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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Marathon training: week 6

I think this week is our last base-building week, as the long run workouts start next week. Ooh, it was a rough week, too. Work was terrible - holidays just aren't even worth it in the pharmacy world. You're so slammed before and after that it would be easier just to work.
Running that streetcar track...

Monday: I honestly don't remember Monday. I think it was an easy six or something. I don't wear a watch for most easy days, so I don't have any kind of record.
Tuesday: This was a bad workout for me. Work was very stressful after the holiday break, and my workout showed it. The workout was 5-8x1k at 10k pace with a 400 jog, and I stopped at five. I struggled from the get-go, with "10k pace" edging close to tempo pace at 6:28! I got progressively slower with each rep, and couldn't wait to quit. I normally try to do, if not the max recommended reps, more than the minimum, but there was no point on Tuesday. I wasn't getting the benefit I was supposed to from the workout, and actually, even the cool down felt hard.
Wednesday: Easy 5.5
Thursday: Seventy-five minute run on the levee. I got about 9.7 in on a really muggy morning.
Friday: Five x 1 mile tempo with 1:30 jog. This is more rest than we've been getting for our tempo intervals, and it felt just fabulous! I think I averaged around 6:32 pace.
Saturday: 7.2 easy.
Sunday: Sixteen mile long run at 7:36. Again, fast finish. I think we took too many water stops on this run - three - but I was DYING for a drink by the time we hit St. Charles. I definitely have to get back to carrying water: we zipped into the ever-accommodating Avenue Pub for cold water, and I drank two full cups in a matter of seconds. After that revival, I picked it up for the last few miles home. But for future runs, I really want to limit the stops and pauses - our group is so large that water stops can take five minutes!
Upcoming races: Sadly, I am out of town for Blue Doo next week, home of my 2-mile PR and an all-around super fun race. So next up is probably the Jazz half marathon in October. I would really like to run a PR at that race, although I have no idea if I'm in shape to do so. And we'll probably not do any sort of taper. So who knows how that will go!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Marathon training: week five

I think this was a purposeful down week from our coach -  which was kind of bad timing for me, since I took a down week last week! But it seemed like we had some more flexible mileage options that allowed us to run shorter distances, and some easier workouts.

The way our coach writes our workouts is really just for the whole group - it's not individualized. We're lumped into "marathon" and "non-marathon" right now, and our coach writes a track workout for Tuesdays, a tempo for Friday, and a Sunday long run. At this time, he's also writing some guidance for the rest of the week, and that's where I noticed this week had some easier options. Where last week he prescribed "75 minutes conversational pace", this week we had "60 - 75 minutes", etc. Our workouts were about a mile shorter apiece, too. I hope he continued to build in some cut-back weeks to keep us fresh and healthy.

Monday: 6.5 easy, plus a very fun karate class at night in which we got to do partner sparring! I got to whack my husband in the face and it was totally ok!
Tuesday: Track combo: one mile warm up, 3 miles aerobic, then 3x1 mile at tempo pace with 1 minute standing rest. One mile cool down. Myself and another girl in the group, Daniella, are the slowest, and we're running our marathon workouts together (for now. She'll probably get a lot faster and leave me in the dust). Since she lives kind of far away, I rarely have a workout partner, so that's been nice. My tempo miles were 6:32, 6:30, and 6:34, and I felt pretty good considering how hot and humid it was.
Wednesday: 5.5 easy
Thursday: 75 minute medium-long run. I love this run that's been popping up on our schedule. I think 75 minutes is the perfect amount of time to run, and lately I've been taking this run to one of my favorite routes: out and back on the levee. It can be tricky running on the levee in the summer, because there's no shade and no water. But if it's early in the morning, and I just accept that I'm going to be thirsty, it's doable (or I could bring water, but since I only get 9.5ish miles in, it seems unnecessary to carry water). The levee runs along River Road, and I love the peacefulness of the wide Mississippi to one side and the bustle of morning commutes far below me on River Road on the other side.
Friday: Another easier workout: one mile warm-up, three miles aerobic, 5x30 seconds on/30 seconds off, two miles aerobic, one mile cool down. A group of us meet in Audubon park for these Friday workouts, and for some reason we were feeling less than peppy as a whole, so this workout was on the slow side. Or, our slower pace could be due to an earlier start: we met at 5:30 instead of the 5:45-that-turns-to-6 that we usually do, and it was dark. I'm just not a strong and confident runner in the dark, especially on the imperfect surface up on the Fly (the part of the park that extends up along the levee).
Saturday: I slept in, then ran 6.4 easy at 10 am - which was hot, but no big deal, until I came home to no water at all. Apparently the sewage and water board forgot to notify our block that we would have no water from 9 am to 5 pm! They posted notices on another block, just not ours. Nice. We ended up driving all the way downtown to the gym to shower.
Sunday: 18 mile long run. It was "only" 80F for most of the run, but humidity was in the 90's, so it still felt hot (especially once the sun came out). We aren't doing specific workouts yet, but I've been doing a sort-of progression or fast finish for most runs, including this one, and I finished with 7:36 average pace. I can pull these off only because my easy days have been QUITE easy!

