Sunday, January 30, 2011

Last Few Hours of Vacation.....

Tomorrow I go back to work. I actually worked for a few hours on Friday but work was light so I'm counting this weekend as a continuation of vacay:)

To take full advantage of the perfect winter weather (not too cold but plenty of good snow), I went out to Rockford and cross-county skied with my folks. My Dad is an avid cross-county skier- he does ski races (including marathons) like the Birkebeiner, and pretty much skies every chance he gets. On the other hand, this was only the 3rd time my Mom has cross-country skied. And she did a great job! I hope she's going to come out with us again!

I was too cold/lazy/forgot my camera to take pictures today so these are pictures of my Dad, Adam and my cousin Karin at Rock Cut State Park (where we skied today) back in 2007.

After skiing, we headed over to visit with my Grandma and Grandpa. You may recall that my Grandma had cardiac bypass surgery a few months back. She's had a complicated course including a broken hip! This is the first time I've been able to see her since the surgeries. She looked GREAT! Up and about, appeared energetic, basically seemed like her old self. She was saying that she really likes physical therapy, which is great! I also got to see my cousins and my aunt and uncle who I haven't seen in months and months. It was so good to catch up. I hope we get to see each other more often that we did in 2010!

Great last vacation day. Back to the grind tomorrow. Hopefully, the routine of exercise/work/home/exercise/sleep (yes, my life is that boring!) will be easy to hop into and my diet (healthful and sparing) will naturally fall back into place!

Have a good week, everybody!

Weekly Work-out Wrap-up

This week was (appropriately) consumed by last Sunday's marathon in Maui, and recovery after said race. So, not a whole lot of running going on. My plan for recovery was to have no plan save running at least 1 mile every day. Which I did. But I did not go any farther than that! I also got in a few (hilly and sandy, therefore tough s/p marathon!) hikes and kayaking.

I got a few questions about the race t-shirt from the Maui Oceanfront Marathon. I stated in my race report that the t-shirt logo was the only thing I would change about the race so folks wondered what on earth was on that shirt! As you can see, nothing controversial or 'bad', just a lady w/ her backside to us carrying a fish. But I was hoping for a whale or turtles or palm trees. Like the really great bibs:

And the super awesome fish shaped medal that has turtles and a picture of Maui w/ the course outlined on the back. Me with my medal being goofy:

But now it is time to look ahead. Tomorrow, I'll be starting my 15 week training plan for the Rockford Marathon on 5/15. As I discussed in my 2011 goals post, I will be using the Furman FIRST training method, which is 3 runs weekly (speedwork, tempo and long) and at least 2 days of cross-training. I may end up doing 4 runs a week some weeks just for fun and hopefully will do quite a bit more than just 2 cross-training sessions. But the bare minimum each week is 3 runs, 2 cross-training sessions.

My goal for 5/15 is sub-4:15 but I'll test myself throughout the training and if I progress well, maybe I can shoot for a more aggressive goal. Since I just ran a 4:20:58, maybe I can shave a few more minutes off 4:15! A girl's gotta dream, right??

So, the plan for next week:

Monday: 4 x 800 @ 7:20 pace w/ 2 min RI (recovery intervals)
Tuesday: swim, spinning class (6pm)
Wednesday: 5 miles @ 9:00 pace w/ hills, weights
Thursday: swim, spinning class (6:15 am)
Friday: weights
Saturday: rest day
Sunday: 13 miles @ 9:30

I have a bunch of Hawai'i posts I'm working on. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Maui Oceanfront Marathon Race Report

This race was amazing! The marathon was a point to point course from the town of Wailea to the town of Lahaina. I've never done a point to point course before and I really liked it. I felt like I was "getting somewhere" the entire time:) Because it is point to point, however, one must take a bus to the start. Since the race started at 5:45 am (to avoid the heat), this meant we were up at 3am to get me to the bus stop at 4am. Totally worth it though!

