Big Sur Marathon Training

I am 5 weeks away from running my 8th marathon. Despite a very unpredictable New England winter, I have really enjoyed this training.  At the onset of training I determined my goals for this marathon as have done for each marathon. This was a bit different because I have no time goal. Big Sur is an experience from all that I have read about it. Runners make their way from Big Sur to Carmel along scenic Highway 1. Everything I have read about it from blog posts to articles imparts the same advice…look around, take in the scenery, and enjoy the experience. That is exactly what I plan to do. Of course I will run and do my best, but I will stop to take a few photos as well. I got into the race through a marathon for first timers so this is likely a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I want to remember it well.

Like most of my marathons this will be a family vacation as well. We will be spending our first weekend in Monterey for the marathon and then we will spend a week in San Francisco. It’s a first for all of us.  We are definitely open to recommendations?

My training began back in January. After the Manchester City Marathon in November, I continued running regularly and maintained a longish run each week of 8-10 miles. The winter was mild up to that point and I wanted to take advantage of the decent weather to run as much outdoors as possible. After the New Year I began increasing mileage almost immediately with a 12 mile long run. Big Sur is a very hilly course so there has been some hill work on shorter midweek runs. Although I am not focused on a particular pace for this marathon some speed work has been incorporated into my training. I love the variation of runs throughout the week because it keeps it interesting.

I have been working with a running coach for the last 4 marathons. I feel silly even saying that because I am not a professional athlete, but honestly working with a coach has been such an incredible experience for me. For the first three marathons I trained myself loosely following Hal Higdon’s plans. I think I did quite well for someone who never engaged in sports prior to taking up running. Working with a coach after my Achilles injury was important. I was nervous and anxious about becoming injured again. I was also slower and heavier causing frustration with myself and running. It was helpful to have someone guiding me through those ups and downs as I came back from the injury and began marathon training again. I had always trained by miles and the first thing my coach did was plan my runs by time. This lifted the pace pressure right off of my mind. The next big change she made was starting my training plans on Monday rather than Sunday. Seems insignificant doesn’t it? Well it made a significant difference in how I was able to plan my week because suddenly it allowed me the flexibility to do my long run on either Saturday or Sunday for that training week.

Having a coach also allows me to push myself out of my comfort zone. I love reporting back that I was able to hit the prescribed paces in a speed workout or that I accomplished a challenging hill repeat workout. It’s also great to have someone help me figure out why something might not be working. I learn so much about my own abilities as a runner and I am picking up skills that will help me coach others too.

Tomorrow morning I will set out for what will likely be my longest long run at 22 miles. I ran 20 last week. My long runs have (knock on wood) been going really well and I have been incredibly lucky with the weather. The 17 miler was a bit insane. We had snow a few days before and the roads in some places were still in bad conditions. I ran from my house to my mom’s house three towns away. The route is a rather busy one which I thought might work to my advantage because I assumed the roads would be clear. The roads were a mess, no shoulders to run in and sidewalks were untouched for the most part.  I had to stop at train tracks while a train passed. It was a disaster. I felt as though people driving by were annoyed by me running and I was annoyed by the splashes of wet slush flying up at me every now and then.

Overall I’ve enjoyed unseasonably “warm” winter weather. There have been some spring-like days recently. There has been a great deal of sunshine and some beautiful scenery. I have trained in freezing temperatures, extremely windy conditions, and rain. I have only done a handful of my runs indoors on the treadmill. Hopefully the next few weeks of training are just as awesome because the taper weeks will be here very soon.

I tried to capture some of the scenery from this training. These were all posted previously on Instagram. Each one brings back a memory of the run.

Happy spring! Nice peaceful run on this gorgeous day. #bigsurmarathontraining2017
Scenes from my favorite running spot . The weather  was almost 60 degrees. I loved the contrast of the warmer air against the snowy scenery.
20 miles, hills, snow, ice, darkness, clouds, quiet, a little bit of sun ☀️ #winterrunning #bigsurmarathontraining2017
Sights from my 20 miler on 3/19/17. I ran two towns away up and over “the mountain” as it is referred to around here. That is Mt. Tom in the bottom left. Although I did not run the actual mountain, the road to the town below is quite long and steep. 
Today is one of my favorite races, the Holyoke St. Patrick's 10K. Good luck 🍀 to 1000s of runners! As always the luck of the Irish is with them as the sun peeks out of the clouds. It couldn't be more perfect running weather. I'm just finishing up an easy run before tomorrow's 20 miler. #bigsurmarathontraining2017 #winterrunning
A short 6 miler on the day of my favorite 10K. I decided not to run it this year in order to focus on marathon training, but I really missed it. I’ll be back next year!
So much for an early spring #bigsurmarathontraining2017 #winterrunning
Another nice day for an outdoor run.
The run that almost wasn't today. Many excuses-cold, snow, no school for Carlos, a ton of paperwork but the sun came out, the grandmother came over, and I hit the road. There's just something about running over bridges I love. #winterrunning #bigsurmarathontraining2017 #noexcuses
I love running over bridges.
It's hard to believe that after a day like today snow is on its way tomorrow. It was really windy but temps were in the 50s. Thankfully today was long run day. #workfromhomeperks #bigsurmarathontraining2017 #winterrunning
A lovely run along the bike trail turned into a powerful workout.
Morning run sun #marathontraining #winterrunning
An early morning run near Carlos’ school after dropping him off

