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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I beat an Olympian

I suppose you read all my griping yesterday. I was griping because the Mississippi Coast Marathon sucked. It really did. In fact I strongly dislike that race, so someone PLEASE remind me of that next year so I don't foolishly sign up again. I know it's only $35. It's $35 I could have used to buy, like 10 pairs of shoes at the Salvation Army.
So anyway, recap time. As you know, I ended up running this hot, muggy, windy race with no Garmin or watch. Soon after we started, I asked some of the other marathoners their goal pace. I was hoping to find someone to pace me...and keep me company in the boredom. Unfortunately, there was a pretty large pack hoping to run a 3:15 and two guys shooting for 3:30. This was a training run for me, but I didn't want to hit the wall, so I knew I couldn't do 3:15. I considered hanging with the 3:30 pair, but they almost immediately joined the 3:15 group. So I had no pacer - or much-needed company!
I was trying to look cute for the camera - this is at the finish - but my hair was soggy and blowing in my face. Notice the car sharing the road with me back there...totally tried to PASS ME as I headed into the finish. So dangerous. 

For me, this race felt like it was three distinct phases.
Phase one was miles 1 - 10. I felt uncomfortably warm, but I was resigned. The pack hadn't thinned too much, and there were people around me to talk to. I realized I wouldn't have any time for this race and kept reminding myself that it was just another long run.
I kept the 3:15 group in distant sight. They swelled to about 15 people and were drafting each other in the wind. I had expected the warm, muggy weather, but the wind surprised me. It was shockingly strong! I was blowing all over! I wished I could keep up with the faster crowd for some wind protection, but I knew it would be foolish and I'd pay later on. In fact, first one, and then the other of the "3:30" fellows fell back and I passed them. They did not make their goal.
 This part of the race felt like a warm summer mid-distance run: the kind you know you have to fit in, but that you wish you didn't have to run.
Phase two was definitely the toughest part. It was miles 11 - 20. Around mile 11, the heat started to feel very oppressive and the wind picked up. I was struggling to make headway and couldn't hear my ipod. The group in front of me splintered in front of my eyes, and suddenly there was just a line of single file runners trying to keep going in the warm, moist wind. I could feel myself slowing down. I was disgustingly sweaty and the wind was blowing my hair all over. I redid my bun (FYI I always wear a tight bun to run and it has never, ever come undone!). I was annoyed at the very dilute Gatorade and the lack of company (I passed a few runners who had been in the larger group ahead of me, but they were in no mood to talk!). After the half marathoners split off, I was almost totally alone.There was a turn around and water stop at mile 19 and I caught up to another runner there. He was feeling bad, and I told him I was, too. "I want to drop out at 20," I dramatized (I wasn't really going to do that, I mean how would I get back?!). He encouraged me to try to hit 8 min/mi and finish the race. I was happy to have his company, but unfortunately he was fading fast and I had to leave him. But I thanked him for his encouragement and wished him luck (he eventually finished maybe 6 minutes behind me).
This part of the race was mentally very challenging. I felt like I was futilely fighting the wind for a race that I didn't even have a clock for. It is also tough to be on a boring course with basically no company.
Phase three was the tail end and it got easier. After the little turn-around, nearing mile 20, I started to see other runners. I LOVE seeing other people at turn arounds and I talked to all of them! I was pretty sure at this point that I was the first female - I had passed most of the other women I'd seen in front of me and they were all running the half anyway. I had seen one or two faster ladies far in the front but they were doing the half, too. I made sure I cheered the other ladies I saw at the turn around, and I high-fived the second female. The distraction of other runners kept me going for the mile overlap until the course turned off and I was by myself again. However, even though this turn put me back into a headwind, it seemed like the weather had eased up a little. The impending rain had lowered the temps a tad, and the wind was less gusty. I kind of got my second wind. I passed some half-marathon walkers and one lady cheered for me - when I passed her I saw that she was like 8 months preggo! I cheered back! I had to stop once during this part to retie my shoe - how aggravating - but I didn't feel stiff when I restarted. I finally neared the finish and saw the lone clock on the course, at mile 26 (which I think is completely useless). I was shocked to see time in the 3:23 range - the wind had made me feel like I was barely moving, so I thought I was at 3:35 or 3:30 if I was lucky.
This part of the race felt easy mentally and physically, if only because I knew I'd be done soon.
Checking out the clock at the finish!

