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I never look great in official race photographs, but the batch I just saw from the Portland Marathon was probably the worst I’ve seen yet! I guess I’m usually too focused on my pace to notice the cameras – hence why I often look so serious. Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of the “better” ones for your viewing pleasure…

Here I am at the start (I’ve marked myself with arrows):

Looking good, just another color in the crowd!

Skip to mile 17.4:

Yeah. I do this for FUN. Can’t you tell? This shot was taken after a long and nasty hill…the sad thing is that the other photos taken of me at the bridge were much worse than this!

Moving on to mile 24.2 – headless racer! Based on the other shots at this photo spot, I don’t really want to know what’s behind that big R…

And mile 25.9 – nearly done and just trying to hang in there…

My sprint finish (or at least what felt like one):

Crossing the finish line:

And last but certainly not least, check out my victorious finish line photos:


To be fair, I did attempt to smile and throw my hands in the air for the cameras, but the photographer instead caught the moment my hands fell back down and I was trying not to be sick…They certainly do capture how I was feeling, that’s for sure! 🙂

At least I pulled myself together a few seconds later for my post-finish line photo:

I was relieved to have finished and was trying my best to smile, but was so exhausted that even that proved difficult. It was a great race though and the smiles were flowing freely shortly thereafter.

At least racing isn’t about how good you look, but rather, how fast you run!

Hello from Portland! I just completed my RRCA coaching certification course, which overall I found really interesting and useful, even if some of the things we learned completely contradicted what I have been doing in my own training. It’s been two long days for sure, and my brain is a bit tired but I’m stoked for the race tomorrow, particularly after I picked up my race bib! I mean, it has my name on it and even has some purple too – and you know how I am about purple…

I also picked up a t-shirt that said, “Some girls chase boys. I pass ’em.” Amen! 🙂

I wanted to write a quick update on my goals for tomorrow, now that I’ve had a bit more time to consider what I believe I am able to (safely) accomplish and what just feels right for this race. We spent some time yesterday discussing goals – both in terms of outcome (race finish time and place) and performance (such as “finish strong”). In terms of outcome, the instructors advised setting several goals (which I always do) – the goal you trained for, your ultimate goal (if you have a great race day) and your best effort goal (given the conditions, injury etc.). I believe I can run my a 3:30-3:35 without a doubt – but not tomorrow. Given that my hip still is not 100% better (it’s still aching a bit) and I’m going into this marathon with some really large gaps in my training (of which this course made me hyper aware), I don’t feel comfortable attempting anywhere close to 3:35.

Equally, I haven’t exactly had a stellar running year so far in terms of outcome, due to mental burnout and injury. Thus, tomorrow I would rather set my sights on my still ambitious yet possibly achievable “ultimate” goal of 3:39, with a more realistic understanding that my body may not be up for that either. If that’s the case, I’ll take it down a notch. I would love to improve my time but I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment or risk further injury either. But if I start out aiming for 3:39 (which I think I’ll do) and I still feel strong at mile 20, then yeah you bet I’ll start pushing the pace! My best effort goal will still be around my Paris marathon time of 3:41, but given that my hip is acting a bit grumpy I might stretch that to 3:45. We shall see.

Being the outcome-focused runner that I am, I often set myself performance goals but only really care about my time. Tomorrow, my performance goal is to be PROUD of my race, regardless of the outcome. It’s also to rely more on myself, rather than the physical presence of my parents and friends (who have been and will be giving me their support in other ways). I know I will be giving it my all, so whatever happens out there with my hip or the weather or whatever else, I will know I did my best on that particular day and should feel good (emotionally, if not physically) when I cross the finish line!

And on that note, I will leave you with the one and only photo I have taken of Portland (right outside the Hilton, where my course took place – that’s how busy things have been). I just ate a massive bowl of pasta and now have to get my things together for race day. I’m feeling a bit uneasy and weird, but hopefully I can quickly finish what I have to do and have some time to relax before I go to bed. My alarm is set for 4am tomorrow morning – yippee!!!

I can’t believe I’m running a marathon in less than three days. I haven’t run that far in 11 months – no wonder I’m getting nervous!

I have only run twice this week so far – an easy 20 minutes this morning to stretch my legs before my flight, and 5 miles (including 3 at marathon pace) yesterday. My hip/inner thigh soreness is unfortunately still present even after my lovely 90-minute massage on Monday and two rest days. It’s not too bad, but I should probably expect to feel some pain in the later stages of the race on Sunday, as opposed to just extreme mental and physical fatigue, which was my experience in NYC. Obviously if at any point I suspect I am doing permanent damage, I will not continue, but I don’t think that will be the case. As long as my stomach behaves, I think I can handle the pain, the rain, or whatever else. I’m still majorly traumatized from my GI issues in Paris – never again!!!

Speaking of which, I created a strict meal plan that I am following today through Sunday morning, essentially modeled after my pre-NYC meal plan since that worked well for me last year. The idea is to take in roughly 6g of carb and 1.4g of protein per kg of body weight per day – right now I’m around 53.5kg (or 118 pounds), so I’m aiming to consume about 321g carbohydrate (mostly from pasta, bagels, oatmeal, rice and sugary things like honey, jelly babies etc.) and 75g of protein (mostly from fish, chicken, eggs and nuts) per day. I also worked in 40-43g of fat (mostly from olive oil and protein sources) per day. My fiber intake will be around 18g on Thursday and then 10g on Friday and Saturday. I rarely eat things like white rice, plain spaghetti, white potatoes etc., but when it comes to marathon prep, I have learned the hard way to avoid high fiber foods!

