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Monday, January 16, 2017

Louisiana Marathon: Sometimes you have to take the risk

My race Sunday didn't go as planned at all. Of course, I already posted about the weather situation: warmer than expected, but worse, incredibly humid. After I got my hopes up Saturday when the temperature forecast dropped a little, I woke up to 100% humidity. Yes, that's right, 100%. At least up until 11 am, when it dropped to a cool 98%. What a relief, ha. It was 62 at the start, rapidly rising through the 60s and stabilizing, for the duration of my race at least, at about 68. So actually, cooler than I thought - but oh, dear me, the humidity was killer.

And then I threw my race plan out the window. Purposefully. Because sometimes, you just have to take big risks.

Early on, I knew I was one of the top women. As the pack sorted out, this biker was hanging out by me...I realized, I had a pace bike! It turns out I was third. But by mile 7, I was second. And by ten, I couldn't help but pass the woman in first, who was already fading in the humidity. I made the choice to try to go for the win, but in doing so, I gave up on running a manageable pace. I was feeling the humidity, but a strong, dogged woman was right behind me (she'd moved solidly up from fifth or sixth to hanging a few seconds behind me). It was a huge risk - I knew I was at a pace I couldn't maintain, so my only way to win was if the second woman faded as much as I probably would! But she was a better racer and runner than I. At mile 21, I hit the wall, and gave up first to fall back to second. I struggled terribly, dealing with the heat, humidity, and the hole I dug myself. I ended up missing both my time goal and the win, although I was very happy to take second place.

It was a rough way to race. I would do it again, though. The last few miles were really, really hard: the sun was out behind the sheets of fog, heating the course like a steam room; I dropped my gel; I was mentally drained (leading a race with close competition is TOUGH, hard work!); there was oddly one less water stop than I thought?!; and I was totally exhausted. Hitting the wall is the worst! But I had to respond to that chance. I ran 3:12:07, even slower than this fall, and a much more poorly-run race. Next time I take a risk like that, I want it to pay off!

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Tomorrow morning I run my second Louisiana Marathon. The first time I ran it I ran a 3:09, which crossed the big 3:10 barrier, and...I'll just say it...I think I can do that again! 
Yeah, conditions won't be ideal (humidity high 90's, one source saying 99%, and as of the time I'm writing this post, temps in the 60's to mid 70's). And my training was far from ideal, since I just wedged a few long runs in in the past few weeks. But my attempts to run "long run moderate" and "marathon pace tempo" have had really good paces (for me) lately, so I'm holding onto my hope to be under 3:10 tomorrow. After all, I ran 3:12 in the fall on a harder course (but perfect weather, so maybe that's not so predictive!). Regardless, I'm going to try to go for a 3:09, and if I blow up, oh well.
My training for the last few weeks

This was a really unusual training block for me, very last minute, very little planning. I tried to follow an abbreviated version of Hanson's, and it looked like this:
Week of 12/18:Training kicked off with a "long run" consisting of one of the worst races I've ever endured followed by a few bonus miles to make about 16. Despite this terrible run, the rest of my "first week" was just fine: I did a track workout on Tuesday (written by a friend, not Hanson's), and surprised myself with a nine-mile tempo at 7:06 pace that felt pretty good. I wrapped up the week with a 10 mile "long run" (shorter than my tempo with warm-up and cool down!).
Week of 12/25: My key workouts were 3x2 miles from the Hanson's plan (13:54, 13:31, 13:49), a Thursday tempo, and a Saturday long run. My tempo was less awesome this week: it was in 100% humidity, and I struggled, but still managed a 7:05 pace for nine miles. My long run was in gross, rainy weather: 16 miles at 7:37 pace. That's low-end of appropriate long run pace, but you know how I feel about long runs: I almost always finish significantly faster than I start, and I save easy pace (eight and nine minute miles) for my easy days. I don't look at my Garmin much while I run at all, and really never look at pace during long runs, but lately I've almost naturally developed a tendency to finish fast. My first several miles will usually be in the range of 7:55 to 8:10, and it drops from there.
Week of 1/1: Still sticking with workouts from Hanson's: 2x3 miles at 20:46 (6:55) and 20:24 (6:49). Then my BIG TEMPO, the ten miler: this was in cold weather, and I killed it! 7:03 pace, felt great. My long run was in much colder weather, 28 degrees, wind chill of 16 degrees. I took my poorly-clad self off to run this and it was miserable. I'm not sure of my pace, because I fumbled with my gloves adjusting my Garmin and accidentally stopped and saved it around mile five. So I have two separate records for the run, but I'm eyeballing it around 7:30.
This week: Sort of tapered: around 30 miles. All easy except 3x2 miles at 13:57, 13:52, 13:45 on Tuesday.

