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I attended the 2nd Annual National Endurance Sports Summit (NESS) at Princeton University last weekend. What is NESS, you might ask? Yeah, I hadn’t heard of it either until several months ago, when I received an email through my RRCA listing as a running coach. NESS is a conference that seeks to “elevate endurance” by “showcasing the power of endurance sports to make a difference in one’s own life, in one’s community, and around the world.” It is organized and hosted by Team U, an intercollegiate fundraising endurance team founded by Joe Benun, a recent Princeton grad. I was very impressed by last year’s speaker list, which included Marshall Ulrich, Pam Reed, Ray Zahab, David Horton and Matt Fitzgerald, just to name a few. However, there weren’t any Dietitians participating in the nutrition panel or talks, which presented a great opportunity to get involved and share my passion for both nutrition and endurance sports!

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Team U listened to my feedback and invited me to join the Saturday morning nutrition panel to kick off a packed day of amazing presentations. Check out the 2015 schedule – recognize any of those names or faces above?! YEAH – only some of the most inspirational, accomplished athletes in the endurance world (from left to right – Simon Donato, David Horton, Ann Treason, Karl Meltzer, Travis Macy, Lisa Smith-Batchen, and Marshall Ulrich). Shockingly, the number of attendees was quite small – I was told 90 but it seemed lower than that, giving each talk an intimate feel and allowing for great interaction between the speakers and with the audience. Given the steady increase in popularity of marathons and ultra marathons, I’m sure that this event will grow dramatically with targeted marketing, word of mouth, and recruitment of more sponsors.

Here are some highlights from the many panels and presentations from Day 1 of NESS (unfortunately I could not stay for Day 2). Here’s another write-up on ultrarunning.com if you’d like to hear about Day 2 as well!

Panel: “To Eat or Not to Eat: Perspectives on Nutrition” 
Jason Fitzgerald, Vinnie Tortorich, Terra Castro, Claire Shorenstein 

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Running coach Jason Fitzgerald, retired pro-triathlete and founder of Be Bold Crew Terra Castro, and celebrity trainer Vinnie Tortorich joined me on the nutrition panel. The topic was very broad and one hour was hardly enough time to delve deep into one large nutrition issue let alone several, however we managed to touch upon a variety of topics with the help of our moderator, Andy Wegman. We discussed creating a nutrition strategy yet staying flexible, training your gut not just your muscles, high protein diets, becoming fat adapted through diet and exercise, and fueling with carbs-vs-fat (the most highly debated, given Vinnie supports a “NSNG” or no sugar no grain diet). Many perspectives were presented and discussed, and while we didn’t always agree with each other, it was good to talk through some of these hot topics in sports nutrition. I did my best to present evidence based recommendations while staying open-minded – nutrition is a young and ever changing science, after all.

Let me take a moment to share a few thoughts on what we discussed. I am not a food extremist and do not believe in eliminating otherwise healthy foods (or even the occasional treat) from your diet unless you are doing so for medical, moral or religious purposes. Not only is it unnecessary to achieve good health, it’s not a fun or sustainable way to live your life. It’s always important to ask “why.” Why do you avoid gluten, including in whole grains, if you do not have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance? Why do you avoid hormone free dairy if you are not lactose intolerant or vegan? And so forth.

I certainly agree that reducing intake of refined carbs and grains will aid in weight loss, and that fat adaptive training may be worth exploring for some athletes during base training (check out these related articles by sports nutritionist Sunny Blende). If you can become more metabolically efficient and train your body to burn more fat for fuel during lower intensity exercise, that’s great – but you still need SOME carbs to burn fat for fuel (it’s biochemistry folks). Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains (portion controlled), and dairy contribute “healthy” carbs to your diet. You also need carbs to fuel high intensity exercise (e.g. racing a marathon, surging up a hill in an ultra, speed work etc). If you’re lucky to have an iron stomach maybe you can eat real food, but you may only be able to handle more refined sugars (e.g. gels, drinks) just before and while running at higher intensities. The takeaway is that it’s important to pair your carb intake with what you are doing. For example, if you’re running easy for an hour or two, you’re fine running with water and perhaps some electrolytes.

