Monday, November 29, 2010

1st Annual Bison Family Turkey Trot!

Got back Saturday from a WONDERFUL 3 days with my family in North Carolina. My Marine fighter pilot brother lives there with with wife, Jill and daughter, Gwyn. The entire weekend was just amazing! I'll post a separate post with pictures and highlights from the weekend. I thought the Turkey Trot deserved a post all its own:)

My family is, in general, in shape and athletic, some more so than others. My brother was the state champion in pole vaulting years ago, my Dad was a competitive triathlete and still is a competitive skier. My mom golfs and is an excellent tennis player. Adam used to be a very good soccer player, years ago. And I...well, I have zero athletic prowess but am working on getting better at running!

That said, however, other than golf and the occasional paddle down the river, we infrequently have the chance to be active together. So when my sister-in-law mentioned she was talking about a Turkey Trot I was SO EXCITED because I had already had secret plans to convince everyone to do a family Turkey Trot as (what else) the bison family!

Some of you may have worried, wondering if we had enough bison gear for all of us to dress up properly. No need to worry- we had plenty. Here are various family members showing off their costumes:

Gunner Girl

Yours truly.

Garrett, Jill, Gwyn

I'm happy to report that all 7 of us completed the turkey trot and I think at least 5 of us enjoyed it:) We ended up covering 2.6 miles. I think next year we'll try for an organized race- I know we will all be ready for the full 3.1 next year!

Here are some more pictures of the herd on the move:

Only 362 days until the 2nd Annual Bison Family Turkey Trot! Get ready!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Week Work-out Wrap-up

Yummy! Me with my Mom, Brother Garrett and Niece Gunner!

Thanksgiving week was good to me. While I ate a lot (and drank a lot), I was much more "in control" than in previous years and don't feel guilty about the whole thing at all. Did I keep track of my calories while out of town? No. But no biggie. I ate because I was hungry and don't feel like I overate. So while I didn't watch myself like a hawk, I also didn't have seconds and only had dessert once. And I worked out 4 times. It's all good.

Miles run (completed/planned): 36/47
Long run: 1/1
Speed work sessions: 2/3 Speed work completed at goal time: 2/2
Biking miles: 10/15
Weights: 1/2

Good things:
--AWESOME 18 miler today. I felt strong. Running felt easy. This is the latest into "post Fall marathon season" that I have kept up with long runs. Guess I have no choice but to keep at it with the Maui Oceanfront Marathon coming up in January!

Areas for Improvement:
--I just can't seem to get in my weight work-outs. They are boring. But I will keep plugging away on it this week!
--Eating was better. I felt more in control. But I need to really shoot for my 1200 calorie days this week.

Next week's schedule:
Monday: weights, 3 mile recovery run
Tuesday: 10 mile tempo
Wednesday: 4 miles w/ 8 hill repeats, weights
Thursday: 5 miles w/ 5K @ 10K pace, weights
Friday: weights, 10 mile bike
Saturday: Santa's Hustle 5K, goal pace tbd
Sunday: relaxed 20 miler

Ok, people. I was DREADING my run today in 22 degree weather but it was a-okay after about 3 minutes. Don't let the cold scare you! I'll keep you posted when I find my "too cold to run outside" threshold! GET OUT THERE AND RUN!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Get a Hold of Yourself, Val!

I started this post by looking back on my google calendar, trying to remember the last time I was consistently eating nutritionally and sparingly.'s been a while. I was doing pretty well for a few weeks before our New England vacation. I wasn't doing great, but since I was working out so much I was getting in better shape. Then vacation was a blur of butter and seafood. Oh, and wine.

Now, I'm just flat out out of control. Eating what I want, when I want with absolutely no regards to health, nutrition or amount. For weeks I've been saying in my head " This stops now." Well, guess what? It hasn't stopped. Tonight, I had dessert twice. Twice! What the heck is going on!! And, I spilled hot chocolate on my hand while making dessert #2! Really, Val? You want dessert (#2!) so badly you burn yourself for it?

By announcing "This stops now" on here, I think I'll listen to myself. I'll hold myself accountable. Maybe not even for myself, but for all the other folks out there who need motivation to get back in shape themselves. And I'll feel like a fool going for '2nd breakfast' if my co-workers are around!

So, what's my game plan?

First, I need to admit that from a baseline of "old lady" schedule, my schedule has become even more geriatric. I'm totally okay with this. My atypical schedule, however, requires me to have an atypical eating schedule. I need to focus on my body's needs instead of society's generally accepted eating times. For me, this means eating breakfast at 4:30 or 5 am before my morning workout. Then, I'll eat again when I'm hungry-either mid-morning or lunch- but I won't eat the food at work (see below). Instead, I'll eat my healthy choices that I bring to work. Then I can have a snack in the afternoon if I'm stuck late at work or a super early dinner somewhere b/t 3-5 pm before my evening work-out. Then bed at 8 or 8:30. Yes, I know how crazy this sounds. But I think it will work for me. That's all that really matters.

