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The Big Sur marathon offers a chance to experience dramatic landscapes along Highway 1 while tackling a challenging course. For this reason, it’s considered a great destination race for runners across the globe. This marathon has been on my bucket list for years, as it combines two things I love: running, which started in high school not far from the finish line in Monterey, and Northern California, where I grew up. Big Sur in particular has always been a magical place for me, in part due to yearly camping trips with my family when I was young, which is why I wanted it to be the first marathon I ran in my home state!

E and I had already signed up for the marathon when an old friend of mine from high school asked if we would join his relay team, We Be Crazies. He’s been trying to get me to run for the last 7 years, but the timing was never quite right. Doing the relay and the marathon seemed a bit nuts, but apparently we could run Leg 1 (4.9 miles) and then continue onwards to complete the marathon. I was on the “A” open female team that won 1st place last year, which meant that I was expected to run as fast as possible for the first 5 miles. Not exactly ideal marathon pacing strategy, but I was never planning for this race to be a fast one, and I was excited for a potential podium finish!

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We flew in from NYC late Thursday night before the Sunday race, allowing us to stay on East Coast time. Very important when you have a 3am wakeup call race morning! We had a relaxing day at my parent’s house in Santa Cruz on Friday, including some nice walks on the beach to calm our taper crazies, and drove down to the expo on Saturday. The expo was small (you don’t need much time there) but had some great speakers. I particularly enjoyed meeting Bart Yasso – he shared an entertaining and powerful story about how he became the Chief Running Officer of RW, and all the adventures and health challenges that he has experienced since. His book is great too!

Bart’s main message was the following: you may not always have your health, but no one can take away your positive attitude or your passion for the sport. This proved very helpful on race day while being blown to pieces by crazy headwinds and feeling unusually fatigued early in the race. I could either think about how crappy I felt, or focus on the gorgeous views and how fortunate I was to be running in such a special part of the world. Attitude is everything!

The race was very well organized, with shuttles in several convenient locations. We stayed at the Hampton Inn (5 min walk from the shuttle at Embassy Suites), which was brand new and very comfy. It also was only a short drive from the expo (note – it says Monterey but really it is one block away from Seaside). The staff was great about letting us use their microwave to reheat our pre-race meals (salmon, zucchini and rice for lunch and pasta with mushrooms for dinner), and cooking oatmeal at 3am. As for gear, I had never run in my relay singlet and it was very big, so I layered it over my usual racing tank and the awkward baton fit nicely into my arm sleeve so I didn’t have to grip it.

The bus took about 75 minutes to get to the start line in Big Sur – a slow ride of peering out into the darkness. We got to the athlete village around 5:30am, which was extremely small and crowded (there isn’t much space to put everyone off of the highway). We were essentially dumped into a convoluted, massive line for the porta potties. Thankfully, the hilarious signs on each one kept us laughing. For example, “Tesla charging station,” “Las Vegas bus leaves here,” “Only for under 40 years old,” “Toasty 75 degrees inside,” and my favorite – “Condo for rent.” Not much of an exaggeration for California! The mile markers also had funny pictures and sayings – the race organizers definitely have a great sense of humor, and I appreciated the laughs while mentally toughing it out on the course.

Despite the crowds, we soon reunited with our fellow We Be Crazies Leg 1 runners. Because the highway remains open until 6am, the start line is only put up right before the race begins. They also load the corals differently – slowest runners first to get them further down the highway and fastest first. My friend encouraged me to start at the very front, which seemed crazy since my “fast” pace is slow compared to the front runners. But hey – it was my only opportunity to start at the very front of a major race, so I figured why not go for it! It was such a rush, running down that hill. I knew I would be passed immediately (and I was) at my 7:07 pace, however it was still awesome.

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The weather was cool and cloudy but fairly protected by the redwoods during my relay leg. It was so peaceful and mostly downhill – though certainly not “all downhill” as everyone kept saying (never believe that statement with regards to this race). There were several climbs though relative to the rest of the course, I suppose they were quite small. I felt strong and happy with my pacing, even though it would bite me later in the race.

After the handoff at mile 4.9, I felt sick. But sick = nice job on the relay! I shifted gears and slowed down to catch my breath and settle into a more sustainable pace. It wasn’t really a choice anyway as this was the point at which the roads opened up and the wind reared its ugly head! Large groups of runners kept passing me by, making me wish I could run fast enough to keep up so that I could get some protection from the wind. This sign definitely rubbed it in – all lies! Those hills felt endless…because they were.

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By mile 10 I was exhausted and the wind and slanted roads were taking a toll. I focused on how lucky I was to be there and on one of many long hills, the following mantra popped into m head: “Never ever ever give up.” I repeated it to myself over and over again and particularly while climbing hills to the rhythm of my feet.

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The taiko drums before hurricane point really locked in my mantra. You feel the sounds reverberate in your soul. These drums are a call to battle – in this case, the battle within against the never-ending hill! The fluid, powerful movements of the drummers were inspiring.

At the top of hurricane point it was so windy I literally could not move forward. It stopped me in my tracks and nearly blew me over! Good thing I ran during some crazy snowstorms back in NYC – who would’ve guessed it would be great Big Sur training? Usually you can make up time running downhill but the wind was so strong, it wasn’t worth the energy to push against it.

Bixby bridge was magical. We didn’t have blue skies like the last time I visited Big Sur, but the views were just as beautiful. You could hear the piano way before you even saw the bridge – the music floating faintly in the wind with sounds of crashing waves down below. This race clearly was not going to be a fast one, so I made sure to stop and really soak it in.

