A week in the life of 105 miles

My second 100+ mile week is just about in the bank (105, actually)!  Mileage like this makes my week a little crazy, but my body is responding well.  I'm amazed, actually.  So what does a 105 mile week look like?  Nate said that would be interesting to write about.  I said I didn't know, since although it's a challenge, I've gotten used to the schedule and trying to fit full time work around it.  Plus, I know that I'll hit 115 miles/week three times during this cycle, so I guess my mindset has changed to think that 105 doesn't seem like such an epic feat anymore (which is a good thing, but also a little scary!).  But I'll detail the week, since if you would have told me last year this would be a week of my life, I would have called you crazy :).

Monday: Double run of 15.  10.5 in the morning before work (6:00 start time).  4.5 miles in the evening with Nate.  Long day of work in between.

Tuesday: 18 total, 14 in afternoon with 3x2 miles of tempo, 4 in PM.  Times: 11:57, 11:45, 11:40 (great!)
I was down in the Mankato area for a family thing early in the day, so decided to do my first tempo workout with Brenden.  Long story, but we ended up starting the workout around 3pm.  Looking at the forecast, there wasn't going to be much of a difference between 3pm and 7:30/8 (temp would be down, but the dew point was predicted to rise the same number of degrees).  Knowing it'd be miserable whenever I attempted it, it was better to take advantage of a stride-for-stride training partner.  Except he hasn't been running since his PR at Grandma's 1/2 marathon, so it was more of a "I'll keep up for 1/2 mile inside each of the 2 mile segments" type of training partner :).  That won't last for long, so I have to relish the fact that I crushed him :).  It was actually good to have someone coming in and out of the tempo segments sporadically and at unplanned intervals.  I always ended them alone, which was great.  I focused on being mentally tough while running alone and found that I was actually doing a pretty good job.  That's great, sometimes I give in to the pain too easily...
I checked the weather after we were done.  90 degrees, dew point of 73 for a heat index of 98.  Very glad I didn't know that before starting.  I did have to stop after the 2nd one for a water break since I could tell my core temp was rising to an unsustainable level and my skin was very, very hot to the touch.  Gross.  Can this heat and humidity go away sometime soon?
Last comment about the day: I am so motivated by the thought of starting with the professional women at NYC.  Every time I started a tempo segment, I envisioned myself at the start of the race.  How much do you want this?  C’mon, Nichole! It is so powerful to have a goal that you’re waking up to with a sparkle in your eye, hungry to become your best.  I am so happy chasing this dream, and thank God for giving me the opportunity.

Go Gusties.
Wednesday:  My cousin, who will be a sophomore at Gustavus this fall, asked if he could come stay and run with us for a few days.  He met me in Red Wing for the first 10 miles of the day and we went out later in the evening in Northfield for a shake-out 5 miler followed by strength.

Thursday: 10 miles easy, early in the AM before work (the college kid didn’t even complain! Wow! Guess it’s because he knew he had the rest of the day to fit in a nap :) )

Friday: 21 miles with 2x2 miles tempo at beginning, 1 hour easy, 3 miles at tempo near the end.  This was a really fun workout, partly because I nailed it, but even more so because I had so much fun company along with me.  Honestly, how often can you find people willing to do the earlier mentioned workout??? I am beyond blessed!  Craig did the entire workout with me (WOW), Leighton did the first 13 and then hopped on a bike to help pace me for the last tempo segment (another wow!), and Tom from Fit to Be Tri’d joined us for the hour easy in between.  It was awesome, and the miles seemed to just click along.  First two tempo segments were in 11:41 and 11:38, and the 3 mile segment was in 17:54.  Other than the 2 weeks before the Trials when I was hitting 5:45 consistently for tempos (mileage was down around 60/week then), I haven’t hit these times – ever.  Even more encouraging is the fact that I can still hold 5:58’s (=17:54) at the end of a 20 miler.  My legs weren’t fresh, either, so that’s even more encouraging!! (Note: temp was 63 at the start of the run – it was so WONDERFUL!).

