Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nuunbassador 2015!

I received an exciting email this afternoon from the fantastic folks at Nuun letting me know that I'm a Nuunbassador for 2015! I am excited to join a group of folks sharing the #nuunlove and staying hydrated with a quality, healthy product that reduces plastic bottle waste to boot!


Stay tuned in 2015 for fun, unique ways to stay hydrated using tasty, low calorie Nuun products! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

There is no one I think of more on Thanksgiving than my mother. During my childhood, we usually spent Thanksgivings, just the two of us, watching the parade on TV, cooking a modest Thanksgiving chicken (no need for a full turkey for two), making whipped cream for our pumpkin pie from scratch, and sometimes heading to the movies afterward. On a day when many people are surrounded by dozens of friends and family, we spent a quiet day, just the two of us.

My mom, Charlotte, around the time of the chicken-chasing episode. 
Unfortunately, I also think of her on Thanksgiving because of that terrible Thanksgiving five years ago that we spent in the hospital, hoping her turn for the worse didn't mean what the doctors thought it did, after her recovery and release from the same hospital the day before after an eight week stay. I said goodbye to her in that room as the sun rose the day after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2009.

There are many enduring gifts my mother left me. One of my favorites is the image of her, chasing me around our small apartment pretending the dead chicken we were preparing was alive and flying (gross, but it still makes me smile). More life-changing than that chicken, perhaps, is the way she slyly convinced me to run a marathon, something I thought I'd never do.

A runner before having (non-running related) knee problems, she always encouraged my new-found love of the sport in my early twenties. After she spectated at the California International Marathon in December 2008, she asked if I'd thought of running a marathon. "Gosh, mom, why would I ever want to do that?" When I moved from 5ks and 10ks to the half marathon in March of 2009, she asked again. Again, I said no, and she left it alone. One weekend in October 2009, I ran a half marathon before visiting her in the hospital. Of course, she asked me if I was going to run a full, and of course I said no.

When 2010 came along, I was underwater and couldn't make my way up. In the summer, I realized I needed to find something to help me feel like my life mattered again. When I saw an email advertising a marathon training group, I heard her ask me again if I was going to run a marathon some day. And the rest is history.

Today, I'll give thanks to my mother for the gift of the marathon. Sometimes it makes it very difficult that I think of her when I run, but I'm always glad when I do.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Durham Deserves Better


My family was car free during my childhood, out of economic necessity primarily, but also because of my mother's lifelong passion for being active and healthy. We walked and rode the bus, and we also rode our bikes. I learned from a young age how to safely navigate traffic, and have continued riding as my primary form of transportation for a good part of my adult life. Sacramento is a place with a pretty comprehensive network of bike lanes, mild weather and many people traveling by bike, making it generally safe place to cycle.

When I moved to Durham at the beginning of the year, I was surprised by the scarcity of bike lanes, and felt a little less sure of myself navigating through traffic here. I longed for the infrastructure and critical mass of riders I was used to, and was heartened to learn about Bike Durham, a new nonprofit which works on cycling issues, and the Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC), which advises the City Council and Board of County Commissioners on bike and ped issues.

As someone professionally immersed for the past seven  years in active transportation, sustainable built environment and community engagement around both, I enthusiastically became involved in both Bike Durham and BPAC. Durham may be behind the curve on bicycle infrastructure, sidewalks, and supportive policies for active transportation, but that is no reason to sit back and let this great city fall farther behind! There are many people willing to work to make this change happen, and all of Durham will benefit!

This afternoon I had the privilege of participating in a community conversation about how to make Durham a safer place to bicycle. The forum, hosted by Bike Durham, was in reaction to three recent fatalities of Durham cyclists. Pamela Lane, Kent Winberry, and Tony Morris Turner, from my understanding, were practicing safe cycling techniques, but died as a result of motorist inattention/negligence and poor infrastructure. As Bike Durham's president Jack Warman stated, they deserve better. Everyone in Durham deserves better.

Bull City Coworking, which hosted the forum, was packed with around 80 people this afternoon, there to discuss how to make Durham a safer place to ride a bike. Pamela Lane's fiance shared his thoughts on the presumption of cyclist responsibility for their own deaths, and the lack of consideration and action taken on injured and killed cyclists behalf by law enforcement, media, and others in positions of power. Lots of heads in the crowd nodded.

In smaller groups, we discussed what we thought needed to happen to make Durham more safe. While there was anger, frustration, and sadness expressed, people also expressed love for this city, and sincere commitment to foster improvements. Some of the crucial steps to a safer Durham included:

  • Education for cyclists as well as drivers on how to coexist on the road and navigate safely.
  • Enforcement of laws when cyclists are injured and killed in collisions with cars. 
  • Commitment by the elected leadership to make cyclist safety a top priority.
  • Development of a Complete Streets policy to operationalize the inclusion of this key objective in the Comprehensive Plan. 
  • Funding the infrastructure needs to make more of Durham's streets safer for cyclists. 

Many other thoughts were expressed, as well as challenges to the room to show the elected leadership how important this issue is to Durham. I am hopeful that if even half of those who attended today get more involved in Bike Durham and other avenues for engagement on these issues, we can make change possible for Durham. 

To make Durham a safer place to be a bicyclist (and pedestrian), I commit to use my service on BPAC as an avenue to improve the political climate for active transportation policies and funding in Durham. Gathering support from key partners will be crucial, as will recruiting new participants from throughout Durham. I hope the Complete Streets policy can become a reality, and that funding for crucial infrastructure will be dedicated. 

I invite you to join me in December at the BPAC Community Engagement Committee, where we will discuss priorities for 2015, and how those will foster improvement for active transportation in Durham. The meeting will be held on the second Tuesday, December 9, at 6:30PM at Geer Street Garden

I also encourage you to attend the Bike Durham Advocacy Committee, held on the third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 (check for details on their Facebook page), or one of the other committees held each month by BPAC or Bike Durham. There is always room for another voice! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Race Report: Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon

This medal is almost as big as my face!
I came, I saw, I conquered? 

