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Happy Friday, everyone! It’s been a crazy week, but knowing that I only have EIGHT days left in the office after today has really helped propel me towards the weekend. The fact that I’m not even thinking twice about quitting my job in the UK and moving back to California as the US potentially slips into a “double-dip” recession underscores just how ready I am to start my new career!

I am most definitely NOT ready, however, to be approaching the half-way mark in my 16-week Portland marathon training cycle. I’m nowhere close to where I expected I would be at this stage, and that’s a bit frightening. Actually, the ups and downs of training really aren’t so different from market activity. Okay, perhaps *slightly* more stable, ideally, but the goal for both is up. As a runner, I am constantly trying to push myself beyond my last accomplishment. Sometimes I hit plateaus in my training – or worse, go downhill – but I always strive to improve.

So, if I could track my running fitness across my first seven weeks of Portland marathon training, what would it look like? Perhaps something like this:

In other words, a promising initial gain followed by sharp declines in between short bouts of false hope/denial and then, upon hearing the bitter reality of my hip injury, a complete free fall.

As of this week, however, I’m finally starting to make slow and steady gains. Monday marked my return to running (1km easy), which wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated, but Wednesday’s 15min run/walk pyramid session felt slightly more natural. And today, I’m feeling even stronger – I did the same 15min session, but at a faster pace and still completely pain free. Truth be told, I’m only running for extremely short intervals – I ran for 8 minutes in total this morning – but I’m simply trying to focus on the progress I’m making each day. I wish I were training at a higher level, and obviously I could run for much longer if I wanted to, but that would certainly lead ME into a double-dip running recession and I don’t want that happening!

I must digress briefly to say that one advantage to being injured is that I got to try out an anti-gravity treadmill! I’ve always been curious about them but had never actually seen one before. I noticed it in the clinic after Wednesday’s physio session, asked to try it, and within a few minutes was up and running! Here’s a shot of the machine – sadly (thankfully?) no shot of me in it:

It was SO weird! You put on these tight (neoprene?) shorts with a skirt-like zipper around the waist, step into the hole, lift up part of the machine and zip yourself into the plastic that encases the treadmill. You then start the machine, which determines your weight, and change the settings to a certain percentage (I tested it out between 60% and 80% of my weight) while adjusting the speed and incline as you would do with a normal treadmill. The machine actually lifts you up (hence the shorts)! I didn’t like how the shorts forced me to sway slightly as I ran, but overall it was awesome. As one of the physios told me, it’s tough to force a runner to stop running (yup – I can confirm that), so it’s a great way to let an injured runner get his or her fix without incurring further damage.

Anyway, I still haven’t fully mapped out my remaining eight weeks of training, mostly because my physio hasn’t yet provided me with a revised running plan (eagerly awaiting this as I type…another source of frustration, as I’m used to having a clear plan set out relatively far in advance, rather than distributed to me a couple days at a time…). As a result, I’m struggling to visualize how I will be able to ramp up my mileage safely and sufficiently in such a short period of time. But I’m trying my best to be patient and have faith that I’ll get back to where I need to be by the time October 9th rolls around!

I was hoping my Week 4 Portland marathon update would include some more positive news on the progress I’ve made, but unfortunately, I’m still not feeling 100 percent.

It’s such a pain in the you know what!!

(My right hip, mostly.)

But I’m a huge pain too. I can be so stubborn and impatient sometimes (okay, more than sometimes…).

It’s not like I didn’t try to get better – I rested last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, got a sports massage, used ibuprofen gel three times a day on the sore spots and also iced these areas regularly…and then I had a great 10M training race on Sunday! I of course knew better, but somehow got it into my head that if I rested for three days, everything would be fine. Call me optimistic! 🙂

Come Monday morning, I did feel slightly better, but I should have avoided running until the pain went away completely. Instead, I convinced myself that I was recovered enough to get back on this week’s schedule: Monday easy run, Tuesday spin class, Wednesday threshold intervals, Thursday yoga…nothing terribly hard, clearly, but certainly not conducive to making a nagging pain go away!