I saw David as I neared the finish line and I made sure to smile for his camera. As I neared the end someone called out, "You're fifth overall!" and I was much happier about that than the first female part - there were not too many women so I wasn't very excited about that.
After finishing, I gave David a sweaty kiss and sent him grocery shopping while I waited for my award (heck yeah I wanted my first place plaque!). I clapped for other finishers, including an older guy ROCKING a 3:37 finish. Guess what? Turns out he is 60 years old, and he's Benji Durden, a former Olympian. WHAT THE. If I'd known that at the time I would have had him sign my race number!
Turns out the "3:15" group turned into the "3:22" group thanks to the weather, so I probably could have hung on with them.
I waited for David, got my award, and stayed long enough to administer first aid to another finisher. But that story belongs in my "Gripes about the Mississippi Coast Marathon" post, which is still to come.
Oh my gosh the sweatiness. The guy behind me is the runner I talked to at the mile 19 water stop.

Overall, although this was a rough race, I feel like I could get a 3:20 marathon in better conditions or even just with a watch! I felt fine at the finish, no stomach upset, soreness, or pain, and I went running the next day and felt completely fresh. Now the question is - should I try to cram in Baton Rouge Beach marathon next weekend? Or is that pushing it?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The marathon I wasn't meant to run

I have to split my recap of the Mississippi Coast Marathon into two parts: I need a whole post just to describe what went wrong that day.

Let's do this bullet-point style, shall we?
- The night before we had a birthday party and we missed packet pick up.
- The morning of the race I forgot that I was staying at my in-laws' house and that they have tall beds. I dropped heavily to the floor upon waking and rolled my ankle.  It swelled.
- I charge my Garmin before we left - but somehow when I turned it on it was completely out of juice! I didn't even bring it.
- Last year, it took 20 minutes to get to the race start from my inlaws' house. The guards at the gate of the Stennis Space Center simply waved us through. This year, hundreds of cars were backed up as guards checked ID's against a list of participants. Um, slight problem, many people had others driving them to the race! It was such a mess. We didn't even get up to the booth until after the race start time - luckily the directors delayed the start by 20 minutes.
- After showing our IDs, my hubby thanking God he is a federal employee and got in with his federal ID, we got lost heading to the start area! When we finally got to the start hubby picked up my number while I got in the short port-a-potty line.
- I made it to the start with minutes to spare, but they were out of T-shirt (they're long-sleeved, so I wanted it as a pajama shirt).
- Hubby let me borrow his ipod nano, which has a stop watch, in the hopes that I could at least see my time if not my pace. I started it at the gun, but when I checked it at mile three it warned me of low battery - when I tried again at mile 5 it was totally dead! I had no watch and there is no time on the course, so from mile 3 onward I was going by feel! 
- The weather. Oh, the freaking hellacious weather. The forecast looked bad enough:
Look at Sunday's perfect weather to the right. Gimme a break. 

But reality was even worse. Before we even started, a thermometer at Cypress House where we started showed 80 degrees. Basically it was upper 70's to lower 80's throughout, with unbearable humidity. It was like suffocating - there was no relief until FINALLY a rain storm started, which was after I finished!
The worst part, however, was the wind. The course is windy anyway - it's tree-lined highways that act like wind tunnels - but Saturday, with a rain storm brewing, there was a ferocious headwind about 50% of the time. As luck would have it, most of the "tailwind" direction was well-blocked by trees and buildings, so we got no benefit from that (I did feel a substantial tailwind for about a mile of the loop - it is a double loop course). The wet, warm wind was so bad that it actually blew my tightly-wrapped bun out, and I had to re-do my hair. I was hunched into the headwind for so much of the race that my BACK chaffed from being curved against my jog bra. My back has never chaffed before. Besides that, the wind whipped my glases from my face and blew salt from my hair into my eyes. My shirt kept blowing up into my face. I could barely hear my ipod. Misery. Utter misery.
- As usual for this course, the Gatorade was watered down to the point of uselessness, and the Gu that was promised never, ever materialized. Dangerous for a race in this kind of heat.
- I had made a list of thanksgivings to pray about during this "training run" race, as a distractor. When I realized my Garmin was dead, I also penned in mile splits. Hahahahahaha. My sweaty self made short work of that index card! It fast became unreadable.
Not that I ran anywhere close to that pace anyway.
Sounds like a complete disaster, right?! Come back tomorrow to read how I eeked a PR and a first-place win out of that mess!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I just won a marathon.

Under the WORST conditions ever. 3:24:26. Recap to come. Brace yourselves. It was ugly.

