Houston Marathon Recap

1/21/2022

Hi friends! I returned home from Houston on Monday, and had some time to write up a post about my latest running adventure: the Houston Marathon!

Short version:

I prepared to get up early and run really far by eating lots of carbs and resting. I finished running really far in 3 hours 13 mins and 41 seconds, and was then rewarded with a medal and 12oz of chocolate milk.

Long version:

More details in this one, but you can also hear about my solo travel experience 😎 I ventured to Houston alone, as in without a running friend or Tim. It made me feel uncomfortable at times, but mostly I was just really proud of myself for navigating the city and this trip all by myself. Although I definitely prefer company, it’s comforting to know that I can hack it on my own!

So anyway, I flew in to Houston on Friday and took a bus to downtown, then another bus to Montrose. I’m familiar with Montrose, so I felt safe staying in an Air b&b there.

View of Texas from the plane ✈️

The air b&b was VERY Texas. Look at all this cow:

Yeehaw

On Saturday, I went to the grocery store to get a few things I needed (mostly carbs). Then I went to grab my race bib from the Race Expo in the George R Brown convention center, or as I like to call it, the S.S. Houston because of its architectural design.

The Convention Center in all its nautical glory🚢

The Expo is like a scientific conference, except that everything is running-related. Also, you can get massages from your colleagues instead of presenting a poster to them. For real though: there were a lot of folks selling these muscle massage guns; I tallied 3 free massages. I would never buy them because they’re a little pricy. I was told by each vendor how their $299.00 massage gun was a special deal because MSRP is $800.00. Like, OK…

I had run from the Airb&b to the Expo, and walked/Lyfted home. Other than that, I didn’t do much besides eat carbs and rest to stay off my feet. I saw Tim’s parents in the driveway and we had a brief, socially-distanced hangout. It felt weird to be taking so many precautions, but Tim and I really don’t want them to get sick.

Also it’s interesting that leading up to the trip I was sad to leave Abbie because I would miss her, but I didn’t think I would miss Tim that much. I missed Abbie the first night, but then I pretty much forgot about it. I missed Tim more as the trip went on though. Especially after the race, because crossing the line without him there felt sad and like something was missing.

Takeout spaghetti and meatballs from Paulie’s

Ah ok now about the race… I did say this was the long version. Here is the rundown of the hectic morning and then a race recap mile by mile-(ish):

Hectic morning:

4:30am – wake up and eat breakfast/coffee. Two slices of sourdough toast with PB& banana.

5:20am – Walk to bus stop

5:22am – Bus fails to stop at bus stop and zips past me. I call Lyft instead.

5:50am – arrive at convention center and hand off my bag at gear check.

6:35am – jog over to my corral to start… It was cold (34 F), so I tried to leave the building as late as possible for my 7am start time. I stayed warm by literally dancing/bouncing in my corral 🕺🏻

7am- start! WOO!

Near the start line after I felt fine enough to ditch my mask

Race recap:

Mile 1-2: I’m so happy to just freakin be here!

Mile 3: Oh wow- that’s a very cool sunrise

Mile 4: Hi Anderson Fam!! Oh crap I’m probably going a little too fast…

I’m in the navy long sleeve

Mile 5: Met Lisa, a 60-something year old blind runner. It was her 10th Boston and 26th marathon!

Mile 8-22: Still running too fast. But maybe not? In the River Oaks neighborhood, there was a priest dousing runners with holy water as they passed. Another runner shouted, “it burns!” I started running with that same runner, Miguel, around mile 9 and stayed with him until he dropped me around mile 22. Very interesting guy. 9.3/10 conversation. Apparently there is a fun desert party in California I “have to” go to (Burning Man festival).

Mile 23: supposed to see the Anderson’s, but I’m WAY ahead of the time I told them to be there so I miss them

Mile 25: so close that it hurts. Really, it hurts.

Mile 26: Man, this 0.2 stretch is killing me.

