Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Return of the What I'm Craving Post

I haven't kept up on my "What I'm Craving this Month" posts recently, but with our garden produce coming soon I figured I would start back (we have already harvested spinach)!  I have also been eating much healthier now that I am running and it is not winter.  Is it just me, or does anyone else crave crap food when injured and/or when it's freezing outside?

Fresh fruit:  always a favorite.

Blueberries and beets make for a pretty smoothie (plus almond milk and blueberry yogurt).

This is $1 at Aldi!  Spaghetti is a family favorite in my house and so easy to prepare.  I usually make a package and then make meat sauce with ground beef for Jon and Albani, then save some plain sauce to use on mine along with cottage cheese (I dislike beef and haven't eaten it since I was 14).

Random super healthy snack bowl of an avacado, cuties, and a pear.

Yellow potatoes, steamed broccoli and carrots, and cottage cheese, all topped with chives and nutritional yeast.

Recovery smoothie with almond milk, frozen mango, beets, spirulina, ashwagandha powder, cinnamon, and snicker doodle protein powder.

Roasted portobello mushrooms and zucchini, baked sweet potato with cinnamon, hickory smoked flavored tuna.

Hard boiled egg, sweet and sour flavored tuna, steamed yellow squash, steamed baby carrots, baked sweet potato with cinnamon and coconut oil.

Similar to the previous photo, except garlic crusted salmon instead of tuna.

Super foods crock pot (lentils, kale, onions, tomatoes, garlic + lots of seasonings).  I have the recipe memorized because I've made this one for years.

Fruit bowl: cuties, an apple, and a pear.

Avocados with garlic salt are always winning!

I've tried a lot of protein bars that I didn't like, but this one was good!  I was missing part of the wrapper when I remembered to take a photo, but the flavor was vanilla coconut and it had coconut chunks in it.

Speaking of protein bars I didn't like...

Spend the extra money and get this one!

Veggie burger, roasted broccoli, baked yellow potatoes topped with chives and black olives.

Chickpea curry prepared in the crock pot.  I use dried chickpeas, frozen spinach, frozen chopped onions, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, minced garlic, and a whole slew of seasonings (curry powder, turmeric, garlic salt, ginger, garam masala, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and plain gelatin for tendon strength), but as long as you get curry powder in there it would come out well.  Also make sure to use full fat coconut milk - it's so much tastier, plus the fat it contains is healthy for you.

In case you didn't notice from my dinner plates, I've been really into flavored tuna pouches lately.  I like tuna salad, but it requires preparation (I usually make mine with Greek yogurt, a crunchy veggie finely chopped, and a sweet addition like raisins, craisins, apples, or grapes).  These only require opening a package!  They also travel really easily since they don't require refrigeration like most protein sources.

I am a big fan of olives.

I found this 12-pack of Quest bars on sale for $5.99 and couldn't pass them up - after I checked the expiration date about 5 times because I thought they just had to be expired to be so cheap (normally a 12 pack would cost over $20).  Clearly it's a seasonal flavor, but they don't expire until August, so I snatched them up.  They aren't my favorite Quest flavor (I think cookies and cream takes that), but they are good and I love a good sale price.

I randomly saw this at Big Lots and tried it.  I've heard a lot of people enjoy this type of seasoning from Trader Joe's, but we don't have one in my area.  This is good on about anything, but especially on avocados!  I also like it on cottage cheese and on baked potatoes.

This was the best meal ever after my 22 miler on April 27, and I finished every bite!  Veggie omelet, hash browns, and a biscuit.  I try to eat whole grains, but biscuits are probably my favorite item made with white flour.

This one loves pancakes made with white flour...and she and my husband used this entire bottle of syrup on their brunch!

It should go without saying by now that I am always craving peanut butter!

My nutritional goal for the month has been to always eat something within 5-15 minutes of finishing my runs.  It's so important to refuel after putting in miles, especially with higher mileage and doubles.  A lot of the time I have a bar because I can keep them in my car to grab right after I run from where ever, but if I run from home I usually have fruit or string cheese - or sometimes random things that sound good like almonds or pretzels.  I have breakfast generally 60-90 minutes after my morning runs, but having something sooner seems to make a positive difference in my recovery (also science tells us this is true)!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Rock the Parkway 2019: Post-injury improvements feel almost like PRs!