65 miles this week.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Army cruise

Last week, David and I had the opportunity to take an overnight cruise on the Army Corps tug, Mississippi. David works for the Corps, and this perk is opened to a few employees every few years. We jumped at the chance, and on Friday I got off work early and walked over to meet David at his office (we live just five blocks from his workplace, and yes, I'm jealous of his commute). About thirty people were on this cruise, and David knew about half. We took a charter bus to Morgan City, where we boarded the tug.
 The Motor Vehicle Mississippi is the largest tug in the world, and it sleeps 120!

We were shown to our cabin...

... then joined the rest of the passengers downstairs for a safety briefing. We spent a few minutes exploring the decks before the welcome social began. We boarded the vessel on the Achafalaya River, and I was enjoying the wildlife on the banks. Not only were the pelicans and herons plentiful, there were several alligators swimming out of the way of the boat! We finally went back in to get some food and wine. I was starving after a ten mile workout that morning, so I filled up on appetizers even though I knew dinner was coming in just a few minutes. I was pretty sure I could eat again. While we socialized, we left the Achafalaya River and entered the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Maneuvering the Bayou Boeuf locks
The GIWW is shipping channel designed for commercial barges to travel inland (from Texas to Florida). Some of it is manmade, while the rest is existing canals and bayous, dredged to a depth of 12 feet. Locks mark the entrances and exits to various waterways (we passed two on the trip, including the narrow Algiers lock as we entered the Mississippi River).

As you can see, the Algiers lock is a much tighter fit than the Bayou Boeuf lock!

Here are the lock gates opening

I had a chance to meet and converse with several of David's coworkers, including at dinner, which was delicious (my appetizers didn't diminish my enjoyment of dinner!). After dinner, we all went up to the pilot house, where we alternately sat under the stars and made the pilot's life miserable. I can't imagine he loves putting up with a boatload of tipsy brass and drunk underlings while trying to drive a boat. But it was beautiful up there at night, with a bright moon and stars.
In the pilot house
We were probably the first to bed, and the slow movement of the boat had me sleeping like a log! We woke up early enough to watch the approach to New Orleans. It's crazy that there are cows and alligators hanging out under the shadow of the skyline.

After breakfast the next day, we went back on deck to watch the locks open as we left the GIWW and headed downstream on the Mississippi.
The mighty Mississippi!

We did a short tour of the river, heading past the city before turning around and going back up to dock. It always amazes me how vast the Mississippi is: even the part where we could make a U-turn mid-river, amongst dozens of other craft, and not even be crowded, is incredible.

