2014 USA Championships

Lesson learned: bad things happen that won’t affect anything but your brain. You can’t let them.

It has taken me a while to think of what to write about this weekend.  Not much can ease the feeling of disappointment in a bad race.  I’m fortunate enough to have my Oiselle and NJNYTC families’ support, which made it a little easier.  I was often reminded that everyone has bad races, something I’ve certainly always known, but the USA Championships are never a good time for it to happen.  I had high expectations for myself.  I’ve improved so much this season and felt great in preparations. 

Unfortunately, I let a little bad luck with some poison oak get in my head and I just didn’t have it on race day.  A rash first showed up Thursday morning and I spent most of my time for the next 24 hours trying to figure out what it was and how to get rid of it without taking something that would make me fall asleep or be on the banned substance list.  Poison oak is irritating and itchy, but it doesn’t affect your ability to run, and therefore it is absolutely no excuse for my poor performance.  No matter how many times I told myself I was fine, I wasn’t very convincing and I let myself stress out about it instead.  By race time, I put myself in a decent position at the mile, but by 2k I felt spent.  As I felt myself falling farther and farther back, it took some mental strength to remember that I never want to drop out of a race.  It was far from the USA Championship race I imagined, but it happened.  Now it’s time to pick myself up and learn from it.

On a happier note, it was a pretty great weekend for many of my NJNY teammates.  With so many finals qualifiers and podium finishes for Ashley Higginson and Donn Cabral, I couldn’t be more proud to be part of such a group.  It was also very exciting to see so many Oiselle birds competing.  Only big things ahead on both fronts.

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Race Day Recap: Payton Jordan

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photo credit @oiselle_sally and @flotrack video

Patience, trust, and strength.  I’ve been trying to think of what to write about my race at the Payton Jordan Invitational this past Sunday and these are the three words that come to mind.  I learned a lot about myself and racing.  This weekend’s lesson: push myself out of my comfort zone. 

Going into the weekend I knew this would be a highly competitive race.  That’s why you go all the way across the country to a great facility like the track at Stanford University.  I was ready for a big PR and this was the perfect opportunity to do it.  My previous 5k time was 15:56 and I had the 15:40 barrier on my mind.  If I ran 75 second laps (5:00 miles) I could run a 15:37.  And then I heard that the rabbit was going to take the race in 72-73 second laps.  Though Ashley, Nicol, Amanda, and I were sure we would have a group at our pace in the race anyway, I was still nervous about the start being faster than I was ready for.  I had my race from the Stanford Invitational two years ago stuck in my head, when I felt pretty amazing for 5-6 laps at a faster place than planned, and then hit the biggest metaphorical wall I have ever seen.  I couldn’t let that happen again, but I knew that being afraid of the pace wasn’t good either.

Patience.  When the gun went off, I put myself in it but continued to remind myself not to get too anxious.  This was really hard for me.  Not that I always go right to the front of races, but it usually goes one of two ways: anxiously on the shoulder of someone closer to the front, or completely shot out the back (and that’s when you know from the start it’s bad).  After watching the race, I can see that I was very much so in the back, but this time it was different.  I didn’t know at the time that I was the very back, and I felt more like I was relaxing and being patient than panicking while trying to stay in the race.  I also let myself get closer to the rail and go for the ride instead of wasting energy on the outside to be on someone’s shoulder.

Trust.  About half way through a race is usually make or break time for me.  Between 2k and 3k I just barely started to think about that wall from two years ago, but quickly changed my mantra from relax, be patient to stay tough, you can handle this.  Gaps were starting to form.  Packs were breaking apart.  It was time to put my head up and start moving up.

Strength.  Okay 1200 to go.  We do repeats at this pace all the time!  You’re strong, you’re strong, you’re strong.  Just finish it strong.  And I did.  15:30.33. New PR 🙂

Of course I can never help being critical of my races either.  After my excitement died down a little bit, my first thought was if I could go that far under 15:40, where were those last 4 seconds for the A standard?  Could I have started pushing myself a little sooner?  But I’ll always have those thoughts after races.  They fuel me for the next one.

So despite some travel issues with my bag getting lost both on the way to and from San Francisco, I had a pretty good trip.  Traveling with Coach Gag and my NJNYTC teammates was really awesome and Palo Alto is a beautiful place.  And I’ve always loved being able to race with my teammates.   Congrats to them on big PRs as well!  I also got to spend a good amount of time catching up with the Syracuse team. Finally, west coast races often mean a large contingent of bird supporters!  So in addition to Gags on one end of the track, I could hear a great Oiselle group cheering each lap at the other end.  

