It Takes Guts to Build Mental Strength

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“It’s hard to beat a person who never GIVES UP.”

~Babe Ruth

September was another hectic month; add Hurricane Irma’s stress to the occasion and you’ve got some real stress and some tight muscles as a result of it. Since surpassing 100 miles for the month, I started to get hooked and excited to find out how many more miles I can accumulate in a month. However, I kept in mind that a healthy month was and is more important than the accumulation of miles, especially in the final stretch of training cycle.

My awareness towards my body’s well-being was in higher frequency this month. I paid attention to every detail and unusual discomfort my body was feeling. This time my left calf and shin area was more than I wanted to. However, it is was not a surprise as I was exiting August with 120 miles for the month.

Two days after Labor Day weekend, the news were blasting us with updates on the fast approaching arrival of Hurricane Irma and its deadly force of a Category 5 hurricane. Seeing the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Matthew in Texas, Florida wasn’t going to be the one state to play with its strength, and a state of emergency was then effective. The prediction of the storm’s arrival in Central Florida was for Sunday evening, so up to Thursday, I was able to log in my miles. But my right calf wasn’t too happy.

After my husband examined my left calf, he found a dense knot and it hurt. I took a rest day from running on Friday, rolled, iced and stretched, but I was not 100% sure if it was in the best interest to run my 11-miler on Saturday. I knew it was due to stress and I know that when I run on a tight muscle, nothing good happens. The entire week was about Hurricane Irma prep – going to the store to stock up on water and food, maneuvering through hectic traffic frenzy, arranging for a tree company to come over and cut tree branches hanging on top of our roof, helping my father-in-law remove flying debris from his backyard, removing our patio and yard furniture out of harm way, and really doing the best we could given the situation and time we had was exhausting.

All of that added up and my body felt unrested. It was no brainer that I’d be better off sacrificing 11 miles out of training than to run the risk of losing the entire cycle and possibly missing another race. My Coach could not had agreed with me more!

Going through the storm on Sunday evening was one of the scariest experience I’ve ever had. The storm started around 8:00 p.m. and it lasted for a good 12 hours. The rain and wind intensified around midnight as the eye of the hurricane passed through. For most part,  it was a steady rain fall with an occasional 10-minute break between gusty winds. At 2:30 a.m. I could not take it anymore and had to go to bed, not that I really feel sleep. Kurt came to bed around 4:00 a.m. when the storm appeared to be lessen. When we got up around 8:00 a.m., the rain was gone but the wind gust and tree branches were all over the place. We were very grateful that all we had to do was clean up. Many people lost electricity, we did too, but we only lost for 16 hours whereas many people in Central Florida didn’t have electricity as much as two weeks.

The before, during and after Hurricane Irma left me drained for days. It was exhausting, bust I used the non-running time to rehab my tight calf with icing, tens-unit sesh, rolling and lots of stretching. By the time I got back into the running routine again was on Tuesday after the hurricane. It felt good, but I was still lacking on energy. After that, the rest was history as I kept moving along with training and tackling one speed workout after another. The mental strength training this time was even tougher, especially preparing and executing what I’d say was one of the toughest run yet.

8 Mi Speed Workout

 

2 mi easy warm up

6 x .5 mile @ 7:45-8:00 pace with .25 jog between

Cool down to mileage

2 mi up @  10:31

.50 @ 7:38 (death pace for me!)

.50 @ 8:00 (yep, slow down a bit, Celia!)

.50 @ 7:49 (crank up a notch, you can do it!)

.50 @ 7:48 (steady and fast, find a sweet spot)

.50 @ 7:48

.50 @ 7:49

1.50 cool down @ 9:20

 

TOTAL: 8.0 / 1:23:23 / AVG 10:25

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I did it!

