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Athens Marathon Training: Greece is the Word

16 Oct

Apologies for the blank email/fake link yesterday and thanks to the many of you who told me about it– I really should not be allowed near technology.  Good news for everyone who could not care less about running is that I actually did some cooking over the weekend, so one of these days we will talk about something other than whether all ten of my toenails are going to survive this race.

Turns out, my first marathon is JUST ABOUT ONE MONTH AWAY.  When I was in school and would tell people I had XX months left, I wished a slow and painful death on anyone who responded “Oh, that’ll fly by.” But these couple months really did — guess I like running better than busy work and B.S. tests. Who knew?

I am starting to get cautiously excited about the race itself, but I am unabashedly enthusiastic about my upcoming time in The Hellenic Republic. So today we’re gonna focus on the nation and people who have given the world everything: Greece!


Athens Marathon Training Week 12: Greece is the Word

Monday: Arms & Abs @ Solidcore. Since revisionary history seems to be the creative trend these days, I am going to pitch a show wherein the Spartans had the megaformer Pilates machines that Solidcore uses– think “Man in the High Castle” meets “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Insane Spartan discipline + side plank crunches = total world domination. The opening sequence would be this group of Greek women pushing each other up the Acropolis in a display of their brute strength:


Tuesday: 60 min run I had to run after work, which is generally not my preference. Despite that, I was smoking the damn sidewalk Tuesday afternoon — not quite sure what got into me, but it was one of my speediest runs in awhile. If I had been in Greece, I would have known that this was a run fueled by the most beautiful part of the day: the afternoon light.


But, instead, I was in DC and was perhaps fueled by my hatred for the new development at the Wharf, which will certainly ensure that the low-income housing left in that part of SW will disappear within the next 5 years.

Wednesday:Hills for breakfast. I lugged myself up and down Capitol Hill  several times. Whenever I thought about stopping, I remembered that this damn marathon is going to be hilly — but if I finish the damn thing and live to tell the tale, my post-run feast will look like this:


I am thinking Pheidippides didn’t really care about telling the Athenians about the outcome of the battle — he was probably running all those miles just to get to his Aunt Lena’s eggplant pie, too.

Thursday: yoga + ST. I don’t have a lot to say about tree poses and lunges, but no post about Greece would ever be complete without what remains my favorite picture of all time:


Friday: rest day, mostly because I was at work until 8:45. That’s bad enough on a Friday, but it also meant I had to push back my weekend runs, which I don’t love.

Saturday: 30 min run. Nothing to say about that.

Sunday: 90 min run. I’m gonna let this training cycle finish, but this was one of my best runs OF ALL TIME. The miles just flew by, they were all paced within a few seconds of each other, and I was feeling so good at the end that I actually opted for the route home with more hills. Praise the sweet Lord baby Jesus.  Speaking of babies, here’s my favorite little moraki, edited for his mother’s privacy concerns:

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Weeks to Race Day: 5
Total Miles This Week: 25
Gains: a new goal: eat all the Spanakopita I can post-marathon 
you know, this week was a lot of wins– let’s just leave t there.


Athens Marathon Training: If I Ran 20 Miles but my Garmin Didn’t Record It, Does it Still Count? And Other Quandaries

11 Sep

Ed Note: It’s not just another Monday, but I don’t generally use this space for anything particularly poignant, so you can take the run chat for whatever it’s worth today.

Last week, we answered frequently-asked questions. This week, we’re pondering life’s tough questions as they apply to running.

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Athens Marathon Training Week 7: Quandaries

Monday: I bumped my long run back to Sunday last week, so Monday was a rest day. There are no tough questions on a rest day, because the sun is always shining and the birds are always singing when there are no workouts scheduled. Am I right?

Tuesday: 90 minute run I’m having a little trouble adjusting to my new commute schedule, so of course missed the absolutely gorgeous running weather Tuesday morning only to realize it would probably rain Tuesday evening. I stayed ahead of the rain until the last ~20 minutes, which is when I was about 5 steps ahead of the rain and then eventually swallowed in a torrential downpour. It’s been awhile since I’ve run in the rain–  but the next time someone wonders, “Do you need the rain to appreciate the sun?” I will be able to reply with a well-informed and resounding, “NO.”


Wednesday: Yoga @ Past Tense. My hip flexors were barking.

