And the Winner Is…Richmond!

It’s official.  I’ve got my goal race!  Today was the final day to register before the price increase, so I signed up for the Richmond Marathon, 135 days away on November 12.  (I’m a sucker for a deadline to save $10!)

It looks like a beautiful course along the James River.  Not too flat, but not too hilly either.  Hopefully, my family can join me and we can make a little trip out of it.

Here’s the course video:

Let the training begin!

Walnut Artichoke Pesto Salad

I’ve been experimenting adding more healthy fats into my diet lately.  When I’m training hard for long distance, I believe that higher whole-food carbohydrate intake is the way to go, but if I keep that up when I’m not logging tons of miles, my constant appetite and grazing habits can get the best of me.  The way I like to look at it is that a very high whole carbs diet (like the Kenyan diet) is like rocket fuel, essential for the high burn of fast, long mileage.  But if you are not burning those extra carbs quickly, they get stored as fat instead and you’re left hungry again.  Higher fat whole foods are higher in calories, but they burn more slowly, stay in your stomach longer, and keep you feeling full longer, hopefully preventing you from snacking an hour after your last meal.

But I’m not talking about drizzling everything I eat with olive oil or eating spoonfuls of coconut oil.  Oil is one of the most refined foods there are, stripped of all nutrients and fiber.  It’s pure fat with such a low volume that it does little to fill your stomach.  Much better than oil is eating the whole foods those oils came from, such as nuts, seeds, and avocados.

This recipe was inspired by a pesto/dip recipe that I often bring to potlucks.  It is savory and chunky and will leave any weakling tortilla chip broken into sad pieces in the serving bowl.  You’ve got to get some hearty pita chips or toasted slices of a French baguette to go with this one.

Turns out it’s perfect on top of greens with some chickpeas and diced yellow peppers.  No dressing required!



Serves 4

Walnut Artichoke Pesto Salad

Inspired by Chloe Coscarelli's Artichoke Walnut Pesto Crostini

Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 14 ounces canned or jarred marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
  • 1 cup packed cilantro
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper


  1. Throw everything into the food processor and pulse until you have a chunky pesto.
  2. Serve on top of mixed greens with whatever veggies you like. Or, use as a dip for bread or toasted pita.

Sexually Harassing Runners Is Perfectly Legal

If you run often enough, it will happen to you.  A stranger in a pickup truck will honk at you and leer at you as you run by.  A guy on the street will whistle, smack his lips and say “damn, girl.”  A man in the park will make sexually explicit comments about how your ass looks in running shorts.  And it’s all legal.

A few days ago, someone posted on a Facebook running page that a flyer was posted in the park warning people of someone “stalking women.”  The man described sounded like someone I’d seen regularly while on runs and never felt threatened by.  The flyer said to call 911 immediately if you saw him. I didn’t read all the comments following, but the woman who posted the picture of the flyer wrote she felt “freaked out” many times by this man.

I promptly forgot all of this and headed to the park for my mid-day run yesterday.  It was a warm and pretty day and the park was full of bikers, dog walkers, and other runners.  About halfway through, I saw the man described in the flyer asleep on a bench with his hat covering his face.  I kept going until my turn around and saw the flyer taped to the bulletin board.  A biker had stopped at the same time as I did and I asked him if he thought the sleeping guy on the bench was the same guy mentioned in the flyer.  A woman standing nearby over heard our conversation and joined us.  The biker said he was new here and didn’t know.  The woman said she saw the flyer, saw the sleeping man, and decided to move a 100 yards away to picnic with her kids.  She was weirded out enough to move a little ways away, but not enough to call the police.

Last summer, I was verbally harassed on the exact same stretch in the park.  A tall, visibly drunk man looked me straight in the face after I made the turn around and shouted a string of sexually explicit comments about my body.  I had my earphones in and pretended I hadn’t heard a word and kept running.  When I got home, I warned the other runners on the Facebook page about him and comment after comment told me I should have called the police.  Hours later, I did call the police to let them know, but that’s the last I heard of it.

So this time, I decided to do something.  Since the guy on the flyer was asleep, I snapped a few pictures of him, ran down the path and called the cops.

