Carb Deplete/Carb Load Before a Marathon

Thank you all for the words of encouragement on my previous blog post. As time has gone on, I haven’t been quite so depressed about the marathon. It still stings a little bit thinking about it, but my coach sent an encouraging e-mail a few days ago, which helped me feel better. I know 3:12 is still a really good time, and it is my 2nd fastest marathon, so I do recognize those things. I will continue to work as hard as I have been and hope my next marathon brings cooler temperatures and another chance to redeem myself.

For Grandma’s Marathon, as I mentioned in a previous post, I tried a new pre-race nutrition plan called a carb deplete followed by a period of carb-loading.

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Usually before a marathon I continue to eat as I normally do: whole grains, healthy fats, good sources of protein, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and aim for 95% clean/healthy foods. I don’t change too much about my eating habits prior to the marathon, although I will take in a few more carbs and a few less fibrous foods the day before and maybe two days out as well. For this marathon I did give up desserts/candy/sweet treats 3+ months prior to the race. I only had dessert maybe a couple of times during this time period including my birthday.

Six days out from Grandma’s Marathon, I first depleted my glycogen stores by consuming only protein and fats. Ninety percent of my calories had to come from proteins or fats and boy was that difficult. Here are some of the things I ate:

  • eggs
  • avocados
  • bacon
  • pork sausage
  • tuna + mashed avocado
  • chicken breast
  • mahi-mahi
  • protein powder mixed with water (milk has carbs)
  • almond milk
  • almonds, cashews, peanuts
  • peanut butter

DSC_0131I actually did not eat this during the carb deplete. . . I just needed a picture of a lot of meat!

It seems like a pretty good variety, but I got really tired of eating just protein and fats. It probably didn’t help that I wasn’t in my own kitchen and didn’t plan ahead very well. It was also really hard to consume enough calories. I was supposed continue taking in approximately the same number of calories I had been consuming (1800-1900), but the first day I only took in about 1300 calories. I think the next day was about 1500 calories but still not enough.

After just one day of doing the carb deplete, I went for a run the next morning (7.5 miles), and I was dying. I left so sluggish, my legs did not want to work, and I literally had to will myself to keep going. For the last 1.5 miles I had to pick an object–maybe 200 meters away–and say, “Okay, Michelle, just run to the next sign.” It was miserable and maybe the most difficult run this entire training cycle. I had figured (hoped!) it was due to the carb deplete, and my coach confirmed that yep, it was the carb deplete working correctly.

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The next two runs weren’t quite as difficult. One of the runs included 1000 meter repeats, but I did take a lot of walk breaks. And the other run was just an easy 4 miles. I started out slower and knew I could expect my sub-8 minute pace.

I was so ready to be done with the carb deplete after three days. (I decided being vegan for 50 days was way easier than the carb deplete for three days!) The next three days were the carb load, and that, by far, was much more enjoyable than the carb deplete.

During the carb load, I had to aim to consume 350 – 400 grams of carbs each day. I was still able to eat fats and proteins, but I had the added bonus of being able to take in some extra carbs.

Some of the things I ate:

  • bagels with jam
  • pasta with butter and salt and pepper
  • muffins
  • graham crackers
  • cereal
  • pretty much all the carbs I often feel like I usually can’t justify eating

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I was extra hungry during this time, as it seemed like my body was making up for the missed calories the three days prior. I listened to my body and ate as I felt hungry. The day before the marathon (or any long run for that matter), I make sure not to skimp on calories and take in plenty of food for the next day’s run.

The night before the marathon I didn’t have anything special to eat, I literally went to the hot line at a grocery store and got some sauteed veggies and a salad because that’s what I w as craving. I also had a bottled smoothie and a mini loaf of rhubarb bread. Usually I might avoid vegetables, but I hadn’t had any that day, and I was craving them by the end of the day. I know my body pretty well now, and I knew it wouldn’t be affected by the extra fiber.