No, that isn't accurate.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?

No, though more accurate. I think I'll go with a gem from James Joyce:

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.

On Sunday, November 2 (two years and eleven days after breaking my leg), I finished the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon in 3:57:55. This finish was not my goal (meeting my PR of 3:50), but another finish under four hours is always welcomed. Here is how it happened.

I set out in the 42 degree chill at 7AM, planning to run around 8:45 for the first half of the race and speed up later if I could. 8:45 put me exactly on track for a 3:50 finish, and didn't seem too far fetched considering my training. I wish I had my Garmin summary so I could be more accurate, but that was lost in the ether when I tried to upload it.

I ran the first eight miles around 8:25 to 8:30, too fast as always. I felt great. It seemed that there were more downhills than up, or at least the uphills weren't as bad as I'd anticipated. I stuck to my nutrition plan (for maybe the first time ever!), having a Gu or Clif Bloks at two miles, then every five miles after. I drank water, but not too much.

Around miles 9 through 11, I slowed a bit, to 8:45 to 9:00 or so. More hills had appeared. I still felt fine, and felt good about being closer to my goal pace. I continued right around 8:45 through the half marathon point, and reached the 15 mile marker, where Neil was waiting, two minutes ahead of target.

The first half or so of the race snakes through downtown Raleigh, which was very exciting to run through. I especially enjoyed passing all of the historical markers at a pace that allowed me to actually read them for once. After heading out of downtown, the race hits the Greenway, where I knew to expect both beautiful scenery and some killer hills.

Heading out along the Greenway, the course goes past Meredith College toward the North Carolina Museum of Art. I realized early on in this segment that being in downtown had been shielding some not insignificant wind, which was now making the run a bit more challenging. No matter, I felt fine.

Unfortunately for me and my grand plans, just after I hit the 16 mile mark, my right hip started screaming with pain. Right hip? But I thought the left was the injured leg? Well, the series of injuries (both my broken leg and an earlier car accident in June 2012) have caused me to favor my left, putting strain on my right. As a result, my right hip is soooo tight that I can barely sit cross-legged. During mile 16, I thought I'd quit when I got back to the spot I'd seen Neil, which would be mile 20. Through 17 and 18, I thought I might stop at the next aid station and quit there. I was going well past 9:00 per mile, and was crossing my fingers that the pain didn't indicate permanent damage.

Luckily, by mile 19 or so the sharp shooting pain retreated a bit, and I was able to speed up. Still hurting, but much less so. Needless to say, my 3:50 goal had flown the coop.

Coming in to the 20 mile mark.
Seeing Neil at mile 20 was a relief, and helped me slog on back towards downtown along the Greenway. Mile 22 brought the worst hill, but I was expecting it. (Side note: The San Francisco Marathon is way hiller than this race.) We exited the Greenway after Meredith College, and made our way along a short out before turing back and heading into downtown.

The last few miles were tough, but I knew I still had a chance at a sub-4:00 finish. I reeeaallly didn't want to go over 4:00. I'll forgive my terrible first marathon, and even my 4:02 at Rome (due to a packed course that stopped dead several times), but I will not accept another finish over 4:00! My strategy involved math right before every mile marker, subtracting the appropriate number of miles from 26.2 and calculating that, at each mile, I could run as slow as 10:00 miles and still make it.

Make it, I did. I crossed the finish in a bit over 3:58 gun time, and headed over to Neil just past the finish. He helped me grab my sweat check bag, and helped me limp to the food area, where I downed a donut and two pieces of pizza before grabbing my delicious Lonerider Peacemaker Pale Ale.

Almost there!
So, getting back to the quote I began with, what mistakes did I make, and what did I discover? My main mistakes, as always, centered around not doing enough PT, both for my injuries and for preventative maintenance. I didn't really foam roll that much. I taped my leg religiously, but that wasn't enough. If I want to continue to run marathons and not feel like my leg is about to fall off, I need to stick to an aggressive stretching and strength regimen that deals with my hip and joint issues. Lesson learned!

Now, to decide if I have enough time to remedy these issues before my next marathon, which is January 17th!

Friday, October 31, 2014

It's Almost Here!!

Race day is fast approaching. I am excited, but it also doesn't quite seem real.

After my half marathon two weekends ago, I took my prescribed eight mile run Monday. Close to the end of the run, my left hamstring felt not right, which continued into the next day. Combined with weird foot pain that started late in the race, I figured I should stay off my feet for my taper.

The plus side of not running during taper is the taper crazies don't feel so bad. The "I'm injured- will I be able to race?" crazies set in, but that is an entirely different animal. More of a worry than a crazy, I'd say.

Last Saturday, I went out for eight miles, and my hamstring was awful. My feet weren't so bad, though. More time off, it is! I went out yesterday for an easy five miles, to decide if I'd be running the full marathon, switicng down to the half, or not running at all.

The run went fine, so I guess I'm racing. Yikes! Time to get my outfit ready!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Making Plans!

Race Day is fast approaching. In a little more than a week, I will be running my first marathon since July 2012. While I've been planning in my head for months, I think it may be time to get a plan down on paper (or pixels, as it were).

Enter this helpful article from Runner's World, which reiterates what I already knew about race strategy and pace planning. Plan to run the race 30-60 seconds faster than your long run pace. Test your pace on a run a few weeks out. Don't try anything new. Practice, practice, and show up early.

Admittedly, I should have been running my long runs around 9:30 per mile according to the Hansons, and my previous estimate that I should run somewhere in the 3:50 neighborhood. I never did that, not even once. I run with a faster crowd, and most of my long runs were closer to 8:30 (the long run pace for a 3:25 goal). My tempo runs we around 8:15 or a bit slower, putting me closer to a Hanson-approved 3:40 marathon goal. My speed work earlier in the training also put me close to the Hanson pace for a 3:40 goal.

To further complicate the matter (or clarify it?), Runner's World suggested I use their handy pace calculator, plugging in a recent race time to predict my marathon finish time. Well, I just happen to have run a hilly half marathon last weekend, and I will be running a hilly marathon, so let's do some plugging and predicting. I plugged in my 1:46:23 finish at last weekend's race, and the calculator predicted a 3:41:48 marathon finish.

