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Happy New Year! My race calendar is mostly empty for 2016, but after a packed Fall running schedule, that’s fine with me. Next up is the Big Sur Marathon in April – 16 weeks from today! Being from Santa Cruz, I’ve visited Big Sur regularly since I was little. It’s one of the most gorgeous places on earth, and this marathon has been on my bucket list for a long time. I can’t wait to soak up those coastal views while doing one of my favorite activities. I mean, doesn’t this photo almost look fake? Northern California never ceases to amaze me with its beauty.

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After the JFK50, I was really hurting, between a terrible cold/flu and my busted foot. My whole body felt broken yet I somehow managed to avoid serious injury and within a couple weeks, felt like my old self again. I wanted to give my foot plenty of time to heal so I took a month off running and other high-impact exercise, and it was exactly what I needed! I did a two-week free trial with ClassPass, which was perfect. I had the best time trying new activities around the city – spinning, strength training, pilates, barre, deep water running, you name it! Some of my favorites – Peloton, Flywheel and Swerve for spin, Uplift and Throwback Fitness for strength, RJ Valentin’s deep water running, and FlexPilates. There are so many other great studios on there (e.g. MHRC, boot camps etc).

It was fun to try so many new things, and the variety did wonders for body and mind. I lost some of my running fitness by mid December, but I felt stronger, mentally refreshed, and hungry to start running again. Now that I’m running regularly, it doesn’t make sense to pay $125 for the full membership, but the 5 classes for $75 per month option isn’t bad, considering what these studios charge otherwise per class!

I’m quickly regaining my running fitness, and am now extra committed to incorporating non-running activities into my exercise routine. My running goals for 2016 are simple. Forget time – all I want is to be consistent, feel strong, and remain injury free. The end of the year was filled with too many accidents and injuries. I don’t wish to repeat that!

Most of all, I want to keep my running and other physical activities fun. I recently accepted two new jobs in addition to working full time at the hospital – I start this week as a private practice dietitian at Nutrition Energy Tues/Thurs evenings (we accept insurance, so get in touch if you’d like to book a session!), and will continue coaching Team Lipstick once a week. I’m super excited for these opportunities, but it means even less time to myself. Exercise will have to be my “me time,” so I have to make it count!

I started 2016 on the right foot (pun intended!) in the fun running department! E and I did NYRR’s Midnight Run on New Year’s Eve – 4 miles of fireworks, crazy costumes, glowing shoe laces, and all around awesomeness. I haven’t had such a great NYE in years! We aren’t huge fans of NYE, but felt like we finally found our scene. No cover charges, no dressing up, no fuss – just lots of people drinking, dancing, running and enjoying themselves. Yes, please! We were lucky enough to score two entries on behalf of the Time Warner-HBO Fit Nation team, pictured above. I look like a marshmallow as I was literally wearing five layers to stay warm. I know this year was “warm” compared to usual, but I’m a wimp when it comes to cold!

The race doesn’t start until midnight, but from 10pm there was a huge dance party and other fun things going on near the start. It felt like a huge outdoor party! I was surprised by how many non-runners hanging out and celebrating, and after the race started, cheering us along! I suppose it’s a nice free alternative to Times Square.

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The race itself was great. I was amazed by how awake and good I felt – I’m usually half asleep by midnight, and am not used to running after having a drink! We started the race with fireworks, which made it hard to run as I wanted to watch and couldn’t do both without falling on my face! This race obviously wasn’t one for time, so we stopped a few times to take it all in. We also enjoyed the DJ’d sparkling cider aid station – nice touch!

After we finished, we made our way to a bar on the UWS, where HBO had kindly sponsored our post-run party. We were the only runners in the place, so we got a few strange looks, but I think they were just jealous. It was awesome to drink and dance until the wee hours in our sweaty, crazy outfits and comfy shoes – who needs heels! We finished the night with a 4am pitstop at our local deli for ice cream – we had earned a treat after hours of running and dancing. All in all, a great evening and wonderful start to the new year.

