• Shooting for 2016!

    This Blog will follow me as I try to become a two-time Olympic Trials Qualifier. The 2016 Trials "B" standard is sub 2:43 for women - let's get after it!

  • The 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials

    The best experience, EVER. Go Team Nichole!

  • Thank you!

    I can't thank Jerry enough for believing in me, and for my generous sponsors Brooks, Generation UCAN, Nutrilite, Anytime Fitness, Feetures!, Seven Sundays Muesli, Massage Geek, and Stunt Puppy!

  • Dare to dream

    ...and dare to fail

  • Stay in Contact!

    If you've seen me speak, we've connected at a race, or you just read this blog, feel free to reach out and stay in contact with me. I value my running connections and the personal stories behind them more than you know! Plus, comments here have really helped with my personal journey - so keep 'em coming!

Product Reviews and a GIVEAWAY!!

18 comments
A few product reviews - make sure to read to the bottom for an awesome giveaway!

All Pro Science Protein Powder

Short review: Love it!

I was given a tub of APS's Strawberries and Creme protein powder to try a while ago. I had no expectations. I was already using Sunwarrior, which is highly rated and I had found to be better tasting than most other protein powders I had tried... could this really be any different?


I'll say, without hesitation, that I found myself LOVING it! It made the best tasting fruit/yogurt smoothies I've had. I couldn't taste the protein powder, and the flavors mixed perfectly with any smoothie combination I tried.

Other perks: It's made from 100% grass fed whey, and only has 6 ingredients.

Since running out, I used Sunwarrior for my last protein shake. It's noticeably chalky and not nearly as great tasting. Sad! I miss my All Pro Science protein powder! It's expensive ($70/tub), but this might be one thing I'm willing to splurge on... which is really saying something!

*Disclaimer: This product was given to me to test; I did not purchase the product.

Vega Sport Bars

Short review: Like/Love it!

I am a fan of energy bars, especially for runners on-the-go after workouts. It's important to get in carbohydrates and protein immediately after a run (3:1 to 5:1 ratio), and if you've packed a bar in your gym bag/locker for right afterwards, you're set.
I tried Vega's sport bars, choosing the chocolate peanut butter flavor so I could easily compare it to Powerbar's chocolate/peanut butter bar which I've used in the past.

Between the two of them, I'd definitely choose the Vega bars in terms of taste and ingredient quality. For taste, they have a less "sweet" taste (i.e. less like a candy bar), and the texture of the peanut butter middle is great. The ingredient list clearly shows that the Vega bar is far more natural (and pronounceable!).

The Vega bar has 15g of protein, which is about what a 150 lb runner would ideally have after a workout when targeting a 3:1 carb/protein ratio.

Plus, I also like that it's vegan, with no added flavors, colors or sweeteners. YAY for natural nutrition!

There is more fat in this bar than others (11g/ 17% RDV), probably because it contains more nuts (just guessing?). I don't advocate for fat calories right after a workout (protein and carbs should be prioritized), but it isn't a bad thing.

*Disclaimer: This product was given to me to test; I did not purchase the product.

"Baby Got Track" T-shirt

Short review: Love, LOVE it!!!

The creator of www.iamfunnyshirts.com contacted me to see if I'd be interested in trying one of his newly-minted running-themed shirts.

After seeing this design, I couldn't turn down the offer! How appropriate?!?


The shirt is SOOOO soft, and the printing on it is dyed into the fabric, so it isn't one of those cheap-o plastic-y feeling logos. I am honestly in love with it!

He prints these shirts in his garage, and I love supporting operations like that :).

Except... the medium that I ordered is *just* barely fitting now. It's a very stretchy/soft material, but obviously, baby is growing very rapidly. I'm hoping Matt will read this and take pity on me and consider sending a large :). Promise - I will wear it all the time! Paging Matt... :) :) :) Maybe???

Need a runner gift idea? This would be perfect. Check out their other runner designs or any of Matt's other designs.

If you want, here's a great coupon code for 20% off: NICHOLEROCKS

(Why, yes, I do rock?)

*Disclaimer: This product was given to me to test; I did not purchase the product.

A GIVEAWAY!!!!

Lucky you, reader, Matt at iamfunnyshirts.com has offered to GIVE AWAY a T-Shirt of your choice to a reader.

This is your lucky day!!

