BambiRunsBey42K: Shifting to 21K

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This is the 5th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Weak Sauce Weeks
Pre-diagnosis of puffy femur, I was already stressing about trying to get my pace down. Post-injury break, getting back into my stride and finding my old pace has been making me feel like Taco Bell weak sauce: you got the heat but it’s sub-optimal and you barely feel a burn. Allowing yourself time to gradually heal is necessary but SUPER annoying.

After being sidelined for 2 weeks, not being able to do the full distances upon return, and falling behind in the climb up the long-distance ladder on Sundays, I’m feeling frustrated that I am forced to take it slower than I already naturally am. However, I’ve got to remember: I can’t throw in the towel with 8 weeks to go until race day.

One Week at a Time
I did 3/5 runs the first week back, skipping the hills and long distance sessions. I made it to a max of 6K before feeling a little wobbly. The stiff leg combined with mental fear had been holding me back from pushing too hard too soon. My teammates were reassuring me that there is time to recover and improve before November but I couldn’t help feeling weighed down by my dumb, sensitive femur. And then I thought, “cancel the pity party, be grateful, and get out there.”

By week 2 of being back, I upped by mileage run by run reaching a max of 14K while pack42 was conquering 33K as a long distance. I had faced the hard truth and shifted to pack21; it is better give the half-marathon a real shot instead of cracking a hip going for the full. Poo. I’ll admit that removing the looming pressure of a full marathon has been a relief (until next year) and now I can focus on getting better for/at a distance I’ve already covered.

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Sunday NRC crew joined by the Defeet runners

Despite my downgrade, I’m going to keep the name of the series just for the sake of continuity and archiving but it’s official: Bambi is now running Bey21K.

Bambi Stats & Mini Victories
By the end of the last two weeks, I have managed to get back to my average 5K time so recovery is underway but the longer distances (10K and beyond) still need fine-tuning. I’ll be slowly increasing distances so that I can then tapper (go back down in distances pre-race) safely. This is the unsettling part about sitting out for a couple weeks: working your way back to where you were at pre-break. For me, it’s the main reason I avoid skipping runs; you immediately feel your body getting lazy again and sacrifice hard-earned progress.


Just for Kicks

In an effort to find motivation, I put Shantaram aside and started reading Run the World by Becky Wade, a 5’0″ 27-year-old marathoner from Texas. Becky’s talks about her year of country-hopping that opened her eyes to running cultures across the globe. For example, Becky (and Georgie, a temporary NRC Beirut runner visiting from the UK) talks about ParkRuns in London, weekly 5Ks done in the public parks open to all and tracked via chips so there’s friendly neighborhood competitin. She discusses about ugali in Kenya as running fuel. It’s an overall easy read that I recommend if you’re a runner.

Next up:  Shoe Dog, the memoir by Nike creator Phil Knight.

For Visual Motivation 

And in case reading and inspirational videos weren’t enough, leave it to Yeezus to release a video that makes you feel like a human jigglypuff who needs to flashdance the pounds away instead of crying into a pizza pie. “Imma let you finish but did you say you weren’t going to the gym??” Ah hell nah.

Bambi is Going to NYC…Again
Of course, in the middle of this comeback, I have a flight to catch. I’ll be gone as of next week and will need to get in at least 3 runs around the Big Apple. If not for the training, then at least for the ribs that I’m most definitely ingesting, diet be damned.

Hillstone, we have a date.

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BambiRunsBey42K: One Month Down

This is the 2nd installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Unlimited Future
Like those Olympians competing in Rio, the team and I are discovering our unlimited potential after 4 weeks – that potential that will take us to November but continue on into 2017. This program has become about more than the marathon, it’s rewiring my mindset. It won’t stop in November because there is no end when there are no limits. 

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The Warm-Up Threshold
The more I tried to stick to nonstop kilometers of running, the more I realized that it got easier to keep going after the first 3-4K. When you first kick off, your body is still warming up and it isn’t used to extended bouts of exercise. However, if you keep pushing through those horrible 20ish minutes, it regulates itself and suddenly you don’t have that urge to stop anymore because your body’s gone into RUN mode. Mohamad Marhamo, NRC Pacer extraodinaire, says that he feels it around 2K and that this steady feeling will come sooner the more you train. Inshallah.