I wasn’t able to run long this past weekend due to my work schedule, so I kicked off this training cycle with a long run this morning. It was freezing but sunny and clear on the river today. I reached 12.5 miles and felt strong. For that, I am grateful!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, active and fun 2016.

If you have resolved to run a race, improve your diet, lose some weight, or achieve any other health/fitness resolution, get in touch! I’d love to help, with your nutrition and/or training goals. Check out www.eatforendurance.com for more information. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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E and I both like to read something inspirational leading up to a big race. It doesn’t have to be about running, but any story that captures the journey of chasing a goal, overcoming a challenging situation and accomplishing something spectacular. As I train for my upcoming ultra, I’m enjoying a book called “The Ultra Mindset” by Travis Macy, a very accomplished endurance athlete. This book is all about changing your attitude, and is not just geared towards athletes. I’m only about halfway through, but I’m enjoying the various exercises that he has you do to rethink the obstacles you face, such as negative stories you tell yourself that can be reframed, all in the context of his own story about becoming the athlete he is today.

One tidbit that motivated me through some tough long run miles is something Macy wrote while narrating his solo race across Zion National park. He was pushing to the finish and said to himself, “You can do it. The harder it is, the stronger I get.” That last sentence resonated with me – a great new mantra – and it is also very true! The last two weeks have been my biggest mileage weeks in a long time – 45 and 41 miles, respectively. Granted, that’s nothing for most ultra runners, but for me recently and especially while rehabbing my hamstring, I’m pleased! It certainly hasn’t been easy, but I feel myself getting stronger. Strong enough to run 40 miles in the mountains? Not so sure about that yet, but I have a few more long runs and trail excursions to work that out.

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Over the last two weeks, I’ve been including a longer midweek run on the East River to boost my mileage. The run pictured above right is one such morning – it was gorgeous out and the miles flew by. The following Saturday, I ran 16 miles on Summer Streets NYC, which if you’re not familiar with, involves closing Park Avenue to traffic from 72nd street down to the Brooklyn Bridge for runners, cyclists and everyone else to enjoy. It gets a little too crowded for my liking but if you go early in the morning, it’s pretty cool. Part of this run was spent coaching the Gilda’s Club team, which is going well with two coached runs under our belt. We enjoyed many of the “rest stops,” including the coconut water station complete with a hammock (dangerous – I almost didn’t get back up).  I won’t lie – this was a tough run for me. My body was not feeling great after mile 12, but I managed to finish and thankfully recovered well for the next day’s adventure.

We are trying to do back to back runs each weekend to practice running on tired legs, with a long run Saturday and if able, a trail run/hike outside of the city on Sunday. Last weekend, E and I ventured back to the Appalachian Trail, but this time to Bear Mountain. We took Metro North to Manitou and ran along a quiet road (Manitou Station Rd –> Manitou Rd –> S Mountain Pass Rd) that intersects the AT after about 1.3M. We could have gone along the main road (9D) to the bridge like everyone else on our train, but we wanted to get away from the cars and people, while maximizing our trail time.

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Like in Vermont, this section of the AT was rocky and technical, but that was short lived. We soon hit a long stretch of road – 9D and the bridge (above) that takes you across the river to Bear Mountain and into the park along a paved path that hugs a lake and eventually leads to the trailhead. It was a gorgeous day, but we were still surprised by how many families were having huge loud BBQs by the lake. Everywhere smelled of smoke and kerosene. It looked fun but it’s a shame that they permit it in what could be such a peaceful place.

The trail to the top of Bear Mountain is essentially a stone staircase that turns into a trail and crosses a road 3 or 4 times. The trail and the top of bear mountain were PACKED – all in all this excursion was not the escape to nature that we had envisioned but the view was nice and we certainly had a great workout!

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Trains are infrequent from Manitou and when we realized that we would just barely be able to make our train with the next one several hours later, we booked it down the mountain. Nothing like racing 5M on a hot day after a big mileage week! Flying down those steps was SO fun – and great practice. I’m working on gaining confidence on steep downhill running and we were MOVING.

