How to Make a Plant-Based Meal (Savory)

How to Make a Plant-Based Meal (Savory)

Here is a general framework I use to make a simple, balanced and delicious savory whole food plant-based meal:

 

1. Choose Non-Starchy Vegetables

Examples include: broccoli, cabbage (cruciferous veggies) bell pepper, zucchini, spinach (green leafy veggies).These foods are lowest in calories, made up mostly of water, fiber, protein and many micronutrients and vitamin precursor molecules.

2. Choose Protein: Legumes

Examples include: Legumes (beans, lentils, peas) are the most protein-dense plant-based whole food and include many minerals, soluble fiber that feeds gut bacteria and brings benefits to digestive health and antioxidants.

3. Add Starchy Vegetable and/or Whole Grains

Examples include: potatoes, carrots, beets (roots/tubers), oats, wheat, barley (whole grains).
Whole grains and certain vegetables contain more complex carbohydrates (referred to as starch) though also contain some fat and protein. Whole grains and starchy foods are more often recommended since they retain more nutrients, are more satiating and are not associated with the glycemic effects of more refined foods. Some refined foods may still be included if wanted though and can be useful for active individuals needing more calories. 

4. Add Fat (Nuts, Seeds, Other) + Toppings/Condiments

Examples include: almonds, hemp seeds, avocado + salt, spices, nutritional yeast and other toppings. It’s important food higher in fat to plant-based meals, because many other foods like veggies and legumes are low in fat. In addition to adding more flavor to the meal, fat can help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and pro-vitamin molecules from veggies. Toppings and condiments can compliment the meal with additional nutrients, for example iodine in iodized salt or B vitamins in fortified nutritional yeast. Some oils may be included too, but I prefer more whole fat sources, because you get more nutrients.

Peachtree Road Race: Recap, Training and Travel Tips

Peachtree Road Race: Recap, Training and Travel Tips

With about 60,000 runners, the Peachtree Road Race is now one of the largest 10K races in the world. Organized by the Atlanta Track Club and held on U.S. Independence Day each year, the first race in 1970 included only 110 runners and was won by former Florida Track Club member and U.S. Olympian Jeff Galloway. In its 50th year, the race includes about 15,000 spectators lined along the course and draws together the Atlanta community, out-of-towners and an international field of elite runners. I’m sharing a recap of my experience running my first Peachtree Road Race along with training, travel and planning tips if you are interested in running this race next.

PEACHTREE ROAD RACE DETAILS

DATE: July 4th each year
LOCATION: Atlanta, Georgia
DISTANCE: 10 kilometers (6.2 miles)
COURSE: Road, start by Lenox Square, runs mostly straight with some slight curves along Peachtree Road with a decline down in the first half, then an incline up, with the largest climb of the race up Cardiac Hill, and the last half of the course includes some smaller up and down elevation changes, with one 45 degree left turn on 10th St before finishing by Piedmont Park.
REGISTRATION: Lottery, began in mid-March with notice of acceptance or rejection in April (exception is automatic acceptance for Atlanta Track Club members).
START WAVES: Qualifying Standards, placement based on your projected 10k finish time calculated from a finish time from a previous race of any distance that you can submit during registration. For information on registration, wave standards and placement, visit atlantatrackclub.org/participant-information-start.

HIGHLIGHTS THIS YEAR

Since it was the 50th anniversary of the race, there was extra prize money on the line for elite runners as incentives for placing and breaking course records. There were some notable names, including American elite women Emily Sisson and Jennifer Rhines and elite men Tyler Pennel and Abdi Abdirahman. Male Kenyan runner Rhonex Kipruto ran 27:01, the fastest 10K finish time on United States soil and as a course record at Peachtree this year (his personal best is 26:46, 2nd fastest time in the world). Female Kenyan runner Brigid Kosgei set a new course record in the elite women’s division in a neck-and-neck finish with Agnes Tirop, finishing in 30:22. Male and female wheelchair division race finish time records were broken too. At the expo, there were also special walls, photo ops and gear for all runners to commemorate the 50th year.