Things I need to keep in mind:

--Fruits, veggies, and protein. These should be my eating priorities. If these are available (and I should always keep some in my purse!), this is what I should eat.
--No eating the food provided by work. The food isn't bad. It's actually decent. But the temptation to eat too much or just have the unhealthy options instead of the salad is just too great. My exception will be pizza day because I LOVE PIZZA! (Even bad Pompeii pizza is oh-so-good!)
--Minimize drinks w/ calories. This means lattes and wine. Don't eliminate (that's crazy talk!), but minimize.
--1200 calories is the goal. If I go over, it's okay as long as I work off the excess. Calories in minus calories burned off should = a negative number or zero. In reality, I'm fine with this averaging out over the week- some days I'll eat more than I burn, others I'll eat less.
--No dessert. I don't even really like dessert. This should be a no-brainer.
--Keep in mind the words of a wise colleague of mine- "It's okay to go to bed hungry". It really is. Our brains are bigger than our stomachs. We feel hungry even when we are not. And since I always have breakfast before my morning work-out, I don't need to worry about running out of calories during the AM workout. (Exception= pre-long run or pre-race nights. Then, I need the fuel.)

I considered whether to post this. Despite the fact that I only have 14 "official" followers of this blog there are actually a significant number of work friends who read this from time to time and this definitely borders on (okay, probably definitely is) TMI (too much info, for the over 50 set). But you know what? I decided to post for 2 reasons:

1. I am in a line of work where we constantly preach (or at least should be preaching) "lifestyle changes" to our patients. Thus, it's a good idea to consider the challenges ALL of us (and ESPECIALLY our patients) face when it comes to eating properly. It's important to acknowledge that for some, it can be hard, and for most, it must be intentional.

2. When people hear that I am on a "diet" (I prefer "trying to eat healthfully and sparingly"), they say "Why? You're so thin!" Well, let me tell you that with a few genetically freakish exceptions (yes, I'm jealous), most of us suffer from metabolism slowing at some point in life. For me it started around age 27. For others, it may not be until age 50. But for most, it will happen. The only reason I'm still thin is because I work out. At this point, I am thin because I choose to be thin. I work at it. Most thin people do. So can you, our friends and family, and our patients. And for the record, yes, I'm well aware that I'm in 'decent' shape. But I'm not in the shape I want to be in- I need more lean body mass and less fat. I'm NOT trying to lose weight- just fat. That's as important to me as "dropping that extra 10 lbs is for other people". So don't judge!

Okay, that's enough and probably way more than you wanted to know! But I feel more in control already. Time to pack for T-giving, get to bed early and get up early for my 10 mile run before clinic.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Maybe I'll see you at the airport;)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yasso's 800s

For non-runners or beginning runners, a word of explanation. Yasso 800s are a specific work-out popularized by Bart Yasso. It's not only a great speed workout, but is also thought to be a good predictor for marathon finishing time. Specifically, it is thought that if a runner can complete ten 800 m (1/2 mile) intervals in the same minutes and seconds it will take them to complete the marathon in hours and minutes, they are on target for their race day goal time.

Say what? I know that last sentence was confusing. Let me give you an example. My goal marathon time is 4:15 (4 hrs, 15 minutes). So my goal for my Yasso 800s would be to complete 800m in 4 minutes and 15 seconds (ie 8:30 min/mile pace). Pretty cool, huh? (Obviously, this is in the context of a robust marathon training plan w/ appropriate long runs, etc.) I've seen various "recovery times/distances" b/t intervals. On the mill I do ~2-3 minutes recovery, but may change this to a 400 meter recovery (which is just about the same timing since my recovery pace will be 10:00min/mile).

I'm trying to incorporate a lot of what I'm learning in Matt Fitzgerald's book '"Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel" and one of the things he emphasizes is repetition of key work-outs so that you can monitor your improvement. I'm going to use Yasso 800s as one of these key work-outs and plan to do them once every 2 weeks.

So, how did it go today? Here's what I did:

1 mile w/u (9:23)

800 x 4 at 8:20 pace (which would be predictive of a 4:10 marathon finishing time)

That seemed too easy so next I did:

800 x 1 at 8:13 pace

Still too easy so I ran:

One whole mile at 8:13! Yippee!


last 800 at 8:07 pace

1 mile c/d at 9:23

Some random thoughts:

--It's gratifying to see how much I've improved. I ran an 8:13 mile barely out of breath! I remember a few years back I ran 1 mile all out to see what would happen and I was so out of breath, I couldn't possibly have run any longer or faster than I did and I produced an 8:15 mile. Today I did 8:13 comfortably! Improvement!

--I hate to say it, but I need to start jogging instead of speed walking for my recovery time b/t intervals. I now have running speeds at which I'm not all all short of breath. Bummer, because walking always seems easier than running!

--I need to keep the treadmill at 0.5 incline, otherwise it's going to be a rude awakening when I go back to doing speed work outside next spring!