We had 3M and less than 30 minutes left on rolling hilly road when we both really started to feel it. At one point E said “I don’t think I can make it,” to which I responded, “we WILL make that cutoff.” He perked up and that suddenly became our motto – make the cutoff! It sounds silly but we are running the 65km race together and being able to motivate one another and work as a team is really important. Also, cutoffs really are a concern if you are a slower runner (as we will be in this race given all the hiking we’ll be doing), so it was a good motivator! We made the train with two minutes to spare – ending the run at 11M, tired but feeling very strong. After eating the healthy lunch I packed for us on the train, we beelined to Davey’s Ice Cream in the East Village (one of my fav spots) for a well-deserved summer treat. Dietitians need dessert too and this stuff is seriously worth the calories!

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Gear update: I’ve been using Saucony’s Omni Progrid as my road show for years and have been on the hunt for a good trail shoe as my feet were not happy after I ran the 50k in my Omni’s! I tested out the cliftons by HokaOneOne. Those are road shoes too but E swears by them protecting the legs over long distances. They were super comfy at first but they had to be returned as they were too narrow for my feet, causing a gigantic blister to form after just an hour. Ouch. On Sunday, I tested out the Brooks Cascadia 10 pictured above. This is a popular trail shoe with much more structure than I am used to, which means more protection from rocks. They held up well during our part trail part road run. Much better traction on rocks for sure, although still trying to decide if they are comfy enough with the structures upper. A longer run will surely tell! I’m grateful for the awesome return policies that these two companies have, as it’s impossible to tell if a shoe will work until you’ve done a long run in them, and shoes are really expensive!

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As for this past week, I threw in some cross training to mix things up. On Monday, I participated in a super fun Ironstrength group workout with Dr. Jordan Metzl aboard the Intrepid with 1000 other people! I’ve done one other Ironstrength class before in Central Park and love that it’s free (usually), open to anyone, and takes place all over the city. It was a gorgeous night, and although E and were sore from our big weekend, we had a great time working up a sweat in such a unique location. On Wednesday, a co-worker and I tried out a spin class at the Peloton Cycle studio in Chelsea with Robin Arzon, a fellow ultra runner (E and I saw her at Endurance Challenge DC) and all around bad-ass and inspirational athlete. She is gorgeous and her energy is infectious! The studio and the bikes are amazing too. Obviously I’m a huge fan of Peloton and will be back! I did a short shakeout run after the class and ran into E on the river – I wish I could run commute home from work!

This weekend, E and I ran 18 miles yesterday, partly on Summer Streets. We managed to run at least 6 miles on trails, between the bridal path and north woods in Central Park, and a dirt trail that ran all along Riverside Park! Pretty cool. This run was tough but overall I felt better than last week, and the tape on my hamstring still seems to be helping, as I didn’t feel any pain throughout. Our experiment of the day was testing a new nutrition strategy, as we are still trying to nail down our plan for race day. We used Tailwind Nutrition endurance fuel naked flavor in our 16oz handhelds. We ran for ~3hrs and used 1.5 scoops per bottle x 3 (450 cal). It tasted great – not too sweet, especially with all the ice we used in that first bottle – but after 2-3 hours and with warmer water I found myself craving plain cold water, even though I had been drinking a lot (we were filling our bottles at fountains along the way). Also, I’m not sure how I would use it during the ultra, given we’ll be running for 10+ hours with only 5 aid stations. I could put it in my hydration vest bladder, but it’s much harder to gauge how many calories you are drinking this way compared to a handheld. Overall it’s a great product that I would like to experiment with more, and I wonder if in colder weather I would have had a different reaction. It could be useful in conjunction with food and/or gels, although I realize that their motto is “all you need, all day, really.”

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Today, we opted to stay in the city and hit some “hills” on the Williamsburg bridge for 8M rather than do another trail excursion out of the city. It was hot, but overall I felt quite strong, which gave me a confidence boost.

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On the cooking front, I’ve been making all kinds of good stuff lately that you can check out on my Instagram page. I’ve included a few photos here too.

