It happens at the end of every marathon. People who seem so strong and confident are humbled by their hubris and end up on the side of the road.
What started out as a journey with the best intentions, crumbles with everyone watching.
This past training cycle in the build up to my breakthrough race in Phoenix, I was figuratively and quite literally, on the side of the road at mile 19.
I didn’t want to post about the struggles I was having with my motivation and some of my workouts going into this, not because I didn’t want to be honest, but because I didn’t want sympathy.
I was in a place where I didn’t want to be cheered up. I just wanted to get it over with.
Everyone at some point has low days where you just don’t want to do the training. You either forgive yourself and rest or you ignore your grumpy mood and just get on with it.
More often than not, I chose the second.
But with the cold, dark days of winter dampening my spirits more and more often, I was starting to wonder why I signed up for this at all.
I wasn’t having fun.
So I cut workouts and just ran easy. I ran less than usual. I took extra breaks during the workouts I did do. I missed a lot of splits and didn’t really care. I was less strict with my diet and was 3-5 pounds heavier than what I’ve always considered to be my “race weight.”
And on my very last long run that was supposed to be 22 miles, I just stopped at 19. I was done. That would have to be good enough.
It was not all doom and gloom. I did have some bright spots, like when my mom dropped me off at top of a mountain on a snowy day and I flew down the closed road for 22 miles. Or the tough 2 x 6 miles at faster than marathon pace workout that I had to do on the treadmill which went better than I could have guessed.
So when those few confidence-building moments came, I tried to hold on to that spark for as long as I could. My goal was very reasonable; I only wanted to run 30 seconds faster than I ever had in my life.
As the race got closer, I imagined how I could rise above what was trying to bring me down. A cold winter and a less-than-ideal cycle didn’t have to stop me from achieving my big dream.
The symbol of the phoenix rising above the ashes became my visual mantra those last few weeks and during the race itself. It didn’t matter how I was feeling or what my mood was. I would rise above.
The reason I want to share this side of my ultimately happy story is because sometimes your training logs don’t tell the whole story. No one wants to bring people down with pitiful Strava posts. We want to be sunny and encouraging to each other.
But life and training is messy. Cold and clouds affect even the happiest person.
Sometimes running sucks.
The other lesson that I’m embracing is that perfection is overrated. I didn’t need to run more miles, do more workouts, or lose more weight. In fact, maybe not doing those things was a part of my success.
Ultimately, just showing up every day was what mattered most.
When we share in each other’s triumphs, in running and in life, it’s easy to think that it’s all sunny and summery.
But it probably isn’t.
We’ve all found ourselves at the side of some road at some point.
The trick is knowing that eventually, you can get back on that road and keep running.
And it probably wasn’t because of my fitness. Sure, I’ve have more miles in my legs now, so my physical fitness has improved, but this dream happened because of a careful mix of drive tempered by patience.
For me the drive is the easy part. I had no idea how much I needed to learn about patience.
I chose the Mesa Phoenix Marathon partly because my dad lives in Phoenix and partly because of the course. It’s a point-to-point with a mostly gentle descent with a history of fast times and good weather.
If I was going to break three, this was as good of a course as any.
Before I left home, I prepared my race nutrition.
I used a version of my recipe for DIY UCAN, but instead of cornstarch, I replaced it with tapioca starch. The tapioca is a little less chalky than cornstarch so the final product is smoother. I used 60g of starch and added about 20g of corn syrup for a little extra glucose. The corn syrup does make it harder to mix later, but it’s so calorie dense, that I think it’s worth it.
Next I marked everything I would eat with the time I was supposed to eat it. When I woke up, I had toast (pre-toasted since I didn’t know if I’d have access to a toaster at the hotel!) with almond butter and a banana with a small cup of coffee. At 4am, I drank 40g of starch with beet powder and 1/2tsp of beta alanine.
I had brought my usual fig bar to eat 45 minutes before the start, but I felt too full so I went without.
