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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week has been a light training week for me with the NYC Triathlon Relay this Sunday. Team Dietitian Divas will be racing for our third podium – with 1st place female relay in 2013 and 2nd in 2014! I’m not sure my hamstring will allow for a 100% racing effort (not to mention my lack of speed work since since April!) but I’ll still go for it!!

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After Sunday, it’s full steam ahead on the training front. E and I have been searching for another ultra to run in the fall and finally settled on the 65km Ultra Trail Harricana of Canada in La Malbaie, Quebec on September 19th. We plan to fly into Montreal, celebrate my birthday there, then rent a car and drive past Quebec City to La Malbaie (about 4 hours). Worst case – if the weather is really horrible or we can’t do this for another reason – we’ll have a fun weekend in Canada!

Just to give you a little preview, here’s an excerpt from the race website: “A perfect mix of flow and technical. The race will get underway at the Hautes-Gorge de la Riviere Malbaie National Park and end at the Mont Grand-Fonds Ski Center. The course will take you halfway through the famous trail called La Traversee de Charlevoix. Passing several lakes, runners will have the chance to encounter Canadian wildlife, including beaver, porcupine or moose.” Apparently, we also need a bell for bears – well, that’s on the optional gear list at least!

I’ve only been averaging about 20-25 weekly miles since April, thus two months isn’t exactly an ideal amount of time to prepare for a 40 mile trail run with 6500 ft of elevation gain. However, I think we can handle it – we’ve gotten some great trail running and hiking in over the last month, and I hope to build a good base supplemented with hill and strength training.

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A key part of our training, given that we mostly run along the East River and in Central Park, will be escaping the city to hit the trails. Last weekend, we ventured out to the Breakneck Ridge Trail Loop for some cross training. The trailhead is a 90 minute ride from Grand Central on Metro North, and the train was packed with hikers given the beautiful weather! It was a perfect start to our upcoming “back to back” Saturday/Sunday training runs, given we did 13M the previous day.

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The first 1M or so involves some serious scrambling and climbing – I was pretty much on all fours for the first hour. These pictures don’t quite capture how steep it was – and the trees disappeared after the first section! I don’t have a lot of climbing experience, so I had planned on taking the easier ascents, but in the end we stuck with the more challenging route. I was surprised how natural it felt to climb – I just moved by instinct and was able to put any fears out of my head. E has a lot of experience with climbing, so whenever I got in a bind (which happened on one very big rock), he talked me through it. It was amazing training and super fun.

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The views of the Hudson weren’t too shabby either! A good excuse to take a break and catch our breath, with the viewpoints all throughout the scrambling section and the sun beating down on us.

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Once we made it to the fourth peak, we stopped for a quick lunch in the shade. It was simple but I cannot tell you how delicious it tasted – especially since I had placed a frozen water bottle with the bag to keep the food ice cold! Hummus, smoked turkey, dill, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles on whole wheat with sliced apples and a big bag of raw veggies. SO refreshing!

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We opted to do a 5.5M loop from Breakneck Ridge to Cold Spring (white to blue to red to blue trails). The trail became a bit more runnable after this point and also mostly flat / downhill, so we ran the remaining 3M. The trail was beautiful – mostly in the forest, which felt great after being in the sun – and towards the end the trail was even paved. It ended with a single track parallel to the road, and then about 0.5 on the actual road into town. I was pretty shocked my stomach was able to handle running after lunch – but that’s a good sign for ultra training! We ended at Moo Moo’s Creamery for ice cream, obviously – SO worth it. The ice cream tasted so homemade and really hit the spot!

This was a great hike and so easily reached from the city. We’re definitely planning to go back to do a longer loop with more running!

E and I recently spent 10 days in Maui and 4 days in the Catskills. As usual, our travel was filled with some unforgettable runs, hikes and meals!

MAUI, HAWAII

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It was E’s first trip to Hawaii and I hadn’t been there in seven years, so we were excited to do some exploring in between chilling out on the beach with my family.

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Our first adventure was a 10M run from Makena to Kihei literally on every terrain imaginable – road, pavement, sand, grass, gravel trail and dirt trail. The paved beach trail (pictured above) meanders through the fancy Waliea hotels (from the Fairmont to the Andaz) and is a popular path among runners and walkers. What you may not know is that you can keep running past the Andaz along the beach (bottom left) for another mile or so to the Mana Kai hotel, along the grass (middle) around the hotel across more grass and onto a gravel trail leading past a boat ramp and onto another trail that takes you into Kihei (bottom right). Most tourists don’t go this far so you can get some peace and quiet! We did a shorter version of this run – from the Fairmont to the trail and back (~5-6M) – a couple times later in the week.

