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Saturday, September 19, 2020

TSP DIY: The long, long night at the lake

 Let me tell ya, I do NOT like running at night. And deep down inside, I didn't like our strategy. Normally, I am all about distance. But after a summer of training for a mile time trial (that I BOMBED), my legs were full of speed. I was feeling the short, fast stuff a lot more than a five mile tempo. Our team plan was to revert to 5-milers at night, with the idea that we would be able to run long in the cool night. The problem was that it just wasn't happening. It wasn't cool. It's never cool in Louisiana in early September. The temperature dipped below 80F for a few minutes, but the humidity stayed sky high. Even the weird windstorm couldn't drive the humidity away. And people felt like crap. I checked our standings as I got ready to try to sleep, and we were falling off. We were 6th in the early evening, but by night, we were 12th. 

I decided to try to nap in my car, so after my last-of-the-night pumping session (and putting bags of milk on ice, as if they would stay cold in this heat), I pushed the seat back and laid down. With the windows down, and the really stupid wind, it felt kind of like a fan. I was definitely tired enough to sleep. But my car was parked on the route, and the runners and cheering support were keeping me awake! I got back up and wandered back to the house. I'm glad I did: I overheard others talking quietly and realized that they'd been cutting their runs to four miles. The wind had died down a bit, but it was still bad, and no one felt good. The bike support crew had identified an alternate route that avoided some of the worst wind, but it was not quite five miles. I checked the spreadsheet, updated my alarm, and tried to sleep on a bench on the porch. I think I dozed for a bit, but I was ready to run far before the next runner finished. I joined Jimi, our coach, up on the seawall. He was bike support and he told me that the wind was a lot better. Ha! As we waited for Josh, the wind inexplicably picked back up to about 20 mph. I couldn't believe it. Another run into the wind! Because of the seawall separating the below-sea-level neighborhoods from Lake Ponchartrain, we had decided that runners would start at the top of the sea wall and finish at the base, rather than anyone running up the steep hill. So when Josh came down the home stretch, his biker shouted, "Go!" up the hill. I hit start on my Garmin, tucked my head, and pushed into the wind. Man. It was harder the second time. And even when, two miles later, we finally turned off the lakefront, I didn't feel good. My dinner sat obnoxiously in my stomach, and it was dark. Jimi was a great biker - he kept my route as lit as he could, gave me directions, and kept encouraging me. A bad side cramp hit before mile four, and my last mile was slow and painful. I crept back up the street and handed off to Jonathan at the 4.74 mile mark at 6:37 pace. Eek. Getting slower wasn't part of the plan! But I had no time to sulk: my plan was GET SOME SLEEP before my 5:40 leg. 

The front lawn crew

There was a small group of runners and support people sitting on the front lawn as I walked back to the house. I lamented my difficulty as I talked to them and discovered that everyone was likewise suffering. But I got a huge boost when I reported my pace and was met with incredulity: "I don't think I could run that pace right now!" said Will, and he is approximately 90 times faster than I am. I was somewhat mollified by that. 

Showers mid-relay? Heck yes! 

I hopped in the shower in his parents' cute little pool house, threw my pajamas on, and saw Wayne's scrawny, sleepy body on the bench I'd planned to sleep on. I stuck my head into the house and glory be! For one thing, there was A/C. For another thing, there was a beautiful sight: an air mattress on the living room floor. I tossed my blanket and pillow onto the mattress and tried to sleep. 

I think I did get about two hours of sleep in. It wasn't glamorous. I found out later that the air mattress had materialized at the house because Will's uncle had brought it over to throw it in the pool to try to find a leak in it. He never did find it, but I did! About ten minutes into my nap, my butt was touching the floor. I should've known that an unoccupied air mattress was too good to be true. My dozing was cut short when Paul stuck his head in. "Grace, you're in the hole. Josh is up next in a few minutes. You have about half an hour." Half an hour! My alarm wasn't even set to ring until 35 minutes later! While I was sleeping, the team had switched to three mile loops. My turn was up. And if any of you readers have breastfed, you know that before I was running one single step, I had to pump. 

This is so, so, so miserable

I raced to my car, struggled into a jog bra, stuffed the pump into the bra, and turned it on while I rushed to get ready to run. I ran back to the house (with all the people in and out, and the street construction, I was parked two blocks away) to use the bathroom, but it was occupied. I ended up giving up on the bathroom and heading to the transition area. I didn't have enough time to get a full pumping in - I carefully set the full cups of milk and the pump on the side of the road, turned on my GPS, and had just moments to spare. 

I'm sure you can guess how this leg went: it was 5am, I was dehydrated yet still not pumped dry, I hadn't used the bathroom, and I was virtually sleepless. Pat was my biker. He'd been up all night himself, but he didn't let that disrupt his usual smooth demeanor. I followed him on the new three mile loop and was happy to see that the route had the wind as a tailwind along the lake and a headwind in the more sheltered neighborhoods. I still sucked. I felt terrible in every possible way. I stumbled in for 3 miles at 6:37 pace. Ouch. I handed off to Jonathan and saw Kevin standing alongside. He was incredibly cheerful. Apparently Kevin thrives on this kind of stuff and felt great! I collected my milk and trudged back to the house. After putting my milk away, I reviewed the changes to our plan. We had fallen behind overnight to 13th, and that wasn't how we wanted this race to go. We weren't heading back to Audubon Park, and we weren't doing any more five mile or three mile or even two mile legs. We were heading to the practice track at City Park, and we were going to run 400s for the rest of the race. We put our exhausted heads together and created two teams to switch off, allowing the other team to rest for about an hour. We'd trade off for six straight hours of track work. 


  1. 6:37 pace under those conditions? You rock. I've always been a fan of night legs at Ragnars BUT can't imagine having to do more than one.. And humid and windy truly sounds like the worst of all worlds! I'm loving the story of this insane experience!

  2. Yikes, so exhausting and then add pumping in? Brutal!! I am impressed you ran 6:37 in those conditions, too. Dang it is hot and humid down in NOLA. And then to have it hot, humid and super windy? Bad combo. I know you ended up placing pretty well so you must have really caught up on time at the track!

    PS thanks for the iron recommendation. I"m willing to pay $30 for something that actually works. I doubled my dose after my hemoglobin had barely moved when I had blood work done last. I am waiting for my labs to come back from my last appt but I kind of doubt it's moved much and the iron supplement I'm taking is not good for constipation... which I already struggle w/ during pregnancy! Probably TMI, but as a mom and pharmacist, I doubt anything phases you anymore! ;)

  3. I think switching over to the track was the right move. Running a tempo in that kind of humidity with the wind and at night just sounds brutal on all fronts. Especially with the lack of sleep. You guys are so hard core for doing this.