Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Mantra: Every Day is a New Beginning

Sometimes you just need a fresh start. The chance to mentally 'reboot,' create new habits, meet new people and set the stage for growth. Sort of like the fresh growth we see each spring as mother nature reboots itself.

Last year around this time, I needed a change. I was confident in my goals, ready and willing to work hard, yet struggling to pull the pieces together. Honestly, I was tired of making the same mistakes over and over (and over) again. I needed direction, accountability, an outside perspective...and really, a reason to start from scratch. I followed my gut instinct, bit the bullet regarding something I had put off MUCH too long and decided to hire a coach. Probably one of the BEST decisions I've made... it's been a year of growth, changing perspective and learning. Even better, it's successful year of progress while having fun doing what I love and I am so thankful for that. Ya hear that coach?


What I love about life is, no matter what happened yesterday, each DAY is NEW and the opportunity to start fresh. The successes or disappointments of yesterday really don't matter as much as what we decide to do with today. Each day is the beginning of a new race, the opportunity to better your best, explore new territory, push beyond self-imposed limitations and step outside our comfort zone. How cool is that?!

Every finish line is also the starting line of something new. And today, I am thankful for another starting line. With last fall's 50 miler and the Shamrock Marathon now behind me, I am ready to mentally start fresh with a clean slate. I'm excited move on to a new season with new goals, and goals that involve not just running, but some biking and swimming too!

From the Patriots Sprint Tri last Sept.

After I set triathlon aside in graduate school (2010), I knew I'd eventually make my way back to it when the timing was right. God's timing is perfect, right? While the change is definitely intimidating and scary and outside of my comfort zone in many ways, it's another of those 'follow your gut instinct' kind of things. There's so much to love about the sport that I have missed and something inside has just been saying "you need to do this." 

Appropriate new sticker that I bought at the Shamrock Marathon expo :)
Though I have 4+ years of experience in the sport behind me from college, SO much has changed since then. I am looking forward to experiencing the sport from a fresh perspective and aiming to keep an open mind. In my eyes, I still have SO much to learn. With that comes renewed expectations, less pressure in terms of performance and the opportunity for growth. 

 This quote sort of sums it up perfectly:

I just love this!

So here's to a new day, a new week, a new season and a fresh start. 



Hello Monday...and Spring!

Hello new beginnings!

Hellllloooooo triathlon! :D


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sleep Right to Eat Right


March is just about over, which means National Nutrition Month is also coming to a close :(

So much thought is put into exercise and eating 'right' in regards to health, wellness, weight management and sports performance, but what about the other daily lifestyle factors that can affect our appetite, motivation, food choices and recovery? One area that's often overlooked is the importance of sleep in eating right and athletic performance. In terms of general wellness and long term disease prevention, chronic sleep deprivation is associated with increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, increased BMI, and is known to have a direct affect on your daily food choices, whether YOU realize it or not.

Whether or not we get adequate sleep affects our hormones, and those hormones can affect our body's cravings for certain foods. Additionally, individuals who are sleep deprived are more likely to reach for food out of comfort instead of nutrition, or overdose in potentially calorie-laden caffeinated beverages. Inadequate sleep alters levels of leptin and ghrelin, two hormones involved in the regulation of appetite and body fat. Sleep deprivation can also increase levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that will leave you scavenging for sugary and high-fat foods.



Just as sleep can affect what you eat, what you eat can affect your ability to sleep! Choosing the right foods, especially in the late afternoon and evening, can make a difference in your ability to get an restful night of zzzz's.