--I'm thinking ahead to my next marathon training plan (to start in 2/11), wondering whose plan to use. I'm going to look into the FIRST plan I hear so much about. I'd like to seriously consider the Galloway run/walk method because I really do benefit mentally from walk breaks but I just don't know. I think it's a great idea for those it works for but I think I might feel like less of a runner. I don't think people who run/walk are lesser runners AT ALL but I might judge myself differently. I run marathons, saying I run/walk marathons doesn't have the same ring to it.

Okay, I must be off to bed. Another 4:30 am wake-up call tomorrow to get a work-out in before work....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

1st Annual Bison Family Turkey Trot

Only 5 days until




So instead of running as a


I will be running in a


with the



Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Well, I didn't do so hot this week:

Miles run (completed/planned): 24/38
Long run: 1/1
Speed work sessions: 2/3 Speed work completed at goal time: 2/2
Biking sessions: 1/3
Weights: 2/3

In terms of calories, the wheels feel off the bus. I didn't even keep track every day. Need to re-dedicate myself to this diet business.

I'm not in the mood to give commentary on the whole thing, so let's just look ahead to next week.

Still hoping to get in 10 miles running
18 miles, relaxed
3 miles easy (if not sore), 5 miles bike, 30 min weights
Yasso 800s (7.2), 10 miles bike, 30 min weights
10 miles w/ 5 @ 15 K pace
1st Annual Bison Family Turkey Trot 5K!!
10 miles tempo (st 1:20 slower than MP, q 2 miles inc speed by 20 s/mile)
rest day

Friday, November 19, 2010

Michelin Stars Revealed!

(Warning: this is a long one. It is geared towards people who live or eat in Chicago. If that's not you, you may not be
interested. However, if you are a Chicagoan looking for a special occasion eatery, read on.)

The results are in. Earlier last week, Michelin revealed the 23 Chicago restaurants they feel deserve the highest international culinary honor: Michelin stars:

One star "A ve
ry good restaurant in its category" restaurants are:

Crofton on Wells
graham elliot
Longhorn & Eagle


Two stars "Excellent cooking and worth a detour" restaurants:

Charlie T

Three stars "Exceptional cuisine and worth the journey" restaurants:


See the list w/ links to the reservations pages on opentable here.

I noted in my Bib Gourmand post that I had been to 9 out of 46 (20%) of those places. Well, I'm happy to report that I have been to 5 out of 23 (22%) of the 'starred' restaurants. I owe this to wonderful, "sugar daddy" husband who not only has excellent taste but is generous enough to take me to these places for birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions. Believe me, he's paying- my salary as a resident is teeny-tiny!

So here are my thoughts on the places I've been:


For our 5th wedding anniversary in 2008, my husband planned not just 1 dinner, but a 3 dinner extravaganza. The first night we went to Pops for Champagne. Then we went to Blackbird. Blackbird is one of Paul Kahan's restaurants (The Publican, Avec), and certainly the best. The ambiance is very modern but still comfortable, which is a perfect combination. The wait staff was absolutely excellent, even providing me with a scarf/shawl that matched my outfit to ensure I wouldn't get cold in the a/c. Love it! Our dinner there was a few years ago, so I honestly can't remember the specifics, but I do remember getting multiple free dishes (because of Adam's job at Goose- I love it when chefs acknowledge their colleagues!) and EVERYTHING was prepared and presented tastily and artfully. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

For our 4th wedding anniversary (2007) we went to NoMI at the Park Hyatt on Michigan Ave. We were lucky enough to get one of the 5 coveted window seats that overlook the water tower, Michigan Ave, and the lake. I love when restaurants take extra special care to celebrate your special occasion and NoMI definitely did that. From the hostess to every single member of the wait staff (some weren't even our servers!), they all said 'Happy Anniversary'. I'm also a sucker for personalized menus so was super excited when one page of my menu said "Happy 4th Anniversary":

And I found it hilarious that the other page said:

We looked around for Katrina, but couldn't find her:) Again, this was a while back, so I don't remember the food, but I remember it was tasty, I enjoyed the experience and I would recommend it to others. To the right, you can see me with my post-dinner glow, holding up the menu:) (Side note: I just realized- I wonder if NoMI stands for "North Michigan"?)

Sepia was the last stop on our 3 dinner 5th wedding anniversary extravaganza. I've actually been here twice- once for brunch and once for dinner. Sepia has a particularly cool ambiance. The space is an old 1890's print shop and contains a lot of old-time Chicago memorabilia. To me, it feels like the 1920s- "Al Capony" if you will. At that same time, however, it doesn't feel old. It's actually really stylish and modern at the same time. The best way for you to experience this interesting combo is to go to visit there yourself, but you can also get a feel on the website, particularly the music. It starts with "God Bless the Child" but then moves into a more modern groove, them combines the two. Very well done website. The food was great too. An overall fun dining experience. I'd recommend dinner over brunch. Oh yeah- and Sepia was named one of the US's best new restaurants in 2008.