When I told the running page about it, the response was the opposite of anything I could have imagined.  I said I had called the cops because of the flyer and the person who shared the flyer to the page, but said I had never felt threatened by the sleeping guy in all my encounters with him.

“Witch hunt.”

“Delete the post.”

“Move on.”

“Scare mongering.”

“Poor fellow.”

Huh?  According to several people, there were no reports to the police about this man harassing anyone.  Someone anonymously posted this flyer and the police are not actively investigating.  What?!

On one hand, my instincts have always told me that this man is not a threat, so if this some bizarre hoax, at least my instincts are right.  If he is innocent, a chat with the police is an inconvenience for him, but probably not a big deal. On the other hand, if the person behind the flyer has truly been threatened, calling the police on a sleeping man was the right thing to do.   If he is guilty, then the park is safer without him.

Beyond the obvious strangeness of this particular situation, what got to me was the backlash. While I don’t think people were directly faulting me for calling, they were upset with the vigilante who posted the flyer.  Many felt that the sleeping guy was being unfairly harassed. The local news channel had run a story on this flyer without any corroboration with the police.  My calling the cops was the latest in a string of incidents that had gone too far.

If there is no basis of truth behind the flyer, what happens to the next person who reports harassment to the police or to the online running group?  Will that person be less likely to be believed?

What I suspect happened is that someone felt threatened and called the police.  Perhaps the caller only “felt” a threat, but no crime was committed. The police did nothing because no law had been broken and the caller felt the police should have done something anyway.  So that person decided to speak up, post flyers, and get the media involved.

When I called the police, both when I was actually harassed and when I reported the sleeping man, the people answering the phone did not take my name or number or did anything to make me believe that something would be done about my concerns.

Were any crimes committed?  Here’s what I found out about North Carolina Law from this paper about verbal street harassment:

Disorderly Conduct N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-288.4 North Carolina’s disorderly conduct law states that it is illegal to make or use any utterance, gesture, display or abusive language that is intended to and likely to provoke violent retaliation. This is what is known as a “fighting words” law. Since street harassment rarely results in the harassed person fighting back, these laws usually have not been used to address street harassment. If a harasser says something particularly offensive or provoking, you can still try using this law, and if enough people make a case for why it should be used, then it might be applied more often.

Intoxicated and Disruptive in Public N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-444 Being drunk and disruptive in public in North Carolina by blocking people’s way on sidewalks or into a building, cursing or rudely insulting others, or grabbing or shoving people is illegal. If a street harasser is clearly drunk and doing any of these things to you or someone else, you can report him/her. 

Using Profane or Indecent Language on Public Highways N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-197 It is illegal in North Carolina for anyone, in the hearing of at least two people, to use indecent or profane language while on any public road or highway. (This law does not state it explicitly, but we assume it includes sidewalks). If a harasser is loudly using sexual language or profanity (such as, “You f—ing bitch” and “Go to hell, fags”) and at least one other person besides you hears the harasser, you can report him or her under this law. 

According to that, the incident last summer was a crime because he was drunk.  Someone making you feel “freaked out” is not a crime, and nor should it be.  The First Amendment protects the vast majority of what we say, even if someone doesn’t like it.  So if you want to shout profanities at women it is perfectly legal as long as you are not obviously drunk and she’s the only one who hears you.

While events like these can range from irritating to downright frightening, running alone is something that I will not stop doing.  It is far more dangerous to drive a car every day or sit on your couch your whole life than to go on a run.  Even so, as a woman, I am forced to think about my safety every time I head out the door.

And despite the negative reaction to the alleged harassment/threats over the last few days, I will still continue to speak up when this happens to me or others I know. Our culture and our laws will never change unless we decide to change the way we react.

What do you think?  Do you run alone? Do you get harassed while running?  Have you ever called the police?


Get in the Woods

I ran in the woods today.  Perhaps that’s not some grand statement, but for me, a mid-week, mid-day trail run is a bit of an accomplishment.

