Friday, December 31, 2010

Racing Schedule and Goals for 2011 Revealed!!

I'm very excited about running in 2011! And I'm excited about reviewing the past 6 months of running, analyzing what I did well and what I did poorly, so I can make HUGE improvements in the New Year!

I spent WAY too much time today reading through old running posts, but I'm glad I did because it reminded me of what I need to do to improve next year. This running year was full of ups and downs, but definitely more ups. I started blogging and recording my runs on Daily Mile in late May and I have derived so much motivation from keeping track of my runs and from reading other runners' blogs. Whenever I'm feeling tired, or lazy, or would rather get that extra hour of sleep in the morning, I go to Google Reader and read other blogger-runner's workouts and, without fail, that motivates me to get my work out in!

Major Sucesses in 2010:

--I've been more consistent in my running this year then ever before. It's the end of December (over 2 months after the Chicago Marathon, which usually marks the end of long run season) and I'm still doing 20 mile runs! Go me! Running is officially part of my "lifestyle", not just something I try to make myself do.

--I PR'd (big time) in both the 1/2 marathon and 5K distance.

--I've spent quality time running w/ friends and family. I like to think I've motivated a few folks to start or keep running.

--I started recording my pace on every single run- on the treadmill or with my Garmin outside.

I had no specific goals for 2010, besides a 4:15 at Chicago which turned out to be a big bust. (If you didn't happen to be a follower at the time I wrote my Chicago Marathon race report, it's worth taking a look. I re-read it today and am impressed I was able to finish giving how bad I was feelig- reading about my tricks and techniques to get 'er done are pretty funny.)

With no Further Ado......Goals for 2011

1. Sub 25 minute 5K (current PR 26:19 in very slick, snowy conditions)

2. Sub 2 hr half-marathon (current PR 2:00:19)

3. Sub 4:15 marathon (let's not talk about my current PR, I'm not very proud of it)

4. Complete marathons in at least 2 new states working towards my
50 marathons in 50 states goal.

5. Qualify for Marathon Maniacs (MM).

6. Weights (a challenging routine) 2 times a week.

7. Do 1 triathlon- can be short or long, big or small, just get that first one done!

Strategies for my next marathon training cycle (1/31/11-5/29/11)

--Include more medium and long length runs at or faster than marathon goal pace. I'm good at going fast for short distances, I'm good at going slow for long distances, it's the fast for long distances that still overwhelms me.

~on a related note, include more tune-up races, where I challenge myself to go long and


--Continue to work on mental toughness. Well executed marathon pace runs and tune-up races should help with this. Continue to embrace suffering and extend the amount of time I can maintain focus and stave away boredom on long runs. HTFU.

--As I learned during the Busse Woods 20 miler and the Chicago Marathon, I need to run with my Nathan water backpack. I am incapable of drinking from a cup on the run and I can't afford to lose all that time at water stops! (Nor can I afford to keep using water stops as an excuse to slow down or even- eek!- walk!)

--Have a clearly defined goal for each race (social or relaxed fun vs racing) including multiple 'A' races, so that all the pressure for my 4:15 is not on just one day.

--Carefully select PR attempt races- not too big, high liklihood of good weather, good spectator support.

--Train for a time more ambitious time than my true race goal so even if things don't go according to plan on race day, I will still have a shot at my PR/goal time.

Plan: I picked up the Furman FIRST book, "Run Less, Run Faster" that so many
people rave about and I think it's right up my alley. They advocate only 3 key runs a week- speedwork, tempo and long run w/ two additional days of cross training (perfect for preparing for my first tri). Any other running is optional and should be at an easy pace. Run less but work harder during each run to produce faster race times. The Furman book also provides full marathon training schedules w/ the goal times for each work-out for someone attempting a BQ (Boston Qualifyer). I'm not ready for that, but I think I may be about 2 years out. My current predicted marathon pace finishing time is 4:15. My BQ (until they make the women's standards more difficult, which I think they might this year) qualifying time is 3:40. I'm going to "split the difference" in a sense and train 40 s per mile slower than the BQ qualifying paces in the Furman book. This should set me up for a BQ attempt in 2012. I can't believe I'm even writing that, but what's the point in having little goals? Big goals are so much more inspiring!

