Sunday, August 21, 2016

Surprise Race Announcement!

Well, after weeks of hemming and hawing, and several conversations with family members and running buddies.  I finally made a decision about the weekend of October 8th/9th.  

Instead of running the Army 10 miler on Sunday as planned, or running with Fleet Feet for a 20 mile long run on Saturday, I will be heading to Hartford to join the Running for Rare Disease Team for another 26.2!  

That's right - I just registered to run a full marathon a month before I tackle the NYC Marathon.  

And to be quite honest, I still have some doubts and concerns about my decision.  I've just started building back my base of marathon training.  My head has been telling me to be conservative and run the half marathon distance in Hartford.  I'd still be participating with the team, but not risking over doing it a month before the big race in NY.  But my heart is telling me if I'm going to make the trip, I might as well run the full, and just treat it as a training run.  That way, I can cross off another state on my quest to complete a full marathon in all 50 states (and DC).

My decision can be summed up in this quote:

I'm not sure why I feel so strongly about running two back to back marathons.  Maybe I've been watching too many inspirational Olympic stories over the past few weeks, I mean how can you not be inspired by those athletes?  Well, whatever has pushed me to this decision, one thing is for sure, I will definitely be joining the RFRD Team in Hartford, and I will be aiming high!  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Yasso 800s, Pokemon Go, and The Silencer

Time is flying this summer - there's so much to catch you up on from the last 3 weeks including my introduction to a few new things: Yasso's 800's, Pokémon GO, and The Silencer!
First, I'm happy to report that my marathon training is going really well.  The decision to join the Fleet Feet Marathon training program has been a game-changer for me - both physically and mentally.

Each week I've learned something new, made new friends, and have been held accountable for getting the training done.  Aside from a few expected aches and pains, I've (knock on wood) remained injury free & have made small improvements each week.  Slowly, but surely, I'm getting stronger & faster.

On our Wednesday night workouts, we've covered hill repeats, Yasso 800's, and most recently a 6 miler at marathon pace.  I've really enjoyed the variety of workouts. 

YASSO 800's

You may be wondering, "What the heck are Yasso 800's?"  I also had that question going into the training.  The term comes from Bart Yasso, a running champion & the chief running officer at Runner's World magazine.  Yasso 800's are a specific speed workout that in theory can predict your marathon finish time.  This involves running 10 800m (1/2 mile) repeats, and the idea is whatever time you run your 800's in, is the predicted time it should take you to complete your marathon.  For example, if your goal is to run a 4:30 marathon, your Yasso 800 pace would be 4 minutes 30 seconds per 800m repeat.  If you can hold onto that pace for 10 repeats, you should be able to run a 4:30 marathon (assuming you follow the rest of your training plan).


We started off with 4 repeats the first week, and worked up to 5 in the second week.  I've never considered myself a fast runner, and I was thinking that I'd hate this workout, but I was wrong.  I actually enjoyed the speed work, and was surprised at the pace I was able to maintain throughout the repeats.  Our plan is to work up to 10 repeats over the course of the program, and I'm hopeful I'll be able to maintain my pace going forward.

Pokémon GO

During our long runs, we talk about all sorts of topics ranging from hydration/nutrition to our work/family lives to politics and world events.  A few weeks ago, the conversation centered around the Pokemon GO sensation.  It started when a few of our fellow runner's were chasing a Pokémon.  Most of us laughed, and shrugged off their silly behavior over a new game app. 

I had no idea what was ahead, but following that brief introduction to Pokémon GO at that group run, it was all I heard about on the radio, TV, and social media.  There hasn't been a place I've been to this summer that I've not observed someone with their face down in their phone, walking like a zombie & playing Pokémon. 

Eventually, I caved and downloaded the app - strictly for research purposes of course.  I wanted to know how the game worked, would playing it get me moving more, what was the hype all about? 