Just after the bridge, E cruised by me! I was beyond happy to see his face. He was looking strong and I could barely keep up with him at first. We settled into a slow but steady pace for 10 miles or so, occasionally saying a few words but mostly focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.

Around mile 22 or 23, I finally got my groove back while E started to fall behind. I needed to keep moving so we parted ways. I hit the strawberry aid station – yes, an aid station with super sweet, fresh local strawberries – where I ran into an old friend from college. Turns out she lives in the neighborhood, and since they’re blocked in for the day they have a party!

The slant of the roads was tough on the body – I tried to find a sweet spot on the road but getting comfortable was nearly impossible. It was the first time in a marathon I wanted to walk but somehow I kept myself running. Knowing my parents were waiting for me at the finish helped me finish strong – it was the first time they were watching me race a marathon since Boston 2013. I saw my parents screaming in the spectator stands and was proud to finish in 4:08. It was my slowest marathon time ever but I still fought hard for it and took time to soak in the scenery – and that’s what matters.

E finished shortly after me in 4:16 – it was a strong run for him, given it was only a few minutes off of his flat course PR. The medals were awesome – ceramic with leather cords. Definitely a unique one to add to our collection!

Our relay team’s success certainly sweetened my slow personal finish! We Be Crazies won four awards – 1st overall, 1st open male, and 2nd and 3rd open female. My team won 2nd – we missed 1st by 15min – but we still rocked it with a time of 3:19!

After the awards ceremony, we celebrated together with an Indian buffet before heading back to Santa Cruz. As much as I love the solo nature of running and racing, I also enjoy being part of a competitive team. It’s not just about you achieving your personal goals – people are counting on you, which make you want to push that much harder. Doing both the relay and the marathon was a real challenge, but it was pretty cool to race hard for my team and then be able to battle it out for myself. I highly recommend this race – you can choose one of the shorter distances if you wish to experience the course without committing to the full 26.2!

After Big Sur, we got to relax in Santa Cruz with my family. As much as I love NYC, I hadn’t been home  in a year and I can’t tell you how amazing it was to be back. Our bodies ached for several days but we quickly recovered with daily beach walks, lots of delicious food, and massage. One week later, my legs felt refreshed and I had one of my all-time best beach runs, from La Selva to Seacliff (10 miles)! Perfect conditions – low tide and sunny with a cool breeze – combined with an awesome playlist led to some unexpectedly fast miles.

A trip to California wouldn’t be complete without a run in the redwoods. I did a couple short runs with E on the trails in Nisene Marks as well as a hike and meditation session with a close friend down by the Buddha bridge, my favorite spot in the forest. It was the perfect way to end a beautiful, active week!

Back in December, I received a random email asking me to be one of the “expert” coaches for the April edition of “Ask the Experts” in Runner’s World. I was very excited, as I had only been published online in RW and a few other publications until now. The question was as follows:

“What should my weekly mileage reach before I can start spring speedwork?”

My original submission was a long paragraph, and there was much back and forth with the editor until we agreed upon the final submission below:

Gradually increase your mileage for at least two months until you are logging 15 to 20 weekly miles in three to four easy runs. This mileage base, ideally accompanied by twice-weekly strength training, will allow you to begin speed-work with minimal injury risk. Even still, ease into faster running with a few weeks of fartlek (unstructured pace pickups) before tackling tempo runs and repeats. Also, never do speed-work more than twice per week, always separated by recovery days, and refuel within an hour of your efforts to maximize speed-work rewards. 

–Claire Shorenstein, R.D., is a dietitian at Montefiore and an RRCA-certified coach (thefightandflightresponse.com) at Manhattan’s Physical Equilibrium (www.physeq.com).

As you can see, what ended up in the actual magazine was much shorter than above, and did not include the sentence on nutrition, but I am still VERY pleased to see my name in print!

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Have other training questions or looking for a NYC-based running coach or registered dietitian? Shoot me an email at thefightandflightresponse@gmail.com to find out about the various services I offer. 

Happy Thursday! I hope you are all enjoying the gorgeous Spring weather this week. Unfortunately, I have been stuck inside the library all day every day but it looks glorious out there. Only 19 more days until the semester is over and I can finally relax and finish planning my wedding (although I suppose those two things don’t usually go together…sigh).

I decided to turn my previous blog post on my Boston Marathon experience (which I edited quite heavily, for those of you who read the original) into a condensed essay to send to Runner’s World, and it was published online in the “Other Voices” blog this morning! I’ve never written anything for RW before, so I found it quite exciting to see my piece on the homepage, even if you have to scroll down a bit to find it.

You can read my essay here. I’ve also included the text below.

Runner's World essay

I’ve been focusing on qualifying for the Boston Marathon for over two years. On April 15th, I found myself in Hopkinton at last. I had spent months training for the rolling hills of the course and was confident that my body was prepared for the challenge ahead. Little did I know that the real challenge would be the emotional rollercoaster I would experience that day, and in the days that followed. Nothing could have prepared me for that.

I am deeply grateful to have finished safely, and that my loved ones were not harmed. Yet I was one block away, hundreds of people were injured and I can’t help but replay Monday’s events in my mind.

Sounds of the explosions were misunderstood and dismissed at the time, and then of sirens, which did not register from too many years of living in NYC. The overwhelming flood of concerned calls and messages alerting me of what had just happened. Disbelief – who would possibly bomb a marathon finish line?

