes. Such a joyful moment!

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I’m also very pleased to report that I did not fracture my wrist – I have a sprain (i.e. ligament tear) and thankfully no major ligaments involved, which means no surgery or cast. I got a new custom splint that allows for much greater mobility and with a little rest and then some therapy, I should be healed within 1-2 months hopefully!

In the meantime, here are some great tips on running form on Livestrong.com, including several from yours truly! 🙂 I contributed to this article a few weeks ago and it went live last night. It has some good info on improving efficiency and avoiding injury before, during and after your runs. Check it out!

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Have a great weekend everyone! Happy running!

Training hasn’t gone perfectly for the Ultra Trail du Harricana 65km, but I made it through my peak week (kind of) and now it’s just 10 days of rest and recovery until I attempt my second ultra marathon. I definitely need some recovery after a few bumps in training recently. First, I got hit by a cab that ran a red light during my run home from Central Park a week and a half ago (thankfully just some bruising along my right side, but pretty scary), and then on Sunday, I tripped and fell TWICE during my long trail run, tearing up and bruising both legs and especially my left side. At least I’m symmetrically injured now! I should be okay after a few more days of rest – and I can actually not run at all for the next week or so and it would be fine – but it sure doesn’t help with the taper crazies!

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Aside from these frustrating setbacks, training has been going very well. Two weeks ago, I brought my weekly mileage up to 50 miles with a strong 20 miler in Central Park with the Gilda’s Club NYC marathon team followed by an awesome 11.5 mile trail run in Breakneck Ridge the following day (more on that in a minute). We had a small group of faster runners at our third coached run, which challenged me to ditch my slower ultra pace and get back to sub-9 min miles in the park! E and I capped off our run with a bagel stop in midtown at our favorite bagel shop, Ess-a-Bagel. We’ve been bagel deprived since they closed their Stuy town location, so when I realized I could strap a bunch to my ultra vest, we knew what we had to do!

After this run, E and I decided to officially sign up to run the NYC Marathon as part of the Gilda’s Club team. I’ve been coaching the Gilda’s marathon team since 2012, and it’s become a significant part of my running and coaching life. For anyone not familiar with Gilda’s, it’s a wonderful organization that provides free support to everyone living with cancer and their loved ones. E and I love to take on running challenges together, and this year we decided to join the team in memory of our friend Noirin, who passed away in June and whose tenacious, positive spirit continues to inspire us every day. We are running both our ultra marathon on September 19th as well as the NYC marathon on November 1st as part of this fundraiser, and appreciate your donation, no matter how small, to benefit a wonderful cause. I love the photo below as it captures such a happy moment after the NYC half marathon. We ran into Noirin at the finish line, all of us with big smiles after achieving PRs on a cold but beautiful day! Check out our Crowdrise page for more info, and thank you to everyone who has already contributed!

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The next day, E and I took the train back to Breakneck Ridge, but this time started on the Wilkinson Memorial Trail (right across from the train station) and did a 11.5M loop back to Cold Spring, where we enjoyed another well-deserved ice cream at Moo Moo’s creamery! The Wilkinson trail was far less crowded and more runnable – highly recommend it if you want a longer and more peaceful trail run. I felt really strong on this run – minimal soreness from the previous day’s 20 miler, and far more confident on the more technical parts of the trail. Gear and nutrition all worked out great too. Here are a few action shots.

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The following week was a much needed drop down week (that’s when I got hit by that cab). I continued to focus on PT, which has been going very well. My hamstring still gets a little angry towards the end of a long run, but it’s feeling much better and using the kinesio tape continues to help.

This past week – what was supposed to be our peak week – we only got up to ~47 miles due to my falls, but it’s fine. I’ve already put in the hard work, and another 10-12M trail run (our original plan for Labor Day) wouldn’t have added much, especially since our 23 miler in Palisades Park was quite grueling. I had never been there before and was surprised by how nice it was to run there! Sure, the trail was really close to the cars in many sections, but there were many lovely lookouts onto the water, and for training purposes, it was perfect. The Long Trail was mostly deserted (at least at 8am on a Sunday morning), fairly close to the city (we took the A train to 175th street, ran across the GW bridge and went north from there), mostly shaded by trees (important on such a hot day), and offered technical trails with a decent amount of elevation gain (~1800 ft).

