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Saturday, February 18, 2017

MBA update: Seven down, four to go.

Really, three and a half to go. I'm halfway through Finance already.

Starting my MBA a little off-schedule left me with four classes left, spread over four sessions. So while I had been doubling classes up, now I'm just taking one per seven-week session, and it is certainly easier! I'll finish up at the end of summer, so it won't take too long - less than a year and a half from start to finish.

Figuring out my work, school, and life schedule can be slightly complicated, but I've been able to juggle it so far. Two weeks ago, the worst scenario presented itself: a test scheduled for the day of my marathon! Now, I would have time to complete it - it didn't close until later that weekend - but there is nothing worse than a test hanging over you, especially during a marathon. And then taking it later, while all exhausted, sounded horrible. Luckily, my professor posted on Saturday that he'd be opening the test up early - that night, in fact! - so I crammed and took the test that evening.

Even though his tests are all essay/math combination scenarios, this professor is a very fast grader. When I got up for the marathon early the next morning, I had a grade - and it was a 100, which was blissful, because you know I think a 99 is an "F" and I didn't want to stress about THAT during the race, either! So I got to run my race with no thoughts of school on my mind at all.

In a few weeks, I have another math-heavy class, then just two summer classes to wrap this MBA up!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

New Balance FreshFoam Zante: follow-up review

I've put 400 miles on the FreshFoam Zantes that I bought this summer. They have been my secondary shoe, rotated in once or twice a week as a break from my main shoe, the Saucony Kinvara. Well, at 400 miles, it's time to call it quits and do a follow-up review of the shoe.
Zantes with 400 miles

Durability: I have mixed views on the durability of these shoes. On the one hand, the foam broke down on these rather quickly, and my knees started to ache long before I hit 400 miles. In defense of the shoes, I did wash them twice, and they were summer shoes - I don't think shoes last as long in the summer. They get saturated with sweat and stay damp, which degrades the foam, and the soles wear easily on hot asphalt. But anyway, the "fresh foam" just felt flat very early in the life of the shoe - maybe 250 miles.

Slight balding on the forefoot 

Some wear on the insole
No tear over the bunion

On the other hand, the Zante is well-constructed. In fact, in the pictures above, I find it hard to believe they have 400 miles on them! The upper didn't tear along the side where my bunion places pressure, like almost all shoes do, and the sole shows pretty minimal wear. The insole wore away under my bunion, but only a little. So I think the shoe is put together well, but the foam wears quickly.

Fit: I liked the fit immediately and still do: wide toe box (wider in the 2E I bought), more snug at heel and midfoot. In fact, although my pair are retired from running, they'll become gym shoes.

Function: Here's where my affection for the Zante wore thin. They are, as advertised, a cushioned, neutral shoe. But, although I have high arches, I do tend to over-pronate just a tad. The sock-like upper offers no support whatsoever, and I found that for me, that allowed too much movement in the foot and ankle, which led to soreness along my inner calf and the inside of my knee. I would also feel a stretching, burning feeling along my plantar fascia at the end of mid-distance runs. I think they would be excellent shoes for a very efficient runner with a very good gait, but I need just a smidge more shoe.

Since I felt like I was toying with injury wearing these shoes, I won't be buying another pair, which is too bad, since it's so hard for me to find shoes that fit my foot well. I do think they would be excellent race or everyday shoes for a light-weight, efficient neutral runner who likes a flexible shoe - so if that's you, try the Zantes!

Monday, February 13, 2017

It's Carnival time!

The season is upon us! With a rare race-free weekend, we spent three days partying.
First, my plans to study Friday night were canned when I got an unexpected text that an old friend was in town. We immediately drove out to meet him and got drinks at Mimi's in the Marigny. We planned to meet at Bacchanal, but they had a line to enter -  a line. To get into a bar. Please. This is New Orleans. I will just go to, oh, one of a thousand other venues with drinks and live music!
Then, as we were saying our goodbyes, who should walk by but - my brother? It was his birthday, so...we stayed out even later!
I know it might seem odd that a brother of mine just happens to walk by and it just happens to be his birthday, but remember, there are seven of them. So odds are actually pretty high.

I made up for missed studying on Saturday, but I had to finish up in time to steam my dress for the Thoth ball. I re-wore one of my favorite dresses, a gray one-shoulder column embellished with feathers. Its unique neckline and subtle shimmer always get compliments.

The ball made me question everything about New Orleans as usual. I am just not sure I get Mardi Gras. Sorry, folks.
Here's the part where you bow to royalty, except it's all fake.