Confusion as I walked 4 miles parallel to the deserted race course – where I had just run with such hopefulness and determination – trying to get back to where I was staying. Heartache as I spoke with stranded runners who weren’t able to finish their race, even though that meant they were safe! My medal hung heavily around my neck with shame, tucked beneath my bright yellow marathon shirt. I couldn’t part with it, nor could I be proud of it.

I felt numb as I watched the news later that evening. I couldn’t – and still can’t – wrap my head around what happened. The physical symptoms of racing have long faded, but the pain, anger, sadness, guilt, pride and other emotions that I have been feeling over the last two weeks are deeply woven into my Boston debut.

While driving to the expo, it occurred to me that somewhere along the winding path towards achieving my BQ, I had lost sight of the actual goal – to run in Boston! Of course I was eager to experience the famed crowds, conquer the Newton hills and earn that amazing unicorn medal at the finish…but if I am honest with myself, it was the challenge of qualifying in itself that had been pushing me to the start line. I wanted to prove that I could run fast enough to gain entry into one of the most honored and historic marathons, to belong to this special club of “serious” runners who wore their official Boston Marathon jackets on long training runs like badges of honor.

After several failed attempts, I finally joined that club at the finish line of the Chicago Marathon. My mantra throughout this race had been, “I want it more than I fear it,” the “it” being a BQ and whatever physical pain I had to overcome to reach my goal. I remember seeing my parents at mile 25 and yelling to them, “I’m going to BQ!” The emotional impact of that statement, as I heard myself say it aloud and knew in my heart, my legs and my tears that it was true, was indescribable. Finishing that race was a spectacular moment – sheer joy and surprisingly, not much pain. Within 30 minutes, I registered for one of the last spots to run the 2013 Boston Marathon.

It was on Boylston Street while visiting the finish line that it finally hit me: I was about to run THE Boston Marathon! I felt proud of my accomplishment but also humbled and inspired by the myriad official race jackets that surrounded me. I had only qualified by two minutes, but I had worked hard for my acceptance and it was time for my 26.2-mile victory lap!

What struck me most about the Boston start was that despite being a major race, it somehow had a small community feel to it. The atmosphere reminded me of any number of UK towns where I used to run local races while living in London, where my dream to run Boston emerged. As I waited in my coral, I felt a unique connection to the runners around me; we all knew what it had taken to get to Hopkinton.

Everyone told me to “enjoy every step” and I tried, but it was a tough course and a good chunk of the middle miles were unpleasant. The euphoria I experienced while passing through the “wall of sound” in Wellesley and again at BU snapped me out of my funk. My pace jumped as I felt a surge of energy from the deafening cheers. I embraced the physical pain while repeating my new mantra, “with heart and courage move I.” I had borrowed this phrase from a Native American friend while she was discussing similarities between modern marathon runners and the Ridge Runners of California coastal tribes. I no longer “wanted” anything as I did in Chicago – I simply let my heart and legs guide me towards the finish, one step at a time.

The final miles seemed endless, but I felt strong as I sprinted to complete my first Boston Marathon. I didn’t get that same feeling as I did in Chicago, nor did I achieve another BQ, but I was proud to have run my second fastest marathon that day.

It took me 25 minutes to reach the reunion area, where I found my family and snapped a few exhausted but happy photos. That’s when we heard the explosions, and everything unraveled into the tragic and disturbing situation we all know too well.

I no longer see the Boston Marathon as just a symbol of athletic achievement. It represents the physical and emotional hills that accompany all of life’s ambitious pursuits- the pain of failure, the joy of success and the multitude of emotions in between. We embrace these worthy challenges and even in our weakest moments, we somehow summon enough strength and courage to reach our goals. It may take several tries, and at times we may lose faith, but with the support of loved ones and others sharing our path, we keep moving forward.

As much as I can’t help but care about my time (I am a runner after all), it’s everything else that keeps drawing me back to the marathon distance, and particularly to the Boston Marathon. I will be at the start line on April 21, 2014 – that is, of course, if I can get in!

Claire is a graduate student in Clinical Nutrition at New York University, a Road Runners Club of America Certified coach and author of personal running and nutrition blog, The Fight and Flight Response

I also wanted to share some screenshots of my official race photos. Some of them turned out really well and it brings me some comfort to see so many smiles.

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Last but not least, I am excited to report that I will be coaching the Gilda’s Club NYC marathon team again this year! If you’re interested in joining, shoot me an email (thefightandflightresponse@gmail.com) – we have 27 spots available, it’s for a great cause and I promise we’ll have tons of fun.

Have a great weekend everyone!!

To eat or not to eat? That’s often the question when it comes to fueling (or not) for early morning runs. If you have a sensitive stomach like me, you want to avoid GI distress – however, you don’t want to bonk during your training either, particularly if your morning run is on the longer side. Finding that sweet spot can take a little time, but if you experiment and follow a few generally accepted pieces of advice, you should be able to figure out a system that works well for your body.

Check out a recent interview I did with Competitor.com on this topic – it was published today, so I of course wanted to share it on FFR! The advice is pretty basic – most likely things you have heard many times before – but it’s a good reminder to stay in tune with your body’s needs and to ALWAYS practice your race day nutrition strategy during your training.

Back to the books – but first, I’ll leave you with a couple photos from Sunday. It was such a gorgeous day and I really enjoyed my walk across Brooklyn Bridge with a friend.

I also loved all the Spring flowers sprinkled across the city – these daffodils behind bars reminded me of how I feel when I’m in my little library cubicle!