This obviously is a much more complicated topic that I will not go into further here, but those are my two cents for now! At the end of the day, regardless of guidelines and studies, what matters most is what works best for your health, your body, and your athletic performance. If you like to eat cheese and olives during your long training runs and you’re performing and recovering well, more power to you! I look forward to seeing the event organizers narrow the topic for next year’s panel and hopefully dedicate a presentation to nutrition or add another nutrition panel so that we are able to cover more ground on such a crucial topic.

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Marshall Ulrich: “Journeys of Extremes of the World”

For anyone not familiar with Marshall Ulrich, he is an “extreme endurance athlete,” author of “Running on Empty” (which is on my reading list), and a really lovely person. He has finished more than 120 ultramarathons, among many other mind boggling feats of endurance. He began ultra running later in life after his wife passed away from cancer, pushing his body further in middle age than most 20 and 30 year olds could ever imagine. His presentation covered just a few of his “extreme” journeys, including running Badwater (he just finished his 20th!), climbing Mt Everest, running across America at age 57 (3,063.2 miles from California to New York, averaging more than 400 miles a week), and circumnavigating Death Valley on foot at 61 (425 miles). He presented the challenges and risks of each of these environments (obviously there were many), and how he overcame the obstacles he faced to achieve his goals. I’m really looking forward to reading more about his run across the US, what Marshall called his hardest journey. It was inspiring to hear him speak about pushing himself to each finish, at times risking his life and running through some serious injuries. He focused on maintaining forward progress and fulfilling his commitment to himself. I hope I am fortunate enough to stay active and courageous enough to keep pushing myself beyond what is perceived to be possible as I grow older.

Dr. David Horton: “Lessons learned from 100,000 miles of running”

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David Horton is amazing – a real character. I met him right after the nutrition panel (he shared many of my views on nutrition), before he gave his own talk. He has one of the most high energy and enthusiastic personalities I have come across in awhile. He is also fiercely competitive and will poke and prod relentlessly because he knows that you can achieve more than you think you can (or in his words – you CAN’T – he wants you to prove him wrong). Dave is an endurance beast – 113,000 miles run since 1977, including 160 ultramarathons! Even though he is no longer running much due to knee surgery (long distance cycling is now his thing), he loves to share his passion for running and endurance sports with others. He teaches an advanced running course at Liberty College that requires students to run an ultra. Wish I could have taken that course in college!

His talk included a list of short phrases and sayings, which he used to prompt stories and motivate the audience. Here are a few that stuck with me:

It never always gets worse.” You may feel horrible halfway through a race and think there’s no way you will finish because it can only go downhill, but in a few moments or miles everything can change – for the better! So keep pushing. That said, sometimes it DOES get worse! Which brings us to…

This too shall pass.” Whatever it is, it always changes, for better or for worse. Wait it out.

You can do more than you think you can,” and along the same lines, “You’re better than you think you are.” It’s incredible what you can push yourself to do when you really want it. He used an example – how many miles could you run if you had to run them right now? Could you go an extra 10 miles if you were paid 1 million dollars? Could you run an extra 20 miles if someone would shoot you if you didn’t finish? Find what motivates you and run with it.

Commit to what you do.” Believe in yourself and don’t make failure an option.

E and I definitely had Horton in our head this past week when we said to ourselves, why stop at running the NYC marathon for charity? Why not also run the JFK50 three weeks later (my first 50 miler, E’s second) to keep pushing ourselves? Before we knew it, it was booked. Thanks Dave!

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Featured Power Panel: “Learning to Push Past Limits: Roundtable Discussion with the World’s Greatest Ultrarunners.” 

Ann Trason, Lisa Smith-Batchen, Dr. David Horton, Karl Meltzer, Marshall Ulrich, Dr. Simon Donato, Travis Macy

Again, how incredible to have such a concentration of legendary endurance athletes, not just at this panel but throughout the entire day! Dr. Rob Gilbert, a sports psychologist, guided a discussion that touched upon a wide variety of topics, including the idea of “suffering,” finding balance, life after winning (passing the torch to younger athletes, shifting goals), learning from past races, and more.