I'll do a total of 26 miles this weekend (easy, not sure how I'll split it between the two days) to end the 105 miles.

I’m not sure what it is, but mileage around the 100/week mark is so good for me.  I feel strong and efficient.  Go NYC!!


Garlic Tomato Sandwiches

This is a twist on Donna's recipe.  I could eat this every night, not going to lie.

Splurge on the tomatoes, it'll make this all the better.  I've made it once with tomatoes from Wal-mart and once with ones from Just Food.  NO comparison.

1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (or substitute for dried)
1 small clove garlic
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup greek yogurt (or can use 1/2 cup cottage cheese + 1/4 cup water - but I think this is a great healthy substitution)
1 teaspoon ground paprika
Artisan bread or a french baguette, fresh or toasted
Ripe heirloom tomato
Oregano (dried or fresh) and  Freshly ground black pepper

1.To make the spread: Place the walnuts, parsley, and garlic in a food processor, and pulse in spurts until the walnuts and garlic are finely ground and the parsley is feathery and all is combined. Add the feta cheese, greek yogurt, and seasonings, and puree until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, cover tightly and chill until cold.
2.To make the sandwiches: Spread the topping and top with thick slices of tomato, a sprinkling of oregano and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Serve open faced.
3. Enjoy!

If you use a teaspoon of "sauce" on each slice of bread (will need more if using a large slice of bread), account for ~10 calories/sandwich.

I ate 7 slices tonight (a bit excessive, maybe - but I decided to go without dessert so I could have a few more pieces) on a french baguette for a total of 300 calories.  Seriously, 300 calories never tasted go good (and it's hard to find something so nutritionally balanced).


Week 16 in review

Week 16 before NYC:
81 miles (down week)
One hard workout: 6x1 mile at tempo
One long run: 20 miles
One day off
2 strength workouts

81 miles
One hard workout: completely fell apart
One 20 mile long run
One day off
One strength workout

What a week!  I traveled to Chicago for work Monday morning for a week long training program.  It was great, but it definitely tested my dedication, as we usually started the work day around 7:30-8 and ended our group dinner around 10.  BUT, I am very proud to say that I didn't miss a mile, even though that meant waking up at 4:45 on TWO different occasions.  That's unheard of for me.

Having to wake up so early meant that I was out before it was unbearable, but I still managed to completely fall apart during my one hard workout for the week.  I started around 6 (day didn't start until 9 that day, YEAH!), but it was already very humid.  Once the sun came out, it was absolutely miserable.  I tried the first mile repeat.  6:03.  Not bad, but not great, either (and I was driving so hard to try to get it under 6!)  1 minute shuffle jog.  Next mile: 6:30ish.  I couldn't do anything about my pace, I tried.  Another minute shuffle and I started my 3rd rep.  6:30 again.  I could feel my body shutting down a little so decided to take a longer rest and find water.  The minute I stopped running, my body poured sweat.  I furiously pumped water from a "pump your own" faucet (10 pumps = 4 slurps of water).  I squeegeed myself off and started a fourth.  My legs felt really funny, and I looked down at my watch part way through to see 7:40.  SEVEN FOURTY???? That can't be right.  I gave the watch a few seconds to catch a new GPS signal, but no avail.  I thought about it... keep going at this pace? Is this beneficial?  Then I thought to myself... this is TWO MINUTES slower than my goal tempo pace.  This cannot be beneficial.  I stopped.  Perhaps it was just that my legs had seized up after the brief break and water.  I started again.  7:40 pace AGAIN.  I stopped after a tenth of a mile.

I shuffled back to the hotel, finishing 3.5 miles early.  I was going 8:40 or slower pace, sometimes even 9 minute pace.

I have not fallen apart that badly during a workout in ages.  I thought about it for the rest of the day... hopefully this isn't indicative of my fitness?  It can't be - I just did a good 2x3 mile tempo workout last week at sub-6, so I know it's there.  It's either the heat (mostly), lack of sleep, or... just a bad day.

The rest of the week went well. I got up as early as I needed to to get the workout done (meant doing all of the mileage in the morning instead of doing doubles).  I was thankful that this week was my recovery week.

