Sunday, May 29, 2011


Short story: Ran my second marathon yesterday. Beat my previous time by quite a bit. Felt strong the whole time. Truly enjoyed the experience. Finished in 3:56:43.
Long story...

Saturday's forecast kept changing in the days (and hours) leading up to the race. By the time we woke up, not-so-bright and early at 4am, chance of showers was 50-60%. And sure enough, it was raining.  I was extra careful with my SportWax application to prevent chafing.

I made my breakfast: peanut butter and Nutella (hey, it's race day) on local wheat bread with a banana and a familiar flavor of Gatorade. I ate half in my room (4:45am) and half once we got to the start (5:45am).
It rained--pretty significantly--until the race began at 7am. Thankfully we could wait inside the local high school for most of the time. We headed to the starting line about 45 minutes early, to use the porta-potties one more time. 

We found our friends, The H gave me a good luck smooch (he was running the 10K--6.2 miles--at 7:30am), and we were off after the national anthem played.

My running partner Amy and I settled into a comfortable pace, albeit a little fast for how much we still had ahead of us. It took us a few miles to scale back to where we wanted to be for the first 18-20 miles.

Miles 1-5 went by very quickly. She looked at me at one point, around Mile 2, and said, "Did we start already?!" :p We were right on pace once we hit Mile 4, and feeling strong.

Miles 6-10 felt much longer. I had a pretty long stop in here, when I couldn't get my Gu unpinned from my shorts. The pin was stuck, then the Gu wouldn't come off the pin, and once I got it loose, I couldn't open the packet! A sweet race volunteer helped me get it open, but I wasted a lot of time there. Hate that.

Around Mile 10 I told Amy I was planning a bathroom stop at the halfway point. Somewhere in here we started seeing runners from the half marathon passing us the opposite direction. That put some pep in my step, and I unknowingly sped up. Amy helped reel me in by keeping a steady pace, though I was naturally starting to stay a few steps in front of her.

Mile 13, the turnaround point, came and went without a pitstop because the potties were too far off-course. I passed Amy when I turned, and told her I'd hit the next one hoping it wasn't crowded. And that was the last I saw of her until the finish line... On my way to that next aid station, I pushed my pace a bit (Garmin says 8:38), thinking I'd be able earn a few extra seconds and still come out with the average I wanted.

Mile 14-15ish, post-potty stop... I had a rock in my left shoe, but it wasn't worth stopping for. I was hoping Amy would catch up and we could finish together. She was nowhere to be seen, so I grabbed a water and kept on trucking, thinking she must've passed me, although I didn't see her hat ahead of me.

At the next two water stations, I looked for her everywhere, even running a few steps backwards here and there in case she hadn't passed me when I was using the bathroom.

Mile 17, single digits to go. Enjoyed "leap frogging" with several of the same runners/groups as we each stopped and started at the various water stops. Encouraged a first-timer who had the misfortune of running with a know-it-all who would.not.stop.blabbing about "it's just another long run, stay loose, don't waste your energy..." I'd have pushed him off course if he was running with me.

Mile 18, still feeling strong. I hadn't seen Amy in at least 5 miles. One of my worst race-day fears was coming true; not only was I running without music (my iPod was severely unreliable during training and I didn't want to carry it with me in case it decided to bonk again) but now I was also running alone. During training I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up my planned race pace without Amy there; now I had to figure it out. Turns out, it wasn't as bad as I'd been fearing. Actually, I grinned like an idiot for much of the race! I was having FUN. During a MARATHON. That's messed up, right? :)

Mile 20, some jerky volunteer was saying "Last hill! You're almost there!" First, it wasn't. Second, we weren't. I told him if he was wrong about the hill, I'd come back and punch him. (Note to The H: I guess that was my long-run rage of the day!) I wasn't too upset, since I had run this part of the course before, AND I was expecting to see my friend Heather within the next mile! Trying to talk the hot spot on the bottom of my left foot into *not* becoming a blister. My water breaks were becoming a little longer. Just over an hour remaining for the last 6.2mi if I wanted to make my goal of coming in under four hours.

Mile 21, coming up to a big spectator area... looking for Heather... hearing so much shouting around me, starting to get disoriented and a little claustrophobic... It was crowded, I was almost through the tunnel of people... THERE SHE WAS!! I hollered a little and waved, and she squealed at me, then jumped onto the course next to me. She asked if I needed anything, how I was feeling, and said I looked strong. It was so nice to see a familiar face! I asked if she'd seen Amy, but no such luck. That must mean she was behind me... but how much? I was getting worried that her knee, which had given her fits a few weeks ago and caused a DNF (did not finish) at another race, was acting up.

Mile 22, are we really only four miles out? And was my pace really hovering in the low-8s?! I had Heather read the Garmin for me just in case my eyes were playing tricks. She runs a bit slower than I do on average, and while she was nervous about being "too fresh" for me when we met up, she now said she was worried about holding me back because I was running so freaking strong. Woot!!