There were only a few hundred folks doing the race, which was nice. In general, the race had a very personal feel about it. For example, packet (and by 'packet' I mean shirt and number- no extraneous stuff here, which was fine w/ me!) pick-up was at the race organizer's condo. There was no chip timing. There weren't a ton of spectators but there certainly were enough and they were so enthusiastic! Being cheered on by the few spectators felt very personal. #1 because we all had our first names printed on our bibs and everyone used them and #2 because when someone cheered for you they were literally...well..cheering for just you! While the roaring 3 deep crowds that line Chicago's city streets are impressive, there's something really touching about a lone person, standing on the side of the road, clapping just for you. I thanked each and every one of them. The chap who stood out most in my mind was an older (70ish) native Hawaiian gentleman who was with his dog. He didn't seem like he was a runner himself and he was wearing traditional Hawaiian clothing. He just stood there clapping and smiling.

The water stations, which were plentiful and had plenty of cold water, sports drink and fun snacks like oranges, pretzels, twizzlers as well as Cliff shot-blocks, also served as cheering stations. Those folks were pumped. So enthusiastic! I really looked forward to each and every aid station because they made me smile.

Something they did that I really enjoyed was counting the miles down backwards. So, after 1.2 miles, the sign said 25 miles, meaning 25 miles to go. One might think that would be daunting to stare at 23 miles left, 18 miles left, etc, but the first few miles just FLEW by so and by the time I even thought, "geez, marathons are a long way" I was already past 20 miles to go and I've done many, many 20 mile training runs so that didn't seem so far. I also reminded myself that one of those 20 milers was on a treadmill and that there was no way this run would be as mind-numbing as that!

My only complaint would be that I didn't really like the graphics on the shirt. But it's a nice white dri-fit and they had women's sizes, which is good. That's really my only complaint- and that's minor- otherwise this race was executed perfectly!

One last thing- because the ocean-side road is a major thoroughfare it was not closed down. So, the course was on a shoulder of a road. This did not bother me at all. The shoulder was plenty wide, there were not that many runners or cars, and that is the only way to have the course be ocean-side.

So, on to my experience of the race, my 8th marathon and my 4th state. Sorry if this is verbose. I had a great race and have lots of reflections on why it went so well. Pre-race I met up with another DailyMiler, Alisyn, and her friend, Lisa. That was really fun and made the time pass quickly. It was her first marathon and I really hope she enjoyed it!

Miles 1-10 just flew by. I picked a nice, comfortable pace, enjoyed the darkness, enjoyed the ocean noises, enjoyed the nice cool temperature. I did NOT look at my Garmin. NOT ONCE. As you may recall from my Race Goals post, my goal was to enjoy this race. To have fun. To NOT worry about time. So I worked on that by not looking at the Garmin. I just now uploaded my stats though so NOW I can look at them. Yippee!
Mile 1: 9:00:43
Mile 2: 9:02:85
Mile 3: 9:21:43
Mile 4: 9:29:44
Mile 5: 9:19:11
Mile 6: 9:35:85
Mile 7: 9:20:55
Mile 8: 9:28:83
Mile 9: 9:30:32
Mile 10: 9:18:57

Now I see why they flew by! I was a speed demon! (For me, in a marathon, this is fast.) I felt so, so, comfortable. Not short of breath, legs felt fresh, really felt marvelous. I think I did a few things well in training and during the race that helped aid my performance. One, I wore a Nathan hydration pack. This saved me from slowing at water stations for the first 20 miles. Therefore, I saved on time and I didn't lose momentum. I ate my goos early and often. I went through 2 full packs plus an extra shot-block plus a sliver of orange. Lastly, I tapered well, so felt really fresh.

Those miles were really glorious. Running in the dark was a really fun experience. There was enough ambient light that I didn't need a flashlight (I had my iphone w/ flashlight app in my bag just in case), but the darkness really allowed me to focus on other senses, on the smells and sounds of running along the ocean before sunrise. So, so wonderful. I had a feeling this was going to be a good race in those first few miles. There were a few early hills, but in general, this part of the course was relatively flat.