My 20 miler went great.  After 10 miles I did 1/10 of a mile as fast as I could every time my watch clicked off another mile.  I felt like it was good to get the legs moving a little faster.  My hamstring/glute were a little taxed after about 5 reps (need to see Jim!), so it was a good way to add a little intensity to mileage.  Plus, I just feel like my footspeed/VO2 max is a little lacking.  The funny thing?  I hardly noticed the 20 miles.  Later that night I found myself wondering if I had a second run.  Guess that's a good thing... since if I want to race a marathon, running 20 miles at an easy pace better feel like a walk in the park.

Now... time to rest up, enjoy the recovery week, because August is going to be a challenge.  I'll average 100 miles/week through the entire month (103, 103, 80, 115).  The amazing thing is that I look at these numbers and I know that I can handle them.  Such a cool feeling :)

P.S. This may have to do with my "I know I can handle them feeling", but I honestly feel like I'm recovering faster and better now that I'm following Camille's advice on post-run nutrition.  If you haven't seen it, check it out.  Very informational and gives great examples of recovery foods to seek out.  My go to recovery foods are Bob's 7 grain cereal (perfect ratio of carbs/protein, and no unnecessary fat), chocolate milk, or a bagel with 1 Tbsp PB and 1 Tbsp organic jam.  If I'm running on-the-go, I'll throw a bar in my bag.  If I can time the run to end around a meal time, that's even better.
I'm trying to adhere to her .5g carbohydrate/lb recommendation, as well as a 3:1-5:1 ratio of carbs to protein diet after every run.  I'll have to do a little more research to figure out if that's the correct ratio and if it needs to be adjusted if the run is shorter.  It took a little adjusting of my diet (i.e. this is ~300 calories, so if I'm running 2x/day, I need to plan my meals/these recovery meals appropriately!), but honestly, I have recovered SO much more quickly than in the past.  I didn't even notice my last mid 90's week, and there was a 7 day total of 103 in the midst of the last 2 weeks - which I handled without a problem.  I know I'm stronger than ever before, but I honestly think my nutrition post-workout is the biggest contributor to this breakthrough.  So - give Camille's blog a read & try it out.  Let me know if you see the same thing I'm seeing!

P.P.S.  I'm adding a "recipe tab" to my blog to capture the best recipes I come across.  I hope to categorize them by meals (post-run "meals" included).  I am admittedly not a great cook (I am learning!), and have no photography skills, so beware :).  If nothing else, it makes my life easier... I often think "remember that healthy bean quinoa recipe we tried 2 weeks ago?  where is that?" - and to have the calories and nutrient breakdown right there - I think it'll be really handy to have everything in online here. Feel free to link me to recipes to try!!


Week 17 in Review

Week 17 from NYC:
90 miles on 6 days
1 track workout: 5x1000, 6x400
1 long tempo workout: 18 miles with 2.7 miles of T at beginning and 3 miles T at end
Both hard sessions with Craig!  I did the last segment of T alone in the long workout, but WOW is it super to have a training partner :)
2 strength sessions

Track workout:
Goal: 5x1000m at 3:20 or below, 6x400m in 73
5x1000: 3:26, 3:24, 3:25, 3:25, 3:28
6x400: 1:20, 1:20, 1:19, 1:18, 1:17, 1:16 (first two felt like I was running in slow motion. Then focused on good form, opening up the hips, driving the knees up. Actually felt pretty good on the last one. Not a 73, but at least somewhat close!)
Overall, obviously not quite where I need to be, but it was a good start to speed work.  I looked at my first speed workout after the Trials, which was a week later than this workout, and I had run 2x1000m in 3:24, 3:29 and then had to move to 800s because I was falling apart.  Those were in 2:48-2:49.
 SO - it's great to know that I'm starting a lot stronger than I did for Grandma's cycle.  And really, I have no doubt that the next time I attempt this I'll be able to be closer to those goal times.