Comment below, with your contact information, and one lucky reader/commenter will be selected for an ohhhh-so soft T-shirt!
Hope you love yours as much as I love mine!

Comment below: which T-shirt design would you choose if you were drawn? www.iamfunnyshirts.com 

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Pregnancy weeks 25-26

4 comments
These last two weeks have been busy! Two 5k races, a birthday, a garage sale, baby classes, and still trying to get my persistent heartburn/throwing up routine under control.

Running:

Things have been going great! Even though I'm much bigger now, running has been more comfortable and I've been motivated to get out most days. 

One particularly fun run:

For my 25 week check-up I actually ran to my appointment. The night before Nate and I had met for baby class, and I decided it would make sense to leave a vehicle at the hospital since I had an appointment the next day. It's only 4.5 miles away, so seemed logical (and fun!).

As I was running along, Donna (Carleton College head coach) recognized me and started running with me. She asked how far I was going and I told her my plans. She literally burst out laughing. "I have to tell people about this!" she exclaimed between bursts of laughter.

I had to smile. Guess it is a little "unique" to be running to your check-ups :).

Two 5ks:

Siren: For the 4th of July, I joined Nate's family and ran the Siren Freedom 5k run. The ride there was a little painful. I knew I was on the brink of throwing up, but we still had a 20-25 minute car ride to go and we didn't have a lot of extra time to register/get to the start line. 

Luckily I made it (I kept checking my phone to see how much farther we had before arriving), but while waiting for everyone to grab their shirts/finish registering, nausea overtook me and I threw up about 10 times right outside the elementary school. I'm sure I looked like a crazy person.

So... that was my warm up :)

I ran the first mile with my father-in-law and sister-in-law before deciding that I'd have a little more fun running faster and moving up through the pack. I've never been so far back in a race before - it felt so awkward!

I ended up finishing in ~24:30, I think. Not bad, considering the first 1/2 mile was about a 10 min mile!

Stillwater Lift Bridge: I was able to join a lot of TNC members for this race.

The TNC crew! Minus Jeff and Christina.
Nate warned me several times before the race to run smart & not try to "race". It was really warm and humid out (almost 100% humidity). I agreed, although grumbled a little bit about it - it would be fun to actually see what I could do at 26 weeks pregnant!

I finished in 23:45, running in control and with a smile on my face the entire time. Sounds super cheesy, but I appreciated every step of the run & was just so thankful to be out there :). The Lift Bridge race was really well run, and I'd definitely consider going back. The course is rolling with a few ups and downs, so not the fastest, but it's a nice route. I think the 10 miler was much hillier.
Nate and Craig at the start of the 10 mile. Craig won in 58:34, but was listed in the 5k results at first, as was the 2nd male finisher who came in under an hour. It was humorous to see Craig's name so far down in the 5k results :)
I'd love to find a couple more fun 5ks to do between now and October - anyone have any fun ones to recommend?

Pregnancy:

My 25 week appointment went great. My OB measured my fundal height at 24 cm, which is within the normal range (yeah!). Apparently the normal range is within 2 cm of the # of weeks along (i.e. at 25 weeks normal would be 23-27).

26 weeks
Next appointment will be at 28 weeks, where I get to take the glucose test and get my second butt shot :) 

Heartburn continues to be an issue. My longest streak without throwing up is about 2 days. One evening last week I just couldn't stop dry heaving - it was as if my body just wanted to throw up every organ inside of me (and baby too). I then had my first braxton hicks contractions. Probably not a good thing to be throwing up hard enough to spark "practice contractions". 

That was the first time that I told Nate that this sucks. Previously I've just considered it part of the game, and really, it hasn't been bad. I compare it to training and pushing as hard as I was - and then throwing up doesn't seem so bad. Really! 

So, I'm being diligent about taking prescription strength heartburn medication and eating small meals (Nate is great about reminding me). 


Growing!!
Life Updates:

Birthday:  I turned 31! We celebrated at the cabin with homemade ice cream cake. I had no idea you could make these from scratch - not sure why I hadn't thought of that before! It was awesome!

Karen, my mother-in-law, had asked me what I wanted for my birthday a while ago. I said that I would love help getting ready for baby - at that point we just had the crib, bassinet, and ~10 pieces of clothing.

Being the amazing garage sale shopper (and mother-in-law) that she is, she totally outfitted us with most everything we'll need for baby. WOW. I actually cried. There's a story behind why this meant so much to me... but not for public viewing.