I’m good at excuses for not trail running.  It’s a hassle to plan and drive 10-15 minutes there and back when I can just run from my door.  For me, trail running is usually more strenuous than road running even if I take it slow, so running trails on an easy day doesn’t feel easy.  I can’t always get the mileage I want in since it’s so much slower. And while I like running with others especially on trails, I need to be flexible with my work and family schedule so I can’t always commit to a run with others during the day so I need to run alone on trails most of the time.  (Should I not run trails alone?)  Another valid excuse is that I’m a klutz and typically fall over roots and rocks that seem to hurl themselves at my ankles.  The only way to avoid this is to pay complete attention to the six feet of trail in front of me at all times.  That much focus gets exhausting, especially when I can just run on roads and zone out to music or a good podcast.  When I’m training for a road race, I seek out the most course-specific routes which means trails get nixed.

Those excuses are pretty weak sauce.  I’m not training for a race.  Training my brain to get good at focusing on what’s in front of me is the epitome of living in the moment.  Running in the woods alone is not only okay, but it’s a really good thing.  Mileage isn’t that important right now.  Taking on the challenge of trails will make me stronger.  The 10-minute drive is a stupid excuse and I’m lucky to live in such an amazing place where trails are so close.

And it’s hot.  Not desert hot, but sticky-humid hot.  The kind of hot where you can see waves of heat radiating from the black asphalt and your skin glistens with sweat as soon as you run 20 feet.  Add in the bright sunshine baking everything not under protection of a tree and the only respite for runners is the woods.

So I ran an 8-mile loop in Bent Creek today with 1200′ of elevation gain and loss (Strava says 1000′ and Garmin says 1200′ so I’ll take Garmin’s!).  It’s a loop I’ve done many times before when I was trail running weekly.  The hard part comes first and then mostly drops after you get to the view at Five Points.

Five Points, Bent Creek

Bent Creek is a popular spot for running and mountain biking so it’s rare to go 10 minutes without passing someone, even in the middle of the work week.  This is one of the reasons I feel safe running alone there.  If I hurt myself, I know someone will be along eventually.  I carry my phone as well, even though service can be spotty.  I know there are many women who are not comfortable being alone in the woods, but I’m not one of them.  I’m not willing to let fear get in the way of what I want to do in life, but I also take precautions.  (This is a great read from Oiselle’s site about running alone.)

I took my time today and stopped when I felt like it and flew down the gravel road at the end, just for fun.  It was still hot out, but not at all unbearable.  It was a nice change of pace to listen to birds and the rushing creeks instead of whatever’s in my earbuds.

I actually ran in the woods!

I forget sometimes how good nature is for the soul.  It is refreshing to just disappear for a little while and then emerge a little bit renewed.

I am committing now to trail running once a week for the summer.  Not only will it make me a better athlete, but it might even have the power to make me a better me.



Missing the Marathon

I knew this was coming. As much as I’ve needed a break from training for a marathon, I’ve been searching online for my next one.  Here are the contenders:

Seven Bridges Marathon, Chattanooga, TN, October 16, 2016  Set in downtown Chattanooga, this course weaves over the Tennessee River.  There’s not a ton of elevation change, but there are a lot of turns, so perhaps not the fastest course, but it certainly looks beautiful! 3.5 hours away.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah, Savannah, GA, November  5, 2016  I have a friend in Savannah, so this could be a good option.  But reading the reviews and stories from last year, I’ve pretty much decided to skip this one.  It was hot for a marathon (humid and in the 70s) and they ended up running out of water and cancelling the race before it was over.  Many people didn’t get the chance to finish and two people died. Yeah, no. 4.5 hours away.

Anthem Richmond Marathon, Richmond, VA November 12, 2016  Billed as “America’s Friendliest Marathon”  Richmond is known as being a fast course, with close to 10% of the field qualifying for Boston.  It has a big purse for the winners so lots of elites show up, plus music and beautiful scenery on the course.  But it’s about a 5.5 hour drive for me, which could be a deal breaker.

Kiawah Island Marathon,  Kiawah Island, SC, December 10, 2016  This is a flat and fast course despite the number of turns.  If the weather is cool, this is an ideal race to PR.  But if it’s not, like last year’s race in the 70s, it could turn into a slog.  The best part of this race is that I already have a few friends signed up so carpooling and sharing accommodations make this a pretty attractive choice. 4.5 hours away, but with carpooling, no big deal.  Running this late in the fall would also allow me to race Shut In on November 5.