I really enjoyed Lisa pointing out that the word “suffering” is not the correct choice when describing endurance sports. It is appropriate for chronic disease, death, trauma, and other tragic things that happen to us. By contrast, we CHOOSE to run because we love the sport – sure we may hurt and feel pain, but we are not “suffering.” You have to enjoy the process – embrace the highs and the lows – and remember that it’s not all about the destination.

Regarding balance, I’m always amazed that many accomplished endurance athletes also hold full-time jobs, have families, travel constantly, all while doing some seriously time consuming training. Some sacrifice sleep – Lisa said that she trains between 3am and 7am – while others sacrifice family time. Prioritizing is key, but it’s still tough to find that balance.

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Christopher McDougall: “Endurance under Fire: Lessons from the Extreme Athletes of WWII” 

This was the day’s keynote talk, and it was really fascinating. I think nearly everyone has read “Born to Run,” right? Chris McDougall spoke about his latest book, “Natural Born Heroes,” which explores the idea of running for survival, as a man on Crete had to do during WWII, versus running for exercise. He shared a fascinating story of Resistance fighters on Crete who relied on a man to deliver messages by frequently running extreme distances on foot to overcome the Nazi occupation. His talk tied into how we inherently possess such natural, fundamental movements that distinguish us as humans – we are not highly specialized like most animals, but rather can do many different things. However, as we get older we lose many of these basic movements, instead doing things like running a marathon as fast as we can or doing bicep curls in the gym (both unnatural and not useful). Parkour, he explained, encourages us to get back to our natural forms of motion, including jumping, throwing, crawling and other elastic recoil motions. Unfortunately I missed the Parkour clinic that followed, but his talk intrigued me and made me think twice about some of my own exercise routines…

Panel: “Learning How to Push Further and Reduce Injury”
Shane Eversfield, Terra Castro, Jason Fitzgerald, Ann Trason, Andy Wegman

Many things were discussed. Here are a few takeaways:
Ann – Remember the P’s of ultra-running: patience, persistence, passion, practice. Consider working with a heart rate monitor. Remember that running is a gift!
Jason – Don’t neglect strength training – even just 15min twice a week. Check out his site strengthrunning.com for great articles and videos!
Shane – Listen to your gut – your gut can sometimes tell you more than your brain.
Terra – Commit to foam rolling, massage, cross-training, yoga.

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Travis Macy, “The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life”

I recently read “the Ultra mindset” to get motivated for the UTHC 65k last month, so I really enjoyed meeting Travis Macy and hearing him speak about applying principles of training to life. Most of what he said was covered in the book, so check it out if you want all the specifics! One of the key phrases that he uses to push through tough times in training, racing and in life is, “it’s all good mental training.” So true. Another one I really liked – “the harder it is, the stronger you get” – great running mantra that I used in ultra training. He discussed the importance of creating the life that you want – not listening to the stories others or even a less confident version of yourself you may create. This really resonated with me as I try to carve out my own path in life. I recommend the book – it comes with some helpful exercises that Travis even said he would “grade” if you send them to him!

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Terra Castro, “Life Lessons Learned from Racing Professionally”

Terra Castro is an inspiring, courageous, honest and lovely woman who was a competitive athlete from a young age, became a pro triathlete, and has since started her own company Be Bold Crew in an ongoing effort to keep her “joy tank” full. It was awesome to hear her personal story of her accomplishments and struggles, and what she learned from it all. Takeaway – take risks to find your joy – and be B.O.L.D. (Believe, Outpour, Light, Dedicated).

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Speaker Dinner 

We finished out the night with a lovely speaker dinner, where E and I were able to chat with everyone in a relaxed and intimate setting. Everyone was curious to see what the dietitian was eating! It was a great way to wrap up a day of learning, inspiration and making new friends. Everyone was so friendly and down to earth, it was easy to forget that we were surrounded by some seriously unique, tough, and accomplished individuals.