I'm no expert, but it sounds like all signs are pointing to a 3:40 goal finish time, or around 8:24 per mile.

But wait! That sounds fast! My PR is 3:50, at my most recent race in July 2012. I felt pretty comfortable during that race, and I am arguably better trained this time around. That course is also very hilly, like the one I'll face in Raleigh. So, maybe a 3:40 goal finish isn't too far off?

Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Race Report: Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon

The reward: A shiny new metal and a koozie to boot!
My return to racing is complete! I ran my first road half marathon on Sunday, slightly shy of two years after I broke my leg and derailed my running obsession. While it wasn't my fastest half marathon, it does rank 4th out of my 12 attempts, despite being the hilliest road half I've done yet!

It would be an understatement to say that I was nervous leading up to the Bull City Race Fest on Sunday. I've been less than confident about my training, after a few small setbacks and generally feeling the cumulative fatigue big time throughout the past month or so. Not having raced for two years, I was a bit rusty on race strategy, and was wondering how fast I should go and what I should eat.

I showed up in my shiny new Bull City Track Club singlet at 6:30 on Sunday, found the lovely array of Port-A-Johns as they are called here, and then found some friendly faces. As 7:30 approached, I ditched my jacket and headed for the start line.

My original plan, being two weeks from marathon day and all, was to run this as a tempo run, so around 8:20-8:25 per mile. My marathon goal will be somewhere in the 8:40/mile range (I think), so that has been my tempo pace. On Saturday night, after thinking about my numerous long runs under 8:20 so far, I figured that I could go faster. I decided on 8:00 or so for the first half, with the goal of dropping down to 7:50 or so for the second half.

The race started, and it was a fast start! I clocked a few miles under 7:55, and felt fine, so I figured I'd go with it. It felt manageable. Knowing that the race is supposed to be hilly, I assumed that I would lose those banked seconds later anyway.

The first eight miles felt fine. The course seemed to this flatlander to be rolling hills, and I seemed to take them all in stride. Around mile eight, I felt a bit tired, and queasy. That passed, as did a slightly slower mile. No matter, I had this one.

Once miles nine and ten came, I realized that I had arrived in the hill zone. I just couldn't seem to get back up to speed at the top of each hill before I hit the next one. The few downhills helped, but I still logged several 8:30 miles.

I had enough left in the tank to finish strong-ish, but with seriously aching feet. That one was new for me, and has me a bit worried for the marathon. I decided to take today off, since my left foot still doesn't feel right. I hope it is better by tomorrow, because I need to get back to it!

All in all, the Bull City Race Fest half marathon did not disappoint. It was fun to run through Durham, actually through several places that I've done many of my solo shorter runs on since moving here. I wouldn't mind to try my hand at a flat half right now, to see how my fitness compares to two years ago, but I think I performed well, considering.

Final result: 1:46:23, or 8:07/mile.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Halfway There!

For a while, I've been meaning to post about training thus far, how I've been feeling about the Hansons Marathon Method and related thoughts. Obviously, I haven't gotten around to writing that post until now, which is Week 10 of my abbreviated 15 week training plan.

*GASP* I'm not halfway to running my next marathon, I'm two-thirds of the way there!

Last fall, my friends in the Buffalo Chips Running Club followed a modified Hansons Marathon Method plan. I wasn't up to running CIM with them, but I saw how well many of them did, with a large number qualifying for Boston after training under that plan. I decided I'd train for my next marathon using the plan. Carol from the Chips shared the modified plan with me, but I've ended up just doing the workouts as listed in the book, since my new friends in Durham are following that plan as well.

We know that I miscalculated, and started training a few weeks late, then took a week off when I had gaping holes in my knees. Accordingly, I spent a few weeks working up to the full six days of running, and didn't do 100% of the mileage in some workouts. Sorry, Hansons!

Once I got into the swing of things, the training started to feel great! I was feeling the cumulative fatigue the Hansons talk so much about, but still doing pretty well on my six days of workouts a week. Then, the sleep deprivation set in. I just have trouble getting to bed on time to get enough sleep AND wake up at 5:30AM. It's a struggle for me. Working from home allows me to nap some days, but it just doesn't make up for the lack of sleep.

I've gotten some great workouts in, but I can't help but feel that my late start, and not completing 100% of the mileage in all the workouts, will make my training incomplete. Does the 16 mile long run concept still work if I haven't been 100% true to the plan?

I may make my final 16 mile long run an 18 miler. That is overkill according to the Hansons, but may make me feel better about my training. As long as I don't do the run at Umstead, it shouldn't overtax me too much.

Overall, I've been considering whether the Advanced Plan was a bit ambitious for me. Sure, the mileage and workouts looked fine. I've done 5 marathons, and I'm good at sticking to training and doing speed work and tempo runs. But I haven't done any of that in almost two years, so perhaps starting out a bit more conservatively would have been better. These thoughts have tempted me to drop down to the half marathon at Raleigh City of Oaks on November 2, but I am just drawn to testing myself at the marathon distance, almost exactly two years after breaking my leg.

I'll leave you with the treat I earned over my 2x 2 mile strength workout (should have been 3x2mile, I'll admit) this morning:

Rise S'Mores Donut. Yum!



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Spring Marathon?

It is probably too early to be registering for a spring marathon, but I really can't help thinking about it! I know I should wait until I run the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon in November to make more plans, since I haven't done the distance since breaking my leg. I'm antsy, what can I say?

Here are a few I'm thinking about:

Tobacco Road Marathon, March 15

Wrightsville Beach Marathon, March 22

Mountains to Sea 50k, March 29

And of course, these would come after I finish the Charleston Marathon on January 17th! Yikes!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Long hilly run done!

I'm pretty happy with the nice little 14 mile hill run I did at Umstead this morning. I'm so glad there were a few friendly folks there making sure I didn't get lost (it can happen), and pulling me along for much of the run. Despite the heat and humidity, it was beautiful.



