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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?

Friday, April 6, 2018

My bike commute

In a fit of environmentally friendliness, I ditched my car and started commuting by bike. Not exactly ditched, I guess - I usually still drive two days a week. I definitely drive on Tuesdays, because I go to track and then the grocery store straight from work (I started piggybacking groceries onto track so that I only had one day when a car was required, although usually some other errand - or rain - makes me have to drive a second day).

I did a little research before diving in, and here is how my planning shook out:

My bike: Eh. It sucks. It's an $80 Walmart mountain bike, and it weighs a ton. Biking feels like swimming in quicksand, and it won't change gears. You can manually change them (like, move the chain by hand), but they flop right back into their favorite spot. I definitely need a bike upgrade. Maybe for my birthday?

My tires: This big old mountain bike has huge, heavy tires, and I added tire liners. I'm not at all interested in getting a flat, so they seemed like a good investment.  
My storage: I got a light chain with a combination, so it's easy and fast to lock up. It's not a very theft-proof chain, butI park it right outside the police station at work, so I doubt it will be stolen. When it's rainy, I put a plastic bag over the seat.
Expensive seat cover

My clothes: I bike in my regular work clothes except a different top, and change shirts at work. Once the summer heat starts, I'll probably have to wear shorts, too. So far I have been wearing normal work shoes, which include wedges, clogs, flats, etc. It's a slight challenge, but I've survived. Wooden clogs are definitely the hardest footwear!
My basket: Since I'm heading to work, I need storage. I attached a Wald adjustable basket to the front, and it fits my lunch bag and work bag. One complaint about this basket - the bolts come RIGHT OUT on bumpy roads. I had to replace them with bolts with lock nuts, which helped. Really, the basket should come with lock nuts!
My basket, all packed up

My helmet: I bought this adjustable helmet and I find it very comfortable. You can dial it to the perfect fit.
My work bag: I use a string backpack to throw my water bottle, keys, wallet, and shirt in. I don't mind if this bag gets dirty from road dust, plus in a pinch I can wear it as a backpack if I need to make more room in my basket (like if I run to the post office on the way home or something).
My bike bag: I have a little zippered bag with a few essentials in it, and when I get to work, I stop at the bathroom in the clinic and clean up a little. I don't know if this will be adequate in the summer, but for now, I freshen up with some sports wipes, and quickly do something with my helmet hair.

I use Elf wipes for a "missionary bath" as my mom
would call it; other essentials are hair elastics, body spray
in case the outdoors smell lingers in my hair, deodorant
(duh), and a comb. The Body Glide is because this is
also my track bag! 

 My route: Since I live uptown but work downtown, I have several route options, but they're all 5 to 6 miles and not all of them are safe. The routes with the most bike lanes, actually, have proven the least practical. My route of choice is about 40% bike lanes, but are along roads with light traffic and low speed limits, so I feel safe. From uptown, I use Broadway all the way to Fountainbleu, then Fountainbleu to Octavia, then Octavia to Jefferson Davis parkway. That whole section has no bike lanes, but mostly wide streets and safe drivers. I'm briefly on Jefferson Davis, which has a bike lane, and includes a horrid bridge that I can barely drag my heavy bike up, and then I turn onto Tulane ave.
I swear it's steeper in real life. Photo from Yelp.
The city recently added bike lanes to Tulane, and from there it's an easy straight shot to work. The entire commute takes me 32 minutes, including changing my clothes and cleaning up, so it's only a minute or two more than driving. And I consider that a win!

Monday, April 2, 2018

CCC 2018 - a watchless race

Since I'm coming off injury, nowhere near PR shape, and need to know if I'm ready to train hard again, I decided to run the CCC 10k watchless. It wouldn't be completely blind, since there are on-course clocks, but I thought it would be wise to just run a steady tempo pace and assess my fitness, form, and feet. After a blow-up and aching foot at the Al Briede 5k a few weeks ago, I wanted to be careful.

It's been years since I purposefully ran a race without a watch, and I knew it would be tricky - it's a big race, and the crowd can easily sweep you away, plus I wasn't really sure of my fitness yet. I completed an entire workout on Tuesday, for the first time since my injury (albeit an easy workout, since it was race week), but then on Thursday I felt so bad and slow that I turned around and went home. I was up front in a seeded corral, which was a little humbling since I was easily the slowest in the group, but I did scoot back to make sure I was staying well behind others in my group that I might expect to be close to. I didn't want that temptation!
Free race pictures!

It's hard to write a race report without mile splits, but I do have some, thanks to the race results. I didn't look at on-course clocks, except for an accidental glance at mile 3, but I did know that I started out slow and easy. Sure enough, my results say I ran a 6:54. By then we had thinned out some, and I was able to stretch out and comfortably cruise. I felt like I was keeping a pretty steady pace, and I was breathing smoothly and easily. I grabbed water at mile 2; at mile 3, I saw that I was at 20:mid. I felt fine, but I reminded myself to just run a steady race and not take any risks. Now wasn't the day for that!
Looking like there is sun in my eyes!