I'm old school and have my training plan written out on paper so I can't include it here, but I'm basically following the Furman plan with the adjustments mentioned above.

Next up....the race schedule:

1st up: Maui Oceanfront Marathon on January 23rd!

I'm super excited about this race! Getting quality long runs in before a January race has been TOUGH, but I'll keep trying! The goal for this race is fun. I haven't truly enjoyed a marathon in a while and I want to. Hopefully, I'll be well enough trained to enjoy myself. I'm going to have to work hard to not try to push myself for a PR as I am wont to do. Hopefully, I'll just enjoy the beautiful scenery, see some whales breeching, take some great pics for this blog and cross the finish line smiling even if the time is a PW (personal worst)!

It makes sense to next mention my goal marathon for the Spring: The Rockford Marathon on May 15th. This is my sub-4:15 marathon. The rest of my racing schedule is a lead up to this race. The Rockford 1/2 is where I had my PR 1/2 marathon (2:00:19), so it seems like a great place to have a PR marathon as well! I should have good family support (many members of my family live there), a place to stay and eat well the night before and a good chance for perfect racing conditions. So, what races will I use to prepare for this goal race??

Glad you asked!

I plan to use the Illinois Marathon in Champaign-Urbana as a "tune-up, check-in" long run on April 30th. I wish there was an earlier race I could do but- go figure- there aren't a whole lot of marathons in the Mid-West in the spring! So the Illinois Marathon will have to be my dress rehearsal.

I'd love to find a half marathon in February/March in the Chicagoland area but this might be tough. I don't have my work schedule yet for March and the only weekend day I have off in Februrary is the 26th. If anyone knows of a good 1/2 marathon in driving distance to Chicago in late winter/early spring, let me know!

In an attempt to not put all my eggs in one basket, I'm planning to run the Madison Marathon, exactly 2 weeks after my PR attempt in the Rockford Marathon. I felt soo let down after doing poorly at the Chicago Marathon this year and then missing my chance for redemption in Newport because of a viscious cold. I think it was a good idea to have a back-up race though. So, if Rockford isn't the perfect race day, I'll try again in Madison on May 29th, and if I fail there, I guess I'll have to shoot for a Fall race. But I know I can get a sub 4:15 in the next few months. I'm not going to fail!!

Starting in July, I'll be a first year Heme/Onc fellow so I'll go from no free time (now) to literally-every-moment-I'm-not-at-work-I'll-be-sleeping. At least for the first few months. So, I'm not sure if I'll be able to squeeze in any Fall marathons. But I imagine I'll try to fit in the Chicago Marathon on October 8th, 2011. The starting line is literally 3 blocks from my house, how can I not run it? We'll see. Volunteering at the race might be equally fun (or, probably more fun, ha!).

I'd like to try to get another state in this year in my quest for 50 marathons in 50 states (I'll get Hawaii and Wisconsin as is) but that may not be possible. We'll see how my fellowship schedule plays out.

Writing this makes me so excited to get out there and run. Less writing, more running. I'd better hop to it!

C U in 2011!!

A Year in Photos

I loved the idea I saw on a few other blogs recently- the year in review in pictures. One picture for each month. Here are some of my favorite moments of 2010:

January 2010: My Birthday at Moto! Moto is a great Chicago restaurant that specializes in molecular gastronomy and deconstructed food. My dinner at Moto remains my favorite dining experience of all time so really deserves a blog post all its own which I am working on, I promise! So, so good. For now, though, here is a picture of me in front of a cigar. What? Just kidding. It's a super tasty Cuban sandwich disguised as a Cuban cigar! This is just one example of the 10 unique, delicious courses we enjoyed at Moto.

February 2010: New Zealand!!! Trip of a lifetime. I'm so glad Adam was willing to splurge a bit and spent 2 weeks in NZ with me! We had such an amazing time and I wish I had been into blogging back then, because then I would have great posts to look back on. I think I'll do some retrospective posts on this trip in the upcoming year because it really was so great- I want to share some of our finds- sights, restaurants, hotels, etc- so others can follow in our footsteps. For now, just 4 quick memories:

Adam and I hiking on the Queen Charlotte Track.