I'm also pretty happy to have finished my second consecutive week of doing all the workouts I'm supposed to. I just need to keep that up for the next eight weeks...

Now, time to eat massive quantities of tasty things.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sticking To It

I started off my training for the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon a bit late. In the back of my head, "fall marathon" equates to the California International Marathon (CIM), which is the first Sunday in December. I figured I had until August before I needed to begin training.

Unfortunately for me, City of Oaks will be run November 2, lopping off a whole month of training time. So, I began my training in earnest the third week of July, at Week 4 of the 18 week Hansons training plan I'll be following. Oops.

To complicate matters further, I wasn't up for the 6 day a week, high mileage yet, so I started out skipping a few easy runs a week. Then I took a week off to let the gash in my leg heal. Last week, Week 4 of my training, I did all of the substantive workouts (track, tempo, and two weekend runs), leaving out two easy runs.

This week, I will do all of my runs. I did my easy run yesterday on hills, and did a decent job at the track this morning with 3x1600. I have a tempo, two easy 10s and an easy 6 left. I may mix up the order so I can leave for the beach early Sunday, but at least I'll get it done.

I'm planning to start reading the Hansons training manual soon (immediately, or yesterday would be best), so that I know more about what I'm doing. I geek out on that stuff. I need to figure out if my early slacking will mean that the 16 mile top out long runs won't be enough to prepare me (since I started late and skipped some workouts). I may feel better if I do an 18, or maybe a 20.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Baking My Travels Clean

Side note: Perhaps that song reference doesn't work as a title (in my punny way of using song names as post titles). I sure hope I don't burn what I'm baking, as the proper name of the song would indicate. I have Rocky Votolato on the brain from his demo release and upcoming living room show in Boston!!

So... one of the great things about visiting family is enjoying fantastic, homemade goodies. My trip to California last month was no exception. On this trip, Neil fell in love with my aunt's awesome nutty granola. Or should I say, super secret recipe, awesome nutty granola? In either case, it is delicious, and she bent her rules to share the secret recipe with me.

After my morning 8 miles, I came home, ate, napped, and now I'm making my first batch of her granola. It is in the oven as I type.

I'm not telling what is in there!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Track Tuesday!

That's right! I can now do my Track Tuesday workouts... on a real live track! This morning was my second trip to the nearby Wallace Wade Stadium at Duke. It is a difficult adjustment from the spray-painted street markers the Buffalo Chips use. I think I lost count during one of my 1200s today. People say this isn't a nice track, but it is close, and it is actually a track!
Wallace Wade Stadium at Duke. Photo credit: Commons.wikimedia.org

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thanks, John and Jackie!

Yesterday, as I slogged through work, I had my blog page open to post about beginning marathon training for the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon on November 2, and how excited I am to be doing yoga again. It has been a great week, getting set up with a training plan (thanks, Carol!), doing a quality track workout on Tuesday, and doing yoga five times in the past week. I didn't get around to writing that post yesterday, but my first week of training isn't over yet, right?

Wrong! I went out for an easy 6 this morning in the 7AM humidity. I got to 2.3, tripped and fell. And boy, did I fall. I hit the ground knees first, and rolled all the way over. When it was done, I just sat there, gushing blood from a deep cut on my right knee (and my right hand, left knee and elbow, though those are not too bad).

I don't run with a phone (perhaps rethinking that), so I was mustering the will to get my butt up and across the street to a coffee shop to ask to use a phone. A nice couple (John and Jackie) stopped to see if I was okay, and offered me a ride home (about 1.5 miles away). I certainly didn't say no. Jackie even helped me up the stairs since I was pretty dizzy.

11 hours and a doctor visit later, I have a knee taped shut to heel, with instructions not to get it wet for at least 4 days. Well, I guess I won't be running in the humidity until Monday, then!

I'm super thankful to have two very nice people stop and help me, especially considering that the dizzyness took about an hour to subside. Thanks, John and Jackie! You made a bad morning much easier on a bruised runner! And thanks, of course, to Neil for helping me once I got home, when I was in fine form for sure.

The sweet getup I'll be wearing for the next week. 
I'll add a PSA here: I'm glad I had my RoadID on this morning, like I always do. If I'd been worse, I was certainly too confused to know all my details!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

California, how I've missed you!

California, as always, was wonderful. We had a nice, leisurely ten day trip to unwind, catch up with friends, and eat and drink everything we were missing.

When we arrived, Neil and I spent a few days in San Rafael visiting my aunt, uncle and cousin, and enjoying the beautiful weather. It was foggy and windy the day we walked in Tennessee Valley to the Ocean, and drove up Highway 1 to Bolinas, but it was still beautiful!

Tennessee Valley, and the Pacific Ocean. And fog. 
Me and my cousin, after a yummy brunch in San Rafael!
On Friday, we made a quick trip to Santa Rosa to see friends for lunch (and grab a quick Pliny the Elder), then made our way to Sacramento for a wedding. It was weird to be in Sacramento as a visitor, but it also still felt like home. We have a great group of friends who let us crash on their couches, barbequed and drank beers with us, and generally made us feel like we never left.

We went to a River Cats game, went wine tasting at Bogle, and drank 20 different Northern California beers (between the two of us over two weeks). We went to McKinley Park to read, had Ramen at Shoki, and caught up with the Buffalo Chips at the Fourth of July 5 Miler!

Thanks to all of our friends, it was a great trip!

At Weatherstone, where we had our first date.







