Hood to Coast Race Recap [+ what I ate!!]

Exactly one month ago I embarked on one of the most amazing experiences of my life (dramatic, I know, but so true) - I ran the Hood to Coast relay race. This race came at the tail end of my Summer of 2016 Epic Adventure {read more on some of that here!} and it was the icing on the cake, the peak of the mountain, the part of my trip that stands out more than anything else.

The group before we started - our team name was 'Put a Bib on It'

The group before we started - our team name was 'Put a Bib on It'

WHAT is HOOD TO COAST?

Hood to Coast is an overnight, long-distance relay race held in Oregon, annually in late August, traditionally on the Friday and Saturday before the Labor Day weekend. Teams of 12 run a total of approximately 200 miles starting at Mt. Hood and ending at the Oregon coastal town of Seaside (hence the name Hood to Coast).

WHY RUN HTC?

Everyone has their own reasons for running the race, mine is simple: the opportunity presented itself to me and the timing seemed almost serendipitous. My friend Erika texted me one day asking if I would have any interest in running this race. I had already planned to spend the month of August on the west coast so it seemed like perfect timing and when else was I going to get this opportunity???

Van#2 all decked out and ready to go!

Van#2 all decked out and ready to go!

HOW does it WORK?

This is the question I was still asking the night before the race began. I had never run a relay race before and literally had no idea what to expect (and... had not done my homework... whoops!). Here's the breakdown of how the race actually works:

- The course is divided into 36 legs, ranging from 3-8 miles. Each person on the team is assigned a number that corresponds to your lineup on the team and this determines which legs you will run. For example, I was #12 so I ran legs 12, 24, and 36 (yep! I got to cross the finish line. So cool!). The team is then split into two vans of 6 people (#1-6 in one van, and #7-12 in the second van). 

- Van 1 begins the race. They drop #1 at the starting line and then hop in the van and drive to the first handoff point, where runner #2 will hop out, grab the "baton" (which is really a slap bracelet) from runner #1. Runner #2 will take off on their course, runner #1 will get in the van, and the van will head to the next handoff point to do it again.

- In the meantime, Van #2 is chilling out, awaiting their time to race. Van #2 will meet Van #1 at the end of runner #6's leg. The first runner from Van #2 will grab the slap bracelet from runner #6, and then Van #2 is off. Runner #6 will hop into Van #1 and then Van #1 has a few hours to rest (shower/eat/foam roll/etc... sleep really didn't happen).

- This leap frogging continues to the finish line where the whole team will meet runner #12 (that was me!) at the end of leg 36 and cross over the finish together, which is along the beach in Seaside, Oregon.

- This whole process takes anywhere from 18 (SUPER fast) to 38 hours [see 2016 results here] and there's a huge party at the end. Most teams spend the night in Seaside, and then drive back to Portland (or wherever they are going) the next day.

- Another note: There is a waved start, which means not every team starts at the same time. The slower teams begin first (early Friday AM) and the faster teams have a later start (into the afternoon on Friday). This way, teams all end within a few hours. For reference, my team started at 1:15PM on Friday afternoon and we ended around that same time on Saturday.

Leg #1 ready to rock - headlamp, reflective vest and all!

Leg #1 ready to rock - headlamp, reflective vest and all!

WHEN and HOW FAR did YOU run?

The total distance, difficulty and timing of your legs depends on your leg assignment (your runner #), your teams start time, and how fast your team runs.

Like I mentioned above, I was runner #12 and my team started around 1:15PM on Friday afternoon. I also had a *very fast* team (on average we ran 7:15 minute miles for this race). As a result, here's how far and when I ran:

- Leg #12 / 6.4 miles / Difficulty = Medium / 8:30 PM Friday night

- Leg #24 / 4.87 miles / Difficulty = Easy / 5:00 AM Saturday morning

- Leg #36 / 5.19 miles / Difficulty = Medium / 12:30 PM Saturday afternoon

Different people had different challenges with their legs - someone ran 5 miles in blazing mid-afternoon heat, someone ran 7 miles on dusty back roads at 2AM. Someone had 6 miles all up hill. Someone had 3 miles straight down hill. There were many more factors than just the difficulty of the leg itself that contributed to an individual's race difficulty level as a whole.

Feeling sassy/tired between legs #2 and #3

Feeling sassy/tired between legs #2 and #3

HOW did you FEEL?

ALL the FEELINGS. HA!

Yes, I was exhausted. Yes, I doubted my ability to finish strong. Yes, my digestive system hated me for part of the race. But really, most of the time I felt amazing. We felt great as a team, we pumped each other up before each start, we congratulated each other with GUSTO at each finish, and we encouraged each other in between legs to rest, to fuel properly, to let our bodies (and our minds) recover as best we could.

