Gratitude Challenge: Day 3

Five things I am grateful for today: Oct. 14, 2014 Tuesday

  1. This amazing article: “PSU student Susan Smith wins the Portland Marathon” by Sam Bakkila for the PSU Vanguard newspaper 🙂
  2. Someone I am really excited to spend time with is coming to Portland in 2 weeks!
  3. It’s been 9 days since the marathon and I haven’t come down with an injury…hopefully I’m in the clear?
  4. I had a really productive and active day yesterday! I attended both my classes in the morning, cycled, and ran 6 miles. In the afternoon I did some work for my favorite running store in Portland, which involved walking around for 2 hours…and then I visited with my coach. I also fit in some homework, 2 blog posts, and grocery shopping!
  5. Recently, I seem to be balancing school work, running, blogging and some social media work pretty well. I haven’t felt too overwhelmed by anything yet. (It’s still early in my school’s Fall term though…but I get to look forward to graduating in December!)

Vanguard Portland Marathon article

I have a lot to be grateful for ❤ It’s easy for me to acknowledge that now, what matters is that I remember that in the tough times. Because there will be tough times…


Post-Marathon: Many Recovery Runs

recovery eCard

I’m knee deep in my recovery week post-Portland Marathon. Resting and recovering always sounds fun until you actually have to do it. Running slower than a turtle through (all-natural) peanut butter doesn’t seem as appealing when it’s not a choice! Also, my post-marathon hunger cravings have taken me for a ride this week…and I’m still not sure if they’re over yet! So how am I dealing with the achy muscles, fatigue, moodiness and comfort eating that accompany a marathon break-up? Read on!

running hangover eCardSo far (if you’ve been following along) you know that I crashed hard after the marathon. I was fine till about 3pm (I finished running at 10am) when I developed a head-pounding-makes-you-throw-up-and-cry type of migraine. I used to get terrible migraines like this when I was a kid (luckily I grew out of them), so I knew that I wouldn’t feel better until I slept it off. I chugged some electrolytes, took a few aspirin, and then slept with a frozen bag of corn pressed against my forehead until 9pm. I woke up, still had a headache and felt pretty sick, but I ate what I could stomach and went back to sleep until the next morning.

Monday morning I skipped my 8am class…no way I was going to make it…instead I stumbled out for my first recovery run, a mere 2.6mi run at a glacial 9:16 pace! I did feel somewhat dizzy that morning. When I turned my head it seemed to take a moment for my eyes to focus and catch up with what I was trying to look at. I’ve had this happen before, so I wasn’t too worried…

Unfortunately I had to go to my 10am class (I took the bus, no cycling for me thanks!) and for a project I spent 1.5 hours walking around downtown in the afternoon for a ‘neighborhood observation report’. After walking on shaky legs with my group, my body was pulled into a nearby Whole Foods and subsequently hijacked by hunger! I read about how elite runners indulge after a major race, and no offense but I’m always skeptical…for example I recently read about how Shalane Flanagan took some time off running and  indulged in pastries while in Europe after her recent marathon in Berlin. Really? Hmmm… But all that aside, I could not stop thinking about and craving avocados! I exercised my right to indulge that day by raiding Whole Foods’ avocado salad roll and avocado sushi selection. (I spent way to much money on food that day!)

This-Is-How-I-Roll-GirlTuesday, the next day, I got a 30 minutes massage. My quads were the most beat up part of my body, but my hamstrings always give me some trouble! I ran an easy 4 miles in the morning.

Wednesday, I jogged an easy 3.1mi in the morning, cycled to class and home, and ran 1.3 to my favorite running store. I ran 3.3mi with a fellow runner (as part of the store’s amazing running and walking group) and then I jogged 1.3 home. In total I put in 9 miles, but they were all very easy!

Thursday (today), I put in an easy 5.5 miles at an 8:00 pace.