Me and my Kintoki from Osaka-Ya!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Morning Run at Biltmore

Neil and I are in Asheville, and he has a conference on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. I dropped him off this morning dressed to run, and took the opportunity to take a quick three mile run. The estate doesn't open for tours until 8:30, so the roads were pretty calm. It was a beautiful three miles, on rolling hills next to crops, forested areas, and a sheep pasture. Plus, look what I saw on my drive out:

The Biltmore: a massive palace in the middle of Asheville, NC

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dogs' First Camping Trip: Crystal Coast

It is always nice to take an impromptu camping trip, but difficult to do for those with dogs. This past weekend, we decided to test out car camping with the dogs on my first trip out to the Crystal Coast.
Rocky, Trudy, and yours truly.
We left Friday in the mid-afternoon, hit a bit of traffic, but arrived in the Croatan National Forest at a free primitive campsite around 7. Rocky and Trudy were a bit confused, but coped just fine with being leashed to the bench we sat on while we ate, and sleeping in the (covered) bed of the truck.
Siddie Field Campsite
Saturday morning after breakfast, we found a nearby trail, parked in a shady spot, and left the pooches with plenty of water and vented, screened windows for a short hike. We took the Neusiok Trail from the Pine Cliff Recreation Area down the beach to where the land ended. We walked along the gorgeous Neuse River on a gorgeous day, angering an osprey on a nest by walking above 100 feet away along the way (sorry!).
Neusiok Trail
After the hike we rejoined the dogs and made a nice lunch at the picnic area. Rocky enjoyed his beloved past-time of picnic bench-sitting, and we ate pretty tasty sandwiches and a green smoothie (car camping has its perks).
Look at that tasty sandwich!
We ventured out toward the coast, spending a bit of time reading at Atlantic Beach. The sky looked ominous despite the zero percent chance of rain, and the wind made it up to 15mph, so we packed up and went to dinner in Beaufort. After grabbing a beer with a friend from Duke, we made our way back to the campsite.
Rocky looking out over the river. 
Sunday morning brought wind, making cooking difficult. We drove to another part of the Forest, where the ecosystem changes, to walk along boardwalks above marshes. Since this trail, the Cedar Point Tideland Trail, is much shorter, we took Rocky and Trudy on their first "hike."
Cedar Point Tidelands Trail
After about a mile and a half of boardwalk and crushed granite, we finished and poured the dogs some water in the shade. They seemed tired, but happy. Another trip into Beaufort for lunch and a nice walk, and we headed back to Durham.
Rocky and Trudy, thirsty dogs!
All in all, the dogs did wonderfully on their first camping trip. I'd prefer to backpack, of course, but if we want to get away for the weekend and it isn't too hot, it is nice to be able to bring them along!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Adjusting to the South

Anyone who has been to the South knows that summers are dreadfully humid (I hope you could hear me saying the word dreadfully in an accent, while swooning). When I arrived and got started running, I searched and searched for summer races, only to find options scarce. Once May's heat and humidity began, I knew why.

While I'm no stranger to the heat (hello summer marathon training in Sacramento's heat), the humidity really takes the cake. My dehydration-enduced headaches have an earlier onset. I need more salt and electrolytes. I sometimes want to quit.

Instead, I'm trying to adjust.

In that vein, I was interested to see Runner's World tweet this article from last summer, on the science behind running in the heat and humidity. Anyone who has talked to me about running knows that I geek out on the science and physiology of running. I calculated out my ideal carb and protein intake during my last all-out training season. I know the proper Gu to time ratio by approximate body size. I . know why cramps happen and how to avoid them.

Apparently, on my evening run tonight from Fullsteam Brewery around Duke's East Campus, I will be putting out more effort for a slower pace and burning a higher ratio of carbs to fat than I would in cooler weather. As the article surmises, I'd rather put out more effort overall, so the difference isn't worth fretting over. But it is good to know.

A quick plug: the run tonight is put on by Bull City Running Company and Fullsteam, and is adorably called the Fullsteam Ahead! run club. It is a super fun, relaxed run, with the option to grab a nice cold beer afterward!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Thin Shaming Is Wrong, Too!

Print and social media abound with discussions of women's bodies, how they are judged and viewed, and how they should be. Catch phrases like "fat shaming," "body acceptance," and "realistic body image" are thrown around. Mothers bemoan the unrealistic standards the media feeds impressionable daughters. Athletes coin terms such as "strong is the new skinny." Articles poke fun at beach chair leg gap photos posted on Instagram, likening them to hotdogs.

This discussion certainly isn't new; the backlash against Barbie I recall from childhood could certainly be compared. What does seem new, though, is the near victory today of the "body acceptance" camp, and the burgeoning backlash against thin women's bodies.

Before I jump in here, I want to start by saying that I am all for body acceptance. People come in all shapes and sizes, and should not be demeaned or marginalized for how they look. Hence, my qualms with much of the body acceptance discussion in the media.

Just in the past week, I've read a number of uplifting articles about instances of body acceptance. The heartwarming Kickstarter campaign by Taryn Brumfitt in which she seeks to create a world where her daughter can love herself, no matter her shape and size, is a great example. A woman who struggled with her weight, Taryn "achieved" the ideal of thin, only to feel just as lousy about her body as she had before losing weight. She wants to create a movement that helps women embrace the bodies they have. This movement, and the documentary she is seeking funds to create, will be a tool to stem the tide of decades of derision of women's bodies that don't conform to the popular media representation equating female beauty with thinness. Sign me up!

The discussion, however, is not entirely so heartwarming or uncomplicated. Sure, women like Taryn are fighting the good fight, seeking to create a more welcoming and kind culture for all women. However, far too often this discussion veers into the very hurtful rhetoric that it eschews, attempting to make the case for acceptance of all bodies by casting stones at certain women's bodies.

Photo credit: Swimsuits for All
Case in point: today, an article shared widely described a swimsuit company's ad campaign featuring a re-make of the 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition featuring "plus sized models." This article, though not on an exceedingly reputable website, has all the hallmarks of the winning debate. With taglines like "sexy curves go beyond a size four" and "a really healthy image for young girls," the article showcases a series of photos of lovely plus sized women modeling swimsuits that flatter their bodies.

What's not to like?

Well, the article shares the thoughts of one of the models. In the same breath, the model states that "not everyone has to be a stick insect, and not everyone has to be big. You can be you and that's fine."

Let's break this down. First, we are excited to see representation of women's real bodies and hear that "you can be you and that's fine," which creates a culture for positive self-image of real women and girls. Positive self-image is a great aspiration, but should not be sought by demeaning one body to lift up another. By characterizing non-"big" women as "stick insects," the commentary in this article shows that it is not about acceptance at all.