Mile 26.2: DONE! 3:13:41. Yeehaw 🤠

I felt really awesome after finishing the race (naturally). But what I thought about the most was the LACK of pain in my hips. My hips hurt REALLY bad after the last official marathon I did in Atlanta in 2020, because they were weak. Leading up to this race I did hip and glute strengthening exercises every other day, and I think that made a difference in how my legs felt after such a long hard effort.

Highs:

⁃ Meeting interesting folks along the course and having some fun conversations

⁃ Finishing a marathon (my 4th official and 6th ever!)

⁃ Running 3 minutes off my PR (which is 3:10:28) when I quite literally could not walk in October due to my glute/sacroiliac injury.

⁃ Having Tim’s parents see me run at mile 4

⁃ Velvet taco for dinner after the race was 👌👌

Three very scrumptious tacos

⁃ Lots of free massages at the Expo

⁃ Feeling capable and independent to travel solo 🕺🏻

⁃ Being part of a race where the women’s American Record was broken for the full (Keira D’Amato, 2:19:12) and half (Sarah Hall, 1:07:??)

⁃ The air b&b had my favorite scent of Dr. Teals Epsom salts (spearmint and eucalyptus) for a bath after I got home from the race.

⁃ Buying cool headbands and a scrunchie at the Expo

⁃ Walking around in Montrose. It’s very convenient and walkable

⁃ Visiting the Science Museum to see the Body Worlds exhibit after the race. I didn’t think I could be more in awe of what my body is capable of after running a marathon, but I was wrong. Bodies are so cool!

Limber gymnast with organs

⁃ The gemstone/Russian Tzar heirloom exhibit in the museum reminded me of when I saw the play, Anastasia, with Laura. It was a nice memory!

Two beautiful crystals. I don’t remember the names and failed to record them. Darn.

⁃ House-made Spaghetti and meatballs at Paulie’s on Friday, which was picture above

⁃ Not getting my period also rocked. I am supposed to today, but there is always a chance it can come early, so PHWEW! 😅

⁃ The Time magazine book in the Air b&b

Lows:

⁃ The worry of probably having contracted covid (PCR test scheduled for Thursday, rapid test ready for when I get home)

⁃ Awkward interaction with Keira D’Amato the day before the race where she waved back at me and said good luck and then I RAN AWAY because I was star struck 🙃

⁃ The H-E-B carrot cake

3/10 carrot cake.

⁃ Seeing expensive running gear just tossed in the middle of the road near the start line.. It’s a reminder that running is not a sport “anyone can do, you just need shoes!” Running marathons (at least road races) requires time affluence (the training, and the traveling cost a lot of hours!) and money (the race entry for Houston was $200). I feel like I’m lucky to have a job that gives me both of those things because I know it’s not true for everyone. So, I felt a little bit sad seeing other folks toss away their running stuff.

⁃ A few uncomfortable interactions with folks on the bus and a homeless dude who kept complimenting my legs. I walked across the street to get away from him and stand near another man who was talking in the phone.

⁃ The flights could have been better. There were crying babies behind me on both flights. The departing flight had a shorter duration of baby crying, but there was also someone farting the whole time. The return flight did not have a fatrter (yet… still haven’t actually landed), but had the worst baby ever. It could be an endurance athlete too if crying was a sport.

So anyway, that’s my trip summary! I hope you enjoyed reading!

My next marathon is Chattanooga, TN, where I will be part of the pacing team. After that, Boston with Laura and Erin!

