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Athens Marathon Training: Settling Into Something

21 Aug

I’ve written several times about how I like to use words or phrases during runs or races to keep me focused and my mind from going into the deep, dark place a 3-hour run in 95% humidity can suck you into. This week was all about one of my favorite phrases: “settle into something.”

Mostly, I use this little phrase to help pace myself. During track workouts, I have the bad habit of sprinting the first two repeats and then struggling to finish the subsequent 4-6. So, I usually spend the first half of the workout encourage myself to “settle into something you can hold on to.” During long runs, I’m usually saying something to the tune of “settle into something you can run at for 3 hours.” And when it’s just a regular old run, the loop I like to repeat in myhead, “settle into something that feels good.” (And if you’re wondering why I talk to myself in the third person, read this interesting article about the maximizing the benefits of carrying on whole conversations with yourself.)

This week was all about settling into things– it was a dial-back week, so I didn’t have to focus on running longer, faster, or farther than the week before. I just had to settle into something and get it done. Maintenance phases of anything can be difficult for me, as I’m Type A enough to prefer increasing intensity… but not every week is for building, so I just kept focused on “settling in,” and tried to avoid making eye contact with the concerned passersby who heard me talking to myself.

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Athens Marathon Training Week 4: Settling into Something

Monday: I ended up doing my long run on Sunday last week, so Monday was a mostly rest day. I did a little bit of cross training– tennis lessons! I had a blast, but let’s just say I don’t think I will “settle into being Serena” anytime soon.

Tuesday: Solidcore Arms & Abs with James. Settle into suffering.

Wednesday: 70 minute run post-work — after several cooler days, the heat surprised me and slapped me upside the head. I am pretty sure I could wring out my body weight in sweat from my clothes by the time this run was over.


Thursday: Track day! I was not really feeling like getting out of bed and flinging myself around an oval, but I put on my favorite “get it done” shirt and got it done.  I had 6×800 on the schedule, with a goal of 3:45 per repeat. I ended up with 3:41/3:39/3:38/3:42/3:41/3:45. After the 2nd and 3rd 800s got away from me, I really tried to slow down and hit the pace on the head, which you can see took me a few more repeats.


I did some yoga Thursday night to try and keep these calves of mine loose, as well.

Friday: 30 minute run at lunch — this was an exercise in settling into soupiness. Blech.

Saturday: Finally–finally!– made it to my running group in time for the pre-run picture. I had 90 minutes scheduled, but I got my math all messed up and ended up running for just under two hours. Whoopsies. Luckily, I had great company for most of the route– thank you, Liz!


Weeks to Race Day: 12
Total Miles This Week: 25.7
Gains: finally back to getting in all my workouts
Losses: my taste bud’s innocence– Liz and I tried the margarita-flavored Cliff block, and I would NOT recommend it.


Athens Marathon Training: Calves, Coughs, and Complaints

14 Aug

For those of who could care less about running, there’s good news: I actually have some recipes to share later this week! Operation: Free Woman has me whipping up all kinds of good stuff.

For those of you who do like the running rundowns, we’ve got a whiny one today. I did something to my calves last week — not really sure what — and it took me most of the week to see even a little improvement. Just as they started to loosen up, the tickle in my throat went from a “little summer cold” to “does she have pertussis?” So, it was a week of winning some and losing some.

Athens Marathon Training Week 4: Calves, Coughs, and Complaints

Monday: Yoga @ Yoga Heights. My calves were so sore that most of my downdogs looked like this:

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Tuesday: Solidcore Arms & Abs followed by a 30 minute run. Calves still tight, had to hobble up the Harvard hill to get home. Not cute.

Wednesday: Had the wonderful treat of being able to catch a yoga class during lunch, and my calves were feeling a teensy bit better. Went for a 60ish minute run after work, and it turns out that whatever marginal improvement I felt in my legs would be overshadowed by the summer cold I had been harboring and was now ready to come tumbling out– I met my friends for dinner right after running and was in such a coughing fit I couldn’t eat and breathe at the same time. Still not cute.

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Thursday: MORE.DAMN.YOGA.  Listen, I like yoga as much as the next person who would rather be running than doing pretty much anything else, but by this point of the week, my calves were still killing me and the cough was getting worse. I walked out of this class like this:

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Friday: I intended to do my speed workout during lunch, but about half way through the second 1000, I realized that my HR had been in zone 5 since my warmup… turns out, when walking up the stairs makes you hack up a lung, pretty much everything becomes an anaerobic workout. I turned this run into a shake out run, and then just stretched the hell out of my calves.

Saturday: Woke up feeling like death warmed over. Slept in, then took a nap, then went to see BabyKef (who is about to have an ACTUAL baby!!!!!), and then went back to bed.

