Sunday, April 28, 2013

Promise Land 50k: For Better or for Worse...

Going into Promise Land, I felt prepared for the distance but maybe not so much the elevation gain that was to come along with it. I'm not a strong mountain runner (yet), so in the weeks preceding the race, I decided to focus on my strengths: nutrition, downhill running and being mentally prepared for a long tough day. What I learned is that even the best nutritional plan will quickly go out the window in the face of GI distress … and the mental battle that ensued was far more challenging than completing the race without any extra self-induced challenges. I can’t pinpoint what caused me to feel so incredibly nauseated and sick throughout the race, but I have a suspicion it was combination of factors ... Either way, it’s humbling and a tad bit embarrassing as a dietitian to admit that nutrition was the cause of my downfall. Running for 6+ hours is still a relatively new concept for me and I know challenges like these come with the territory of stepping outside my comfort zone. Mistakes will happen and there are always lessons to be learned. So I’ll start my report with this: Races like this one are why I maintain the motto “respect the distance.” It doesn’t matter how many long races or training runs I’ve completed, I will always respect the fact that anything can happen out there…

VT had 14 Hokies racing...simply incredible! 
Friday I was feeling pretty good: My nervousness was behind me and I was in high spirits, excited to run and finally experience Promise Land for myself. After many traffic delays, we arrived at the race around 7pm, set up camp, enjoyed the pre-race festivities (aka listened to Horton talk forever) and went to bed early. I slept well and Horton did a good job waking up the entire camp with his bullhorn around 4:30am. Pre-race was uneventful, though I struggled to eat my breakfast and get other things moving… I had a feeling that would come back to haunt me but tried to not worry about it. At 5:30am sharp we were off.

Perhaps a little too happy for 5 am? Nah.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Celebrating Earth Day

Today marks the 45th Anniversary of Earth Day! Honestly, Earth Day in the past has meant very little to me and nothing special. However, in the past year the sustainability of our planet has become a very real issue to me. Regardless of whether or not you believe in global warming, the fact that we are over stretching our natural resources through our lifestyle cannot be denied. When we moved back to Blacksburg this past fall, a town very much involved in the sustainable agriculture movement, I knew it was time to do my part in contributing to and endorsing sustainable agriculture/ living both as an individual and as a dietitian.

Here's what I'm doing personally:

(1) Jordan and I are excited to have officially joined our first CSA (Community Shared Agriculture)! What this means is that we will be receiving a box of organic produce weekly May through October from Riverstone Organic Farm based out of Floyd, VA.
The owners were kind enough to let us just "pop in" one Friday afternoon and check the place out.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Southwestern Black Bean & Quinoa Salad

It's spring in Blacksburg and I'm soaking up every moment of it. Along with it being almost perfect running weather, I'm enjoying relaxing out on our deck, potting some flowers and starting a little patio vegetable garden (more on that later). 
The pup is loving the weather too!

I feel like it's been forever since I've posted something food related or a recipe, so today I'm sharing with you my favorite salad. With the warming temperatures, my diet has transitioned to more spring-summer like foods and this non-traditional salad is back in my daily rotation. I've been eating this for a few years now and it's a major reason why I eventually decided to transition to a plant based diet.

(serves 1)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston On My Mind... Part 2

After joyfully tracking runners during the early hours of the Boston Marathon, it truly broke my heart to hear the news of multiple bombs going off at the finish line. I was at work at the time and my phone all of a sudden was filled with messages from friends concerning the events unfolding and worried that I was in Boston. In my mind, I thought about how this classic event is now marred by tragedy with 3 killed and dozens more severely injured. Then I thought about Newtown, Connecticut, Columbine, Aurora, Colorado... and of course, Virginia Tech... and how we truly live in a broken world.

Today, just one day after this "act of terror," happens to mark the 6 year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. I was a sophomore at the time and though you'll rarely hear me bring up the topic, it's something I will carry with me the rest of my life. Life is fragile, it's hard to know what tomorrow brings and when your life might change, forever.