Miles 23-25, still feeling good... hips starting to ache. Conversation becoming shorter--single words rather than phrases. Heather gave me a Gu somewhere in here, which was great. I think this is part of the reason I didn't hit The Wall like I did at this point in Detroit. (Throughout the race I ended up eating ten Clif Shot Bloks and four different kinds of Gu--espresso, chocolate, vanilla, and plain.) Right quad seized up a little, but I beat on it with a fist to release the knot, and I didn't even have to stop to stretch. Whew.

Mile 25.7, starting to approach the finish chute. I could see orange cones blocking off traffic and larger groups of spectators lining the way. I told Heather THANK YOU and asked that she run back and find Amy, and please give her my apologies for ditching her.  :(

Mile 26, I saw some friends who had already finished! They hollered and cheered. Still feeling strong. Annoyed at the lady in jeans and a polo who was pacing some guy in front of me; I almost told her to haul ass and get out of the way. Lucky for them, they put on some serious speed and pulled away just as I started my finish kick.

Mile 26.1, I heard The H yell my name and saw my father-in-law just outside the high school track where the finish line was. Time to put on a smile and push whatever speed I had left. The H's dad has his camera around his neck--under his jacket. As I ran by, he said, "Hey come back here!" :p The Garmin read 7:55. WHAT the heck?! Go with it...I'm on the track...see the FINISH arms...DONE!

Mile 26.2 (my Garmin read 26.4) I was handed a medal and a bottle of water, and slloowwwly set off to get some food. They didn't have the space blankets I was *so* looking forward to. Once I wasn't moving as fast, I got pretty cold. The only thing that sounded good was orange slices. It was raining again, and pretty breezy. Grabbed a bag of Sun Chips and some pretzels and started looking for The H and the rest of my crew. The little guy ran to greet me across the infield, and had fun examining my medal. And eating my chips.
The H gave me a dry shirt and I chugged the Gatorade I had packed while his dad took some pics.
We met up with our other friends, I got to see some of our group's first-timers finish, and we found Amy! Her knee did indeed cause problems, starting at Mile 6! She never said anything to me, but by the half, she was hurting pretty badly. She finished, but nowhere near the time she wanted.

After hanging around until my lips turned the color of my shorts (OK, not quite that bad), we headed back to our hotel for lunch, showers, and naps. As much as everyone seems to think I should be ravenously hungry, I really didn't eat more than a normal amount throughout the day. Even my dinner, after a touch of post-run ickiness settled, was only two pieces of wild mushroom pizza and some antipasto salad at Pangea's Pizza. Oh, and a locally-made root beer. Mmmm bubbles. The H suggested ice cream, but really, I was content with a decaf mocha and big bottle of water.

Oh, and quite content in my 40-minute PR and very first sub-4-hour marathon finish. :)

Today I'm sore, but mobile. Three hours in the car didn't do me any favors, but I've continued to rehydrate, and took some Ibuprofen. As sick as it is, I've already started thinking about #3... no solid plans yet (The H would have a coronary), but I know I'm not done with the beast that is The Marathon...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Marathon training update: Race week!

It's hard to believe that this Saturday is race day! Last time around, training seemed to drag on and I was *so* very nervous for weeks leading up to the marathon, but this time... it's race week already?!

Training has continued to go well (knock on wood) and I haven't had the nagging aches/pains/injuries that plagued me last time. Hopefully that means Saturday will be smooth sailing, too.

This week is all about lower mileage, staying loose and staying injury-free! I'm so excited for my friends who are running their first-ever 26.2, and wish them the best on race day. It's been a fun ride this time around knowing that so many of my running pals will be there with me!

My meal plan this week is based on the ever-popular Fridge Cleanout theme, so we don't have a ton of food going to waste while we're traveling. Tonight will likely be breakfast dinner since I recently got a shipment of Bob's Red Mill GF pancake mix. Beyond that... stay tuned and I'll let you know if something fabulous comes out of it. :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Meal plan

The H is jetting off to the wilds of Philadelphia this week. He's planning to scope out some things for us to do together when we join him for a few weeks in June! It's good to have something to look forward to after a big race (or other event). To that end, I also signed up for the Army Ten-Miler in October. I am not planning on another 2011 marathon, but I'd like to have a few smaller events on my calendar to help keep me moving. This will be my second 10-mile race in the fall.