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The views are magnificent, and the earlier you go the better! We started our runs no later than 6:45am and already, the sun was beating down on us and the path was crowded (at least in Wailea). These runs were not easy between the sand, the heat and the rolling hills, but the scenery certainly made the miles fly by.

We also went on a 12M run/hike in Poli Poli State Park, which is way up a volcano towards Haleakala National Park along a tiny VERy windy road. We planned to devote one day just to a long run/hike somewhere far away from the beaten path and after some research, E decided upon Poli Poli. I won’t bother to write about this because E already wrote an awesome recap on his new trail running website, trailz.io, that truly captures the spirit of our adventure. The terrain was incredibly varied, but here are a couple photos to give you a sense of two sections of the trail…

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Lastly, we did a beautiful hike (with a little running) along the King’s Highway trail. It’s rocky but runable in certain sections. We happened to go there on a breezy, slightly cooler day, which made the temperature manageable in the late morning, but this is one place to watch out for the sun and to be sure to bring enough hydration! We only hiked for a couple hours but this trail goes on and on and on.

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Eating and being active of course go hand in hand, so I’ll leave you with a few of my Maui fav’s in case you find yourself in the area. We spent a week with my family in a condo and did a lot of grilling (my favorite fish is Opah moonfish – marinated in ginger, tamari and lemon – pictured bottom right with spinach and purple sweet potatoes), but here are some great restaurants that we love (some new, some very old):

  • Monkeypod kitchen: Good happy hour, have to get the Mai Tai
  • Cafe O’lei: Great value especially for lunch
  • Kimo’s: An old fav in Lahaina, go at sunset and don’t miss the hula pie
  • Coconut’s Fish Cafe: Yummy fish tacos in Kihei
  • Flatbread Company: Great pizzas in Paia

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We can’t wait to go back to Maui next year!

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CATSKILLS, NEW YORK

A week after we got back from Hawaii, we rented an adorable log cabin near Phoenicia to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. The weather was horrible (heavy rain most of the time), which initially really bummed us out. It ended up being a blessing, as it forced us to relax by the fire for two days and get some much needed recovery. We did a lot of resting, reading, and s’mores eating! We ventured out once our first day to grab lunch at Phoenicia Diner – the town seemed completely dead but apparently that’s where everyone was hanging out. Totally packed! We opted for breakfast but the lunch items looked incredible too.

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The rain let up just long enough for us to squeeze in a few hikes. All that rain explains why the area is so incredibly lush, but it also meant that the trails were super muddy and slick. Even on a dry day the trails are quite rocky and steep, so we ditched the idea of trail running and were happy to hike instead (enough of a challenge!).

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Our first hike was on the Slide-Wittenberg Trail, one of the trail-heads that originates in the Woodland Valley Campground just a few miles from our cabin. We got a late start (mid-afternoon), as the rain had only just stopped, and there literally wasn’t a soul on the trails, so we only did an out and back on a section of the loop (about 3.3 miles). The trail was beautiful, although sections of the trail were engulfed in water and at times we were essentially hiking up a rocky stream. Nevertheless, it was very peaceful and it felt great to be active after lounging around the cabin!

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Our second and main hike was a 7 mile out and back on the Giant Ledge-Panther Mountain Trail. You can get on this trail from Woodland Valley Campgrounds, but we decided to try something different and instead catch the trail-head near Big Indian (a 30 minute drive from Phoenicia). We started on the footbridge and from there it was essentially one very long climb up to a series of ledges with stunning views. The weather was still variable (we had sun and rain) and the trail was a mud bath, but thankfully the weather was clear enough when we reached the view points to glimpse the endless tree-covered mountains.

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After passing these ledges, we carried on towards what we thought would be the peak of Panther mountain, but strangely the trail started to go back down and we eventually decided to turn around. We later found out we went too far. There were a couple nice view points, but not so dramatic that we thought we had reached our final destination! Giant Ledge is the best feature of this trail and were it not for the fact that we wanted a longer workout, I think we would have been happy stopping at that point. Overall, a beautiful and challenging hike and well worth the effort!