Taking a quick break before arriving at our hotel - the Furneaux Lodge on the Queen Charlotte Track (hiking trail).

Kayak trip in the Queen Charlotte Sound

Kayak trip at Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park.

(If you are interested in seeing more of our NZ pictures, click here:

March 2010: I looked in iPhoto, I looked on my Google Calendar, and I still can't find an outstanding event in March. Late winter in Chicago is the pits. Cold yet no more snow, dreary, rainy, full of ick. I had to cheat a bit for my best experience for this month. So I choose my consistency in working out during this month. In March, I was going to my personal trainer weekly, and working out at the gym multiple times a week on my own and with my training partner, Sara. Below is a pic of her and I at the Mad City Mini-Marathon (which was not in March), but our training in March helped us get in 1/2 marathon shape....

April 2010: Again, apparently not a great month. Adam and I ran the Lakefront 10 Miler which was good for both of us. Adam beat me which made me super motivated at the Rockford 1/2 the subsequent month.

May 2010: Rockford Half-Marathon PR!! A perfect race and a perfect day:) I pushed myself for the entire 2 hours and 19 seconds of that race. I'm looking forward to a sub-2:00 half-marathon in 2011:) After the race we grabbed some beers in the outdoor garden at Der Rathskeller. What a great way to celebrate our victories:)

June 2010: Camping trip in Michigan!! Adam and I went camping in multiple national and state parks on the Michigan coast of Lake Michigan., including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and North Manitou Island. We had a lot of fun on the trip itself, but I'm even more excited about what the trip represented. Despite living in Chicago, I'm a nature person at heart. I love the outdoors, I love animals, and am happiest by far when I'm exerting myself (hiking, running, kayaking, cross country skiing etc) in nature with animals near by! Adam is more of an urban guy- his influence has made me a foodie and a more educated wine drinker. I like to think my influence has made him enjoy nature and an active lifestyle. This camping trip (and the purchase of a bunch of super fancy camping gear!) indicates that camping trips to Alaska, Yellowstone, and who knows where else, will be in our future! The best way to see animals in their natural habitats is to get into the backwoods and now we can:)

See our food and toiletries hanging from the trees? That's so the big, bad, Michigan bears can't get them:)

July 2010: Summer of Pritzker Pavilion. We did a great job this year of attending the free concerts- rock and classical- in the Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park. Any day we were home in time, we'd pack up our new wine backpack and portable chairs (w/ footrests, of course) and walk the block down the street to the shows. Some of my favorites were Planet Earth and Caribou, but they were all great! Most of the time it was just Adam and I, but other nights I convinced friends to join us.

Laura, me and Sara. We are some pale, pale ladies!

August 2010: 7th Wedding Anniversary at L20. Amazing food, amazing company. Later in the year, L20 won three Michelin stars, one of the highest international honors a restaurant can attain. Click here for my full review of the restaurant.

September 2010: September was a good month overall, but there is one day that stands out in my mind as the perfect last day of summer. I started the morning with a long run (22 miles!) with my friend, Sara. She didn't have to go a full 22 miles (i.e. she's sane) so the last few miles were on my own. At mile 15 or so, Wendy (below) called asking if I'd like to spend the day with her and her husband, Bart, on a boat in the middle of Lake Geneva. HELL YA, I would! I ran back to my place as fast as I could (which wasn't very fast given it was the tail end of a long run!), and hopped in Elly to drive up there. The weather was beautiful, perfect convertible weather! I had so much fun catching up with Wendy and Bart in such a perfect environment. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect last day of summer!

October 2010: I am so happy that Adam and I travel so well together. Running and vacations are pretty much the 2 best parts of my life! In October, we went to Boston (details here and here) and Maine, specifically Acadia National Park. Lots of hiking, biking, eating, drinking and relaxing. A great trip!

Relaxing at the Bass Cottage Inn

View of Frenchman's Bay in Acadia National Park. The leaves were spectacular!

November 2010: Thanksgiving in North Carolina! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and this year was extra wonderful. Had such a great time cooking, eating, drinking, and running with my family. And, of course, the 1st Annual Bison Family Turkey Trot was a highlight!