Friday, November 25, 2011

My race schedule, revisited

Original race schedule for Fall/Winter 2011:
Clarence Demar Marathon
Gulf Coast Half
Middendorf's Manchac ten miler
Gulf Coast marathon
Baton Rouge Beach marathon
Ol' man River half
The Louisiana Marathon
The Wall 30k

I have to scratch Baton Rouge beach because the hubby has an event the same day. This is too bad, because I have heard that this is a good race.
It looks like we have to scratch Ol' Man River, too, because we MAY have plans and I'd hate to register and waste the money if I can't go.
And I'm questioning The Wall, because now that we have two running clubs in NOLA, there are other races that might not suck as much.

Boo. So much for Fall and Winter racing.
Don't you hate it when life gets in the way of running?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Twenty-six things I'm thankful for

Saturday I am running the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon at the Stennis Space Center. It's actually supposed to be a training long run for me, just supported (sort of, this race has minimal support). I've never done a race truly as a training run, so I'm not exactly sure how to pace or what my goal should be (yes, I am always this last-minute with races!).
If I end up doing a long, slow distance like I ought to for a training run, I might start getting, well, a little bored and fatigued out there. To keep myself going, I decided to spend the race in prayer: thanking God for the many blessings in my life.
I have the handwriting of a seven year old

Or just 26 of them. I picked out 26 things I tend to take for granted and will start each mile out with a thank-you prayer for each thing. I hope my thanksgiving doesn't turn into pleas for help or "let me die" prayers around mile 22.
Yes, I have more than 26 things to be thankful for, but I thought this would help me get through boring miles with a pleasant distraction.
Have you ever created a distractor for a race or long run to get you through? 
Happy Thanksgiving!!! XO

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Skip day and health screening

I'm taking an unscheduled day off running today because I have to go to a health clinic and have my blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, weight, etc measured.
This is required for our new health insurance - that is, if we want any sort of decent coverage. Our insurance has a very high deductible, but the company pays the first $400 of it. IF you get your labs done! If you don't, you only get $200. Lots of companies are doing similar things with insurance. One large employer in the area allows you to decrease your premiums based on healthy blood pressure and cholesterol; others penalize you with a higher deductible if you skip these basic measures.
I like this general idea, but I wish my company allowed you to earn healthcare points based on good results. Right now, as long as you get the labs done (regardless of results), you get the extra $200. But my cholesterol and blood pressure are always very low, so I think I could benefit from a structure that paid you for being healthy.
Actually, I'm drinking coffee right now to increase by blood pressure because it is always so low that I scare people. It's usually something like 90/50 when I'm fasting, so I figured I'd have some caffeine and bump it up a little. Cheating.
What do you think about health screenings required by insurance? Smart move to catch potential health risks? Or invasive and greedy?

Monday, November 21, 2011

At long last, a new ipod!

If you have been reading this blog for so long that you remember before I became obsessed with running, you might remember that my hubby tried to get me a new ipod Nano for my birthday in 2009. I had an old Nano, this one:
Remember these? It's like a relic of a past generation!

And I STILL have it. But it is on its last legs. The problem is that it eats headphones. The connection is eroded and kind of moth eaten, and it will sort of sound OK with brand new headphones. But after 4 or 5 uses, the headphone plug looks kind of eroded, too, and I start to have problems (pretty sure battery acid is leaking out and destroying the plug). Before long, I have spotty sound in just one ear. Or I have only base. Or only treble. Or nothing. Or only very faint and quiet squeaks.
Well, that problem is about to be solved free-for-nothin' (as my father in law says) because my ipod is part of a recall thanks to a few Nano batteries bursting into flame. I'm pretty sure mine WOULD burst into flame if it wasn't for the fact that it is drenched in sweat 99% of the time.

Yay for new free stuff!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Clarence DeMar is turning over in his grave

Remember the Clarence Demar Marathon I ran in September?
The one with open-to-traffic roads, long course, and wacked-out clock at the finish?
They kindly sent out finishers certificates. The only problem is that they got the year wrong.
Someone forgot to backspace last year's certificate. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Recent running toys and tries

Some recent running goodies I've been enjoying...
- Rice. Plain white rice with salt for long runs. It's pretty good fuel and kind of yummy.
But I'm better with butter.
- Socks with heel tabs. I'm not sure why it took me several years to accidentally buy socks with heel tabs and eliminate the raw spot on the back of my heel.
noooo, my socks are not Ralph Lauren!
- New Kinvaras, on sale for $45 - yes, that's over my budget of $39 per pair, but I pay extra for highlighter orange clothes.
Men's sizes, of course. I have big feet. 
- Varsity Sports Monday Speedwork. I recently started to attend speed sessions with Varsity Sports on Mondays. For someone who never did speedwork before, it's a big change - I was surprised at how LONG  the workouts are! They are generally 8 to 10 miles plus warm up, with every third week being "easy" (more like 5 or 6 miles). I've gone for four sessions, but the first was just a time trial. Will the speed help my races? We'll find out! More on this later.
- Hungry mornings. Another new try is skipping food even before long runs. I have really been struggling with balancing nutrition and stomach cramping during long runs, and my latest try is no food at all. It's tough for a slow long run, but for my PR half marathon it worked well. My former PR (from last December) was also on an empty stomach.