The mental strength and toughness I had to dig for this month was no joke! I constantly used watching Breaking 2, Breaking 2 Special edition, the 2016 London Marathon, part of the 2016 Berlin Marathon, the New England Patriots post games press conferences as part of mental training as I logged another massive 57 miles just on the treadmill. In addition, I’ve been listening to Peak Performance audiobook and the fascinating TB12 Method by Tom Brady audiobook.

The heat and humidity in September was still intense. It seems that such weather conditions do play tricks in your head as I started to feel unsettled on whether I could run a slightly faster pace under these conditions. My Coach had a 13-miler on the schedule, and I saw that as a great opportunity for a trial race training; however, its success was possible to my husband’s assistance. On a Saturday, I headed to the trail with the intention of completing 13.1 without stopping. Kurt rode the bike and followed me with water and nutrition. I felt like I was having Kipchoge’s special treatment throughout the run. And that, made a huge difference! That Saturday was a 6-day running streak, so my legs were tired, and unfortunately due to heat, humidity and a late start (6:50 a.m.), I started to feel the crash in the last 5K. Completing this 13.1 training run gave me a huge confidence boost – just what I needed to finish the month strong.

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Thanks to my hubby for helping me 🙂

Even after losing the 11-miler LR, I was still able to close the month with a PR – a PR by just one mile, but nevertheless it’s hard earned miles that I am proud of because I managed to close the last week of September with my highest weekly mileage at 35 miles to bring to a total of 121 miles. Yes, I did it! And I still managed to take a day off from running during this week to respect my body and be cautious as I’d be entering taper week on the following week.

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And as if you already didn’t know, to celebrate the month and to keep my body healthy, I had my monthly chiropractor adjustment, therapy and cryotherapy sesh as the week and month closed. And to my surprise, Saq was there doing cryo too! That was an interesting experience as I met the former Orlando Magic and LA Lakers basketball player in the same place I do cryo.

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Whether you are 5’3” or 7’1”, athletes do cryo! That’s a wrap for September guys!

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3-minute, temps as low as -255F

(P.S. I also hit my cryo sesh PR at 3-minute as temps went as low as -255F = take that to the mental strength bank!

“Excellence is not a singular act but a habit. You are what you do repeatedly.”

~Shaquille O’Neal

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It Doesn’t Get Easier, but Let’s Go!

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“With a strong heart and a good mind, you can do it.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

To say that August was a great month, it’s an understatement! A PR month of 120 miles, 58 of these miles were on treadmill, it’s a moment for jumping sky-high! I am so proud of the hard work and time invested to reach this month’s goal. It was very tough to get these miles in, especially when August has been the most mentally challenging month by far.

Considering that I closed the month of July with 107 miles, I gave myself a challenge to cover 120 miles for the month of August. However, I didn’t anticipate that the tempo runs and speed work would be so mentally draining and challenging. The desire to run was less intense and the anticipation of a tempo or speed workout was daunting. I had to switch mental gear quickly to preclude the negativity and fear from running the show. After all, it is my show and I run this thing!

On another note, August was a busy month with other things not related to running. Right off the bat, we had Tom Brady’s 40th b-day on the 3rd, and of course, a 4-miler was on the menu to celebrate the Greatest of All Times,  aka GOAT. Football was right on the face with the conclusion of training camp and start of preseason games – everything feels so much better when football exists! And, we had a one of a kind eclipse!

The hot and humid days were still intense just like June and July; there was no much of a break. Except for one interesting Saturday morning which I had a 12-miler on the schedule. Krista, my neighbor, and I had one of the most enjoyable LR in a while. The fact that she needed to be done by 7:00 a.m. helped speed up the process a little bit, but none of that would had matter if the weather had not cooperate to the slightest drop in temperature. This run helped me get the positive boost I needed to keep my monthly goal alive.