Foodie tips for better sleep:
  1. Limit caffeine in the afternoon. Everyone is different in how much/how late they can handle caffeine. Know what works for you and stick to attaining your caffeinated buzz earlier in the day.
  2. Avoid eating a large meal 3-4 hrs before lying down, especially spicy, acidic foods or greasy fried foods. Eating these foods then lying horizontally increases risk of heartburn and acid reflux, which can prevent you from sleeping restfully.
  3. Hydrate, but not too much! Hydrate well early in the day and taper off towards the evening. Nothing disturbs sleep more than having to get up every other hour to pee :)
  4. Consume foods rich in B6 and melatonin. Vitamin B6 is needed to make melatonin, which is a sleep-inducing hormone. Foods rich in B6/Melatonin include salmon, bananas, fortified cereals and oatmeal, chickpeas and walnuts! Tart cherry juice is also rich in melatonin, so drink up and reap some recovery benefits too!
  5. Don't forget omega-3's! Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon and walnuts, chia and flaxseeds, will promote a better mood, less stress and prevent depression: all which can lead to a more restful night of sleep.
  6. Unwind with a cup of tea: choose lavender or chamomile to ease anxiety and prevent insomnia.
  7. Treat yourself to a snack: Especially as an athlete, having a small, protein rich snack before bed can help you to meet daily caloric needs + keep your tummy happy overnight + provides important fuel to muscles to aid in the rebuilding and recovery process (much of which happens while we sleep, another great motivator to get more zzz's!)

Adequate rest and regular, consistent sleep patterns are both essential pieces of the puzzle when it comes to eating right (and optimizing recovery and athletic performance!) Adults are recommended to aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night... what's holding you back?

Some days I want to GO GO GO, but sleep and rest are important for balance! Today is suppose to be rainy, so after my workouts are done, I hope to catch some quality zzzz's on the couch... it's hard to beat a lazy afternoon weekend nap!

My favorite nappy buddy
Want more info? Here's a great article by Runner's World on 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Recipe: Cherry Almond Vanilla Parfait


There's only a few more days left in National Nutrition Month!!


A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to host a special NNM event exclusively for our assisted living residents. The theme of the afternoon was "Power Up with Protein!" Protein plays a vital role in everyone's overall health-- in building and maintaining lean muscle mass, supporting a strong immune system, healing wounds or recovering from illness, etc. As an athlete, I consider protein an essential part of my daily diet to support and recover from training sessions: when we work hard, our body's require protein to rebuild muscle and enhance recovery.

Variety is the spice of life and one message I was eager to share with our residents is that you don't need to eat meat (or a lot of it) to "meet" your dietary protein needs. Plant-based proteins, dairy products and grains are hidden sources of protein that are often overlooked. One popular source of quality protein these days is greek yogurt, so I chose to include with our presentation a yogurt parfait bar for a delicious make-your-own afternoon snack!

Highlights from our "Power Up with Protein" Activity

Breaking down greek yogurt

Here's a question I am often asked: Why is greek yogurt is considered superior to regular yogurt, and what is the difference in how it's produced? In general, yogurt is produced by adding healthy bacteria to milk, which causes fermentation and the transformation of lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. The process gives yogurt its distinct tart flavor and imparts many health benefits, including the promotion of gut health due to the probiotics (or "live, active cultures") found in yogurt. Yogurt is also rich in Calcium, B-12, B-2, Potassium & Magnesium. 

The step in the yogurt making process that sets greek yogurt apart is the process of straining it through a cheesecloth. Regular yogurt is typically strained twice, whereas greek yogurt is strained three times or more which results in a thicker consistency and more concentrated nutrient content. product with a higher concentration of whey protein to calorie ratio. Greek yogurt is also naturally lower in carbohydrate (before added sugars) than regular yogurt. Due to the thicker concentration, greek yogurt has a higher concentration of whey protein and probiotics, and is also naturally lower in carbohydrate. The probiotics aid in digestion, absorption of nutrients and boost overall immune health.

After talking shortly about the importance of protein in the diet, each participant was able to make their own custom yogurt parfait as a snack! I love a good yogurt parfait for the simple fact that it can be customized ANY way you want it. In the recipe below, I chose to incorporate tart cherries because of their antioxidant content which is also shown to aid in muscle repair and improve recovery for enhanced sports performance. 

Protein + carbs + antioxidants + deliciousness = a winning combo in my eyes!



Ingredients

6oz greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)
1 tbsp tart cherry juice concentrate
1/4 c. granola of choice
1 tbsp slivered almonds
1 tbsp dark chocolate chips
1/4 c. diced fresh cherries 
OR
 1 tbsp dried tart cherries
1 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)

Directions

Combine yogurt with tart cherry concentrate and blend well.  Top with remaining ingredients.
I recommend making these in a medium-sized mason jar, which makes for convenient travel and is pretty too!