It was a rough day of work as I tried to process everything running through my mind. My heart was (and still is) filled with grief for both my Virginia Tech family and my running family. I contemplated whether or not I should run this afternoon and now that it's over, I'm glad I did. The run, though much faster than it should have been, reminded me of what draws me to the sport day after day: Each day is a gift, not to be taken for granted. And for me, the joy of running and its therapeutic effects is one of life's greatest gifts. It's well known that the running community shares a special bond (just as us Hokies do) and I think that bond was clearly displayed by the many courageous acts that followed the bombings.
(L) The hubby, who ran Boston in 2011. (R) Virginia Tech Memorials.

In the words of my husband:

"I cling to the good memories with a white-knuckle grip, mourn my friends who were lost with my whole heart, and try so hard get up and keep running the race of any runner would.

Keep running Blacksburg. Keep running Boston. My heart is with you."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Weekend Adventures: Lost in the Woods

With the Promise Land 50k less than 2 weeks away, the hubby and I joined in on an organized training run this past weekend to get a better idea of what the course would be like. The training run started at 7:15am from just north of Bedford, VA, which meant a 4:30am wake-up to make the 2 hr drive out to the course. The perk of waking up early? Beautiful sunrises:

I was pretty excited for the run, both because I wanted to see the course and because my restless legs have been aching for a longer run since Terrapin. The plan for the day was for me to do the "short" loop of 18.5 miles, Jordan would run the longer loop of 26 miles +. Really, all I wanted to see what the renown Apple Orchard Falls and the tremendous climb I'd be facing late in the race.

Jordan and I prior to starting the run.
To keep this post short, I'll start of by saying my run got off to a rough start. Shortly before starting I realized I was wearing completely the wrong shoes (and was 3 miles up a mountain from my actual trail shoes). I panicked momentarily then decided to suck it up and do the run anyways. Still, I felt like I was hyperventilating for most of the first climb.

After about 30 minutes I settled down and got into a good groove... perhaps too good. About 7-8 miles in I missed a turn and starting running down a mountain in the wrong direction. I had a gut feeling telling me to turnaround, but I was enjoying the downhill so I didn't. Whoops. That took me about 3-4 miles off course.

Many miles later I finally made it to the top of Apple Orchard Falls at Sunset Fields. By this point I was feeling both relieved but grumpy from just having an overall rough day. I considered refueling at an aid station there, but remember thinking "I only have 2 miles downhill left, no problem...I'll be fine." I also contemplated quitting at that point and catching a ride downhill but stubbornly decided to end the run on a positive note (famous last words).

I set off down the mountain feeling quite strong and determined to push the pace for the final few miles. Unfortunately, I quickly made a wrong turn and started retracing the course in the wrong direction. I saw streamers so I thought I was on the right track. This too was downhill so I continued to run and didn't pay much attention to my watch (big mistake). I'm certain that dehydration and fatigue did not help much. It was not until a few miles later that I realized I still was not done and I was now running uphill (definitely not correct). I turned around with 24 miles on my watch, 6 miles more than I had anticipated running. By this time I was toast... no more running for me. I was also now out of food and water.

Essentially I wandered my way back up the mountain, but due to my level of fatigue I was not moving fast at all. I ran out of food and water shortly after turning around. Then, after several unsuccessful attempts to call my husband, my cell phone died. Even after reaching the top of the mountain, I was unsure how to get back to Sunset Fields. I sat down for a bit and reluctantly opted to make the trip down the mountain (this time the correct way, another 2-3 miles).

The entire run/walk took me 8 hours. When I finally made it back to camp, everyone else was gone. Even my husband had left. Though leaving me a "picnic" of food, water and clothing, he went to Bedford for a phone charger. I was finally reunited with him while waiting at a restaurant at the end of the road.

Lessons Learned on the Trail

#1: If you're running downhill, make sure it's in the right direction!!
I get excited with the downhills and tend to just put my head down and go--making it very easy to loose track of where I'm going. Now I know to be more vigilant about staying on course.

#2: Don't run in the mountains solo!
At the beginning of the run my husband asked if I wanted him to run with me. I said no and let him go ahead with his friends. Apparently he was not far behind me when I made it back to Sunset fields shortly before I got lost (meaning I should have just waited... meh).

#3: Carry more food and water than you think you might need.
My 3.5 hr training run turned into 8. Enough said. Never hurts to be over-prepared.

Final thoughts: I'm a bit beat up mentally about the whole ordeal, though it was still beneficial to see the course in such detail. I made a lot of mistakes during this run, but it's a good reminder of what NOT to do come race day. Maybe then I'll get it right ? :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Boston on my mind...

