Vitafusion Gummy Vitamin Review OR How I Learned to Take My Vitamins

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Vitafusion.

I have a confession: I haven’t been taking my vitamins. For about a year.

I have another confession: I’ve been stealing my kids’ gummy vitamins. They are so much better than the horse-pills I’ve been avoiding.

I used to be really good about taking my vitamins, all of them. I even took these humungous glucosamine pills that were pretty tough to swallow. I took all my vitamins at night with a big glass of water. For years. And then, a couple of years ago, the problems started. First it was the glucosamine pills that started to make me feel sick, so I stopped taking those. But eventually, even the regular size pills were causing a gag reflex. I switched to a different multivitamin brand. But I still had problems. So I stopped taking the pills at night and started taking them in the morning.

Giant glucosamine horse pill...quarter for size reference

Giant glucosamine horse pill…quarter for size reference

One morning I must have stared at that little package of fairly innocuous pills for half an hour, as if they were some instrument of torture. And that’s when I knew I couldn’t take it/them any more. So I started taking my kids’ gummy vites.

Can't take it/them any more...

Can’t take it/them any more…

And I found that they were delicious. But of course kids’ vitamins are formulated for kids and I’m a 40 year old female, so I was a bit worried they weren’t right for me. One day, while wandering through Costco, I came across vitafusion Calcium Gummies. I was told about 10 years ago to start taking calcium, and I’d been taking them on and off but had completely stopped taking the pills. I don’t like the taste of those chocolate chews, either. But gummies are another matter. I actually have to be very disciplined in only taking two of these, they taste so good.

So when FitFluential contacted me and asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing Vitafusion MultiVites, I jumped at the chance. Turns out the MultiVites are very similar to my kids’ gummy vites, but I think they actually taste a little better. One thing I really like is that the colors and flavors are natural – they use annatto extract and blueberry and carrot concentrates.

Vitafusion 2

In a word...tasty

But do the gummies provide all my vitamin needs? Well, according to Vitafusion, Multivites:

- Are a complete multivitamin with 200% of the Daily Value (DV) for Vitamin D3 (as much as 3oz of salmon)

- Support energy metabolism

- Contain antioxidant vitamins C and E

- Support immune health

- Are an excellent source of vitamins B12 and B6, folic acid and pantothenic acid

- Contain as much vitamin A as one cup of broccoli

- Contain as much vitamin C as one tangerine

They really do make nutrition taste good! Not only are they much easier to take than pills or capsules, but, since there’s no need for water, they’re convenient, too. And they’re made in the USA.

Vitafusion gummy vitamins are available at drug and grocery stores nationwide including: Costco, Walmart, Target and CVS. You can find more info at www.gummyvites.com.

Do you have trouble taking vitamins? Ever eaten your kids’ gummy vites? Ever swallowed a quarter? ;)

 

Everyone’s a Winner! FRS Giveaway and Infinitive Triathlon Results

Sorry for the delay in posting the winner of my FRS Giveaway. Congrats to Paige, who wins an FRS trial pack with a retail value of $30! Paige, drop me an e-mail when you get a chance.

Moving on to my exciting weekend! On Sunday I raced the Infinitive Sprint Triathlon in Ashburn, VA. This small, low-key triathlon is one of my favorites. The 400m swim is in a 50 meter pool so there’s less of the ping-pong off the wall effect, the bike is a double loop with a couple of killer hills, and the run is an out and back on rolling trails which I’ve found to be a sufferfest on the two previous occasions I’ve raced here. In addition, I always know a lot of people at this race so it’s great to be able to cheer for them and have them cheer for me on the bike and run.

I’ve come in 2nd female in this event the last two years. This year, I had my eye on 1st. It helped that my friend and rival, Leanne, who beat me the previous two times (but only by 9 seconds last year!) wasn’t racing, but of course there’s always the potential for other competition I don’t know about.

Pre-Race Drama

The night before the race my husband and I went out for dinner. My latest thing is fish the night before a race. I had salmon before St. Michael’s Half Marathon and sea bass before Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, and since both of those races were PRs, I figured I’d stick with this pre-race meal plan. So we went to our local fish place where I had red snapper, which reminded me of our trip to Key West many moons ago when I discovered that fish and ate it almost every day!

When we got home, my husband took the babysitter home while I went to put my bike in my car. Which was when I discovered that my rear tire, which was inflated when I left, was completely flat. When my husband got home I had him look at the tire and, when he took out the inner tube, we found that the valve was separating from the rubber and the tube itself was in very bad shape. I was so lucky to get through Raleigh without incident!

So he replaced the dead tube with a nice new one which made me feel much better. Nothing like a little drama the night before a race to get your heart going!

The Morning

I arrived at transition ridiculously early and so got the primo bike spot at the end of the rack. It’s the little things that make me happy. I had so much time I posted a couple of facebook status updates, chatted to friends, and went to the bathroom 63 times. And then it was GO time.

Infinitive bike

Lovely rack spot!

The Swim

I had an interesting swim this year. Started out feeling strong but before I’d gone even 100m I was getting tapped from behind. Stopped to let two guys pass, then got right behind the 2nd guy to take the draft. That only lasted 50 meters before I had to pass the guy in front, and then again 50 meters after that I passed the guy in front of him. It seems that a lot of swimmers blast out those first 100m and then die… I didn’t want to have to stop again so I cranked hard in the last 200m. It wasn’t the best swim but my time was decent: 8:02, putting me in 8th place.

The Bike

There’s a fairly long run from the swim to the bike, as racers are required to run the length of transition, but I moved as fast as I could and had the fastest T1: 1:41. So the bike course is a bit hilly. And of course you do it twice so, after the first loop, you know what’s coming. Oh, and just as I got on the bike, it started to rain. Not the best conditions, but I went all out as hard as I could. My hamstrings and adductors were seriously on fire on the hills of the second loop, but I think the Half Ironman training was paying off as riding 12 miles felt like small change compared to 56. I ended up with a bike time of 33:55, 21.4mph average, which was the fastest female bike split and bettered my time from last year by almost a minute. Just because I always like a little dismount drama, I braked too hard coming to the mount line and so when I jumped off my bike, we both almost went flying. I managed a last-minute save, much to the amusement of everyone watching.

The Run

I darted in and out of transition in 54 seconds: fastest female T2 time. (I pride myself on being fast in the 4th sport of triathlon!) In the past, the run has been hot, hilly, and felt way more than 3.1 miles. I was determined to hammer this run like I never have before. I was glad it was raining and not sunny, and when I looked at my pace and saw I was running in the 6:40s, I was happy because I really didn’t feel like I was overreaching. Just before the halfway point I saw the one girl that I knew (from someone yelling at me in transition) was in front of me. I had hoped she was a relay runner (and I think it turned out she was) but she didn’t have an “R” under her number so I didn’t think she was. However, she was #51 which means she was the first swimmer in the water and so had started before me, so I didn’t think I really had to worry. Still, I noticed she wasn’t moving all that fast and figured I would make it my goal pass her. It actually took me longer to do that than I thought. I was past 2 miles and had been running behind the same guy for a few minutes when we passed her. Having cleared #51, I decided it was time to pick it up and see how fast I could go for the last mile. I decided to enlist the help of the guy I was running alongside. I told him I was trying to win and asked him if he’d help me. He said he wasn’t having a good run, I suggested he make it a better run by helping me out…oh and I’d be his friend forever. Seriously. The things I say when I’m desperate. Nevertheless, he obliged and dropped the pace to a 6:30. It was great. I just had to let him drag me home. Which he did. Turns out his name is Michael Johnson and he came in 3rd male. Thanks Mike. It was painful but not beyond my ability and I’m glad I was able to push hard right at the end. Run: 21:06, 6:49 pace. Last year I ran 7:05 pace.