This carb deplete/carb load is supposed to trick your body into storing additional glycogen that could then be used during race day. I can’t say I felt any different on race day, but my coach said that with the heat, my body wasn’t able to dip into the glycogen stores like it normally would have. I plan to try this diet again in the future and see if I notice a difference.

Grandma’s Marathon 2016 – Race Recap

Grab a cup of coffee, get cozy on the couch, and brace yourself for the longest post I’ve ever written.

I’m not sure how well organized these thoughts will be, so I apologize if things are kind of all over the place.

Grandma’s Marathon was my 8th marathon and the third one on this course. It was my first marathon in 2010 and my Boston-qualifying one in 2012. So while this isn’t a ton of races, I’ve definitely experienced the highs and lows of this distance. This race was definitely a low. Besides Boston, which will be an ultimate low, I’d say this was the next lowest race.
I just still can’t believe how tough the marathon is. It is literally a beast, and I don’t feel I have yet conquered it. I like to say, “You can fake a half-marathon, but you can’t fake a marathon.” On Saturday it wrecked me and beat me up like I wasn’t expecting.
My training had been spot-on. I can’t think of a single workout I missed, I lifted weights twice a week, ate well, slept as well as I could (with a toddler who just started sleeping through the night less than 2 months ago), and did a lot of those ‘little extras.’ But even with all of those things, I still struggled when it came to race day, hence why the marathon is a beast.
Going into the marathon I was confident–maybe too confident–that I would have no problems snagging a sub-3 hour marathon. Like I said, training was going so well, I have been injury free, and I just run a 1:24 half-marathon three weeks prior, which put me on par to run a sub-3 hour marathon had all boosted my confidence.
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The night before the race, I slept terrible (as to be expected), but I got ready, couldn’t stomach hardly any breakfast (half of a banana, 1/4 of a bagel with peanut butter, Picky Bar, and UCAN), barely made it to meet up with my ride to the start, but once I finally got to the start, my game face was on. I did a very short warm-up, and then waited nervously in the corral for the race to start. I saw the race officials switch the weather ‘alert’ flags from green to yellow indicating a moderate risk for racing and “less than ideal conditions.”
When the air horn signaled the start of the race, the nerves disappeared, and I focused on the race. I did good maintaining the pace my coach and I had targeted for the first 3 miles: 6:59, 6:53, 6:52.

Miles 4 – 10 clicked by pretty quickly. There were small areas of shade, but not much. I grabbed water at every aid station. I didn’t drink much as it is hard to drink a lot while running fast, and I hate having a ton of water sloshing around in my stomach. In order to break 3 hours in the marathon, my average pace had to be 6:52, but I kept thinking 6:50 just to give myself a little bit of wiggle room.

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The 6:50 pace came okay, but I was hoping for some more splits around 6:45.

Mile 4 – 6:49

5 – 6:48

6 – 6:50

7 – 6:47

8 – 6:50

9 – 6:53

10 – 6:46

11 – 6:53

12 – 6:51

13 – 6:50

I really tried to stay positive during the next couple of miles. I came up on a fellow runner, who is actually much faster than myself, which boosted my confidence. I could tell she was struggling too, so I did my best to stick with her. (She ended up finishing ahead of me.) I thought back to the sports psychology podcast I have spent time listening to and tried to focus my thoughts on those positive things. And I really still thought, “This is your chance, Michelle, you can still make this happen.” I thought about all the people cheering for me and all the people who had sent me texts and believed in me.

However, my pace started to drop, and I could feel the sub-3 slip through my fingers.

Mile 14 – 6:59

15 – 7:07

16 – 7:10

17 – 7:23

18 – 7:36

I definitely gave up mentally, but I also knew I didn’t have it in me physically. I was just too broken down already. The heat, humidity, and sunshine were getting pretty intense, and my breathing was getting out of control. I was having a hard time catching my breath, and I couldn’t get it under control.

At mile 18.5 I finally had to walk. Oddly/sadly I have only ran 3 marathons without stopping. I really didn’t want to walk, but my breathing was too labored. I stopped to walk, and I was literally gasping for air. (Imagine someone very out of shape doing wind sprints.) I tried to slow my breathing down, and then I started running again.