Ah... so that brings up the question...

All the healthy snacks!

All the healthy snacks!

WHAT did you EAT?

You are probably not surprised to hear that I was the official snack-master of our van. Before starting up, we stocked up on healthy, nutrient dense, easy to digest foods like nut butter, fruit, whole foods bars, trail mix, hard boiled eggs and YES chocolate. We also had ALL the hydration options: coconut water, chocolate coconut water (tastes like chocolate milk), water, all natural electrolyte drinks, more water and cold brew coffee (we took shots before our legs for a little energy boost!).

Here's exactly what I ate before and during the race {to the BEST of my memory}:

FRIDAY

Pre-race - Lunch time smoothie with bananas, almond butter, protein powder, and greens; late afternoon "snack" of a kale salad with tempeh (keep in mind that I wasn't running my first leg until 8:30/9PM).

7PM / Fuel / This "phat fudge"

8:30PM RUN

10PM / Refuel / Smoothie with banana, coconut water, protein powder {we were lucky enough to have a break in Portland and one of my van mates lives there so we showered and rested at her apartment, and I made smoothies ;) ).

Electrolyte drink + lots of water, chocolate covered almonds

SATURDAY

3:30AM / Fuel / Almond butter sandwich on gluten free bread + cold brew coffee

5AM RUN

6:30AM / Re-fuel / 2 hard boiled eggs, and then a little later an Rx Chocolate Sea Salt bar (egg whites, nuts, dates)

Electrolyte drink + lots of water, tea, probably a few more chocolate covered almonds

10:30AM / Fuel / Banana + this weird bulletproof coffee shot

12:30 PM RUN + FINISH!!

2PM / Re-fuel / Water, beer (a rare occurrence for me!), salad with double veggie burger

The whole team met me to cross the finish line together!

The whole team met me to cross the finish line together!

WHAT did you LEARN?

Oh, so much. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom:

- You are stronger than you know. I did not train for this race, and honestly my running has been on the back burner for the past year or two. That being said, I still managed to run, and run fast - I surprised myself at what I was capable of. And this made me realize that sometimes we need to push ourselves a little harder than we are used to in order to realize our potential, and grow!

- A support system is crucial. I 100% would not have finished without my team. They were in my head cheering me on when legs got tough or I wanted to slow down. This has carried forward into my running post-race - when I'm feeling un-motivated or just bleh I text or call one of them and *boom* instant support and motivation.

- Just keep going. One foot in front of the other may be all you can focus on but just keep going [applicable to pretty much all challenging situations].

We did it!

We did it!

 

WHEW, that was a lot. I hope this post was interesting for you.

Now I want to know - have you ever run a relay race or participated in a similar group fitness challenge? Or maybe you have considered doing something like this before? I'd love to hear your thoughts or personal experience in the comments below.

 

Adventures in LA-la land // Week 1

Emily's Epic 2016 Adventure has begun! I've said farewell to NYC for a few weeks and am off exploring the west coast for the remainder of the month. In true wellness blogger form, I'm going to be documenting what I'm eating, drinking and doing during these few weeks here on the blog (you can also follow along on Instagram for real-time updates).

My journey begins in the city of Angels...

LOS ANGELES // WEEK 1

MOVE:

- Run or bike along the beach - Most of my morning runs have been along the beach - there's so much to see! Santa Monica pier, Muscle Beach, the Venice boardwalk.

- Run or walk the Venice canals - Another awesome run (or walk) is through the Venice Canals. Inspired by Venice, Italy, there are several blocks of canals that run between beautiful homes. A place of tranquility and escape from the craziness of Venice beach.

- Love Yoga - beautiful space with white walls and blue floors, feeling like you are practicing in the ocean or in a cloud! The classes I've taken have been strong and smart, with a focus on getting into your body and organic movement.

EAT:

- Giant vegan + gluten free muffins from Cafe Gratitude - I'll admit... I've had more than one... or two... of these! Definitely a treat but SO good.

- The salad bar at Erewhon Market - Epic. My go-to lunch spot.

- Protein Acai Bowl from Live Beaming - I don't often make or order acai bowls, but when I saw my friend post on Instagram about this protein acai bowl, I knew I had to try it! Topped with housemade granola, blueberries, bee pollen, and honey, it did not disappoint. I liked that the acai base itself was not too sweet - a nice contrast from the toppings.

DRINK:

- Bulletproof Coffee from the Bulletproof Cafe - Organic coffee blended with butter and MCT oil.

- Turmeric Tonic from Intelligentsia Coffee - Iced tea with turmeric, ginger, lemon and lime - all great for your digestion and super flavorful without the addition of any sweetener.

