Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Reading

 In the past month or so I've been doing a LOT of summer reading! And I've found some good ones, so thought I'd share.

First up, Laura Lippman's "I'd Know You Anywhere". Lippman is a former newspaper reporter who first made her name as an author w/ a series of crime books w/ a private investigator as the main character. (Fun fact: she's married to the executive producer of The Wire!) I've never read those. But this free-standing book was great! The plot is based on an interesting idea: a convicted serial killer on death row, nearing his execution date, reaches out to the "one who got away", a young girl (now a woman) who he allowed to live. The murderer and his would-be victim end up spending a few weeks living together during a pivotal growth period in the young girl's life. The book explores the situation from the point of view of the adult woman looking back on that time in her life, wondering how she became "the one who got away", and how she opts to handle the opportunity or obligation to interact w/ the serial killer once again (at his request). 

Next up, "The 19th Wife" by  David Ebershoff. This story weaves together two plots, one in the current day and one taking place in the 1800s. The focal point of both stories is the role of polygamy in Mormonism, how it "fell" in the late 1800s and how it still exists in the 2000s in small, cult like towns like fictional Mesadale, Utah. Ebershoff's research into the history of Mormon polygamy in America is prodigious, giving the book real strength as a historical fiction novel. He tells the story of real life Ann Eliza, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, and how she apostasized from her family, the Mormon church, Salt Lake City and everything she knew to speak out against pleural marriage, playing a large role in the banishment of the practice from the Latter Day Saints church. The story is completely non-linear and told via fictional personal letters, newspaper clippings, and academic papers from the persepctives' of Ann Eliza, Ann Eliza's children, Brigham Young and academians of the time.

The modern day story is just as interesting. It's told from the perspective of Jordan Scott, a teenager who was kicked out of his polygamous, fundamentalist Mormon town when he was found (innocently) holding hands w/ his half-sister. As he explains it, the men "find a reason" to kick out the pre-teen and teenage boys so that they can keep the young girls for themselves. In short, the plot follows Jordan as he returns to his hometown to help get his mom, the 19th wife of a high ranking Morman man, out of jail where she sits accused of killing her husband. The plot is solid w/ interesting twists and turns. I was even more impressed by the way Eberhoff writes from the perspective of Jordan, a young gay ex-Morman, who knew nothing of the outside world until he was dropped on the side of a rural Utah road 2 years prior. I highly recommend it!

Voyager is the 3rd in an 8 book series. I wrote previously about the first book in the series, Outlander here. I liked it, but didn't love it. I plowed on and read the 2nd, Dragonfly in Amber, which I like enough to continue to the 3rd. Let's face it, I'm hooked now and will read all 8. Well, maybe just 7 because the last one is a graphic novel aka comic book (ick!). The series is mostly historical fiction based in the Scottish Highlands in the 1700s w/ the main characters being a great character named Jamie and his wife Claire. There is a minimal amount of sci-fi in the book - Claire is actually from the 1900s and time traveled (on accident) to 1700s Scotland. Since that first episode, she has time traveled 2 more times. So it's not super sci-fi, you just have to accept time travel, which I'm happy to do! The plot is way too dense for me to explain here. Suffice it to say, there are interesting characters, fun plot lines and an entertaining, quirky writing style. Try Outlander and if you like it, keep on going through the series!

I so enjoyed, Eberhoff's The 19th Wife that I sought out his book, The Danish Girl. I'm about halfway through this one and so far, so good. It's a fictionalized account of the first person to ever have sex reassignment surgery. While Einar felt he was different from others and certainly had more than friendly feelings toward his childhood pal, it never occurred to him (living in the early 1900s in Europe) that he felt more like a woman than a man until his wife, Gerda, asked him to put on a dress as a stand-in model for her painting when her actual model didn't show. Einar enjoyed the experience so much, that he started dressing as "Lili" more and more of the time. Einar is stressed and confused about the situation and emotionally adapts by taking on a "split-personality" mentality- he doesn't always remember actions he took as Lili and when he is Lili he looks at Einar as a relative he once knew, not as himself. I just got to the part where he had sex reassignment surgery to relieve him of his 'man parts'. So far, I've enjoyed the book, especially the complexities of Einar/Lili's emotions and thoughts as well as those of his wife and friends who love Einar and Lilli and just want what's best for him/her (them?) in a very confusing situation. The book will be made into a movie w/ Nicole Kidman (confirmed) and maybe also Gwyneth Paltrow (unconfirmed) in 2012.