Even though in my last two marathons I went without taking the second bottle of fuel I prepared, I was still nervous about only carrying about 300 calories on the course. Since I’m small I don’t really need more than that, but you just never know, so I mixed up a sticky gel of starch and corn syrup flavored with True Lemon powder. Basically a concentrated version of the liquid.
I know that I should never try anything new on race day, but I figured it was better to have an emergency stash of calories, just in case.
At 36 degrees, this was the coldest marathon I’ve raced, so I was concerned about being warm without being too warm. I settled on a singlet with arm sleeves that I could toss and a buff that I could use on my head if it felt too cold.
I would end up tossing both the buff and the sleeves after Mile 16.
Inside my gloves, I used Hot Hands which was a huge help. The fingers on my right hand still ended up freezing, but that was due to something that I never could have predicted.
More on that later…
Unexpected Chaos Getting to the Start
I had scheduled an Uber to pick me up at the hotel at 3:45 am to get to the buses that bring all the runners to the start of the course. The last bus was scheduled to leave at 4:45 am for the 6am start, so I wanted to have plenty of time.
As I waited in the lobby, I chatted with a couple of runners whose father Larry was driving them to the start. After a few minutes, Larry offered me a ride, and I ended up taking him up on it after my Uber driver failed to show up.
We left the hotel at 4:10 and due to road construction, race detours, and race traffic, we got to the parking lot with only a few minutes to spare and had to power walk across the shopping mall lot to get on the right bus.
Definitely a lot more stress than I like to have at the start of a race, but thankfully, I had met a new friend to chat with to ease the nerves.
At 5:15 am on the ride up I took my 40mg caffeine mint and 500mg Tylenol.
Miles 1-6: 6:37, 6:43, 6:48, 6:41, 7:04, 7:08
With a 6am start time, we ran in dark for the better part of an hour. It almost seems a shame to miss the prettiest part of the course to the dark, so I’m thankful I got to see the suaros in the desert on my pre-race drive the day before.
The first two miles of the course have the biggest elevation drop of the course, but at just 126 feet each mile, it’s still not what anyone would call steep. It’s smart to use the descent to your advantage for speed, but it’s essential not to just fly down the road wasting energy this early. The effort felt very in control here and adjusting for the hill, I was probably even a bit conservative here.
At Mile 3, I reached into my shorts pocket for my fuel bottle and gave it a good shake. It was unusually hard to suck through the valve, but it eventually started flowing.
But unfortunately, it didn’t stop.
After I put it back in my pocket, I felt my leg get wet.
Somehow the valve on my bottle broke or got stuck open and my precious calories were splashing out with each step down my leg!
I tried not to panic and carried my bottle in my hand to control the leaking.
This fuel was supposed to last the entire course and I would either have to carry the bottle the whole time to keep it from splashing out or drink it all much earlier than planned.
Mile 4-6 is the steepest uphill of the course. Again, nothing is truly steep on this course, but you definitely know that you are going uphill here. The wind was hitting us head on at that point, so I tried to draft behind the guy ahead of me, but seeing the 7:04 spooked me a bit, so I ended up passing him, still carrying my bottle in my hand.
I felt good as I crested the hill and prepared to use the backside of the hill to my advantage again.
Miles 7 to 13.1: 6:30, 6:43, 6:40, 6:42, 6:55, 6:45, 6:51, Half Marathon Spilt: 1:28:46 (6:47/mile pace)
By Mile 8 I had decided to just finish my bottle and put it back in my pocket. But as my cold, wet fingers fumbled with the bottle, it dropped to the ground right at the aid station. No point in going after it!
Miles 7 to 10 are the last of the significant downhill and as you can tell by the slow 6:55 split, Mile 11 was flat. I was not too concerned since I had time to spare at this point, but seeing that one flash on my watch reminded me to keep up the effort.