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Splits: 10:35, 10:09, 10:08, 10:05, 10:08, 10:06, 10:08, 10:11, 10:16, 10:08, 9:49 & 9:19

Much of this month’s credit goes to my husband for showing the support and kindness in giving me a treadmill which I’ve named, “Newton”. I can train hard and cover the miles without beating up my body so much in the heat and humidity. Not only it provides me more flexibility in my training, but it allows my body to properly recover, even though, my mileage keeps increasing on a monthly-basis so far.

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What’s in for September? Another PR month would be great, but I think that my focus is really on keeping a strong mental strength foundation, staying healthy and decompress from the everyday routine by relaxing by the pool or taking a quick trip to the beach. As of September, I will be only 4 week out until Jacksonville Marine Corps Half marathon and I must do everything possible to stay strong and healthy. I haven’t toe line since March 5 at the SwampHouse 5K event which I PR’d by 20 seconds with 25:40 finish time AND got myself a groin injury as I crossed the finish line. No regrets here because I’ve learned a great deal on how to be a proactive runner and focus on my body’s recovery process.

To a strong September and a October PR! Let’s Go!!

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“Run Epically
~unknown

July Miles: Hot Humid and Sweaty

“Every Mile Earned, Never Given.”

~ unknown

Yes to July!!! Independence Day and my birthday month!! As matter of fact, America and I share fireworks. How fun is that!!

If anyone thought that June was hot and humid, one haven’t experienced July in Florida! At one point I simply stopped looking at the weather app to check on how hot and humid the day was predicted to be. What’s the point? If one is to adventure in the outdoor sauna, one better be ready for it.

  • Hydrate every single day
  • Never run without a bottle of water
  • Start your run early and dark
  • If anything longer than 5 miles, consider taking an electrolyte/salt pill
  • Go for shaded areas
  • Sunglasses (and a hand-towel in my case)
  • Lace up and go

 

Going into the second week of July, my body started to feel the impact of the heat, humidity and intensity of the workouts. It was telling me that I needed to rest, amplify my vitamins, minerals and supplements intake; go to my doctor and order a blood test. And while at the doctor’s office, go ahead and take a shot of B12.

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Blood work day, yipe!

It took weeks for my body to start to normalize into a more steady routine. The lack of energy, especially in the morning as I do suffer from the occasional adrenal fatigue attack was at its full force this time. Three unplanned rest days (a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday) were needed until I started to feel somewhat better to do some of the workouts. I listened to my body 100% and I did everything I could to make sure my immune system remained strong and focused on processing my energy level back up instead of fighting some other weakness such as a flu symptom.

To give myself a break from this crazy-hot weather, I started doing a lot of my runs on the treadmill. Outdoor runs were becoming harder and harder on my body and very difficult to maintain the duration of a run. Running a faster pace or some speed work outdoor was getting impossible to hit the suggested paces. Although a treadmill run offers a controlled environment (AC on and turbo fan blowing at me), it still gets freaking hot. It is not easy either, but it is more doable. Going into my longest treadmill run of 12 miles; there were times I wished I had just taken it outside. It was one of the hardest treadmill run to date. The mental and physical drain was nothing I had experienced before, and I believe this was the turning-point of my energy level and adrenal fatigue kick off.

By mid-third week of July, I started to feel and sleep better. I can’t focus enough on how important rest it is for me. In one of the days that my energy was extremely low, I went to bed at 7:30 p.m. On the next day, my body was ready to wake up and get up at 5:00 a.m. and I had one of the best steady run.

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I also decided to schedule a second cryotherapy session before the end of the month. Usually a once a month session is enough, but this time I saw no harm in doing it a second time. To my “luck” at the time of cryo sesh, the nitrogen tank was about to get empty, but Dr. Sabrina Atkins estimated that it would be enough for my 3-minute top sesh. I entered at -111F and I held on for the entire 3-minute; however, the temps only reached to -211F.

