Monthly archives: March, 2014

Weekly Recap – week of March 24, 2014

Welcome to week 2 post-Shamrock, also known as the week I got to start running more miles!

Note – unless I mention otherwise, runs are done on my treadmill and all workouts are done in the morning (before work on weekdays). I run at a 1% incline as my default (though there is now question about whether that’s necessary, I’m sticking with it for now).

Workouts the week of 3/24:

Mon 3/24 – core workout, bike 60 min.
Tues 3/25 – RUN, 8 miles at multiple paces in recovery pace range
Wed 3/26 – core workout, bike 40 min. After work: Wharton flexibility routine, Roll Recovery
Th 3/27 – RUN, 8.3 miles at multiple paces in recovery pace range, finished a little faster
Fri 3/28 – core workout, bike 60 min.
Sat 3/29 – RUN 11.5 miles with 10 segments of 0.25mi at 3% incline, 30 min bike cooldown, Roll Recovery in evening while watching TV
Sun 3/30 – RUN 10.35 miles with 5 fartlek speed segments of 2-2.5 min, 20 min bike cool down, Roll Recovery in evening while watching TV

38.15 miles run
3.5h bike – these are all very easy spin workouts, super low resistance but high cadence
3 core workouts (my workout is basically this one)
1 chiro rx’d workout (involves some plyometric leaping, single/double leg squats on a balance board, some balance work & stretching)
1 flexibility workout
multiple Roll Recovery sessions
Other: weekly chiropractor appt.

Still getting better every day. Wednesday was intended to be a run day, and though I could have run (only thing bothering me was L hamstring which is not new), for some reason my brain kept saying “you should bike instead, why push it right now” and after much dithering – which cut my workout shorter – I biked. My L ham seemed to appreciate it, and complained less throughout Wednesday and into Thursday. Wish I’d scheduled a massage for this week.

Surprised by how sore I was after Saturday’s run. Got up Sunday and was still quite sore (especially my feet). I was worried about Sunday’s run, however it went better than I expected given how I felt. This weekend has been two days of rain here, so I’m very glad I have and love my treadmill!

2 weeks to this duo of races:

April 12
Marine Corps 17.75k

April 13
George Washington Parkway 10 Miler

Friday Five! Favorite Fitness Activities

Thanks to the warm welcome and encouragement of local blogger Cynthia, I’m joining this week’s Friday Five linkup, hosted by

Cynthia at You Signed Up for What?!
Courtney at EatPrayRunDC
Mar at Mar on the Run

(see their sites for more info & links to other participating blogs)

The topic is “favorite fitness activities.”


Running Of course. DH suggested I just list my five fave types of runs, but I thought I’d stick with the intent of the topic.

running shoes

Brooks Adrenaline 13s w/ orthotics


Hiking – preferably in Sedona

view from Bell Rock in Sedona

view from Bell Rock in Sedona

or Phoenix/Scottsdale,

view from hike in Phoenix area

view from hike in Phoenix area

but local hikes are nice too

water view from hike in Great Falls Park

water view from hike in Great Falls Park

# 3


Out and about through our neighborhood, or near the water, or anywhere there are things to look at and places to stop. My training does tend to curtail our walks on the weekends though. Now that it’s light longer after work, we may go for after-dinner walks. However, DH is an after-work runner, and there’s always a lot to get done between dinner and bed, so it doesn’t always happen.



I practice at home, if you can call it a practice since it’s nowhere near a regular thing. I use Sage Rountree’s podcasts, books and her DVD (Athlete’s Guide to Yoga). I’d love to sign up for YogaVibes, where she streams classes and adds a new class (videotaped in her studio in NC) every couple of weeks. I’m a huge fan of Sage’s and have been fortunate enough to take class from her in person twice. This is definitely something I want to get back to, and Sage’s approach of using yoga to support athletic endeavors works great for me. Being a runner, ultrarunner, triathlete and coach as well as yogi, she’s very knowledgeable about the limitations that running (or cycling or swimming) create in the athlete’s body and how that affects yoga poses. She’s great at suggesting modifications and reminding students to be aware of what they need and what works for them, and not to push unnecessarily.


Pool running/swimming

I started pool running after an injury last August (inflammation in the sheaths of extensor tendon on my left foot) as it was the only thing I could do that didn’t hurt. It’s possible to maintain fitness with pool running (think intervals) and you can do long run equivalents as well. I got up to 2.5 hours aided by a waterproof iPod case and headphones to listen to my trusty podcasts. I’m very lucky that I live 10-15 minutes from two community pools that have small areas set aside for such activities, have pretty good hours and aren’t expensive. (all the gear I bought did add up!) I have a few links that might be helpful to anyone wanting/needing to pool run and am happy to share them & any info/experience I have, so let me know if you are interested. I will also say that pool running is great for flushing soreness out of legs after long runs, if schedule permits, or as a cross-training activity. The water pressure is a bit like compression, and the temperature helps too.

my pool running float belt

my pool running float belt

Eventually I started doing a little swimming, but swimming has always been a very tiring activity for me – sport specific fitness is no joke!  But my chiropractor says it’s great for V02max, so helpful for runners. I’d like to do more easy swimming on cross-training days if I can find the time. The logistics of getting it done in the morning before heading to the office make it so much easier to hop on my bike on the trainer for cross-training. Perhaps in the summer getting to the pool will be more appealing.