It was Wednesday’s intervals (3 x 7min @ tempo pace/7:24) that confirmed the fact that I was deluding myself. Going into it I felt a bit tight in places but otherwise fine. I paid particularly close attention to my technique, hoping that this would ease some of the pressure off my hip. It did help, but as the run progressed, my body gradually started to feel more and more out of sync. Afterwards, the pain was, as you can guess, worse.

In other words, I did the EXACT same thing I did last Wednesday – I hopped on the treadmill knowing I should be on the elliptical or resting instead, and finally acknowledged this fact after finishing my run feeling somewhat broken. Amazing.

I’m eager to get to the meatier part of my training schedule, which should be right around now. But I have to keep reminding myself, as I did earlier in the year in this post, that rest is part of training. And it doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing – I can still do low-impact cardio, yoga, and upper body weights, assuming that doesn’t aggravate things.

Or, as I did last night, I can throw myself into my cooking! It surely won’t help my running fitness, but I’ve discovered that cooking (particularly when trying new things) has both a calming and uplifting effect on me, much like an easy run does. It was a nice reminder that there are so many things I enjoy doing beyond running! Having to take a short break isn’t the end of the world. And it results in delicious things like this roasted red pepper sauce. And this delicious oatmeal with cherries (okay, not quite cooking, but still super tasty and a nice change from my usual banana version). YUM.

Speaking of cherries, it’s cherry season! I not only love cherries, but the antioxidants in this fruit apparently help reduce muscle soreness – and I’m big on that right now, clearly – so I’ll be trying out some more cherry recipes in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…

So, what’s the plan for the rest of week 4? Even though I’ve only logged 11.5M so far this week, my voice of reason is telling me to stop there. I have my usual rest day scheduled for tomorrow, and I’ll scrap Saturday’s hill intervals and most likely Sunday’s long run (13M) too. Maybe I’ll do some light cross training – I’ll have to play it by ear. Because I think I’ve learned my lesson – I MUST listen to my body. I say that all the time, but I don’t always do it. My hip just needs time to heal, and I can’t rush the process.

In the meantime, I’ve printed out a massive stack of NY Times Recipes for Health that I’ve been meaning to try…time to get busy in the kitchen!!

It’s been so hectic lately, I can hardly believe that just one week ago, I was soaking up some Italian sunshine and gazing out at the Mediterranean…

My four days with E on the Amalfi Coast came together perfectly – a great balance between exploring the various coastal towns, relaxing back at our hotel and attending the weekend’s various wedding events. We even squeezed in two awesome coastal runs, which helped us earn at least some of the incredible food we enjoyed!

I should note that I didn’t plan this trip – well, at least not until we set foot in Italy. It was E’s friend who was getting married, so it seemed only fair to let him take the reins. But as some of you know, I am a slight control freak, so I couldn’t help but wonder how it would all turn out. Thankfully, everything was fantastic. Sure, there were a few things that E hadn’t thought out very well (or at all) which concerned me at first, but didn’t end up mattering. It was a truly lovely weekend from start to finish, which I of course documented with tons of photos! Check out my complete PHOTO ALBUM here.


E had convinced me to take the 6am flight from Gatwick on Friday morning. I certainly was not a happy camper when I woke up at 3:30am (or for the many hours that followed), but it was quite nice to land in Naples by breakfast time! After a strong cappuccino, we picked up our rental car – an adorable brand new Fiat – and started our 1.5 hour journey south. We drove down the A3, a big highway that passes through Pompei (which sadly we had to miss) and eventually leads to the SS163, a beautiful road that winds its way around the Amalfi Coast.

I think it was upon turning onto this narrow road that I left all my cares behind – the views were breathtaking, the weather perfect and the massive buses, trucks and other crazy Italian drivers confronting our little car and each other on nearly every blind curve took over all other thoughts!