Lastly, I'll mention a book I was less enthused about: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I don't want to unfairly lure people away from this book- it must have some redeeming qualities that I just didn't pick up on because it won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Basically the book follows a bunch of self-destructive New Yorkers though childhood, young adulthood (present day), and middle age (future, 2020, including some mild satire of a possible extreme endpoint of our digital age). I never really liked, appreciated, or could relate to, any of the characters, which is probably why I thought the book was ho-hum. They simply weren't that complex- they all basically stereotypes of out-of-control musicians who either makes such bad choices in their youth that their adulthood is ruined as well or continue to make semi-bad choices all throughout life. The multiple characters are only loosely tied together which gives the book a really disjointed feel. Even more annoying, an entire chapter is written in power point slides. Ugh.

To end on a good note....I got a Kindle!! Yea!! The last 2 books I read on my Kindle and it is awesome! After spending an overnight car ride using the 'flashlight' app on my phone to read, Adam decided it was time I have a better solution. My Kindle w/ light case is perfect. We'd been debating Kindle vs iPad (we're definitely an Apple house) but since the main thing we wanted it for is reading, and it's impossible to read from an iPad in direct sunshine because of the back lighting, we went for the (much cheaper, I should add) Kindle. It's environmentally friendly (no more paper books!) and I can download new books from anywhere, anytime. Awesome.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bike Ride Success!

Mom, Dad, Me, Adam

Last September, my folks came into the city and we attempted a bike ride. The ride ended up being a comedy of errors when we had bike mechanical problems, helmets were forgotten, we lost Adam, and our chosen route was closed.

This weekend, we tried again. It was a PERFECT day for a bike ride, 75 degrees and sunny. And I'm happy to report that no one got lost:) Here are some scenes from the ride:

First we stopped to watch a bike polo tournament a few blocks from our apartment.

Pretty flower.

Soldier Field

Gotta love summer in Chicago!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Piccolo Sogno

I've mentioned in previous posts that instead of giving my folks Mother's Day, Father's Day and Birthday gifts, last year Adam and I started a tradition of treating them to a nice dinner out in Chicago. Last year, we went to Mercat a la Plaxna which was GREAT and I highly recommend it. This year, we headed to the #1 al fresco dining spot in Chicago- Piccolo Sogno!! 

Piccolo Sogno has a very cute indoor eating area that smells like fresh flowers (seriously, how do they do that?), but in the summer, the capacity of the place triples when they open their HUGE, BEAUTIFUL patio!
I found the hype about this city oasis to be totally founded. The patio had lots of trees and shade protecting us from the sun, and the tables were cute. You truly would never know you are in the middle of (a not especially pretty) part of Chi-town. I could see lights set up in the trees and imagine that after dark the place gets even more pretty. I'd recommend shooting for a 7:30 pm reservation so you can enjoy the sun and the dark (good luck getting one!).

I knew from past visits that the food and service at Piccolo is OUTSTANDING. Since my folks don't live in the city, they don't have many changes to eat out in the city, so I choose our restaurants very carefully to give them the best possible experiences. Our server gave us an excellent wine recommendation, and was very knowledgeable about the menu offerings. The food was well spaced, we never felt rushed and the waitstaff was very attentive but non-obtrusive. For example, when our food arrived, we were trying to sample all the entrees and a server immediately popped up and asked if we'd like some small plates to aid in sharing. My mom kept commenting on the large number of waitstaff and that's why- they are paying close attention, trying to premeditate restaurant patrons' needs. Well done!

On to the food! For starters, we had Prociutto di Parma w/ Figs and Flori di Zucca (zucchini blossoms stuffed w/ fontina over tomato puree). Both were excellent and I'd recommend them especially the zucchini.

For our mains:

Adam had the sea bass w/ fennel. They brought the whole fish to the table for him to approve. I never know what I'm looking for in this "fish approval process" but it's fun nonetheless! The fish was AMAZING.
My Dad had the spinach gnocchi. He's on a quest to find the best gnocchi, similar to my quest for the best red sauce (Dave's Italian Kitchen in Evanston holds the crown currently for me). I don't think it beat out his favorite, but probably came in 2nd, which isn't too shabby:)

Mom had the ravioli alla primavera (artichoke and buffalo milk ricotta stuffed pasta tossed w/ fava beans, peas and parsley). I thought this was just outstanding and would wholeheartedly recommend it. It tasted lighter than it sounds.

