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Do you have a special place to run or walk that immediately makes everything else melt away once you get there? I do. Actually, I’m lucky enough to have two – La Selva Beach (aka “my beach”) and Nisene Marks in Santa Cruz. Every time I come home to California for a visit, I look forward to experiencing the beauty and serenity of these spots. Running these routes brings me great comfort, and allows me to temporarily escape everything else going on in my life. 

After a very late arrival home yesterday due to my delayed flight, I only managed to sleep for a few hours and woke up this morning feeling exhausted and cranky. I headed straight to the beach to clear my head. It was foggy and breezy, with the sun threatening to come out and make way for blue skies later on (typical for August). I was fortunate to catch low tide and enjoyed the long stretch of packed level sand beneath my feet. The beach was mostly empty – a few surfers and walkers here and there, but otherwise very peaceful. The sounds of waves crashing made up my running soundtrack – no iPod needed. At least ten different types of birds were in the water and sky in the middle of some sort of feeding frenzy, and a couple seals poked their heads up every few minutes in the shallow parts of the water, almost seeming to swim alongside me. I almost forgot how awesome real wildlife is – you spend enough time in New York City and you begin to define wildlife as dirty pigeons, massive rats, and psycho squirrels. 

Afternoon shot of La Selva Beach

La Selva Beach, after the fog burned away

It was just a 4M run, but by the time it was over, it was as if I had hit my personal reset button. I needed to wash away the last seven challenging months in New York City without any vacation or significant mental breaks. Even if this isn’t truly “time off” in that I have to start cramming for the RD exam, at least I’m getting “time away,” which is nearly as valuable to me. Such a long stretch of time in NYC makes me feel trapped and burnt out. 

So here I am, sitting out on my parent’s deck in the sunshine, listening to the sounds of distant waves and bird chirping, watching hummingbirds fly by and deer hanging out in the backyard, munching on some delicious California produce, and feeling so grateful to have grown up here. I really wish I didn’t have to study, but I guess if I have to, this isn’t a bad way to get it done! 

I’m looking forward to running my first 20 miler in Nisene this weekend. I was signed up to do the NYRR long training run #2 before I booked this trip; running up and down the mountain will be a lot more enjoyable and SO much harder than doing loops around Central Park, that’s for sure. I wish E could join me out here – it’s our shared special place, after all – but it will be good practice for race day, when I’m out there on the road by myself. 

I flew into SFO on Monday night – how am I halfway through my trip already?! Being home hasn’t exactly been relaxing, as I try to catch up on all the admin and other things I neglected during the semester, but escaping NYC in itself has eased my stress levels dramatically. I wish I had another week or two to recuperate from the four months of craziness, but I guess six days will have to suffice.

I didn’t realize just how much I missed Santa Cruz until my run in Nisene Marks yesterday. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, then you know those redwoods are my running haven. It’s where I go when I need to calm my mind (or occasionally, have an adventure).

It was a gorgeous day – a bit warm for running in the sun, but in the shade of the trees, perfectly cool with a slight breeze. I missed running in Nisene – the peacefulness of the forrest, the sounds of the babbling creek and the birds chirping, the smell of the redwoods, the feeling of those trails under my feet, even those painful, never-ending climbs towards the summit! It felt good to be back in my running home – like no time had passed at all and I was right where I belonged, as if I were seeing an old friend.

And yet more than four months have passed and so much has happened! The last time I ran in Nisene was the day before I moved to NYC  to begin my first semester at NYU. It was my time to say goodbye to a place that had supported me through a challenging but successful transition from London to NYC. It’s where I went to think, to brainstorm, to zone out, to freak out – it’s even where I found out that I had been accepted to NYU (back at the car post-run). Halfway through that last run in January, I stopped for a few minutes to talk to the trees. I know, slightly crazy (or just Santa Cruz), but I was nervous and excited for so much change, and sad to be leaving California. I wanted to vocalize my goals, as well as my gratitude, and it was the most appropriate time and place to do so.

