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Sunday, January 31, 2016

A night alone

Last night the Intergalactic krewe of Chewbacchus rolled in the ghetto down St. Claude. I was not present. I have little interest in Mardi Gras, no interest in a rinky-dink walking parade, and negative interest in anything Sci-fi, which is the theme of Chewbacchus (although, hats-off to their name. I do so love a clever pun!).
David wanted to go, though, so I cleverly arranged to meet with friends and then backed out at the last minute, leaving me with a pleasant night alone. What did I do with my time?
- Read a book at the park
Audubon Park: my favorite place.

- Did a long series of exercises purported to help runner's knee
- Made chocolate brownie cookies, because I haven't made anything but king cake in weeks
- Cut my hair, including bangs. I haven't had bangs in years, but I think they make me look slightly less ancient and haggard.
Make-up free picture is gratis. I think my wrinkles give me...character. 
And then I indulged in a big-time guilty pleasure, which is eating loaded quesadillas in front of the contestants of The Biggest Loser. I know this is dreadful, but I like eating good food while they can't.
I take out the fine china when David is gone.
I don't follow the show, but my dinner did taste better while they ate water and a Kellogg bar.

Friday, January 29, 2016

This year's Louisiana Marathon review: rendezvous number five

I didn't enjoy this year's Louisiana Marathon as much as I have in past years. I'm sure a lot of that had to do with my own poor race leaving a bad taste in my mouth, but there were other things - signs of growth - that made the race less fun than it's been.
There are still some things the race does wonderfully well:
- beautiful course
- lots of course support
- very organized pre-race, and always a lot of bathrooms
- meaningful charity partnerships
Some things were even better this year, like the T-shirt, a soft bamboo technical T that I will be wearing around just because it's cute. I think this is my favorite race shirt ever!
Gender-specific; full and half got different T's

But then, I didn't love some new developments:
- The price. The cost for this race is astronomical: the half was $140 at the expo! That's just completely unwarranted.
- This year, post-race, half the vendor booths were empty. So you get a wrist band for a certain number of food or drink punches (I think it's 6 punches), but besides the Vegan Village of cold, gross quinoa and a salad booth (it was in the 30's, no thanks), there were only a few people serving food. I ended up giving my punches away at the beer tent!
- The way the race handled the DQ of the first female finisher was a little unsettling. Granted, that's a tough call, and again, I know she was warned. But I feel like that move was done more to benefit the race (which would like to bid for the 2020 or 2024 Olympic trials) than the runners (who were expecting a family event, which is the image the race portrays). The lack of consistency in the rules and the level  of professionalism expected is confusing. It doesn't welcome elite runners, and it intimidates the local fast set.

So I'm on the fence about registering again for this one. It's still a great race, but I've run it before, so I might sit it out in the future.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thoth ball

Eh. A lot of people in gowns. A lot of tuxes. A lot of pageantry. Some bands. Not enough utensils.

I bought black and white gloves and it came down to a game-time decision - white gloves won.
White gloves win

So tired my eyes are closing
The ball starts with TWO HOURS of introducing the court, which is always interesting for about 15 minutes. We have kings and queens here? They take themselves seriously? I'm supposed to rise for the king's entrance? You know, all that. Then they start introducing seven dozen pages and ladies in waiting, and I lose interest. After that is the ball, with dancing, open bar, and food. It doesn't even start until ten! I wasn't drinking, and it's hard to eat while wearing opera length gloves, so not super thrilling. Basically the whole point of the ball was to dress up, though, so we accomplished that. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's Carnival Time!

An early Mardi Gras this year means that we've been cramming all our Carnival activities into just a few weeks.
Like, making my ball gown for the Thoth ball. This year it's a muted teal satin halter. I bought the fabric a long time ago - I grab fabrics I like whenever I see them - but now that I'm working on it I'm discovering that it's really cheap and thin. It's very hard to work with.
Whenever I use satin, I use it inside out: the sheen is so much more elegant on the back of the fabric.

We're also eating plenty of king cake. Last week we had a king-cake tasting party to go to, and of course I made a cake (this was traditional filling; nothing fancy to confuse peoples' palates).

The party was small, and some guests brought drinks or savory food instead, so we ended up with just three cakes to taste - and I GOT THE BABY IN ALL OF THEM. What are the odds?! Do I have to buy three more cakes now?!