I’m heading to the airport soon to fly to Portland! If you want to track my progress on Sunday, please visit this link – my bib number is 9097 and the race begins at 7am Pacific time. I’m hoping my cousins will be able to give me some support on race day, since this is my first race without my parents or any friends cheering me on. Any virtual support is of course welcome too!

And last but not least, I just got my pace bands in the mail from races2remember and wanted to share them…It’s really happening folks!

Everyone differs in terms of racing gear preferences, and many runners – like Kara Goucher and her titanium necklace – have a lucky item that they wouldn’t dare race without.

As I start to pack my favorite tried and tested gear for this weekend’s Portland marathon, I thought I’d let you know what I’ll be wearing on race day and any changes I have made since running the NYC marathon last November. For the most part, I am sticking with what has worked best for me in the past (golden rule – never race in anything new), but with some updated models and a few accessory changes.

Feet: Saucony ProGrid Omni 10 shoes and WrightSock CoolMesh II Quarter socks

Ever since I’ve had my gait analysis a few years ago, I’ve stuck with Saucony ProGrid Omni‘s for road racing (I currently use Brooks Adrenaline ASR 6 for trail – updated model here). I’ve debated switching to a lower profile shoe, and plan to do this at some stage, but for now this shoe has worked very well for me. In Portland, I will be using the newest Omni model (10). I purchased these recently because I’ve already logged 220M in my pink Omni 9’s (which is fine – I use shoes up to about 500 miles or until they just don’t feel right anymore – but I prefer to run marathons in shoes closer to 100M if possible) and, more importantly, the 10’s come in purple! I have only run about 60M in them as of today, but they feel good so it should be fine.

I will be using the type of socks as I did in NYC, the WrightSock CoolMesh II Quarter socks from REI, although I did buy a fresh pair for Portland! I find them very comfy – they are supposed to help prevent blisters and so far, so good.

Legs: 2XU Elite Compression Tights

I have run practically every race and long run (save for very hot days) in 2XU’s elite compression tights. They’re pricey, and I’m not sure I buy into how much they aid in performance (apparently they do help with recovery, but not so much with speed), but they’re extremely comfortable, they “contain the jiggle” as a running coach of mine once aptly said and they help me get into the racing spirit. At this stage, simply because I have run both marathons and most races in them, I almost feel like I need to wear them to race. It’s silly, and I need to get over it for racing in hot weather, but so far they have served me well. My first pair, which I bought when I started to train for Paris in January 2010, was getting a bit worn out so I treated myself to a shiny new pair a few months ago. I received a discount both times, fortunately, through the Purple Patch running camp I attended last year.

As for underwear, I recently discovered that many women don’t wear any when running in tights, and I can understand why after experiencing some serious butt chafing (TMI, sorry!) last year after NYC from wearing a thong. Nothing like hobbling into a hot shower after running a tough race and finding yourself screaming once the water hits your skin and reveals phantom chaffing – surprise!! I never got around to training commando, so I’ll be sticking with the same type of underwear I used last year (plain old Target seamless thong) but this time with some strategically placed Vaseline…

Torso: Patagonia Sport Top and Bra

Last year, I used a Nike purple dry fit tank top that I picked up at the SF Nike Town combined with a hot pink racerback Champion sports bra that I happened to find at Costco. Both were cute and comfy, although the top was quite long and tended to scrunch up at my waist. I found myself fidgeting with it several times during my run which was distracting. This year, I picked up a purple Patagonia top at the Santa Cruz outlet, along with a matching purple racerback bra, both in XS so they are very fitted but comfy. The top has a built in bra and has tested very well on my last three long runs. During my run yesterday, however, I decided to try wearing the bra under the top to see what that felt like – the top is supportive, but I thought greater support couldn’t hurt. I’m still deciding whether or not it would be too restrictive for so many miles (I felt some tightness in my shoulders at first), but it felt pretty good during the run and fits in with the idea of the compression tights and hat, which all make me feel extremely contained!! I will, of course, be transferring my purple, orange and silver CLAIRE patch to my new top.

Gels and gel belt: SIS black currant and orange, with SIS belt

I have been using SIS Go gels since I started training for my first half marathon in 2009. They’ve worked well for me and thus I haven’t bothered trying anything new – although unfortunately they do not sell them in the US (it’s a UK company) so I will have to either keep bringing them home when I visit London, order them from Canada or switch gels. The taste isn’t too bad and the consistency isn’t too thick, so you don’t need to take them with water. For my past two marathons, I have also used the SIS marathon gel belt. I tried switching to a different belt that I had picked up at the NYC expo for my 18-miler, after the SIS belt started to feel too loose during the Pacific Grove 10k. In the end, I decided it wouldn’t work well with the race number (since I was wearing the pouch in the front) and I was able to fix the SIS belt with safety pins and knots. Also, in the last two races, I have been able to get rid of my belt around mile 21 or so, since that is where my parents usually see me for the last time and I am able to carry my last gel in my hand if I haven’t already taken it. In Portland, I’m not sure where my relatives will be spectating so I may have to just get rid of the belt. It’s SO liberating to remove it – really gives me a lift when I’m desperate for one – and it has seen better days anyway.

Eyewear: Sunwise Breakout sunglasses (and contact lenses)

In my last two races, I used the older model of the Sunwise Breakouts. This year, they came out with a silver pair and I snatched them up – now I’m all purple, black and silver! Sunwise is a great brand from my experience – cheap, great quality, durable and extremely comfy/lightweight. I think they look pretty cool too. Like my compression tights, these sunglasses help me focus and get in the zone. I feel like a “real” runner with these on. In Portland, even if it’s raining or cloudy, they will be on my head – on top of my hat if not over my eyes – so I can pull them down when I really need to dig deep. The new model is ever so slightly less comfortable – I feel them a bit more on my nose whereas with the older pair, I would forget that they were there and they wouldn’t budge an inch, but it’s hardly noticeable.

