Talk at Gustavus - Goal Setting and Nutrition

I went down to Gustavus last Friday to partake in a workout with the team.  It’s their early camp and they had a longer up-tempo workout – super fun to be able to run with the team!  Gosh, it makes me miss college & the team.  It also makes me feel a little old, since I’m ELEVEN years older than the freshmen this year.  How did that happen?!?

One of the fun things I did after the workout was to do a talk with both the men’s and women’s team about all of the things I’ve learned about running post-college.  Although I did well at GAC (5 school records, 4x NCAA qualifier), I feel like I left a lot on the table.  I never finished All-American, didn’t really improve over my 4 years (until my senior year, outdoor track, when Dale had me running higher mileage (which was 40-50 vs. the 30-40 I had been doing previously - I made NCAAs in the 10k for the first time).  There’s a lot that I would change about my collegiate career.

My main message centered around goal setting and attitude.  I don’t know how I developed my current love of training and racing, but know that it’s a little unique.  I truly love the process of training, chasing goals, PRs, and making the most of each day I’m given.  It’s such a deep passion, too – there are very few days that I don’t want to do what’s on my training plan or push as hard as I can through a hard workout.  Each day, each workout, each strength session, etc is an opportunity to make myself better, stronger, faster.  I love that pursuit.

The second part of my talk centered around nutrition.  Although I am not at all an expert, there has been a LOT that I’ve learned lately, particularly with Donna Marlor’s help.  A few of the highlights, since I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while:

Obviously, being fit/lean is a part of running/racing well.  I always assumed that meant eating less – really it means eating BETTER.  Back in 2010, I was literally eating almost all of my calories from packaged or processed sources:  frozen pizza was a common evening meal, frozen meals for lunch were common (and convenient!), and I loved snacking on any chocolate/cookies/baked goods.  I targeted the right “number” of calories, so wondered why I didn’t look like the other women around me.  Must be that I was eating too much?

What I’ve found is that it was completely WHAT I was eating.  Now that I’ve switched to a mostly fresh and/or plant based diet (I still cheat, definitely! And I really like meat, but find that I truly love vegetable/bean dishes), I’ve found my body has responded remarkably well.  I look a little more like the women around me, and best of all, I recover faster (MUCH faster), am running better, and feel better overall. 

So, what have I changed?
·         -I just don’t buy the packaged/processed stuff.  Period.  Not even if it’s on sale with a coupon (this is hard for me! I love stretching a dollar as far as I can!)

·        - “Give me a dollar” jar – if I’m snacking in the evening, I need to contribute a dollar to a jar – which Nate gets to use to buy candy.  Since that’s something I don’t support, I have to be really desperate to “cheat” and contribute a dollar to his jar.  To this day, there is just $1 in it.  A moment of weakness…

·       -  In working with Donna, I’ve also defined how to eat the right amount at the right time.  This two things have probably made the BIGGEST difference in my running lately, I’m not kidding.
o   First, # of calories/day – since I’m a smaller person, my basal metabolic rate is just lower than average.  (Bummer #1)
o   When you add in the number of calories needed for daily activity, plus the number I burn/day running, I’m at around 2100ish/day.  That’s based on general nutrition ratios (can estimate using any online tool) and more importantly, monitoring my weight/caloric intake for a period of time.  At 2100/day I was maintaining weight.  2100, you’re asking yourself? That’s so low! Yes, it is… but I guess that’s what I get for being a pretty efficient runner.  (Bummer #2)
o   Bummer #3 comes when I’m trying to target race weight.  We’ve based that target on body fat %, based on averages published in Racing Weight.  Granted, everyone is so different… but at least that gives me a general guideline.  My target race weight is mid 104’s.  It’s very possible that I don’t have the genetics to get my body fat down to that level (My parents are not athletes, by any stretch of the imagination, don’t take offense Mom or Dad if you’re reading this!!) – but it’s a target, nonetheless.  So – why is this a bummer?  It means I need to be BELOW 2100/day to get to race weight.  Donna has suggested 1800/day, with obvious fluctuations.  That is a somewhat depressingly low number… especially if you love cookies, brownies, and all things bad for you…