Baby Bjorn! I'm excited to use this. I hope baby likes being carried!
One of her most amazing finds? A "calf" costume! It'll even fit baby at Birkie time so he/she can join in with our TNC cheering squad then!!

A calf costume!! Can't believe it!!
Chick Fil-A: Speaking of cow costumes, our group decided to head to Chick Fil-A for the "free meal if you're dressed in a cow costume" promotion. Even Mesa came along and they gave her a chicken strip!

A car full of cows!
Our group. Yes, we are "moo-ing". Yes, that was a terrible idea. It makes for a very awkward picture.
Garage sale: This Wednesday evening while Nate was at Vakava ski practice I suddenly decided that this weekend was the most perfect weekend for a garage sale. I could open it up Thursday evening, hold it Friday (Nate had work stuff all day), and Saturday morning. We already had boxes of stuff in the garage, so it just needed to be priced. Then I'd only need to put an ad on Craigslist, make a few signs for around the neighborhood, and procure some tables.

Idea came at 9:00 pm Wednesday night. I went out to the garage and priced stuff like it was a timed contest. By the time Nate got home, 2/3 of our stuff was priced and I had posted the ad on Craigslist.

Thursday I met with the YMCA about volunteering/positions that might fit my strengths (they're opening a new facility in town!! Yeah!!), met with two athletes for an easy run around Northfield, made the neighborhood signs, went to my CSA to pick up my share of fresh veggies and another batch of basil to freeze pesto, and then rushed home to open the garage and set things out.

I'm happy to say things went well! We got rid of so much more than I expected (I swear, it was all junk that I set out...), made a lot more than I expected (awesome), and was able to spend a lot of time catching up and truly "meeting" our neighbors. If nothing else, the neighbor conversations were the highlight of this last-minute idea - plus, it was just a lot of fun to have done something crazy with so little planning :)

Baby quilt: 

Learning how to piece a quilt together with Karen

Now machine quilting "in the ditch". I'm keeping it simple for my first machine quilted quilt.

Now, thanks to down-time at the garage sale, I was able to finish hand sewing the binding. Now it's done - just waiting to be used by baby!!!

Signing off for now! I have to run to the restroom - baby is currently kicking me in the bladder :)

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Gender Prediction Fun - Old Wives’ Tales

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We are waiting to find out the gender, but are often asked the question: boy or girl? So, just for fun, I decided to take a look at a lot of different old wives' tales.




Old Wives Tale #1: Heart Rate 
If the baby’s heart rate is above 140 bpm, it is said that the baby will be a girl. If it is under 140 bpm, then it will be a boy. 
First time we heard the babies heartbeat it was at 180 bpm, but at my 25 week appointment it was at exactly 140. We'll give this one to girl. Prediction outcome: GIRL

Old Wives Tale #2: Shape of Belly
If you are carrying high with a big, round belly, you are having a girl. If you are carrying low with a smaller belly that sticks straight out, it’s a boy. 
I think I'm BIG AND ROUND, ha! Prediction outcome: GIRL

Old Wives Tale #3: Ring Test
Using a string, hang your wedding ring over your pregnant belly. You are having a girl if the ring swings back and forth and it’s a boy if it swings in a circle. 
Prediction outcome: BOY



Old Wives Tale #4: Acne
If you have acne while pregnant, it’s a girl. 
Early on, I was definitely broken out. Now, not so much. Prediction outcome: GIRL

Old Wives Tale #5: Cravings
People believe that if you are craving salty foods while pregnant, you can count on having a boy. If you crave sweets, fruit, and orange juice, you are having a little girl. 
I have definitely NOT craved sweets, which is weird for me (I would previously never turn down a chocolate chip cookie!), so Prediction outcome: BOY

Old Wives Tale #6: Skin under Left Eye
The eye test is when a “V” or “branches” appear when you pull down the skin under your left eye. If you see a “V” or “branches” in the white part, you’re having a girl. Weird test, if you ask me.
No “V”, so Prediction outcome: BOY

Old Wives Tale #7: Legs
If your legs get really big, you’re having a boy. If your legs stay in shape and lean, it’s a girl. 
I think it’s too early for me to tell on this one. So far, I think I'm only gaining in the torso - legs seem to be the same? Prediction outcome: GIRL