Nutrition Facts Via MyFitnessPal: 437 kcal, 56g carbohydrate, 16g fat, 25g protein

Pinterest fans: 
Pin this recipe and more by following my new Real Food for Fuel Recipe Pinterest Board!

Enjoy the taste of eating right by experimenting in making your own yogurt parfait! 
Happy Wednesday!!!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Crew's Perspective: Terrapin Mountain 50k


Yesterday I joined the hubby (and UltraVT crew) at the Terrapin Mtn 50k. Last year I ran this race and LOVED it. The course is beautiful, challenging but fun and well-supported. This year, with no plans to run, I charged up my camera and prepared to have a little photography fun. I am glad I was able to be out there soaking up the enthusiasm of the runners, enjoying the ultra scene and seeing the race from a different perspective. I had FUN! I kept busy, between getting the hubby ready, riding around in Horton's truck listening to him harass the runners, hiking to the top of Terrapin Mtn from Camping Gap (main aid station), taking pictures, and in the sensation of spring in the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia.

I don't have any real "report" to share with you, but I did want to share some fun pictures! Enjoy, notice all the smiles! Ultra running is truly special, even more so when you're out there surrounded by friends & "family."

 Pre-Race & Start


Pre-race I had no real plan for the day. It was a solid 4-5 miles up the mountain to the main aid station and crew members were not suppose to drive there. Running there was not an option (I'm still in recovery mode and was scheduled for an off day) and walking would have taken WAY too long (I walk really slow). Thankfully, Dr. Horton granted me the privilege of riding in his truck up the mountain (yes, he has special,well-earned rights to drive wherever he wants!). I enjoyed sitting back and riding along, chatting about life and catching up. 

Too early to be awake but look at those smiles!
Dr. Horton doing what he loves... encouraging (and harassing) runners. Just past the 1 mile mark. 

Terrapin Mtn Overlook 


After catching a ride up the main aid station (Camping Gap), I took a short stroll (~2 miles round trip) to the top of Terrapin Mtn to check out the view. The windy was gusting up above 20 mph and I am terrified of heights... fun stuff.

Sights & Scenes near Camping Gap/Terrapin Mtn.
Fun couple at the top of Terrapin Mtn (half marathon runners). Their encouragement of each other was fun to listen to!

Camping Gap Aid Station 


Runners passed through the Camping Gap aid station three times, making it the obvious spot for watching the race. The energy of the aid station volunteers was tremendous. They keep moving for hours on end to help runners stay hydrated, fueled and motivated. They are without a doubt an essential part of putting on a successful race.

The hubby with about 10 miles to go, being helped by AWESOME aid station volunteer Todd T.
Woot! VT top runners at halfway still having some fun. 
My ride for the day :) Horty's Truck
Beth, 4th female coming into the halfway mark.
Todd eagerly awaiting the arrival of AJW to Camping Gap. Probably my favorite picture of the day.

It takes a lot of coordinated effort and hard work on behalf of volunteers to run a successful & busy aid station. These folks rocked it! Get'm in, get'm out!
Rick G... Always with a smile on his face!


Jamie S. & friend 
Support crew: Me, Mike & Rachel

2 Miles to Go & The Finish Line


Here I played around in the stream crossings (rock hopping, a childhood favorite activity of mine!) while waiting for a few of our top runners (and the hubby of course). It was fun to see each person's 'unique approach' as to the best way to get across the stream :P

Rudy R. on his way to a stellar 2nd place overall finish. 
2 miles to go
The finish line energy was awesome! We laid around for hours waiting for athletes to filter in, enjoying the warm sun and spring air.

The hubby finishing the 50k: 4:40 & change, 5th overall male. Big course PR for him!

Top 10 Hokies (4 in the top 7)

Gotta love the tunnel finish! 2 Freshman completing their 2nd 50k of the spring

Helen M. & Jeff M. finishing side-by-side.

Doc Chang taking care of his team!
Oh so enthusiastic!

Rocking the pink sunglasses post-race.

Last but not least, GO Hokies!!!



Approximately 14 Hokies finished the 50k and 4 the Half Marathon. Four Hokie guys were in the top 10 overall for the 50k! Hokies took 1st in the 1/2 marathon for men and 2nd for women. How's that for some inspirational young people!

