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Saturday’s long run was one of those runs that I think can be defined as being “banged out.” There was no high point or low point, but pretty consistent splits throughout and I felt strong.

I ran my usual Central Park/Riverside Park loops, and even though it’s familiar to me and I love it, I am getting a little sick of its predictability. Sometimes running feels easier when I have no idea where I’m going or exploring a new place. Good thing next weekend’s long run will take place in the Bronx!

When I got home, I did the usual stretching, refueling: fresh peach, grapes, walnuts and honey over Greek yogurt

And ice bathing:

Since I’m far too cheap to buy bags of ice each week, I usually just fill the tub with cold water and ice from about 5 trays that I have.  It melts a little quicker, but I think it still does the trick. My legs felt a lot less sore all day and I was able to walk around NYC like a fully functional human being.

Recently, Meggie and I discovered our mutual love for gymnastics. We were both gymnasts for many years and keep up on the sport as much as we can, so we made grand plans to watch the national championships at my apartment on Saturday night.

But first…

We needed to get our 16 Handles fix. Obviously.

It was awesome to hang with someone that “got” gymnastics, and just watching it on TV brought back tons of old memories.

On my recovery run this morning, I was still thinking about the competition and how gymnastics was once a HUGE part of my life.

I never thought I would love any sport as much as I loved gymnastics.

I also thought I’d always be able to do a round-off, back handspring, double-full. HA.

But gymnastics isn’t a sport you can do forever. It basically beats the crap out of you.

It’s funny how cough eleven cough years can change things. Even though the sport taught me a lot and I have (mostly) great memories from it, sometimes I forget I ever was a gymnast.

And interestingly, sometimes it feels like I’ve always been a runner, and I can’t imagine loving a sport any more than I love running.

It’s a different kind of love, though. With gymnastics, I was good. My goal was always to be perfect and win. And I did. Part of my love for the sport came from the medals, trophies and success I had.

With running, I’m pretty sure I’ll never win. Or come close to winning. In fact, the only person that probably cares that I run at all is me.

And I kind of love that. I can run for enjoyment, I can run to PR in a race, I can train hard for a marathon.  I can run for whatever the hell reason I want. And I usually always want to run.

So even though running is something I’ll never technically “excel” at, it makes me feel awesome every day. And if winning against myself counts, then I do it multiple times per week 🙂

Question: Is running your first sport? Why do you run?

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Happy Tuesday, friends!

I hope your weeks are going well so far. It’s still kind of rainy here in NYC, but I’d rather have a gloomy day during the week than the weekend!

Plus, a soggy run here and there is good for the soul. This morning I ran about 7.25 easy miles, and actually find the sound and feel of steady rain while running quite calming.

I could do without soggy, squishy shoes though. I guess that’s why I have, ehm, multiple pairs at the ready.

Dear Brooks: Sponsor me? Size 8.5, Adrenalines. K thx.

But backing up to last week’s training:

  • Monday: 50 minutes vinyasa yoga & stretching
  • Tuesday: 7.6 miles (4 @ MP)
  • Wednesday: 9 miles easy
  • Thursday: 7.5 miles (4 @ “easy” tempo pace)
  • Friday: 5.5 miles very easy
  • Saturday: 18 miles
  • Sunday: 5.8 miles easy

Total: 53.4 miles

I was pretty tired all week, and really felt it on Saturday’s 18 miler. Even though I kept a pretty decent pace, the legs were definitely screaming for a little break (especially my IT band). So this week I’m thinking of cutting back to five running days and 1-2 cross training days, which will reduce my mileage about 20% from last week.

I’m kind of in “be extra careful so I don’t get injured” mode, and think I need to start taking cutback weeks seriously if I want to get to the starting line on November 6 in one piece. So every three weeks or so I’m going to try to cut back on mileage like this to give my bod a little break.

Now, onto some refueling…

The rain on Sunday was a perfect excuse to try a new recipe I found on Shayne’s blog that looked delicious AND healthy.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Prep was pretty easy. And green!

And it turned out delicious

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread (source)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2-2/3 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease your loaf pan. Combine the dry ingredients, except for the chocolate chips, and combine the wet ingredients, except for the shredded zucchini. Mix the wet and dry ingredients, and then fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Bake for 75 minutes.

I loved that this recipe didn’t even use sugar, and instead of maple syrup in the original recipe, I used agave nectar. I’ve never thought to do that before, but am now intrigued about how I can incorporate it into my other baking recipes.

The bread has a nice, hearty taste, and the chocolate chips add the perfect amount of sweet. Excellent post-run refueling.

Question: How often do you take cutback weeks? Ever bake with agave nectar?