Mile 11 sucked! All of the sudden, I went from a transcendent running experience, to "oh my god why is this so hard?" during Mile 11. It took me a few minutes to realize what happened. Initially, I was really sad thinking my mojo was gone. But then I realized, we had turned into the wind and boy was it fierce! According to the gusts were up to 20 mph. Yeah, that's what it felt like. So mile 11 was a slow going, super windy, mildly uphill battle. But since I was just trying to have fun, I simply slowed down and looked forward to turning the corner to get the wind out of my face!!
Mile 11: 10:28:61

Mile 12 was a welcome respite after mile 11. Downhill, wind at my back, so I took a quick picture then booked it, taking full advantage of the downhill. This was the last mile before "the hills" so I enjoyed the ease of running downhill. At this point, I did look at my Garmin to see how I was doing. And I knew I had potential to go sub-4:30 but I decided to wait until mile 20 to re-assess before making any decisions. Again, focus on fun and enjoyment, NOT time.
Mile 12: 8:45:30

Miles 13-17 were the best miles I've ever experienced in a race. Ever. The views were simply stunning. I was having trouble getting my camera to work (and ended up wasting probably 2 minutes fiddling with it) so I don't have many pictures. I was sad about this for a bit, but then I realized I do these races for the experience and the memories of the experience not for the documentation of the experience, so I put my camera away and just took it all in. These miles were very, very hilly. We climbed, and came back down, and climbed again. But if you don't go up, you can't have views of the ocean and the Maui coast and THE WHALES!! from the road, so the hills did not bother me one bit. The sun was peaking over the hills by this point but was at our backs so provided for excellent views without being too hot. And I saw whales! At least 5! I was grinning from ear to ear this entire time. I felt so, so lucky to be able to experience this. Lucky to be able to run, lucky to have the means to run in places like Maui, lucky to have a husband who allows me to spend a day of our precious vacation racing. My physical comfort during my emotional enjoyment made me proud and thankful. Here I was running the middle miles of a pretty tough marathon course and I felt GREAT! My training was paying off and allowing me to not just rock this race (in my slow turtle marathoner world) but to ENJOY it at the same time. So, so happy.
Mile 13: 9:11:66
Mile 14: 9:54:72
Mile 15: 10:15:29
Mile 16: 9:50:90
Mile 17: 9:01:62

Then, it got tough. I realized today that the last 6-10 miles of a marathon may never be "comfortable". Even with my goal being "fun" for this race, and my running at what felt like a slow, easy pace, the last few miles kicked my butt. At this point, I did look at my Garmin and did some calculations. At this point, I realized- unless the running gods intervened- 4:15 wasn't possible. This was fine. 4:15 was not even on my radar for today. But, just a bit over 4:15 certainly was so I made my goal sub 4:30. I wanted to keep pushing myself but I also was getting sore, tired, and HOT. The sun was finally up high and I was warming up quickly. Also, the awful wind had returned! The last 9 miles had a terrible headwind. Not quite as bad as mile 11, but close. There certainly was a dark corner of my brain that thought about phoning it in and doing some walking but I realized I would feel awful about that and it wouldn't contribute to my goal of a fun race. How fun is feeling like you gave up? Not very. Especially with how well the first two-thirds of the race went! So I commenced with the mental games: "make it to the next water stop", "lose the shirt tied around your waist to make yourself lighter", "you can have a 2 minute walk break in 2 miles". And the positive thoughts: "you are supposed to be suffering, this is a race dammit", "you've got guts, you can do this", "you've suffered more than this before, push it!". For the most part, they worked and I turned up my music and plodded along. But I slowed down quite a bit, and took a couple time-limited walk breaks.
Mile 18: 10:37:69
Mile 19: 10:17:57
Mile 20: 11:33:04
Mile 21: 10:16:76
Mile 22: 9:43:94 (where did I pull that out of??)
Mile 23: 11:52:52

I was proud of myself for how little walking I was doing. And that I wasn't getting passed at all! For the last 3 miles, I worked hard on picking people off. I think only 1 person passed me in the last 3 miles and NONE in the last mile which was a long, long uphill. One woman tried to pass me on that last uphill but when she reached me I started a conversation with her instead and we chatted for 0.5 miles.....during the last mile.....of a marathon...and then I said good luck and whizzed past her. Who am I? And what happened to slow, non-competitive Val?
Mile 24: 11:15:34
Mile 25: 10:08:24
Mile 26: 10:32:64

Another thing I liked about this smaller race w/o chip timing, is it motivated me to try to pass people in the last few miles and definitely in the last 0.2. I did NOT want someone (especially someone in my age group) to pass me in the final push so I actually looked behind me a few times to see if I needed to sprint harder. Not sure if I could have sprinted any harder, but boy I would have tried!
Last 0.2: I forgot to turn off my Garmin so not real sure how I did here.