I plan to continue taking it easy for at least another 5 days, until about mid-next week. I am extremely wary of becoming injured by pushing things too fast too soon. After I ran the Newport Marathon in May I suffered my hamstring injury exactly one week later. I would not like to repeat that experience! I am focused on dynamically warming up and doing a brief pass over the foam roller before every run. After each run I am stretching thoroughly and foam rolling more intensely at the end of each day.

Sleep is my friend this week! I’ve made it a priority because I know that it’s essential for recovery. No matter how much homework I have to do, or blogging I want to do, neither is more important to me than my recovery. Nutrition and hydration are the other key pieces to coming back stronger than before. As I’ve written, I’m attuned to my cravings and I am honoring them! The first few days post-marathon I put special emphasis on chugging back the water! I stopped being dizzy in less than a day, it was most likely due to a combo of dehydration and my headache, as well as the all-out effort of the marathon.

rest day what to do

I’ll just have to deal with being passed by snails for another few days! My quads are still feeling sore from the long downhill at mile 23 of the Portland Marathon. My left hamstring has also been protesting as usual, and I am hyper aware of the need to give it some extra TLC. My main focus right now is preventing injury and giving my muscles all the resources they need to make a full recovery. When I start my winter training cycle in a week I want to be 100% healthy and chomping at the bit to begin!

I’m ready to get:


Portland Marathon: (Real) Race Recap

portland marathon 2014 1

Photo Source: Mike Zacchino/The Oregonian, “Japan’s Makoto Ozawa, Portland’s Susan Smith win the 43rd Portland Marathon” Oct. 6, 2014

I honestly don’t remember running past this gigantic shoe! I do know that I was nearing the end though, I have no memories of the course after about mile 23…it’s all a blur.

Portland 2014 time

It was one of those races where things just felt right. I woke up refreshed and ready to go at 5am, at the first ring of the two alarms that I had set. It’s always a good idea to have a back-up alarm! I had laid out everything the night before so there was nothing to worry about, no last minute decisions to be made. No stress. I made sure to be at the bus stop in time to catch the 6am bus downtown. I also chewed down 150 calories worth of dried bananas 1.5 hours before the start.

Once there, I joined the chaos of other runners. Just kidding, there was no chaos! It was highly organized, with informed volunteers directing runners and spectators to the right areas. I joined the porta-potty line first thing. Then I jogged a few blocks, maybe 5 minutes, and started my dynamic stretches various leg swings, hops, skips, until I felt properly warmed up. Then I with 15 minutes to the start I went back to the port-potties, yes….the lines were chaos and I have a small confession to make, I cut the line. In my defense, no one noticed and the line wasn’t moving! I fueled with a Huma gel (Cinnamon Apple) and lined up in the ‘A’ corral…I was nervous and offered up a small prayer: please let me run well. We sang the national anthem, and then, suddenly, it was time to go.

My plan was to hold back in the beginning and for the most part, I did. The first miles came easy. The temperature was already comfortable, and the energy of the crowd allowed me to cruise easily. There were many, many people in front of me…my earliest thoughts were to breathe deep and be patient. I had a long way to go. I had two more Apple Cinnamon Huma gels with me for the road and I started hydrating early, around mile 3 and consumed my first Huma gel in two parts, at mile 8 and then 9. I tried to eat my second gel at mile 18, but I’m pretty sure only half of it actually made it to my stomach. Along the course I also took in frequent sips of Ultima and water.

In the industrial area a.k.a. the “armpit of Portland”, I was lucky enough to catch up to two guys keeping perfect pace. Every mile they hit a 6:33-6:35 split on the dot so I cruised with them until we headed up the only major hill of the course at mile 16 to St. John’s Bridge. Just before, at mile 15 I passed the first women to becoming the leading female from then on. As part of my lead, I was accompanied by a cyclist whose job it was to report on my whereabouts. That was fine by me, because around mile 21 I found myself alone on the course (except for the awesome spectators). My favorite part of the course is always when I crest the St. John’s Bridge. I live for that moment and it makes the first 16 miles and the hill worthwhile. Unfortunately (and this has been the case for three years now) I never remember anything about the course after I leave the bridge. All I recall is pain, particularly when going down a long, steep downhill stretch at mile 23, and worry. One year I witnessed several runners in front of me being stopped by a train whose tracks crossed the course. I was lucky enough to get there just as the barriers to the tracks were raised and was able to keep running, but I can’t imagine the agony of having to stop and then start again. Apparently this year my worry was for nothing because the race directors coordinated with the trains to have no conflicts.

