Triathletes: The Secret to Avoiding Injury This Season

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In theory, making the move from a single sport to three adds variety to your exercise regimen and will reduce injuries, right?

Well, the reality is a bit different, thanks to the “compound effect” of doing three activities: “What we have to compare it to other sports is the injury rate, and triathletes have one of the highest incidence rates of any sport,” Dr. Joshua Burns, a researcher and podiatrist at the University of Sydney in Australia, who has studied the nature of triathletes’ injuries told The New York Times in this article.

The bad news? Triathletes, in particular, are susceptible because they not only engage in a highly-repetitive stress activity, but also only move in one plane of motion (and likely sit all day at work), which contributes to limited range of motion in the mid-back and hips. The good news, though? With the right approach to strength training, you can correct imbalances, resolve weaknesses and vastly improve performance.

That’s where my friend Al Painter of INTEGRATE Performance Fitness comes in. Not only has he been teaching endurance athletes how to dodge the injury bullet for years, but he also knows. his. stuff. As you can see below, there’s a reason why he’s been named “Best Bay Area Personal Trainer” by CitySports Magazine, so I always love picking his brain about the latest workout crazes and geeking out together over the greatest fitness gadgets.

As training seasons begin to ramp up, I thought it’d be fun to sit down with him and talk about the not-so-secret secret for avoiding injury when it comes to multi-sport endeavors.

1. Triathlon is in endurance sport, so why is strength training important for triathletes? It helps to reset the body from the repetitive stress nature of training in one plane of motion. It can also keep the hips strong, which goes a long way for happy low backs and knees.

2. How much about it is preventing injury versus being able to perform better (i.e. faster!)? Yes to both! I think one leads to the other. Keep the muscles balanced, and you can reduce your chances of getting hurt and improve your chances of performing well.

3. If body weight is the only thing being “lifted” during a triathlon, why do triathletes need a training program that uses free weights, machines or other equipment? It can lead to more speed in the pool, more power on the bike and more efficiency running.

4. How does strength training for triathletes differ from programs used by bodybuilders, powerlifters and the general public? Triathlon training should emphasize split-stance and single-leg lower body moves while incorporating single and alternate arm patterns to work on diagonal loading of the hips and shoulders working through the core. I’ll definitely get into more of what endurance athlete specific strength training should like the night of the talk.

5. What do you think is the biggest misconception about triathletes and strength training? That it will slow them down, add bulk and take away from swimming, riding and running.

6. So is it enough to go lift weights at the gym a few times a week? No, there needs to be a program dialed in to address what endurance athletes need: solid mid-back, shoulder and hip mobility. It has to have a plan, a purpose and specific outcome as the goal. Plus, if there is a performance gap in the pool, on the bike or on the run, strength training can help to close it.

7. What’s the biggest mistake you see most triathletes make with their current strength training routine? Not enough emphasis on the back half of the body which is the powerhouse for performance and proper posture.

8. If there’s one exercise triathletes absolutely cannot afford to skip, what is it? I don’t know if it’s an exercise as much as it is a movement: Learning the hip hinge is critical to opening the front half of the body and strengthening the back half to help with both injury prevention and performance improvement.

9. Should triathletes adjust their program when training for different distances? How? My stance on this is that the longer the distance, the more hip dominant movements (hinges, bridges, etc.) they should do. It should be the majority of the lower body work to keep the glutes as “online” as possible. Once they shut down, the whole operation can go south.

10. Say someone’s deep into training and short on time; is there a minimum amount of strength training they should be doing each week? Two days a week for at least 30 minutes using compound movements. Exercises combining hinging + pulling and squatting + pressing work really well. Especially using a split stance with single or alternate arm exercises.

Thanks, Al — great info, as always! 

Attention Bay Area friends: Al’s doing a *free* triathlete-specific strength training workshop at Sunnyvale Sports Basement from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 11. Swing by, say hi, and pick up some of his tips on the best kinds of strength training exercises to help you race stronger, recover faster and reduce the chance of getting injured this season. 

Click here for details on the event, and visit INTEGRATE Performance Fitness to learn more.

Triathletes, is strength work part of your regular training regimen?