Tempo workout:
Goal: 18 miles with 3 miles of tempo at beginning and 3 at end, goal was 5:45 pace (gees, Jerry is really pushing me to go faster, sooner!  It's good - but also hard since I know I can't nail workouts when goals are so high!)
Actual: 5:58 pace for the first segment, 5:57 for the second.  Not bad!  Again, comparing this to after the Trials, I was at 6:12 pace at this point in time.  
Craig was with me for the first segment, which is SO awesome.  He makes it look pretty easy; pretty sure I'm working MUCH harder than he is on these.  I gave myself the option of "converting" this workout using Daniel's formula - in his elite workouts (for anyone wondering, Jerry and I decided on a hybrid of elite and the A plan) he says that they're written for a runner with about a 4:45 tempo pace, 5 min marathon pace, so to convert the workouts to that.  I told Craig that my focus needs to be on being FASTER, pushing harder, so if that means I needed to stop after the "converted" 14:15 (vs 3 miles), so be it.  I decided about a mile into the workout to convert it.  Craig gave the thumbs up.  He then asked if it was going to be 15 minutes.  That sounded possible (just 45 seconds, right?).  At 15 minutes there was a little uphill looking at us, so he suggested stopping there.  BRILLIANT.  This is exactly what I need for NYC.  So, we ended up ending at 2.7 miles, 16:45 or so.  If I hadn't been absolutely gasping for breath at that point I maybe could have been convinced to do the extra .3 - but it was obvious that I was done.
I knew the second one would be difficult.  Already 13 miles into the workout, trying to move fast is always difficult.  I know this portion of the workout is the most important - teaching your legs to operate despite feeling tired and depleted.  I started out, sluggish.  At just about a mile in, the sky opened up and it began to pour.  Ahh!!!! I tried to get my legs to run even faster, to find some sort of shelter.  I found a porch and hid out until the lightening, thunder, and rain stopped.  And when it did, I immediately left the porch and started my watch to finish the repeat.  Since I had the rest, I decided there was no need to "convert".  This repeat went so much better than expected.  Instead of focusing on how much it hurt, I thought to myself how few opportunities I have to make myself faster.  THESE workouts will be the key to getting faster, so I have to take advantage of them and try to get every second out of them.  Think about the other professional division women at NYC, Nichole!  You want to be able to COMPETE with them!

I was surprised to finish in 5:57 average pace for the second segment, which is really great for me.  Typically at the start of a marathon cycle I've struggled to maintain pace for those "long run strength" tempo segments (tempo at the end of a longer run).  So - nice to know I haven't lost all of that strength!!

Overall, a great week.  Looking forward to a "down" week next week of 80 on 6 days.  Then August brings a LOT of miles... :)


Welcome Donna Marlor, Sports Nutritionist

For those of you that have followed this for a while, you know that sometime last year I started changing what I ate and trying to shed those extra pounds I don't need to carry around with me during a marathon (every pound = a minute!).  See blog post here

That led to my first trip to Just Food Co-op where I was completely overwhelmed by vegetables I didn't even recognize, a few meals that looked like this, and a whole lot of learning.  There's still only a few snacks and main dishes I know how to make and I still struggle to know what to eat, when, how much, etc.  But, for how hard it's been, it's been a lot of fun!  I've been introduced to new vegetables and healthy foods I love (Brussel sprouts! Greek yogurt for protein! Baked sweet potatoes!).  And who knew how GOOD these healthy foods could taste?  I never enjoyed food before!  I'm telling you, I still gasp at the price of organic/local foods sometimes... but I honestly think it's worth it.  They taste so different and I honestly feel like the food is either more satisfying or stays with you longer.