This week has been pretty calm in terms of running (taking it easy after the half marathon), but extremely high intensity in just about every other area of my life! It’s also been filled with blossoms – I can’t tell you how excited I am that Spring is finally here. Makes it tough to lock myself up in the library with the gorgeous weather we’ve been having, but my runs have been glorious.

I finally took my last midterm this morning – it was an online exam that I could take anytime this week and was more challenging than I expected so I am very glad that it’s over. Not my favorite Sunday morning activity, I must say! I wish that I could take the rest of the day off to relax, but unfortunately my next round of exams start up next week, and I have a lot of studying to do, not to mention other work for my two volunteer positions and countless other things. But I did want to take a few minutes to share my latest updates!

Firstly, I am very excited to report that I have secured my first formal coaching gig, coaching the Gilda’s Club team to run the 2012 NYC Marathon! This has been in the works for several weeks, but I didn’t want to mention it until my position was official. Physical Equilibrium, where I intern, coaches Gilda’s club every year for the marathon and needed a running coach, so I obviously expressed interest and interviewed for the job. I can’t wait to finally make use of my RRCA certification and get some great experience – earning money obviously is helpful too, given that my two other positions are unpaid!

I will be coaching seven long runs and attending several meetings beginning in June. I will of course be doing my own training for the Chicago marathon, so I’ll need to make sure I remain available and committed to my runners without sacrificing the quality of my own runs. The solution I’ve come up with is to do my long runs the day before or day after the group runs (since I have the flexibility to choose the group long run days), and use group runs as recovery (since I don’t have to run more than 6M with them, unless I want to). I can also perhaps bike alongside my runners if I’m too tired to run (if I can borrow a bike). I’m sure I’ll also do a few longer runs with them too, but I’ll figure that out once I have a better sense of everyone’s pacing and what my own training schedule will be like. Should be fun! Also makes me feel better about not running NYC this year, as this way I still get to be involved.

Second, in this past week’s cooking class, I learned how to butcher a whole chicken. I realize that doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it was pretty cool. It will also help me save some money, as buying a whole chicken is far more economical. Obviously, I took photos (look away if you don’t like chicken).

 

I also had my first training with City Harvest on Friday – it was our own training on the Fruit Bowl program, so that we are prepared to begin training teachers next week. I will be working with two other volunteers to train about 500 teachers at 60 or 70 sites (preschools, after school programs etc) on the basics of healthy nutrition, the goals and objectives of Fruit Bowl (essentially, promoting healthy eating habits and regular physical activity to fight childhood obesity) and various activities they can use in their classrooms. The goal is to enhance participants’ knowledge about the Fruit Bowl program resources and prepare them to provide healthy snacks and nutrition education activities for the children they teach.

The training went very well – we essentially reviewed the entire presentation we will be giving and practiced leading nutrition activities. I was slightly nervous but I got positive feedback from my trainer, which gave me confidence. It’s a lot of information, and I have quite a lot of prep to do to familiarize myself with the materials, but it was fun, interesting and I really like the two other volunteers. I think we’ll make a great team! Our first site is a preschool up on West 155th street early Friday morning. It’s going to be a lot of work, given that we will be doing several site visits a week (and each will take up to 4.5 hours), but I think it will be worth it. Certainly my experience as a nutrition educator will help me develop skills that will prepare me for coaching this summer, and also for my career as an RD.

Lastly, I decided to enter the Brooklyn Half Marathon tomorrow, which is on May 19th. I really want to get another shot at improving my time, but after speaking with my PT on Wednesday, I decided that I need to focus on letting my hamstring heal 100% before getting back into structured training. She reminded me that running strong in Chicago is far more important to me than shaving a minute or two off my half time. My hamstring has been a bit sore after the race, but I’m hoping that with some low mileage weeks, lots of stretching and continued PT, I’ll bounce back soon. I’m tired of being in this weird gray area of injury – well enough to run but not well enough to push myself as much as I’d like – so I need to put in the time now to make sure I’m feeling great before my next training cycle begins in May.

Happy Spring – and Spring break to any of my fellow students out there! It doesn’t exactly feel like a break, given that I have a midterm the week after next, several assignments and a whole lot of reading and studying to do, but ten days without classes or the library is good enough for me!

Last week, I talked about breaking down the bigger, crazier picture into smaller, more manageable goals when your life is so relentlessly busy as mine is right now. One of goals for this semester was to kick butt on my first exam in eight years, to give myself confidence that my brain still works – check! Today, I will have completed another goal – SURVIVE THE WEEK.

Have you ever felt hungover, not because you had anything to drink but because your previous day was that insane? That’s how I felt Tuesday morning, after a long weekend of cramming and two exams back to back on Monday afternoon – my brain was beyond fried. I actually felt that way on Monday morning too, which didn’t bode well for being able to think clearly later in the day. Usually on mornings like these, all I want to do is pull the covers over my head when my alarm goes off. But what did I do instead? I went for a run (surprise, surprise) – nothing challenging, just a relaxed 3 miler along the river to flush my system and clear my head. Sometimes that extra bit of sleep helps, but at other times (if you’re already awake, feeling stressed out – as I was), a short, easy run will calm and then energize your system for whatever lies ahead. That day was VERY long, but I got through it and I think I even did quite well on both exams (I don’t find out for another week or two).