What have YOU been trying lately?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Irish Network New Orleans Launch Party

I have no pictures of the actual event. Just imagine lots of pale people and Jameson. I do, however, have a plethora of pictures of the dress I designed and sewed in a another night to hem (ugh, hand hems are boring).

Single strap across the back

Another front view...look, no zipper! 

This detail shows how the neckline stood out from my body (easy to do with proper lining and good interfacing)

And with my sweetie, who wants me to tell all of you that he doesn't really have a gut; his tux short was just billowy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sewing a formal....

First you buy the fabric. $5 for the entire bolt.
Totally synthetic. But it looks like silk duponi.

Then you make a pattern out of the comics. I used an existing pattern as a size guide.
Why is there a feather duster in the corner???

After you cut the pieces, you sew and sew.

Try not to melt part of the lining with the iron.
Oops. Good thing it was just the lining.

Try it on for fit.

Pin the bodice and stitch.
I always forget that I have no boobs, then I have to go back and tighten the top.

Add in trimmings and decorations.

Pick out your shoes.

All set for the Irish Network New Orleans launch party! Tune in tomorrow to see the finished product.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Foodie Friday: Rosemary shortbread

It's kind of illegal to call this shortbread, since it contains more than the key four ingredients, but I am breaking the rules here, mostly because these are cut in wedges. Kind of makes you automatically think shortbread, right? Serves these lovely cookies with plain chocolate and fresh fruit for an elegant dessert.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed and soaked in 1 teaspoon boiling water.
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Combine dry ingredients; work in butter, honey, and rosemary. A soft dough will form. Divide dough in half and press each half into an 8" pie pan. Score with a sharp knife to allow you to cut wedges easily when baked.
Bake at 300 for 25 minutes. Cut apart while still warm. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

Why, what's this?

It's a shoe box full of awesomeness for some 10-14 year old boy in a poverty-stricken nation!
Every year we try to put together a shoe box of gifts for Operation Christmas Child, a mission that distributes the presents to needy kids overseas. Click the link for directions on packing the box and to find a drop off site near you.
It's fun to make the shopping trip a little holiday event, and we always wrap our box in Christmas paper.

We packed our box with:
Boring stuff: socks, a T-shirt, pens and paper
Toiletries: toothpaste and toothbrush, soap
Fun stuff: handheld games, glo-sticks, silly putty, a baseball, crayons, a 500-piece puzzle, etc
Edibles: Candy and trail mix

Most box drop off deadlines are this weekend or the next, so get shopping!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thank you for "updating" my PC, hubby.

Yeah. Thanks a lot. I always had this perverse desire to corrupt Windows.

Ever since the "upgrade" this is as far as I've gotten. This screen alternates with blank black, no icons, but working mouse; both are accompanied by a lion-like roaring.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My best race yet