No Watch, New Shoes, a Little Rain, and a Lovely Run

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My Oiselle bio says that the piece of running equipment I cannot live without is my watch.  For years I pretty much never took it off.  The only exceptions were super fancy occasions, when I had to replace it with some bracelet that would stay right in the exact spot to cover up the insane tan line that became a permanent eye sore around my wrist.  And then this winter I got a GPS watch for Christmas.  I didn’t want to wear it all of the time and become overly obsessed with pace on all of my runs, but it’s really helpful for tempo days and long runs.  So now I had to remember to change my watch for different runs.  Somehow this transitioned to only putting a watch, one or the other, on for runs, and taking it off when I was done.

Last week at practice the inevitable happened.  I forgot my watch.  At first I hated it.  I felt naked and vulnerable, wondering how I was going to keep track of my workout.  But then I realized how ridiculous that was.  I train with a team.  We do the same warm up loop for every workout, all of our intervals are paced and timed by the coaches, and everyone else has a watch so if I really need to know I can just ask.  Not having a watch was actually kind of nice.

Nice as it was, I know that a workout is not really the time you want to ditch the watch.  Being able to hit certain times is actually pretty important for this sport.  But when so much of what you’re doing is focused on times and paces, it’s too easy to get caught up in the numbers and forget to listen to your body and enjoy what you’re doing.  I’m guilty of it.  I know that training means there’s mileage to hit and paces to maintain, but I’ve lived here long enough to know the loops I have to do to get the mileage in, and my body knows the pace it needs to recover from a workout without doing a run full of junk miles.

So today I intentionally ditched the watch and ran naked, and it felt pretty good!  I should also partially credit the good feeling to a new pair of shoes and my Oiselle Lesley Knickers and Flyer Jacket for keeping me warm and dry despite the wind and drizzly rain.  Maybe if I do this a few times when the sun is out I can even get rid of the permanent pale bracelet I’ve been wearing. 

Speaking of sun, next up for me is a trip to Palo Alto for the Payton Jordan Invitational 5k!  Check out an awesome meet for some NJNYTC and Oiselle action!

Race Day Recaps: BU Valentines and Millrose Games

Since coming home from Texas/Seattle I’ve been really busy getting back to work, both at Rutgers and with running, and traveling to more races.  That’s why I got so delayed on my race recaps.  Now I have some time to take a small step back and reflect on the last few weeks…

The biggest thing I’ve learned since starting this new phase in my running career is that not everything goes as planned and that’s okay. If preparations went perfectly, I would have slept well after my 3k in Seattle, not gotten sick the next Tuesday and been able to do a workout with my team to get ready for the mile in Boston.  I would have known exactly what and where I was racing the week after Boston, but neither was the case. In hindsight I feel a little funny thinking about the fact that I almost didn’t go to Boston. Yes, racing when you’re not feeling well is terrible and a bad idea when your next race is a week away. I didn’t want to run poorly and then make myself even more sick by traveling. But after sleeping for 12 hours that night, I woke up Wednesday feeling like a new person. My only hesitation then was that I had missed the workout. What if I wasn’t sharp enough to race? It definitely made me nervous, but I couldn’t miss a chance at a good race and a big PR.  I’ve always loved racing in Boston, and this time was no different.  Kate Grace took us out perfectly, again, and I owe her a lot of thanks for another PR.  Before I got on the line, Gag told me not to leave any gaps, which is something I remember Coach Fox always saying as well.  Both of them were there watching and I could hear them cheering, but I watched the Flotrack video of the race, I could see myself fall back half of a step and then get right back on where I know they were both in my head.  I was thrilled with a 6 second PR (4:31.3) and to be able to see my teammate, Amanda Winslow, run the third fasted time in the world just ahead of me (4:26.28).

The week that followed was a mess of confusion.  The plan was to fly out to Iowa and run another 3k.  We tried to get into the Millrose 3k, but the heat was over full so even waiting to see if someone scratched wasn’t an option.  And then Mother Nature attacked New Jersey again.  My flight was canceled and there were no other flights going out in enough time for me to get to Iowa and prepare for my race properly.  My indoor season was over and it was time to gear up for spring…until another curve ball was thrown at me.  Flights getting into New Jersey were being canceled as well, which meant that a spot opened up in the Millrose Wanamaker Mile.  I owe an I’m sorry/thank you to Katie Mackey, who couldn’t make it out of Seattle, and a big thank you to David Monti of NYRR for making me a last minute addition.