·         I now have caloric targets for meals and snacks, also something different.  Although 1800 isn’t a lot, I don’t find myself hungry – which is odd to me.  Whenever I’ve tried to lose weight in the past, I’ve had days where I’m just HUNGRY.  I think that was because I was eating way too little, and my body responded by wanting a LOT (and I’d respond with a day of eating a ton).  Now, I’m more consistent because the caloric deficit is small. (Duh)

·         Donna’s given me targets for carbs, protein, and fat.  I often struggle to get to my protein and fat targets… and by often, I mean that every day I’m looking into the fridge (packing my meal for the day) and thinking… okay, this combination gets me about here, but wait… there’s not much protein here… what can I add?

·         Another HUGE change has been eating immediately after a workout.  I thought I added this in last cycle when I scarfed down a handful of almonds and ate an apple after a workout.  After reading Camille’s blog post, I decided to give her calorie targets a try.  What have I found?  In the month that I’ve done this, I have recovered SO much quicker.  You’ve seen my blog posts lately – there has never been a month that I’ve been able to maintain mileage like this, feel as good as I do, and recover so quickly.  It could be a coincidence, but I don’t think so – since although we’ve tweaked the training plan again this cycle to better fit me, and although I’m stronger – I really don’t think those two things would have made as big of a difference as I’ve seen in this cycle.

·         I have to be careful, then, with how these calories add up since I’m often running 2x/day.  I now generally try to eat breakfast after a morning run now, or time my noon run to end early enough where I have time for lunch at my desk before having to rush off to meetings.  

·         I’ve lost over 2 pounds since starting with Donna, which has been great – especially since it came off so easy.  I generally struggle with those first few pounds.  I guess what was has been so fun about working with her is how easy she’s made everything – I don’t really have to think much, just try to fall within my ranges, be aware of the total number of calories (love!).  If I feel like eating a cookie or pasta or a bagel or anything, I can!!  I just have to log it & fit my other meals smartly around it.  Yeah – freedom (Before I was just eating a lot of the same, because I thought those were the only “good foods” – turns out, everything is good, in moderation… duh, Nichole)!

That’s all for now.  Time to catch up on work.  If you have time Wednesday night, stop by the Co-op!  I’ll be talking about my journey, goal setting, and more details on how nutrition has helped me get there (and will help a ton going forward).


Deliriously fun!

Half way through today's workout I literally used those words to describe the workout :). 

I'll recap the week, even though I still have two more days, 3 runs, 33 miles to log, and 1 strength session to log before I'm done with it.

Week 12 before NYC:
115 miles (highest EVER!)
4 doubles
2 hard workouts:
1. 15 miles total with 20 mins tempo, 4 min rest, 15 T, 3 min rest, 10 T, 2 rest, 5T
2. 22 miles total with 2x(4 miles at MP, 1 at T)

First, Tuesday's workout was a little rougher.  My legs were tight, a little "bound" feeling.  I could tell the spring in my stride had disappeared. Sigh.  I knew it was going to happen sometime, but it was still sad to realize that it had gone (and I probably wouldn't see it for a while).  We had a great group for the early morning workout (3 other guys!), which is absolutely phenomenal.  How lucky am I?!?  Only in Northfield :).  Love this town.

I did each segment to the best of my ability, wasn’t negative about my pace or how I felt.  I concentrated on trying to make my legs work better, since I wasn’t moving fast enough to use my lungs as much as I should have been.  Sort of a frustrating feeling.  Craig was much farther ahead of me than normal.  Darn him, getting into fast running shape.  Paces were 5:54 for the 20 minutes, 6:13 for the 15 minutes (rough one), 5:55 for the 10 minutes, and 5:40 for the 5 minutes (latched on to Craig and told myself to hang on as long as possible).  So, as far as workouts go, not great… but also not bad either considering what I’ve been putting myself through lately.  It was my first day where I had to set new expectations – this is likely going to be the way your legs feel from now until mid-October.  Just roll with it, do the best with what you have, I told myself.