Bonus favorite fitness activities:

Reading about running, writing training plans, reading running blogs, sites and tweets after my long runs! I do this with my legs elevated on a chaise lounge on our front porch, bought specifically for that purpose or in one of our recliners inside if the weather’s uncooperative. I think of this as an important part of my recovery (grin) and I really look forward to it.

chaise lounge on front porch

chaise lounge on front porch

These aren’t necessarily favorites to do, but favorites in effect:

    • Wharton flexibility routines (and I’d like to start his strength routines, especially for the feet and lower legs)
    • Strength exercises rx’d by my chiropractor – I get a kick out of being able to do these well, and the results have been fantastic AND quick. He’s promised me a whole new set of painful exercises to get me even stronger, as well as telling me to run steps and hills.
    • Roll Recovery, trigger point (which has helped me tremendously, I have almost all their products) and foam rolling (I have both the grid and grid 2.0) – hurts so good, sometimes feels good, and essential, especially for Masters runners! I can squeeze in Roll Recovery quickly while watching TV, trigger point and foam rolling require a bit more focused attention and more space. I also use my footrubz ball before every run, and will use a foot roller wheel in the evening while watching TV.
my yoga mats, Wharton rope, Roll Recovery, trigger point ball and rollers

my yoga mats, Wharton rope, Roll Recovery, trigger point ball and rollers

foot wheel & foot rubz ball

foot wheel & foot rubz ball


Thanks for reading! What are your favorite fitness activities? I’d love to hear from you – you can reach me via the comments section, Twitter or the contact me page on this site.

Not Exactly a #WhatIAteWednesday – Shamrock race nutrition report

Fueling is a very personal issue. It’s taken me quite a while and a lot of trial and error to get to “what works for me” and even then there are days where my very twitchy tummy has issues on the run.

As you’d expect, I race with the products and protocol I’ve used in training. For Shamrock, I got lucky – the day wasn’t warm so I wasn’t thirsty, and my stomach cooperated completely. Some days it all comes together, and it’s pretty amazing. I still can’t quite believe it.

Below is a LOT of detail. You may wish to skip to the “during the race” section if that’s your primary interest. Reminder, I link to products only for your information. If I’ve mentioned something in a prior post, I may not re-link here.


Let’s start with food before the race. Because of GI issues and food sensitivities, I’m even more set on eating EXACTLY the same things before, during and after long runs and races than your “average” runner (who might easily get labeled superstitious or OCD by those who don’t understand how the tummy affects your run).

At home, Fridays are Chinese takeout and snacks. I always eat the same thing (moment of pity/sympathy for DH please). That’s steamed chicken and vegetables (broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts, baby corn, mushrooms) from a local place, with some Coconut Aminos (fake soy sauce) and sunflower seed butter on top. Then I move into snacks like a few kale “salt and vinegar” chips and some kale “greenola”, some frozen organic strawberries, a pint or so of vanilla maple Arctic Zero with frozen organic blueberries, and my nightly snack of frozen banana chunks topped with a variety of nut butters and sea salt: pistachio, cashew, walnut, pecan, almond and Nuttzo peanut-free creamy. (my snacks deserve a whole post of their own)

I realize the above has a lot more fiber than most would recommend and doesn’t adhere to the carb-loading protocols many follow. But it’s what works for me, and what I’m used to. Since I don’t eat grain, I get my carbs primarily from sweet potatoes, which I eat daily, squash, and a variety of fruits/vegetables.

How to recreate this on the road? Enter PFChang’s, a restaurant with a reliable gluten-free menu and educated staff that serves just such a dish in the form of Buddha’s Feast with modifications. This time I brought my aminos and sunflower seed butter along with the rest of my food. (I don’t travel light when food’s involved and the stakes are high.) We ate both Friday and Saturday dinners from PFC – Friday to test their ability to provide what I needed and ensure my stomach didn’t have any problems, and Saturday (takeout) as a regular pre-race meal, a bit earlier than normal, around 5pm. I brought/created the rest of my evening snacks thanks to coolers, lots of space in the car and Whole Foods. For the entire trip, everything I ate was either brought from home, purchased at WF or from PFC. Also, while on travel, anything I haven’t brought and prepared myself gets eaten with a dose of Gluten Defense enzymes just in case.


I take a number of supplements daily (again, a post or two could be devoted to these). Do they do what they say? For some it’s hard to tell, and I may go through times of not using all of them, but once I find something that works and I’m in a training cycle, I won’t change it.

Among the dailies are Wobenzym, Endurolytes, Acid-Ease and Master Amino Acid Pattern (MAP) as well as Prevacid for acid and Allegra for my allergies. I down two FRS Chews (a little caffeine and some taste).

On long run and race days, I add Endurance Amino and Anti-Fatigue Caps. I also take BeetElite beet root concentrate – I mix it with about 4 ounces of water and use it to get my supplements down.

Before runs, I take an Energy Surge. On race day, I took a second one right before the start while waiting in the corral (good suggestion by DH).

I can’t eat before running. Once my stomach starts processing solid food, it’s going to be very displeased with that level of activity, and bad things happen. However, I can usually manage just a smidgen of gel before I start a run, especially if mixed with water, and I did that for Shamrock (see below).