The Hokie crew minus one or two, including myself... I was taking the picture!

Woot! #somethinginthewater


This was #2 of 6 ultras on the hubby's schedule this year, so there will definitely be more crew's perspective posts to come! As I've mentioned, I love to opportunity to be out there supporting the athletes and putting my camera to good use. I enjoyed chatting with friends we've made over the years and meeting a few new people, including a newly hired VT professor (!) and a recent blog follower (hi Alissa!) Since I have no ultras on the schedule this year (major sad face!) it will have to be a fun season of honing my photography skills and hanging out at the races... THAT I THINK I can handle :D

Friday, March 21, 2014

Synchroblog: UltraVT

Ultra running is AWESOME for a number of different reasons, but one of my favorite is the sense of community that comes along with it. A fellow runner on the trail often will become an instant friend, many will treat you as if they've known you forever, and support found in races is unheard of in most road races. All which contributed to getting me to the finish of the Mountain Masochist 50 last fall... I have utmost appreciation for my running friends (old and new) that got me through the day!

I have an even greater appreciation for UltraVT... the team that served as a huge motivating factor in getting me through the LUS series last year. Their love for the sport and enthusiasm is contagious... and they'll quickly have you believing that these ultra-distance runs are "fun"... (hint: they are!). Thanks UltraVT friends for the love, support and motivation! In return, here's my first "synchroblog':

How would you describe to a stranger UltraVT?

We're a group of runners in the New River Valley of Virginia (mainly Virginia Tech students, but UltraVT is NOT limited to students!) who share a common love for all things outdoors, adventure and running up mountains. We are competitive with ourselves, yet love nothing better than seeing a new face in the group who is eager to learn the ropes of trail running and give their first ultra a try.

When did you get involved with UltraVT?

I guess right around fall 2012, when we moved back to Blacksburg. The hubby, being an ultra-marathon native, naturally became involved immediately and dragged me out to practices. He eventually convinced me to run the Lynchburg Ultra Series. In the beginning, to be completely honest, I was more excited about the t-shirt than running up trails part ;)



How do you see yourself within UltraVT?

Since I have no ultras on my schedule this year, I consider myself support crew/ team dietitian... and for this weekend, team cheerleader and photographer! (if I drag myself out of my sleeping bag that is... hehehe)

What is your favorite aspect of UltraVT?

The camaraderie ... it is really representative of the ultra-running community as a whole.



What is your favorite trail to run in the vicinity of VT?

The AT beyond Angel's Rest in Giles was one of my favorite trail runs in the last year. It's a beautiful trail, not overly technical, with a lot of variety and great views.

Jordan overlooking Pearisburg from Angel's Rest. Summer 2013

Any secrets you'd like to share?

I am a wimp when it comes to running up mountains! How I ever made it through the LUS is still a mystery to me. It DOES get easier and more enjoyable with practice, and the views are definitely worth the effort. Though right now I am loving anything and everything FLAT !

What's your favorite post-race meal?

I usually enjoy a homemade cherry smoothie of some kind immediately post-race. Otherwise, I love a good Chipotle burrito salad bowl or Panera's black bean soup with a baguette.

My question (for myself): What's your 'recipe' for race day success?

Ingredients: Preparation, race smarts, positive attitude, free spirit, proper fuel, patience, grit, pure stubbornness (not the fake stuff!), etc (add your own fillings).

Directions: Mix well w/ with a plentiful coffee, bake in some sunshine, add a sprinkle of chocolate...smile and keep your eyes on that finish line!!!


Interested in learning more about UltraVT and their racing endeavors? Check out similar posts and updates from the family, including Rudy, Guy, Rachel, Alexandria, Brett, Jordan and Dylan!!

Alrighty, that's all I have for today! Looking forward to taking a break from racing this weekend and cheering everyone on tomorrow at the Terrapin Mtn 50k!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Recipe: Mango-Pineapple Stir Fry


I'm continuing to celebrate National Nutrition Month here on the blog and at work.

Last Wednesday was National RDN Day. Did you miss my awesome spotlight round-up of RD's? If so, click back here and check it out!