Rhonex Kipruto finishing first overall in the men’s division race. Video by Beatrice Torres.

Brigid Kosgei and Agnes Tirop in a foot race for the women’s division win. Photo by Beatrice Torres.

HOW I RAN

After a great performance at the Philadelphia Half Marathon last year, I had to drop out or defer from a few races this past Spring due to tendontis above my knee that I developed after the race. Upon full recovery, I was able to get in some solid weeks of training with Team Florida Track Club, but feel that I could have used more time to prep for the demands of Peachtree. I was more concerned with returning to training without re-injury. I included a 5K race in late May as a tune-up race. Then about one week before the race, I developed the same hamstring tendon issue that caused me to miss 2 months of running prior to the Philadelphia Half. I took two days completely off, included all kinds of mobility work and ran my last runs slow and easy prior to the race. I was still able to run Peachtree without stopping, but just at a slower pace than expected finishing in 43:09 (~6:57/mi) as the tightness affected my stride and slowed me down. However, it was a fun race and I’ll certainly be back to give this course my full effort in better shape.

TRAINING TIPS

 

  • RUN IN THE HEAT: If living in a warmer area, it can help to acclimate to race weather conditions.
  • PREPARE FOR HILLS: Including some easy runs and long runs on a hilly route and hill repeats can help.
  • INCREASE CARBS: According to a recent study, running in the heat can increase carb intake needs.
  • HYDRATE: Adequate water and electrolyte intake through food or drink before, during and after runs.
  • RUN BY FEEL: Effort may feel harder, pace may slow and breaks in warmer conditions can be beneficial.

The graphic below from Team Florida Track Club shows how running can be affected and how someone may go about setting expectations at various temperatures:

 

REGISTRATION TIPS

  • SUBMIT YOUR FASTEST PREVIOUS RACE TIME: To qualify for one of the waves with an earlier start time and run in lower temperatures. Elite, seeded and A wave runners started by 7 AM with temperatures in the mid 70s and other waves in much larger groups started about every 5 minutes after as temperatures rose to the mid 80s °F later on in the morning. If you forget to submit a previous race during online registration, you’ll be placed into one of the later start waves so don’t forget to submit one.
  • REGISTER AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE: The registration period was about two weeks long before the lottery was held and participants were randomly accepted or rejected. According to the Atlanta Track Club, everyone has a fair shot in the lottery regardless of day and time of registration and your qualifying time is only taken into account for wave placement after the lottery if you are accepted. 

 

TRAVEL TIPS

I was fortunate to live just about a 4 hour drive away from home. I stopped by the expo in downtown at the Atlanta Convention Center the day before the race in early afternoon to avoid larger crowds and traffic later in the day. I bought a parking permit for the main yellow lot across the street from the Atlanta Convention Center in advance online to save some money and time.

 

  • BOOK A HOTEL BY THE START LINE: Better to be within walking distance to the start line so you can sleep in later and not stress about joining the crowds of people likely taking the MARTA to get from further down the road to the start area. I booked early, once I was accepted into the race, to save on money and time later on.
  • YOU BUY MARTA PASSES AT EXPO: If you’re staying by the start line, you’ll want a one way ticket back for you and a round trip or multiple stop ticket for any of your friends or family members watching you race to avoid having to walk the 6.2 miles back or to take a ride share back along a busier road since the whole course along Peachtree Road will be closed to traffic most of the morning. 
  • TRAVEL WITH SOMEONE ELSE YOU KNOW: For safety reasons, it can be beneficial to attend the race with a friend, significant other or family member rather than alone. Plan communication, proximity and meet up sites well to avoid getting lost, because it is a large race and city.

