Hop Hop Half Marathon Race Recap and A Marathon Training Check-In

Where does the time go?! I mean, seriously, I feel like it was just a couple of weeks ago that I was putting together my training plan for the Newport Marathon and here I am, only about 4 weeks away from the big day. Is this another one of those signs that I’m getting old? The sensation of time going by so quickly, I mean. It must be.   It’s right up there with my new, annoying need to use the zoom function on my computer screen when I’m reading text these days. (Does anyone else feel like 12-point isn’t what it used to be?!)

Enough with the questions and the lamenting about the passage of time, I have a race to tell you all about. Held on the Saturday before Easter, the Hop Hop Half Marathon served as sort of a trial run for me.   Six weeks out from Newport I wanted to test my fitness level, and even more importantly, my pacing. I struggle with pacing myself evenly and I know that this is going to be a key element in my marathon success.

hophop2014

I’m going to put it right out there and acknowledge that this was a tough race for me. I did not taper, as I was considering this just part of my training plan, and I definitely felt fatigue in my legs and body when pushing my speed. I also got caught up in a bit of self-doubt about my clothing choices at the last minute, which resulted in me hastily adding an extra layer on top, which I almost immediately regretted after the run got going. I overheated and struggled with the ramifications of that for the majority of the race.

Despite all of that, I only finished 31 seconds short of my half-marathon PR AND I did a relatively consistent job (with the exception of one tough mile) of pacing myself evenly, while staying in tune with my level of effort and my actual pace time. There’s also something to be said about the level of mental focus that I had to hone in on, given the challenges I was having.

Hop Hop Half Medal and Bib - edited

The course was the same as last year, which is to say, it was absolutely enjoyable and peaceful. The route took us along the Columbia River, with what was a clear, impressive, and positively imposing view of Mt. Hood for more than half the route, until we made the turn around. The staff and volunteers from Foot Traffic were great and the logistics of the run all seemed to go off without a hitch. I also was super lucky to cross the finish line when I did. About 10 minutes later, as I was in my car and headed home, the sky absolutely opened up and those still out there were treated to some serious rainfall!

It was a tough race for me – a really tough one, actually. But it served its purpose. Looking at it from the perspective of it being one part of a larger plan and goal, I’ll even go as far as to say it was successful in some ways, too. I feel good having that trial run under my belt – and I hopefully learned a lesson about making last minute wardrobe decisions based on pre-race anxiety!

McMillan and Me: Marathon Training 2.0

When I planned for the Newport Marathon last year, I did so in a manner that I imagine is pretty common among first timers. I found a pre-written training plan online (I went with one of Hal Higdon’s), shifted one or two things around in order to fit my particular schedule and lifestyle, wrote it up on a calendar, placed it on my refrigerator, and went to work. I followed it nearly to a T. It worked. I completed my first marathon and even recovered from it pretty quickly (Thanks, Hal!).

Newport 2014

But the truth of the matter is, even though pre-written training plans are infinitely helpful (especially to newbies), each runner is unique and to get the most out of it, training needs to be personalized. There isn’t really any such thing as a one-size-fits-all training plan.

Which is why I knew going into this round of training for my second marathon (which is, by the way, once again the Newport Marathon), that I wanted to do things a bit differently. But . . . do what differently? And then . . . how differently? Anyone who has ever trained for a race likely knows the options for putting together a plan are bountiful. I’ve toyed with the idea of seeking the help of a professional – a paid professional – like a coach or a site that will personalize a plan for you, based on your input. Those are certainly still options on the table for future events, but for this one I decided to put my trust in myself and Greg McMillan.

You McMillanGreg McMillan, a distance running coach and exercise scientist, is the author of You (Only Faster), which is the book that ended up being my primary guide for developing my next marathon training plan. The book provides training plan templates, however, it also guides you through several steps of self-assessment, allowing you to adapt the plans through each phase of the process to best suit your individual body, running style, goals, and needs. For me, this was an ideal approach. It struck a great balance between having a plan developed from scratch just for me (which was kind of an intimidating prospect) and working straight from a pre-existing plan that didn’t take my specific self into account (which is not as effective as I would like).

Plus, I learned a lot – I repeat A LOT – about myself as a runner as I moved through the steps outlined in the book. I tuned into my body and running patterns and learned more about what type of runner I am, including what type of runs are most challenging for me, what types I recover most quickly from, and what types help give me the greatest confidence boost. I’m still applying this information and learning new things all the time.

