Run to the Stars: Boston bound, NASA unbound

Hey fellow running enthusiasts! Lace up those running shoes and get ready for an out-of-this-world adventure in Huntsville, Alabama. This charming city is not only a haven for avid runners who are Boston bound, but also home to the iconic NASA Space and Rocket Center. This makes it the perfect destination for a weekend full of fitness and cosmic exploration.

Location: Huntsville, Alabama

Date: September 11, 2022

Distance: 13.1 miles

Lace up for the “Boston or Bust” Half Marathon

The Boston or Bust Half Marathon is not just your typical race; it’s a celebration of determination and the pursuit of personal goals. The fast and flat route winds through the picturesque trees of Huntsville. But beware, the humidity was pretty intense and took time to adjust to. Another race that guides you through the overarching trees that I highly recommend is the famous Idaho potato half marathon. This run offers runners a unique blend of southern charm and urban beauty. The camaraderie among participants with the small intimate race created an uplifting atmosphere that fueled my every step.

As I approached the finish line with the iconic Boston Marathon qualifying goal in mind, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. Although I am nowhere near a Boston qualifying time, I still completed race through the tough humidity and continue on the Boston bound journey. The support from both volunteers and fellow runners made the experience unforgettable.

NASA Space and Rocket Center

Exploring the NASA Space and Rocket Center: No visit to Northern Alabama is complete without a trip to the NASA Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. Just a short drive from the marathon venue, this iconic space exploration facility offers an immersive experience for visitors of all ages. From awe-inspiring rocket displays to interactive exhibits detailing the history of space exploration, the center provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of astronauts and the marvels of outer space.

Travis in his Astronaut suit

Highlights at the Space and Rocket Center:

  1. Space Shuttle Pathfinder: Get up close and personal with the Space Shuttle Pathfinder, a full-scale model used for astronaut training.
  2. Saturn V Rocket: Marvel at the Saturn V Rocket. The iconic vehicle that carried astronauts to the moon during the Apollo missions.
  3. Interactive Exhibits: Engage with hands-on exhibits, simulators, and educational displays that make learning about space exploration a fun and enriching experience.

Soak in the local experience

Huntsville isn’t just about running and space exploration; it also boasts a vibrant local scene. After the race and museum visit, unwind at one of Huntsville’s charming local eateries or craft breweries. The city has a burgeoning food and beverage scene, offering a variety of culinary delights that cater to all tastes.

Huntsville, Alabama, provides a unique blend of physical activity, intellectual stimulation, and local charm. Whether you’re conquering the Boston or Bust Half Marathon, exploring the NASA Space and Rocket Center, or savoring the local flavors, this destination promises an unforgettable experience for runners and space enthusiasts alike. So, lace up those running shoes for your last opportunity before the Boston marathon cutoff. Get ready for a stellar adventure in the Rocket City!

Looking for more Out of this world runs? The Zion at night half marathon, Great Ferry Race and Happy Girls Run are all beautiful, highly recommended runs along the West coast. Check ’em out!

we run the states

How to use brain chemicals to improve running and reduce anxiety


Running a half marathon is an exhilarating experience that challenges both the mind and body. While physical training and endurance play crucial roles in completing this feat, another critical factor often goes overlooked: neuroscience. The intricate network of neurotransmitters in our brain greatly influences our performance during long-distance running and helps reduce anxiety. Let’s explore the impact of neurotransmitters on running a half marathon and shed light on how understanding their functions can enhance our training and race-day experiences.

1) Endorphins – Our Natural Performance Enhancer:


Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and mood boosters, released during intense exercise such as running. These neurotransmitters not only reduce pain perception but also create a state of euphoria, commonly referred to as “runner’s high.” Increased endorphin levels have been associated with improved endurance, decreased fatigue, heightened motivation, and increased tolerance for discomfort.

2) Dopamine – Fueling Motivation:


Dopamine is known as the “reward” neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and motivation. During a half marathon run, dopamine helps maintain focus by rewarding small achievements along the way. By setting smaller goals throughout the race (such as reaching each mile marker), runners can trigger dopamine release to stay motivated mentally.

3) Serotonin – Regulating Mood & Confidence:


Serotonin plays an essential role in maintaining mood balance within our brain. As physical exertion increases during a half marathon, serotonin production is boosted significantly. My physical exertion was particularly high while pushing a double stroller in Vacation Race’s Grand Teton half marathon, but that race was the most rewarding to date. Higher serotonin levels contribute to elevated mood states that improve mental resilience against stress and fatigue while fostering self-confidence.