The body acceptance movement seems to be about accepting bodies of all shapes and sizes, as long as those bodies don't represent the popular media portrayal of "thin as beautiful." Apparently, thin women (and girls) have had their day in the limelight, and now must be cast aside the way that "real women's" bodies have been for decades.

Casting thin women as "insects" is just a repulsive as casting plus size women as "fat." Both terms have less-than-savory mental images. It can be left to the beholder which one is more gross: a bug-eyed non-human pest or a congealed cooking substance. The fact remains that both terms are a value judgement.

You may be thinking, wow, this is a lot of ranting about just one article! Unfortunately, this article is a representation of how people who "accept" women's bodies also reject thin bodies in the same breath.

I've experienced this firsthand many times. I've had my eating habits criticized, and my weight used as a reason to dismiss an argument I was making, all while at work. To wit:

"What, are you on the Kate Moss Diet?" Asked of me, at work, by someone who saw that I was only taking half a sandwich from the catering tray. You know, because someone who is 5'2" needs a full footlong meat sandwich.

"Well, you only weigh 90 pounds." Said to me at work in response to something I said, to dismiss my comment. When I replied that I weigh substantially more than that, I got stares and repeated questions until I divulged my actual weight. No one would ask a non-thin woman what she weighs, at work no less.

I may be thin, but I still have feelings and insecurities. I'd suspect that many thin women suffer the same body image issues as larger women, even though we are closer to the "ideal body" the media have taught us to seek.

I'm also a good example of the fact that many thin adult women were not thin children or teens. Many of us worked very hard to be healthier (in our case thinner), just as many "average size" or "plus size" women do. Halfway through college I was 20 pounds more than I am now, on a 5'2" frame. I ate too much pizza and didn't exercise. I thought losing weight was a lost cause. Then I discovered running, and got down to a healthy weight for my frame (around 115). And just like everyone else who has lost weight, I work hard to stay in shape. I can't eat whatever I want and stay 115 pounds.

This is my long-winded way of saying, let's all be more thoughtful when we make public statements about accepting ourselves and other women for who we are. We should all celebrate healthy bodies, no matter the size. But we shouldn't do so by putting down other women. That brings us right back to where we started, and doesn't get us anywhere.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Extracurricular Activity: Carolina Tiger Rescue

After running an easy six miles and then doing yoga at Fullsteam Brewery, Neil and I joined his friend Myles for a trip out to the Carolina Tiger Rescue, a big cat sanctuary in Pittsboro (about a half hour away). Myles is very involved there, so we were able to tour the facility with him and get up close and personal with tigers, lions, ocelots, servals, bobcats, caracals, and binturongs. We even got to give the lions and tigers treats: 
video

It was amazing, and somewhat frightening, to see these animals close up. I was very surprised by the greetings the tigers give, which are somewhat like a purr, but much louder. I can't really describe how amazing it was to be within three feet of the big and small cats, and really interacting with them.

This lovely tiger was super playful.

This guy looked at Neil like he would be lunch. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Exploring Western North Carolina

Twice in the past few months, we've gone out to western North Carolina, or "WNC" as it is described on bumper stickers and travel pamphlets. The west of the state has beautiful mountains, and includes the Pisgah National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
I think those are the Smokies behind me.
Over spring break back in early March, we had grand plans for a backpacking trip around Linville Gorge. After perusing some backpacking websites, we were scared off by reports of impassible rivers, and weather predictions of freezing temperatures and snow (we just don't have the gear for that). We picked a shorter backpacking loop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and a few longer hikes in Pisgah National Forest.
Pretty, steep trail.  
Well, what we didn't realize is that the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed for much of the winter. Buh-bye Great Smoky Mountains, due to lack of access. After a long detour, we ended up spending a lovely few days camping and hiking in the Pisgah Ranger District section of the Pisgah National Forest.

Looking Glass Falls
After school got out, Neil's dad and brother visited for a week, and we headed out to WNC once again. We made it to the Linville Gorge area, spending a day and night on Table Rock, part of the Grandfather Ranger District in Pisgah. This part of the park is much higher in elevation than the Pisgah Ranger District, and had breathtaking views that seemed to go on forever. We had a chance to visit Mount Pisgah in the Pisgah Ranger District during that visit as well.
From the top of Table Rock. 

After a downpour on Mount Pisgah. I forgot a raincoat!
Now, you didn't think we made it all the way to the west of the state without visiting Asheville, did you? For those of you who don't know, we love craft beer. Asheville apparently has the most craft breweries per capita in the country (though Portland still wins for most craft breweries, period). Over our two trips, we sampled brews from Lexington Avenue Brewery, Asheville Brewing Company, Wicked Weed, and Wedge Brewing. That leaves ten more craft breweries in Asheville to try!
The eclectic building that houses Wedge Brewery. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Race Report: Tar Heel 10 Miler

This post is a bit belated; running this morning's NCRC Half Marathon reminded me I was delinquint. Better late than never...

Not finding any half marathons with openings in April or May, I settled on the Tar Heel 10 Miler for my first "real race" since breaking my leg and not really running for a year and a half. Being in late April, I had the tail end of March and half of April to get my mileage up.

I picked up with the Bull City Running Group, a nice group of (mainly) women who run from the South Durham area, usually from Bull City Running Company. The standard is 8 miles at 8 every Saturday. I managed that, plus 2-3 days of 3-5 miles during the week, without needing to backtrack or stop completely like this time last year.

With school and rugby, Neil wasn't able to run as much, but came out for the 8 miles most weekends. We decided not to push it too much at the race, but aim for 8:45 to 9:00 average pace. Of course, I wanted to go faster, but I mostly wanted us to run together.

We started out at the Bell Tower on UNC Chapel Hill's campus at 7:30 on April 26th, and easily settled into our goal pace. In fact, despite rolling hills through Chapel Hill, I pushed us a bit faster. Once we started doing sub-8:30 miles, I stopped telling Neil our splits, so that he wouldn't think I was having us go too fast. I knew we could do it.

