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I just finished my second speed session on the East River track. I had fully expected to be facing the treadmill, after seeing the track completely covered in snow and slush yesterday. Thankfully, the rain came last night and washed it all away, and today is beautiful and surprisingly warm (well, relatively speaking). I never thought I’d be so excited to hit the track, but after last week’s session, I was very eager to give it another go.

If you’re training for an event right now, particularly if you are a relatively experienced runner, chances are that speedwork plays at least a small part in your weekly running. The question of where to do these runs is sometimes an issue, at least it is for me. Obviously, the track is ideal – it’s more challenging and natural. Most sessions are created with a track in mind (2 x 800m etc). You learn how to handle different weather conditions which may come into play on race day, particularly things like wind resistance. You are forced to practice “feeling” the pace and learn how to achieve consistent splits on your own. Lastly I think it’s also just better for your body – too much treadmill running always leaves my legs (particularly my shins) feeling a bit tight/out of whack.

I used to train on a track once or twice a week WAY back in my high school cross-country days. Ever since I started running on my own, however, I haven’t been back on a track, at least not in recent memory until this past Wednesday. This isn’t because I don’t like the track, but purely because of time and convenience. I’m a morning runner, which cuts out many running clubs that meet after work, often at tracks. More importantly, I have never lived close enough to a track that I could use. Thus, I have always done my speed work on the treadmill. No matter the weather, time or place, I find a treadmill, turn on my iPod, choose my desired speeds and then all that’s left to do is push through the workout. I certainly don’t mean to say it’s easy, because it really isn’t easy to maintain a fast pace for a certain period of time, but it doesn’t require much thought. I don’t have to check my splits or question my pacing – I just run.

In the past, I’ve also done my speedwork on the river, in the park or wherever else outdoors. This has worked fine, but there are often obstacles (people, sharp turns, stairs, bridges, dogs, strollers, whatever) that make it difficult to keep pace plus it’s hard to know my exact pacing without exact marked distances, since I can’t always rely on my Garmin. This is why I usually preferred the treadmill for more structured, shorter runs.

Both options certainly work, and I’m sure I’ll be hitting the treadmill for certain workouts this winter, either for a change of scenery or to escape bad/unsafe weather. It’s good to run on a machine next to a mirror once in awhile to observe your form (better to have a coach watch and/or video record you, but I realize that’s not always possible). Plus, sometimes I really just need to blast my music, run hard and not think about it. I must say though, I am really starting to love the track!

I still haven’t made myself a complete NYC half training plan, partly because I’m not sure what approach to take for this race, so for this week I decided to try out some workouts I saw in an intermediate 9-week RW schedule (the advanced one was a bit hard core in the speedwork department for my current fitness). Today’s workout (from week 2) called for the following: 1M, 1×1200 at goal race pace (for me, 7:24ish), 400 rest, 2×800 at 10k pace (7:13ish), 200 rest, 4×200 at 5k pace (6:55ish), 200 rest, 1M. I calculated my target splits as 1200 at 5:31ish, 800 at 3:35ish, and 200 at 0:51ish – I did this because my Garmin is always a bit off when it comes to average paces. Based on my Garmin details and rounding up/down, my splits were 5:32, 3:32, 3:33, 49, 50, 50, and 50. I was on pace for the 1200, slightly too fast for my 800s and slightly too fast for my first 200. Overall, though, I felt really good about it, particularly with my three 50s for the 200s. Spot on! This workout felt SO easy after the super long ladder workout I did last week.

As I finished up my run, the (undergrad) NYU track team showed up and started their workout. I approached the head coach (there were three) and explained that I was a graduate student in Steinhardt and had just qualified as an RRCA coach. He was busy so we didn’t get to talk for very long, but he said to email him and that I’m welcome to join them anytime to observe from a newbie coach perspective or perhaps even tag along once in awhile as a runner (that would freak me out a bit – would surely get my butt kicked). Pretty cool! I have so much to learn, particularly when it comes to track. Ultimately I want to focus my coaching on longer distances and on slightly older athletes, but learning more about speed work certainly could do me some good.

Post-run lunch included a beautiful, colorful salad with blood oranges, feta (from TJ’s that I mentioned the other day), tons of fresh veg, dried cranberries and various seeds and nuts, with a blood orange vinaigrette (essentially just freshly squeeze juice from the fruit, olive oil, a touch of white balsamic vinegar and agave, and salt and pepper). So refreshing and flavorful! You can find the recipe here.

I also had a huge helping of multigrain pita chips (along with some edamame hummus), which I’m kind of obsessed with right now. Practically went through a whole bag last night…oops! And I just realized I missed a graduate student library tour I had planned to attend…double oops! It started ten minutes ago. Oh well, I’m sure I will have PLENTY of opportunities to tour the library.