I really enjoy the Rock the Parkway half marathon, and it's one of the few events I run year after year:  2015, 2017, 2018, and now 2019 (I wanted to run it in 2016 too, but it didn't work out that year)!  This year I planned to wait until the last minute to commit to running it, since it was 3 weeks after the Chisholm Trail Marathon and because I wasn't running well enough to be competitive until fairly recently. The marathon went well enough that I thought I could run a half time that would be in contention for a top 5 female finish at Rock the Parkway, and my recovery went very well too, so I was in.  It helped that I received an email from the race director inviting me back to build this year's elite field!

I didn't taper for this race (78 mile week), but I felt fairly fresh going into it.  I figured that I was in shape to run about 1:24 on the hilly course, but initially my main goals were to be competitive and to negative split (having fun is a given!).  However, the day before the race I read my 2018 race recap, which reminded me that I'd set a Missouri state record for females age 37 in the race last year, which quickly turned into me looking up the record for age 38.  It was 1:24:58, so my secret goal because to beat the record.  I thought it would be pretty close, because I was pretty confident I was in 1:24 shape, and perhaps a little arrogant about the accuracy of my race predictions after I'd predicted my marathon pace exactly and also remembered the time I made a marathon pace band that was 2 seconds off my actual finishing time.  I knew I wasn't in PR form, but I felt confident I was going to have a good race for my current fitness level, although I don't really know why.  My realist husband thought that a 1:25 would be a really good day, but I didn't let that sway my 1:24 feeling.
Preview, because I wanted this to be the featured photo
Race morning came, bringing great racing weather - high-30s and sunny.  My friend Jessi and I carpooled over to the race from my sister's house, which is less than a 10 minute drive.  Due to a road closure, I had to drive a different route to the race than I usually take, and it threw off my parking plan, so we ended up sitting in a traffic jam of runners' vehicles until I decided to park on a side street that I figured was about a half mile away from the race.  We wanted to run at least 2 miles to warm up anyway, so it worked - plus if I'd waited it would have cut into our warm up time.  Between the parking fiasco, chatting with Jessi, finding a bathroom, sorting gear, and getting in about a perfect warm up (2.5 miles + strides and drills), I never really even thought about the race.  No pressure!

On the starting line, I saw two fast women who I knew could currently beat me, Pasca and Raquel.  I also knew that Jessi was much more fit than me, but I didn't see anyone else I knew would be faster.  I hoped I could take 4th.  After the gun, I was immediately in 4th behind those three.  There were several men around and in front of me, but no one to settle in with.
I made the start photos
I'd decided prior to the race that I wasn't going to look at my watch at all.  This course is too hilly to run an even pace even if you are watching it, I'd run it mostly without looking last year, plus after my recent marathon went so well with no watch-watching I've become even more committed to not doing it in races.  Mile 1 felt like the perfect pace for 13.1 miles at my current fitness.  Miles 2 and 3 are pretty much all uphill, and I kept telling myself to be very conservative and hold back on the climb.  By then the field had thinned out more and I could see several men I wanted to chase down, but I made myself be patient.  I maintained effort through mile 4, then I gave myself permission to up the effort a little bit, because I was getting into a groove and feeling good!
This is why you shouldn't run even pace in this race
Based on a little almost switch-back turn between miles 5-6, I knew I had a very solid 4th female, and baring disaster it was unlikely I was going to move up or be passed.  I wanted to see where my fitness was, so I kept time trialing and pressing ahead, picking off men as I could.  Fun note:  after the race sorted out in the first couple of miles, I didn't get passed by anyone.

This race always makes me a little nervous during miles 6-7, because I can tell there is a lot more downhill than uphill as it rolls through some neighborhoods and by one side of a park.  I enjoy the downs, but I know I'll have to run back up them in the next couple of miles.  There is a climb in mile 8, and it's funny how that hill seems so much worse some years than others!  This year it did not seem too bad, and I continued to pursue and pass men who were ahead of me.  Really, the course as a whole seems much more hilly some years than others, and this year it felt less hilly (in 2017 it felt mountainous).
Cruising along solo + tucked my gloves
into my sports bra around mile 4
Somewhere between miles 8-9, I felt like I had enough gas left in the tank to push a little more for the remaining distance, so I did.  I also decided I was going to look at my total time on my watch at the mile 12 mark to know if I'd have a chance at the state record time.  This gave me a checkpoint to look forward to before the finish line!

