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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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I attended the 2nd Annual National Endurance Sports Summit (NESS) at Princeton University last weekend. What is NESS, you might ask? Yeah, I hadn’t heard of it either until several months ago, when I received an email through my RRCA listing as a running coach. NESS is a conference that seeks to “elevate endurance” by “showcasing the power of endurance sports to make a difference in one’s own life, in one’s community, and around the world.” It is organized and hosted by Team U, an intercollegiate fundraising endurance team founded by Joe Benun, a recent Princeton grad. I was very impressed by last year’s speaker list, which included Marshall Ulrich, Pam Reed, Ray Zahab, David Horton and Matt Fitzgerald, just to name a few. However, there weren’t any Dietitians participating in the nutrition panel or talks, which presented a great opportunity to get involved and share my passion for both nutrition and endurance sports!

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Team U listened to my feedback and invited me to join the Saturday morning nutrition panel to kick off a packed day of amazing presentations. Check out the 2015 schedule – recognize any of those names or faces above?! YEAH – only some of the most inspirational, accomplished athletes in the endurance world (from left to right – Simon Donato, David Horton, Ann Treason, Karl Meltzer, Travis Macy, Lisa Smith-Batchen, and Marshall Ulrich). Shockingly, the number of attendees was quite small – I was told 90 but it seemed lower than that, giving each talk an intimate feel and allowing for great interaction between the speakers and with the audience. Given the steady increase in popularity of marathons and ultra marathons, I’m sure that this event will grow dramatically with targeted marketing, word of mouth, and recruitment of more sponsors.

Here are some highlights from the many panels and presentations from Day 1 of NESS (unfortunately I could not stay for Day 2). Here’s another write-up on ultrarunning.com if you’d like to hear about Day 2 as well!

Panel: “To Eat or Not to Eat: Perspectives on Nutrition” 
Jason Fitzgerald, Vinnie Tortorich, Terra Castro, Claire Shorenstein 

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Running coach Jason Fitzgerald, retired pro-triathlete and founder of Be Bold Crew Terra Castro, and celebrity trainer Vinnie Tortorich joined me on the nutrition panel. The topic was very broad and one hour was hardly enough time to delve deep into one large nutrition issue let alone several, however we managed to touch upon a variety of topics with the help of our moderator, Andy Wegman. We discussed creating a nutrition strategy yet staying flexible, training your gut not just your muscles, high protein diets, becoming fat adapted through diet and exercise, and fueling with carbs-vs-fat (the most highly debated, given Vinnie supports a “NSNG” or no sugar no grain diet). Many perspectives were presented and discussed, and while we didn’t always agree with each other, it was good to talk through some of these hot topics in sports nutrition. I did my best to present evidence based recommendations while staying open-minded – nutrition is a young and ever changing science, after all.

Let me take a moment to share a few thoughts on what we discussed. I am not a food extremist and do not believe in eliminating otherwise healthy foods (or even the occasional treat) from your diet unless you are doing so for medical, moral or religious purposes. Not only is it unnecessary to achieve good health, it’s not a fun or sustainable way to live your life. It’s always important to ask “why.” Why do you avoid gluten, including in whole grains, if you do not have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance? Why do you avoid hormone free dairy if you are not lactose intolerant or vegan? And so forth.

I certainly agree that reducing intake of refined carbs and grains will aid in weight loss, and that fat adaptive training may be worth exploring for some athletes during base training (check out these related articles by sports nutritionist Sunny Blende). If you can become more metabolically efficient and train your body to burn more fat for fuel during lower intensity exercise, that’s great – but you still need SOME carbs to burn fat for fuel (it’s biochemistry folks). Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains (portion controlled), and dairy contribute “healthy” carbs to your diet. You also need carbs to fuel high intensity exercise (e.g. racing a marathon, surging up a hill in an ultra, speed work etc). If you’re lucky to have an iron stomach maybe you can eat real food, but you may only be able to handle more refined sugars (e.g. gels, drinks) just before and while running at higher intensities. The takeaway is that it’s important to pair your carb intake with what you are doing. For example, if you’re running easy for an hour or two, you’re fine running with water and perhaps some electrolytes.