FOOD TIPS

  • DON’T TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY THAT YOU DIDN’T PRACTICE WITH: Everyone’s food preferences and needs varies, especially during training and prior to and during a race, and should not change too much for any race. It could increase the chance of something going wrong, especially combined with race day nerves, that can negatively impact your performance. Common tips are to eat familiar foods that you ate during training runs, especially long runs or race-specific runs, and that you found easy for you to digest to carry you through the run feeling well.
  • PACK YOUR FOOD FOR THE TRIP AND FIND FOOD SPOTS AND STORES IN THE AREA: Saves money and you’re able to conveniently eat the foods that you practiced with during your travel to Atlanta. Alternatively, you can find food shops or stores at the airport or stop along the way for food if you drive. Wherever I travel for a race, I like to find a large supermarket with many quick grab-and-go options either local or a Whole Foods Market where others I travel with and I can find our food preferences and also buy additional snack or hygiene items if forgotten. There is a Whole Foods Market on Peachtree Road within walking distances from hotels near the start line and in other areas in Atlanta.
  • YOU DON’T NEED TO CARB LOAD AND MAY NOT NEED TO FUEL DURING THE RACE: For a 10k, you don’t need to load up on carbohydrates to store energy unlike common recommendations for longer races like a marathon. In regards to fueling during the race, it will depend on how fast you are. Speedy runners who expect to cover the distance in under 40 minutes don’t need to worry about taking in fuel, but if you typically run between 45-60 minutes oral longer to complete 10 kilometers, you might consider taking in fuel during the race.
  • POST RACE FOOD OPTIONS AT THE FINISH ARE GREAT: After crossing the finish line, there is a big post-race gathering in Piedmont Park where you are given your medal, water, clip bars and other refreshments. After cooling off there, you can head over to the Partner Village, where there was tons of catered food options this year: all varieties of bagels, muffins, cookies and sandwiches, including vegetarian/vegan options like hummus wraps, and drinks like coffee and Smart Water. In the Partner Village, there were also tents with fans and mist machines to stay cool, mats and foam rollers and access to the side of the course to watch and cheer on the rest of the runners coming in to the finish. 

 

WHAT I ATE

I kept my way of eating the same, but slightly shifted towards foods lower in fiber food as I practiced before past races and key runs. I included foods like white rice, sweet potatoes, fruits and veggies with a higher water content like cucumber and lower fiber protein foods like tofu and tempeh in place of beans. Race morning, I ate 2 medjool dates and drank black tea and water.

RACE TIPS

 

  • GET TO THE RACE START AT LEAST AN HOUR BEFORE YOUR START TIME: So you have time for your warm up run, exercises, bathroom, etc. The start area is by a large hotel and shopping mall plaza in Lenox Square that you can warm up in along the roads and parking lots. I found there was an adequate amount of porta-potties, though lines may be longer for larger groups of people starting at later times.
  • ALLOW ENOUGH TIME TO GET INTO YOUR START WAVE: it seemed like most runners, with the exception of elites, were directed to enter their corrals from an entrance up a hill further near the back rather than cutting through from the front or side closer near the start line.
  • DON’T START OUT TOO FAST: This was a common tip I was told by others who ran it the previous year referring to how the first half of the course is a gradual downhill over which you may compensate by running faster, but you want to save energy for the second half of the course that has more uphill.

Hope this review helps you and that you enjoy your time in the race if you run it next. If you can stick around for the Atlanta 4th of July festivities, there are fireworks in Centennial Olympic Park and at other areas in the city. Let me know if you have any questions or need clarification on any tips I shared.

 

 

Non-Diet Approach to Plant Based Eating: All Foods Fit

Non-Diet Approach to Plant Based Eating: All Foods Fit

Plant-based diets or ways of eating made up mostly of food derived from plants, may sometimes be muddled up with “diets” or a certain set of foods to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons. The intentions behind plant-based eating can include reasons beyond the priority of health, such as personal ethics and values towards the effects of food choices on animal welfare and environment, which allows for all food needs and preferences and differentiates it from “diets”.

