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Monday, April 24, 2017

Gulf Coast Classic 10k

Slight improvement over on the 10k front this week! 41:53. I registered for the Gulf Coast Classic when I was disappointed in my time at the CCC 10k last week. But of course, I knew it wouldn't be easy. The weather was almost exactly the same as last week - start in the low 70's, close to 80 at the finish - and I'd be running with tired legs. I didn't feel sore after last week's race, but the fartlek workout on Tuesday demonstrated how little bounce was in my step! My legs actually felt a little heavier than I'd expected, but that might have been my shoe choice. I went with my brand-new Kinvara 7's, and I think they were still too soft and bulky (they are also a weird fit - I had to go up a size because my normal men's 8.5 was far too small, but the 9s are a little long). Another factor? An incredibly stressful day at work Friday. A generator test at the facility created a power surge that fried my server. We were out until almost 1 pm, and then swamped after that...until a company-wide system glitch at 4:30pm! I left work late and exhausted, and I really think that kind of overall fatigue works its way into your muscles, too.

I must admit, I woke up not at all ready to race. I wanted to enjoy a lazy morning and a few cups of coffee on the porch, but David was raring to go. He just missed 50 minutes at the CCC 10k, and he was ready for a rematch! So we headed out the door at 7 am for an 8 am start. We arrived at the park where the race was held, and got our bibs in about 2 minutes. That left lots of time to kill. I did some hip exercises and a 2 mile warm up (no strides again, I don't know why).


The course is an out-and-back that's in an upside down "U" shape - so you do that U out and back, for maximum wind exposure...seriously, though, a race on the beach is just always windy. I have yet to discover how to not over-exert in the headwind, so I can make use of the tailwind! When we started, I was running near another woman for about the first mile and a half. I didn't know who else was in front of me because they were too fast, but this girl was sticking with me for sure. I eventually lost her right at the 5k turnaround, and then I was quickly on the beach in a ferocious wind. Alone. Very alone. I could see a lady WITH A STROLLER far ahead, but she was out of range, and I was just fighting the wind by myself. I was trying to keep my pace at 6:45, to get under 42 minutes, a revised goal: as soon as I started my warmup, I knew my legs were not fresh. Initially I'd wanted to run closer to 6:40 pace. Mile one was 6:42 (tailwind), mile two 6:36 (mixed), mile three 6:50 (straight headwind).

As we approached the 10k turnaround, I saw the first woman sailing along, and then the second woman, pushing a baby and looking very fresh. I made the turn myself but couldn't push, even in the tailwind, to catch stroller lady. I couldn't really enjoy the pretty views, either, because the sun was blinding! And it was, indeed, quite hot: 70's at the start, but 80 at the finish. Nonetheless, I had my eye on average pace, and even though my Garmin was continuing to cheerfully chirp WAY before the mile markers, I thought I was pretty close. Mile four was 6:38 with a tailwind; mile five 6:46. I hit the home stretch - and another headwind - very exhausted, and ran my second slowest mile, 6:49, for mile 6. Definitely not my plan. I was nowhere close to ever catching stroller woman, and a full minute and a half behind first place woman, so I think I just got lazy (oh, and as I made the turn, I had determined that fourth place had dropped so far back as to make her catching me basically impossible). I think I need to learn to push myself more for the sake of racing!
Pizza for breakfast, waiting for awards.
Awards took awhile...(there's a mile, 5k, 10k, and racewalking division, plus every age group imaginable!)




David was mocking the huge trophies. And then they gave me one.

I jogged in as third woman, and the finish line volunteers handed me a tag and told me...the wrong time. She said, "41:33", but I knew it was 41:53. I told the race officials, and they said that there was a clock problem, and subtract twenty seconds. Er. "I think it should be added..." I murmured. So some people were adding time; some were subtracting from already shortened time. Luckily the finishing tags are in order, so the time confusion didn't mess up the overall placing. The cool thing about this race was that the top three got gift cards and I took home $75 at Academy! That never happens to me, so I am super thrilled!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Race review: Bursting with Speed 5k

Maybe you want to win $1000 in a race. Maybe you want to run the Bursting with Speed 5k!
Yep, this is a race with serious prize money: $1000, $500, and $250 for the top three men and women. So it gets a deep field. I don't normally review 5ks, but since this one not only has prize money, but is conveniently timed a week before the Crescent City Classic (meaning you could do a week's vacation in New Orleans and hit TWO goal races!), I thought I'd do a review.

