• 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 Generation UCAN, Feetures!, Stunt Puppy, Boom! Nutrition, Infinit Nutrition, Anytime Fitness, and Massage Geek!

  • 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!

Cafe Zupas - Giveaway

Two weeks ago I was invited to a VIP event to preview Cafe Zupas, a new restaurant opening in Woodbury. I could bring a guest, so I called up my Aunt Kathy who lives and works in Woodbury. She actually works just down the road from their location, so it was perfect!

If you've been in the Mountain West, you've likely heard of Cafe Zupas. They're now expanding to the Midwest, and Minnesota is the first state they're opening in.
Cafe Zupas makes all of their soups, spreads, and dressings fresh every day. I was able to watch them making their menu items through a large display window outside the kitchen: chopping, sauteing, and blending like crazy. Nothing says made fresh and made-to-order like that! 

Kathy and I stopping for a picture while we try to decide what to order

I was impressed at how quickly they're able to make an order. I don't know about you, but I don't eat out often, but when I do I'm looking for something really quick, fresh, and healthy - exactly this!
I ordered the Turkey Bacon Avacado sandwich, Garden Chowder soup, Strawberry Harvest Chicken salad with the Chocolate Layer cake as a dessert. 
I was so excited to be able to invite my aunt to enjoy the event and lunch with me! We've decided to schedule a monthly lunch or dinner together to catch up and visit. Cafe Zupas is right near her work so I think we'll be eating there often!
I can't decide what I loved most: my sandwich, soup, or salad. Honestly, they were all SO good.
For $8.79 you can choose 2 items (soup, salad, sandwich), and they will come with a side of bread and a chocolate covered strawberry.
Speaking of that strawberry: it was the first one I've eaten that didn't leave me trying to catch chocolate as it broke off in chunks after a first bite. I thought to myself, ahh! This is what they're supposed to be like! :)
I won a giveaway for my fast social media fingers!
I was so excited to try the layered cake that I dove in before I remembered to take a picture. Oops. Yes, it is as good as it looks.
My aunt's Salted Carmel Creme Brulee. I think I enjoyed it over my chocolate layer cake? That surprised me, usually nothing tops a chocolate dessert for me! I'm excited to try their chocolate Creme Brulee next time... mmm...
To enter the giveaway, comment below on what you'll order from their menu and who you'll enjoy lunch with! Winner to be selected at 5:00 on Wednesday 10/7/15, so get your commenting hat on! Not so subtle suggestion, ha: your favorite coach and blogger would never turn down an invitation to lunch! Who wouldn't want to talk training/racing/coaching?!?

I already anticipate comments from Craig and Jeff "a real woman" below, inviting their favorite non-Nichole favorite coach/blogger :).

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A Glorious Cabin Weekend & Start to the Week


After this week's earlier bombshell of a post, it's time for a more "normal" weekly blog post/update: training, racing, goals, daily life, adventures, house projects, etc.!

A Cabin Weekend!:

Last Friday we headed up to the cabin, stopping at Craig's parents house on the way to enjoy dinner and help celebrate Craig's 33rd birthday!

33 years young
Saturday morning it was time for the Birkie Trail and Trek. Rob was doing the 100k Ultra Marathon, and Nathan and I were able to run an 8 mile loop with him. At first, I lagged pretty far behind both of them. I am a terrible trail runner, and even though the Birkie Trail's single track trail isn't too technical, I still can't get myself to take my eyes off my feet.

Parking lot near the 21 mile aid station
I became more comfortable with my footing fairly quickly, and as I did, I found myself falling in love with the Birkie trail. I even began contemplating the idea of running the trail marathon next year -- and potentially running an ultra marathon at some point. I guess it helps that Rob makes it look so easy. He is always so calm and composed.

Anyone know anything about the Door County Road Ultra? Someone mentioned it and it peaked my interest.

We were able to get to the finish line in time to watch Craig finish 2nd in the marathon.

Way to go, Craig!
Cool podium, eh?
Small world! Dr. Asp ran the 1/2 marathon! We caught up - which included me telling him about my summer. He is now cancer free after having stage 4 cancer in his femur, liver, and numerous other places... so glad this man is still with us.
Just as cool as taking 2nd place in a marathon? Signing the tax form so you can take home a prize money!
Being around all of the racing excitement further ignited my desire to get back to running, training and racing! Big news as of a few days ago: I called Jerry, explained my crazy last 8 months, and asked him if he'd be willing to coach me again. He agreed! I could not be more excited! My official plan is coming by this Friday. YAY!