After I came off the downhill stretch, my strides were not the same for the last 3 miles. I also started talking to myself.

portland marathon 2014 2

Photo credit same as above

My quads were beat up, I was tired. But I had run through “the wall” which had defeated me at the Newport Marathon in May. And after crossing the Steel Bridge (agony) and getting over the fear of being stopped by a train, I just kept reminding myself to keep going. It wasn’t much farther, I had no clue what my pace was by then…it was too much effort to look at my watch. The last few miles I just kept telling myself to go, go go– the crowd of spectators started to get larger and I could smell the finish line (it smelled like sweat and sweet relief!) getting nearer. Finally I rounded a corner and was thrown into the melee of half marathon finishers. One more turn, one more turn and then for the last 100m to the finish, I watched the clock tick mercilessly forward until I was done.

Immediately, I was handed the overall female winner trophy and pulled aside for a picture. Thankfully, I didn’t feel the need to collapse. I felt relief and a second later, bliss. I was done!  I had finished and my time was pretty good! Thank goodness! I did a little interview, and then made my way to the water, guzzled several cups like a camel and then snagged a whole bag of grapes before a volunteer had a chance to cut them up. When I asked her if I could have the whole thing, she looked at me and asked, “Are you going to eat them all?” I responded, “YES!” I should have told her that I just won, maybe then she wouldn’t have been so skeptical! Regardless, I ate all the grapes and took some apples to go..finish line food isn’t exactly vegan-friendly! My glucose-deprived brain just wanted sugar!

Many people offered me congratulations, including the two guys who had paced those perfect splits from mile 10-16, (I ultimately passed them along the way, but they both finished sub-3!) we chatted for a bit and then I went to find my coach. I’m pretty sure he was proud when I told him the good news 🙂 And then he gave me a ride home, I hadn’t brought any more bus money…and I definitely didn’t feel like jogging!

I spent an hour stretching, and then foam rolling all while eating a ton of fruit….followed shortly by lunch. But soon after that I unfortunately developed a massive migraine that made me feel really sick. I realized I might be really dehydrated, so I chugged some electrolytes and water then passed out until 9pm. When I woke up I called my mom with the good news and ate dinner. Then I very happily went back to bed for another 8 hours of very deep sleep.

portland marathon overall female trophySplits According to my Garmin:

  1. 6:45
  2. 6:54
  3. 6:50
  4. 6:23
  5. 6:34
  6. 6:37
  7. 6:38
  8. 6:38
  9. 6:29
  10. 6:32
  11. 6:29
  12. 6:41
  13. 6:28
  14. 6:34
  15. 6:37
  16. 6:34
  17. 7:07* Large hill to St. John’s Bridge!
  18. 6:37
  19. 6:33
  20. 6:37
  21. 6:40
  22. 6:31
  23. 6:43
  24. 6:25
  25. 6:33
  26. 6:28

My primary goal coming into the marathon was to run a 2:50, which is a 6:30 pace. Ultimately, the several seconds I was off here and there added up and I missed my goal by 3:30. But this was definitely my best and most consistent effort to date. I am thrilled that I was patient in the beginning, paced pretty consistently, and pushed through the wall at the end!

portland marathon race for the animals bib I pinned this to the back of my singlet! Hopefully many people got the chance to read it, and I am happy that I was able to represent the best of what a vegan runner could do!

My mind is already racing ahead to my next planned marathon (L.A. Marathon in March) and the details of what it will take to get there and get faster! But first I need to focus on recovering optimally. I need to remember to rest, and give my body the best vegan nutrition I can to build myself up to be even stronger than I was before!

*This was my third Portland Marathon, and every year I have a great experience! Thank you to all the coordinators, volunteers, and race sponsors.