Other accessories: 2XU hat, Asics arm sleeves (if it’s cold), handheld water bottle (to throw away when empty)

I always wear my hair up in a bun – a swishing pony tail slows me down and distracts me. I like to feel like one moving force – hence the compression tights and other attempts to contain everything (but without sacrificing comfort, of course). I always used to wear a headband in races, and still do for all indoor workouts. Goody’s StayPut line of headbands and hair bands work very well for me. One day this past summer, however, E and I were getting ready to do a long run in the sunshine, and he let me borrow one of his hats. I fell in love with it and refused to give it back – thankfully he didn’t argue. Since then, I have worn it on most long runs. It’s super comfy, protective from the rain or sun and like with my sunglasses, it helps me shut everything and everyone else out. It also means I don’t have to deal with my hair at all which is quite nice! So I will be wearing this hat in Portland.

If it’s really cold out, I may use my Asics arm bands again, which I picked up at the NYC marathon expo and used on race day (mine are plain black, no ING NYC logo). It was so cold I was forced to break the never try anything new rule – although they did chafe a bit (they are cotton/synthetic, so not ideal racing material), they looked pretty awesome and were relatively comfy. I have a feeling I won’t need to use them in Portland – and I’m also tempted not to because I don’t want to have to throw them away, should I get too warm – but at least I now know to slather the insides of my upper arms with vaseline!

Speaking of which – I use aloe vera Vaseline, which I buy at Boots. Technically this product is classified as lip care but I’ve found it great for use anywhere and it’s very portable. I sometimes use Body Glide but haven’t noticed any real difference between the two.

Lastly, I will be running with the same oval handheld water bottle I used in NYC to avoid stopping at water stations for the first 15 miles or so. It’s an old cheap bottle, so once the water is finished, I’ll toss it (and hopefully someone will recycle it for me). It was a good system last year, as I hate interrupting my rhythm by stopping to drink, and it just so happened that a friend of mine who was spectating was able to take the bottle from me so I could keep it for one more race. After that, I’ll use the stations.

Pacing: Garmin Forerunner 410 and races2remember pace bands

I recently upgraded my Garmin 405CX to the 410, and I love it. Looks prettier (black instead of blue, and of course brand new), and has been working far better than my older one (which is why I exchanged it at REI – man I love that place). I nearly went with the newly released Garmin 610 but then decided it was unnecessarily complicated for me.

I’m also using races2remember again for my pace bands – Molly & Al are super friendly and accommodating, and I really enjoyed using their product in NYC. Their 3:39 band really guided me through a tough race! This time, I have ordered one specific to the Portland course (they make adjustments according to the elevation profile), with 20 seconds and 10 seconds added to my first and second miles, respectively, and the 30 seconds made up in my last three miles, but otherwise pacing evenly. They make you three different bands for $7.50, so I chose 3:34:45, 3:38:59 and 3:41:45. I will most likely be wearing the first two, and probably sticking to sub-3:39 but we’ll see how I feel…

And now, let’s put it all together! Here are two recent shots – one of my racing outfit described above before doing my 18-miler, and the other of my last racing experience in the Pacific Grove 10k, showing my CLAIRE patch, gel belt and arm sleeves.


What’s your favorite racing gear? Do you have any lucky items that you can’t race without?

Today I attended an all-day CPR/First Aid/AED course at the Santa Cruz chapter of American Red Cross. This is one of the components of RRCA’s coaching program, and I’m happy to say that I am now one step closer to becoming an official running coach. Three wallet-friendly certificates now live in my purse – hopefully I won’t need to use my new skills, but should I encounter someone in need, I am ready!

I’m also ready to run Portland – mostly because taper-induced nerves have suddenly started to kick in and I want to get it over with! I’m really excited to race, but now that Boston is out of the picture, I can’t help but put a bit more time pressure on myself, which wasn’t the original plan given my hip injury. The original plan was to see how I felt and just try to run a respectable race but not attempt anything insane. As a good friend pointed out, however, I am insane! Who am I kidding, thinking I’m going to go into a race and not try my best to beat my previous time?! I thrive on self-competition – I love to prove to myself that I can do better! And after a somewhat tough running year so far, I could really use a “win” in this area.

Part of the struggle is that Portland feels like a total wild card. Maybe I’ll have a great race – or maybe I’ll crash and burn – or perhaps I’ll just get a decent time but nothing spectacular. I have no idea! You never can truly predict what will happen on race day, but you can make some educated guesses based on your performance in various training races and the overall success of your training cycle. I don’t have any longer races to look back on – just a couple 10ks which were more about building back miles after my injury rather than testing my marathon pace and planning my race strategy. If you compare Portland to NYC, the course is relatively flat and I’m a couple pounds lighter, which obviously both act in my favor. However, I didn’t put in as many quality sessions or miles and thus my confidence is slightly shaky in terms of how long I can maintain an ambitious race pace, if I decide to go for it – either at the sub-3:35 or 3:39 level.

Furthermore, I can’t discount the possibility that I will feel mentally drained from my intensive Friday and Saturday 8am – 5pm RRCA course. It might be a bit overwhelming and confusing to receive so much information, some of which may contradict what I currently practice in my own running, right before running a big race. Or will I feel jazzed up and even more excited to get out there, armed with knowledge and a new certification under my belt? Will I be able to control my diet as strictly as I did in NYC last year, without having access to a kitchen (or microwave or fridge) during the day? My greatest paranoia, from my Paris experience, is having GI issues again. Will not having my parents’ incredible support throughout the race (they saw me five times in Paris and three times in NYC) or other friends cheering me on along the course make a difference? These and so many other factors (weather, sleep etc) beyond my training may affect my performance in Portland, which makes it even more necessary to play things by ear.