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to ones courage

(Post-grad) races:

May 29, 2017: Buffalo Half Marathon (Buffalo, NY) — 1:29:53

October 14, 2017: Empire State Marathon (Syracuse, NY) — 3:31:38

May 5, 2018: Taco de Mile (Rochester, NY)– 00:7:30  

May 27, 2018: Buffalo Marathon (Buffalo, NY) — 3:18:36

September 23, 2018: Rochester Half (Rochester, NY) — 1:34:30

October 6, 2018: Castle Rock Trail Half-Marathon (Castle Rock, CO) — 1:55:17

January 4, 2020: Winter Warrior half marathon (Rochester, NY) — 1:33:37

March 1, 2020: Publix Atlanta Marathon (Atlanta, GA)— 3:10:28

June 28, 2020: Probably Humid But Still Cool Covid-19 Marathon (Rochester, NY) — 3:27

November 10, 2021: Dirt Cheap Trail Stage Race day 1 (3 miles; Rochester, NY): 27:23

November 11, 2021: Dirt Cheap Trail Stage Race day 2 (5.5 miles; Rochester, NY): 39:01:41

November 12, 2021: Dirt Cheap Trail Stage Race day 3 (11 miles; Rochester, NY): 1:38:51

November 21, 2020: Turk-a-thon Marathon (Rochester, NY) — 3:19:30 (ish)

May 23, 2021: Lilac 10k (Rochester, NY) — 41:19

January 16, 2022: Houston Marathon (Houston, TX) — 3:13:41

March 6, 2022: Chattanooga Marathon (Chattanooga, TN) — 3:28:23

March 18, 2022: Shamrock Half-Marathon (Virginia Beach, VA) — 1:31:37

April, 19, 2022: The 126th Boston Marathon (Boston, MA) — 3:12:40

June 4, 2022: Running of the Bulls 8K (Durham, NC) — 00:33:45

On virtual poster presentations

May 22, 2020 (& June 6, 2020)

As any true academic, I procrastinated something important until the last minute. Someday, This will refer to grants I write or bigger deadlines I must meet, but for this post, it regards a poster competition.

I entered a virtual poster competition that offers CASH prizes for first ($500) and second($250). This is uncharacteristic for a University- sponsored award; the unrestricted money grants me the freedom to spend money on anything I want… probably something very important like rent, food, utility bills, or 1-2 dozen slap-chops.

I implore you to Wach this TV advertisement for commercial excellence…

The stipulations for the award are as follows: 1) The student had a conference cancelled due to COVID19, 2) The poster can be submitted via PDF and 3) the student presents the poster in a .mp4 recording. It seemed easy enough. I figured that it would take a half-hour of my time – tops. Which was good – because I (thought that I) had two hours until it was due.

However – it took me about twice that length. It’s surprisingly nerve-wracking to record yourself giving an academic presentation. It took a few tries to get it right! Below is a blooper from the first of 7 total trials:

Peak derp-level achieved.

While it’s unfortunate that I didn’t get to travel to California to present my research this year at the Society of Toxicology annual meeting, it’s even more unfortunate that I haven’t yet mastered Zoom recordings…🤷🏻‍♀️

I hope you took note of the aforementioned qualifier phrase, “thought that I had.” I was wrong about the May 22 deadline (when I began this post); the presentation and associated files are actually due today! However, I’m glad I finished it then, because today, I was too busy for a last-minute submission scurry. This afternoon, I headed downtown for a few hours of protest, in support the BLM movement with my Rochester community. 🖤✊

Which ostensibly points out…maybe procrastination isn’t a good M.O. to have…

Anyway, I hope y’all enjoy this post & thank you for reading! Wish me luck with the ACTUAL submission! 🙂😂🤷🏻‍♀️

PhDistance kneads PhDough

May 16, 2020

As y’all may have noticed, I’ve been using the new PhDistance Insta account to post wayyy more about bread than running or getting my PhD… #sorrynotsorry. I can’t help myself!

To keep up with that theme, this post is also about BREAD! In part, I want to throw some punches at that persistent stigma that carbohydrates are “bad.” The Atkins diet is one of many obtuse trends we should have left back in the 90’s. Unfortunately, the restrictive line of thought continues to permeate our culture today, including among runner folk. Admittedly, I too was hesitant to eat bread, convinced that I would balloon up:

How horrifying! (and also unrealistic!)

Fortunately, my outlook has shifted since graduating college. Bread and I are now great friends and do a lot of fun stuff together- mostly baking:

Sourdough, white bread, and biscuit trials!