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I’m in the process of setting up my new Eat for Endurance nutrition counseling website (finally!!!) so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to get in touch (thefightandflightresponse@gmail.com) if you wish to work with me, either for nutrition counseling or run coaching, in person or online. Have a wonderful week!

Happy August everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did!

I had a great 45-minute/5.75M fartlek run earlier today on the river. I hadn’t done fartlek training in ages, and was reminded of how liberating and fun it can be.

Unfamiliar with fartlek training?

Fartlek means “speedplay” in Swedish and is a type of interval training that was first established by coach Gösta Holmér in 1937 for his team of cross country runners. It is now a very popular technique among all runners, as well as athletes who practice many different sports.

Unlike a speed session at the track or on the treadmill, a fartlek run is characterized by its lack of structure and subjective nature. A typical run might last 45 minutes (or more), starting out with a warm up and then following the whims of the individual runner, who may choose to practice a variety of faster paces (ranging from steady to sprinting) for varying lengths of time or distances with slower recoveries interspersed throughout. A session can be relatively easy, extremely hard or somewhere in the middle, depending on what the runner wishes to do on that particular run.

What’s the best way to try out this technique?

A fartlek run can of course be done on the treadmill, but I believe it’s better (and more fun) to do this outdoors.

Start out your run with an easy or steady pace until you feel warmed up. If you’re outside, choose a landmark (a tree, bench, etc.) and run at a challenging pace until you reach it, then jog for a few minutes. Pick another goal – perhaps closer or further away, relative to the last one – and run to it (at the same, faster or slower pace, entirely up to you), then jog until you are recovered. If there are no good landmarks on your route or you are on the treadmill, then go by time.

The whole point of this run is to break free from routine, explore a wide variety of paces at different distances and to have some fun! If you’re training for a specific event and want to make your fartlek run more relevant, then you might want to include short, sharp bursts for 5/10k races and longer sections at your tempo pace for 10-milers and half-marathons.

What are the benefits of fartlek training?

I find the flexibility of this run incredibly appealing for many reasons. Firstly, fartlek gives you an opportunity to tailor your workout to how you are feeling, which is important because you should always pay close attention to any signals your body sends you. You have complete control over your speed and distance – no rules, no pressure!

It also gives you a mental break from training plans/other forms of routine without sacrificing your fitness goals (ie. if you want a tough workout, then make it challenging!). If you normally do your speed work on a treadmill or at the track, fartlek training can provide a change of scenery, which is important in preventing boredom and burnout. You’d be surprised by just how quickly the time flies when you’re constantly mixing up your pace and making it all up as you go along! It’s like playing a game – even better if you have a running partner, in which case you can take turns deciding what’s next, increasing the surprise factor.

Lastly, it’s a great way to ease into speed work if you are relatively new to interval training and would like to experiment with faster running, or if you’ve been taking a break from structured training (as I have) and want to squeeze in some speed without pushing yourself too hard too quickly.

What did I do today?

I hadn’t intended to do a fartlek run today, to be honest. I set out for what I thought would be an easy 5 miler along the river at lunchtime, but then five minutes into the run I hit a mass of obnoxious French students clogging up the pathway (a downside of lunchtime running – hordes of young kids, mostly foreign, everywhere). As I tried to get around them through a narrow passage, a kid who couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old nearly burned my leg with his cigarette as he stealthily held it by his side. Ah, the French.

I couldn’t deal and saw that we were approaching a bridge, so I sprinted up the stairs, over the bridge, down the stairs and around the front of the pack and left them in the distance. Whew. Then I thought – haven’t done speed work in awhile – that actually felt quite good! Maybe I should do that again…And so I did, followed by a series of strides, tempo intervals, steady intervals, and slow pacing all mixed up. It was quite challenging but really fun, and before I knew it, I had done nearly 6 miles!

So give fartlek a try if it isn’t already a part of your training regime – the name is a bit silly, but I bet you’ll enjoy it!

