BambiRunsBey42K: Two Weeks to 21

This is the 8th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Two weeks away from the big day and I feel like such a fraud. Even though I’ve gone down to the half and my training intensity has gone down due to a mix of tapering and late nights at the office, it’s been a long road to November 13th and, at 13 days away, I’m feeling spent.

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PC: Marc Tanas

When with the group, we feed off of each other’s energy. But once you go home and you’re solo again, it wanes. Because of this, I began my Google expedition to find fuel. Fuel to keep my head in the game, fuel to save on my mental hard drive for those negative thoughts post 16K, and fuel to make my legs endure another 2 weeks of training.

On the Mental Hard Drive
It began with Ed Whitlock, an 85-year old who ran his latest marathon in under 4 hours. Runner’s World says, “he just runs slowly, for three to four hours a day, around a cemetery a little more than 100 meters from his front door.” That could not be more fitting. He’s giving death a giant middle finger. I’m 28. No excuses.

Another file saved: Grete Waitz, nine-time winner of the NYC Marathon I’ve mentioned before, once said, “Hurry slowly. Move ahead, but be patient.” It will take time to get better and the endurance you build is not only the physical kind. You need to endure the process.

And then there’s this:


I’ve begun to fall off the wagon when we’re so close. Like the tortoise though, you can’t lose focus. Look for motivation elsewhere, find a boomtastic powersong, plan your post-finish line celebratory meal. Mine is fatteh from Le Professeur in Mar Elias.

Sundays Have Changed
Sundays in Lebanon are commonly associated with grandparents, meat on grills, and/or arak in the mountains. I can’t remember the last Sunday I’ve had that equaled that. Sundays during training seasons mean waking up before 4am, having your eyes water excessively while running at 7am (because they’re like why the f*ck are we doing this now?), being worn out before 11am, and staying hungry until 10pm when you pass out.

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PC: Marc Tanas

I missed yesterday’s morning run simply because I fell back asleep on the couch at 6am. This is just another lesson that training teaches you: set multiple alarms, drink the coffee earlier, and do not sit down on anything squishy for longer than 15 minutes. That last one may be misinterpreted. I meant the sofa, freaks.

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Sunday Mood.

Just for Kicks

A doctor told one of my teammates that the body isn’t built for the marathon, effectively saying, “you’re not supposed to be doing this.” And yet, here we are. I confess that I do not like running. It may seem blasphemous to say that as a NRC runner but, as a sport, it is grueling. It beats you up and knocks you down. However, every time you fight back, you’re taking control and proving that you call the shots. You’re telling your brain that you’re not going to fail, that you know your pain, that you do belong here even when your joints are shrieking. 

Accepting Your Strength
The 21 is still a formidable distance but, considering where I am physically, it is a enough. As a friend of mine said, “mish hayen bas mish mot” (it’s not easy but it’s not death). I don’t mean to make my future-marathoners feel discouraged but I’m recognizing my body’s capability right now. But that’s me. If you’ve seen my fellow beasts train, you’d know that they’ll be eating the 42 for breakfast in two Sundays. And I’ll be having fatteh.

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BambiRunsBey42K: Benched for Two Weeks

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Photo Credit: Jean Awad


This is the 4th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Down Days with Runner’s Blues
I’ve been in a rut for the past few weeks. I chalked it up to usual life frustration but then I came across an article about runner’s blues. As a sport, we all know that you need to account for physical rest but, it turns out, you need to let your brain take a break periodically too. You can’t let setbacks, black toenails, or off-days get you down. Run with it. Yoga has helped for me because it teaches you how to separate external stresses and thoughts from your present state of mind. And I end up getting a good nap at the end because my brain just shuts down if it’s not incessantly ticking. But then…

Injury & Mixed Emotions
Remember my thigh acting up? So apparently, bone, like most of our body tissues, gets stronger and adapts when it’s subjected to stress. BUT, unlike muscles and tendons, which which do so in a matter of days or weeks, bones take months to get stronger after increased stress. They first become weaker as they undergo remodeling, tearing down old osteoclasts’ walls and forming new ones. This is usually why stress fractures occur with runners who are upping their training regimen over several weeks to several months. Bio lesson over. Luckily, my recovering-from-stress-fracture teammates (Leila and NRC Pacer Nour G!) convinced me to go get my thigh checked out early. I went to a sports medicine doc who looks like a calmer, scruffier version of Cesar from OITNB because I figured a regular white-coat would just tell me to stop running.

