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As a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, I thoroughly enjoy helping others achieve optimal health and peak fitness performance through creation of custom menu plans and personalized nutrition coaching with my company Fuel Factor as well as creation of custom sports drinks with Infinit Nutrition, I company I partially own and serve as Chief Formulation Specialist for. As a long-time athlete, having competed at the ITU, 70.3, and Ironman World Championships, I use my own practical experiences on the ‘field’ as well as the latest research in nutritional science as means to establish daily training and race/game day nutritional strategies for my clients. I am also currently working putting the wraps on research for my book, Performance Ingredients and Supplements for the Athlete, with a hopeful release by my publisher Human Kinetics late in spring 2013. I am currently expecting my first little speedster due to arrive in May of 2013. After she is born, I will be striving to knock 9 minutes off my current marathon PR of 2:52 to secure a spot at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

RUN VAN 2012

In 2010, as fate would have it, an Icelandic volcano, whose name I have never been able to pronounce, erupted and caused air space in Europe to shut-down, ultimately flushing my London Marathon dreams and Euro-travel plans down the toilet. Stuck in Chicago (fortunately with family) not being able to fly outbound, I decided to look for another race, another city to vacation in and low and behold, BMO Vancouver Marathon was the first race to pop into radar as it conveniently fell just 2 weeks after London. And so a revised travel agenda was created. While my European bust of a vacation was a huge downer, I am a believer that things happen for a reason and in this case, the crazy random volcanic eruption lead me to what I can now honestly say is my favorite race (and I've raced A LOT) not to mention allow me to meet some amazing people and develop new friendships.  So, thank you Eyjafjallajökull for pissing lava that fateful day back in April 2010 and directing me to Vancouver!

It just keeps getting better...

When Run Van race organizers announced they were creating a new course for 2012, I was excited. While I love the original course, I am always game for a new adventure, especially when it entails exploring a beautiful city like Vancouver.  I was beyond excited though when the announcement was made that they were shutting down the famous Stanley Park seawall to allow the runners to traverse its post-card beauty from miles 20-25 of the marathon.  And so the training began mid-January.

Training for 26.2

Every since making the call to shift gears from a triathlon-to-running training focus after racing the 2008 SOMA Half Ironman Triathlon less than a year removed from surgery to correct several tears in my shoulder and bicep, my heart was set on breaking the covenanted 3 hour barrier in the marathon. I just didn't know exactly how to get there having spent the better part of my post-collegiate athletic career racing triathlon.  I did know that my typical 30-40 mile per week run mileage was going to need to come up and cross-training volume come down.  After 3 years and 5 sub-3 efforts along with my lastest PR (more on that later), I think I have found my sweet spot.  So, what is that sweet spot?  For me, it entails the following:

Mondays: 45 min aerobic run, 1 hr pilates
Tuesdays: AM: ~8-12 miles w/20-30 min of interval training and 10x20 sec strides
                 PM: ~30-45 min aerobic run
Wednesdays: 45 min aerobic run, 1 hr functional strength training (squats, lunges, plank, plyo-drills)
Thursdays: AM: 4-10 mile tempo or progression run on rolling hills, 10x20 sec strides
                   PM: ~30-45 min aerobic run
Fridays: OFF
Saturdays: AM: 8-12 miles w/20-30 min of interval training and strides, PM: 30-45 min aerobic run
Sundays: AM: 1:30-3 hour effort-based long runs followed by 1/2-1 mile swim

I follow a 3-week build with the 4th week dropping in volume by 25% to allow adequate recovery and the training to truly soak in. In addition, I like to keep "race fresh" by jumping into several races of which I run as a slightly faster than normal tempo effort.  These also serve as a great opportunity to practice race day nutrition. In prep for Run Van 2012, I ran Coronado 10k (36:39, 4th OA), San Diego Half Marathon (1:21:56, 4th OA), and LA Marathon (2:59:47, 11th OA). My marathon mileage generally fell in the 50-70 mile/week range with a peak of 75 miles 3 weeks out from race day. My marathon taper entails a ~25% reduction in training volume each week starting at my peak.

In general, my mileage is lower than a lot of the athletes I compete against but, between managing and running my own business as well as taking on writing a book, it is all that I can squeeze in.  I am not sure my body would gain anything from adding upon this load anyways. 