I had the rosticciana (braised beef short ribs, aromatic vegetables, soft polenta, spring greens, pea sprouts) for the second time. I remembered each bite being just heavenly last time and it was this time as well. So good. The meat was so tender and soft. LOVED IT.

For dessert we had the panna cota (which was good) and the hazelnut cake and sorbet (which was even better!). 

Great food, great company, great day! I hope my parents had as much fun as we did:)

An Island Treat: Skillet Cheese Toast

When Adam and I travel, we like to stay at hotels, condos and houses that allow us to cook our own food. One of our favorite foods to cook on vacation (and one of my favorite foods of all time, period) is Skillet Cheese Toast. My mom made us for this when we were kids and it is oh-so-amazing! If you like cheese, you will LOVE this!

Whether we on are on the South Island of New Zealand....

Or on the Island of Maui......

Or on Beaver Island in Michigan.....

Adam making SCT in Te Anau, NZ.
...we find a way to incorporate Skillet Cheese Toast into our eating plan! As you will see in the recipe below, SCT requires very few ingredients, all of which can be found at even the most remote grocery store. Also, minimal cooking materials are required- even the cheese grater can be substituted with fine chopping if needed.

The Ingredients:

2 8-ounce package Muenster cheese, shredded
3 tbsp yellow mustard
3 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
2 egg yolks
4 tbsps butter or margarine
1 loaf of Italian bread, sliced into 1-inch thick diagonal slices
dash of ground pepper
salt to taste

Here's a shot of the toast before it hits the oven:

Mix cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and egg yolk. Set aside. Melt 4 tbsps butter in non-stick frying pan 2 tbsps at a time until golden brown (on one side). Turn the bread over. Top each slice (the grilled side) with some of the cheese mixture. Place the bread slices on a cookie sheet and broil until cheese mixture is hot and bubbly, about 3 minutes.

And the finished product:


Boot Camp Bust!

As I outlined in my boot camp post, I had high exercise related hopes for this week. While I'm definitely not anywhere close to meeting those work-out goals, I can at least learn from my failures, right? At first, I was doing okay- on Friday I ran 13 miles and did a video but failed to swim. I was semi-satisfied w/ 2 our of 3. Saturday, I biked 7 miles (to Green City Market and Back), and ran/walked 7, so again 2 out of 3. Well, then the wheels came off because Sunday, I biked 10 miles, ran only 1 and that was IT. Monday, I ran only one mile. I had plans to do speedwork yesterday but my body was totally rebelling, silently screaming "nooooooooo" with every step so I just did my dailymile. Hmm....time to move on to lessons learned?

  • I will NEVER be a 60 mile a week runner. I see folks like Aron (Runner's Rambles) and all the Pfitzinger followers out there and they impress me, but I will never be them. I'm glad I found a plan that allows me to run just 3 days a week because that's more my style. So future boot camps will involve less running mileage!
  • Boot camp is not advisable after 3 years of terrible work hours and sleep deprivation. Much as my mind wanted me to exercise, my body needed sleep and lots of couch time. Today is the first morning where I don't feel completely, utterly exhausted, though I still don't feel quite back to myself.
  •  I don't follow training plans very religiously. I know a lot of people do and I'm super impressed by that, but I never will. I try to do the running part, more or less, but the cross-training falls off often. At the same time, the more ambitious my plan, the more I will do. Back when I was making weekly training plans w/ weekly assessments of how well I followed my plans I was getting in a lot of 2-a-days and a fair amount of cross-training. So, back to blogging my weekly plans! That should hold me more accountable.
  • Lastly, and this has nothing to do with exercise, I need to acknowledge about how little self control I have w/ eating. When there is "bad" food around, I eat it. So I need to NOT HAVE UNHEALTHY FOOD AROUND. I hope my husband is reading this;)
 Plan for the rest of the week:

Tuesday: 1 mile w/u, 4 x800 @ 7:20 (2 min RI), 1 mile c/d; Abs video
Wednesday: 15 mile bike ride, 20 minute swim
Thursday: 1 mile w/u, 4 m @ 8:20, 1 mile c/d; Abs video
Friday: 30 day Shred video
Saturday: 1 mile w/u, 4 x 800m @ 7:20, 3 x 600m @ 7:10, 2 x 400m @ 7:05, 1 mile c/d; 8 mile bike ride
Sunday: 15 mile bike ride
Monday, 4th of July!: 17 miles

Special thanks for the marathon suggestions you guys gave last week! For Texas, I've narrowed it down to Dallas White Rock (thanks, Jamoosh) vs Austin. For S Dakota, Sioux Falls is a winner (thanks Jeri). And Michelle totally convinced me that the Eugene Marathon is the way to go for Oregon. Now, I just need to work on finding time to travel......

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Non-Runner's Marathon Guide for Women

A few months back I blogged about a really funny running quiz, called "Should I train for a marathon?" that my mom brought to my attention. The quiz is from the book "The Non-Runner's Marathon Guide for Women".  I finally got the chance to read the book in its entirety and it does not disappoint! The book basically pokes fun at the absurdities of marathon training, especially for folks who go from non-runners to marathoners (that was me years ago!), as it follows the author's journey from couch potato to marathon runner. It's really funny and definitely worth a quick read. If you enjoy the quiz at the link above, consider reading the whole book. But for now, here are some of my favorite excerpts:

Chapter 3: "The Accessories":
On 'The Water Holder Butt Thingy'- "I'm sure it has a more technical name, but I call it the Water Holder Butt Thingy. And essentially that's what it is: sort of a fanny pack that holds a water bottle......This is quite helpful when you see the water fountain on the horizon, but can't imagine having enough energy to get to it."

On 'GU'- "Vitamin-enriched GU energy gel is a goo-like substance that comes in little pouches.....You aren't going to need GU right away; but you'll need it as the mileage gets longer and you start needing to replenish yourself. Some people call this point 'Your body telling you to stop running'. Runners call it 'Time for GU'."

From Journal Entries:
"Listening to the radio, I inevitably have to listen to....some commercials, because sometimes I just don't have the energy to chance the station."
    --This has def happened to me w/ my ipod,

"As the big race gets ready to start, everyone crams together near the start line as though we're about to be released from a high-security prison or are waiting outside a Krispy Kreme that's handing out free doughnuts."

On being a slow runner:
"When the obnoxiously loud bullhorn goes off, the runners begin to move very, very slowly. I cherish this moment. For this is the only moment in which I'm keeping pace with the seven-minute-mile runners."

On full body fatigue:
" fitness routine a month ago [pre-marathon training] consisted entirely of me getting to the bottom of my stairs at home and then realizing I had forgotten something upstairs. I would then have to bitterly climb back up the stairs to retrieve said object. And about 50% of the time I'd just leave the object upstairs, because who really has the energy to climb stairs. Now I have a slightly different routine, which involves me leaving the object upstairs 100% of the time. I've gone out to dinner w/ no purse, no glasses and one shoe. It's just too much to climb those stairs."

Chapter 4: The Training
On finding your pace:
"Everyone finds a pace that allows them to comfortably run for miles and miles when there's no hope of public transportation coming to save them."

Chapter 10: The Mentality
"Inspiring Quotes that Got me Through my Marathon
From Mark Twain: 'Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.'
From my friends: 'Cheer up, things can get worse....and by the next mile, they will!'"

The only critique I want to give about the book is regarding her final "journal" entry about her actual marathon. She had a tough race. An unusually tough race. She was still able to be funny and to focus on the triumph of her finishing the race against many obstacles (beyond the obstacle of moving your body 26.2 miles, of course), but her race was so miserable that I'm afraid non-runners might read it and be afraid. Marathons are tough, they are to be feared, but at least 80% of folks have 'easier, more fun' races than that! Don't be scared. You CAN do it, and you WILL enjoy (at least part) of it!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

7 Day Boot Camp

My Hematology/Oncology Fellowship starts in 7 days. In other words, I have 7 days of FREEDOM! Since Adam and I just got back from our vacation to Beaver Island a couple weeks ago, I'm not going to take any big trips in the next week. But I absolutely HATE the word staycation, so please don't bring that up. As much as I like Chicago and our lakefront apartment, I don't think vacations are meant for staying in one place, unless that one place is a beach in Hawai'i. So this is not a vacation, or a staycation, it is merely a one-week interlude before fellowship begins!