One of the great parts of this process is that it lines up perfectly with something that I mentioned back in January. You may recall that I wrote about wanting to focus on living with purpose and intention this year. McMillan’s plan has helped me apply this to my running. I am thinking about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Some runs may be about going slow and building my endurance, others are about pushing on that VO2 Max, or about simply being in the moment and enjoying a run without a distance or pace goal in mind, but through all of them, I have a particular purpose and that feels really good to me. Quite good, actually.

I tend to excel in most areas of my life when I have a plan, a goal or two, and purposeful steps along the way, so it makes perfect sense to me that I follow a similar trend when it comes to running.

So here I am, five weeks of training under my belt, and about ten more to go. I’ve to say, I’m really loving how this is going so far. In addition to the positives that I’ve already pointed out, I feel like my body is responding well. I’m building back up some of the endurance that I got away from during the winter, but I’m also adding in more speedwork, which hasn’t ever really been much of a focus for me before. I’m challenged by my speed days, but I also find them to be a new satisfying way to push my abilities a bit further. I’m feeling healthy and committed to my training, too, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

It’s still early to be able to say how this will all play out in Newport, but my hat is off to Greg McMillan for pushing me to be Me (only faster).

Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s Recognize Some Amazing Female Athletes, Shall We?

It’s International Women’s Day (i.e. my favorite holiday)!

I realize that many of you might not even know that this day of recognition exists, but it’s been on my radar for a very long time now and I always celebrate, even if only introspectively.  Professionally, I’ve worked as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence (largely gender-based violence) for many years.  Personally, I’ve been an all-around advocate for gender equality for as long as I can remember.  So March 8th always feels like a holiday to me – a day to celebrate and honor my people.

I’ve been deeply privileged to know a great many incredible women throughout my life and I’ve been inspired by thousands more that I’ve never met in person.  With that said, it’s only been over the last few years since I started running that I’ve truly connected with finding inspiration in women athletes.

Nike Photo: Shalane Flanagan & Kara Goucher

Nike Photo: Shalane Flanagan & Kara Goucher

Becoming a runner – a female runner – has brought so much into my life and I am continuously inspired by those women who have battled hard to be respected in the world of athletics, those who have demanded resources and support for athletes of all genders, and those who have simply trail-blazed the way for the rest of us – proving with their actions what women were capable of before anyone would listen to their words.  (Let us not forget that not all that long ago people believed running a marathon could cause a woman’s uterus to fall out!)

In honor of International Women’s Day and female athletes everywhere who are getting it done, whether it be alone at 6am on their local trails or in front of crowds full of people, I thought I’d take a minute to recognize a few of my personal favorite female runners who inspire me on a regular basis.

  1. Kathrine Switzer – I can’t put up even a brief list like this without mentioning the first woman to ever (officially) run in Boston.  And that, of course, doesn’t even begin to cover everything she has done for female athletes since!
  2. Shalane Flanagan – One of my current favorite marathoners.  I am so excited to see what she’s going do at Boston this year and I’m still hopeful that one day I’ll get to see her around Portland.  I’m always on the look-out!
  3. Kara Goucher – My other current favorite marathoner.  We miss you in PDX, Kara!
  4. Lauren Fleshman – I have so much darn appreciation for Lauren.  What she’s doing in terms of being a strong, proud athlete and representing women in the sport is amazing.  Her ‘Keeping it Real‘ project?  So awesome.  Picky Bars?  Fantastic.  Her newish partnership with Oiselle?  Can’t get enough of it.
  5. Deena Kastor – If someone were to ask me who I wanted to be when I ‘grow up’, my answer might very well be Deena.
  6. Cami Ostman – Cami is not a professional runner like the others listed above, but she is a force to be reckoned with as an athlete, a writer, and an all-around inspiring human being.  Her book Second Wind is a favorite of mine.
  7. Rachel Toor – An ultrarunner and writer that seems to always know how to really speak the truth about what it’s like to be a runner and a woman.  Her book Personal Record is a great read and I always look forward to her articles in Running Times.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Punchy Dill Flavored Stuffed Peppers (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Spring is coming.

Right?