I know I over-think the whole nutrition/racing weight thing - the reason I know is because when I try to "care" about it, I only drop about 3-4 pounds to get to race weight vs. if I don't care at all.  So - I'm definitely not doing something right. I think what I'll find with nutrition is the same thing I found when I started with a coach - for all I knew about running/training/etc, I really sucked at putting together a plan.  I'd be motivated some days, very unmotivated others.  Mileage was all over the board, which led to multiple injuries.  I over-thought "the plan", constantly changing things, worrying about what was "right".  Once Jerry came along and laid everything out and I just trusted his plan, it came so EASY.  Within 6 months, I had my Olympic Trials Qualifier.  I just had to DO it, which is the easy part.  I really think it'll be the same with nutrition.  I know the basics (broccoli = good, fried mozzarella balls = bad), but am obviously over-thinking the whole thing & cycling through being motivated/not caring (YUMM, those brownies look good today... let's have one... ah, what the heck, two...)

So, I wanted to reach out to someone professional.  Enter into my training team Donna, a registered dietitian and competitive athlete who specializes in athletic nutrition.  I can not tell you how excited I am to see what she has to say!  And, if nothing else (maybe I won't ever, and shouldn't try to, look more like the elites I race against), this will be one of those many "little things" that I have learned a lot about throughout this journey (and can pass along to others - coaching?).

I thought about posting the picture I sent Donna and posting my weight every so often... might keep me more honest/accountable to post here... but I was too scared to :).


Afton Trail Run 2012

Oh man, where do I start?  An interesting race, definitely!

First, let me say that this is the first time I've ever received press before a race as a "contender".  http://ultramn.com/2012/07/05/afton-preview-pt-2-25k/

They obviously weren't aware of my non-existent trail racing skills (I only signed up for this because my husband loves trail racing and wanted to do it!). I am admittedly a poor trail runner.  I wish I was better (and maybe would just need to change my training - I'm sure I could improve - but I don't ever know if I'd be considered a "good" trail racer), but racing on trails takes out all of my strengths: pacing, rhythm, efficiency, powerful push off from the pavement.  Instead, you're constantly switching paces, directions, watching the ground ahead of you to make sure you won't break an ankle, etc.  It's about strength, gazelle-like steps up and down the uphills/downhills.  It's so completely different from road racing.

Plus, I was about as unprepared as you can be for a trail race like Afton as one could be.  NO hill work (in the last year or so?  Or longer?  I'm not kidding -- something I'll change for NYC).  No running on trails, other than the Carleton Arb, which is great, but not technical or challenging in the form of ups/downs at all.

But, I still had hopes that my overall marathon strength would carry me through.  I started off in the front of the pack, with Melissa Gacek, a fellow Run N Fun teammate.  We've raced a lot together, and recently I've been able to beat her, at least by a narrow margin.  Up the first hill, though, I knew I was in trouble.  My quads didn't feel normal!  I could tell they weren't moving efficiently up these hills and were using far too much energy.  It's an odd feeling -- I haven't felt this way in - maybe years?  It's that feeling of "I'm very unprepared for this and my body is going to shut down".

I'm not sure when, but I stopped caring somewhere around 10 miles.  My lungs weren't really working, but I just couldn't RUN any faster.  A little frustrating.  Emma Lee had passed me, and I had let Melissa get ahead of me a few miles back (she was sometimes 20 seconds ahead, sometimes we ran together).  In that last 5.5 miles, when I was just shuffling along, walking when I felt like, running when I felt like it, another 3 women passed me including a 15-16 year old.  I watched how easily she navigated the trails.  I was amazed.  It's not often that I look at someone passing me and have that thought - they're navigating so much easier than I am!  They make it look so easy!

Nate passed me at about 14 or 14.5 miles.  I knew someone was coming up behind me and stepped to the side.  Nate?!?  What??? That's when I know I'm having a bad day :).  I can easily beat him by 8-9 minutes in a half marathon.  I watched him power through ahead of me.  I couldn't even respond!

Let's end this race recap, because I'm not saying anything worthwhile or positive :).  I finished in 2:04 or so, which is about a minute off of what I did in 2009 (where I think I was much more prepared - slower as a runner overall, but much stronger trail runner.  I remember only having to stop and walk once!).