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Recently, Amazon.com got the best of me and I ordered a few new running books (because who ever buys just one thing when online shopping? Not this girl…).

I’ve been wanting to read RUN: The Mind Body Method of Running by Feel (by Matt Fitzgerald) for a long time – a lot of my running/blogging friends have found it to be pretty helpful towards their running and mindset.

I’m only 80 or so pages in, but am already digging what seem to be the overarching theme(s):

  • Running and training is extremely individualized (i.e., 100 miles/week works for some people, 50 works for others, etc.)
  • Runners can benefit from relying more on their intuition when deciding how far to run and how fast

It seems like a no brainer, but I for one am definitely someone who can get caught up in a training plan and set mileage or speedwork goals for the day or week. Sometimes I think it’s easier for me to ignore what my legs are trying to tell me and push until I’ve met whatever goal I have for the day.

Not that I think we shouldn’t push ourselves during workouts, but what I think Fitzgerald is trying to say is that sometimes our bodies intuitively know how fast or far they can go on a given day. We just need to hone in on that and listen to them more, and understand that deviating from a plan is ok.

Aside from the mumbo jumbo that may or may not be going around about “listening to our bodies,” I think he has a great point. When I set out for a run without any sort of pace in mind, I’m often surprised that my legs seem to get a little speedier as I go along and it doesn’t seem as hard as when I’m consciously trying to run at the same pace.

Has anyone else ever experienced this?

I’m definitely intrigued by this theory, so I decided to try it (somewhat) on this morning’s scheduled tempo run. Instead of following my plan exactly for four tempo miles, I’d run at whatever pace felt comfortably hard this morning.

Interesting… Usually I focus on 3-4 miles at a sub-8:00 min/mile pace, but on this run my legs were feeling a little beat up and there were a lot of hills in my route. I forced myself to not look at the Garmin so much, which was really hard! But I’m pleased with the run overall. I felt pretty strong during most of it, rather than wanting to die after my last tempo mile.

Not sure I’ll do this for every tempo run, but it was a good experiment!

Breakfast – Kashi Heart to Heart, strawberries, blueberries, almond milk

I’ll report back when I finish the rest of the book!

I’m excited to delve into the other one as well – Nancy Clark is a sports nutrition superstar and definitely someone I look up to (as in, I would like her career someday). I want to read this one before classes start in September to get me all excited for lots of nutrition-related studying.

Question: What are your thoughts on running by “intuition” rather than following a set plan? Do you/would you do it? Favorite running book you’ve read recently?

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Running 23 miles in two days plus entertaining momma Meals for Miles, who was visiting, is kind of tiring.

But despite the fact that I almost fell asleep at Cirque du Soleil on Saturday night, it was a great weekend.

Sometimes I like to think I can do it all – work, school, weekend trips, plans with friends, blogging – while marathon training and it will all go extremely smoothly. Other times, like this weekend, I’m reminded why people don’t typically train for marathons all the time.

Because it’s exhausting, yo.

When you’re working the body hard six or seven days a week, getting the proper rest isn’t optional, it’s essential. In fact, I may just go to bed before the sun completely goes down tonight…

I also don’t think I could afford to feed myself if I trained for marathons year-round, because I am hungry ALL THE TIME.

At least my mom was kind enough to feed me this weekend, and did not judge when I refused to share desserts with her.

ABC Kitchen carrot cake – to fuel my long run the next morning, obviously.

Sidenote: our entire meal at ABC Kitchen was amazing – simple and subtle with tons of flavor at the same time.

Mexican Chocolate Brownie with caramelized banana, vanilla mole ice cream, toasted pecans and chocolate ancho sauce from Candle 79

Sidenote: Our trip to Candle 79 was my mom’s first vegan restaurant experience. She survived and liked it!

I had planned to run my long run on Saturday morning, and mom was a good sport regarding an obnoxiously early bedtime after our trip to ABC Kitchen (bless her). Since I was going to be running for ~2.5 hours, I wanted to make sure to get it done early so we had the day to do some very important shopping.

So it was out the door by 6:15. My first couple miles were pretty slowish, and I was a little worried the run would be somewhat of a struggle. But once I got to the Riverside Park part of my run (around miles 6-9), the legs noticeably pepped up and stayed that way when I returned to Central Park.

The second half of the run was much stronger than the first, and I actually felt good picking up the pace. Runs like this gives me much-needed confidence that I’ll be able to hold a similar pace for the marathon, and hopefully PR the crap out of it 🙂

Even though I do prefer to chill out after long runs, sometimes walking around a bit helps prevent stiffness. So my mom and I shopped for a bit and hit up the High Line, which is an elevated park on NYC’s West side, constructed on some old railroad tracks.