All during the first half, my legs felt great, my breathing was even and under control, and negative thoughts were few and temporary.
With the layout of the course I had planned a positive split (the first half faster than the second) so I was right where I wanted to be at this point.
Miles 14-20 6:46, 6:54, 6:49, 6:52, 6:57, 6:59
This is where the race flattens out, both in elevation and mentally. I knew I had some time to give here, so I wasn’t overly concerned about losing speed here, but this is a fine line to balance.
And it takes patience.
I like to say that a marathon is a 20 mile warm up for a 10k race, so I knew I didn’t want to push up the effort level too high before mile 20. But I also didn’t want to see any mile come in above 7 minutes either.
At this point the full runners were mixing with the slowest of the half marathon runners on the same course who had also started at 6am and had a 13.1 mile advantage. A group of about 5 men began to pass me and I heard them all strategizing about staying on a 3 hour pace.
The leader asked me, “Oh, are you running the half?” I thought it should be pretty obvious by my pace that I was not one of the slowest half marathoners, but I just smiled and said no.
I could tell by their labored breathing that they were not going to last, so I let them pass me and they all eventually came back to me.
At around Mile 18, I opened my untested gel. Its gluey consistency was an instant fail so that got tossed at an aid station.
I’d managed to gulp a sip or two of Gatorade at the aid stations and a couple of sips of water at each one.
Miles 21 to 26.2: 6:59, 7:06, 6:57, 6:46, 6:31, 6:34 (.2)
Clearly Miles 18-22 were my weakest. Physically, I still felt pretty good at this point and kept being a little bit surprised each time the mile splits would come back slow. That 7:06 was definitely a big warning sign of potential trouble.
But I was putting in the exact same effort at that point!
And that was exactly the problem.
I was working very hard to not overdo it too soon before Mile 20, which was the right plan, but I think I was too cautious on Miles 21-23, afraid to exponentially increase my effort just to stay even.
Whenever I felt like it was getting tough, I remembered to smile and think of images of other people happy and smiling.
I kept telling myself, “today is your day,” and “rise above,” meaning rise above the discomfort like a phoenix.
Again, I knew that I had a little time to spare, so I didn’t get too worked up about getting off pace here, but when I had only 5k to go, it was on.
The last 3.1 miles was where I just let go of the past 23 miles and treated it as if I was running a stand alone 5k. Controlled, easy breathing went out the window and it was pure, fiery intensity.
There was no time for water stops and no time for the half marathon walkers to get in my way. I even jumped up on the sidewalk at one point to have a clear path to the finish.
The last quarter mile was just a touch below hyperventilation and I was pumping my arms as hard as I could to the finish.
My dad and his wife were waiting just beyond the line calling out my name and congratulating me as I finished the course in 2:58:40.
The second half came in at 1:29:55 (6:52/mile pace), the last 10K was 42:22 (6:50 pace), and the last 5k was 20:48 (6:42 average pace).
So while I planned to be slower the second half, I am so proud and happy that I was able to push it so hard the last 5k.
Phoenix is a competitive course for non-elites with lots of prize money, so I was only the 7th woman and 3rd woman over 40 to cross the line. Lots of speedy women out there!
The next day as I write this, I’m surprisingly the least sore I have ever been following a marathon. I suspect it is mainly due to the extra cushioning of the Nike Vaporfly 4% I wore instead of my usual racing flats.
Or maybe it means that I could have run faster… 😉
As promised, I’m taking a break from the marathon for now. I’m not completely ruling out doing another one late this year, but nothing is going on the calendar for a while. This was a tough training cycle for me mentally and I need to just savor this one for as long as I can.
Not having any races scheduled is not something that I’m not really comfortable with, because I like having goals.
But this time, at least for a little while, I’ll be patient.
Order a salad in any restaurant and your enterprising, upselling server will inevitably ask you, “and what kind of protein would you like on that?”