David's been busy with last-minute parade details. The other day I took his car so he could bring mine in for a brake tag on his lunch (because, you know, when you're a lawyer you get to eat lunch. If you're a pharmacist you just have to starve to death). I stopped to do groceries on the way home, and when I opened his trunk, it was full of hundreds of nerf footballs, all blowing out in the windy lot! I had to run and chase foot balls down (while clutching a loaf of bread).

Next up? Parades, our block party, Thoth, and our newest Mardi Gras hook-up: friends with a balcony on St. Charles!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Post-race track

I didn't feel sore this week at all, despite a Sunday half-marathon. It just wasn't a race effort, for whatever reason. Much to my disappointment! I'd rather be sore and have a fast time versus feeling fresh as a daisy and racing a slow time.

So I rolled out of bed and went to the stupid cold track on Tuesday. It was ten degrees warmer than Sunday, but I layered up - short sleeves, long sleeves, jacket for the drive, hat and gloves. I ended up shedding the long sleeves and hat for the workout portion, but I kept the gloves on.
The workout wast 5x1k with jog across the field between each rep. I felt ok, but I was, again, pretty slow - running between 4:03 and 4:09! That might be residual race fatigue...or I am actually just getting slower.
My cute little track at 6:45 am.
I stayed after for a cool down, drills, and stretching, so I got to see the sunrise.

Advice, please: muscles feel strong, joints feel like they usually do (dreadful), endurance is good, speed is nonexistent. What should I do? Coach me! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Louisiana Marathon - not really racing the half

Boy, did I have a crappy day Sunday. I just couldn't get anything going at all, and had a pretty bad race.
The day started at 4:30, because for some reason I thought that was plenty of time to get up, get ready, drive an hour and a half, park, warm-up, check gear, use the bathroom, and start a race at 7:00. No, it actually is not enough time for all of that.
So I ended up frantically hunting for parking pre-race (mostly because I refused to pay and wanted street parking), finally finding a spot quite far away with just 25 minutes to the start. I couldn't run to the race, because I needed a port-a-potty SO BAD OMG, which also means I was totally dehydrated (halfway through the long drive I was regretting all the coffee I drank, and didn't dare drink a sip of water).
Arriving late has some benefits: most people were already done with gear check and bathrooms by the time I arrived. I easily checked my bag, but the national anthem was playing before I even got to the front of the port-a-potty line (which, props to the directors, was not long thanks to the adequate number of units). I ended up vaulting over the fence into the corral, into the waiting arms of a total stranger I talked into catching me (poor dude).
I was freezing cold, I wasn't warmed up, and I was having tummy issues already. It was in the 30's with a "feels like" temp of below freezing; I knew the sun would warm things up, though, so I was in tights and a sleeveless shirt with gloves. I had to take the gloves off early because, oddly, the volunteer at the very first water stop poured Powerade all down my arm and soaked my glove - and then high-fived his friend and said, "Baptized!" - uh, calm down, fellow.
Louisiana Running Company once again providing great photos! 

The gun went off and we started running downhill. The first miles are a slight decline, yet to my horror, my Garmin beeped WAY WAY WAY slower than I thought I was running the first mile. Like, fifteen seconds slower. Huh? I just was working way too hard. My muscles felt fine - although cold - but I was struggling to get any speed at all. I hammered the first six miles away at 7:06 pace, which was already a little slower than the 7:05 I'd need to run a 1:33, and then I just gave up. I started really just jogging and I felt so tired. Around about mile 11, I realized that about a million people had passed me and thought, "Well, that's not cool", so I ran a 7:04 and a 7:03 for the last two, but - ugh. I just struggled the whole way. 1:33:53.
Worst part: I wasn't sore later, so you know I didn't do my best!