I had the chance to go to Charlie Trotter's under unique circumstances. At the time I was working at a youth/young adult homeless shelter called Teen Living Programs. Charlie Trotter donated a full 7 course meal for 10 of the shelter residents. These kids had NEVER been to a place like that. Most of them told me they had never sat down to a meal with more than 2 different utensils. (Honestly, at that point in my life, I had never had a 7 course meal either!) We spent some time teaching them basic etiquette leading up to the dinner. I remember very little about that night (this was back in 2003), but I remember feeling very proud of the kids I worked with. They ate every bite even when they were nervous, or dubious, about the exotic things on their plates. And I remember that Mr. Trotter focuses on not using butter, simple sugars or fatty foods, so I was even more impressed when every course was delicious. Tasty food that is also healthy. Good stuff.


There are only 93 restaurants in the world that have 3 Michelin stars. Many consider this the highest restaurant honor in the world.

I am very happy to report that I have been to 1 of the Chicago places Michelin gave 3 stars: L20. Adam and I went there for our 7th wedding anniversary this past August. It was an absolutely incredible dining experience. Pricey, though. Plan to drop at least $400 for 2 people (I think our bill w/ tax and tip was $700 for the luxury tasting menu plus drinks), but if you have that kind of money to spend, IT IS WORTH EVERY DOLLAR. Skip Christmas gifts, anniversary gifts, birthday gifts, or all of the above and spend it on this once in a lifetime experience. I wrote a post about our multi-hour dining extravaganza, so I'll refer you there to read the details. (I should say, there is some controversy, because the head chef, Laurent Gras, suddenly left the restaurant just weeks before the stars announcement citing "disagreements with the owners". It remains to be seen if he will return.)

I haven't been to Alinea, the other 3 star place, but you better believe I will be going soon! It's been on my short list for a while. Now, need to drum up a special occasion......

Finally, my critique of the list: I agree that all of the restaurants that got stars that I've been to, deserve them. But there are 2 very notable restaurants that did not get either Bib Gourmand status or stars that really should have. One is Piccolo Sogno, a wonderful Italian place near Grand and Milwaukee. The food, service and ambiance are all great and the owners are so, so nice. And it is consistently voted the best outdoor patio in the city.

Even more surprising, my very favorite restaurant of all time was not included on either list. I think it should have gotten stars- 2 stars to be precise. The restaurant I'm referring to is Moto. Adam and I went here for my birthday a few years back. Rather than discussing it here, I believe this place deserves it's own post, which I'm working on and will post shortly.

Happy eating, ya'll!


Short Story: You should go there soon and get the seasonal tasting menu.

Long Story: Perennial is one of the restaurants on the recently released Michelin Bib Gourmand list of good restaurants to try, so Sara and I headed there earlier this week. The restaurant is in Old Town (right near Fleet Feet, runners!), near the Lincoln Park Zoo. I'd been eyeing it for a while- particularly the outdoor eating area- but never had the chance to go. It's inclusion on the bib gourmand list was just the extra push I needed to get me in the door.

And I'm definitely glad I walked in! It is very cute inside at night. Nice glassware, flatware, good lighting w/ fun white ash trees (or lookalikes) in the middle of the dining room. Lots of windows. They already had their holiday lights out, which was cozy. I couldn't find a picture online of the inside at night, so I'll have to make due with this one taken during the day. (Note: Like most places, I think the ambiance would not be as good before sunset.) I think it still shows the feel of the place. Coincidentally, the table in the foreground of the picture is exactly where Sara and I sat!

So, 'A' for ambiance (pun intended, a groaner, I know). Moving on to the food. To be honest I didn't spend a ton of time looking at the wine list because we thought we were going to make it a 1 glass of wine each kind of night (we've since learned this is silly- we always end up getting 2 glasses each making a full bottle more economical and fun!). So I got a glass (ahem, 2 glasses) of the Plungerhead Zinfandel which was just fine.

Ordering was easy because we went for the seasonal tasting menu. The waiter informed us that they did a "sweet corn" themed tasting menu in late summer and it was so popular they've decided to do it each season. In general, I really enjoy eating seasonal foods. Seasonal foods always taste delicious because they are at their most fresh. Also, one of the benefits of living in the Mid-West is experiencing all 4 seasons to the fullest, and eating seasonally really adds to the festivity and tradition of each season. I really look forward to foods--> heavy warm soups in the winter (and always an excellent steak on New Years), fresh fruits and salads in the spring, very serious farmers market produce in late summer (esp rhubarb!) and pumpkin and squash in the fall. This is a long winded way of saying it was a no-brainer to get the seasonal squash 4 course, prix fixe menu.

Here's the play-by-play:
(Apropos of nothing, I just poured myself a glass of petite syrah. Don't you just love the 'blip, blip, blip' noise wine makes as you pour from a bottle to a glass?)

We started with....