Right now I need to take it easy as I'm not sure about the status of baby #2, though... but I'm slowly filing training and racing ideas in the back of my mind. I'm sure Jerry is enjoying my Trying to win the Birkie Trail Marathon next year is on that list. It would be a lot of fun to train for, something totally different for me (aka not the roads!!), and I don't know... it just sounds like a fun, crazy challenge!

Later in the day we found out that Rob won his Ultra, over 50 MINUTES ahead of the second competitor. Wow.
Rob finished in just over 12 hours. Photo credits: American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation
Photo credits: American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation

For the rest of the weekend, we hung out at the cabin, ate a lot, and enjoyed the Fall Festival in Hayward.
Greta and Tia (Aunt) Jessica watching the Wiener Dog Races during Hayward's Fall Festival. Yes, Wiener Dog Races.

Ready, set, GO! Turn those little legs OVER!

Oh, the suspense!! I'm not sure what happened with the 3rd doggie racer... hmm...
She loves the cabin! And swings!
Quality cabin time with Karen, my mother in law, and Jessica, my sister in law

Job Update!:

On Friday Bethel Lutheran Church in Northfield offered me a Church Accountant position! I am so excited!

How perfect:

-It's Part-time: Greta will continue in 5-day/week day care, allowing me to work at the church part-time, continue to coach part-time, as well as still having time for outpatient treatment, personal to-dos, household stuff and errands, and running the TNC business in general!

-My schedule is extremely flexible. One week I could work longer days M-W, other weeks I could work 1/2 days M-F, other weeks I do something entirely different.

-It's a position at the church Nathan and I are members at.

-Located in Northfield = no commute! I'm hoping to get into the habit of biking to work.

-I get my own office. With a door!

-Microsoft Excel! Budgets! Forecasting! Automating day-to-day tasks with macros! *Love*

-Last, but certainly not least, take note of Bethel's associate pastor. then take a look at Gustavus' Outdoor Track and Field Records! Happenstance? Or is Bethel secretly trying to hire Gustavus' record holders? :)

Training this past week:

Thursday: 6 miles, 8:30 pace with Nathan, Craig, Teresa and Marco. Very thankful for a few intersection stops after about mile 4 or 5 to allow my heart rate to drop below 190. Yikes. My HR has been crazy high since my inpatient stay. Pregnancy related?

Friday: 5.5 miles easy, 8:30/mile average around Northfield with Mesa. It was wonderful to run just with her! It's beenTook it easy because it was a little warm - and because I received a phone call from the OBGYN right before the run to tell me that my HCG numbers from my morning blood draw looked a lot better! It reminded me that even though a miscarriage is likely, there's still a chance I won't - so I need to be careful about heat and my heart rate when training!

I let Mesa off leash to hop in a pond to cool down and she decided to take a swim to try to eat some Canadian Geese. She was not successful. She tried hard, though, and was pretty proud of herself for it.

Saturday: 8 miles, 11:50 mile pace with Rob (during his ultra) on the Birkie trails.

Sunday: 8.25 miles, 8:22 overall average. Mini progression starting at 10/mile, down to 6:50.
Started with the father in law and sister in law, then kept increasing my pace until I decided to take my last 3 miles as a progression workout (since the run had been an unplanned progression run up to that point!). Splits: 10:00, 9:30, 8:45, 8:35, 8:10, 7:52, 7:32, 6:50 (that last mile was HARD! Uf! I have a lot of work to do!)

Look at what we found being given away!

Go ahead, sing the Lonely Island "I'm on a Boat" song :)
Leave it to Nathan to decide the boat would make "the most epic cabin sandbox". See his idea sketch: 1/2 of the boat is sandbox, half "let's play boat".

We decided that we didn't need to add cannons or sails, ha.
6.1 miles, ~8:15/mile, 176 bpm average. Ran while Nathan, Craig and Teresa rollerskied. I pushed the stroller and ran with Mesa on my hip - and felt like a million bucks! For the first time in a long, long time my feet felt light and quick. My easy pace is starting to come down... still slower than 8 minute pace, but it's quicker than the 9 minute pace I was holding 3 weeks ago! YAY - gettting in shape!

A family affair
I finished up with a strength session.