Result

My overall time was 1:05:35, almost 2 minutes faster than my time last year! I was 1st female AND 3rd overall! And I won the women’s division by almost 6 minutes, which I still can’t believe. I feel that, the finish time aside, the best aspect of the race was my ability to keep my head in the game, push through the pain, and maintain the intensity that a sprint demands! I won a sweet Boston shirt (the race was a fundraiser for the OneBoston fund), a $30 gift card to Transition Triathlon (great triathlon shop in Leesburg) and a nice plaque that I’ve put next to my two 2nd place awards!

Infinitive winners

Male and Female winners! Male winner Daniel McAllister is the son of Leanne, who has beaten me twice at this race!

After the race I talked with my husband about the possibility of going to Wisconsin in August and racing USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. This has been on my mind since I raced well in Raleigh, and with another good race under my belt, I feel this is my best opportunity to try to make the US Team! So it looks like we may be taking a road trip to Milwaukee and both racing the sprint this time. Can’t wait for that! In the meantime, I have a duathlon in Maryland in two weeks that I need to focus on…

 

Aquaphor Healing Ointment Review and Giveaway

I’ve been using Aquaphor healing ointment for several years, mainly in the winter months when my skin gets very dry, especially on my hands, where it’s not unusual for it to crack and bleed if I forget to use the ointment for a couple of days. I started keeping it beside my bed so I’d remember to put it on just before going to sleep, rather than right before washing my hands, which is what tends to happen during the day! The people at Aquaphor recently asked me to provide a review of their healing ointment, along with some tips on summer use. I’ll have to admit, I wasn’t sure about how to use it during the summer. Sure, I swim year round and do experience dry skin from chlorine, but nowhere near as badly as in the winter.

Aquaphor

And then the pools opened in our community and my youngest son spent several happy hours there on the first day, playing on deck and in the pool. At the end of the day the soles of his feet were red, raw, and swollen, from the deck or the bottom of the pool I’m not sure, but it was definitely painful. I was looking around for something to put on his feet when I remembered the Aquaphor. I put it on his feet while he was watching TV and then put his feet in plastic bags so he wouldn’t rub it off all over the couch… In a day or two, his feet were completely healed, which was a huge relief as he’s on the swim team and I was worried the foot pain would bother him at swim practice. Aquaphor contains petrolatum to soothe and protect, plus moisturizing ingredients like panthenol and glycerin. It’s dermatologist-trusted and not only helps to relieve cracked skin but also cuts, scrapes, and minor burns.

And…I recently learned that it’s great for triathletes, too! You can use it to create a protective barrier against friction caused by clothing or skin rubbing. Try it anywhere skin gets red, chafed or raw.

I love the fact that it doesn’t smell and comes in a big container for home as well as a flip cap tube for travel. I now keep one in my bag at all times.

Aquaphor was kind enough to provide me with several full-size samples, a CamelBak water bottle, and $50 VISA gift card, and is offering the same to one of my readers. Just enter via Rafflecopter below. The giveaway is only open to US Residents who are 18 years of age or older. Winner will be selected at midnight on July 20th.

Aquaphor provided me with the products listed above in return for a review. The opinions stated in this review are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Week with FRS: Review and Giveaway

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of FRS.

It’s interesting how many products used by athletes were originally designed for medical use. Take, for example, the ubiquitous compression sock, now standard attire at every marathon. Compression socks were originally designed to promote bloodflow in diabetes patients. I recall working in a pharmacy as a teenager and selling a lot of compression hose. Then Paula Radcliffe started sporting flesh colored compression socks and, IMO, that’s how it all got started.

Similarly, FRS was developed to deliver sustained energy to chemotherapy patients while supporting their immune systems. Packed with vitamins and green tea extracts, FRS contains the powerful antioxidant quercetin, which is found in the skins of blueberries, apples and grapes and has been shown in clinical trials to provide sustained energy, increased endurance and immune system support. Some bright spark realized that this would also be beneficial for anyone looking for natural, healthy, sustained energy without the crash, particularly athletes.

FRS 3

My free sample package of FRS conveniently arrived right after my Half Ironman in Raleigh. I say conveniently because post-race tends to be a time when my immune system is at its lowest. Also, while I took a couple of days off any type of workout and an entire week off running, I needed to keep training as I still have several races coming up. Plus, believe it or not, it’s almost time to start Fall marathon training, and I needed to start rebuilding my mileage base for that.

So I was intrigued to see if FRS could give me the energy boost I knew I’d need to recover from one race and keep training for the others.

The products I tried were:

- Chews – very tasty, pomegranate blueberry flavor, disappeared immediately

Chews on the right

Chews on the right and yes, that is a pumpkin. We are a little out of season at our house.

- Ready-to-drink beverages – variety of flavors, all of which I liked, although I did find the apricot nectarine a tad sweet. Just poured it over ice to water it down. My favorite flavor was citrus pomegranate. Got some jealous looks when I pulled that out at swim team meeting, while everyone else sipped on their sodas! Note that most of these drinks are low cal, with just 20 calories and 2 grams of sugar.

FRS 4

- Powdered drink mix – I think these are my favorite. They come in single servings which are easy to add to my water bottle. The orange flavor tastes great and I found myself reaching for this more than the other products.

FRS

So, how did I feel? Well, I had no trouble getting up at 5:20am three times last week – twice to run and once to swim – and, given that I usually struggle to do this once a week, I think that was a good sign. I was just doing easy runs since I was increasing mileage, but my 32 mile week after a series of weeks in the 20s didn’t feel hard, I definitely had more energy in the evenings, and slept better, too.

FRS is available at GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, Kroeger, Whole Foods, Rite Aid, Meijer, Walgreens, Harris Teeter and FRS.com, where you can sign up for a free 10 day supply. You can also download a coupon for $1 off 2 cans or bottles of FRS.

I’m also giving away an FRS trial pack with a retail value of $30! Just visit FRS.com and tell me in your comment which product you would like to try! I’ll randomly select a winner on Monday, June 24th.

 

 

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh – The Perfect Race

Gear:
2XU Compression Trisuit
Garmin Forerunner 310XT
Swim: Xterra Vortex wetsuit, Speedo Vanquisher goggles
Bike: Felt B2, Hed Jet wheels, Giro Advantage 2 aero helmet, Rudy Project sunglasses, Bontrager RXL Hilo tri shoes
Run: Brooks Racer ST5

Nutrition:
Pre-race: Nutella sandwich, Picky Bar, Kona Cola Nuun, Espresso Love GU
Bike: Infinit Custom Nutrition
Run: Vanilla bean GU, Pineapple Roctane GU, water

PRERACE JITTERS

When the alarm went off at 4am Sunday morning my first thought was, “How on earth am I going to race a Half Ironman today?” I figured I’d had about 2 hrs sleep, due in part to an incredibly noisy, old hotel where I could hear someone lift the toilet seat in the next room, and because I never sleep well the night before a race. Because I never sleep well pre-race, I don’t usually worry, but I hadn’t slept well Friday night, either. There was a concert in downtown Raleigh Friday night and the crowd noise kept me awake, then voices in the hallway in the middle of the night woke me up. And of course there was the damn toilet seat next door.

Nevertheless, I got up, took a shower, and got ready to race for what I imagined would be close to 6 hours…5:30 if I had a good day.

At 5am my teammate Donna and I headed off to T2, just down the street, where a bus would take us to Lake Jordan for the start of our race. We were pleased to see plenty of buses and no lines. I get antsy when there are lines. We jumped on a bus and headed to the lake in the dark. Arriving at the lake we saw long porta-potty lines. Already. Groan. Since I’d been drinking Nuun the entire 40 minute ride, I jumped right into a line prior to dropping off my transition gear. It was while in line, listening to pre-race announcements (or trying to, since we couldn’t quite make them out), that we heard loud cheers. Donna said she thought she’d heard that the race WAS wetsuit legal. YES!!! Given that the water temp had been steadily climbing all week, and had apparently hit 78 on Saturday, I hadn’t held out any hope for a wetsuit race. (76.1 is the max water temp for a wetsuit legal race. You can wear a wetsuit if the water temp is over 76.1 and under 84, but you have to start in the last wave and aren’t eligible for awards.) Good sign #1.