This obviously is a much more complicated topic that I will not go into further here, but those are my two cents for now! At the end of the day, regardless of guidelines and studies, what matters most is what works best for your health, your body, and your athletic performance. If you like to eat cheese and olives during your long training runs and you’re performing and recovering well, more power to you! I look forward to seeing the event organizers narrow the topic for next year’s panel and hopefully dedicate a presentation to nutrition or add another nutrition panel so that we are able to cover more ground on such a crucial topic.

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Marshall Ulrich: “Journeys of Extremes of the World”

For anyone not familiar with Marshall Ulrich, he is an “extreme endurance athlete,” author of “Running on Empty” (which is on my reading list), and a really lovely person. He has finished more than 120 ultramarathons, among many other mind boggling feats of endurance. He began ultra running later in life after his wife passed away from cancer, pushing his body further in middle age than most 20 and 30 year olds could ever imagine. His presentation covered just a few of his “extreme” journeys, including running Badwater (he just finished his 20th!), climbing Mt Everest, running across America at age 57 (3,063.2 miles from California to New York, averaging more than 400 miles a week), and circumnavigating Death Valley on foot at 61 (425 miles). He presented the challenges and risks of each of these environments (obviously there were many), and how he overcame the obstacles he faced to achieve his goals. I’m really looking forward to reading more about his run across the US, what Marshall called his hardest journey. It was inspiring to hear him speak about pushing himself to each finish, at times risking his life and running through some serious injuries. He focused on maintaining forward progress and fulfilling his commitment to himself. I hope I am fortunate enough to stay active and courageous enough to keep pushing myself beyond what is perceived to be possible as I grow older.

Dr. David Horton: “Lessons learned from 100,000 miles of running”

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David Horton is amazing – a real character. I met him right after the nutrition panel (he shared many of my views on nutrition), before he gave his own talk. He has one of the most high energy and enthusiastic personalities I have come across in awhile. He is also fiercely competitive and will poke and prod relentlessly because he knows that you can achieve more than you think you can (or in his words – you CAN’T – he wants you to prove him wrong). Dave is an endurance beast – 113,000 miles run since 1977, including 160 ultramarathons! Even though he is no longer running much due to knee surgery (long distance cycling is now his thing), he loves to share his passion for running and endurance sports with others. He teaches an advanced running course at Liberty College that requires students to run an ultra. Wish I could have taken that course in college!

His talk included a list of short phrases and sayings, which he used to prompt stories and motivate the audience. Here are a few that stuck with me:

It never always gets worse.” You may feel horrible halfway through a race and think there’s no way you will finish because it can only go downhill, but in a few moments or miles everything can change – for the better! So keep pushing. That said, sometimes it DOES get worse! Which brings us to…

This too shall pass.” Whatever it is, it always changes, for better or for worse. Wait it out.

You can do more than you think you can,” and along the same lines, “You’re better than you think you are.” It’s incredible what you can push yourself to do when you really want it. He used an example – how many miles could you run if you had to run them right now? Could you go an extra 10 miles if you were paid 1 million dollars? Could you run an extra 20 miles if someone would shoot you if you didn’t finish? Find what motivates you and run with it.

Commit to what you do.” Believe in yourself and don’t make failure an option.

E and I definitely had Horton in our head this past week when we said to ourselves, why stop at running the NYC marathon for charity? Why not also run the JFK50 three weeks later (my first 50 miler, E’s second) to keep pushing ourselves? Before we knew it, it was booked. Thanks Dave!

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Featured Power Panel: “Learning to Push Past Limits: Roundtable Discussion with the World’s Greatest Ultrarunners.” 

Ann Trason, Lisa Smith-Batchen, Dr. David Horton, Karl Meltzer, Marshall Ulrich, Dr. Simon Donato, Travis Macy

Again, how incredible to have such a concentration of legendary endurance athletes, not just at this panel but throughout the entire day! Dr. Rob Gilbert, a sports psychologist, guided a discussion that touched upon a wide variety of topics, including the idea of “suffering,” finding balance, life after winning (passing the torch to younger athletes, shifting goals), learning from past races, and more.

I really enjoyed Lisa pointing out that the word “suffering” is not the correct choice when describing endurance sports. It is appropriate for chronic disease, death, trauma, and other tragic things that happen to us. By contrast, we CHOOSE to run because we love the sport – sure we may hurt and feel pain, but we are not “suffering.” You have to enjoy the process – embrace the highs and the lows – and remember that it’s not all about the destination.

