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Sunday, May 20, 2018

#sixer: or, how I pulled my hamstring a eight days before a marathon

Friday was the Tchoupitoulas Barathon, that series of bad choices that results in six beers, six bars, six miles. The race is unique in that it doesn't have a course: you just have to hit the bars in order, and you can't run on Magazine Street or on the Audubon golf course. Anything else goes!
David modeling this year's shirt: it says #sixer.
The shirts are usually a tad obscure.

Oh, and to be eligible for awards? You have to drink all the beer - always a challenge.

As we left for the race, it was amid a torrential downpour and thunderstorm. So instead of a racing shoe, I grabbed my old (OLD - 540 miles) Kinvaras, instead. Bad choice, as it turns out...but anyway, we got to the race start and, just as I was about to warmup, the director called a rain delay of 45 minutes. Many of the streets had flooded in the sudden rain, and plenty of runners were still trying to get to the start - plus it was still lightening, which made sense. With my sudden extra time, I was worried about getting hungry, so I ran to a nearby corner store for some potato chips. I sat in the car, as not only was it pouring, I was getting chilly: the rain brought a blessed 78F, as opposed to the predicted 94F.

Once we finally warmed up, we were ready to run, but the start was a mess. I didn't hear the call to start, and didn't start drinking my first beer until I saw some runners already running! And hello, I can't chug a beer. I'm not a frat boy. I take genteel sips. All of which is to say - I'm a bad barathoner. Soon after I finally got started, I passed my friend Melissa, who is a super chugger, so I assumed I'd see her later. I was feeling ok for having had a beer, and was kind of booking it! I hit mile one in 7:13 - and that included a beer. So pretty good. I grabbed my second beer at Reginelli's - a can of Hamm's, if you can believe it. This year we had four cans and two draft, an improvement over the four cans last year, but the first four were warm and foamy cans. And that Hamm's didn't really stay down. I had a very quick and unexpected puke mid-stride as I got started again, which was kind of dreadful, but I kept pushing! My pre-mapped route took me down Henry Clay to St. Charles, then almost to my own home to beer #3 at T.J. Quill's. Meanwhile, I clocked in at an astonishing 6:28 mile 2 on the way (that included beer #2!), but the beer at T.J's took its toll: mile three was a 7:32. The beers just weren't going down that easy anymore. As I turned at TJ's, I could see that I was third, with Paige way out in front, Meghan (an old pro at this race!) second, and a girl in an LRC jersey behind me. I was well in front of Melissa, who must not have been having a good chug night. During mile four I made the bold decision to cut tangents across the park, skidding over wet leaves in an erratic charge to beer #4 at Patois.

BUT. But! As I wound up Webster, hitting 6:36 for my fourth mile, I suddenly felt my foot slip underneath me, and pain stabbed my hamstring! My old shoes and wet streets conspired in the worst way! I jogged up to Patois, hoping to rub the strain out as I drank my beer, but all that happened was that bending over brought on another case of the pukes, and most of that beer came right back out. Ugh. Misery. I tried to jog on, but mile five was an 8:13 of limping. I managed to keep down the two draft beers at Dos Jefes and Grits, but I was easily passed by woman in LRC jersey as I sat clutching my leg. A sweet guy tried to run with me and give me advice (or at least observation, like, "Hey, there is a giant lump on the back of your leg!"), but every step was agony. And I was annoyed, because here I was doing great, and now this. And I wouldn't even place! I drank six beers for no reason! The last mile, with two bars, was the slowest at 8:31, and I finished with just a tad over 6 miles and a 44:51. Fourth. Worst place to be (teammate Paige, by the way, ran under 40 minutes - beers included! And Rich won for the guys, so we did well as a team).

But the night got better. My encouraging friend from the run dragged over his...PT. Yes, his physical therapist had also run the race, and guess what? He had needles in his car. Supposedly clean ones. So I got dry needled - on the bench outside Le Bon Temps Roule bar.

You're not really hard-core until you've had a drunk stranger stick needles in your hamstring outside a bar.

So, my hamstring: I am a little worried about the marathon next week. I iced and compressed it on Saturday, and it's much better now, but I'm probably just going to stay off it all week and jump into the race off a long rest. Or maybe it will miraculously heal. My emergency PT told me that by Sunday it would "just be a memory" and seemed to think two days off was fine, so we shall see!