Did I mention that this road was also our running route?! But more on that later…

We finally reached Hotel Marmorata around noon. Marmorata isn’t exactly a town, but a tiny peaceful spot just beyond Minori, below Ravello, and before Atrani and Amalfi. The hotel wasn’t within walking distance of Ravello (where the wedding was held) as E had originally thought, but it was only a 15-minute drive away and the location, perched right above the water, was perfect. It’s hard to beat waking up and falling asleep to the sounds of crashing waves, as well as being able to jump into the ocean within a minute of leaving our room. And when we craved a bit of action (or gelato), we simply hopped in our Fiat or went for a stroll, and soon enough, we were wherever we wanted to be. In particular, I LOVED the private sunbathing/swimming area, far away from all the usual beach crowds.

Once we settled in, E and I decided to drive to Positano. Normally, this wouldn’t take more than 30 minutes, but with heavy traffic on such a tiny road, it ended up taking nearly an hour. At least it was beautiful, and trying to dodge all the oncoming buses and cars kept us on our toes! We ditched the car, had a quick coffee granita to keep ourselves awake (it was actually slightly different from other granitas I’ve had – a very light, tastier version of a frappuccino – which we first became obsessed with in Trieste last summer) and then headed to a beach front restaurant called Ristorante L’Incanto, which our hotel had recommended. We shared a delicious lunch of pizza, salad, grilled vegetables and fresh local grilled fish – exactly what I had been craving – followed by a long walk (or shall I say climb) up and down the hillside town.


After exploring Positano, we drove back to Marmorata to enjoy a quick dip in the ocean, followed by a bottle of local wine and a bag of local cherries that we had picked up on the way home. The cherries were fantastic, but I certainly would not recommend the wine, whose name has thankfully escaped me. At least by our last glass (i.e. once sufficiently tipsy), it didn’t taste quite as bad, and watching the sunset from the hotel terrace more than made up for it.

Ten hours of much-needed sleep later, we went for a 5M run along the SS163. I normally wouldn’t consider a windy road with loads of traffic to be an ideal route, but it was the only place to go and we had seen so many other runners and cyclists out and about, we figured it couldn’t be THAT bad…

It was already scorching hot by the time we left at 8:45am – at least it was early enough that the traffic was relatively light. We ran along the main road for about 5 minutes, at which point we turned off onto the 5km road up the mountain to Ravello.


We only had about 45 minutes if we wanted to make it to breakfast and were hoping to run towards Atrani as well, so we didn’t reach Ravello. However, as you can see from my Garmin details, we still got a very solid workout!

The run also provided tons of local flavor, which is why I always love to run while I travel. Aside from the incredible views, highlights included observing a group of older Italians buying fresh produce from a truck along the road (they were all just hanging out and gossiping); getting encouragement from/giving encouragement to various groups of cyclists passing me by (Força! Coraggio! Yes we are all totally crazy!); and perhaps most entertaining of all, hearing a woman in an apartment next to the road shrieking a tirade of abuse in Italian to her poor (or perhaps deserving) husband/lover. Yeah, I’m in Italy.

Before attacking the breakfast buffet, E and I threw on our swimsuits and jumped into the ocean to cool off – I can’t tell you how good that felt.

Not as good, however, as spending the rest of the day sunbathing, napping and swimming at the hotel, pictured below. I think it was the first time I actually felt RELAXED in a very, very long time. Pure bliss.


In the early evening, we headed to Amalfi to meet up with some of E’s friends and walk to the rehearsal dinner, held in Atrani at a restaurant called Le Arcate. I would fly back to Italy simply to have their white pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella and rocket all over again (so simple, with a smoky flavor) – and that was a VERY tiny fraction of our delicious meal, hosted by the groom’s parents. I guess now is a good time to point out that the groom is American (and Jewish), and his bride is an Italian from the Amalfi Coast. As you can imagine, there was a lot of food involved.