With my handsome date

But I do get king cake! Sunday was a potluck of the sweetest sort - all king cakes!
I brought a homemade one, and we had a total of twenty to taste. I didn't try them all, but I did sample a few old favorites (Manny Randazzo's) and new specialties (Sucre salted caramel; Cake Cafe's apple and goat cheese).
And then I basically rolled out of there! King cake is delicious, but a few slivers will put you in a sugar coma.

The parades are already rolling, so we're close to being in the thick of the season. Happy carnival!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Recovery plans

Following Sunday's race, I've been really tired: not fatigued, just tired. I want to sleep! I've slept in every morning, in fact. Of course, I did run the race completely sleep deprived. One of the drawbacks to living in a college neighborhood is that the kids sometimes stay up all night in the house right behind you, huge bonfire blazing and music pumping into your house...Somehow I managed to get to sleep at midnight, but they woke me up again at 3:00 am and the noise and smoke prevented me from falling back asleep. Then by 5:00 I was getting up for the race anyway! (True story: there was so much smoke in my house that I could smell smoke in my hair all the way through the race, and someone near me at the start said they smelled fire!)

By the time I finished racing and Super Bowling, I was exhausted, and I've slept in every morning since then.

I'm taking time off running for a few weeks to recover. I did nothing on Monday, some stretching on Tuesday, and maybe today I'll do some body-weight strength stuff. I am really not sore at all, surprisingly. I was so beat up the week after Louisiana, which really goes to show how much eating after a race matters. I think my excruciating quad pain was thanks to eating nothing for a whole day while my stomach was upset! I didn't have any major stomach problems this race, and while I didn't have an appetite at first, I ate about a football field of chips and chicken wings that evening.

My recovery concern right now is my right knee. I overworked the pes anserine tendon, and while obviously I can run on it, I'm sure I should let it heal. The condition seems to be linked to tight hamstrings, which you know plague me. I mean, look at those things. I look like I have Mr. Universe hamstrings. I guess I don't really understand how to develop long, lean, strong runner muscles instead of bunchy chunky weight lifter muscles!

So, a week or three off, maybe a PT visit if my knee still hurts, and then a slow return to running, followed by training for the Crescent City Classic 10k in April. I definitely want to be back running, even a little or sporadically, by the 21st: I have exciting plans with a group that night, more about that later...but for now, the plan is keep resting, and ignore the beautiful spring weather I could be enjoying!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Race Report: RnR New Orleans 2017

I ran this race three weeks after the Louisiana Marathon and one week after the Run the Bayou 10k. I've run this race many times, and although the course has changed a little over time, I knew what to expect: a beautiful first half with a lot of tree cover, and a tough and lonely second half with full sun and wind. I also knew that I was not well-prepared. I didn't really do any kind of marathon build up for Louisiana, and so for this race, my long runs were basically two 16 milers I ran in previous training, plus the Louisiana marathon. Kind of a hot mess of training. Plus, my knee was bothering me.
Another issue: My garmin has proven itself insanely inaccurate: not only is the distance totally off, but the readouts are not even close to what the watch registers. When I view average pace or lap average (and I rely on lap average a lot in races), it will show a stable number - say, 7:14, maybe jump around to 7:15 or something. But then when I hit lap or it auto-laps, it reads 7:03. Like, I can still see the "7:14" average pace AS IT POPS UP WITH A 7:03 MILE. Nuts. It makes the garmin useless in races, basically just a stopwatch. 

Prerace, back when I was smiling
Getting to the start was a breeze - David and I are pros at this now, since I've run this race seven times - and I used a port-a-potty and did some Myrtles. I ran a block or two in warm up and decided to go to the bathroom again, ducking into a hotel instead of waiting in line outside. I saw two elite women using, of all things, the men's room, which annoyed the men in line immensely! I got in my corral, saw a couple of people I knew, and then we were off.

Miles 1- 8: All these miles get lumped together. They're basically an out and back on St. Charles Ave, and it was crowded. Most of the runners were half-marathoners, and there are a lot of them. Mile after mile I'd adjust my pace, hit the lap key at the mile marker, and be astonished at what it said. I am not such a great pacer in a crowd, especially a crowd that's speeding up to finish a half-marathon, and my "slow start" was too fast. I kept my Garmin average pace right where it should be, but it was totally off the actual laps. So confusing, especially since I was already feeling a little off and couldn't appropriately gauge my effort.