A huge thank you to my favorite running store, my coach and his wife, and my training buddy! As well as my mom and everyone else who supports me and wished me luck! There’s no way I could have done this all by myself. I am so grateful! Don’t worry, I’m done talking about the marathon now! 🙂

I won the Portland Marathon 2014!

“Susan Smith of Portland runs past Adidas America in North Portland on her way to wining the 2014 Portland Marathon with a time of 2:53:31, Oct. 05, 2014.” Author Photographer: Mike Zacchino/The Oregonian

I’m too tired to write about this much now….but yeah 🙂 I’m happy!

It’s the Final Countdown (to the Portland Marathon)!

The fall marathon season is in full swing: the men’s marathon world record was recently lowered to 2:02:57 by Dennis Kimetto in Berlin; Shalagne Flanagan tried to chase down Deena Kastor’s U.S. female marathon record of 2:19:36 at the same race, she failed but set a new U.S. 25k record en route. And on Sunday morning I’ll be toeing the start line of the Portland Marathon.

I just did the math and that’s less than 48 hours from now, cue ‘Eye of the Tiger’! In fact, my next stop after hitting ‘Publish’ is the marathon race expo.

If you can, it’s a really good idea to avoid picking up your bib the day before the race. Nothing is scarier than watching the hoards of to-be marathoners milling around in moisture-wicking tees, shorts, and flip-flops or Crocs. The nervous anxiety in the room is palpable: hasty swigs of water or electrolytes, quick chomps of energy bars (or really any food within line of sight), manic stretching, pre-pre runner’s trots…it’s an endless parade of agony. The extra time on your feet is not going to do you any good…so if your race is on Sunday, go on Friday!

This morning I went for a 3.6 mile run. I ran easy until the end, where I finished with 2-200m sprints. My mileage has been drastically reduced and done at low intensity all week, so by sprinkling in a few quick pick-ups I remind my legs that they have speed! Tomorrow I plan on a 3 mile jog and nothing else. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been eating exactly the same, and I will continue to do so, even at my last supper. The only other things I’ve done today is bike to class and then downtown (~35 minutes of moderate-low intensity). I’ll take the bus back home to spare my legs a little. Tomorrow I plan on a little 15 minute ride in addition to my morning run.

I feel really good about this race. I just have a good feeling, and for the most part I’ve kept calm this week. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit nervous! I’ve finished 10 marathons so far and have experienced both the good and the bad. Twenty-six-point-two miles is a long way to go, and I’ve learned to respect the distance. I know what it’s like to suffer for 3 hours, but I have also felt the joy of flying faster than I had imagined.

There is one truth that I am prepared for, and it is below:
the marathon is going to hurt
I’m not scared of the pain….my mentality is: Bring it on! I’m strong, I’ve had great workouts in the past few months, and I WILL remain level-headed and controlled during the early miles of the race.

“The fear of suffering is far worse than the suffering itself.” -Paulo Coelho

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” -Unknown

I recently read an article from Runner’s World “Learn to Pace Like a Pro” by Jeff Gaudette, which stated that every world record from the 5k to marathon distance has been set by running negative splits.” With that in mind, and in accordance with my recent tempo runs, my pace strategy looks something like this:

Mile 1-2: 7:00-7:15

Mile 3-7: 6:50

Mile 8-13(halfway point): 6:45

Half-mile 20/22: 6:30

Last 4-6 miles: GO AS FAST AS POSSIBLE! (Hoping to still have reserves to run 6:20-6:25!)

I’m not 100% sure what finishing time that equals. An even 6:30 pace would give me a 2:50 marathon, which is actually my time goal. I would be ecstatic with that result, but finishing sub-3 hrs. or sub 2:58 (my current PR) would make me almost as happy.

My main fears/concerns:

  1. The coldness of the weather at the start, the temperature increase and how I should dress.
  2. An uncooperative stomach and fueling adequately.
  3. Going out too fast or that my goal pace is unsustainable.