I use EFS Liquid Shot in vanilla (we’ll call it gel). The taste, texture (runny) and electrolytes suit my palate, my tummy and my body. I thank Ray Maker at for mentioning the product a while back when I was looking to get off other gel products due to some blood sugar spikiness.

I put my gel in Hammer flasks (because they fit in my fuel belt better) in this ratio: to the line marked 4 (4 ounces), then added SmartWater (which I drink) to the 5 line. So a flask had about 320 calories in about 80g of carbs with 1 ounce of water. I added the water to ensure I’d get some water along the way even if the aid stations didn’t work out and I’m glad I did! I made 4 flasks, carried 3 flasks in my belt, plus gave an extra to DH to carry and meet me along the way.

I made an extra flask of 1 serving of my gel with 1 ounce of water, brought it to the corral and downed it a couple of minutes before the start.

I had a plan going in to take some gel roughly every 3-4 miles, with more if I felt like I was starting to need it. I don’t really remember taking it except in the Fort Story section where I was trying anything to make the badness stop, but from what I had left and the fact I didn’t bonk, I must have been taking it about that right for the day.

When I finished the race – didn’t take the flask from DH – I had one full flask, had pitched one empty flask, and had a flask with contents to about the 1 mark left in it. I estimate I took in only ~700 calories pre and during race, and maybe 6 oz. of water in total.  I took somewhere between 160-180g of carbs from the gel, which works out to at least 40g per hour if you assume a constant rate of consumption…unlikely because I know I didn’t take gel early and sipped more late. (one benefit of the flasks is you can take as much or as little as you want) Supposedly at least 30g of carbs per hour is desirable, more up to 60 or so if you can tolerate it. (read The New Rules of Marathon/Half Marathon Nutrition for an interesting discussion and ideas)

I didn’t have any problems with dehydration during the race but I was probably dehydrated at the end. However, the more I read and hear about hydration, the less I worry about it during the race itself. If I go in hydrated, drink to thirst whether from aid stations or what I carry, and rehydrate well after, that seems to be a reasonable balance between health/safety and performance concerns, as long as I’m mindful of conditions.


As I mentioned in a prior post, DH brought an empty bottle and a packet of Ultragen and mixed my recovery drink immediately after finding me at the finish. The packet is – to me – 2 servings. At home I’ll use the canister, which allows me to use 1 or 1.5 scoops instead (2 scoops = 1 packet), but the packets are great for travel and I figured I’d need all the help I could get. Ultragen is amazingly easy on my stomach, and seems to help recovery. I try to get it in down the first 10-15 minutes after long runs, usually when I’m cooling down on the bike (at home). I’ve also started taking SportLegs again. I’d take the product years ago and stopped when I started reading about how lactate is good for you instead of bad. But in this past training cycle, after particularly tough long runs, about 4-6 hours later I’d get what I called “screaming legs” when suddenly my legs would just ache horrible and that would last 4-5 hours. One day I decided to pull out the SportLegs (DH had a bottle) and took a dose with my Ultragen. No screaming legs! I’ve been using it since then and plan to continue.

It’s taken me years to get to the above, which is what works for me. Trial and error can be such an unpleasant process, but maybe something I’ve shared can help you – I hope so!

Questions, comments, tips of your own to share ? Leave them below, tweet me or use the contact form. Thanks for reading!

Recovery & Return to Running Post-Shamrock (week 1)


Because I had already planned to run two back-to-back races in April (“for fun”), a few weeks ago I asked the coaches at the Endurance Planet podcast (a fave) for a recovery/training plan to fill the four weeks post-Shamrock. Lucho at EP said the first week post race was to be 4-5 days of NO running, then easy 3-4 miles on Saturday and Sunday to test my recovery. So that’s what I did, though it was awfully tempting to run a couple of those days, psychologically if not physically. I also used one of Sage Rountree’s books – The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery – for tips.

Workouts the week of 3/17:

Mon 3/17 – light core workout, bike 40 min.
Tues 3/18 – bike 70 min.
Wed 3/19 – light core workout, bike 40 min.
Th 3/20 – bike 60 min.
Fri 3/21 – core workout, bike 60 min.
Sat 3/22 – run 4.35mi at recovery pace on treadmill
Sun 3/23 – run 6 mi at recovery pace on treadmill
Other: some use of Roll Recovery in the evenings, chiropractor appt, 3 massages. I’m fortunate to be able to have those appointments, and they really help.
Overall, noticeably better each day with no new complaints from my BQ body!

If you want more detail, read on….


I was incredibly lucky to start the race healthy and with no more than niggles than the ones that I seem to have to live with. I was also incredibly lucky to finish the race feeling only the same niggles: no new ones and no injuries! (I don’t count the joint pain that’s just what happens after 26.2 miles of pavement impact — it’s expected and it fades.)

I mention products, coaches, podcasts, etc. only to be specific about what I do & use in case it’s of help to any of you. I’ve paid for these things (unless I say otherwise), I’m not shilling for anyone, I don’t have any affiliate store or get any benefit from you trying any of them. My use and mention of something isn’t necessarily a recommendation for you. But I know we’re all looking for new products to try, to help with a problem, to get improvement, whatever, so if you try something and it works for you, that’s great. I link to some items that might not be as familiar to you or easy to find, but I suggest you shop for best prices and at retailers you like.