My first strength session! I really need to work on my leg strength and power, as well as hamstring and glute strength.
She is intrigued by what mommy is doing.
Even more intrigued by how those Elite Credentials might taste. Yummm,

Set two. She's still just hanging out with me!
9.3 miles, 7:39/mile. I ran with Jeff at his house. I felt great! We clipped along together until he flew off ahead of me doing a few miles at marathon pace (his crazy coach, aka me, told him to). I was really, really surprised to see my average pace after the run. I haven't run sub 8 minute miles in a long time, much less held it for this long. Granted, I was breathing harder than normal, and talking while clipping along at this pace was difficult, but I'll take it!

7.7 miles, 8:22/mile. Met up with Emma, a new training partner in town. Great conversation, beautiful day!

Day off, dictated by Jerry after I filled him in on the week and he realized how many miles I had logged in the last week. I hadn't been counting. Good thing I have him, I know I need to ease into mileage slowly! I'm excited to see what my plan will have me doing tomorrow and next week!

= 50 miles on 6 days

Other life updates:

I am on a mission to clean and organize my house top to bottom. I must be pregnant.... :)

I am anxiously awaiting Friday's ultra sound (8:30 am) and OBGYN appointment (10:00) to read results. God is good, I look forward to knowing a little more of his plan for me and our little family.

My monkey! Nothing is more precious than her hysterical giggle! :)

Questions to end with:

  • Does anyone know of great not-too-technical trail races, other than the Birkie Trail & Trek? Have you run it?
  • Does anyone know of any road ultra marathons held in MN or WI?
  • What did your last training week look like?

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Here's the Deal

There have been many questions about where I have been and why this blog has been so quiet over the last 8 months. I have alluded to some things, and some of you know parts of the story, but I want bring everyone up to speed. It has been a roller coaster, to say the least.
I don't mean this kind of roller coaster.
I mean this kind of roller coaster (the longest inverted roller coaster in the world). Yikes.
A lot of this story is extremely personal. It includes many experiences I never imagined myself going through or putting my family and friends through. Some events I'm not proud of, some I'm still a little embarrassed by. But, I want to get my story out in the open. This blog has always been about my journey, and I've always prided myself on my openness and honesty.

In addition, if I have learned anything throughout the latest portion of my journey, it is that my experiences are not as uncommon as I thought they might be; they just seem that way because few share. If I can help even one individual by sharing my experiences, this story will be worth telling.

So, here we go.

In the interest of full disclosure, the roller coaster ride really begins back in high school when I first began binging and purging. Disclosure #1: I am a recovering bulimic. The eating became worse during my first year in college, and I finally found the courage to tell Nathan about it. We worked together to battle ED (My endearing name for the disorder - it also concidently stands for Eating Disorder) in the only way we knew how: stopping the behavior. I didn't seek professional help at that time, and now I know I was never really over it. 

ED came back into my life again when I started competing at a higher level. Funny how he didn't ask if I wanted him back in my life, he just barged in and took over. He told me I needed to be thinner to be faster. The stress of climbing the corporate ladder also allowed ED to take further control over me. I was numbing my stress by binging and purging, usually on a daily basis. I told myself it was a choice, and I could stop at any time, but that was as far from the truth as you could get. When I left Red Wing Shoe in 2013 to have the time to pursue a professional running career, I also knew I needed the additional time to focus on me and overcoming ED once and for all. I began treatment at The Emily Program, and through a lot of work with a therapist (to work through the underlying cause of the disorder) and a nutritionist, I am SO proud to say that it has been over 2 1/2 years since I have had any eating disorder thoughts and symptoms. Awesome.

Life was going great. My pregnancy was a little rough, but I delivered the most beautiful, perfect, happy baby girl in October 2014. I fell in love with motherhood immediately.

Greta at about 3-4 weeks old. I miss those snuggles; now she doesn't have much interest in snuggling, she would much rather be moving!!
I recovered remarkably fast, walk/running 4 miles just 13 days after my C-section. I was excited to train hard to try to snag a second OTQ, so everyday I ran/pushed the stroller through sub-zero temperatures (remember the polar vortex?), ice and snow. December and January I logged several 50+ mile weeks. Which reminds me, please, please, shovel your sidewalks! Pushing a stroller over un-shoveled snow is not only very difficult but also really annoying!).
We bought an infant sling so we could start running with her in our Chariot. She looks sooo tiny here!
Beast 2 Feast 5k at 6 weeks post partum!
When Greta turned 3 months old something changed. Disclosure #2: postpartum depression is awful. A lot of things happened all at once:

  • My knees and hips started hurting to the point where I couldn't train without significant pain. My dream of a second trip to the Trials was becoming more and more impossible as each day passed... and as that dream slowly slipped away from me, even the thought of trying to stay in shape via the elliptical fell to the wayside.
  • Nate was gone more frequently because of the nordic ski racing season, which meant for longer days and weekends where I was home alone with Greta. I made a point of getting out of the house and doing something or meeting up with someone every day, but it wasn't the same...
  • I stopped breastfeeding, even though I didn't want to. I was just a terrible milk producer at that point; I remember the last day I pumped I spent about 2 hours pumping and got just an ounce... 
  • All of a sudden I couldn't start on the most basic of tasks. I'd walk past our sink, piled high with dishes, and couldn't get myself to start on them. I knew I should do laundry as well, but that task seemed gigantically impossible. I felt so awful...