Even though I'm not traveling, I need plans! Nothing worse than getting bored during free time. I do have some work to do. I need to keep harassing the Illinois government to get me my permanent medical license in time. I need to study for Internal Medicine Boards. I need to buy some new clothes including a dress for my dear friends' wedding in August. I need new contacts. I need to clean my closet. And......I need to jump start my fitness!

Yes, I just had a marathon PR a month ago. But that was a month ago! I need to hit the re-set button in terms of both diet and exercise. And here's a 7 day chance! Have you heard of 'exercise retreats'? Or 'running camps'? Or 'The Biggest Loser Ranch'? I'm going to create my own Val's 7 Day Boot Camp. Most of my friends will have left town (I need some new, local friends, anyone live in Chicago?), hubby will be at work, and I have no major responsibilities. So I'm going to whip myself into shape. My preliminary schedule is below. I might add in a yoga video as well. We'll see!

(Note: I realize I may have to downgrade my pace goals w/ all this extra running.)

Val's Boot Camp

Run: 13 miles easy
Weights: Jillian video
Swim: 20 minutes ad lib
(Calorie burn: 1020)
Run: 7 miles easy
Weights: Jillian video
Bike: 8 miles (to Green City Market and back)
(Calorie burn: 890)
Run: 2 miles easy, 4 x800 @ 7:20 (2 min RI), 2.5 miles c/d
Weights: Abs video
Bike: 8ish miles w/ Mom, Dad, Adam
(Calorie Burn: 840)
Run: 7 miles easy
Weights: Jillian video
Swim: 30 minutes ad lib
(Calorie Burn: 720)
Run: 2 miles easy, 4 miles @ 8:20, 1 mile easy
Weights: Abs video
Swim: 30 minutes ad lib
(Calorie Burn: 720)
Run: 7 miles easy
Weights: Jillian video
Bike: 15 miles
(Calorie Burn: 1040)
Run: 17 miles easy
Weights: Abs video
(Calorie Burn: 1120)

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Medicine is an unique (and I often think foolish!) career choice. One odd feature of physician training is the clearly defined chapters and transitions every 3-5 years. In many careers, you get promotions or may even change jobs, but usually when your responsibilities change, they change gradually. Even with job changes, you need to learn the ins and outs of your new environs but your work (usually) involves similar content, similar skills.

In medicine, job changes are pre-scheduled, abrupt, and dramatic. There is no 'easing' into new roles. With each change you start knowing virtually nothing about what you are supposed to do. The structure of your new role, the body of knowledge you need to have at your command- we start from a place of ignorance but are supposed to know what we are doing. I guess what I'm saying is, the learning curve in medicine is STEEP.

Me and Bonnie
First there's medical school. The first 2 years of medical school involve being in class from 8-5, 5 days a week with a one hour lunch break and then studying before and after (or both) class. Once your body and mind adapts to SITTING all day every day and trying to pay attention, this isn't so hard. Expectations are clear: memorize stuff and regurgitate it on tests. Simple.

3rd year of medical school is the first shock to the system. Every 2-4 weeks you have a new supervisor, new co-workers, new responsibilities and new knowledge to master. Surgery, Pediatrics, Medicine, Psychiatry, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Family Medicine-- the list goes on and on, w/ surprisingly little overlap b/t fields. For most of us showing up every few weeks to a completely NEW job w/ NEW people and NEW rules is intensely stressful. I was pretty miserable through most of 3rd year and only got through it due to my two dear friends and colleagues, Bonnie and Deepa. Love those girls!
Deeps and I

After medical school graduation, we start intern year (the first year of our residency). Again, our responsibilities and colleagues change every month. Plus now we are actually doctors (not just students) and we are calling the shots (with various degrees of supervision, of course). Prior to starting our residency programs, we've each spend a maximum of 4-6 months working in our fields. So we have A LOT to learn.

Me w/ co-residents Sara and Laura
The only semi-gradual transition in medicine is from intern to senior resident. One day we are interns (June 30th), and literally the next day (July 1st), we are residents. So not gradual temporally. But, as intern year progresses most of us assume more and more responsibility and certainly acquire more knowledge. This, for me, this was a super easy transition and the 2nd and 3rd year of residency were the most comfortable years of medical training thus far. Still hard, still too much work and not enough sleeping or weekends, but I didn't go to work everyday with a sense of fear and dread (except MICU call days).