I am really annoyed that I ran basically the same time as last race - and it actually felt much harder. Am I getting slower? Honestly, my fall half (1:37) was a much tougher course, so I kind of feel like I haven't seen any improvement at all since I got back to running this year. I am sort of wondering if it isn't time to hang it up. Yes, I can have a great long run, but honestly - what good does that do without the speed? And the speed is what's missing.
And I still have runner's knee - not that bad, but nagging and annoying.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What happened at the Louisiana Marathon

A quick follow-up, now that the story is all over the news (local and otherwise, including the Pace per Mile podcast) -
What happened at Sunday's race was that the women's first finisher was DQ'd because she took outside aid on the course. Apparently she had a biker who gave her drinks and nutrition several times on course, even after a course marshal told her that the practice was not allowed. Plus, runners apparently received five emails about the new policy prior to race day (I didn't, but I registered late). She was shooting for an OTQ, and I think the race directors realized that Sunday was the last day to run an OTQ time, so they tightened up on the rules (as far as I know, this rule was never explicitly stated in the past, and in fact, I asked permission to pace David at this race for his first marathon - just a few final miles - and my requested was granted).

There is a bit of a debate about the DQ online, and I can see merits to both sides of the argument:
1. She broke a clearly stated rule; she gets DQ'd.
2. If the race is going to have USATF regulations, they should also provide elite nutrition tables. The race currently has no elite program, and these policies will discourage elites from choosing this race as they can receive better support at other races. I hope in the future the Louisiana Marathon does make these changes, or they simply won't get a quality field.

But the bottom line is, she broke the rules and she was warned about them and yet continued to receive outside aid - so DQ it is. I'd waver a bit, perhaps, if she hadn't been warned, or if she'd actually hit the OTQ standard (she missed it) - that would make me feel pretty terrible for her! She DID state to the marshals that she'd spoken about it to the race director, but the director says this did not happen.

Meanwhile, in more positive news, I saw that the actual winner did get to break the tape - it just wasn't announced or anything, so she was more confused than we were! But good for her.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Shenanigans at the Louisiana Marathon

After my race today (spoiler: it sucked!), I stayed around to watch a friend finish the full. She was killing it, on pace for a 3:07, and I wanted to see her kick butt!
While I waited with friends at the finish, I saw the first female finisher. She came in at 2:49:xx, accompanied by two pace bikes. The announcer called out her name and told us she was from Gonzales, Louisiana, and a bunch of people cheered for a local winner (Gonzales is near Baton Rouge, where the race was held). Af far as I know, she broke the tape - I didn't actually see that, but the announcer introduced the two holders of the tape (local bigwigs), and I saw the tape stretched out.
But anyway. Not another peep from the announcer, and lo and behold, right around 3:07, up comes my fast friend, with her two bike pacers (with "second female" signs) and we all cheer like mad as she finishes!
No tape or anything. Because she's second. Right? Wrong. As we met her at the chute, the race officials were like, "Sorry, she can't stay, we have to get her to Press, she won." And sure enough, they bundle her over to the TV cameras for an interview, and we are just all baffled.
All of us SAW the other woman finish. All of us HEARD the announcer. But no, instant results online show my friend as the overall winner.
She didn't get the "first female" cheers, bike pacers, or tape. I don't know what happened yet, but I am guessing that the woman who finished first either registered for the half, or ran under another woman's bib. I can't imagine that she got off-course or cut the course; she would have told her pacers (or they would have told her!).
But my question is, why didn't the race officials inform the announcer, who could have simply said, "We received word that the first female finisher was disqualified, so ladies and gentlemen, here comes our women's winner!" Instead, she got called as the second woman. But obviously the race directors already knew about it, since they grabbed her immediately in the chute and told us (and her) that she was the winner. It just...seems so unfair. I wish she'd had her winner's moment!

Hopefully I find out what actually happened, and when I do, I'll report back!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Registered! And broke!

My decision to register for the Louisiana Marathon (half) was made easier yesterday: my running friend Melissa told me she had to go to Baton Rouge for work on Friday, so she could pick up my packet. Woo hoo! I definitely didn't want to drive all the way to Baton Rouge the day before the race (no race day packet pick up), so this pushed me over the edge to register.
FOR $125.
No, seriously, that's what it cost. Insane. It's $140 at the expo! But I paid it - I am friends with the race director, and his family just had their fourth boy this year, who has Down syndrome, incurring extra costs for healthcare; plus the race is a big generator of charity dollars, gives back to the community, and hosts Ainsley's Angels. So I decided to fork over the dough for a worthy race. That's definitely the most I've paid for a half-marathon, though. In fact, I think the only race I ran that cost more was the Boston marathon!