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Hold on for the entire 3-minute max down to -245F first sesh of July

This cryotherapy session was a great energy boost to kick off the last week of July with the start of the Jacksonville Marine Corps half marathon training. As a bonus, football training camp was also on tap, which motivates me a great deal, even if the workout calls for a fartlek = 2 mi warm up / 10 min @ 9:10 pace / 4x2min @ 8:45-8:30 w/ 2min recovery in between / easy cool down to 7!

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2 mi up 10:42 / 10 min @ 9:07 / 4×2 min @ 8:37, 8:43, 8:39, 8:38 & extra 8:36 / 2.28 mi cool down  @ 10:01

After all the ups-and-downs, I am learning to manage mental and physical breakdown a lot better. I try to stay calm and let it run its course while not giving it too much power. Negative thoughts will creep in every now and then, but it is so important to not to give them power or they will eat you alive. Simply acknowledge it and put a positive thought and action to nullify them. Also, beating myself up for being on the funk wave is pointless. Do not beat yourself up! It is part of the process of training hard and we are only humans.

I’m also constantly working on mental training just as I work on my physical training everyday. I read motivational/sports quotes, I read books, listen to audiobooks (my favorite so far is The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think , Train, and Thrive by Jim Afremow), I watch word majors marathons while running on the treadmill, and of course, watching Breaking 2 the Nike Project never gets old! All of this positive intakes adds up. I have noticed that when a mental breakdown happens, its intensity is usually less or tends to linger less time. This time for me, I think it was more of a physical breakdown. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will change as training becomes harder and harder, but I know that I’m more mentally tough that I was yesterday.

So, thank you my dear legs, body and mind for taking me a little further this month for a month PR of 107.39 miles! I love you dearly.

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Cheers to you and Happy August!!

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”

~Alan Cohen

Breath In Breath Out and Let Qi Flow

 

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“To be inflexible to the change around you is to live in fear. Qigong is a useful tool to improve your flexibility, both mental and physical.” 

~Garri Garripoli

 Since my husband is a licensed massage therapist, I try to absorb all the different modalities he comes across with to enhance his life, health and practice. As I’m growing wiser, I’ve been more open to learn and be involved with relaxation methods, practices and overall methods that contributes to a healthy physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

My husband introduced me to Qigong ten years ago. At the time, I went along with him and even did the instructor certification course. I loved learned about different breathing methods, Qigong movements and food healing. But all the information did not sink in much and the exposure to such training started to fade away.

My husband retook the course several times later to refresh his mind and to earn CEU credits. I stopped by in one or two of these occasions but my mind wasn’t into it. After getting back into steady running for the past three years and with bigger dreams in mind, I decided to go with my husband and be fully engaged in the 3-day Qigong seminar; however, I was not able to attend the first day (Friday) due to work schedule.

Running has taught me a different side of gratitude. It has also taught me to connect more with my environment, nature, body, mind and spirit. I thought that Qigong would open doors that I left unopen since last time I participated in the seminar. Part of got me more curious this time is because I heard of a running technique called Qi Running in which it teaches to focus on breathing, body alignment and foot placement. It also helps prevent the most common running injuries. I discovered a Qi Running coach in the proximity of Orlando area, made the appointment, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the appointment got cancelled and I have never made connection again. That has been almost 2 years ago.

Jeff Primack is the pioneer of Qigong Revolution in the USA. He is amazing and so knowledgeable. He brings simplicity to a complicated world of self-made chaos, and the answer is actually within ourselves and within the plant-based realm. That’s when food healing, breathing methods and movement of energy flow comes along.

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During Qigong seminar break. It’s a very laid back atmosphere and setting. Everyone brings their yoga mat. 

As Qi Revolution’s website states, “GiGong is about Strength and Building Energy. Breath, Mediation and Movement are combined in a seamless practice.” Days leading up to the event, I started to focus on my breathing while running. I noticed that I was able to help keep my heart rate close the 150-155 under range (zone 3) during my easy runs. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not, but I believe that on hotter days there was a major contribution to spiking up my heart rate.

