Chapter 6 – Take Two
Coming off two hard earned PR’s I very well could have justified taking a break from running (or at least from race training) and coasted along on the coattails of success for a couple of months. However, my feats had not squashed the little bug in my ear constantly nagging me with reminders of my half marathon disappointment and how I could use my peaking fitness levels as the catalyst towards redemption. The lingering question became “Should I use my accomplishments as a reason to rest and recover or should I use them as a springboard towards silencing my personal demons?”
If you’ve learned anything about me through this saga you could probably predict which way I leaning, but once again it was the Rock and Roll Series that sealed the deal for me. I opened up my e-mail one evening in early December to find an “invitation” to register for the inaugural half marathon in DC in March. The timing was perfect… I could take a bit of break through the holidays and come the new year go full throttle with my training. Add to that my high level of appreciation and trust in the Rock and Roll Series and the allure of a weekend visit to DC during cherry blossom season and I was sold. I ran the idea by Nick who was sold just as quickly because the event was also offering a full marathon. He was gearing up to begin training for a 50 mile ultra marathon in May so a marathon in late March would be an ideal training run for him (a marathon as a training run?! yes… I too never thought I’d put those phrases together) After completing his and hers registrations, the last order of business was to decide on a goal and a plan to lead me to it. Once again, I fell back on my pre-injury comfort pace of 10 min miles and Nick graduated me to a real, intermediate training plan (in contrast to my personalized, “coming back from injury” plan) My only qualm was that by this point a 10:00/mile pace was too comfortable over short to mid distances (which most training runs are) so I settled on training at a goal pace of 9:30/mile with my race day goal being 2 hours10 minutes (just shy of a 10:00/mile pace) and a reach goal of 2 hours 5 minutes (just over a 9:30/mile pace).
Staying true to form I vehemently stuck to my training plan…. stubbornly running my longest distance ever (16 miles) with a raging sinus infection and my race day simulation run (12 miles at a 9:45/mile pace) while battling a nasty stomach bug. You may remember that I consider being subjected to winter weather a form of corporal punishment so training through the winter months should have been a deal breaker for me. However, during the week I run at the gym because early morning workouts at the gym by my school allow me to beat rush hour traffic (anyone out there who needs workout motivation should commit to commuting an hour in the suburbs of NYC… guaranteed to get your butt out of bed before the sun rises everyday). This new training plan provided a lot of variety (interval runs, tempo runs, cadence runs) which kept the monotonous treadmill workouts from getting too stale. I saved my long runs for the weekend and Mother Nature must be a fan of mine because the mild winter weather prevented me from coming home with tears frozen to my eyelids due to hypothermia. All in all, throughout the 12 weeks of training I felt strong (both physically and emotionally) and optimistic… I had genuine faith that with each run I was that much closer to my goal.
On an unseasonably warm March afternoon, Nick and I made the trek down to DC. The hours in the car gave my budding jitters plenty of opportunity to blossom into full blown nerves. I was confident that without any major, unforeseen obstacles I could reach my goal of 2 hours 10 minutes, but the overwhelming disappointment that I had experienced after my first half marathon had left an undeniable mark on my ego and I dreaded feeling that way again. We went through all the motions of our pre-race rituals… picked up our packets and perused the expo, strolled through and admired the city on our way to dinner (thank you Busboys and Poets for accommodating both my vegan diet and our pre-race nutritional needs), reviewed course maps, laid out our gear, set alarms for an hour that shouldn’t be seen on Saturday mornings, and settled in for an (attempted) good night’s sleep.
As the sun was just making it’s way across the horizon the next morning, we were piling onto a bus with our fellow runners from the hotel. Sleepy eyed but buzzing and armed with bananas, water bottles, Garmins, and Gu gels we were a motley crew and some of the first to arrive at the start. Fortunately, the DC Armory opened it’s doors to the racers so we were able to stretch and fuel someplace other than the dewy grass and relieve ourselves in bathrooms that were not portable (winning!). I was perking with anxiety, so much so that by the time we were able to head to our corrals I felt like I had already run the race ten times over in my head. Nick left me for his “I’m way faster than you” corral with his traditional peck and encouraging “You got this!” As the crowd of runners were herded towards the start I gave myself a once over (water, chews, headphones, and Nike+ all in check), pumped myself with as much power of positive thinking as I could muster, waited for the official “GO!”, and released the trigger.
To be continued…
Do my sentiments over getting to the start line mirror yours about finally getting to a recipe here?! Relax… it has arrived.
Speaking of anxiety… though I love cooking and find it medicinal at the end of a long day there are still those days when I’m driving home watching the minutes tick away as I sit in traffic (remember that awesome commute I have?!) and mentally creating a list of all the things that I could be (and need to be) doing in the few hours I’ll have at home before collapsing into bed and starting all over again. On those days making dinner feels like a chore and I can completely relate to those (my mom *cough, cough*) who swear that at the end of the day they just don’t have the mental or physical energy to pour into cooking a healthful meal. For those who are training for an event and need to get in those training runs (or for those who are simply trying to find a way to squeeze in that recommended 30 minutes of exercise of each day) spending precious time in front of the stove or cutting board may not be feasible… something’s gotta give. Though I have been trying to feature recipes for fueling runners and highlighting their nutritional benefits, I decided to put a different spin on things today and post a recipe that has advantages for both your physical and mental health. This recipe has the potential to come together in 20 minutes tops and if you cook the quinoa in advance you could cut that time down to 5 minutes and have it become a no-cook meal (perfect for the dog days of summer). So save this recipe, stock up on the ingredients, and go for that run/walk/bike/yoga class after work because you (yes you!) really can do it all!
Strawberry Spinach Quinoa Salad
adapted from Cookie and Kate
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I prefer whole-grain Dijon mustard)
- 2 teaspoons real maple syrup (honey or agave nectar could be substituted)
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
- sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa or 3 cups cooked quinoa, warmed
- 1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles
- 2 1/2 cups strawberries, chopped
- 6 oz baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup pecan pieces
- sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
- If you did not cook the quinoa in advance do so according to package directions.
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrups, and shallot. Adjust flavors to suit your tastes and season with salt and pepper.
- Toast the pecans: In a small pan over medium heat, toast your pecan pieces, stirring often, until they are fragrant and golden (approximately 5 minutes).
- In a bowl, mix together warm quinoa with the goat cheese. Gently mix in the strawberries and spinach. Toss with dressing as desired and top with pecan pieces.
Serves 4 as a main dish