Regarding balance, I’m always amazed that many accomplished endurance athletes also hold full-time jobs, have families, travel constantly, all while doing some seriously time consuming training. Some sacrifice sleep – Lisa said that she trains between 3am and 7am – while others sacrifice family time. Prioritizing is key, but it’s still tough to find that balance.

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Christopher McDougall: “Endurance under Fire: Lessons from the Extreme Athletes of WWII” 

This was the day’s keynote talk, and it was really fascinating. I think nearly everyone has read “Born to Run,” right? Chris McDougall spoke about his latest book, “Natural Born Heroes,” which explores the idea of running for survival, as a man on Crete had to do during WWII, versus running for exercise. He shared a fascinating story of Resistance fighters on Crete who relied on a man to deliver messages by frequently running extreme distances on foot to overcome the Nazi occupation. His talk tied into how we inherently possess such natural, fundamental movements that distinguish us as humans – we are not highly specialized like most animals, but rather can do many different things. However, as we get older we lose many of these basic movements, instead doing things like running a marathon as fast as we can or doing bicep curls in the gym (both unnatural and not useful). Parkour, he explained, encourages us to get back to our natural forms of motion, including jumping, throwing, crawling and other elastic recoil motions. Unfortunately I missed the Parkour clinic that followed, but his talk intrigued me and made me think twice about some of my own exercise routines…

Panel: “Learning How to Push Further and Reduce Injury”
Shane Eversfield, Terra Castro, Jason Fitzgerald, Ann Trason, Andy Wegman

Many things were discussed. Here are a few takeaways:
Ann – Remember the P’s of ultra-running: patience, persistence, passion, practice. Consider working with a heart rate monitor. Remember that running is a gift!
Jason – Don’t neglect strength training – even just 15min twice a week. Check out his site strengthrunning.com for great articles and videos!
Shane – Listen to your gut – your gut can sometimes tell you more than your brain.
Terra – Commit to foam rolling, massage, cross-training, yoga.

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Travis Macy, “The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life”

I recently read “the Ultra mindset” to get motivated for the UTHC 65k last month, so I really enjoyed meeting Travis Macy and hearing him speak about applying principles of training to life. Most of what he said was covered in the book, so check it out if you want all the specifics! One of the key phrases that he uses to push through tough times in training, racing and in life is, “it’s all good mental training.” So true. Another one I really liked – “the harder it is, the stronger you get” – great running mantra that I used in ultra training. He discussed the importance of creating the life that you want – not listening to the stories others or even a less confident version of yourself you may create. This really resonated with me as I try to carve out my own path in life. I recommend the book – it comes with some helpful exercises that Travis even said he would “grade” if you send them to him!

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Terra Castro, “Life Lessons Learned from Racing Professionally”

Terra Castro is an inspiring, courageous, honest and lovely woman who was a competitive athlete from a young age, became a pro triathlete, and has since started her own company Be Bold Crew in an ongoing effort to keep her “joy tank” full. It was awesome to hear her personal story of her accomplishments and struggles, and what she learned from it all. Takeaway – take risks to find your joy – and be B.O.L.D. (Believe, Outpour, Light, Dedicated).

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Speaker Dinner 

We finished out the night with a lovely speaker dinner, where E and I were able to chat with everyone in a relaxed and intimate setting. Everyone was curious to see what the dietitian was eating! It was a great way to wrap up a day of learning, inspiration and making new friends. Everyone was so friendly and down to earth, it was easy to forget that we were surrounded by some seriously unique, tough, and accomplished individuals.

It’s nearly been a week and I’m still feeling the energy from NESS. If you have any interest in marathons, ultras or other endurance sports, then I urge you to sign up next year. This event is a true gem with some serious growth potential. I’m still amazed that it was organized entirely by college students – great job Team U! I certainly hope I am able to participate next year.

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!

