Athens Marathon Training: Birthdays

18 Sep

Per usual, I’m running late for life, so this post is gonna be a rush job. This week brought the birth of my ανιψιός (nephew) AND punched my ticket for another trip around the sun– so while I’m short on time, I’m long on love.

Athens Marathon Training Week 8: Birthdays


FullSizeRender (39)

Monday: the usual, yoga, tennis.

Tuesday: 75 minute run. My legs were still feeling it from Saturday’s 20 miles + Sunday’s epic birth, but it felt great to shake it all out.

Wednesday: legs were killing me, I was exhausted, fell asleep at 830 and loved every second of it. If this were an SAT question on How Chrissy Spends Her Birthday Week, it would go something like this:
Q– Bed before 9 : ChefKef as…
A– Attention: Kardashians

giphy (28)

Thursday: 6x800s, with a return to slower goal paces (woooo!). 339/336/338/336/337/337. not too much to say about this one.

Friday: Yin Yoga, which is basically the same as laying around on pillows for an hour.

Sat: International Peace Half Marathon

Lordylou,this race did not go as I thought it would. I had a big-but-very reasonable goal of 1:48:40ish, which is about 8:15/mile. I was pretty sure I could get this done without having to kill myself– and wouldn’t a shiny new PR be such a great birthday gift?  Several things went wrong with this estimation:

1) Two weeks of fall running somehow fooled me into thinking that 75F at the start of the race wouldn’t be that hot. Wrong. I made the fool hardy choice of bringing my small water bottle, which was not enough to get me to even the 10k mark without feeling really thirsty. It was a hot and dehydrated decline from that point on.

2) As I have mentioned for the last 3 weeks or so, my watch GPS has been acting up and I couldn’t make sense of the mile splits I was getting in relationship to the bizarre differences between the course mile markers and the distance my watch was showing. If you’ve ever kind of blanked out while driving on the highway and then spent a mile or two desperately searching for a sign to see whether you missed your exit, then you know the bewildering panic I felt trying to figure out where I was located in the time-space continuum.

3) As an answer to the watch issues, I opted to try for an evenly-paced race (13 x 8:15) rather than start slow and negative split the damn thing — do not ask me what I was thinking. I ran the first 6 miles happily at pace, and mainted pace (but not happiness) for miles 7 and 8. Somewhere around mile 9, the remaining 4 miles started to seem insurmountable. In the span of about 0.1 miles I went from, “Oh terrif, I am right on pace,” to “OH EFFING MOTHER EFFER, I AM RUNNING RIGHT AT THE GOAL TIME SO I HAVE NO WIGGLE ROOM THIS IS A DISASTER.” It got so bad that I finally had to make a choice: let the goal go and finish the race or cling to the arbitrary objective and never finish the race because I drowned myself in the C&O Canal out of sheer agony. I chose the former and just stopped running right there in mile 9 and walked somewhere around 0.4 of a mile. I have never walked in a race before. This was both liberating (“go ‘head, Kef–look at you being all zen and throwing away pace expectations”) and friggin infuriating (“if one more of these effing mother effers says, ‘you’ve got this!’ as they run by, I will drown them in the canal.”) But, after a few minutes of deep breaths and a mental reset, I felt ready to run again.

I finally finished, feeling depleted and defeated, in 1:59:28. The whole thing left me in a less-than-festive mood along the lines of:

giphy (29)

I was all ready to blast “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” on rapid repeat for the rest of the day, but then I got up to BabyKef’s house and got to cuddle with MYFAVORITENEPHEWEVERKef, and things were looking up:


Weeks to race day: 8
Total Miles This Week: 25? No clue, my watch is playing with my sense of self.
Gains: My new favorite reason to try and get good at selfies: THEO.
Losses: the ability to say truthfully that I am 31 years old


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.

giphy (26)

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?

giphy (27)

… 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.

FullSizeRender (38)

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: FAQ

5 Sep

First things first: make sure to swing by Thursday for the recipe for the cookies that accounted for 85% of my calories last week… they were just that good.

But for today, we have another thrilling recap of miles. I’m running out of preambles, so here are answers to some questions several people have asked:

giphy (21).gif

Do you run every day? No. Weeks usually break down like this:
— running 3-4x/week (long run, middle run, speed work, short run)
— yoga 2x/week
— spinning 1x/week
— strength training 2-3x/week (Solidcore and then these annoying PT exercises I have to do).
— swimming whenever I get around to it.

Why do you run for time, not distance?A bunch of reasons, not the least of which being that it makes me less nuts– I find it way easier to know that I can be done in XX minutes’ time no matter how far I’ve run, rather than slog through a set number of miles that seem to never end.

Where do you get your training plans? I’ve been working with DC Running Coach for twoish years now. He was kind enough to hook a nurse up back when I was really focused on breaking two hours in the half marathon, and I saw such an improvement in my running that I couldn’t imagine doing my first full without him.

Who do you do your long runs with? I run with the Arlington Road Runners Club, mostly because the people are awesome, but also because all runs over 12 miles have water stops. Also, how the hell else am I supposed to get out the door by 6:00 am (…okay, 6:07) to avoid dying of heat stroke in the summer?

Isn’t all that running boring?

giphy (22)

 Athens Marathon Training Week 6: FAQ

Monday: Yoga + Tennis. I’ve been loving “Happy Hour Yoga” with Andrew at Yoga District, which is a hilarious blend of his musings and stretching all the damn muscles I’m usually too lazy to.