Under the GNO bridge

After we passed downtown New Orleans, we ate lunch as we neared the dock at the Corps facility by our house. This part of the trip was really neat, because I got to see The Fly, which is the part of Audubon park that runs along the river. It was so cool to see it from the other side!
Look closely and you can see my running path :)

Me on the other side of the Fly!
We docked about one pm, grabbed our luggage, and walked home - and that's how you do a 24-hour cruise. I was really impressed with the whole trip - first off all, that the Army Corps would offer it to employees; second, with the excellent food; third, that all the employees showed such pride in their work as we passed various Corps projects (like the Western Closure). Seeing the city from the river perspective was a rare treat, and I'm so glad we had the opportunity to enjoy that view. All in all, such a memorable weekend, and I feel lucky to be included!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Marathon Training: week 4

Well, I'm a little late here, but I think it's time for some weekly training recaps for my upcoming marathon. My team, the Power Milers, are running the Rocket City Marathon in early December, and training is underway. The first month was mostly base building, but we have increased our long run to 16 miles, so by now I think we can safely consider this actual training. I'm pretty excited, because our group coach assigns marathon goal paces for us to base our workouts off, and he gave me 6:52! That's so incredibly fast to me! But maybe I can pull of a 3:01 or under - I'd be thrilled. Step one is get to the starting line in one piece. Step two is excel at the workouts. If either of those seems in jeopardy, of course, I will modify that goal pace.

So this week was a little weird, because I was taking it easy for three reasons: one, I bonked hard at MILE FIVE, I repeat FIVE, of the long run last week, and therefore took the following week easy. And two, because I developed terrible plantar fasciitis. And lastly because we were traveling!

Monday: off to recover from failed run the day before.
Tuesday: I didn't do our group workout, opting for five easy instead. Still in bonk-recovery.
Wednesday: 6.5 easy.
Thursday: We had a cold-front with morning temperatures of just 79 F! I ran a totally enjoyable 9.5 on the levee.
Friday: I was supposed to skip this workout, too, but I forgot that I was on a recovery week and ran a little over ten miles. The workout was 4-5 miles at tempo effort with one minute jogs. I ran five at 6:39, 6:29, 6:35, 6:30, 6:36. Felt great, so I guess whatever had me down last week had faded away!
Saturday: I was on an overnight boat cruise, so no running for me. I could have run when we got home in the afternoon, but - I didn't.
Sunday: Long run. 16.2 miles at 7:36 pace, which went well despite very humid temperatures. I made sure I drank a ton of water and took some salt tabs this time, and although my plantar fasciitis bothered me later, I didn't feel it too much during the run.

Total miles: 48, not bad for a "down" week!

Monday, August 13, 2018

We've moved! Not far!

David and I were pretty settled in our uptown rental, half of a double that David called home for 16 years. I myself lived there for eleven, after David and I married. I loved my house, loved my neighborhood, and fully planned on buying the entire property from our landlady after her impending move.
But things change. The move was delayed several times, and meanwhile our needs changed. We realized that we needed a little more room, but not a lot: not the entire double we were living in (our roomy one bedroom was on one side, but the other side was a gigantic five bedroom!). We sort of wished we had more than one bathroom (neither side of the house did). And then when David was biking to work one day, he passed a house getting ready for a broker's open. It was on our very same street, and it was adorable. We went to the broker's open that night, put in an offer the next day, and accepted the counter offer and were under contract the next.

It's funny: our move took us just four blocks from our old home, but we're now on the other side of St. Charles Avenue, which now puts us in the Black Pearl. New Orleans neighborhoods are so small, so exclusionary! I can still walk to the same stores, but now I have to claim Black Pearl, had to buy a parking permit for my car, and - since I'm just the third house from St. Charles - can claim a little of that St. Charles cachet (this is a thing I didn't know about until now!).
Stop being so cute.

The house we bought is a little gem in a row of gems - four identical houses, in fact, known as The Four Sisters. It's a newer home for the area (c.1915), but has so much New Orleans charm. I love the wood floors, the quaint gardens, the vibrant colors, the eleven-foot ceilings, the ornate fireplaces, and the floor-to-ceiling windows.