Well, after reaching level 20, and adding 66 different types of Pokémon to my Pokédex, I think I can safely say, I've experienced enough, and I'm ready for retirement.  I learned that catching Pokémon while running is pretty difficult, and can be dangerous if you're not aware of your surroundings.  I've actually been much more successful catching Pokémon while sitting on my couch.  There is a Pokéstop right outside my house.  All I need to do is drop a lure, and the Pokémon come to me.  Don't get me wrong, the game has been a nice distraction to all the recent news - the multiple terror attacks, police shootings, the election.  But I think the rest of the summer, I'll just pick up a book and read for my escape :-)

The Silencer

We've been slowly increasing the mileage on our Saturday long runs- we're now up to 12 miles.  The past two Saturday's we've run along the Rock Creek Trail.  The trail has provided much needed shade and water stops, but the runs have nevertheless been hot, humid, and hilly.  There is a section of the trail that runners have appropriately nicknamed "The Silencer".   Although most of our long runs are full of jovial conversation, both weeks there has been no talking on that hill.  The only noises are the sound of feet shuffling, deep breaths, and hydration packs swishing back and forth.

Hill running is probably my least favorite part of training, but I'm glad that it has been plentiful this go around.  I'm going to need to get in as much practice as I can on hills before covering the distance in New York. 

I purchased some new gear to try out this week, a pair of Feeture's sock & a CamelBak Marathoner Hydration Vest.  The socks are great, and I think have helped with my foot pain.  The hydration pack is going to take some getting used to, but I think it's going to be necessary as we get into even longer runs where there are minimal water stops.  The pack I chose carries up to 2 liters of water, has pockets that you can carry additional hydration bottles, your phone, keys, nutrition, or other necessities.

On Tap This Week:

This week I hope to focus not just on the training, but also on the fundraising for the NYC Marathon.  I have a goal of raising a minimum of $3000 for the National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD).  This is a very personal cause as I've lived my entire life battling a rare metabolic disorder, but it's not just about me.  Rare disease impacts the lives of over 30 million Americans and an estimated 350 million people worldwide.  If you'd like to help me kickstart my fundraising campaign, here's a link to my page for the NYC Marathon:

Sunday, July 10, 2016

9 miles, Noah, and an Update on HCU Network America

On Friday night, I had the opportunity to connect with my patient partner for the NYC Marathon.  Her name is Noah.  She is 19 years old, and was born with an extremely rare disorder called Abetalipoproteinemia, or ABL for short.  She's also been experiencing some other symptoms, and is undergoing testing at NIH in their Undiagnosed Diseases Program.  I'm looking forward to getting to know her over the next few months & will be posting another blog about her soon!

I also received an email from Margie regarding the next steps for setting up the 501C status for HCU Network America.  The attorneys need to know who the initial officers of the board will be, and what the foundation's expected activities & estimated budget will be for the next three years.  And Danae' has created an HCU Pamphlet & Facebook Page for HCU Network America.  So, things are moving along with the new HCU foundation as well!

On Saturday morning, I woke up about 4:30AM, and started getting ready for my weekly long run.  I gave myself about an hour to get ready as I'm a slow mover in the morning.  I had breakfast, got dressed, packed a bag, and pulled up the directions to the location of this week's run at the Matthew Henson Trail.  It was about 30 mins away & my pace group was supposed to start at 6:10AM.  When I arrived, I didn't see Sandy, the pace leader for the 12:30 group.  So, I decided to run with a slightly faster pace group, the 12:00 min milers & it turned out to be a great decision.  I ran most of the 9 miles with Wendy and Paula.  We covered all sorts of topics uncluding the weather, hydration, sneakers, running experiences, and personal goals. 

I also briefly chatted with another runner (not sure of her name yet) who asked me about the Running for Rare Diseases singlet I was wearing.  It turns out she works at NIH in the infectious diseases department & she's familiar with the undiagnosed rare disease program - small world!  

With my recent foot pain & the humidity I was expecting Saturday's run to be brutal, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I felt the run went very smoothly.  When we finished up, there were refreshments waiting for us, including watermelon slices.  I've never been a huge fan of watermelon, but I decided to partake in a slice & it was absolutely delicious.  In fact, liked it so much that I had to stop on my way home at the grocery store to get some more, haha!  I did some further research and it turns out there have been some recent studies about the benefits of eating watermelon post workout.  And an added bonus for HCU athletes like myself, it's low in methionine (which is the amino acid my body can't break down).  I may have found a new post run favorite food!