The Tar Heel 10 Miler is known for the Laurel Hill Challenge, which is a section near the end of the race that is allegedly a hill a mile long. In our estimation, it is a mile and a half of uphill, with some short flatish sections. In either case, there is a chip timing mat at the start and finish of this section, so you know your pace for that section, plus your overall pace at the end of the race.

The race winds through UNC's campus, and through some very nice neighborhoods in Chapel Hill. It finished in the stadium on campus, which reminded me of the Shamrock'n Half Marathon, my very fist half marathon, in West Sacramento.

Nearing the stadium, we sped up, and finished in 1:26:34, or 8:39 average per mile. Our pace for the Laurel Hill section was 9:39, so not too bad for a few flatlanders on a long hill!

Throughout the race, I felt like I could go faster. I didn't, because I wanted to run with Neil. But I knew that I could do a bit more. Two days later, this ambition pushed me to register for the NCRC Classic Half Marathon, set to be my first half marathon since October 2012! Exciting!

My Garmin details for the race:


Race Report: NCRC Classic Half Marathon

After about a month of running about four days a week, with 8 miles every Saturday, I started itching to run a race. Several reasons: to see what I could do, to see how I would fare on the hills, and really to know how far I still had to go to "be back" from my injury. Neil and I had signed up for the Tar Heel 10 Miler, but since we'd be running together, I felt it would be a good test of my abilities.

The trouble is, I couldn't find any late spring or early summer races that were close by and didn't cost an arm and a leg. I settled on a fall half.

Fast forward a few weeks to mid-April. Neil and I ran the Tar Heel 10 Miler. He hadn't been running too much, mainly just the Saturday 8 milers and weekdays when he could. School and rugby take priority. We had planned to run together, so I settled on an achievable goal of 8:45 per mile average. I wanted to be closer to 8:30, but didn't want to go too fast, for both of our sakes.

To make a long story short (and I need to write a race report still anyway), I kept us under 8:45. We finished in 1:26, at an average of 8:39 including the 1.5 mile hill towards the end. And I'd felt like I could have gone faster, and further.

I needed a race. Soon. To test myself.

Coming in for the finish. Photo credit: Kate F.
Luckily, several of the ladies I run with on Saturdays had decided (after watching Boston) to run the NCRC Classic Half Marathon, which I didn't know existed. So I signed up.

The race came early this morning, with carpool from Lara's at 6. I initially wavered, thinking I'd run with the group. Just doing the 13.1 would be a test. The starting gun sounded, and my body made the decision for me. I went for it.

First off, the course is beautiful. The race is mostly inside Umstead State Park, which has a fairly even bridle trail that is small gravel most of the time, larger stones some of the time. The course is shaded by lush green trees, with the forest all around. The rolling hills, and several steeper hills, pose a challenge, but that seems to be par for the course in this part of North Carolina.

My goal had been 8:30 to 8:45 like the last race, but I not-so-secretly wanted to go faster. You know, testing myself and coming home with a PR would be nice. Knowing that would not be happening, I thought anything under 8:30 average would be a nice result.

The early hills were a bit challenging, but aside from a minor side cramp I did better than anticipated. I even maintained a pace that allowed me to pass the 1:50 pace group for a time. Leading up towards the halfway mark, more than a mile of hill slowed me down. The 1:50 group overtook me; though I hung on for a while, they left me behind around mile 8 or so.

One of my main "findings" from my test is that my hips are tight. Really tight. At some points, I felt as though they would just pop out of the sockets if I sat cross-legged on the ground. I need to work on flexibility in a major way if I want to make it "all the way back" to pre-leg-break fitness.

In the final miles, motivated by beautiful scenery and generally feeling good, I pushed through at a decent pace. Not sure what it was because the pretty trees gave my Garmin a hard time, but in the upper 8 minute per mile to low 9 minute per mile range. With some early quick miles banked, that seemed fine.

I turned the last corner, saw 1:54 on the clock, and sprinted in for a not-too-shabby 1:54:27. Good enough for 5th in my age group, of 58. Not a PR by any means, but a decent finish for a hilly race on cautious, low-mileage training with no speedwork.

I think I have my work cut out for me for my fall race schedule!!

In case you're interested, here is my Garmin snapshot:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

It is Happening, Again*

Photo credit: http://loudmouthredhead.wordpress.com/
Neil and I went out- in the rain- for an eight mile run this morning at 7AM. You heard it right. This girl, who has felt like a "non-runner" for about a year now, went out, in the rain, earlier than 8AM. 

And I survived.

The rain was medium, and the temperature was a nice 55 degrees or so. We ran alone, having gotten a bit lost on our way to a new meeting spot for our group (we arrived too late to catch the few who showed up). We did take it slow, but got in a nice eight miles a bit over 9:00/mile. Not breaking any records, but building a decent base for the next month of 'training' for the 10 Miler we have coming up.

The reason I'm excited is this: when we finished, and even now a few hours later, I feel like I could go out and run another eight miles. I haven't felt that in a long time. The first few times I did eight, I was tired the rest of the day, or at least sore. Not tired, not sore, just ready to run more.

In fact, I think I'll meet up with the rest of our group tomorrow, who decided to run Sunday to avoid the rain. I almost can't believe it. 

*Not a song title reference as usual, but a nod to Twin Peaks

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Making Plans

Slowly but surely, I've been building mileage, and I'm starting to feel that putting together my 2014 race plans is a good idea. Sure, (almost) April seems late to set my races for the year, but I had good reason to wait. Last year, confident that my weekly mileage of 10-15 put me back on track, I signed up for the San Francisco Marathon and CIM. Mere weeks later, I was sidelined by injury, and remained so for enough of the year to make distance racing out of the question.

So, finally back to 4-8 miles 4 times a week, I'm feeling more certain that I am ready to build my mileage up to the marathon distance. I've even entertained the idea of an ultra in the fall, but perhaps that is a bit ambitious.