If you run regularly or perform any other form of strenuous exercise, then you are most likely familiar with (and perhaps not too fond of) taking ice baths to aid in the recovery of sore muscles. In my experience, ice or even just cold water baths, have helped me tremendously after a long run or tough race. I normally dip myself up to my waist in very cold water for 10-15 minutes (no need for bags of ice), and as long as I wrap my upper body in a warm towel or sweatshirt, sip a cup of tea and distract myself with a TV show or some music, it’s not too unbearable!

Even better if you have access to a professional ice bath, like this one:

After I ran the NYC marathon, I lucked out and met someone who invited me to his gym’s post-marathon party, which involved food, wine, ice baths and sports massages! What a great combo! A solid 15 minutes in that water really did the trick – and between the glass of wine I enjoyed and the nice chat I had with the other marathoner who was my bath-mate (don’t worry, I kept my compression tights on…), the time flew by.

I still had some trouble walking the next morning, but several days later, I went for an easy run and also did some hiking in upstate NY without too much pain. I can only imagine what shape I would have been in had I not forced myself into that freezing bath!

Another method, which you may have already tried as well, is contrast water therapy – also known as hot/cold immersion therapy. It’s best if you have a detachable shower head, which you can use to focus the hot and cold water on your legs and other sore parts of your body. But, if you’re like me and have a shower in one bathroom and a bathtub in a different one, this exercise may involve you running back and forth between the two rooms.

Whatever your shower/bathtub set-up, I recommend giving this a try to invigorate tired or sore legs before a race (as I did this morning), to speed up recovery from a hard session, and/or to simply wake yourself up in the morning. I guarantee the cold water portion of this therapy will get your blood flowing, literally! The hot water causes your blood vessels to widen, whereas the cold water causes the vessels to constrict, which is believed to reduce inflammation and post-exercise soreness.

I decided to do a bit of hot and cold water therapy this morning, since I’ve been feeling some pain and stiffness in my back, glutes, hips and quads. I got a quick sports massage yesterday, but we focused on my back and glutes and didn’t have enough time to cover my legs. Thus, when I woke up this morning, my legs were screaming for some attention!

I ran a very cold bath, and then alternated between three minutes hot (as hot as I could tolerate) in the shower with three minutes very cold in the bathtub, twice.  Without anything to distract myself, those three minutes in the bathtub weren’t too pleasant, but by the second round it didn’t feel so bad.

If you’re short on time and/or are showering in the gym, then just stay in the shower and alternate the temperature, for however long you desire. Even if you only have time for 30 seconds hot/30 seconds cold, your legs will feel refreshed! Well, at least until the numbness wears off…

If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that I’m the type of person who runs despite bad weather, lack of motivation, travel plans or other factors (so long as it’s safe), and that I always strive to push myself as hard as possible during races and other challenging runs.

But what about those days when my body just isn’t feeling right? Like this morning, for instance?

Respecting your body’s signals is a key part to training wisely and to reaching your running goals – or, as Bart Yasso proclaims in this video on his three running commandments, “Rest is part of training.” If you ignore a niggle and proceed as normal hoping it will go away on its own, or if you train every day instead of giving yourself at least one day of crucial rest, you will certainly risk injury. In other words, “Don’t run too far. Don’t run too often. Don’t run too fast.

Does all this sound a bit obvious? Sure, in theory it might. But in practice, how many times have you ignored these simple rules and pushed yourself just a little too much, or gone on that run you probably should have skipped, because you really REALLY wanted to get out there? I certainly am guilty…there have been days when I KNEW that going on a particular run would ultimately set me back, but I still struggled to keep myself from doing it. Thankfully, and in part because I worked with a great coach who specializes in injury prevention, I’m training more wisely these days! Quality over quantity, as with many things…

Now that I’m not working with my coach, I have to be very self-disciplined when it comes to heeding my body’s signals. However, it’s not always clear what you should do. For example, when I woke up this morning feeling a bit sore, I wondered whether or not I should postpone my VO2 max session to another day.  The soreness was more general (from spin class and weights) than acute, but I had experienced shin pain the previous week after doing the same session, which concerned me. I also shouldn’t have done my lower body strength training the day before a hard run – better to have a day in between, and do an easy run instead. In the end, I decided to go ahead and do it, because I felt okay overall and didn’t want to mess up my training schedule.