Better yet, I came home Monday evening to something very exciting that arrived in the mail – a copy of Sam Murphy’s latest running book, Real Women Run (published by Kyle Books, photos by Eddie Jacob), featuring my running story! I wrote my story and did the photo shoot last summer, as you may recall, and have been eagerly awaiting this package ever since. It was awesome to finally see my running story in print, along with five photos from my shoot (two with the story, and three elsewhere in the book). The book isn’t officially published until March 29th, so I have to wait until then to post my running story, but here’s a sneak peak of my two pages in the book:

Monday’s intensity really set the tone for the week. I was relieved to have completed three of my four midterms, but I still had so much to tackle, and as of now, I’m nowhere near finished with what I had hoped to accomplish by the end of today. Looking back on what I DID accomplish this week, however, perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Here are a few highlights, in addition to those discussed above:

Successful tempo session – I’m seeing the PT again later today to check on my right hamstring, but overall I’d say that I’m feeling pretty solid. I’m not as fast as I’d like to be, nor was I able to build up to a decent tempo distance in this training cycle (I did 3M and 2x2M before I got injured, but on Tuesday, only reached 3×1.5M). At least I’m running without pain, and that certainly is a huge part of running success! I also got myself back down to 118 pounds from 124 back in January, so that will help with my speed. I normally do my tempo runs at 7:24 pace, and recently have been running closer to 7:30 – but as I increased the distance per interval on Tuesday, I realized that I needed to drop down to 7:35. I’m still not sure I can hold that pace for 13.1M, but I’m locking that in as my goal race pace for next Sunday. If I run around that pace, I can hit my sub-1:40 goal – nowhere near a PR, but that time would really give me confidence as I approach the start of Chicago training. Check out my training schedule for more details.

New volunteer position with City Harvest – As I’ve discussed before, a crucial piece of my education and training while I complete my DPD courses and eventually apply to a Dietietic Internship is volunteering at community centers, hospitals/long-term care facilities, and other nutrition-related organizations. I started my position at Physical Equilibrium last month, which has been going very well – I’m learning so much from the RD I work with – but a role at a private practice does not give me the experience I need to fully prepare myself for a Dietetic Internship. Thus, I applied for a nutrition education position with City Harvest – an incredible organization in NYC for anyone who has never heard of it.

The interview was on Tuesday afternoon and was slightly intense, given I haven’t done a formal interview in quite some time – several targeted questions about my teaching/coaching experience, what I can offer, and other more general interview questions – but it went well. I was offered and accepted the position! I will be conducting nutrition training and education sessions to groups of teachers at various pre-school and after-school sites across NYC, as part of City Harvest’s Fruit Bowl program. This program delivers fresh fruit and low-fat dairy foods to children, accompanied by education to help those children develop life-long healthy eating habits. The program has been in place since 2007, but my role as trainer to the teachers is something new. It’s going to be challenging and time consuming, but a really great opportunity to develop new skills and contribute to the community. I’m a bit nervous about the public speaking aspect of it – although I have performed on stage as an oboist in front of large crowds countless times, I’ve never had to speak! I’m sure I’ll be fine though, and I’ll have two other trainers with me. With this position, my schedule is officially MAXED out – it already feels maxed out now (I have no life outside of school, it’s sad), but I’ll make it work! I know it will be worth the time and effort.

Spring weather and successful track session: The weather on Wednesday and Thursday really lifted my spirits, even if I only got to enjoy it as I walked to/from campus and ran on Thursday. Isn’t it amazing what a little sunshine can do?! Thursday’s mid-day track session was a bit on the warm side, but I really enjoyed it. I can’t remember the last time I ran in WARM sunshine, in a tank top and shorts! It was amazing. I ran 2×1200, 4×400 and 2×200, with 1M warm up and cool down – it felt relatively easy and short, which I guess it was compared to previous track sessions. As with Tuesday’s tempo, I was mainly just pleased that I felt strong.

First interview as a coach: An editor from Competitor.com contacted me earlier in the week to see if I would be interested in talking to her over the phone about an article she was writing on fueling before morning runs and races. She had found me through RRCA’s website, which lists all certified coaches. I of course said yes, and we had a great chat Thursday afternoon about sports nutrition, among other things. I know it’s not a very big deal, particularly since she is interviewing several other coaches and it’s on their website rather than in print, but I still find it pretty cool! The article should be online in the next few weeks, including a few quotes from our conversation – hopefully I’ll sound okay! I have no clue what she’ll pull from our talk…

Today will be a big push to get work done, and then the weekend has some fun things in store! I’ll be working the Physical Equilibrium booth at the Multisport World NYC triathlon expo up at Columbia, from 9:30am – 12pm. If you happen to be in the area, come by and say hello! We may be doing mini nutrition assessments, among other things, and of course there are tons of other booths and lectures going on throughout the day (the event goes on until late afternoon). I plan on hearing Nancy Clarke, a very well-known sports nutritionist based in Boston, speak at 9:50am. Looking forward to hopefully meeting her too!

But the REALLY exciting part of tomorrow is E’s arrival in the afternoon!!! I haven’t seen him since I was in London 6 weeks ago. He will be visiting for my entire Spring break – he’s also running the NYC half with me next Sunday. We’re escaping to Vermont for a few nights which will be a huge treat, as I desperately need some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I miss being in nature!! His visit means that I won’t be able to get as much work done over break as I need to…but I’ll do what I can. I’m sure my brain needs a rest, anyway!

Happy Friday, Spring and Spring break everyone!

Be inspired, inspire

This was the message of a lovely card that I received from my sister when I got home on Saturday evening. It made me think of a yoga top that I often wear, purchased many years ago (right before moving to London, in fact) while spending some time in Santa Cruz.

