Blue Ridge Marathon 2018

Screenshot 2018-04-28 at 11.41.55 AMBrian and I signed up to do the double marathon (which I’ve been wanting to do for years) but even in a best-case scenario, we barely had time to build our training up to where it needed to be. This winter was anything but a best-case scenario for either of us. About two months out, we dropped down to the marathon.

I only managed to get in one twenty mile run before race day and had some knee pain and major anxiety issues in the three weeks leading up to the race. I don’t even know why. It’s not like I was shooting for a PR or anything. It was my third time running this race and I knew I hadn’t trained as much as I had in the past. My only goal was to finish. I think the anxiety was more about my fear of not being able to run the race at all (which happened to me twice recently.)

Anyhow, race morning was sunny but cold. The first mile was crowded. Brian and I lined up behind the 5 hour pacer, but in big races there are always people who don’t quite seed themselves correctly, so we spent some time trying to get around people who were moving slower than we wanted to. But I think that the combination of winding my way through the crowd and the general excitement of the race was a good distraction for me. I was focused on what I was doing instead of stressing out about my knees.

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Just as we started the climb, we asked the pacer what his strategy was for the race. He said he planned to keep a steady pace the whole way. That was all I needed to hear to know that I would be letting him go on ahead in the miles of climbing we were about to do. I kept chugging along at my slow, easy pace as I watched him disappear into the distance.

Blue Ridge Marathon Elevation

The full marathoners separate from the 10k and half marathoners just before the three mile mark. I breathed a sigh of relief as the crowd thinned out. It had been kind of fun to run in a big crowd for a while, but I’d had enough and felt noticeably more calm with fewer runners around. I spent more time looking around at the spring-green mountains. I could already feel the warmth from the sun. It was going to be a beautiful day.

Once we hit the steep climb up Roanoke Mountain, I put my speed-walking skills to good use. I definitely pass more people walking than I do running. It reminded me of the time Brian overheard two guys talking about me at the end of The Trilogy 50 Miler. They had no idea who I was, but they kept referring to me as “speed-walker girl”. I’m kind of proud about that. I may not be a fast runner, but man can I walk!

The run down Roanoke Mountain is ridiculously steep (and therefore ridiculously slow for me), but after that there were some miles of rolling hills before we started the climb up Mill Mountain. I always like making it to the top. It’s cool to see the huge star and view of the city below.

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It was another steep descent off Mill Mountain, but it took us by the moo-mosa table (some local residents set up a statue of a cow along with a table full of mimosas for runners). Actually, they have straight champagne, orange juice and mimosas.  I had passed by that cow three times (twice doing the marathon and once doing the half) and had never partaken. I decided it was time. The glasses were pretty full though, and there’s no way I was going to waste a drop of champagne, so I drank more champagne than I was comfortable drinking at about the halfway point in a marathon. It sure was tasty, though. I thanked them for their very generous (but perhaps questionable?) gift and continued on my way.  I’m not going to lie, I was a little worried that I’d made a huge mistake.

As soon as I was off the mountain, I really started feeling the heat. The day was warming up fast. I was also getting a blister on the side of my big toe.

On my way up Peakwood (the third big climb of the day) I ran through a sprinkler someone had set out on the road for runners. The people in this neighborhood use the race as an excuse to have lawn parties on race day. They set out chairs and cheer for the runners. Many even hand out treats. I accepted some watermelon from a young girl and another runner posted a picture of a table full of jello shots. I missed that one, but know I would have skipped it anyway. The mimosa had been a big enough risk for me. Besides, it was getting hot by that point, and I was already a little dehydrated. At the next water stop, I asked a volunteer for some Vaseline for the hot spot on my toe. She called out to see if anyone had some and a nice lady came running over to offer me a jar. She seemed happy to have something that someone really needed and I was grateful that she did!

It’s funny running a road marathon after doing so many trail ultras. I forget that water stops don’t have the Vaseline, ibuprofen, salt tabs, pickle juice, chips, candy, cookies, quesadillas and soda that aid stations in ultras do. It’s like they think we’re out there just to run or something. They don’t even have chairs for us to sit in and relax for a while. Instead, they expect us to just grab a cup of water and keep running. So strange.