Two days until the Boston Marathon and I'm pretty pumped!! While I'm definitely not racing this year, I have a lot of friends who are and I'm pretty stoked about all things Boston knowing that I'll be (hopefully pending official admission) lining up at the starting line in Hopkinton next year!

To celebrate, I'm posting some of my favorite media I've seen as of late concerning the race.

But first, big news... Last weekend we added a new member to our Boston-qualifying gaggle:
Congrats Devon!! (center, #226)
Never been to Boston and curious about what the course is like? Check out this awesome course overview courtesy of PRS FIT Endurance Coaching:

I love that he touches base on the importance of nutrition prior to the race start.

My two favorite elite females will be lining amongst the other elites on Monday. I love this article on Kara Goucher, who will be racing alongside teammate Shalane Flanagan. [On a side note, I got to have a long conversation with Shalane's mom at the Beijing Olympics outside the track stadium... yup, that's my claim to fame haha]. Maybe they'll be there next year and I can meet them.

Picture from

Not sure why Boston's such a big deal? Check out this ESPN article, The Mecca of Marathoning.

And for a bit of humor...Are you already tired of hearing about the Boston marathon? Better invest in these:

To the athletes racing--- good luck and have fun! I will be cheering you on from my office computer and living vicariously through your experience and updates!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

VDA Annual Meeting: Nutritional Sound Bites

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Virginia Dietetic Association's Annual Meeting in Richmond, VA. I have to say, I was so impressed by the speaker lineup and how applicable the lectures were! So, I'm here to share with you the highlights of what I learned.

Highlights from Day 1:

On Sunday I attended the Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes seminar. The lecture turned out to be an endurance event in itself: 5 full hours! Normally it's near impossible for me to sit still that long, but this time I was just a tad bit enamored with every word coming out the speakers mouth. We talked about nutrition periodization, supplements, protein and carbohydrate needs, weight loss and more. I plan on dedicating an entire post to this topic, so here's a few key takeaway points:
  • "Proper sports nutrition will set you apart from the competition at the starting line."
  • "Changes regarding weight management/ weight loss should always occur in the off-season."
  • "Focus on low-fat, low-fiber foods prior to a competition to prevent GI upset."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Time Well Spent

Over the past month or so, I've spent a good amount of time reflecting on how I spend my time.

It began with our small group bible study reflecting on ways we "quiet ourselves" for God. It's hard to do when life is crowded with a million other things to do. I feel like American society stresses productivity and for many people, including myself, self-worth is tied into accomplishments, involvement in activities and generally staying busy. It's an easy trap to fall into!

While I love my life, my job, my friends, family and running, there have been many days in recent weeks when I simply felt like I was suffocating. It took a while for me to realize, but I eventually broke down and admitted I had too much on my plate. I joke sometimes about wishing I could have clones to accomplish everything I'm interested in doing, but the reality is I'm just one person. This is where its important to not just have priorities, but to act on them:

My Priorities:

(1) God
(2) My husband, family and friends
(3) Running and others goals
(4) Work, career goals
(5) Hobbies

It took me essentially hitting a wall to realize I needed to slow down. I was dragging myself out of bed to work, only to come home and want to sleep some more. I had becoming increasingly grumpy from constantly being on the go, my workouts and eating habits were suffering, my performance at my full-time job was suffering... My husband is so patient and loving but I knew at the end of the day he was getting the short end of the stick. At that point I knew it was time to bite the bullet and let go of a few things.

As stubborn as I can be, it's not easy for me to quit, especially activities I love and enjoy. Reality is, as hard as I may wish, there will only ever be 24 hours in my day. My desire to do it all will always fall short because I am human, I am flawed and I am only one person. My decision to give up a few extra things on my plate has not been an easy one: I've felt tremendous anxiety, guilt and discontent. I know in the long term, however, I know it is best for the sustainability of my health and happiness, my marriage and my relationship with friends and family.

So you may be wondering: what does this have to do with nutrition or fitness?

Taking care of yourself (your health) should be a top priority.

There will be times when it's necessary to say no.

Having the time and energy to take care of yourself will allow you to more effectively take care of your family, do a better job at work, be a better athlete, etc.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to having more time to spend with this guy:

Oh, and of course this little one:

And to me, that is time well spent.

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