After a pretty strong session and nice long stretch, I was very pleased with myself. But now, hours later, I’m feeling it – and not in a good way. My shins are tight again, and my right ankle is sore. Nothing extreme by any means, but still, NOT GOOD. Something that can grow far worse if I’m not careful.

So what am I going to do?

Ice the sore areas, stretch, and NOT run home as planned. Get a good night’s sleep, have a nutritious dinner, and NOT run tomorrow as planned. Instead, I’ll go to yoga class, which I had hoped to do anyway, followed by some upper-body strength training. Friday will remain my rest day, as scheduled, and then, I hope, I will be recovered enough to tackle a tough training weekend, which includes a hill interval session and a 100min off-road long run. But if I still don’t feel great, I have to remind myself – Rest is part of training – and do a gentler activity instead. The frustration I will feel from a missed run certainly can’t compare to the potential disappointment of having to pull out of my half-marathon! I’ve never pulled out of a race, and I hope to keep it that way…

Lastly, I’m going to have a sports massage on Tuesday morning. The verdict is still out as to whether or not sports massage actually improves running performance, but in my opinion, it’s CRUCIAL. Hour-long sessions every 3-4 weeks got me through months of tough marathon training, not to mention the fact that I simply LOVE massage, of any type. It’s pricey, but it’s my main treat to myself. Well, not counting my mission to travel as much as possible and my running gear addiction… 🙂

So my goal for the rest of the week is to keep the Big Picture in sight – and to really enjoy my next two days of “training,” which shouldn’t be too difficult at all!!

I am very proud of myself – I went to a yoga class this morning, for the third week in a row.

That might not sound like a big deal, but yoga is one of those things that I always say I’m going to do, but then never actually end up doing. The classes are either hard to fit into my running schedule (which is quite full, when I’m training for something specific) and/or I decide I’d rather be doing something that really makes me sweat (and thus feel like I’ve exercised), such as a spin class. When I’m in that mood (which is pretty much all the time), Bikram or hot yoga is perfect, because you leave the studio soaking wet and feel so energized afterwards. Unfortunately, most of the studios in London are not conveniently located to where I live and are pretty expensive, so I don’t go very often.

And so over the past eight years, I’ve done enough yoga of various types to be familiar with the poses (ie blend into a class and pretend like I know what I’m doing), but not enough that I’m particularly good at any of them or truly experience the benefits of regular practice.

How can yoga help my running? Or, how can running help my yoga?

Cross training and strength training are crucial to becoming a better runner, and more generally speaking, it’s important to challenge your body in new ways on a regular basis to stay fit and avoid getting into an exercise rut. Cycling and swimming are excellent cross-training choices, but running and yoga also compliment one another very well.

In yoga (as I have experienced it, at least), you focus on your breathing; try to clear your mind in order to enter a more meditative state; pay attention to every detail of your form; call upon your strength and endurance to hold challenging poses; stretch your tired muscles; and finish feeling re-energized.

Sound familiar, runners?

During a run, I do much of the same, but in a different context. I focus on my breath and how it changes depending on my level of exertion; let my thoughts wander and ultimately fade away in order to get “in the zone;” pay attention to my technique and to the rhythm of my feet (known as cadence) to get the most out of my session; call upon my strong legs and core to get me through to the end; stretch my tired muscles post-run; and finish feeling awesome, otherwise known as “runner’s high.”

So, as you can see, running and yoga go hand-in-hand – the endurance and strength that you build through running help you hold those yoga poses longer, while the flexibility and focus you gain through yoga help you train your mind and body for competition and better running, generally.

Will yoga become a more permanent fixture of my training schedule? Well, after my first class, the instructor learned that I was a runner and told me that “running is bad for you.” Oh is that so? (Perhaps best not to tell an avid runner that running is bad for you, just a thought…) “But yoga will help.” So I guess I better stick with it!!

Namaste


Welcome to FFR

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

My PRs

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

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

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