- Goodnight Rose kombucha from Better Booch - Rose (not to be confused with rose) is all the rage these days. Rose is calming and soothing, and has been used for centuries to help relieve tension. Often times I find that drinks with rose essence are too strong, but the flavor of this kombucha was subtle and perfect!


And there you have it - the highlights from week 1 of my west coast adventure. Got suggestions for what I should do, eat, or see while I'm out here (LA, SF, Portland)? Leave em below!

Loving lately July 2016

As a way to share my favorites with you on a regular basis, I created the "Things I'm Loving Lately" series here on the blog. In this series I share everything from food to fitness, brands to beauty products, good reads to good listens. 

Here's what I'm currently craving and crushing on:

- Toast - If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I've been all about the toasts these days! Mostly I enjoy a slice with my breakfast, always gluten free and whole grain because I know that makes me feel better than traditional bread.

- Run skirts! The first time I saw a run skirt years ago I laughed... the whole concept seemed silly to me. But recently my friend Jenna wore one to run club and raved about it, and I knew I had to try one for myself. Basically, run skirts are amazing! You get the benefits of tight shorts (i.e. no chafing) and the freedom of looser shorts. My favorite is the Pace Rival Skirt from lululemon - I actually bought the "Tall" style because I like my skirt a little longer.

- Fresh herbs - Herbs and spices add a TON of flavor to food, but also a TON of nutrients! Right now I've been all about fresh dill, basil, and cilantro, but mint, thyme, and parsley are other favorites. Pro tip: wash your herbs when you bring them home and then wrap in a paper towel (to soak up excess moisture). Then use a scissors to snip off ribbons when you are ready to use!

- Fennel essential oil - Alright I may just be having a love affair with all things fennel (it's still my favorite snacking veggie). Fennel essential oil is great for relieving indigestion, but I've mainly been using it aromatically by diffusing it in my apartment. It's cooling and leaves the air feeling fresh, clean and sweet. Click here to purchase your own fennel essential oil.

- Infused water - The summer heat means it's even MORE important to make sure you are drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated. I know a lot of people struggle with drinking water, but water doesn't have to be bland or boring! Try adding in fruit and veggie slices and fresh herbs for a delicious twist on regular H20. Here are some of my favorite infusions: cucumber + mint, berries + lemon, apple + ginger, and citrus + cayenne.

 

What are you loving lately?  Let me know in the comments below!

My #1 piece of fitness advice

I was recently interviewed and asked for my number one piece of fitness advice, how I stay motivated to work out. My response? Movement in our bodies creates movement in our lives.

What does that mean? I work out for more than just the physical benefits - yes, exercise gets my blood pumping and makes me feel great in my body, but it's so much more than that. When I move my body, my thoughts and feelings also shift. Maybe it's endorphins, or perhaps it's simply spending time with me, but when I have a hard decision to make, a challenge I am facing, or am just feeling "stuck" with something in my life, I know that moving my body will help me work through it.

If you follow me over on Instagram, you probably saw that I ran the NYC Half Marathon yesterday. You may have also seen that I almost DIDN'T run the race. While I do run consistently 3-4 days per week, serious training for the race was virtually non-existent due to a crazier than average schedule this past month.

Training aside, I knew that I could finish the race (hey, if I ran the Brooklyn half last year with a broken toe, I could do this!), but I was still hesitant so I asked myself WHY? Side note: as my clients know, I totally recommend having a conversation with yourself - either by actually talking out loud or by writing in a journal. Often my biggest "aha" moments are when I simply open this dialogue.

What came up was fear and ego. I was afraid of not running fast enough, of loosing to a former (faster) self, of being a disappointment (to whom, I don't know?). 

This made me realize that I needed to practice exactly what I preach (and ironically enough, the same advice I gave during that interview): movement in our bodies creates movement in our minds. I needed to run not to prove anything or to get a PR, but rather to move through a thought pattern that was not serving me - that idea of not being enough, of having something to prove.

And so I ran. With no expectations except to breath, to move, and to listen to my body. I came out the other end not only incredibly proud of what I had accomplished, but also with a totally fresh mindset.

Now you don't have to run 13.1 miles to shift your thoughts - any sort of physical movement will do the trick. So the next time you are feeling stuck, or have a decision to make, or just need a shift in perspective, try this: go for a walk, get yourself to a yoga class, or simply stand up and take a stretch break at your desk. Not only will this help you work through whatever it is you are working with, but you'll also be more motivated to incorporate that physical movement into your daily routine.

How (or more importantly WHAT) will you move today? Let me know in the comments below!