The card (along with the thoughtful note inside) was well-timed, because inspiration pretty much sums up the fantastic weekend that I just had. It’s also something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently – what are my sources of inspiration and happiness, and how I might be able to inspire others?

When I got home on Saturday night, I was buzzing with positive energy (and perhaps some wine) after enjoying a long but incredible day, mostly in the sunshine. I kind of wish I had written this post right then, because I had so many amazing thoughts and feelings swirling inside of me, but sometimes it’s better to simply experience and appreciate those moments rather than document them.

London really comes alive when the sun is out, reminding me of why I put up with so many dreary days throughout the rest of the year! It’s always when I start to get really fed up and threaten to leave that London pulls out all the stops, giving me nearly perfect weather for days, displaying its beautiful flowers everywhere, inviting me to explore many different parts of town and join the throngs of happy (drunk) people in the city’s myriad green spaces, outdoor pubs/cafes etc…Yes, I realize this is also called Spring, but London seems to have a unique vibe in warmer weather compared to other cities, in my opinion at least. Perhaps we just appreciate these days more, since they are so precious!

When these days do occur, I typically sunbathe and picnic in the park or drink Pimm’s with friends on the river, and the bone-chilling, wet weather of yesterday quickly fades in my memory (until it inevitably returns, of course). All I can think about is how beautiful and vibrant London is – and how easy it is to escape when you feel like doing so! I miss California like crazy, but you can’t jet off to Morocco, Italy, Norway etc. from SFO for a couple of nights (well you can, but it’s not exactly recommended).

This is, of course, how many Americans like myself come over here with the intention of staying for a short period of time and then discover that they don’t want to leave. London grabs hold of you with its travel opportunities and extra weeks of vacation time – not to mention its national healthcare system and things like year-long maternity leave – it can be hard to break free! Then, after you’ve lived here for a certain amount of time, you start toying with the thought of becoming a citizen – not because you actually want to be British, but because you’ve already made a significant time investment and that passport opens doors! That said, although being able to work anywhere in the EU and UK is quite appealing to me in theory, staying in London for three more years isn’t appealing at all (okay, maybe just a little bit).

So don’t worry – I’m not feeling inspired after this weekend to stay here forever. All I’m saying is that London can be incredibly seductive, particularly around this time of year, and when the time does come for me to head back to the US, it will be hard to let go of many things that are important to me and that I currently take for granted.

This weekend did inspire me, however, in a number of other ways, including keeping up my relatively new yoga practice after a challenging session on Saturday morning. I had a leisurely 4M run to a gym across town, where my Thursday yoga instructor was leading a 90-minute class in a larger, brighter studio. Everything flowed better than normal (perhaps the later time and warmer weather helped) and I made notable progress in several poses! The second half of the class was tough, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it and felt a particularly potent combination of runner’s high/yoga glow for the rest of the day.

I met up with E after class and we headed to Marylebone High street, which was really fun given our tendency to hang out a bit too much in our own neighborhoods. We lucked out and snagged a prime sunny table at a cute cafe for lunch. Here I am enjoying my long-awaited first Pimm’s of the season – pure bliss!

This was  followed by home-made organic ice cream from La Fromagerie, an exciting discovery that I made while wandering along a side street. I will certainly visit again very soon – everything looked amazing. And their mint-chocolate chip ice cream literally tasted like stracciatella infused with fresh mint leaves, probably because that’s exactly what they did. Mind blowing.

We enjoyed our ice cream while walking to Regents Park, which was of course packed. After admiring all of the gorgeous tulips and other flowers, we managed to find a secluded spot under a tree to chill out for a couple hours. How could I NOT feel inspired – buzzing from a great workout, a delicious meal, my favorite drink and loads of sunshine while cuddling with my boyfriend on the grass, staring up at this view?

In the early evening, E and I parted ways and I decided to walk all the way home (about 4-5 miles) to make the most of the weather. It was awesome, but exhausting after the other activities of the day. As I approached Zucca – a relatively new, small Italian restaurant which is always booked weeks in advance – I sent E a text, jokingly, that I might rest my legs and get a bite to eat there, to help get me all the way home (five minutes away). Next thing I knew, I was sitting at the tiny bar, chatting with the chefs and waiters and eyeing all the incredible dishes they were creating.

I ordered some appetizers, including the carpaccio of sea bass with olive oil and fresh chili that I enjoyed the last time I was there, a mixed salad and a basket of their delicious breads.

Would I like any wine, asked my waiter?

No thank you, I’m fine with water…A few minutes later, I started to peruse the wine list. May as well take a look…

Would I like any wine, asked a different waiter?

Hm…

A massive glass of white wine suddenly appeared in front of me – so refreshing, perfect with my sea bass – as well as a second basket of their addictive foccacia. I was getting full, but was still salivating as I watched the chef prepare a plate of taglierini with spring herbs and fresh ricotta. I started to tell her how much I LOVE fresh ricotta.

Would you like some pasta, the chef asked me?

Um, yes please!

I glanced to my right at the only other person sitting at the bar, another woman on her own enjoying some wine and various plates of food too. We shared a smile. I can’t remember the last time I rocked up to a nice restaurant and had an impromptu meal by myself – it was so lovely!

I completed my journey home slightly drunk, very full and extremely happy, simply thinking – this is what life’s about! Enjoying the colors of a particularly beautiful flower or tree; feeling pride in a certain achievement – big or small; savoring a delicious meal or glass of wine; enjoying the company of a loved one or some quality time alone…

Days like today.