Thanks to a great picture Adam took, we can guess my rough time. That's me below, just a few feet from the finish line. Maybe 4:21:10? Just a guess. My previous PR was Chicago in 2009 (4:35:42) so I got at least a 13 minute PR. Woo-hoo! AND sub-4:30. All with my race goal of 'having fun'. Did I have fun in the last 6 miles. Not at all. But I wouldn't have had any more fun by going slower and I'm so proud of my time that I think that's totally fine:)
Final pace (assuming 4:21:10 as finish time): 9:58. Sub 10 minute miles, baby! Woo-hoo!!

Thanks to my family, friends, and bloggy and DailyMile well-wishers! I definitely thought of all of you during this race. And thanks again to my amazing husband who is now (I think) in full support of my 50 in 50 goal (and who rocked his own half-marathon today here in Maui, I should add) :)

Edited to add: Got my official time!!! 4:20:58 for 9:57 pace. I was 97th out of 281 overall. Division results are not compiled yet. Time to go celebrate w/ dinner at Lahaina Grill!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Marathon Pre-Race

How I got ready for the Maui Oceanfront Marathon:

2 days before: Pick up packet and find start/finish lines. Packet pick-up was at the race organizer's condo. Nice and informal. Fun!

1 Day before race:

5:30: Up early to enjoy breakfast on the balcony

7-10:15: Tool around the Pacific Ocean looking for humpback whales. We had great success. Will post those pics when I have time!

11-11:10: 1 mile run along the ocean

12-1:00: Carbo-loading begins w/ ahi tuna (sashimi), cheeseburger w/ fries, lemonade @ Duke's oceanfront grill

1:00-2:30: Nap

2:30-4:30: Playing around on the computer (including this blog post)

5:00: Pasta dinner in our condo. (Thanks, Adam!!) With a great Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, of course.

Our condo has a sweet kitchen.

7:30 pm: Bedtime for 3 am wake-up call. Race starts at 5:45 am in a town ~1 hr away.

And for those Bears fans back at home, don't worry, we plan to catch the 2nd half of the game. There are plenty of Bears fans here in Hawaii too. Funny, we haven't met a single Packer's fan.....Guess Hawaiians are a pretty smart lot!

In Wailea (where the marathon starts)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Race Goals: Maui Oceanfront Marathon

After the Chicago Marathon last October, I was pretty bummed and burnt out on the 26.2 mile distance. But there is something about marathons that keeps drawing me back. Do I want to have that 'for-the-love-of-god-please-let-it-be-over' feeling around mile 18? No. Do I want to wake up the morning of the race thinking 'why the hell do I do this to myself?'. No. Do I want to risk another disappointing finish? No.

On the other hand, Do I want the satisfaction of knowing I finished my 8th marathon? Of course! Do I want to spend 4.5 hours along the beautiful coast of Maui scanning the horizon for whales? Of course! Do I want to enjoy replacing the calories I burn during the race at one of the many fabulous restaurants on Maui. Yes, I do! And, last but not least, do I want to further my quest to one day (not this time!) qualify for Boston? Indeed!

Maui is a redemption run of sorts for Chicago. Not redemption in that I'm seeking a PR (I'm not really) or a certain time (just not a PW would be great!). Rather, redemption in that I want to enjoy the journey. Enjoy (most of) the race. Enjoy the scenery. I wasn't able to do that at Chicago, but I will this time.

With that said, my 'C' goal for this race is: HAVE FUN!! I'm sure there will be some point in this race (probably many more than one!) where I'm ready to be done. Who really wants to run from mile 20-26? Pretty much no-one. But hopefully I can have fun the majority of the time. In order to reach this 'A' goal, I have to be disciplined and pace myself. I can't run too fast. I have to drink plenty of water. I have to feel comfortable stopping to take pictures along the way knowing my time will suffer. This will not be easy!

My 'B' goal is to have fun AND get a PR. My current PR is 4:35:42. Whether this happens will depend in large part on the weather. If it's too hot, I'm not even going to try for this because it might get in the way of my 'C' goal. As long as I don't get a PW (4:51:53), I'll be happy.

Then there's the 'A' goal. The goal that would only occur if the stars align and it's a perfect day. Given that I know it will be at least somewhat warm (so not perfect), and that I don't want to chance missing my 'C' goal, the most I will hope for in this race would be a sub-4:30. Not even shooting for the sub-4:15 I plan to get this Spring. There will be plenty of time for that.

