Monthly Archives: February 2014

Quick and Easy Bean and Spinach Dip

My father’s heritage is Mediterranean, so we grew up eating a lot of Syrian foods.  One of my favorite has always been hummus.  I woke up this morning really wanting some good hummus, but didn’t have tahini on hand, and wanted to incorporate spinach, so I created a bean dip with what I had on hand.

1-25oz can of orIMG_20140228_100726_788ganic garbanzo beans (drained but save some liquid)

1/2 of a fresh lemon squeezed

1 clove of fresh garlic

salt/pepper to taste

herbamare, just a pinch

handful of spinach

Put it all together in a blender and blend together.  If its too dry and won’t blend, add back in a bit of the liquid saved from the can.

Once combined, you’re done!

I like to enjoy it with broccoli, carrots, and crackers.

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Mount Mitchell Challenge Race Report..

..or as I like to remember it as the best time I had running downhill for 20 miles!

startA little background on the race;  Mount Mitchelll was first run in 1998 and has been run every year since. The route begins 2,400 feet above sea level, in the small town of Black Mountain, NC, on what is typically a cold Saturday morning in the end of February.  This year we were very lucky, the temperature at the starting line felt almost balmy at around 35+ degrees.  The quaint town sits in the east end of the Swannanoa Valley, and is often covered in snow and freezing rain.   Its the tallest peak on the east coast and has drawn many talented runners, such as Paul Dewitt,  Annette Bednosky, Rory Bosio, Dave Mackey, Kristin Moehl, and this year Aliza Lapierre and Olga King. (just to name a few finishers.)

Eight of us, from Chapel Hill, met at the start in the chilly air.   We chatted, took pictures, and tried to shake out the pre-race jitters.  A bit after 7 am Jay Curwen, the race director, lined us up.  I couldn’t hear everything he was saying, but I think the gist was to be careful on the ice, running through town, and crossing the parkway (for the 40 mile Challengers.)  Then we were off.  I had started with a friend, and training partner, (who goes by the trail name, Balto).  I had said I was going to take it out easy, which I did..sort of, ok maybe not.  I decided if my breathing was steady and slow, then a 7:30 pace, on the roads through town was easy.    The race runs a handful of miles from the downtown, up some neighborhoods, and through Montreat College.  You would think that early on a Saturday morning the streets would be empty, but not true!  Many of the residents, and students were outside their homes and lining the streets cheering us on.  It was a really nice treat, and I was happy to smile and wave to all those cheering.   After some rolling hills on the road, the race takes a sharp uphill turn as we were herded onto some really pretty single track.    The trail was quiet, and like all other trails out in western part of NC, was covered by a tunnel of rhododendron branches.  Off to the right there was a majestic scene of mountains in the distance.  I realized while enjoying the people and the scenery, I had dropped Balto.

By the first aid station, Balto, had caught back up to me (he’s a very strong climber) and we continued onto the rustic jeep road together.   I know its called a jeep road, but I couldn’t imagine driving anything on that “road.”  It wasn’t too terribly steep, and was mostly runnable, but was completely washed out from many years of spring ice melt, and was covered by loose rocks and boulders.  As a matter of fact, one of my friends who was running the Marathon option, wrenched her knee so badly on this section and I later found out she had to drop and hitch a ride back.

This jeep road, covered in several inches of cold, ice melt, took us up and up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was at about mile 14.   This is where the 40 mile time cut off is, or where the marathoners turn around…(due to the slow going up the very top, if you do not make it to the marathon turn around in 3 hours you must turn back…even if you are cut off and must turn around you are still awarded a marathon time and finisher’s award.)