The 3rd year women at Senior Dinner (photo courtesy of Michael Joyce)
Three years of residency then end abruptly. We celebrated the end of our Medicine residency this year w/ a Senior Dinner at The Allerton's Tip-Top-Tap in downtown Chicago. It was a great night! So much fun to have all the residents in the same place at the same time, most of us stress free with the next day off of work, eating, dancing, celebrating, laughing at our goofy senior video. I had a blast!

Next up, a real job! I wish. While most of our college educated peers have been in the "real world" working for 7 years (and even our grad school educated peers have been working for at least 3 years), we continue training on a trainee's salary for another 3 or so years. This is called fellowship.

That's where I am now. About to start Hematology/Oncology fellowship on July 1st. A new job, new responsibilities, new content to master once again. This time, I've had 5 months of work in my field, which is not much. What do I know about Heme/Onc? Not much. Just because I WANT to know about it, doesn't mean I DO know anything!  So here I am again at the low end of the learning curve. And this time, there is no 'intern' year in which everyone knows you are new and expects you to need guidance. As far as I can tell, fellows are just thrown into the deep end w/o a life vest. Awesome.

But, just like with every other new position, in a few months being a fellow will be comfortable and less stressful. I look forward to that time!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Best Races in the States

As many of you may know, one of my long term running goals is to run a marathon in each of the 50 states. Since this will take many years to complete, I have the luxury of choosing the absolute best races to complete in each state. To aid in this mission, I'm going to construct a list of "must-do" races. And I need your input! My current ideas are below, but as you can see there are many states w/o races. Let me know which races you suggest in any state. Trail races wanted also!

California: Big Sur Marathon International Marathon, (I'd also like to do the Catalina Marathon
and the Napa Valley Marathon)
Colorado: Pikes Peak Marathon
Hawai'i (check!): Maui Oceanfront Marathon-- (Race report here)
Illinois (check!): Chicago Marathon --  (Race report here)
              Rockford Marathon-- (Race report here)
Indiana: Tecumsah Trail Marathon
Maine: Mount Desert Island Marathon
Massachusetts: Boston Marathon
Michigan: Traverse City Bay State Bayshore Marathon
Minnesota: Grandma's Marathon
Montana: Missoula Marathon
New Hampshire:
New Jersey: Ocean Drive Marathon
New Mexico:
New York: New York City Marathon
North Carolina: Outer Banks Marathon
North Dakota:
Ohio: Flying Pig Marathon
Pennsylvania (check!): Philadelphia Marathon
Rhode Island: Amica Marathon (in Newport)
South Carolina:
South Dakota:
Utah: Ogden Marathon
Vermont: Vermont City Marathon
Washington (check!): Whidbey Island Marathon
Washington DC: Marine Corps Marathon
West Virginia:
Wisconsin (check!): Madison Marathon (Race report here)

After working nights for a couple weeks, fending off a couple minor infections, and spending 24 hours straight in the ICU, I'm wiped out. My running is suffering. But, I'm optimistic that once I catch up on sleep, I'll be able to re-motivate!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Two (+1) for Tuesday

Just some randomness today:

1. Adam got us a Kindle!! So excited!!

2. I'm going to institute a Jillian Michaels abs progrm. "Jillian Abs for July" I'm going to call it. Why? Because it's too damn hot to run outside w/ a shirt on, that's why. So the tiny bit of unwanted action in my belly must go pronto, preferably by July 1. Suggestions for a good abs video? (Doesn't really have to be Jillian's).

3. Today I am thankful to be a girl. It is too damn hot for pants. At least girls can wear dresses and skirts!

That's all I got....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Beaver Island, Michicgan: Moonbounce Bay

I'd be remiss if I didn't talk in some detail about the AMAZING house we rented on Beaver Island. While most of the rental cabins on the island are very 'cottagy', this one was a perfect blend of 'woodsy' and 'modern'. For only $1000 for an entire week, we rented this house called Moonbounce Bay. Here are some key features of the house.  