So I found out on my way to a workout Friday morning that in a day and a half I would be in one of the biggest, most watched races.  The number of times I had to wrap my mind around racing and not racing and racing again throughout the week was making me a little dizzy.  I told Gag that I was mentally overwhelmed and he responded with “Ha! That’s a good one. You’ll be fine.”  And then, though still nervous, I started to get pretty excited.  Nat sent me the quote,

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

  He’s right; it doesn’t matter if I knew all along or if I found out when I did.  I’ve been training hard and racing well and I was presented with an amazing opportunity.

I wish I could say that I took the quote and ran with it (see what I did there?), and had the most incredible race of my life, but it didn’t quite go that way.  No one went with the rabbit and it turned into a jumbled mess until 800 and I just didn’t have the same strength or speed to go from there.  I felt tired and flat.  The crazy thing is that if I hadn’t run in Boston the week before, the 4:35 that I’m disappointed with would have been my new PR.  I also know that it was really great for me to have that experience.  Actual racing like that is different from time a time trial-type race and I needed that experience on a big stage.  Now I need to work on having the courage to be the one that pushes the pace when the rest of the field doesn’t, and/or put myself in a better position to go.

Full of new experiences from the past month and a half in Texas, Seattle, Boston, and NYC, I’m ready to reboot for the spring season. I can never seem to say thank you enough for all of the support via all forms of social media. More good things to come!

Race Day Recap: UW Invite–Birds Fly Home

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I’m writing from the hallway outside my hotel room at 2:00 AM with a bad case of post-race insomnia.  I kind of forgot that this happens when I have night races (sometimes worse than others), though this was more of an afternoon race.  I think my body is totally confused.  On the one hand this makes sense.  My legs and my heart are feeling a bit jittery from all of the excitement, and I did drink I small cup of coffee on my way to dinner to make sure I survived the evening.  But on the other hand I should be exhausted!  We’ve had so many awesome events planned this weekend all leading up to a great effort on the track and an amazing team dinner.  After the flurry of activity and a little bit of wine, I would think my body would just relax.  Instead I tossed and turned for a couple hours before deciding to give this a try…

Ending #springtraining by flying to Oiselle City (aka Seattle) and kicking off the 2014 season was such an awesome idea.  I had run the 3k at the Dempsey twice before and both times were PRs and great trips, but doing it in flystyle was pretty special.  I had really been looking forward to meeting the Little Wing women and getting to know them.  We first met up with them Thursday morning when we got to act like models and do a photo shoot in some new Oiselle duds.  Then Amanda, Kate, and I headed to the track for our pre-race workout.

I’m running out of adjectives to describe how I’ve felt for our activities.  Everything was just AWESOME!  On Friday I got to see the Oiselle HQ for the first time.  It’s very cool spot just a short walk away from where we did yoga with Jasyoga founder and head coach Erin.  I have been following all of her posts on the Oiselle blog page in my quest to get into yoga this year.  Normally I’m not one for trying something I have never done before a race, and yoga has certainly never been part of my race prep.  I went into it with the plan of hanging out with my legs up on the wall if there was anything I didn’t want to do.  But I ended up doing the whole thing.  It was all very light and relaxing.  Every so often Erin reminded us not to visualize the race, but to think about and take in the feelings that we experience when we have accomplished our goals.  I really liked that exercise and it’s something that I can keep in mind when prepping mentally for all of my races. 

Then yesterday was go time.  I stuck to my trusted race day routine; shake out jog, breakfast (though I took a risk and had oatmeal instead of pancakes) while watching ESPN College Game Day (GO CUSE!), hang out in the room watching Netflix, go for a walk and get a sandwich, shower, and have some coffee as I head to the track.  I could feel myself getting a little nervous.  I raced on the roads a couple times this fall, but this was my pro track debut.  I knew I wanted to break 9:00 but sometimes I have trouble saying my exact goals out loud.  It’s like I need to protect myself in case it doesn’t happen.  Instead I told myself it would be good to PR and great to break 9:00, but I knew the whole time I wouldn’t be totally satisfied if I saw a 9:01.  We got on the line and Kate Grace was announced as our rabbit.  She did a really awesome job; the race felt so smooth.  I felt really strong and we got the wheels going a little for that last lap.  That feeling that Erin had us embody the day before was all there, plus some.  Amanda and I went 1-2, respectively, each with big PRs of 8:56.37 and 8:56.44.  I felt so proud to be part of Oiselle and NJNYTC.  And to be a Syracuse alum!  By the time I cooled down, Cuse had taken care of business in the Dome with Duke.