4) GABA – Reducing Anxiety & Stress:


Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for calming neural activity within our brains. During long-distance running events like marathons or half marathons, GABA helps reduce anxiety and stress levels, enabling runners to achieve a more relaxed and focused state of mind. This neurotransmitter aids in warding off negative thoughts or self-doubt, thus improving overall performance.

5) Norepinephrine – Boosting Alertness & Concentration:


Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter associated with focus, attention, and alertness. During a half marathon run, norepinephrine is released in response to the physical exertion, heightening mental clarity and focus. This heightened concentration reduces stress by allowing runners to make split-second decisions necessary for maintaining pace and navigating the racecourse effectively.

Understanding how neurotransmitters affect running performance can significantly enhance our approach to training for a half marathon. By tapping into the power of endorphins to boost endurance or utilizing dopamine as motivation fuel, athletes can optimize their mental state during training sessions and reduce anxiety on race day. Additionally, balancing serotonin levels helps maintain positive moods throughout the journey while GABA mitigates anxiety-inducing thoughts.

To succeed in running long-distance events like a half marathon requires not only physical strength but also mental fortitude. Harnessing the power of neurotransmitters through proper training techniques can help runners conquer challenges that may arise during races. As we deepen our understanding of how these brain chemicals influence our performance, we unlock new avenues for personal growth both within sports and beyond.

Next stop, Too cold to hold half marathon in Austin, TX!

we run the states

How Meditation takes the Pain out of hard running

This blog post took me a long time to write, more than two months actually. From the start I knew exactly what I wanted to say- how important meditation is for running- but I couldn’t find the words. Like most Americans, meditative practice does not come easy for me. I wasn’t raised to routinely get out of bed, brush my teeth and meditate. It takes practice. And I think that’s why this post was so hard for me to write. As much practice and repetition as running has taken me to get a personal record, and as much practice meditation takes to quiet my mind; Writing for a blog takes a lot of practice too. So here’s my attempt. 🙂

I think we’ve all hit that running pain threshold before. You’re out on a long run, with a set distance in mind. Half way through your run, you start to endure pain. For me in particular, it’s a sheering pain on the lateral (outside) aspect of my right knee. Ouch! This knee pain happens every run over 8 miles for me, and I’ve come to expect the pain, even after ten years of running! I know it’s not an injury because the pain passes shortly after finishing my run. But meditation has taught me to shift my focus and lessen the pain. Let’s start with how to practice meditation.

group yoga and meditation in Bali

Learning how to meditate

I set myself up for meditation like a newborn novice always imagined this practice would go. By sitting in a still-water hot tub, with my thumb touching pointer finger, Legs crossed in a pretzel and gently close my eyes. I start the meditative practice with a humble “Oooooommmm” – long on the exhale- and chuckle. “I must look like a real hippy,” I think, “hopefully I don’t get caught. That would be embarrassing.”

Although slightly embarassed, I continue meditating because I strongly desire the benefits meditation has promised for running improvements.

I then start on breath work. Slow inhale, counting in my head to One. Slow exhale, sighing with my mouth slightly open. count to Two. Again, One…. two. It’s now that I finally notice how uncomfortable I am. My shoulders are slouched. This puts a twinge of pain between my shoulder blades. There’s a bead of sweat on my forehead from the heat. “Maybe this serene hot tub was not as ideal as I had imagined“, I think.

Our newborn goats are bleating in the background and I wish they would be quieter. ‘Can’t they see I’m trying to meditate here?’ I peek one eye open, making the movement sly, as if I’m cheating in Jr. high science by glancing around the propped up folder. There’s nobody around to catch me, I’m only cheating my own practice. With a side glance, one eye open, I look at the clock. It’s been two minutes. A measly two minutes and my mind has already wandered. I feel like I’m failing at mediation entirely, and that I’ll never get it right.

meditating in Bali

Meditation snaps us out of autopilot and into awareness.

I need more meditative practice, I think. Let’s try again. I close my eyes once more and start a slow, steady breath in. It’s very intimate to feel all of your senses. The goats continue to wail in the background, but I’m able to dim them. I hear the echoing of the black-capped chickadee bird whistling three syllables, which has an uncanny consistency sounding like “cheese-bur-ger”. The wind has a very soft rustle through the fir trees close to me that carries a breeze to caress my cheek and cool me down. This gently pushes that bead of sweat from my brow to my raised cheekbone.