After I reached the top and turned around to head back down, I felt a little twinge in my knee that of course worried me and made me run even more conservatively downhill than usual. It was around this time that I caught back up with the 5 hour pacer. I heard someone ask him if he was on pace and he said that if he ran this mile in 11 minutes, he could run the last six at a 12 minute pace. That made me feel a little better even though I hadn’t looked at my Garmin at all and really had no idea what pace I was running.

The blister on my toe was hurting. I was hot and tired and ready to be done. The last six miles were definitely the hardest mentally. I stopped to walk several times when I know I could have kept running. It took a lot of mental energy to make myself run. And to think I was going to do this whole thing twice. Ha! I was so happy to finally see the 26 mile mark, but as a cruel joke there is a last little uphill in that final two-tenths of a mile stretch.

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It felt good to finally cross the finish line.

Blue Ridge is by far my favorite road marathon. If you’re looking for a challenging, beautiful, well-organized race, I highly recommend this one. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up doing it again.

My times for this race:

4:15:36 (2013)
4:40:54 (2014)
4:53:35 (2018)

I seem to be going in the wrong direction. Or maybe I’m just savoring the experience more these days. 😉

 

Three things

1.) Tracking recovery with coloring

http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/how-to-recover-more-efficiently

The idea is simple: rate how you feel during each run, then assign the run a color.

Yellow: felt strong/awesome

Orange: felt normal/average

Red: bite me!

At the end of the month, if you see mostly orange and yellow, you are probably recovering properly. If you see mostly orange and red, you might want to pay more attention to your recovery. Are you eating and sleeping enough? Do you need to add another rest day?

IMG_20140403_111005_069What I learned:
1.) I tend to have red days following long runs and high-mileage weeks (not surprising)
2.) I like speed workouts (my only two yellow days)
3.) Coloring is still fun

Even though I’m not sure I learned much about how well I’m recovering, I’ll probably continue to track my runs this way.

Mostly because it’s fun.

2.) Kinetic Revolution

I discovered James Dunne of Kinetic Revolution on Twitter and have been very impressed with the quality of the free videos and tips he posts.

http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/

If you’re a runner, you’ll want to check out his videos on You Tube.

http://www.youtube.com/user/RunningRevolution

 

3.) Nats Push-ups

It’s that time of year again.

One push-up for every point scored. Double that if the Nats lose.

IMG_20140403_111415_835Who’s in?

Three Things (A Little Late)

1. OL3P is a Bust

So, in case you’ve forgotten (or missed my earlier post) Kurt launched Operation Lose 3 Pounds when we got back from vacation. It involved a sheet of paper where we diligently recorded our weight every morning. We did this for over a month. Our weights both sort of followed a painfully slow downward-ish trend. Neither of us lost 3 pounds.

I started skipping a day of weighing myself here and there when I felt like I’d eaten too much the day before and didn’t feel like facing the scale.

Then I skipped three days in a row. I confessed to Kurt, who said “I’m not doing it anymore, either. Throw it away”.

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So I did.

Lessons learned?
1. Don’t try to lose weight when you’re training for a marathon
2. Daily weighing works better for weight maintenance than for weight loss, at least for me.
3. If daily weigh-ins are causing stress, they’re probably not doing you any good

2. If you don’t want to eat celery, then you probably shouldn’t eat anything

Have you heard this? It’s supposed to be a tool to determine whether you want to eat because of actual, physical hunger, or for some other reason.

As you may recall, I’ve been doing some stress eating. I want to stop. Kummerspeck is most definitely not going to help me qualify for Boston.

I don’t remember where I first read this tip about thinking about whether a healthy food sounds appealing or not to determine your level of hunger. I do remember that the food that original article said to think about was an apple. I very quickly realized that wouldn’t work for me. I LOVE apples. I’ve been known to eat three or four a day. I don’t have to be hungry to thoroughly enjoy an apple.

Now, celery, on the other hand, is not even close to being my favorite vegetable. I mean, it’s okay, but I have to be pretty hungry before I want to eat it.

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Want some?