Enough about that; here's our planned eats for the week:

Sunday lunch - Chicken broccoli pasta after church

Sunday dinner - Out with The H on the way to the airport

Monday - Beef tenderloin with asparagus and corn on the cob

Tuesday - Chicken barley stew in the CrockPot after running group; I'm planning to use white beans instead of black eyed peas, and some sweet potatoes in addition to white

Wednesday - Leftover shrimp noodles for me; ravioli for the little guy

Thursday - Girls' run at my house, dinner TBD

Friday - Pasta with tomato cream sauce from Cook, Pray, Love

Saturday - Burgers on the grill

Lunches - Shrimp noodles, wheat berries with caramelized onions and feta, leftover chicken pasta

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mildly Meaty Monday

Score another win for Branny Boils Over. As I was wracking my brain to come up with a meal plan for the week, I scooted over to my Google Reader for inspiration. And there I saw Beef and Bean Fajitas--the perfect way to get me out of the "chicken and blank" rut I found myself in.

Because I didn't have quite the amount of beef called for (I wanted to use up some leftover steak from Saturday rather than thawing a whole new hunk of cow), I added some baby portobello mushrooms and sliced bell pepper to make up the rest of the weight; thus, mildly meaty Monday. I'll let Branny's recipe and original source speak for themselves; other than these extra fillers I didn't change a thing about the meal.
I served mine on a whole grain tortilla (with some faux sour cream--organic yogurt, strained through cheesecloth for about half an hour) and The H's on the last few corn tortillas from this meal. The little guy is not a fan of steak, so I made him a cheese quesadilla on the same kind of wrap I used, and he ate his black beans on the side. We each also had an ear of corn on the cob--super sweet!
We finished the meal with some of the biggest strawberries I've ever seen. My son, a notorious berry-fiend, couldn't finish two!

Monday, May 9, 2011

One-stop meal, courtesy of Ken's

This dinner was made possible thanks to Ken's Fruit Market, that local gem that we've been thrilled to have in our neighborhood since last summer. I didn't realize it when I formed the meal in my head, but as I was assembling it, I had to laugh. Earlier this year I made a week-long challenge to myself to shop only at Ken's for our dinners, and here I accomplished the same thing by mere coincidence.

Grilled chicken breasts, marinated in Garlic Expressions dressing/marinade, topped with pico de gallo, and served with cilantro-lime brown rice (yep, even rice-cooker friendly brown rice can be found at Ken's!) and homemade baked corn tortilla chips made the perfect complement to the brilliantly sunny, breezy spring day we had here.

While The H grilled the chicken, I chopped all the goodies for the pico and cut/seasoned the corn tortillas. A few minutes of baking--just until browned on the edges--at 350* was all they needed.

Aside from the kosher salt, olive oil, and dried coriander I used in the rice and on the tortilla chips, everything I used in this meal can be found at Ken's.
While we may get a few "Oh hi, ma'am, you again?" looks behind the pleasant smiles that greet us at Ken's when we dash in for the third time in a week, we'll continue going back because it's perfectly located (can't beat less than a half-mile walk when gas is so expensive!) and they carry what we use at good prices. And no, this is not a paid advertisement. I just like the local guys!

I find myself very content when the little guy and I (and The H, when he's home) can spend a day grocery shopping, visiting the library, picking up a few things at the hardware store, mailing our bills, grabbing some cash from the ATM, and capping the day with treats from our favorite pizza joint and/or ice cream shop, without leaving our little neighborhood or hopping into the car. It makes me want to spend that much more time and money investing in our super-local community businesses, and happy that we have so many to choose from.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Marathon training update: Long runs DONE!

Technically, I still have two long runs to do, but today was the longest one of all eighteen weeks of training, so the rest are (much) shorter from here on out..minus race day. :p

The weather was gorgeous for a change--no rain, snow, sleet, or gale-force winds--and we were able to enjoy sun and a light breeze the whole time. Good thing, too, since the route was so hilly we probably couldn't have handled anything else stacked against us.

My running partner and I made the joint decision to stay conservative (the hills kind of forced that anyway) and try to not burn out like we did for 19 miles. She had to pull me back a few times when my legs were getting ahead of my brain, but overall we stayed strong and steady. The effort felt faster than the Garmin says, but that's ok. We were still under our planned race-day pace.

Here are the splits:

Split Moving Time Distance
1 0:08:55 1
2 0:08:30 1
3 0:08:22 1
4 0:08:37 1
5 0:08:32 1
6 0:08:40 1
7 0:08:44 1
8 0:08:30 1
9 0:08:33 1
10 0:08:38 1
11 0:08:49 1
12 0:08:50 1
13 0:08:38 1
14 0:08:50 1
15 0:08:45 1
16 0:08:52 1
17 0:08:36 1
18 0:08:55 1
19 0:09:03 1
20 0:08:42 1
21 0:00:50 0.1
 Summary 2:54:51 20.1

From 18-19 we were going up hill into the wind. You can't win 'em all.

The H met me at the door with my coffee. Oh yes indeed, he's done this before. ;)
My lovely friend Heather, who hosted us and planned the route, also made a fantastic baked French toast with chocolate and dried cherries. Between that and the two hardboiled egg whites I put The H to work peeling for me, I refueled quite nicely.