Notes for next time:
1. Find a more comfortable pair of trail shoes.  My Vasque's tore up my feet.  One of the blisters tore open during the run and is now weeping.  Yuck. The other foot has an awesome big blood blister.  I'll have to talk to our product development folks or the sales guy - perhaps I need to be running in something else?  The last 5 miles of the race I groaned every time I got to a downhill, knowing that it would hurt.
2. Run on trails/hills a LOT to train for the race, if I actually want to do well!  And when I say a lot, I really mean a LOT. 

Good things from the race:
1.  It is so fun to see people you know!  It's sort of like a reunion between friends.
2.  I told myself during the race that this was my first hill workout for NYC :).


Doggie Dash 5k

The champions!
 Dundas had it's first annual Doggie Dash 5k on Saturday, and Mesa and I couldn't turn down the opportunity - her first 5k!

The organizers of the race did a really great job with the event.  They came with a pack of about 5-7 of their own or foster dogs so that people who didn't have a dog could run with one.  I nudged Nate to take one.  He was reluctant, but went over to the group.

"You want the fast one?" one of the race organizers asked.  Nate said sure, and he was handed Bosco, some sort of Pit Bull mix. "He likes to pull."

 We lined up and the gun went off.  Mesa and I were somehow at the back of the pack, so started out slow and worked out way to the front.  So many dogs running every which way, and leashes to watch out for (since Mesa and I are tied together with our Stunt Puppy leash - not a good idea to get tangled!)!  What I saw in front of me literally made me double over with uncontrollable laughter.  There's Nate, being PULLED, arms outstretched as far as possible, and Bosco pulling as HARD as he possibly could.  You can see the power in his legs, trying to dig into the pavement to try to move himself, and this slow human, along faster.  Nate's legs could hardly keep up :).

As Mesa and I pulled even with him, me still trying to stop my uncontrollable laughter, the scene became even more hilarious.  Bosco is pulling so hard he sounds like he's about to keel over.  His tongue is as far out of his mouth as possible, and he's already completely covered in long gobs of drool.

Mesa knows we're racing at this point, I'm not sure how.  It's pretty amazing how good of a team we are.  Perhaps it's because we've probably done thousands of miles together this last year and can just sense things (I know how she'll take a corner, I can sense the line she's taking and adjust the belt around me to accommodate, she looks up at me at corners where we sometimes turn left or right to see which direction I'm leaning before turning with me in lock step - it's downright awesome).  We actually start racing after the first mile, when I've stopped bursting out in random fits of laughter.  5:20 pace for the second mile until the turn around.  We stop there for a brief break for her to get a drink of water.  She takes a sip & then looks up at me like: aren't we racing?  Why the heck are we stopped?  So we start up again.  5:45 mile for that 2nd mile (shouldn't have stopped!  That would have been a beautiful 5:2x mile split!).  The 3rd mile she's no longer pulling at all, just running alongside.  And it's HOT this direction.  No wind, 90ish degrees and terrible humidity.  Gross.  I start to feel my core temp rise & I worry about Mesa as well.  I know this feeling all too well.  Not worth it for a low key 5k. We slow to about 6 minutes, finishing 1st in 17:47 (about a minute and a half in front of the next team - Nate and Bosco!)

Bosco apparently didn't pace himself well and ended up needing Nate to pull him for the second half of the run :).  Guess they made a good team: Bosco pulling Nate through half, Nate pulling him for the second half :).  After the race Bosco immediately took a spot in the shade, flopped over, not to do much moving for the rest of the day, I'm sure.  I was downright impressed (disgusted?) with the amount of drool that dog had hanging from his mouth. :)

Mesa just needed a little water afterwards, and then I swear she watched the other dogs quizzically, "Why are you tired?".  Ha.

Overall, a ton of fun, a good chance to get the legs moving fast, and a fun memory made (I still smile at the image of Nate, arm outstretched, legs trying to keep up to the almost hyperventalating, but hell-bent on getting from point A to B (wherever he thought B was) as fast as possible :).  I may just try to find other dog (or dog friendly?) races - the most fun I've had at a 5k in a while!

It's hot out!

Nate and Bosco, who tried to give us a run for our money :)

Oh, Bosco... wish I could have taken a side shot.  He was SO drooly (not to mention completely worn out)