December 2010: Santa's Hustle 5K PR! And 3rd place in my age group! It was a perfect winter day- in the low 30s, snowing, 1500 Santas on the move:) I was uncomfortable every single second of that race- isn't that the point of 5K's after all? Looking forward to working for a sub-25 5K in 2011.

And for 2011?

Trying (and failing) to find something note-worthy in March and April encouraged me to create a New Year's Resolution:

Do something blog-worthy every single month. Yes, many of the things I write about are not "blog-worthy", and that's fine, but I'd like to have a stand-out event that I'm sure to remember every single month. Sounds do-able, right?

(Running goals to follow on a seperate post.....)

Happy New Year's!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas....Away, Day 2

On Christmas Day, Adam and I headed to his folks' house for Xmas Dinner #2. This time, we were in charge of cooking. Adam loves cooking, and I don't mind helping so we thought us taking over the bulk of the food would result in a low stress day for his parents. And I think it worked. (Probably because we were busy cooking) we don't have any pictures from the day, but I can share some of the food that we made!

Course 1: Adam's sister, Nora, made cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches that were super tasty.

Course 2: Adam's family made spinach salad with my mom's spinach salad recipe which was so thoughtful of them! Of course, I loved it.

Course 3: Main course: Adam made 2 different stuffed pork tenderloins- one stuffed w/ maple syrup breakfast sausage and one stuffed w/ more spicy chorizo type sausage. He butterflies the meat himself and stuffs it. Very impressive. I had little role in this part of the meal- I guess I made the glaze, which was orange marmalade, lemon zest, and garlic, but the recipe was his.

Course 3a: We had three delicious, veggie based, and mostly healthy side dishes. I

think my favorite is the Celery Root Puree. I'd never heard of the root of the celery being eaten until Adam made this a few weeks back. Well, after a lot of chopping, cooking, and blending, you end up with a delicious, very healthy version of mashed potatoes. All the flavor and texture but with a healthier, fresher tasting ingredient. I love it!

Course 3b: Winter Root Vegetables. Also a really good one. This is a combo of carrots, sweet potatos, and parsnips mixed w/ raisens and I think a touch of brown sugar. What a great way to eat some super colorful, anti-oxidant laden veggies! We had this at Thanksgiving at my brother's house, too--> I just can't get enough of it!

Course 3c: Wild Mushroom Ragout. This is the dish I spent the most time on. Apparently, you are not supposed to wash mushrooms because they don't cook properly, ruining the texture of the finished product. So I spend a good 40 minutes brushing the dirt off over 2 lbs of mushrooms- crimini, skitake, portabella, and some other kinds whose names I forgot- I brushed away dirt FOREVER! I told Adam I want a speical de-dirting mushroom brush (yes, there is such a thing) for next time.

Course 4: Dessert. Adam's mom had a huge spread as usual. There was red velvet cake, cookies and this pear based dessert (Adam's sister's recipe). All very tasty and I worked hard not to overeat!

Hope your Christmas dinners were as delicious as mine!

(Note to self: Bottle of wine to remember for the future: Ridge Geyserville- super tasty!)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


The Family: Brother Garrett, Sister-in-law Jill, Niece Gwyn, Dad, Mom, Husband Adam and Me!

Our Chrismas Eve celebration with my family was short but sweet. We left our place around 2:30 pm. The drive out there was great (well besides the ever present Chicago traffic). It was snowing like crazy! Very pretty. And we stopped to get me a Pumpkin Spice Latte (non-fat, no whip, of course) since I was still tired from working all day and all night on Thursday. Thankfully, my energy level stayed high for most of the evening, though around 9:30 pm I crashed hard and had to go to sleep ASAP. So, an improvement over Thanksgiving a few years ago when I fell asleep on the couch immediately after dinner and had to have Adam drive me home even before dessert:( But I would like a Christmas where I'm not at all tired. Is that too much to ask???

Before Dinner Activities

Grandma Nelson & Adam

Of course, before dinner activities involved a healthy amount of drinking for the over 21 set. Here's my Grandma enjoying her Goose Island 312. We learned from her that back in the day, it was unlady-like to drink from bottles so she always, always pours her beer into glasses! Well, no one has ever accused me of being lady-like so I think it's fine if I continue drinking my beers from the bottle- especially during Bears games! It only seems right to drink straight from the bottle while watching sporting events...I don't know why.