I have a feeling that I’m not the only one yearning for some sunshine, mild temperatures, and sing –songy birds flying by our open windows.  I am truly a person who genuinely enjoys each and every season for what it brings.  Growing up in the desert, I didn’t have much exposure to real, honest to goodness season changes like I do here in the Pacific Northwest.   After nearly 5 years here, I still get excited for all the firsts of the seasons: each fresh burst of summer sun, each time I notice that the skyline has been taken over by the earthy, fiery colors of fall, every first winter morning when I realize I underestimated the cold and need to better bundle up against the frigid air, and for those first blossoms of spring.

with top on 2 - edited

I’ve loved the madness of this year’s winter, but am ready to shed some layers and see some color peeking out from the earth.  My fingers are crossed I’ll be able to enjoy this soon.

in pan close up 2 - edited

In the meantime, I’ll eat this dish.  Well, I already did eat this dish, but perhaps I shall do so again.  Something about dill (one of my favorite herbs) reminds me of spring.  It’s that punchy taste that sort of coats your palette and infiltrates all the senses that I love.  It tastes fresh and new and full of possibilities, just like spring does for me.

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Punchy Dill Flavored Stuffed Peppers (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Serves 4 with sauce and top - edited

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry brown rice
  • 4 large green bell peppers
  • ½ tblspn olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small-medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup packed spinach, chopped
  • 2 tblspns tomato paste
  • 1 tblspn red wine vinegar
  • 3 tblspns Italian parsley, minced
  • 3 tblspns fresh dill, minced
  • ½ tspn salt
  • ¼ tspn pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Cook rice according to package directions.  Set aside when finished.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a baking dish by coating with cooking spray or a light coating of oil.  Set aside.
  3. Slice the tops of the peppers off and clean out the insides, removing veins and seeds.  Place into a baking dish, cut side up and tops removed, and bake for 20 minutes.  If the peppers are uneven on the bottom and will not stand up in your baking dish, you can even them out, by trimming the bottom edges (though be careful not to cut holes in the bottom, as the filling will leak out).  After 20 minutes, remove from oven and set aside until filling is prepared.
  4. Meanwhile, warm a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  When hot, add onion, garlic, and carrot to the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-6 minutes or until the onions turn translucent.
  5. Add zucchini and spinach to the pan and stir to combine.  Cook for 2-3 minutes more.
  6. Finally, add the cooked rice, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, parsley, dill, salt, and pepper to the vegetable mixture.  Stir well to incorporate all ingredients.  Taste and adjust for seasonings.
  7. Spoon filling into the each partially cooked pepper base until full.  Feel free to pack it in well – there should be plenty of filling!  Carefully sit the removed tops back on to the peppers, place back into the oven (still at 350 degrees) and bake for 20-25 more minutes.
  8. Serve alone, or if you prefer, drizzle an easy sauce over the top.  I served mine with a simple can of tomato sauce, sprinkled with oregano and pepper, warmed up on the stove top.

My Snowy Weekend In Pictures

I realize that there have been oh-so-many posts about the wacky winter weather we’ve all been having this year, but here’s one more for you, anyway.  I had to write it, as it includes my VERY FIRST SNOW DAY!  Exciting, right?

RIGHT?!

Totally.

As you may recall, I live in Portland, OR and I’m originally from Phoenix, AZ.  My geography has left my exposure to snowy conditions quite rare and I have never in my life had an official snow day.  On Thursday, however, the snow started to fall and I headed out of work a few hours early – knowing it was going to wreak havoc on my bus ride back across the Willamette River.  By Friday morning, the snow was starting to accumulate and it wasn’t letting up.  I was thankful to the powers that be whom opted to close down my office for the day, thus letting my snow day began!  Snowlandia continued throughout the weekend – culminating in thick, dense layers of ice which starting FALLING FROM THE SKY (or, you know, tree tops and buildings and such).

It’s all been very eventful.  Here’s a peek:

I’ve always wanted to make a snow angel and finally got my opportunity on Thursday evening!  My first one ever:

snow angel collage

On Friday (my official snow day from work) the weather compelled me to spend time in the kitchen.  I drank lots of coffee and baked this vegan, gluten free chocolate chip banana bread from The Healthy Maven, which was absolutely delicious:

Slice with mug - edited

I did some running on the treadmill throughout the weekend, because in all honesty, running in the snow was a bit confounding to me.  I know people do it, but how, exactly?  I found myself feeling cooped up, though, and headed out for a couple of walks over the course of the weekend.  It was gorgeous!

Snowlandia 2014 - collage

I stopped for a few snow selfies along the way (and, yes, this IS the first time I’ve actually used the term selfie in regards to any photos of myself – another first!):

Day 3 - Snow Selfie 4 - edited

How was your weekend?  Any snow-filled festivities come your way?

What I’ve Been Up To in January

As some of you may have noticed, I took the month of January off.  I didn’t necessarily intend for a one week break to turn into four, but it happened.

And, as it turns out, I’m okay with that.  I don’t feel compelled to apologize (something that I do too often as it is), because it was necessary, though I will explain why I needed that time.