Day of race/trip home — nutrition, gear & routine

When we left our intrepid runner (me), I’d finished the race, swigged my post-race cappuccino flavor Ultragen recovery drink within 10 minutes, gotten sweats on and gotten back to the hotel. I ate a sweet potato with some nut butter for the carbs and some protein/fat (though I wasn’t hungry pre or post Ultragen) and made hot decaf tea for the road. I also wasn’t thirsty, though I had to be dehydrated.

I cleaned up a little, stretched a little, and put some magnesium lotion on my shins/calves and Biofreeze on my quads, hammies & glutes. I layered my favorite recovery socks (SL3S) and 110% knee sleeves and shorts under sweatpants, and put on a wicking turtleneck under my race shirt (since I finished, I could wear it – I don’t wear a race shirt unless I’ve completed the race). I also did a quick pass over my legs with my Roll Recovery, which came with me in the car, easily accessible (and used) each time we stopped.

Knowing we’d be driving for a while, particularly if the weather hit before we got home, I packed a bunch of snacks in one of my many “front seat” bags, including bacon jerky (protein, fat, salt), another sweet potato w/nut butter (carbs, fat, protein and well tolerated by my tummy), some Terra chips for salt/crunch cravings, a Larabar and an applesauce packet for quick blood sugar hits if that became an issue. Along with tea I had Zico coconut water for electrolytes and hydration. As it turned out, I drank the Zico (11 ounces over maybe 3 hours) plus a few swigs of tea and ate the sweet potato. I was only briefly hungry, an hour or so into the drive (probably caused by eating the first sweet potato, how it works for me) and still wasn’t thirsty. I have a bad habit of dehydrating myself on car and plane trips though, so I was making myself drink.

We stopped three times on the way home — twice at gas station/convenience stores with restrooms, where I could walk for a couple of minutes to stretch my legs, which were pretty well locked in one position due to the amount of stuff packed in/around my legs in the front seat. After I walked, I’d take a moment in the cold outside the car to use my Roll Recovery on my legs, and it helped. I also sat on a trigger point ball for a while, trying to soothe an aggravated glute min that tends to act up sometimes and doesn’t like car rides. I was already sitting elevated on two blankets (our swag from a Valentine’s 5k) to keep my hips at a decent angle. My legs were sore and stiff, certainly, but some of that was probably from the cold they’d endured as much as the effort. The worst thing probably was that my knees seemed to stiffen up into a slight angle, and they didn’t like bending/straightening for things like stairs once we got home. But I was walking pretty well, considering the circumstances, and far far better than after the marathons I did years ago.

When we got home, my DH (angel!) told me to go in and start eating the food we’d picked up while he unloaded the car in the falling snow. I didn’t have much of an appetite though and wound up putting all that food away until the next day. What did I eat that night? A frozen dessert I’m fairly addicted to called Arctic Zero (it’s like a whey protein shake w/fiber, but tastes sort of ice cream like once you get used to it), plantain chips with extra salt and Terra sweet potato and apple chips. Hey, it was what appealed to me!

I got to bed not too late, but had a really hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I woke up multiple times during the night with snippets of my playlist songs in my head. (I must have heard the music after all!) I knew to expect this for one or two nights (turned out to be two) from reading Sage Rountree’s book Racing Wisely, which suggests mental/emotional excitement and the physical effects of hard racing may cause sleep disruptions. I was able to get to the bathroom and back during the night with no problem (and no pain-induced moans, hisses or profanity).

Monday 3/17 (the day after)

DH and I had both taken the day off work, since we’d originally planned to stay in Virginia Beach Sunday night. I slept in until about 7am. I did a shorter, easier version of my M/W/F core workout and got on my trusty bike up on the trainer.

trusty bike on trainer

trusty bike on trainer

I rode with about as little resistance as you can imagine for an hour. For the first 20 minutes or so, my knees (still probably the unhappiest part of me) weren’t thrilled. Then everything seemed to loosen just a bit and the next 20-30 minutes felt pretty good. After that I started to tighten up again, but wanted to make it to a full hour (I’m like that) so kept going. The inside hamstring behind both knees particularly didn’t like stair activity — so it wasn’t helpful that the downstairs toilet broke that day (still broken), causing a rehydrating runner a lot of trips up and down stairs. Thinking positively, maybe all the stair climbing/descending helped work out the kinks.

The rest of the day was spent online and hanging out with DH. We ate the yummy dinner we’d picked up Sunday and watched some TV. I didn’t want the day or the post-race glow to end!

Tuesday 3/1

I telework on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I didn’t have to get myself to the office just yet (yay). I did 70 minutes on the bike, after another night of broken sleep. Some old familiar crankiness (L tendon behind the ankle, L glute min) made its presence known. I was still surprised at how good I felt and how mobile I was without real pain or significant problems. Tuesday I saw my chiropractor who did a “runner’s tuneup” (general focus) and some e-stim. Tuesday night, I saw one of my massage therapists for a light massage and stretch session.

Wednesday 3/19

Up and at ‘em — well, up anyway. Back to work after a light core workout and 40 minutes on the bike, less time than I’d wanted because I was a little poky. Had some GI trouble overnight that woke me for a while (this happens to me sometimes) so I was a little tired after 3 nights of broken sleep but otherwise physically better than the day before. My L hamstring (a known crank) was a bit sore at the point where it attaches to the glute, possibly from Tuesday’s massage. Other than that, the only thing I noted different was that despite a little less soreness and stiffness in general, my hips were tighter than they had been. I have a standing desk at work, but made sure to sit more than I normally would to help me legs out. I got a light sports massage Wednesday night, which felt pretty good.