Having gotten to this point in about 2 hours and 15 minutes I was well ahead of the cut off and continued on.  My legs were starting to feel the continuous uphill, and I slowed and walked, ate and drank on this mile of pavement.  As we turned back onto the single track up to the peak of Mitchell, it was Balto’s turn to drop me.  This single track trail was covered in snow and ice and I was having a very hard time getting any traction.  I felt like I was wasting energy trying to hop from dry spot to dry spot, so I slowed and shuffled my way across the ice to conserve energy.  By the time I reached the next aid station, the woman behind me had caught up to me and as we turned up the very steep, very treacherously icy trail we took our time and chatted.  I found out she has run the race 7 years now, and had won it in the past.  We commiserated over this slippery section, each falling on the ice a few times.   It was nice to have someone to sympathize with.

Finally after nearly 20 minutes of navigating the ice-slick rocks we came upon the last paved section to the summit!  I felt so lucky to be there on a perfectly clear day, and paused to take in the 360 view!  What an amazing half way point!

After a few seconds of looking around, I went back into race mode.   I have struggled with down hill running and form in the past, so the weeks leading up to Mitchell I vigilantly practiced down hill running hoping it would benefit me at Mitchell.  Because there was so much ice at the top, we had to take the road back down for about 7 miles.  Game ON!  All that training was coming in handy!  Once I got into a rhythm I was just flying down that steep road!  I passed runner, after runner, after runner, I felt like I had wings!  The Altra Lone Peak’s that I was wearing were solid enough for the rocky trails, but flexiable and cushioned enough for the pounding of the pavement.

This race is basically 20 miles up and 20 miles down.  20 miles downhill is a long way to pound hard on your quads, and I kept waiting for the wheels to fall off and a hip or knee to lock up.  It never happened.  The road took us all the way back down to that same jeep road where the marathon turn around was.  I worried that switching from fast, smooth road, back to that incredibly muddy, wet, rocky trail would take its toll on me, but somehow (all that down hill stadium plyometrics that I did) held my legs together.  I continued to pass runners every few minutes all the way down to the final stretch of road.   We popped out of the woods, not on the same road we came out on but a steeper more rural road, with about 4-5 miles to go.   I hadn’t quite been able to keep track of my position up to this point, but I estimated that at mile 20 I was the 5th or 6th female runner, and I had passed 2 females on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so I only needed to pass one or two more women to be in the top three.

Once the road flattened out, I finally caught back up to Balto.  With a few words of encouragement I yelled at him to get a move on, I had more women to pass!  He sort of half smiled and grunted and we continued on.. It was at this moment I saw a familiar face.   Much to my surprise, another TrailHead was waiting to let us know what position we were in.   Lynx urged me on, letting me know that woman #3 was just up ahead, and with 3 more rolling miles to go I could surly catch her.  I put my head down and kept going.   By the time I got to her, she was not looking too comfortable, and was walking.  We exchanged pleasantries, and I continued on.

Now this race has a bit of a cruel twist at the end, you run toward the finish line, only to be routed around the lake for another half mile.  Realistically it was actually pretty cool though, a few other TrailHead friends who had come to watch, and had already finished the marathon were there cheering.  My husband, his first time at one of my ultra races, joined me for this last lap.  It was really great to share that moment with him.

winnerplate1

Third place finisher plate!

I crossed the line at 6:18, third female.  I felt great!  Living where its terribly flat made me nervous about the sustained climb and decent, but I was so happy that all those miles of up and down hill running, all those squats and bridges, all those Monday night workouts had done their job and held me together.   I was proud of myself, proud of my friends…we all did really well, and all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the day.

I do have to say, this race was beautiful, and the race so well  organized.  Jay Curwen et al really puts on a great race and the proof of that is all the people who return year after year, in snow and freezing rain to come and summit the tallest peak on the east coast.  Also, I must mention, this race had some great schwag.   Everyone who finishes receives a really nice half-zip from Patagonia, a race t-shirt, and nice winter cap.  Also, the top 5 finishers (male/female) get awards and some money, and the top three masters also receive checks…another good reason to train hard and get yourself to this race!

What I wore:

Altra Lone Peak 1.5 (of course!)

CEP compression socks

Nike 3/4 pants

wool blend 1/2 zip shirt and vest

Nathan waist pack

groupstart

Trigger, Balto, Tyler, Wisp(me), Nova

lizham

Nova, post race bliss

Trail Runner Blog Symposium: Are tech gadgets more help or hindrance on the trails?