Happy #internationalwomensday  I honored myself by going for a lovely lunchtime run on what was supposed to be a rainy day. Instead it was all blue skies, sun, and a tinge of spring. #bigsurmarathontraining2017 #winterrunning
Barely a cloud in the sky
When there is no path ahead create your own. I swore I wouldn't do another spring marathon and struggle through winter training, but here I am back at it. #bigsurmarathon here I come. This is a bucket list race and an opportunity I couldn't pass up. #winterrunning
On Instagram I wrote: When there is no path ahead create your own. I swore I wouldn’t do another spring marathon and struggle through winter training, but here I am back at it.
Why is the wind never at my back?!! #winterrunning #bigsurmarathon
It was super windy out on this day and I swear no matter which way I turned at the reservoir I had the wind in my face!

Looks cold but feels like spring. Taking the path less traveled on my way to #bigsurmarathon #winterrunning
I didn’t feel much like running on this day. I forced myself out the door at lunchtime. The run was horrible, but there is always a lesson in the run.

Long run day #bigsurmarathon #winterrunning
Taken during a fueling stop on one of my early long runs. That is the Connecticut River going by.

Time to get to bed. I have a very early wake up call before I hit the road. After watching the big rain cloud with 60-90% chance of rain on tomorrow’s weather forecast, it now show only a 20% chance of rain and a sun peeking out from behind the cloud. I will take it!

Healthy Lifestyle Expo

I’m in Valencia, CA attending the Healthy Lifestyle Expo. I’m determined to post at the end of each day. 

I flew in on Thursday night. I had a long shuttle ride to the hotel, but met a few really nice people and we chatted the whole time. One was a 70 year old woman who looked incredible and was heading off to a month long trek in Tasmania with her Australian boyfriend. Go girl! She was a hot ticket. She has trekked in Indonesia, Cambodia and climbed Kilimanjaro. 

Friday morning bright and early I met a small group in the lobby for a bus tour around the area. We started at the Getty Museum. The grounds were just as interesting as the exhibits. 

 My favorite exhibit was the photography exhibit by Ishiuchi Miyako called Post War Shadows. It was fascinating. I enjoyed the Degas exhibit as well. 

The views must be gorgeous on a clear day. 


Lunch at Sharky’s was the secret menu item, the Chef AJ burrito which is vegan and oil free, but you would never know. 

Unfortunately we didn’t go to the iconic LA sights. Time was short and traffic was abundant. But we did drive down the famed Rodeo Drive. 

Our last stop was Universal City Walk which is nothing more than a shopping center and Universal Studios. Not my thing nor the others I was with so most of us convened at Starbucks and chatted. I was the youngest in the group, but I was easily welcomed and found a lot in common with most of the people. Ironically about half of us had either lived or spent time in Africa. One woman has climbed Kilimanjaro twice. This is my second mention of Kilimanjaro in this post. I’ve been saying since I was in my early 30s that I will climb Kilimanjaro when I’m 50. In June when I ran the Vegan Power 25K I talked with a woman who summited the mountain as well. I really don’t think this is a coincidence. I have 8 years to prepare for this expensive and physically challenging endeavor and I feel as though the path is beginning to form leading me towards my goal. 

We returned to the hotel around 4 and had some time to rest before dinner. 

After a really delicious vegan buffet we headed into the conference room to hear key note speaker Irminne Van Dyken MD.

First of all she is a beautiful well spoken young woman. Her message is soft spoken but presented with confidence and ease. 

She is a surgeon. She explained “Many of my patients have diseases that could have been prevented through dietary and lifestyle changes. My goal in life is to put myself out of business.”

The theme of her talk was:

10 Ways a Plant Based Diet Will Help You Avoid the Scalpel

A few notes before beginning the list of 10:

Leading causes of death in 2014

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic resp
  • Accidents
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Diabetes

1900 vs 2010

Leading cause of death in 1900 was infection

Heart disease and cancer were largely nonexistent then. What changed? Our diets and lifestyle. 

There is a magic pill/silver bullet – it is eating a whole foods plant based diet (WFPB)

This does not apply to a junk food vegan diet. 

Exercise is an important component that exponentiates a WFPB diet. 