But of course I had brought my wetsuit with me, just in case. Apparently a number of triathletes, assuming the temperature would climb, not fall, had left theirs at home. Ugh. That sucks. Always bring yer wetsuit! Well, unless it’s a pool swim. That would be silly.

Post-bathroom visit, Donna and I got body marked (why do I always get a body marker who writes small numbers, even when I request they write BIG?!) and headed into transition to set up. We hadn’t brought a bike pump so we had to beg, borrow, and, as a last resort, steal. (I’m not above that when it comes to racing…) Some people are really nice when it comes to lending their stuff. “Red shirt guy” near me was like that. Unfortunately, because he was nice we just kept passing the pump around, saying, “it belongs to that guy in the red shirt over there…” I hope he got it back. I have an odd valve for my rear race wheel and red shirt guy’s pump wouldn’t fit on it. So I accosted a girl and borrowed hers, which worked like a charm. But when Donna tried to use it, the girl said she was leaving transition and needed to take it with her. So I scoped around our area and saw a couple of pumps, which we commandeered. But we just couldn’t get air in Donna’s tires. With 10 minutes left before transition was set to close, and Donna’s tires now mostly deflated thanks to yours truly’s failed attempts at getting a pump to fit, I sent her over to the race mechanic. Thankfully she came back a couple of minutes later with fully inflated tires. We finished filling our water bottles and positioning our shoes (more about that later) and helmets, and headed out of transition just before it closed.

We still had almost an hour before our swim wave so Donna decided to hit the porta-potties again. The lines were insane but even worse was the third-world slum aroma emanating from the porta-pots. I decided to don my wetsuit and go sit in the grass…sorry, wear shoes if you walk in the grass pre-race; I guarantee I wasn’t the only one peeing in their suit. From my viewing spot I got to see the pro’s start the swim, which was cool. Donna joined me and we had a pre-race picture taken:

Raleigh pre race

I just peed in my suit…

Ha, we might look relaxed but we were nervous! I am not a fan of open water swim starts. At Ironman 70.3 Austin, I stupidly positioned myself front and center in the swim and ended up getting crushed for the first 5 minutes as the faster swimmers ploughed through me. This time, I planned to be more sensible and start near the back. And then, because I was trying to relax and not freak out, we almost missed our swim start.

We had this picture taken at 7:30. I know because I posted it on Facebook. Then we headed to bag drop. Our swim wave, #12, was due to start at 7:42, so we really should have been lined up by then. I realized how late we were when I saw the sign being held up for wave #20. Crap. We had to squeeze our way through 8 waves of people to get to our wave, which by this point was on the beach. We still hadn’t zipped up our suits. We stood off to the side to zip each other up, and then rejoined the group. Then Donna realized we had joined wave #13, and our wave was in the water! Crap again. We scooted around wave #13 and got in the water. The temperature felt perfect. We had 4 minutes to start. And the wave was very small, so even though I was near the back, there were only a couple of rows of people in front of me. Perfect. Good sign #2.

THE SWIM – NO MOSH PIT

When the gun/cannon/siren/whatever went off I started swimming hard to get a good spot. I didn’t have to worry. A great spot opened up to my right, close to the buoys. At first I was hesitant to take it, because I had planned to swim a little wide of the markers, since it tends to be a mosh pit near them, but the area was clear and given that my wave was small, I went for it. That turned out to be a great decision. I had room to swim, visibility was great for sighting, and nobody was in my way. Before I knew it, I was swimming through some of the slower swimmers in the previous wave, which gave me a boost. I took a kick to the goggle while trying to navigate around a breaststroker, but even that didn’t bother me. I was like Dory…just keep swimming…I actually had to remind myself to pull hard because I was zoning out. Perhaps I took a nap. I don’t know. The time went by really fast. It was the most relaxing open water swim I’ve ever had!

And then the end came in sight and I started to kick fast to ready my legs for the bike. Of course it took forever to get to the dock but I finally made it and hauled myself out of the water. Swim time = 41:45

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The volunteers were yelling that the wetsuit strippers were on the left on the way to transition. Wetsuit strippers are awesome. Never try to remove your wetsuit yourself if there are strippers available. By the time I reached them I had the top of the suit down. I made eye contact with a couple of ladies, one of whom yelled, “sit down! Lift your butt up!” Yeah, it’s unladylike but it’s worth it because they rip that thing off in a second. As I took my suit from them I told them how awesome they were. Then I ran into transition.

THE BIKE – WILL MY GOOD LUCK LAST?

Backing up for just a second…bear with me. When we attended the “athlete briefing” on the Friday before the race, someone asked if we were allowed to lay our stuff out in T1 or if it had to stay in the gear bag. (Some races, like Austin, have “clean” transition areas, which means you can’t lay your shit out and potentially mess up the place. Of course it looks nice and you don’t lose stuff, but it takes extra time to get your stuff, so athletes hate it.) The guy running the briefing said that you could put your stuff on the ground. Then he said something that shocked me. He said that we could NOT put our bike shoes on the pedals. As someone who has learned to put my bike shoes on while riding, to avoid the hazards of running in something that has metal cleats on the bottom, I couldn’t believe I was hearing this. So I raised my hand. Shortly he called on me and I said, “Can you confirm that bike shoes are NOT allowed on pedals?” And he confirmed that we had to leave them on the ground. I was not happy to hear this. I did not want to run in my bike shoes. I prefer to run in bare feet. Of course, I had the option to hold them while running to the bike exit, and put them on there, but then I’d be holding my bike and that would be a nightmare.

Fortunately, the transition gods must have been looking out for me because on Saturday, when we went to rack our bikes in T1, I discovered that my spot was on the second to last rack, right by bike out. Sweet. Good sign #3.

Raleigh T1

That’s my red Felt B2 on the left

So I breezed through transition, donned sunglasses, helmet, and shoes, grabbed my bike, ran toward the bike out, almost careened into a woman who slowed to have sunscreen applied, ran to the bike mount and got on my bike. It was a long, continuous climb out of the lake area to the first turn, and I took it easy, not worrying about my speed or the other riders, just wanting to get comfortable and conserve energy. As I had practiced at USA Triathlon Nationals in Vermont, I drank only water for the first 20 minutes, to allow my stomach to settle from the swim. After that, I started drinking my Infinit, a custom complete nutrition drink that prevents me from having to eat, which I find causes me stomach issues in the aero position. I kept an eye on my Garmin and noted that I was riding around 20mph, which surprised me as I didn’t feel that I was pushing the pace at all. I figured it was flat and some hills would soon appear to slow me down.

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But by mile 20 I was still averaging 20mph. And it was the same at mile 30. And 40. With about 10 miles to go on the bike, I was getting a cramp in my side that had me worried for the run, as I didn’t run well at Austin due to a cramping stomach. I had to pee, and planned to wait until run transition, but realized that needing to pee may be causing the stomach cramp. So I decided now was the time to finally master peeing on my bike.

Around the time I decided this, a monster downhill appeared, which provided the perfect opportunity. I felt bad for the guys behind me but that made sure they kept their distance. I recall reading in Chrissie Wellington’s book that if anyone tried to draft off her on the bike, she would let off a “warning shot” to keep them away. So having issued a “warning shot,” I sat back down in my seat and felt very relieved (pun intended) as the stomach cramp started to subside almost immediately.

