My news for today is that I registered for the Chicago Marathon! I’ve had my sights set on this race for awhile now, but with the craziness of registration these days, you never really know what the calendar will hold until you see an email like this:

So, October 7, 2012 will be the big day – the day that I reclaim my BQ!! At least that’s my goal…I’m announcing it now to make sure I stick to it! Racing 26.2M in 3:30-3:33 is a bit ambitious considering how busy I will be with grad school, work etc, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I know that I’m capable of achieving it if I’m lucky enough to remain injury free throughout training, run strong on race day and of course have favorable conditions. This race is notorious for hot weather in recent years, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take in exchange for a relatively flat course. And if you’re wondering about the 3:33 upper limit – that’s because Boston still adheres to a faster runners get priority policy. After the fiasco of last year’s registration (where I qualified but missed out by 50 seconds), I’m not taking any chances!

And hey – if I fail, I fail – but that’s how these things go. You work hard, you set a lofty goal (but within your reach), you go for it and hope for the best! If you don’t succeed, then you pick yourself back up and learn how to improve for next time. Easier said than done for sure, but it’s the way you grow and achieve greatness.

Either way, whether I qualify or not, I’ll have E by my side. Well, not technically speaking – we never actually run races together – but we’ll be in it together, supporting each other every step of the way from registration today through post-marathon celebrations in October. We ran our first marathon “together” in NYC 2010, my first BQ race. I was incredibly grateful not only to have achieved my goal, but also to be able to celebrate with someone I love who understood exactly how I felt, down to waking up the next morning and hardly being able to hobble to the bathroom! I am fiercely independent and I love my alone time, but shared marathon experiences – whether they are with friends or romantic partners – are far more meaningful to me. At least that’s what I’ve found based on my own races.

Equally as important, I’ll also have my parents supporting me on the sidelines – Team Claire back in action! I missed them in Portland and am so pleased that they decided to make the journey to Chicago from California. They’re always superstar spectators and knowing that they’re waiting to see me really helps to keep me going when things get tough.

And since we’re on the topic of tough, I got my butt whipped on the track yesterday! That photo above is my post-track “holy crap I survived” face. What seemed like a hard but not overly strenuous or long workout ended up being a 9+ mile, VERY challenging session. I’m sure doing strength training for the first time in ages the day before and not really sleeping much for several days due to late nights of studying didn’t help! I ran 1.1M easy, 7M at the track: 2x [1200 @ half mara pace (400 rest), 2×800 @ 10k pace (200rest), 4×200 @ 5k pace (200rest)], 1.23M easy. I aimed for 7:24 (1:50/lap), 7:13 (1:47/lap), and 6:55 (0:50/200m) approximate paces. My average splits were relatively close to goal times (except my second set of 800s), but my lap splits were pretty inconsistent, at least with my 1200s and 800s (went to fast then too slow – ie second 1200 was 1:48, 1:49, 1:55; first 800 was 1:45, 150).

My splits show that I was pretty solid with my 200s, but a bit all over the place with everything else. Aside from really trying to force myself to slow down in my initial laps during my next track session, I might also slow down my goal times to see if that helps achieve more consistency. REP ONE: 1200 – 5:30.2 overall time, 1:49.93 avg lap time; 800 – 3:35.9, 1:47.95; 800 – 3:37.3, 1:48.65; 200s – 50.92 avg (50.5, 50.8, 51.6, 50.8). REP TWO: 1200 – 5:33.6, 1:51.2; 800 – 3:38.1, 1:49.05; 800 – 3:37.1, 1:48.55; 200s: 50.47 avg (50.9, 51.0, 50.2, 49.8).

In school news, things are still going great! I had my first Food & Food Science lab this morning in the department kitchen – love my instructor and the section I’m in is mostly made up of grad students, which is nice given that all my other courses have tons of undergrads. I bought my chef’s knife and instant read thermometer today – just need my chef’s coat and I’ll be ready for official culinary training! I’m continuing to meet great people in my program and am feeling more and more like this is where I belong. The work is still overwhelming and challenging, but I know I’ll get through it.

Here’s a delicious dish I made for myself after a very long day in class:

This was so easy to make and extremely tasty. I literally grabbed whatever vegetables I had left in my kitchen – in this case, shallots, baby zucchini and red pepper – sliced/diced and sauteed them with some golden raisins, added the mixture to the quinoa (which I cooked in chicken stock to add flavor), and then threw in some toasted pine nuts (which I LOVE in quinoa). Sprinkled feta on top plus some cherry tomatoes and that was it! I used about a cup of dry quinoa and it made two servings – the leftovers were great for lunch the next day on top of salad, which I really appreciated during an endless study session in the library.

And I’ll leave you with a sign I saw above Marion Nestle‘s NYU office which I love – if it were my sign, I’d replace “cookie” with “dark chocolate peanut butter cup.” But hey, I’ll take cookies too!