To be completely honest, this doesn’t always work the way it’s intended to. Sometimes,  before I bite into a granola bar or chocolate (or even a fig or peach) I’ll ask myself if I’m hungry enough to eat celery. Sometimes the answer is “no”, but I don’t stop and put down whatever non-celery food item I happen to be holding in my hand. I eat it anyway.

I do think that just being aware of how often I’m eating when I’m not truly hungry is a good place to start, though.

3. Vegan Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

We had some of our (amazingly awesome!) AT friends stay with us last week. One of them is Vegan, so I had an excuse to experiment with some vegan baking.

I was planning to make Morning Glory muffins, but I stumbled upon this recipe for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins, and with all the local zucchini in the stores lately, I couldn’t resist.

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I followed the recipe exactly, which I rarely do. The only exception was for the optional 2 tablespoons of Stevia. I used all real sugar. I still haven’t made up my mind about Stevia, but my gut feeling is that it can’t be too good for you.

I was a little concerned about how they would turn out. They didn’t have any sort of egg substitute, which I thought is what holds muffins together.

They held together just fine, though.

IMG_20130828_110120They were more delicious than they look. I am (thankfully) a better baker than photographer.

I’ve been doing more than my fair share of muffin sampling lately (all in the name of research, for a future post) and these muffins are better than a lot of the bakery muffins I’ve had.

Three things (August 12th-18th)

This week, it’s all about food.

1. PB2

IMG_20130816_082411_908I noticed when this first appeared on the shelf with all the nut butters a few years ago. I wished that it had been around when I did my AT thru hike, but didn’t understand the point of it other than as a lighter way to carry peanut butter on backpacking trips. I imagined reconstituted sub-par peanut butter with a weird texture, certainly not worth the saved fat grams.

But then, a few weeks ago I read an article from Ace Fitness that mentioned the high protein/low calorie aspect of powdered peanut butter (45 calories and 5 grams of protein in 2 Tbsp.) The article suggested sprinkling a little on yogurt or cereal to add peanut butter flavor along with some added protein. That sounded like a wonderful idea, to me. I hadn’t thought of using it that way.

So I bought some. I’ve been putting a couple scoops in whatever cereal I’m having for breakfast. It’s like having cereal in a peanut butter milkshake. That might not sound like a good thing to you, but I think it’s pretty fantastic! Everything tastes better with peanut butter. I’ve also been using it to make peanut butter chia pudding.

If you love peanut butter as much as I do, I highly recommend PB2!

2. Whole Grain  Peanut Butter Banana Muffins.

The cool, fall weather we had for a few days last week got me in the mood to do some baking. I had a couple of over-ripe bananas and wanted to experiment with using PB2 in some muffins.

IMG_20130816_095743_267I used this recipe, but made several changes.

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup oat bran (I used 1/2 cup oats and 1/4 cup almond flour)
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (I used PB2)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup and sprinkled a little on top)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2 bananas didn’t quite make a cup, so I added canned pumpkin to make up the difference)
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk plus)
1/3 cup canola oil (I used a mixture of natural peanut butter and canola: mostly peanut butter)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional) (left these out, but did add a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla)

They were delicious! I love the texture. I think it’s due to the high (healthy!) fat content.

I wanted my muffins to be big enough that I would be satisfied with just one, so I made 7 instead of the 12.

banana muffin nutritionThe nutritional breakdown above came from the Calorie Count website. I use it all the time to figure out the nutritional profile of my recipes. I like it because it allows you to customize. So, for instance, for this one, I was able to set the yield at 7, since I made 7 muffins.

3. Coffee

IMG_20130822_115832_211Earlier this month, I sent out this tweet:

I drink a lot of coffee. I have no intention of giving up my favorite morning beverage.

I follow the ongoing debate over whether or not this is a healthy habit. I tend to focus on the studies that tout the health benefits and dismiss the ones that question those benefitsI think that’s human nature. We gravitate toward anything that validates our own preconceived notions.

Based on all the studies I’ve read, I’ve pretty much concluded that coffee isn’t bad for you. But, there’s been this nagging little voice in my head that won’t leave me alone. It keeps whispering the word “moderation.”