   Garmin, Polar, TomTom/Nike, Fitbit,  Jawbone, and Suunto are just a few types of gadgets you may see on the arms of trail runners on any given day.  You can monitor your heart rate, distance elevation, and even sleep patterns, but what do we really gain from knowing about this this information, and is it beneficial?
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    Over the past 10 years of my life my thoughts on these gadgets have changed.  I was first introduced to running watches by my husband who gave me the forerunner 201 in my early 20s for Christmas.  I loved it, I hated it.  I tried to run longer and faster too soon, competing with the numbers on this monster of a watch that covered almost my whole forearm.  I was disappointed if my 14 mile loop was slower than it had been the previous week.  It frustrated me, and I eventually set it aside in exasperation, and burn out.  Who was I racing against day after day anyway?  I was so caught up in beating my splits and forgot to listen to my body and take a day or two easy.  It only took a few months for me to misuse it; it became a torture device, and was put aside for several years.
   In my 30s I came back to fitness watches again, this time with the Garmin 310.  I decided that I would use the watch (and sometimes the heart rate monitor), rather than let the watch use me.  It now helps to remind me when, on easy recovery days, to slow down and on workout days to hit my target.  It seems to temper my excitement of training, and has helped me stay uninjured (knocking on wood now.) I love my watch for races now too.  I often get swept up in the excitement of the adrenaline fueled starting line and take off too fast in my glee to break my taper and run a race!  It also helps me pace myself with food and water, every so many miles I can easily remember to rehydrate, or eat with out spending time doing mental math.
  I am not the person who uploads their data onto spreadsheets and geeks out at the graph options, though I have several more statistically inclined friends who love to, and at times I wish I did as well.   Running with them on the trails I hear them delight in the joy of looking back over weeks, months, and years of their running progress.  For them, it seems to be all wrapped up in their love of training and running.
   I think that whatever gets you out and aids in your training is great.  If a watch motivates you to get off the couch and go  hit a target of time or miles, I say great!  If it helps you stay away from injury, I say more power to you and your gadget!
    I do still think, however, it is important to all have days we just simply unplug from any and all gadgets and just enjoy the trees and the fresh air.  Don’t neglect your one on one personal time with the trails, leave that tech-gadget home from time to time and just enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of nature!
    What is your favorite gadget, or do you have a love/hate relationship with all things (trail running) technical?

Pre Race Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies-Vegan

I was listening to Ultra Runner Podcast’s interview with Michele Yates (Female Ultra Runner of the Year) today during my taper, and one of the questions peaked my interest.  Michele is also gluten intolerant (or celiac) and was talking about her pre and post race nutrition.  She mentioned that she makes a pumpkin cookie before her races, and it got me thinking…

I checked my cabinets which held all sorts of pumpkin-cookie like ingredients.  Her recipe can be found here, but I wanted to make more of an oatmeal cookie, so rather than use oat flour I used actual gluten free oats.

I am not a chef, or baker, I am a runner who likes to experiment with ingredients that are good for me, so this isn’t a sugary-sweet cookie, its more like a sweet bite sized bread.

I used:

1 whole overripe banana

2 Tablespoons of molassas

1 tsp of real maple syrup

3/4 can of organic pureed pumpkin

1 Tablespoon of coconut oil (melted first)

1 Tablespoon of whole flax meal (soaked in 3 Tablespoons of water, this is an egg substitute)

2 cups of gluten free oats

1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill AP baking flour

and a mixture of spices: ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

I mashed the banana, added the molasses, maple syrup, soaked flax meal and melted coconut oil and stirred them together.

Then I mixed together the spices, oats, and flour.

Finally, I combined them all together in a bowl and mixed with a spoon until all the oats were covered.

I cook them for about 7-10 minutes at 350 degrees on a coconut oil greased pan. If you like them more dry cook longer, more chewy cook less.