So my 'A' and 'B' goals are in addition to my 'C' goal. In other words, if I'm not achieving my 'C' goal I won't even try for the 'A' and 'B'. Are you confused yet?

Bottom line, I don't want to focus on time, I want to focus on FUN and if that brings me a better than usual time, GREAT!

If not, I won't give it a second thought and I'll continue to enjoy my time in Hawaii:)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekly Work-out Wrap-up

Still love my 1st marathon jacket, 4 yrs later. Dorky? Yes. Warm? Also yes. Ended up going 2.5 miles. was supposed to be 12 miles. Apparently I dropped the '1'. Ah, well. I have a few good excuses. Are they good enough for you?

--I'm supposed to be tapering. So since I ran ~40 miles last week, shouldn't I only run 20 this week? 50% taper, right? (I sound pretty convincing, don't I?)
--My toe felt funny when I was walking around Target this morning and with the race 7 days away, why take chances?
--I didn't want to miss the Bears playoff game. Come on! Who knows when this will happen again??!?
--(I'm lazy. This isn't really an excuse, more like an acceptance of truth:) )

So, I turned my last medium long run into a recovery run. And I don't even feel guilty. I really didn't want to do this run. I avoided it yesterday by doing treadmill hills instead and the thought of putting on my Nathan backpack and running for almost 2 hours made me feel ill. So, I didn't. Instead, I went to Haymarket brew-pub w/ Adam and some of his work friends who also happen to be runners. And we were kicking some Sea-hawk butt at half-time when we left:)

Here's the weekly wrap-up:

Miles run (completed/planned): 21/28
Days of Week I Ran: 7/7
(Medium) Long run:
Speed work sessions: 1/1 Speed work completed at goal time: 1/1
Hill Work: 1/1
Biking sessions: 1/2
Swimming sessions: 0/2
: 1/2
Days I Ate Healthfully and Sparingly: 0/7

Things to note:

I'm clearly having trouble ramping up the cross-training. I have a cut-back week after the marathon next week, and then will start my 3 days (only!) a week of running, using the FIRST plan for my 5/15 goal marathon. Ideally, I'd like to do 2 swims, 2 bikes and 2 weight work-outs each week as well. I think I'll have to start slow and work up to this because writing 'spinning' or 'swim' on my work-out calendar isn't providing enough motivation for me to get it done!

I didn't eat so great this week. But I will say that my 'unhealthy' and 'unspare' eating is not nearly as bad as it used to be! For example, last Tuesday, my only infraction was 2 pieces of pizza at lunch (there's no way one can call that healthy!) so not so bad. I'll get back on the band-wagon next week.

For next week:

I will continue to taper because a wise runner once said "When you toe the start line at the marathon, it's better to be 5% undertrained than even 0.1% overtrained."

: 7 miles @ marathon pace
Tuesday: 4 miles, spinning
Wednesday (My Birthday!): rest
Friday: 2-3 miles easy
Saturday: rest
Sunday: Maui Oceanfront Marathon 26.2!!

T minus 4 days until Maui. Woo-hoo!!

La Madia

January 'Girls' Night Out' took place at La Madia, a wine and pizza place in downtown Chicago. I read good things about this place from City Girl Chicago and since I love both wine and pizza I figured this place would be a winner. And it was.

As always, the best part of dinner was catching up with my favorite girls- Wendy, Sara and Laura. Laura recently got engaged (congrats) and I loved being blinded by her astounding ring (good job, Steve!). However, I'm a bad blogger and forgot my camera and my iphone pictures were not great so no pictures of my friends and I:(

The first thing you should know about La Madia is that it shares an address (59 W Grand) with the Indian restaurant next store, so don't get confused! The ambiance is nice- dark, pleasing music, nice tables, fun modern lighting. 'A' quality for a mid-range restaurant.

Next up, the wine. Wow! What a list. You can check out the full list here. We choose the Dona Paulo Shiraz/Malbec blend from Argentina. I was a bit nervous because it was organic, and I've never tried organic wine. I eat organic everything else but for some reason, not wine. But I had no need to worry- this particular bottle was GREAT! Only $36 a bottle, which I actually think is a steal- I'd willingly pay $20 for this bottle at the store, so $34 at a restaurant is not bad! We may or may not have had 2 bottles. What? We were thirsty!