The latest study, referenced in this USA Today article proves that the little nagging voice probably knows what it’s talking about. This study shows that for people under age 55, four or more cups of coffee a day is linked with a higher risk of death by all causes.

Kind of reminds me of the study that came out last year stating that long distance running was tied to a higher risk of death.

I don’t like these studies. I want to run lots of miles fueled by pots and pots of steaming hot, delicious coffee.

As much as I don’t want to accept that drinking a ton of coffee and running for hours at a time will not lead to a perfect bill of health, I have to admit that I’m not surprised.

Everything in moderation, right?

I’m planning to try to reign in my java habit. Tomorrow.
Or maybe next week.

*I’ve decided to discontinue my Three Things on Thursday post. Because frankly, It’s a lot of work and I’m not excited about it. If I’m not excited, you must be bored to tears. So, I’m doing everybody a favor here.

Anybody else love peanut butter as much as I do?

Are you a coffee drinker?

Are you a coffee drinker?

Three Things (August 5th-11th)

1. Grief Bacon.

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Have you ever gained weight as the result of emotional eating during a particularly stressful time in your life?

Well, the Germans have a word for that extra weight: kummerspeck.

It translates into English as grief bacon.

I’ve had grief bacon on my mind this week because I’ve caught myself stress eating more than usual.

Just trying to avoid the ‘ol kummerspeck.

For your Thursday reading pleasure: 38 Wonderful Foreign Words We Could Use In English

2. Make sure you’re not missing out on life

A friend of mine posted a link to a blog post entitled “The day I stopped saying ‘hurry up’” on her Facebook page.

I loved the post, and did a search to find out where it had come from.

I found out the post was written by Rachel, over at  Hands Free Mama.

In this particular post, Rachel writes;

Whether it’s …

Sno-cone eating

Flower picking

Seatbelt buckling

Egg cracking

Seashell finding

Ladybug watching

Sidewalk strolling

I will not say, “We don’t have time for this.” Because that is basically saying, “We don’t have time to live.”

Pausing to delight in the simple joys of everyday life is the only way to truly live.

It’s all too easy for us to get so distracted trying to uphold society’s standards of success that we are rarely truly present. We’re so busy rushing to cross the next thing off our to-do list that we don’t think we have time for “frivolous” things like sunsets and picking flowers.

Rachel’s blog is about letting go of these societal and self-imposed expectations and allowing ourselves the time to notice, appreciate and participate in the things that really matter in life.

3. Be Inspired.

I was inspired by a woman I met at the gym.

Dana Shiflett is a volunteer at the local humane society (kudos for that alone, in my book.) I asked her how she got started exercising and she told me that she credits a shelter dog named Dave.

One day she decided to take Dave for a walk at a local park. The dog was so excited that he took off running, up and over a big hill and on down the trail. She didn’t have much choice but to run with him, so that’s what she did. Once she realized that she could run, she just kept doing it.

Dana has also made big changes to her diet. She told me that she had participated in a fast with her church that required her to give up meat, dairy, sugar and yeast. By the end of the fast, she noticed that she felt so much better. She said that her joint pain disappeared and she had more energy. She knew she couldn’t give up sugar (I’m with her there!) but she figured she could give up meat and dairy. She is now a vegan.

These days, she’s in the gym almost every day, is more than 25 pounds lighter and has completely reversed her diabetes.

I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired!

Can you think of anything else that the English language is lacking a word for?

What are some of your favorite simple pleasures?

Who has inspired you lately?

 

Three Things July 29th-August 4th

1. Fruit isn’t bad for you.

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Halleluja!

Have you heard people say that they’re trying to eat less fruit because it’s so high in sugar?

I have too. It sounded like crazy talk to me, but it still made me wonder if maybe I shouldn’t be eating quite so much.

So, I was overjoyed when I came across this New York Times article earlier this week.

Making the case for eating fruit

Jorge, a reader from Illinois’ response to the article was; “An article and discussion about fruit being good for us? Don’t forget “water is necessary”, “love makes us happy” “sleep when you are tired”… Who knew?”

I’m happy to know that I’m not the only one who thought that common sense should have told us this one.