And days like the following day, when I woke up and immediately set off on one of the best long runs I have had in a VERY long time. Maybe it was all that pasta and bread! I had no real target in mind, and nothing in particular that I was training for, so this run was purely for ME. Everything clicked and felt great – the weather was ideal, the tourists on my route mostly stayed out of my way, and the songs I listened to (which was a treat in itself) perfectly suited the exact moments during which they played. I felt strong, relaxed and completely pain-free.

Awesome 11M run in the sunshine: Garmin Connect details

When I got back to my flat, I was literally dancing and singing – it was the highest runner’s high that I have had in months! Fitting too, since exactly one year ago at that time, I was just about to finish my first marathon, in Paris! I couldn’t help but think back to that incredible sense of achievement I felt after crossing the finish line – and how badly I want to run another marathon (my third) in the near future. But first, I’m going to really cherish this period of “anti-training” – running for no purpose other than to make myself feel good!

I felt even better after a delicious brunch of eggs on top of sauteed purple kale, baby eggplant, shitake mushrooms and wholegrain bread…

…after which I headed to my local park to nap under another tree – this one with huge, pink powder puff blossoms. It was slightly less peaceful with all the screaming children, but enjoyable nonetheless. My favorite moment was when I thought to myself, “I would love an ice cream – if only I didn’t have to get up and walk to the store around the corner to get one.” Surely I’m allowed these thoughts after a long run?! Moments later, an ice cream truck drove up right next to me. Boom!

Lounging around was followed by pear ciders (Kopperberg, the best kind) in a local pub with E, and another delicious meal back home. I made a rendition of my quinoa herb pomegranate salad, with slightly different vegetables and grilled marinated ostrich steak on top. Yummy!

It was a bit hard to get back to reality this morning as I walked to the office rather than the park, but at least I got a last taste of my wonderful weekend for lunch as I sat outside in the sun and had my leftover quinoa salad. Much nicer than last week’s oatcakes and hummus (clearly the Bodychef diet has been thrown out the window). And sure enough, the rain came back in full force later in the day, just in time for my walk home – good thing too, because if every weekend were like this last one, then I don’t think I would ever leave…

Happy Friday, everyone! I mean, how can you NOT be happy when it looks like this outside?!

It was a sad moment when I reached the office after my lovely walk to work this morning and had to part with the sunshine. Thankfully, I was able to escape for lunch and a nice stroll along the river Thames.

But I’ll stop getting distracted and get on to the main topic of this post, which is my final review of the Bodychef home delivery diet that I have been trying out this week.

It’s been hard to stay focused this afternoon (this weather makes me crave a giant ice cream and a Pimm’s), but thankfully I am nearly finished with my 5-day experiment. Yippee! Aside from my one dinner out, I have only supplemented what they have provided with some extra fruit and veg, as well as a small portion of high quality dark chocolate each day (more antioxidants!).

I’m not sure how much weight I’ve actually lost, but I’m guessing somewhere around a pound, which is right on target. More importantly, I feel great compared to Monday! I’m sure the sunshine and spring blossoms have contributed too, though…

So what’s my final verdict?

I understand that running this type of business must be extremely challenging. Think about the hundreds of distinct tastes and allergies you must try to satisfy, while providing a balanced, healthy diet using ingredients that are fresh and tasty yet cost efficient and able to last up to 5 days in the fridge. Also, everything needs to be able to fit into the box they provide, which means no large containers or bulky food items.

Nevertheless, based on my experience, my criticisms of Bodychef are as follows:

  • More balance and protein: Lunches were too small compared to the dinners, and I could’ve used more protein in general (which would have helped control my appetite). I was told when I called that lunches can be made larger and dinners smaller to correct this imbalance, so I would make this request in the future.
  • More flavor: Dinners were a bit bland, so I added cumin, fresh ginger, salt, pepper, dijon mustard etc. to spice things up a bit. Although, I guess it’s better that the food was bland rather than over-spiced!
  • More green vegetables and fresher produce: Bodychef has probably chosen certain types of food because they work best in the delivery context, and have avoided other foods because of higher costs. Regardless, I wish that they would have provided more fresh produce, particularly greens, as well as a broader selection of fruits and vegetables. Why was my one green salad for the week so tiny? Surely greens aren’t the calorie culprits! If space is a concern, place the greens in a bag rather than plastic container. I also received two tiny chopped salads for Thursday – the one for dinner tasted slightly off.  Maintaining freshness is, I assume, where many food delivery programs fall short.
  • More variety/more superfoods: This is an extension of the above. Instead of so many crackers for the dips at lunchtime, why not include some celery, bell pepper and carrot sticks? Or replace one of the two broccoli portions with kale or spinach (if we’re talking superfoods)? Or substitute a portion of red grapes with berries or pomegranate seeds? Or serve nonfat Greek yoghurt with honey rather than cheese cubes for dessert after a day that also had soft cheese and grated cheese?

Overall, however, this program has been a positive experience for me. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I’ve hit a “reset” button on my body. The program/menu was all very well organized, and most of their food tasted pretty good – I started to really like the whole cracker/spread thing for lunch, even!

Personally though, I would not want to do this for an extended period of time. I love to food shop and cook too much, and I prefer fresher, healthier and a greater variety of foods than the ones they provided. But I would certainly recommend doing a food delivery service for a week or two if you’re trying to develop healthier eating habits and want to get a better sense of portion control, and struggle to do this on your own.