“Who decided a marathon is 42.2K anyway?”
That was a question a fellow NRCer asked while we were dripping our way through Mar Mikhael. I realized I didn’t know why. OBVIOUSLY, unable to leave a question unanswered, I did some googling. The story is that a Greek messenger named Philippides had to trek 40K to Athens to report the victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. Legend has it, he busted into the assembly, made the announcement (“Nike!”), and dropped dead. How inspiring. Can’t wait to finish & die.

The long distance race was incorporated into the first modern day Olympics in 1896 in Athens. The extra 2K was sprinkled on top in 1908 to accommodate the British royals because Queen Alexandra had the race start at the Windsor Castle lawn and end in front of King Edward VII’s royal box at the Olympic stadium. According to Wiki, “the modern 42.195 km standard distance for the marathon was set by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) in May 1921 directly from the length used at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London.” So there you have it, blame the Brits.

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Fun Facts: The world’s oldest annual marathon is the Boston Marathon which started in 1897, one year after the first Olympics. Women didn’t get to participate until 1972 and they didn’t have their own Olympics marathon until 1984 in Los Angeles.

Long Distance Sundays…and Listening to Your Body
Like any physical activity, an important part of training is knowing when your body in trying to tell you something versus your mind. There are days when you need to be okay with not making the mark. I missed a run (because of blisters) and couldn’t finish the long distance because of running shoes that were too small (long distances combined with higher temperatures cause your feet to swell so your shoes need to be 1-1.5 size larger than your usual size) plus cramps in my left shin.

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After getting the right sized shoes and letting my blisters heal, I went back out there and finished week 4, including yesterday’s 17K. The runs are important but your body is more so. Now, “3am Vaslin” has become my verb of the year since I slather Vaseline pretty much everywhere pre-run. At this rate, I’m going through one little tub/week.

A Missed Session Doesn’t Equal a Day Off
This program takes up a lot of your evenings but there will be nights when you’re going to have to miss a session for a wedding, a trip to the north, or a Mashrou Leila concert.

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That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for the night. We’ve reached a point where you can’t afford to skip a run so you get homework: doing the run solo when you do have the time.

My last solo run was in Rome but doing 11K under Beirut’s sweltering August sunshine isn’t the same as centro histórico at dawn. We’ve gotten into the habit of sending screenshots of our solo runs to our marathon Whatsapp group so we all know we’re getting it done. Not only does it help to see each one of us is sticking to the program, it also motivates you to drown out the excuses. Your team is running, why aren’t you?

An e-friend of mine shared this short about runners, take a look:


Bambi Stats & Mini Victories
I would have to say that running a 11K tempo run solo and then a 17K two days later would have to qualify as a mini victory for me. With every run, we’ve been learning things about our bodies and how we can improve the marathon experience; not just in terms of distance or pace but also what to eat the morning of, what time to eat it, what sunscreen to use, which socks work best, and so on. Knowing this key info will get us closer to doing it right.

 

Just for Kicks
Water dictates everything. When figuring out the route you’re going to do, make sure to note where you can buy a bottle of water…and where you can empty your bladder. In long distances especially, nature will call wondering why you don’t talk anymore. Another thing that shouldn’t be underestimated: stretching. Before and after runs. Take care of those muscles.

Becoming Obsessed or Committed?
And no, not committed-to-the-insane-asylum committed. I mean committed to this transformation. Subscribing to the Runner’s World newsletter, having a sports bra tan, and ordering only Perrier on nights out because I have a training session the next day. I’ve been reading about all things running, right down to a blessed experience known as runner’s trots. It’s the shit. This is my life now. I’m all in and I don’t recognize this person who’s suddenly…an athlete? I train? Yes. Yes, I am and I do.