Old Wives Tale #8: Moodiness
If you are really moody, you are having a girl.
Yep, I've been moodier and more emotional. Not normal for me. Prediction outcome: GIRL

Old Wives Tale #9: Chinese Gender Chart
The Chinese Gender Chart claims to have an accuracy rate of over 90%. It is based on how old the mother is at conception and the month that she conceived. 
Prediction outcome: BOY

Old Wives Tale #10: History of Parent's Kids
If you are the first born, you will have what your mother had but starting with her second child. If you are the middle child, you will have what she had, but starting with the third child. Prediction outcome: GIRL

Old Wives Tale #11: Hair on Legs
If the hair on your legs has been growing at record speeds, it's a boy.
Exactly the opposite! It's slowed and is much thinner (nice!). Prediction outcome: GIRL

Old Wives Tale #12: Dream of Sex of Baby
If you have dreams that you are having a boy, you will have a girl. If you dream about having a girl, it will be a boy. Dreams show the opposite of what you are having. 
I've had dreams about both. Prediction outcome: INCONCLUSIVE

Old Wives Tale #13: Clumsy vs. Graceful
If the pregnant woman is graceful throughout her pregnancy, she’s having a girl. If she becomes clumsy, she’s having a boy. 
Definitely a bit more clumsy. Prediction outcome: BOY

Old Wives Tale #14: Side You Most Rest On
If a pregnant woman prefers to lay on her left side, she’s having a boy. If she prefers resting on her right side, she’s having a girl. Prediction outcome: BOY

Old Wives Tale #15: Dad’s Weight Gain
If the dad-to-be gains weight while you are pregnant, it’s a girl. If he doesn't gain weight, you’re having a boy.
Poor Nate, this pregnancy hasn't been the best for his waistline :). Prediction outcome: GIRL

Old Wives Tale #16: Breast Test
If a pregnant woman’s left breast is larger than the right breast, she’s having a girl. If the right breast is larger, it’s a boy.  Prediction outcome: INCONCLUSIVE

Old Wives Tale #17: What Do You Think?
71% of the time, the mom-to-be knows what she is having. Prediction outcome: GIRL 

Old Wives Tale #18: Morning Sickness
If you had a smooth pregnancy with no morning sickness, it’s a boy. If you were sick or felt really nauseous during your pregnancy, count on a girl. 
Yep, sick pretty often. Prediction outcome: GIRL

Old Wives Tale #19: Protein
When a pregnant woman craves meat and cheese, count on a boy. 
No doubt, cheese! (and fatty foods - not so much meat? And definitely not sugar or sweets) Prediction outcome: BOY

Old Wives Tale #20: Feet
Are your feet colder now that you are pregnant? If so, you just might be having a boy. Prediction outcome: GIRL

Old Wives Tale #21: Headaches
If you are having headaches, you might be carrying a boy. 
Some, but not many. I never have had headaches before, so Prediction outcome: INCONCLUSIVE

Old Wives Tale #22: Baby Names
It is said that when you can only think of specific names for a boy or a girl, you will have that particular gender. 
Nate and I have had two girls names picked out from day one, but have about 10 boys names that we can't narrow down. Prediction outcome: GIRL

TOTAL GIRL: 12
TOTAL BOY: 7
TOTAL INCONCLUSIVE: 3


Has anyone else had any fun baby gender stories, either involving old wives' tales or other stories?


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GIVEAWAY: Stillwater Lift Bridge and Log Run Races!

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I've always been a huge fan of the Stillwater races.



This Spring I had three of my athletes racing the Stillwater 1/2 marathon. Perhaps you saw Craig's overall win photo?

NBD, a 1:14 win (solo) in marathon-training mode!
Last year I raced the Log Run 10 mile along with two other athletes. That 10 mile is one of my favorite races of all-time, mostly because it's wicked downhill and I am a good downhill runner :). Someday I'm going to break 60:00 in the 10 mile, and I know it'll happen at the Log Run!


With K & R post 2013 Log Run race! It was a fun day :)

Well, readers, it's your lucky day! Thanks to a generous offer from Renewal by Andersen, I'm able to offer a couple of entries to either the Lift Bridge races or the Log Run races! How awesome is that?!?

Nate and I are hoping to be there on July 12th for the 5k (need to re-arrange a prior engagement, hoping SS can be creative?!?) - it would be great to see as many familiar faces there as possible!