It’s nearly been a week and I’m still feeling the energy from NESS. If you have any interest in marathons, ultras or other endurance sports, then I urge you to sign up next year. This event is a true gem with some serious growth potential. I’m still amazed that it was organized entirely by college students – great job Team U! I certainly hope I am able to participate next year.

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

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

  

  

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

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

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

  

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

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

 

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

  

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

Good luck runners!!

Happy (belated) New Year! I just finished up another wonderful California visit with E, who flew in from London on New Year’s Eve and returned this past Sunday. It’ll be my turn to fly in four days, when I move to NYC and begin grad school shortly thereafter. Starting a year filled with so much change – for both of us – wouldn’t have felt right without him by my side. I’m grateful that we were able to take full advantage of my last moments in Santa Cruz and kick off 2012 with a few more adventures!

As usual, our days were packed with beautiful trail runs and hikes and tons of amazing food, with a bit of relaxation thrown in here and there. Every day or two I experienced something special that I wanted to share, such as our blissful New Year’s Day in Santa Cruz, our exhausting but EPIC trip to Yosemite, our 14 mile run in Nisene the following day, our day trip to St. Helena (Napa) and many unforgettable meals throughout the week. However, the incredible (January?!) weather and the fact that we were constantly on the go left very few opportunities for computer work, and those spare moments were better spent enjoying each other’s company. Anyone else who is in a long distance relationship surely understands that!

In other words, I have a lot of catching up to do on FFR! I’ll power through the highlights, and for those of you who don’t feel like reading, I’ve included plenty of photos for your viewing pleasure.

After a fun, low-key NYE spent at my friend’s house, E and I woke up to one of the most beautiful days we’ve had in months – 70 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. It was hard to believe it was January 1st! I had done my long run the previous day, but Sunday still meant pancakes were on the menu. My Dad made a delicious batch of his gluten-free banana pecan pancakes, which we enjoyed out on the deck.

  

It would’ve been a crime to be indoors, so we all went for a 4+ mile walk on my local beach in the afternoon, and returned later in the day to catch a colorful sunset. I also took E for a relaxing 6M run the next morning at low tide. I love my beach – can’t get enough of it – and E was in heaven after many months of sun deprivation!

Since we had already visited Big Sur and San Francisco in September, we decided to spend a couple days in Yosemite and join my family for a day trip to St. Helena (with an overnight in Concord) later in the week. E had never been to Yosemite before as an adult, while I’ve been twice – once in June about 11 years ago (peak season, packed with tourists, and extremely hot – stayed in a platform tent in Curry Village), and another time in September about five years ago (slightly off season but still busy, mixed weather – backpacked and camped along the trail but had to leave early to escape an unexpected blizzard). Both trips bring back great memories, but my visit with E was particularly unique due to the unseasonably warm and dry weather and the lack of crowds. We certainly got the best of both worlds!

Temperatures were a bit chilly in the mornings and evenings, but they peaked in the high 60s and felt even warmer in the sun. Nearly all the roads and trails were open (except for Half Dome) because there hadn’t been any rain or snow for over a month. I realize that this isn’t good for the park, but the sunshine and perfectly clear blue skies made for incredible hiking conditions – great views and no slipping on ice! Because it was off-season, we were able to book the night before we left (usually, you have to reserve months in advance) and the lower prices meant that we could stay at Yosemite Lodge. I love to camp but it was a nice change to sleep in a warm, clean bed! Our hotel was full, the restaurants were relatively busy and there were a fair number of people roaming around the valley, but you could hardly call it crowded compared to my previous visits. There weren’t many cars in the park or on Hwy 140 and we saw very few hikers on the trails, so at times it felt like we had the place to ourselves. It was refreshing to finally experience Yosemite as it should be experienced – without tour buses, traffic and hordes of hikers everywhere you turn!