Speaking of which, my first two days of school are going very well. I love my classes – I have attended three of five (if you count the lab as a separate class) so far. My professors are great, the material interesting and best of all, I have finally met others in my program. There are three students that are taking practically the same classes that I am this semester. It’s nice to feel like I’m not in this alone, and of course to have study buddies. Apparently there are 29 students starting my program this semester – hopefully I will have a chance to meet them soon. Apparently there will be a welcome reception in the coming weeks at the new department of Nutrition and Food Studies, which I checked out after my class this morning. It recently moved and the new building is really nice.

I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed and out of place (so many undergrads everywhere!), and I’m having serious time management issues (where do all the hours go?!?!). I finally got myself to do my first assignment but haven’t yet cracked open any of my books. I think I’m still in denial about this whole homework thing! Hopefully I’ll get into a groove soon enough. I just need to keep working on my speed and efficiency, both on and off the track!!

I’ve become a bit obsessed with couscous salad this past month. Perhaps it’s a delayed reaction to my Morocco trip…or cleaning out my pantry and finding a huge bag of couscous that I bought ages ago and never touched. Regardless, I’ve been having fun experimenting with couscous and creating various healthy, vegetable-packed dishes, much like I often do with quinoa.

Couscous is made from semolina (the same durum wheat product that’s used to make pasta) but is in fact less refined since it’s made from crushed semolina rather than the ground type. Traditionally, couscous features heavily in North African dishes and is eaten with stews (often including meat or fish) and is delicious when prepared this way. However, like quinoa, couscous is extremely versatile and tastes great, for example, as part of a colorful and refreshing salad (either vegetarian or not) or even served for breakfast (if you’re getting bored of oatmeal) with fresh or dried fruit, cinnamon and honey.

Given that it is essentially a small pasta and thus loaded with carbohydrates, couscous is of course a great food for runners. To make sure you’re getting the most nutritional bang for your buck, try to buy a whole wheat or whole grain variety instead of the more common “just add water” pre-cooked and dried types made from white flour.

The nutrition facts for whole wheat couscous will of course vary depending on the brand you purchase and how you cook it, but a 1-cup serving of cooked couscous will set you back about 180 calories, while giving you 8 percent of your daily recommended intake of iron (crucial for runners, particularly women), 3g of fiber (versus 2.2g in the regular variety), 6g of protein and 1g of fat. Whole wheat couscous also provides you with a host of important nutrients found in the outer bran and inner germ layers of the grain, such as folate, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and selenium.

Lastly, couscous is super easy to make – as Martha Rose-Shulman recommends in one of her articles, couscous “should never be boiled (pay no attention to the instructions on most boxes), just reconstituted and steamed.” I remember reading that latter part and thinking that it sounded a bit complicated, but I promise, it isn’t.

All you need to do to is take a cup of dried couscous, put it in a bowl along with 3/4 – 1 cup warm water (or broth), add seasoning (salt/spices/lemon juice/ etc, depending on what you’re making) and let it sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Steam on high for one minute, fluff with a fork while perhaps stirring in some olive oil, and you’ve got yourself a big bowl of yummy couscous!

Here’s one of my recent couscous salads that was a particularly big hit – E named it Green Machine!


My Green Machine recipe, which serves three to four people, was inspired by Martha’s couscous tabbouleh. E and I had it for lunch during my coach’s workshop recently, and it not only tasted great, but also helped us get through a very tough afternoon tempo run in extreme heat! The various vegetables, nuts, beans and spices make this a very nutrient-dense meal.

1 cup couscous (preferably whole wheat)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh (or dried) mint
1-2 cups baby spinach, chopped
1-2 cups curly kale, chopped
1 zucchini
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (optional)
Small handful of raisins (optional – I like something sweet in my salads!)
Small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
5 or so mushrooms, chopped
1 cup edamame beans
⅛ cup pumpkin seeds
1 avocado

1. Put the couscous in a glass or ceramic bowl, and toss with the salt and cumin. Mix together 1/4 cup of the lemon juice and the water, and pour over the couscous. Let sit for 30 minutes, stirring the mixture from time to time.
2. Chop your vegetables as you wait. For the kale, mushrooms, and zucchini, I chop and then microwave for about 1 minute. Then I saute in a pan with some chopped ginger and garlic in a small amount of oil, and set aside in separate bowl to cool, although that step is optional (you can put the chopped ginger directly in the salad if you skip).
3. Once couscous is ready, cover and microwave on high for one minute. Stir in the olive oil and allow to cool.
4. Toss with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
5. When ready, slice avocado and place on top of each serving, with a sprinkle of salt & pepper on top.


