Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The BTM: Race Recap

The Bellingham Trail Marathon : Race Recap

It was a defining life experience.

First off, I can’t thank my wonderful running partner Kyle enough. He treated the race as if it was a ‘fun run’ and acted as my pacer / coach / motivator / source of good conversation and laughs / trail medic / all around trail hero rather than run for time himself. If he had run it for time, instead of for me, I guarantee he would have been at least 2 hours faster overall.

Now, onto the recap J

We absolutely lucked out on the weather. The expectation going into it was low 40s and a 55% chance of rain. It didn't rain at all and the temperature proved to be just about right.

9 am: We set off at a good clip from Lake Padden and got into an early stride of ‘fast-hiking’ hills and springing back into run mode on the flats and downhills as they came upon us. When leaving Lake Padden we had a short road section under the I-5 overpass and hopping onto the Interurban Trail. This was a nice gentle section with a solid pace. Things didn't get hard until we started climbing up the Hemlock Trail. It’s wide, but it’s a drawn out climb and we hiked for an extended period here.

Next up, we were rewarded with some technical downhills that, while fun, turned out to be less of a reward for me. We knew I had trained inadequately headed into the race. Namely, not enough mileage logged on technical, uneven, single track. It was here that my lack of adequate preparation made itself known with sharp pain in the outside of my left knee. Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) can be brought on by running downhill and/or running too many miles. I arguably did both Sunday. The pain is sharp and hits when you bend the knee, making it feel like something is quite wrong and it becomes instinctual to cut your gait in half, then walk, then limp in a funky side shuffle. Or at least that’s what I did. It had eased up a bit by the time we got into Aid #3 aka mile 15 aka the bottom of Chinscraper, the steepest ascent on the course.

We devoured some delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the aid station and I decided to try a silly idea of getting my calf compression sleeves from my pack and wearing them over the knee to treat via compression. Nope. Didn't work. Nice thought though. Distraction helped the situation for the next ¾ of a mile. Going up Chinscraper at such a steep angle created a nice warm burn in the hamstrings, keeping my mind off my knee. As it turns out Kyle does the best Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation I've heard and had a whole “feel the burn” bit from Pumping Iron that was cracking me up making Chinscraper one of the highlights for sure. 

Once we reached the top though we had mostly descent to deal with for the next +/- 4 miles. Nature was absolutely gorgeous there on the Ridge Trail. Boulders and roots abounded in their stoic, steep, technical, beauty. Perhaps I appreciated them more because I wasn't able to pull off a full walk at that point. Kyle was great about psyching me up then and managed not to show the level at which he was concerned he’d have to eventually carry me out. I’m stubborn enough that I was bent on finishing on my own two feet regardless (for the sake of still earning a finisher’s medal), but we both knew if I wasn't able to start running again we wouldn't make the 8 hour cutoff. 

I began to notice that any little uphill felt great, like therapy for my knee, so I started carrying on about how nice it would be if the rest of the marathon was uphill. Certainly nothing I would normally beg for. The woods will humble you J Before the end of our descent I was, by some miracle, able to start running again. When I say “some miracle” I mean Kyle putting me through some stretches and trying three rounds of friction massage (that hurt like a ##@@$%!!, but helped) on the outside of my knee over about a 2 mile period. It’s also possible that the superhero powers emanating from my son’s water bottle that I borrowed for good luck on the course helped too ;)

With only about 6 miles to go we checked the clock, 2:59 pm. The thought of finishing sub 6 hours that had seemed so attainable 6-7 miles back was gone. Kyle reminded me that I was there to finish, I wasn’t there for a time. 

We had two more aid stations to hit and we ran most of that last bit at a very gentle 11-12 minute mile pace with a handful of short walk breaks when the outside of my knee flared up. When we hit the last aid station I had for some reason expected that there would be only 1 mile left. As it turned out there were 2, and that knocked me down mentally at that point. I was on empty.

The last mile and a half or so mirrors the finish of the Lake Padden Trail Half Marathon that I’d run 3 weeks prior. There’s something about the layout that makes you feel like you are almost there when you’re not, about three times over. I hit the wall mentally.