During meditative practice, this uncomfortable perspiration is no longer irritating, rather comforting.

sweat is my body’s automatic protective measure to keep me cool. I am grateful for that salt-filled bead of sweat and resist the urge to wipe it away. I’ve always been dependent on sight as my primary sense. But during this meditation, my other senses flourish. The smell of fresh cut grass fills my brain, and although I know the grass was recently mowed, with this sense of smell I can now “see it”. The fragrance is clean, almost moist and reminds me summer is ending and Fall is drawing nearer. “Don’t forget to plant your winter squash”, my mind reminds me.

The chatter from my mind has wandered back into my meditative practice. I smile, acknowledge the thought and push it right back to the background. This is normal, and my todo list can wait.

I focus on breath work through the body. What is the purpose of breath work and it’s profound presence in the meditative practice? Slow, long inhale in, through slightly flared nostrils. The air is slightly chilled as the morning fog is clearing. I am deeply grateful for the hot tub water that warms me now. Inhale, One. My abdomen billows with air and my diaphragm expands my rib cage and my shoulders, that are no longer slouched. There is still a twinge of pain between my shoulder blades. The pain is neither good nor bad- simply present- like the rest of my body.

meditation for running
Meditation takes the pain out of running

Recognizing the pain in endurance running

During endurance running we anticipate pain. Whether you are pushing your pace for a faster personal record, or pushing for a further distance, pain ensures. Meditation allows us to snap out of running in autopilot and zoom out our perception of that pain. This gives us a ‘birds eye’ awareness into what you are actually experiencing. You are able to objectively tell yourself, ‘There is pain here right now’. This is the raw data that also assures you, ‘this pain will not last forever’.

During both meditative practice and endurance running, a strategy to lessen your pain will be to use the acronym,

R.A.I.N.

Recognize the emotion.

Running is hard, recognize that you are doing hard things! Pain is part of the living process. And It’s a normal process, to warn our bodies something may be causing harm. Recognizing you have pain allows you to tell yourself, “yes, you have knee pain, and this too shall pass”.

Allow life to be, just as it is.

After acknowledging that your pain is present during the run, accept this emotion is how you feel right now. Even if that feeling is unwelcome. Allowing your emotion towards pain gives you the space to create power over, and freedom from the pain.

Investigate with self compassion.

What does that running pain feel like? Narrow your focus. For me, my right knee generally begins to hurt after mile 8. This pain is on the outside portion of my right knee and has a dull ache. It will slowly radiate to my right hip and I am keenly aware how I could spend more time focusing on stretching my hips and foam rolling my IT band after my run. Thankfully this knee pain is not a prolonged injury.

Non-identification.

This is where your meditative practice is able to take the pain out of running. Pain is part of the living process, suffering does not have to be. When you’re able to view the pain in running as a passing event and temporary, it softly dissipates. My knee aches while running a half marathon, but all the other participants of the same race are also enduring pain as well. Perhaps in different locations in their body, but this pain is not fixed within you, and this pain shall pass.

(*Knee disclaimer* I feel it’s very important to emphasize running does not cause ‘bad knees’ with age. This is a very common misconception. I have knee pain because I neglect other aspects of running that are so important, mainly stretching my hips. In fact, running actually strengthens the knees and prevents osteoarthritis. By regularly running, the weight bearing exercise brings more fluid to the joints to keep them lubricated. This benefits your joints and overall health. This post is a reminder to myself to incorporate yoga into my running practice.)

Using RAIN during endurance runs has helped my mindset tremendously. My thought process has shifted from, “this hurts, I can’t finish” to an appreciation of how strong my body has become through training for half marathons. I hope you’re able to use this tool to improve your running performance.

we run the states

Well, after two months I’ve posted! Let me know any way I can improve the way I presented meditation, running endurance or my writing!

Clean Eating Weekly Meal Plan for easy weeknight dinners

I enjoy preparing an easy, clean eating weekly meal plan every week. Spending a few hours in my kitchen on Sunday ensures that the week runs smoothly and is well worth the investment. I’m like any other full-time working, busy-running-errands mom, so having a few “one-pot wonders” are great for planning and clean up.

With young active kids, we have soccer practice a few days a week, hence the crockpot cooking on Tuesday and “planned overs” on Thursday. I prefer using the term ‘planned over’ instead ‘left over’. There is always extra food after dinner, no how delicious the recipe, so let’s plan to eat it at another time! I know we’ll be in a crunch for time this week, so this way we’re set up for success. Today I’d just like to share how easy your week can be with this clean eating weekly meal plan.

Clean Eating Weekly Meal Plan

What’s on the menu?