Other activities included "Guess Who" (my niece, Gwyn and my cousin, Aly):

...and "Operation". Everyone seemed relieved when I won- I guess my abilities as a doctor were going to be called into question if I lost! As my sister-in-law noted, there is no rule in the Nelson household about letting the younger kids win, so I didn't! You have to fight to the top as my cousin Anna-Lisa will attest. She was the youngest cousin for a good 15 years and we never let her win at Hearts or Spades and now she's a card shark! Tough love.

Turduckhen for Dinner!

Mom and Gwyn

For many years, my Mom has hosted Christmas Eve dinner and each year there is a theme. Previous themes included Italian, English, Southern, Mexican, German, and Western African (combo of Senegalese and Ghanaian). This year was Creole, with the main course being Turducken! Turducken is basically what it sounds like- a de-boned chickEN, stuffed into a de-boned DUCK, stuffed into a de-boned TURkey. Here's a picture of my Mom basting the turducken. If you look closely at these pictures you can see the multiple layers of meat. It was very delicious and a whole lot of fun, however we didn't get anywhere close to eating the apparently 44 servings of meat! My sister-in-law, Jill, helped with side dishes and made black eyed peas (w/ tomatos and spices) and corn bread stuffing. My Grandma made this wonderful raspberry jello and ice cream deliciousness, and my Mom made this great egg nog pie. Everything was really delicious-and I hope I didn't leave anything out!

After dinner we briefly did gifts- basically just for my 9 yr niece, Gwyn- and then took a bunch of pictures. Here are some of them:

Gwyn and Mom:

Gwyn and Dad. I think this picture is so great! Nice job, Adam!

Me and Grandpa Monson

Mom and my cousin Anna-lisa. After this photo was taken, Adam looked at the image on the camera and said "oh, we need another one". A-L and my Mom started guessing who it was that 'ruined the picture'. Turns out they both looked great- there's just a wierd floating light on my Mom's shirt. Where did that come from?

Gwyn and my Dad

Anna-lisa and my Dad


Monday, December 27, 2010

Who Ran 20 Miles on the Treadmill??

THIS GIRL, THAT'S WHO!!! From 5:15 until nearly 7:45, I was on that treadmill. Wow.

Prior to this, my longest treadmill run was ~15. 20 is a LOT longer than 15 on a treadmill. A LOT longer. There were a lot of challenges both before and during this run that I could have easily used as excuses to not finish. But, boy, I did not want this run hanging over my head any longer so I got 'er done!

The challenges:
  • Ummm...running 20 miles. Period. Duh.
  • I had heartburn all day, I never get heartburn, so that was wierd.
  • When I got home from work I was STARVING, so I ate way too much (~500 cal) which then sat in my stomach like a ton of bricks for the first 9 miles.
  • I had all kinds of niggles, esp in my knees. This is unusual for me so made me nervous for the first few miles.
  • For the first time ever in my life, I had chafing problems:( My left arm especially. It was like a shock of pain w/ every arm movement from mile 6 on, so I spent a lot of time running w/ chicken arms. I'm sure I looked real cute.
  • Those are plenty of challenges, I think.

But, I did it! Hurrah! I ended up eating a total of 8 gu chomps, starting at mile 9, then every couple miles or so. I took a 1 minute break to refill water and record my times/mileage after each 60 minutes (the treadmill stops automatically so I have to pause), but counted that time into my total time so it's reflected in my pace.

I felt totally fine from a legs and breathing perspective until about mile 15. Then it really started to hurt. My painful left arm became the least of my worries as I had all the pains I usually get late in a marathon- legs, feet, back- you marathoners know what I'm talking about. I don't remember a run hurting this bad in a while. The 18 miler I did 4 weeks ago was pain free! I started to get short of breath around 18 but I think this was more because I was in pain, trying to blow off the lactic acid in my legs (as CO2), than because I was cardiovascularly tired. I'm glad I did this run because it made me realize that if I want Maui to be fun in a few weeks, I better get in some more long runs so the race itself feels easier!