Anyway, astronomical race fees aside, this is a great race - pretty course, historically lovely weather, fantastic after-party, and always lots of friends, so I'll enjoy it. I have had a touch of runner's knee for the past few days, so I hope that subsides, but otherwise I feel ready to race. I probably won't beat my last half marathon since I won't be tapering (something that becomes more and more important the older I get!), but I will definitely try!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Confidence: back down

On Saturday, I ran in a jog bra
and shorts. On Tuesday, I was in
tights, my warmest shirt, and
Saturday's long run:

Confidence soaring! I can run 20 miles and not totally fall apart! I can pick up the pace at the end! I can eat gummy peaches while doing hill repeats!

Tuesday's track:

Confidence in the gutter. I can try not to have a bathroom emergency for forty-five minutes. I can suffer through 200's, lungs screaming, only to see 42 seconds for my efforts. I can wonder why everything hurts, from knee to hip to hamstring.

(The workout: 200, 500, 200, 800, 200, 800, 200, 500, 200x3 - 500s and 800s at 5k pace; 200s at 10k "time", so my 42 seconds = 42 minute 10k. 1 minute rest between each).

Such is running: good days and bad days. I was hoping I'd feel great during the workout, and it would help me decide to run the Louisiana (half) Marathon this Sunday. But instead I feel iffy about it.
What to do?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Two different artists

On Saturday, I had my friend Charlotte over to paint some itty bitty canvases. Every year, David puts some tiny canvases in my Christmas stocking - only a few inches square. But I haven't been keeping up with his generosity, so my stash of canvases was ballooning! Charlotte came for lunch, drinks, and painting to help me with that problem.

I thought it was so cool how different our finished products were. Our styles are so totally different! Charlotte does almost exclusively abstract art, with some graphics at times. I almost always choose to draw people or scenes.
Our set-up. I love how colorful our palettes are! 

Charlotte did a set of canvases to display together, plus a little quote; I used a black canvas to paint an illuminated letter for David (it's his last initial) and a small sailboat. So completely different!

The illuminated letter includes all words with R - reading, red, rabbit, rose, road, river, rainbow.

We had a ton of fun. I think our diversity can be a source of inspiration to each other!

Monday, January 11, 2016

First twenty in a billion years

I can't remember the last time I did a 20 mile training run. I'm pretty sure it was before Boston 2012, and it included a 10k race tossed in the middle of it (which was a really terrible idea, for those of you planning to pull such a stunt).
But this weekend, I got my twenty done, and I have to say - it felt great! I almost always struggle during 20 milers - I get bored, I get sore, I hit the wall. For someone who is clearly better at the marathon distance than any other, I sure am bad at long runs. But Saturday, it all worked out.
Twenty miles.
Twenty-five hill repeats sandwiched in the middle.
Five mile fast-finish.
2:35:20 for a 7:45 average pace.
What you wear on a long run
in NOLA in January!

It was thundering and pouring when I got up, so I tried to wait it out, but finally left the house in the rain. Before the run I had about 1/4 cup of white rice with salt (just a few bites; I keep a pot of cooked jasmine rice in the fridge most of the time since David and I are big rice eaters). I'm trying to figure my stomach and fueling out. The first three miles were dreadful - rain, puddles, and way hotter than I thought: I'd worn a long-sleeved shirt. I knew that wasn't going to be a good idea, so I detoured home at mile 4. 8:02, 8:02, 8:15, 8:10 - slow start, as intended.
I tossed my shirt and, as an afterthought, grabbed four gummy peaches left over from gingerbread house decorating (I know. I should throw those out). I'd eaten them all by mile 10 - early for me, but it worked today. I just checked and four peaches ~100 calories.

I did my usual hill repeats when I got to the levee: a total of 25 up and down nonstop, with sets of 5 or 10 broken up by flat sections between each "hill". By the time I got off the levee, I was halfway done. I did some running in the park and planned to get back on the levee for a few miles before doing a fast finish in the park. I took 1/3 of a gel at mile 12.5, planning to take more at 15 and 18, which would align with water fountains.
Levee hills and park plus back on the levee: 7:37, 7:48, 7:48, 7:54, 7:59 7:57, 7:50, 7:43, 7:50, 7:47