Without further ado:

The giveaway!

2 lucky commenters below will win entry into the Stillwater race of their choice (either Lift Bridge races: 5k or 10 mile, or Log Run races: 5k or 10 mile). So if you'd like a FREE entry into either race, just comment below with which race you are interested in doing!

Easy as that!

Winners will be selected July 5th. Please provide a method of contacting you in your comment below!


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Pregnancy Weeks 22-24

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Oh, baby: heartburn, body image, and growing... exponentially!

As far as non-baby: the start of a couple of needed house projects (nesting?) and keeping myself super busy with presentations and coaching!

Week 22 side shot
Nesting:

Is this what it's called? I have a whiteboard in the house with the projects that we have been meaning to get to.

We're slowly tackling them, one-by-one!

At fist, we emptied our "office" upstairs. We sold our desk set within a week (thank you Craigslist!), and  moved everything that used to be in those shelves/that room into the spare bedroom.

Thankfully, we didn't have any visitors in the meantime :)

Spare bedroom - before

Before - picture 2
We decided to paint and put new curtains up in this room, as well as organize closets better to fit what used to be in "baby's room".

We went with a blue! Hopefully not too crazy, but "different" enough from the brown/gray/neutral that I usually gravitate towards :)

I think it turned out great!!


Almost done!


With curtains! Wish this picture could be taken with the same sunlight as above! 
Stop over for a visit! We'll have two Calvin and Hobbes collections on the nightstand ready for you to read!

I've also started to just get rid of stuff crap. That stuff that's been around the house for a while, not being used? The things I've been meaning to try sell, but just haven't yet? Yep, it's now either on the curb for FREE, in boxed for a garage sale in Marshall, or posted online. Awesome. Please take it away.

Pregnancy:

Heartburn has increased significantly in the last two weeks. Sigh. I can't find any pattern to it: some days it'll come on early, some days not at all. There's no one type of food that seems to cause it. If it's bad, I will often find myself coughing and then throwing up in the evenings.

There have been a couple of evenings where I've just thrown up blood, which caused me to actually seek out the doctor's advice to get this under control.

It's really not too bad, though, and I'll actually feel totally normal after throwing up. If this is the only major side effect, I am one lucky mom-to-be!

....

Today it was pretty fun to feel baby kicking against the outside of my stomach and stretching my belly button to its max! I am still very excited for the day that Nate will be able to feel these kicks and flutters :)

....

Photos!

Week 22. I started running with a belly band (Thank you KW!! It works great!) for extra support.

Week 23 - I swear, the bump is so much larger than this picture shows! 

...

When my stomach first "popped", I'll be totally honest and uncensored. I struggled with body image.

Before then, there were a few body changes that required me to think differently about myself: i.e. my chest expanding a couple of sizes, my body becoming softer overall, my rib cage and hips expanding... all of you moms out there know what I'm talking about.

But it wasn't until I looked down and all of a sudden saw this large, very-pasty looking stomach, that I started to strongly dislike what was happening to me. It seemed to grow exponentially every day. It was so weird looking! My mind went to Charlie in the Chocolate Factory's Violet. Remember her?

Violet's turning violet!
I pictured my entire mid-section blowing up like a balloon. On another day, I looked down and realized I didn't have much of a belly button left. Again, weird. Even weirder? The evenings when baby would move to one side or another so my stomach would be majorly lop-sided.

Now, though, I have totally embraced this ever-expanding stomach. I don't know what changed - perhaps it was realizing how silly this imagery and these thoughts were? Now, I love this bump. Yeah, it's still pasty-white, and most of the time it's either lop-sided or interesting looking, but it's life. It's beautiful.

If I do end up as big and round as Violet is above, so be it :).

Speaking Engagements/Coaching:

I've been able to speak at two Gustavus Run Camps as well as at Multek for their Wellness Week in the last week and a half. Add to that compiling new training plans for everyone that had their "A" races at Grandma's Marathon and adding a couple of new individuals to "the team", and I've had no problem keeping myself busy!

Speaking of that, I should get back to work! :)


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2014 Grandma's Marathon - Results!

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As I was standing at the 26 mile mark at Grandma's marathon, I kept checking my runner tracking updates.

"Can this really happen?", I wondered. No way, I thought to myself... could I really have all eight of my athletes PR? I wasn't even looking at small PRs - most were on track for 10+ minute PRs.