So, now I'm groaning my way around the apartment heating up the Christmas leftovers that my husband was kind enough to plate for me. I don't think I would have ate (due to inability to get off the couch) if he hadn't done that so thank you Adam!

So how did the run go by the numbers? Not too bad:

Total mileage: 20.02 (and yes, I am counting that 0.02 dammit!)
Total time: 201 mins and 39 seconds (~3 hrs, 22 mins)
Pace: 10:04 min/miles

1st hour: 9:31 pace, 9:41 counting the pause
2nd hour: 9:38 pace, 9:48 counting the pause
3rd hour: 10:25 pace, counting the pause
last 21 min, 39 sec: 12:44 OUCH! (no pause, but obviously took a walk break!)

You can see that things would have certainly gone downhill from there. So I think the lesson is that 9:40 is a reasonable pace, but I need to work on leg/muscle endurance, because that's what slowed me down later on.

But you know what? I won the mental game that is running on a treadmill. I won it multiple times as I wanted desperately to stop almost every 5 minutes for the last 1.5 hours. I feel good about that because I think it's easier to talk yourself into continuing in a race situation than on a treadmill in your basement where no one is paying any attention to you, in fact probably would rather you get off the best treadmill in the gym so they can use it! (Don't worry- there were other open 'mills, I'm no treadmill hog.)

Time to relax.

So What Are Gu Chomps, Anyway?

Multiple times on this blog I've referenced Gu chomps but haven't explained what these wonderful caloric tasty bites are. So, now I will!

Fuel is important for all athletes. Your body is a temple (or an engine) and all that. But endurance athletes have an additional challenge of needing to fuel during our exercise. For some people, eating while running can be a huge challenge w/ nausea, cramping, diarrhea--> all collectively referred to as "runner's gut". The medical reason is that during running (or any physical exertion) the body shunts blood to the most important areas of the body like the heart, lungs and muscles, leaving the gut w/o its usually blood supply. This is normal and adaptive, but for some people it can be a problem. I actually love the 'gut shut-down' because I would hate to have to stop to go to the bathroom during a race (how gross and inconvenient!) and I generally don't get sick running no matter what I do or don't eat.

There are all kinds of recommendations about when to eat while running, what to eat etc. In general, people agree that for work-outs less than 60 minutes all you need is fluid. Once you exercise for >90 minutes you probably should start ingesting some calories for maximum performance.

Of course, this has prompted an entire industry of sports drinks and foods some designed for pre-workout, others for while working out, others for recovery. There is all kind of talk about when you should intake all carbs (while exercising) vs a combo of carbs/protein (recovery). There are probably world experts in "caloric ingestion peri-exercise".

There are many ways to get calories while running. Most people use sports drinks such as Gatorade (G2 is my favorite, 1/2 the calories and less sweet). Others use gels such as Hammer Gel or Gu (the picture at the top of this entry). Gu gel is basically sugar in a thick gel-like formation. There are even Jelly Belly "sports beans". I used to use the gels before the far superior Gu Chomps were invented.

Gu Chomps (and the almost as good Clif Shot Bloks) taste and feel like super-dense fruit snacks. Plenty tasty and easy to consume on the move because you just pop them in your mouth and chew at your own pace. Depending on the brand either 3 or 4 of them = 100 calories. In general, I usually eat nothing on 10 mile or less runs, 100-200 calories on 15 mile runs and probably around 500 calories b/t sports drinks, goo chomps and bananas/other on course food option during marathons.

I, however, am guilty of one of the cardinal sins of intra-race calorie consumption- I usually wait until I'm hungry to eat. It seems (based on the blogs I follow) that most people eat their calories at relatively pre-determined intervals (every mile, every 4 miles,etc) rather than waiting until they are hungry. Lately, I've started wondering if I should start doing that on 10+mile runs. I do get pretty tired and hungry in the later part of long runs-- maybe I'd be less so if I consumed more calories earlier in my run? I'll have plenty of opportunities to find out as I train for the multiple spring marathons I hope to complete and compete in.

My mid-run bonk a couple weeks ago really convinced me to start carrying calories and water on me for any run that may exceed 5 miles. You just never know when you are going to become desperately hungry or thirsty!