So about Shut In.  I missed racing Shut In last year because I had the flu.  I was well enough to cheer on the racers, but not enough to run.  I hated missing it and vowed that I’d be back this year.  But now I’m not so sure.  I’m torn because I’ve been off trails so much and I’m finding it hard to get into the trail mentality. I can get there, but something is pulling me back and I’m not sure what.  I was so excited about it last year.  Where has that enthusiasm gone?

I’ve talked to a few people about it and most think that I could race Shut In and still do well at Kiawah.  They are 5 weeks apart so I would have time to recover.  Sounds like a plan, right?

But then I talked to a running coach that I recently met who asked me about my goals and what I really want.  I told him I was still chasing a sub-three-hour marathon, but also wanted to run Shut In.  “Do you want to run a fast marathon?” he asked.  “Absolutely,” I said. “Then train for the marathon,” he answered.  “Shut In will always be there for you.  Your speed won’t.”

I instantly felt a sense of relief.  Yes, that makes sense.  I would love to run a great race at Shut In, but not as much as a faster marathon.  That’s it, I thought. No Shut In.

And then just to confuse me, he added, “I’ve trained people who’ve run both and they set PRs at Kiawah.”  Ahhh!  Why did he have to say that?!

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what other people say, even if they are amazing athletes and coaches who know far more than I do.  What matters is that I am excited and happy and feeling good about my choices so I can go into training 100%.  Trying to do well at a steep and technical trail race while I’m in marathon build up is not the right choice for me.  The other way around might not be so bad, so I could choose Chattanooga and still race Shut In, but that’s what I was trying to do with Chicago last year and I ended up getting sick, not uncommon after an intense effort like that.

So while I still plan to hit the trails more this summer, I will do it for the pure love of being in the woods and not with any goals in mind.

Unless someone talks me into it…



Race Report: Pop Up Mile

The mile.  As runners we think about our pace per mile before, during, and after every run.  It is part of our vocabulary when talking about running. Even non-runners have a sense of how fast a fast mile is.  We all grew up dreading the mile race in gym class (in theory, maybe some people liked it, but I certainly wasn’t one of them) and from a very early age the mile became the standard unit of measurement separating the fast from the slow, the athletes from the non-athletes, the talented from the I-hate-this-torture-make-it-stop people.

As a kid, I was solidly in the last category.

For some reason, the mile is not a popular race event.  There are about a zillion 5Ks any given Saturday, but mile races are few and far between.  Marathons get all the glory while mile races have practically disappeared.  I’m not sure why that is.  Perhaps it’s because it requires a blend of speed and endurance that most people don’t think they have.  Or maybe it’s because those forced timed miles in middle school have seared the mile in our brains as pure hell, never to be repeated.

But for some reason, I like it.  I really, really, like it.  Oh, not when I’m actually running it.  Well, maybe the first 400 meters is fun.  Okay, maybe even the first half is not too terrible.  The last half, though? About as far away from fun as you can get.  Every cell in my lungs feels like it is filled with molten lava and my legs feel like I’m running through molasses. Sounds fun, right?

So why do I like it?  It’s the challenge and simplicity of it.  I am not particularly good at the mile, but I want to get better.  Plug in my mile time into any running prediction calculator and you will see that I’m a far better marathoner than a miler.  Even at the 5K distance, I’m more proficient.  For now.

Last night’s race was put on by the Asheville Running Collective, a group of post-collegiate competitive runners and all-around nice guys in our area.  The last time I ran a mile race was last August at the Waynesville Mile in the middle of marathon training for Chicago.  My time was 5:35, but the race is downhill, I was about 8-10 pounds lighter, and I had had a summer of speed work at the track in my legs.  I had no idea going into this race what I’d run, but I’m an optimist and was aiming for a PR.

A goal of 5:30 means that each lap needs to be 1:22.  Like pregnant women counting in weeks and mothers of babies counting in months, track people like to count anything under two minutes by only using seconds, so that’s 82 seconds per lap.  Since I had a pacer, I decided not to bother hitting the lap button each lap because I figured I’d just hang on as long as possible and not get caught up in my per lap times.  But now I wish I had so I could reflect better on it and learn for next time.  That’s lesson one.