For two-days straight we practiced on the 9 Breath Technique, Qigong movements, walking Qigong and meditation. In all aspects of Qigong there is a higher sense of gratitude, especially when we discussed food healing.

My favorite part of food healing was when a smoothie recipe called for beets. Yes!!! I love beets! Energy, movement, flow and breathing are part of the realm of well-being. Therefore, it does starts with what we eat. Does the food nourishes our bodies or does it cause to clog with toxins?

As a runner, I know exactly what kind of food helps me perform better and which kind makes my performance go down the drain. Qi Revolution Food Healing has made me even more aware of the importance of nourishing my body with the highest phytochemicals foods in order to expedite recovery and healing from one workout to the next. Jeff highly emphasizes on the power of food healing to reverse diseases and certain forms of cancer. I could not pass on this opportunity to own the most recent Food Healing SmoothiesFormula book that Jeff has updated, and this time, I even got it autographed.

I highly recommend checking out Qi Revolution’s web site to see if a tour is near you. Jeff travels all over the country to share this valuable information that I have never heard anywhere else.

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To better health and runs!

“Eat from the TREE of Life Avoid the Surgeon’s knife.”

~Jeff Primack

One of a Runner’s Dream

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“The Future is Bright.”

~ Kurt Westbrook, my husband

Nobody said that conditioning and training to one day BQ was going to be easy. The truth is, it doesn’t get easier, you get stronger. I can certainly feel stronger than I was yesterday, but it doesn’t mean that I should make it harder on myself. And what a best way to make training look easier than owning my own treadmill?

I feel like the luckiest girl on earth for having a caring and supportive husband. He loves me, he supports me and he cheers me up. He will go above and beyond to make life easier, accessible and fun to our family. I’ve been talking for quite a while about getting a treadmill, and he told me that we will get one at the right time.

After his back surgery 11 months ago and months of physical therapy, he found out that walking has been a tremendous help to getting his body strong again. It is beyond happiness to know that he is starting to feel much better and stronger, and that perhaps, later this year he will be strong enough to do a 5K walk.

After taking care of our priorities, the time has come. I searched for a treadmill, I did the research and I knew exactly what specifications I needed the machine to have in order to last me for a long time, and yet, not surpass my needs. It needed to have a strong horsepower of at least 4.0 CHP; a complete lower-body workout of 15% incline and -3% decline; an expansive running deck of at least 22”x60” tread beld; iFit Coach Ready; smart touchscreen display; workout apps; digital quick speed; incline and decline; great warranty; and of course, ProShox Cushioning.

After all of that, the Pro Form Pro 2000 seems to be the most fit for our needs and right on affordability. After showing the product to my husband, he was more interested in the Pro Form Pro 5000 – same tread belt, incline/decline, but the motor was better 4.0 CHP instead of 3.5 CHP. Hey, I am not going to argue with that!

And in a blink of an eye, the treadmill was ordered and purchased over the phone. That moment felt so dreamlike. I was feeling a bunch of emotions all at the same time. I felt so happy, so grateful and a sense of “pressure”, but on a good way. It felt like, “this is real as it gets” – you are now really training to qualify for Boston!

Now what was left to do was to prepare the home gym for the treadmill’s arrival. I had two weeks to get it ready, and with my husband’s help, we got the room ready. In less than two weeks, I received the phone call informing on the day and time of delivery. I was thrilled! It was sooner than expected and I could not wait.

Because of its massive size, it was delivered via a freight company and truck. When I saw the truck parking on my street I could not believe its size. But wait, the size of the box in which the treadmill was wrapped was gigantic! To my amaze, the truck driver was doing the moving of the treadmill all by himself, I know right?! My concern was making sure it didn’t get hit and damaged in the process of placing it on a dolly and moving the thing out of the truck to my home.