Any coach can relate to the nerves that come on when looking at splits that look too good to be true. This could be the best day possible, or there could be some serious blowing-up that goes on, which is never fun.

As each athlete crossed the 25M mark and I received yet another update, I began jumping up and down inside. My heart swelled.

No need for nerves from me, this was their day and they proved it! Collectively, as a team, we all dominated that Grandma's course.

The group, sans Rael. I'm starting to fill out my cow suit quite well! :)
--


I'll share some fun individual stories for the day:

Craig Cardinal: His time says it all: 2:38. 13 minute PR (!!). He looked smooth and in control the entire time. Way to go, Craig!

Sharon getting all of our nails ready for the race. Maybe there's something to this sparkle nail polish?
Jeff Lanners: Jeff started with me about 12 weeks ago. His PR was 3:20, but we knew he was capable of much more. Could we break 3 together in 3 short months?

Let's just say Jeff ran (yes, literally ran!) into our meeting area in the finish area after the race, threw down his stuff, and yelled while dancing about, "F' YEAH!".

For those of you that have the pleasure to know Jeff, you'll be able to picture the excitement and raw emotion that was in his celebratory dance :).

2:51. Nearly a 30 minute PR. Who does that?!? It'll be fun to see what we can do in more than just a few months...

Jeff Lanners at mile 26. Terrible picture quality, sorry about that!

HAHAHAHA, Jeff! What would our team be without you?!?
Amy Olson:  Amy was a new runner when she contacted me last fall. She had finished a 10k, which she admitted she didn't even know how long the race was before she ran the distance.

Her goal in contacting me was to qualify for Boston in 2015. She'll be just a few short months from her 40th birthday then, so running Boston will be a big milestone for her.  A BQ for a 39 year old woman is 3:40.

As we continued to work together, Amy kept improving at a really quick pace. By 2 weeks before the marathon, when we did a MP simulation workout as a team, I told her that I thought she was capable of 3:20 or below - and on a great day, 3:15. I was tentative to say anything, especially since the original goal was 3:40...

The night before the race she wrote goal times on her arms (if you're cheering for a marathon, you'll notice my athletes have their arms or hands written on!). We had looked over numbers before hand and stared at each other with big eyes.

"I think it's possible, so have that in the back of your mind", I coached. If you don't set yourself up for something great, it won't happen.

The other part of me said, "Nichole, she is a NEW runner. She's never run a marathon before. 3:15 at age 39? Are you being too greedy as a coach?"

Except, Amy executed as well as a seasoned veteran. She practically even split the course, and finished in 3:15:09.

She was a complete mess of tears when we met afterwards. Her family surprised her by coming up to cheer, and I don't think she quite believed a 3:15 (much less finishing?) was possible. She was so emotional, and so thankful for me, that she even brought Nate to tears :).

Seriously, I have to ask, is that not incredible?!? Watch out for this woman, I'm telling you. She may just be a new elite master's runner next year with another year under her belt!!

Nathan Porath: 3:15!! He PR'd by 5 minutes over Fargo in 2013. He finished in a 6:30 mile, his fastest of the race, which is impressive!

Sharon Snyder: Sharon flew in from Indiana for this race. She was a huge challenge for me coaching-wise because she had just raced at Boston no less than 10 weeks prior. It's hard to race (truly race) marathons that close together, but I knew she was capable of a big PR. I had emailed her earlier that week:

You are ready. I believe in it. Do you?

She didn't reply. Rut-roh.

Sharon received a surprise package. For those of you that know her well, know there was a lot of significance behind the weekend!
We have been up against a 3:28 barrier for the longest time. Building into this marathon, though, we had set PRs at every single distance, from the mile to the 1/2 marathon. The marathon was the only race for her to conquer.

And conquer it, she did!! 3:18 for the day, and when we saw each other in the finishers area our hug was filled with tears, replaced quickly with bubbly excitement over an enormous PR.

She told another Indiana runner afterwards, "I will do whatever Nichole tells me to do going forward!"

Hahaha, I'll wait a few days before I propose our next cycle, and we'll see what she says then!

