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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Marathon training, weeks 11 and 12

Oops, forgot last week! 
Week 11:
Monday: Easy 6.
Tuesday: A terrible tempo on the bridges. Supposed to be 3, 2, and 1 miles at tempo with 2 minute jog rest; after a tempo Friday, a race Saturday, a long run with workout Sunday, and finally easy miles Monday - I was too exhausted for tempo pace. I ran between HMP and MP. Almost 12 miles with warm up and cool down.
Wednesday: 5 easy.
Thursday: Ten miles plus strides - easy paced. 
Friday: Hallelujah! Temperatures IN THE 60's, AMAZING. Supposed to be a ten mile aerobic run with 2 minute surges at the start of each mile, starting with mile 2, but we all ran them way too fast, enjoying the cool weather. My average pace for the workout portion was about 6:48, which made me wonder if my marathon pace goal wasn't too extreme after all?
Saturday: Silly me, I dragged my tired legs out into the suddenly-hot-and-humid-again weather and attempted a 5k. I was second overall and first female, but the course was way short.18:39 - on pace for slim PR if the course had been long enough.
Sunday: Right after a race, a tough long run: twenty miles. Ten warm up, 2x4 miles at MP with 1 mile aerobic pace between. (6:49, :56, :56, :54) and (6:51, :57, :49, :54). I was happy with the run, but totally exhausted the rest of the day!

70.2 miles this week. Not good. I am quite wary of the 70 MPW barrier; I broke it once before and simultaneously broke my foot!

Week 12:
Monday: Off. I've been alternating off/easy on Mondays.
Tuesday: An easy workout 16x400m with 1 minute standing rest. Pace 5k or faster. About 8.5 miles total for the night.
Wednesday: 5 easy.
Thursday: Twelve miles in gorgeous weather! Down below 70 again! Easy.
Friday: It warmed up some, but I had a good run anyway, that included a 6-mile tempo: 6:36, :36, :46, :21, :34, :35. 
Saturday: How about this novel idea: NO RACE between a hard Friday and a hard Sunday? Five easy in gross, humid, hot weather.

Sunday: Sixteen miles: five easy, ten at marathon pace, one cool down. Ok. Someone had the bright idea to do this up on the levee as a cold front moved in. WIND. We had 3 miles crosswind (6:51, :54, :44), 2 miles tailwind (6:42, :41), 2 miles headwind (LOL what happened, 7:11, :12, insane), 3 miles crosswind (6:58, :48, :39). Overall happy with those paces, conditions considered, especially the last mile. 

61 miles for the week.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Day 2 in Scotland: walking the West Highland Way

Day 2: From Drymen to Rowardennen

Our first day of walking was a pretty easy one, with a convenient stop for lunch halfway through. We got onto the West Highland Way and were quickly walking over the little town, enjoying the view.
Starting at our BnB


We had dinner at one of Scotland's oldest pubs

None of the terrain was very challenging on day one, which was good since we were trying out all of our gear. So, our gear:

We both walked in Merrell hiking shoes the whole trip. Mine were old; Melissa's were new and "waterproof". Sort of. The shoes were fine, but you have to accept that your feet will be wet 98% of the time. I also bought wool trekking socks, which helped a little since wool dries fast. I just got some cheap pairs for $5 each.

We also both had small backpacks. I got this one:

I actually bought it new off Ebay for $11. It's also "waterproof". Ha, ha. Not even a little. But it was adequate.
I also bought my first ever raincoat, a godsend, and otherwise mostly just layered long-sleeved running shirts and tights. At the last minute, I bought a base layer wool blend shirt and tights, which were a good idea: I washed and dried them at night and re-wore them most of the trip.

These were really cheap, like $12 for the top and $15 for the bottom.
In retrospect, I should have brought gloves and a waterproof backpack cover, but otherwise I think we packed well. No trekking poles, no balaclava, no fancy hats, no gators - it's not that intense. But if you do the walk, by all means get some waterproof stuff!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Day 1 in Scotland: walking the West Highland Way

Day 1: Explore Glasgow. We landed at 6:45 am, paid to have our luggage held, and spent the day wandering the city.
First off, the incredibly massive necropolis overlooking the cathedral:

Then, we walked down to the cathedral for church, as it was Sunday. I LOVE worshipping in other churches when I travel, which my sister thinks is weird. The congregation at the Glascow cathedral was very warm and welcoming, and we had tea with them afterward.

 We walked through the City Centre to enjoy some street art on the way to fish and chips at a place my sister had heard recommended - and it was delicious, too!

Then we cut through the Barras market - a large outdoor market that dates from the 1920's - on the way to the People's Palace, containing a lovely botanical garden and a museum about the city.

That was about all the time we had in Glasgow, so we took a bus back to the airport, retrieved our luggage, and headed to our bed and breakfast in adorable Drymen. Drymen is where we discovered that Scotland isn't just about the whiskey - it's also obsessed with gin! Although - we started with beer.

