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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hood to Coast relay recap

(This post recaps our race; I'll go into detail about my legs in a separate post)

Our team for Hood to Coast was a motley assortment of casual to serious runners, eleven total. Within our team were two couples, close childhood friends, total strangers, training partners, and running friends. We shared an Airbnb house and two vans with no real concerns, so I guess we all meshed pretty well (although it always amuses me when people freak out about spending hours in close quarters with people they don't know... we're all adults, I'm sure we can get along for a little while).

David and I were in van 2 with Marcelle, a mom, doctor, and recently involved runner; Laine, an early-twenties casual runner who is involved in producing the Crescent City Classic 10k; and her high school friend and VERY casual runner Michele (who had never run further than an easy 10k before being roped into this!). The other van had Andrew, the coach back when Varsity did track, his superstar runner wife, my friend Celeste (amazing athlete), her cross-fit friend Alyse, and two of Andrew's running friends from his glory days, Trey and Matt (those three have done the relay several times, so they were good resources. Plus Matt was the sweetest guy and Trey was hilarious, always a good addition!).

Pre-race, we headed out to some nearby trails for a shake-out run, then some shopping for van food. I had no idea what to bring. I made some peanut butter sandwiches, and brought cheese, fruit, crackers, and cookies. The saltines ended up saving a couple of us later once our stomachs rebelled! We also hammered out our race plan. See, we had just 11 people, and a lot of runners who top out at maybe 12 miles a week. We should have just rotated through, but that ended up giving additional legs to those who didn't think they could handle the volume. Since we were by no means competitive, we decided to have myself, Celeste, and Melissa each take an extra leg, and just accept the penalty. We decided I'd do leg 12, and Melissa would do leg 24 (van 1 would just take over early at that point, so that would be easy - normally we'd trade off at the end of leg 24). Then Celeste would finish with the final leg, and since van 1 would be done by then, they would just bring her to the exchange. The only problem with this plan is that it left me running leg 9, then turning around and running leg 12 very shortly after that...and then leg 21 would still be not a full rest. I'd only be fully rested for my final leg. Melissa also had legs kind of close together, but not quite. However, it was the only way to do it with our van configuration. After some cheese, wine, and other delicacies, we went to bed and tried to rest up for the next day's race.



We all trooped up the mountain for the start, and it was a gorgeous place. And we got some great "before" pictures, which of course, we never followed up with an "after". We had the weirdly late start time of 2:15, and we were van two, so after seeing Trey start us off, we headed to the exchange where David would take over from van 1 and got lunch. It was about 3:30, and we decided that Thai food sounded good. Yeah, hot curry before a relay. What could go wrong?
This is a perfectly good idea. 
After that, we headed to the exchange point and met up with van 1 for the first major exchange. Poor Trey! On his extreme downhill, his toenails were destroyed!
Matt was runner 6, and he handed off to David. David got started just as the sun started to fade.
Running into the sunset
By the time he handed off to Marcelle, it was dusk; when Marcelle handed off to me, it was night already. I ran two night legs close together, and don't mind admitting that I felt terrible. Van 2 ran through the night and handed off to van 1 as storms started sweeping in. Poor Melissa ran seven tough miles in driving rain; while they faced the first bands of the storm, we had tried to sleep at a high school. The rest of my van paid $2 for a cot, but I - who was feeling terrible at this point - lay down in the back of the van. Remarkably, considering I had a terribly upset stomach, I was able to sleep for an hour and a half. When David took over from van 1 again, I tried to drink coffee and get back into my normal morning routine, hoping that would help me feel more alive.

Poor David. His hard, hilly leg was in the middle of the night in sheets of rain. It was miserable, but he was a trooper. Our biggest blunder was right after: Marcelle took over for David, and she had to wait at the exchange for over 5 minutes as our van was stuck in miserable traffic! I got out to meet her once we were allowed to, but slogging through muddy gravel in the dark and the rain on a narrow road with no shoulder and heavy traffic took me a long time. I felt terrible for her.