2. Run Slower to Run Faster

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Train Slower, Race Faster

The gist of this article is that elite runners run most of their weekly mileage at a slow, easy pace. This allows them to 1.) run a LOT of miles per week without getting injured 2.) feel fresh enough to really push hard during their speed sessions.

According to the article, most age group runners don’t run their “easy” runs easy enough, and would benefit from training more like the elites.

The article cites a study that showed runners who ran 80 percent of their weekly mileage below lactate threshold improved race times significantly more than runners who ran only 70 percent of their weekly mileage below lactate threshold.

I’m guilty of running my easy runs too fast, especially in the summer. I pay too much attention to my Garmin. I know that my “easy” pace is about 9:15-9:45 depending on terrain, so I try to run all my easy runs at that pace.

So, even if it’s 90 degrees and 100 percent humidity, or I’m stressed, or I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep in a week, I still try to run at that same pace. The only problem is, under these circumstances, I’m no longer running at an easy pace. String together a couple weeks of trying to run at a too-fast pace and it’s no wonder I end up run-down, exhausted and not able to complete my more challenging workouts.

I’ve slowed down my easy runs. I’ll let you know if it works.

3. My favorite healthy pancake recipe

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I’ve been craving pancakes lately, so I figured I’d share my go-to pancake recipe with you.

1 egg
2 Tbsp oil (I use canola)
1 Tbsp honey
3/4 cup milk (I use unsweetened vanilla soy. I’ve used almond, but definitely prefer the soy in this recipe)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Beat egg until foamy. Add wet ingredients, and then dry.

Makes about 5 pancakes. If I have any leftover, I freeze them and then pop them into the toaster on mornings when I don’t have much time. They do dry out, so they’re definitely best eaten fresh from the griddle.

Three Things July 22nd-28th

Last Monday, Alex, over at The Run Within posted this on her blog.

Funny Cry for Help Ecard: I need a nap... And by nap I mean a small coma so I can hide from my life.

My immediate response was “Yes! that is exactly how I feel.” And that was Monday. I’d only been back from vacation for one day.

So, on that note, my three things this week are all about dealing with stress.

1. Breathe Deeply

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Whenever I notice that I am particularly tense, I slow down and take several deep breaths. Focusing on breathing forces me back into the present (usually at these tense moments, I’m stressing about some imagined future catastrophe, or dreaded task I’ve been avoiding.) Breathing deeply and focusing on my breath eases the tension immediately.

Judi Bar explains how this works in this article by Gretchen Cuda about the power of breath; “rapid breathing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. It’s part of the “fight or flight” response — the part activated by stress. In contrast, slow, deep breathing actually stimulates the opposing parasympathetic reaction–the one that calms us down.”

Ben Greenfield, (aka Get Fit Guy) goes a step further and says that how you breathe can also affect your metabolism and exercise performance.  You can find his tips on proper breathing technique here.

Take ten deep breaths. Make sure they originate from your belly. Do it with me right now.

2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.

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A man on a park bench taught me a lesson.

After work on Wednesday, I walked over to the downtown mall to watch the Michie Tavern Downtown Mile and check out the Healthy Living Expo. By the time I got there, I had  sweat marks all the way down the front of my shirt where my purse strap pushed the fabric against my skin.

I was hot and tired and frustrated. I was embarrassed by my excessive sweating and had been feeling sorry for myself all day. I searched for a seat and plopped down right next to an older gentleman. After a minute, he asked me how my day was going. I snorted and replied “not great, actually”. It took a minute for my words to register, but when they did, I suddenly felt pretty ridiculous. I quickly added, “I really can’t complain.”

Because, seriously, what were my complaints? I was hot and sweaty and feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated for no REAL reason.

I’m healthy. Everyone I love is healthy. My house didn’t burn down. I didn’t lose my job. In the grand scheme of things, I have absolutely no reason to complain.

So, count your blessings and don’t sweat the small stuff and I’ll try to do the same.

3. Get Moving

Exercise reduces stress.

You can read the science behind this fact here.

I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t run, you’d soon find me curled in a ball on the sidewalk drooling and talking to myself.

So, take a bicycle ride or Zumba class.

Or, you could always just do what I do and go for a run!