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Dr. Cesar ordered an MRI and while trying my hardest not to fidget in that pod, I kept thinking that if I was injured, I’d be off the hook and I wouldn’t have to do the marathon; it wouldn’t be that I quit or wasn’t made for this rigorous training. But the moment the technician said that my scans weren’t 100%, my heart sunk. You’re going to take away running? But I’m trying so hard. Running is what I do. If I lose myself, I lose it all…Farrah? Is that you? 

Running had become a huge part of my daily routine that, once taken away temporarily, left me with a void. In that moment, it was clear that I didn’t want a way out but I did need a physical and emotional pause to recharge. Two weeks and I’ve missed moving, I’ve missed my team, and I’ve missed the sense of accomplishment. I feel stronger now but I’ve also been reminded of why I’m doing this: not for anyone else. I want to prove to myself that I can. I’m just doing it.

The MRI indicated slight edema in my femur. In English: Before a fracture occurs, athletes can suffer from stress reaction, the swelling phase just before bones crack from prolonged pressure on the already inflamed area of the bone. I was benched for two weeks meaning low-impact cardio (swimming or biking) until I can slowly return to running. Normal people would be happy to sleep in on a couple Sundays but I was experiencing major FOMO when the team shared photos of their high-20s long distance runs. Today is my first day back with this adorable team:

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Sidenote: DJs should get MRIs for inspiration. I felt like I was in a Daft Punk jam session. It was difficult not bobbing my head in there. 

Diets & Recovery
Everyone wants to swim like Michael Phelps but I just want to eat like Michael Phelps. Not because I’ve been craving grilled cheese sandwiches at 1 in the morning or anything. Anyway, Shalane Flanagan’s cook book has recipes that help athletes stay fueled and healthy. They’re also split according to injuries or deficiencies.

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Oregon Summer Salad…with pecans instead of blueberries

Shalane is an American long distance runner, holds the American record times in the 3000 m, 5000 m, 10K and 15K road race, and ranked 6th in this year’s Olympic marathon. Mostly, she’s also the author of the below tweet so I feel like I can trust her.

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Your diet can keep bones strong: eat lots of kale (high in vit K), sweet potatoes (high in potassium), and other foods high in magnesium, silicon, omega-3s, and vit A, C, D. More tips here and here.

There Will Be Others
Based on how the recovery goes, I may pull back to a half-marathon to avoid further injury and stay safe which is what Dr. Cesar suggests. It absolutely sucks but I’d rather not push to the extreme and end up on crutches for 3 months. There’s always next year and there will be other marathons. There is no need to risk injuries that will leave you with no choice but to stay on the sidelines.

I’ve been looking into destination races too. For example, the DisneyWorld marathon has a generous 13-min mile cut off time. Our Beirut full marathon has a max of 6 hours to complete, otherwise you don’t get a certificate. That’s Disney for you, always letting you live your dreams. I’m still waiting on my own genie and real-life Prince Eric but I digress. This all begs the question: if you run a 42K but your name doesn’t come up on the timesheet because you slow AF, did you really run a marathon? Existentialism at its best. Regardless, I can’t wait to be back with my running peeps. I mean, planning a trip around a running event? Whatever happened to obscure diners and Broadway shows? I don’t know who I am anymore. Oh wait, yes I do. I’m a runner.

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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.

 

El-Tanein Diet Week #42

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Taken by Ali Itani

I really need to blog more. Bambi has become all about the ETD and that’s a shame but quite reflective of how life becomes when juggling work, fitness, and everything else. They say you can only have two of the three when it comes to time and activities. I’m missing my Bambi the Explorer days.