I'm not sick, so yay! And I hope to stay injury-free for this race. But you know how little niggles pop up the week of the race? Well, I have some. Under my right knee is a little inflamed again, and both hamstrings have been a little iffy lately (so strange that my hamstring tightness developed after my hip surgeries: my very flexible "hamstrings" was really hyperflexibility of a damaged joint! Now that my joint mobility is appropriate, my hamstrings move differently and tend to tighten). In fact, the slightly slower pace on my Tuesday intervals was due to complaining hamstrings. Luckily, running at or under 7-min pace kept them happy, and obviously I won't be running sub-7's tomorrow (ha, I wish).

Race plan: To be modified based on weather changes, but for now, I plan to go out at 3:09 pace, which is about 7:11, allowing variability of +5 seconds for the first few miles. I always calculate pace based on the 26.3 miles I'll probably actually run (if not more, depending on Garmin variability), which is why that is a tad fast. I'll try to hold on to this pace throughout the race, staying very close to proposed race pace, and if Hanson's works miracles, speed up for the last few miles. If the weather is super humid and I feel like I'm struggling, I'll drop down to the 7:15/7:20 range and just hope for a better race next time.
If the weather was better, I would go out faster. My tempo paces have me excited about my fitness - I think I'm actually in shape to run faster than 3:09, maybe even PR soon (my PR is 3:06)! But to do that, I need more time and perfect weather. So for tomorrow, I will cry tears of joy for a 3:09.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Yep, weather still hates me!

Why, I ask you, is it going to be 74 degrees on Sunday?

Obviously, just because I'm running a marathon. I kind of just want a race that isn't summer weather!
P.S. Yes, I would have given my left arm for weather in the low 70's this summer, true. But I'm acclimated now!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

On the Instagram!

I'm Audubonrunner.

Well, that's where I talk about running. I'm also at doodlesduringrounds, which is where I draw pictures on my phone while I'm supposed to be working. Follow me at either account!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Great tempo running

For this abbreviated training cycle, I've completed three tempo runs. I'm defining "tempo" like Hanson's does - marathon pace. The generous pace should make these tempos not too difficult, but this summer they nearly killed me. As I ran in record-breaking heat and humidity, I struggled. I couldn't stay hydrated without stopping for water, which kind of destroyed the whole concept of a tempo - a non-stop run. After getting home, I usually felt terrible for the rest of the day. Once, I bonked during a tempo, and struggled home at 8 and 9 minutes paces. And my paces were a mess. I tried to run within a range of paces matching up to my range of acceptable race results, but my moving pace was too fast, and my pace if you included the water stops was too slow. An average of the two paces - found by extensive analysis - was 7:19, however: EXACTLY my eventual race pace. So despite the struggle, I decided that the tempo was a valuable tool, and decided to use it this winter, too. The only difference is that I was committed to completing real, non-stop tempos - and chose to determine pace by feel. If it felt like marathon effort, it was a tempo!

My first tempo was nine miles, and boy - what a difference the temperature makes. I did make a water stop two miles in, but I just zipped by the fountain with my watch still running: no harm done, and my pace reflected the slight slowing, just like it would if I paused to drink during a race. I did one loop in the park followed by an out-and-back on the levee, and felt great the whole time. I kept zoned in on feel, and not pace. While my first miles were a little slower, I actually sped up as I went along, finishing with a mile under seven! 7:10, 7:18 (water break plus slowing for traffic crossing magazine), 6:58, 7:08, 7:08, 7:08, 7:02, 7:04, 6:55. My overall 7:06 pace surprised me - that's my marathon PR pace!