Bread has also helped keep me entertained during the mandatory stay-at-home orders in NY state due to the COVID19 pandemic. Especially sourdough and documenting my adventures with it:

Checking the dough after 12 hour fermentation
Flouring the table
Kneading the dough- this one is off center- sorry!
Making the ball to place in the Dutch oven
Rise for 3 hours, bake for 1 hour- voila !

This loaf went to my friend, Jacquie, as a “thank you” for being a nurse during the pandemic. NURSES ARE TOUGH AF! 🏥❤️

With all the baking- I’ve gotten the chance to perfect my sourdough recipe, although I have certainly had a lot of failures along the way! And that’s OK- because the process is always fun! 💫🕺🏻

Importantly, I also accept bread as the dietary cornerstone that my body needs for its daily energetic demands. Training for marathons taxes my legs, and being a Ph.D. student taxes my brain. To replenish my mind and body, I maintain a diet that warmly welcomes Bread.

I feel great on my runs, satiated throughout the day, and have seen and felt an innumerable amount of other positive outcomes.

I began this post because I was really excited to share my most recent bread-making adventure with the world (or at least my small band of lovely followers!). Now, I find myself ending it with a somewhat preachy discussion. But then again, why is that so bad? Aren’t there a bunch of old dudes in pastel-colored robes going on and on about “the daily bread?” I’ve had their bread, and was unimpressed.

As it turns out, lots of people are pretty crazy about bread. American distance runner, Shelby Houlihan is known for her killer kick as well as affection for French bread.

The appropriate reward after (out-kicking Jenny Simpson and) winning the 1500m at the USATF Championships🥖

Also- Buzz Aldrin dined on bread and wine on the moon landing. My Ukrainian lab manager confirmed that in Russian, you can literally greet someone by shouting “bread and salt!” Amazing.

Because I haven’t yet made this post obnoxiously long, here are some more random bread facts I found:

  1. Sliced bread was only invented in 1928 and was referred to as the best thing since bagged bread.
  2. Feeding bread to ducks actually causes many health problems for them. – PLEASE DON’T FEED THE DUCKS BREAD 🦆❤️🙅🏻‍♀️🍞
  3. Ben Hawkey, the actor in Game of Thrones who plays Hotpie, opened his own bakery and sells Direwolf shaped bread.
  4. 1% of American’s have celiac disease, and approximately 6% that have gluten sensitivities. My heart goes out to them❤️
  5. When the buttered bread is right side up and dropped from a table, there’s an ~80% it will fall butter side down. This is because an average slice of buttered bread falling will complete a full turn in approx. 8 feet.

All right, not that we’re sufficiently annoyed, I can end this post!

But for real- thanks for reading this post to the end – I appreciate everyone who follows this blog & I hope it brightens your day! 💜I also hope that all who love bread never stop! 🍞💕

“There is not a thing that is more positive than bread.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky

ATL Marathon

March 9, 2020

Exactly a week ago, I returned to Rochester after “America’s Marathon Weekend” in Atlanta. I met up with my friend Bri (plus her college teammates, Bree and Gronke) to spectate the Olympic trials marathon, then run the Publix Atlanta Marathon/Half-marathon the next day. The trials were impressive, inspiring, and an all around solid experience.

Since we had our own race the next day, we wanted to at least try to stay off of our feet while spectating the Trials race. For those less acquainted- to spectate a distance running race is to chase your athlete around the course on foot in order to see them a lot. We sought out a viewing spot that minimized time running/walking around the course (i.e. streets of ATL) but also maximized our view of the athletes. We settled on a corner where we cheered on the athletes on as they passed at miles 2,10, 18 one way and 5, 13, and 21 the other way.