   

We arrived in the early afternoon after 4+ hours of driving and decided to continue all the way up to Glacier Point. I had forgotten just how far away it was, but I thought it would be a lovely picnic spot for lunch (it was – very quiet, spectacular views) and once we had already committed 30 minutes we didn’t want to turn back! We checked out Bridal Veil falls (very little water) in the late afternoon on the way to checking into our hotel, then relaxed by the fire in the Awahnee hotel (the main room is beautiful) and had a nice dinner back at the Mountain Room near Yosemite Lodge. FYI, food is very overpriced in the park, so if you visit I recommend bringing things for breakfast (I brought instant oatmeal, bananas and almond butter) as well as snacks and lunch for hikes if possible (I brought sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, granola bars, fruit etc.). The cafeteria at the Lodge has hot water and utensils, and rooms have fridges, so it is really easy to save money this way and ensure you have something healthy and nutritious to eat!

  

Our hotel was a ten minute walk to the Upper Yosemite Falls/Yosemite Point trail head, so we opted to make this our main hike of the trip. We set out at 7:15am – it was cold but given that this trail involves nonstop climbing for several hours, we warmed up very quickly, particularly once the sun started to shine in the valley.

We stopped at the Yosemite Falls overlook (we found a nice flat rock, set away from the railings with insane views) for some lunch in the late morning. My avocado and cheese sandwiches on honey whole wheat bread were pretty tasty after all our hard work! We had passed a few people on our way up, but we didn’t see anybody for the 30-45 minutes we spent at what is usually one of Yosemite’s busiest attractions. By this point, the sun was quite strong, and we enjoyed a nice long sunbath before continuing our journey. Simply amazing.

   

Last time I hiked up here, I turned around at the falls. It was blisteringly hot, extremely crowded and sticking my feet in the cool river just beyond the overlook seemed like a good ending point. Yosemite Point is an additional mile (bringing our total to about 10 miles roundtrip, with 3,000 ft of elevation gain, probably double in net gain) and was well worth the additional effort. We hit an icy patch across the bridge, which was the only tricky, wintery part of our hike. I decided to slide down on my butt and nearly fell into the bushes/partially frozen river, but thankfully E caught me at the bottom. The rest of the trail was forested and beautiful, with patches of ice and snow on either side until we reached the actual point, which was all stone, exposed and extremely warm.

 

We would’ve loved to have continued further towards North Dome, but we were running low on water and thus decided to end our hike here. We found this amazing rock towards the edge of the Point (slightly scary, but not dangerous) with two big holes that made the perfect seats! We sat in our little holes, which secured us safely into the rock, side by side for at least 45 minutes, enjoying the silence (there was no one up there – only one person passed by briefly), the sunshine and the views.

   

This was by far my favorite part of our trip – I’ve been pretty stressed out lately, but up on that rock, my stress melted away. All that mattered to me in that moment was spending time with the man I love, feeling the sun on my skin and staring out into the valley. Next time I feel anxious, I am going to close my eyes and imagine I am back at Yosemite Point with E, sitting in that rock. It’s my new place of calm. Problems become insignificant when you’re up in the mountains, so far removed from everything and faced with so much natural beauty.

It took awhile to motivate ourselves to get up, but once we did, we checked out the other side of the Point to get some different views. I made a little rock pile to celebrate our wonderful start to 2012 and all of the challenging but exciting things coming our way!

   

The way back down was pretty challenging – the trail was practically all downhill on rocks (too technical to run down, for the most part), and it was very hot. We didn’t bring nearly enough water, so we were feeling dehydrated and tired. Nevertheless, the views were amazing and we had a great time – I always love my adventures with E! We really are incredible travel companions. The best part was getting to the bottom and having beer, hot chocolate and ice cream sandwiches, followed by hot showers, passing out by the Awahnee fireplace and a nice big dinner! I know camping is a bit more authentic, but it was pretty awesome returning to a comfy bed and some trashy TV after such a long day.

   

Our day two hike was slightly less strenuous, given that we had to check out of the hotel at 12:30pm and drive back to Santa Cruz. However, we still managed about 8 miles of hiking and 2,000 ft of elevation gain (far more in net gain) up to Nevada Falls via the Mist Trail. I was dying to do a loop – out on the Mist Trail and back (slightly longer route) via the John Muir trail, but given our time constraints, we decided to do an out and back instead.