Race Report: Corvallis Turkey Trot

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Although my pregnant running days are quickly waning thanks to a cranky ligament on my left side, I can never seem to resist a good pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. So by the time our holiday plans were solidified this year, I was online searching for a local event for Ben and I to do before the traditional festivities (family, food and football watching) commenced.

Enter the Corvallis Turkey Trot, a family-friendly event in Ben’s hometown. A short race-morning commute, plentiful parking and a flat and fast course through surrounding neighborhoods made this one a no-brainer.

As race day drew nearer, however, my gut told me that my original pick of the 10k over the 5k was a bit overly ambitious considering my current condition. It’s never fun going into a race worrying about whether or not complete the distance, so at packet pickup I opted to drop down to the 5k distance instead.

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Ben stuck with the 10k group, which started at 8:05 am, so I stood on the sidelines to cheer them on as they took off. Then it was back to the car (ample race-day parking FTW!) for 10 minutes to stay warm until the 5k’ers took off.

The temperature was a “balmy” 27 degrees, so I spent my final moments trying to figure out what to wear because I still hadn’t decided whether I’d be jogging or walking the 3.1 miles. In the end, I figured I’d at least give jogging a shot, so I ditched my coat and gloves before I locked up and headed over to the start line.

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Here’s how the next half hour or so played out in my head after the gun went off:

  • Mile .1: Wheee! I’m running again! 
  • Mile .2: This feels AWESOME. Why did I ever stop running?! I should go FASTER! 
  • Mile .3: Hm, I think I might have to pee. 
  • Mile .4: Why am I so out of breath?
  • Mile .5: I definitely have to pee.
  • Mile .6: Pregnancy support belt has migrated from below belly to above waist and is now crushing my bladder. Pull over to re-adjust.
  • Mile .9: Strava crashes, my music dies, and now I can’t take any mid-race pictures. Bummer. 
  • Mile 1.1: Pull over to adjust pregnancy support belt for second time.
  • Mile 1.3: Why are my shins tight? Oh, that’s right; I haven’t been running in a few weeks, and now I’m trying to “race.”
  • Mile 1.4: I’ve really gotta pee.
  • Mile 1.5: Pull over to adjust pregnancy support belt for third time.
  • Mile 1.7: Yep, still have to pee.
  • Mile 1.9: Screw the support belt. Note to self: Never again wearing it over slippery spandex tights. Resort to tugging it down while running.
  • Mile 2: Only one more mile to go! 
  • Mile 2.2: Curse support belt while tugging it down. Again. Debate letting it just ride up and letting the belly fly for the rest of the race.
  • Mile 2.3: Seriously, is this baby using my bladder as a trampoline?
  • Mile 2.5: Slightly loosen support belt while shimmying it down around my hips. Stay put! Only a half mile more to go. 
  • Mile 2.7: Support belt, you are now the BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. Tug, shimmy, grimace. Repeat every 100 meters.
  • Mile 3: This feels AWESOME. What have I been complaining about?! I LOVE running! 
  • Mile 3.1: Where’s the bathroom? And the food?

Final time: 30:38 at a 9:51 pace, which was good enough for 12th in my age group.

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And that, my friends, is why I think this may officially be my last race — not only of 2015, but also this pregnancy. Of course “famous last words,” and I’ll never say never (especially when those holiday events come calling…), but as you can see it’s starting to be more trouble than it’s worth.

Luckily, though, I was done in time to get some water, grab Ben’s phone from the car and watch him cross the finish. His final time was 57:19 at a 9:13 pace, which placed him 10th in his age group (not bad, considering he had a porta-potty pullover that cost him a few minutes).

Racing and running aside, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year. I hope you and yours had a happy, healthy holiday, as well!

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Did you trot or not this year? Either way, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

October Goal Check-In

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Fall is flying by! It feels like I just wrote September’s update, and I know the next few months will go quickly with the holidays nearly upon us. Can we just hit the pause button for a moment?!

Because I was traveling for a good part of the first half of the month, the second half has been about getting back into a groove here in Portland, getting organized on a few different fronts (work, home) and starting to plan ahead on a few others (kiddo, 2016 schedule).