The rude answer that I tend to say in my head is, “Every plant food has protein! Stop believing it doesn’t!”
While I’ve politely learned not to blurt out smarty-pants things to unsuspecting strangers, learning about the protein content of plant foods is important to everyone who is trying to add more nutrition to their plates.
Protein, along with fat and carbohydrate, is an essential macro-nutrient, not a food.
Sure, some foods contain a higher percentage of one macro over another, but we can’t simply dissect the whole into its parts.
But we sure are fixated on trying, aren’t we? If you wanted to, you could live like George Jetson, and pop pills and powders and shakes to get your scientifically-approved, nutritionally optimal intake.
So with the exception of the Jetsons, we don’t eat nutrients. We eat food.
How Much Protein Do I Really Need?
This is the age-old question, for not just athletes and herbivores, but for anyone.
You could eat a day’s worth of calories from just white potatoes all day and get that much. I’m not suggesting you actually do that, but it’s very easy to reach that goal from whole plant foods, provided that you are eating enough calories in general.
But is that really enough?
A recent meta-study referenced in the New York Times took a look at 49 high-quality past studies involving protein and muscle building in athletes and in non-athletes.
They found that everyone who strength trained gained muscle, no matter how much protein they ate.
Let me say that again: if you lift weights, you will gain muscle, with or without specifically paying attention to protein.
To me, this is the most important take away, because it means that you don’t need to stress about guzzling protein shakes right after your workouts.
But there’s a difference between minimum requirements for protein and optimum.
Because we’re not just looking for the bare minimum. We want to know what’s optimum for both health and athletic goals.
The authors of the study did find that those how increased their protein intakes did gain about 25% more muscle than those who only met the minimum. That’s certainly significant enough to pay attention to.
As runners we don’t want huge muscle gains, but we do want to be strong and lean to run fast and stay injury free. This particular study indicates that 1.6 grams a day per kilo is ideal, but going higher than that has no muscular benefit.
That’s important for the protein-shake people. Extra protein is simply extra calories your body doesn’t need.
So if you’re doing the math, there’s a huge difference between the RDA of 0.8g/kg and the upper limit of 1.6g/kg.
Hey, that’s double the RDA!
So our 150-pound runner is not going to get that kind of protein from the all-potato diet without significantly overeating (if it’s even possible to eat 25 potatoes a day!).
But by eating a variety of whole plant foods including nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains, it’s not as hard as people think to reach the higher protein goals.
The good thing is that our protein intake can be spread out throughout the day since the researchers found no correlation between when you ate your protein or even what type of protein and how much muscle you gained.
But I’m a runner! I don’t want to gain that much muscle.
Most runners want to gain nothing but speed. Weight gain, even the good muscular kind, feels a little scary since we equate it with being slow (which is not entirely true).
In general, yes, most runners could use to gain some muscle and lose some fat, but there is a point where too much muscle would be a problem.
After all, The Rock has never won a marathon.
The thing to remember is protein intake is not the main driver of muscle building. It’s lifting heavy things.
So if you spend more of your time running than lifting, you’ll end up with the body you need to run.
And with a few conscious choices about what you put on your plate, you can get all the protein you need to optimally (and deliciously) fuel your muscles.
Before you ask, no, I’m not going to Boston this year.
But we have so many athletes we coach at Runners Connect training for it that I thought it would be helpful to share some tips and advice and bust a few training and racing myths that come up.
Myth #1: The best training for Boston is hill repeats.
Hill repeats are awesome for any marathon, no matter what the course. You run up a fairly steep hill at a hard effort for 30-75 seconds and then walk or jog down as your rest and then repeat. The number of sets you do depends on your experience and ability.
Hard, short hill repeats build leg strength, develop neuromuscular connections, and get your heart pounding hard.
Because you are fighting gravity, you cannot run as fast as you would on flat. That means you can work harder at a slower speed which lessens the chance of injury.