  

We drove to a parking lot near the trail head and started our hike at 7:45am – it was even quieter than the previous day! We saw one guy for only a couple minutes throughout our entire ascent – it was so dead it was almost creepy, especially since the entire hike was shaded – but then small groups of hikers started to emerge as we made our way back down. As with Yosemite Falls, it was a strange and wonderful experience to be able to enjoy what is normally a VERY crowded trail in such a peaceful way!

   

It was also pretty amazing to see Vernal Falls – a wall of water during my last visit – so dry. As a result, the “Mist” trail was not only fully open, but it was not misty at all! I was actually very grateful for this, since it was colder our second day (so cold at the top of Nevada Falls that we turned around almost immediately) and I was afraid that the stone steps, which are normally wet, would be very icy. Thankfully, every inch of the trail was dry, although there was plenty of snow and ice in the rivers and around the falls.

   

Coming back via the Mist trail meant that we had some extra time to take photos (we were going pretty fast on the way up, since we weren’t sure how long it would take us). We also ran the last mile or so back to the trail head given it was on pavement and felt easier on our legs, which by this point were feeling pretty trashed! It was fun to speed past various hikers giving us crazy looks.

After a nice hot shower and some hot chocolate, we left the park and had a lovely lunch in Mariposa at the Deli Garden. I highly recommend this place – super cute, friendly owners and a wonderful patio if the weather is nice! We enjoyed a sun bath as we devoured our sandwiches – felt good to relax for a bit before the long journey back home.

 

The photos above are only a fraction of what we took (and I got some really great shots) – check out the rest of my Yosemite album here.

Although we woke up feeling somewhat broken on Friday morning, we decided to head to Nisene Marks around noon to go for a run. I know, crazy right? But after all that hiking, we were actually craving something long and slow, and the weather was far too nice not to be outside. We were only planning to do do 10ish (we drove into the park to cut out the relatively boring initial miles) but the trails were so awesome that we became fixated on reaching Sand Point overlook. I had only been there once back when I did a long NYC marathon training run, and was dying to show it to E. It ended up being slightly further away than I remembered…whoops! E was a bit grumpy in the last miles but was a real trooper.

 

Surprisingly, we had an awesome run – 13.75M in 2:22 – and finished feeling strong, perhaps aided by the fact that two lovely rest days awaited us! I wish I had a photo of the trails towards the top and in particular, the views of the redwoods and the ocean from Sand Point, but we opted to leave our cameras behind. All I have is two tired, sweaty but happy runners back at the trail head – and our post-run lunch!

 

I made this pizza using Trader Joe’s whole wheat dough (which I had always wanted to try), mozzarella and a variety of grilled vegetables. It was cheap, delicious, healthy and easy to make – this is definitely going in my poor grad student cook book!

On Saturday, we left Santa Cruz early in the morning with my parents to pick up my sister, brother-in-law and niece in Concord and drive up to St. Helena, in Napa Valley. We were celebrating my sister’s and mom’s birthdays with a day of wine tasting, a bit of shopping/wandering around town and two incredible meals (lunch at Market and dinner at La Condesa). It was a lot of time in the car, especially having just done Yosemite, but we had a lovely day together and I’m glad I was able to spend some time with my family before moving to NYC. Elisia looked like a little doll in her French outfit! It’s impossible not to be obsessed with her when she is around.

   

Check out my full set of NYE, Santa Cruz and St. Helena photos HERE.

We stayed the night in Concord, which gave us some much-needed time to relax before E caught his flight Sunday afternoon. It was sad to say goodbye yet again, but our fabulous week together will carry us through until our next visit. We’re aiming for NYC or London sometime in early/mid February…

Now that my blissful week with E is over, it’s time to bring my focus back to my upcoming move. I still can’t believe that it’s all about to happen! I’m excited but it’s also overwhelming, particularly dealing with all the logistics. Thankfully, everything seems to be coming together, albeit slowly. Last week was a good reminder that when I start to stress out, I need to step back and put things in perspective! I’m so grateful to have such a loving family and so many friends to support me through this next phase of my life.