Get race info or register here.

Pre-race information, logistics, organization
You can get all the information needed on the New Orleans Track Club's website, plus follow them on Facebook or Instagram. Packet pickup can be morning of or the Thursday before the race. There is plenty of parking on the Lakefront, although I was a tad late and was about half a mile from the start. There is a half-mile for kids before the 5k; both races started on time. 
Cost:
This race benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and on race day it's $35. But early registration for NOTC members is just $15. 
Swag and prizes: 
Oh, so much! Besides cash to top 3 finishers, top 2 AG and overall kids/grandmasters/masters get awards (which I think were donated items this year). But there are also drawings throughout the afterparty for tons of door prizes, including ten drawings for $300!
Runners get a gender-specific, soft T-shirt and a medal...that's interesting for a 5k, but it looks like a Cowboy boot, so it's going on my Christmas tree at some point (oh, WHEN will I ever do a medal tree?).

Course:
It's on the Lakefront, so two things are guaranteed: full sun, and wind. It's also the "hilliest" 5k in New Orleans, with a couple of bridges. If you have real hills where you are, please ignore this comment. You will laugh. Rumor is that the course was short this year, but I have my doubts about that; NOTC has been doing this for a while and I've never run one of there races with a short course. 

Coming through the finish on a beautiful day

After-party:
Live music, lots of food (barbecue beef or pork sandwiches and red beans, plus the usual fruit, cookies, and Chee Wees), beer (with Abita bock or sweet orange this year, fancy!), and plenty of vendors with give-aways...including Walgreens, so I popped in and volunteered for a bit! 

Overall, I had a nice morning at this race, loved the after-party, and enjoyed the novelty of a race on the lakefront. I recommend!  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Never mind, still slow! CCC 10k

Eh, ignore everything I just said...I'm still slow. A crazy 42:15 at the CCC 10k. You know, 45 seconds slower than my last 10k! All I can do is blame the weather - and it wasn't great. High 70's, humidity in the 90% range, windy. But other than that, it was a good day to run and my muscles felt ready. I just had zero speed.
We parked at my work the morning of the race and jogged to the start. With 20,000+ runners, the start is always a madhouse, and like every single year, I could not find the entrance to the seeded corrals! I ended up walking all the way from the back. Due to the crowds and the heat, I kept my warm up to 2 miles, and couldn't fit in any strides. We were packed in with about ten minutes to go. Finally, we started, and I was boxed in at once. Now, I wanted to go out slow, so a tight first mile isn't so bad, but coupled with the 25mph headwind, I hit mile one in 6:57. Luckily, I'd get some tailwind for the next two miles, before alternating headwinds and side gusts; anyway, it didn't register that I'd run a 6:57, because my Garmin was NUTS again. It read mile one in 6:49! By mile two, I was a full 18 seconds off the clock, and I hit lap to get back on track. Stupid. I struggle with pacing a 10k, as it's not a pace I run often, and I rely (perhaps too much) on my Garmin - this inaccuracy is a huge problem!
A friend sent us highlighted results from
our group. 
Once I realized how off my Garmin was, I settled into a race by feel, and honestly, that gave me pretty good results. Not fast, but consistent: I ran the first half in 21:02 and the second in 21:13, and that's with the benefit of a tailwind for miles 2 and 3. So I was actually remarkably consistent, and my first mile was my slowest. Who knew? I actually CAN pace by feel!

After I hit the 5k point, I passed a local runner who runs a similar pace to me, and when she didn't respond, I realized that everyone was suffering in the humidity. I just had to hang on. A few minutes later, my fast friend Jared surged up to me to offer some encouragement. "Keep going girl," he said. "You're slowing down. Stop that." He was pacing another friend, so dropped back again, but it gave me a good boost and I picked my feet up again. By the time we got around City Park, my head was cooking in the sun, and the wind was a factor again. But I was passing people, so I kept plugging away. I caught up to our running group coach (who is running slow coming back from injury), and committed what is an apparent egregious error. We exchanged greetings and I indicated I was having a poor race with a thumbs-down. And I never heard the end of it. I guess this group of runners wants total positivity...I got yelled at. Lesson learned! No thumbs down from now on! The rest of the race was just me pushing forward and fighting a cramp. Not at all fun.