ALL FOOD (THAT YOU CONSIDER FOOD) FITS

Someone can choose a more plant-based way of eating, such as vegetarian or vegan, which avoids certain or all animal products, because of personal ethical values towards that food. Avoiding these foods for those reasons is not considered a restriction, which is not possible, because that person does not consider those foods as food or as part of his or her “food environment”, as Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN calls it in this blog post on how to balance ethics and intuitive eating.  

We each are able to choose which foods are a part of our personal food environment. Accessibility, budget, culture, needs, preferences and values towards food are some factors that can affect our chosen food environments and can change over time. Culture often has the greatest influence on our food choices, but it’s okay to deviate from what is considered the traditional way of eating to accommodate the values within your food environment. As an example of differing values and viewpoints, think of how some cultures include traditions of eating cows and not dogs, while others include traditions of eating dogs and not cows. An American will likely oppose the eating of dogs, because they are brought up in a culture of seeing dogs as pets and not an option as food likely due to their ethical values. Such personal values change. Think about being brought up in a culture with a tradition of eating dogs and developing values, which you have now, that cause you to avoid doing so. 

The key is that foods are not avoided due to unnecessary values involved in “dieting”, such as eating for weight loss or covering for an eating disorder. It is not wrong to have a goal to lose weight and adapt your way of eating to accommodate that goal. The issue with “diets” though is that they tend to be a one-size-fits-all way without a focus on individual differences. They are more prone to causing feelings of restriction and negative self wellness and promoting one “healthiest” way of eating for everyone when there is no such thing. Plant-based eating can encompass a broad range of different customizable ways, even within vegetarian and vegan eating, to meet personal needs and preferences as well as values and other factors within one’s food environment if applicable.  

The foods that someone may not considered as options, such as meat, dairy, eggs and/or other animal products, are not necessarily “unhealthy” and it’s okay to include them if they fit within your food environment. I grew up including those foods for 20 years and then have not included them for the past 4 years and equally have been in good personal health. I choose foods that I enjoy and that fuel me, but that fit my personal values as far as is practical. I used to enjoy the taste of chicken and salmon and the sight or smell of it can bring back memories of enjoyment, but my values towards my personal food choices prevent me from considering it as food and wanting to eat it again. It’s not a result of discipline, but rather what Fraser Bayley of Evolving Alpha calls a paradigm shift in which your viewpoint changes. If my values were to shift and I wanted to eat these foods again then I would.   

No, plant-based is not synonymous with “healthy” (which can mean something different to everyone) as refined foods, such as donuts, can be be plant-based, yet are not as health promoting as less processed foods. In any way of eating though, I’d consider it more “unhealthy” to completely restrict a food that they wants to eat. I encourage more whole food based ways of eating, but that does not mean more processed foods can’t be included. The point of plant-based eating should not be about completely avoiding foods that you want to it, but diet culture considers as “good” or “bad” for you from a health perspective.

To sum up, the intentions behind plant-based eating should not be about excluding the food and forms of food that you enjoy, but rather about avoiding the things that they are made of that you don’t consider as food due to your personal ethical values and replacing them with alternatives and introduced foods made with plant-based ingredients that you do consider as food.

THAT MEANS YOU DON’T HAVE TO AVOID COOKIES: TRY THESE GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIPS COOKIES, RECIPE HERE.

FLEXIBILITY AND INTUITIVE EATING ARE IMPORTANT

Our current world is not the perfect environment for vegans, vegetarians and other predominantly plant-based eaters. However, it’s not about being perfect, which is not possible, but about carrying out your values to the greatest extent that is possible and practical to you. It’s not possible to contribute to zero animal deaths, zero food waste and other effects of food choices. It’s okay if you mistakenly or even purposefully eat certain animal-based products that you want or don’t want to eat. Everyone is on their own health journey and it is best to do what feels right for you right now, because you know your body best. It’s your personal choices and values based on your own experiences, knowledge, considerations and beliefs, not based on others. I talk about some of the challenges you may face eating more plant-based and ways to adapt and overcome them in this blog post.