Thus, it felt really good to return to one of my favorite places in the world yesterday, having accomplished exactly what I set out to do, and celebrate with the trees. I took a moment to stop, soak up my surroundings and express feelings of relief, pride, and once again gratitude, mostly in my head but a few words out loud too (thankfully no one was around). I worked hard but it all paid off. Was it worth all the stress? Probably not – but I’m working on worrying less and slowly I’m achieving more balance in my life. The year ahead is very intimidating, particularly the remainder of 2012, but that moment of reflection gave me faith that I will prevail!

Yesterday was a bit soon to do a longish run after the Brooklyn Half, but it was so beautiful in the redwoods that I just couldn’t stop at 5 or 6 miles. The further I ran, the more I wanted to continue running. I ended up doing one of my favorite shorter loops (around 8.75M), including the first part of the Loma Prieta Grade trail, then veering to the right down to Buddha bridge (had to say hello to the Buddha!) and back up to the Fire Road to the earthquake epicenter and back. My hamstring wasn’t hurting at all and I felt pretty strong overall. Here are my garmin details.

I stopped before the huge, long climb to the summit – however I did hit a few hills, which served as a good reminder that I really need to start hill training again. Sorry, but Central Park just doesn’t cut it – not when you’re going to run a crazy 16M trail race in Colorado that starts at 6,700 ft of elevation and gains 4,500 ft! Think my goal for that race definitely is JUST FINISH (and don’t die). Actually, that should become my motto for the rest of the year, generally.

Chicago marathon training officially starts in just a few weeks. That means that it’s time to begin ramping up my base mileage and easing back into speedwork, tempo and marathon pace training. I really hope my hamstring will cooperate!

Today is a rest day and I just devoured a huge stack of my Dad’s amazing banana pancakes. My parents and I are driving up to Davenport today to see if there are any whales and take in the beautiful views. I haven’t been there in ages. We had planned a San Francisco trip tomorrow before seeing my sister and little E in the East Bay but think I’ve had my share of cities – more time in Santa Cruz, with the redwoods and my local beach, is what I really need! That and some quality family time. I wish I didn’t have to leave…but I will get back here permanently, someday.

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…

I woke up at 5am California time this morning, despite having forced myself to stay up late last night. This is in contrast to the night before last, when I crashed hard for 13 hours after an extremely long travel day from London to Santa Cruz via Chicago. Ah, the joys of jet lag!

I felt like a complete wreck yesterday morning – exhausted, splitting headache, completely paralyzed. It was 11am when I woke up – I had assumed I’d be up bright and early due to the eight hour time difference, but alas, my body was finally feeling the effects of sleep deprivation and stress from my last few weeks in London.

Several years ago, there’s no way I would’ve dragged myself to the gym or out the door for a run in this state. However, since I started training for races on a more regular basis, I’ve found that running (or exercise, generally) is the key to lessening the effects of jet lag and getting my energy levels back on track as quickly as possible. I also don’t have much of a choice if I’m in the middle of a training cycle, unless I want to fall behind!

So, what are the symptoms of jet lag and what’s the best way to overcome them when you’re training for an event, travelling to a destination race, or simply maintaining your running routine??

According to this article from Run the Planet, symptoms include “fatigue, disorientation, insomnia, loss of appetite, stomach distress, prolonged reaction time, decreased short term memory, decreased concentration, reduction in anaerobic power and capacity, higher injury rates, and reduced dynamic strength.” Much of how you deal with these symptoms involves common sense – stay well hydrated, eat light healthy meals, try to get sufficient rest prior to your trip (I clearly failed on that one), etc.

In terms of exercising, if my flight isn’t obscenely early, I try to run the day I travel so that I feel better about sitting down for so many hours. I also try to run the day after I arrive, particularly if I wasn’t able to run on my travel day, which apparently is what many athletes do as well. Don’t expect to give your best performance, but personally, I always feel infinitely better afterwards. Just make sure you pay close attention to how your body feels, differentiating between simply being tired and more worrisome fatigue/aches/pains. If you truly feel too tired to run, then perhaps go for a walk instead, and try to get a good night’s sleep so that you can return to your schedule the following day.