To run a mile on a 400 meter track, you need to start just over 9 meters behind where you finish, so the first lap will be longer than the rest. Like most races, I went out too fast (lesson two).  Two guys in my heat who were aiming for 5:15 shot out in front and I instinctively followed right behind them for more than 100 meters.  My pacer Frankie was still behind me at that point and said over my shoulder what I already knew, that I was going too fast.  I slowed a bit and let him pass me.  There was a mild but significant breeze and I knew I should draft behind him.  We crossed the lap line in 82 seconds.

In lap two, I was still feeling in control, but it was starting to get harder.  I focused on the back of Frankie’s head and tried to block out any other thoughts besides keeping my eyes glued to him.  I have a breathing rhythm where my inhale is a step longer than my exhale and I practice a lot at getting in a full breath while running hard.  I maintained that rhythm the entire second lap and crossed the lap line just behind Frankie.

The third lap is where I started to break down. I could no longer control my breathing and I was just sucking air in and out as fast as I could.  I felt like my cadence remained high (and looking at my stats, my cadence was remarkably consistent–around 192 steps per minute), but I was losing stride length.  The gap between Frankie and me was growing as I was fading back.  At one point, he looked over his shoulder to find me and slid over to lane 2 to encourage me to keep pushing.  Unfortunately, I lost my wind block that way, but I was grateful for the encouragement when all I wanted was for this to be over.  My inner negative Nancy voice told me that I could just stop and quit after three laps, but I pushed her away.  It would be over soon and I could take it.

I have no idea how long the last two laps took me.  I heard other runners watching shout, “Get up on your toes, Claire!  You got this!”  I did not have it and I could not get up on my toes, but I was determined to give it everything I had left.  My lungs burned with every breath as if I were breathing in hot smoke.  I rounded the last corner and pumped my arms in hopes they’d pull me across the finish line.  I would not say that I had a good kick, but I did manage to speed up some for the last 100 meters.  My official time was 5:50.

So even though I didn’t get the time I wanted, I’m still happy with the race.  I have lots of improvements to make and I know that mile training will make me a better runner at all distances.  In many ways, racing the mile is as painful as a marathon, just in a very different way.

There’s talk of putting on a mile race once a month over the summer.  If so, I’ll be back for more torture.



The Secret to a Weed-Free Garden

One of my first jobs when we moved to Asheville in 2001 was working in the sales department of a major greenhouse company in the area.  My main task was calling big-box home and garden stores every morning to make sure that the plant orders were correct.  That typically took me all of an hour of my 8-hour day.  Then I had to figure out what to do with the other seven hours.  As long as I had plants on my computer screen, no one seemed to care what I was doing, so I spent the better part of a year learning and researching how to garden. (Suffice it to say, I did not win Employee of the Year at that job.)

It’s been a few years since I’ve had a serious veggie garden.  Before kids, we had the majority of our half acre yard covered in edibles.  After kids, we still have perennials like blueberries, raspberries, and rhubarb, but we have turned more of the yard over to play areas and landscape plants.  We do a few herbs and annuals in the front yard, but I don’t have the time to devote to a large garden anymore.  I sometimes miss a big, bountiful garden.

So it was great volunteering this week in our kids’ elementary school garden.  When we got there on Monday, it certainly needed a lot of help!  The grass paths were overgrown and invasive bermuda grass was taking over the veggie garden beds.  I tugged on a few weeds and they snapped off in my hands, leaving the roots just under the surface ready to sprout and take over again in a few days.  Weeding like this is a Sisyphean chore that makes gardening miserable in minutes.  But there is a better way.

If someone were to ask me what my best garden tip is I would say “cardboard and mulch.”  It is the easiest, no-weed, no chemical solution to beautiful paths and happy plants.  Simply put some cardboard down, put some mulch on top, and that’s it.  Want to start a new garden?  Cardboard and mulch a section of your yard now and by fall, the cardboard will have mostly disintegrated.  Even better, wait until spring. Then put your plants in, add more cardboard and mulch and you are done.  No digging (other than a hole for each plant) or tilling necessary.  It’s the way nature plants.