I was super annoyed not to have a good sprint finish, but I just didn't. I ran 42:15 and was honestly surprised to see that. I thought I'd worked harder than that! But it was 80F at the end, and I was hot and miserable, so I guess it makes sense. I'm still disappointed. I finished 35th female, 5th in my age group - so really, it seems everyone struggled. This is a big, fast race, so those stats point to how much the field slowed.

After getting thoroughly sunburned at the after party (did my sunscreen evaporate?!), I did what any disappointed runner does: I immediately registered for another race. Gulf Coast Classic next week, here I come! Even though it's projected to be even HOTTER next week!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Breakthrough?!?!

Not in my Econ class. I still hate that class (this is really a first for me; I have managed to get SOMETHING out of every other class I've ever been forced to take, even "football math" - math even the football team could pass - back when I was an art major in undergrad. But the disorganization of this class has me totally disinterested.).
Dead legs. Dead Garmin. Dead shoes (almost. That's 496 miles there. I'm putting them over 500 today). 

But perhaps - perhaps a breakthrough in speed?
After a couple of workouts in which I really struggled to hit paces, mostly missing, I finally had a good workout last Tuesday. The previous week I'd showed up to track in the midst of a stomach infection, and the week before that our workout had been mid-monsoon, so really, almost any workout would have shown improvement.
It helped that our workout was a little shorter: 2 miles at 8k pace, 3 minutes rest, 4x800 at 2 mile - 5k pace with 2 minutes rest each, 6x200 fast with 60-90 seconds rest. The total was a manageable 5 miles, and to make that even better, it was low 70's for a change.

I started the two-miler, and right away I felt better than I had in ages. I wasn't gasping for breath by the first turn, and I almost felt comfortable. My second 1600 was just a second slower than my first. Starting out like that made the rest of the workout fast and easy. I don't love 800s, which were up next, but I got through them, despite almost running a little kid over. Several groups use this track, and one parent lost their pre-schooler - he dashed in front of me, then did that annoying back and forth thing as we both tried to avoid collision. I am proud to say I both managed to stop, and managed to stay upright!

Then I wrapped with fast 200s. The long rests made these easy as pie. While 200s have always been pretty easy for me to complete, I think adding strides in has helped me with them. Two strong runners I follow, Dolly and Cris, both recommended adding strides at the end of my runs, so I just started that. I'll be - they do improve leg turnover!

I hoped to see that workout translate into a speedier race on Saturday, and while most people said the course ran short (my opinion: curvy sections with tangents were measured on one side of the street only, but the course had both sides open), I was still faster: I ran 21:41 last 5k, 19:41 this time. I would have been at about 19:55 on a full course, and that's a good speed for me. I'm not a fast 5k runner anyway! In fact, I remember being elated over a 19:59 a few years ago, when I ran the Crescent City Fall Classic right after hip surgery #1, and before I realized my right hip needed surgery, too. I've been back running for longer now, of course, but that race was an easier race, too. The race plus better workouts have boosted my confidence a little going into the CCC 10k, and despite the 83F temperatures predicted, I'm excited to see how I do!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Interview with the Advocate

Something kind of cool happened last week. The Advocate, the upstart newspaper that entered the New Orleans market when the Times Picayune dropped its publications to just three times a week, contacted me for a story about the Crescent City Classic. *
The reporter wanted to interview some top local women about the Crescent City Classic and the local women's running scene.

Ha! Top local women! I'm not even in the top twenty-five gals in this area. Not even close. But as a new member of the Power Milers, the reporter wanted to interview me for that aspect, since the main story is about the women's running community and the club just opened to women. So on Sunday, I joined some truly fast women at City Park for an interview and a photoshoot.