As runners we all know bananas are good for us, they contain good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin B6.  Oats have phosphorous, potassium, iron, and E, B and K vitamins, all in small amounts, but important for a runner. It also has quite a bit of fiber, so these are not “right before the race” cookies, unless you know that your stomach can handle fiber.  Speaking of fiber, there is quite a bit also in pumpkin, as well as vitamin A, C, and calcium and Iron.  Ginger has anti inflammatory properties, and cinnamon has been shown to regulate your blood sugar.  All and all these little bites of goodness pack quite a nutritional punch…ENJOY!

10 must-do taper rituals.

My first race of 2014 is fast approaching.  The Mount Mitchell Challenge 40 mile.  With NC getting hit pretty hard with snow this past week, Mitchell saw a foot of the white powdery stuff, and there were rumors of more!

I thoroughly enjoyed the unprecedented 6 inches we got here!  (A huge change from growing up north of Boston,) but I had a great time never-the-less.  I had so much fun, in fact, that my calfs were so knotted and sore from slipping around uphill and downhill in the snow.  I was a tad worried…but think I worked the knots out with my trusty PVC pipe and lacrosse ball.  Yes, I said PVC pipe.  My knots can be really gnarly and after someone joked about buying a cheap pipe..I thought I’d try it out.  Can’t beat it, firm, pre-cut to the right size, and just $4. (NOTE: if you try this, only use it on your really fleshy parts of your calf, quads or hamstring, it will bruise the heck out of you if you roll over any bony parts of your body.)  I still use a regular old foam roller for my back.

So onto my taper checklist:

1. Charge Garmin!  I will admit I am not a slave to my garmin, exactly..but there are times when the adrenaline and excitement are driving me, and rather than go out too fast at the beginning if I keep my eye on my pace it helps me reign it in and stay on target (and not hit a wall the last 5 miles..ouch!)

2. Decide on waist water bottle pack, or backpack.  I tend to leave this decision to the last minute. I would prefer to just carry a water bottle around my waist, but if its going to be really cold or really hot I may take the backpack to carry more layers, or just more water between aid stations.

3. YOGA! I can’t stress how much yoga helps me in the two weeks before a race.  I usually max out mileage at 100+ which will make you tight as all heck! And when you factor in lunges and squats and core work, I need to stretch out my hips and abs big time! (this really also includes foam roalling…or PVC rolling…)

4. Short runs with pick ups.  Now is not the time to be starting speed work, or accumulating miles..but I always feel its important to remind your feet what it is they are supposed to do, and how fast they should do it. Unless its a race longer than 50 miles, if it is I tend to walk and jog a lot more during the taper, and not run any pickups.  For instance Mitchell is a 40 mile race so this morning I headed out for a 4 mile run, warmed up comfortably for a mile, then ran fartleks: ran each straightaway at a 6:30 pace, then recovered by jogging until I felt more than ready to do another pick up.

5. Beets and Spinach for nitrogen.  I love beets and spinach anyway, but I try to make sure I have plenty of both in the two weeks leading up to a race.  I also cook a lot more, I tend to prepare whole foods to bring with me when I travel to races.  There is nothing like pulling into a town and finding out there are only fast food places, when you know that at mile 20 those fries aren’t going to be sitting too well.  Plan ahead and bring some tried and true meals with you.

6. Shave.  Might sound silly, but it makes me somehow feel better, faster, cleaner? If nothing else, its just one less thing to worry about chafing.

7.  Taper off of caffeine.  I must state, first, that I am not a coffee drinker, I am a tea person.  Green tea, black tea, yerba mate before long runs.  However, for the two weeks leading up to my race I cut it all off.  First, it tends to help me sleep better, I have more energy as it is because I am not running so I don’t need the added caffeine. Second, is has been shown that tapering off of caffeine helps its efficacy when used as a stimulant during an event.