Sunday: Souped up on some Dayquil, I braved the world to meet Deb for a run. About 2 miles in, I was trying to figure out how to delicately tell a woman who had just driven from a different state just to do a long run with me that I was going to have to turn around and go home. But, then we met up and got to running and I realized I was actually feeling better than I had all week. My calves were loose and my lungs were holding up, and Deb was the hero of the day– she kept on running with me, even when I kept asking to take the long way around. We did a wonderful loop from the mall, past the Capitol, across the river and past the Big Chair, and then back to West Potomac Park. I was still feeling great once I dropped her at her car, so I tacked on another 2 miles and, wouldn’t you know it, I was at 18 miles! Another personal distance and time record.


Weeks to Race Day: 13
Total Miles This Week: 32
Gains: another distance milestone, appreciation for good health
Losses: another missed speed workout, no spinning, and minimal strength training this week. Womp womppp.


Athens Marathon Training: Whoop Whoop

31 Jul

The good Lord answered every one of the running community’s prayers and sent some friggin’ spectacular running weather our way last week. Here’s how things shook out for your dear friend Chef Kefi, RN:

Athens Marathon Training Week 2: Whoop Whoop

Sunday: Yin Yoga at Past Tense — so nice to shake off that swampy week and get my head right to move into a new one.

Monday: as (almost) always, SolidCore Arms & Abs. Had an especially good class and even spent a good portion of it on my toes– which brings us to our theme:giphy (1)

Tuesday: 70 minute run  — no humidity, a little wind, and temps UNDER 75 degrees at 645 AM? Yes, please. Hallelujah.

Wednesday: Speedwork — switched things up so I could take full advantage of the nice weather. I had 25-30 min @ Tempo pace, which I just so happened to have hit pretty on the nose: 7:43/7:45/7:43/3:54 (800). But the real story here isn’t the workout… it was what happened on the way to the track…



If you look closely, you’ll see the flashing lights of the one of the TWO cruisers that pulled me over for an illegal left turn… at 6:17 AM, with no oncoming traffic and no pedestrians in the crosswalk. One officer would definitely not have been enough to handle my flagrant disregard for the law. $150 in tickets later (because one ticket wouldn’t have been enough, either), and you can see why I was booking it around that track!

Thursday: Spinning at OffRoad before work. Have I mentioned how much I love OffRoad? They deserve their own post. No dancing, no bumping into your neighbor while trying to coordinate your bicep curls to the beat, just awesome spinning workouts made for people who actually ride their bike outside. Indoor cycling as it should be.


Friday: 30 minute run — torrential downpour meant I had to take it to the treadmill. Not my favorite, but I was not going to take issue with mother nature after the rest of the week’s wonderful weather.

Saturday: 2:37ish minute run — I actually felt a CHILL in the air when I left the house around 6:15. I took an old favorite route through Rock Creek Park to the mall and back, and it was just about the most lovely few hours in recent memory. I had originally planned on just 2:30 minutes, but I forgot that the zoo opens later now and so had to add on some time finding an alternate water source in Rock Creek Park. Once I realized I would be a few minutes over, I figured I might as well go for a personal distance record and ended at 17 miles on the dot. And then the eating commenced and did not end until I quenched the inner beast that is my post-run hunger and looks something like this:

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I really didn’t know how I was going to incorporate the theme into that one, but luckily the internet always provides. If anyone knows what “shoop da whoop” is, call your girl.

Weeks to Race Day: 15
Total Miles This Week: 31.5
Gains: New personal distance record, new respect for how hard adding miles over 16 is going to be.
Losses: the boulder on my shoulder about humidity, my 100% record of never getting a ticket once I tell the police officer that I am a nurse.



Athens Marathon Training: Hot as Hades

24 Jul

Well my dears, it’s about that time: I’m officially in a training cycle for the 2017 Athens Marathon. After years of saying I’d never do a full marathon, my tune changed and I started saying things like, “If I ever do a full, I’d only do the ORIGINAL marathon in Greece” … and then I accidentally ran 16 miles with Courtney, and I soon found myself on a registration page half in Greek clicking “submit.” Looks like I’m running a full after all!

I can’t explain the appeal of training recaps, but I love reading them. There is nothing particularly enthralling about the recollection of miles, routes, and paces that OTHER people ran, but I guess it’s like shouting out the answers to Jeopardy at home– sort of feels as though you’re along for the ride. So, I’ll post my weekly training recaps and see how it goes … if I like writing them as much as I do reading ’em, I’ll keep posting. And if I get bored, well, I won’t.

In other news, there is ZERO chance that I will be able to keep up with the photographic requirement of recaps, so I think instead of running pics, I’ll just pick a theme for the week and post random ish I find at least tangentially related. And if that ain’t for you, you can just keep on scrolling.