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Thankfully, everything went well. My husband had a 4×4 handmade dolly which was very helpful in placing the treadmill on it in order to get it inside the house. I was very appreciative of the delivery guy’s assisting us in actually bringing the treadmill inside the house, as opposed to, living it on side curb.

My husband immediately started to dismantle the box and putting the treadmill together piece by piece. The entire process took 3 hours. It was exhausting but so thrilling. After reanalyzing the room, we decided where to best place the treadmill and I’m ready to roll. There’s no doubt I am the luckiest girl and have the most wonderful husband. He’s so kind and attentive.

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My first run on Newton (yes I do name my most valuable running gears – Garmins, shoes, and now my very own treadmill) was on a Saturday for a quick and easy 4-miler. I decided to name my treadmill Newton after the Newtown Hills on the Boston Marathon course. I immediately felt a strong connection to its name and meaning. I mean, how I cannot love hills if all I focus on now is the day I run the Boston Marathon? The fun really starts in Newton Hills, right?!

So yes, my mental game is to love Newton whereas most runners called it “dreadmill” and show some dislike to treadmills. Newton will help me get there and I do show much gratitude and appreciation to my running “things”.

And of course, my husband is loving doing his fast walk every day and even walking on Newton Hills through iFit technology!

Without further ado, lace up, Celia. The chase just got real!

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“Surround yourself with people who know your worth. You don’t need too many people in your life, just the real ones who appreciate you for exactly who you are.”

~Steve Maraboli

Cheers to Beet Smoothie

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“No matter how much it gets abused, the body can restore balance. The first rule is to stop interfering with nature.”

 ~Deepak Chopra

Who doesn’t love beet roots? Seriously, this is not a trick question. Well, I am sure a few hands will go up to represent the dislike for beets. On the other hand,  I can’t live without beets. I remember when my mom used to make us beet salad; it was the first item I served myself to make sure I got my fair share. My mom used to cook beets, but never would cut it before cooking so that the red color and nutrients would not fade away in the boiling water.  As time passed and I had to take care of my own cooking, I learned not to cook beets to preserve its nutrients to the maximum.

When I started to learn more about nutrition in order to help me become a more efficient runner and assist my body with the healing process due to the demands of training, I was very intrigued to know that beet roots is rich in betalains, a class of potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that battle free radicals and inflammation-related chronic disease. Beets are also valuable in providing the body with the everyday nutrients like B vitamins, iron, manganese (good for bones, liver, kidneys and pancreas), copper, magnesium and potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function). That’s a huge plus for me since I’m a vegetarian and I need all the iron, Bs vitamins and daily vitamins I can get from a natural source.

In addition, beet roots is known to contain rich nutrients that may help lower blood pressure, fight cancer and inflammation, boost stamina and support detoxification (supports phase 2 of the body’s detoxification helping purify the blood and liver). Beet greens is also rich in nutrients and it should not be thrown away. It helps strengthen the immune system, support brain and bone health and it can be eaten as much as one wants. Beet roots on the other hand, it is recommended with moderation because of its high content level of sugar, the most of all vegetables.

Turns out that my favorite veggie is full of nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide – a compound that relaxes and dilates blood vessels, turning them into superhighways for nutrient and oxygen-rich blood. That is, it improves circulation and possibly lower blood pressure. On top of that, because nitrates turn into nitric oxide, it helps with stamina if you drink beet juice prior to a workout. I say hello oxygen to my muscles and low HR!!! Please give me more and thank you! However, I have to say that I have not yet drunk beet juice or beet smoothie prior to my workouts because I try to not deviate from my pre-workout meals. I truly can’t afford an upset stomach, but I do drink beet smoothie afterwards.

Whether I drink beet smoothie before or post a workout, I believe that it is a win-win not matter what. Beet contains many phytonutrients that have been shown to function as anti-inflammatory and presents a unique source of betaine which helps protect cells, proteins and enzymes from environmental stress fighting inflammation, protecting internal organs and improving vascular risk factors.