The men’s race
The women’s race

Their course was challenging: while facing a net 1,000 feet of elevation gain (but a net downhill of 17 feet due to the proximity start and finish lines) athletes faced rolling hills as well as multiple loops. At the end of the day, the top three women were Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel, and Sally Kipyego – all underdogs. Aliphine wasn’t seeded in the top three and Molly had never run a marathon before this. In the last two years, Sally had a child, became a U.S. citizen, and dealt with a bout of malaria. Woof. These STRONG ladies will represent the United States at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. (Unfortunately, I worry whether this year’s Games will have a different atmosphere, given the COVID19 epidemic. The WHO has yet to call it a pandemic as of the first publication of this post).

Motivation wall at the Expo – try to find mine!
Hanging out on the sidelines during the Trials
My new favorite snack

Although we tried to stay off our feet on Saturday, we ended up covering over 12 miles. Moving so much was probably unavoidable, since we all flew in Friday night and had to get our racing bibs from the Expo on Saturday afternoon, ran a ~4 mile shakeout to scope out the starting line area, and went to the grocery store twice. Nevertheless, we tried; at one point we Lyfted 0.4 miles to avoid a sizeable uphill effort. Kind of embarrassing, but hey!

The pre-race dinner: We cooked our own meals at the Air B&B and just chilled the night before the race. I cooked Tim’s brussels sprouts recipe everyone, and was v proud that I didn’t burn them or anything. Bri made Linguini and alfredo sauce with chicken for herself, Bree, and Gronke, while I made my own special pasta and red sauce (#Veg).

The last supper
Beautiful Brussels

After dinner, we stretched and talked, and set up our racing outfits for the next day. I learned from Gronke I’m supposed to call my outfit setup “Flat Ashley.”

Race-day! Below I tried to outline the progression of the day; first, by time up to the start of the race, then by mile since I kind of lost track of time for the ~3 hour race.

5:30-7am: Woke up, Bri made everyone coffee (#angel), and I ate breakfast (granola, banana, and almond milk). I drank a lot of water too – which I ended up kind of regretting during the race. More on that later…

6:15am: We all jogged our warmup to the starting line, less than a mile away. Bree and Gronke were running the half, but the half and full marathon start together for this event.

6:45am: Bree started her half-marathon

7am: Gronke starts her half, Bri and I start our full marathons. Side note- Bri was actually supposed to start at 6:45am too (her PR is 3:14! #damn), but she decided to stay back to start with me (my previous PR was 3:18) ❤

7am-10:10am: Runnin’- finished at 3:10-28, which is an average min/mile pace of 7:16.

On the line

Recap of select/noteworthy miles:

Mile 1-4: This is so much fun! These hills aint no THANG.

Mile 5: Bri and I accept and share a solo cup of beer from spectators offering along the course. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Mile 5-10: cruisin’ with Bri and this girl Leanne we befriended.

Wheeee

Mile 11: lost Bri and Leanne, circle back and get Bri.

Mile 12: lose Bri again but keep going this time. I was clicking off consistent 7:18’s (minute/mile pace) and felt like I could keep that up.

Mile 14: Porta potty stop! Remember when I said I drank too much water? Yeah, I was about to pee myself at mile 14, so I stopped for exactly 35 secs #speedypee

Mile 15: Phwew. So relieved, still feeling good. Hills are kind of hard now.

Mile 16: Wow 10 more to go. Lots of hills. Woof. *Miley Cyrus “The Climb” echoes in my mind*

Mile 17-21: Caught up with runners from the first corral (these athletes had a faster entry time). I try hold the pace I’ve been going. I’m passing a lot of people, but it’s hard to keep my pace because the flow of runners is a lot slower at the back of the first corral group than at the lead of the second corral. I picked up a Clif- energy shot packet at mile 17, which I kept in my sock. I know what you’re thinking: “What does she mean, kept in her sock?!” Here is a photo of me mid race, which may help clear that up:

High fashion.

Mile 23: Start to feel like I could hit a wall, so I swallow more Clif energy shot that I’ve kept in my sock-glove. Pause to stretch my calf then keep going. The middle-aged guy I am running with at this point praises me for “adhering to the precautionary principle.” Thanks, dude.

