Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What I Ate Before My (Attempted) Marathon

Yesterday, I posted about my Nashville Rock N Roll Marathon experience, which sadly didn't go as planned. You can read all about it here, but in a nutshell, we didn't make the mile 19 cut-off time and were forced to finish the race early. So we ran a total of 20.2 miles rather than 26.2. Bummer.

I've always been a slow runner, and I'm sure I could get faster. I plan to work on that! I know I have it in me to run faster, but I've always just enjoyed running because it makes me feel good. Not because I'm trying to win. Running at a slow pace feels comfortable and makes me happy. I can assure you my vegan diet gives me the strength to go faster though, and I'll be putting that to the test soon.

I certainly ate very well the day before the race. I tend to follow a pretty strict, healthy, carb-heavy diet the entire day before a big race. Friday morning started with a Strawberry Raspberry Banana Smoothie with spinach and walnuts.

Morning snack — Veggies & Hummus — was enjoyed in the car on the drive to Nashville. I wanted to get there fairly early for the Rock N Roll Marathon Expo. It was happening at the same time as the NFL Draft, which meant a LOT of traffic in downtown Nashville.

I knew I'd still be driving around 12:30 pm, but I didn't want to eat lunch too late. So I brought my leftover Sweet Potato Curry with Tofu & Brown Rice from the night before, and I heated it up on my camp stove at a rest stop. If that doesn't say "prepared for anything," I don't know what does!

I met up with Paul when I arrived in Nashville and we headed to the expo. I'd planned to grab a salad as my afternoon snack at a nearby vegan place. But it took us SO LONG to get to the expo, thanks to all that traffic, that I ran out of time. Luckily, a vendor at the expo was selling Clif Bars. Those are carb-heavy and always work in a pinch!

Since Paul and I had raised money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for this race, we were invited to the St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party! Yay carbs! We headed straight there after the expo.

I loaded up on Spiral Pasta with Marinara, Antipasto Veggies, and Salad. So glad they had lots of vegan options (and fruit for dessert!).

The next day, we woke up at 3:30 am (!!!!) so we could make sure to get downtown and parked in plenty of time for the 7:15 am start time. I always have a Bagel with Nut Butter before a long run or race. This keeps me satisfied for hours without making me feel too full. This is a Dave's Killer Bread Blueberry Bagel with Justin's Vanilla Almond Butter. Plus coffee!

Though the race didn't go as well as planned, we still had a great time. And I'm feeling a little better about the whole experience today. This will make me a stronger, faster runner, and maybe that's the kick in the pants that I needed. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

When You're Not Fast Enough to Finish a Marathon

This wasn't the race recap I wanted to write. As you might have guessed by the title of this post, Saturday's Nashville Rock N Roll Marathon did not go well. Or at least it didn't end well.

On Saturday, I set out to run my fourth marathon with my partner Paul. It would have been his first marathon. We started out strong and thought we were well on-track to finish in the allotted six hours. But at mile 19, we (and hundreds of runners ahead and behind us) were diverted to mile 26. We were told we didn't make the mile 19 cut-off time that race officials had to set to ensure the race would end in six hours. We crossed the finish line and received our finishers' medals, but we only ran 20.2 miles instead of 26.2. We were devastated.

But let's back up a bit. Let's start with our hopeful, optimistic morning at the St. Jude Heroes pre-race hospitality area at Honky Tonk Central on Nashville's iconic Broadway Avenue.

The bar served as a warm place for St. Jude Heroes (those who raised money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital — Paul and I collectively raised $1,000) and Rock N Roll VIP folks to enjoy bagels, fruit, use flushable toilets, and charge their phones before the race. We arrived there around 5 am and hung out in the warmth until it was time to head to the starting line. It was chilly at that time, around 47 degrees, so we were very grateful to have a place indoors to hang out.

Around 7 am, we headed to the start line. We were way back in the back, around corral 22. Here we are looking fresh and ready to conquer the race.

The race started with a bit of a delay, but by 8 am, we were off. For the first 10 miles, the marathoners and half-marathoners ran together, and the race had a total party vibe. Live music every mile, raucous neighborhood parties, tequila shots (!!), beer samples, spectators in costumes. Some neighbors around Mile 5 even put together a Mile 5 party with a stage and performers in costumes. It was so much fun!