 

BambiRunsBey42K: The Training Begins

This is the 1st installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Warm-up Weeks
The first two weeks of the NRC Beirut Marathon training are done meaning we’ve got a few more months until #BambiRunsBey42K. Seeing that there are a lot of marathon newbies in the group (myself included), these were considered the warm-up weeks to the intense training that will kick-off as of this week. Every time the coach would say that, my brain would say, “Ha. It’s a warm-up. That’s cute.” and then I’d wring out my sweat-soaked jersey.

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Taken by Ricardo Chalhoub

Cross-Training on Off-Days
To properly train for the marathon, we need to cross-train on the off-days when we’re not running around Beirut. Cross training activities should be aimed towards strengthening our core and lower back muscles, mainly upper body since our legs are being put to the test the rest of the week.

I opted for swimming but my breathing and technique need work so we’ll see how this goes. I also need to add some lower back exercises after feeling the pressure building right above my bum as our distances got more demanding by the end of week 2. What can I say, Bambi got back.

Mark

Long Slow Distance Sundays
We’re tackling long slow distances 1x/week. During these runs, each NRCer runs at their own pace while also learning to be a self-motivator. Week by week, the long distances will get longer so the stretches when it’s just you & the road will get longer too. This also means that every Sunday, I’ll be hitting a new longest distance.

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NRC in Salaata, July 17, 2016 – Taken by Ali Itani

Our first long-distance Sunday was in Salaata, a town right before Chekka. Our starting point was 10K followed by a 12K in Mar Mikhael yesterday. You’d think that waking up early would be the most challenging part of this (sleep in your activewear, then you’re half done when the alarm goes off!) but it’s actually the heat of July/August. Which brings me to my next point…

Fuel & Hydration
The dedication that this training takes seeps into all aspects of your entire lifestyle. The way you eat, the hours of sleep you get, and how you think can all impact your performance and stamina on the track. We have to make sure we eat good carbs, drink lots of water, and refuel wisely. Avoiding alcohol the night before a run is advisable because of the high sugar levels and rewarding ourselves with honey chipotle chicken strips after a 10K is counterproductive. A banana and water will do.

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I’ve got to say though, some days I just want to have a halloumi bacon sandwich followed by an old fashioned doughnut smothered in sugar glaze. Luckily, none of the doughnut shops here do it right. That, and I can already feel my lighter weight translating to being lighter on my feet.

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Bambi Stats & Mini Victories
When I started running with NRC in December 2015, I could barely make it past the warm-up kilometer without needing to stop to walk. However, during week two of BM training, I ran 7km nonstop and I felt like a BEAST. My main goal now is to shave seconds off my pace. Based on the last 6 months, it should see a major shift after this program.


Just for Kicks

Every ~350K, you need to get a new pair of running kicks so that your feet get enough support and shock absorption. I used to think this was a marketing ploy to get you to buy more sneakers but after yesterday’s 12K, my shoes have hit over 310K and my feet got destroyed. After that much mileage, the cushioning is worn down and the soles start to suffer. With the numbers we’re adding to the roster, it looks like I’m going to run through 3 pairs by November. But it’s okay: the cost of being healthy, safe, and active is less than that of the hospital bills you’d be stuck with otherwise.

The Mental Madness

After the back-to-back training runs, I’ve come to accept that I will be spending as much time with my NRC family as I will with my own and that’s saying a lot considering I work/live with my parents. Previous participants say that the 42K is not as scary as it seems and I’m trying to think of it as a less intimidating series of four 10K runs instead of one long endless marathon. You’re going to need stretching/potty breaks in between anyway, no?

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Upon leaving the office to head to a Friday session, dad asked if I was running every day. When I explained that we were training for the 42K, he said, “but that’s like…from here to Saida. HOW are you going to be able to do that?”

I’ve got 16 more weeks to make sure that I can.

One Year of El-Tanein Diet: 52 Weeks Later

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When El-Tanein Diet began, it was supposed to be a 6-month test to turn my life around and rectify the damage that my office job had done to my body. Once I had hit the 6-month mark, I wasn’t satisfied with where I’d reached and I extended it another 6 months. It was all in the hope that I would keep improving instead slacking off once the recording stopped.

If I were to assess my progress based on the original goals I had set for myself when I started ETD, I wouldn’t be able to strike through every single one of them. However, I will report what I did achieve because it’s even better than what I had in mind one year ago.