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Mile 19 – 8:18

20 – 8:09

21 – 9:10

22 – 7:37

23 – 9:21

24 – 7:36

25 – 7:30

26 – 7:24

I continued to take walk breaks every mile and sometimes every half mile. I would walk through the aid stations and drink an entire cup of water (rather than just a few sips), which was good because I was very thirsty by this point. I ended up running the last 2.5 miles without stopping, which I was proud of. Thankfully there were some nice downhill portions that also helped.

Mile 26 seemed to last forever, but I finally saw the balloons and flags for the finish. I pushed with all my might and willed my legs to go faster. I thought about Cullen and made him my motivation to get to the finish line as soon as possible.

Finally, I crossed the line, closed my eyes, and immediately my legs turned to Jell-O. I stumbled around but my legs were too weak to hold myself up. Two volunteers rushed over to hold me up and prevent me from collapsing. I didn’t have the energy to open my eyes or even talk. I was bearing all my weight on the two volunteers as they helped me through the finish chute. I saw Cullen and my mom off to the side and went over to say hi. Cullen wanted me to hold him, but I was too weak and exhausted to do that. After about 5 minutes of the two volunteers walking with me and drinking a little water I was able to walk on my own. I shuffled through the finisher’s chute, got my medal, picked up my t-shirt, and took a cup of Powerade.

The rest of the day I accepted the race for what it was and decided, “it was what it was,” but oddly as time has gone on, I’m feeling more depressed and defeated about the race. I failed. I didn’t meet my goal, and my fear of failure has been with me since I was a kid. I guess that’s the overachiever and perfectionist in me.

But what can I do but learn from the experience and move on. There will always be another marathon. (However, it does get tricky when you are the one who has to bare children.) I still truly believe I have a sub-3 hour marathon in me, so we will try again. And like someone said, it will make success that much sweeter.
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And just a few other thoughts about the race. . . .
Yes, the weather was not ideal for racing a marathon. When I finished, I believe the temperature was 75* with 75% humidity, and not a cloud in the sky, so that sun was beating down on everyone. Thirty minutes after I finished the race, the weather alert flags were raised to “black” or “extreme,” which means the weather conditions are so bad, the event should be canceled. They did not cancel the race but hoped people would make the right choice about whether they should continue running. However, honestly, I feel bad telling people that it was “hot” at this marathon because compared to the Trials and Boston this year, it really doesn’t compare to the 90* heat they had to run in. But even for me (lover of the warmth/heat), it was too warm to race a marathon.
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As far as my breathing issues, I’m not sure what happened there. I have had problems with my breathing like this when I have been anemic, but I continued to take my iron supplement prior to the marathon. I did stop taking my multi-vitamin and instead took some Nurtilite vitamins. I remembered my coach saying the Nutrilite vitamins didn’t have any iron, so I took my iron supplement twice a day. Usually I have 30mg in my multi-vitamin and 65mg in the iron supplement, so the fact the iron supplement had 65mg–and I took it twice a day for the last two weeks–I should have had enough iron.
BUT the other time I have noticed this labored breathing is when the weather is warm. I truly do love training in the warmer weather. . . actually it has become more of a novelty than anything probably now. (I still think it is better than freezing cold temps.) However, since I spend so much of my time training in the 50s/low 60s in Alaska, my body isn’t used to those temps. I don’t why this would be, but I have noticed this in the past.

I’ll end this post by saying ‘thank you’ to all of you who sent well-wishes, texts, and have cheered for me along the way. My running career is not done, and while I am feeling defeated about what happened on Saturday, I know my coach and my assistant coach (a.k.a. Craig) will light that fire again and convince me to lace up my racing flats again soon.

Taper Love

I am in full taper mode for Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday, and I am loving every minute of it. Those of you out there who don’t like to taper. . . . .you’re crazy!

A lot of the things I love about tapering revolve around the extra time to be able to do things I don’t normally have time to do, and here are some of those things.