Meanwhile, Baby H is keeping busy growing and making his/her presence known more and more each day. So I’ve been trying to stay flexible when it comes to my monthly goals; I know the further along I get the more I’ll need to listen to my body, so there’s no time like the present to accept that and put it into practice.

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

I mentioned I was home again earlier this month for a childhood friend’s wedding. We did the math one evening and realized we’ve been friends for almost 30 years.

After we got over how old that makes us feel, we had a blast at the weekend’s events — from bachelorette party to rehearsal to wedding. Not only was it great to spend some quality girl time together, but I’m also thrilled for Colleen and Eric to start this next phase of their lives together, surrounded by love!

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I am still struggling with my body’s new definition of “balance,” however, which might be a theme this year. Or maybe it’s just a constant struggle for us all in this day and age?!

Either way, now that my energy has returned in the second trimester I get over-excited to do #allthethings, but if I push too hard I end up getting a headache for a day or two that no amount of Tylenol will kick. So this next month I’m hoping to pace myself better so I can still get stuff accomplished, but not get knocked on my butt afterwards.

2. Training Smarter

Thanks to pregnancy tilting my pelvis forward, along with a dumb move I made in Michigan trying to lift my nephew out of his carseat while leaning over, my SI joint has been flaring up again. I’ve been addressing it with massage and acupuncture and, aside from my twice weekly runs, low-impact activities are my jam (biking, yoga, walking, Pilates, swimming, etc.).

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One tip to help turn that frown upside down when you’re mourning what feels like the loss of your former level of fitness? Metrics, metrics, metrics.

Despite breathlessness on runs, the inability to utilize the majority of my ab muscles and my current distaste for high-impact activities, I managed to hit some good numbers on the bike during a recent ride. There’s nothing like some quantitative proof that your hard work is still paying off when, qualitatively, you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle.

3. Facing Fears

Stop the presses — I’m back in the pool! Yes, it sucks because mornings are dark and cold and the last thing I feel like doing is jumping in the water, but once I’m there it’s actually pretty great being a preggo “human submarine,” as Ben puts it.

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My first workout was simple: Go back and forth for 30 minutes. Just keep moving. So I did a little more than 1000 yards of freestyle punctuated with a lap of breaststroke here and there.

Going forward (just to keep myself motivated), I’ll be looking to build up to longer workouts or cover more distance in that 30-minute time-frame. But either way, I want to keep it leisurely and fun — and enjoy the fact that I can get my own lane more often than not because people seem to be leery of getting too close to a pregnant woman bobbing back and forth!

4. Pushing Myself

Because I can neither resist a) running in the fall foliage of the Midwest nor b) registering for a race when I’m traveling back home, I talked my sister into running the Rattlesnake Run 5k with me while in Michigan. Yes, the race went well and I came in second overall for the women and first in my age group, but it was a learning experience.

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I didn’t PR by any means, but I felt good that morning so my plan was to push the threshold of what I could handle (within reason , of course) just to see where that limit now lies. Well, I found it; the breathlessness that comes with pregnancy is unlike any kind of breathlessness I’ve experienced before in a race, even when I’ve been running all-out.

And although I miss that feeling of pushing my body to the limit, it’s just not the same kind of thrill when you’re second-guessing every ache and pain and what impact it has on the little person you’re carrying. So I’ve decided that any races between now and March will be strictly fun runs!

But that’s not to say I can’t look ahead… I’m slowly figuring out my 2016 schedule, and while I’m not planning on tackling any new distances or PR’s, I have signed up for the Portland Marathon as my carrot for getting back into running shape post-baby.

5. Giving Back

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we just wrapped up our first official season with Team LUNA Chix Portland Run, so I’m in the throes of planning for next year. We had such an amazing group of ladies who really embraced us and made the team their own, and for that I’m incredibly appreciative.

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And next year our plan is to come back even bigger and better! We’ll be doing monthly workouts in the off-season, as requested, plus we’ll be taking applications for any open spots for our 10 team leaders. Stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for more info if you’d like to join us — the more, the merrier!

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Celebrating a Successful First Season of Team LUNA Chix Portland Run

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This past week marked a major milestone: We held our last official practice of the season for Team LUNA Chix Portland Run. Our season runs April through October, and having run track workouts in the dark for the past month or so, we’re ready to switch things up for the next few months of our ‘off-season’ (more on that below).