A frightening number of changes are coming my way, but if the first eight days of January are any indicator, this year is going to be epic! My Jan. 1st SF Chronicle horoscope, at least, seems to be on the right track…

Be inspired, inspire

This was the message of a lovely card that I received from my sister when I got home on Saturday evening. It made me think of a yoga top that I often wear, purchased many years ago (right before moving to London, in fact) while spending some time in Santa Cruz.

The card (along with the thoughtful note inside) was well-timed, because inspiration pretty much sums up the fantastic weekend that I just had. It’s also something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently – what are my sources of inspiration and happiness, and how I might be able to inspire others?

When I got home on Saturday night, I was buzzing with positive energy (and perhaps some wine) after enjoying a long but incredible day, mostly in the sunshine. I kind of wish I had written this post right then, because I had so many amazing thoughts and feelings swirling inside of me, but sometimes it’s better to simply experience and appreciate those moments rather than document them.

London really comes alive when the sun is out, reminding me of why I put up with so many dreary days throughout the rest of the year! It’s always when I start to get really fed up and threaten to leave that London pulls out all the stops, giving me nearly perfect weather for days, displaying its beautiful flowers everywhere, inviting me to explore many different parts of town and join the throngs of happy (drunk) people in the city’s myriad green spaces, outdoor pubs/cafes etc…Yes, I realize this is also called Spring, but London seems to have a unique vibe in warmer weather compared to other cities, in my opinion at least. Perhaps we just appreciate these days more, since they are so precious!

When these days do occur, I typically sunbathe and picnic in the park or drink Pimm’s with friends on the river, and the bone-chilling, wet weather of yesterday quickly fades in my memory (until it inevitably returns, of course). All I can think about is how beautiful and vibrant London is – and how easy it is to escape when you feel like doing so! I miss California like crazy, but you can’t jet off to Morocco, Italy, Norway etc. from SFO for a couple of nights (well you can, but it’s not exactly recommended).

This is, of course, how many Americans like myself come over here with the intention of staying for a short period of time and then discover that they don’t want to leave. London grabs hold of you with its travel opportunities and extra weeks of vacation time – not to mention its national healthcare system and things like year-long maternity leave – it can be hard to break free! Then, after you’ve lived here for a certain amount of time, you start toying with the thought of becoming a citizen – not because you actually want to be British, but because you’ve already made a significant time investment and that passport opens doors! That said, although being able to work anywhere in the EU and UK is quite appealing to me in theory, staying in London for three more years isn’t appealing at all (okay, maybe just a little bit).

So don’t worry – I’m not feeling inspired after this weekend to stay here forever. All I’m saying is that London can be incredibly seductive, particularly around this time of year, and when the time does come for me to head back to the US, it will be hard to let go of many things that are important to me and that I currently take for granted.

This weekend did inspire me, however, in a number of other ways, including keeping up my relatively new yoga practice after a challenging session on Saturday morning. I had a leisurely 4M run to a gym across town, where my Thursday yoga instructor was leading a 90-minute class in a larger, brighter studio. Everything flowed better than normal (perhaps the later time and warmer weather helped) and I made notable progress in several poses! The second half of the class was tough, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it and felt a particularly potent combination of runner’s high/yoga glow for the rest of the day.

I met up with E after class and we headed to Marylebone High street, which was really fun given our tendency to hang out a bit too much in our own neighborhoods. We lucked out and snagged a prime sunny table at a cute cafe for lunch. Here I am enjoying my long-awaited first Pimm’s of the season – pure bliss!

This was  followed by home-made organic ice cream from La Fromagerie, an exciting discovery that I made while wandering along a side street. I will certainly visit again very soon – everything looked amazing. And their mint-chocolate chip ice cream literally tasted like stracciatella infused with fresh mint leaves, probably because that’s exactly what they did. Mind blowing.

We enjoyed our ice cream while walking to Regents Park, which was of course packed. After admiring all of the gorgeous tulips and other flowers, we managed to find a secluded spot under a tree to chill out for a couple hours. How could I NOT feel inspired – buzzing from a great workout, a delicious meal, my favorite drink and loads of sunshine while cuddling with my boyfriend on the grass, staring up at this view?