Workout Tally

– 2 NRC runs
– 10K Manara Race with Elite Running Club
– 2 hatha yoga sessions

Outdoor Activity

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I made it to Horsh Beirut! Ananda Yoga Center was hosting a free yoga session in Horsh Beirut this Saturday in support of Beirut Madinati. First off, the Horsh itself was a pleasant surprise – it’s a refreshing well-kept space full of families and people enjoying the warm weather. Second, there was a great turnout and strangely contrasting with the jaded attitudes I’ve been encountering in BEY lately. Yoga itself really challenges you to disconnect and there’s nothing like doing breathing exercises in a park while people are shooting off guns from rooftops not too far off.

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I beat my best-5K and 10K times! Mini wins every other week or so are getting addictive. If I can get my best-5K to be my time every 5K, then I’ll really celebrate but it feels good to keep knocking off seconds.

Best Meal of the Week

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Post-Manara race, I devoured one too many nachos at Cheesecake Factory but the best meal will undoubtedly go to Babel Bay and their shrimp fatteh. Or Ajami’s shawarma plate. Let’s just say that dad’s birthday comes with a lot of family lunches.

Other Highlights

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Taken by Dany Tannous


NRC takes over Zaitunay Bay:
 
After our Tuesday fun run, we invaded the marina for some sangria and chips. The group’s not just about breaking a sweat but also about mingling with new people from all over and having fun together.

Beirut Municipality Elections this Sunday: Real people who think about what Beirut needs should win this for the sake of all those who are losing the ability to hope for change. Although it is admirable that there are people still trying to push back, the rest of the country is tired and need proof that the efforts aren’t wasted – that we’re not stuck. If I could vote in Beirut, I would vote for Beirut Madinati. Check out this comparison by Habib at Beirut Report.

Workout Track of the Week

I feel like this has been in this section before but it’s better than something new by someone who hasn’t hit puberty yet.

Cheese of the Week

Turn on the English subtitles for this.

El-Tanein Diet Week #39, #40, and #41

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Week #39 was spent at Biel because I was on trade show duty for Wesley’s, the family biz. Although it was a successful business experience, it was horrible for ETD. Being in a hospitality industry atmosphere surrounded by food for 4 days straight does not a fit person make. Let’s skip that week and FFWD to weeks 40 & 41 where I got back on track…in terms of exercise.

Workout Tally

– (4) NRC runs
– Iron Core, 45min elliptical, 20min bike
– BodyPump, 30min elliptical
– BodyAttack, 30min elliptical
– Iron Core, 30min elliptical
– BodyPump, 30min elliptical

Totals out at 4 runs and 5 classes for 2 weeks. I’m working on an alternating schedule of classes and NRC runs with a weekend activity in between. The only downside so far is getting my food intake down now that I’m attempting to morph into a gymrat.

Outdoor Activity

Spending Nike runs all over Downtown Beirut and Mar Mikhael hasn’t been enough on the weeks when we don’t have out-of-city excursions. Sure, they count but I need more nature every week. MUST GET TO THE HORSH.

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I beat my best 5K, 1 mile, and 1K time in these two weeks. All records were thanks to my NRC crew’s constant encouragement. My average running pace has also been going down (-14 seconds from last month) steadily along with my average 5K time. Although you can’t tell from looking at me, it seems my body’s endurance is improving.


Best Meal of the Week(s)


A sushi burrito at Horeca and one too many Smoking Buns, a pricey lunch at é cafe in Sursock, and a BBQ extravaganza on a sunny Sunday would be my top 3 for this category. The sushi burrito, while I always love me some spicy salmon, is like eating a giant California roll. The pricey lunch was satisfying and refreshing but I wouldn’t go back unless my parents were footing the bill. Hi dad. Call me simple but I’d choose BBQ any day.