We just about passed out during dinner, we were so tired, but we managed to get back to our beds before crashing. Next up: the walk begins.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Marathon training, week 10

Well, it was a little bit of a come-to-Jesus week for me. 
We've been basing our workouts off paces that reflect our goal marathon times, which were picked by our group coach. But mine is too fast for me right now. I'm struggling with the paces, and I think I'm actually getting slower! So I emailed our coach to request an adjusted time. I haven't gotten one yet, but the marathon pace I was using for workouts - 6:52 - is too hard for me, and I have had to scale back. 

Monday: Off due to stomach bug.
Tuesday: 7x1000m on the track with a nice 400m jog rest. These mostly felt good, although I was the ONLY person left on the track for my final rep and was clearly demotivated! I started in a group of four, but no one else was having a good night, and I ended up running alone. 3:52, 3:53, 3:52, 3:52, 3:55, 3:55, 3:57. Over nine for the night.
Wednesday: 5 easy on the dirt path around the park.
Thursday: One hour easy on the levee, plus 8 100m strides for 8.64 miles.
Friday: Here's the workout that made me wake up to my pace: 3x2 miles at tempo with 90 seconds jog. Not easy for me, and I TOTALLY TOTALLY crumbled on the last one. Keep in mind that my "tempo" should be around 6:30 - 6:35...Instead I ran 6:37, 6:32/6:32,6:38/6:39/6:50, and it felt more like 10k pace than tempo pace. After I finished I asked myself if 6:32 was really my tempo pace - could I hold that for about an hour? No, no way. Time to re-evaluate! And yeah, it's still super hot and humid (highs in the 90s this week, lows in the high 70s) but by now I should be used to that, enough that the paces don't surprise me.
Saturday: Race day! For some reason, I thought that a two mile noon race would be a good idea. Got in 5.4 for the day. I wore my Saucony type a flats, which were fine - this was their first foray onto the roads. They're way too tight and actually MELTED on the broiling tarmac, so maybe not my favorite shoe.
Sunday: 16 mile long run progression: five at conversational pace, eight at aerobic pace, three at marathon pace. Going by feel, I definitely didn't hit any 6:52 pace! 6:55, 7:02, 6:53. My marathon pace is most probably closest to that middle mile.

55.9 miles this week.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

When Oktoberfest is 100F...

I signed up for the Oktoberfest 2 mile race months ago, and I expected it to be its usual Saturday night lederhosened affair: you run the race, then you get free entry and a beer or two at the fest. 
Ha. At some point, the New Orleans Track Club changed the race time to TWELVE NOON. In October. In New Orleans. An unusually warm October, at that.

It seems that the Deutsches haus, who hosts the fest, decided that runners were crowding out regular fest-goers, so requested the time change. And for some reason, NOTC went with that...I would definitely have worked out an alternative way to have the event at a reasonable time, like drop the fest altogether, or have the event elsewhere at night but with free fest entry with a bib for another day. There's just no reason to have a noon race just about ever, especially since the fest didn't even open until 1 pm, so most runners were long finished and gone before they had a chance to spend any money with the vendors.

In a nutshell, it was terrible. The day was hot, humid, and sunny. As we were heading over, it was 90F with a 102 real-feel, and that was at 11 am. The race course was even worse. It's a totally exposed, shadeless course, and the asphalt had been baking all day. Someone had a thermometer at the start, and it was 100F on the course! I was basically overheated by the time I picked my packet up. As I jogged to the start (short warm up, no strides, just too hot for anything extra), another runner told me that the way back would be a headwind most of the way. Sure enough, a miserable summer storm was brewing, and annoyingly, it was manifesting as a very hot, very humid headwind accompanied by zero clouds, rain, or temperature drop (the clouds rolled in around 1:30, but we never actually got any rain, just oppressive humidity). I decided that I'd go out at race pace, but if the conditions were killing me, I'd do at least a mile at 2mile pace, and then the second at 5k pace. I didn't want to skip the race totally, nor did I want to start slow in case I actually ended up feeling ok, so I thought this would give me the option to semi-bail without completely giving up.

The race was pretty small, and I figured my fast friend Megan would win for the women. She took off into the lead right away, and I followed. It didn't take long for me to realize that this race was going to be more of a workout. What a slog! Mile one was fairly easy (5:54), but after the turn around, we headed back the way we came, into:

  1. A headwind
  2. Crowds of race walkers, all of whom made the smart choice not to run at noon on a day like this
  3. Burned.
  4. A million confused fest-goers, who, thanks to all the walkers, couldn't really tell there was a race going on, and milled about ALL UP IN OUR WAY. The crowds and confusion were because, unbelievably, the city allowed three concurrent fests all within and around City Park at the same time: Japan Fest, Oktoberfest, and Beignet Fest (the question of the day: will Japan Fest and Oktoberfest invade Beignet fest?). Traffic, of both the car and people variety, was heavy and largely confused and lost and in my way.
Mile two SUCKED and I would have run 5k pace even if it hadn't been a vague plan...I couldn't pick it up even a smidgen at the finish, and ran a 6:17 second mile for second place. I think I ran faster than that in a casual summer race this year. 