But first…we had a lot to celebrate. Not only was it is successful year of fitness and fundraising, but we’ve also forged some pretty terrific friendships over the past few months.

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Our friends over at Title Nine Portland generously invited us into their space for the evening, so we scrapped the regular track workout in favor of an out-and-back run/walk from the store before enjoying some treats together. By the way, if you haven’t been by the store yet it’s definitely worth a visit; they’re known for being the sports bra experts, so do your gals a favor and get them fitted properly! 

I had planned out the routes in advance and printed out directions for both the two-milers (walkers) and four-milers (runners), plus we had plenty of safety gear on hand (reflective vests, headlamps, glow-in-the-dark bracelets) to ensure everyone stayed super-visible while hitting the streets. After splitting everyone into groups by pace, we set out…and I hung near the back of the four-miler pack to act as sweeper and make sure no one got lost.

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Of course, then Syreeta (who kindly kept me company) and I were so busy chatting and catching up while running that we were the only ones to end up over-shooting the turnaround point by about a quarter mile! We were close to the Forest Park trail head when we finally realized that we’d blown past it, so we quickly doubled back and caught up to the tail end of the group.

Once everyone was safely back to the store, we nibbled on snacks, drank wine (well, those of us who weren’t knocked up!) and savored the moment together. Then it was time to get down to business, so we raffled off a bunch of LUNA gear and gift certificates, plus Title Nine ran a special discount for hose of us who wanted to shop (just in time, too; I’ve outgrown all my current sports bras and got fitted for a new one).

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Because everyone wanted to continue to momentum and camaraderie of the season, we also talked about meeting up regularly in the ‘not-so-off-season’ for workouts, trail runs and possibly even some non-running social activities. So stay tuned to the team’s Facebook page for details if you’d like to join us!

And, of course, we’re already starting to plan for season number two, which means we’ll be accepting applications for any open spots for the 10 team leader positions. Again, keep an eye out for details via our Facebook page.

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In the meantime, you can keep tabs on our adventures via the official Team LUNA Chix Portland Run Instagram account where we’ll be posting pictures from workouts, runs and other happenings. Yep, we’re all over Twitter, too, if you want to reach us there instead.

Cheers to a first season for the record books, and here’s to an even more inspiring, exciting and sweaty second season starting next spring!

Race Report: Rattlesnake Run 5k

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When I knew I’d be home in Michigan this month for a childhood friend’s wedding, the first thing I did after booking plane tickets was look up local races. Because why not squeeze in a little of my favorite fall activity — running through the brilliant foliage of the Midwest — as the colors near their peak this season?

Ok, I’ll admit it; part of me was also hoping that my trip would coincide with the Detroit Marathon so I could sign up for the half and run for fun. But I’m nowhere near trained up for that, so it ended up being for the best that the only options were a few nearby 5k’s.

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I settled on the Rattlesnake Run 5k since it supports a cool cause, is located pretty close to home, and the start time was a very friendly 11 a.m. — aka I could sleep in after the wedding festivities and get a leisurely workout done before lunch. Once that was decided, I set about badgering recruiting my favorite running buddy (my sister), who begrudgingly agreed.

The race is put on by the Michigan Nature Association, and its purpose is to promote efforts to preserve habitat for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, a species of special concern in Michigan. It’s The Mitten’s only venomous snake, in fact, and is a rare sight for most state residents.

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Another upside of this event is that it’s relatively new (in its second year), so it’s not super crowded. And it’s a trail race, so it has a nice, laid-back atmosphere.

The course is a 1.5-mile out-and-back along the Paint Creek Trail, which is an 8.9-mile linear park, located in northeast Oakland County. Fun fact: It was also the first Rail-to-Trail in the state of Michigan, as it was converted to a trail from the former Penn Central Railroad.

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We arrived around 10:40 a.m. to pick up our race numbers and t-shirts, and there was no line so we breezed right through. After a quick pre-race bathroom pit stop (no movement yet, but Baby H loves to make his/her presence known by standing on my bladder), we lined up at the start to listen to final instructions from the race director.