Monday- Jambalaya. Let’s start our week out Spicy! but not too spicy, we’ve got kids to feed too! This easy weeknight meal is made in foil packets for super easy cleanup. (TIP: I generally will add Adele’s chicken sausage instead of skinless chicken breast)

Tuesday- Crockpot Chicken Enchilada soup. Top with sour cream, fresh cilantro, tomatoes and avocados in order to cool this hot summer dish down.

Wednesday- Tri Tip. Using the grill outdoors is an economical way to keep the oven off and your house cooler this summer. Any grill will do the trick, we just happen to have a Traegar, so I’ve linked the recipe accordingly. An amazing way to use Tri tip ‘planned overs’ for lunch is adding a French hoagie roll and au jus for a French dip sandwich.

Thursday- Planned overs. I’m sure you won’t be too devastated to repeat Jambalaya, enchilada soup and Tri tip tonight.

Friday- Mahi Mahi with mango salsa. This is one of my absolute favorite summer recipes. The wild caught white fish compliments the tropical notes of mango perfectly. For added perfection, add a glass of chilled white wine, Happy Friday!

Meal plan to strengthen your Running

This Summer is filled with training for Fall races. And Nutrition is the core to all training plans. I have two half marathons and my first triathlon planned! Riding a road bike and swimming in open water are definitely engaging new muscle groups for me. What races do you have planned for this Fall? Never run a half marathon before? Here’s a list of reasons you haven’t run a half marathon, and how to overcome them!

Travel

Here are a few Fall half marathons. Rock ‘n Roll series, run the strip at night Las Vegas, Nevada and Happy girls run Sisters, Oregon. If there’s one piece of advice I can give, it’s plan your running attire according to the most recent weather predicted. Otherwise you’ll end up running a half marathon in booty shorts at night in the snow!

Download the Clean eating weekly meal plan above and Click for a link to the recipe.

Decade of glorious Running: How to travel each state racing Half Marathons

Neural bias is the concept that, most people have a skewed idea of their accomplishments over time. If I ask you, How much do you expect to change in the next 10 years? Likely many will answer, ‘probably not much’. However if I reflect the same question, How much have you changed over the past 10 years? your answer will likely be, A LOT. In my case, 10 years from now, I still anticipate to be on a journey to travel each state racing half marathons, practicing as a nurse practitioner, and raising my kids; I don’t expect much to change. I originally read a decade of running from Runningtotravel. And what perfect timing it is to review, as I ran my first race exactly ten years ago…

2012 San Francisco, CA

I had zero experience running. The furthest I had ever run was the one-mile that was enforced in high school as part of the P.E. program. Even that one mile, (way back in 2004, may I add) was a slow jog walk. Still to this day, I don’t know what enticed me to run my first half marathon. My best friend was interested in the idea of running a race, and generally you tend to follow characteristics of those closest to you. So we both thought, why not?

If other people could run a half marathon, we could too.

So we signed up for Diva’s San Francisco half marathon. I don’t remember much else about that first race except, I never had any intention of signing up for another race ever again. That one run was supposed to be a one-time deal. Accomplish the goal, and then move on. Well we finished that race with a high five across the finish line! and the running itch began to travel each state.

2013 Humboldt Redwoods, CA & Puerto Rico

So what do you do when you feel on top of the world accomplishing your first half marathon? You got it, sign up for something bigger and better. Avenue of the Giants Marathon. This time we actually had intention of training properly for our endevour. This was before we had kids- or many responsibilities- so most of our time was centered around running. We trained up to 20 consecutive miles in Lake Tahoe elevation and felt pretty darn prepared to rock our first full marathon.

Let’s put it this way, this was my first and Only Full marathon. The mind grows weary after that many miles. After mile 23 my body and mind were both exhausted and I stopped pushing. I did finish the race, coming in over 5 hours. But this full marathon taught me to travel each state for half marathon’s as they are more more my vibe.

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Avenue of the Giants Marathon

I haven’t written much about running Diva’s Puerto Rico half marathon, but it was definitely worth the adventure. I was 11 weeks pregnant with my first child and had a shirt made for the announcement. Unfortunately, my luggage didn’t make the connection flight and I was left running in somebody else’s clothing and shoes. Add some pregnancy nausea, vomiting every mile along the course, and a downpour of rain; needless to say this was not my favorite run. I ended up sleeping 36 hours straight after the race, only waking long enough to take a sip of water and vomit. Running a half marathon pregnant was a lot harder than I expected.

2014 Las Vegas, NV Running the strip at night

Running the Las Vegas strip at night is an experience like no other. It really is magical to feel like the center of attention in one of the most iconic cities in America.