Although I was having a good ride, the last 10 miles did start to drag. First of all, after 40 miles the course was no longer coned, and traffic was getting dangerously close. I had a couple of close calls with cars, and started to worry that my good luck was about to run out. Fortunately I made it through unscathed. I took my feet out of my shoes a bit early as I didn’t know exactly where the bike ended (rookie mistake: Donna and I did not look at the end of the bike course), but that actually turned out to be a good idea as the bike ended on an uphill, and had I not taken my shoes off before this, I probably would have wiped out. I made a decent dismount and ran my bike into transition as fast as I could. Bike time = 2:45:43

THE RUN – DON’T FAIL NOW

All I had left now was the run. The run is my strength, but I had failed to capitalize on this in Austin. Suffering from stomach cramps in that race, I took 2 hrs to run the 13.1 miles. This time, my stomach was feeling fine. As I started the run I glanced at my Garmin and saw I was running in the low 7:00s. Too fast. I tried to slow myself down but I still had my bike legs, i.e., they were spinning fast. I even stopped at a porta potty and still continued hammering the pace. If I had been running a 10K I would have kept it up, but I knew I’d be in trouble if I tried to maintain this pace for a half marathon. Eventually I managed to slow myself down, aided in part by the gradual incline over the first 4 miles. Miles 4 – 9 were on a paved trail. I had hoped the trail would provide some shade, but unfortunately it was fully exposed to the midday sun. And hilly. Relentlessly hilly. The brief respite from every downhill was met by another grueling uphill.

Raleigh run

The trail…you can see why I thought it was shaded. It wasn’t.

I managed to maintain an 8:30 pace on the trail but was painfully slow on the uphills. Race support was fantastic. Ice, water, sponges, etc. at every mile, with plenty of volunteers to hand stuff out. And there were kids on the course with water guns as well as sprinklers and hoses, which was awesome. I ended up as wet as I was after the swim. We had to run two loops at the top of the trail, which wasn’t much fun, but I reminded myself over and over that it would eventually end. Finally, I was out of the park with just 4 miles to go, most of it downhill. I started to try to crank up the pace, although my body was in full protest at that point. With a couple of miles to go I saw a girl with a “42″ on her calf (my age group), and focused on passing her.

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Soon we were making the final turn and I could see the finish line with about 800m to go. There is no other feeling like running down that finish chute. The crowd noise is deafening and you feel like you’re on air. All the pain goes away for those last few steps. And then the line is there. And it’s over. Run time = 1:44:59

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Total race time = 5:15:59

I placed 3rd in the 40 – 44 age group and was offered a spot at Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Which I turned down. I don’t like Vegas. ;) Maybe Mont Tremblant will tempt me in 2014, assuming I do another of these, and do it well.

Prior to this race I said this was my last Half Ironman, that I wanted to focus on duathlon (which I still do) and running. Now, I’m not so sure. Funny how a race change change your perspective.

HUGE Thank You to my sponsors: Potomac River Running, Brooks, GU, Infinit, and Nuun.

If you made it this far: thanks for reading; I know this was long!

St. Michael’s Half Marathon Recap OR When a “B” race becomes an “A” race

In the next couple of days I’ll probably have a conversation with my triathlon coach about St. Michael’s Half Marathon, which I ran on Saturday. I’m expecting it to go something like this:

Me (all excited): I ran a 3 minute PR for the half marathon!

Coach: I heard that. Congrats. What happened to that being a “B” race?

Me: I said it would be a B+/A- race, never actually said “B” race.

Coach: I see. So when did you decide to make it an “A” race?

Me: It just kinda happened. I felt great and the first mile was fast and I thought I’d see if I could hang on to that pace. (Thinking: I totally rock!)

Coach: Right. So what about the Half Ironman you have in 2 weeks? Is that now a “B” race?

Me: Um, no, still an “A” race.

Coach: They can’t both be “A” races. You can’t have your cake and eat it.

Me: Hmpffff…

I’m not good at this whole “A” race “B” race thing. I like to race hard. I don’t want to stand on the start line thinking I have to hold back, and I don’t enjoy crossing the finish line if I haven’t given a race 100%. But if I want to race frequently, then I realize this is what I have to do. I have clients who like to race frequently and I tell them the same thing. They are better listeners than I am.

On Saturday, I clearly made a decision that the half marathon would be my “A” race. To be honest, I didn’t sign up for a “B” race. I signed up for the race because I looked at last year’s results and knew I had a shot at placing. I didn’t go there just to run it. Truthfully, I didn’t have a well thought out plan for the race. Given that it was pancake flat, I knew I could run a more or less even pace and wouldn’t really pay later for going out hard earlier, unless I went out too hard. But what was too hard? Honestly, I didn’t know, so it was a bit of a crapshoot.

I didn’t taper for this race. I biked 3 hrs on hills Sunday, ran 8 miles Monday, did an abbreviated track workout on Tuesday that my tri coach actually laughed at, biked and swam for an hour each on Wednesday, then biked for 2 hrs and ran 3 tempo miles on Thursday. My body ached so much Thursday night/Friday morning that I had doubts I would be able to run well. But I had a relaxing day, with a pleasant drive to Oxford, MD with my friend and training partner Bridget. Bridget’s parents live in Oxford and kindly let me stay with them. We had a fabulous pre-race pasta and salmon dinner cooked by Bridget’s mom, who is also a runner and had signed up to run the 10K, and I had a great night’s sleep.

We got up at 5am and left the house at 5:30 for the drive to St. Michael’s. We’d been warned that, with only one road in and out of the town, traffic could get backed up. But we had left plenty early and breezed into a parking spot at 6:00am. Bridget was disgusted that we had a 90 minute wait; she typically likes to arrive at a race 10 minutes before the gun. I, on the other hand, like having time to ponder, check out the porta potty (and alternatives) situation, and generally get my brain in order.

St. Michaels Half Marathon

Bridget and me pre-race

One thing I did differently: I did not drink coffee. I drink coffee every morning including race day, because I don’t like to break with my routine. For some reason I declined coffee Saturday morning, and I’m glad I did. I didn’t have to make nearly as many pre-race bathroom trips as usual, and not having the coffee clearly didn’t impede my performance. I drank my favorite flavor Nuun – Kona Cola, which has caffeine, and 20 mins before the race start I had a Vanilla Bean GU, which is also caffeinated. (I also had an Espresso Love GU and a Roctane GU on the course, both of which have extra caffeine.) So I think I got my fix without the drawbacks…

Mind you, I still had to pee before the race and of course the porta potty lines were ridiculously long and I do not like to wait. Typically I just go and find some alternative. So Bridget and I went off on our warm up jog and I tried to scope out a good spot. Found a great place near the water with a couple of bushes but a guy was hanging out there with his dog. Bridget struck up a conversation with him and they started walking away from the prime location. I walked with them for a minute then jogged back. Unfortunately, just as I got back to the spot, a homeowner came out with a mallet and started banging her “Yard Sale” sign into the ground. Darn. So off I went in search of another location. And then – BINGO! – a house was under construction. Where there’s construction, there’s always a porta potty!

Situation resolved, off we headed to the start line. On our way there we ran into Miss Zippy. We last saw each other at last year’s Rockville Twilighter, and we’re racing IronGirl Rocky Gap together in September. It was great to catch up with her. While we were standing on the start line I saw a face I recognized from Boston! While running Boston Marathon, I heard a voice behind me say, “Are you Racingtales?” How amazingly cool that someone would recognize me! She introduced herself as Melissa. When I posted on Facebook that I was running St. Michael’s, Melissa mentioned that she was, too! I was so glad she found me. She had on a Boston shirt and her nails were painted yellow, totally cool. Melissa, I hope you had a great race!

So the gun went off and I tried to settle in to some sort of comfortable pace. Garmin was fluctuating around a 6:30 which I knew was too fast, so I tried to slow it down just a bit, not too much. Miss Zippy asked what pace we were running and, although I was still bouncing around the high 6′s, I told her we were at a 7:00. Eventually I was able to find a good pace that didn’t feel like overreaching and went through the first mile in 7:06.