Thursday 3/20

I started to feel even better. I was impressed with the other full and half marathoners from last weekend’s races who were tweeting about their quick return to running. I was tempted. Heck, it was day 4 and the coach said 4-5, and I was teleworking…but I told myself it wasn’t worth the risk to run yet. So, another hour on the bike for me, telework, and a light trigger point massage in the evening. Started having those “a week ago we were…” thoughts. Hard to believe I was packing for the race a week ago.

Friday 3/21

Back to the office after a core workout closer to my usual length & difficulty, and an hour on the bike. Wanted to run today mentally, legs probably would have managed it fine. But I decided to stick with instructions — they’d said 4-5 and since I wanted 4, I should go for 5 (it’s easy for me to overdo sometimes and restraint had gotten me to the race healthy, so I decided to stick with it). A relaxing evening of TV watching and carryout Chinese (if you consider steamed chicken and vegetables with no rice in that category – I do) part of our regular routine. I was getting a little nervous about my first run post-race the next day (how would it feel, would it hurt, was I sorer or more damaged than I’d thought). A week ago we’d been at the expo and I’d been getting ready to run with Bart Yasso!

Saturday 3/22

I slept in until 6:30 or so, then got up and puttered through my slow pre-long-run routine, though this run was to be only 3-4 miles. Got my podcast iPod set up and got on the treadmill. I do a 15 minute walking warmup before all my runs (5-10 minimum, 15 usual/preferred) as I read once that Amby Burfoot said the thing he did most to prevent injury was add that type of walk and warmup to his runs. (or as Lucho said, “Recovery starts with the warmup”) Then I ran 4.35 miles at a recovery pace (my usual recovery pace, per my feel and McMillan’s calculator, at the low end of the pace range). It felt okay, a bit sore, stiff and tight as I’d expected, but no surprises, which had been my biggest concern — something that wouldn’t show itself until I started running. I started feeling better toward the end of the run (typical, usually after 6 miles I start to feel good) but I restrained myself and stopped. Got on the bike for 30 minutes (still with laughably low resistance, just enough to spin the wheel) which is what I normally do after long runs to stretch my legs out.

Relaxed the rest of the day, read running-related stuff. (all I’m reading these days it seems!) Had  a scare when I was wearing socks in the kitchen and slipped and fell on my tailbones, tweaking tweaked my right knee a bit. I thought, “oh no, seriously?!” It was just a careless move on my part, lucky I didn’t get really hurt by cracking my head on something. My knee responded to some ice, Traumeel and my 110% compression knee sleeve. I probably just yanked something in it, but DH had to spend some time calming me down, asking me when it hurt, telling me it would be okay. What would I do without him?

Sunday 3/23

Another “sleep-in” day. I could have (maybe should have) run outside, but it was another rough GI night and I thought perhaps I should be close to facilities…though I turned out to be fine. Warmed up, then did 6 miles at recovery pace. I know, it was only supposed to be 4, but I really wanted more. As on Saturday, felt better toward the end of the run. My right knee was still unhappy about my fall (but less so, and not during the run at all) and my hamstrings at the attachment points made their presence known (but evenly on both sides, that’s good) but nothing that would make me stop running or inhibit other activity.

Overall, I was in pretty good shape to start with and every day got better and better. I never needed to take any painkillers (I can only take acetaminophen anyway) though I took some arnica and extra Wobenzym after I tweaked my knee on Saturday. I didn’t even need to ice anything from the race! I probably haven’t stretched enough as I was afraid of over stretching something that was still mending from the race. I haven’t gotten back into my Wharton flexibility routine (note there are free videos of him on youtube and info online) or yoga stretches yet, and certainly didn’t do any of my chiropractor-instructed leg strength exercises. I’ve used the Roll Recovery briefly most evenings, which has probably helped. I wear compression knee socks every day since I stand a lot for work, but hadn’t noticed any swelling even immediately post-race. During this week, I kept eating my regular diet (I eat the same things over and over on a daily/weekly basis) just less quantity since I figured I basically wasn’t burning any calories biking.

Excited for week two, when I will get to run more!




I woke up around 5 on race morning (race start 8:30) and started puttering around the hotel room.  I went through my normal routine of taking supplements, making and drinking my Beet-Elite (beet root concentrate) and munching FRS chews. I also prepared multiple flasks with my gel and water combination (EFS First Endurance Liquid Shot in vanilla). Then I put on sunblock and got dressed in my race kit, which was laid out in the living room.

I’d pinned my bib on as part of race prep Saturday afternoon (thanks to Sage Rountree’s Racing Wisely book for suggesting me I do this ahead of time). However, I had to re-do it Saturday night after I realized I hadn’t written emergency info on the back. At least I wasn’t doing it now!