With all those carbs in our bellies, we were more than prepared for (and very much needed) our second, longer run the next morning. We woke up slightly earlier on Sunday so that we would have plenty of time to reach Ravello, and that we did! Check out my Garmin details – nearly 2,600 feet of climbing, and it was hotter than the previous day!

I brought my camera along, which I never do, so I got some great action shots.


Pretty scary to think that this is just a small section of the Amalfi Coast marathon. Perhaps I won’t be running it in December…although with views like these, it’s tough not to be at least slightly tempted:


We spent the rest of the morning chilling out at the hotel, with a short excursion to Minori to seek out some much-needed mid-afternoon gelato. It had started to rain, but thankfully the clouds cleared and the sun came out just in time for our walk and, more importantly, the evening’s outdoor festivities.


I was very excited for the wedding – not only because it would surely be a unique and beautiful event and I had never been to a foreign wedding before, but E and I also don’t get dressed up very often. Generally, we are fairly causal people, and many of the things we do together involve running or other active pursuits, so it was quite fun to put on a nice dress and see him in a suit and tie. We of course took plenty of photos on our way to (and at) the wedding to document the occasion:


Villa Cimbrone was breathtaking and beyond romantic – a fairy-tale wedding venue if I’ve ever seen one. There’s no way I can do this place/the event justice by describing it, and even my photos pale in comparison to actually being there, but here are a few from the ceremony, cocktail hour and dinner reception (all held in different parts of the Villa) to give you an idea:


We were feeling a bit rough the next morning, but waking up to yet another (and sadly, our last) gorgeous day in Italy and a refreshing swim in the ocean helped us brush off our hangovers. Our flight wasn’t until 9pm, and we still hadn’t visited Capri, so we drove the rest of the SS163 to Sorrento, ditched the car and hopped on the fast ferry (20 minutes) to the island.

We got to Capri just after 12pm, and decided to take one of the many cheap tourist boats on offer (no need to do a pricey private one). Although we had to wait nearly an hour for the next tour, it was great to get an overview of the entire island, which is surprisingly quite big!

We had heard that Anacapri, the second largest city, was much nicer and less touristy than Capri Town, and also would allow us to take a 12-minute chair lift up to Monte Solaro, the highest point on the island. So, we headed to Anacapri on the public bus (an adventure in itself), in the hopes of getting a quick look at the town and catching the lift up the mountain. Unfortunately, it took so long to get up there (the buses are rather infrequent) that we only had time for a quick lunch of pizza and gelato in one of the squares, which was nice but not quite special enough to make the trip worthwhile.

I would have loved to have made it to Monte Solaro and spent some time exploring the quieter footpaths around the island, but we would have needed a full day to do that. I’m still glad we went, though, and at least we managed to get some excitement at the end of our trip. As we wandered around eating our gelato, we lost track of time and nearly missed our ferry back to Sorrento! Clearly we had done a bit too much relaxing and gelato is, um, very distracting. We quickly found a taxi (a convertible, I might add) whose driver was determined to get us to our boat within 20 minutes, even if it meant killing us (and others) in the process, all while blasting techno music.


Normally, this type of situation would seriously stress me out, but somehow it felt more like being on a roller coaster – we were laughing the whole way! Nervous laughter perhaps? I think so. Guess there wasn’t much else we could do…but the good news is that we made it to our ferry in one piece, got our car back in Sorrento without any problems and found our way back to Naples Airport without getting (too) lost. Success!

This is where everything started to deteriorate. Nothing serious, of course – flight delays, screaming children kicking our seats, being questioned for ages at the UK border (which never happens), causing us to miss the last train – the kind of stuff that makes you feel like you need another holiday by the time you get home in the middle in the night, with work early the next morning! Thankfully, my Italian glow helped masked the bags under my eyes…

My trip to the Amalfi Coast was far too brief, but I got a taste of an amazing place that I will definitely be seeing again – perhaps not at the marathon later this year, but most definitely at some later stage of my life!