The next week was much more of a challenge: it was 100 humidity and 70 degrees. When I reached the turnaround on the levee, which is a tight turn, I was tempted to slow to a walk and take a break. But I stuck with it for nine miles at 7:05. I think this one was a little forced, though: I kept looking at my watch and trying to match the week before's pace. I probably should have taken it easy.

The last tempo was a ten-miler, and it was key. I can get a pretty good idea of my race fitness from a ten mile tempo. The weather was better, and I felt strong the whole time. No watch stopping, and only a sip of water to interrupt the running: 7:11, 7:09, 7:02, 7:09, 7:06, 7:02, 6:58, 7:01, 6:58, 6:54. That's ten miles at 7:03, and I felt great the whole time!

What does this mean for next week's race? Well, not much: despite the frigid cold today, next week is going to be in the 70's (possibly 80 degrees in New Orleans, but Baton Rouge should be spared) and the weather combined with my lack of long run buildup might make for a tougher race than I'd like. But still - those tempos give me great confidence.

What's your confidence-booster pre-race? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My car - under siege!

Usually my car is no trouble at all. It's a 2005 Scion, and until last week, it had never been repaired except for the few bits of body work when bad drivers hit my parked car ( I park in a garage, so that's more often than I'd like). In fact, that happened again a few weeks ago, and annoying as that it, at least the driver not only left her insurance, but called the Tulane police and filed a report herself. All well and good: a pain, but at least I'm not paying. But then a few days later, it wouldn't start. That was bad, because the battery is only a year old. David had vacuumed it earlier though, so I thought maybe he'd left the inside light on. We jumped it, I went to work, no biggie. Next, I headed to the grocery store, where I bought some beautiful shrimp... that leaked all over my boot. My car stinks now - despite multiple carpet shampoos and febreezing.

At this point, I was beginning to think my car was jinxed. What happened next persuaded me that it was: I heard a tow truck on the street, and ran out to see my car ticketed and hooked up to tow! David ran out and persuaded the driver to let him just move the car. To our baffled questions, the driver explained that someone had called to report that I was parked closer than three feet from his driveway. In other words, our NEIGHBOR called and asked for a tow rather than knocking on my door! Further, I was quite far from the drive, I thought - but the tow truck driver told me that I was "two feet, ten inches"! To add insult to injury, the driveway isn't really a driveway. It's half a driveway, and half an alleyway full of gas pipes and protected by large, yellow cement posts. So totally not parking space. And I was "too close" to that side. So my neighbor is a jerk, basically.

But were my car woes over? No. Not at all. That weekend, I picked up a nail in my tire. And while David gingerly drove it, he realized that it was pulling hard right. Whether or not this was related to the hit ( still unrepaired), we weren't sure, but when we brought it in to have the tire patched, we had an alignment done, too. That was my very first repair on this car, and it fixed the problem.

But in one last gesture of defiance, my car refused to start the very next morning. Annoyed, I hopped in the car with David and we car-pooled, since that would be faster than getting out the cables and jumping it. We got to work, and I grabbed the door handle... and snapped it in half. I actually broke the handle in two.

Apparently I have it out for these cars!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Condensed marathon training

Last week, I saw a Facebook post from some runners I know: "Last twenty miler done! Now it's taper time!" To my distress, I saw that they'd tagged the Louisiana Marathon.
You know, the race I'm running. 
The one I hadn't done a SINGLE long run for yet. 
So! In frantic-rectify mode, I did my first - of two - long runs Saturday I can do 16 miles next week, too, but then the week after that's the race! It definitely snuck up on me!

Luckily, this isn't a goal race - it's replacing a long run day in training for RnR New Orleans, and also luckily, I have been steadily increasing my miles since my hamstring started recovering. I did 229 miles in December, which is basically marathon mileage.

I've also been doing my speed work on Tuesdays, and have done two marathon-pace tempos on Thursdays, both of which went well. Am I ready to race on January 15th? Probably. It might be a little tough, but I think I'll survive.

What's your shortest marathon training cycle been?