But sprinting up a hill over and over again is not specific enough to what you will face on your way to Boston. Hill repeats are great to sprinkle into the beginning of your training cycle (January and February) about once or twice a month, but as you get into the thick of training, you’ll want to get more focused.
Myth #2: Heartbreak Hill is a beast so training on uphills is essential.
Despite its reputation, Heartbreak is not a steep hill. It’s only about a half mile long and a 4.5% gradient. It also is not a continuous incline so you have small breaks of more flat road as you ascend.
So spending a ton of time training on uphills would not be the best use of your training. All hill work will make you stronger, but Heartbreak Hill is takes up less than 2% of the Boston Marathon, so while you shouldn’t ignore uphill training, it shouldn’t be your primary focus.
The first reason why it’s so hard is because it’s at mile 20 which is a rough point in any marathon (and that’s after you’ve been working the rest of the Newton hills for 3 miles).
But the real reason is all the downhill that comes before it. Running downhill is fun and freeing and it’s easy to get carried away because of how effortless it can feel.
But you pay a big price in your quads for all that descent. Running fast downhill creates 54% more impact force on your legs than running on flat and 75% more breaking force. And you likely won’t feel a thing until you have to change gears and go uphill.
Myth #3: Since most of the race is downhill, you need to train mostly on downhill.
Please don’t do that! Yes, you absolutely need to train on downhills. But again, because of those high impact forces, you have to be judicious about it and the risk of injury is higher.
Treat downhill running like any hard workout. You wouldn’t spend all of your training cycle running only marathon pace, would you? (please say no!) You also shouldn’t spend every run, or even most of your runs, going downhill.
Slowly increase your volume and intensity on the downs over time.
I recommend in January to start incorporating rolling hills into your easy runs every week. If you are not used to running hills at all, try once a week. If you run them regularly, you can do most, if not all of your easy runs on gentle hills, being careful to keep the effort easy.
Be sure that your shoes are cushioned enough to take the extra pounding that downhills require.
Take your headphones off and listen to your footfalls on downhills. Do you sound like a ninja or Godzilla? Quiet, light steps are less pounding which will make a big difference in the race.
In February, start adding some downhills to any of your marathon-pace workouts, but avoid any speed on downhills that is faster than about 5-10 seconds marathon pace. You don’t want to spend mile after mile going downhill fast–a little goes a long way.
In March you will have some of your longest runs. On the easy-pace long runs you ideally want to approximate the course as best you can by running a mostly downhill route with flat or a slight hill at the end.
I don’t recommend that you run every single long run on a downhill course because the injury risk is too high and the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that can result can increase recovery time, which can interrupt your training.
Myth #4: Once you get over Heartbreak, it’s all downhill from there.
This is mostly true in terms of elevation loss, but I find the last 10k of the race to be the most difficult. Let’s face it, the last 10k of any marathon should be hard, but this will feel like nothing else.
If you went too fast in the first half, your quads will feel like they have been shredded like hamburger meat at this point. After they’ve been given a 3-mile uphill break, they will have a very tough time getting back into action.
There are also a couple of sneaky little uphills to contend with as you come into Boston, so don’t forget to save a little mental energy for powering through those to the end.
Myth #5: Once you take the right on Hereford, and a left on Boylston, you’re done!
You know those well-meaning but cruel spectators that cheerfully yell, “you’re almost there!” at mile 19? That’s pretty much the feeling you’ll get when you take the right at Hereford and see that it’s two blocks all uphill. No, it’s not long or steep, but it’s right at the very end, so it will feel very hard.
Once you crest the top, you turn on Bolyston and it is absolutely amazing! The crowds are going nuts and you can finally see the finish line.
But what no one tells you is that thefinish line feels like a watery mirage in the desert. It looks like it’s just steps away but it’s nearly a quarter mile, so plan your sprint to the finish well!
Myth #6: Boston is overrated.