One of these also found its way into my belly.

Sugar-covered sugar for the win!

A few ibuprofen, some water, and an elevated-legs nap later, I'm feeling remarkably normal. I'll use the foam roller before bed, and anticipate no lasting effects tomorrow. My friends and I were reminiscing today about where we started from: back when my long runs were 4-6 miles, I'd go home and eat like a horse, then nap for hours and walk funny for a few days. Today I ran for three hours, and feel like me. :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pizza free-for-all

Got some random veggies around? Not enough meat to build a meal around? Make a pizza! It's almost as forgiving as soup when it comes to using leftover odds and ends in a new way.

We've gotten pretty creative with our pies lately, and each one seems better than the last. One of my favorite combinations is barbecue sauce, chicken, red onion, and cheddar cheese. Adding green onion and/or green olive if they're available is tasty, too.

This one was topped with local nitrate-free beef pepperoni, artichoke hearts, black olives, pesto instead of red sauce, and a random assortment of awesome cheeses left from a party.
On the side, using one of the small crusts (when I make Bob's Red Mill GF crust, I make one large for dinner and two small pie-plate sized ones for leftovers), I made a garlic cheese bread. Yeah, not clean. But deeelicious, especially with the yogurt-based ranch-inspired dip I made on the side.

This is just plain yogurt dolled up with some salt-free herb blends and a few shakes of dehydrated veggie flakes.
 Everyone loved it. :)

Happy weekend eating!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I made Hamburger Helper.

Not the kind in a box, relax. It was a homemade knockoff, using this recipe from Kitchen Stewardship. I wanted something quick and easy for after running group, but I didn't want to make chili in the CrockPot. (Turns out the night was chilly enough for chili, but I already had this halfway made before we left, so never mind about that.) None of the search results on were thrilling me, so I went to trusty ol' Google and picked one that I had the ingredients for.

You'll realize there is no picture. Even I have my limits to what I will post. :D But the dish did turn out well, really. It just wasn't ready for a close-up.

I used Sam Mills gluten free corn pasta, lean, local ground beef (fat drained), Vidalia onion instead of onion powder, and HFCS-free ketchup in place of tomato sauce. That was our only grumble about this recipe. Between the ketchup and the sugar (turbinado--I didn't want to overpower the dish with sucanat, though I might try it next time), the sauce was quite a bit sweeter than either The H or I cared for. Reducing the sugar by half if using ketchup might be the way to go. I also omitted the salt and pepper, except for a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on the meat while it browned--nowhere near the teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon she calls for.

As far as quick and easy, this fit the bill. I couldn't really detect the cheddar at the end, and it seemed quite creamy enough without it, so when I make this again, I will either use a sharper cheese or omit it altogether. Between that change, using real tomato sauce (or Pomi strained tomatoes), and sucanat in place of sugar, we could have a decent one-pot dish to add to our rotation.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Once upon a time...

Once upon a spring day in 2004, I ran a 5K. My time was 34:18. Average pace, 11:02 per mile. The next year, I ran it again. My time was 34:05. Average pace, 10:58 per mile. The NEXT year, I ran it again. My time was 34:05 (funny, right?). Average pace 10:58.

Five years later, I ran it for the fourth time. My time was 23:43, and I won 1st place in my age group. Average pace, 7:38 per mile. How NUTS is that?!
(Yes, I realize I could pack for a week's vacation in the sacks under my eyes. While I had the foresight to put on earrings--uber fancy for me--makeup was *not* happening before that race, and I hadn't had any coffee yet! Focus on the medal, people.)

My parents were there doing the 5K walk, and The H pushed the little guy in the jogging stroller. After the 5K, the little guy "ran" in his very first race: a one-lap journey around the indoor track, which he finished piggyback-style on The H. Running is hard work, especially when you're only three feet tall.
I find it delightfully amusing that I've gotten faster as I've aged, but not only that, I'm in such better shape now than I was in my mid-20s. My diet no doubt plays a major role in that, and I'm so glad I've been able to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate a mostly-clean eating plan. The payoffs have thus far proven well worth it.

Below are my splits from the race--the first two miles are my warmup. SO glad I was able to get those in! Being loose and warm only worked in my favor, I'm sure. (Besides, to meet my marathon-training mileage for the week, I had to run a total of five miles! Four weeks to go...) While I was getting a little freaked out seeing 7:09 and 7:11 as part of my moving pace on the Garmin during the first mile, I tried not to think about it too much, since I knew it would all be over soon. :)

Split Avg Moving Pace Distance
1 9:37 1
2 9:33 1
3 7:17 1
4 7:42 1
5 7:29 1
6 7:11 0.18
 Summary 8:17 5.18