Now that we have a healthy idea of the benefits of beet roots, here’s my beet smoothie recipe.

The same can be followed if you choose to substitute beet for kale or spinach.

  • 1 small beet – cut into small pieces to better blend
  • 2 or 3 cups of water or milk alternative (depending on how soupy or thick you prefer)
  • ½ cup of frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup of frozen pineapple
  • ½ cup of frozen dark cherries
  • ½ cup of chopped dates
  • ½ thumb size of ginger root – this will help gives an extra kick to help with inflammation and balance out the taste of beet. It also helps when making spinach or kale smoothie
  • Thumb size of turmeric root
  • 1 table spoon of olive oil
  • A pinch of black pepper – pepper and olive oil will help activate the fighting nutrients contained in the turmeric root that helps with inflammation
  • Add ice cubes
  • Add protein if you would like
  • Blend well in a power blender – my favorite blender is Blendtec blender

Cheers and enjoy!

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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

 ~Hippocrates

Shark Bite 5K: A PR and a Bite in the AG Award

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“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

  ~ Steve Prefontaine

I am so glad for Coach Victoria’s suggestion in focusing on training and forgo of Shark Bite Half Marathon scheduled just six weeks after the OUC Half marathon. Making this decision allowed me to easy the mind, body and to focus on parts of training that I never thought about it, but that has made a significant difference physiologically.

It had been two years since I had ran a 5K race. It was the Treasure Chest Bucs 5K in Tampa, FL in 2015; six days after running Jacksonville Marine Corps Half marathon. As you can imagine, my legs were still super tired, but my husband and I could not pass on running a 5K with a complimentary Bucs football game ticket and halftime on-field experience. No way! So running Shark Bite 5K after all those months seemed like a very good idea.

Coach Victoria planned the week of the Shark Bite 5K like any race deserve its respect. I had a taper week, made sure to rest and Coach Christina with Strength2Run focused on upper body strength training. I was assigned a rest day on Friday and Saturday, but because at this time of year it is NFL football playoffs time, there was no way I could sit down Saturday and wait for Sunday’s game day and race day. Besides, it’s customary for me to run a shake out run no matter what. So I went for a nice and easy 1-miler shake out run at 9:16 pace. As if it wasn’t enough, I headed to LA Fitness for a 20-minute core workout and 10-minute dry sauna session. I felt ready – both for the game and for the race.

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It was a busy pre-race day and I didn’t get to really chill out as much as I wanted to, but I did the best I could to stay calm, positive and to have fun. Because of the playoff game, I didn’t go to bed until 11:55 p.m. and my alarm was set for 4:15 a.m., yikes! But I got up, went on with my pre-race routine as usual, and focused a little more than usual on stretching and foam rolling. To my surprise, I found a tight spot on my right calf, and that, got me a little nervous. With such a short time, there wasn’t much to be done. I applied Bengay on the location, massaged and put on my CEP compression sleeves.

A few days earlier in the week, Kurt and I watched the movie Prefontaine on Netflix. I had never heard about Steve Prefontaine and his success on 5,000 meters and some long-distance running. The story brought me tears and it really stuck with me. Since Kurt was driving this time, I took the time to get myself in the zone and read some information on Pre. I also remembered what Coach Victoria had said that the harder I pushed, the more uncomfortable it would get. But I was ready to embrace the discomfort. I was ready to bring my two goals into materialization with pain or no pain.

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In honor of the legend, Happy Birthday, Pre!  January 25, 1951

The weather was somewhat a comfortable 63 degrees, but humidity was high at 100% which is hot enough not to question whether I’d wear a running top or flat out sports bra. The 5K field had 525 runners which 333 consisted of women runners and 32 women in my age group of 35-39 years old. This time I made sure to be on the front line with all the other faster runners. I set myself on the left corner of the start line with maybe two or three other runners in front of me and there I went.