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Running an ultra has been on my bucket list for awhile. During my first North Face Endurance Challenge Series (TNFECS) event in SF four years ago, I only ran the half marathon but heard all about the awe-inspiring 50M and 50K races that happened the day prior. Back then, my thoughts were more along the lines of, “WOW…those people are CRAZY,” and that’s saying a lot coming from me! That started to shift when I spectated E’s first ultra at TNFECS Bear Mountain 50K last May. I decided I actually wanted run an ultra after pacing E for 24 miles at the JFK 50 miler in November. Maybe all the runners I met out on the trail motivated me, or perhaps I was simply jumping to a new level of crazy?! Either way, I had so much fun taking part in E’s ultra experience that I decided we needed to finish one together.

About two months ago, E mentioned that he was going to run TNFECS 50K and suggested it as an option. It takes place in Algonkian Regional Park, Great Falls Park and the Potomac Heritage Trail in Virginia, not far from where E’s parents live in Maryland. Although not exactly flat, the course is one of the least technical of the TNF series, and I definitely was looking for a newbie friendly race not too far from NYC. Unfortunately, the timing was terrible with various work and grad school commitments, so I said no, and we started to consider Fall races instead.

Cut to the week before the race, and I felt this unexplicable urge to enter. The Boston Marathon has been my big Spring race these past two years, and while I intentionally did not fill my race calendar this year, I couldn’t help but crave a new challenge as the marathon hype began to build. I was feeling exhausted and burnt out, and yet conquering a new, scary distance and experiencing that raw feeling of victory after crossing the finish line was exactly what I needed to keep pushing through the other challenges in my life.

Also, I’ll be honest – THAT was how badly I wanted to put off working on my Master’s research paper! Seriously. I am a very productive procrastinator.

So, I entered the 50K just three days in advance and caught a train to Maryland after work the night before the race. So much for my usual meticulous pre-race planning and prep!

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Panic set in briefly after I entered, but I reminded myself that I ran regularly over the winter to maintain fitness after the Marine Corps Marathon, including two 18-19 milers in Manhattan and several tough trail runs in Nisene Marks last month (two 1.5-2hrs, one 2.75hrs to Sand Point overlook – pictured above). I was under-trained but not horribly so, and I am not a newbie to trail running – just to the distance. It made me feel better that E hadn’t run much more than I had, so at least we were in the same boat. Also, pace isn’t as important in trail running unless you’re really competing, trying to break your own course PR, or need to beat a cut-off time. These didn’t apply to me, so for the first time ever, my goal truly was “just to finish.” It was a refreshing feeling after so many years of chasing PRs. I was especially excited to finish the race with E, hand in hand – we often train together and run the same races, but have never finished any together. We kept the race fairly quiet just in case it was a total disaster.

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It was still dark when we arrived at Algonkian Regional Park at 6am. The 50 milers had just set off and all the 50K runners were hanging out trying to stay warm. As in SF, the start area was well organized with plenty of toilets, food tents, coffee, fire pits, pre-race packet pickup, bag check, etc. It was meant to be a very hot and muggy day, and I knew we would be looking back fondly on these chilly pre-race moments later on! The sun started to rise, right up through the start line just in time for our 7am start. I was very tired from many weeks of inadequate sleep, but overall was in good spirits. I think they call that being in denial. I guess the trick to fighting off pre-race nerves is simply to enter last minute and don’t give yourself any time to think about it!

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I didn’t get a chance to study the out and back course. E told me that the first 13M were relatively flat and runable, followed by a more challenging middle 6M loop, and then 13M back to the finish. Didn’t sound so bad, right? We made a plan to run nice and easy, walk all the inclines and technical sections, take our time at the aid stations, and stop for photo breaks to make sure we enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Our goals were to remain injury free, have fun and cross the finish line together. See that smile? Yes, still in denial.

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The first few miles were a total mud bath! The race started with a big loop of a field turned swamp after the rain, so within five minutes our shoes were soaked and legs covered in mud. I hate mud but quickly got over it. This led to a very slippery section of single track – essentially a slow Congo line of runners trying not to fall over – and then into a forested area (pictured below), where the trail widened and finally started to dry out. Smooth runable sections alternated with stretches of roots and rocks. We kept the pace slow and enjoyed the views of lush trail covered in wild flowers with the Potomac River on our left. The sun was shining, and signs of Spring were everywhere.

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We finally got into a groove when we hit several unexpected steep climbs and descents. Clearly, I did not take a close look at the elevation chart in advance, otherwise those hills wouldn’t have been such a surprise…oops.