But then fast forward to today (Friday) – the workout that inspired the blog post :).  I came into the day thinking that it’d be similar to Tuesday.  Luckily Craig was able to meet me for the hard stuff, which makes the workout that much easier from a mental standpoint.  Tom from the shop stopped by for the first 6 miles (seriously, love Northfield!) and then Craig and I started… oh, this is going to hurt, I thought as the watches started…

Except it didn’t!!  I was flying, effortlessly, not breathing much at all.  I watched the pavement under my feet curiously.  It was passing quicker than I’m used to for a MP effort.  Check the watch:  sub 6 minute pace?  What??  I checked myself.  Does it feel like you’re reaching?  Or is this a true MP effort?  The scary answer that came back was that this felt about as perfect of a MP effort as I’ve ever done (there have been multiple, multiple MP workouts where I’ve just forced the pace… maybe not the best).  The last mile was a little more effort, but not by much.  Glorious.  4 miles in 23:50, 5:57.5 pace.  

Next tempo mile: 5:40.  Yeah!  Now, repeat…

The next 4 miles of MP were a little more effort, but still went really well.  We finished in 24:04, 6:01 pace.  Not bad at all! :)  And then we capped it off with one last tempo mile, 5:38.  I found myself smiling half way through that last mile.  This is just downright FUN!!!! Deliriously fun, even :).

Now, the challenge is to keep myself at this spot, healthy and feeling fit/fast.  I’m carefully watching my Achilles, paying attention to my hamstring and hips (can’t wait until Jim Patterson is back from vacation!  Nate can’t wait either, ha!), and anything else that might creep up.  I know that I’m pushing limits with mileage being as high as it is – but hopefully being smart about it all!! J


Refueling Your Body *UPDATED*

Just a short post tonight to let people know that I will be speaking at the Just Food Community room on Monday August 27th Wednesday August 29th at 6:30pm. If you will be in the Northfield area, you should stop by and say hi. My talk is titled "Refueling Your Body", and it will be about my training, and the role that nutrition has played in my quest to make myself faster and stronger. Hope to see you there!


Best 2.5 Weeks of Training - Ever?!?

This has been a surreal 2.5 weeks.  It started with my first 100+ mile week of the training cycle (2nd ever) where I nailed my workouts and started feeling stronger and more efficient than ever.  I told myself to enjoy it - I know that weeks like this come once every 4 or 5 weeks.

Except it's continued - through another 100+ mile week and into the first half of this week.  I'll recap:

Week 14 before NYC:
2 workouts:
#1:10x800m with equal rest (Yasso workout)
#2: Half Marathon where I was to do 4 miles at MP, 1 at T, 4 @ MP, 1 @ tempo, finishing up at MP (total of 21 miles)
3 doubles
= Total of 103 miles

I attempted the 800s Tuesday morning before work.  I had 4 brave souls meet me at the track (Nate, Craig, Brian (who I hadn't run with before), and Tom).  How cool!!  I've always botched this workout - either not hitting my times, having stomach issues and having to run to the bathroom several times (thank you, excessive heat at Warmerdam track), or just plain falling apart on extremely fatigue legs.  So, I was just praying to finish on Tuesday.
Except -- I absolutely nailed the workout!! I had a slower first repeat (2:43), but then all of my subsequent reps were at 2:40 or below (2:38 once, even!).  At half way I was brave enough to tell the guys that I wondered if I should be pushing harder - this seemed too easy (comparing it to the last times I've done it when they've felt like VO2 max intervals).  They said to wait, that I haven't ever done the entire workout at 2:40 so just to stick to that.  They're right, I told myself, don't be too confident.  This is a bear of a workout with little rest.  I'll likely fall apart at rep 7 or 8.  Save it, Nichole.
Except I continued to cruise, feeling fluid, strong, and efficient.  The last two were harder, but not in a VO2 max sort of way - more like a "end of a longer threshold workout" type of feeling (note: not "end of a tempo" - for me there's a difference).  I finished the last one with a huge smile on my face.  I told the guys that I was super excited to email Jerry with my times.
Average was 2:40.1 when I included the first one, 2:39.something when I excluded it.  I'm SUPER pumped with times like that [read about the Yasso workout online, it's supposed to be a good predictor of where your marathon finish time is]