Last Wednesday I also gave my monthly Food is Fuel lecture at our village wellness center. The program is growing a little each month, and I now have an undergraduate student helping me out which is really exciting and fun!!


With my undergraduate dietetic student, Brittni
Sorry for the blurry pic!

This month's them was "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right" to go along with the Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right motto of NNM. One message that I am passionate about sharing is that eating healthy does NOT have to equate to boring or bland food! YES, dishes can taste great, be satisfying and be good for you too... it's all in your pairing of foods and the ways you choose to add flavor and interest.

The focus of our presentation was on the benefits and use of herbs and spices to add interest and flavor to recipes without loading them down with extra fat and sodium. Herbs and spices are often underutilized in cooking and their nutritional benefits widely unknown. Here's a quick summary of some of the nutritional benefits of common herbs and spices:

Parsley: Rich in Vitamins A & C, calcium & iron, may inhibit cancer cell growth. Fresh parsley pairs well with most recipes!

Garlic: Contains a potent antioxidant, allicin, which is known to protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Raw garlic preserves its antioxidant properties better than cooked or powdered, so add it into your recipes towards the end of cooking for even greater flavor and nutritional benefits!

Sage: May help with memory and mood, aid in digestion. Sage is best sprinkled on soups or sweet potatoes.

Turmeric: Contains the powerful antioxidant, curcumin, which reduces inflammation and fends off cancer growth. Turmeric is a great addition to indian dishes, lentil soups, chicken or tofu.

Cinnamon: Is best known for its ability to stabilize blood sugar levels, but also contains antioxidants to fight cancer and reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease. Cinnamon is effective for people with diabetes as it helps individual cells increase their ability to utilize insulin and pairs well with many foods including fresh fruit, oatmeal, coffee or tea.

Thyme: Contains antimicrobial properties to ward against infections and aids in digestion. Thyme is a great addition to dishes containing chicken, fish or root vegetables.

Ginger: Not only is ginger an effective in digestion, it protects against gastric ulcers and inhibits inflammation related to osteoarthritis. Ginger pairs well in most Asian and Indian dishes, but can also be a tasty additive to baked goods for a little extra "zing!"

Rosemary: Contains carnosic acid which may lower risk of stroke and Alzheimer's. It is also known for its relaxing properties and a common addition to soups, lotions, perfumes and other bath products. Rosemary pairs well with roasted chicken and vegetables.


What do you think? Enough motivation to wipe off the dust on that spice rack and experiment a little more with some herbs and spices??

To go along with the presentation, I did my usual recipe demo. This one was a little more intricate in terms of steps so I'm really glad I had an extra hand to provide assistance! Originally inspired by some homemade sushi making endeavors (i.e. utilizing the leftovers), this recipe brings a tropical twist to traditional stir fry. Plenty of bright colors with the tang of added herbs and spices makes this a fun way to 'taste the rainbow'!


Ingredients:
1 cup black thai rice (dry measure)*
16oz firm tofu or boneless, skinless chicken
1 c. mango, diced
1 c. pineapple, diced

1 lb asparagus, steamed, diced
1 large sweet potato, baked, skin removed & diced
2 medium carrots, peeled into ribbons
1 small onion, finely diced
Olive oil or coconut oil

Optional Toppings:
Walnuts, diced
Shredded coconut
Fresh parsley, chopped

Sauce:
1/4 c. Braggs Liquid Aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 orange
Dash of tumeric
Pepper, to taste

*Substitute brown rice if unable to find black thai rice (or 'forbidden rice'), canned pineapple and frozen mango if necessary. Substitute your meat of choice is chicken or tofu is not preferred: this also pairs well with shrimp!!

Directions:

First, prepare your rice in either a rice cooker or boiled on the stove using a ratio of 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice. For an even tastier version, prepare with lite coconut milk instead of water.

Next, prepare your veggies and fruit. You may find it helpful to pre-cook your asparagus and sweet potato as these tend to need more cooking time and moisture to soften.