"poached delicata squash, mushrooms, cabbage slaw, dill, sweet and sour reduction"

You can see Sara to the right w/ this pretty dish. SOO good. Think it was my favorite. The squash was delicious but so were the mushrooms. And the cabbage slaw was out of this world! I LOVE dishes were even the garnishes are "mmmmm" inducing.

Next up:

"pumpkin ravioli, brown butter, sage, sherry vinegar, goat cheese"

Well, you really can't go wrong with any of that. It was as good as it sounds. It was great, it was appropriate to include in the menu because who doesn't love pumpkin ravioli, but I don't give extra points to the chef for this because, let's face it, most people can make something delicious out of those ingredients.

Third Course:

"wild sturgeon, butternut squash bread pudding, concord grape syrup, butternut puree"

They actually had to sub in some other fish for the sturgeon, but the waiter appropriately came and asked us if this was okay before any of our food arrived. Fish was perfectly prepared. While we were there, I could not for the life of me figure out what the soft rectangles of deliciousness were on the side of the plate. (One suggestion for all tasting menu places- give us a copy of the menu so we can see what we are eating while we are eating it!) Now I see it was the butternut squash bread pudding. OUT OF THIS WORLD good.

The Finish:

"red kuri squash cake, rum, pecans, spiced icing, butter pecan ice cream"

Good and good. Don't have much else to say.

So 'A' in the food department as well. In the interest of full disclosure, there were a couple service-type things they could improve on. Our waiter did a great job of explaining the menu and making suggestions but was very slow to acknowledge us in the beginning. The servers were friendly but failed to remind us of the contents of each dish when they brought them out. This is especially important, I feel, when you order the tasting menu- you want to know what you are "tasting" for goodness sake!

Overall though, great place, great food and you better believe I'll be going back when their winter tasting menu starts!

(PS: For those who aren't yet convinced, Perennial was listed in Travel & Leisure's "Top 50 New Restaurants in America".)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Does Running Get Easier?

This is a question I get a lot from beginning runners or those considering becoming runners. Will this get easier? Is every run always going to be this hard? As a former complete non-runner non-athlete turned very ssslllooowwwww marathoner trying to speed up, I think I'm in an excellent position to give my 2 cents. And even if I'm not, I'm going to anyway:) Isn't that why I have a blog?

I've been thinking about this post for a while when Adam over at I am Boring beat me to it. (BTW, he's hilarious so if you aren't following his blog, you should be.) But, you know what, us runner-bloggers basically talk about the same things over and over so why the heck shouldn't I discuss the same topic?

Up until the past 6 months, my answer to the question "Does Running Get Easier?" was 'no'. I still struggled to get my butt out the door to run almost every single time. Almost every single time I wanted to quit during the first mile (okay, let's face it, 1/2 mile). Almost every time I got uncomfortably short of breath. I had two speeds: out of breath and oh-my-god-I'm-so-out-of-breath-I-just-might-die.

That's not to say I didn't have some runs I enjoyed. I'd get in the zone around mile 6 or so of long runs, sometimes I'd even feel good for 20 or 30 minute stretches. But nothing was 'easy' about it. Pizza and the couch would have been preferable almost every time.

But in the past 6 months, I turned some sort of corner and now I do have runs that are 'easy'. Runs where I don't think about stopping every 5 seconds. Runs where I'm not short of breath EVER. Runs where I truly feel like I'm walking from an effort perspective, but I'm definitely running. Runs (like Monday night- GREAT long run) when there's almost nothing I'd rather do than keep running. Having runs that feel 'easy' is still a novelty to me and the previous sentence actually shocked me as I wrote it, but honestly it's true. I'm becoming one of those people who actually loves running.

This has been a very slow process for me- I've been running since 2006!- and only now can say that running can be easy for me. Previously, I enjoyed being a runner, I was happy after I completed runs, but only now is running sometimes "easy". I don't say this to demoralize beginning runners- quite the opposite. If you are struggling now, know that you won't be struggling forever. It will get better!

In the words of Caballo Blanco in "Born to Run":

"Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that's all you get, that's not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don't give a shit how high the hill is or how far you've got to go. When you've practiced that so long that you forget you're practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won't have to worry about the last one- you get those three, and you'll be fast."

The goal of beginning runners should be to get to "easy".

However, and here is where I completely agree w/ Adam at I am Boring, while I am now perfectly capable of having truly easy, comfortable runs, most of my runs are hard. Why? Because I want to get faster! So while a 10:00 min/mile used to kill me now I can run 8:30s before I feel like death is imminent. Honestly, I'm a pretty lazy person, but even I want to improve, so I keep pushing myself, training myself to tolerate suffering so that I can become faster. So, running is still hard. But now I'm choosing to make it hard and that makes all the difference in the world.

Now, when I am suffering, I think to myself "you want to be suffering, you want to be short of breath, this is the goal of this run".