Saturday I hopped into the Minnesota half marathon to help me get a hard long run done.  I finished in 1:19.51, 1st overall for women and 5th overall.  I felt good, considering I was nearing the end of a 205+ mile 2 week total, but the one thing I noticed was my inability to make noticeable moves in pace during the race.  I am very good at "cruising", but very bad at putting the hurt on at random points during a workout/race.  Is this something I should be worried about and specifically work on?  Right now it's not high on the priority list (SO many other things I'm working on!), unless you can convince me otherwise :)  I'm excited that this time is a new "best" for me (I haven't raced a half marathon in a long time) - faster than my last MP workout done before Grandma's.  It's super encouraging to be running times like this so early in the cycle.

Sunday was the end of the second 100+ mile week with a total of 15 miles.  I ran with Mesa (love the company!), exploring a newer loop around Northfield.  I knew early on that my legs felt good - TOO good for having just done a long/hard workout the day before and stringing my two biggest mileage weeks back to back (it's one thing to do one 100+ mile week - but to string two back to back is another feat, I think (the only other time I hit 103/week I took a day off right afterwards)).  I went with it, cruising up hills (and thinking to myself – am I just getting better at hills?  Since I’m pretty sure the hill inclines haven’t changed?), and just enjoying the morning and quick feeling stride.  Ahhh, gotta love the random runs where you’re feeling good!!!

On to this week, as long as I'm writing a super long blog.  This week is a (VERY) down week at just 80 miles.  Crazy to say that.  As I looked at my plan for the week, I was a little stressed.  No doubles of 15 miles? And I have a day off?  I actually found myself dreading the down week and looking forward to the following week (which happens to be 115… my highest ever).  I’m an addict.  I don’t know how this happened… but I am.  

Anyway, Tuesday of this “down week” (today) marked another hard workout, done early before work.  I was sure my legs were going to feel like they typically do after logging a lot of mileage (since the daily average so far hasn’t really changed yet, so I haven’t benefited from the reduction to 80/week yet).  But from the start of the first repeat, I knew that although they were a little tired that I was going to be able to log some good times.  Craig and I cruised through six 1 mile tempo intervals (1 min rest): 5:47, 5:42, 5:44, 5:41, 5:44, 5:26 (was the watch not working???).  I was mentally “in” the workout the entire time, trying to close the ~3 second gap between Craig and I each time.  A couple of times I came close to him mid-interval, but could never hold it.  Can’t tell you how much I LOVE doing these with someone just faster than me.  Super motivating.  I sort of wonder if he just places himself there, though, since he’s always JUST ahead… is he just improving at exactly the same rate as I am??  I’ll take it, whatever the circumstances.

So – another workout NAILED.  Wow.  I am so excited!!!  This has been a completely surreal 2.5 weeks.  I remind myself daily that I’m in a good place.  I’m pushing my limits, but have not hit “the line”.  I’m feeling good, strong, and FAST (faster than ever before?), and I need to keep myself in that sweet spot.  There’s a fine line between being here and extending yourself too far, and then having to dig yourself back out again (i.e. the month before Grandma’s where I just couldn’t get my legs back).

I still need to catch up on so much!  I've found the help from Donna on nutrition SOOO helpful, and have easily lost 2 pounds already (those pesky two that I ALWAYS gain right after a marathon and have the HARDEST time starting to lose - they just came off!).  More to come on that.  Also more to come on my adventures with Jenny at Pivotal Point where she's encouraged me to try acupuncture.  Plus, a couple of very fun, nutritious recipes with delicious fresh food from Just Food.  Oh... where is a weekend when you need it?? :)  Updates to come!!