Have you been listening to me complain about three bad races?
No more. Streak's over!
Saturday was the Jazz half marathon, a fun Halloween weekend race that I always run in costume (I've been a cowgirl and a pirate). This year I was a bumble bee. I made my costume by painting black stripes on a yellow tank top. Guess what I learned? Paint dries stiff and creates a boxy odd shirt that chafes at every stripe. Who knew.
I pinned wings on the back (made from a wire armature and black netting) and used chenille stems to attach antennas to hair clips. My stinger was black cardboard stapled to the back of my shirt. FYI try to avoid staples in your costumes unless you enjoy having tiny pieces of your flesh carved out with every step.
This race was a training/fun run for me, and I was woefully unprepared. We ran late because I forgot my number, and I woke up too late to eat. But since I've been having trouble staying fueled for races, I brought two gu's to make up for my lack of breakie. I also brought a garbage bag for the starting line, since the temperature suddenly dropped on Friday. Silly me. You can't fit a garbage bag over wings (wings also make car rides difficult: I rode to the race doubled over in my seat).
By the time I got to the start, I was way, way in the back of the crowd. In fact, we were some of the last people! I wasn't too worried about that, since it was a chip-timed race, but that meant I was in a slow group that walked to the start after the gun and then basically stayed walking after that (or mildly jogging). I was so thankful that a girl in pink seemed to be running my pace and was willing to cut a path - something I am bad at. I followed her closely for the first mile of the race.
Since this was a costume race for me, I determined to only glance at my Garmin at mile splits, and simply enjoy the race. It was a new course, so for the first few miles I concentrated on the course and maneuvering around the many slower runners who were in front of me.
Fun fact about this race: Since I started so far in the back, I passed many people, but no one passed me.
By mile three, I was running under 7 minute miles and felt...well, great. The weather was nice (cold and very windy, but it beats humidity!), even at 7 am some kids were out and they loved my costume, and I felt very strong. Nothing hurt, my costume wasn't really bothering me, and my stomach seemed happy. By mile four I decided, "This is going to be a good race. Run by how you feel. Don't let a number on the Garmin tell you to slow down or speed up. Just enjoy this." My confidence has been so low lately that I think I needed to give myself permission just to have fun. I stuck to my original plan of only checking mile splits, and I was very consistent.
At mile 6, I took a Gu to make up for breakfast. The course heads down St Charles,  loops around Audubon park, and with the new course you are already at mile 8 before you exit the park back onto St. Charles. I was out of the park and back on St Charles before I saw anyone I knew: my friends Steve and Erin (who are getting married Friday!), David, and my pharmacy partner Ross, all heading down St. Charles to enter the park. I didn't see our neighbor Joseph, who rode with us to the race; the sun was in my eyes by then so if you didn't call to me, I didn't see you!
We had thinned out a lot out of Audubon Park, but I passed two girls with white race numbers. My race number was white, too, but everyone elses' was blue. I asked them about it and they explained that we were seeded and could have started at the front in the "fast" corral (there were only two). I was so far in the back I didn't even know there were corrals!
In Audubon Park, passing a runner wearing the same shoes as I was!
 I continued feeling fantastic and having fun with my costume.In the park I ate half of my second Gu, and right after mile 10 I reasoned I should finish it rather then let it go to waste. This was the only bad part of the race (besides dirt blowing in my eye earlier, boo) - somehow I sloshed the Gu right up the back of my nose. You can guess what happens when concentrated electrolytes hit your mucous membranes: besides stinging agony, coughing, and sneezing, my nose started running like crazy! The irritation didn't go away for about 12 hours!
Other than that, the way in was just fantastic. I never felt tired, and since I refused to check my Garmin I never sped up at the end, either. I cruised across the finish in 1:32:38, a PR - in costume! When I looked back at my Garmin stats, every mile was sub-7:00 besides the first one: which is understandable since I had to fight past hundreds of people.
At the finish, messing with my watch.
 I felt no soreness, stomach upset, or fatigue. In fact I wished the race would keep going! Instead I settled in to wait for my friends and David to finish. Then we sat on the grass and got a little loaded with the champagne Joseph's partner brought in a bucket of ice!  The after party for this race is always good, and it was nice again - jazz bands, beer, hot dogs, red beans, and incredibly good jambalaya. And free delicious Jazzman rice!

Lessons learned from this race?
I need to chill out and have fun again. I have been placing too much pressure on myself to finish in a certain time and run certain splits, yet I haven't given myself the time and practice to do so. I need to train harder and race easier! I also need to realize that I'm just not going to be incredibly fast. If I was, I'd already be winning. I just need to do the best for me, and enjoy doing it.

Editor's Note: I have six hilarious pictures of David from this race. He looks like he is being fed raw eggs while being electrocuted on a hang glider. However, he is being a party pooper and won't let me publish any of them. Too bad. They are priceless.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A terrible fight!

The other night the hubby and I had a terrible fight. In my dream.
It was the worst battle ever. It was over stupid little things, but we totally degenerated into insults, name-calling, and cheap shots, and at one point David CALLED HIS MOM to get her opinion, which clearly breaks all rules of fighting clean.
I woke up sad, angry, and anxious, and promptly woke David up with a sort of shuffling movement that could be interpreted as either a snuggle or a tackle (I still wasn't sure if the dream had been real and wanted to hedge my bets). I elicited promises from David that we'd had no such fight, but arguing with the hubby upsets me so much that it kind of ruined my morning.
I spell his name with two A's so it shows up first in the D's in my phone book!

I perked up when I got this text from David later in the day. How hysterical: he's apologizing for something he did in his dream! I've got to say, this man knows how to keep a girl happy!