This happens to be one of my worst running experiences to date. I was definitely not used to running at night, and being sleep deprived as a new 5-month postpartum mom, I did not prepare accordingly. I had expected a hot desert night so I wore shorts and a tank. And to my surprise, the night started spitting out snow! I also had expected food options at the venue and there were none once you entered the gates. So I started this run after 12 hours fasting. I crossed the finish line nearly crying in pain and cold, and my husband had to carry me back to our hotel. There was no celebrating on the Vegas strip for us that night.

2015 Sisters, OR

Sisters, OR is absolutely stunning and I can’t wait to go back and visit. I believe that is one of the most amazing parts of this We Run the States journey, to discover all the beauty America has to offer. Jenn and I made a road trip up to Oregon, belting 2000’s hits with the radio the entire way, of course.

This was a trail run entirely downhill. I pushed my pace a little too hard in the beginning, hoping to break the under 2 hour mark that I had not trained for. The last mile was grueling and I planned to frown across the finish line.

The announcer read my name, “Laura Orange…. Orange you glad you came to Sisters?” The innocence of the joke made me laugh and the photographer caught me smiling across the finish.

2016 no travel to a new state

Do you ever wish you could jump in the dolorian time machine from back to the future and do something over? I did not run a half marathon in 2016. (insert sad face here). I am quite disappointed this is the only year I did not run a half marathon over the past decade, (In 2021 I ran FOUR different states.) But this year also taught me a HUGE lesson, that running all 50 states is a JOURNEY. Reflecting back, it actually makes sense I chose not to run this year. I was pregnant, with a busy two year old, while also working as a labor and delivery nurse and finishing my graduate program as a Nurse practitioner. To say my hands were full was an understatement. Throughout this journey I have learned to give myself some grace.

The next half of the decade in review coming shortly!

we run the states

What To Do When Half Marathon Is Derailed With Unexpected Injury

Training for a half marathon is a commitment of time and energy to yourself. With 12-weeks of preparation, your training can be derailed with unexpected injury or illness and have such an impact on the outcome of the race. I’ve alway considered myself a particularly healthy individual. With an education in healthcare, I write about endurance running & form, clean eating, and how traveling the world improves your mental health and creativity. During my training for the Idaho potato half marathon, I was diagnosed with a new autoimmune disease that shocked my core to the very being.

How in the world did I end up being admitted to a hospital for a week with extreme gut pain? How could this happen to me? Then of course the subsequent self-doubt mind chatter follows. Did I cause this autoimmune disease? Did I eat too much sugar? Was this caused by recent stress during the pandemic and moving my family to a different state, or lack of sleep being a full-time mom and working?

According to national Institute for health, more than 7% of the American population suffers from Autoimmune disease and the prevalence is rising. Triggers of autoimmune disease include stress, diet, exercise, insufficient sleep, and yet again I’m angered with this diagnosis wondering,

‘I thought I was healthy, what the heck happened?

Moving forward, learning to control my symptoms of autoimmune disorder I appreciate the wealth of knowledge regarding clean eating and food to nourish my body. To gain perspective on the healing effects of clean eating for our bodies, let’s begin with the most underrated organ of our body, our gut. Here are a few facts that absolutely blew my mind about our gut’s amazing abilities.

  • One ounce of our stool (poop), has more microbes than there are people living on this entire planet! Wow! Each one of us holds our own ecosystem within our gut.
  • Your Genome has the potential to grow over 400 million different ecosystems. That translates to, if you’re not happy with your body‘s performance now, go and build one of the other 399 million options your genome has potential of. You’re microbiome changes every three days!

You can focus on changing your gut ecosystem from sedentary lifestyle to Elite athlete with proper clean eating nutrition.

Meaning, There’s Hope for you and me!

  • 95% of serotonin originates in your gut. Serotonin is a neurochemical in your brain that controls mood, which is why when you’re feeling loved you can get ‘butterfly’s in your tummy’. Also the use of an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) is the mainstay medication used to treat anxiety and depression. This means what you eat determines whether you have anxiety, depression, fatigue, fear, guilt.

With building entirely unique gut ecosystems, we literally become the phrase “you are what you eat!”

With more knowledge on gut health, let’s begin to provoke change. Finding a problem is liberating as it helps lead to a solution. The walls our our digestive tract are extremely thin, less than one cell in diameter. With certain foods the lining will become porous letting “bad bacteria” slip through the lining causing chronic inflammation.