Monday, May 14, 2018

New goal: 3:20

Last week, I asked our group coach to review my workout log and suggest a goal for the upcoming Buffalo marathon. He usually writes our key workouts in advance, but he's been taking a step back from that lately, plus I am doing this race on my own, so I have just been making my training up as I go (with the exception of Tuesday track, when I join the rest of the club for whatever workout we added last-minute!).
Jimi kindly agreed to take a look and told me - 3:20. Ouch, that hurts the ol' ego! But his reasoning is that I really just need a solid BQ, and since I'm ancient, that's a 20 minute cushion for me. And if I want a good summer, I need to be healthy and ready to run, not on some prolonged recovery period. Plus, while my long runs have been surprisingly good lately, it's a really short training cycle, and my other runs - tempos, speed work, have varied from "nothing special" to "downright awful".
Let's take a look at this week, for example: if it were modern art, I'd call it "variations on 6:58".
We did hills on Tuesday: 8xbridges (hard up, easy down); a little over a mile at aerobic effort; then another set of 8 bridges. The result? 5 miles at 6:56 average.
Oh, but redemption on Thursday tempo, right? No. I usually have a tempo on Friday, but I moved it to Thursday because of my weekend schedule, and on Thursdays my legs are generally pretty tired. I had a four mile tempo, plus warm up and cool down, and I could NOT move my legs, and got 6:53, 6:52, 6:46, and 6:50 (goal was around 6:40-6:45). Then Saturday I show up and blast out 18 miles at 7:21 pace - but really, it was a long workout, with an 8 mile warm up followed by two sets of four at marathon pace with a mile easy in between and a mile cool down. So of course, my four mile segments were (6:58, 6:58, 6:57, 7:00) and (7:00, 7:03, 6:53, 6:55). *
Basically, this training cycle? I have learned how to run 6:58 pace for a few miles.

Anyway, I guess that proves that I am nowhere near a magnificent marathon, and I need to sit down and chill out at 3:20. I bet I find that 3:20 is challenging enough - I never ran a marathon that felt easy!

*A word about that workout: 1. Obviously that's not current MP; that's goal MP 2. I botched it, taking a water break during the rest mile and at mile 2, which I know, that negates the whole workout. But it was 80 degrees and I am not in stellar shape, ask coach Jimi!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

It's official, and running sick

First things first: It's official. I'm registered for the Buffalo Marathon. Now I just need to NOT GET HURT. I registered right before prices increased, and I found a coupon code for $11 off, too! Nice! By the way, I exited out of registration the first time I attempted, deciding instead to wait a little longer - closer to the price increase, just in case - and the race sent me an email encouraging me to complete my registration, along with a coupon code. I'll remember that little trick for the next big race I try to register for!

Beach run was meh, but I did enjoy the beach later! 
Anyway, now I need to get into marathon shape, but unfortunately right now I have a weird cold that settled immediately in my chest. For whatever reason, I am prone to chest colds - the slightest allergy or viral exposure, and I'm down with a cough and tight chest. Luckily, I didn't miss much, since I got sick during my scheduled cut-back week, anyway. I reduced both my overall mileage and my long run this week, choosing to run only 16 miles on Saturday. I adjusted speedwork and tempo days by opting for the lowest number our group was doing: ie, only four of the "four to six" sets on Tuesday, and just three tempo intervals instead of the max of four on Friday. I ended up about 5 miles under the week prior. Several of my runs were VERY slow thanks to being sick, but I don't mind that at all if I'm recovering - I go by feel anyway. But I felt bad enough to struggle on my tempo intervals, and nearly collapse at the end of my 16 miler on Saturday, which were run on a sunny and windy beach. I ran out of water around mile eleven, and by the time I hit the lone fountain at 14.5, I was DONE. I jogged home, water sloshing in my belly.