I’ve run the Boston Marathon twice and both races were some of the most memorable experiences of my life. Yes, Boston is crowded, expensive, and a logistical challenge, but I promise you, it lives up to the hype! So train smart and have fun!
When I first saw this recipe from the Olives for Dinner blog for salt-roasted carrot lox that supposedly tasted exactly like smoked salmon, I printed it out, put it in my recipe binder, and ignored it for years.
I meant to make it a million times, but what stopped me was the salt.
Using two cups of salt to cocoon just three lonely carrots in a cozy salt blanket while they softened and seasoned perfectly in the oven sounded super cool.
And a big mess.
And then you still have to wait two days to eat it!
But seeing the recipe in my binder again, I got a craving for bagels slathered with cream cheese, salty salmon, dotted with sour capers. It gave me the urge to try it again.
So I followed the recipe as written and it was divine! Everything a bagel is meant to be.
My omni husband tried it and declared it was as good as the real thing (that’s saying a lot!).
Then he said, “you must make this again! Make it for Christmas!”
But I knew when I dumped a giant brown cake of salt in the trash that I didn’t want to do that again.
So I started looking into other methods and it turns out that salt roasting was all the rage in the culinary world a few years ago. Which naturally got people wondering if it was worth the trouble, mess, and expense.
I buy a lot of bananas. I can’t help it. When the lonely onlies are bagged up and on sale, I stock up.
Last week I got 42 bananas for $4!!!
I freeze them, dehydrate them, and bake with them.
There’s always a banana bread recipe on the back of the bag giving you ideas of what to do with all those bargain bananas. And those recipes usually include a stick of butter, a bunch of eggs, and cups of sugar.
Not exactly what you want to be putting in your body every day.
Don’t get me wrong, I love banana bread, most of the recipes you’ll find are more like cake than bread.
Not that there’s anything wrong with cake, mind you, but I really don’t want to eat cake everyday for breakfast.
(I mean, I do want to eat cake for breakfast every day, but I really don’t!)
So I set out to make a version of banana bread without eggs or dairy, of course, but also without any sugar or oil.
Sounds dreadful, right?
I promise you, it’s far from it!
My version ends up with a crackly, crumbly crust and a soft interior busting with luscious blueberries.
If you think about it, regular whole wheat bread is typically sugar-free (or close to it) and is easily made without oil, eggs, or dairy.
I want a healthy banana bread that tastes more like bread than cake, but is still slightly sweet, and a good vehicle for a healthy smear of nut butter for protein and good fat.
And it can be made using just one bowl for easy clean up!
The trick to the one bowl method is to add the baking soda, powder, cinnamon and salt while you are mashing up the bananas. They get evenly distributed throughout the wet ingredients and the flour gets added last.
And if you are already going to the trouble of making fresh banana bread (and it’s really not much trouble), you might as well make two loaves and freeze one. Once they are completely cool, simply slice, put the loaf in a bread bag and freeze.
You can either remove a couple of slices at a time each day to toast up or plow through an entire loaf in a couple of days like my family does!
But I know what some of you are thinking. Banana bread with no sugar? You can’t be serious.
The browner your bananas are, the sweeter your bread will be naturally, but I did add an unexpected ingredient to make sure that the bread still had a hint of the classic sweet flavor:
Since it’s fall, we happen to have a gallon of cider in the fridge, but feel free to sub apple juice or applesauce instead.
With only 125 calories for a 2-slice serving, you could eat 4 slices and still have room in your breakfast budget for a banana and a good spread of almond butter on each one!
And if you really, really, want a traditional, sweet and cakey banana bread, go ahead and sub the juice for sugar or maple syrup. (I won’t tell anyone!)
But not for the reason most runners buy treadmills.
It’s not a very good one. It’s not new and it’s out of warranty.
It’s so basic that it won’t even convert miles per hour to minutes per mile.