I spent some time looking out from the hotel room’s balcony at the ocean, at the race tents and setup, and watched the sun rise.It seemed warmer and less windy in the darkness than after the sun showed its face. (this turns out to be true later)


sunrise photo from hotel balcony

sunrise photo from hotel balcony

Around 7:00, I put sweats on over my race kit and went out with my dear husband (DH) to walk down and find the marathon start line and do a quick warmup. This was the first time I’d done a pre-race warmup, but I knew I couldn’t afford to start any slower than goal pace. We walked quickly in the cold – I was so cold after a few blocks I started running. I ran down to the start and back past my husband, warming up quickly and feeling pretty good in my sweats. Nothing hurt that doesn’t usually complain (tight hamstring, cranky tendon, etc.) so I thought that was good.


We went back to the hotel so I could have a few minutes to myself, use a real bathroom one last time, and get my fuel belt on. Put the sweats back on, and around 8:00 we headed off to the start. At the expo, we’d been told the pacer would be in the corral 10-15 minutes early to talk to the runners, discuss water stop strategy, etc. I was starting one corral back from my assigned corral to stick with a pacer instead of go with what I’d projected as my dream time. There was only one pacer for my group. We got to the corral and kept looking for the pacer, who didn’t show up until 8:20ish, making a few of us nervous. He showed up in the orange pacer tank, with his sign (the handle had already been broken in half by the wind) and a small water bottle filled with some kind of sports drink.

I handed off my sweats to DH, who melted into the crowd, and started talking to other runners. I met Natalie, who had the same goals as me (BQ but faster) and was from the area. She said she “owned” the hill we’d run around miles 2 & 10 and was very confident. (I lost her well before the hill.) I met Susan and Ella, who I also lost contact with early on, and a woman in a long-sleeved red shirt with a Camelbak (I’d originally planned to use one) who ran right on the pacer’s heels most of the early miles.

Just before the start, I knocked the velcro strap on my Garmin 620 apart and was lucky to catch it as it fell. (the original strap broke in the classic way earlier in the year, but I won’t be joining the lawsuit) I had a brief moment of panic getting my gloves off, the Garmin secured, and my gloves back on, but had enough time before the start. We listened to the National Anthem – nice job by the vocalist – and then the first corral was off and we all moved forward. I remembered to start my Garmin as we crossed the mat, but it was a minute or so more until I remembered to un-pause my iPod.


For the first few miles, I was running very close to the pacer. I spent some time chatting with a guy from the DC area in a Marathon Maniac shirt (wish I remembered his name, just know he’s a member of the VHTRC (Virginia Happy Trails Running Club), a member of the Pacers Old Town team and was running the HAT 50k the next weekend) and a guy named Sandy from DC who was new to VHTRC. We talked about running around DC, Marathon Maniac-ing and other chatty runner things. The hill – Rudee Bridge – wasn’t bad at all. My head said, “oh, the hill…yep, still the hill…how much long – it’s over” as we crested. So my incline treadmill training simulating the hills during long runs must have helped. I remember a woman saying to me “you look like you’ve done this a few times before” and I said, “a couple”.

I spent some time in the first miles after the bridge (maybe miles 3-4) trying to slow down as I could tell pacer was a few seconds fast. There were more elbows bumping and people stepping on my heels – we all REALLY wanted to stay with the pacer – than in much more crowded races I’ve run. It was definitely race pace or better, but I was holding it and reminded myself I’d trained for this, running 18 miles of a 21 miler at goal pace (which was 3 seconds faster than the official time the pacer was to be running).

From very early in the race, it seemed like every step was painful in my legs. Not in an injury way, just sort of an all over hurt. It was very strange, but since it was consistent, and not getting worse, so I just tried to make it into background noise and ignore it. I later figured out it was my muscles hurting because of the cold and wind. When I’d done my pre-race warmup in sweats, I didn’t have any of that kind of pain. DH later said it must have been like running in an ice bath.

I took water at an aid station around mile 7. The water was very cold & it took extra energy to get back to the pacer even though I ran through the aid station, so I decided I couldn’t do that again unless I really felt super thirsty. Thankfully the cold took care of that and I wasn’t thirsty at all, getting by on the water I’d mixed in with my gel in my gel flasks. I got really lucky – I probably only took in 4-6 ounces of water the whole race and while I was dehydrated at the finish, I don’t think it affected my race performance.

Most of what I remember in the first 6-9 miles, aside from chatting and trying not to run into/onto people, is being annoyed with my fuel belt, which kept trying to slide down my butt. I kept having to pull it up and readjust it. Because of all the chatting, I don’t remember hearing much of my music early. Oddly, later when I was by myself, I don’t recall hearing much of it either, until toward the end of the race.

Running through Camp Pendleton between miles 8 and 9, I appreciated the uniformed service members who came out to cheer us on, though I didn’t spare the energy to do more than smile or raise my thumbs. They were loud enough on both sides of the small road that I thought “oh, that’s what people mean when they talk about the wall of sound from the Wellesley girls at Boston.” It was a brief lift as we headed back toward the hill.

I think there was headwind from around mile 9 for a while. Someone asked the pacer how long the wind lasted and I remember him saying, “9 miles” and people groaning. “That can’t be right”, I thought. At some point after the hill, running back toward the hotels, the woman who’d spoken to me before saw me again and asked “how are you doing?” I just looked at her and said, “it’s HARD”.


I saw DH on the sidewalk around mile 13. We’d pre-arranged where he’d be, and he was carrying an extra gel flask in case I needed it. I had put songs on my playlist for around that time into the race (estimated by goal pace) that reminded me of him to signal me to look for him. Thank goodness I actually heard them and remembered what they meant! He saw me, we made eye contact as he clapped and shouted support, but I didn’t need anything so I just nodded and kept going.