In the school garden, there was a small pile of old mulch available, but as we were working, I heard the rumble of a tree chipper nearby.  I gathered up the kids and said, “c’mon, let’s go talk to those tree guys.”  The Tree Ninjas (love that name!) were cutting up some trees near the school parking lot and I asked if they would dump the mulch for the garden.  They told me they were cutting a big maple the next day and they’d be happy to dump a truckload of fresh mulch for the garden, saving them the trip and the fee to the stump yard.  This is the way I usually get mulch for my yard for free!

Freshly chipped mulch is perfect for pathways, but is not a good choice for planting beds.  As the wood decomposes, it steals nitrogen from the ground and from your plants, so you should only use decomposed mulch near plants you like.  (But it’s great for ones you don’t like!)  You could simply mulch without cardboard, but tough weeds will find a way through and you’ll have to add more mulch by the end of the season.  I’m too lazy to do things twice, so I never mulch without cardboard.  A good thick layer of mulch with cardboard should leave your beds virtually weed-free for the season.

My husband weed-eated (weed-ate?) the grass between the beds as low as possible yesterday and today, along with other volunteers, we put down sheets of cardboard in the pathways and dumped wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of mulch.  We still have a way to go, but it looks so much better already!

Freshly mulched paths!
Freshly mulched paths!

So if anyone local reading this has some sheets of cardboard lying around or has access to some, please let me know!  We quickly ran out of our stash and are only about a third of the way done.

I love the fact that our school prioritizes gardening and teaches kids how to grow food.  I feel like that’s a lost art in many kids’ (and adults’) lives.  And the best part? The food, of course!


The 400 is a Thing of Beauty. No, Really!

A few weeks ago, Jus’ Running started offering track workouts on Tuesday mornings in addition to their normal Tuesday evenings.  With the weather being so hot lately and my husband having to work tonight, going to track this morning was great.  There were about 15 of us and there were a lot of new faces, which is always great to see.  Not everyone can or likes running in the evenings, so this is a good option for morning people (like me!).

The key to interval workouts is consistency.  You are learning to pace yourself and keep control at high speeds. Anyone can blast out a few fast reps, but if you cannot maintain your pace through the end, you are missing the point.  The first third should feel relatively easy (while still running hard, paradoxically) and the last set should feel about at your limit, but not to the point that you couldn’t do one more if you had to.  A 200 meter recovery is long enough to catch your breath and slow your heart rate some, but it’s not so long that you feel completely fresh or totally stiff.  The challenge is holding back when you feel good and pushing when you don’t– clearly the opposite of what your brain is telling you to do.

The workout today was simple, if not easy (are any of them easy?).  All intervals of 400 meters, or one lap around the track, broken up into three sets.  In between each lap, there was a half lap or 200 meter jog recovery.  In between each set, we got treated to an entire recovery lap (such a luxury!).  The first set was four 400s, the second was five, and the last was four.

The beautiful thing about 400s is the symmetry: curve, straight, curve, straight. You start where you finish.  There’s no annoying left over half lap like a 600.  It’s not an all-out sprint like a 200. There’s much less mental focus required than in an 800, where you have to pass your finishing spot when you’re only half done.  With 400s, there’s very little math involved, which is helpful when you’re too tired to think!

In a 400, you have time to settle into your pace once you go around the first curve and then can pick up speed as you straighten out.  At the halfway point, you start to curve again and get a glimpse of where you stop.  Being able to see the finish line is a such powerful mental cue where you can tell your mind that you are almost done, so you might as well go a little harder.

My splits today were:  1:24, 1:26,1:24,1:23, 1:26, 1:25, 1:29, 1:24, 1:23, 1:25, 1:26, 1:22, 1:24.  Not perfectly consistent, but not terrible and I really tried to hammer the second to last one.  A lot of my speed workouts for my last training plan called for me to go as hard as I could at the second-to-last interval.  I’m not completely sure of the reasoning behind it, but I went with it.

The 1:22 is symbolic for me because it translates to 5:30 min/mile.  My mile PR is 5:35 and that was on a downhill course.  I would love to see what I could do on a track and that would mean four 400s plus nine more meters at that pace.  From this workout, it looks like I have a shot at it, but it will take everything I’ve got.  Conveniently, there is a mile track race coming up this Saturday.  I have been planning to run it for a while, but another commitment has come up, so I’ll probably have to make a last-minute decision on that one.