And then mile 11 happened. That's where the marathoners split off from the half-marathoners. And we went from neighborhood parties to the longest, most boring stretch of highway I've ever run on. There was an out and back from Mile 11 to Mile 16(ish) with few spectators and no shade. I'd forgotten to wear sunscreen, and by then, it was in the 70s with the sun pounding down on us. Luckily, we scored some sunscreen at a medical tent.

Despite the long, slow slog and sunburn, I was feeling pretty good (though a bit dehydrated due to the heat ... should have carried a handheld water bottle to get me by between water stops). But I felt strong. I'm sure my pace slowed some, but that tends to happen for me later in a marathon. You're supposed to aim to get faster in the second half of the race, but I've still not mastered that art.

We were certain we were on pace to finish the race in 5 hours and 45 minutes, my usual marathon finish time (my PR is 5 hours and 30 minutes, but I knew this hot and hilly course wasn't a PR course for me). I'd emailed race officials a couple weeks before to race to ask about cut-off times, and I was told they would be posting those to the Nashville RNR website before the race. Those times were never posted, which concerned me a little. But I was feeling pretty strong by mile 19, so I wasn't too worried.

But as we got closer to that mile 19 marker, we noticed the faster marathoners coming in from a different direction. A race official was directing us into the crowd with those faster folks, who were on mile 26. We all stopped and asked what was going on. The official said we'd missed the cut-off by a "few minutes." At that point, we were about 4.5 hours in with 7.2 miles left, and we knew we could finish those 7.2 miles in 1.5 hours. But there was nothing we could do but join in mile 26 and cross the finish line, long before we were expecting to.

We stopped running and just walked, fighting off tears. The runners around us who were in the same boat did the same. And as neared the finish line, I turned to Paul and said, "Let's just run it in and make the best of it." The spectators (who had no idea our situation) cheered with "You're almost there!" and "Great job!" and, though they had the best intentions, their words hurt. Because we weren't almost there. We felt robbed of our full marathon. 

But we got our finishers' medals, as well as a charity medal for each raising $500 for St. Jude and a charity medal for raising St. Jude funds during both the Memphis (back in December) and Nashville marathons. Those charity medals mean more to us than our finishers' medal anyway.

I've emailed the Rock N Roll series folks to complain about not posting cut-off times on their website (had I known those times, we could have planned better). A very nice guy from RNR called me today and said they were grateful for that feedback on ways to improve communication for runners. He also offered me a free entry for next year, so while I'm upset at what happened on Saturday, I feel better about the Rock N Roll series as an organization. I think I'll try again next year. 

I understand why some races have strict cut-off times. Some cities, like Nashville, only allow a small window for road closures, and that affects race cut-off times. But I do wish more cities would allow for a greater window there. There were so many first-timers and older folks behind us who didn't get to finish.

Some marathons, like the Little Rock Marathon, allow 8 hours for marathoners to finish, which is a much more reasonable timeframe. Little Rock even does an early start for those who feel like they need more than 8 hours. There's a reason the Little Rock Marathon is my favorite race (they also have the biggest and best medals!).

I know, in the long run (no pun intended!), this experience will make me a better runner. I plan to work on my speed before my September 50K (it has a 9-hour time limit) because I don't ever want this to happen again. I'd like to get to a place where I don't have to worry about not making whatever time the race directors deem an appropriate cut-off. I know I'll grow from this, but it still hurts. 

We had such a great time early on this race, and there were bright moments later on the course as well. So I'll embrace those and try not to let the bad ending color my whole experience. 

Afterward, we drank the free beer at the post-race party. That helped. And then after we showered and changed, we hit Italia Pizza & Pasta in East Nashville to drown our sorrows in carbs. I got the vegan veggie pizza, and we split an order of breadsticks, which I dipped into their amazing vegan garlic sauce. Italia doesn't serve alcohol, but you can BYOB, so we grabbed some Honky Tonk Brewing IPA from the corner store down the street.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Marathon Roadmap Meal Plan, Week 2 (Days 3-4)

Still on the healthy whole foods kick as I prepare for Saturday's Nashville Rock & Roll Marathon. I'm following week two of the 2-week No Meat Athlete Marathon Roadmap meal plan this week, and here's what I ate on days 3 and 4 (Wednesday and Thursday).