Thursday: 5x1000s @ 4:21. Repeat of last week. The first 3 felt easier than last week, the last 2 felt a little harder. I came in  at 413/420/421/422/420. It takes a certain mental fortitude to run around the same oval a few dozen times and still care about the time required. Until about three weeks ago, I mostly spent my time on the track pondering the great philosophical questions: how many angels can dance on the head a pin? Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway? What if the Hokey Pokey IS what its all about?

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… I should probably stick to just focusing on the workout.

Friday: I think I did something Friday morning, but I really can’t recall, which probably means I went to yoga… but I guess we’ll never know.

Saturday: 20 mile run. Actually…


As discussed last week, I usually run for time, but this week the group I was running with had 18 miles on the books, and I was feeling like a new personal distance record, so I ran their 18 and tacked on what I know was at least two miles at the end to make 20. In an example of the cruelty of Garmin and the futility of running for distance (vs time), the GPS function of my watch was a hot mess and couldn’t really sort out where those last two miles began and ended… unless I was actually the one who lost all function and it really did take me me 10:36 to run 0.33 miles. So, maybe I even ran more than 20 miles– which brings us to the original tough question: if a runner runs 20 miles and her Garmin didn’t record it, does it still count? Let’s go to the expert on this one:


Anyway, it was an amazing day for a run, and I had great company– thanks as always to the great group at ARRC for holding it down. I came home and couldn’t decide if I wanted to eat for the rest of the day or just put my legs up the wall and never bring them down, so I just figured I’d try to multitask and see what would happen. For the record, it is very hard to eat pizza upside down, but I got the job done.


Weeks to Race Day: 9
Total Miles This Week: 35?
Gains: new distance record, another well-fueled long run to help me figure out race-day nutrition plan
Losses: some distance lost to the ether of a funked up satellite somewhere in Garmin land.


I Ate Only These Healthy Cookies For A Week and You’ll Be Blown Away By What Happened Next

8 Sep

No, your favorite Gluten-free Greek blog has not gone all Buzzfeed, despite the clickbait headline. But I did eat these chock-full-of-goodness cookies pretty much for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week… and what happened was that I still wanted some damn more.

Super filling, brimming with fiber/protein/healthy fat, and right up my taste-profile alley (hello ginger and sweet potato!), these rank right up there with my other RFES love, Superhero Muffins, but are even quicker to throw together. Extra points if you’re a parent trying to convince a picky kid (or a wife trying to convince a husband with a bland palate like someone who may happen to be my sister…), there are real, live SWEET POTATOES baked into these puppies. Oh, and they just-so-happen to be vegan. I have died and gone to baking heaven.

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Finally, these guys were amazing pre-long-run fuel, and I am pretty sure I am going to eat them pre-marathon… assuming I can put them down long enough to run 26 damn miles. Only time will tell.

Sweet Potato Breakfast Cookies from Run Fast Eat Slow


  • 3 c old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 c almond flour
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (or 1 TBS fresh)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 c sweet potato puree
    (I tried both the canned syrup-free puree and pureeing my own by roasting the potato for ~40 minutes, removing it from skin, and mashing it … canned was still very good, but I did prefer the earthier taste of the one I did  myself. I also think pureed pumpkin would work, but I’d remove some maple syrup to decrease liquid and sweetness)
  • ½ c maple syrup
  • ½ c coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup raisins (optional, but you want them)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In bowl of food processor, pulse oats for 5-6 times, until roughly chopped (note: I skipped this step entirely and cookies were still amazing). Place oatmeal in large mixing bowl and combine with almond flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In separate bowl, whisk together sweet potato puree, syrup, oil, vanilla, and raisins until well combined. Fold into oat mix and stir until blended. The dough should be thick.
  3. Use ¼ cup measuring cup to drop batter onto baking sheet. Space cookies 1 inch apart and slightly flatten.
  4. Bake until bottoms are deep golden brown, 25-30 minutes.

Athens Marathon Training: Inside Out

28 Aug

So far, the biggest difference between marathon training and everything I’ve ever trained for in the past is that the mental preparation is almost as difficult as the physical work. At this point in the cycle, I’m logging higher weekly mileage than I’ve ever run before, which — in addition to being fatigued to the bone and finding all kinds of new places for chaffing– means a lot of time alone with my thoughts. Mostly, this is something I love about running, but things went little haywire up in your girl’s noggin this week, and what started out as just another week of training quickly turned into a Pixar movie:

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It would be easy to write a quick little recap that glosses over the less wonderful parts of this process, but I’ll skip the alternative facts in the interest of not contributing to the idea that running is all about perfectly-paced workouts and just-the-right angle race photos…  and also because I want a good excuse to use that “keeping it 100″emoji everyone else discovered about a year ago.