Once more it was Kyle to the rescue. The first race he ran with me was the Skagit Flats Half Marathon back in September where he had also coached me in the last 2 miles on my form, breathing, and motivation. I think he channels his cross country coach from high school or something, because he’s very good at it. At Skagit he built me up so that we could pass 5-6 people right in the end. At Bellingham Trail he coached me to not fall apart and walk the finish after all we’d gotten through on the course. It worked – I did keep running.

To a degree I felt like I was outside my body watching us at that point. I remember him telling me not to think about what hurt, but to look out at the lake. It was beautiful and serene right then. I remember coming around the final twist where the finish line became visible. I saw the big red clock and it said 6:36:18 and I thought in my half there mind, “you can get in under 6:37. You have this.” I broke into a sprint at that point, not wise all considered, but I wanted it. Next thing I knew they were handing Kyle and I our finisher’s medals and we were getting plates of just out of the oven wood-fired pizza and big cups of steaming tomato soup to drink. In the end, I placed 130th out of 154 marathoners with a time of 6 hours 36 minutes and 39 seconds.

I want to do a 50k sometime next year, but first I’m going to make myself run at least two more marathons and I’m going to train properly for them. Go big or go home is who I am, sure, but sometimes I need to remember that my mind gets ahead of my body when ascertaining goal capability and that I’m going to render myself injured and couched if I don’t respect and correct that disconnect.

P.S. My first marathon - It was awesome!


Saturday, November 9, 2013



I've been walking around with the image of this gorgeous custom made finisher’s medal as my lock screen since registering nearly two months back for the beautiful Bellingham Trail Marathon.  Now that we are at less than T – 24 hours I CAN’T WAIT, but I've got some unexpected nerves too.

It seems that this morning is a good time to throw it out there that I have no idea what I am doing. However, my body seems to have gone into some sort of instinctual preparation process without recruiting my brain’s assistance. Last night I passed out on the couch sometime around  7 pm with The Lorax on Netflix and our dinner dishes still on the coffee table awakening just past 9 to my son and my cat watching me sleep.  So my son, who has a cold, got off to bed an hour late and I went right back to bed netting about 11 hours last night. I also ‘behaved’ with early (9-9:30ish is early in my book) bedtimes the few nights prior. Today I've decided my number one responsibility is to hydrate like crazy…quite the opposite of heading into a figure competition that’s for sure J

Beyond that, I have no clue what I am doing. I don’t know what to eat today. I think I will have Greek yogurt, oatmeal, and a banana for breakfast tomorrow though.  I don’t know what to do or not to do. I have general notions of each and Google can certainly give me masses of advice, but I haven’t searched. I’m excited to go to the expo later today and get my bib, shirt, beer glass, and swag bag. I need to go get some salt pills I think. I’m looking forward to making and ziplocking my new favorite run fuel aka Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Triangoli. I’ll be packing them and a few Gu gels, but otherwise depending on the aid stations.

I expect to use up a couple hours today over-thinking, packing, rethinking, and repacking my pack.
My main debate is whether to carry more water or take out the bladder and bring only a bottle (that I can refill at aid stations) in order to bring extra clothes as the odds of rain are strong. Or, pack a drop bag, but I've never dealt with a drop bag before and don’t really have a clue how that all works either.

I’d like to wear my road shoes as my arch, IT band, and legs overall fare better in them for higher mileage, but with the expected slippery mud and elevation I’d best go with my trail shoes. I’d meant to make my first marathon an excuse and go acquire a 3rd pair of running shoes a few weeks back, but didn't get to it and it is now too late in the game for new shoes.

Likewise, I have two potential outfits, one I prefer as it is overall more comfy and the other that is arguably smarter in anticipation of rain and not freezing my ass off when I slow to hike the hills. I still don’t even know whether or not I’m going to wear calf compression sleeves.
This summer I felt dependent on them when they first ‘cured’ a tweaky ankle tendon thing I had going on, but I've been running without the last few weeks and it hasn't returned.