And the fastest it will go is ten miles an hour, which, after being forced to use my brain instead of having the machine do it for me, is a 6 minute mile pace (that’s 3:43/km for my metric friends).
That means I won’t be able to use it to run hard intervals, strides, or faster speedwork.
But that’s okay with me since I live five minutes from the gym and if the weather’s so bad that I need to run that kind of pace indoors, I can just use the fancy machines at the gym.
So why on earth did I buy a gently-used, low-budget treadmill when I live five minutes from the gym?
More specifically to walk while I work.
Walking is one of the most-underrated cross training activities there is and most of us don’t do enough of it.
Walking, especially at the slow pace that you need to walk to be able to type at the same time, is the perfect aerobic activity that burns fat calories, increases blood flow to muscles to assist recovery, and builds endurance.
Add some incline and you help build strength while you answer emails, check out Facebook, or watch cat videos.
But most importantly, walking prevents you from sitting.
“These results suggest that recreational distance runners are simultaneously highly sedentary and highly active,” the authors concluded.
So even if you train for an hour or two of exercise each day, you are still not undoing the damage of sitting down the rest of your day.
I am fortunate to work mainly from home and while I consciously alternate between sitting, standing, and balancing on a wobble board, I still feel like I’ve been sitting way too much.
And that’s where the treadmill comes in.
With the help of a piece of plywood and some straps, I now have a not-so-fancy treadmill desk. A box of tea props up my laptop to a comfortable height.
When I do decide to run on it, I can simply take the board off.
And I may decide to make it look a little prettier and use hooks on the side and bungee cords underneath like this woman did, but I probably won’t bother, since this works just fine for me.
So far, I’m just starting with 30 minutes a day, but I will likely add more. I feel better after a walk than I do when I sit and work and I know the walking not only helps my overall health, but my training as well.
When cooler weather sets in, I want comfort food. Steamy bowls of something hearty and filling where you wipe the bowl clean with a hunk of toasty bread.
And preferably it’s easy to make and easy to clean up.
That’s where this white bean chili comes in.
Inspired by a traditional White Chicken Chili recipe I found on a can of Bush’s Beans, my version skips the chicken of course, and relies on a little help from my Australian friends.
I found these non-chicken, “chicken style” bouillon cubes in the soup aisle of the grocery store when I was looking for veggie stock. Normally, I’m not the type to buy things that are trying to be something they are not, but I was too curious to pass it up.
And the ingredients are pretty normal so I gave it a go:
But if you don’t have any Massel’s 7’s in your cupboard, substituting veggie stock or broth works just fine!
My version of this chili turns out to be very mild, so for our family, hot sauce is a must! So feel free to adjust the spiciness to your tastes.
This chili is also high in iron, calcium, and potassium, which runners need to perform at their best. (But if you are watching your sodium intake, you will want to cut back on the salt added.)
Another cool thing about this recipe is the complementary proteins with the white beans and corn (over 21 grams of plant protein per serving!).
In case you don’t know what I mean, all whole plant foods have some amount of protein, but the amino acid profile is different. Grains and beans complement each other just like nuts and seeds.
You don’t have to get complementary proteins together in every single meal (your body is smart enough to grab what it needs whenever it comes in!), but it’s always nice to cover your bases!
When you are dating someone seriously, the question people always ask is, “So, when you are getting married?”
Once you get married, they ask, “So, when are you having kids?”
Once you have a kid, they ask, “So, when are you having another one?”
And when you finish a race, naturally the first question is, “so, what’s your next race?”
I had purposely not had any plans for after my October 1 marathon. I wanted to focus on the race and depending on how it went, make a decision after that.
I had joked that if I got my sub-three time I was shooting for, then I could die happy and never have to race another marathon again.
But I didn’t quite get there…
Like I mentioned in my race recap, I’m thrilled with my 6.5 minute personal record, but it really is just a little bittersweet to be just thirty seconds away from cracking the big three.