Around mile 10, I caught up with a man and encouraged him to push ahead with me.  He'd been running pretty steady and it had taken me many miles to gradually pull him in, so I figured we could help each other to a stronger finish.  We ran side by side for about 1.5 miles, which was nice after having no one to run with for most of the race.  He then fell back a little bit, and I pressed on, feeling strong and frequently thinking, "I feel better here than I ever have at this point", "That hill was much worse 2 years ago", etc.

When I hit the mile 12 sign, I took a look at my watch, and I knew I was going to get the record and probably run in the 1:23s, so I pushed to finish it up at fast as I could.  I had a side ache during the last mile, which made it seem longer than any other mile of the race, but it's also a fast mile (downhill).  It was my first sub-6:00 mile post-injury, in 5:55!  Grade adjusted it was only 6:09, but I'm still counting it (although I have since run a sub-6:00 mile in training, at the end of a tempo workout).  Miles 11 and 12 were also faster than I'd run any other miles post-injury, at 6:09 and 6:07.  My final 5K was 18:48, which I was ecstatic about because I wouldn't have even thought I could run an open 5K in that time right now (and maybe I can't, I need 10 miles at tempo to warm up!).  I finished in 1:23:35 with a smile on my face that was even caught in some finishing pictures!
Run happy!
I am smiling & not stopping my watch, but
I still managed a weird photo with my
mittens tucked under my sports bra strap &
weird arm swing...future goals to correct!
Splits on left/grade-adjusted splits on right
The women's race was pretty anticlimactic competition-wise; the top 4 women were in the same positions from 200 meters in.  5th finished 4:01 behind me, and 3rd was 1:39 ahead of me (although I think she was farther ahead earlier on), so nothing was close.  Jessi finished in 2nd in a blazing PR of 1:17:25, and I was so happy for her (hi, Jessi, if you're reading this!)!  For me, getting the age 38 state record was my personal victory, and running faster than I expected was really exciting.  Although I was incorrect on my time prediction, I nailed my 4th place female prediction, haha.
While I ran faster on this course in 2017 and 2018 (1:23:15 and 1:22:42), my time wasn't drastically slower this year, and my final 5K this year was the fastest final 5K I've ever run here!  Although I've run several halves faster than this (I'm not even going to count how many, probably 8+), this almost felt like a PR because it was by far my best performance thus far post-injury.  A couple of months ago I couldn't even run a 3 mile tempo in 6:23 pace!  The post-injury break-throughs are really sweet.  I felt the same way after the Chisholm Trail Marathon (nowhere near a PR but celebration for a post-injury best).  I guess that although I've run these paces before, I certainly don't take for granted that I will ever do them again, or even that I'll train or compete again.  Throughout the race I thanked God that I was out there racing so many times!

Official results are here.  My new state record can be seen here.
Jessi & I waiting for the awards
I ran into my college friend Codi after the race -
I hadn't seen her in over 10 years & was so pumped!
After the race, Jessi, Raquel (3rd female) and I ran the worst cool down course ever (about 100 ft elevation gain in 0.8 to get to the car).  Jessi and I changed our shoes and grabbed jackets from the car, then we all made our way back to the finish line area.  The announcer was calling our names and saying we needed to go to the awards stage for awards that were about to start.  We cut our cool down short to go to the awards, which we then waited 40 minutes for.  The overall awards ceremony was also hilarious because no one was actually watching it.  I cheered as loud as I could for Jessi and took pictures of her receiving her trophy, and she did the same for me, but we were each others only fans, haha!  We then finished the rest of our cool down mileage holding our trophies, back up the 100 ft climb to the car.  Oof!
Poorly attended awards ceremony
My new coach (more to come about that!) was really optimistic about my performance 3 weeks after a marathon and building towards my next marathon in 10 weeks.  I'm excited to keep putting in the work!  I'll get to see Jessi's marathon debut in person at Grandma's Marathon in 10 weeks too!

"Their trust should be in God, who richly gives all we need for our enjoyment." - 1 Timothy 6:17b

Monday, April 8, 2019

Chisholm Trail Marathon Race Review

I thought I was being pretty brave by running a small inaugural marathon.  I wouldn't have tried this one had I been in top shape, partially because I figured that with it being a first year event something major would go wrong.  But nothing did, and I was really glad I gave it a go!

You can read my personal race recap here.  In this post I will give an overview of the event to help others decide if it's the right marathon for them.

As a whole, it was clear the race was designed by runners for runners.  A 12-person board, including 3 friends of mine, organized the event.  I didn't meet everyone on the board, but I know 4 of the members are competitive runners, and I am betting that the other 8 are as well!

The expo was small but enjoyable, and we even picked up some free items, which is becoming more and more rare at race expos.  My daughter and niece got free balloon animals, and there was also face painting available for kids.  It had the usual vendor offerings centered on running gear, gadgets, shoes, and fuel.  Packet pick up was fast and the race tech t-shirt was one I'll wear.  If you like to get in and out at expos, you'd love this; if you want to spend hours at the expo, this is not for you.
Expo at the Wichita Indian Center
Expo photo op area
The course is two laps of 13.1 miles.  The event also offers a half marathon if you'd like to run just one of those laps.  The course was basically a big narrow rectangle, with only 12 total turns in the full (6 in the half).  If you've read many of my race reports, you know that for me the fewer turns, the better!  I always lose momentum turning, plus it's easy to pick up extra distance if you don't/can't run the tangents.  My Garmin measured the certified and sanctioned course at 26.11 miles - it's usually short on straight courses, and I had about the same reading for the Phoenix Marathon (my standard disclaimer on GPS watches:  the certified race course is correct and your Garmin is wrong when they don't match).  Other runner's Stravas that I creeped on referenced had the course at 26.36, 26.29, 26.39, and 26.29 miles - all very close, especially considering that in marathons with turns a lot of people will get readings of 26.5 miles.  I didn't at all mind running the same course twice, but if you really need to lie to yourself about how close you are to finished in the later miles, you might think twice about this one.
The course
A potential downside to any course with few turns is that if it is windy (which is always a possibility in Wichita!), you'll have long stretches of running into the wind.  In 2019 it was nearly calm at the start, and the first time I felt the west wind was in the final couple miles of the first loop.  I again felt the headwind in the final 10K of the race, but for Wichita it wasn't bad (15 mph or so). Some people dislike long straights because you can see so far ahead on the course, but I like that!  I don't pay attention to the scenery and sights, so can't comment on that, but it is Wichita so you're not going to have ocean or canyon views...

The weather anywhere in the Midwest in the spring is a complete roll of the dice, but we had a great race day in 2019.  It was around 45 degrees at the start.  As I mentioned, the wind picked up some towards the end of the race, but the temperature didn't rise much above 50 degrees by the time I finished at 10:27 a.m.  I think we all know that any race day can bring any weather, so it's just about playing the weather odds.  If you're going to run a marathon in Kansas, the best times to do it are probably late March and late October to early November, so they picked a good time of year for this one!

The course is not pancake flat, and my Strava measured it as having 451 feet of elevation gain.  Other runner's Stravas that I creeped on referenced were very close to that, at 505, 466, 467, and 465 feet gain.  Most of the gain is between miles 2-3.5 on the first lap and miles 15-16.5 on the second lap.  There is a gradual decline on the other side of the course, I believe in mile 10 and mile 23.  Compared to where I live and train, it's all flat!  When you do encounter the inclines, you're still feeling good, so they aren't a big deal, in my opinion.
This looks worse than it was
I received an elite entry for the race, which required a previous sub-3:00 marathon for women and a previous sub-2:30 marathon for men.  As part of this, I received a VIP wristband, which gave me access to an indoor area, including indoor bathrooms, right next to the starting line.  We also had a separate gear check and light food and drink available pre-and post race.  If it had been super cold or raining, this indoor area would be very helpful!  I wouldn't pay $25 extra for it (I am super cheap though!), but I enjoyed the access I was given.  After the race I picked up my bag very quickly, although the bags were not secured (e.g., I walked up to a table that my bag was sitting on and grabbed it; I could have grabbed 10 others had I been so inclined).  I would advise against bag checking valuables at any race, but definitely don't do it at this one.

The half marathon and full marathon started 0.1 apart so they could share a finish line (since the marathoners didn't go back on the little tail of the course to the start/finish before starting the second loop).  The full marathon started 1-2 minutes before the half.  They started the full and then when the full leaders came even-ish with the half start, they started the half runners.  The road was divided for the first bit, and the finish line had two clocks.  At my pace there were no problems with merging the two races down the road, but other paces may have been crowded.

Further, I was never crowded on the course, and in this race you are more likely to have the opposite problem (no one to run with).  There were significant gaps between the top several finishers.  The top man finished in 2:21 and I was 10th overall runner in 2:57, so only 8 people came in within those 36 minutes, and the top 3 women were within less than a minute and a half (so the spread from 2:21-2:55:59 was pretty major).  Looking at the results, most marathoners probably didn't have a lot of company out on the course for the second loop.  The half was larger so you'd be more likely to have others to run with at that distance.  I was worried about passing the back of the pack of half runners in the final miles of the marathon, and this did occur, but wasn't as big of an issue as it has been in some other marathons I've run.  It would be nice to have the road divided for the final 3 miles or so to prevent this in the future, but this year it wouldn't have been possible due to road construction in some of that area that had the course quite narrow as it was, and also made for uneven footing on the roads in that area.
Not crowded/running solo
The one error on the course was with the mile marker flags.  There was one set of flags used for both laps of the course (e.g., reading mile 1/mile 14, mile 5/mile 18, etc.), but when running a 13.1 mile course twice, the mile markers don't line up like that (e.g., mile 1 and mile 14 are not in the same place).  I think they were correct for the half marathoners on their first lap, and correct for the full marathoners on our second lap.  Since I didn't run by my watch, I'm not really sure if they were right or not, but early in the race some marathoners were talking about being concerned by how far their Garmins were off so early, and I pointed out that mile 3 and mile 16 would not be in the same location, so perhaps that flag was mile 3.1 and 16 instead for us.  This answer seemed to make them happy, so I assume they were 0.1 off.  This is something that would be nice for runners to know about in advance (on the race website or via a pre-race email), because I imagine several marathons were concerned on the first lap.

The race had pace groups for many different paces in the full and half marathons.  I did not run with a group, so I am not sure on their strategies, although I did pass the 1:30 half pacers around the 10K mark. My 10K split was 42:04 (6:46 pace), so they were a bit fast (1:30:00 = 6:51.9 pace - although everyone in that group probably wanted 1:29:5X).  The race course was not lined with spectators, although there were many enthusiastic ones out in spots.  If you are someone who needs crowds to run in and/or by, this race is not for you, though!

The race had course clocks and timing mats at the 10K, half (13.1 mile), and 19.1 mile marks.  The 19.1 was because that was the 10K mark on the first lap.  I wasn't clock watching during this race, so wasn't too worried about these, but it might be nice to have one at mile 20.  There were cones lining the whole race course, and in general it was easy to follow, but in some places the cones curved in odd ways, probably due to how they were blocking traffic.  On the final loop I almost turned left a mile too early (on Rock Rd instead of Woodlawn) because of this, but the officer stopping traffic redirected me.  The intersections were well-controlled, with police at all of the busy crossings.

The announcers called everyone's name as they were coming in, and also did a great job mentioning placings and awards.  The race gathered a lot of publicity from local news stations, newspapers, etc. and was active on social media.

The finisher medals were really cute, and for age group awards the race gave free entries into next year's event for 1st place, and discounted entries for 2nd and 3rd (I believe 75% and 50% off), which I thought were fantastic awards.  They offered a quick awards ceremony next to the finish line for the top 3 overall male and female finishers in both races.  My award was a check, which is my favorite type!  If you love a plaque or trophy, these awards would leave you disappointed - or if you run this as a one and done marathon but win a free entry for next year (although, who really follows through on that one and done marathon thing?!).
Awards ceremony, wearing the race shirt
Shirt & finishers medal

I grabbed a banana and bottled water after the race, but didn't pay too much attention to the refueling options because I had to go to the media tent and awards quickly, so someone else will have to review those!  There was also a post-race party I didn't take part in.  During the race there was some entertainment for spectators who were waiting at the finish line, such as an Indian dance and maybe live music?

As far as lodging, I stayed with my parents who live just outside of Wichita, but there are plenty of hotels in the area.  Parking was easy as well, although keep in mind I was with people who know the area very well and I know it fairly well.  Wichita is not a huge city or major vacation destination like Houston or New York, but it is large enough to have things to do and any food you'd want.

The race didn't offer free photos like many are now doing, but I wasn't too worried because all of mine looked like this.  I blame my abbreviated training cycle/shortage of workouts, but you can't say I wasn't working for it at the end!
If you have any specific questions about this race (or about any other race I've run!), I would be happy to answer them!