Athens Marathon Training Week 5: Inside Out

Sunday: much-deserved rest day after being awake for nearly 24 hours on Saturday. Stay tuned later this week for the recipe that sent CaliKef back to the West Coast.

Monday: Tennis for cross training. One day when I have nothing running-related to say, we will talk about how really bad I am at tennis and why you should absolutely take lessons from Dr. Valentine at Rock Creek Park.

Tuesday: spinning @ Flywheel. The Chef Kefi you all know and love is not a particularly competitive person– I am generally motivated more by besting myself than beating other people. But a million years ago, in another universe, I was a woman whose sole goal in life was to swim a little faster, study a little harder, and sleep a little less than the person next to me, and that beast rears its ugly head every now and again (see also: that vendetta-driven triathlon a few years ago). The leader board at Flywheel is a love/hate thing as a result, and on Tuesday it was all hate. Bike 5 and I were neck and neck for first place through the whole class, and then she just zoomed off and torched me in the last three songs of class. I ended up finishing third in the class (the 1st-place guy had the audacity to beat me, too) and for whatever reason I was TORMENTED by this– why hadn’t I just worked harder to keep up? had I lost all my mojo in the two weeks I hadn’t been spinning? how was I ever going to run those terrible last 6.2 miles of the marathon if I couldn’t even get myself together keep up with Bike 5 for the final 6 minutes of an exercise class? Don’t bother trying to find the logic in any of this– when my thoughts drift into the Gulag of comparison and self-doubt, there’s no point in trying to apply logic.

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Wednesday: 6 x 800 @ 3:28 track workout. I showed up to this workout still all in my feelings about the damn spinning class. The last few track workouts of this cycle had felt pretty hard when I was shooting for 800 @ 3:45, so the fact that this workout ratcheted up the speed did not leave me feeling confident. Convinced that I’d never make it, I way overshot the first and second repeats. By the time I settled into where I was supposed to be running somewhere around the third repeat, my body and brain were too tired to even consider two more trips around the track for the final 800. I ended up calling it quits at 5 x 800, with splits of 3:12/3:21/3:30/3:30/3:35.

In ~7 years of run training, I bet there are fewer than a dozen workouts I haven’t finished. They are not always right on pace and they are rarely pretty, but I am pretty insistent about completing the prescribed time/mileage/speed work for two reasons: 1) the only way to be able to finish a run when it gets hard is to practice finishing hard runs; 2) when ish really hits the fan on race day, I like to be able to give myself examples of hard stuff I’ve already done — “you dug deep and killed those Tilden Hill repeats when it was 95F and 90% humidity– you can definitely get up this little bump of a hill.” So –even though I know the more useful and kind thing to do would have been to give myself a good pep talk about how hard work is hard work and that no one has ever not finished a marathon because of 2 missed laps around the track — the self-talk on the drive home was not of the puppies and rainbows variety.

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Thursday: 60 min run. This should have been an easy run, but I ended up flying through almost 7.5 miles out of sheer and utter spite for the previous two “bad” workouts. Don’t ask me what I thought this was going to achieve. I spent most of Thursday just trying to sort out how I had gotten into this little funk and making a plan to crawl out of it. Turns out, 12 hours of sleep helps answers some tough questions.

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Friday: 40 min run at lunch. Finally- I was able to calm down and just have a nice little run. The perfect running weather definitely helped, and it was nice to scoot over to Haines Point for a spin between patients.

Saturday: 3 hours running + 30 min walking. This post has gotten quite lengthy, so I’ll try to make the long run recap a short one. I run with a phenomenal group of (mostly) women, and I am so grateful for their company on these long runs. Thanks to these guys, the miles just flew by, and I spent very little time worrying about anything other than the mile we were in at the moment. I finished 16 miles with them, and then tacked on 2.5 more to make it to the 3 hour mark. I’ve been adding walking after long runs just to increase time on my feet, and I had to race-walk back this week because I had had to pee since we started the damn run three hours ago– whoops!


Weeks to Race Day: 11
Total Miles This Week: 34.5
Gains: I can now list every reason under the sun to love Wegman’s!
Losses: the whole week of my life I spent worked up over stuff that has no bearing on my training or life. Girl, bye.


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.



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