I started working with a doctor and we tried adjusting and changing medications but I steadily began to feel more and more depressed. I felt worthless and hopeless, and on March 16 I wanted to end my life. Luckily family and friends intervened immediately and I was admitted to a psych unit on a 72 hour hold for the first time. Within a week of getting out I was admitted again.

Changes in medications by the psychiatrists I saw in those units helped, but life was still rough. I walked around in a continual "Eeyore fog". For some reason, I thought self medicating would help my mood and situation. For those of you that know me, you know that I have ever been much of a drinker. Heck, I drank just once before I turned 21, and even my senior year in college when I was able to drink legally, I rarely did.

Before I knew it, I was drinking daily. Disclosure #3: My name is Nichole, and I am a recovering alcoholic. At times it would get so bad that I would pass out in our basement and Nate would carry me to the car to take me to the emergency room. My highest blood alcohol reading was a 0.46 (nearly 6 times the legal driving limit in Minnesota). People die with a BAC that high. I enjoyed three different stays at the Hennepin County Detox Center. I spent my 32nd birthday and the 4th of July in detox.

But, I was fortunate. My family stuck by me, and they encouraged me to start a 28 day inpatient program. I chose to go to Beauterre Recovery Institute, an addiction treatment facility in Owatonna, MN. I am so thankful I received all of the help I needed while there. I am continuing to stay vigilant with outpatient treatment and AA meetings, and I have been amazed at how far I have come. Today marks my 72nd day of sobriety!

Greta visiting me at Beauterre. It was so hard for me to be away from her for those 28 days, and when all she wanted to do was snuggle during this visit, I welcomed it whole-heartedly. Turns out the snuggles were because of a 104 degree temp. She's still smiling, though. That kid, happy as a lark no matter what the situation!
You thought the roller coaster ride was just about over, right? Ha! Far from it! Last week I started to notice strange symptoms. I hardly slept at night, but was incredibly energetic and super motivated. That's a good thing right? :) I was able to accomplish so much!
By the middle of the week I couldn't maintain concentration and was forgetting things. It was just plain odd. By Thursday evening I didn't know where I was and Nate brought me to the ER (for the 6th time this summer). On Friday he brought me to the University of Minnesota Medical Center's Behavioral Health Unit (aka psychiatric ward). Disclosure #4: I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after manic psychotic episodes with auditory and visual hallucinations. I will have to elaborate on this experience, but let me assure you it was intense (as in a "I had an actual conversation with God" intense).

As a side note, if you have to be admitted to a psych ward (and I now have experience with 3 of them), the U of MN is the place to go. The psychiatrist, doctors, pharmacists, and medical residents that were on my care team were brilliant. Absolutely, astoundingly brilliant.

I was fortunate to be able to be seen by one of the country's leading experts in bipolar disorder here
Another side note: Nathan joked as he was packing for my latest admission that he is now a bona fide expert at psych ward packing: no strings in clothing, no laces in your shoes, enough reading material or other things to try to pass the time. I think I could call myself an expert at trying to stay in shape while admitted. Even though they don't let you have shoelaces, you can procure drinking straws to lace your shoes. Sometimes you're lucky enough to find one of those "walk-in-place-and-you'll-get-fit" videos and you can run and jump in place to the video instead. You can really get your heart rate up, surprisingly! I'm sure I also provided entertainment for the staff there!

Yes, this is actually THE workout dvd I ran and jumped in place to at the New Ulm Hospital Psychiatric Unit. How cool am I?
Back to the story.

The doctors believe that the manic-psychotic episode was brought on by a hormone surge. Disclosure #5: I'm 6 weeks pregnant. The news took us by surprise, to say the least! Nathan and I found out this past Thursday at my visit to the Northfield Emergency Room. 6 days later, when I was still at the U of MN, we were told by the OBGYN that the pregnancy likely isn't viable. There is a small chance that we could be welcoming Baby #2 to the world next May, but at this point we can only wait and see. God is good, and things are in His hands now. I'll have a 3rd ultra sound this Friday and will know a lot more at that time.