This upcoming week, I'll be trying something new.  I'm getting a bit out of my comfort zone & will be joining my friend Jackie at Boot Camp class on Tuesday evening.  I'll let you know how that goes!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Weekly Recap - 8 Miles, More Hills, and a Secret Revealed!

This past weekend's long run with Fleet Feet was an 8 miler, and we really lucked out with the weather - low 60's, beautiful blue skies, and low humidity.  It was just a nice morning to be outside running!  We we're commenting that it was hard to believe it's July. 

Unfortunately, we spoke to soon.
Just a few days later, the summer heat & humidity arrived with a vengeance.  On Wednesday, I glanced at the temperature on the thermometer in my car - 95 degrees at 6pm.  Seriously?  

Wednesday's run was another 5 mile hill run, but this time the hill was a bit steeper, and we were supposed to do 4 loops.  We had a brief chat about hydration before the run.  Kevin advised us to take it easy on this first run in the heat.  It's going to take a few weeks for us to get acclimated to the summer temperatures.  My pace group has been discussing hydration packs, and it's become obvious that I need to invest in one soon - especially as the outdoor mileage increases. 
After our chat, we ran a little over a mile and a half to the hill.  At the base of the hill, we had a small support team with a cooler full of water, and another cooler full of ice water and towels to refresh after each loop.  There wasn't a lot of talking on this run.  Most of us were just looking to get it done.  My normal pace leader, Sandy, wasn't there on Wednesday - so I ran with Bridget who runs about a 13:00 mile pace.  Normally, this would be slower than I'd like to run, but on this particular evening with the heat (and my lack of preparation before the run) - I don't think I could have completed the loops any faster.   I hadn't slept well the night before, and was strongly considering skipping the run.  As I finished, I was glad I had pushed through. 
Tonight I had a phone conference with the Running For Rare Disease Team.  We covered a few topics including: race weekend plans, baggage/transportation responses, patient partners, upcoming fundraisers, the Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon, and virtual training runs.
Phil encouraged the NYC Marathon runners to join the RFRD Team in Hartford for the half marathon in October.  I find myself in a dilemma.  First, I've already registered for a very popular, local race that weekend - the Army 10 Miler on Sunday.  Second, according to my Fleet Feet training schedule, I'm supposed to run a 20 miler that Saturday.  Third, if I'm going to Hartford to run a race, I'm going to want to run the full 26.2 to cross off another state (Connecticut) on my list.  Fourth, I don't want to get injured by running too much in one weekend.  Fifth, I'm not sure I can afford another trip this fall.  I'm already going to California for my youngest brother's wedding in September, and NYC in November, and my husband and I are hoping to start a family soon.  Sixth, I really want to join the team for at least one training run before NYC.  Yeah, so I have a lot to think about.
In my last rambling paragraph, I mentioned something about crossing off another state.  I might as well tell you about an absurd personal goal I've been hiding for a while now.  I've been scared to put it in writing, because I'm afraid with so many unknowns, I'm going to fail, but here we go.   I have a crazy goal of running a full marathon (26.2 miles) in all 50 states (and DC).  Using my accountant brain, I did the math, and I've figured that I could possibly accomplish the goal by the time I'm 50, if I run an average of 4 full marathons per year.  So far, I've run 11 full marathons, and I've knocked off  5 states (Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia) and DC.  New York will be my 6th state, and if I do the Hartford full, I'll be up to 7 states.  Here's my vision board below - most of the medals hanging are from other distances I've completed - I still have a long way to go to fill that chalkboard with full marathons!
Tomorrow, I'm having a phone conference with my patient partner, Noah, and I can't wait to get to know her, and to share with you all her story!
Then on Saturday, it's another early morning run (ugh) - 9 miles with Fleet Feet! 
I've been pretty tired this week & am experiencing some foot pain which I'm slightly concerned about.  I plan on getting the foot checked out over the next week & will let you know the results, hopefully, just muscle tenderness. 
Have a great weekend all! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Be a Hill Seeker!