By mile three, I felt terrible and knew this would be a hard race. I just felt tired, unprepared, not ready. I didn't have any pep in my step! I was hot already, and I could tell by my breathing that I was working way too hard.
I saw David by the St. Charles Avenue turnaround, and he got some good pictures (then he walked straight to church!). I *almost* dropped and went home with him.
Passing David

Miles 9-16: The race runs down Elysian Fields, and then the half splits off. Here's where I could bail. I didn't go with the half, but at mile 14 or 15 we were back near the park and I could hear the finish line. I was tempted to drop out there, really tempted, but I talked myself out of it. I just felt bad. Now that we were on the full marathon course, it was empty. There were few spectators, few runners, and precious little shade. The majority of the second half is full sun, with a brisk wind off the lakefront. Mile 16 seems to be where I fall apart lately, and sure enough - I started to slow and felt even worse.

Still early, on St. Charles Ave. 
Miles 17 - 20: Oh, the Lakefront. We headed up Marconi, cut across Robert E. Lee boulevard, and got up on the lakefront. And like always, it was hot hot hot, sunny, and windy. I prepared for the struggle, but this time I was a little more prepared than just mentally: I had grabbed a Glukos at mile 18 and hung onto it, taking it during the hot portion on the lake. This was an additional gel, beyond the four I'd brought with me (because Glukos is crap. It has too few calories and negligible sodium. But any calories are good during a marathon!). It helped, but so did seeing other runners I knew at the turnaround. At mile 20, I did the math and realized that if I continued running with the same gradual slowing pace I was running now, I'd run a 3:15. I didn't want that. I had to try to get under 3:12! I was so sick of running 3:12!

Miles 21 - 26.2: As I turned around on the lakefront, I decided to cheer for every single runner coming the other way. It was an excellent distraction! I started passing people, all guys. Finally we got off the lake and onto Wisner. While still warm, at least you get a tailwind off the lake for a mile before the course turns. I was totally alone, but I saw a woman ahead of me, and I slowly crept up behind her. I passed her at mile 22, and I was shocked to see that she was one of the elite woman I'd run into in the bathroom line! Passing another woman was a boost, and I was still chugging away. Almost there! I could finish! At every mile I calculated the pace I'd need to squeeze under 3:12, but as I got closer to the finish, I realized that it was possible to even get a 3:10:xx, close to my goal of 3:10. It wasn't until mile 25 - a solid 7:17! - that I knew I could definitely hit it, though. But I just didn't have a sprint in me. Wayne, a local runner for the PowerMiler track club, passed me at mile 25. I really tried to hang onto him, but he eased ahead. Still, he drew me along and finally I could see the finish line. I crossed in 3:10:14 as sixth female!

Goal met? Not quite. Am I still thrilled? Yes! I just didn't want another 3:12, and I just didn't want to give up at the end of this race.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Breaking the 3:12 curse

After two races at 3:12, I was ready to shake that monkey off my back.
Even though it was a warm, humid day.
Even though I felt really bad from the get-go and almost dropped out twice.
Even though my Garmin is so completely erratic and inaccurate now that it's just a fancy stopwatch.
Even though the lakefront was just as tough as I remembered it to be from last year.
Even though my poor pacing ran me right into the wall.
Seeing David on the course early

As my pace climbed into the 8's, I calculated to my chagrin that I'd be running close to 3:15 if I stayed at this rate of slowdown. I still had miles and miles to go, and I was beat, hot, weak, and miserable. Even considering a "best pace scenario", with no slowing down and a fast finish, I'd run a 3:12. But I just didn't want another 3:12.

Somehow, yesterday I was able to hang on.  I saw my times drop back into the 7:50s, 7:40s, 7:30s. I got all the way down to 7:17 at mile 25. I couldn't quite get under 3:10, but I ran a 3:10:14 for sixth female overall. I was thrilled.
Now, lots of rest before the Crescent City Classic 10k, my next race!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Surprise, a humid race!

I'm really getting sick of this pattern. Sunday's weather is a low of 60, a high of 76, and 86% humidity. I just can't catch a break! For the three+ hours I'll be running, the humidity will be in the 90's - as high as 96% - but so far it looks like the temperatures will remain in the low 60's, which I can totally handle.

My race plan for Sunday is to shoot for 3:10. That's taking two minutes off recent times, but if I race smarter and my iffy knee holds up well (I plan to wear a strap again, since it still feels weak after 5 or 6 miles), I think I can run 3:10. My problem now is interpreting my insane Garmin. I don't trust it at all now: it's been WAY off for three races. My calculations put it at a 4-second per mile difference for the marathon distance: so instead of running 7:15s, I will need my watch to read 7:11! Complicated? No. Annoying? Exceedingly so.

This week was a bizarre taper of short days and days off, with our schedule packed with birthdays, car repairs, and work travel, so I'm hoping I'm suitably rested. Come Sunday I'll have results for this three-week-apart marathon experiment!