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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Hot and sticky

Ooh, cold snap on Wednesday.
Weather this week has been way too warm for November. It's been warm and sunny, yet damp: we wake up to dew and are soon enveloped in humidity.
It would be nice to have a crisp, cool, fall day, but actually, I like running in this weather! It's a little windy, almost like spring storm weather, and the humidity is not as bad as the smothering summer moisture. I like it. I'm used to it. I run well in humidity!

No one else agrees. I ran into several friends during my (pointless...what am I even training for?) Saturday long run, and every last one greeted me with some form of weather complaint!

Meanwhile, in foolhardy news, I somehow ran 50 miles last week. NOT my intent. I really should start looking at those numbers throughout the week (that's what Daily Mile is for, after all!). But somehow, skipping a day off and lengthening my long run led to 50. That's bad, not because it's too many miles (although it's a lot for me - I'm more a 40 to 45 mpw runner), but because that week I also:
1. Went back to the track for the first time since early spring 2014
2. Ran a race.

So I will take this upcoming week a little easier.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


David and I have been so rushed and busy lately, that we decided to plan a staycation for a weekend before the holiday mayhem started (we also held our party pre-holiday, so we can relax and enjoy the season. In addition, I decided not to have Christmas surgery this year, so that should free our calendar up a little, har har).
David surprised me with a weekend downtown at the Windsor Court. They were offered a "rest and relaxation package" including a nice suite, spa credit, breakfast, and champagne.
We started the weekend with a Pelicans game. David former boss has a suite, and he invited us - which is obviously the best way to watch the game. It was also nice that they actually won, and against the Spurs, too! None of my teams have been good this year, and this was only their second win of the season, so it was a pleasant surprise. Then we walked about half a mile to our hotel. Saturday we didn't plan a lot: the idea was rest,  after all! Our suite had a lovely dining area overlooking the river, so we had breakfast in our room and read the paper (lots of election coverage: Saturday was the run-off for the governor's race, but we'd planned ahead and voted early to avoid having to head back uptown to vote Saturday). Then I went to the gym to see what cool machines they had (nothing too unusual; I ended up lifting weights) while David swam in the heated outdoor pool. After that, it was spa time. I selfishly declared I was using all the spa credit on myself, and David could just deal, but luckily that was his plan anyway, so I had booked a crazy luxurious HOUR AND 20 MINUTE deep tissue massage.
Best hour and twenty minutes of my life! I could not believe the state my muscles were in. My back was just a network of lumps and knots, but my massage therapist got to them all. One thing she did that was super effective for large, hard knots was to have me lay on my back, and then she'd place her pointed hand under me on the knot. My body weight would drive my back into her hand, breaking up some of the tightest spots. I was also thrilled to have her work on my hamstring, which is still really, really tight and sticky. By the time I got off the table I couldn't really walk normally, I was so loose and limber!
For lunch, we walked to a Vietnamese place we've been wanting to try (Nine Roses), but haven't because it's in the quarter. Then we went to M.S. Rau: it's always practically a museum in there, but this weekend they also had an actual exhibit of Saturday Evening Post covers. It was so neat: they had the covers with commentary, but they also had the original artwork or sketches on display, too. After a short walk through the quarter, we had some afternoon decaf before heading to the Windsor Court's Polo Club Lounge for live music and our complimentary champagne. Then we had late reservations at Peche, a seafood restaurant everyone has been raving about, but that we hadn't tried. I have mixed feelings about the place: the service was great, and the food was prepared excellently, but I would go back with maybe another couple. We wanted to get their specialty, the whole roast fish, but it was far, far too much food for two people. Even with no other food (no sides, no bread, no dessert, no appetizers, no salad) we had too much fish! That meant that, well, we just ate roast fish and nothing else for dinner and were still stuffed. I'd rather share it with more people and also try some vegetables or starches with it to break up the monotony of just fish very Paleo compliant, though).
We wrapped up the night with wine on our balcony, and in the morning headed straight to church (but not before coffee watching the sunrise over the river and a cruise ship come in and dock - great view).
It is a little wasteful to do the whole hotel-in-your-own-town thing, but the understated elegance of the Windsor Court just charms me (it's the little things, like giving you umbrellas to borrow as you walk out if it looks like rain, or the maids leaving cards on your pillow with the next day's weather written on them). Plus, if I try to do a staycation at my own house, I just end up working around the house. The idea this weekend was to relax and really enjoy each other's company - we brought some books, but made a no screens rule - and that's something I need to get away to do correctly. I returned feeling about a decade younger. We needed that break!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Turkey Trot: not as bad as I thought