The place has 4 bedrooms, 2 w/ Queen beds, the other 2 with  bunkbeds w/ Queens on the bottom, so all-in-all the place sleeps 8.    

Bunk bed room.

The master suite is in a loft which is really fun. There's a bathroom up there as well.

Here's the downstairs living area, complete w/ a bar, DirectTV (but, really, who watches TV while on a beautiful island in the summer??), and plenty of couch space. One of the bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry room are downstairs as well.

Master bathroom, there are 2 other bathrooms that also have showers/tubs.
Here's the upstairs living area. The floorplan is open, which is nice. There is plenty of space for multiple people to be doing multiple different activities.

Upstairs deck

See me in the loft?

Additional dining area.

The kitchen is new and modern- a must since we planned on cooking all our meals. There are seats for three at the counter.

View of the house from the beach. You can see how HUGE the top deck is. The bottom deck is great if it's raining because it is built so that the rain rolls off the edges rather than on to the bottom deck. (Not that we ever used it because we had near perfect weather!) Both decks have 2 large 6 people tables and tons of chairs.

The view from our deck.

Another view of the main room.

Yet another view of the main room.

Really a nice place. I highly recommend it. The house is fully stocked w/ towels, sheets, dishes, and all the cooking stuff you'd need. Just bring food and beer and you're in for a fabulous week!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Running Mantras

I might be the only person in Chicago happy that was happy it rained all day yesterday- I had no excuse but to go down to the 'mill to get my speedwork done. 1 mile w/u @ 8:57, then 3 x 1600m @ 7:30 w/ 400m RI, then 1.15 mile c/d. That's THREE 7:30 miles. I felt like an inverted jello pop- my upper body was stiff (I think I was heavily relying on my abs to get the job done) and my legs felt like a disorganized mess of jello. Glad I didn't trip! Needed a lot of positive self-talk to get through this one- I kept repeating "you are fine, you are fine" whenever I started to get that heavy i-can't-breathe feeling in my chest. Then I started reflecting on other running mantras that I've used of late.

For long runs:
"there's no walking in running"
"it's just like walking but faster"
"remember, you LIKE this"

For speedwork, tempo and short races:
"you've got this"
"you've felt worse than this in the past"
"feel bad now, feel good in the race"
"you can do ANYTHING for a mile"
"your heart and lungs need this pain to adapt"- not catchy but totally true!

For all runs:
"keep your head in the game"

What are your favorite mantras?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Running....with a Blimp?

I had a good run yesterday. Not good from a performance standpoint (I was nowhere near my goal of 5 mile tempo @ 8:25 min/miles), but one of those runs where I really enjoyed the mere act of running.  I loved thinking that I was transporting myself at a reasonable speed with my own two feet. It made me think of the Madison to Chicago Ragnar relay that just finished up (congrats DM Jim!). Then it made me think of how cool it would be to run from Chicago to my hometown Rockford (about 60 miles). No time soon, but maybe one day!

Performance-wise, the run started off well w/ a 1 mile warm up (9:17). When the 'ol Garmin beeped at 1 mile, I took it up a notch and ran the next mile just at goal in 8:24. It felt good. I was happy that I was able to "feel the pace" w/o relying too much on my Garmin. But then I started to feel weighed down. Not my legs in particular, but my whole body. I felt like I was running w/ extra weight on board (I haven't gained anything, I promise) all over. This early in the training cycle - or really anytime- if a performance run like a speed session or intervals feels a lot harder than I think they should, I have no problem revising my goals for the day. Some people probably push on and make themselves do exactly what's prescribed. They certainly are tougher than me but I'm not 100% sure that makes them better runners overall. I'm a huge fan of listening to my body- usually I'll come back in 2 days and rock the same work-out.

So, I scaled it back. (9:20, 9:52). There may have been some walking. 

Then I saw the blimp. I was entertained for a while watching it. Then I totally cracked up when I saw the advertiser: Direct TV. So there's a blimp flying over the Chicago lakefront path on a perfect 65 degree sunny day, encouraging all these people who are being active to STOP being active, GO watch DirectTV which will increase their chances of becoming a BLIMP just like the ad. Hilarious!
My spirits lifted by the blimp, I glanced at the Garmin and saw my 5th mile was so far at tempo pace! So I kept it up, and pulled out a 2nd 8:24 mile.

You don't have to reach your goals in order to have a good run:)