Wednesday morning started with another Strawberry-Raspberry-Banana Smoothie (same as Monday), but morning snack was different — Celery with Peanut Butter. One of my faves that I always forget about. Celery is the ultimate vehicle for PB. I know I need to paint my nails. Don't judge.

Lunch was leftover Lemony Lentils & Brown Rice from Tuesday night's dinner, and afternoon snack was another salad with cashew ranch. I also had a Blueberry Muffin Larabar before my 5:30 pm 3-miler with the Crosstown Running Crew.

We enjoyed post-run beers at Crosstown Brewing, and then I headed home for this dinner of NMA Grill-Worthy Veggie Burgers and Air-Fried Potatoes with Curry Ketchup. 

The burgers are so good! They're made with lentils, mushrooms, and walnuts and baked in the oven. I had mine on a whole wheat pita instead of a bun because I'm out of buns. The meal plan didn't mention a side for this burger, but I figured carb-y air-fried potatoes would be perfect. The curry ketchup is imported fro Germany, and it's my current fave condiment.

Thursday morning started with a Lemon Larabar and a 4-mile run on the treadmill because it was raining. I typically prefer rainy runs over the treadmill, but I didn't want my shoes to still be wet for Saturday's race! After my run, I had a banana for post-run carbs, followed by a Blueberry-Peach Smoothie.

Morning snack was Baked Tortilla Chips with Salsa. I made my own in the air fryer using a whole wheat tortilla. 8 minutes at 350 degrees for perfect crispy, oil-free chips.

Lunch was a leftover veggie burger in a pita with more roasted potatoes. And in the afternoon, I had this yummy salad that my co-worker Rita brought to share. It has strange combo of ingredients (pineapple, peaches, pickles, tomato, onion, and bell pepper), and she made a vegan mayo-based herb dressing! Sounds weird, but it was really good!

Dinner was Sweet Potato Curry over brown rice with tofu. This creamy coconut milk-based curry was seasoned with Thai red curry paste. So very good!

I'm tucking in early for bed tonight since the best time to sleep pre-marathon is the night before the night before the race. I'll check back in early next week with a "what I ate before my marathon" post and a race recap

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Marathon Roadmap Meal Plan, Week 2 (Days 1-2)

Now that I'm back from vacation and only a few days out from the Nashville Rock & Roll Marathon (eeeeek!), I'm following week two of the No Meat Athlete Marathon Roadmap meal plan. It's a two-week, whole foods-based plan that's perfect for getting your eating goals in line during the taper period. I did week one the week before vacation and then took a little break from healthy eating while in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

But on Monday (don't all good healthy goals start on Mondays??), I started back on week two of the plan. Each day starts with a smoothie, and Monday, that was the Raspberry Strawberry Banana Smoothie with walnuts and baby spinach. My fave smoothie on the plan! I took a rest day from working out on Monday so I could catch up on sleep after my trip.

Morning snack was Whole Wheat Pita with Hummus, Lemon, & Pea Shoots. Fun snack! It's really important to load up on carbs the week before a big race, and I'm loving all the carbs on this plan.

Lunch was Grilled Portabellas with Caramelized Shallot & Spinach-Beet Salad. Fancy! The mushrooms were coated in a vegan worcestershire-dijon mustard sauce and grilled in a grill pan. Served atop grilled sprouted grain bread.

Afternoon snack every day is a salad with whatever toppings you choose. This one has a homemade oil-free cashew ranch, chickpeas, cucumber, bell pepper, carrots, and red cabbage. 

Dinner on Monday night was this beautiful bowl of Whole Wheat Bowtie Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Spinach. For the tomatoes, you coat chopped plum tomatoes in a little olive oil, garlic, and herbs, and then roast in the oven. OMG SO AMAZING. Also, the recipe called for arugula, but I'm not a fan so I subbed spinach. 

I enjoyed a nice glass of my dad's homemade blackberry wine for dessert!

Breakfast on Tuesday morning was another smoothie. This time, it was a Blueberry Peach Smoothie with banana, spinach, and walnuts.