The good news is that I have seven days left to mull over my race strategy and decide what feels right on marathon eve. In many ways, I really believe that despite some huge gaps in my training, I can pull off a PB and run a sub-3:39. I would be happy with that – any improvement on my time would be awesome. And then I have my occasional crazy moment and think I should just go for sub-3:35 and see what happens – although I realize that’s a huge gamble. My strategy never is to start out faster than I’ve trained to do, but rather slightly under goal pace and bump it up gradually, cranking it out in the last few miles. In this case, I did practice running 8:11 min/mile a few times just to see what running the new BQ time felt like, and it felt pretty comfortable yesterday in my six miler. However, I can’t confidently say to myself (right now, at least) that I could continue that pace for 20 additional miles….

Then again, when you’re really determined to do something and you convince yourself that you CAN do it, it’s amazing what you’re able to accomplish. Mental strength is key – it’s the only way I was able to finish NYC as strongly as I did, with the last few miles paced in the 7:50’s. My legs said NO WAY but my mind said YES YOU WILL, because I knew if I didn’t crank it up a notch, I wouldn’t reach my goal and I had worked too hard to let it slip away.

So whatever I ultimately decide to set as my goal, I just need to have faith that I can achieve it. There’s nothing else I can do at this stage, other than rest sufficiently and eat wisely. And when my nerves and negative thoughts inevitably start piping up about having only run 18 miles in training, I will just repeat my mantra:

I will do this. I can do this. Because I have done this.

I’ve finally reached my Portland marathon taper weeks – only a week and a half left until race day! For awhile, I wasn’t sure I would make it this far and thus am grateful my injury has healed enough to carry me to the start line, and hopefully the finish line too.

Week 14 was really fun, mostly because E was visiting and we had planned to spend some time in Big Sur and San Francisco while based in Santa Cruz. So, not only did I have a running buddy, but also some new routes to explore! I also reaped the benefits of incorporating extra rest days into week 13, which was key to a successful speed session on Thursday and stronger running, generally. Yet another reminder of the importance of listening to your body and giving yourself sufficient time to recover, even if it means three full days off of exercise (normally I only take one or two days, max).

After recuperating from my 30th birthday 18-miler, I kicked off week 14 with a 5M trail run in Nisene Marks. I had scheduled a hill interval session, but figured a hilly trail run with 1,016ft of elevation gain would probably qualify as a substitute. It certainly was more interesting than running up and down a road in my neighborhood, that’s for sure! Plus, after my somewhat creepy 15M run by myself on the trails, I was eager to go back with E so I could actually enjoy the scenery.

The run was fantastic – we drove 3M along the fire road so that we could start directly on the Loma Prieta Grade trail, which begins just past the gate above. It was a beautiful day, which meant that the forest was far brighter than the last time I had run there, but still nice and cool from the redwoods. The sun shining through the trees completely changed the feel of the run – far less eery!

E loved it – I knew he would as he’s very much into trail running and this particular landscape is quite unique to Northern California. I didn’t have my camera on the run (had to focus on not falling into ravines or tripping over things), but here’s another shot of the redwoods near the gate:

Later that morning, we drove down the coast to Big Sur, where we spent two wonderful days hiking, eating and relaxing. Big Sur is one of my favorite places on earth – if you haven’t been, you must go. Here’s a shot of the coastline later that evening after the fog lifted – absolutely stunning.

Tuesday called for some cross-training. I love to hike and had never done more than a short, easy walk in the area before, so we set off on a challenging 7-8M loop in Andrew Molera State Park, starting with a flat trail to the ocean, then some steep climbing up along the Bluff/Panorama trails and then back down and around via the Ridge, South Boundary and River trails. We had to fight our way through a forest of poison oak in the last few miles which wasn’t exactly fun (the trail was very overgrown and difficult to find at times), but otherwise it was an awesome hike! We both couldn’t resist running for a few minutes here and there…

Is this trail made for running or what?! Ocean views and sunshine for miles (before the fog set in, that is)!

Looking back on the Bluff trail after some climbing:

The following day gave us an opportunity to run a gentle 5 miles through the redwoods of Pfeiffer State park, although admittedly, it didn’t feel so easy after the previous day’s hike! Finding a flat route as we were trying to do in Big Sur is very difficult, so we had to do some loops on the roads leading to the camp sites. Still very pretty though!

Thursday was my last full speed session, which I was very much dreading. My prior interval sessions hadn’t gone too well, and it was hard to get back on a treadmill after running in such inspiring scenery. Much to my surprise, however, this run went incredibly well – night and day compared to my previous week’s session! Simply having taken more rest days the week before meant that my legs were recovered enough to get through my five 3min intervals without any problem. It was a much-needed confidence boost as I approach race day!

Friday was a 5M marathon pace run, which wasn’t paced very well due to the fact that I had to run on an undulating road. Flat routes are a bit hard to find where I live too. I also haven’t quite determined what my marathon pace actually is, which certainly doesn’t help – somewhere between 8:11 (3:35) and 8:34 (3:45) at the moment – so I should probably figure out my racing strategy ASAP! Realistically, I’m guessing I’m closer to the 3:40 – 3:45 range, but we’ll see.