Unfortunately, I started the pace way too fast. After Coach Victoria brought to my attention and looking the data on TrainingPeaks training application, I ran the first two minutes at 6:58 pace – yeah, a 6:xx pace!!! Never in my mind I thought I’d be running this fast. The first mile of the race ended up at 7:57 pace – my fastest mile so far!

As it comes to no surprise, my second mile wasn’t as fast, but it still was fast enough for me at 8:43 pace. At mile 2 water stop, I walked for a couple of seconds to drink some water and picked up the pace right back. At this point in the race, I was feeling very hot and sweating like I was in the sauna. The intensity of my discomfort was growing with each step forward, the feeling of lack of leg power was starting to show, my breathing and heart rate (180 AVG HR) felt like they were going through the roof, and yes, challenging thoughts started to creeping in.

I was present to the distance and to the discomfort. All of the sudden an innocent 5K distance felt longer than 3.10 miles. So I started to focus on the distance left and telling myself I just needed another track lap and that 0.25 was nothing, and another one, and so forth. I thought about Prefontaine and believe it or not, I asked him for strength to get me through because I really wanted to earn an age group award that day. I was pushing myself so hard, and yet, there were so many people in front of me. I was analyzing the field and trying to get a glance of how many women could be within my age group range. It was hard to tell, but I still had some hope that crossing at the finish line with a 26:00’ish minute would give me an opportunity to take a bite at the third place.

I kept pushing myself and put in some strides and pickups towards the end because I just didn’t have much of energy for a steady burst. I saw the finish line banner, but it seemed like a mirage. I wish I had managed by running economy and speed better to give the fast push towards the end. I crossed the finish line at 26:20 with a PR! I finished my last mile at 8:36 pace and 7:43 for the last .14 miles (these are Garmin splits stats. Per race stats it’s an 8:29 avg pace for this race)

I walked from the moment I crossed the finish line trying to grasp as much air as I could and bring my heart rate to a comfortable bpm. In the final mile, my heart rate average was a 184 bpm and the last .14 mile was a 191 bpm. I didn’t see my husband and R2-D2 waiting for me so I kept walking a straight line to a nearby palm tree to stretch. They soon found me and I hugged and kissed my husband as he said, “good job, Babe! You’re getting faster!” I was still getting myself to a normal and rest state, but I was so happy to have it done and accomplishing my goal of a sub-27:00 5K. The only question was on whether my time was enough for the age group award.

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The age group award ceremony was scheduled for 9:15 a.m., but got postponed until 9:30 a.m. I was really hoping to bring something home besides my PR. In addition, the race organizers didn’t get the finisher medal to arrive on-time for the race due to some release issue in Customs. When I looked at the results, I saw my name in third place out of the 32 female runners in my age group. I was stunned so asked my husband to double-check my results. I waited and as he started to come towards me, I saw his face lighten up as he said that I got third place. I was so happy! My time placed me at 69th of 525 overall and 28th of 333 all female. Not too shabby!

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The award ceremony was very simple and they started with the older groups first, so I had to wait even longer. I thought they would have a podium, but there was nothing like that. They simply announced the age group and called the winners’ name starting with the third place. R2-D2 barked almost every time for each time that people’s name were called and applauses were clapped. It took a while until my name was called and by then, R2-D2 got accustomed to it and didn’t bark anymore. When I stepped forward as my name was called, it felt like my own Olympic moment. I was happy and proud of my hard work. And for the first time, I posed for an award picture showing off my plaque award.

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I never really cared to earn any race award other than earning a finisher medal. However, I do have other ambitions now and an award confirms that my hard work to become a faster runner is paying off. There’s a lot more work to be done, but each day I am getting a step closer to my ultimate goal and with Coach Victoria’s with Run4PRS professional guidance, knowledge and strategy,  I know that I can do it. And like my husband says, “the future is bright”.

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“I run best when I run free.”
~Steve Prefontraine