I plan to wear a singlet repping my favorite running store, arm warmers, and shorts. I hope that I won’t get too cold. Before the start I’ll be wearing old socks on my hands and dispensable sweatpants, a long shirt, and a hat or ear warmers. I still have to go to Goodwill and pick those items up (hopefully today, I don’t want to run a bunch of errands tomorrow). There’s no baggage check at the race, so I can’t carry anything with me. I need to figure out if I am getting a ride to and from the race, or if I need to carry bus fare (I took the bus last year, it worked perfectly!) There’s a running store near the start I can stay warm in until I need to warm up…dynamic stretches of course! No need to add any more miles to the marathon distance! I need to plan what time I am going to wake up, and I need to have my pre-race fuel of Barnanas dried bananas, and my Huma gels for during the race ready to go. I also need to revvirtual race animals bibiew the course map one more time, even though this will be the 3rd time I run the Portland Marathon!

Lastly, this marathon is also doubling as my virtual Race for the Animals marathon that I registered for! I’m happy to run the distance, all the proceeds go to Sasha Farm, a sanctuary for animals.

I’m blessed to be healthy and able to line up at the start line. Whatever happens is meant to be. This is part of my journey, good result or not. I’ll share this experience with thousands of others on Sunday morning. I’ll breathe the crisp morning air into my lungs. I’ll pump my arms and churn my legs and be grateful.

That’s why running is beautiful.


No-Track Thursday: 10/02 Marathon Taper Time!

tapering ecard

I’m not positive, but that eCard girl might be in her socks….that’s a definite no-no on race day 🙂

I’m in the homestretch, the last 100m before the actual 26.2 miles! The Portland Marathon is Sunday at 7:00 am, though I will definitely triple-check that on Saturday night! I’ve been tapering for the marathon this week, so there have been no tempo runs and no track session this morning. Honestly though, I don’t feel like I am suffering from any ‘tapering madness’ or ‘taper crazies’. But I live by myself, so if I have been weirder than normal this week no one would know!

I’m not sure if this is consistent among all runners, but I have a little secret: I’m lazy! There’s a little part of me deep down that enjoys being able to kick back and dial down the training. My coach and my mind have told my body, Okay this is it! You’ve done the work and now you need to rest! Rest! REST! (No one has actually said that, that’s just my interpretation.) My body hasn’t had any problem following orders. Our brain’s main function is to preserve energy through efficiency, and so finally my brain gets a chance to do it’s job…I’m sure it doesn’t understand why I fight it on a daily basis by running when there’s nothing chasing me!

It helps that this week, while my legs may be resting, the rest of me is still as busy as the squirrels are! I’m maintaining my general routine in an effort to trick my body and maintain sanity (it works!) by running every morning, eating the same, and going about my regular day. My morning runs have been short and sweet: Sunday I recovered from Saturday’s 10k with an easy 3 miles and the rest of the week has been 4-5 miles easy. Today after my run I did 4x 100-150m strides to shake out my legs.

I'm listening!

I’m listening!

I’m also not changing anything about my diet. It’s given me the energy to complete all my workouts until now, so why mess it up? I’m not concerned with continuing to eat the same amount though I am exercising less because my focus is on recovering and refueling, not maintaining a certain weight. I don’t use tapering as an excuse to inhale every bit of food that comes my way! As long as I continue to eat the same, I will perform as I have been. I’ve been really happy with my workouts, so I’m happy with my diet!

The rest of me has been concerned with the beginning of Fall Term classes at Portland State University. I don’t have ample time to fret over every little marathon detail and worry myself sick because I have a long list of homework to do! I have kept my legs churning by cycling to class and home 3x this week (50 minutes round-trip) it’s not too arduous a trip, and I think it is beneficial to stay moderately active throughout the day. A body at rest stays at rest! Saturday however, I will be relaxing (after a quick morning jog)!

There are a few fine details I need to work out before race day, and I will be following up with a post about that, so check in! One of my main worries has been the weather…suddenly it has gotten really cold! There’s also no bag check at the marathon (I actually read the newsletter the race organizers emailed out!) so I need to go to Goodwill for some donate-able/disposable warm-up clothes! I’ll get to that later!