Saturday was a well-earned rest day in San Francisco, and Sunday was my last “long” run of 11 miles, brought down from 20. I ran along the water with E on my usual route from the Embarcadero to Fort Point, and it went fairly well. I hit MP for my last few miles as planned and averaged 8:45 min/mile for the run. It’s a good thing that I opted for a shorter run so close to the race – my hip started to ache slightly towards the end and I think two weeks would not have been enough time to fully recovery from a 20-miler!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a long run (for me, at least) without a post-run caffeinated beverage of some kind. These smiley face cappuccinos definitely helped me celebrate finally reaching my taper weeks. They were too cute – had to share!

I will close with one last highlight of week 14 – all the AMAZING food I ate! Remember those few pounds I trimmed back in weeks 12 & 13? Yeah, those are definitely back on. I obviously had to take E to my favorite California restaurants – not so great for my racing weight, but it was worth it! Our last meal before I took him to SFO for his flight back to London was a late brunch at Green’s in SF – check out these poached eggs baked in polenta, with sugar snaps, a variety of incredible mushrooms and grilled bread. Delicious – and had we not started with cakes and muffins with vanilla infused butter on top, after having already eaten a big breakfast right after our run, it would’ve been a pretty healthy meal too! 🙂

And now, it’s time to rest up and prepare for the race, as well as my coaching certification course that takes place the two days prior. By rest up and prepare, I actually mean frantically do all the things I neglected during E’s visit, including my grad school applications which are due very soon! Hopefully I will also be able to exert some self control and get back to a healthier diet before I start carbo-loading, which I normally do three days before my marathon.

It’s going to be an intensive four-day visit to Portland, and I’m not exactly sure what to expect from it all, but I’m excited to find out…

Today is my 30th birthday – and what better way to kick off a day (or week) of festivities, filled with amazing food and drink, than with a long run?! Okay, if I’m honest, I would’ve been equally happy sleeping in and running 5M on the beach, but alas, that’s not what my running schedule had in store for me. I suppose it’s good to remind my body that it’s still young and strong – surprisingly, after more than two and a half hours of running this morning, I actually feel that way too!

Originally I had planned to run 17 miles on September 17th to kickstart my celebrations, but then decided to throw an extra mile in there for good luck. Since I decided to scrap my 20 miler next weekend, I figured 18 sounded better than 17 as a final long run distance too!

E arrived a couple days ago, and it was great having him join me for the first half of my run. I wanted to do something relatively flat and partly on road to practice for race day, plus I needed a break from running on the beach and the trails in Nisene Marks, so I decided to take him to West Cliff and Wilder Ranch. I had only explored a couple miles of the coastal path on my 13M run a couple weeks ago, so a good chunk of our run was new to me too! Rather than park on West Cliff, we decided to drive to and start at the trailhead:

Here I am on the first part of the trail (excuse the camera phone photo) – proud to be 30 today!

Turns out that the coastal trail went on for far longer than I had thought – rather than about 8M on trail, we ended up doing nearly 13 and didn’t even go all the way! We had a slight mishap around mile 3 where we lost the path and started to hack our way through what we thought was an “overgrown trail,” but which turned out NOT to be the trail at all – hence the relatively slow pace – but otherwise, it was a very straightforward, lovely trail. The California coastline is truly stunning – a wonderful way to start off my birthday! I left E back at the trailhead and finished my last 6ish miles on road, which felt pretty good in my new purple Sauconys. Check out my Garmin details here, as well as a few post-run photos:

I’m really pleased with how my final long run went – my pacing was on the faster side (8:50 average pace), and although I was a bit sore towards the end, overall I felt strong through the finish. I definitely think two full rest days (tomorrow will make three) helped a lot, as did the gorgeous scenery and weather, E’s company and excitement about today’s festivities! I can honestly say that I feel good about hanging up my Portland marathon long run hat after today. I know race day will still be a struggle, but better to rest up and than force out a 20-miler next weekend.

On our way home, we met up with my parents at my local farmer’s market and got some coffee and acai na tigela (which means acai in the bowl – a favorite of mine from Brazil). The acai wasn’t quite as authentic as the stuff I got down south, but that’s okay – it tasted delicious after burning 2200 calories this morning!!

To top off my long-run success, the tasty post-run snacks and the fact that the sunshine was STILL shining even at my house (often it is foggy where I live) was what I saw as I approached my front door – not one but TWO beautiful flower/balloon deliveries waiting for me!! One from E, and another from my old flatmates in London. I was so surprised and happy – really feeling the birthday love, you guys are the best!!

So now that I’ve taken my ice bath and am all cleaned up, what’s my plan for the rest of the day? I decided to save the partying for next weekend (drinks up in San Francisco) and keep my actual birthday rather low key. With so much going on lately, I really just wanted my birthday to be an intimate affair with the people I love – so I’m having a chilled out afternoon at home with E and my family, including my sister, bro-in-law and little E, and an awesome BBQ later in the day, including my two closest friends from high school. Fingers crossed the weather holds!

I of course got to plan the menu – excited to have many of my favorite foods that I associate with home, including my Mom’s marinated steak which my Dad grills to perfection and the most delicious cake that I’ve had at nearly every California birthday celebration since I can remember. It’s the princess cake from Gayle’s bakery – if you’re not familiar with princess cake, it’s a dome-shaped cake with three layers of vanilla genoise cake, and pastry cream, raspberry jam and whipped cream inside the layers, covered in whipped cream (mainly on top, to fill the dome) and then encased in a pastel marzipan shell (obviously, I get mine in purple), sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with a fresh rose. Yes, I am turning 30 years old! I will never outgrow this cake…

And tomorrow, banana pancakes from the pancake master chef himself – my Dad! Good thing I ran this morning…

I can’t believe I’m finally 30 – all I know is that if my day so far is any indication of what 30 is like, I think this decade is going to be AWESOME! I feel so loved and am extremely grateful for everyone and everything in my life. This is going to be a big year – and I can’t be more excited for it all!!