Signs of chronic inflammation include:

  • Fatigue
  • abdominal or chest pain
  • mouth sores
  • fever
  • rashes
  • joint pain

(I have definitely experienced ALL of these symptoms personally, *and if you have, you should speak with your primary care provider*)

So what do we do about the rise of autoimmune disease, and how does this affect my running?

I had been training for a half marathon in Idaho. I highly considered cancelling my race after two separate admissions to the hospital to control my gut pain. Life had thrown me a curveball; just as it had done at the Grand Teton half marathon, when I unexpectedly had to push a double stroller for 13.1 miles.

But running a half marathon in each state is a journey within itself. The road trip across states with my best friends was be pivotal to my soul, and laughter I desperately need. Traveling to different states gives my body exposure to different microbiomes. And people with the ‘healthiest guts’ tend to have the greatest diversity of bacteria in their microbiome.

Plus, I have now given myself permission to walk the entire race with rest and bathroom stops as often as I need to.

This upcoming race will challenge me, even if I only walk the course. and that’s ok.

I can create one of the other 399 million potential microbiomes my genome is capable of creating. So I continue upon this clean eating lifestyle, and continue to learn and share my knowledge with you in hopes you can excel to your athletic potential as well.

For additional knowledge, I recommend taking Outside’s Learn “the gut health fix”, with Seamus Mullen. This master class has been pivotal in my understanding, and I highly recommend this course.

I write to you as a running coach to make suggestions to improve your performance. But YOU get to make the decisions. Choose options that honor your body and your practice.

I went on to start the famous Idaho potato Half marathon as planned, and I FINISHED the RACE STRONG!

we run the states

Avenue of the Giants Marathon

I’ve always been a runner, and haven’t spent much time on the sidelines cheering others on. This past weekend at the Avenue of the Giant’s 50th anniversary, I got the opportunity to cheer my brother-in-law on to finishing his first marathon. This accomplishment was absolutely huge! Both for Jav, as well as celebrating a decade since finishing this very same race for my first marathon. I almost preferred the race on the sidelines, but events like this have me excited to jump back in racing!

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California hosts many, many, many great opportunities to run a half marathon, including Avenue of the Giants. So California may become my largest category of runs. (Of course that isn’t a bad thing as there are many things to explore on this beautiful west coast).

If you ever get the opportunity to run anywhere, choose here. Located in Northern California, this run is absolutely perfect. https://www.theave.org

Avenue of the Giants was my first (and hopefully only) full marathon. To be honest, I couldn’t have asked for a better location or weather. I think fate was in place on that day, because if the conditions weren’t as perfect as they were, I don’t know if I could have finished those 26.2 grueling miles. And yes, that many miles in my experience is definitely considered grueling. I remember by mile 21 my sister and I were throwing pebbles at the beautiful redwoods, as we spitefully yelled “stupid tree! I’m here running these terrible miles and all you’re doing is growing and photosynthesizing!” Let’s just say your mind grows weary after 4+ hours of physical activity. Best advice is train for your run!

THE RUN- Avenue of the Giants

This is a double out and back run on paved roads that is covered by redwood trees providing stable shade the whole course. Since it’s an early run, the temperature was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but as you can see in the picture, I wore shorts and a tank top and never once remembered being cold. One of the perks of this run is how remote and beautiful the location is, but at the same time somewhat of a downfall as there is not a whole lot for lodging or food. The run is located about 5 miles from Sacramento and San Francisco.

THE SIGHTS AND FOOD

You actually can’t miss the sights of this race, as the Humboldt Redwoods surround you as you drive to and run this course. But please take the opportunity to stop and appreciate just how BIG these redwoods are! It’s an absolute amazing experience to stand underneath a forest of trees. Most of which are over 300 ft tall and over 1000 years old! As for recommendations for food and wine, uh pack a lunch! There aren’t a whole lot of options that I even remember. But if you head up highway 101 you can find a good chocolate milkshake within 30 miles or so.

Overall recommendation: This race is for you if you’re looking for a run to appreciate nature or a pretty flat course with stable weather. This may not be the best choice if you’re looking for busy city life with lots of food choices.

What to eat during a Marathon for a Strong Finish

Avoiding the “bonk” during your marathon

To set the scene, we’ve just run 23.1 out of 26.2 miles in the beautiful Avenue of the giants, redwoods of California, Marathon. We’ve trained for this day, and now our performance will reflect all our hard work. All that was left was 3.1 miles to finish. A 5K, (Which in marathon training) I was confident I could complete in my sleep.