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Of course, one of the best parts of doing a long run or hike is the awesome meal afterwards. We finished our hike around 4pm, just in time for Peekamoose restaurant in Big Indian to open for “dinner.” This was our favorite restaurant in the area – we had a huge meal including appetizers and dessert since we hadn’t eaten a real lunch. Everything was delicious and homemade. The restaurant was empty (because who eats dinner at 4pm?!), which was a good thing since we had attempted to clean ourselves up after our hike but we were still pretty gross! I don’t eat red meat that often but sometimes I really crave a good burger and this burger was INSANE. Definitely the opposite from the other burger pictured above from a few nights before – a delicious black bean burger at the adorable Woodstock Garden Cafe. We stopped here on our way to Phoenicia – beautiful garden and tasty, healthy vegan fare!

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Our last day was our anniversary  – I made the above photo collage from all our wedding and honeymoon pics. Before our drive back to NYC, we checked out the Tanbark traila short loop that starts right by the post office in Phoenicia. It was a lovely, less technical trail that we could have run in parts had we not been so sore from the previous day’s hike! Worth checking out if you’re in the area and want something a bit less strenuous.

We’re back in NYC now without any trips planned for awhile. I can’t complain after two incredible vacations! We’re hoping to enjoy some local running/hiking to build up for our Fall races, which we still haven’t locked in but we’re getting close to pulling the trigger on a few.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend filled with awesome workouts and delicious food!

sunrise on bear mountain

4:30AM on the Palisades Parkway

“I look around and all I see is crazy people without their medication, all bug-eyed and excitable. Navy seals, army rangers and the bat-shit crazies all let out early for time-served. It was quite the moment when I realized I was one of them and our collective medical treatment would begin very…very…soon…”

The Plan

Running an ultramarathon is like eating an elephant: you can only finish it with the right amount of patience and barbecue sauce.  But mostly, it’s about the patience.

The North Face Bear Mountain 50K is a monster; one of the more challenging “short” ultramarathons on the east coast. From my previous attempt at the 21K distance, I was prepared for just how technical the trails would be. I was less prepared for how torrential rains a few days prior would shape the course into an unrecognizable minefield.

As this was my first ultramarathon, I only had a few KEY objectives:
(1) don’t get injured, (2) don’t DNF (“Did Not Finish”) (although a DFL was OK – i.e. “Dead Fucking Last” ) – i.e. make the cutoffs, and most importantly (3) eat/drink aggressively. As it turned out, the course was in such bad shape that balancing speed vs. injury was the main obstacle. I still can’t get my head around how the professionals just cruised over such horrible terrain. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

This sort of distance is a true measure of physical and mental toughness however when the elements are against you, at least for me, it turned into an exercise of survival.

31 miles. 5000 feet of elevation. 8 hours and 18 minutes of relentless forward progress.

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Mantra for the race

Relentless Forward Progress

The key to running this distance is preparation. It’s not enough to have run a number of marathons. Running an ultramarathon, especially on trails, is a totally different animal. The time on your feet alone is something that most road runners cannot anticipate, let alone tolerate.

If I’m completely honest, my preparation was more mental than physical – as a keen listener & reader of all things ultra, I had enough sound advice under my belt to draw upon to make the day manageable. Sure, I increased my training volume – three 20 mile runs and one 23 mile run – a lot of strength training but all of this was small potatoes. Even the 500+ miles in training volume this year ( a lot of which, with a pack to harden my quads ) wasn’t the real preparation.

All of the nuggets of advice I took in from others – everything from “what to eat” to “how to run downhill” – all of these small pieces of advice pushed me to a strong finish. If I had to pick one piece of advice that was the most true it was this: “things will get better”. And it was true. Every bad patch was followed by a better patch somewhat later – the key was sticking it out. I simply had no measure or method to gague how hard to push the course or what pacing strategy I should emplore – there was just no comparison; no equivlaent race – even this course in previous years wouldn’t have felt the same – so mostly, I just went by feel; very conservative.

The Course

The North Face people really know how to put on a race. Everything you need is really there. It’s a far cry from the trail races I used to run in the UK, where you’d be impressed if you had a stick of gum at the aid station. Mile 20 deep in the forest had chicken broth and coca-cola – both of which I enjoyed. Some even had medical personnel to assist with blister repair ( I also took this in, given the backs of my achilles were bloodied by mile 15 ).