Morning snack was an Avocado with Lemon & Sea Salt. It didn't say how much avocado to eat, so I started with a half, thinking that'd be plenty for a snack. But I was still hungry after that half, so I ate the whole thing!

Lunch was leftover bowtie pasta, and my afternoon snack was another (very similar) salad. I had plans to attend a Nashville Marathon course preview event at Overton Park, and that included a fun run. So I fueled with a Blueberry Muffin Larabar before the run.

I had a beer at the Overton Park Clubhouse after the run (they have $2.50 craft beers!) and watched St. Jude coach Kevin Leathers go over the marathon course. I feel slightly more prepared but still very intimidated by the large size of this race!! I've never done a Rock & Roll series race, but I hear they're huge. I got home from that event pretty late (around 8 pm) so I was hungry. But luckily, I'd already prepped last night's dinner — Lemony Lentils with Brown Rice.

This very brown dish is actually REALLY good and very simple — just lentils cooked with caramelized onions and seasoned with salt and lemon juice. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Eating Vegan in Ft. Lauderdale, Days 5-6

Here's the final wrap-up post from my week-long trip to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida! You can see what I ate (and what we did for fun) on the first four days in my last two posts. But tonight, I'm focusing on Day 5 (Thursday) and Day 6 (Friday). We were actually there all day Saturday as well, but we literally spent every waking moment sitting at the beach and only ate our leftovers for meals (because we wanted to waste as little food as possible!).

Paul and I had the first couple days to ourselves, and on Wednesday, our friend Nicole flew in from Chicago. On Thursday, our friend Misti flew in from Memphis. We picked her up from the airport Thursday morning. She was hungry, so we had vegan deli meat sandwiches with Violife cheese on the beach rental porch before heading to the beach.

We spent most of the day at the beach, but that evening, we decided to go on a group run! Before I left, I posted on the No Meat Athlete Pulse Facebook page asking for suggestions on places to eat in Ft. Lauderdale. Turns out Esther of the NMA team lives there! And she suggested we check out her Thursday group run, the Funky Fun Run put on by the Running Wild running store. It's free and starts at 6:30 pm at the store every Thursday. It was close to our place, so we took the rental car out and joined the group. Here's me and Esther, both sporting our No Meat Athlete shirts.

And here's my crew — Paul, Nicole, Misti and me!

After the 3-mile(ish) run, the group meets up for FREE local craft beer on the roof of the Westin resort. Yay!!!

After the run, we caught a shuttle back to the running store, and we made some friends from the Funky Fun Run group! They invited us our for burgers at Burger Fi (where Funky Fun runners get a discount on run night!). I had another Beyond Burger and Fries (we ate at Burger Fi on our first night in town, but I was more than happy to eat there again!).

See that birthday cake in the background? Paul's birthday was Friday, and when one of the runners found out, he ran over to the next door Publix and ordered a super fast cake (and even had them scribble "Happy Birthday Paul" on it!!!!). Paul was so touched that he cried.

We spent the rest of the evening chilling at the beach after the sun went down, watching the waves crash on the shore under a full moon. And yes, we brought a box of wine!

The next day, Friday, we decided to take a quick trip to nearby Miami since we had the rental car for one last day. The drive took about an hour and a half, but that's because we got lost a few times. Oops. We finally found South Beach, where we lucked into a great street parking spot and settled into a bar with GIANT cocktails! It was Paul's birthday on Friday, and he wanted a Classic Margarita. Nicole and Misti picked a Miami Vice daiquiri. We all shared two drinks. They were big but not very strong.

After cocktails, we checked out Miami Beach before heading back to Ft. Lauderdale. 

For Paul's birthday dinner, he requested Thai food, so I found a vegan-friendly spot in Ft. Lauderdale called Thai Spice. They can make any dish veg with tofu! Misti (also vegetarian) and I split an app of Veggie Spring Rolls.

And for my entree, I ordered my favorite Thai dish — Pad See Ew with tofu!!