Mile 24-26: I am very ready for this to be over.

Mile 26: SO. CLOSE.

Where is the finish??!

Mile 26.2: Heck yes- done!!

Huzzah!
Posing in Centennial Park with our metals

Mile 27: Wahlburger for a well-deserved (vegan patty) burger and margaritas with the girls!

Summary:

All in all, I felt great during this race. I felt like I was well hydrated, in shape, and so happy to just be out there racing. This is my first marathon back from injury, and I was grateful to just be able to run and be healthy. The course was fairly hilly, but they were rolling. Whenever there’s an uphill, there’s a downhill, eh?! It got pretty hard at mile 23, because there was a sizeable uphill effort and my legs were getting tired. Other than that, I felt strong on this course and ended up with a big PR from the race. I ran 3:10:28, which qualifies me for Boston 2021 and gives me an auto-qualification for NYC marathon in 2021 as well.

How did I prepare for this marathon? I kept it very simple. I ran, stretched, ate well and slept well. In a sense, this training cycle was a bit of an experiment in that I didn’t do workouts and didn’t lift or do anything I didn’t consider enjoyable. I maintained a fairly consistent long-run schedule with Jacquie, which made me look forward to each long run. I especially looked forward to the end of each long run because we go to Timmy Hoes for Ice Capps. My other running buddies in Rochester (s/o to Laura and Erin) helped me rise early to get runs in before work, or motivated me to get the run in after work. I like to think of my runs as just hanging out. TBH, I feel like I have better conversations while running. I’m committed to making running my stress relief as close to 100% fun as I can. I keep pretty busy, which is stressful, so I like to keep running relatively carefree.

Nevertheless, I do keep track of my miles I log. My “system” for keeping short-term track of my runs is to record weekly mileage on the whiteboard in my apartment. Serendipitously, I had been taking photos of each month for a scrapbook I’m planning. So, I actually had a way to retrospectively calculate my mileage, which is below:

Taper and qual exam noted with red arrows.

Long runs too:

Half marathon was Winter-Warrior (see other post). Peak long run was 22 miles. Race day was March 1st.

This training cycle was all about having fun, staying healthy, and listening to my body. One thing to glean from the graphs is the oscillatory profile over time. It reflects low-mileage weeks when I felt tired or was busy, while high-mileage weeks represent times I was able to run longer because I had less on my plate.

I’ve yet to pick a Fall/winter Marathon, but I feel good and want to shoot for one. @Followers, I am taking requests! 😊

Shout out to ATL track club for taking many of these photos!

“I run because it always takes me where I want to go.” – Dean Kamazes

PhDistance | WELCOME

Hi! My name is Ash, and I’m a marathon runner and toxicologist with a Ph.D. A toxicologist is someone who studies the potentially adverse health effects of chemicals.

I started this blog in graduate school to reflect on my experiences and have a space to practice my writing and science communication skills.

I attended the University of Rochester for their toxicology training program, which is housed within the Department of Environmental Medicine. I completed my thesis under the supervision of Dr. Matthew Rand. My thesis work used a fruit fly model to learn about methylmercury toxicity during muscle development. I learned so much and had an overall great experience, but I’m really happy to be done!

When I wasn’t in lab, I was literally running around Rochester. The weather was pretty wild there, given the city’s proximity to the Great Lakes. But, it was usually fun to be out there!

…and other times, it was not:


If it looks like I’m crying, it’s because I am.

During graduate school, I ran 5 marathons and 3 half marathons (see the Races tab). There were injuries, personal records, as well as other highs and lows along the way, and I’m grateful for it all.

I’m currently training for Boston, as you can see by the countdown to the left.

Running continues to keep me sane, provides a “reset” when I feel spun from work, and has led to wonderful friendships. It also gives me those infamous post-run endorphin spikes.

I will continue to recount my post-grad adventures on this blog as I chase after my athletic and career goals.

 Subscribe (email) and follow this blog to keep up as I run towards my goals and away from my problems!