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I’ll have to have a word with the RD about the hill at mile 28.

The Garmin GPS details really tell the whole story – I was ready to run, but the course had other plans. I probably only ran 15 miles, the rest either hiking uphill with my hands on my legs (taking the load) or gingerly trying not to trip on rocks littering both the river beds and the streams.

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Deep Mud for the Cameras

The best part of running it last year was that I KNEW when the bad terrain was over – around mile 28 – from there, it was super runnable downhill with a few modest hikes uphill. Even after that many miles on my feet, I was excited to be able to throw myself down the mountain again and finish feeling relatively strong. Given the distance it’s amazing to think that I felt better after 8 hours then I did when I red-lined my marathon last fall – think it really tells you something about how the distance isn’t as tricky as the intensity at which you do it. It was the perfect ending to a long day.

After over eight hours on the trails, there’s too many details to count. Here’s a quick snapshot of the highlights:

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Achilles Blisters! Still not healed after 10 days….

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Fix Me Doctor!

Course Notes
Journey – 4AM wake-up for a 7AM start. Of course, I didn’t sleep through the night.
Pre-Race – Fire to keep warm and fresh coffee. Didn’t stoke the bowels, but nice and toasty before the sun rose.
Cramps – I started the race with a horrible stitch that didn’t go away for five miles. Wonderful.
Elevation – 5k feet of elevation ascent/descent is fun – only when runnable. Not so runnable. Quads. Quads. Quads.
Mud – Tons of mud, ankle deep. Insane how thick and all encompassing. Never. Fucking. Ending.
Water – Deep streams and treacherous crossings. Cools the heals at least.
Bugs – They were everywhere. Not sure how I forgot about this one.
Leaves – Wet leaves were slippery. Dry leaves hide TONS of sharp rocks. Very hard to navigate.
Branches – Look at your feet, roots below. Look up quick, branch in the face!
Briars – Tons of sharp briars on the legs scraping as you go @ 21M. Sweet!
Rocks – Unrunnable rocks. Every rock on the east coast they found.
Scrambles – Getting to the top of the mountain required hands AND feet. Up and down.
Hallucinations – These were helpful; animated arrows on the ground showing me the way through the rock field. Still, a little unnerving. Especially because I didn’t realize they were hallucinations until the following day.
Blisters/Toe Jams – Amazing I didn’t break anything. I definitely kicked a few BIG rocks. Let’s see what’s different in a few days.
Blood/guts – I didn’t realize until the end of the race, but apparently I was bleeding at the achilles on both legs. Good thing I wasn’t stomping through malaria infested swamp water for 5 miles. Oh wait….

People – Trail races are just full of friendly people, all willing to assist, provides words of encouragement – it’s just a great sub-culture.

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ICE ICE BABY!

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Obligatory gear shot.

Good Decisions
CARBO LOADING – Burritos. Rice. Repeat.
REST – I had a very light running week. Felt very fresh for the race if not a little over-carbo loaded. The wife was in charge of my nutrition plan and kept me stocked with quality rice, pasta, gummy bears, swedish fish – perfection.
Relentless forward progress – There were chairs at the aid stations but I knew if I stopped moving then my day was over. KEEP ON MOVING!
Hydration Bladder – Keeping hydrated was key. I was aggressive on drinking fluids but it still didn’t pee once in 8 hours (at some point, I did wonder if my kidneys were shutting down and I was going to die out there…)
Streams – Turns out that running through streams reduces swelling. Who knew?
Body Glide + Baby Oil – The anti-chafing combination saving the nation.
Flat Coke/Pepsi – Perfect to get in calories at the aid stations & settle the stomach. ULTRA STAPLE!
Potatoes dipped in salt – Amazing. Simply amazing. Aid Stations Glory.
SaltStick Capsules – Amazing. Effective. Will use in the future.
Strength Training – Squats. Push-ups. Crunches. Saved my legs.
Pearl Izumi N2 trail – Effective on road. Effective on trails.
iPod – Hate to run with music but it saved me this time. Preloaded trance and dance podcasts but wound up just listening to the customized playlist.
Wife @ The End – Wonderful seeing the wife at the end of the race – what a trooper waiting for me given how long it took. If you do not have one, I suggest you pick one up.
Burgers – Protein is a must after such an event. A day of eating fake food – all I wanted was something hot, dead, and dripping in blood.