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  1. I can sleep more. Since my runs haven’t been more than about an hour, I don’t have to get up as early to run. Plus I have time to take daily naps when Cullen naps.
  2. I actually take the time to foam roll and stretch. My muscles are notoriously tight, and they are finally loosening up.

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  3. Since I am staying at my parent’s right now, I don’t have to be on my feet as much chasing Cullen around and picking up after him because Grandma and Grandpa like spending time with him too.
  4. It is nice to have a break from intense training. After nine months of very intense training, I’m ready for a break. This break helps me reset for the next training cycle.
  5. We have more time to do things such as: go to the water park, splash in water puddles, go to the library, and see animals at the zoo. (Actually this is probably more due to being in Minnesota with Grandma and Grandpa.)

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  6. Usually when I have shorter workouts I spend more time in the kitchen. I haven’t done that at my parent’s, but I have been bookmarking many recipes to make when I get back home. Currently on my to-make list is: an amped up banana bread recipe, Healthy Mayo-free Tuna Salad, and Spring Roll Bowls.
  7. I get to eat all-the-carbs! Normally I continue eating the way I usually do, but I am trying something new this time. For this marathon I did a carb deplete followed by a carb-load. I’ll be sure to write another blog post on how this goes after I complete it.

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  8. I have more time to read some of my favorite blogs: A Foodie Stays Fit, Carrots ‘n’ Cake, and Hungry Runner Girl.
  9. I also have time to read books! I haven’t gotten into anything yet, but the fact I was able to check out some books from the library and sit down and read them hasn’t happened in a long time. I did watch the movie Unbroken, but I didn’t like it; it was too sad. IMG_3272

In other news. . . .this is what Cullen and I have been up to!

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Hanging out on the farm and enjoying the picture-perfect summer weather. . .sunny and 80 degrees, now that’s what I’m talking about! The water in the field is not supposed to be there. We got 4 inches of rain, and my dad wasn’t too happy about it.

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I’ve also gotten to experience the summer storms such as thunder and lightening! We have thunder and lightening maybe once a year in Alaska, and it is usually pretty mild. My sister and I drove into this rainstorm the other day. After being in it for a few minutes, we realized we were driving towards a tornado and hail, so we turned around!

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We also had lunch with Great-grandma at The Daily Grind–my favorite cafe in town.

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Only two more days until the marathon! You can sign up to track my progress but not until the day of, I guess. My bib number is: 6849

On the Farm

Cullen and I are enjoying our time in Minnesota with family and friends. Craig wasn’t able to come, but I know he wishes he would have been able to! I love being at my parent’s farm because I forget about the business of the world. Plus it helps that I’m not super busy running around at home cooking, cleaning, and doing errands all day long. I’ve even gotten a chance to nap some days, which is especially important as the marathon nears.

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We made sure to stop and see great-grandma one evening. She couldn’t believe how active Cullen was as he was busy doing something (and getting into all sorts of things) the whole time we were there. Even though she has four kids of her own, she must have forgotten the busy toddler stage.

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I am so glad Cullen gets to experience life on a farm, even if it is just for a few shorts weeks each summer. He has been LOVING all of the different animals. He especially loves the cats on my parent’s farm. He gets a little scared of the pigs because they make a lot of noise when you walk into the barn.

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He also helped my mom pick strawberries from the garden one day. . . . okay he mostly just ate them. (Be sure to follow me on Snapchat if you aren’t already! username: therunnersplate)

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One night we went to a different family’s farm for an event called Taste of the Farm. There was free food, root beer floats, a bounce house for the kids, music, and a scavenger hunt.

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This family’s farm had cows, and Cullen was in heaven. He hasn’t stopped saying ‘cow’ since.

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We also made a trip to the waterpark one evening when the temps were close to 90*. While it wasn’t unbearably hot in my book, it reminded me how you do cope when the temps soar in the middle of summer: you spend every waking moment in or near the water.