Matt Fitzgerald talks a lot about this in his excellent (if you run you must go buy it!) book "Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel". He talks about "training to suffer" and designing your training schedule to include 2 work-outs a week in which you push yourself to suffer "race-level" discomfort, thus increasing your tolerance for suffering.

I like a quote I saw recently on Running is Flying (via Cool Running):

"You are a runner, this is what you do"

All runners suffer. Some suffer all the time (beginners), others have the luxury of suffering only sometimes. But that is what makes us runners- overcoming suffering....and even enjoying suffering sometimes.

And, really, when are you prouder? When you finish something that is easy or when you finish something that was hard as hell, that a former version of yourself would never think you could accomplish?

I really want my 4:15 marathon. Soon. And then sub-4:00, and then sub 3:40. Big jumps. Lots of suffering. I can do it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

#7: Back to the Brooks!

(Please note that I initially pulled in a pic of these shoes from the Internet but thought it would be a more personal touch if I got on the floor and photographed them myself. It made sense at the time.)

Behold! My new Brooks Ravennas. Woo-hoo! After having a brief affair w/ Saucony ProGrid Guides for 3 months, I'm back to my Brooks;)

Nothing was wrong with the Saucony's- no injuries, no nagging pains, but I just never fell in love. They were BIG, bulky and just too soft.

Why did I even stray to the Saucony's after almost 2 years of marriage to Brooks? Oddly, when I was shoe shopping last August, the Ravenna's insole was too high. Now, in November, they are back to normal. So my Saucony affair is over....for now.

So- time to retire the Saucony's, my 6th ever pair of running shoes. They did well by me so I feel they deserve some sort of sending off. Here they are in all their glory, before their first test drive:

Good-bye Saucony's! I'll pull you out for rain, snow and trails but otherwise to the closet you go!

I gave the Ravenna's a test drive today. I needed to do some Yasso 800s left over from last week. The first four 800s went well but during the 5th my left knee started to feel funny. It still felt funny during the 6th and I could feel myself starting to favor the right knee more out of fear than out of pain. I just couldn't tell if the left knee sensation was just a niggle vs impending doom. One of my rules to prevent injury is if something feels funny enough to affect my gait, I stop. I didn't really want to. My intervals were going great! But I thought about how many running bloggers I know who are sidelined with injuries and I sure don't want to be in that position. So, I stopped.

You're probably thinking "Oh no! Is this a new shoe test drive fail?" Nah. I don't blame the Brooks. I actually blame the Sauconys because after my 15 miler on Monday both my knees hurt for the first time in months- I think the shoes were just a little too old for a last long run and the left knee today is residual discomfort from Monday. And I also think it will be just fine tomorrow after some rest and red wine.

I have high hopes for my new Brooks. Short term goals include a fast 5K on 12/4 (Santa's Hustle) and an enjoyable marathon in Maui in January. Then it will be time to craft a marathon training plan for my spring marathons. I'm still tossing around various ideas....more on that in the future. For now, I'll stick w/ my 3 month plan in my new kicks:)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Best Laid Plans.....

I got home from work yesterday (early, hurrah!) and saw this sign in the elevator:

BOO! My husband and I have started swimming in hopes of doing our first triathlon this summer. Adam swam in high school so already knows what he is doing and he is teaching me better technique. After my first lesson and a few practice sessions I was becoming comfortable w/ "breathing on both sides" during freestyle. Now this will all be delayed until mid-December. Sad:(

What will I put in all the swim slots I had scheduled for the next month? I'm thinking maybe I need to re-join the River East Club to take advantage of spinning classes. I was trying to put this off until December, but now with this extra work out time....I'll talk to my favorite spinning partner and see what she thinks.

In other news, sometimes changing plans works out really well! Yesterday, for work, I got to leave the hospital to spend the morning at a nursing home for the day. That was depressing (maybe I'll post on that later, we'll see) but it meant that on my walk back I passed lululemon! I've never actually purchased anything from this store as my running wardrobe is pretty much set but this year I'm due for some new running tights. I read a review of the 'Dash Tight' below on one of your blogs (sorry- I can't remember which one to give the proper shout out!) so decided to give them a try.

With my new purchase in tow, I began to think "When can I wear these? I can't wait!".
(Quick review for other ladies in need of new tights: These are great! Zippered pocket in rear, side pockets that ride close to legs for extra storage, wide waistband is very flattering for all shapes and sizes, super-duper soft, plenty long- the size 6's went over the tops of my low-rise socks and I am almost 5'9'', did not even notice they were on, warm. No complaints. Worth the $100.)

Well, I got lucky and got to leave work at 3. I had a quick snack and decided I'd forgo the Yasso's on my schedule and instead throw on my new tights and do my long run. Yea! The elusive long run, done! All 15 miles (well, almost because I miscalculated and did 14.78, but whatever) completed! So happy.

It was an absolutely beautiful night- upper 40s w/ very little breeze (until the last few miles), very clear night. Random thoughts from my run:

--I feel very lucky to live in a place that tourists from all around the word come to visit. As I ran by the planetarium there were lots of people out to take photos of the skyline, the same skyline that contains my apartment complex. I'm lucky to live in such a place.