Arriving in Vancouver

Unlike last year where I flew into Seattle and then had an equally long busride from Seattle to Vancovuer, I opted for a direct flight compliments of Air much nicer although one of these years, I think I'll try the train route from Seattle as I have heard it is a gorgeous trip.  The only hiccup in my travel agenda is that I happened to arrive at perhaps one of the more popular times for weekend get-aways, leaving me standing in customs line for well over an hour before truly making my arrival.  Fortunately, I was entertained in line by members of the San Jose Earthquakes (professional soccer for those of you who don't know) who happened to be playing the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. Wish I would have gotten a picture!  I have always been a big soccer fan, having been my #1 sport growing up.  Greeting me at the gate was Frank Stebner, one of the many wonderful race volunteers, along with fellow elite athletes, one of which had spent 2 obstacle-filled travel days from Ethiopia!  Yeah, guess I shouldn't have been complaining about my 1 hour wait in customs!

After checking into my sweet accommodations for the weekend, Coast Coal Harbour Hotel, I met up with the extremely athletically decorated elite coordinator, Lynn Kanuka, and some of the elite athletes also competing on Sunday for dinner.  It's always so cool meeting athletes from all walks of life and truly fascinating hearing about the training and racing adventures each persevered through to prepare for Vancouver. One of the female marathoners (2:32 PR, Nigerian born, now a US citizen), Mary Akor, spent several months training in Morocco leading up to the US Olympic Trials!  Several of the Kenyans spend several months at a time training in various areas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico in preparation for racing.  Interestingly, I was one of the few athletes who ordered pasta...guess it's just an American carbo-loading staple!

Dinner with Run Van volunteers and fellow elite athletes
On Saturday, I did one final shake-out run, 25 minutes, along the gorgeous seawall of which I'd be racing on a mere 24 hours later.  To give you an idea of the double-take scenery I have fallen in love with:

And, then it was off to the expo where a few of the marathoners, including myself, were participating in an Elite Athlete "Meet and Greet" session.  After running my first beer mile to kick off 2012, I declared that this year was going to be a year of many firsts for me.  And, low and behold, I got to sign other runners race bibs complete with a personal inspirational message; it's definitely a first for me to be autographing anything!  I am hoping it served as a nice tune-up for my anticipated book signings later in the year.

26.2 athletes represent at Canada Place

Elite Athlete Meet & Greet
Giving 26.2 racing tips and autographing bibs
After the meet and greet, it was back to the hotel for a pre-race briefing, more carbo-chowing and chill time before hitting pillow for sweet pre-26.2 dreams.

Race Day!!!
Race morning always brings an early wake-up call and Run Van 26.2 is no different although the marathoners did get to sleep longer thanks to an hour later start than the Run Van 13.1 athletes. Hahahaha, lol.  As always, I started with my ritual pre-race meal of the easy-to-digest, low-glycemic Pure Fit Nutrition bar, 100% juice, and Diet Mountain Dew (my pre-race caffeine). And then we were off to the race start in this cool San Francisco-like trolley:

Unlike last year, where I made the mistake of forgoing a warm-up, I ran an EASY 10 minutes in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park and did some ballistic movements to properly prepare my body for what was described as a "humbling" first 16 miles followed by a more forgiving back 10.  As I warmed up, I kept my blood sugars and blood volume up by drinking my Infinit run sports drink. I also received some great racing strategy tips from my friend Greg and chatted up the infamous Vancouver Canucks MC, Mr. O'Canada Mark Donnelly, who was singing the National Anthem for racers that morning.  I asked him how it tasted to watch the 'Hawks bring the Cup home a couple years

Thanks for the race-day tips Greg!
Mr. O'Canada Mark Donnelly & I temporarily holding down the peace....GO 'HAWKS!!! Dig those Blackhawk colors you are sporting!
Before I knew it, we were being shuttled down to the race start and apparently I have held onto a part of my pre-race "serious" look (think the contemplative guy in the backdrop shared my

Please let my body cooperate, please let my body cooperate, please let my body cooperate ALL 26.2 miles =)

And then I was off running with the masses, some 15,000 between the half and full marathon!

I'm cresting the hill in the backdrop...can you spot my pink?

As I was warned, the first 16 miles or so brought some significant climbs, including nearly a mile up an outer Torrey Pines-esque grade around mile 5 (for my non-Cali friends, come experience Torrey Pines as part of the La Jolla Half Marathon for some hill love).  Fortunately, I had prepared with several runs up Mount Soledad (3.5 miles up), some hilly trail runs, and a hilly 26.2 at LA Marathon in training so I felt solid throughout it all.  I honestly had a smile on my face the bulk of the race as evidenced in my race pictures:

Midway thru LOVING the scenery, sporting my stereotypical "rock on" hand signal

A smile speaks a thousand words...enjoying the scene around Kitsilano, some 18 miles into the race
LOVING the Run Van spectators at mile 20

You give a little energy, a WHOLE LOT more will be returned. Thanks Run Van spectators!