I should also note that the longest I've run to date is only 20.19 miles and that included some short walk stints when my arch freaked out (assumedly from said trail shoes above), and that it was pretty flat compared to tomorrow morning’s 5,000 feet of elevation gain, but it was in total crap wind and rain weather :) I’m getting faster on the short, my best 5 miler to date being an 8:21 average pace, but my goal tomorrow is to finish in a 14:00 or < average pace, or 6 hours and 11 minutes, due to the anticipated difficulty of the course, amount of hiking expected on hills, and the personal acknowledgement that I am not as adequately trained as would be ideal. When I ran 20 I didn't stop because my body was done I stopped because 20 was the goal that day. In hindsight I wish I had pushed on - I would feel more prepared today if I had.

However, I am as stubborn as they come so I can guarantee I will finish. It is my hope that this race proves to be my gateway to ultras, but something is stopping me from claiming that thought until after.  For now I’m an admirer of ultra races and ultra runners and the vibes of inspiration that can generally be found emanating from them. Maybe sometime next spring I will start off with a 50k and maybe late in the summer or early fall I will try my hand (well foot) at a 50 miler. Maybe.  First I have my first trail marathon, well first marathon of any variety, to run. Then, we’ll see J

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Running is Magical

Running is Magical
When I last blogged the farthest I had run without a walk break was 4.35 miles and my goal was 6 miles. Well apparently running is addictive J Since then I've run 6 races, instead of 6 miles.

The Chuckanut Footrace in July (7 miles) - A mostly flat point to point between two parks.

The Chuckanut Mountain 12k in July – a really neat straight up for the first half and back down the mountain for the second half race. Probably still my favorite race to date. This is a great thing as the same race director is also putting on my upcoming first marathon. 

The Cinderella Trail Half Marathon in August – a very challenging trail half in the hills of Northern California. Put on by Coastal Trail Runs.
The Skagit Flats Half Marathon in September -  a nice flat Boston Marathon Qualifier course.

The Bellingham Bay Half Marathon in September – a gorgeous course encompassing my favorite piece of waterfront.
The tech on the chip timing for this race was awesome. I was able to sign up beforehand and my split time at the halfway point as well as my finish time automatically and instantaneously posted to my Facebook wall while I was still on the course.

The Lake Padden Trail Half Marathon in October – a small local trail half put on for a good cause. Special treats included a fantastic race photographer and hot delicious locally made soup awaiting the fog chilled runners at the finish line.

My approach to running from the onset back in April has been “go big or go home.” With that first 3 mile run that meant starting my route with an intimidating 0.6 mile uphill. With my first half marathon that meant trail and elevation instead of flat and traditional.

I've been meaning to write a post entitled “Running is Magical” for months now, but with my most 
anticipated go big or go home moment (or more 
likely +/- 6 hours) aka The Bellingham Trail Marathon (the best of local single track trails, 4 major climbs, and 5,000 feet of elevation gain) coming up this weekend I figured I had better get on it as that race will be deserving of a post all its own.

When I started running staying motivated to not take any walk breaks was my mantra, but then I discovered trail running where everybody but the elite walk up the hills. Now I love both.

I've had a few changes since I last blogged, mainly getting divorced, again, shortly after that last post. For me though, that has made running magical. When you’re out in the woods, or better yet out in the rain, with your favorite music, or just the rhythm of pace and breathing, it creates a sieve of meditation from which all that ails you can simply drain away onto the forest path.

Beyond that, every added mile becomes a can do. If I can run this much farther I can overcome / get past / get over / figure out / conquer …… anything. Running is quite a handy thing to go do if anything, little or large, is weighing on you.

Besides that, all the trail runners I've met are inclusive, friendly, and warm in spirit.

Running - I can’t recommend it enough :)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Challenge - Nothing Better!

I haven’t blogged anything since before the holidays because I haven’t done anything fitness minded since then. Up until two weeks ago that is.

I've started jogging and I’m in the middle of completing the Advocare 24 Day Challenge. I've never been a runner, actually aside from rare impulses I've historically been the anti-runner. I've also been historically anti-supplements, protein powder aside.