I’m taking it one day at a time, and staying surprisingly sane (ish)!

Photo credit: Tri-ing to Be Athletic Blog "Is It Reefer Madness?? No, It's TAPER Madness!!"

Photo credit: Tri-ing to Be Athletic Blog “Is It Reefer Madness?? No, It’s TAPER Madness!!”

*A note about my inner lazy person: I can only really be content with complacency for about a week, after that my inner drive kicks in again and I have to go! That’s what makes me a runner 🙂

Monday Motivation: Who’s your hero?

deena kastor

Photo: “10 Best American Marathoners of All Time” Quote: Competitor Running

When we were little, we had heroes. Whatever we aspired to be as a child, we had someone who we looked to for example of how to become that. If you wanted to be an astronaut, a firefighter, a policeman, the President of the U.S., or an actress, there was someone who had inspired you to go that direction.

When you were little, you would have papered your walls with your heroes’ pictures and posters. You would have read and known every thing you could about who your heroes were and how they became the best in your young eyes so you could follow in their footsteps.

Do you still have heroes, or are you too old for that?

In the running world (and beyond), there are many successful athletes to look to for motivation and inspiration. But what makes someone a hero?

hero definition

Source: “Hero” Sept. 22, 2014

Someone who is an exemplar of hard work, dedication, achievement and strength even during times of challenging circumstances. A hero is humble in their success and dignified during times of loss. Heroes are timeless (*Roger Bannister). A hero is the personification of the greatest values of a people.

Modern day heroes…

“Characteristics of a modern day hero include compassion, strong work ethic, a giving nature, a defined set of morals, and a kind spirit.”(

deena kastor wins

Photo source: Let’ “Deena Kastor sets masters world record of 69:36 at Rock ‘n Roll Philly, Aberu Kebede wins in 68:39″ Sources cited:

…are the people who dedicate themselves to giving their best to their families, in their vocation, in their community, to fellow beings and to their planet. Heroes don’t take shortcuts, they don’t make excuses for themselves, and causally, they don’t fall short of their full potential.

No matter how old you get, never lose sight of your heroes. When you need motivation, inspiration, or direction, you need a hero to look to for example. Don’t seek to mimic them, but their process to achievement can be the spark to ignite your flame. I look to Deena Kastor (who is 4o and still setting records!) and Meb Keflezighi (winner of the Boston Marathon 2014!) as examples of humble, gracious runners who work hard, yet still balance family and training. Both of them are exemplars of dedication and perserverance: they both suffered at least one major running injury that prompted critics to discount them, and they both came back stronger because of their character. Discover your passion in life, and look to those who are excelling in that arena.

Don’t forget to look close to you as well! My mom is my hero. Day to day, as I grew up, her actions never seemed to be anything special. But it was the mundane tasks she performed without praise or reward that have snowballed into her achievements as an amazing mother, runner and community member. Everyday, she cooked healthy meals, helped me with homework, chauffeured, paid bills, and raised my brother and I alone while my dad was in Korea for 2 years and then Afghanistan for 6 months.

It never seemed like she was doing anything special, but I am what I am because of her.  When I was about 7 or 8, I remember my mom started running more seriously. I would wake up and go to the kitchen most days to find a note on the counter that read, “Gone for a run, be back soon. Love Mom.” She’s now run 15 marathons since 2002, when I was 9.

It is because of her that I am a runner. I can look to Deena and Meb and aspire to be like them, but I am like my mom.

A hero is whoever inspires you to be your best in a certain field. Gone are the days of heroes who conquered armies and slayed dragons, heroes today are those who put their head down and work hard out of love and dedication for what they do. Acclaim is never their primary motivator, and so they don’t lose track of their values or focus. Have one, or have many…but have a hero to inspire you and push you to excel as they have.

Happy Monday 🙂

portland marathon2

My mom, Bill Rodgers, and I at last year’s Portland Marathon expo. He’s a hero of both my mom and I! My mom’s qualified for the Boston Marathon 2015, her goal!