Below are the goals I hit + wins I didn’t see coming:

Went to a dietician and committed to a new diet: I wasn’t shedding pounds before I got my portion intake in line and started being conscious of what I was ingesting. Now, I’m slimming down, toning up, and my visceral fat percentage is in the safe zone. I didn’t want to admit that food was a big part of the process but it is. Only when I changed my diet did I really start seeing the results of my workouts.

Worked my way up to 7kg weights at my strength training classes: Up from 3kg, I don’t plan on going higher since I have a naturally muscular build so reps>weight for me.

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NRC’s Monday Beginner Session

Became a regular member of NRC: As Adriana Lima said, “For those who hate running, I’m sorry, but it really does the trick. I notice that my body really transforms from even just 30 minutes a day. If you don’t like doing it, find something to motivate you—cute new workout clothes, an amazing playlist, a great scenic path, or a [fitness] buddy.” The Brazilian hottie has a point. Running with this group has changed my opinion about it as a sport. Plus, I got my best 5K down from 39 to 35:13 and I regularly run at least 8K/week total. That wouldn’t have happened without NRC. I’ve even participated in races and I’ve graduated from shorts-for-men to the teeny tiny shorts for women. #ChubRub


Running 10Ks at the crack of dawn:
The road trip runs that were planned periodically with people who have contagious energy surprised me every time. Even now, when a run is proposed, I confirm before giving my brain time to punk out. The NRC group and the endorphins that accompany the runs give me the release and boost I need to push through the week. The workouts wear you out so sleeping is easier but they also make you feel better, faster, and stronger.

Gym/activity becoming a necessity: This may be because of my need to escape work and the daily drudgery that accompanies Beirut life but any form of exercise has become a much needed release. It’s my me-time where I can unplug and be one with the road. The pitch in Mel Gibson’s What Women Want pops in my mind whenever I’m running anything more than a 5K and all I can hear is my own breathing.

Running in foreign cities: I was once a person who would travel and chuck my gym routine out the window when abroad. Even if flying for work, I would enter vacation mode and eat my way through recommended restaurant lists. When in Barcelona, I depended on walking to stay fit. That doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, I’ve tried to be more selective about meals that are worthy AND I’ve taken the gym with me by using runs as a portable workout that also grants you free tickets to a resting city. Morning light has never been so flattering.

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Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy at 7AM (June 2016)

Registered for the Beirut Marathon 42K in November: I NEVER thought I would sign-up for such a thing voluntarily, much less commit to an intensive training program to prepare for it. But I have. I initially wanted to sign up for the half but Mark, NRC coach, convinced me that I might as well give the full thing a shot since I’ll be training for it anyway. If I feel like I can’t make it, I can always stop after 21K.

As a follow-up to this series, I will track the struggle, the pain, and the literal steps forward in a new biweekly series titled “BambiRunsBey42K” covering the marathon training that starts today. This series won’t be solely about my headway because it will be a NRC program: we operate as a team meaning their successes matter just as much as mine do.

El-Tanein Diet Week #52

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This is the final ETD report. Happy to say that I’m down 2.5% body fat and, as promised, a new series is coming as a follow-up. I’ll divulge more on that in the ETD recap post that will be published later today.

Workout Tally

– 3 NRC runs
– 30min elliptical

Outdoor Activity

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The NRC team was turned away from doing drills parallel to the Zaitunay Bay boardwalk (shocking) so we headed over to the Beirut Waterfront. I prefer its fresh asphalt anyway even if it’s not ideal for planking. Scuffed up forearms are nothing a little coconut oil can’t cure though.

Nike+ App

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I had some makis from Sushi Circle – a mango crab salad and 5 pieces. Gone are the days where I’d order by the dozen. Is it the diet or could my tummy actually be shrinking?

Other Highlights

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Eid in the South: Besides waking up at the crack of dawn to head to the border, the Eid breakfast and BBQ lunch was a good mid-week pause away from the city. We forget how much beauty this little place has until you ignore the emails, drive away from the office, put your phone down for a second, and just see it.