While confidently embracing many parts of a vegan lifestyle as far as is possible and practical for me, I choose to not force personal values onto others, want to help with all ways of more plant-based eating and most often do not label my own lifestyle or way of eating except in cases where it helps to distinguish from what is traditional. Others who are new to a plant-based lifestyle may find it helpful to not include labels as they let go of restrictive rules that can be a part of “diets” and find what flexibly works best for them right now, which accommodates a wide range of options, from those who want to include one meatless meal a week to those who want to transition to eating fully plant-based. 

Intuitive eating is a response to “dieting” that embraces inclusiveness with all personal food choices and positive body images. It essentially encourages you to choose foods that fit your food environment and to become more in tune with what your body wants and needs as an individual rather than make certain food choices out of fear or guilt. Regardless of food choices, I think the non-diet message of intuitive eating can be important especially for athletes and active individuals in which nutrition and body images can be involved in their performance and young adults who begin to choose their independent food environments and values.

To sum up, intuitive eating practices can be applied within plant-based eating to encourage flexibility and practicality in accommodating individual wants and needs and to take the focus of food choices away from just weight and body image and more towards their broader effects that contribute to one’s personal values and should be the main reason for choosing more plant-based eating. 

 

Becoming a Dietitian (and a Florida Gator)

Becoming a Dietitian (and a Florida Gator)

ORANGE! BLUE! My affinity for the University of Florida goes back more than 10 years ago as a fan while growing up in South Florida. It started when my sister attended for her undergrad and carried on through the times of Tim Tebow and Joakim Noah, college football and back to back basketball championships and ultimately moving to Gainesville. Then as a high school senior, I was accepted into all major Florida public universities except for UF. It’s clear now that this was not a rejection, but a redirection. 

From an engineer to an ESPN journalist to an NBA basketball player, I never knew exactly what I wanted to be. When college apps came, I chose to attend the University of South Florida in Tampa and major in Cell & Molecular Biology, because 1) I enjoyed the Biology classes and labs and 2) I had to choose at orientation between that or Integrative or Marine Biology since general Biology was not an option. In college, I found my niche in research and developed an interest in helping others in some area of health and wellness.

My path became more clear to me after I went plant-based and rediscovered the passion I had growing up for food and nutrition. My parents can tell you the kitchen is where I often hung out and I played with pots and pans (I don’t remember). Through Instagram, I was first introduced to current and future dietitians and the possibility of becoming one myself. The decision to do so came after graduation when I returned to Gainesville and started working in nutrition-related research. I reached out to an advisor and found that UF conveniently offered a Post-Baccalaureate Dietetics program. After nearly two years of back-and-forth emails, repeats of Organic Chemistry I & II and Microbiology to improve grades and a thorough application, I’ve been accepted into the program!

 My reasons for becoming a Dietitian include:

  • more regulated than Nutritionist and more career opportunities in the U.S.
  • ability to counsel others in addition to performing research
  • applying my background in Biology to provide new insights in Dietetics
  • helping to promote diversity in Dietetics and be a role model to other men
  • an interest in sports nutrition and working with athletes
  • experience with plant-based eating and wanting to help others with it
  • helping to leverage the role of Dietitians in research

How to Become a Dietitian

Based on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, here are steps I am taking through the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)  route to become an RD with a previous bachelors degree that is not in nutrition or dietetics: 

1. Apply to and complete courses through an ACEND-accredited program to receive a verification statement.

This can be done at the undergrad or grad level. As a previous Biology major, I luckily already completed all the required science courses and am just missing the nutrition and food science courses. I’ve chosen to complete them at the undergrad level, because it’s the best local and financial option for me and all the masters programs (at least near me in Florida though can vary by state and university) are coordinated with an internship (MS-DI), which I can’t enter without the verification statement. I will earn a 2nd bachelors degree in addition to the verification statement. Completing these courses can take someone anywhere from 2 to 4 semesters (like me) to possibly longer if you have a totally unrelated previous degree. I considered an online program, like Kansas State University, but preferred this on-campus option due to the convenience and in-person connections. To increase your chance at internships, it’s recommended to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher and a certain amount of nutrition-related work or volunteer experience.