Throughout the course we’ve stopped at each aid station for a quick sip of water and even sampled an energy gummy pack at the aid station. Energy gummy’s that other ‘more experienced runners’ had raved about. But our fueling for this marathon was ill-prepared. We did not pack any water, electrolytes or energy supplements for the run. I “hit a wall” at mile marker twenty-three and had to walk the last three miles of my race. I did not yet know what to eat during a marathon for peak performance.

Although I was extremely grateful to finish the race, I was disappointed in my performance. I had not anticipated that on average,

Runner’s burn through about 100 calories per mile.

That’s about 2,600 calories consumed in a marathon, and greater than the average daily recommended caloric intake! Although I thought we had prepared appropriately (with a carb loaded spaghetti and garlic bread dinner the night before) we needed much more fuel to sustain energy before, during and after our marathon for a strong finish.

What to eat before marathon (1-2 hours before run)

Half and Full marathons generally start at sunrise to beat the mid-morning heat. With an anticipated 7 am start time, you should be waking no later than 5 am to begin your fueling. Anticipate 1-2 hours before your run starts and focus on simple carbohydrates.

Carbs are the easiest source of energy for the body to convert to glucose

Glucose is needed to fuel your brain and muscles. Along with carbohydrates, add in a source of caffeine. Limit your intake of caffeine to what your body is used to before race day; but having caffeine enhances your mental focus for the race ahead.

Most importantly before the race, focus on hydration! Say it with me now: most importantly, before your run focus on hydration! Maintaining hydration is imperative for performance, as it helps regulate our temperature, and enable our bodies to endure our peak performance.

what to eat during marathon

Pre-Fuel Guidelines

  • Carbohydrates: Focus on simple carbs, low fiber
  • Protein and Fat: small amounts of protein for stability- main source of energy will be drawn from carbs
  • Caffeine- enhance mental focus and preparedness
  • HYDRATION: urine should be pale yellow

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!

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What to eat during your Race

After completing our first full Marathon, my entire focus was on how I failed at the end of the race. I wistfully hobbled across the finish line at a mere five hour finish time. How did that finish time become so slow? We had trained for this. Our longest training run was 20 miles long, so it must have been the last three miles that ruined my goal time. Nearly a decade later I can assure you, I didn’t lose my goal time in the last three miles of my race.

I lost my race within the first 15 minutes it began

Hydration starts early. Within the first 15 minutes of your run you should be taking 2-3 gulps of fluids, and continue hydration every 15 minutes. Along with fluids, bring at least 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour of endurance activity. Consuming those energy gummies in my marathon was game-changing, but put into perspective, I should have brought at least five packets to sufficiently sustain me. Continue to adjust your hydration and carbohydrates based on your environment- (is it a hot day? are you running at altitude?)

During your Run

  • Sustain energy levels. Avoid the “BONK”!
  • Aim for at least 30g of carbohydrates per hour for endurance
  • Hydration starts EARLY! Within the first 15 minutes of a run you should be taking 2-3 gulps of fluids.
what to eat during marathon

What to eat in Recovery

Immediately after the marathon my body appropriately scarfed down a ton of food. Giving in to all of my cravings, I proudly consumed a sushi roll, a chocolate milkshake, chicken fajitas and a cheeseburger all while lying in bed! The key to recovery nutrition is to replenish all the nutrients and electrolytes you have lost during your endurance activity. Aim for at least 20-30 grams of protein for muscle repair.

what to eat during marathon

Recovery Run fuel (15-60 mins after)

  • Replenish the Nutrients and electrolytes you’ve lost
  • Protein: Eat at least 20-30g of protein for muscle tissue repair and protein synthesis
  • REST

we run the states

Mountain Living has a powerful presence on the human soul

Mountain living was a passion I couldn’t explain, but had to follow. We are hard wired to affiliate with the natural world.

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Cities in comparison are wonderful places full of excitement and energy. Today’s culture values busyness and productivity, yet it leads us to overwhelm and anxiety. Chatter in our mind from a constant list of ‘to-do’s’.

Consider, we are not ‘human thinkings’, rather ‘human beings’.

And yet there is no medication we can take to just be still.

Experiencing the grandiosity of nature let’s you live in awe. This puts back into perspective how small we are and thus how small our chattering mind is. Nature lets us be a part of a greater purpose.

So go outside, travel in nature and live in awe. Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing!

With the covid vaccine readily available, travel has become a part of our daily lives again. This summer our family traveled to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, which reignited our passion for nature and exploring. This sparked a spur of the moment trip to Zion National park in September for a half marathon through the night. I had never really had Zion on my list of places I wanted to see, but after seeing it’s beauty, I Highly recommend the adventure. Waking up at 3 am to run through the night jumping over boulders gave a definite runner’s high!