It’s kind of awesome. And has a gelato stand.

Mint gelato with chocolate chunks – delicious.

I think my sweet tooth is officially out of control. But I’m ok with it.

I actually haven’t hung out with my mom one-on-one in maybe years. When you’re a twin, this can be somewhat difficult. And while we missed my sis up in Boston, having my mom all to myself was probably the sweetest treat of the weekend. 🙂

Question: Do you make sure to save room for dessert? I always, always do. Also, what do you prefer to do after long runs – rest? Hit up the town? Take a trapeze class?

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Your comments to my last post on how you started running were great! I love me a good story with a happy ending.

And any story involving running has a happy ending, yes?

This week has been pretty busy at work, but quite stellar running-wise and I’m feeling strong. Tuesday I set out for some mile repeats (I bagged my last mile repeat workout because of the heat), and I was determined to get in some quality speedwork.

It was a gorgeous morning, and despite some leg fatigue/soreness at the beginning of my run, each repeat was pretty much right where I wanted them to be.

  • 2 mile warm-up
  • Mile 3: 7:47
  • Mile 4: 7:37
  • Mile 5: 7:45
  • 3 mile cool-down
  • Total: 8 miles

Eventually, I’d like to get these down to 7:30 (and under), but I know developing speed takes time. If only I had more than an ounce of patience in me…

Wednesday was an easy longish 8.65 miler with Megan, Ali and Elyssa – like always, we chatted away the miles and I loved every second of it. Ali has termed our morning crew the “Sweat Squad.” I kind of think we should get this printed on matching tech T-shirts.

This morning I ran a solo 7.25 mile progression run ending at about marathon pace and am ready to take on the day. But first…

A few weeks ago, my running buddy Sara brought some watermelon over to my apartment to accompany a quick dinner I had prepared. It was so juicy, delicious and refreshing!

And it was also the first time I’ve had watermelon all summer – terrible, I know. But ever since then I’ve been slightly obsessed with it, and decided to create an easy recipe featuring tons of delicious juicy goodness.

Simple ingredients: Watermelon, Cucumber, Shrimp, Farro, Mint, Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

And a super easy prep (i.e., I’m so lazy this summer in terms of cooking!)

Tupperware version:

Watermelon, Cucumber, Shrimp and Farro Salad with Mint, Goat Cheese and Toasted Pine Nuts (yield: 4 servings)

  • 3-4 cups chopped watermelon
  • 2 cups chopped cucumber
  • ¼ lb cooked shrimp
  • 2 cups dry farro
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 3-4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1-2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • Juice from one lemon

Instructions
Cook the farro according to directions on the package – I just boiled mine with 3 cups of water and then let simmer for 15 minutes. Let the cooked farro cool completely, and empty into a large bowl. Add in watermelon, cucumbers and mint and mix together. Add lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Top with shrimp, goat cheese and pine nuts. Mix as much as desired.

About Farro
This was my first time cooking farro. I originally wanted to use quinoa, but Fairway didn’t have a ton of affordable options ($7 for quinoa = hell to the no). Don’t worry Fairway, this is your one and only flaw, and I forgive you.

Anyways, farro is also a great grain and super easy to cook. It’s a member of the wheat family and tastes similar to brown rice but chewier (in a good way) and a bit nuttier (also in a good way). Farro is also a great source of fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates. So, a perfect runner food!

This salad can work as an entrée or side dish, and is super versatile in terms of subsitutions – for example, cashews instead of pine nuts or feta in place of the goat cheese.

Today is my Friday – hooray for long weekends!

Question: Have you ever had/cooked farro? If you do speedwork, when do you start seeing improvements in your workouts/races?

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Happy Tuesday!

It’s a gorgeous morning in NYC, perfect for a confidence-building speed session on the reservoir (hooray!). But more about that in my next post.

Last week was also a great one running-wise – I cracked 50 miles for the first time this training cycle!

  • Monday: XT: 40 minutes spinning, 25 minutes elliptical, lifting and corework
  • Tuesday: 7.25 miles (3 @ tempo pace)
  • Wednesday: 8.05 easy miles
  • Thursday: 7.5 miles (3 @ MP)
  • Friday: 5.1 easy miles
  • Saturday: 16.05 miles
  • Sunday: 6.1 miles very easy

Total: 50.1 miles

So I’ve been thinking. A lot of my running friends ran track in high school, and/or kicked butt running in college. They’ve been runners for a whole lotta’ years, which sometimes makes me wish I had started running a bit earlier.

Instead I was busy doing this for ten years of my young life:

Sad to say, that’s about all the gymnastics I can do these days.