I'm a little concerned about my upcoming marathon because I seem to be having a hard time with regaining endurance. I always get endurance back before speed, and by now - I've been running on and off for about ten weeks post-injury, with some time off at the discovery of Foot Fracture Number Two - I should feel like distance is easy. And in a way, it is; it was no problem to ease up to nineteen miles for my long run. But I keep feeling like the wall is looming on each run. Perhaps that's because they've been fairly fast long runs, for one reason or another, so I'm burning through fuel rapidly. But I'd be happier if I felt stronger on my long runs. I talked to a few people in my group, and they seem to think that I should focus on my weekly tempos, and try to do the longer workouts on those days (we have a group training calendar that leaves a lot up to the individual, including how many intervals or miles and what pace!). Their thinking is that I need to build strength and endurance at faster speeds to sustain a good long run (or race). We shall see. I don't always love those tempo early mornings, but I do want to have a good race. Not a PR, just a good race. No reason to humiliate myself!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Abbreviated marathon training

Since I decided to run a marathon with just six weeks build-up, and coming off not one, but two metatarsal stress fractures, I had to create a pretty conservative plan. Here's the basics:
Long-running in the rain (and our awesome new singlets)

1. No marathon speed work. I am doing our groups regular spring and summer speed work, which is short and fast rather than punishingly long. I don't want too many hard miles yet.
2. Low-stress long runs. My plan so far is to just get the miles in, either at moderate pace or with a very basic workout like a progression run. So far, I don't plan to do anything like "2x4 miles at marathon pace" or anything, although I may end up changing my mind. I've been running my long runs on the fast side, mostly because I've been keeping up with the group for part of it. But I've felt good. If I keep feeling good, then I might get fancy and add some speed in.
3. Mileage build-up. I am adding miles gradually by increasing my long run. I started at 16 miles, then 18, then 19, and plan for a cutback this week to16, followed by 20, 22, 12. I might swap the 22 for another 20, too - I don't really think I need to go up to 22 under the circumstances. These gradual additions are enough to get my mileage up; it probably will not go much (if any) over 60, which is ok. I don't think I ever even hit 60 miles per week until I did Hanson's in 2016, honestly.
4. Easy runs quite easy, but...for now, no days off unless I think I need it. I don't have time for that. But if I start feeling tired or injured, well, that's another story then!

All in all, I just want to get to the starting line healthy, and the finish line with a BQ. If I can do both of those things, then I'll consider this training plan a success.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bursting with Speed 5k

I was pretty happy with my 5k this weekend, because I went into it feeling pretty flat and tired, but still ran ok. I ran 19:50, which for me is good. I struggle with the 5k more than any other distance, and it's not easy for me to run under 20 minutes ever.

The race starts at 8:20 on the Lakefront, which means it is a sunny and windy race, but when I arrived to warm up, I noticed that the wind didn't seem terrible. It was also a headwind at the start, which was good, since it's an out-and-back race. I did about a mile and a half warm up, then squeezed in about four rows back. We had quite the crowd up front, as this race offers prize money and thus brings out crowds of fast runners.
Sunny day on Lake Ponchartrain
Mile 1: I wore my Garmin, but decided to only look at the mile splits and run mostly by feel. But I did get caught up in the start, and went out a bit fast. I looked around about a tenth of a mile in and saw that I was around the too-fast crowd, and backed off. This is a mostly easy, flat mile, but I think my Garmin read it a bit off; my Garmin buzzed well before the mile marker, and showed 6:11, which definitely seemed far too fast for my pace. I'm going to blame that one of the Garmin.
Mile 2: The second mile of this race is hard: you have a bridge, followed immediately by a traffic circle, which is the turnaround point, then back up the bridge. I huffed up the first climb, and realized as I tried to charge down the other side that the turn coming right up prevented really taking advantage of downhill speed. I scooted around the circle and headed back up the bridge. The only good part of my slow climb was passing another female (actually, a teammate!), which I hadn't been able to do since the early moments of sorting out. But the bridges - and probably my Garmin inaccuracies! - took their toll; mile 2 was 6:35!
Mile 3: Now I should have been able to really book it, with the bridges done and the benefit of a tailwind, but I wasn't really able to muster much leg turnover (my cadence for this race averaged 182, which is about what I do for a marathon!). I tried to sort of pick people off - I got one dude. That was it. And I was about to stroll across the finish, except my teammate Will (who had already finished) shouted at me to pump my arms, so I did get in a little sprint there. 6:24 for mile 3; 5:12 pace for the remaining 0.1.
Power Miler women after the race