 I could barely "cool down" a mile, and when we got home I had heat exhaustion. I collapsed as soon as I got into the house. I asked David for water, but I actually passed out before he brought it! So now I have a massive headache and a sunburn. And that's why you don't run a race at noon.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Marathon training, week 9

I realized after my post for week 7 that actually I DID run week 7, it was week 8 I missed. The only thing worth mentioning for week 7 is that I capped it with an 18-mile long run including 3x2 mile at marathon pace with 1 mile aerobic pace "rest" - right before hopping on an international flight. Gotta do whatcha gotta do to get the long run in!

Monday: Easy five plus 8x100m strides
Tuesday: We changed things up by taking the Moneghetti fartlek to the bridges to stimulate rolling hills. The weather was nice - I think just 80F or maybe 82F - and we all had a great workout. If you don't know the workout, here it is:

2 x 90 sec ~5k effort
(equal rests around MP)
2 x 60 sec ~5k effort
(equal rests around MP)
2 x 30 sec ~5k effort
(equal rests around MP)
4 x 15 sec sprint
(equal rests around MP)

I ended up with 2.22 miles in 14:26, which is 6:20 pace overall, and with warm up and cool down had close to 8 miles.
Wednesday: 40 minutes easy
Thursday: 90 minutes plus 8x100m strides; with strides I got over 12 miles.
Friday: Tempo day. We did 2 mi @ Tempo, 90 sec jog rest; 2 x 1mi @ 10k, 90 sec jog rest; 4 x 200 @ 5k, 60 sec standing rest. I struggled to hit the 10k splits, so I wasn't happy with this workout. Over 11 miles for the day.
Saturday: Easy 6
Sunday: Our first 20 miler! We had a workout, as usual: ten miles conversational, then 4x (2mi @ MP, 1/2 mi aerobic pace). It was muggy and hot, even with an earlier-than-normal start, and again I struggled with pace a little. I hit all my splits, but it just felt harder than marathon pace should. I hope things feel smoother if the weather EVER becomes fall, but if it doesn't, I'll need to reassess my goals.
67 miles for the week. Whoa!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Walking the West Highland Way

To celebrate my sister's 40th birthday, I took her on a trip to Scotland. Walking the West Highland Way was a bucket list item for her, and a wonderful way for us to spend much-needed time together. I'll post our amazing photos separately, but for now, an outline of the trip and some logistics:

The walk: It's a 96-mile walk through the highlands, and you can complete it a variety of ways:

  1. Backpack and camp the whole way
  2. Backpack, but arrange to stay in B&Bs or "wigwams" or other shelter
  3. Arrange for luggage transfer, and simply walk to and from each B&B with a day pack.

We did option #3, but in retrospect, option #2 would have been cheaper and simpler. You just don't need to pack that much, and if I'd had time to make my own B&B reservations, we could have saved a ton of money. As it was, we went with a tour company. We paid a set fee for them to transfer our luggage and provide accommodations. The upside was that we didn't need to worry about where to stay, because these tiny towns fill up very quickly. But otherwise, it was a waste of money. We used Hillwalk Tours, and they were basically useless. They provided no assistance or support other than the very basics included in the package. For example, when you book, they tell you that you can easily get from the airport in Glasgow to the starting and stopping points by train. But then when I went to buy tickets, I discovered that the train doesn't run on weekends. I contacted the tour company for suggestions, and they were like, shrug, sorry. So if your tour starts or ends on a weekend, you might end up like we did - taking a taxi the whole way (it's a two-hour drive). The only other thing the tour provided were "walk notes" which were not only full of errors, but pointless. The trail is clearly marked. I would have much preferred notes that included historical or geographical info to enhance the walk. The notes they provided had maybe one or two mentions per day, nothing really educational. So anyway, if you do a West Highland Way walk, by all means skip the tour company. Throw some waterproof layers in a backpack and just carry it around with you!
Ready for a cold day

We ended up doing most of the walk - we started at Drymen, so a bit after the traditional starting point - in five days. It's not a strenuous walk: there are ups, down, and rocks, and you are walking in water most of the time, but I think anyone could do it. I wouldn't call it hiking - it's definitely just walking. Our days varied from as few as 14 miles to as many as 22.

On a warm day: just my base layers, all rolled up! 
As far as packing goes, we way overpacked! All the B&Bs have drying rooms, and since you're going to get wet anyway, you might as well just rinse your clothes, toss them in the drying room, and re-wear the next day. I bought some merino-wool blend base layers that were awesome - they washed clean in seconds and dried completely in about an hour. Then I would wear leggings and a long-sleeved tech race T over that, plus a ball cap and a raincoat. On warmer days, I'd shed some layers, and when it was cold, I put a winter hat over my ball cap. I wore the same pair of hiking shoes the whole time. We went to dinner every night, so I brought one pair of non-hiking shoes, a pair of jeans, and some tops. That plus the scarf/shawl I brought on the plane was plenty.

I did get rained on almost constantly, so if I did it again, I'd get a waterproof backpack and even a backpack cover. But in general, it's an easy and low-stress trip and such a fun bonding experience for family!