As I said before, we finished off the night with a celebratory team dinner.  Heading back to New Jersey (which seems like the Antarctica after spring training in San Antonio all month) tomorrow night.  All kidding about the weather aside, it’ll be good to be home.  More work to do!

#NJNYtakesTX: Namaste

Hello 2014! Getting into yoga and working on my flexibility was one of my main New Year’s resolutions.  As I said in my New Year post, I was very self conscious about my lack of flexibility and yoga novice and started with some basic poses from a morning flow YouTube video.  Well, I have now taken the next step to becoming more serious about my resolution.  Ashley Higginson showed me a basic sequence that I worked on when we first got down here.  That was really good for just getting started and opening up a bit.  This was a big step for me because it was the first time I did any sort of yoga in front of other people besides those who may or may not have seen me through the sliding glass doors at my apartment.  Then Kate Grace found a class today at the Gold’s Gym we have been working out at while in San Antonio, and at the last minute I decided to join her.  Once the instructor suggested we get the other mats that didn’t squeak on the floor so much, it was really great.  The instructor was good with modeling the poses and also helping everyone get in the correct positions.  I skipped out on some poses like the head stand because it was my first time and because I have a workout tomorrow and a race in a couple weeks that I would rather not hurt myself for.  I was very proud of myself though…not only can I touch my toes, I can stand on my hands and have my legs straight! I can stand up straight on my right leg and hold my left leg out to the side by my toes! (kind of) I’ve got a good amount of work to do, but I feel a whole lot better about going to classes.

When I start things or try to get into something, I end up planning it in my routine, looking into the best way to make it a regular thing, and researching to the point where I seem a bit obsessive.  I started looking into yoga places at home and their hours and classes offered.  I found that I have plenty of options and I can’t wait to continue.  Through my obsessive research I also found something pretty cool and useful for someone who travels and finds themselves in need of a place to workout or a class to attend.  MindBody Connect is an app for android (maybe iPhone? I don’t know) that allows you to search specific businesses or by key word in whatever location, check out their schedules, and even register and pay in advance for classes.  Maybe I’m totally behind and everyone does this already, but I think it’s pretty cool and it will come in handy with a lot the traveling we do!

Maybe someday…
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New Year, New Place, New Plans

Sunshine and 10 Gallon Hats
I spent a good part of last night in Newark Airport (delayed for hours) because I have the opportunity to take a break from the northeast winter to get in some warm weather training in San Antonio. Unfortunately we never left. After hanging out for five hours, the flight was canceled. We weren’t able to get on another one until Monday evening, and our bags were not pulled so they went out on the first flight to San Antonio this morning. One more weekend (without any of my good running clothes) training in the cold and snow.

Once we get out there, however, I am really looking forward to a solid month of training, uninhibited by snow, slush, and ice, and a chance to experience a new place. Big thanks to Rose Monday, Oiselle, and Coach Gag for making this all happen for us. Expect a few more posts this month as I report on my Texas adventures!

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Amanda and me ready to leave, and the snow that kept us in NJ

Some Resolutions
I don’t really have a tradition of coming up with a New Year’s resolution.  That’s not to say that don’t think there are things about myself that I could improve, I just usually don’t remember to think about it, and if I do, I get frustrated when I don’t stick to it.  This year I actually have been thinking about some things that I would like to do or work on in 2014, the New Year seems like a great way to start.

1. Become a Tea Drinkerimage
I have never liked tea. Iced or hot, even the smell of it usually makes me feel nauseous. At the same time, I have always wished I did like it. It seems like such a healthy soothing thing to have on cold winter nights before bed. Last year I had a miserable cold when I went home for winter break and my dad begged me to try his herbal tea and it was actually pretty good! A taste for coffee took some time for me to acquire at first too. So I’m starting with this vanilla sleepytime tea before bed and we’ll see where it goes!