Problem: It was windy on the levee and I didn't hear my Garmin beep! I finally looked down and it was mile 14.5 - so I had already missed my turnaround point at mile 13, plus I botched my first mile of "fast finish". But it was pretty up on the levee: the river is really high right now, and all kinds of waterfowl were paddling along the batture, so I decided to keep going. This meant I'd take some gel without water, so - risky. But I did it anyway. At this point, I had a tailwind, but at mile 16, I turned around into a headwind. Around 17.5 I had to get off the levee and back on St. Charles Avenue, which helped with the headwind, but meant I was back to dodging puddles and tourists on messed up sidewalks. Finally I made it to Audubon park and the closest fountain for the last of my gel and some water before heading home. 7:46, 7:18, 7:24, 7:29, 7:18, 7:23.

I finished feeling pretty good, not even hungry, so I think one gel and four peaches did the trick! It felt so nice to be able to force some faster miles at the end. I am sick and tired of gasping for breath and feeling my heart hammer away, only to see 8:05 on my Garmin. This almost - ALMOST - felt like the old Grace, with the exception of my right hip constantly falling out of place. Hey, I said "almost". I'll take what I can get.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

It's king cake time!

What happens when you're too sick to enjoy king cake on Epiphany? You save up all your king cake cravings until the following weekend, and make this gigantic beauty:

It's lemon-cardamom, and we have a leftovers problem.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year's Running Thoughts

I'm back at work, and even back running (as of yesterday!), and sort of eating food, so I'm on the way to being well.
All I ate on Sunday: tea, crackers, and two slices of avocado

New Year's Eve night I made a fancy dinner including a recipe for whole roasted cauliflower with whipped goat cheese, a star dish at chef Alon Shaya's restaurant Domenica (Shaya was made famous when his Israeli restaurant Shaya made Esquire's 50 best restaurants list). I found the copycat recipe online, and let me just tell you...I will not be eating cauliflower again for a very long time. If ever.

Anyway. No doubt I picked up this terrible bug at work, and it's the worst I've had in forever - totally weak, high fever, lots of stomach pain, couldn't tolerate food for days. Still can't, really! But it gave me some time to think about running for this year.

Here are my running hopes and plans for 2016:

1. Run more races. I am very much out of racing habit and shape. I'd like to run more races this year, if but for the practice.
2. Keep the same basic shoe. I don't like the Kinvara bazillion as much as I liked the Kinvara I, but it's good enough, and changing shoes is usually a bad idea for me. I often get hurt right after changing shoes.
3. Finish a marathon. Yes, I said "finish". Right now I am looking at RnR New Orleans in February, and I would like a BQ time, but recent runs and workouts have not promised anything: marathons are tough, I historically do poorly on long runs, and I am out of practice.
4. Come up with a workable strengthening plan. I currently do hip/glutes PT every single day, but am juggling my other strengthening around. I'd like to do an additional hour of overall strength weekly, plus a short version of an Iron Strength workout, a longer hip-strengthening day, a session of yoga, and at least one core workout.  That's what I do right now minus the extra hour of overall strength: instead I often do a half-hour workout, or skip it all together, or sub it for a few minutes post-run daily planks etc. I need a better schedule.
5. Stick to the schedule of one hard day and one long day a week. I have proven to myself time and time again that I CANNOT do speed work twice a week. I will always get injured. I do much better with one day of speed, then perhaps a faster-paced long run or a fast-finish long run. This goes against many training philosophies (I generally run my long runs faster than prescribed), but in the past, it's worked to get me into shape, faster, and at the starting line healthy.
6. Work up to a reasonable 40 - 50 mpw and stick with it - a good balance of enough running to stay strong, but not so much that I'm injured.
7. Avoid surgery.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Out with the old...

Thursday night, my stomach decided to take that advice most literally. So my New Year's Eve was spent huddled on the bathroom floor in utmost misery. I'm still not well. This is one of the worst sicknesses I've had in a long time, and it's taking me ten minutes to get up the stairs, so obviously a long run didn't happen today (in fact, I doubt I'll get out of pajamas, for the second day in a row. Yesterday David had to comb my hair for me, I was so weak, so I assure you I did not put real clothes on).
The timing certainly stinks - no toasting the New Year or enjoyable three day weekends for me - but at least I didn't have to scramble to find work coverage.
New Year's Resolution: throw up fewer times all year than I did Thursday night.