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We hiked the ups as planned but unfortunately had to hike the downs as well, as it was too crowded to hurl ourselves downhill as we normally do. I started to feel it in my knees after a few of those. More importantly, I found myself unusually fatigued not even a third of the way into the race, which was very daunting. We let a lot of runners pass us and the crowds finally began to thin out. I wasn’t feeling fabulous, but it was very peaceful on the trails. It was still relatively early, which meant that the hordes of tourists hadn’t arrived yet, and the marathoners who started an hour later than the 50K runners hadn’t reached us yet.

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I pushed myself out of my funk and got a much needed surge of energy when we got to Great Falls, snapped some photos at an awesome lookout, hit another great aid station and entered the middle miles.

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I had imagined this section to be nonstop climbs and descents, but it felt easier than what we had already encountered. Don’t get me wrong, there were many hills, but it was a complicated loop (more like two mini out and backs tacked onto a loop), which kept things interesting as I didn’t really know what was coming next. See, it helps not to study the course map sometimes!

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I also was distracted (in a good way) as this was a social part of the race for me. We caught up to the other 50K runners as well as the 50 milers, who were doing 3 loops of this section (!!!), and the wider trails and two way traffic were more conducive to striking up conversations. Chatting on the trails almost always gives me energy, quickens my pace and melts the pain away (at least temporarily). After feeling so crappy during the earlier miles, I was reminded that part of what makes trail running so fun is all the amazing people you meet. Sure, it’s a solo endeavor at times – but it’s also a supportive, friendly community experience as well. Also, hearing about some guy’s upcoming 24 hour race (i.e. run as many miles as you can in 24 hours) and running alongside the hardcore 50 milers made the 50K seem like an easy day out. It’s all relative, right?!

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I promise – I wasn’t smiling in ALL the race photos.

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The miles were flying by and before I knew it, we were back at the Great Falls aid station, where E’s parents awaited us. By this point, it was very hot and muggy out. I was grateful to have worn my shorts, tank top and visor – all comfy and lightweight. My feet were starting to hurt and blisters were forming (my road shoes weren’t the best choice, but I didn’t have time to test any others), and other parts of my body were starting to ache, but I felt good overall – happy and confident.

I attribute this to solid pacing and staying on top of my nutrition. I was having combination of SIS Go Gels (I brought 8 and was taking one every 45-50min), water (I carried my Amphipod large handheld – no time to buy and try a vest), and a variety of aid station food offerings. I hadn’t trained with eating real food and I have a sensitive stomach, so I had to be careful. E swears by peeled boiled potatoes with salt (good source of electrolytes – potassium + sodium chloride), so I had a few small nibbles early in the race to test the waters, and ate more once I tolerated it. Highly recommend. I also had some chicken broth (delicious), some banana and a few potato chips/pretzels. I can’t stomach food at my marathon race pace (~8-8:20), but eating a little bit at each aid station kept me feeling strong at my ultra shuffle pace (~10-11 running, ~13 with walking). My taste buds also appreciated switching between salty and sweet!

E was really feeling the heat, so we started to run/walk the flats. Parts of the trail had shade and a cool breeze, but others did not and our bodies were in slight shock after such a long, brutal winter. I still felt strong but then of course stubbed my toe really hard on a rock during a steep descent, which briefly threw me off my game. I will likely lose my first toenail soon – E tells me that this is an ultra rite of passage.

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After we passed the marathon distance (pictured above), I officially entered unchartered territory. I felt a sense of relief knowing that I would make it to the end. E felt better when he took frequent walk breaks, and when I walked everything hurt 100 times more, so I ran ahead to keep my momentum going and then waited for him periodically to catch up. Without realizing, I started to run my usual 9/9:30 long run pace, which felt very comfortable. I felt the urge to hammer out the last miles, but E wasn’t up for it. Plus, this race wasn’t about speed. So we took our time and only picked up the pace in the last mile to ensure we finished in under 7 hours.

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We crossed the finish line together in 6:54:16, holding hands with gigantic smiles on our faces! Technically, I finished one second ahead of E, but I swear that was not intentional (he doesn’t believe me). It was an amazing feeling to finish and I immediately knew I had to do another one. Despite our slow pace, I still placed middle of the pack – 225 of 401 overall, and 69 of 145 women. Not bad for a first ultra and last minute race! If I had run all the flats and didn’t stop so much along the way, I think I could have finished in 6-6:30. Not that time matters… 🙂 Check out my Garmin details here.