We decided to split pizzas and I'm glad we did but they actually do have some tasty looking non-pizza dishes. For example 2 of the specials were mushroom risotto w/ black truffle oil and celery root soup. We choose the following:

Triple Pepperoni, Tomato Sauce & Mozzarella Cheese, finished w/ White Truffle Oil
So...freakin'....good. Sometimes I'm hesitant to get pepperoni pizza the first time at a new place, because it can be greasy, but this pepperoni was just right. And you really could taste the truffle oil. Yum!

Teleggio and 3-Hour Roasted Grapes

I was very suspicious of this one. Grapes on a pizza? I'm a pizza purist and often don't like funky ingredients on my pie. But our friend, Sara, had tried this before and vouched for it. It....was....amazing! So flavorful, so interesting. Loved it. When (not if, but when for you Chicagoans) you make your way to La Madia, definitely try this one. When else will you have grapes on pizza??

Parma Classic: Mozzerella Cheese, Tomato Sauce, Prosciutto di Parma, Finished with Arugula
Umm....this is embarrassing. I'm not sure if I even tried this one because I was so obsessed with the first two. My friends seemed to like it!

Below is the pizza menu. To see the whole menu, click here.

Finally, dessert. We had the Apple Crostata w/ Vanilla Gelato and Bittersweet Chocolate Tortino w/ Toasted Almonds. Both were great. I liked the former better than the latter but really both were excellent.

If you will allow me to indulge a few gender stereotypes for a minute, I'd say that La Madia is the women's version of Piece. Piece is one of my very favorite places in Chicago- it's a craft brewery w/ delicious New Haven style pizza, great music, and lots of TV's for sports viewing. Where Piece has beer, La Madia has wine. Where Piece has dark wood and picnic-style tables, La Madia has modern lights and paintings w/ quite nice flatware and glasses. Where Piece has high quality pizza with 'interesting' toppings like mashed potatoes, La Madia has high quality pizza with 'interesting' toppings like truffle oil and grapes. Both are great places for groups of friends to return to again and again. In fact- I can't confirm this- but I might want to head to La Madia again this week for my birthday....we'll see if we can tear ourselves away from Hawaii packing!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

When Does a Ladder Turn into a Caterpillar?

When I wimp out, that's when!

So today I had the option of my last medium-long run outside- 12 miles at an easy pace- or a 5 mile hill run on the treadmill. Despite the sunny, reasonable 24 but feels like 11 degrees outside, I opted for the treadmill. Turns out that was definitely the harder of the 2 runs!

I intended to do a homemade hill ladder. A 'ladder' workout is where you start easy and then progressively made the run harder either by increasing incline or pace or both until about half-way through the work-out, then descend by relaxing the pace/incline. That was my intent. But I totally underestimated how hard my ladder was going to be. Oui!

I planned to do (all in 0.5 mile increments @ 9:31 pace):

Sounded tough, but not crazy. After all, I'm tapering. But it was HAH ("hard as hell", I'm trying to bring this into the running vernacular. Like it?)! I was huffing and puffing, uncomfortably so, at the beginning of the first 2.0 so I knew I needed to adjust the plan or I was in danger of bailing on the whole thing.

So I rearranged a bit and ended up with this:

Looks like a caterpillar! Yes? No?!? You have no imagination! :)

Next time, I'll try to keep it a ladder....we'll see if I can pull it off!

Now off to see an entirely different animal...The Black Swan. Finally.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things....

Ah, a perfect winter Saturday morning. Slept in until 7am, just had a little-too-big-but-delicious breakfast of 1.5 scrambled eggs, 1 piece of whole wheat toast w/ jelly, 1 glass of orange juice, and now am blogging while keeping one eye on The Biggest Loser playing on hulu. One benefit of winter in the Mid-West is that there's no need to get out of bed early to beat the heat, rather I can dilly-dally until it gets a bit warmer mid-day!

I've seen a lot of facebook and blog posts asking for good running music. If you ask, ye shall receive! Here are some of my recent favorites from the "Motivation Mix" I made last week for my 20 miler....

I hope you got some ideas!