Athens Marathon Training Week 1 : Hot as Hades

Hot as Hell.. None needed.. sums FORECAST traer. glenn beck you fail at life agian.

Sunday: Spin + Core at OffRoad. Andrew BROUGHT IT with some Rihanna and these high-resistance sprints that seemed to go on forever. Dead.

Monday: Solidcore Arms & Abs. My obliques still hurt.

Tuesday: 90 minute run that didn’t quite go as planned. I had been running at night to avoid (some of) the humidity, but I Tuesday night and didn’t start until almost 845 pm, which is pretty much BED TIME every other night. About 25 minutes in, I realized I also hadn’t eaten enough during the day and was pretty miserable. I took a break around 45 minutes to collect myself, and then made it to 65ish minutes before I needed to give myself another stern talking to. I took a different route home to try and get in a different head space, but just ended up cursing everyone and everything along the way: WHY is it so hot? WHY am I a human, not a self-cooling FemBot? WHO lets all these damn rats live on the mall at night? AND WHY THE HELL IS Q ST ONE WAY??!? It wasn’t pretty, but it — finally– ended. Glad that’s over.


Wednesday: Slept through yoga in the AM– after the previous night’s shenanigans, that was fine with me. Spinning with Katie at Off Road Cap Hill after work, which was FULL of long hills simulating stage 12 of the Tour De France. Death by bike, once again.

Thursday: 60 minute run — Determined to get back on my AM running schedule, I headed out Thursday morning thinking that this hour would just fly by. Wrong. It was (surprise!) hot as eff, so I took a few moments at the 45 minute mark to bring down my core temp/HR and generally fix my face. I wasn’t sad to see this run end.


Friday: rest day, for my body and brain. Needed to reset in a major way. I’ll take this opportunity to pivot on this week’s theme.. Mahershala Ali: so hot, and yet still so cool.


Saturday: 2 hour run — THIS HUMIDITY WILL NOT LET ME BE GREAT. I actually started out feeling good… way, way too good .. and ran the first 5 miles around ~845/mile. I just couldn’t get myself to slow down, even though I could feel my insides cooking and knew this was not at all sustainable for another 75 minutes. Luckily for me, I was running with a wonderful group of people who are infinitely more sensible about pacing than I am, and Deb, Courtney, and Dawn let me tag along with them for the second half of this gnarly run, and I was able to keep it at a pace reasonable enough to get the whole thing done.

Weeks to Race Day: 16
Total Miles This Week: 31.6
Gains: toughened up my mental game, recalled with clarity why I do not run at night
Losses: kissed a good amount of my self-respect and about a mile’s worth of energy goodbye in a mid-run temper tantrum on the mall


Summer Running Essentials

16 Jun

The extended spring we were enjoying here in DC was nice while it lasted, but the summer stank has settled in– and if things keep heading in our current direction, I’d bet 2017 will go down as the Swampiest Summer Ever. But I’ll leave that right there.

Anyway– here are some things I think are essential to summer running:

1. Shorts You Can Actually Run In

A few years ago, I chronicled my quest to move from capris to shorts here and here. I stand by the claim I made back then that the Lole Lively Shorts are the best thing to ever happen to my thighs, but my endorsement of them must have broken the internet because they are now sold out everywhere. I am happy to report, however, that the Oiselle Long Roga shorts I wasn’t 100% sold on have been through some updates since my original test run, and I am now a big-time fan of them. I suggest sizing up because the built-in brief seems to be about 1/2 size smaller than the shorts themselves– but, if callipygian isn’t the word the Ancient Greeks would have used to describe you, you might not worry about that.


2. A Hand-held Water Bottle

When it’s damn near 80 degrees and 100% humidity by 6am, there’s no two ways about it: you need to BYOW. I love this little 10-oz guy, but admit that it’s only enough if I know I’ll have access to a fillup while I’m out for a run. I’m considering upgrading to a 16 oz and would love to hear your recommendations if you’ve got ’em.


3. Something–anything–to Keep the Sweat Out of Your Eyes

What is worse than being hot, tired, and soaked in your own sweat? Being hot, tired, and having that aforementioned sweat running into your eye and threatening to knock your contacts out of place, too. I love this Roga Visor from Oiselle (surprise). It’s made of the same super-lightweight and sweat-wicking fabric as the Roga shorts are, so it keeps the sweat out of your eyes without adding extra heat. The brim is a bit shorter than most other visors I’ve tried so I don’t find that it does a ton for face shade, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for eyes that don’t sting.