This was the first time Cullen has been swimming, and it took him an hour to warm up to the idea of getting in the water. He was pretty apprehensive at first, but finally he was walking in the water, splashing, and climbing on the turtle slide by the end. I think he’ll be much more excited the next time we go.

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I am in full taper mode with shorter runs, no more two-a-days, light weight lifting, and trying to rest as much as possible. Grandma’s Marathon is June 18th, so just a little over a week until the big day!

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PR Coaching Athlete: Sam

Hey everyone, I want you to meet one of my athletes, Sam.

Sam has been working with me for about 7 months and has made HUGE strides. He is very new runner as he has only been running for a little over a year! When he came to me, his half-marathon PR was a 1:52 and two weekends ago he dropped that down to 1:37. He also has a PR of 20:44 in the 5K and 3:46 for the marathon. Sam is an incredibly hard worker, and it has shown in his races, constantly setting new PRs.

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I asked Sam to tell us a little bit about himself and his training, so I hope you enjoy this Q&A.

Tell us a little about yourself: family, work, where you’ve lived, etc.

When my wife and I finished graduate school at the University of Florida in 2008/2009 we said, “whoever got the first, best job, wins.”
My wife was offered a teaching position at the University of Alaska Anchorage, so from Florida to Alaska we moved. I was stoked. I am a lifelong fly fisherman and my graduate research focused on trout and salmon conservation in the American West, so the move was great for me. I work in fisheries conservation. I work to coordinate conservation campaigns to protect some of the last, largest, and best remaining salmon ecosystems from the impacts of some of the largest proposed mines, dams, and other development projects. I am not against those things, but when they put the most miraculous fish, food resource on the planet at risk, then we need to prioritize health food, healthy communities, healthy ecosystems.
We have two boys here in Anchorage that keep us busy, to say the least! They are (almost) 3 and 5. Watching them grow every day inspires me to be a better person, better father, better human. Running is now a part of that.
I am also a bluegrass musician, playing in local bluegrass bands. Not many bands tour to Alaska. Alaska is not on the way to anything. So Alaskans have built an amazing, talented, and supportive music community.  As you can see below, I am drawn to hobbies, activities that have or inspire strong community support – music, food, fly fishing, and now running.

 

How did you get into running?

I think this is what surprises me most.  Though, at this point, I should get over the surprise and fully embrace running as a new and full part of who I am. Three years ago I was not a runner at all. I had occasionally run to stay in shape for skiing, but never with any real consistency. Three years ago, my body hurt, my back hurt, I had gained some weight, work was stressful and I generally felt bad.  I knew that I needed to do something so I started running in my neighborhood. One mile, two miles. The miles started to build a bit. In the Spring of 2015 I ran my first 5 K, followed by a local 12 K. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the fun races. I also enjoyed the concept of self improvement and internal competition that the race provided. It has grown exponentially from there.
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Highlight a few races with times and how they went.

The first races were largely fun, I pushed myself for sure, but enjoyed the experience. I ran my first full marathon in February. It was an amazing, yet hard, experience on so many levels. Much of my family is originally from Austin, TX, so I chose the Austin Marathon as my first one. Personally, I was moved throughout the race by the great Austin community as well as running through neighborhoods I grew up visiting, including my grandmother’s old neighborhood.
Everyone prepared to be prepared for anything in a full marathon, but the race went about as well as I could have scripted it, expect for the extreme cramping at mile 25, causing a 5-7 minute stretching delay. In the end I finished with a 3:46:02. Right at my B goal.   It went well because, as runners say, ‘trust the training.” I embraced every step of the training and trusted the process and it clearly paid off. It was an incredible experience and I look forward to doing it again.
Recent races have been have been memorable because of the massive PRs I have hit. I feel bad comparing this year’s times to last year’s times. I am a totally different runner now. But I was elated to beat my goal time last week in a local half marathon with a 1:37:02 (a 15 min PR from my first half in October 2016).

 

What motivates you in your running?