 

Better Decisions
Sharpy! – Next time, write the aid station distances on your forearm. Maybe even a mantra ( my mantra was “tough days don’t last – tough people do” )
Long Socks – Smartwool socks were fantastic, however they slipped down, ripping apart my achilles in the process.
Gaiters – They worked in the UK; now bring them to America on a wet day.
Bug Spray – How could you forget DEET? Definitely ate a bunch of bugs. Protein?
Make The next one Runnable – A great race, but I sure did miss running – next one should be more runnable.

The Carnage
Twenty-four hours post race and the main challenge was getting my digestive system moving again. Killer rosemary fries and burgers from Back-40 did the job nicely. My back/core was also incredible sore from all of the stabilization activities. Quads took a beating but I’d say no worse than a fast marathon.

Six days later and my quads have returned. I can now walk upright – it’s amazing. My achilles blister is still in bad shape – the burn was deep and although I have been able to run on it, the return to form will likely take another week I’m expecting.

I’m still unable to process the enormity of the undertaking. I’ve dreamed of running an ultramarathon for some time. Now that it’s finally in the can, I can’t wait to sign up for my next one – it’s going to be DRY, it’s going to be FLAT (relatively) and it’s going to be hopefully very, very LONG…

Reflections for NEXT TIME
Seven days of limping around NYC have made me think a few more things:
– I probably could have run with a handheld to improve agility
– I probably could have run faster on the flats
– I probably could have taken less time in the aid stations
– I probably should have taped my achilles at the 1st sign of hot spots
– I definitely should have strapped ICE to my quads post race to help with DOMS
– I definitely want to run another one – maybe a 50 miler before I ripen (age 40 coming quickly…)

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Finish in sight!!!!!! Holy Fucking Shit!

Now that I have finished training for the Fleet Half Marathon, perhaps you’re wondering what’s up next in my running calendar. To be perfectly honest, not all that much, which is both strange and liberating after such a race-filled year!

At the moment, the only event I have entered is the 17km Kentmere Challenge on June 4th in the Lake District, which I am running with a group of friends. I’m not planning on doing any structured training for this event, although I will obviously be doing a fair amount of running to stay in shape. I’ll probably have to throw in some hill training too, because based on my last trip up there, the trails look something like this:

I also hope to enter the Reykjavik half marathon on August 20th, as part of my desire to do more destination races. E did this race two years ago and we had hoped to run it together last summer, but the dates didn’t end up working out. I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland, so should be a fun long weekend if I can get the time off to go!

Other than that, I’ll probably do a local 5k park run and 10k, as well as a 10 miler (I’ve never done one!) and another half marathon somewhere in the UK (Canterbury perhaps?) to keep myself fit, but chances are no other “big” races for awhile. I had originally wanted to do a fall marathon – Berlin, Chicago or something more exotic like Kauai – but with the birth of my niece in August (and the fact that registration is now closed, for Berlin and Chicago at least), I’m going to postpone my next major marathon (ie one that I train for seriously) until next year. I need a break from PB-driven training, and that’s why I’m turning more to trail races and other “low key” events (as designated by me, that is) for the time being.

E and I are actually toying with the idea of entering an ultra over the summer, although we haven’t found one yet that is suitable in terms of location, distance and date that still has spaces. He is obsessed with running an ultra, and I told him I’d join but only if we start with 50k – it’s been awhile since I’ve run over 15 miles so I’d prefer not to dive right into a 50 or 100-miler! Hopefully he’s not still considering doing this crazy 50M trail race in the Lake District that he decided to enter awhile back. The race requires navigation skills (potentially in the dark), and given that he can hardly find his way around cities (remember my Effing Forest post?), I’m not sure it’s a good idea for him to attempt a solo 50 mile race in the mountains!

I’m also still clinging to my .01% chance of getting into Boston – if not, there’s always Big Sur, London, Napa or a number of other great races! We’ll see how it all shakes out…

So it’s going to be less fight and more flight for awhile. I’ve replaced my packed running schedule with an increasingly crazy travel schedule. It all kicks off with a long weekend in Morocco bright and early tomorrow morning…because the week after a big race wouldn’t be complete – to me at least – without a celebratory trip to cap it off!

Good luck to all you spring marathoners – hopefully the lovely weather will stick around to inspire your last weeks of training!

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

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

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