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Post-race was awesome. I felt surprisingly okay, and was beaming from my ultra runner’s high! E’s parents met us at the finish and we scrubbed/soaked our muddy legs in the muddy ice water (SO COLD – hurt more than the race itself) and enjoyed some beer and food. I got a massive ice cream cone (post-race MUST) on the way home – calories well earned!

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I highly recommend the TNFECS and I’m glad I picked DC as my first ultra. It’s rated 3 of 5 stars for difficulty and elevation change, and 4 of 5 for scenery, so it’s challenging yet newbie friendly and rewarding. It’s not a cheap race, but you get your money’s worth. The start was seamless, the trail was well marked every step of the way, the aid stations were frequent and amazing, and everyone was friendly and chilled out. The race swag was good too – a pair of Smart wool socks and a technical shirt tailored to our distance.

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Our one complaint is that we wish more runners practiced better trail etiquette. For example, we noticed a lot of gel wrappers thrown on the trails (not cool) and so many runners were listening to music, which is dangerous on narrow trails with two-way traffic. Perhaps this is something North Face can better address in pre-race materials and events. Personally, I think music should not have been allowed – many races ban music for safety reasons. It also makes the events more interactive.

Recovery has been going well thus far. I haven’t been very sore, but my legs have felt a little fatigued/heavy, so I’ve been taking it fairly easy on the training front with just two runs last week. My next race is the Brooklyn Half Marathon on May 16th. I don’t have any great expectations for the half given how little speed work I’ve done recently, and how stressed out I’ve been in these final weeks of school (graduation May 18th woohoo!!!), but I hope I have enough speed in my legs to have a strong race. For now, I’m trying to mix it up with some cross training – I’m excited to try my first Soul Cycle class today! It’s a charity ride that my friend invited me to at the East 83rd street studio, which should be fun.

Aside from the NYC Triathlon relay in July, my race calendar remains empty for now. I need to decide on my Fall race plans soon…perhaps another ultra? I’m leaning towards YES!

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

My latest photos

This morning's breakfast bowl isn't exactly pretty, but really delicious and filling! Two fried eggs in a pan with black beans (I used 1/2 cup = 1 serving), a little feta, a few spoonfuls of ricotta, some pesto (random but had some leftover and tastes great with eggs), and 1/4 avocado. Cooked all together for a high protein tasty breakfast! Awesome @onepeloton endurance ride earlier today with my buddy @mattwilpers before enjoying some family time outdoors on this beautiful day. Arielle came to visit afterwards and clearly is a big Peloton fan too! Speaking of which, check out the latest episode of the Clip Out (a Peloton fan podcast) - had such a great time talking all things nutrition and Peloton with @clipoutcrystal and Tom, who are hilarious btw! (Link in bio - my segment ~20min in). Wishing everyone a very happy first day of Fall! 🍁🍂 It's my favorite time of year to get out into nature and go for a run. L'Shana Tova to those who celebrate! We started the New Year with some apple picking at @wilkloworchards on our way back to NYC yesterday. Was so much fun, and Arielle was a great little helper! We don't have much food in the house after being away so these crisp local apples with almond butter will be our tasty, healthy snacks today. Getting ready for the loooong drive back to NYC after unplugging in Lake Placid for my bday! Fueling with a bowl of 5% plain Greek yogurt, bananas, peaches, and apple cinnamon granola. Not much of a view from our balcony this morning of Mirror Lake - swipe right for our view yesterday! So beautiful and peaceful here - minus screaming baby, of course. 😂 #Tbt to earlier this week, when one of my awesome @nutritionenergy clients surprised me with a @levainbakery cookie after we talked about them at our last session. I had planned to save half for my husband (those cookies are seriously dense!), but it was so delicious, I changed my mind and had the second half later in the day. Did I feel bad about it afterwards? Did I end up skipping dinner or working out more to compensate? Nope! I had already eaten a healthy balanced lunch, and it's not everyday that I enjoy such a decadent treat (although you will find me having smaller treats quite often 😀).

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