Now what? I decided then and there that my pace would be 7:06, or as close to it as I could get. I slowed a little in mile 2 (7:13) but I think that was where the 18′ elevation was on the course. ;) The next couple of miles were right on pace, and my pace fluctuated by only a few seconds for the next 11 miles. In the early miles there were a couple of ladies in front of me but I could tell I was closing in. To make my passes convincing and ensure they wouldn’t try to go with me, I pulled up alongside them for a few seconds, then surged ahead. I wasn’t trying to be mean, just strategic.

Just before the turnaround at 8 miles I saw runners coming the other way. I started looking for women. I saw two girls and then my friend Ashley. I yelled at her that she was in 3rd. I was hoping I was 4th but saw two other girls. So I was 6th. After the turnaround I realized we had been running with a tailwind and now were running into a headwind. No matter, I just had to push a bit harder to maintain pace, which isn’t so hard when you only have 5 miles to go. I had a thought that I’d try to run the last 5 at sub-7, and did manage a 6:57 mile 8, but the wind (and probably my own fatigue) put a stop to that. I caught the 5th place woman fairly easily. As I passed her she told me she was dying, I responded, “No, you’re strong, keep at it.” Mile 11 was the slowest (7:12) and probably the hardest mile, with the winds swirling and me caught in no-man’s-land.

There were a handful of guys ahead, some of whom I caught and tried to draft off, but had to pass to maintain my pace. I had my eye on a guy up ahead, however, who I thought might be able to help me as he was running strong and I was closing in slowly. As I caught him I tried to draft off him as I had the others, but my pace was slowing. However, as I pulled up alongside him he gestured to two guys up ahead and said, “Think we can catch them?” I responded, “We can try…” Now I love a challenge but these guys were a good bit ahead and I really didn’t think we could catch them. We both surged and started pushing each other. In the last mile or so of the race there are several turns. I hate making turns when I’m tired because it hurts and I lose speed. My running buddy was getting away. I pushed to keep up with him as we passed the two guys.

We turned on to a trail with less than a mile to go. That’s when I saw the girl in 4th place up ahead. My first thought was, “I can’t catch her” and then I stopped myself. I decided I would try. I started to push harder. My running buddy went with me. It was great to have someone helping me. As we got closer I tried to decide if I should pass her now or wait until nearer the finish, when she couldn’t pass back. In the end it just happened organically, right around mile 13. We were running in the 6′s and my legs were about to fall off. Of course, after passing her I was worried she would make a late move, so I pushed the pace as hard as I could all the way through the line.

I finished in 1:33:08, a 3 minute PR for me, and couldn’t have been happier. My pace? 7:07. :) My running buddy congratulated me on beating him (!), I congratulated Ashley who’d hung on for 3rd place just 30 seconds ahead of me, and then went back out on to the course to cheer on the other runners.

The post-race awards ceremony was held near St. Michael’s Winery, so after picking up our awards (I placed 1st in the 40 – 44 age group while Bridget’s mom placed 1st in the over 70 age group!) we stopped by the winery for a little tasting. I’m not much of a beer drinker (unless it’s Guinness) so this was a perfect end to a perfect day.

Wine and Awards

Wine and Awards

AOL 4th Annual 5K Race Recap: Relearning How to Focus

AOL Cinco5K used to be my favorite distance. Back when I was a lazy runner, it was easy to train for, over with quickly, and relatively painless because I slowed down as soon as it started to hurt. These days I look at a 5K like ripping off a bandaid; it’ll hurt, but it’ll hurt less the faster I run. After training for a marathon for (what felt like) forever, I decided I needed to remind my legs what it’s like to race a much shorter distance. I knew racing a 5K just three weeks after Boston Marathon would be a shock to my system. I didn’t realize just how much of a shock it would be…

To be honest, I find 5ks a huge time suck as I like to get to a race an hour before it starts so I can warm up and spend a ridiculous amount of time looking at my watch, when I’m not running back and forth to the bathroom. Then I run for just over 20 minutes and spend another hour hanging around waiting for awards. Granted, I usually bump into someone I know and spend some time catching up, as I did last Sunday, but when I get home and realize I only ran 4 miles (3.1 of racing, plus warm up) I feel that it’s a bit of a waste. So my plan, when I finished Sunday’s race, was to keep running for a few more miles until the awards were presented. I ran 3 more miles until I got worried I was going to miss the awards and headed back to the finish area only to find they were about the start the kids fun run, bumped into a friend and chatted for a while before we both decided to go back to our cars and get our jackets. Of course, then I almost did miss the awards because we were halfway to our cars when they started making the announcements…

Anyway, the race, in a nutshell, went reasonably well. I realized on the start line that there were no fast guys, only a few girls who looked fast. When the gun went off, four girls took off (with a couple of guys in tow) and I quickly realized I shouldn’t try to give chase. My plan was to run a 6:45 first mile and then drop the pace for the 2nd and 3rd miles. I had trouble finding the pace at first; I was either too fast or too slow. Then I noticed there were four guys just ahead of me so I caught up with them to see if they could pull me. Mile 1: 6:46. I soon passed a couple of the guys and then just had two ahead of me. In mile 2 I was about to pass another guy when the wind picked up on an uphill stretch, so I tucked in behind him so he could block the wind for me. Unfortunately he started to slow, so I reluctantly passed him. Mile 2: 6:39.

Just one more guy to catch. I needed to pick up the pace, although I knew there was one more hill. I tried to stop my mind from wandering and focus on my cadence and form. Having spent the last several months allowing my mind to wander in order to deal with the mind-numbing mileage, I was now having trouble keeping it from wandering! Focus, focus, I reminded myself. I passed the last guy. Mile 3: 6:36.

I could hear the crowd at the finish and I knew how close it was. I was telling my legs to kick but they had other ideas. Funny thing was, they felt great, but my lungs were on fire. And of course my legs weren’t used to the speed and were fighting it. Still, I managed 6:04 for the last 0.1, or 0.18 on my Garmin. Guess I didn’t do too great a job running the tangents. I remember having a hard time working out which side of the road would be shorter, my brain was so fried!

AOL 5K

But when I finished, my legs still had plenty of pep, so off I went on my 3 mile jaunt….

I ended up winning my age group (40-49) and was 5th female overall. AOL did a great job, offering indoor bathrooms and a place to stay warm pre-race. They also offered mustache painting, in which I decided to partake, but of course wiped off my mustache during the race! Parking was easy and well-marked, the race route was easy to follow and offered some short but challenging hills, and there was plenty of race support. I plan to go back next year!

My Boston Marathon: Plan the Run, Run the Plan

We love BostonA few years ago a seasoned marathoner and training partner of mine said these words to me: “Plan the run, run the plan.” We were discussing marathons and how so many people (including me) go out too hard and blow up. Phil’s philosophy was simple: if you have a reachable plan, and you follow that plan, you will run well.

Easier said than done. In every marathon, the adrenaline and people around me would get to me, I’d go out too hard for the first 5 miles and pay for it in the last 5. After discussing the Boston Marathon course at length with my coach, and reading this article, particularly the discussion on conserving energy during the initial downhill miles, I created my race plan as follows:

Miles 0 – 10: 8:30s

Miles 11 – 21: 8:20s

Miles 21 – 26.2: 8:00 or better

This would get me close to my goal of 3:40 without blowing up or reinjuring my calf. I realized I’d have to put up with a lot of people passing me in the first 10 miles, but was confident I’d be passing them back in the last 5.

And that’s exactly what happened. I started out conservatively for the first 10 miles: 8:36, 8:27, 8:27, 8:28, 8:33, 8:32, 8:28, 8:48 (pit stop), 8:20, 8:29

My mantra was “run the plan.” I didn’t think about much else those first few miles. Well, actually, I thought plenty about how I needed to pee but didn’t want to stop to wait for a porta potty. I finally found an open one at mile 8. It cost me a few seconds but was worth it.