2. Drink More Water
As a runner, I think it’s weird that I have to remind myself to drink water. Most of my friends’ water bottles are like an extra limb that they always have with them. I’m really good about it at meets or races, but I really should work on being hydrated all of the time.

3. Eat Different Veggies
I was super picky as a kid growing up and did not eat many things that were healthy for me without a fight. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to like vegetables a lot more, which is good, but I want to branch out from my typical corn and broccoli. I’ve started eating cauliflower more recently, but I want to try more. Any suggestions for veggie recipes are appreciated!

4. Flexibility
I’ve said it before, stretching is a new thing for me. I am incredibly inflexible. Running at the intensity that I am, I would definitely benefit from being more flexible. This goal is part of the reason for plan #5…

5. Get Into Yoga
This one I have been thinking about for years and for some reason never did it. Aside from increasing my flexibility, yoga will increase my core strength while hopefully relieving some stress and relaxing me. I’ve looked into some classes in my area, but there aren’t always beginner classes that fit my schedule and I have yet to get myself out the door. And maybe I’m a little self-conscious about my lack of flexibility. I decided to start small. You can do anything with the Internet. I found a short morning yoga routine on YouTube that I have been doing to get my day started. Maybe after some practice with these basic poses, I will have enough courage to get me to some classes.

6. Discipline
The mental ability to stick with all of these things. I think all of them, or at least most of them, go along with one another and really have to do with me taking steps to get to the next level as an athlete. Looking forward to what 2014 has to offer!

Race Day Recap: Manchester Road Race

In the world of running, Thanksgiving morning means Turkey Trot.  Running USA’s infographic illustration shows how they have become increasingly popular in the past couple of years.  As an NCAA athlete, Thanksgiving fell three days into my post-XC season break and so I was always a cheerleader for my dad at our local Turkey Trot in Morristown, NJ.  Last year I joined him in the race to gauge my fitness in the middle of some serious base building when I didn’t have XC eligibility.  Thanksgiving tradition became a freezing road race followed by thawing out while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the National Dog Show on TV before an afternoon/evening full of food.

This year was a little different.  This year I became part of one of the biggest, traditional Thanksgiving Day road races: The 77th Manchester Road Race.  Though it was my first, this year’s race seemed to be even more about tradition, as it was Amby Burfoot’s 51st, setting the record for Manchester Road Race finishes.

To be perfectly honest, I had some serious self-doubt before this race.  I hate to admit it, but I was feeling pretty negative.  I have always heard about this race and what an awesome experience it is, and I had been excited about running it all fall.  The more I learned about the race from friends and coaches who have participated in it before, the more I became concerned about the 4.748 mile distance (a little longer than what I’m used to) and the monster hill that is the entire second mile.  Somehow everyone that told me about this hill did so with a smile on his/her face and assured me that I would have so much fun.

Still, once the spaghetti dinner was over and I was sitting in the hotel room thinking about stripping down to my Oiselle uniform in the anticipated 30° weather to climb a crazy hill, I questioned my sanity a bit.  I was having moments of mental weakness thinking that it would be nice to know I could bundle up at home and watch the parade on my couch with a cup of hot chocolate.  My dad was coming up to watch and then drive us both to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, and all I could think was that we would be stuck in traffic eating sandwiches from a rest stop as our Thanksgiving dinner instead.  Not my idea of a good tradition.

I think these negative thoughts stemmed from nerves.  I needed to pump myself up, remind myself why I was there, and answer myself every time I asked what the hell I was doing.  While I was laying out my race day clothes, I started to snap out of it.  That Oiselle uniform means something important and I wanted to represent it well.  What the hell was I doing?  I was doing what I love and being thankful that I can.  I was remembering I spent five winters in Syracuse and 30° is nothing (especially with the arm warmers I planned to wear).  I was being the confident, fierce competitor that I know I am.  Yes, sometimes I experience moments of weakness and I start to get a bit negative.  The important thing is that I have ways to get myself back in it and support from a lot of people who remind me to be positive as well.

The morning of the race, excitement started to replace my doubts.  It was cold, but the sun was out and the way the community shares this tradition in Manchester reminded me, yet again, why I love runners so much.  During the warm up, Rebeka and I chose to check out the start/finish instead of dwelling on the hill.  I went through my usual routine and by the time we had to take our sweats off, the cold didn’t seem too bad.  My Oiselle race kit with the arm warmers, throw-away gloves, and a headband worked out perfectly.