(Thanks to Frayed Laces- I was working on this post, typing in each song one by one when I saw her post with screen shots from iTunes. Much more efficient! I guess when you are running a 100 mile race this weekend like she is, there's no time for typing! Good luck FL!)

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Swan Thieves

In the interest of furthering my non-running interests, here's a review of the last book I finnished...

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It held my interest from the first few pages. In broad strokes, the story revolves around a psychiatrist and his patient who is a talented painter. The painter is caught in an art museum about to "attack" a painting with a pocket knife. Needless to say, the dude has pretty significant psychiatric disease, so significant that he doesn't speak for the vast majority of the book. Basically, the psychiatrist becomes really interested in this guy's case from both a professional and a personal perspective and he goes way beyond the bounds of the usual patient-physician relationship to figure out what makes his patient tick. He ends up meeting his patient's former loves, visiting other countries, traveling to many art museums. Intermixed in the real time story is a love story from the early 1900s told through letters and journals. So, so good! That's all I'm going to say so I don't ruin anything for you. Let's just say that I was sooo glad that the book was so long because I got to enjoy it for many days!

Another excellent book by Elizabeth Kostova is The Historian. It's a few years old, but well worth picking up. I don't remember the details of the book- I think I may re-read it in Hawaii next week- but suffice it to say it's part historical fiction, part mystery, w/ a touch of vampire thrown in for good measure! Trust me, it's good!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Block 6: Geriatrics and Neurology

Block 7 is over but I'm only now getting around to this post about Block 6. I have been mighty busy but the real reason is that this is a tough one to write. My two weeks on Neurology were interesting but my time on Geriatrics was downright depressing and I've been struggling to find a way to put a positive spin on those two weeks.

So, I'll procrastinate a bit more by starting w/ Neurology.

The Neurology consults I saw varied b/t fascinating learning experiences and down-right wastes of time. On the interesting front, I saw a patient with partial status epilepticus which I didn't even know could happen! Status epilepticus is when a person has a persistent seizure that lasts 30 minutes or longer. In fact, in rare cases, it can last days. The patient we saw presented with inability to speak. Of course, we were concerned for stroke but all the brain MRI was negative. An EEG (electroencephalogram) indicated a partial, but persistent seizure in area of the brain that forms speech. Fascinating.

It was great to watch the attending physicians do full neurological exams and then hear them think (aloud) through where the brain or spine lesion must be to cause the problems we saw. We actually diagnosed a lady with ALS (Lou Gehrig's) which was incredibly sad but important for me to see the early deficits.

In the wastes of time department, I have to give my Neurology peers credit. They end up seeing a lot of very boring patients with headaches and generalized weakness/deconditioning for every 1 legitimate neurological problem!

I must admit, I learned a lot less on my 2 weeks of Geriatrics. Geriatrics is a somewhat new sub-specialty that focuses on the needs of the elderly such as maintaining functional mobility, diagnosing and managing dementia and other memory problems, with a lot of cross-over into psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression. This is important work, there is no doubt about it. And god bless the folks who go into this field! But, I found it very, very depressing. We spent a lot of time at a local nursing home as well as at RIC (Rehab Institute of Chicago) in addition to clinic and inpatient consults.

Thus far, I haven't much minded the aging process. While I'm not a fan of wrinkles and spend way too much money on skin preservation products, I otherwise have been fine with watching the 2* turn to 3* and with the 3* becoming 3*+1 each January 19th. While I'm not quite as svelte as I was before my metabolism slowed, I am likely in the best cardiovascular shape ever in my life and I expect to keep improving my performance in running and eventually in biking and swimming year by year. Plus, I have the ability to eat at very nice restaurants, live right on Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago, and travel to fun places with decent frequency, more so than 5 years ago, so if it requires aging to have that kind of financial freedom, so be it.

But, now, I'm starting to be afraid of aging. Not the next 40 years, necessarily, but the 30 years after that. I don't want to lose my ability to exercise, I don't want to lose my memory, and I don't want to lose my independence. Period. I know that doesn't happen to everyone, but it sure seems like it happens to a lot of folks!