For 108 years, New Orleanians have been running the 5 mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day - and like always, we joined in.
This race is usually a disaster for me. I either have a terrible race, or I get injured right after running it. Nevertheless, I doggedly persist in forcing this tradition on my long-suffering and darling husband, who really wants nothing more than a late wake-up, a cup of coffee, and a gigantic newspaper on Thanksgiving morning.
I was pleasantly surprised that I actually ended up with an ok race this year! I guess my expectations are now so low that almost anything pleases me.
We had neglected to pick up our packets early, so we showed up around 7:30 to find parking and pick up our shirts. That was pretty easy, but after running back to the car to drop our T-shirts off, we didn't have a lot of time for a bathroom run and a warm-up. I ended up getting in a mile easy warm up, but had no time for strides. I didn't feel like I needed a longer warm-up, because it was actually rather warm, although the skies were gray. It was blustery and humid, like a storm was coming, but it never did. It stayed warm, windy, and humid all day (the high was in the upper 70's. Boo. I want fall weather!).
I predicted my pace based on Tuesday's track workout. Assuming that I actually did run my reps at 5k pace, as I was supposed to, I used McMillan to predict a 5 mile time based on my slowest and fastest reps. I figured my slowest rep was the best indicator, and guessed I'd run about 7:05's. Maybe. If I could. I am feeling quite sluggish lately.
So, first mile was crowded like always, and I had trouble pacing (out of practice). Around a half mile in I realized that I was going too fast and slowed down to goal pace. But after that, the miles felt decently race-pace-ish at around 6:55. I wasn't working too hard, and I was staying pretty consistent, even with the variable wind (at times we had a nice tailwind; others, a rough headwind). During the last mile, I was smugly congratulating myself that I felt comfortable and was clearly speeding up since I was passing people - except my Garmin begs to differ; I slowed down. People around me must have just slowed, too. I ended up finishing  the five-mile race in 34:40. It's off previous years, but by now I know that's just not my speed anymore. I was happy with my results.It was almost exactly what my fastest rep from Tuesday's track workout predicted.
My only concerns with my performance were:
1. I can feel my short, slow stride and I don't like it. I hope track helps with this. My limited hip extension has been plaguing me since surgery.
2. Slow last mile and no kick - that's bad. I have to work on that.
3. I had that finish-line nausea that I dislike so much in this race. Racing more helps with this.

For once, I'm feeling rather confident about my running. I have room to improve, but I feel okay, and I am ready to work for some improvements. Now I need to schedule some races in.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New track club

This week, my friend Melissa (of Hood to Coast team fame - she set the whole thing up) told me that she and a small group had been meeting at Harrell track once a week in the mornings. She asked if I'd like to join them. I hesitated, because I'm woefully slow right now, and nowhere is that emphasized more than at the track! Plus, they meet at the ungodly hour of 5:30, and I don't even wake up until 6.
But I'd recently complained that part of my lack of motivation was no one to train for. So before I knew it, I was signed up for the Harrell track club.
Harrell Park - photo from the incomparable NOLA defender blog

I like Harrell track: it's a community track near my house, but it's in a sketchy neighborhood (Leonidas, for any local readers!). But, it's fenced in, it has a parking lot, and it is totally empty in the mornings.
I set my alarm for 5:00 and fell all over myself getting ready in time for 5:30 track. I got there in time, still swallowing the last of my coffee, and met up with four women and a man (only one of whom I knew). We did a 2-mile warm-up, then got down to the workout: five x 1000m with 1 minute rest. I automatically didn't like the workout. I do not approve of distances further than 800m with only 1 minute rest, let me tell you. I like my rest. I stagger around and spit and drink water for a good 40 seconds, so I need at least 1:30 to be ready to go again. Oh, and since this workout was written by Andrew, who used to coach our old track club (and is married to Melissa), the 1000m were at 5k pace. He likes to do workouts that turn out to be a race distance at race pace, just broken up: 2x800 at mile pace; 5x1k at 5k pace.
I tried to start with Melissa and another girl, but immediately I knew that was too, too fast. I dropped back. I have no idea what my 5k pace is right now, but I know it's not 6:20 (I wish). I ended up being a bit behind them for the majority of the workout, but it was still nice to have company somewhere on the track. I ended up running somewhere around 6:40 pace for the last four reps.