The gun went off and the first mile felt pretty good.  With a distance like 4.748 miles, it was hard to think about what kind of pace I should hit, so I thought more about being competitive with the other women in the race.  I was in a good pack and then I saw 4:59 on the clock.  Even though I didn’t think too much about pace, that was faster than I thought.  Nevertheless, I tried to keep calm because it was time to start climbing.  When I got to the top, I realized I was happy the hill got so much hype from everyone I talked to.  It was definitely a big, long hill that you have to grind through, but all the hype made me expect to feel worse on it than I did.  It was keeping up on the downhill that everyone flies on afterward that was a challenge, but I managed to survive that as well.  Finally, we came around the last turn for the last downhill. I could see the finish line for about 600 meters and I finished strong.

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Pain Face.

In such and elite field, I was definitely happy with my fourth place finish.  And yet, once the excitement died down a bit, I couldn’t help wondering if I could have pushed a little harder in the middle and had the leaders a little closer to catch for the finish.  First place was 15 seconds in front of me, second was 8, and third was 6.  As an athlete, I think it’s important to find a balance between being proud of what I accomplish, and not being 100% satisfied.  There’s always room for improvement and I have enough of a competitive drive to want more.  I’m willing to work for it.  It’s going to be a good year.

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Manchester Road Race Legend Amby Burfoot on the right.

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Rebeka and me before the race…

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…and after the race

 

Things I’m Thankful For
1. The Cabral Family for taking us in Tuesday night so we had a place to stay before Rebeka and I could get into the hotel.
2. Nat for always being supportive with my running career, even when I’m a little crazy like I was when I was sharing my doubts with him Wednesday night and he helped me to stay positive.
3. My family.  My dad drove all the way up to watch the race and get me home for Thanksgiving Dinner (no, we didn’t eat rest stop sandwiches in traffic on the highway).  My mom is always very supportive even if she can’t always be at the race, I can never wait to call her when I finish.  And my brother and sister were home for the holiday as well.  I’m thankful that I have all of them, and my extended family, and that I get to spend time with them as often as I do.
4. The rest of my support system: My coaches, past and present, and teammates.

I’m thankful that all of these things have come together to help make me achieve my goals and make my dream life happen.

Accidentally Delicious

I am not the culinary genius in my family.  My mother is a wonderful cook.  One of five girls in a large Italian family, she can make pretty much anything, not just Italian, and it’s amazing (especially veggie pizza and stroganoff–my favorites!)  She definitely tried to pass on this tradition of cooking expertise to my sister and me, but it just wasn’t my thing.  Every meatball I rolled fell apart and every vegetable I sautéed burned.  My sister, Allison, on the other hand, excelled at these tasks and now has a degree in baking and pastries from the Culinary Institute of America.  I remember one night when I was in high school my mom and Allison both had something to do, so I was plan C for dinner.  When my dad called on his way home from work to find out what we were having and found this out, his response was, “Eh, I’ll pick up a pizza”.  My freshman year of college, the first time Nat cooked for me it was Chicken Parmesan.  I sat in his apartment watching him cook and offered to help slice the mozzarella when he realized he forgot bread crumbs and had to run out for five minutes.  Somehow in that time I hadn’t noticed that the apartment was filling with smoke and the alarm went off as soon as he got back. It was clear I did not belong in a kitchen.

Once I moved out of my freshman dorm, had a kitchen of my own, and started to steer clear of the dining hall, it was do or die (not really because Nat still cooked for me a lot of the time).  I slowly learned to put some basic things together.  The more comfortable I got, the more complicated the dishes I was trying.  Who knows?  Maybe I was resistant before because Allison was just so much better at it than me and now I’ve grown to accept that she is just really good at what she does.  Or maybe I was just lazy in high school.  Regardless, I still can’t say I enjoy cooking, but I do get pretty excited about finding new recipes on Pinterest or hearing about them from friends.

Last week, I found a recipe for my own granola bars.  I had been writing “bars” on my grocery list every week for a while and then couldn’t justify paying the amount that they were for six tiny granola bars, so I never bought them.  I generally followed this recipe, but made a few changes based on what I had available to use.  I haven’t done the exact calculations for the ingredient to yield ratio of the ones that I made (and I should also take into account manual labor), but they certainly are delicious and I’ll definitely make them again.