In a large wok or cooking pan: heat olive oil (or coconut oil) over medium high heat. Add your tofu (or chicken) and saute until lightly browned and golden. Set aside. Add addition oil, then saute onion and garlic for 1-2 minutes until golden and fragrant. Add your asparagus and sweet potato and saute an additional 3-4 minutes. Finally, add your carrots, mango, pineapple, tofu or chicken and sauce ingredients. Stir fry 2-3 additional minutes to allow flavors to combine.

Pair over rice and garnish with coconut, walnuts and fresh parsley to taste.



"Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right" with a colorful rainbow on your plate!!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Race Report: Shamrock (On!) Marathon

To start, I should say Shamrock was my first marathon WAY back in 2007... Sophomore year of college (feels like forever ago!) The hubby (then just a friend ;) convinced me to sign up and so I did, with intentions of running with my dad, who at the time was also MUCH faster than me). In summary, I failed to train well, irritated my hip prior to the race, ran the first half and limped/ walked/ slugged through the second. I was NOT an endurance person back then. In fact, I dreaded anything near or longer than 10 miles. But Dad stuck with me through the finish (4:45ish) while I confirmed my dislike for long distance and vowed "never again" ;)

Seven years later here I am, wanting to sign up for this race "just because" I miss marathons and as a "low-key, fun" race (and to re-qualify for Boston, of course!) Never say never, right?! This was my fifth marathon, and I am thankful for the challenges and lessons learned from previous marathons (plus that year of ultras) that helped this one to go smoothly (well...mostly ;)

Pre-Race

The week leading up to the race was super lazy. Seriously... why is it SO much harder to get out the door during a taper than normal training? My enthusiasm for running this marathon had seemingly faded, but nonetheless, I let it be and took one day at a time. I knew things would be fine and that I just had to GET myself to the race. We were a little late on that too, we literally didn't arrive in VB until 2pm Saturday, 3 short hours before the closing of packet pickup. A little late is a better than never, and once I received my number and gear my mind finally had that "ah ha!" moment and I was excited to run this marathon.


With Dad! He ran the 8k as he is in the midst of training for Boston.
Race morning I had two priorities: A) To see Ms. Speedy Edie before the start of her half marathon and B) To have more than enough onsite time for my pre-race prep. I am SLOW and don't like to feel rushed! Sadly, I failed find Edie before her start... And 1.5 hrs later I still only made it to the marathon start with less than 2 minutes to spare... But I made it!

The sunrise was worth arriving early for
Just prior to the race start.

Twenty-Six Point Two

...is a long ways no matter how you put it. The distance and challenge of it all never changes, but my attitude and my approach certainly has. My main race plan was to "run happy" and smart in the first half, then push for a strong second half and negative split. Ideally, first half being at approximately 3:30 pace, then upwards from there depending on how things played out.


The first few miles were low key and relaxed. While I aimed to run with the 3:35 pace group, I actually decided they were moving too fast. Plus, I tend to get claustrophobic in crowds ;) so I hung back and waited, monitored my pace... and waited... but by mile 6 I had caught the 3:35 pace group and was struggling to stay back with its leaders. I gave myself the okay to run ahead. Not significantly faster, but more so the the pace my body was wanting to naturally run while still relaxed and maintaining low effort. Miles 7-9 passed through the army base, which was fun with the extra cheers, high-fives and general crowd support.

Around mile 10 we turned onto the boardwalk, which was the start of the wind, but I was not worried! My plan was simple (and relatively effective): I tucked in behind some of the taller guys (groups preferred) and stayed relaxed (being short has it's advantages!) This was VERY key for the stretch we ran on the boardwalk between miles 10 to 12.5 where the headwind was quite strong. In fact, a few of us were jockeying for position behind a group of tall guys, which was both fun and humorous (they knew what was going on and were very friendly).

Hey guys, wait for me! I want to run with you!
With the same group...Halfway there and a thumbs up!
Around mile 12 we turned back onto Atlantic Ave and began to look out for my family and hubby. Shortly after, I was taken by surprise by a voice screaming my name and freaking out. It was none other than Edie (whom I assumed had already left for her long trek back to Pittsburgh), running towards me at high speed and shrieking ... Gotta love that girl! With a quick hug I blew her a kiss and ran off (to the sound if more shrieking haha). The guys I had been running with just laughed, but it was certainly effective in putting a HUGE smile on my face. A few blocks later, I exchanged a high five with dad and shortly thereafter, greeted the hubby with a kiss and grabbed my fuel for the second half. He ran with me for almost a half mile then I bid him adieu to tackle the second half! First half: 1:45:55 and happy !