Portland Marathon week 12 was a relatively big training week (37.3M), as was week 11 (30.8M). Now that I’m well into week 13, my legs are REALLY feeling it…

Typically, I would never increase my mileage for weeks on end, as I’ve been doing since I started to run again post-injury about six and a half weeks ago. Also, I usually avoid bumping up my mileage from week to week by as much as I have been doing in the last few weeks (7.5 – 10M increases). Instead, I try to build gradually for three to four weeks, and then cut back on my long run to allow my body to recover, and avoid 10M jumps.

So why have I not been following my own advice? Well, with so little time to train for Portland, I didn’t feel that I had time for cut-back weeks. I know that’s dangerous reasoning – the goal is to reach the start line feeling strong and fresh, but in order to feel strong and fresh, I have to both train and rest sufficiently! I’ve been toeing the line between over-training and hitting a healthy maximum (relative to where I’m at with my injury – compared to what I was doing in my last training cycle, my mileage has been low). I’ve been trying to be careful, but I admit that on many days I have purposely overstepped that line because I wanted to complete a run, which isn’t smart. After struggling through several speed sessions recently (for example, my VO2 interval session last Wednesday, my threshold intervals yesterday, and my MP 6-miler this morning), I know my legs just aren’t getting enough recovery time from my usual one or two rest days to give me the high quality sessions I’m demanding of them. Too much overloading, not enough backing off.

This morning, in particular, was tough – I remember killing a MP run on the beach last year, perfectly pacing 5M starting at 8:15 down to just under 8:00. Today, however, for my 3M @ 8:30, 3M @ 8-8:15, I was fighting to hit 8:30 for the first half, and then just barely managed to up the pace on the way back. I was ready to keel over by the end of this run – it was challenging last year too (running MP on sand, even packed, is hard!), but I shouldn’t have been that fatigued. I thought – maybe – since I’ve lost a few pounds in the last couple of weeks, that I should be a bit faster, so running MP wouldn’t be as difficult, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Hopefully once I give myself some proper time off, during the taper and after the race, I will see the benefits (if I can keep off the pounds, that is!).

At least I’m looking more athletic! I’ve tried multiple times to slim down this year, without much success, so I’m really pleased with my (unintentional) progress in that area. It’s often when I finally stop focusing on it that it actually happens! I’ve been eating as I normally do, but not snacking as much since I’ve been so busy running around doing a billion things rather than sitting bored at my desk, and of course I have been training more, so it makes sense. It’s such a pleasant surprise though, since I gained weight (partly muscle of course) when I trained for my last two marathons, and I almost always gain weight when I go home, since I drive more/walk less.

Anyway, I plan to keep my 18 miler in the schedule for this weekend – just going to try to get through it as best as I can, without worrying too much about pace (at least it’s not on crazy trails this time). However, this morning confirmed that unless I miraculously start to feel better, I need to cancel my 20 miler the following weekend. I wanted to try to squeeze one last long run in two weeks from the race, to boost my confidence levels, but I think it will end up doing more harm than good. Better to just do a “short” long run of 10 miles and let my legs rest up for the big day.

It’s not an ideal place to stop, but it’s not like I haven’t done a marathon before! Which brings me to my race day mantra – which when I’m not simply counting to 12 in groups of 3 (matches my MP cadence perfectly), is, “I WILL do this. I CAN do this because I HAVE done this.” I say each part in counts of threes up to 12 (“this because” flows together in one set of three beats). It’s very simple, but is in line with how I feel at this stage – I may not be as fast as I’d like to be, but I know I WILL finish because I’ve completed the distance twice before. Running one more long run isn’t going to change anything dramatically!

So 18 miles will be my stopping point. I happened to plan this run for this Saturday, the morning of my 30th birthday. I know, smart move right? Then again, it makes sense in my schedule, and it certainly will justify all the amazing food (and cake!) that I will be eating throughout the day. I’ll be in so much pain (judging from 15 miler at least) that I’ll even get a head start on feeling what it’s like to be OLD! 🙂 But best of all, I’ll have a running buddy who will most likely be in more pain than me – not only because he is five years older, but also because he’ll be super jet lagged! Haha!

Yep, E is flying into SFO tonight from London for a ten-day visit, and I can’t be more excited. Although I’m keeping my actual birthday fairly low key (an intimate bbq with family and a couple close friends who live locally), I’ll be having a party up in San Francisco the following weekend. Yet another reason to skip that 20 miler – so I can devote more energy to celebrating!

Lastly, I can’t help but mention Boston 2012 – I know my chance of getting a spot with my NYC 2010 qualifying time is extremely slim, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up hope entirely just yet right?!

According to the BAA website calculator, if there are any places left, registration will open to me on September 19th at 7am California time. I know the race will most likely fill up before then, but you know what concerns me more? Even if (when!) I do qualify again with the new time of 3:35, they are maintaining the new registration process which gives priority to faster runners. That doesn’t exactly give me confidence that I’ll ever get to run from qualifying, given that it probably fills up with people who run at least 5 minutes faster than the BQ. I do feel confident that I can get a 3:30 at some stage, but the point is this: so many people run that race year after year, I wish they would give priority to those first time Boston marathoners who have worked their butt off to qualify and are dying to run! Hopefully I’ll get a spot someday…

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the Dentist. I ended up leaving not only with clean teeth, but also with a plan to participate in a 10k race down the coast in Pacific Grove this Saturday morning with a new local running buddy. Turns out my dental hygienist is a marathon runner (she ran NYC last year too, and is currently training for CIM in Sacramento) and invited me to join her in one of her training races. She also knows the local trails far better than I do and we run at a similar pace, so I’m hoping she can join me for my 15 miler on Sunday and show me the ropes! I have a trail map, but it’s always more fun to learn on the go with someone who knows the area well.