--I ran past a lady not only in full make-up but also clearly wearing recently applied perfume. Why, why, why? Does she think we won't smell her sweat if instead we smell her cheap perfume? Give it up lady, you gonna stink like the rest of us!

--I ran by an older lady "power walking" around mile 3. When I saw her again at mile 13 I was impressed.

--I need a better system for getting my goo chomps out because I had to briefly walk to do so twice last night. Also, I'm incapable of drinking from cups or bottles while walking. I think I'll have to start running with my Nathan backpack on long runs to deal with both problems.

--I had so much fun. Really, what a great way to spend the evening!

Well, I'm off to go back to sleep. Switching back to days is really hard for me. I'm still waking up for a few hours each night. Arg. Guess I can catch up on blogging at 3 am!

By the numbers:
For those who care about these things, my splits were: 9:16, 9:33, 9:40, 9:36, 9:36, 9:16, 9:45, 9:40, 9:51, 10:00, 10:40 (had to stop to get goo out my pack), 9:35, 9:37, 11:01 (another goo incident-need a better system), 10:35. Was very comfortable 80% of the time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Long run (let's face it ANY run) FAIL!

I had good intentions. I got up early (mostly because I woke up at 5 am and couldn't fall asleep again despite also being up from 11pm-1am ARG!), had a snack, and went down to the gym way before sunrise with a bunch of Phedippidations podcasts loaded on my ipod. I decided to attempt my 17 miler on the treadmill because I was afraid that if I waited until sunrise to run outside I would lose motivation.

Good intentions. Absurdly ambitious intentions. I got about 0.6 miles and the deep-seated nightfloat fatigue settled in my body and my brain. I felt like I was trying to run through pudding. And my brain was just so tired there was no way I was going to be able to keep it focused.

I guess the lesson I learned here is the the weekend after 7 days of working nights should be a rest weekend. Or cross-training at most. I'm barely functional (ask my husband- I've never spent so much time on a couch before!) let alone able to do a long run.

I spent the past 1/2 hour sliding into negative thoughts "how do you think you are going to run another marathon in January if you can't do long runs even with a 2-day weekend?", "you have to run long to burn off all the excess calories you eat, you're never going to get back in shape otherwise", "seriously, val, you should at least do a short run!", "how can you already have given up all hopes of working out today- it's only 7am!".

Well, that kind of thinking is not going to make for a fun Sunday!

This morning made me think of 2 (of the many skills) marathon runners must hone to be successful. One is being able to revise expectations- including training schedules- based on obstacles that arise. I've now missed 2 long runs- a 15 from last week and a 17 this week. Rather than feeling bad about the whole thing, I need to sit down with my 3 month plan calendars and revise. Since my next goal race in January (Maui Oceanfront Marathon, baby!) is just for fun, this should be fine.

Also, I need to forgive myself for not getting this run done. I should stop berating myself and feeling like a loser and instead pick myself up with my new training schedule and use this now official rest day for other activities such as laundry, buying new running shoes (I'm well over 500 miles on this pair), finishing Dennis Lehane's book "The Given Day", and enjoying a nice dinner with Adam. B/t long runs, tempo runs, speed work, etc distance runners have so many specific (and llooonng) work-outs to hit we are inevitably going to miss a few here or there. While there is a thin line b/t complacency/being lazy and legitimately taking a break, some days we legitimately need that break and need to forgive ourselves for not getting the run in.

So, Val, you are forgiven. But you've got to nail the rest of the week! And eat less to make up for today's lack of energy expenditure.

Revised week plan:

: rest day
Monday: 6 miles (Yasoo 800s, 7.1), weights
Tuesday: 15 miles easy, swim
Wednesday: 7 mile long intervals, weights
Thursday: 10 mile tempo, swim
Friday: 10 mile bike, weights
Saturday: 18 miles, easy

Calories: Only 100 cal/day over goal, on average.

Enjoy the last few days of fall, the leaves are almost gone....

My building.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Michelin Stars in Chicago

We Chicagoans know we live in a great foodie city. The number of wonderful restaurants in this town is overwhelming- there is no need to eat at the same place twice in any 10 year period (unless you have an emotional attachment to places like I do to Piece and Dave's Italian Kitchen!). Sometimes, however, I don't think Chicago gets the credit it deserves for its culinary delights. So I was happy to hear that the Michelin Guide is coming to Chicago to award its coveted 'stars' to the best places in Chicago.

The Michelin Guide has been around since the 1900s. It started as a car and road trip guide in France, recommending restaurants and accommodations to motorists. (And yes, Michelin as in Michelin tires since the more you drive, the more you need new tires!) It has developed into "the most recognized rating system in the culinary world for all of Western Europe" (source: Wikepedia).