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I packed my vest as if it were race day and practiced my race nutrition strategy. I’m aiming to take in about 200 calories an hour from gels, so with our estimated time, that works out to 18 gels – 6 each of SIS go gel (orange), Vfuel (cool citrus), and Powergel (vanilla) + 400 calories worth of Tailwind endurance fuel (naked flavor – 1 scoop in each small bottle filled with ice water, and another 2 scoops of powder for later). It’s a lot of variety, but I can’t stomach the idea of one thing for 10+ hours! I carried 2L of water in my vest, which was not enough in the heat (ran out at mile 19), but during the race we’ll have 5 aid stations, so that won’t be a problem. I brought salt pills but only took one – likely will not take very many during the race. I plan to eat a little off the aid station tables – likely salty foods to take a break from all the sweet stuff. I also carried a light jacket, a space blanket, a whistle, and some first aid/other misc things. The vest was really bulk and bouncy at first with so much extra weight, but gradually got better as I consumed water and gels.

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Our run lasted 4 hours and 35 minutes. My marathons are always under 4 hours, so this run was the second longest amount of time I have spent running after the 50k. It was such a beautiful day and I was feeling great until I tripped on a root and face planted at mile 12. I really busted up my knees and the side of my leg hit a rock, swelling up immediately. It was my first time falling on a run (surprisingly, since I’m a total klutz) and it really caught me off guard. I’m glad I was able to pick myself up and keep moving forward, with E’s help. He was amazing with me when I fell – he remained calm while I had my (brief) tantrum, helped clean me up, made me laugh, and on we went. I managed to get back into a groove, but I guess fatigue and soreness from the first fall, combined with running out of water made me vulnerable to falling again. At mile 21, I was trying to maneuver around a huge rock and collapsed on my left side, banging my butt quite hard and slamming my left leg and knee again too. I was beyond frustrated and in pain – but again, I managed to get up and eventually start running again. I just wanted to finish the run as fast as possible and was surprised by how fast I was moving in those last miles. It reminded me that I can be tough when I need to be, which I will surely need on race day!

I learned a lot from our last long run. My Brooks Cascadia trail shoes were super comfy, as were my Injinji socks, so they made the cut for race day. While it was gross to eat 2 gels an hour, I needed the calories and my body handled it without a problem. The vest chaffed my back pretty badly in two spots, but now I know where to put some tape to protect my skin. Running with someone for more than 3.5 hours is challenging; it’s impossible to sync your highs and lows with a running partner, however E and I have been learning how to deal with each other during our low points and really make a great team. I can’t wait to take on this challenge together next weekend!

So the plan is to keep icing and resting my legs this week, with a little cross training thrown in when I am ready. Hopefully I can get back to running by the end of the week, but my main goal is to focus on feeling rested and recovered for race day! I’ll leave you with a couple weekday sunrise running shots from the East River and some pics of my latest kitchen creations. Check out my Instagram (@eatforendurance) for more!

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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!

Happy August everyone!

This is old news by now, but a few weeks ago Team Dietitian Divas made the podium again with a second place division finish at the NYC Triathlon Relay! The conditions were brutal – one of the hottest and most humid days we have had so far this summer. I was worried about my speed given the weather as well as my ongoing hamstring issues, but I managed to pull off a very strong effort. I ran 45:16 – just 20 seconds slower than my PR which helped us win first place in 2013! It has been awhile since I truly ran all out and I was surprised given that I’ve basically done zero speedwork since April. It was really tough and I was proud of myself for hanging in there and really pushing towards the end, when all I wanted to do was quit. Amazing mental training for the ultra!

Here are a few shots from the awards ceremony – including the random free stuff I scored at the finish line and our awards from 2013-2015!

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I had promised myself that I would only push as hard as my hamstring would let me and I did just that. I felt no specific hamstring pain throughout the race, even during my final sprint. I really should’ve known better though – it was so hot and the adrenaline was flowing, making it easy to cross that line without feeling anything until it was too late. A few hours later, my hamstring wasn’t feeling great. The frustrating part was that I had been running strong up until this point and was poised to ramp up my mileage with E for our 65k race in September.

After almost a week off running, the inflammation went down and I saw a sports doc who said that the strain is mild and I can continue to train with regular PT as long as I continue to run pain free. I have committed to doing twice weekly PT sessions and am hopeful that I will make it to that start line feeling strong!

I’ve had 3 sessions thus far and it’s going well. The doc said that he wanted me to try getting taped up so I tried that last weekend. It felt strange but I think it did help, as it got me through a 45 mile week. My PT explained that the tape works by shortening and compressing the muscle. Not exactly sexy wandering around for three days with my entire hamstring covered in black kinesio tape (not to mention the awesome tan line I got from it), but hey if it works I’m game!