Sharon at mile 26, looking absolutely determined to snag that PR. I noticed how much stronger she is upper-body wise than even 6 months ago. I'm not sure if it's because we switched up her strength routine or if she's just stronger in general, but it was very noticeable to me. You LOOK like a runner, Sharon, you can't hide it now :)
Rael Rodning: Rael was running her first marathon since running Grandma's 18 years ago when she pulled out at mile 20. So, this was essentially her "debut".

She saw Claire and I at the start (guess we are easy to "spot" in our cow costumes!), and I watched her pink compression socks lightly dance off into the marathon crowd.

4:24 later, I received the text that she had pulled through! YES!!!

Her post on Facebook captures her excitement:

Super happy with my first marathon...and even more happy to be really excited (more than I have ever been) to start the next training cycle. As I wrapped up this one I was already noodling on what I learned and could use to make the next marathon even better.
As I was walking to dinner with my husband I suddenly got really excited...as it dawned on me I could register for Zoom! Ya! Ya! indoor marathon now. He laughed and said take a couple of days before you start thinking about the next one...little did he know I spent the last 10 miles of my first marathon thinking about the other next one.
Oh, before we left I booked our hotel for next year in Duluth. Hmmm...done gone and lost my mind.


My rule is that you can't sign up for anything until at least 2 days (at least!) after an A race, so I'll have to hold her back :)

Jake Huot:  This guy is hard-core. 2 weeks ago his Achilles wouldn't allow him to finish our 1/2 marathon sim workout.

He then proceeded to roll his ankle walking out of the house the morning of the race, bad enough that it swelled considerably on the car ride to the start line.

He still pulled off a 3 minute PR, and had a huge smile on his face as the finish :)
Jake finishing!
Leighton Becher: Leighton wasn't sure what he'd be able to do. He just started training with me and we're working to define correct zones and develop a little bit of foot speed, so knew that the 1/2 marathon "race" distance would be a challenge (in that: he hasn't been putting in months of 1/2 marathon specific training).

But, he was able to comfortably cruise to a PR in a 1:16 finish (5:50 mile pace), finishing his last 5k HARD. It will be exciting to refine his training to set him up for a great last year of collegiate XC racing!

--

I. LOVE. MY. JOB.

--
Other fun pictures/highlights:

4 of us picked up Sharon from the airport on our way up to Duluth Thursday evening.

Back window of the Prius. 5 runners + a lot of food and gear. More food than gear, I think :)
The inside of the Prius. PACKED. Good thing we all know each other well...
We arrived after midnight at the TNC "host hotel". Just don't look under the couch cushions - it's a college guy's house!
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Thank you, everyone, for making this Grandma's Marathon the biggest highlight of my coaching career!

There's some magic happening within the TNC Endurance team. I have room for about 2-3 additional individuals for a fall race. Let me know if you might be interested in joining!




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Homemade Taco Seasoning

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Homemade Taco Seasoning

with no MSG or additives. Super easy to put together, 100% natural, low sodium (vs. the 300 mg you'll find in one serving of the packaged stuff) and delicious. I usually make a quadruple batch and store leftovers!

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp chili powder 
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt, to taste

Directions:


In a small bowl, mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Or, you can mix it together in the container you are going to store it in, just shake it to mix!


Add 2 - 2 1/2 Tbsp of spice mixture plus 1/2 cup of water to one pound of cooked meat. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently until there is very little liquid left in the pan.

Serve with your favorite taco shells and toppings!
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We made taco salads with this earlier this week, and it was great! Hard to beat fresh-from-the-garden lettuce, homemade seasoning, and a lot of toppings!


Enjoyed outside on the deck. Beautiful.

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Lots of Product Reviews

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Here's a round-up of a lot of products I've been able to try in the last couple of months!

Buildasign.com:

Short review: Love it!

Longer review: Buildasign.com contacted me to see if I was interested in trying out any of their products. They print everything from business cards to car magnets to bumper stickers to signs to decals and MORE. I decided to opt for a banner, since I thought that would be fun for training camps and races I'll host.

The process was super easy. I uploaded my logo, chose a background color, and added text. My only complaint: the design tool was a little cumbersome and text options were a little limited (so I couldn't find a match to the "Team Nichole Coaching" text I usually use). But, really, it's simple and easy to use. Just trying to write a thorough review.

I had my banner within a week, which was impressive. The quality of the banner is great as well - I had one individual ask me where I had mine printed! I would definitely print any future banners with them.

The banner turned out great!
*Disclaimer: This product was given to me to test; I did not purchase the product.