This would be a great workout to run again later in the summer to see how I progress.  Unlike running a 400, I hope I finish beyond where I started.


The Gift of the Early Morning Run

Even though the official start of summer is still a week away, it definitely feels like summer in the south.  Not that I’m complaining.  I love warm, even hot, weather and summer is the time of year I crave the rest of the year.  Even though the temperatures in the fall are better for running, I’m already mourning summer’s passing by the time it cools off.

But running in the heat admittedly sucks sometimes.  The heat slows you down and makes even an easy run harder than it should be.  Your body does adapt to the heat and actually becomes fitter if done right, but even I don’t want to run at the hottest part of the day all the time.

So when I couldn’t fit in my normal Sunday long run until the temperature was well over 80 degrees yesterday, I chose to hit the pool instead and got some easy laps in.  Not the same as a long run, but certainly the right choice.  To make up for the missed run, I decided to get up early today and run long before work.

This might just be my new routine.

Besides the much more pleasant temperatures, there is something special about running before most of the world wakes up.  Catching the sunrise is a good one.  I love running downtown without the traffic and crowds, watching the shops open and seeing a few early-rising tourists wandering around searching for breakfast.  People driving to the office sip coffee from travel mugs at red lights or apply lipstick in the rear view mirror.  The usual regulars hang out at the Hot Spot on Hilliard: the lady who wears pajamas at all hours of the day takes a swig from her Pepsi bottle and talks to a Mountain Dew drinker dragging his luggage from the bus station.  This morning a fine mist settled over Town Mountain and the layers of blue hills were back lit in shades of gold, lemon, and cream.

Another beautiful part about running early is that you’re done before breakfast.  I don’t have to worry about fitting my run in later or timing my lunch so I’m fueled but not too full for an afternoon run.  I don’t have to stress about not being able to sleep from an evening run.

Yes, getting up early when I’d rather be sleeping takes a little getting used to. But after a few runs like these, I’m reminded why I like it.  In the depths of winter, there’s pretty much zero chance that I’ll bound out of bed before 6 and happily go for a run in the dark and cold.  But while the days are long and warm, those early morning hours are like a secret little gift given only to those who choose to be awake for them.

Do you like early morning runs?  Tell me why or why not in the comments!





Pillowy Chocolate Pancakes

Weekends almost always start with pancakes in my house. Preferably chocolate pancakes.

Pancakes not only make a fun breakfast, they freeze well and make good trail food.  I like a nice thick smear of almond butter between two chocolate pancakes for a slightly sweet and filling snack on the run.

If you’ve never heard of aquafaba before, it’s bean water.  Yup.  Sounds weird, but it’s truly amazing and substitutes for egg in many vegan recipes.  No, you can’t taste it and it really makes a difference in the structure of baked goods.  In this recipe, I used homemade black bean aquafaba.  When I make a batch of beans in the pressure cooker, I strain off the cooking liquid and pour it into big ice cube trays.  Each cube contains 6 tablespoons of aquafaba which is the equivalent of two eggs.  I use black bean in chocolate recipes and white or chickpeas in everything else.  If you don’t make your own, you can simply use the liquid in a can of beans, provided that it’s not salted.  It’s some serious vegan magic.

Serves 8

Pillowy Chocolate Pancakes

Vegan chocolate pancakes made with whole wheat flour and aquafaba. Thick, rich, and healthy!

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  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 of a mashed ripe banana
  • 2 tbl neutral oil like canola or coconut (can sub more banana for oil-free)
  • 2 tbl vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups almond or soy milk
  • 6 tbl black or white aquafaba (the liquid from a can of black beans or chickpeas, or homemade. Optional, but recommended!)


  1. Heat your griddle.
  2. Mix dry ingredients well.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients.
  4. Stir wet into dry and mix only until no dry flour remains.
  5. Make pancakes!
  6. Serve with syrup or powdered sugar.
Cuisine: Breakfast | Recipe Type: Pancakes


Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie's Brownie Batter Pancakes