Yesterday was my first hill workout with Fleet Feet, and I will admit I wasn't exactly excited about it.  In fact, I was outright dreading the workout. 
In the past, hill training is something I've skipped in my marathon preparation, and it's been a weakness in my past races.  I've almost always walked the hills, and I've been satisfied with that.
When I did my research on the NYC Marathon, I quickly learned the course is not flat & fast as I had hoped.  It's actually fairly hilly.  I've come to the realization that if I want to have a good, solid race in NYC & if I want to start improving as a runner, I need to embrace the hills.
So, back to my first hill training session.  We started out with 1.7 mile run to Thaxton hill.  The run over was conversational, and I was grateful it wasn't as hot and humid as it was a few days before.  When we got to "the hill", I didn't feel nervous, or a sense of dread.  I was standing towards the back of the group, and I couldn't see the hill, which was around the corner.   I had no concept of how long or how much of an incline it was.   I didn't have a game plan for tackling the hill, so I listened to our coach, Kevin (not my brother), give a few pointers about swinging your arms and leaning slightly into the hill.  He said the idea is to run up the hill all the way to the top, and when you reach the top you should feel slightly winded, but not completely breathless.  After reaching the top, we would turn right, and then run downhill & loop around to where we started.  On the downhill portion, he encouraged us to run easy & recover from the hill.  We would do this hill repeat three times.  He instructed the faster pace groups to start first, but also said that this type of training wasn't about sticking with your pace group.  He advised us that hill training is very individual, so we should go at our own pace, but once we finish the three loops, we should wait for the rest of our pace group to complete the training before heading back to Fleet Feet.
I watched the fast runners take off first, and then it was time for my group to start.  I turned the corner, and started up the hill.  Initially, I  concentrated on swinging my arms, and leaning slightly forward.  I looked up at the hill, and thought it wasn't too steep, but I couldn't see the top either.  I didn't want to lag behind my pace group, but I also didn't want to surge ahead because I had no concept of how long I'd be running uphill.  So, I stuck somewhere in the middle. 
I probably ran the first loop a little too strong.  When I reached the top, I was a little more than winded, but I was thrilled that it wasn't a long hill.  The decline was generous, and I enjoyed the recovery.  As I started uphill for the second loop, I thought, I can do this.  About halfway up, I had to stop and walk for a few seconds.  I was kicking myself for not being more conservative on the first loop, but I got back to my fundamentals of swinging my arms and running slightly forward to the top of the hill.  When I started the downhill, I ran past a house with a young girl playing outside, she yelled as a I ran past her, " GO RUNNERS GO".  It warmed my heart, and reminded me of why I'm doing this dreadful hill training. 
The simple truth is, I can't inspire others to be hill seekers, if I don't lead by example.  Whether that hill is one you face in a marathon, or one you face when trying to find better solutions to the treatment of your rare disease  -  the first step to conquering "the hill" is actually taking a first step.  You'll never know what you can achieve unless you test your limits.  And, perhaps in your attempt to ascent the hill, you won't make it to the top.  That's ok, because you've already made a difference.  You've paved the way for someone to follow in your footsteps, and change the world.
To conclude the run, I completed my third loop successfully & waited for the rest of my group to finish.  We ran another 1.7 miles back to Fleet Feet.  On the way back I started to pay attention to the scenery, lots of homes with American flags, dog-walkers, cyclists, and people eating in outdoor cafe's.  My pace leader, Sandy,  and I ran past one guy who was right outside his house, he was searching for something in the backseat of his car.  He left a full glass of red wine on the roof of his car, and Sandy commented while passing by, "Oh, I thought you were leaving that there for us!"  He smiled as we ran past.  We completed our run, 5+ miles logged, and for me, a lot to reflect on.
Overall, I'm feeling good about training.  I know I'm running slower than I've run before, BUT, I feel my training is going much better.
I don't expect to set a PR in NY, but I feel confident that if I stick to the Fleet Feet training program, I will have an enjoyable, injury-free, good run in NY come November.
I also think that this training will give me the base to pursue a PR a few months later.
The next group run is this Saturday - 8 miles.  I'm sure I'll have something to write about that :-)