Typically I hang back in the pack, but I was feeling good so I toed the line behind a few folks who looked like they’d be taking the lead pretty quickly. My sister was feeling under the weather, so we decided at the last moment to run separately; I was aiming to run and finish in fewer than 30 minutes, while she decided to deploy a walk-jog strategy.

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The race director counted us down, and we were off — I was the second female out of the gate and remember thinking I’d just try to maintain that position for the whole race, body-permitting. About a quarter of a mile in, the lead female dropped back while I simultaneously got passed by the third place woman, so I figured I’d pace off of her and try to hold on for as long as I could to the end.

The course was flat and gorgeous — there was plenty to look at with the leaves changing colors — but I was more focused on maintaining my breathing and staying hyper-aware of how my body was feeling because of Baby H. Although my legs felt great, it was just shortness of breath that was holding me back, so I tried to walk the fine line between keeping a steady pace and making sure I was getting enough oxygen.

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At the turnaround, I saw a few other ladies coming up behind me, so my goal was to run a steady second half and try to hold them off until the finish, which I managed to do. After grabbing water and a banana, I got back to the finish area just in time to catch a shot of my sister running across looking awesomely strong!

I’ve got to say — it’s been a while since I’ve run (or, well, raced) a 5k, but Lauren Fleshman hit the nail on the head when she called the distance “freaking awesome.” It’s enough of a challenge (especially in my current state), but “you can train and still have a life, race hard and walk normally the next day, and get really fit really fast.”

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Talk about the best of both worlds! It just might be my new distance for as long as running while pregnant still agrees with me (it’s seems to vary by day at the moment; some days I’m itching to run, and others I can’t bring myself to do it).

Final time — 26:15. Not a PR, but good enough for second place female overall and first place in my age group. And first place for the <1 age group, if you’re counting Baby H in tow 🙂

Big thanks to our parents for coming out to cheer us on. It reminded me of my cross country days having their smiling faces to look forward to at the finish line.

And I can’t forget the SNAKES! Yes, there was an aforementioned rattlesnake on hand (caged, of course), but there was also an Eastern Fox snake being passed around for photos ops (can you tell I’m not a snake fan!?).

For more information on the Rattlesnake Run 5k, visit RunSignup.com.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy fall?

September Goal Check-In

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If my last few months of check-ins have seemed a little vague (or filled with missed workouts and centered around naps and food), now you know why! It feels good to be out with the baby news, and it’s a relief to be able to be up front in this month’s recap with how it’s been affecting my “training.”

So many plans have been up in the air for the bulk of this year due to all the what-ifs, but now that I’m nearly halfway there (18 weeks…what?!), I’m finally allowing myself to do a little more planning. There are definitely things I’m still able to do that surprise me, and things I thought I’d be able to do that my body wants nothing to do with, so it’s been a learning experience along the way.

And as for goals…well, expectations have had to shift, and I’m trying my best to go with the flow. But that’s often easier said than done in the day and age of social media, which makes fear-of-missing-out and falling prey to the comparison trap new obstacles around which to navigate!

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

Good news: The energy that was non-existent in my first trimester has pretty much returned. Not-so-good news: If I overextend myself one day, I’ll end up paying for it the next with a headache and mild nausea with lightheadedness.

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I found that planning things to look forward to helped me make it through some of the frustrations of trying to find the delicate balance in early pregnancy. Being able to take a trip home earlier this month was good for the soul — even if chasing around after my very active two-and-a-half year-old nephew pushed the limits of my exhaustion!

2. Training Smarter

Fall usually means one thing when it comes to running: lots of it. But, unfortunately, my favorite activity doesn’t always feel so great. From minor aches and pains to feeling like I need to pee the whole time I’m in action, I’ve had to cut back on mileage and am only running once or twice a week at the moment.

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Staying active is a priority, however, so I’ve made a loose training plan to stay on track. Walking is the new running, and I do it several times a week so I can get out and enjoy the crisp, fall air. And I’ve been supplementing daily cardio sessions with yoga, strength training, barre and prenatal movement classes to keep my muscles strong, yet supple.

3. Facing Fears

Confession: Another month and I haven’t been in the pool. But let’s be honest — at this point, the bigger fear I’m trying to face may be less about the water and more about putting on a bathing suit in public in the awkward beer-belly stage of pregnancy.

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In all seriousness, though, I know there are so many benefits to swimming while pregnant, so I do plan on adding it into my weekly workout mix. But since we only have a finite amount of sunny Portland days left this season, I’ll likely focus more on outdoor workouts to soak up the remaining rays while we still can!

4. Pushing Myself

A major highlight of the month was the Bridge of the Goddess 10K, in which several of us LUNA ladies participated. You can check out my race recap here for all the details, but — spoiler alert — it was a fun one.

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So much fun, in fact, that I’m hoping to add a few shorter races into my schedule before the end of the year. It seems like 5k’s and 10k’s are my sweet spot right now, so I’d like to pick a few to do for fun over the next few months in order to motivate myself to run for as long as I am able.

5. Giving Back

Hands-down, the most exciting event this month was our first annual Team LUNA Chix Portland Run charity spin-a-thon. We had a packed room and managed to raise $2,420 for the Breast Cancer Fund — not only meeting, but far exceeding our goal of $1,500 for the season!

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Our 2015 season (April-October) will be winding down soon, but we’re already in the early planning stages for 2016 to make it an even bigger, better year. In the meantime, we want to invite all Portland ladies to join us for our Monday night practice sessions in October — we meet at 6:30 pm at the Duniway Park Track.

All levels are welcome (walkers, runners), and be sure to follow along in the fun via our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Race Report: Bridge of the Goddess 10k

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Want to add a Gorge-ous event in the Pacific Northwest to next season’s race calendar? Look no further than the Bridge of the Goddess half marathon and 10k in Cascade Locks, Oregon.

Not only is it an easy, hour-long scenic drive from Portland, but it also features a safe, supported course that’s great training run for fall marathons or a destination unto itself. The course starts on the deck of Bridge of the Gods (which you may remember from the movie Wild) over the Columbia River Gorge and spirits runners away from it all along the historic Columbia River Highway Trail.

And, as it turns out, Race Director Paula Harkin wasn’t kidding when she said that. “If the inclines don’t take your breath away, the views from on high surely will.”

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Because LUNA is one of the sponsors of the event, Team LUNA Chix Portland Run was invited to participate. Two of us team leaders (Nicole and me) decided to run, along with three of our community members, Anne, Katie and Debbie.

The event is only in it’s second year, but it’s gotten rave reviews for course, scenery and spirit, so we were pretty excited to check it out. Plus — nerd alert — I’ve been wanting to visit this landmark after seeing Wild, so it was a great way to do one of my favorite things: mix some sightseeing with running.

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I was a tad nervous, however, since I’d be running this one with an unpredictable little stowaway in my uterus. Even though my OB cleared me to run (and even encouraged it — yay!), I haven’t done much of it over the past few months since A) I’ve been sidelined with fatigue, which is putting it mildly, and B) frankly, my favorite form of cardio hasn’t felt that great.

My longest run in the past four months has been a seven-miler during which my right hip flexor got excessively angry and after which I spent the rest of the day on the couch feeling like I was mid-marathon training and had just finished a 14-miler. And although I seemed to have turned a corner last week and finally (fingers crossed) gotten some energy back, I knew this would be a bit of an experiment.

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So as we walked toward the start on the Bridge of the Gods on race morning, I had my OB’s parting words of wisdom in my head:

  1. Keep it conversational. After I inquired about that old keep-your-heartbeat-below-140-bpm rule, she said it’s more important to take it slow and be able to talk while working out. It makes sense — if you’re getting enough oxygen, so is the baby.
  2. Stay hydrated. If you’ve ever been or ever get pregnant, you’ll quickly realize that water — and getting enough of it — will quickly become the bane of your existence. Too little, and I get a headache, or enough/too much, and I am constantly in search of a restroom.
  3. Don’t get overheated. You want that bun in the oven fully-baked but not cooked through. Luckily, it was a nice, cool morning, and I wasn’t over-dressed, so keeping my body temperature steady wasn’t too much of a concern.
  4. Take in sugar throughout. Going in, I was very up front with my OB about fitness being an important part of my life. Aside from telling me to listen to my body, she’s ok with me staying active as long as I take in a steady stream of calories while doing so.
  5. Have fun. This is not the time to be attempting a new PR or getting crazy when the gun goes off. So I’m enjoying running with friends — not only to keep it social, but also to keep it more about completing the event than competing in it.

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Nicole, Anne and I planned on running as a group at around a 10-min/mile pace, while Katie and Debbie lined up farther back in the crowd to run together. We decided to regroup at the finish to grab some food, take some pictures and see how everyone’s race went.

It was a clear morning, so the starting area (on the bridge!) made for some beautiful pictures with the Gorge as a backdrop. Although I didn’t know the entire bottom of the bridge was a see-through grate until we stepped onto it; not only did my stomach drop just looking down, but I clutched my car keys hoping that I wouldn’t lose them while we were up there.

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The gun went off for the half marathon at 8 a.m., so we got to watch them take off before our 10k gun went off at 8:15 a.m. There’s a costume contest component, too, so many ladies were clad in togas as they made their way off the bridge down to the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail for an out and back.

We’d heard the course was “challenging and amazingly beautiful, well-supported and safe from traffic,” and I figured three out of four ain’t bad. Although I was interested to see what “challenging” meant, since I’ve come to find over the years that it’s a pretty subjective descriptor for races.

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A few minutes later, we were off! The course began with a nice downhill that curved gently back underneath the bridge and dropped us right into the trail.

It’s a pretty well-known area; several U.S. Forest Service trails intersect this segment of the trail including the Pacific Crest Trail. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, though, although I speculated that we might be running along side the highway for the majority of the race.

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Wrong! Instead, we were treated to ferns, moss-covered rocks, waterfalls and delicate, shaded wildflowers that flanked the nicely-paved trail.

And as soon as the scenery changed, so did the course from an elevation perspective. Nothing too crazy, of course, but lots of long stretches of low-grade inclines followed by low-grade descents.

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And since it was an out-and-back course, we knew this meant one thing: What goes up must come down. For each uphill, we’d be treated with a downhill on the way back…and vice versa.

Over the next three miles we navigated the hills, stopping to walk through aid stations for water and Glukos, making sure we didn’t get too winded on the ascents and taking advantage of the descents. Side note: This was my first experience with Glukos, and I was impressed; it’s got a nice, mild flavor like nuun but without the fizz. 

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Just as we hit the turnaround point, we saw the stairs that the half marathoners would climb to get to the second portion of their course. Although I’m sure the views from the top made the trek well worth it, we were all too happy to be able to circle back and tackle the second half of the 10k (especially because I felt like I needed to pee pretty badly!).

Up and down the rolling hills we ran toward the finish in Marine Park. As we turned the final corner into the park, we could hear the music and smell the food at the festivities, and everyone gave one last push to get across the finish. Final time ~ 1:03 (my Strava said 5.6, Anne’s said 6.4 and Nicole’s said 6.2, so we went with hers).

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After grabbing water and our finisher’s necklaces, we went straight into the pavilion to warm up and refuel. Well, if I’m really being honest, my first priority was to hit the restroom (thanks to BabyH bouncing around on my bladder for an hour), but then we dug into the feast of burritos, chips, salsa, fruit, cookies and beer.

On our way out, we stopped by the LUNA booth to say hello to the event team. They were passing out samples of the new Chocolate Salted Caramel protein bar, which we got a sneak peek and sample of back in March at Summit.

It’s yummy — especially if you’re in the mood for something sweet yet savory. And if you’ve got any dietary considerations to take into account, it’s gluten free and low glycemic, plus it’s got 12g protein, 3g fiber and if a good source of iron and Vitamin D.

I carry a few minis in my purse; they come in handy when I need a quick pick-me-up between meals, and they’ve come to the rescue on more than one occasion with friends who need the same!

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I’m especially thankful that BabyH made it through his/her first 10k with flying colors. And I’m also looking forward to easing back into some casual racing for as long as this rekindled love affair with running-while-pregnant lasts!

For more information on the Bridge of the Goddess half marathon and 10k, visit RunwithPaula.com.