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I’ve been moving forward with ultra training with some great runs on trails and road. It hasn’t all been peachy – rehabbing an injury can be frustrating especially when all you want to do is get out and run – but we all have our good and bad days. I’m trying my best to listen to my body instead of being a slave to the training schedule.

E and I recently spent a long weekend in Sugarbush, Vermont for a family event and saw it as an opportunity to hit the trails. Although our “trail runs” involved more hiking than running given the insane elevation gain over short distances and very technical trails, it was great training.

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First, we power hiked from our hotel in Sugarbush straight up to Lincoln Peak (3975 ft over ~ 2M) and ran back down the rocky slopes. THAT was quite the quad & trail running technique workout!! The views at the top were spectacular and we were thankful to just barely miss a massive downpour. I tried out my new Ultimate Direction hydration vest that I plan to use for the ultra. It took a little getting used to but overall was very comfy.

The next day, we ventured over to the Long Trail at App Gap. In case you are not familiar with this trail, the Long Trail is the “oldest long-distance trail in the United States” and “follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont line to the Canadian border as it crosses Vermont’s highest peaks.” The Long Trail also coincides with the Appalachian Trail for 100 miles, and it is part of that section that we visited.

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Originally we had planned a long “run” along the ridges back to Lincoln Peak, but we only made it slightly past Starks Nest for a 7M out and back due to time constraints. As you can see, this was another technical trail (lots of rocks, ladders, etc) so we mostly hiked, but there were a few sections that were more runnable and allowed for some technique practice (which I need, given we mostly run in NYC). It was a challenging, fun outing despite not making it very far. Tons of through hikers too!

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We only logged about 12 miles total that weekend and yet we both felt like we had just run a marathon so I wasn’t feeling too troubled about missing that long run! Plenty of time on feet. We watched an awesome ultra running documentary called Finding Traction on Nikki Kimball’s attempt to become the fastest person to complete the entire length of the 273 mile trail. Incredibly inspiring and fun to see some of the trails we had just experienced!

That’s all for now! E and I both had a huge mileage week last week, with more training, trail running, nutrition, coaching, gear reviews and other updates to come. Stay tuned!

I ran my second Mini 10k (and first race since Boston) this past Saturday. Just as last year’s race served as a diagnostic as I prepared to begin Chicago training, this year’s mini was meant to reveal where I stand with this distance as I get ready to run in the NYC Triathlon relay next month. My “Dietitian Diva” team members are counting on me to help get us to the podium!

Last year, my fairly untrained but all-out racing effort resulted in a 45:58, so my original hope was at the very least to beat this time, with a real goal of crushing my very old PR of 45:04. My hamstring, however, had other plans for me, having flared up a bit after Boston. I’ve since been able to run casually without pain, but speed work still aggravates it so I opted not to race the mini. It’s unfortunate because the weather was great (coolest mini in history apparently) and with three strong recent races under my belt, I have no doubt I could have PR’d. Another time I suppose! Instead, I ran within what I’m calling my “hamstring comfort zone,” taking it fairly easy the first 2 miles and very very gradually speeding up as much as my hamstring would allow. I probably got up to 85% racing effort by the last mile – so it was more of a tough workout than a race I suppose. The good news is that I still managed to run 46:47 (7:32 average pace), less than a minute slower than my full-on racing effort last year, so that’s a good sign that although slightly injured at the moment, I’ve become much stronger in the last year. It also means that worst case, I know I can run a sub-47 without a problem next month; not ideal, but not the end of the world either.

Despite the frustration of not being able to let loose, I had such a great time at the mini. It felt good to get back out there after Boston and experience some positive race energy. What I love most about this mini is the history behind it – for over 40 years, this race has been celebrating women’s running! You can’t help but feel like you’re part of something when you run it. Also, unlike many other women’s races, the mini draws an awesome elite field as well as many other talented, competitive runners, while welcoming new runners and runners of all levels. Lastly, it’s one of the only larger races that places me right at the front! It’s quite inspiring being able to run right behind the elites (well, at least for a few seconds before they take off).

I started up front with my running buddy like last year, although this time she was able to keep me within sight for the entire race which helped her crush her PR, so that made me  happy! She finished right behind me so we were able to grab our medals, flowers etc together. I have to commend NYRR – perhaps not checking a bag helped (hence the lack of race photos), but it was such an easy race from an organizational point of view. Everything ran smoothly throughout the morning and it was never too crowded anywhere.