Apple Cranberry Bars
2 cups pecans
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 chopped apples
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
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1. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a baking sheet with tin foil (easier clean up!) and spread the pecans and oats on it in a single flat layer.  Bake them until your kitchen smells amazing and they’re nice and toasty.  I just left them in while I chopped the apples.

2. Peel and chop the apples.  Don’t worry about making them super small yet, they still have to go in the Slap Chop.  Yes, I said Slap Chop.  I don’t have a food processor and when I told my mom I wanted to make these, she gave me this:
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I don’t even know if I can call that a Slap Chop.  If that’s what it is, it’s a very early version.  It definitely works, but that’s where the manual labor comes in for my little twist on the bars.  Put the pecans, oats, dried cranberries, and apples all through the Slap Chop treatment.  Do this little bits at a time because the Slap Chop doesn’t do a ton at once.  You might need to pick the dried cranberries off the blade every once in a while.  Once chopped, mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.

3.  Add the salt, cinnamon, and honey to the bowl of chopped dry ingredients.  The original recipe didn’t have honey.  My thought is that with a real food processor, the cranberries (or dates as it calls for instead) would be gummy and the apples would be chopped much more and their juices with the gumminess would act as the sticky factor that keeps these bars together.  That’s why I added honey to mine and it worked out really well.

4.  Line a deep 8×8 square baking dish with tin foil and spray the foil with Pam.  Leave extra foil out the sides to use as handles when the bars are done and you take them out.  Put the yummy gooey mixture in the baking dish and use a spatula to press it all down tight and flat.  Pop it in the oven for 20 minutes.  The recipe says 20 minutes, so I would at least check them then if I were you, but I reverted back to my old ways and totally forgot they were in there.  Mine got an extra 10 minutes and they were still perfect.
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Let them completely cool before taking them out of the baking dish and cutting them into bars so that they definitely set and keep their shape.  I cut mine into 8 bars, but they’re pretty big and I think next time I’ll cut them into 10.  Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and keep them in the refrigerator.  They’re a great little post run or snack time treat!

Race Day/Weekend Recap: Dash to the Finish 5K

This past weekend I got to be part of an incredible series of events: New York City Marathon Weekend.  Growing up right next door in New Jersey made the marathon completely accesible to my family and me for spectating the three times that my dad ran it.  I specifically remember standing at mile 15 in a crowd at least 10 people deep that was going crazy encouraging the runners as they went by.  Everyone in the crowd wanted to know who the person next to them was cheering for so that they could join in the noise and celebration.  I was still a small kid and wiggled my way to the front and when my dad came by, everyone around yelled his name to help get his attention.  He ran toward the side and gave my mom, brother, sister, and me hugs and smiles before continuing on.  I remember being so proud and excited for him, and the enormous crowds that lined 26.2 miles really shows how special the running community is.  Though I was not in the marathon, being an elite participant in the Dash to the Finish 5K the morning before allowed me to become part of the experience.  New York Road Runners hosted an amazing weekend. 

Settling In
Friday morning, a couple teammates and I went for our pre-race run.  Just as we got back and started doing some strides, the sky opened up and it poured.  Something about running in the rain makes me feel really fast and strong.  After drying off, we hopped on a train to the Big Apple.  We stayed at the Sheridan New York, which was a block away from the Hilton, where we got our packets, checked out the hospitality suite, and hung out for a prep meeting with Sam Grotewold (@nyrr_pro), who, along with the whole NYRR team, was awesome and super helpful all weekend. As we got our bib numbers and left the meeting, they took head shots of each of us and we went on our way. We even got encouraging cards from some young aspiring runners like we did at NCAAs in June! Those kinds of things make me happy.
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My roommate, Rebeka Stowe (@rebekastowe), and fellow Oiselle teammate Amanda Winslow (@awin250), and I walked the last mile of the course in Central Park to check out the sharp left turn we were warned about. After you make the left turn, the course goes slightly downhill for a little bit before going around a curve back uphill to the finish. When we were walking, we just kind of peeked around that curve and saw the bleachers for the grand stand set up. Assuming that was the finish line, we left the park there and headed back to the hotel before dinner. We should have walked all the way to the finish line… Through some crazy miracle, we were able to find a pretty nice Italian place called Pazza Notte for dinner that was able to seat eight people. A delicious dinner, a quick visit from Nat, and an early bed time. I really haven’t raced in the morning since I last ran cross country (which is now two years ago…weird), so 5 am seemed to be coming too soon.