So good! And man, those leftovers were amazing on Saturday. We had a great trip, but I'm so glad to be back at home. My parents house-sat my pets while I was gone, and they went on a bit of a home makeover spree! So I came home to a newly painted guest room, new blinds in the living room, sparkling clean bathtubs, and so much more. I seriously have the best parents in the world. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Eating Vegan in Ft. Lauderdale, Days 3-4

We got home from a 7-day vacation in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida yesterday! I totally meant to post more while I was there, but I was just too busy being a beach bum to break out my computer. Can you blame me? Ha!

I recapped the first two days in a post while we were there, and now that I'm back, I'll be recapping the rest. Here's what we ate and did on days 3 and 4 (that would be Tuesday and Wednesday of last week).

On Tuesday, Paul and I went on a short 3-mile run around the neighborhood by our beach rental. Then I had some oats with nut butter. We spent most of the morning lounging on the beach. Paul played in the ocean, while I caught up on reading. Currently reading this great running memoir by Catra Corbett called Reborn on the Run. She's a former goth party kid turned ultramarathoner. Very inspiring.

After a few hours at the beach, we snacked on sandwiches made at our rental. Eating in saved us a lot of money!

We even stayed in to eat that evening. We made a romantic pasta dinner in our room using the copper conduction hot plate and microwave in our mini-kitchen. We'd bought boxed rotini, a jarred sauce, bagged salad, vegan ranch, toast, and Earth Balance at the Publix down the street, so we had all the fixins for Pasta Night! We also grabbed a box of wine. Yes, we burned the bread in the toaster but you make do.

We went back to the beach later that night to watch the waves in the dark. The ocean is extra beautiful at night.

Wednesday, day 4, started with another morning run. This time, I went alone and did a little speedwork.

Our friend Nicole from Chicago was planning to stay with us for the latter half of the trip, and she arrived that morning after my run. We spent the day at the beach with her, and then we cleaned up and went out for dinner at Tacocraft, a taco/tequila bar by the beach rental.

We started with Guac & Chips.

They had a few vegan taco options, so I chose the Crispy Tofu Taco and the Kale Sweet Potato Taco. Both were excellent, but that crispy fried tofu was out of this world!

And of course, I had a margarita! Or two (hey, they were half-off for happy hour!).

We ended out the evening hanging in the hot tub at the beach rental, until the neighbors complained that we were being too loud. Ha!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Eating Vegan in Ft. Lauderdale, Days 1-2

Hey everyone! I'm checking in from sunny Ft. Lauderdale, Florida! Paul and I are here for a week-long vacation, and we have some friends meeting us down here tomorrow. We left Sunday morning on a 6:40 am flight.

Even though I had a big breakfast at home, I was famished by 10 am. Luckily, I found this portable Veggie Wrap with hummus, quinoa, farro, veggies, and avocado lime dressing in the Houston airport (where we had a layover).

I snacked on that on the plane, along with some Vegan Rob's Vegan Cheddar Puffs that I brought from home.

Washed down with a tomato-vodka cocktail because that's the best thing about flying! Booze in the morning!

When we finally landed, Uber-ed to our beach rental, and got settled in, we were starving again. I did a quick Google scan of restaurants around us and found a Burger Fi just two blocks away! So we walked over and enjoyed burgers (Beyond Burger for me!), fries, and Landshark ale.

We're staying a block from the beach, so after dinner, we went to check it out. Paul hasn't seen an ocean in 21 years (I was thinking he'd never been to the ocean, but turns out, it's just been a long time).

The rest of the night was spent chilling in the hot tub and enjoying some vodka-cranberry cocktails. On Monday morning, we woke up and headed to Publix to stock up on food for the house. It has a small kitchen with hot plate and microwave, so we can do a little cooking here to save money. When we returned, we made sandwiches. Mine has Field Roast Lentil Sage deli slices and a Violife American slice. Salad on the side with Follow Your Heart vegan ranch.

After lunch, we walked down to the pier and just watched the water for a bit.

And we met a pelican! This guy was not scared of people at all! He was just looking for free snacks.

For dinner, I found a vegan-friendly pizza wrap place! Pizza Crek serves pizza all rolled up, and they have vegan and non-vegan options. I opted for the Soy Cheese & Vegan Pepperoni Wrap! So good.

It's Tuesday morning now, and we just finished a 3-mile run. I had some oatmeal with nut butter and fruit, and we're thinking about heading back to the beach. I'll check in again soon!