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The highlight for me – like last year – was getting my medal signed, although this year it was much cooler. No lines, no official signing tables, just Desi Davila hanging out by the finish area after running her first race since pulling out of the Olympics last year. She ran well so she seemed to be in good spirits. My friend and I were about to wander away from the finish area to grab coffee when we saw her chatting with someone. I found a pen and we were able to go right up to her and get her autograph. We also got to chat for awhile – it was so chilled out and I was really excited to share with her that since I saw her at the mini last year, I had qualified for Boston and ran Boston. I told her I hoped to run again next year but unfortunately for us “real people” (which made her laugh) who just barely qualify, it will be tough so we’ll see. She’s awesome – and so so tiny! Every time I see her it amazes me.

So next up in racing is the NYC Triathlon relay on July 14th, and then I have ZERO races in the calendar, which is very strange for me. I didn’t get into the NYC marathon lottery, which I decided was a sign that I should take a real break from racing this fall. I am excited to coach Gilda’s again this year, so I will still be running, but I think my body could use a break from structured training, particularly if I am able to get into Boston and will be training hard next year.

In other news, I am very relieved to have completed my Spring semester at NYU – only one more class to go this summer and I will finally be done with my DPD’s! I also recently attended my ten year college reunion…pretty crazy that it’s been so long. It was fun to show Yale to E and see many old friends.

Otherwise, things have been insanely busy with all the last minute wedding planning, given how much I neglected to do during the semester, but everything is finally coming together. Last dress fitting this week (praying I can somehow stay the same size for two weeks, since my dress is very fitted), and a handful of things left to do but most of the big stuff is done. Only 19 days left to go!! Wow. E and I are beyond excited. I have no doubt it will be an incredible day! We fly to California next week…

And I will leave you with a delicious summer snack that I’ve stolen from some NYU friends. I have banana with peanut or almond butter all the time, but never in this actual form. It’s amazing. Simply slice a banana and freeze on a flat surface, then make little sandwiches with your nut butter of choice. SOOO GOOD. Enjoy!

Frozen banana & peanut butter sandwiches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a 45-minute run this past Monday, I decided to take a full week off, focus on my PT exercises and continue to take it easy until I get rid of my lingering hamstring discomfort. It’s minor, but it’s there and I’m sick of it messing up my training. Not running has been tough – I really need my stress-release right now, with more exams coming up and countless other things on my plate – but now’s the time to focus on recovery. Chicago training begins in June and I am determined to begin, and end, that training cycle injury free!

Taking time off means that I won’t be in racing shape for the Brooklyn Half, but I entered that race knowing that would probably be the case. It’s only a few days after my final exams, and I highly doubt I will be primed to PR. That’s why I signed E up too – it gives him a good excuse to visit me (not like he needs one) as I celebrate finishing my first semester, and it will be a great opportunity for me to finally pace him in a race. My goal is to bring him in under 1:50, which was his goal in the NYC half. I normally wouldn’t sign him up without really asking, but the race was selling out so quickly and I knew he would want to run it if he had a spot. That’s the nice thing about dating another runner – I don’t think I could randomly email a race confirmation to anyone else and get “woohoo!” as a response.

The running aspect of my relationship with E is actually a feature of my Running Story, which I’m excited to report was published this past Friday in Sam Murphy’s Real Women Run, by Kyle Books. If you’re interested, you can check it out at the publisher’s siteAmazon or Amazon UK – my story (pictured below) is in the preview pages! Awesome.

This means that I can finally share the actual text of my story, to accompany all the photos and past entries I have posted since Sam – my UK running coach- first asked me to contribute to her new book in June 2011.

Here’s a bit of context – she invited five women of different backgrounds and ages to write a short piece on why they run and how they integrate running into their lives. She wanted my story, which describes how I got back into running while living in London, to represent the perspective of a twenty-something woman with a busy career and social life. I found it challenging to write what running means to me in just 500 words, while representing this specific point of view, but it was a fun project.

I figured I was entitled to a bit of dramatic license, so I embellished and twisted things around slightly. My job wasn’t so high-powered that I rushed off to important early morning meetings or worked late on a regular basis (once in awhile, sure) as the story implies, and I actually started running again before not after my last relationship ended (but just up to 10k distance). A friend encouraged me to enter the half marathon, and I did so before not after the breakup. But the breakup definitely inspired me to throw myself into training for that race, and ultimately fall in love with longer distances. It was very empowering, tracking my progress over the course of those four months and crossing my first half marathon finish line, faster than I could have ever imagined!