Initially, I was a bit hesitant about entering the 10k – it cost $56, which is REALLY expensive for such a short race, and not at all friendly to my unemployed/student budget. I think this may be because it is part of a much larger event (the Pacific Grove Triathlon). Also, Pacific Grove is an hour drive from where I live, which means getting up at 4am for the 7am start – that’s a good two earlier than I’m used to in terms of start times – and I’ve been feeling a bit run down recently with everything else going on (I don’t know why, but it seems many US races start far earlier than UK ones). Lastly, I had just done a MP run that morning and was planning to do a tempo run on Saturday, so I wasn’t sure how useful the race would be in the context of my training.

I mulled it over as she finished my x-rays. After she said she would drive and that the guy who trains her would be pacing her at 8:15, I decided I should just go for it. I’m a firm believer in the importance of training races (they really contributed to my success in NYC) so normally, I would have tons planned, but due to my injury and my move to California, I haven’t had any for Portland except for the Reykjavik 10k. What really forced me to sign up, however, is that the Portland marathon starts at 7am and not once yet have I practiced waking up at 4am, eating, and running at 7am, which I will obviously have to do on October 9th. I really should be doing this for my long runs, but not sure I can stomach two 4am wake-up calls in a row…

Also, when have I ever signed up for a race so spontaneously?! Most of the time I don’t even have that option, as races fill up so quickly these days, but also I’m such a planner (particularly with out-of-town races, because you kinda have to be) that I rarely decide to throw a random race into my training schedule. It’s great to suddenly mix things up like that!

Lastly, it seemed like a great opportunity to meet local runners and get back into the California racing scene, which I haven’t been a part of since I was 16 years old, while on my high-school’s cross country team. Check out the course – flat and fast, not that I’m racing it at 10k pace, but looks fun!

I’m not sure yet how I’ll approach the race – my friend and her running buddy will be running the entire race at 8:15, which is good practice for me too, since I haven’t done any MP work in a race environment yet. However, I may reach a compromise with my planned tempo session and decide to run 6k at 8:15 and 4k at 7:25ish. That way I do MP, tempo and practice running faster on tired legs. I just have to be sure not to go overboard, as I still have my long run the following morning! My injury is doing slightly better, I’m happy to report (I hate to admit it, but it probably is because I am finally doing my rehab exercises again after being a delinquent for a couple weeks, and I’m also getting stronger simply through training). However, I’m still in a slightly precarious situation, so I’m not counting on anything just yet!

Right, well I need to stop procrastinating now (sadly, this blog – and anything that isn’t related to school applications – is considered procrastination at the moment). I finally started my applications yesterday, and I have to say, it’s a really frustrating/stressful process. In short, the CA school system is a bit messed up, so NYU (and lots of student loans) may be my best option assuming I can get in there, but I’m not giving up on anything just yet…wish me luck!

How about that for timing – literally as I was about to finish this post, the mail came and guess what arrived on my doorstep?! My favorite running shoes (Saucony omni progrid, updated from 9 to 10) – in PURPLE! Aren’t they pretty? I feel cheered up already!

I can’t wait to try them out – hopefully the 10 is a good update from the 9, but more importantly of course, I finally have shoes in my favorite color, which match my racing outfit! 🙂

And on that note, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

I’ve been in California for nearly a week now, which is somewhat hard to believe given that the contents of my various suitcases are still heaped in a massive pile on my floor, and I haven’t made the slightest dent in my to-do list for this month (most importantly, school applications). However, that’s primarily because I’ve only really been home – i.e. my parent’s house in Santa Cruz – for three days, and I haven’t had much time to myself. At least I’ve managed to stay somewhat on top of my Portland marathon schedule (more on that below)!

A good chunk of this past week was spent up in the East Bay, where I met my adorable one-month old niece and spent quality time with my sister and brother-in-law, as well as my parents and grandma. It was a busy but lovely visit, and I can’t wait to see my little E again in a couple weeks, when she will make her first journey down to Santa Cruz with her parents to celebrate my 30th birthday! As much as I miss London, it was a wonderful feeling to leave my sister’s place knowing that I wouldn’t have to wait another year to see them again. I can’t help but include some photos – I’m such a proud Aunt!


A champion in the making? I think so…


I was on cooking duty one of the days, so I made my sister a super tasty and nutritious kale, mushroom and tofu stir fry with apple/raspberry garnish (below) and my colorful quinoa salad for dinner. Gotta keep mama feeling strong and healthy!

I’m back in Santa Cruz now for awhile and am facing some tight deadlines, both school and marathon related, so it’s time to get down to business. My main priority, aside from continuing my training, is to (ahem, start and) finish solid drafts of my applications in the next ten days, so that when E visits me from London, I can enjoy my time with him as well as my various birthday celebrations.

I meant to start working today, but my body made it clear that I needed to devote some time to myself first, to just chill out and regroup after so many hectic weeks. So I slept in, skipped going to the gym, met up with one of my oldest and closest friends (who I haven’t seen in a year) for brunch, swam and sunbathed at the pool in my neighborhood (today is the first sunny day all week), and now, I’m sitting on my deck in the late afternoon sunshine, listening to the ocean and finally making time to write.