I think the beautiful weather helped me feel so good, but I never felt winded or wretched like I usually do in 10ks. I did get a nasty side stitch at mile 5, which was annoying, and I also felt like I might have started to slow down at that point; it can be tough in a 10k since miles 4 - 5 are when the people around you might start to slow. For me, with no watch, that was tricky. I also kind of forgot how to kick at the finish, so my finish was exceedingly lackluster. But I felt completely fine, and in fact, not even tired! I finished in 41:27, and results tell me that my first half was 20:52 and my last half 20:35. All in all, it was a good confidence booster, both as practice pacing and a test for my foot. I felt good in both areas, and I'm confident that I can move back into training now.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Forty Days of Art

I wrote earlier about my Lenten project, replacing time frittered away mindlessly with art projects: forty art projects, to be exact, one each day of lent. My restrictions for myself: each piece must be small, no larger than an envelope, and the subject could not be people. I am first and foremost a figure drawer, so this forced me outside my comfort zone to stretch my imagination.

As the project wrapped up, I decided to use the interest in my art to benefit charity, and held a charity fundraiser selling my art. The timing wasn't great - Saturday Easter weekend, after the Crescent City Classic - but I figured that was ok; a smaller turnout would be easier to manage and reduce squabbling over certain pieces! Which did still happen, but it wasn't too bad!

I served drinks and light snacks (it was a cocktail hour affair) and let people make a donation of their choice for the art they chose; what interested me the most was seeing what art sold and what didn't. Some pieces I knew would sell; either the art itself or the subject matter was universally appealing. Others got a lot of attention, but didn't sell - for example, the anatomical series below was much admired - but who really wants to decorate with bones?!

Overall, I think the event was so much fun; I love sneaking a peak into my friends' art preferences, which is one reason I love to go to art shows with people. And the fundraising went very well. I sold or gave away most of the art, but photos remain! Here are some of my favorite pieces:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Ever since I hurt my foot in December, I've been wanting to use that blog post title. And it's not quite true. I actually went to see a doctor about my feet. I'm not in pain anymore, but having first one, and then a potential second fracture/reaction, made me think I needed to check in with an expert. And I changed doctors (again. I have already left doctor #1 before, for the exact same reason, misdiagnosing/blowing off a major injury. I think it's time to move on for real).
New doctor examined both feet, and said there was obvious evidence of a healed fracture on the left (still sporting a big old bone callous on that foot), but also some bone build up on the right. Without imaging, you can still see and feel it. He suggested I'd actually fractured both feet, but "came back too soon" on the right foot, since I never treated it in a boot. I had thought that foot was hurt, too, back in December when I hurt my left foot, just much more mildly. Either way, it's healing now, and he said running was fine, but I might want to change shoes. My arches are SO high and rigid that they don't provide much shock absorption; he recommended perhaps a higher arch support or even an insert. We'll see - I don't much like changing shoes, and it sometimes ends in disaster.

Meanwhile, I am still plugging along, slowly getting mileage and effort back up, feeling very much like a brand-new runner, especially as the humidity hits us as well. Next race is the Crescent City Classic 10k, which will be a cringe-worthy performance. Nothing like a hot, crowded 10k when you're not in shape!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Al Briede 5k, injury scare, and plugging along

With friends at the start (waiting and waiting because I didn't
realize that the 8 am start was for the kid's mile; the 5k wasn't
until 8:30!)
With the Crescent City Classic 10k fast approaching, I knew I had to get a 5k in to see where I was at speed-wise. I registered last minute for a 5k in the park, and it was as terrible as I thought it would be. I usually come back from a long break in the 20:30 - 21:00 range, and I ran 20:31. Almost exactly what I estimated I would run! But oof, it hurt: I am not ready to be racing yet. And worse, my RIGHT foot - not the one that fractured - started a familiar ache. I jogged home after the race (missing out on the generous age group awards of gift cards to A CHILDREN'S SHOE STORE, why would I want that, especially two years in a row!) and took off my shoe. To my dismay, my foot was bruised, just like the other side bruised when it was fractured!

I decided to take time off, and call a doctor (finally), but the earliest appointment I could make was the 27th. And oddly, my foot stopped hurting. I eased back into short, easy jogs, and the bruising vanished and pain went away, although I am constantly worrying about it returning. Now I'm considering canceling my doctor's appointment! That foot never swelled up, which is a telltale fracture sign and one that was very obvious in my other foot, so I don't know what happened, but I don't think it's fractured.

Now, here I am, heading into a 10k next week barely able to even run 6 miles straight, and feeling pretty out of shape. I had two workouts (ha!) for this race, and the 10k is a very hard distance for me anyway, so I expect it will be a really slow day. Anyone else raced out of shape? Or just coming back from injury? I dread it, but it has to be done!