If you’re a meat-eater and/or prefer a bit more color in your salads, then check out my chicken couscous salad:

I prepared the couscous itself in the same way as in Green Machine, but just added different vegetables and placed grilled chicken on top rather than avocado.

The possibilities are endless – have fun!

When you hear the words “tuna salad,” do you think of the kind you’d get in a deli or diner, loaded with mayo and scooped onto a few lettuce leaves or slices of bread? In other words, a blob of white? Or do you imagine a fresh, homemade salad loaded with vegetables, high in healthy fats and protein and bursting with color?

When I make tuna salad (or any salad, for that matter), it usually looks something like this:

I love tuna fish – my favorite kind of canned fish is Dave’s Gourmet Albacore, which is based in my hometown in CA but sold all over the place, including Whole Foods. It’s quite pricey, but it is worth it! My favorites are the jalapeño albacore, garlic albacore, jalapeño salmon, and smoked alderwood salmon, but you can’t really go wrong with whatever you get – it’s all delicious!

Sadly, I can’t get any out here and ran out of my precious supply months ago. And so it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten tuna salad, because once you go gourmet, it’s kind of hard to go back!

Tonight, however, I was craving a big healthy salad that was high in protein to balance out my pancake brunch and give my body all the nutrients it needed for post-long run recovery. All I could think was – tuna salad would be perfect, shame I don’t have any Dave’s left…

I decided that I should give normal supermarket tuna a try – surely it would taste great when all dressed up, right?

Yes, indeed!

Want to create a delicious and extremely healthy tuna salad? Then give my Dressed up tuna salad recipe a try! Be sure to get creative with this one – try to incorporate as many different vegetables/colors as possible. I usually grab whatever I have in the fridge, but always like to make sure there’s enough crunch to balance out the tuna texture.

If you’re not a big tuna fan or you’re vegetarian, then substitute tuna for chicken, edamame, quinoa, beans, or whatever else suits your food preferences.

Need more visual inspiration?

The result? A delicious, dressed-up and extremely healthy tuna salad, followed by a refreshing and light bowl of fruit to cleanse your palate.

Dinner is served!

It’s a holiday in the UK today and I’m relaxing at home, contemplating what I want to cook for dinner. After so many indulgences throughout the holidays, I want to make sure I eat a healthy, nutrient-dense meal to prepare my body for a big training week ahead!

So what’s on the menu? Quinoa salad!

Most of you have probably heard of quinoa by now. It’s the ultimate grain (technically it’s a seed) in that it is a complete protein source and is also packed with carbohydrates, dietary fiber, minerals including iron and vitamins. In other words, a great food for runners! It’s also, in my opinion at least, delicious, versatile, and relatively easy to prepare. I like to mix red and white varieties to give a bit more color to my recipes, although it doesn’t seem to change the flavor dramatically.

One of my favorite quinoa recipes is my Quinoa Herb Pomegranate Salad with Poached Shredded Chicken, which I have adapted from BBC Good Food, as well as the NY Times Recipes for Health (for the added shredded chicken). This recipe is delicious and extremely healthy, filled with vitamins, protein, healthy fats and anti-oxidants. It’s also a great opportunity to get creative, and is flexible enough to suit all dietary needs and preferences. You can use turkey, beef, tofu or shelled edamame rather than chicken, chop and add whatever additional vegetables you fancy, place a smaller portion of the quinoa salad atop a bed of lettuce for a lighter meal – it’s up to you!

I was in a massive veggie mood, so I went a bit nuts in the supermarket with my vegetable ingredients – cavolo nero (a type of kale), baby courgette, and chestnut mushrooms (which I sliced and steamed in the microwave); yellow and red bell peppers, celery, and cucumber (which I diced); carrots (which I peeled and shredded); and dried cranberries to add to the pomegranate seeds. I had some turkey breast in the freezer, so I swapped that for the chicken, and I grabbed some baby lettuce leaves to add even more green to my plate.

Here’s the end result – I’m not sure it can get any more nutrient packed than this, and it was absolutely delicious! This salad always tastes great as leftovers for a couple of days too.

I also love these Quinoa Pecan Muffins (another New York Times recipe), which are slightly labor intensive to make because you have to grind your own quinoa flour. However, they are worth the effort – slightly sweet, nutty and simply delicious, not to mention very healthy! I made them last week and they were a huge hit. There weren’t that many left after my flatmates and I attacked them fresh from the oven, but the ones that did remain were stored in the freezer and ended up being the perfect pre- and post-run snack and breakfast on the go!


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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