And I survived. I felt ok, my hamstring was tight but stretchable, my coffee stayed put (it was threatening for a few minutes there), and I forgot I'd ever had hip surgeries. And then I was home with 6+ miles done by 6:45 am, giving me plenty of time to do my PT and work on my oft-neglected core. I might just stick around and become a new member of the Harrell track club.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Time to get off my butt

Running update: I've been getting dry needling on my hamstring, which is really just social hour with the physical therapists since a. I have apparently lost the ability to feel the needles, and b. I met my max on my insurance, so there I am, just being a glut in the healthcare society. I've been running throughout this, except when I stopped when my knee hurt a little (it was a little distal hamstring tendinopathy. The funny thing is, that was my misdiagnosis way back when I had a femoral stress fracture, and now I can't believe I could confuse the two. Totally different!).

My PT and my doctor are not very worried about my hamstring, and it feels pretty good. I'm at a long run of 13 miles and four or five days a week running. I am doing some PT, but not many exercises. Usually hamstring strains require mild stretching and a lot of strengthening, but I already have strong hamstrings. I think the strain was just from handling hills poorly in my race. My PT tested my hamstring to quadricep ratio, and my hamstrings are actually strong for a runner, at about 80% of my quad strength (anecdotally, he sees about 50% on average in distance runners).

Basically, my hamstring will be just fine, but it was a nice excuse while it lasted, ok? I definitely think that if I'd been running faster, I would not have really taken a break. I just get bored with my slow self. Now It's time to get off my butt. I'll be slowly racing the Turkey Day five miler as a rude reawakening.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wine Tasting Wars

David and I finally held a party we've been planning on for a while: Wine tasting wars!
It goes like this: Each guest brings two bottles of their favorite cheap red wine. One is for the tasting; the other is put in the prize kitty.
The host masks each bottle of wine, and as people mingle and taste, they rank the wines from one to five stars on ballots. At the end of the night, ballots are turned in, and the winning wine takes home the prize - all the extra bottles of wine!
We'd been to a party like this, and it was so fun: it's never awkward, because everyone has something to talk about, and the competition adds excitement. In our version, we had ballots labeled from A to Z and we marked each wine with a letter of the alphabet (we had so many people over that we actually completed the entire alphabet - 26 wines to taste!).
I checked guests in on a spreadsheet, and David and I covered the bottles with paper bags to hide the label. We used a thick Sharpie to mark the letter on the bag. Meanwhile, guests were sipping and mingling and eating (I did some trays with meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, chocolate, and nuts, and throughout the night I served flatbreads that I cooked at intervals so they wouldn't get cold: goat cheese and caramelized onion, ricotta/Mozzarella with spinach, fresh basil and tomato, and ham, apple, sharp cheddar, and mustard greens).
Announcing the winners: my only picture from the night (and somehow
we managed to make it look like there weren't 50 people in my house,
which there were! It was a tad crowded! 

As people began to fill up their ballots, David and I entered their ratings, working on two computers on a shared Google doc. Soon, we had a winner! The excitement was palpable! People were getting REALLY into the rankings! I announced the winners, and first, second, and third took home a bunch of wine (first got 12 bottles: that's quite the prize, right?!).
Want to know the winners?
First place: Nineteen Crimes, a red blend
Second place: Dark Horse Big Red blend
Third place: Fourteen hands, also a red blend.
Apparently red blends win the popular vote!
We had a great time and a bunch of people went home with new favorites or wines to try. And everyone is already asking for a repeat next year. I'd love to do one, but I will need to enlist help: I woke up the next day with my wrist swollen from opening wine bottles!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Long sleeves!

Not quite. I was way too hot. But hey, weather in the low 60's with humidity FINALLY below 60% feels like winter to me! Time to break out the sleeves!
Those are my Wal-mart shorts.