“Run the plan” became even more important when I had to pick up the pace at mile 11, which was right around the time my hip flexors started to complain. “Kinda early to be hurting,” I thought, but I didn’t let it get to me, and I didn’t allow myself to think about running 16 miles in pain. I just focused on the plan. Pain in a marathon is inevitable. You have to prepare for it. Granted, I didn’t expect to be dealing with it this early on, but the game plan didn’t change because of it. In a way, it may have been good that the pain started early because I could stop wondering when it would start to hurt. I did not slow down. I focused on the fact that people were tracking me. I didn’t want to let my coach down, and, most of all, I didn’t want to let myself down. I had a little phrase – “DNF” – which stood for Do Not Fail.

Miles 11 – 21: 8:19, 8:21, 8:18, 8:18, 8:23, 8:19, 8:31 (start of the hills), 8:27, 8:19, 8:31, 8:49 (heartbreak hill)

boston elevation 560x345

There are three hills from miles 17 – 21, although it felt like there were twelve. But the crowds were with me on every one of them. My friends and family tracking me were with me. And thousands of other runners were with me. Early on in the hills one of my sister’s friends from college, Laura, found me. We both knew the other was running, and she knew what I’d be wearing, but it was still incredible that she found me! We exchanged a few words. I distinctly remember her asking me how I felt and I answered, “Great, really good.” Yes, that was a total lie. But I felt that actually voicing my pain would make it worse. Instead, I buried it deep down inside me as Laura and I passed back and forth on the hills. I found myself looking for her, which was a good distraction.

Finally, the hills were over and it was just the downhill stretch to the finish. I felt confident that I could pick up the pace, and I did. Mile 22 was an 8:07. What I hadn’t factored in was the difficulty I’d have in getting around people while maintaining this pace. A lot of people were walking. A lot of people were slowing. And I was trying to speed up. Just getting around all the bodies was hard. And of course I wanted to keep running the tangents, which I’d been working on the whole way.

Miles 22 – 26.2: 8:07, 8:16, 8:26, 8:13, 8:11, 7:30

I was really thirsty, too, so I wanted to get water at every mile. But the Gatorade always came first, so I’d have to skirt along near the tables and dart in when it switched to water, so as not to miss it. I think I shoved a few people out of the way to get to the water…

So the last 5 miles didn’t exactly go according to plan, but not for lack of trying. I believe that I left 100% out there on that course in Boston. I negative split, going through 13.1 in 1:52:20 and finishing in 3:44.

Finally, I ran the plan. Thanks, Phil.

If you would like to help the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, please donate to The One Fund, set up by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino. 

Boston One Fund

 

Why Boston Marathon Spectators Rock

If you would like to help the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, please donate to The One Fund, set up by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino. 

Boston One Fund

One of the things I planned to talk about in my Boston Marathon recap was the spectators. How they carried me 26.2 miles with their shouts, screams, signs, offers of beer, water, popsicles, oranges, you name it. The signs the Wellesley girls hold up provide a welcome distraction from the pain, their screams ear piercing, although I have to admit I prefer the boys of Boston College, who hang precariously over the barricades while they shout and cheer and offer encouragement. They appear at mile 21, right after Heartbreak Hill, when I find myself in most need of some crowd support.

And then some of these very spectators who stand for hours and shout themselves hoarse are injured or killed in an horrific and senseless attack.

And my memories of these people, of the little boy from whom I took water and the kids holding out their hands for high fives and the man who shouted out my number, are imprinted on my brain.

I am trying to remind myself that there is much more good in the world than evil. And it’s the people of Boston who have helped me remember that. Here are a few examples:

1. I dumped my fuel belt at mile 11. In hindsight, I never should have carried it. I hate wearing the thing. The water got warm fast, my back was baking, and the only reason I wore it was to carry my GUs, which my coach pointed out I could have just safety-pinned to my shorts. Yeah, he was right. Again. I’d pinned a business card to the belt just in case, but when I dumped it much earlier than planned (the plan was mile 21, when I’d pick up the pace), I never expected to get it back. But a couple from Natick found it, contacted me, and mailed it back to me. They are both runners, but they haven’t run Boston. I hope they get to run it next year, and either way, I plan to meet them so I can thank them in person.

Fuel belt

My fuel belt rinsed and returned, along with some beautiful artwork

2. There were two people behind me wearing Yankees caps. It was entertaining (and a good distraction) to hear the comments from the spectators, which of course poked fun but were never derogatory or unkind. I didn’t even hear “Yankees suck,” just good-humored, respectful fun.

3. When runners finish the race, they’re funneled toward the buses containing the gear they’ve checked. On the way there are two guys sitting up high holding a white board on which is written the top 3 finishers, male and female, as well as the top American finishers. It’s a really nice touch. Oh, and at the bottom of the board is listed the inning and the score of the Red Sox game. :)

4. I deliberately did not put my name on my shirt or bib, and I was grateful to The Boston Marathon for not printing it on there. Funny though it sounds, I get to a point in a marathon where I just can’t stand to hear my name shouted at me. I know the supporters are simply being encouraging, but what’s great in the first few miles becomes really old by the 20th. But that didn’t stop people from shouting out my number, all 5 digits of it, or “go PR!” – the initials of the store I run for, Potomac River Running, are imprinted on my shirt. And that was enough, and much appreciated.

5. At some races, spectators will come out with their “Go Dad!” sign, stand on the side of the road silently until “Dad” runs by, cheer for him, and then move on. I’m always amazed that they don’t cheer for anyone else. I’m sure it’s not deliberate, it just doesn’t cross their minds to cheer for strangers. I’m not saying spectators should cheer themselves hoarse for every runner, but once in a while, pick out someone and cheer for them. It’s really nice to have strangers cheering for you. At Boston, all the spectators do this. For hours. They line the streets and cheer on every runner. It’s a tradition. They have fun – or at least they look like they’re having fun. And the cheers get louder the closer you get to the finish. So by the time you get to Boylston street, the noise is deafening. And you feel like a rock star.

Boston finish kick

That’s me in black and white…literally being carried down Boylston street by the crowd

Thanks to Underwater Samurai, another dedicated spectator, and husband to RunWiki who also ran Boston, for taking this picture.

Many thanks to every single spectator at the 2013 Boston Marathon. You guys deserve a medal.

 

 

 

 

We Love Boston

I’m still trying to make sense of this tragedy at The 2013 Boston Marathon, where the only pain we usually talk about is what our legs feel at Heartbreak Hill. My heart goes out to all those people injured and their families, and the families of those who were killed. Boston is an amazing city with people who line the streets for 26.2 miles to cheer on thousands of marathoners and offer support. Kids hand out water and popsicles and put out their hands for high-fives. Adults offer beer. Wellsley girls offer kisses and more. ;) It is an event that’s unparalleled in every way. I know that runners will be offering their support by returning to the race.

I ran 3:44 flat to requalify. I will be back in 2014. I’ll be posting a race report soon.

Boston Finish line

We love Boston

 

Patriots’ Day

Boston and Kara Goucher

Among the many unique things about Boston Marathon (such as required qualifying times, later start time than most marathons, three start waves) is the fact that it’s held on a Monday. Of course, it’s not just any Monday, it’s Patriots’ Day, an official holiday in Massachusetts (obviously) and Maine (which used to be part of Massachusetts), and a public school observance day in Wisconsin (no idea why). Patriots’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the Revolutionary War. By the way, in case you were wondering, the Revolution is not covered in History classes in English schools. At least not in mine. We covered all the Kings and Queens, skipped right over the Revolution and moved on to the World Wars…

But I digress. Because Boston Marathon is held on Patriots’ Day, many Bostonians call the holiday “Marathon Monday.” In addition to the marathon, as is tradition, the Boston Red Sox will play (the Rays) at Fenway Park at 11am; marathoners will run through Kenmore while they are playing. I probably shouldn’t mention the Red Sox given that my husband is a Yankees fan. Baseball is another thing you don’t learn about in England. When my husband took me to my first baseball game (Orioles vs. Royals, I think), I couldn’t understand why the fans of opposing teams were sitting near each other. I am used to English football, where a fence or wall and even designated entrances physically separate the fans of opposing teams, lest they try to kill one another. Baseball, I learned, is much more civilized.