I am naturally competitive. The thing I appreciate about running is the opportunity for self-competition and self-improvement. That has pulled me to dive in head first and become a ‘runner.’
I also crave the release. My work can be pretty stressful. I can also spend a lot of time on conference calls or at the computer. So running has been huge, from a mental health perspective.
What has surprised me is the running community. I am not sure why I am surprised by it, but I was. Anchorage has a great and amazingly supportive community of runners, coaches, and more. I love stopping into our local running store, Skinny Raven, just to say hello to folks, because of that support.
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What are your running goals?

Improvement.
I have improved so much in the last year, yet I feel like we’re just scratching the surface.
Boston seems the ultimate goal for many. Like so many, I would love to qualify for Boston. I am not sure it is possible, but it is a benchmark on the horizon to chase. I think there is likely an ultra somewhere on the horizon. I love trail running, as one who identifies with the ‘dirtbag’ (outdoors, fly fishing, backcountry) community, trail running and ultras seem a natural progression and fit.  So I suspect at some point I’ll run an ultra. Why not?!
What was the strangest/coolest/weirdest thing that has happened (or that your saw) on a run?

Two weeks ago, running along a local trail we heard a noise in the trees. We looked up to see a bald eagle taking off. It was no more than 5 feet above our heads. The wingspan was massive. I swear it could have picked one of us up.

 

How do you reward yourself after a hard run?

Donuts? Bacon? Foam Roller? Any of the above!
What are your upcoming races?

I am running the Mayor’s Half Marathon in two weeks. Then later this summer, I plan to run the Moose’s Tooth Full Marathon. These are all local races, so at some point I’ll look for a possible race Outside (as we say in Alaska!).

 

If there is anything else you’d like to share, feel free to include it!

As I said, I am excited to see where this all leads. Thanks to Michelle, I think we’ve improved so much, but I believe there’s room for much more growth.

TNC Endurance Running Camp

In college, a week before school started, the cross country team would travel to a lake resort in northern Minnesota to train together as a team and get to know everyone. I felt like I was reliving those days at my coach’s running camp this past weekend.

Initially I was going to go to Minnesota about 5 days prior to running Grandma’s Marathon, but when I found out my coach, Nichole, was going to be hosting a camp for her TNC athletes (TNC = Team Nichole Coaching) and guests two weeks out from Grandma’s, so I changed my ticket and arrived in time to attend the camp.

We stayed at a cabin on a lake in northern Wisconsin and basically spent the weekend eating, sleeping, and running.

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My sister was also able to come, which was super fun. It was so good to be reunited with her. My favorite runs as those I do with her. I tried to convince her to run Grandma’s, but it was probably better as she’s been busying buying a house and working on wedding plans.

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Friday night we went for an easy run (5 miles), and then played some get-to-know-you games.

Saturday morning was our big workout in preparation for Grandma’s Marathon in two weeks. There were three of us running Grandma’s, so we had a marathon-paced half-marathon to run that morning. I ran the first half by myself, and then a couple of guys joined me for the second half. I averaged 6:47 for the 13.1 miles. Overall, it went really well. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible either.

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Saturday afternoon we laid low, hung out, rested, and I tried stand-up-and-paddle for the first time.

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Cullen even got to come along! (My mom played nanny.) He got to spend a lot of time with Auntie Kristy. (Or ‘Kit’ as he now calls her.) My coach’s daughter, Greta, was also there. She is just 9 days older than Cullen, but her height is in the 1st percentile, and Cullen is in the 98th percentile for his height. . . . you can definitely see the height difference in this picture.

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Nichole, Greta, Cullen, and Kristy

My mom watched these two cuties while we ran. They had a lot of fun playing together.

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Saturday afternoon we went for another run (4 miles), and then did some strength training. (My abs are still sore three days later!) That evening my sister gave a nutrition talk (She’s a dietitian.), and Caitlin and Brian Gregg (professional skiiers) came and spoke to our group about life as professional athletes, which is always really intriguing to me.

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Sunday morning was another easy run (9 miles), and then we packed up and hit the road back home.

It was fun having a weekend devoted to training. I wish I could do this all the time!