Did I seriously just register myself for the Portland marathon on October 9th? And put my predicted time down as 3:35 (otherwise known as the new BQ time)?!

Yup – apparently I did. So much for my marathon hiatus…Then again, it will have been nearly a year since NYC, so that’s a pretty solid break!

It was very early this morning and I couldn’t sleep, so I turned on my computer and received the following information: there will be no more RRCA certification courses in 2011 (I had emailed the head of coaching at RRCA) and thus Portland is my best shot unless I want to wait until 2012; my cousins are coincidentally moving to Portland next week, so I now have family in Portland; and, someone I went to high school with will be running so I also know another marathon participant!

After coming up against so many obstacles in my various coaching and nutrition course searches, I finally felt like things were lining up. I’ve never been to Portland (but have always wanted to go), didn’t know anyone there (and now I do), wanted to do a coaching course around that time and also wanted to do a marathon in 2011. I couldn’t help but think that it would be foolish not to sign up for the course, and if I did the course it would be foolish NOT to do the marathon too. (Okay, that last part – a bit crazy – but kind of makes sense, no?)

Within the hour, I was suddenly registered for both a coaching course and a fall marathon! BOOM!

As for the 3:35 predicted time – that’s my next lofty marathon goal, as I have a feeling 3:39 will be too slow to get me into Boston 2012 this September. (I will know for sure on September 19th – fingers crossed!) I am certain that I have a 3:35 in my running future (perhaps even 3:30 in good conditions) if I put in the work, but I’m pretty sure I won’t have enough time to make it happen in Portland. Things like being a new Aunt, turning 30, sorting out my future etc are much higher on my list of priorities. But I figured, what the hell, may as well put it down anyway!

I’m self aware enough to know I’m far too competitive to let myself perform below my best, unless I specifically announce that I’m doing it on purpose (and even then it’s still hard to accept my sub-par time)! So it’s only natural that with this new opportunity coming up, I would want to improve my time. My recent laid-back races have been refreshing and fun, but I am starting to miss being in prime racing shape and going after a big goal. And reaching it. Best feeling ever. Highly addictive.

However, I’m trying my best to be realistic and accept that I can’t do everything I want to do at 100% effort all the time, as much as I often try. For instance, it dawned on me that my heaviest training week would line up exactly with the week leading up to my 30th birthday. I am swearing to myself that I will not let training interfere with my (most likely two-week long) festivities – my time may suffer as a result, but I only turn 30 once! Also, a couple weeks before that, I will be spending time with my sister and newborn niece – I’ll fit in as much training as I can, as I would normally do even without Portland in the calendar, but again, not the most important thing going on, obviously! At least I’ll have three weeks of tapering right after my birthday, so that should be doable.

I’m not sure how this training cycle will go, but I’m excited. This will be a valuable exercise in trying to attain some much-needed balance in my life as well as a great excuse to bump up my running fitness a few notches. I’m just going to keep reminding myself that if I don’t push myself as hard as possible for once, it won’t be the end of the world. Maybe if I say that enough times I will actually begin to believe it. 🙂

I’m a bit sad that E won’t be able to join me, and that Team Claire (my parents) won’t be able to come either, but that’s fine. I’ve had enough race experience to know the drill! Hopefully I’ll meet some interesting people in the course, in addition to connecting with my cousins and my high school friend, so that I can have some familiar faces around me after the race, at the very least. I would hate to run a marathon entirely on my own, without anyone to celebrate with/collapse on afterwards!

It’s now 9:30am on a Sunday – if you’re a fellow distance runner, then you know what that means – time for a long run! This will be my first official training run for Portland, so I guess it’s only fitting that it’s raining outside…

Welcome to FFR

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

My PRs

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

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