In attempts to put a positive spin on this "fear", I've concluded two things. One, I'm going to focus on positive role models of aging. Like the 80 year olds that Runner's World often features who still run marathons or win Master's races. Like my three grandparents, who are still very active and fun. Second, I'm going to keep a mental list of things I enjoy and would be able to do even if I don't age the way I want to. Like, wearing a huge fancy hat to spectate the Kentucky Derby. Like, spa days. Like, becoming a better photographer. Like, reading, wine tasting, eating good food. Like learning about and watching (non-human) animal behavior.

Over the past few years, I've really started to focus on my physical health and fitness. I'm trying to become an athlete. But I need to be sure I don't neglect my other interests that don't involve physical activity. Don't worry- I'll never neglect wine and food:) But I'd like to focus on reading more books and actively trying to learn more about photography. I'll have a good chance to work on this a bit in Hawaii, I suppose!

I hope this post didn't end up a downer. I tried to turn the experience around a bit and learn from it.

I'd love to hear thoughts from others- older and younger- on the aging process. What would you do if you couldn't be active?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

N9NE (Steakhouse)

Thursday was my last day at the VA. Hallelujah! The month wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been, mostly thanks to my 2 fabulous interns and the holidays, but I'm so happy it's over and that I'll never be on call at the VA again!

So, of course, Adam and I had to CELEBRATE!

Two years ago, Adam and I started a tradition of having dinner at steak houses on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, I was on overnight call (never again!) at the VA on January 31st. To make up for New Year's and to celebrate the end of the VA we had dinner on Friday at Nine.

In general, steakhouses have a certain dark wood, deep colors, men smoking cigars kind of feel to them. Both Morton's (2008) and The Saloon (2009) are traditional in that way. This year, we shook it up a bit by going to N9NE, a more modern feeling place w/ a champagne bar in the middle of the restaurant. The feel of the food was a bit different than the typical steak house as well. The red meat options were just about the same, but instead of more traditional sides like creamed spinach and mashed potatoes they had broccoli w/ lavender and honey and Herkimer cheddar mac & cheese.

My first impression of the restaurant was good. Nice tables, nice flatware and glasses, nice menus. It took a while for our white suit clad server to get to us but he had some explanation for the wait and his enthusiasm for the food and, it appeared, life in general, made up for it. We actually ignored all of his recommendations (we had already decided on our menu choices before he told us the specials), but every single dish we had was delicious which is a testament to the quality of the food and the chef!

We started w/ a bottle of Turley Zinfandel and the Oysters Rockefeller. Tasty and tasty. The bread was very good as well but I tried to limit myself to save space for meat. Next, we split a Ceasar salad that was described as "as it should be" on the menu, and it sure was!

For dinner I had the filet mignon, rare, topped with blue cheese and grilled onions. This is by far my favorite cut of meat. We choose truffle cauliflower and lobster mashed potatoes for our sides as well as a selection of sauces (classic bernaise, whiskey sauce, tuffle hollandaise, barolo reduction). Everything was good but that cauliflower was OT OF THIS WORLD. The priorities for the space in my stomach were filet>cauliflower>everything else. Mmmmm.

Initially we weren't going to have dessert because we were about-to-bust full, but then the server gave us each complimentary glasses of red wine (w/ very generous pours). This may have been a ploy to get us to stay for dessert and if so, it worked. Adam ordered the Cloud 9. I had no idea what to expect and was totally delighted when this was brought to the table:

A "cloud" of cotton candy w/ 3 little ice cream cones on top (pistachio, chocolate chip and I can't-remember-the-third). So! Fun! I probably haven't had cotton candy for probably well over 10 years. I forgot how fun the texture is! Part of the reason I didn't want dessert was how full I was but also, I didn't think any dessert could add to the meal after the amazing meat and sides. But, the playful nature of this dessert really did add to the meal. We were both laughing as we grabbed pieces of cotton candy, making beards, sculptures and of course letting it dissolve into sugar on our tongues. I really enjoy restaurants that have excellent food but don't take themselves too seriously.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Nine as a tasty departure from the traditional Chicago steakhouse. The meat was truly spectacular and the rest of the menu was definitely more inspired than the usual steak house. I give it a B+ for ambiance, only because the lighting was just a bit brighter than I like, the TV in the lounge/bar area was visible from the dining room and the booths/benches were too low relative to the table. I actually ended up sitting on a pillow. I'd recommend you ask to be seated at a table w/ all chairs! But do go, it's worth the caloric (and monetary) splurge!