2. Apply to and complete an ACEND-accredited supervised dietetic internship program.

This can be with or without a masters degree program portion, but starting in 2024, a graduate degree will be required to be eligible to take the dietetic registration exam. Anyhow, completing the masters degree can offer an advantage, which is the route I’m taking. Completing the required courses and the internship at separate institutions helps if you want to take some time off prior to the internship to gain additional experience or are seeking to move to another location for it. The internship involves 1200 hours of supervised practice and can take about 8 to 24 months. The process to get matched into an internships can be competitive due to the shortage of internships compared to the number of applicants with about a 50% match rate.

3. Take and pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration’s dietetic registration exam.

Data over the previous years suggest an average pass rate of 75% or higher for first-time test takers. The exam can be repeated multiple times if failed, though the passing rate has been consistently lower below average for repeat test takers. 

4. Get licensed in your state of practice (if applicable) and maintain continuing education credits.

Where do Dietitians Work

Many Registered Dietitians work in traditional settings, including hospitals, clinics, care centers and community and public health programs, school foodservice or as college and university faculty. Other roles are now also available in sports programs, media and technology, food blogging, research, private practice and a variety of other areas. 

For more resources and info on becoming a Dietitian, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.

I would have never considered a public health profession years ago while I was more reserved, but this is the opportunity to continue to make strides outside comfort zones with something I am very passionate about. I am excited to begin this journey, looking forward to connecting with other dietetic students and dietitians and becoming a resource to help others.

…and it’s great to be a Florida Gator!

Cedric

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Recap

2018 Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Recap

This post includes a race recap I wrote for an article in the Florida Track Club December 2018 newsletter plus some extras added in.

My choice to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon through a Steven Detweiler Scholarship was influenced by what got me into running a few years ago. In 2013, I found running as just a way to stay in shape for basketball, but caught the running bug when I realized that running was not only an outlet through which I could improve myself, but also support others. The tragedies at the 2013 Boston Marathon inspired me to run for those who can’t and participate in races for causes. I ran recreationally in college and decided to join Florida Track Club and Team FTC to start training competitively in 2018 after moving to Gainesville to study nutrition and dietetics at UF. The first FTC meeting I attended included a race scholarship report that got me interested in applying for the scholarship myself. I chose the Philadelphia Half Marathon, because of the race weekend’s affiliation with the American Association for Cancer Research, which ties together my interests in research and in running for a cause (also because a few runners on Instagram recommended it to me).

After a breakout Spring season, during which I improved my race finish times in the 5K and 10K thanks to training with Coach Enoch and Team FTC, I had my eyes set on a big Summer of base building in prep for this Fall Half Marathon with a goal of breaking 1 hour and 30 minutes. Summer did not go as planned. I started experiencing lower hamstring tendonitis and decided to take a week off from running, which was extended to two weeks after I was involved in a serious car accident in which I was fortunate to survive with only some scrapes. I visited Physical Therapy to determine that my hamstring injury was caused by weakness in my hips and once the pain was gone, I started strength exercises to correct it while maintaining aerobic fitness through biking and aqua jogging. I also continued to focus on adequate nutrition through eating mostly whole food plant-based to support my recovery. After a total of about 2 months off from running and 2 months left before the race, I was cleared to start gradually adding runs back into my training. A few weeks out from the race, I ran my highest weekly mileage ever (40mi) and was able to include some faster runs back in as well.

When race weekend came, I had the opportunity to take over the Florida Track Club Instagram page stories to share my trip and the race scene. After a connecting flight through Atlanta, we arrived in cold Philadelphia and stopped by the race expo. For it’s 25th anniversary, the Philadlephia Marathon expo featured talks by Bill Rodgers, Meb Keflezghi (typo: should be Keflezighi – what a long work day and not enough sleep does to you, lol). and Des Linden, tons of expo booths and the history of the race. Besides hotel accommodation, our stay in Philly was mostly unplanned as we relied on shuttles and UBER to get around the city and coincidentally found a food market right across from the expo convention center.