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Heart rate based training for marathon running

What is Heart rate based interval training?

Heart rate based interval training is becoming increasingly popular for athletic training. Thanks to the advancement in accurate and inexpensive heart rate monitors, you are able to enhance your aerobic capacity, without overexerting your muscular and skeletal systems. The American college of sports medicine recommends, “aerobic exercise should be performed three to five days a week for 20 to 60 minutes at an intensity that achieves 55 to 90 percent of the maximum heart rate and 40 to 85 percent of the maximum oxygen uptake reserve“. Having a strong aerobic system can lead to further goal setting including running back to back half marathons and personal records. Let’s get started on your heart rate zones.

How to calculate your max heart rate

Your maximal heart rate (MHR), often used by the American Heart Association, is historically calculated by your age. For example, if you are 35 years old you take,

220 – 35 (age) = 185 bpm, as your maximal heart rate.

If you notice your heart rate is above your maximal heart rate, you may be overtraining. A spike above your maximal heart rate may also indicate fatigue or illness. Listening to YOUR body, and monitoring your heart rate helps you develop your training plan, and when you may need to incorporate more recovery.

Your ‘target heart rate’ (THR) is calculated by multiplying a percentage of intensity by your maximal heart rate (MHR). You can also use Heart rate zone calculators for your zones, which is often times the easiest to establish your “zones”. So let’s summarize what we’ve learned so far, and why does it even matter? In training for an endurance event, like running a full marathon-

You can base your training runs on,

heart rate based training
  1. Your pace- which is probably the most common training method. Your coach may tell you to “Run 6 miles at 9:45 min/mile conversation pace”, if trying to achieve a marathon under 4 hours.
  2. Perceived exertion- similar to heart rate based interval training, but this is a subjective assessment. Your coach may tell you to “Run 6 miles at what you feel to be an intensity of 7-8 on a 1-10 scale”. Or,
  3. Heart rate based intervals- this is an objective way to train. You can actually see what your heart rate is in real time and adjust your pace accordingly. Your coach may instruct you to “Run 6 miles in your ‘yellow aerobic zone’ which is 80-92% of your max heart rate”.

Recovery

Recovery is your GREEN training zone- 65-70% of MHR

This is your aerobic heart rate zone in which you can maintain a conversation. This recovery is often the most neglected area of training in running. Recovery gives your tendons, joints and ligaments the time to adapt to the stress you’re putting on your body. The ‘green training zone’ maintains a lower heart rate, with low waste product build up and is used for endurance and overall fitness. This conversation paced running, is SO important to your training and prevention of injury! So enjoy those “slow” miles.

Endurance

Endurance is your YELLOW Training zone in which you reach your lactate threshold- 80-92% of MHR

Lactate threshold is the border between low and high intensity work. It is the level of intensity of exercise that causes lactate to accumulate in the blood at a faster rate than it can be removed. This is the heart rate based training effort in which you are able to only complete sentences, rather than paragraphs. You’re now stepping up your intensity to an 80-92% of your maximal heart rate. You should feel a perceived effort of about 7-8 on a 1-10 scale.

Aerobic

This is your ORANGE heart rate zone- 80-95% of MHR

This is “race pace” for many. The pace in which you can sustain for about one hour, thus a 5K or 10K. You should feel like your perceived effort is about a 8-10 on a 1-10 scale. This zone feels comfortably hard.

VO2 Max

This is your RED Heart rate zone 92-100% of MHR

VO2 max, or peak oxygen uptake, is the maximal amount of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise. Think of your red heart rate zone where you can no longer speak more than a few words at a time. Interval training pushes you faster for shorter periods of time. You are running out of breath!

heart rate based training

Anaerobic This is your maximum effort

Anaerobic means ‘without oxygen’. You should not spend a lot of time training for a marathon in your anaerobic zone. This is often a hard concept to adapt as a novice. Many athletes love to test their limits, but this is your all out, ‘sprint-to-the-finish-line’ zone. The anaerobic zone is limited to 30-90 ‘all out’ seconds. If you notice your training is spending time in this anaerobic zone, hold your horses and slow down!

Heart rate based interval training may seem like a head spinning analysis of numbers. Rather it can be used as a Tool to reach your full potential.

Early as a novice runner, let your coach guide you and your body decide what Feels best to you. Use your heart rate as a tool to either speed up and push your limits, or slow down and give yourself the opportunity to recover. I hope you’re able to apply this knowledge to your next training session! After you have trained for your marathon, enjoy the travel Run-cation!

we run the states
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