The fact is that I needed a little re-boot.  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, somewhat uninspired, and totally worn out.  Taking a few weeks for some hibernation was important. None of this is to say that I haven’t missed it around here.  Or that I haven’t missed you all, because I have.  So, hello again!

Trees at Rhododendron

I may not have been blogging, but I have been doing things over the last month.  The running hasn’t stopped, of course.  I’ve been at it consistently and with a relaxed outlook – enjoying the time off between training cycles.  I’ve also selected my primary running goals for 2014.  They are:

  • complete two marathons (Newport, OR in May and Portland, OR in October),
  • run at least one of those marathons at a sub 4-hour pace (though I’m really shooting to run both under 4 hours, and I do think that it’s totally possible),
  • PR at the 10k distance, and
  • run at least 1700 miles during the year.

All of this seems pretty darn exciting to me!

I’ve also been filling my brain with lots and lots of information and stories.  I’ve been reading voraciously – 10 books in the month of January!  I’ve learned and escaped and laughed and fantasized with these books in the last four weeks and it’s been wonderful.

Trees from below Rhododendron

I’ve been cooking some delicious food.  Banh mi inspired noodles.  Delicious soups from this bookCauliflower parmesan.  You get the idea.

And finally, I’ve been thinking about what I really want this year to be about.  In a few short words, my primary goals for 2014 are about living deliberately and with intention.  In the words of my fantasy BFF Bob Harper, I need to remember in any given moment that all I’m doing is exactly what I’m doing.  Be present and concentrate on what’s at hand, making choices and plans with intention, rather than constantly battling stress and anxiety about the future.

I hope that this approach will be reflected in my posts this year.  I aim to write and share very intentionally and with deliberate thought towards what’s worth writing, sharing, and reading.  I hope you’ll join me!

2013: A Look Back At Some of My Highlights

New Year’s Eve & Day are my favorite holidays.  I get a little sappy and a lot introspective around this time.  While I believe in regular reflection and goal setting throughout the year, I can’t help but find this to be an appropriate time to take stock of where I am, how I am doing, what I’ve done, and what is next.

santa ornament - editedThere was a time when this process was primarily a negative one for me.  I would stop to reflect on what I didn’t accomplish or what goals and dreams were out of my reach.  In recent years, however, I’ve taken to heart just how important it is to give equal billing to what I have done.  Rather then quickly glossing over accomplishments or milestones in order to continue moving upward and onward, I now recognize the value in celebrating the victories (large and small) that are behind me.  And, while some believe that you gain wisdom mostly by rehashing your mistakes and failures, I also see the learning that presents itself in evaluating what has gone well.

To this end, here are some of the highlights, milestones, and victories that took place for me in 2013:

  • 26.2 miles = Done! – The experience of running my first marathon have been shared in depth here and here, so I won’t say Me with medal 3 - editedmuch more other than that it stands as one of the single best days of my life.  I can’t wait for many more!
  • Goodbye, Gluten – Going gluten-free was not something that I ever intended to do.  It was (and still is) extraordinarily difficult for me, but 7 months later, my vastly improved health stands as evidence that it was what I absolutely needed to do.
  • 1500 miles – It took me nearly right up until the end of the year to do so, but as of last weekend, I have run over 1500 miles for the year.  So cool.
  • 71 books – I love to read and always have.  For me, books are a never-ending source of education, escapism, and inspiration all in one.  I track my literary adventures over at Goodreads.  If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve been reading, please head over and say hello (username: srrose).
  • Facing down an old fear . . .  The dentist! – I’ll admit that, prior to 2013, it had been quite some time since I’d dragged myself to the dreaded chair.  It is an experience that long struck fear in my heart.  Having little or poor dental insurance for a long time had supported me in running away from this fear, but I finally did it.  After several trips to get all caught up, my teeth are happy and healthy!
  • Cultivating creative confidence – This year saw me take some big strides in levels of self-confidence related to creativity and pasta with italian peppers - editedcooking.  I can’t say that I produced the largest quantity of creatively driven output this year, but I found myself trusting my instincts more, feeling stronger in my skills, and being open to experimentation.
  • Keeping THIS going – I know that I’ve had periods recently of reduced posting, but I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to keep this site going.  I love it.  I love the process of it and that I get to connect with so many incredible people around the world because of it.

I’m certain that I could go on a bit longer, but I will end my list on that note.  So, thank you to every person out there who has been a part of all of this with me in 2013.  I’m looking forward to seeing what next year will bring.

Happy New Year!