Saturday, June 25, 2016

First Long Run

This morning my alarm went off at 5AM, and rudely interrupted what had been a very peaceful sleep.   I hit my snooze button repeatedly for about 30 minutes, until I finally dragged myself out of bed, and started my routine of getting ready for my first Saturday morning long run with Fleet Feet.  It took my about half an hour to get dressed, have a light breakfast, and pack a cooler with some water & post run snacks.  I wasn't sure what to expect for this group run, so I packed everything I thought I might want or need for during & after the run:

1. GPS watch (charged)
2. Phone
3. Cash
4. Keys
5. Water bottles
6. Gatorade
7. HCU Express (my unflavored powdered methionine free protein substitute)
8. Crystal Light Raspberry Lemonade on-the-go drink mix - to flavor the HCU Express
9. Blender bottle to mix the HCU Express
10. Directions for the course (in case I get lost)
11. Flip Flops
12. GU Gels
13. Bananas

It's been a while since I've been training for a marathon, and I definitely over-prepared for this first long run.  The run was just a little over 6 miles, and I really didn't need all the extra nutrition.  The group had plenty of snacks and water after the run.  But, I'm also glad I planned ahead.  When you have a metabolic disorder - it's good not to assume there will be low-protein food options at a social event.  It might seem safe to grab a muffin or a slice of banana bread, but just because it's vegan or gluten free, doesn't mean it's low in protein. 

You also have to be careful about what to consume the night before an event.  Pre-race pasta dinners are very popular, but regular pasta is higher in protein than you might think.  For someone on a restrictive low-protein diet, it's better to prepare and bring your own low-protein pasta such as Aproten

Anyways, enough about nutrition, let's talk about the actual run.  Today, the group met up at the parking lot of Martin Luther King Middle School in Germantown, and we ran a course that went through Black Hills Regional Park.  

It was a scenic out and back course & I ran with the same pace group.  We ran most of the distance, with a few walk breaks.  It was nice to get to know some of the other runners a little better.  We covered a range of topics including favorite races, upcoming training runs, pets, travel, nutrition, our jobs, biking, swimming, and running in the heat & hills.  It was a good conversational run, and considering how humid it was, I'm glad we didn't push the pace.  At the same time, I'm not quite sure I'm in the correct pace group (12:30 minute mile).  I'm trying to be very conservative going into training since I've had some time off, and I realize we are just in the beginning, so the mileage hasn't started to build up yet, but I'm also wondering if I'm playing it too safe.  The next group up is the 11:00 minute mile pace.  I'm going to give it another week or so before I consider making a switch.  I want to make sure I take full advantage of this training program, and that may mean pushing myself a little more.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Marathon Training - Day 1

In the past, I've done most of my marathon training solo.  But, since I haven't been running consistently on my own the past few months, I decided I needed a little extra push to keep me on track.  It was time to mix things up, and get out of my comfort zone.  So, I signed up for a marathon training program with a local running store, Fleet Feet in Gaithersburg.

The program will last 18 weeks with a goal race of the Marine Corp Marathon or any other fall marathon - which is perfect for my plan to run NYC on November 6th. The group meets twice a week on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings (for the long runs).  Yesterday evening was the first group run, and I was really nervous heading over to the store.  My anxiety soon dissipated when we separated into pace groups, and started out for a 4 mile easy run.  I opted to start out in a slower group, considering I haven't been running much recently.   My pace group was all women, and I was excited to learn that, like me, two of them will be running the NYC Marathon this fall!

Although the run was an "easy" four miler, it was a little challenging in the heat.  I'm used to doing a lot of my hot weather running inside on a treadmill, so dealing with the summer weather will be interesting.  

After the run, I picked up my welcome bag which included a gear check list, some energy gels/nutrition, and a very cool tech shirt.

Our next group run is a 6 miler on Saturday morning at 6:30 AM.  (No more sleeping in on the weekend for the next 18 weeks.)  I'll keep you posted as the training continues!