Normally, I start to feel normal again within a few days, although I do notice it can take a day or so longer when I travel East. When planning a destination race, think back to prior trips and try to figure out what your body requires, allowing at least a few days to adjust before the event, as well as a few days to recover afterwards if possible. And don’t underestimate small jumps, such as West to East coast – obviously everyone is different, and many of you may not suffer much from jet lag, but when I DO run Boston (I will, someday), I will definitely allow enough of a buffer so that I don’t struggle on race morning!

Given that I’m already VERY behind in my Portland marathon training with only five and a half weeks left until race day, it’s particularly crucial that I don’t let jet lag and other logistics interfere too much with my planned sessions. This isn’t so much so that I can run a good time, but rather, so I can simply finish without hurting myself! In many ways, it feels like a race to the start line, as much as it is to the finish…

So, after a good breakfast and a couple hours to clear my head (kind of), I headed out the door for my threshold interval run. I won’t lie – it was not fun at all – my legs felt like lead, my head was still pounding, and mentally I was mostly just going through the motions, rather than enjoying the challenge as I normally do. However, I managed to complete the session and afterwards, I felt like a new person. Headache? Gone. Energy levels? Sky high. Appetite? Okay, still a bit funky (ravenous in the morning, not at all later in the day, which obviously makes sense), but I had to cut my body some slack. It was (is) a bit shell shocked and confused.

As was I, upon walking into an American supermarket for the first time in a year. Well, it was actually a natural food store, but given I’m from Santa Cruz (land of health food stores), it was gigantic, so we can call it a supermarket. I feel like either one of two things happen in this type of situation – you either get so excited after being relatively deprived in the UK (or wherever else) that you buy half the store, or you get so overwhelmed you freak out and run away empty handed. In this case, it was the latter.

I figured some crackers with almond butter and a coconut water would be a healthy post-run snack that my stomach could handle. I wandered the aisles half in awe, half in sensory overload. I went to the nut butter aisle – I blankly stared at the 30 brands of nut butters (in the UK, even in Holland & Barrett, maybe you’d find 5). I tried reading the labels and converting the various prices into GBP, thinking it would help me choose one, and then got fed up and decided to make my own from the almond butter machine that makes it fresh (pretty awesome, although not as creamy). I mean, really, 30 types of nut butters? I’m indecisive even in the best of times.

Then I proceeded to find some crackers. There was an entire cracker aisle. I desperately looked for a brand I recognized from the UK just so that I didn’t have to look at them all – no luck. I abandoned the crackers – almond butter with a spoon it shall be. By this point, I was practically running out the store so I didn’t have to deal with it anymore, but managed to snag one of a handful of brands of coconut water on the way out – literally the first one I could grab. It was large and cheap, relative to what you find in London. Score. I then fumbled with my American coins and bills for several minutes (I nearly forgot what a 5p coin – I mean a nickel – looked like) as the cashier looked at me like I was some freak. I felt like one.

Yeah, running doesn’t really cure the culture shock that often accompanies jet lag, but that will fade in time, too!

And now, it’s time for my second California run – my favorite run of all – on my local beach. Nothing says “I’m home” quite like going for a run on my beach! After running to the end of my street, I hit this path – the smell of the eucalyptus trees always conjures up so many memories:

And then a few minutes later, the path opens up to this view:

When I’ve been away for awhile, I always feel like I’m seeing an old friend for the first time in ages when I reach this point, and the feeling of being home finally sinks in. I can then run in either direction – normally I go north towards Santa Cruz, but here’s a view facing south towards Monterey Bay:

Okay, full disclosure – these are photos from last year’s visit, but it’s currently foggy and cold out and I’m not bringing my camera, so looking at these will help get me out the door!

My head is still pounding and this time I don’t have 13 hours of sleep under my belt, but I’m still excited – and for me, whether I’m returning to somewhere I love, or exploring somewhere new, that excitement always carries me through to the finish.

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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