The interview was, um, interesting. Lots of leading questions. You know how it is. Reporters have a story, and you just fit in it. Hopefully I won't come across as a complete idiot, but the good news is that there was a large enough group of us that I'm sure I'll get one snip of a quote, max.
SUNNY skies over my run
And then, since I was already at City Park and wearing running clothes, I did an afternoon 8-miler with speedster Laura Doody, a D1 athlete from LSU who will be smoking me (and a lot of other people, too!) next Saturday. I haven't done a chatty, easy run in awhile, so that was fun - although her "easy" is not as easy for me! I was ready to be done at the end - the sun was hot and I was really thirsty. I still haven't acclimated yet - and that was without much humidity. Oh, Saturday's race is going to be a killer!
Post-run disgusting sweatiness

I wasn't really comfortable doing the interview, because I felt like an imposter: these other women are truly fast. But I didn't want to say no - I like staying involved in the running community, and am glad the paper is doing a story on women's running in New Orleans. Plus, it was actually kind of fun! I'm always interested in seeing other people ply their trade, including reporters and photographers. The story runs Friday, so I'll see how it all turned out then!

*We subscribe to The Advocate, because I like to read the paper in the morning, because I'm 70 years old, but I am still heartbroken that we had to drop the TP, which has been published for over 100 years. But they don't deliver on Saturdays, my favorite day to read the paper! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Bursting with Speed 5k

Finally, the stars aligned and I actually had a race on a day with gorgeous weather! Not only was the low 59F on Saturday, the humidity was right about the same...59%. Unheard of for April in New Orleans! I ended up racing the Bursting with Speed 5k on a brisk, breezy, sunny morning, temps about 65. Besides the wind - which was not really bad at all, more a factor of running on the lakefront than the weather - it was absolutely ideal.
I had high hopes for a faster race than my last 5k, which felt inexplicably slow. And I did: a full MINUTE faster!
Lake Ponchartrain
The Bursting with Speed 5k is held in honor of a local runner, Benny Burst, who passed away after a battle with acute myeloid leukemia. This race serves as a fundraiser for LLS, the leukemia and lymphoma society. Walgreens is a big supporter of LLS, and I already participate in events and fundraisers for them, so of course I wanted to run this race. I also thought it would be a no-pressure event, and I was right: the race offers substantial prize money for the top three finishers, so the field was crowded. I could run for time and not worry about a place, like I might in a smaller race (by the way, the top two finishers ran under 15:00, so...yeah, it's a fast race!).
SUN.
The only drawback to this race is that the Lakefront does offer some challenges. As I recall from many painful marathon miles, it is full sun, beating down on you, reflecting off the white pavement; it's always going to have wind; and of course, it's "hilly" for New Orleans and there are a few bridges. But honestly, no biggie. The weather was so nice it made up for all that. I mean, I got a sunburn, but I survived!

This race was run further up but I parked closer to the other end
of the Lakefront due to my late arrival.
I cut it a little close getting to the start, and while I squeezed in a 2 mile warm up, I didn't have time or space for strides or anything. I started nearish to the front, and we headed out into a crosswind/headwind. I'd prefer that to a headwind on the way back, though! I powered through mile one, head down, and hit it in 6:25 - exactly the pace I wanted to run. I assumed I'd run a 6:35 for mile 2, which had two hills and a rather awkward turn-around, so that pace made sense. It seemed like mile one went fast, but mile two was agony. I really can't run on hills at all. So hard for me. And then I got boxed in and had to shorten my stride and felt very uncomfortable for awhile. Even though it was pretty crowded, I never really passed anyone and wasn't really passed by anyone the whole race. I hit mile 2 in 6:32, and ugh, I sort of gave up at that point. I really need to work on keeping my head in the game! I now had a tailwind to the finish, but I was dawdling. Mile 3 was 6:26, suddenly I saw clock still in the 19's, and sped up - 19:40 by Garmin, 19:46 gun time (there were mats at the finish only, not the start - the New Orleans track club chips races, but only reports gun time).
A friend took this picture near the finish

Now of course, there has to be a caveat: some runners, including myself, had Garmin distances that were short of 3.1. I got 3.09, but others got 3.08 or even 3.06. The course might have been short, or our Garmins cut the corners when measuring distance. Not sure. But even if it was a worst-case-scenario of 3.06 miles, my time still extrapolates to 19:55, and I'm OK with that: I'm just really happy to be under 20 minutes again! Yay for speed creeping back!