At some point after that, it seemed to get harder for me to stay with the pacer. I assumed I was slowing down, because that was what I was afraid of. (later DH would tell me, and I would figure out that pacer speeded up, maybe banking time against the wind) I felt like I couldn’t go any faster and didn’t want to risk trying and blowing up, so I tried to keep the pacer in sight as long as I could but eventually lost him. (Later I saw that at the mile 18.1 split, I was 50 seconds behind him when up till then I’d been within 2 seconds.) If I’d checked my Garmin, I would have felt better as my pace would have looked fine. But I didn’t think to do that, I was working hard and all my thoughts, if there were any, were about continuing to push.

At some point I realized we were past mile 16, so single digits to go. I’d thought about that point in the race miles earlier, thinking how good it would feel to have only single digits left, but now it just seemed like there was still a long way to go.

Running through the Shore Drive section (no wind! trees!) I appreciated the tip from Christine,  who I’d met on Saturday at the Bart Yasso shakeout run, to watch out for the camber of the road. I’d said, “I’ll run in the middle” and she said no, the shoulder was the best place, and she was right. I stayed on the shoulder except when I had to move off for a music vehicle or something else parked on the shoulder. The runners got a lot more strung out in this section and I saw other people who’d been in my pace group though the pacer was long gone from sight.


Miles 19 to almost 23 were through Fort Story, and were the worst – very cold, hellacious wind right off the ocean, not enough people around to block or hang on to. Someone later said they thought the sustained wind was 15mph, with gusts to 25mph. So I was running into or across a 15mph wind or more the whole time. This was the very hardest part of the race, and I’m so proud that I didn’t give up here.

This section was brutal. I was so cold. My legs ached as they had the whole race. I kept telling myself “you’re not injured, that’s not what it feels like”. I watched the average pace on my Garmin tick up one second, then later another. I normally can’t do math at all during a race  and completely forgot I was wearing a pace band as a backup. Somehow my math brain worked and I  frantically calculated and re-calculated – can I make my goal time, can I make the BQ time, can I finish under 4?

I felt like I was watching my goals slip away. I felt like I was running as hard as I could but like I was no faster than walking, it was so much effort. My worst mile time per my Garmin was in this section, at 10:09 – I would have said it was 12:00 easily. I saw people walk, then try to start to run again. I was fighting with myself – a total head game – for a moment I wanted to cry but I told myself “NO!” I thought of what it would feel like to DNF, to disappoint myself and so many other people, everyone who believed in me, my family, friends and my running twitter friends. I’d taken the risk, unusual for me, of sharing my goals with people and being enthusiastic and vocal about them and soaking up their support, encouragement and belief in me. I told myself I couldn’t walk, I’d go hypothermic. I convinced myself it would be faster to keep running. There was no visible on-course support from the race organizers (or I didn’t see it). There were a few spectators near some military housing and momentarily my brain said, “I wonder if they would drive me back to the hotel, or would let me call my husband to come get me” then I thought, “no, no one could get through with the road closures, it’s faster to run”. I saw one or maybe two soldiers standing by vehicles blocking intersections and thought that it would be warm in the cars and they’d probably have to help me if I went over. But I kept moving.

I kept looking at the lighthouse so far away, knowing that the curve of the road to reduce the wind was around or after the curve (and that there were photographers there). It didn’t seem to get any closer for a long time. I saw the ocean off to the left. I kept thinking “the wind can’t keep up, it has to stop”. In a photo taken near the lighthouse, I can see the wind trying to tear my bib off, and I look like I’m slow-motion running.

I don’t remember any of the music that was playing through these miles. I thought about how I had only put a certain amount of music on my iPod, enough to get through my dream goal time, the pacer time, and the BQ time. I knew after that it would go silent or start over and wondered if I’d get to that depressing point. I couldn’t remember the mantras that I’d come up with during my long (treadmill) runs and repeated over and over on those runs. I only used the mantras once in the race, somewhere in the first quarter, way before I really needed them. I kept looking at my miles elapsed and what was left to run, trying to figure out “you’ve got this long to run this many miles so if you can just hold this pace, you can do it, just keep going” and doing that over and over every time I recalculated. I kept doing that periodically through the rest of the race, but in Fort Story it seemed like that was all I was doing, in some sort of continuous loop.


We finally got out of Fort Story and on to Atlantic Avenue – it seemed like forever, but that turn happens shortly after mile 22. At some point just after the turn, I remembered how long the stretch was on Atlantic, since we ran it outward and saw people heading the other direction toward the finish. It was strange to now be the person heading back, seeing people still heading out!

I kept calculating how long left to get what finish time, trying to make my legs go faster. I didn’t really feel them anymore except for the pain I’d felt for much of the race. I felt so clumsy and slow I wasn’t really sure if I *was* going any faster. I’d stopped looking at average pace, just elapsed time and miles mattered now. At some point, the 80s song Wild Wild West came on my headphones and it seemed to give me a good pace beat. I kept hitting the “back” and I think I played it at least 5 times in a row, and it’s long. I remember it all the way down Atlantic. As I saw the corner up ahead with cones where we’d turn left to finish on the boardwalk, I paused the iPod. I didn’t even want to hear the song I loved so much & had carefully chosen to be timed with my dream goal finish time. I knew I’d finish, and I just wanted to get to the line as fast as I could.

After the turn onto the boardwalk, I could see the Finish arch, but it looked so far away! I looked at my Garmin and calculated again and thought, “it’s gotta be half, maybe 3/4 of a mile, you’ve got x minutes, you could walk and still do it – but keep running”. I ran and picked up more speed. There were now spectators cheering the runners on, reading our names off our bibs and shouting encouragement. I started to smile and feel some emotion as the finish approached, but tried to just keep pushing faster. I looked for the mat and reminded myself not to hit my watch right then because of the photographers usually at the line so I hit it a second or two after crossing.

I started stumbling a bit then. No one was handing out mylar blankets and I sure could have used one. (I’ve never been to a half/full where they didn’t but perhaps they meant us to use the towels.) I looked at the people handing out medals, walked toward them stumbling a bit and said, “help” but they didn’t seem to hear me, as a young kid handed me a medal. There were two photographers in yellow vests (thanks to the organizers I was still able to process that yellow vest = photo) and I raised my arms and smiled, dangling the medal in one hand. I think I said, “I did it! I did it! I did it!” For the second photo, I even remembered to take my sunglasses off.  Someone also gave me a hat.


I was so cold. I recognized the female runner, roughly my age, who’d spoken to me twice earlier in the race.  She had her back to me but I patted her shoulder and she turned around. I suddenly got emotional and with numb lips thanked her for her encouragement and support. She asked in a lovely accent how I did and I told her I BQ’d – she gave me a big hug and then asked if I was ok. I said something like “I’m so cold”.  She offered me Gatorade (no) then got me water and a banana, helped me get the race towel and asked if someone was meeting me at the finish. (DH later told me I looked pretty bad, and with the cold and exhaustion probably seemed in need of help.) I told her my husband was coming and happened to see him off to the side and pointed him out to her. She shepherded me to where he could get to me (and apparently told him I needed taking care of) and then melted away.

At the point where spectators could meet their runners (thank goodness I didn’t have to find some reunion area or remember a colored flag after all) while I was looking left at my DH, a petite person in a hood approached me on the right. I looked down to see Christine, a new friend from the Bart Yasso shakeout run the day before. She’d finished the half, heard from her mom who BQ’d at a different race, and then stood in the cold waiting for me to finish to find out how I did. Amazingly sweet, generous, thoughtful! When I told her I BQ’d, she got the hugest grin on her face and was so happy for me, gave me a hug and told me her mom (age 60) had BQ’d too. I asked about her race, which I think went well, then she left so DH could take charge of me.

He got my sweats out of the bag and found a bench and helped me get the sweats on as my hands weren’t working that well. He put together my bottle of Ultragen recovery drink which I got down in record time. I was excited trying to tell him things, but I know I wasn’t fully functional and my lips were still cold. I was insistent on going to the finisher tent so he had to find it (on the beach) as I was hoping for a shirt that said “I BQ’d at Shamrock” or “ I SHAMROCKed my way to a BQ” but no luck. I bought a mug and a tech shirt and we left as quickly as possible for the slow, cold walk back to the hotel, passing people still out on the course on the way.

As soon as we got in the hotel room, I started brewing hot tea and getting into my compression gear. I noticed in the bathroom mirror that my lips were blue! I had prepped some food (sweet potato w/ nut butter) the night before knowing we’d be short on time, and stuck it in the microwave. I did a little stretching and used my Roll Recovery device while I was eating. DH was looking out the window giving me reports on the people still out there. As soon as I could manage getting the rest of our gear together, we checked out and were on the road by 2:30. Only a couple of hours after finishing the marathon, I was in a car for 5+ hours. I wouldn’t recommend it, but sometimes it has to be done. We were trying beat the storm home, and we did. Getting out of the car on breaks and once we got home wasn’t fun, but also wasn’t the worst I’ve ever felt.


Without the wind, the weather would have been darned near perfect. (yes, I’m thinking I could have hung with the pacer and done even better) I had originally worried about heat, then rain and truly, I think either of those would have been worse than the wind. The race organization and runner support was terrific. The size of the field was about right given the constraints of the course (sharing one side of the road); they could probably even cut back to 3500. The course is terrific, flat and fast (the hill is no biggie), not too many turns. Spectator and on-course support is minimal to non-existent in some parts of the course, so that has to be something you’re okay with, and I am. Would I do this race again? I’d certainly consider it, though the wind would be a concern. Would I suggest it to another runner? Definitely. But I’d try to convey the wind more concretely based on my experience. I had folks tell me it was windy, but I had no idea what they meant…now I do! But I also know that I prevailed. I didn’t give up, I didn’t give in, I fought back hard and gave all I had on the day – and I beat my BQ. I’m still grinning about it, days later.

I plan to write additional posts on the gear I wore, nutrition before, during and after the race, on my training, and other related topics. If there’s something specific you want to know, feel free to leave a comment, use the contact form or tweet me about it. Given the demands of the rest of my life, I may not get back to you immediately, but I do plan to try to be as responsive as possible. Thank you for reading!

One more thing….though I ran the race alone, I wouldn’t have gotten to the start line without the amazing, unfailing support of my DH for the last months and years. Words are inadequate to express how lucky I am, or how grateful I am every day for him.