Unlike the Zagat guide that relies on restaurant patrons for reviews, the Michelin guide employs anonymous, professionally trained experts to review restaurants. Restaurants that have stars are actually visited multiple times a year to ensure they continue to earn Michelin's praise. Obtaining stars can make a chef's career, losing them can be embarrassing and potentially very bad for business. At least in the 22 European countries that have Michelin guides. However, when the guide first came to the US (NYC, 2006) there was much disagreement among local critics and diners about the choices, leading some writers to consider the list a "flop".

Whether it ends up exciting, aggravating, or neutral, the first every Chicago Michelin stars will be announced on 11/17/10. I choose to be excited. I'm anticipating Moto, Alinea, Blackbird, Graham Elliot, Charlie Trotter's, L20, just to name a few. I hope Piccolo Sogno makes the list as well.

This week, Michelin released the Chicago "Bib Gourmand" list which highlights restaurants that are "picks for good value" and "offer a two-course meal and a glass of wine for $40 or less". Kind of an ambiguous description, but most foodies love lists they can eat their way through (or at least discuss the merits of), and I'm sure this will be no exception. The list is called "Bib" because bibedndum is the company's nickname for the Michelin Man. Adam told me that Michelin announces the Bib Gourmand restaurants by drawing a chalk Michelin Man on the sidewalk in front of the winners.

Click here for the list w/ links to the opentable reservations page for the places that use

My thoughts on the Bib Gourmand list? All it claims to be is a list of good places that you can eat at for under $40. I don't have any quibbles with the list using that exact definition. But there is huge variation in quality of restaurants on this list. It doesn't seem fair to list excellent higher end places with excellent ingredients, creative chefs and well-attended-to ambiance like Publican and Nightwood, with places like the Purple Pig. I can see why Paul Kahan (executive chef/co-owner of Publican) would be irritated.

I have a lot of eating to do because I've only been to 9 places on this list! But here are my (brief) comments on the ones I've been to:

Girl & the Goat is worth a visit. Small plates, and interesting options (including, of course, goat). Be adventurous with your ordering. Cute, fun, would go with a small group or two couples. The buzz in Chicago is that "ooh, you can't get in there, it's too popular". B.S. Go at 5 pm and you can walk right in! (Don't be afraid of the early bird special, people!) See my full review here.

Maybe I experienced a different Paramount Room than every one else or maybe the place changed, but the one time I went there I was not all that impressed. I remember dark, unhealthy, and not worth the caloric splurge.

Ahh, Hopleaf. Back before Adam and I got more creative and started trying (many, many) more places, Hopleaf was a staple for us. It's a beer bar in the front, but mid to high range dining in the back. I would recommend going in the winter for two reasons. 1) the ambiance is dark wood, fireplaces, etc--> best when you are snuggled up in a sweater looking at the snow from the warm inside and 2) the food is HEAVY. The stew is incredible, but let's face it stew is heavy. So go for a ski, work up an appetite, (shower), and come to Hopleaf!

UrbanBelly appears from the outside to be a hole-in-the-wall place in a strip mall. It is literally next to a laundromat and half of the parking spots say "Laundromat parking ONLY" in bright yellow paint (um...tacky). But the brief menu is full of delicious noodle and rice dishes. The place was listed on Travel & Leisure's "50 Best New Restaurants in 2009". The ambiance is....okay. I'm just not into low, communal picnic tables. But great for lunch! And it's byob so can be a really cheap dinner date if you are NOT looking for romance!

La Petite Folie is a culinary haven in the restaurant desert that is Hyde Park. High end, but not pretentious. Worth a visit if you are in Hyde Park. However, there are so many amazing places in Chicago, I can't say it's worth the drive if the drive is inconvenient (i.e. you don't have a car).

Nightwood is a high-end restaurant in Pilson. It is tasty, w/ the usual high-end menu features. The ambiance is good as long as you don't sit by the front window. Request to not sit by the front window! The views of a run down street don't make for romantic dining.

De Cero is an excellent taqueria on Randolph. If you like tacos, it is worth a stop. Kinda loud, kinda cramped, but that's fine if you are just stopping in a for a taco and a margarita. I remember the service being slloooww, but maybe that has improved.

The Purple Pig is a small plates, heavy on the pork, heavy on the fried fatty foods place, just off the Mag Mile. Outdoor eating area is nice enough (though a loud, busy street just below), inside is cute but loud. Good, cheap, wine list. But if you want good pork, spend the extra money and have a wonderful experience at Publican instead of going to the Purple Pig. How it made Bon Appetit's 2010 List of 10 Best New Restaurants in America, I'll never understand. See my full review here.

The Publican is worth a visit. Pork heavy but also good seafood, cheese and other tasties. Excellent beer list. Great ambiance. I only went for appetizers and drinks thus far, but the rest of the menu looked great and I've heard nothing but great things from people who have been there multiple times (for example, my husband).

That's it for now! Stay tuned for the highlights Michelin star list on 11/17/10. And go start eating (after your long run, of course)!