And April 15th also happens to be Jackie Robinson Day. Robinson, of course, is one of baseball’s heroes for breaking the color barrier when he entered the major leagues in 1947. Given that I’m running a marathon on Jackie Robinson Day I’m likely to be thinking about another hero, Kathrine Switzer, who broke the gender barrier when she ran the Boston marathon 20 years after Robinson’s major league debut. (Coincidentally, Switzer was born in 1947.) It was another five years before women were officially allowed to enter the Boston marathon, which just happens to be the year I was born – 1972. Kathrine Switzer will be signing copies of her book “Marathon Woman” at the  Marathon Tours Booth (#2335) at the Boston Marathon Expo on Friday April 12th from 2pm-6pm, Saturday April 13th from 1pm-6pm, and Sunday, April 14th from 1:15pm-3pm. I think I will have to stop by!

Speaking of marathon women, I happened to spot Kara Goucher’s Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons, on my bookshelf this morning. I was looking for some nutrition tips for the last few days leading up to my race, and thought I’d see what she had to say. There’s a section of her book called “Your Can’t-Fail Prerace Eating Plan” that I found really useful and highly recommend for those wondering what to eat the day before the race as well as on race day. In the chapter “Running a Marathon” I found this quote, that I felt put things in perspective for me as I think about my race strategy:

Marathon

Whether you call it Patriots’ Day, Marathon Monday, Jackie Robinson Day, or just another Monday, April 15th will be historic.

Seven Years and Ten Days to Boston Marathon

On Patriots Day (April 15th to everyone who’s not a New Englander!) I’ll run my 2nd Boston Marathon. Boston is the first marathon I’ll run twice. I’ve run  five marathons (and two 50K Ultras), all of them on different courses. I guess I like different scenery…

Preparing for a marathon always reminds me of my previous 26.2 adventures. As I enter serious taper mode (my last hard workout was today, 5 miles alternating 6:45 and 7:15 pace), I thought I’d sit down and share my marathon experiences over the last seven years. I got into marathoning late, considering I’ve been racing since the Heinz schools’ marathon relay at age 11, way back in 1984. For a long time the distance and discipline scared me. Funny thing was, I’d happily run 20+ trail miles with Reston Runners, but the mere mention of the marathon gave me chills. It was a place that I wasn’t prepared to go, mentally more than anything, for some time. Until finally…

Marathon #1: Marine Corps Marathon (MCM), October 2006

The story of MCM starts six months earlier. Back in March of 2006 my friend Kathy and I traveled to Virginia Beach to run our first ever Half Marathon. Shamrock was a very small event back then, so small, in fact, that most restaurants had not yet opened for the season and we had a hard time finding somewhere to eat! On the way home from the race we stopped at a gas station and saw some other race finishers looking stiff-legged. We said hello and found out that they had run the marathon. One woman we talked to was so excited to have finished her first marathon in a great time. Kathy and I looked at each other and knew a seed had been planted. We signed up for MCM almost right away. (Back then it didn’t close in 2 hours!) MCM is my local marathon so it was an easy choice. It’s also a very crowded race, as I quickly learned.

MCM was an eye-opener, as most first marathons are! I went into the race feeling well-prepared, having logged the mileage, albeit all of it at an easy pace. I got carried away, however, by the spectators cheering and the surging of the runners around me, and ran the first 5 miles at an 8:15 pace, much faster than my planned 9:00. And of course I crashed and burned by mile 17.

MCM finish: 3:58

Marathon #2: Disney World Marathon, January 2008

Disney 2008

My training for Disney was very similar to that for MCM, except for the fact that the weather was much colder for my long runs. Of course, it was hot and humid in Orlando. I carried a water belt for the first time, had to ditch my shirt at mile 4, even though it was still dark, and ended up with “burns” on my skin from the friction of the fuel belt. Although I still started too fast, I paced this race better in the later miles, fueled better (switching the fuel belt for a hand-held at halfway), and didn’t crash.

Disney Marathon finish: 3:44 (BQ)

Marathon #3: National Marathon, March 2009

National was simply a training run for Marathon #4, Boston. I scored a free entry from Reston Runners and so decided it would be good training. I started out at the pace I should have started my other marathons: 9:15. I ran that pace for 18 miles, then picked up to marathon pace for the next 6, and cooled down for the last 2 miles. There was no pressure and it felt relatively easy. But did I learn my lesson?

National Marathon finish: 4:01

Marathon #4: Boston Marathon, April 2009

Boston 2009

Did I learn from National? Of course not. At Boston I started out at an 8:30 pace, convinced that was what I needed to do on the first several downhill miles, to compensate for the hills later on. I crashed badly at Boston, partly because of this strategy but also because of my disastrous fueling, or lack thereof. In the entire race I only at 2 GUs, enough for 90 minutes of running max.

Boston Marathon finish: 3:58

Marathon #5: Shamrock Marathon, March 2011

Shamrock

Shamrock was always meant to be a training run for Capon Valley 50K, my first ultra. But given that my training was going well, I’d run a Half Marathon PR in November, and Capon Valley was eight weeks away, I decided to race it. I had low expectations because I was only 8 weeks into marathon training, but that meant there was less pressure to run a certain time. I went out too fast at Shamrock, running low 8s for the first few miles, but it felt so ridiculously easy. I managed to slow myself down a touch, but was still surprised when the 3:40 pace group passed me at mile 8 (it was like being swallowed by a giant beast as I could see their shadows on the pavement, then being expelled out the other end), clearly well ahead of pace. At mile 20 I passed them back. Never has passing someone felt as good as that! I dug deep for the last 6 miles, fueled well the entire race, and felt tired but strong at the end.

Shamrock Marathon finish: 3:37 (BQ)

Marathon #6: Boston Marathon, April 2013

TBD…

Do you like to run a different marathon each time, or the same marathon more than once?

Are you training for a marathon right now? Which one?

If you haven’t run a marathon, are you considering running one in the future, or have I totally turned you off?!!

How to Write for Publication

I recently had an article published in Trail Runner Magazine’s online publication, Inside Dirt. Upon announcing this exciting news, I was asked how I went about getting published. I thought I’d share the process here for anyone who’s looking to write for publication. But first, a little background to set the scene:

Washington RR

I’ve dreamed of being a writer since I was a kid. My sister and I used to write stories for each other; I remember writing a series called “Sammy the Seal” and criticizing her stories because they had no pathos, no twist in the tale. As a young adult I wrote for my local newspaper, college paper, you name it. Then I graduated and got a job as an editor. Writing career over. Years of proofing, correcting, and modifying, ensued. My creativity was put on hold.

When I started blogging I realized how much I had missed the creative process, the art of crafting and revising my own work. As I’m sure many of you do, I wake up frequently with an idea in my head that cannot wait and I have to get up and write it down. I still use pen on paper. The physical act of writing is part of my process and I find that typing does not provide the same stimulus.

I came to the realization that I wanted to write for the publications I read: Trail Runner Magazine, Run Washington, Washingtonian, Outside, National Geographic.

I got in touch with the magazines’ editors and pitched my ideas. Some they liked, some not so much. After all, it’s a process. I wrote. I revised. I submitted. Sometimes I revised some more.

And then, I would see my article in print and be blown away. Every time.

Here are my tips for those who are looking to write for publication:

- Read the publication. (I’m assuming you already do, but just in case…) Get an idea of the types of articles they print, the style of the writing, the overall tone.

- Visit the publication’s web site and look for submission guidelines. Some publications have very precise guidelines, others are more relaxed.