Tuesday: 30 min run + Solidcore Arms and Abs. As always, the question here is: why do I put myself through 50 minutes on this medieval torture device every week?

giphy (23)

Wednesday: spinning @ Off Road.

Thursday: KILLED IT AT THE TRACK. After last week’s shenanigans, my goal was just to get back in a good headspace.  I was shooting for 5x1000m @ 4:21 with 600m jogging rest in between, and I managed to eek it in: 416/420/420/423/421. Which left only one question:

giphy (25)

Friday: the cough that won’t quit came back with avengence and I was tired enough to see that it was perfect running weather, put on a sports bra, and still pass out on the couch for the next 14 hours anyway. Unplanned-but-so-necessary rest days are the best days.

Saturday: 60-minute run. I watched the 15-minute forecast on fanatically and found an hour-long rainless window. It was lovely and I was moving and grooving.

Sunday: 2-hour run. Slept way later than usual (again!) and had to scidaddle out for 13 miles of fun. The really lovely thing was that I managed to pace them all pretty perfectly. While that’s a great running feat, it was even better that I had enough juice left in me to head out on the town with my husband and have a real, live Sunday Funday. Brunch plus two other bars– MrKef was sure his wife had been abducted and replaced with a younger, way more fun model.

Weeks to Race Day: 10
Total Miles This Week: 30ish– my Garmin is acting up and I don’t have the patience for addition right now.
Gains: two glorious nights of sleep uninterrupted by cough, the most fun day with my husband and our friends
Losses: Lord Jesus hear me when I say I really, really hope I lost my cough this week.

Blueberry Blackberry Crumb Pie

30 Aug

FullSizeRender (37)

There is no good way to ease into this, so I am just going to say it– WestCoastKef has left us the City of Angels. And when somebody who has been THERE for your husband the way WCK has, you throw a party and bake the man a damn pie.

Intel from his Beloved led me down the berry pie path, and Smitten Kitchen brought me to this mixed berry crumb pie. They are better at life than I could ever hope to be, and so I will reproduce the original recipe verbatim below.

But, first, some photos.

Immediately upon arrival, WestCoastKef had my living room looking like a photo shoot for his debut album, Bojanglin’ Back Home, which drops late 2017. COP THAT.


What’s the number one sign your people are really ready to celebrate your ass? Double fisting bottles.


… which escalated quickly. One bottle down approximately 1 hour into party.


There are many hilarious interceding #turntup photos and videos, but we are grown ups with bills to pay and the internet is a scary place so instead… a jump to the group shot at the end:


WestCoastKef– we will miss you mightily. And while I will pretty much never forgive you for bringing Settlers of Catan into my husband’s life, you can bet we will still be on the first spring break flight out to LA.

And now, the pie:

Smitten Kitchen’s Blueberry Blackberry Crumb Pie

For the crust

  • 1.25 c all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea or table salt
  • 1/2 c cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 c very cold water

Forthe filling

  • 4 c blueberries
  • 2 c blackberries
  • 3/4 c sugar (for a moderately, but not very, sweet pie)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 7 TBS tapioca flour/starch or 5 1/2 TBS  cornstarch (I used cornstarch)
  • Pinch of salt

For the crumb topping

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 TBS sugar
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1.3 c all-purpose flour
  • Two pinches of salt


Make pie dough:
– By hand : In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. (Some people like to do this by freezing the stick of butter and coarsely grating it into the flour, but I haven’t found the results as flaky.) Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add another tablespoon of water.
– With a food processor: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and pulse machine until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Turn mixture out into mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.
– Both methods: Wrap dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours, or you can quick-firm this in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. Longer than 2 days, it’s best to freeze it until needed.

Heat oven: To 400°F (205°C).

Roll out crust: On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a 12 to 13-inch circle-ish shape. Fold dough gently in quarters without creasing and transfer to a 9 1/2-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate. Unfold dough and trim overhang to about 1/2-inch. Fold overhang under edge of pie crust and crimp decoratively. Save scraps in fridge, just in case.

Par-bake crust: Freeze for 15 minutes, until solid. Dock all over with a fork. Coat a piece of foil with butter or nonstick spray and press tightly against frozen pie shell, covering the dough and rim and molding it to fit the shape of the edges. Bake for 20 minutes, then carefully, gently remove foil. (Set the foil, still molded, aside. It will come in handy later.) If any parts have puffed, just press them gently back into place. Patch any tears or cracks with reserved dough scraps. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and leave oven on.

Meanwhile, make filling: Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

To make crumb topping, stir sugar, zest, baking powder, flour and salt into melted butter in a large bowl with a fork until crumbs form.

Assemble and bake: Pour filling into crust and scatter crumbs over the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes with these two important things in mind:

1. This crumb browns much more quickly than the pie is done. Grab that piece of foil you set aside from the parbaking phase and upend it over the top of the pie to protect it against further browning once it reaches the color you want. This might only take 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Fruit pies are done when you can see bubbles forming at the edges, with some creeping through and over some crumbs. If it takes longer, that’s better than an underbaked pie.

To serve: Try to let the pie cool until close to room temperature before serving. This gives the pie thickener a chance to help the pie set. The pie will be even better set after a night in the fridge. Bring it back to room temperature before serving.


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:

giphy (14)

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.

giphy (17)

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.

giphy (18)

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.

giphy (20)

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.

giphy (13)

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.


%d bloggers like this: