Race Report: Portland Trail Series Race No. 5

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And with that, our five-week adventure with the Portland Trail Series through the nooks and crannies of lovely Forest Park has come to an end! I’m not gonna lie; it’ll be nice to have our Wednesday nights back — but I’m so appreciative for this having gotten us back into the habit of hitting the trails weekly.

Admittedly, since my go-to route is a pancake-flat waterfront loop through downtown Portland, I need to get my butt back on the trails, so this series was the perfect antidote to city running. Read about our previous week’s race here.

You know what else is cool? Nike came out to several of the races to let runners test drive their new Air Zoom Wildhorse 3 trail shoe. As you can see, we all took them up on the offer, and I was pleasantly surprised — particularly with the rock plate, which provides stability and protection from rough terrain.

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Shoe excitement aside, I made a rookie mistake and forgot to eat a snack after lunch to give me that extra boost for the dinnertime race. We were hanging around the start, chatting, when I noticed those all-too-familiar hunger pangs.

Trail Butter to the rescue! I had enjoyed some samples post-race at several of the other events, but there was no time like the present to see how this stuff worked as pre-race fuel.

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Luckily, they’re incredibly generous, too! I went over to the table to ask for a sample and mentioned that I had forgotten to eat, so before I knew it I had a whole chunk of tortilla spread with the Expedition Espresso flavor in hand. Thanks, guys!

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With comfy feet and a full belly, it was time to focus on the task at hand — our out-and-back course of 4.32 miles. We’d start on Leif Erikson and go up Leif to Dogwood, up Dogwood to Wildwood, then up Wildwood to Birch, and up to the top of Birch. Then we’d turn around and return the same way to the finish.

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Also exciting was the post-race party to cap off the summer series. After completing our run, we were all invited back to Lucky Labrador Brewing Company for celebratory beers, along with the awards ceremony and a raffle.

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But first things first — the race. Ben and I decided to run with each other, just as we did in the first race of the series.

Mostly this consisted of me trying to keep up with Ben, so my view looked like this for the better part of race. We got passed by a few people on the hills as I alternated from jogging and hiking up the inclines, but made up some time on the descent and managed to pass a few people on the second half of the course.

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Final time? 44:03, which I’ll take! Especially since my GPS read that the distance we covered was more like 4.6 miles, so I called it an even 4.5 miles for the evening.

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Final verdict on the Trail Butter, Nike shoes and post-race party? Well, I had a few nut butter burps along the way (which I attribute to eating too close to the start) but otherwise it worked like a dream. Same goes for the shoes; not only did they keep me from rolling my ankles (which usually happens once or twice a run on uneven trails), but they were so comfy I forgot all about ’em.

As for the party, we had the best intentions…but since we had neither dry clothing nor wallets with us, our “quick pit stop” home turned into permanently planting ourselves on the couch with dinner and a movie. We watched Wild, of course, to commemorate our time on the trails!

For more information on the Portland Trail Series or to sign up for next season’s series, click here. The Fall series is already sold out, however they will take day-of-race registrations in place of no shows. So bring $20 and run!

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Race Report: Portland Trail Series Race No. 4

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You know what’s tough? Gearing up for a race on a Wednesday night when all you want to do is eat dinner. On the couch. In your sweatpants. And the only kind of ‘marathon’ you’re thinking about is on Netflix.

But you know what makes it easier? Meeting up with friends, passing the time telling stories while on the trails and the feeling of crossing the finish line. The post-race chips, salsa and burrito-fest doesn’t hurt either.

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Last Wednesday marked our fourth of five races in the Portland Trail Series, a super-mellow series held weekly in Forest Park in Portland. Read about the previous week’s race here.

The plan for the evening was 5.60 miles. A little longer than the third race in the series, but a welcome change in scenery and a little less elevation.

We’d start on Leif Erikson and go up Leif to Wild Cherry, up Wild Cherry to Wildwood, then down Wildwood to Alder, down Alder to Leif, down Leif to Dogwood, up Dogwood to Wildwood, down Wildwood to Wild Cherry, down Wild Cherry to Leif and Leif to the finish.

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Two of our buddies got stuck in traffic, so the plan was for me to pace Ashly again, this time to her second trail race finish. I waited until after our Wild Cherry ascent to tell her that my not-so-secret goal for the evening would be for her to finish this race in the same amount of time that we completed the previous week’s race (which was almost a mile shorter).

Even though she was leery of my plan for her to race more aggressively this time, she was a trooper! The course was in our favor, too; it leveled out quickly after Wild Cherry, and aside from a half-mile climb about two miles from the finish it felt like we had a lot of rolling flats and downhills to work with.

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Ashly’s hubby Sean met up with us with about a mile and a half to go, and his extra encouragement gave her just the boost she needed to bring it in strong to the finish. I tried to capture a shot of us in action; I’ll attribute the blurriness to our blazingly-flast pace back down Wild Cherry 😉

Our final time? It was 1:12:07, just about a minute more than our time from the previous week!

I’m already looking forward to the next race. Not only will we get to spend another evening on the (hilly) trails, but there’s also a post-race party celebrating the completion of the series at a local brewery.

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Stay tuned for my report from the fifth — and final — race of the series next week. Same place, same time, new route, plus party pics!

For more information on the Portland Trail Series or to sign up for next season’s series, click here.

July Goal Check-In

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Summer is in full swing, and we’ve been soaking up the sun here on the West Coast. From trips to the beach, kayaking around the lake, hiking excursions and dining al fresco, weekends are for taking full advantage of all the outdoorsy goodness that Oregon has to offer.

There may be no fall marathon on the horizon this year, but we’re still staying plenty active, too. I’m taking this unofficial off-season as a time to finally kick some of those chronic running injuries (SI joint, plantar fasciitis), as well as focus on getting stronger in cycling and — yes — swimming!

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

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

Between the heat and a packed summer schedule, Ben and I have been dialing back weekend workouts for a change. And you know what? Now that I’m over the initial anxiety of not being on a strict training schedule, it actually feels good.

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Don’t get me wrong — I’m still researching races as I mull over my next move. But listening to my body and being active when and how I want to (like an afternoon bike ride for ice cream or a lunch run with friends or a leisurely morning coffee walk with the dogs) versus doing only what’s prescribed for training has been really refreshing.

2. Training Smarter

My SI joint pain has all but subsided thanks to quitting kettlebell swings. And while I still run a few times a week to maintain my mileage, I’ve been hitting it hard and cross training with all kinds of barre, yoga, pilates and interval training classes.

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My newest discovery, though? Racing for fun.

Ben and I signed up for a weekly trail run series here in the Portland area and have been enjoying running without worrying about pace. Plus, I’ve paced new trail racers for the past two events, and helping them get across the finish line and accomplish something they weren’t sure they could do has been an incredibly rewarding experience!

3. Facing Fears

Huge news on this front: I took an informal swim lesson last week with a few friends! Mary Anne, who did the swim portion of the Pacific Crest long course triathlon along with Ben, kindly offered to hop in the pool, check out our form (or lackthereof) and share a few pointers.

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As it turns out, I’m not totally hopeless in the water! There were three major takeaways: I need to work on my body position (straighter vs bending at my waist), kick (full leg vs at the knee) and stroke (relax and extend more).

I also learned that I need to CHILL OUT in the water because I’m literally trying so hard and moving so rigidly that I’m actually working against myself. Mary Anne shared some great drills, so we made a pact to get in the pool more often to practice. Exciting!

4. Pushing Myself

As I mentioned last month, in lieu of setting training and racing goals in the immediate future I’ve been pursuing professional ones instead. Pulse Creative is officially up and running, so I’ve been digging into client projects, networking and meeting all kinds of interesting entrepreneurs in the process.

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That’s not to say I’m not thinking about my next challenge. On the contrary, I’ve been eyeing some destination races for fall travel, as well as potential events to add to the calendar for 2016. More on those soon…

5. Giving Back

Boom! It’s time for the official Team LUNA Chix Portland Run update. But first — how awesome are these ladies?!

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In July, we participated in our first sponsored event, the Portland Parks $5 5k Series race at Gabriel Park (note: we’ll be at August’s event at Laurelhurst Park, as well — join us!). We’re also growing in leaps and bounds — we’ve got an amazing group of regulars who are killing it every week.

Check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for more info. Come join us, and bring your friends; we’re all levels (walkers and runners) and love seeing new faces each week!

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Race Report: Portland Trail Series Race No. 3

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And, with that, I am an official pacer for hire! Well, I’m free…but I do accept smiles, kind words and the occasional food-based bribe in exchange for getting you across the finish line in one piece.

Last Wednesday was the third of five races in the Portland Trail Series, a low-key (but highly fun!) series held weekly in Forest Park in Portland. Read about the previous week’s race here.

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Syreeta and I had such a blast on the trails last week that she came back for even more hill-ish torture this week — as a seasoned pro now, I might add. And at last week’s practice we even managed to talk one of our fellow Team LUNA Chix Portland Run members, Ashly, into joining us for her first-ever trail race.

Ashly’s done her fair share of road racing, but this was her first off-road foray, so she was understandably nervous — not only is the terrain challenging, but the temperature also spiked back up to near 100 here in Portland. Our friend Tiffany joined in on the fun, too, to round out our LUNA Chix crew!

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On the menu? An evening route of 4.78 miles. It’s the shortest of the courses so far in the series, but we didn’t let the distance fool us — there were bound to be some good hills in there.

We’d start on Leif Erikson and go up Leif to Wild Cherry, up Wild Cherry to Keil, down Keil to Wildwood, then down Wildwood to Alder, down Alder to Leif, up Leif to Dogwood, up Dogwood to Wildwood, down Wildwood to Wild Cherry, down Wild Cherry to Leif and Leif to the finish.

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We lined up near the back of the pack to let the faster runners go ahead. I wanted to make sure Ashly started conservatively, which meant staying out of the fray and listening to her body so she could go at a comfortable, sustainable pace.

For the third week in a row, we started off by scrambling up Wild Cherry (aka my nemesis). We made it most of the way up at a slow jog but slowed to a walk near the top so we could catch our breaths and allow our heart rates to come down.

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Tiffany and Syreeta went on ahead while Ashly and I deployed a walk-jog strategy: We’d walk up the steeper hills and jog the flats and downhills to help conserve energy and keep the focus on moving forward.

We were about a mile in when all of the sudden Syreeta came doubling back along the path to join us. Ashly led the way, and we followed her lead.

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Of course, we also fell easily into a great conversation, so when we weren’t gasping for breath up the hills we were laughing over stories, and the miles quickly flew by.

Before we knew it, we ran into Yassine from Animal Athletics, who said that not only did we only have a mile and a half to go, but also that is was mostly downhill. We picked up the pace and about a half mile later, we ran into Ashly’s husband, Sean, who had already finished and was coming back to provide some moral support for Ashly in the final mile.

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As we cruised back down Leif Erikson, we rounded the final corner and Ashly kicked it into high gear for the last 100 yards or so to the finish line. Our final time was 1:10:51.

I’m so proud of her for pushing through and dominating a hilly course like that in the heat. And you know what? She’s already contemplating coming back next week and making the step up to a longer distance trail race this fall. Mission accomplished; we’ve got a new trail runner in our midst!

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And, as always, we’re excited to do it all over again next week! Same place, same time, different route — so stay tuned for my report from race number four.

And for more information on the Portland Trail Series in the meantime, click here.

Are you a fan of trail races? 

Get Beach-Body Ready: Summer Sizzler Ab Workout

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A strong core is always in season, so I created this quick and versatile body-weight ab routine that can be completed anywhere, anytime.

Customize it to suit your needs, whether it’s one set on your lunch break or a multiple-set, full-body workout with the addition of short bursts of cardio (warm-up, cool-down and in between sets).

Hint: As always, if you’re not familiar with some of the moves listed, simply Google the term, and you’ll be able to find a description or video of it in action.

And please remember to focus on quality of movement over speed for the best results!

What’s your favorite workout for getting beach-ready? 

Race Report: Portland Trail Series Race No. 2

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Two down, three to go!

This week marked the second installment of the Portland Trail Series, a low-key series of five trail races over the course of five weeks held in Forest Park in Portland. Read about last week’s event here.

The best part? Syreeta, one of our Team LUNA Chix Portland Run members, had mentioned during our Monday night practice that she was thinking of joining us for what would be her first-ever trail race. So, needless to say, I couldn’t be more excited when we saw her at the start line!

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We lined up to get the scoop on the evening’s course, which measured 5.20 miles.

We’d start on Leif Erikson and go up Leif to Wild Cherry, up Wild Cherry to Wildwood, then down Wildwood to Holman, up Holman to 53rd, up 53rd to Birch, down Birch to Wildwood, up Wildwood to Wild Cherry, down Wild Cherry to Leif and Leif to the finish.

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The good news, they said? The course was net zero elevation.

The not-so-good news? It was far from flat, so we could expect a lot of ups, and a lot of downs in return.

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Syreeta’s already a pro on the trails, since she and her husband are avid weekend hikers. Seriously, if you want the lowdown on the most challenging jaunts and most scenic vistas in the area, she’s your go-to gal. 

But since it was her first trail race, we decided to run together and let her set the pace. My goal, I said, was to get her across the finish line A) in once piece, and B) smiling. Her goal was to run as much of the course as possible.

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Wild Cherry, again, did not disappoint. #WhatTheHill

But Syreeta powered right up without stopping, so we chugged along and caught our breaths while enjoying a beautiful downhill section on the back side.

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We kept a solid pace through a number of rolling hills before hitting a pretty long uphill, which I think it was the Holman and 53rd section. After taking the first part at a jog, we rounded a corner and saw it keep going up, up, and away…so Syreeta made what I thought was a great judgment call and started hiking up.

Not only would this allow us to keep moving along at a good clip (a purposeful walk over a long, steep hill can be just as quick and effective as a slow jog), but it’d also allow us to conserve some energy for later.

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I was beyond impressed with Syreeta’s positive attitude and willingness to lay it all out there — her second wind hit with about a mile and a half to go, so we picked up the pace again and headed for home.

Luckily it was all downhill from here…

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Syreeta led the charge to a strong finish; we wound our way back down Wild Cherry and crossed the line with a final time of 58:10.

This even included a quick backroom break about a half-mile from the finish!

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We met up with Ben and got sidetracked as soon as we spotted a booth for Bogg’s Trail Butter, which was nothing short of delicious. It reminded me of my beloved PocketFuel, but instead of a gritty texture from sugar (which can start to trouble my tummy during longer races) this had more of a chunkier/crunchier texture from all the nuts.

My favorite flavor was the Ozark Original, which combines many of the ingredients found in a classic trail mix. Nuts, seeds, raisins, cranberries and a hint of semi-sweet chocolate hit the spot.

Plus, we learned a great new way for prepping food for the trails — spread the nut butter on a flour tortilla, roll it up, then chop into bite-sized pieces. Brilliant!

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Can’t wait to do it again next week! Same place, same time, different route — so stay tuned for my report from race no. 3.

And for more information on the Portland Trail Series in the meantime, click here.

Recipe: Thai-Style Noodle Salad

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As we creep toward our one-year anniversary of living in Oregon, we’re headed for a season of record-breaking temperatures. Not that I’m complaining. It’s going to take a lot more humidity to scare this Midwesterner who’s also lived through a few sweltering East Coast summers.

If I’ve noticed one thing, however, it’s that my desire to eat warm foods is inversely proportional to the number on the thermometer. So hot summer days call for a cold, protein-packed salad — and this one’s something I whipped up on a weeknight utilizing ingredients we already had on hand.

Because, if we’re being honest here, my willingness to hit the grocery store also plummets as the heat rises… 

Thai-Style Noodle Salad

Ingredients: 

Salad:

  • 1 package black bean pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1 bag matchstick carrots (approx. 2 cups)
  • 2 cups grilled chicken, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise & chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onion, chopped
  • 1 small container roasted peanuts

Sauce:

  • 2 cups all-natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 TBSP fish sauce
  • 1 TBSP ginger (minced or paste)
  • Dash of salt

Directions: 

  1. Once pasta is cooked and cooled, place all salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together all sauce ingredients.
  3. Pour sauce over salad, and toss to coat evenly.
  4. Serve immediately (with a sprinkle of peanuts), or refrigerate for an hour if you want to eat it cold.

Not only is the black bean pasta gluten-free, but it’s also a terrific source of protein — there’s a whopping 25 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber in every serving!

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This salad is super-versatile, too; I’d serve atop leafy greens for a more nutrient-dense main dish or as a side salad to accompany a meaty entree on nights when I’m looking for more protein.

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Do you adjust your kitchen habits with the weather?