The weather has been getting nice, and unlike this time last year, I now spend all day in an office. This makes it hard to want to go back indoors to the gym after work. I want to be out in the fresh air. I've also been sitting all day so I need to do something. Further, running is social. I find that if I go with my husband or a friend I will run longer, won’t give in to walk breaks, and will post a substantially improved overall pace. I've been using an iPhone app called MapMyRun that is great. I have the free version, but it still gives me a route map, elevation, splits, max and min pace, and mileage. The mileage tracking seems fairly accurate – coming in within 5-8% of the distance per my running buddy’s Garmin.

My immediate goal is to be able to run 6 miles without a walk break. My max thus far has been 4.35. A goal of 7 seems overly ambitious and my son just turned 6 so what the hey, 6 it is =)
Why is Advocare working for me?

Simple psychology mostly =)


            It’s a challenge. Sure all dieting is, but this one ups the ante. No coffee, no sugar, no alcohol, minimal to no dairy. If you didn't know the only time I haven’t drunk coffee daily since 7th grade was when I was pregnant with my son and the first 8 months of his life. I also usually prioritize it in any diet.   My sweet tooth is major, dairy is my lean protein go to (cottage cheese, Greek yogurt), and I've taken to regularly unwinding with an evening glass of port in recent months. Giving up the things I tell myself I’m dependent on is fun. No, really. The feeling is a good one =)

2.       I paid $170 for the kit. I am fully capable of dieting on my own without pre-assembled and organized supplementation. However, by that means there is no incentive to stick with it. When you've bought into something (literally!) there’s a strong incentive to get what you paid for.  Nobody wants to not achieve what was possible solely because they chose to slack. This motivation my not drive everyone, but it works for me.
3.       The kit is made up of good stuff =)

My favorite item is Spark, a sugar free 45 calorie / serving energy drink packing a little caffeine, lots of B vitamins, and other bits and pieces of a proprietary blend. It looks like Kool-Aid, tastes a helluva lot better and totally does it for me. Who knew? I already ordered two tubs of it for after I complete my challenge because I am planning to stay off coffee. Yes. Off coffee. This girl.

The first 10 days, aka the cleanse phase involve Spark, herbal cleanse pills, a fiber supplement, probiotics, and OmegaPlex fatty acids. I felt good for the first 10 days and have only just begun the Max phase. What challenges me about the Max phase is trading my precious breakfast of steel cut oats and two egg whites or Kashi 7 Grain waffles and a scoop of protein for a meal replacement shake. I was pleased to find out this morning that the Chocolate Mocha shake is damn tasty, but I still find a liquid only start to the day challenging. I expect it will be easier on weekdays when I’m rushed.

I’m starting to crave the diet. Protein, complex carbs, lots of veggies, and fruit. Tonight I had an orange with dinner that was amazing. It was so sweet and delicious It was better than cake. 

I didn't take measurements to track the challenge because I know I don’t work out anywhere near enough to see the kind of resultsI earned back when I started this blog. My goals are nice simplistic ones:

1.       Feel better.
2.       Flatten my middle.
3.       Fit into a pair of jeans I miss.

I've met the first goal already, feel like I’m on my way to my second and recognize that a continued commitment to better health after the challenge will net me number three.
I’m not a would be figure girl anymore, just an accountant, a mom, and a wife who sits too much, but maintains big ideas about life =)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chicken - Make it or Break It. Ode to the Healthy Hot Wing!

Yesterday I found my gym abandoned and posted about having it all to myself. A friend pointed out that the Seahawks game was the likely cause. That got me thinking about my favorite football food – hot wings – glorious hot wings - also known as chicken gone waaaay wrong. It’s kinda crazy how much fat, carbs, and cals can get crammed into previously nearly purely protein poultry. You don’t have to live like that anymore fellow wing lover – if it was an incurable craving when I trained for EC I have a cleaned up version of that former cheat meal. Hot wings are no exception =)

*KFC and Red Robin nutrition  stats derived directly from their respective  websites 11/5/12.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Protein Pancake Showdown

The Protein Pancake Showdown

I've been hearing about protein pancakes for quite a while, but haven’t tried them. Some use egg whites, some whole eggs, some protein powder. The beauty of the protein pancake is that it is so customizable. The other beautiful thing is that I hate straight egg whites and this is a fantastic way to eat them while entirely avoiding their taste and texture.