If visors aren’t quite your thing, I also sometimes use those 80s terrycloth sweatbands as a headband and have found that easier than trying to keep one of those super-cute-but-not-all-that-functional sparkly ones in place. Plus, you can roll out with your squad looking like this… because nothing says “I’m ready to run” like pantyhose:


4. Sunglasses

As a health professional, I should recommend sunscreen… but the best this sun-worshiping (and foolhardy) Greek woman can do is to recommend good polarized, non-slip, non-fog sunglasses. I am pretty into these fun and durable KnockArounds, most of which cost around $10-25. (Click here and enter your email address for $10 off any purchase of $20+.)sung

5. A Plan

Listen, y’all– I have learned this the hard way. July is not the time to figure your route out while you’re running it. Are there water fountains available on the route? Is there shade? Are the hilliest parts of the route also the parts in full sun? If you keel over from heat exhaustion, will anyone be around to find you? Is your main obstacle going to be bikers (who provide just enough breeze as they blow by to count as a blessing) or a group of middle schoolers from Iowa (who totally screw your Garmin stats by making you slow down at every crosswalk because their chaperone refuses to let anyone by)? These are things I want to know BEFORE I head out of the house.

More Wise Words from Other People

18 May

I’m hopelessly behind on homework right now, so no original thoughts from Nurse Kefi today–but I did want to share the incredible letter-to-her-younger-self Lauren Fleshman published earlier this week. You may recall her beautiful poem about running, women, and not giving two effs about what other people think.Her advice focuses on running, but the wisdom is transferable to all of us–one of my favorite parts is below, and you can read the whole thing here:

I need you to know, I PROMISE you, that the ultimate star you are chasing is further ahead than any shiny thing you see now. The way you get there is to protect your health and protect your love of the sport above all, even as you reach for the shiny goals right in front of you. You simply do not know and cannot predict your personal path, but you’ll get there. It will look different and brighter and richer and more multi-faceted the closer you get.

I need you to know, you have always been more than a runner, more than your times, more than your state championships, more than your school records. But you will get confused. You will forget. Luckily you will have teammates and family and friends who remind you. You will go on to do almost every single thing you could have dreamed of, not in the way you imagined, not on the timeline you imagined.

I’ve got a bunch of really delicious recipes to share once I submit these 4 milliion SOAP notes–nothing like the final push. #soclosetodone

GW Parkway 10 Miler: Dialed In, Doubling Down

27 Apr

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What is there to say about a race you never planned on racing? Not a whole bunch, but we’ll try anyway.

After my big PR at the St Patty’s Day 10k, I was undecided about my plans for the GW Parkway 10 miler. On the one hand, I was pretty sure I could run a fast race and eek in another PR. On the other hand, I didn’t want to spend a whole bunch of mental energy early in the season on a distance I couldn’t care less about. So, I decided to split the difference and focus on running an even race at a pace that was tough but manageable. I settled on 8:00/mile in my head and kind of forgot about the race- no special training runs, no tempo workouts, just running when I felt like it and not running when I didn’t.

As noted a million other places in this blog, life has been … stressful … lately. As noted by a million other people on the internet, running can be a source of solace and sanity during difficult times. I was not 100% sure I could keep up an 8:00 pace for ten miles, and I saw no need to make my stress-relief activity a stress-inducing activity over this race I didn’t even really care that much about– so I decided to focus on the really UNstressful task of putting on foot in front of the other and that my little race mantra would be “just another day you get to do something you love–the rest doesn’t matter.”Kind of a long phrase to repeat to yourself when you’re breathless, but it worked so I went with it 🙂

Annoyingly, my watch missed about a third of a mile along the way, so my exact mile splits are all over the place and likely not reliable. It took me a little while to get into the groove with all those rolling hills, but once I got into a good zone I just focused on dialing in and staying comfortable.

Around mile 5, I realized that I could break 1:20 if I worked a just an eensy bit harder, and of course the goal-oriented monster that lives inside my go-with-the-flow outer shell came barreling out like the Hulk busting out of Bruce Bannon’s clothes. I saved a lot for the last mile, which is particularly brutal on this course because you can see the finish for so.damn.long and then kicked like hell to get in.

Official time: 1:20:41

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Kind of annoying to get so close to a goal time and miss it (even if it was a spur-of-the-moment goal), but really awesome to make a FIVE MINUTE PR and eek it in in the top 10% of my age group and gender. And it felt great to push it out there for 10 miles on a beautiful course on a perfect running day. The good people of Pacers tell me that I ran the first 5 miles at a 8:03/mile average and the second 5 miles at 8:04/mile average–so I’d say it’s Mission Accomplished on the well-paced goal, and we can put another awesome Pacers race in the books.

Next is probably the Cap Hill Classic– no telling what goal or ungoal I’ll come up with for that race.

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