I was happy with my 19:50, although I definitely need to work on getting that faster (much faster) at some point. In retrospect, I need to keep an eye on pace for the 5k - I'm not a good enough 5k runner to go by feel, and not only do I get caught up in too much speed, I am also prey to the late-race slow down that those around me undergo. Next race I will go back to monitoring my pace a bit more.
I also thought the track club did a much better job this year on a few things: finally, FINALLY, after years of suggestion, they posted signs with the alphabetical breakdown for packet pickup up on the tent over the tables. So now you can easily see that you need to be in the third line, which is N - T, for example, rather than the mayhem, madness, and shuffling that generally occurs as people swap lines back and forth (the various alphabet sections also aren't always in alphabetical order, so you can't even assume that if your name starts with "B" that you will be near the first spot; the first line might be G-L. There was no rhyme or reason).
Surprisingly non-ugly T-shirt

Plus, the course wasn't short! Hurray! Because it was last year, and that sucked. So all in all, a good race, and hey, even the shirt is cute!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The BQ bug

I mean, after a Boston like that, who wouldn't want to BQ?!

But there's really more to my sudden desire to run Boston again. I ran in way back in 2012, and it was, uh, toasty. It was also an ordeal, and as much as I enjoyed the history, nostalgia, prestige, and atmosphere of the race, I didn't think I would want to go through all the travel and planning again. I've changed my mind this year. The reason for that is that my running group, the Power Milers, all ran the Houston Marathon in January while I was trudging around in a walking boot with one stress fracture and one very sneaky, hidden stress reaction.

No marathon for me. 

They're fast people, and they all BQ'd. And most of them plan to run Boston. I don't want to miss out! I had so much fun in Houston, just attending as a spectator, that I don't want to miss another group race trip.
Fun, even with a broken foot or two.

I don't need to PR to run Boston; I just need a solid BQ. I'm an old lady, so my BQ time is 3:40. I figure 3:35 to be on the safe side, but really, I hope I'll be significantly faster than that, even though I'm doing a very abbreviated training. My sights are set on (drumroll) - the Buffalo marathon!

Why? Two reasons:
1. Packet pick-up the morning of the race
2. Easy flights the night before and the afternoon of the race.

Other than that, I have no good reason for selecting Buffalo, except that it falls within a time frame in which I can be marathon-ready. By the time I picked Buffalo, I had eight weeks to train. And eight weeks is enough, if I'm careful and don't get greedy (famous last words). I've sorted out my training plan, so now I just need a goal! BQ, here I come!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The race that wasn't

I was registered for the United Way Bridge Run this past Saturday morning, a 5k over the giant Luling bridge, but the weekend was looking pretty stormy. The race was put on by New Orleans Running Systems, so before we left the house Saturday we made sure to check their Facebook page. It said the race was still on, so we headed out. That made sense, since the rain wasn't supposed to start until after 11 am. Well.

We got all the way to Luling, and headed to packet pick-up, to discover that the race was cancelled! The United Way posted the cancellation to facebook at 6:28 am - which is exactly when we left the house. But I'm not following United Way on facebook, anyway. Obviously I'm following NORSI, the group putting on the race. And they didn't share United Way's post until 6:39! We arrived at about 6:45 am, so that was super annoying. I get why they cancelled the race - concerns that the weather would create a problem as people tried to drive home post-race - but the communication was pretty awful. No twitter, no instagram, late facebook. Just not a really social-media savvy group. It turns out that they did email on race morning, so that's on me for not checking - it went to my junk email account that I don't check all the time and it's not on my phone. But that information should also have been shared on social media, especially when your most recent posts say that the race is still on.
I picked up my shirt anyway. Nice $30 cotton T with runners from 1987.

I had skipped my Friday tempo because of the Saturday race, so when I got home I decided to go ahead and get that tempo in. It was supposed to be five tempo intervals of 7 minutes each, interspersed with 1 minute jog, but I only did four. I started to struggle on the last one, and didn't want to add a slow fifth interval. It was still a hefty workout, so I guess the day was salvaged after all!

Have you ever had a race cancelled?