This morning Rich and I each took a turn at creating a protein pancake. Having a highly physical job, his dietary goals are drastically contrasted to mine. He has to make an effort to keep weight on (Lucky bastard! Love him anyways of course :) so it’s appropriate that his pancake came out with mass gainer stats. On the other hand, I sit in an office all day and have to fight all my natural eating tendencies to not put on weight. Handily, my pancake has the perfect stat ratio to facilitate a lean body composition– if I can stay on track past breakfast that is ;)

The pancakes may be ugly, but I thought mine was tasty and filling. Rich's turned out a little bit dry, but he thought he overcooked it. It had a nice peanut butter flavor. We are going to keep tweaking them. Next up, we will try adding a little baking powder for increased fluffiness.                

To stay on track come lunch the following recipe (ingredients all courtesy of Trader Joe’s) is easy to prep on the weekend and take for weekday lunches with 2 cups of steamed or raw green veggies.

As for daytime snacks, dinner and the danger zone (aka after dinner late night snacking) I’m finding the app Lose It! to be the best possible assist in sticking to my intentions. P.S. It’s free and available for iPhone, Android, and online. The best part of the app is that it will track your macros and calculate ratios for you.- something I used to do, rather tediously, by hand. As you can see I'm off track and easing back into high protein low carb. With some attention to detail and continued motivation I'll be at 40(Protein)/40(Carbs)/20(Fat) soon =)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hulk Smash Juice & Other Powerful Things

Excuses. We all have them. What’s key is whether or not we choose to make them. The strongest people in my life never wield excuses. Sometimes I find myself getting into a habit of making excuses and frankly, being whiny. Then I choose to snap out of it. There are a million excuses for not eating well, for not fitting in exercise, for not getting enough sleep. The problem with excuses is that some see them as stop signs. I see them as choices. So you have a valid excuse? That doesn't mean you have to use it. You can circumvent it and achieve what you want anyway.

Someone very near and dear to me is battling aplastic anemia, a disorder that literally wipes her out. It doesn’t stop her though; she doesn’t have to let it because she chooses instead to be her attitude. She says that she is tougher than most healthy people out there and you know what? She is.

My mom went through breast cancer twice when I was a small child and she handled it similarly. My mom does not like gyms; I haven’t managed to drag her into one for a single workout since I became a gym fanatic. However, when she was diagnosed with cancer she made the choice to get in the best shape of her life, going to step aerobics classes daily at a gym. She stood up and was tougher, stronger, and fitter than she ever had been in her life. She didn’t make an excuse; she made a choice to be her best.

I am nowhere near as strong as these two women. I make excuses. When I go a month without a satisfying workout I excuse it with the fact that I’m not training for competition. When I eat too much or eat things I shouldn't I excuse it as a stress outlet. Making excuses makes you your own worst enemy. Making excuses is the most effective way to guarantee that you will not reach your fitness goals.

I gave up recently. I was in a funk because I was about to graduate and receive my B.A. in Accounting (I’m a person who doesn’t like change). I wasn’t even finding satisfaction in working out, no more endorphin highs. I also gave up on diet and largely ate whatever I wanted. I had an excuse. I’d found out that I apparently don’t deal with the stress of school as well as I’d thought and was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism. It was nice to have an explanation for why I was tired all the time and why my metabolism was slow, but I made the mistake of making it into an excuse. I should have made it into an incentive to be better. As I’ve said I’m not the strongest person in my life. I’m weak. I need baby steps to circumvent my excuses. One little change by one little change to be what I’m capable of.

I've allowed life to intimidate me lately. I began an accelerated MBA program and the first quarter is a very heavy class load essentially meant to serve as a refresher for an entire undergraduate business degree… in 8 weeks. After about a day of intimidation I made a choice to not allow it. How can I simply ban intimidation from my new career as an MBA Candidate? Simple. Jogging.