The night before the race, I had everything prepped, except for my race plan. When coach texted me for any last minute questions, I let him know that I doubted I could maintain the pace I needed for my finish time goal, but he assured me that I was fit enough. I then believed in the possibility again, but decided that my main focus going into the race would be to simply enjoy it and challenge myself rather than set expectations and be hard on myself.

(I did not get to meet Des or Meb in person despite paying extra for the VIP pass, which the VIP features were not as useful to me as I thought prior, but my mom who came to run the 8K was within feet from her and snapped a photo)

Race Gear and Fuel

Shoes: Asics Dynaflyte 2

Compression Calf Sleeve: CEP compression

Night before race meal: Chinese food (white rice, curry tofu – possibly too spicy for pre-race) + black bean burger from Vegan Deli in the market.

Pre-race Breakfast: 1 banana + black tea.

Intra-race Fuel: Huma Gel – Berries & Pomegranate.

Post-race meal: pretzel and lots of veg food from the Reading Terminal Market a few hours later. 

On race morning, the weather could not have been any better for racing with temperatures in the the 40°Fs, no ice on the roads and just a few patches of snow on the ground. After an active warmup, I got to the start line with a throw away hoodie that I tossed to the side too soon before the start as I started slightly shivering. Once the race started though, my focus in the first few miles was to gradually warm up and find my pace. The race started on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, across from the Philadelphia Art Museum and the steps from the Rocky movie and winded through part of the city before running along a highway and the Delaware River. During a sharp turn at mile 2, which ended up being my fastest mile in the race, I accidentally kicked down the calf sleeve on my right leg to the point it was scrunched at my ankle, but I never stopped to adjust it during the rest of the race. The course passed by historic buildings and monuments, including the Liberty Bell and some universities.

For the next couple miles, which winded into neighborhoods outside of the city, I stayed within sight behind the 1hr 30min pacers. I took my only gel of the race at around mile 6, taking water at stops before and after and carrying the gel for about a mile while taking it in small amounts as I was trying to maintain my breathing rhythm. At around mile 8, when the course went onto a few bridges over the Schuylkill River and had the biggest elevation changes in the race up through mile 11, I started to develop painful side stiches, which caused me to slow down, lose sight of the pace group ahead and another college runner I was strategically latching onto. After mile 10, I started focusing on my breathing and it helped the side stiches go away.

At this point, for motivation to overcome any pain to finish the race strong, I thought again of “running for those who can’t” as I usually do towards the end of each race. I thought of the cause of the race, everyone who has or is undergoing a health condition with worse pain that what you may feel in a race and which sidelines them from running and I ran stronger for them. I picked up the pace in the final miles to the point that I caught site of the 1hr30min pacers again with less than a mile to go, passed them and ran as hard as I could with everything I had left. As I approached the finish line, a huge relief came upon me when I spotted the time clock showing 1hr28min and something sec. After crossing the finish line, I was greeted by my mom whom I traveled with and was overwhelmed with emotion to the point that I cried tears of joy for overcoming everything I faced to make it to the race and accomplishing the goal that I thought I could not. My official finish time was 1:28:52, which in my 3rd half marathon is a 15min PR from my last half marathon at Tom Walker Memorial in 2017.

Thank you to Florida Track Club for the race scholarship that gave me the opportunity to travel to and run this race and to Team FTC and Coach Enoch for an amazing supportive running group to be a part of. If you are considering a race on your bucket list or of your dreams, I recommend applying for a Steven Detweiler scholarship. Perhaps my next application will be towards a trip to the NYC or Boston Marathon after qualifying.

Philly was such a fun and memorable race that I think I’d go back to run it again if I can and maybe visit more of the city if I have more time. Did you run one of the Philly races too and if so, how was your experience?