Although I will not be continuing as a Bodychef customer, I do feel inspired to be my own “bodychef” over the next two weeks, before I fly to Vietnam for my next travel and culinary adventure. This weekend, aside from finally getting back into my weekly long run, I plan to do LOADS of cooking! I’m looking forward to making some of my favorites, including my Ostrich chili, quinoa herb pomegranate salad, and other good stuff, which I will then divvy up into the containers that I saved from this past week’s meals and snacks. It will be a cost and time efficient way to stay on track with my healthy eating and, in my opinion at least, far more enjoyable than doing another 5-day home delivery program.

So can I out-chef the Bodychef?

I’m pretty sure that I can do a much better job creating a menu for myself, but obviously not all of my improvements would suit the company as a whole. Either way, challenge accepted! 🙂

There is an amazing hybrid tree around the corner from my flat which makes me very happy in the springtime (you gotta enjoy the simple pleasures in life, right?).

It looks normal for most of the year and isn’t on a busy street, so it’s easy to miss. In spring, however, the tree shows its true colors when it reveals its gorgeous mixture of white and pink blossoms. For four years now, I have watched it carefully throughout March and April, looking forward to the day it finally blooms – today is that day! So, of course, I had to take photos.

These trees across the street were pretty awesome this morning, too.

And speaking of colors, I had a pretty spectacular seaweed salad last night. When I saw it, I nearly described the bottom two types as appearing “radioactive” to my friend, but then thankfully my brain switched on and I realized that perhaps that would not be the best choice of adjectives…

After a dinner of yellowtail carpaccio, seaweed salad with a tasty creamy dressing, lots of edamame, and more of that intensely flavorful Rabot Estate chocolate I bought last weekend, I wasn’t too excited for my breakfast of  “Bodychef special cereal” this morning.

Definitely didn’t look or taste very special, but was relatively filling with all the nuts and seeds.

At least the weekend is nearly here and it’s another gorgeous day outside – feels like summer, actually! Surprisingly, my oatcakes with cheese and chopped salad (bell pepper, corn, celery and onion) on top and more frozen grapes for dessert ended up being a tasty, refreshing and convenient meal for my outdoor picnic just now!

So, between all of the above as well as the fact that I finally was able to bind my arms in a twisting pose this morning in yoga, I’d say that today is a great day!

Isn’t it just incredible what a few days of sunshine can do to your mood?! Granted, it’s still cold out, and I still live in London (so I’m expecting the rain to start any second now), but I feel the season finally changing and it’s very exciting!

With my half-marathon training nearly over (only a week and a half to go) and no other big races planned (yet), I’m now in vacation planning mode – because as much as I dislike the cold and darkness of winter, nothing is more SAD to me than an empty travel calendar!

What’s in the pipeline, you ask?

*Marrakesh in late March as my celebratory post-race long weekend;

*Northern Vietnam for two weeks in late April/early May (this one’s a real treat, given that I’ve never been to Asia aside from a trip to Korea 12 years ago);

*A 3-day weekend somewhere in Europe TBD at the end of May;

*A weekend in the Lake District with a group of friends for a trail race that we’re doing together in early June;

*A long weekend in southern Italy at the end of June;

*A 3-day weekend in Krakow in early July;

*A weekend somewhere in Switzerland (need some mountain time) in mid/late July;

*And last but certainly not least, a longer trip to California (and maybe elsewhere) in August/September to meet my newborn niece/nephew, spend time with my family and celebrate my birthday!

Wow – who needs sunshine?! Going through that list really lifted my spirits (while simultaneously seriously depressing my bank account)! Then again, what’s the purpose of working hard and earning money if you’re not going to spend it on something that makes you happy?

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

Let the baby food making begin! Gotta say, I'm really excited. Got the @beaba_usa food maker and it is SO easy to use - as in you push a button to steam, then turn the button to puree - kind of feel like I'm cheating 😂 Started with puréed butternut squash (using mostly organic produce for her but this one wasn't), froze most of it in 2oz containers, and left a few out for A to try! I expected her to spit it out but she liked it! And because it's literally just puréed veg, I eat whatever she doesn't. 😜 Now that Arielle is nearly 6 months old (this week!), we finally took our new @thule running stroller out for a spin on @summerstreets. Running with this thing is not easy - esp pushing uphill (E and I took turns pushing) - but it was so fun to be active together as a family. Bonus - A slept almost the whole time! 👍🏻 How are you making exercise fun this weekend? Friday night pizza night! Can't remember the last time we made pizza - so much fun and so tasty! Got the whole wheat dough from TJs, cut it in half (otherwise dough is too thick), and made one large pizza to share and two personal pizzas to enjoy tomorrow (okay, we split one of them as seconds because it was so yummy). Topped with shredded cheese, portabello mushrooms, spinach, sundried tomato, olives and ricotta. 👌🏻 Pictured - the small pizzas before popping in the oven! Thanks for the samples, @barillaus! Excited to try these products, especially as I start to train for my first post baby races (a trail half marathon and possibly a marathon later in the year). #eatforendurance Tried out another bean based pasta tonight - @traderjoeslist black bean rotini with pesto sauce, tomatoes, artichokes and parmesan. I prefer normal wheat based pasta, but it was pretty tasty, super filling, and packed with protein and fiber! Good morning!! I love to bake healthy (and not so healthy) treats and realized I hadn't done any baking since the week before the baby was born (nearly 6 months ago!), so I whipped up a batch of my fav Superhero muffins from the #runfasteatslow cookbook to enjoy throughout the week. Made a few modifications this time (added flaxseeds and coconut flakes, as well as some chopped pecans instead of walnuts) and they are soooo delicious! Have a fantastic Monday!

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