- Have a clear idea of what you want to write about and why. No editor wants to hear, “hey, I’d like to write about running.” They want to hear, “there’s this race that’s not well known but is amazing because…”

- Stick to your word count. I once went way over, thinking my article was just too good to cut. It was hacked to pieces. No writer  likes to experience that. On the other hand, it was a great lesson and I’ve never gone over my word count since.

- Proofread. Or, if you’re not good at editing, find someone who is.

- Meet your deadline. There is no excuse for tardiness.

- Don’t expect to get rich. Payment for articles varies. Sometimes online publication doesn’t pay at all. You have to decide if the exposure and experience are worth it. I have written articles for no pay when I’ve considered the exposure from that publication worthwhile.

Do you have other tips for writers?

Do you write for publication?

 

Chocolate Cherry Chia Protein Nutella Nibbles

Nutella Protein Nibbles single

Ever find yourself without a recipe ingredient? I do, all the time. But I don’t like to drive to the store just to pick up one (okay, sometimes it’s two or three) things, so I substitute. No sour cream for last night’s crock pot cowboy chicken? No worries, greek yogurt will do. Soy sauce or tamari? Same thing in my house. Any vegetable is pretty much interchangeable with another. I’ve subbed so many things I can’t even remember. The results are, admittedly, interesting on occasion, but rarely disastrous.

Yesterday I came home from a 2 hr ride to find that we were out of Picky Bars, again. No worries, I would make my go-to protein bites recipe. Except there wasn’t any peanut butter to be found. In a house where only one person (my husband) eats peanut butter on a regular basis, this isn’t all that surprising, really. I looked around in the pantry (how did I wind up with six cans of chopped tomatoes?) and found the Nutella. I decided that would sub nicely. Looking down the list of ingredients, I noticed I didn’t have agave nectar. But I did have maple syrup so I went with that.

Seeing as I was already subbing two ingredients, I decided to come up with my own recipe. I’d been dying to use this Costco fruit & nut mix in something other than cookies, as it’s got a ton of cherries and cranberries in it along with almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, so I subbed that, too. Then it was just a case of adding the other ingredients in the right quantities, until I came up with the right consistency. The result was a dense, chocolatey, crunchy, nibble of which I am proud enough to share!

Chocolate Cherry Chia Protein Nutella Nibbles
Nutella Protein Nibbles

Makes 26 Nibbles

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Nutella
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup fruit & nut mix
1 tbs cocoa powder
I scoop Infinit Repair chocolate protein powder (can sub any protein powder, chocolate flavor preferable)
1/4 – 1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 cup shredded coconut

Directions:

Combine Nutella, fruit & nut mix, and oats in a food processor and pulse until fruit & nut mix is finely chopped and ingredients are well combined. Add the cocoa powder, protein powder, maple syrup (start with 1/4 cup) and chia seeds and pulse until combined. Add up to 1/4 cup maple syrup as needed to make the mix slightly sticky.

Take a tablespoon of the mixture and roll it in your palm to form a ball, then roll in coconut. Repeat until all mixture is used.

Place nibbles in refrigerator to harden slightly. Enjoy for up to two weeks…if they last that long.

Nutritional information per serving (1 nibble = 1 serving): 102.5 calories, 3.5g fat, 14.3g carbohydrates, 3g protein, 1.3g fiber, 9.6g sugar

How I won more than money in a #DietBet

Last month, I entered into a DietBet.

While most people would tell me I don’t need to lose weight, and while I would happily agree with them and take another cookie, the fact that my body fat percentage was 22 irked me. And I figured that if I could lose a few pounds I might find those abs I’ve been working hard on all winter, not to mention gain some running speed by carrying around a lighter me.

What exactly is a DietBet? It’s a four week online social dieting game. Anyone can sign up to play, and all the players compete for a share of the “pot” – the money paid to play. You win by losing 4% of your bodyweight. It’s not a competition to lose the most weight, just to lose 4%. If you lose 4% or more, you win. If you don’t, you lose. I entered the FitFluential January DietBet, which had just 4 players at the time I signed up but 582 and a pot of $14,550 by the time the game started!

Dietbet header

Here’s a short video explaining how the DietBet works:

 

So why a DietBet? Why not just lose the weight on my own? The answer is because I have no self-control. This may sound strange from someone as driven and competitive as me, but when it comes to food, it’s true. I don’t eat fast food. I don’t drink soda. But I have issues when it comes to the cookie jar. I needed motivation and accountability. I found both when I laid down $25 to enter the DietBet. I hate losing. To steal from Brad Pitt (as Billy Beane) in Moneyball, “I hate losing more than I love winning. There is a difference.” It’s true. I didn’t care about winning a huge wad of cash (although that would have been nice), but I didn’t want someone else to get my $25. To me, that would have been like handing $25 to a stranger on the street. I wouldn’t have it.

The other reason people enter a DietBet is because of the social aspect. They get to chat with other players, post their results online (facebook and twitter), and see how they’re stacking up against the other players with self-reported progress indicators. I chose not to post to facebook but did have twitter enabled, and was surprised every now and then to see I had posted an update! I also signed up to receive e-mails, which would tell me how other players were doing as well as remind me to weigh in. Players choose which of these tools to use so you can make it as public or as private as you like.

My husband (the sceptic) asked how people could be kept from cheating. Granted, it was a valid question. After all, no-one’s standing over you reading the scale. You have to submit a picture of yourself on the scale and then another of your feet on it with the readout visible both at the beginning and the end of the bet, but I guess as with everything there’s a way to fudge it. Not that I’m suggesting anyone did. But here’s the answer I gave my husband: if someone really feels the need to cheat, then they have bigger issues than losing weight. I’m certainly not going to waste my energy worrying about other people. I’m entering this for myself, because I need to motivation and accountability, and if I’m honest, with myself, well, that’s all that matters to me.

So I put down the money, stepped on the scale, and entered the bet.

I thought it would be easy. I just had to lose a little over 4 pounds, and I had 4 weeks to do it. I actually hit my target in 3 weeks. But it wasn’t easy. I had to work for it. What I hadn’t bargained for was how much I’d learn about myself in 4 weeks:

- I thought I was a “grazer” but I’m actually a chronic snacker. I snack all day long. Sometimes I don’t even eat a meal and so I think I’m not eating much, but all those snacks…they add up.

- I reward myself with food. Ran a few miles? Have something to eat. Swam for an hour? Eat. Biked for two hours? Eat, eat, eat. Yes, I know I’m supposed to refuel after exercise, but this was different. I wasn’t refueling as much as restocking as if the shelves had been emptied after a winter storm warning. I was a rabid animal loose in the pantry.

- I actually weigh more first thing in the morning. I would step on the scale in the morning and freak out. I would have breakfast, get the kids off to school, go for a run, come back, weigh myself again, and I’d have lost 2 pounds. I don’t think I was losing that weight on the run. I think I just wake up full of water weight or something. One night, I actually gained weight while asleep. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t raid the cookie jar in my sleep.

- I won’t pass out if I go for a few hours without food. In the past, I’ve gotten a little lightheaded or have felt nauseous if I didn’t eat every couple of hours. I always carried snacks with me “just in case I get hungry,” which, of course, I would eat regardless of my hunger. My body had become accustomed to being fed every couple of hours and simply needed retraining.

- I can say no. And I did. I thought I had no willpower. That wasn’t true. I managed not to eat the bad stuff at several parties and just focused on the healthy stuff. I knew once I started I wouldn’t be able to stop, so I didn’t start. And I found that the less I ate the bad stuff, the less I wanted it.

Dietbet winners

At the end of the DietBet, 277 people had won. That’s just under 50%. And many others posted on the DietBet wall that they’d gotten oh-so-close.

So, how did I do in the DietBet? I made the 4% goal and lost 2% body fat. I made twenty bucks. Yeah, no big payday. Still, the biggest payout was in the things I learned about myself.

Interested in DietBet? Just go to the website to join any game or start your own.

Have you played in a DietBet? 

How do you keep yourself motivated and accountable?