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Iris Beach Club: After last year’s successful day in the pool with vodka watermelons, we decided to have a repeat visit in 2016. Iris is one of the private pricey beaches in Damour; however, I designate one or two expensive beach days a month when/if deemed worth it. In other words, when it’s with a big group of friends who aren’t usually here or for special occasions. Blame it on the expats.

Workout Track of the Week

 

Cheese of the Week

I had manchego cheese with truffle oil at Bar Jamon this week. I miss Spain.

El-Tanein Diet Week #51

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So we’re coming up on the concluding week of ETD. It’s time to go HAM at the gym & on the streets with NRC to go out with a bang. But fear not, the effect of ETD will live on with a new identity. After next week’s final post and recap of ETD, I will start a new series to track my marathon training journey. Half marathon, that is.

Workout Tally

– BodyPump, 30 min elliptical
– 5K NRC Run
– (2) 30min elliptical

Outdoor Activity

We had a 5K run in the midst of a sticky Tuesday. I made a bad judgment call and wore pants and sleeves. Let’s just say it’s time to invest in some new summer gear because our climate causes you to develop an aversion to any unnecessary additional cloth or insulation.

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Best Meal of the Week

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image from Cheesecake Factory website

It wasn’t a meal. It was a couple of bites from my mom’s birthday slice of red velvet cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory. I wanted to be guilty but it didn’t work. If you ever have this, avoid the white chocolate frosting edge. It’s better without it.

Other Highlights

Hishik Bishik Show at Metro el Madina: A tribute to 1920s Egyptian cabaret. It was good but I want to check out Bar Farouk, Metro’s Lebanese version, and make a comparison. Hishik Bishik is on until August and the team will be putting on a full show with a symphony orchestra for this summer’s Byblos Festival. As hipster as Metro may be, they’ve got lots of shows that’ll change up the usual evening plans of boozing in Mar Mikhael.

Workout Track of the Week

Cheese of the Week

Appetito Trattoria in Hamra just got a new shipment of burrata from Italy. WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING AT HOME? Go eat.

El-Tanein Diet Week #49 and #50

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It’s been a month since I flew to Rome. Where the heck are the weeks going? As of the beginning of July, El-Tanein Diet would’ve been running for exactly ONE YEAR. A recap is in order and, quite possibly, a conclusion. On to slimmer and brighter things?

Workout Tally

– 3 NRC runs (not all tracked because some were more training based than distance)
– 4 elliptical (varying between 30min-1hour) sessions

Outdoor Activity

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It has been disgusting out there. Humidity is making NRC runs really tough and I’m not fasting like some of my fellow NRCers. Not only do you sweat through everything but, even when standing still, you’re dripping from plain condensation. Sexy.

Gotta say that I miss gym classes but I haven’t been able to fit them in since I’m still catching up on work post-Rome and trying to rebuild my routine.

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Best Meal(s) of the Week(s)

A late night at Abu Hassan in Bourj Hammoud followed by too many Iftars these past two weeks including one with my NRC peeps at Beit Ward. I love a good gathering but my conscience keeps yelling at me for having an extra cheese roll with basterma. Mezzas, be it Lebanese or Armenian, are very hard to monitor. Batchig wins and I have no pictures because I was too busy inhaling mhammara.

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Did I mention Jammal?

Other Highlights

Beirut Marathon Training: Our runs and trainings have been shorter this month in order to make it back by Iftar but starting July 11th, the NRC crew will be kicking it into overdrive to start training for the Beirut Marathon in November with runs scheduled 5x/week.

Workout Track(s) of the Week(s)

Keke Palmer is the latest why-do-I-like-this-pop-nonsense track to hit my playlist. The video makes no sense and I can’t take her seriously after Scream Queens but at least it’s not a panda song by a dude called Desiigner. Just no. Track #2 is from the local boys of WKBL. Their latest album (Distant Rendezvous) has some good stuff, loving Mastercraft’s 80s vibes especially.

Cheese of the Week(s)

My new low-fat love is Candia light fromage blanc. It’s not brie or burrata but it’s still cheese. Hush, let me convince myself that it’s okay.