Because I had to pick up an extra leg in the middle of the night since we had only 11 runners, this was my third leg, and when I handed off to Laine, I was relieved to get a REAL break before my last leg. As Laine ran/walked (she usually alternated, which helped her finish a relay that required more hours of running in one day than she normally does in a week!), the sun rose, and rain became a drizzle. By the time Michele handed off to van 1 again, the rain stopped. Finally!
Then came the least enjoyable part - the daytime hours of being stuck in a van at a crawl, just trying to beat your runner to the exchange. It was a disorganized disaster of traffic, and not fun at all! I was grateful, however, to finally run a leg in daylight hours. All my other runs were in the dark. By the last few legs for van 2, the weather had drastically shifted to storm mode. A tropical storm pounded us as we ran, and the wind and rain were really rough. The wind whistled around us as we waited for the final exchange.
Bleak exchange! 
Amazingly, Michele - our least experienced runner - ran a hard nearly-7-mile leg in the rain and wind and handed off to Celeste with a smile! The best part, though, was that after she handed off some dude stopped her and asked her for her number. Yeah, she totally ran a crazy stormy 7 miler and ALSO got a guy's digits! Too cute!
Celeste (running an earlier leg, but you get the picture)
Celeste was picking up a fourth leg to run us in to the finish.
Well, you know what the finish was like:
Cannot believe they didn't tear all this down as soon as they got the weather forecast! 
So after struggling through gusts and eating a good amount of sand, we high-fived Celeste (who ran something fast and amazing because that's what she does!) and beat it back to the house for pizza, wine, and blister contests. We couldn't stay if we'd wanted to - everything was cancelled.
27:54 was our time. It was a fun experience, and I'm glad we did it, but I have my reservations about the entire event. More on that later, but next, my legs!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Contraflow: bringing the storms

We went to Oregon to run in some cool northwest weather.
This was supposed to be the after-party at the beach. It was...a little windy. 
Instead we brought a tropical storm. That's what happens when you name your team "Contraflow".

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ten years


Ten years ago, New Orleans changed forever as Katrina wiped neighborhoods, lives, livelihoods, and memories away in her violent storm surge. We didn't expect the storm to head straight for us. We didn't expect the levees to breach. We didn't expect the ones who should have protected us to turn on us, or forget us, or leave us. 
But we also didn't expect the grace of strangers, the outreach of those with plenty to those with nothing, the sharing of meagre resources, the indomitable will to survive, and the resolve of will of those who had experienced great suffering. 
Today, our city and our people live with the scars of this great storm, but we also live with a profound thankfulness for the gift of home, family, and friends. 


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Confidence booster

You know how all my recent runs have been about the speed of an octogenarian settling down into a church pew?
I have been pretty annoyed at that. I know I haven't been running and improving consistently for years, thanks to this endless injury thing, and I know over a full year of serious injury + surgery and recovery + more surgery and recovery = long time coming back, but I'm still shocked at how difficult everything has seemed.
My easy pace is well into the 8-min range (not recover pace, easy pace. My recovery pace is like 9:40, no lie).
I've failed several tempo attempts, quitting early or not hitting the pace or both.
Long runs that are actually short - like, ten miles - have felt insurmountably hard and required breaks to stagger around lowering my heart rate.

But you know what? I think part of it might be the high 90's I'm running in. And the stupidly high humidity. I had speed work scheduled for Tuesday, and it was an unbelievably cool day for August. I was actually excited to run - I couldn't wait to get out into that weather! I planned to do 8 440's, but realized at the end of the workout that I had done 9. I program my Garmin 305 when not at a track, and if anyone  has this model, you'll know that it tells you that you have one interval left when you don't. That "interval" is the cooldown. So it beeps after the last rest period and I start running thinking it's my last interval, and finally I look down at my Garmin and see that I've been running farther than 440...and I should have been done. Oh well. Anyway, I did 9 400's with a minute walk/jog in between.
AND IT WAS EASY. I ran 1:33's and 1:34's for the most part, which was actually faster than planned, but it felt like no sweat. Because there was no sweat. I was refreshed and could have done another 9! The difference the weather makes is really huge!

Hurray for being less out of shape than I thought!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Team Contraflow

Yesterday and today we were lucky to get some totally off-season weather: temps and humidity both in the 70's! Like, with a seven. I can't wrap my head around it. While I was thrilled with the cool temperatures, low humidity, and fresh breeze, something about 76 degrees in light wind in August brought back ominous feelings. That's pre-hurricane weather. If anyone has experienced the calm heaviness of the air in an evacuated city, followed by the jarring cool breezes and lovely sky that immediately precede the arrival of a hurricane or tropical storm, that's how this felt. And coming the week of the Katrina's 10th anniversary, it was unsettling.