You’d think that I’d have all the time in the world to do things like blogging, now that I’m not working and have left London, but I’ve actually found it challenging to stay on top of everything (particularly electronic things) without an established routine, and with so many things to get done. I keep getting sucked into random projects – for example, yesterday’s attempt to finally put away my clothes and clear my old desk away so I can have a decent workspace morphed into starting to go through nearly 30 years worth of accumulated stuff, which I do need to do but not right now. It was hilarious though, some of the treasures I discovered, including a drawing of various fruits and vegetables from when I was very little. Clearly I was destined to go into nutrition – perhaps a supplement to my application?!

My latest discovery, however, is that I get internet access on my deck, so on sunny days, this will be my workspace:

Man, I’ve missed California! Yes, that is a hot tub…

Anyway, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted a training week recap, so I’ll catch you up on my progress as I rapidly approach race day, which is less than five weeks away…(!!!)

I’d say that things are going well in many ways – I’m gradually regaining my fitness levels and building up my mileage, for instance – but in others, not so much. Essentially, my injury is starting to flare up again, which isn’t exactly breaking news (in truth, I’ve been having some hamstring/abductor/hip soreness for the past couple of weeks), but I’ve been downplaying it a bit here in the hopes that it won’t drag me down once again. If I’m honest with myself, I’m not totally positive yet based on my longest run yesterday of 13 miles that I’ll be able to run (even simply to finish), but I’ll keep taking things day by day and will make the call if/when the time feels right. In the meantime, here are my week 11 training highlights!

As you can see from my training log, I made a pretty large jump in mileage from weeks 10 to 11. That may be partly why I’m feeling so sore today, and I’ve also somewhat neglected my rehab exercises recently, which surely hasn’t helped. I’ve been so busy, I keep saying to myself I will do them later and then next thing I know, it’s late at night and I’m too tired to move. I’ve at least done the easier ones a few times this week (as opposed to the ones that require some equipment/setup), but I have to start being more disciplined.

My initial runs this past week were a massive struggle – not so much from my injury (which felt pretty good for a few days, actually) but rather, from exhaustion and jet lag. My “easy” run on the beach (which I set off to do after my last post) was horrible. Granted, I hardly got any sleep and was sore from the previous day’s tempo session, but I was shocked by how difficult my 9:53 average pace run felt, and didn’t feel very well for the rest of the day.

Thankfully, a rest day and a couple nights of solid sleep helped me tackle Saturday’s hill workout. I hate doing hill repeats on a treadmill, but that was my only option where I happened to be that day, and it sufficed. My injured areas weren’t feeling awesome, but not terrible either, so I pushed myself with caution. I hadn’t done a dedicated hill session for months, so it was still incredibly challenging! Sad to think that the run I did (8 x 1min) was the very first one I did for my NYC training, in week 2 (out of 18), building towards 4 x 5min continuous hills. Oh well!

The following day, however, I had a really strong long run, at least in terms of distance and pacing. I was aiming to do 12-13M with the last few around MP, and I ended up running 13 miles at an average pace of 8:42, with all miles (except for one hilly one) well under 9:00 and the last three miles at 8:20, 8:06 and 7:55. I struggled with sections of this run – at times, due to the fact that I haven’t run this far in months, and at others, because of various pain I felt in my right leg – but I still really enjoyed it, probably because I was so mesmerized by the scenery and it was early enough that only a few others were out and about.

My route was a wonderful mixture of the familiar and the new. I started at Lighthouse Point on West Cliff Drive, a beautiful coastal path that I love and know well. It’s quintessentially Santa Cruz, with a popular surf spot (they were mostly still changing into their wetsuits on the way out, but on the way back, I got a good show!), views of the Boardwalk as well as endless coastline on one side, and very expensive homes on the other. And of course, since I live in Santa Cruz (where people like to keep things weird – check out Urban Dictionary’s definition) among the few runners I did encounter was an older man “joggling.” Perhaps you don’t know what that is – at least I didn’t – but when I told E about the amazing man I saw juggling while running, he somehow happened to know that joggling was the correct term for this strange practice – I mean, competitive sport. It was awesome – and that’s literally what I said to the guy – certainly left a huge smile on my face!

I reached the end of this 2M path, at which point I would normally turn around and go back to my starting point as in the past (and carry on until finished). However, that obviously gets boring, so I was determined to run somewhere new this time – it seemed wasteful to not take advantage of living in such a beautiful area! I had read online about a network of trails further up the coast and had a vague idea of how to get there, so I carried on past Natural Bridges and into Wilder State Park. I had to run a mile or two on road, but eventually arrived at the Old Landing Cove trailhead and ran along a gorgeous coastal path that I had never visited (at least not as a runner and not for many many years). It was foggy, but you could still see the waves crashing against the cliffs, and several tiny secluded beaches tucked into the coast line. Wild rabbits and other wildlife darted across the path (thankfully, no mountain lions though!!), and the smell – some sort of mixture of dirt, hay and ocean – reminded me of growing up. I only ran 2.5M before I had to turn around, but I imagine the rest of the trail is equally wonderful.

It was all so Northern California, which was nice to take in as I make the transition from four years in London and remind myself, this is where I am from – and ask myself, is this where I belong? As out of place as I often have felt this past week, I think the answer is probably yes.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of my own, but I did find a couple shots of the trail, one on a sunny day and another on a foggy one, to give you a sense of what the scenery looks like. (Source 1) (Source 2)

I must say, it’s pretty amazing to view my hometown from such a different perspective – I never used to run for more than an hour, nor was I as adventurous with my running routes – so when I came home in recent years while marathon training, I wasn’t really sure where to go. Now that my interests have changed, and I’m not just here for a quick vacation, being a runner in Santa Cruz is really quite exciting! I look forward to exploring further…

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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