2018 Florida Track Club Twilight Meet Recap

2018 Florida Track Club Twilight Meet Recap

Since joining Team Florida Track Club and running my first ever organized track workouts, the track has become my second home. Not that I started living there, but the track workouts became something I now enjoy and look forward to each week.

I ran in the 2018 Twilight Track Meet, hosted by Florida Track Club in Gainesville, FL on the University of Florida track. Having never ran high school or college track, this was my first ever track meet. The event races included a 400m, 800m, 1 mile, 2 mile, 4x400m relay and kid’s 100m and 400m. I ran the 1 mile race and then 2 mile race about 45 minutes after.

My goal for the 1 mile was to beat the road mile PR of 5:17 that I set about a month prior. One of my future goals is to break under 5 minutes. I knew that a big PR would be a challenge as the weather in May already reaches summer temperatures, with a high of 80°F during the race. After a week of almost endless rain, the weather cleared up for this meet, which started at 7 PM in the evening.

2018 Florida Track Club Twilight Meet Recap

Top: 1 mile pre-race pep talk. Bottom: Start of 1 mile race, heat/wave 1.

Pre-Race Fuel

Evening races are tricky to me when it comes to fueling, because I run the majority of my runs in the morning with eating anything before to avoid personal digestive issues. I had a long day at work ahead, so I knew intaking some energy would be needed regardless and chose light and easy to digest foods. I chose to eat energy bites made with dates, oats and hemp seeds for breakfast and a banana, mango, protein powder and chia seed smoothie for lunch. I also drank green tea and water throughout the day to try to stay hydrated and used Clean Machine Clean BCAAs in my water to drink right before the race.

Warm Up: 10 minutes easy running, drills and strides.

1 Mile: 5:15

The one mile was ran in 2 waves, an above 6 minute wave and under 6 minute wave. I ran in the under 6 minute wave that included someone as a pacer for a 5 minute mile and someone as a pacer for a 6 minute mile. A few people were going for a sub 5 minute time. At the start, I was able to stick close behind the 5 minute pacer but by the first 400m mark, I fell behind the pack as it got brutally hard physically and mentally.

The sun came out in direct view during the race and I could feel the effects of not being fully hydrated and warmed up. Overall, it was a good race for me as I feel that I ran the best I could with the circumstances and do not feel like I gave up at any point. I may have started out a little too fast and there are a few things I could fix for a future 1 miler.

2018 Florida Track Club Twilight Meet Recap

2018 Florida Track Club Twilight Meet Recap

2 Mile: 11:50

The two mile race was ran in just 1 wave. Someone came in to pace at around 5:40/mi pace. My goal was to run it at 5K goal race pace, around 5:47/mi to be on track for my next 5K PR goal of under 18 minutes, rather than run it at 2 mile race pace. Right off the start, I felt better and found my groove, but started to feel fatigued and slowed going into about the 1 mile mark.

What helped was that the coach told the pacer to slow down so I could catch up and then he sticked with me to the end of the race. From there, I bounced back up, started picking up the pace again and  got back onto 5k goal finish pace. Overall, this race went really great pace-wise, the weather was better as it became overcast with rain clouds. I had a little left in me to run the fun 4x400m relay right after.

2018 Florida Track Club Twilight Meet Recap

2018 Florida Track Club Twilight Meet Recap

Cool Down: 10 minutes easy running.

Post-Race Fuel

Since I ate and drank mostly light and sweet foods throughout the day, I was craving salty and savory foods after the race. I picked out some leftovers I had in my fridge, which included coconut cream of broccoli split pea soup that I made, a bagel, a sandwich with a black bean burger and I saved room for chocolate chip cookie dough bites for dessert. As you may tell based on previous race recaps, I tend to be quite hungry after races.

2018 Florida Track Club Twilight Meet Recap

Top: 1 mile race finish. Bottom: 2 mile race finish.

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