Trust Your Strength
Coach Fox at Syracuse used to always tell me to trust my strength. That advice is the best way I can sum up the race.

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After my typical race day routine (walk, shower, breakfast, coffee), we met the group in the lobby of the hotel to get the bus over to the starting line and even though it was still pretty dark out, it was relatively warm; a good racing temperature. We went through our usual warm up routine and stripped down to race-ready before finishing up our last couple strides. The bib numbers were huge and said our first names in big letters. Before we got settled in at the starting line, some French and German spectators stopped Rebeka and I asking for pictures! Feeling pretty important and famous, I kind of wondered where those three or four pictures would eventually end up.

Once we finally made our way to the starting line, I looked around at the amazing women that I was surrounded by all weekend. I’m getting better at remembering I’m one of them now. I know I’m not Shalane Flanagan or Molly Huddle, so the plan was not to go out with the leaders. After the gun went off, I knew I couldn’t have if I tried. I don’t know what kind of time they ended up going out in, but the leaders went out quickly and to be perfectly honest, the first mile didn’t feel very awesome. That made me panic a little bit because I also knew the first mile was supposed to be flat. This was when I had to remember the mantra: Trust your strength. I stuck with a pack and made it through that mile. I started to warm up a bit and felt better through the second mile before turning into the park for that last mile we had walked the previous day. I survived the sharp left turn, embraced the slight downhill that followed, and started to grind up the last half mile hill coming around that curve. But as I got around the curve, I wished so badly that I had walked all the way to the finish line the day before. The bleachers were visible from there and so I had assumed that meant there was a finish line near by, but this was no ordinary race. The finish line seating was set up for the marathon that was finishing in the same place, and for a race this massive, it had to accommodate for an equally massive crowd of spectators that would gather there. I still had about 100m to the big 26 mile sign, and then another 0.2 miles from there, all up a hill. Somehow I found my strength and made it to the finish line for 9th place in 16:10. I was definitely happy and excited and there was so much energy all around.

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Bird Brunch, Rest time, and Race #2
We did a long cool down after the race to make it a “long run” day along the Hudson River Greenway, which had a pretty cool view that I didn’t quite capture with my phone mid stride, but here it is anyway.
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The long cool down left Amanda and me with very little time to get back to the hotel, change, and get to the Oiselle meet up. This proved even harder when we got back to the hotel and found it absolutely swarmed with people who were probably getting in for the marathon. We waited forever for an elevator, and when we were ready to go back down, we let two packed elevators go by before making the decision to go down all 36 flights of stairs instead (interesting post-race and long run choice). We got on the subway and made it to brunch late, but with plenty of time to eat and chat with some new bird friends who were running the marathon the next morning. Brunch with these women really reminded me (not that I forgot) why I love who I’m running for.

I spent the remainder of the day mostly resting up so I’d be ready to watch the marathon the next day. Writing that I had to rest up to spectate feels funny while I’m thinking about the amazing strength of the people who ran the marathon. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did because even though I got a run in in the morning, I did quite a bit of unplanned running to watch as well. I watched and cheered at mile eight in Brooklyn, headed to the subway to go directly to the finish line. With our athlete passes for the 5k, we also got tickets to the grand stand to watch right at the finish line. The runners had 18 miles to run in that time and we really shouldn’t have had an issue, but the train took forever to come, and once we came up on 57th Street and 7th Ave, we had to get through Columbus Circle. There was a ton of security and the whole circle, plus a block out all the way around it, was blocked off. So we raced wide around the circle and all the way up to 66th street where we could go in. We just got into the park and ran right up to the fence as Priscah Jeptoo came by. Just made it. I tried to snap a picture of Geoffrey Mutai too, but even though I had more time to set up for it, my picture wasn’t so great.
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I also had a great spot to watch Oiselle Founder and CEO and overall amazing person Sally Bergesen finishing strong and looking fierce!
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Words can’t really describe the excitement and energy that overtakes so much of the city for the marathon. We stayed at the finish line and watched thousands of people accomplish something so awesome. You could see the pride in the runners’ faces as they crested the hill and approached the line. Being part of the Dash to the Finish and getting to watch all of the amazing people who competed in the marathon made it such a great weekend. I love runners.