I started looking through my collection of links for North Carolina races, and made a list of candidates. I'm already signed up for the Tar Heel 10 Miler at the end of April, and I would like to get another race under my belt before it gets hot and sticky this summer. A fall marathon is my ultimate goal.

Here are my preliminary thoughts for my 2014 racing calendar, with likely candidates bolded and other options not bolded. I want to do more than one marathon, but prudence is telling me that may be too much...

4/26   Tar Heel 10 Miler (Signed up)
5/31   Running of the Bulls 8K
10/11 New River Trail 50K (An ultra?!?)
10/19 Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon 
10/25 Eno River (Trail) 6 or 11 Miler
11/2   Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon
11/9   Outer Banks Marathon
11/15 Charlotte Marathon

Obviously, the fall list is too many races too close together. I should add that I'll be in California the first week of October, which will impact my training. Decisions, decisions!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Be the Match!

If anyone needed a reminder of how important the Be the Match national bone marrow registry is, I wanted to bring your attention to a person benefitting from the generosity of others.

Deb Hubsmith, founder of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and a long-time active transportation advocate, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in October, 2013. A very positive, active, healthy person, Deb did not go into remission after her initial chemotherapy. Soon, she will be receiving a life-saving donation of bone marrow from a stranger on the Be the Match registry.

Deb is an inspiration to many of us working in active transportation, physical activity, and health fields. I was very happy to hear that she will be receiving a transplant, and wish her a speedy recovery.

You can read more about Deb and her treatment, and learn about AML, here. Of course, consider joining the Be the Match registry if you are eligible. It just takes a cheek swab and the willingness to help if asked. I've been on the registry for almost ten years.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

It's Official!

Photo credit: BikeWalkDurham.org
After almost two months in Durham, I've finally found a group to run with, and signed up for a race! My progress back into running was slowed a bit due to the snow (excuses, excuses), but I'm back into a somewhat-respectable 20 miles a week. Not great, but a good foundation.

Once I ran five to six miles a few times on my own, I figured I'd be able to run with a group without embarrassing myself. I found a few on the interweb, picked one, and got up at the ungodly hour of 7AM to go run this morning.

We started from the Southpoint Crossing end of the American Tobacco Trail, and did eight miles out and back at around 9:00 to 9:30 per mile. There are a few faster runners in the group, which will be good when I'm back up to my usual speed. For now, the pace we ran was fast enough, thank you!

When I got home, cold and sore from my longest run since late October 2012, I immediately signed up for my first race as a Durham resident. I'm doing the Tarheel 10 Miler in Chapel Hill on April 26th. According to a photo on the website (below), Meb has been present for the race! 
Photo credit: Tarheel10Miler.com
I'm very excited to do a ten mile race, and more excited to have a group to run with. I certainly miss my Buffalo Chips, but am glad to have a group to run with!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Obstacle Course

This morning, later than I'd like to admit, I went running. I've been running on the treadmill because of the weather, but at almost 40 degrees out at about 10 this morning, the great outdoors called my name.

I went out this morning with the goal of doing five miles. I charted a loop on google maps, taking me along the outside of Duke's West Campus to where my street dead ends, back through a neighborhood, and around the cemetary. At around 5.3 miles according to good old Google, I figured I'd walk the last two blocks or so to make it 5.

I set out, hoping that the course I mapped was mostly snow-free and had sidewalk. Much of Durham, unfortunately, is similar to the suburbs of Sacramento in that it often lacks sidewalk, even on heavily-travelled roads. About the first half of the way out was paved, but much of it was still covered in snow or ice, so I ran in the bike lane (at least I had that). Past campus, the bike land and sidewalk ended, as did any semblance of shoulder. I ran in the street, past a road-side memorial, hoping that facing traffic and being out in broad daylight would be good enough protection against speeding cars.

Luckily, I managed not to fall in snow or ice, and not to get hit by a car while out on my run. I'm planning not to test my luck again, so a new five mile route is in order. All told, the five miles were slow, but I was dodging obstacles along the way. Today's run matched my previous longest run since I broke my leg, and aside from the fear of cars and snow, felt fine.

I think I'll try this again tomorrow...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Changes

A lot has been going on for me in the past few months. While working my way back into running, as I've occasionally posted about here, I was also working my way toward moving to the East Coast. Well... now I'm here!

After our fun Thanksgiving race, getting ready and moving across the country forced me to put running on hold. Saying that feels like a cop out, but it really is difficult to fit a full-time job, time with friends (whom you will soon not see very often), and packing into the schedule. And to be honest, the rest didn't all fit, even when I neglected running. I didn't manage to finish packing before the day I filled my shipping container, and certainly didn't manage to get the number of visits in.

I did pack cold weather gear in the car for our cross-country drive, but running through a foot of snow in Michigan over Christmas just wasn't happening. Snow apparently makes my leg worse, and the conditions were pretty bad a lot of the time. Oh well.

The important thing is the move happened, and now I'm slogging my way back into running. No more excuses, right?

Being in Durham is certainly different. The weather isn't as mild as I'm used to, and it is seriously hilly. Nothing makes me feel more humble than attempting to run longer and faster on hills.

Truthfully, I'm having a bit of a pity party and not feeling "like a runner." Yes, this is silly. No, that doesn't make it any less true. I need to get over it, but it is hard to shake the feeling, especially after more than a year of not really running.

The good news is that I've found several groups to go run with, and a few people that may let me tag along. I just need to get the courage up (read: stop feeling too slow to go running in public) to go out with a group. I know it will make a difference. Joining the Buffalo Chips a few years ago got me to where I was as a runner, and finding a good group here is likely to do the same.

Lots of changes over the past few months, and certainly more to come.  The first big change in February will be getting back into running, for real this time.

And here is a goal to get me motivated: Mountain to Sea Trail 12M

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Let's Make Our Day Harder"

I just came across this excellent video, which explains (once again), how we would be much healthier and live fuller lives if we got off the couch, walked a bit more, and lived in walkable communities. This isn't my usual praise of running hundreds of miles a month, but an invitation to just get up and be active during the activities you already do. It is worth the four minutes to watch!