Two thumbs up this time!
The highlight of the second half was seeing another athlete friend, Crystal, on multiple occasions, and running alongside a nice older gentleman who offered plentiful encouragement throughout the last few miles of the course. Thank you Crystal for following me throughout the course and for the cheers and pics!! At this point, I focused on holding my pace steady and remaining relaxed. I was averaging just below 8 min/mi and didn't want to push much harder before getting out if the headwind. Around mile 17, we turned onto Shore Drive, which was much more calmer wind-wise and prime for picking up the pace. It was fun passing many runners that had already started to fade (always a perk of starting off conservatively), and miles 17-20 were the best of my race. Unfortunately during this time, I began feeling the early signs of cramping in my calves and the burning of the soles of my feet from my shoes being laced too tight was only worsening. I fueled up, looked for electrolytes, hoped for the best and prepared myself for the final 10k.

Fueling on the run...caught in action by Crystal!
Mile 20 came and went and I was feeling confident and ready to push for a great finish! Oh how I wished all marathons could have perfect fairytale endings... shortly after entering Ft. Story we were greeted by a heavy wall of wind. People were starting to drop off and the crowd was thinning, thus my opportunities to draft were few, but that really did not bother me. In that mile my calves began cramping again and I finally opted over to re-lace my shoe. The 20 seconds lost was worth the alleviated pressure, but stopping definitely aggravated the cramping issue and I logged my slowest mile of the race (8:54). Here I am thankful for the sports nutrition lessons I learned with last years' ultras! I grabbed pretzels and Gatorade for sodium, though I managed to proceeded to choke on a pretzel, spit it out and then accidentally dropped the cup. Womp. Plan B: I took a gel, drank the gatorade and pressed on. It helped, but the calves still seized when I pushed to hard. I took one mile at a time, focused on staying relaxed to try and dissolve the cramp and repeated my mantra to stay positive/focused. Around mile 23, I passed a stand handing out snacks and instinctively grabbed a bag of chips. Okay, it felt super awkward running past the growing crowd of spectators with a bag of chips in hand (but they helped!) Half a mile later, I kindly handed it off to another random spectator, with a smile of course ;) Gotta love that crowd support!!
With about a mile to go... Photo by Crystal.
Mile 26!!
Final push
The next few miles were tough and seemingly dragged on. I counted down the blocks in sets of 10 before turning onto the boardwalk, which represented another 10 blocks to go. While I thought I had time to make it in under 3:30 and it didn't look THAT far, it was a good half mile plus. I eventually realized I wasn't going to make it under 3:30, so I eased up a bit and enjoyed the crowd and finish, just happy to be finished and to have marathon number 5 in the books!! Second half: 1:45:35. Final time: 3:31:35. New PR by about 2 minutes and a BQ!!

A few post-race pictures... major happy vibes but still hurting.
Post-race, contrary to the pictures above, was not that fun. I was grounded shortly after exiting the finisher's shoot for a good 5 minutes while my calves seized up on me (charlie-horse style = majorly painful!). I tried to eat the stew but was majorly nauseated and it was a good few hours before I was able to eat anything significant. Alas, better after the race than during!

Final Thoughts

The race, unlike my past marathons, seemingly flew by. It was fun... even when I was hurting I was happy to be running and maintained a positive attitude. My time was just shy of a 2 minute PR over my last marathon, the 2012 Richmond Marathon and once again a Boston qualifying effort. Though I fell short of my other goal (sub 3:30), I am elated with many non-quantitative markers of improvement: I fueled better & felt stronger, paced more effectively and ran smarter overall than my previous marathons (with major credit to coach Jim for helping with that!) I managed a negative split despite challenges on the back half and maintained a positive attitude while negotiating the wind, cramping and the issues with my shoes. Most importantly, I trained for and ran the road marathon I've been wanting to run for the past 1.5 years, which makes me SUPER HAPPY... and I can't really ask for more than that!!! 


Soooo.... what's next!?!

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