Evacuation signage
Speaking of Katrina, I am going to be running Hood to Coast for the actual anniversary of the storm, and I have mixed feelings about that. Part  of me feels like I should be here in NOLA on that day, but part of me is ok with being gone. For one thing, I wasn't there on the actual day of the storm either; we evacuated. And for another thing, what better tribute to pay to Katrina than to be crammed in a van with poor food and water supply, dubious outfit changes, and a bunch of sweaty people, crawling at a slow pace down the highway?*

That leads me to our other team tribute to Katrina: our team name. We're Team Contraflow. It's a play on words that only New Orleanians will get, and I like that (obviously, since I named the team!). Contraflow, of course, means just what it sounds like - the term refers to when the state opens all interstate lanes in one direction to aid in evacuation. It's eery, driving north on southbound lanes and seeing the backs of highway signs. It's slow, and it's going the wrong way, and given our level of team talent (very little), it's perfect for our race, too. So we're Contraflow.

*Never evacuated from a hurricane before? That's exactly what it's like!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Adventures in KT tape

With the Hood to Coast relay looming, and my left leg still on long-term disability leave (or so it seems. Cannot get the thing to come to work at all), I decided to shore up my hamstring with some KT tape.
I can't really explain my left leg. It's like it just won't work as hard as the right leg, and somehow surgery either encouraged or unmasked that tendency. On a long run, I feel fine...but when I get home, I realize that my right leg is a little more tired that the left and a whole lot tighter. I know I'm not using the left as much. But when I focus on using the left leg, I get tendon pain at the distal hamstring insertion. To allow me to start using my left leg more, I decided to tape it up. I'd never used KT tape before (except when my PT taped my scars, which supposedly helps reduce scarring post-op, but my right hip [with its caterpillar-like red welts] begs to differ). I ended up finding a great deal on Ebay - two new boxes of 20 strips each for $11 total.
I looked up how to tape on Youtube, and applied the tape before a short run. It's hard to get your own hamstring, though, and I erred too far to the side, basically taping between my hamstring and IT band. However, the base of the tape was nicely positioned behind the knee, right where I wanted it, and that's what mattered most.
The tape stayed on for a short run, a ten mile run, and another short run before peeling off in the shower.
Verdict: Tape feels good on, like it's a little supportive, and doesn't irritate me. It did make a difference on the long run, and I don't think it was placebo effect. The problem, however, is that it's not very suitable for summer use. I put some on Saturday morning before my hour and a half run, and I sweated it off in under three miles. Now, Saturday was some extreme weather, and I don't know if I've ever poured sweat like that before, but until fall rolls around, it's not worth wasting the tape.
But it will come with me to Portland. I might need it then.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A better tempo

Or, perhaps my first tempo ever.
Last week I crashed and burned trying to finish a long run with a tempo. I think a few things went wrong:
1. It was in the mid-90's and, since I started rather late, the sun was strong.
2. I was wearing my heaviest shoes, which makes a surprising difference.
3. The fast portion was tacked onto an hour of easy running.
4. I vastly overestimated my speed and fitness.

So for a 40 minute tempo run later in the week, I made some changes. Luckily, that morning was not nearly as warm - yes, the humidity was still over 90%, but it was low 80's. I wore my Kinvaras, and followed the prescribed workout thus:
- Ten minutes easy
- Twenty minutes tempo, building up to 10k pace at the fastest, then slowing
- Ten minutes easy.
Of course, with less time on my feet and less time running a tempo portion, it was automatically better; what made it work (and allowed me to finish) was choosing a reasonable pace goal.
I didn't think to lap my Garmin when the tempo portion started, so mile one included about 2 minutes of "easy pace" running, but anyway, the three miles that included at least part of the tempo were 7:12, 7:06, and 6:58. The 6:58 mile included both speeding up to 10k pace for a few minutes and slowing back down.
Overall, I was much happier with this tempo, and I didn't feel completely beat and miserable afterward.
I think that's actually the first tempo run I've ever done! Hopefully I can build up to longer tempos as a way to get some speed back with minimal stress to my hips.