It feels like unfinished business.
So I have chosen to build on my fitness and race sooner rather than later and I picked the Mesa Phoenix Marathon on February 24!
Here’s why I chose this one:
February is far enough away that I can recover from Milwaukee and have time for another good buildup.
My dad and his wife live in the Phoenix area so it’s a good excuse to go out for a visit
It’s competitive enough that I will have a good challenge and shouldn’t be on my own too much
It’s point-to-point, which I love, starting at a similar altitude (2082′) to my hometown, and dropping to about 1200′. It’s a net descent, but not ridiculously so and most of the loss is in the first quarter of the race, with a mostly flat second half so it shouldn’t be too pounding on the quads (I hope!).
Here’s a very quick video of the course:
But I do have to admit that I had a few hesitations signing up for this one.
I had this nagging voice inside my head telling me that running a downhill race for a PR is cheating.
It’s not, of course, since downhill courses are not automatically easier for everyone. While gravity makes running easier on your lungs, downhills beat up your quads, especially if the descent is early in the race like this one, which makes the finish tougher than an entirely flat course.
And this course is not simply falling off a mountain like many of the big downhill courses like my first BQ in Utah at Big Cottonwood which dropped 4000′ from start to finish (the new course drops 6000′!)
Mesa Phoenix only drops less than 900′ over 26.2 miles.
But it’s enough of a drop that this course, while a Boston qualifier, could not be used to qualify for the Olympic Trials. No course with a drop of more than 3.25m/km (about 447 ft) counts.
I did consider racing the Rock N Roll Arizona race in January in Phoenix instead, however, just so I wouldn’t have to wrestle with the “fairness” of a downhill course in my mind. That course is nice and flat and is an OTQ course, so I could have gone with that one.
But January just felt too close to be able to fit in the training.
Ultimately, I decided that this is really a non-issue.
While I like to think my talents are limitless, I’m not foolishly optimistic to think that I can chop 15 minutes off my marathon time in four months and qualify for the trials. I like to set big goals, but that’s just a little too big for even me!
26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles and it will be challenging no matter what the course.
But unlike Milwaukee, I will promise that I won’t sign up for another marathon right after this one. Perhaps something for the fall of 2018, but no spring marathons.
It will be time to switch gears and try something new.
Now that my goal race is over, I’m getting serious again.
About doing nothing.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m getting serious about eating. A lot. And often.
And after not having a single alcoholic drink for the entire month of September, I’m drinking a glass of wine every night with dinner and if I’m feeling overly ambitious, I might even have two! (Shocking, right?)
Ten days after the marathon, I gained over 5 pounds, which is almost 5% of my bodyweight.
And I’m happy about this!
You see, I was very careful about what I consumed during training and while carb-loading before the marathon. I made sure that I ate enough to fuel my training, but not enough to gain weight like I tend to do while marathon training.
So while I recover, I’m making indulging mandatory.
Thankfully, there’s never been a better time in history for vegan junk food!
In the past, I’ve indulged some during the recovery period, but I don’t think I’ve taken it this far before.
So this time, I’m taking the idea of polarized training to its fullest by eating and recovering as much as possible!
I took the first seven days after the race off from running completely. I floated a bit in the pool, and walked some, but no running or cross training.
Week two is just a few short jogs and maybe a swim.
And lots of eating.
Is gaining weight and barely running for two weeks going to make training harder when I start up again? Sure, but that’s the way it should be! It’s impossible to peak year-round so it’s best to embrace the seasons of training as they come by going all in.
Yes, I’m still eating a few healthy things here and there, but my normal off-limits foods are all on the table.
To be honest, I’m starting to get sick of eating family-sized bags of salty potato chips and drinking gallons of wine straight from the box.
But I’m committed and I’ll keep up the indulging for the full two weeks. And maybe a little longer.
Because this too is training!
It will take persistence and dedication, but I know I’ve got it in me somewhere.