Still smiling at mile 21 as I pass the Inukshuk, a symbol of the human spirit
And still smiling with a thumbs up as I round the famous Stanley Park Seawall 22 miles into the race
Just to capture the extent of how flippin' beautiful this course is. We ran under Lions Gate Bridge around mile 23

And then ran through this cool!

Another thumbs up as I roll pass the lighthouse
Coming off the seawall, only 1 gradual uphill mile to go!!!

Marathon FINISH!!!
Officially 2:53:35, 4th OA lady, 41st OA runner to cross that finishline.
When you go into a race as the 8th fastest marathon time and you finish 4th OA with a new PR, it's a good day.  Plus, my pacing was the best its been in a marathon as my splits were pretty even on both sides (1:25:24, 1:26:20). It became even better when it was announced that the course was about 500 meters long due to a goof-up on cone placement at the midway point of the race.  Converted time is 2:51:44 (6:33 per mile pace).  Previous PR: 2:56:08 (6:43 per mile pace). How sweet it is!

Post Race Festivities

Immediately after finishing, I was whisked off to the elite tent where I congratulated other athletes and talked to race organizers. As I have every year running in Vancouver, I met some amazing people that I'm excited to keep in touch with and cross paths with again at forthcoming races. Just 85 seconds ahead of me was Catrin Jones, a Canadian runner with a 2:48 marathon PR. 

Catrin Jones (#3)  & I (#4) all smiles post-race

And then it was off to the award's ceremony to celebrate everyone's accomplishments on the day.

Run Van makes us happy! Gezahgn Eshetu from Ethiopia (kneeling) won the men's marathon in 2:21.
Women's Top 3: Mary Akor (Left, 2nd OA, 26.2 PR of 2:32) ran 2:46, Ellie Greenwood (center, 1st OA) is an ultra-marathon bad arse who also PRd on the day with a 2:42, and Catrin Jones (right, 3rd OA, 26.2 PR of 2:48) ran 2:52. Nice work ladies!

Being recognized as 4th OA lady

After the awards, I took inspiration from women's ultra-marathon star and women's winner, Ellie Greenwood, and stayed on my feet for another 3-4 miles to explore the wonderful sights of Vancouver.

Stunning, eh?
And then it was back to meet up with the crew for a night out on Vancouver!  Gezahgn was kind to bring Lynn (the elite coordinator) traditional Ethiopian apparel to party in.

Lynn sporting traditional Ethiopian apparel for the special night out.  Thanks for all your hard work in making Run Van a special one for all of us athletes!
The Run Van crew
Post Marathon Recovery Cheers: That is a TASTY burger (and sweet potato fries & local brew)

Run Van, it's been fun, see you again next year!

Giving Thanks

Huge thanks go out to...

-Lynn Kanuka, Frank Stebner, Thelma Wright, Greg White, Teresa Nightingale, and all the wonderful Run Van race organizers and volunteers who made this event truly one to always remember fondly.  I'll definitely be back again!

-All the athletes I met over the great Run Van weekend!  I hope to see you all in San Diego at some point in time!

-My awesome Coach, Paul Greer of San Diego Track Club, for helping lay down a training program that has continued to allow me to improve as an athlete these past 12 years!

-The great Coach Kevin McCarey for leading fantastically tortuous training sessions on Saturdays down at Ski Beach.  I'm one of the sick crazies who LOVES torture, aka SPEED!

-All my girls on Team SDTC, training peeps, friends, and family who have supported me and kept me inspired throughout this journey.

-Armone's Core Connection (pilates, functional training) for keeping me strong, no doubt helping me log more quality miles and improve

-Saucony for keeping me equipped in the finest running apparel and shoes and inspiring me to keep finding my strong these past 3 years. LOVED seeing you representing at the race!

-Infinit Nutrition and Pure Fit for helping fuel my 26.2 performance 

Love you all!

Next up: San Diego Rock n' Roll Half Marathon on June 3rd (my birthday weekend!!!)


  1. Great. You really inspire us to run.Thanks ! As an energy packed nutrient, I am trying my hands at Vitalyte these days along with my workouts. Its pretty effective for stamina building

  2. yeah great sis:) your site have a nice fuel factor for nutrition?
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