The move itself was as easy as the buying process. I recruited some awesome friends and their trucks, and we moved our entire household in exactly two hours. Since then, we've enjoyed settling in, although we came to the realization that almost none of our furniture suits (most of it is dwarfed: our old ceilings were 9.5 feet; these are a foot and a half taller, and it's enough to make all of our art too small and our furniture too squat). We've met our neighbors. We've remembered to change our addresses, a surprisingly confusing process (WHY won't people accept that I moved to a new number on the same street?!). I'm comfortable here, and while I do miss my old home, too (it is a grand old charmer with a beauty all its own), I love this one, too. And I'm happy to own just a little piece of this city.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Power Mile

Saturday was the Power Mile, my very first road mile (except I ran one once as a warm-up for the following 5k, but didn't race it. By the way, this is a very silly plan and you should not do it ever. But anyway, back to my real first road mile race).
My track club, the Power Milers, put this race on, so I was a little involved with the set-up and organization, too. I think it's pretty cool that we have the Power Mile: it's so hard to find a mile race in our area, and it's nice that we can give back to the running community in this way. We also have a great after-party complete with a band, beer, and food, and since we have *cash money prizes* and it's also the RRCA state one-mile championship, we get a fast field.
You should run it next year, and here's the link, put it on your calendar!
This group puts on a great race!
Just in case the group needed extra volunteers, and since David was actually volunteering anyway, we showed up two hours early. That wasn't a great idea, since I stood out in the heat for two hours prior to racing! I hadn't checked the weather, so I was shocked when the sky suddenly opened up and rain started pouring down. The kid's half-mile starts at 6:00, the open mile at 6:30, and the "elite" mile (sub-7:00 pace) is at 7:00. The downpour stopped in time for the races, but did three things:
  1. Kind of killed race-day registration. No one is coming out to race a mile in a deluge. That sucked - we ended up with under 300 runners in the mile, and I would have thought a mile race would be a good one for last-minute registrants. No training needed! 
  2. Soaked the streets. We were left with wet, slippery streets for our race, and since this race is full of turns, that added to the challenge. 
  3. Created the most miserable hot and steamy weather imaginable. As soon as the rain stopped, the sun came back out full-force, and we had high 90's with 100% humidity!
I was weirdly nervous about this race! I fiddled with my Garmin, setting it to autolap at quarter miles, and re-pinned my bib more and more crookedly. We warmed up for two miles, got to see some of the other races, and then headed toward the start. I did four strides while we were waiting and checked out the people around me. I saw right away who the woman's winner would be - a well-known miler from the area. I looked around and saw another fast girl and my two teammates who were racing. I knew all of them would be ahead of me; another friend close to my pace might be faster tonight, too, and then there were those three or four people I didn't recognize and couldn't guess pace. But I figured I'd be in top-ten women. Yet I was questioning my pace and goal. I was sweating so profusely after the warm-up that I began to consider the possibility of running 6 minutes or higher.

When we lined up, I did something I never do - I got up on the line. The start was wide enough that I wasn't worried about blocking others, and we'd have time to sort out before the first turn, so I stuck my foot right on that blue tape and waited for the gun.

BANG. And I did nothing. I stood there in shock, and then snapped back to the moment and charged forward, remembering to hit start on my Garmin as I did. The start was mayhem - immediately fast, people surging past, then me surging back past them. It seemed like I'd barely settled into a rhythm when we were already at the first quarter: 1:23. Oh, shoot, I thought, that was fast. My goal was 1:25 for a 5:40 mile. But I couldn't spend time thinking about that; we were already at the first turn. This course is kind of a "P" shape, only you do the loop twice, and it's larger the second time.
That's a lot of turning for a mile!