In the early evening, E and I parted ways and I decided to walk all the way home (about 4-5 miles) to make the most of the weather. It was awesome, but exhausting after the other activities of the day. As I approached Zucca – a relatively new, small Italian restaurant which is always booked weeks in advance – I sent E a text, jokingly, that I might rest my legs and get a bite to eat there, to help get me all the way home (five minutes away). Next thing I knew, I was sitting at the tiny bar, chatting with the chefs and waiters and eyeing all the incredible dishes they were creating.

I ordered some appetizers, including the carpaccio of sea bass with olive oil and fresh chili that I enjoyed the last time I was there, a mixed salad and a basket of their delicious breads.

Would I like any wine, asked my waiter?

No thank you, I’m fine with water…A few minutes later, I started to peruse the wine list. May as well take a look…

Would I like any wine, asked a different waiter?

Hm…

A massive glass of white wine suddenly appeared in front of me – so refreshing, perfect with my sea bass – as well as a second basket of their addictive foccacia. I was getting full, but was still salivating as I watched the chef prepare a plate of taglierini with spring herbs and fresh ricotta. I started to tell her how much I LOVE fresh ricotta.

Would you like some pasta, the chef asked me?

Um, yes please!

I glanced to my right at the only other person sitting at the bar, another woman on her own enjoying some wine and various plates of food too. We shared a smile. I can’t remember the last time I rocked up to a nice restaurant and had an impromptu meal by myself – it was so lovely!

I completed my journey home slightly drunk, very full and extremely happy, simply thinking – this is what life’s about! Enjoying the colors of a particularly beautiful flower or tree; feeling pride in a certain achievement – big or small; savoring a delicious meal or glass of wine; enjoying the company of a loved one or some quality time alone…

Days like today.

And days like the following day, when I woke up and immediately set off on one of the best long runs I have had in a VERY long time. Maybe it was all that pasta and bread! I had no real target in mind, and nothing in particular that I was training for, so this run was purely for ME. Everything clicked and felt great – the weather was ideal, the tourists on my route mostly stayed out of my way, and the songs I listened to (which was a treat in itself) perfectly suited the exact moments during which they played. I felt strong, relaxed and completely pain-free.

Awesome 11M run in the sunshine: Garmin Connect details

When I got back to my flat, I was literally dancing and singing – it was the highest runner’s high that I have had in months! Fitting too, since exactly one year ago at that time, I was just about to finish my first marathon, in Paris! I couldn’t help but think back to that incredible sense of achievement I felt after crossing the finish line – and how badly I want to run another marathon (my third) in the near future. But first, I’m going to really cherish this period of “anti-training” – running for no purpose other than to make myself feel good!

I felt even better after a delicious brunch of eggs on top of sauteed purple kale, baby eggplant, shitake mushrooms and wholegrain bread…

…after which I headed to my local park to nap under another tree – this one with huge, pink powder puff blossoms. It was slightly less peaceful with all the screaming children, but enjoyable nonetheless. My favorite moment was when I thought to myself, “I would love an ice cream – if only I didn’t have to get up and walk to the store around the corner to get one.” Surely I’m allowed these thoughts after a long run?! Moments later, an ice cream truck drove up right next to me. Boom!

Lounging around was followed by pear ciders (Kopperberg, the best kind) in a local pub with E, and another delicious meal back home. I made a rendition of my quinoa herb pomegranate salad, with slightly different vegetables and grilled marinated ostrich steak on top. Yummy!

It was a bit hard to get back to reality this morning as I walked to the office rather than the park, but at least I got a last taste of my wonderful weekend for lunch as I sat outside in the sun and had my leftover quinoa salad. Much nicer than last week’s oatcakes and hummus (clearly the Bodychef diet has been thrown out the window). And sure enough, the rain came back in full force later in the day, just in time for my walk home – good thing too, because if every weekend were like this last one, then I don’t think I would ever leave…

Welcome to FFR

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

My PRs

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

My latest photos

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

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