8. If I have the time and money I will get a pre-race massage. This doesn’t happen as much as I would like….

9.  Wash and organize 2 different outfits for the race.  Why two you ask?  I have  my “its going to be cold” outfit, and my “surprise its a lot warmer than they predicted” outfit.  In a pinch, if the weather is somewhere in between, then a combination of these two race outfits are perfect! Always have my Altra Lone Peaks ready as well.  #rethinkrunning !

10. And finally, read over the course description and other people’s blogs about the race one more time to get a feel for the distance between aid stations, and how that felt for people.  All miles are not created equal.  5 miles on a flat course is much faster than 5 miles of a huge climb.  It could be the difference between an hour, and many hours.  Don’t be surprise on race day with just your small hand held because you thought there were only a few miles between aid stations, not realizing that it would take you much longer to get from one over a mountain to another.

Well that about covers it for me.

What are your pre-race/taper rituals?!

Surviving the winter “blahs” and a taper

So as much of the country has been experiencing plummeting temperatures, long, cold grey days, and ice, freezing rain and snow, its sometimes hard to stay sunnybeachmotivated.   I think about the summer and my trip to the Outer-banks of NC.  I love the sun, I love the heat.  I grew up north of Boston, and when I went away to college I knew I wanted new surroundings, and SUN! I went to the University of Arizona in Tuscon..how’s that for sun!?

I still miss the desert, there is nothing like the pinks and purples of a desert sunset, or the smell after a monsoon rainstorm after it quenches the parched desert…but I digress…

This week is the start of my taper for Mount Mitchell Challenge, a 40 mile run up eastern, and back down America’s highest point.  I bought my first pair of micro-spikes to tackle the ice and snow, and I can’t wait to get my Altra Lone Peak’s out there, to see how they do in the mountains.   I’m a mix of excitement, and nerves.  I know 40 miles is no problem to finish, however, the snow and ice and cold are my biggest adversaries…oh not to mention how I HATE tapering.  My dog Emmitt would like to mention, he also hates the taper, and does anyone want to take him on a long run in the woods? How long do you taper?

I have been keeping myself busy by designing and drawing shirt logo’s for local races.  The one below is a rough draft for Philosopher’s Way Trail Runs, a race my trail running club organizes every May.  Its supposed to be a hobbit-like map of the trail system the race is run on.

IMG_20140205_100052shirtThe blue shirt is from a fatass 50k this winter.

I have also been day-dreaming of ultra races that I’ll do later this year when its warmer.  Two that I am very excited about is Bighorn 50 in WY, and the Barkley Fall Classic 30.  I realize neither is a 100 mile race, which are usually my big “A” race of the year, but I have never been to WY and I hear that this race is as beautiful as it is challenging.  The race starts at 8,800 feet above sea level and boasts 360 panoramic views and seas of wildflowers.  A group of almost 30 of my closest running friends are all signed up for the races (100m-30k.)

As for the Barkley Fall Classic 30, I have a few friends who have attempted the Barkley, both failing, but the idea of that race has kept me quite intrigued.  So when I heard about the shorter version I had to sign up right away.  Funny to have a 30 mile race with 20,000 feet of elevation change, not to be confused with gain.  It must be a beast to have a 13 hour and 20 minute cut off for a 30 mile race!  Very excited! Bring on the warmer temperatures already!

Anyway, back to my taper.

How long do you taper for?   How do you stay motivated though the short, cold days of winter?

Fast and Easy Post Run Recovery Smoothie

I  have a thing for post run recovery smoothies, they are a fast and easy way to get a jump start on recovering, are very versatile, and portable!

This morning after a 15mile trail run,   I was in the mood for something fruity.So  I started with some organic frozen berries,  and added:

Orange JuiceIMG_20140205_084247_965

Coconut  water

Maca Powder

Blueberry Juice (I would  have added Pom juice if my fingers weren’t frozen and I couldn’t get the cap off)

Chia seeds

Hemp protein

Ginger root (the actual root,  not  the powder )

a banana

and some greens, (I happened to have red chard)

Blend it up and in 5min…breakfast is served!IMG_20140205_085251_723