But back to running. I think everyone has a different reason or story about why they started running, and during one of my recent long runs I started to think of mine.

I parted ways with my gymnastics career when I went to college, and not having a sport to concentrate on was really strange at first. No, I didn’t replace gymnastics with running. But rather, ehm, partying? Boston is a fun place to go to school, that’s for sure. 🙂

I did go out for a random run here or there, but never more than 15 or 20 minutes at the most. It was something I enjoyed, but only as part of my exercise routine to help keep me in shape.

Fast forward a few years, and that all changed. I went through a pretty bad breakup that left me feeling really alone – all of a sudden something that had been such a big part of my life was gone. Gradually, I started running a little more. It made me feel good, and I still remember the huge boost I got when I ran 3 miles for the first time.

Pretty soon I woke up in the mornings not thinking of some douchebag him, but about how excited I was to get my run on. Not only did running give me something to focus on, but I loved it! Eventually I got up to 5 mile runs a few days per week around the Charles River, and thought I might like to try running in a race.

So I signed up for the Tufts 10K for Women in October 2004. I think it was the longest distance I had ever run, and I finished in about 56 minutes. The last part of the race was a little painful, but I was hooked! I liked this racing thing.

That summer, a friend of mine mentioned he was signing up for the BAA Half Marathon. “You should do it too!” he said.

At first, I was like, “thirteen miles?? There is no way I can ever run 13 miles. I don’t know if I even want to run that far!”

But I thought about it, and was intrigued. Enough so that I signed up for the race and started training for it. I ran 10 miles for the first time and still remember how euphoric I felt during the run, and how I got to explore different areas of Boston along the Charles that seemed so far away before. Running long was awesome!

So I ran my first half marathon in October 2005 and finished in 2:07:04, about 9:42/mile. And loved it, obviously.

A year later I moved to NYC, joined New York Road Runners, ran as many races as I could (42 to date, actually), got a bit speedier, and the rest is history.

After finishing the 2010 NYC Marathon

So I guess I’ve been running for about 7 years now, give or take a few months. And through these years, running has been my therapy, my savior, a source of joy, a source of disappointment, a social activity, and something that has taught me more about myself than any other activity or person could have ever done.

So that’s my story. Now you tell me – how/when/why did you start running?

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Last year, when training for the NYC Marathon, I remember my first 16 miler as being a huge step for me. It was a personal distance record, sounded really far (i.e., bragging rights: “I just ran 16 miles, yo”) and was only 10 miles short of the marathon distance.

I thought for the first time, “If I can run 16 that strong, then 26.2 is totally doable!”

16 miles is still one of my favorite distances, and I’m excited to be at the point in training when I get to crack it (and exceed it!). So I set out early on Saturday morning, which was a delightfully pleasant 75 degrees with low humidity at 6:00 a.m. – a picnic compared to last weekend’s slog fest.

I did my usual loop around Central Park and out to Riverside Park for another loop, and returned to CP to meet up with Ali for the last part of the run.

We chatted away the miles, and before I knew it the run was over (though I was totally tempted to keep going with Ali, who had an 18 miler on tap). We parted ways after taking a sweat-tastic photo.

I heat running with this lady!

I was pretty happy with my splits –  my goal for the run was to keep it fairly easy paced and hover around the 9:00 minute/mile range.

 

I usually do about half or a third of my long runs on the bridle path and the rest on the roads, and during the week I tend to stick to the bridle more often unless I’m tempo-ing. But a recent article in the New York Times by Gina Kolata (a runner who often writes about running. I heart her) debates whether running on soft surfaces is actually better for you.

Soft?

Hard?

According to Ms. Kolata, there are limited studies on actual runners and injury rate on soft surface vs. hard, and there’s no actual proof that soft surfaces can prevent injuries. Some can even cause them because of uneven surfaces increasing risk for things like rolled ankles or falls.

Still, I’m not completely sold. I’m pretty injury prone, and last year did a lot of my marathon training on the bridle and managed to stay healthy. I think that’s definitely worth something!

However, I do see the importance of running on the roads too – most races are on roads, so it’s important that our bodies are used to running on them. I guess like a lot of things, balance is key.

And of course, getting to the starting line healthy and in one piece.

On long run days I always crave pizza, and decided to make a super easy version with some whole wheat flatbread, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and tons of veggies.

It only took about 10 minutes in the oven – easiest dinner ever!

Delicious.

Of course it needed to be followed by 16 Handles

I promise there is froyo underneath the toppings and that I demolished every ounce of this massive creation.

Congrats to everyone who raced yesterday and good luck to everyone racing today!

Question: Hard surfaces, or soft? What’s your favorite distance to run?

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