Jogging and I have been lifetime enemies. I was the runner on two triathlon teams in 8th and 9th grade, but I speed-walked half of both. I ran track in high school, but I called the 300 meter hurdles my “long distance event.” I glare at treadmills. I am happy to sweat it out at a more than respectable speed on a StepMill or an Elliptical for 45-60 minutes, but I am not a runner. I’m slow. I get out of breath quickly. I can’t multitask while I’m doing it. I don’t like it.

Therefore, if I can beat (translation: befriend) jogging I can be more powerful than an MBA. If I wield a powerful mental state I cannot be intimidated by an intense class. On the fourth day of my MBA I was able to restart my old routine of an early am workout. So I ran before I lifted. I looped around campus. I was out of breath, it was hard, and I only had time for15 minutes, but it was fun. I ran up and down stairs. I saw the sun and the freshness of bright green grass and old growth trees. It is a powerful feeling to travel the same walkways light of foot and spirit that you normally traverse laden down by a backpack, cooler, gym bag, and raincoat. Today, I went to campus just to jog and lasted a whole 50 minutes. I made nature my playground and fit in 14 sets of stair sprints for fun. It was the best cardio only day I've had in a long time.

In class we again spoke about Jim Collins, whose book Built to Last I already integrate into my fitness philosophy. We spoke of installing mechanisms in our lives to automate adherence to our core values without the necessity of motivation. Taken in tandem with some of the attributes of meaningful work my jogging is more empowering than I thought.

To me jogging reflects my core values, permits autonomy, provides a challenge, and connects one with nature. These are four of the attributes of meaningful work. Weightlifting only meets the first two for me. By making each training session begin with a non-negotiable outdoor jog I am able to ensure that my training is meaningful, rather than unsatisfying as it has been lately. Jogging provides a challenge and connects me with nature. After my first two days of being out on the brick and pavement in my toe shoes my calf muscles were so tight that I was inclined to take an elevator down a single flight of stairs. I love feeling that 'battle scar' though, just as I have long loved DOMS. They are signs of progress. It is my goal to work my way up to being capable of an hour long jog that I enjoy. If I can do that I can certainly handle an MBA.

 My diet has also been weak lately, but baby steps can help me there too:

I love bagels, but bagels are a carb heavy muscle definition killer. Solution? P28, the high protein bagel (28 grams of protein per bagel) that meets my goals and my cravings. I really like them and just ordered our second case.

Getting enough protein without getting sick of meat, fish, or protein powder is tough for me. That’s why I love nonfat Greek yogurt. Not all brands are created equal. Fage and the Costco house brand Kirkland Signature both have 23-24 grams of protein per 130-140 calorie 8 oz. serving. Other brands have as little as a third of that protein portion so watch those labels. This is a great protein source because you can keep it varied by mixing in fruit, a few tablespoons of granola, nuts, dried fruit, honey, or other things I haven’t thought of. It is also very portable (and a nice and quiet to eat in class) meal.

Getting enough vegetables is a challenge for me. I don’t eat them with breakfast or my second meal so if my third meal (lunch) is not veg heavy I come up short for the day. We were lucky to receive a beastly blender recently for an early wedding gift and thus Hulk Smash Juice was born. The name came from my son’s recent Avengers inspired obsession with Hulk. My son happily drinks it too and says that it is going to give him big muscles to Hulk smash with.

1” round fresh pineapple, halved.
Half a lime, halved
3 big handfuls of fresh spinach
2 trays ice cubes
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons honey or to taste
The whole family can drink it with breakfast and before you know it you’ll all be hulk-smashing together…or just on your way to successfully meeting your daily veg quotas ;)

I am not, nor do I need to be, the strongest person in my life. I simply need to be stronger than my excuses and the little things are what will get me there.

What excuses do you make in your own life? What baby steps will allow you to circumvent your excuses and reach your goals? What little changes can you make to believe that the sky is the limit?