Is your jaw on the floor yet? Turns out, a lot can happen in 8 months.

Each of these disclosures is worth exploring in far more depth than this post was able to cover, but I wanted to get all of this out there up front, so that as I find time to elaborate (I have some good stories I want to tell!) there will be some context. I hope to link future posts that fill in more details back to this post.

I have been in hospitals or treatment facilities for a total of over 2 months since March, a dismal statistic if there ever was one. My heart sinks every time I think about it. Instead of focusing on what was, I am turning my energy to the days, months, and years ahead that are going to be even more fulfilling and joyful because of what I've been through. I have learned SO much about myself through this process, and know that I have family and friends that I can count on through anything. I want to especially thank my husband Nathan, both our families, our friends Craig, Jeff, and Teresa, and the many others who lent a hand, cooked a meal, or watched Greta when we needed it. 

Disclosure #6: I have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to!

Life is amazing.

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Chapter 2 - O. M. G. part 2

In the spirit of yesterday's post, here are details on some of the recent updates and happenings.

  • - Running! I did my first hard workout yesterday at the Carleton arb. It was 10 x 60 seconds with 90 seconds recovery. I think it went well... as well it can go for someone that is just starting to train again. I think I need to learn how to pace better. I haven't looked at my data, but I think that's what I'll see. Today I ran 5 miles, nice and easy, in 42:29. 

  • I was lucky today to run with my friend Teresa. She's super cool. She is my age, was a D3 All-American (steeplechase), just moved in with her boyfriend Marco into Craig's house so she lives a mile away from me. In typical Nichole fashion, I started to help her organize her bathroom because I wanted to help (and she is super cool, like I mentioned). 

  • But, I took too long to finish it... so she had to finish it herself. Ug! Grr! So, now I need to find ANOTHER project to help her with. One that I both start AND finish. Hmmm. Ideas? I need a small room, a small task, and a fun way to do it. Ready... set... go!

  • - We need to take an 11 month old picture for Greta! But, she needed to go to bed before we had a chance to snap a picture. So, that gets put on the "to-do" list for tomorrow. Here's what she looked like last month.

This is what she looked like last month!
But, really, taking photos of her now mostly devolves into a game of her trying to eat the sticker.
  • - I interviewed for what I think is a perfect out-of-the-house position. I am going to follow up with them tomorrow (Thursday) because I really want the job. It's so perfect! It's a part-time finance job at our church, Bethel Lutheran in Northfield. Not only is it part time, it's in a field I love, the hours are flexible, it's close to home so I can drive in about 10 minutes or bike over (not sure how long that will take). How lucky am I?!? Now please, let me hear great news back next week from them...

  • - I went to a VIP event today at Zupas, a new (awesome!) restaurant opening up in Woodbury in October. I can't wait to write a blog about it and to have everyone that lives around that area visit it! Great food, big portions, clean atmosphere!

- Last week, I had the chance to make a quilt top for an American soldier returning from Afghanistan. He was returning in less than 7 days, so time was short. Could we do it? We did!

I loved doing it: communicating with the client (his future Mother in Law) to figure out their needs and wants, buying the fabric, planning the pattern out from scratch, cutting, and finally piecing and sewing it all together.

I loved the entire process. All of it.
It turned out GREAT.
I even sent the quilt cutely packaged up.
She loved the finished product so much that she asked me to make another quilt later on for her (top secret design/purpose). I think I will! It will be something fun to do, allow me to be creative, etc. That led me to thinking: I like quilting, I'm good at it, maybe I could start to do this for fun on the side. I could advertise on the blog (as in, make a tab here, how fancy). Brilliant!

It also makes sense to make these for others because: 
-they may want a quilt!
-they may want me to make it!
-they may not know which, or want to pick out a pattern I could help!
-my mom and aunt also quilt, and are also great at it.
-AND, even though I love quilting, and love having quilts around, there are only so many you can have in your home :)
-you can see where this is going... but, one step at a time.

So, I think you can see why my head is reeling with ideas, and also processing life at the same time. So, what am I going to do tomorrow?

Carry on, my folks, carry on! One day at a time, having fun living life as always!
I have to "run" off to bed now. See y'all tomorrow.

Oh, in the meantime, it looks like a whole 8 people read this blog (as in, I had 8 commenters yesterday). Today's post has to beat that record, right? So here is today's "question of the day":

What was your workout today?!

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