Everything else is true – weekends in Istanbul, beach runs in Zanzibar and all. I traveled and socialized very often, and balancing that with running was at times a bit difficult, but I made it work. One thing I didn’t include in the story is the fact that I trained for that half marathon on occasion with my ex – it was a great way to remain in each other’s lives during a somewhat awkward post-breakup phase, before we became friends again. It was also wonderful having his support on race day – running your first half is scary, and I was glad I wasn’t doing it by myself. It didn’t hurt either that I got to gloat a bit over my time afterwards, although I’ll add for his benefit that two years later, he beat my time by 54 seconds on the same course! That’s okay, no one can take that initial victory away from me. 🙂

But enough of my blabbing…here’s the story!

It was a broken heart that motivated me to start running again. I had moved to London to be with the man I’d fallen in love with whilst travelling through South America – but a year later, our relationship came to an end. Although the break-up was amicable, I was nonetheless devastated and needed a healthy challenge to drive me out of my hole and rediscover parts of myself that I had long neglected.

One morning, an ad for the Royal Parks Half Marathon caught my eye. Although I hadn’t run regularly for years and had never run more than six miles, I signed up. I felt a rush of excitement, and then one of fear. How could I successfully juggle an intensive running plan with myriad other things vying for my time?! Initially, I struggled to find the right balance between prioritizing my training and, for example, staying late at work to finish an urgent project, going on a date, helping my sister plan her wedding, spending a weekend in Istanbul…However, I quickly discovered that running doesn’t take time – it gives life force. With each step, I was both clawing back my old self and building the foundation for a new, improved version.

Fittingly, as I had taken up running to leave my previous relationship behind, I did just that on race day – both literally and figuratively. I not only recovered from my emotional slump, but also smashed my first half marathon to pieces, beating my ex (who also happened to be competing) by four minutes! He was proud of me, but visibly annoyed, which made victory that much sweeter.

Perhaps it isn’t a surprise that my passion for running ultimately sparked my current romance. I was at a party, chatting about training for my first marathon, when another runner joined the conversation. It was refreshing to finally connect with someone who shared my love of running! We dated for several months, and after I had completed the Paris marathon – aided by his support and encouragement – my gut confirmed that he was the right guy. Seven months later, we both finished the NYC marathon – his first, and my first sub-3:40. I was incredibly grateful not only to have achieved my goal, but also to celebrate with someone I love who understood exactly how I felt, down to waking up the next morning and hardly being able to hobble to the bathroom!

As time goes on, running continues to inspire me – as I coast along the river before the Monday morning rush; as I furiously attack an interval session prior to an important meeting; as I chat breathlessly with a running buddy in between hill repeats; as I shift gears in mile 16 towards a well-earned Sunday pancake breakfast; as I savour a refreshing breeze along a stretch of beach in Zanzibar; or as I sprint across a finish line and realise – I did it.

What is consistent across all of these runs is that powerful, uplifting feeling of endorphins coursing through my body, translating into the confidence, courage and positive energy that fuel the rest of my day – or dare I say, life.

Welcome to FFR

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

My PRs

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

My latest photos

Grateful for quality time this week with my little pumpkin! 🎃😍 Happy Monday from California! I haven’t posted any running pics for a long time as I’ve been dealing with a hip injury for the last few months (and zero running for the last 5 weeks). 😓 I haven’t run a race, even a short one, in over a year - so different than how I imagined my postpartum running life to be. It makes me sad that I can’t run especially while in Santa Cruz, but I’m trying to stay active in different ways, be diligent about my PT, and remain positive even though the road to recovery feels endless at times. Yesterday, E and I went on a beautiful beach walk in the morning and then I did a hike with a friend and our babes in the afternoon, where I normally run in Nisene. I miss running but hopefully will get back to it soon, stronger than before! Baking “for the baby” tonight (so I say as I gobble up these delicious treats). Made mini pumpkin muffins (and a few mama sized ones), recipe adapted from @babyfoode. So easy to make - I added full fat Greek yogurt and almond butter to include some healthy fats. I think Arielle will love these - if for some crazy reason she doesn’t, more for me!! 😂 Nice work on tonight’s dinner, @trailz.io!! So good I’m going back for seconds. Veg bake with layers of eggplant, red onions, tomatoes, zucchini, ricotta, breadcrumbs, & spices with arugula on top. 👌🏻 Surprise package in the mail today! Thx @rxbar - stoked to try out the new gingerbread flavor. Speaking of, how on earth is it already the holiday season?!?! #rxbar Love @siggisdairy triple cream yogurts - perfect to satisfy a craving for something sweet and indulgent while providing 9g protein, relatively few calories (170), and calcium. The chocolate flavor was so delicious! #dailysiggis

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