It's a tight turn around the neutral ground - kind of like a wide median, it's a NOLA thing - and that certainly slowed me down! Maintain this pace, I thought, and for the second quarter, I did. The cool thing about this course is that, because it's so compact, there are spectators lining every inch of the sides, and I could hear so many people cheering and calling my name as I passed! To my surprise, two women easily passed me during the second quarter, but as I started the third quarter, I passed them back - they were obviously DONE. Miles are hard to pace! I was staying fairly even, but I was glad there were clocks on the course: I kept sliding out really wide on the turns, and my Garmin was way off. But at the half-way point one of my teammates at the clock called, "2:50" and I knew I was on pace for a 5:40. The third quarter got a little more interesting as people were starting to slow. I passed several who had passed me previously, but unfortunately - just like my track miles - my third quarter was slow, a combination of letting people around me pace me (as they slowed down) and a tendency to hold back for the final quarter. But suddenly the final quarter was there - I mean, miles are SO SHORT! and I started picking back up. I was definitely on pace for 5:40, probably under if I could speed up!  And then the worst thing ever happened. As we made the final turn, I had to choose: go wide around two guys in front of me, or go inside and squeeze between them. In a split second, I went on the inside, and to my horror the guy in front flopped his arms down and gave up in defeat. It was only a few seconds, but I was boxed in, unable to sprint, and watching in shock as the clock ticked toward 5:40. I finally wriggled free, started my belated sprint, and crossed the line in 5:38, a 5-second mile PR! I was extremely pleased with that time. Neither the weather nor the course were conducive to a PR (it's flat, but there are too many turns to make this a fast race), I haven't been training for the mile at all, except for the two other (track) miles I ran, and my poor judgment at the last turn probably cost me a second.
I ended up fifth female, but to my astonishment I was 46th overall. We get some FAST milers out there! My Garmin splits were less than helpful given how far off they were (I got 1:03 Garmin, thank you corners), but they sort-of tell the story of the race: 1:23, 1:22, 1:23, 1:21. My teammates were 2nd and 4th, so we did well overall. I can't wait to get back out there next year and better this! I think if I trained I could run under 5:30 - after all, I went from 5:46 to 5:38 in just a few weeks, mostly just from getting a better feel for the distance. If I can keep my old joints working, I might be able to pull that off next year!

Friday, July 27, 2018

A mile PR

Racing weather!
I've been taking advantage of the summer all-comers track meets hosted by St. Martin's Episcopal school this year. They're supported by the New Orleans Track Club, and free for anyone who shows up (which is mostly high school track teams). At the last one, I tied my mile PR; this time, I bettered it!
It was a rush again to get to the school after work - I often work late Friday, and I need to change, drive to Metairie, sign in, and get a warm up in by seven (my store closes at six). But I made it in plenty of time, and proceeded to warm up in the 95 degree evening. It's annoying that the mile is the first event: the sun is still beating down at 7pm, and the track doesn't start cooling off until well after the sun goes down, anyway. I drank some water before the race started, and this time I lined up at the front, to the far right. Much smarter move than last time! Last track mile I was terribly boxed in after choosing (for who knows what reason) to start all the way in the back.

Fellow Power Miler Van and I after the mile (he smoked me)
This time, I was able to easily go out at the gun and cut inside, putting me near the front of the group. I knew I'd only move up further, as most of the runners last time tired in lap three. I had run a nine-mile aerobic workout that morning, since this mile was a last-minute addition, so I didn't feel super fresh, but I felt like I was putting forth adequate effort. I caught my half split at 2:51, but once again, I slowed a little in my third lap. I think that is because the people around me start drastically slowing, and I get influenced by my position relative to those around me. Despite that, I was passing people, and I started lap three as sixth person overall - although it was hard to keep track at that point, since I was lapping youth runners. I was feeling a little sticky, sweaty, and overall miserable as I rounded the track, but at 200 to go a runner near me egged me on: "Do it, let's race!" I kicked a little more - I am not good at kicking! - and ended up with 5:43.1. That's a PR! So thanks, track dude! I'm 35 and have done ZERO fast work in over a year, and I PR'd the mile!

Next up? The Power Mile, a one mile road race my club puts on: on the road. It will be my first road mile, and you know I'm nervous. I don't even know if I can break 6 minutes on the road!

Anyone have any tips for running a road mile?