PepPod:

Short review: Like it, but with reservations on its price

When I was contacted by PepPod to try their product, I was completely skeptical. PepPod is a tablet that dissolves in water and provides vitamins and caffeine. I actually thought it would taste a bit like the Emergen-C tablets I have around the house (NOT a fan)... but, I've learned to at least give things a try...


And I am surprised to say that I liked it!

I'm always a fan of ways to flavor water, and do a lot of Crystal Light or Mio drops. This provided something different: it's fizzy and satisfying in a different way. The mild citrus flavor is great as well. I found myself looking forward to drinking a glass every day, not kidding.

I have used Hammer's Endurolytes Fizz tablets in my race bottles before during hot marathons to try to increase my consumption of electrolytes and sodium. I will stick with that product for training and racing in the heat, since I like the electrolyte composition in Hammer.


The only thing I would change would be that I would make the flavor a little stronger. The price is a steep as well: they sell for $45/ 30 tablets... perhaps that's in line with other energy drinks, but it was a little bit of a sticker shock for me. It might be fun to have other flavors as well.

I also wish I would have tried it warm, as apparently the flavor is really perfect then. Next time!
*Disclaimer: This product was given to me to test; I did not purchase the product.

Road ID:

Short review: Love it!

Nate bought me a Wrist ID Slim from RoadID this Christmas after my "laying in a ditch then being transported to the ER" episode last summer.

I love it! It's easy to slip on and off, and it's small enough that I don't really notice it.

I had to exchange the small band Nate bought for a medium, which surprised me. Just as a note for those ordering for themselves, I think the bands run really small.

I then won a certificate for a free product at a race, so decided to have fun and get the Scout ID for Mesa.

So proud! Take note of her shiny new Stunt Puppy collar as well!
Pros: It fits more info than any other dog tag. We fit her name, address, two phone numbers, and the tag line, "I like treats!" on the tag :)

Also, Mesa doesn't jingle anymore because the Road ID tag fits right over her collar. YAY!!!

*Disclaimer: We purchased or used a race gift certificate to purchase the product.

Get Fresh Feet: Relief for Tattered Tootsies

Short review: Mehh...





Get Fresh asked me to try out their "Feet - Relief for Tattered Tootsies" products. I didn't hesitate! Any runner knows how ugly their feet can get...

It came in an awesome package, and as I opened it I thought, "Wow, wow!!! This would make such a cool gift!".  I'd likely never purchase something this fancy for myself.

There are three products inside the bag:
1. Softening Foot Gel
2. Foot Scrub
3. Intensive Foot Repair Creme
Plus a pumice stone

What I liked:
My feet were actually much, much softer after using the product, which was so nice!

A portion of their sales go to military charities that help Wounded Warriors transition successfully back into civilian life. As so many of my family (Dad, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles) have served, this is very important to me.

What I didn't:
I didn't know when to use it... if I used it at night before bed, my feet would still be a little slimy/slippery for my morning run. I obviously wouldn't use it before a run, and after a run my feet are a little wet for a while...

The scent is a little strong for me since I'm used to fairly natural scents. Nate is even less used to scents, and commented that he thought the products smelled like Fruit Loops. Now that he said that...

*Disclaimer: This product was given to me to test; I did not purchase the product.

Brooks Transcend:

Short review: Not a fan, although can't fully review because I'm pregnant.

I was excited to try out "the latest and greatest" from Brooks! I have run a lot of miles in their old Trance model, and the Transcend is its replacement.

Loves: It's so much lighter than the Trance! It's very cushioned (I noticed much more forefoot cushion that any of their other models), and also much more flexible and has less stability which I appreciate. Plus, it's fun that it's so bright :)

Dislikes: It has the same bottom material as the Trance, so I'm finding that I wear the tread down faster than my other models especially when running on hot pavement.

My biggest dislike, is that my toes fall asleep in them for anything longer than ~40 minutes. I don't know why this would be: is it because they have more forefoot cushioning and that prevents me from flexing/pushing off hard like I usually do? Or another reason?

I'm not sure if it's fair that I'm doing a shoe review at 21 weeks pregnant, though, so I'll make sure to re-evaluate again in a few months when I'm running more normally :)

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That's it for now, folks! Have anyone else tried these products and have comments to add? Alternate reviews/thoughts from those above?








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