Other Highlights

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Missed out on meeting Chirine Njeim with NRC:
 Due to Horeca duty, I missed out on meeting our star athlete/Olympian, Chirine Njeim, the first Lebanese person to qualify for the Summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

Discovered Fayrouz is my sedative: I haven’t really listened to Fayrouz since my high school days when our driver used to play her every morning when we were still half asleep on the way up to Ain Saade. Maybe that’s why she soothes me, it reminds me of simpler times: IB stress and sweatpants.

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From Smoking Buns to Protein Bars: After Horeca’s debauchery, I shifted to eating Pro Bars and obsessing about calories & carbs. I’ve become one of those people who’s scared of tortilla chip bags. They follow me home.

Workout Track(s) of the Week(s)

 Multiple tracks of multiple genres have been on repeat these last few weeks. These combined with Fayrouz = my taste in music makes no sense whatsoever.
Conor Maynard’s cover isn’t as good as Drake’s original when it comes to something to get your butt moving but they’re both addictive.

Cheese of the Week(s)

Click here.

 

Nike+ Run Club: Byblos was our Valentine

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Taken by Ali Itani

As readers of El-Tanein Diet know, the Nike+ Run Club (NRC) runs twice a week from the Nike store in Beirut Souks every Tuesday and Thursday evening. However, what is not advertised on their flyers is the NRC-organized fun runs on weekends. I stress on the words “fun run” because the main point behind this group is to run for the sake of running, not for medals or podiums.

Leading the pack in this group of awesome folk is Mark Jibran, the NRC coach and all-around positive force of nature. Having a good coach should not be underestimated when it comes to sticking to a fitness regimen. If one’s trainer pushes too hard or doesn’t know how to motivate effectively, then they have failed as a trainer. What seems to fall through the cracks when finding a personal trainer or fitness advisor is not the reps or preferred activities used to get one in shape, but the personal approach they have while one is undergoing training.

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Mark Jibran, NRC Coach – Taken by Ali Itani

And that is where Nike hit the jackpot with Mark. He knows how to deal with people and he knows how to push without making you want to throw spiky pineapples at him so he’d back off.

For each coach, there is a pacer: Mohamad Marhamo. With M&M, the NRC is guided by two smiling and seasoned runners. We are pushed to keep running at our own best pace or, at the very least, to keep running. We are told how to stretch, how to stay hydrated, and how to exercise correctly. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you that they know what they’re doing, both are members of De-Feet Runners, a group of ultra-marathoners who run marathons back-to-back for 6 consecutive days to raise funds for charity.

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Mohamad Marhamo, NRC Pacer – Taken by Ali Itani

Running with these two on the Beirut corniche will show you that this group truly does run BEY. Be it at 6am or 6pm, fellow runners all over the path call out a happy hello to M&M because they are deep-rooted members of this athletic community that is alive in our city. While the rest of us sleep in, these guys are out there enjoying the sunrise and serene calm that you rarely associate with our chaotic capital. By being part of this group and going for runs at the crack of dawn, I got to witness this spirit and, dare I say, be part of it even if just for a few instances.

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For Valentine’s Day, we decided to take on the cultural port city of Byblos (Jbeil) for an early morning 10km run through the old souk and asphalt road to Amchit. On the bus there, while still trying to figure out how and why I was on my way to run on the morning of my 28th birthday, I was also debating how many kilometers I would actually do. The warm-up was set at 2km so that was the minimum but where would I stop? I’d done 10km in the Beirut Marathon but that question popped up, like it does before every NRC meetup, do I feel like it today?

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At every kilometer, my mind would ask, “are you ready to turn around?” But as I neared the halfway point where M&M were waiting with water, I had other NRC members making their way back and cheering me on. So I thought, “yalla, another kilometer and then you’ll stop.” And that’s how it went on until I did the entire 10. I did it thanks to their cheerleading combined with my mind not wanting my body to succumb to being closer to the age of 30. HA.

I was never a runner. Hell, I still don’t think I can call myself one. But maybe, in the future, with the help of NRC, I will be.