List of 10 ways to avoid surgical intervention:

10. Avoid Atherosclerosis

  • Direct result of inflammation
  • Fatty streaks-endothelial dysfunction-plaques
  • 15-20 year olds are developing fatty streaks 
  • Dean Ornish MD – Lifestyle Heart Trial took very sick people and put them on his program which included dietary and lifestyle changes rather than meds and 82% had regression of their disease
  • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn on how to reverse CAD

9. Avoid breast, prostate and colon cancers 

10 recommendations for cancer prevention

  • Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
  • Be physically active for at least 30 min daily
  • Limit energy dense sugary foods
  • Eat more variety of whole foods
  • Limit red meat
  • Limit alcohol 
  • Limit salty foods 
  • Don’t use supplements to prevent cancer. Get nutrients from whole foods.
  • Breastfeed for 6 months if able
  • After cancer treatment follow above recommendations to prevent recurrence

As far back as 1907 an article was published announcing the incidences of cancer increasing among meat eaters. 

Neil Barnard, MD advocates diet as a preventive agent to decrease risk of cancer. 

Breast cancer is most common cancer among women. 

Exercise will decrease rate of recurrence of breast cancer. 

Hula and Breast Cancer Survivorship – introduced hula dancing as a means of physical activity to breast cancer survivors in Hawaii where Dr. Van Dyken works. The study just closed but already finding better survival rates 

Prostate Cancer 

Like breast cancer it’s very hormone responsive. 

Data driven studies to prevent prostate cancer note the following preventive measures:

  • Eat WFPB diet
  • Lycopene 
  • Yellow and orange vegetables
  • Get folic acid from foods not supplements
  • Avoid fried foods
  • Exercise at least 3 hours a week
  • Supplement with a conservative amount of zinc

8. Colon cancer (CRC – colorectal cancer)

  • Preventable and detectable early by colonoscopy
  • Increased risk correlated to red meat intake. High intake of red and processed meat is associated with an increase in CRC. 
  • Preventive measures: fiber rich foods, grape seed oil, milk thistle (promoted cancer cell death), turmeric root (very important antiinflammatory properties), green tea (antioxidant)
  • Limit alcohol intake because it is metabolized into a carcinogen in the GI tract and supresses B vitamins
  • Tobacco is directly related to increase risk of CRC

Circumin (turmeric) benefits in the body are enormous. Lots of research being she and pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in this root. Combine with black pepper for even more benefits. 

7. Avoid obesity

  • Liver can be replaced with fat cells causing inflammation and eventually cirrhosis with liver failure. Fatty liver is an unwanted product of obesity and our lifestyle. 
  • Obesity predicts risk of complications during and after surgery 
  • Vegans have a much lower BMI than people who eat everything 
  • Hara hachi bu engrained in Okinawan culture which means stop eating when you are 70% full

6. Eating more fiber reduces risk of constipation, diverticulitis and hemorrhoids

  • Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar
  • >3 million cases of hemorrhoids in the US. They are painful and cause misery.
  • One formed BM is a misconception. 
  • Diverticulitis are little poured in the colon. 200,000-3 million cases. Not found in less developed countries. Directly related to fiber in the diet. When diverticula burst it is an emergency and may result in a colostomy. 
  • People in the US need to be looking at fiber intake rather than protein. We all eat much more protein than we need. 

5. Have more constant blood sugar to avoid type 2 diabetes 

  • All risk factors for type 2 diabetes except height are modifiable by dietary and lifestyle changes. 
  • Complications of diabetes: cardiovascular disease, decreased kidney function, neuropathy, infections

4. Decrease cholesterol

  • Vegetarians have little to no reported cases of gall stones which are made primarily of cholesterol. 
  • Gall stones are preventable with WFPB diet

3. Decrease degenerative disc disease and the need for joint replacement surgery

  • WFPB diet relieved the symptoms of osteoarthritis 
  • Nutrition and activity should be first line treatments for osteoarthritis not medications
  • Obesity, inactivity and otsteoarthritis are pro-inflammatory factors. 

2. Have more radiant skin, feel your best and have more self esteem 

  • Nutrition is a causative factor in acne
  • Avoid plastic surgery by changing diet and activity 

1.  Epigenetics – pass the health on to your progeny

  • What I eat today may affect my child and grandchildren 
  • ITC is chemical term for broccoli sprouts – epidemiological studies link a high intake of broccoli related vegetables with a lower incidence of cancer. Chemopreventive effects. 
  • EGCG is green tea and possesses antiproliferative, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and chemopreventive effect
  • This is an up and coming area of study. If you want to know more check out Epigenetics Explained

Dr. Van Dyken ended by stressing that it’s important to meet people where they are at. I couldn’t agree more.  The WFPB movement should lead by example and not impose judgment. I present this material as information to anyone who might be interested. I eat a WFPB diet, but it has taken me a long time to arrive at this lifestyle and as always I admit that I am a work in progress which is why I’m constantly seeking wisdom. I welcome questions and encourage curiosity.