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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Lonely track

Nobody really felt like heading to the track this holiday week, so when I showed up at 5:30 am, I was the only one there. Knowing the chance of cancellations was high, I came prepared with my own workout, which is what I ended up doing .
It was four sets of 400m with a 200 jog between each and a 400 jog between sets - a continuous workout with only active rests (except I did stop for water between each set).
The goal was to run the first set at 1/2 marathon pace, the next at 10k pace, the next at 5k pace, and the last at mile pace. Tough! But doable.
I just finished reading Meb for Mortals, Meb's book on training, and he puts great emphasis on stretching (I usually don't). Since I was alone and no one was waiting on me, I started with some stretches, then did a mile warm-up. The first set, of course, was easy. Nothing about a quarter mile at half-marathon pace is hard; the hardest part was attempting to get the pace right in the pitch dark (my Garmin battery life is pretty bad lately, and was on low when I arrived, so I didn't want to leave the backlight on. I'd hit it at the half-way point if I could, though).
Times for set one:1:47, 1:40, 1:41, 1:43. Starting set two, I realized that set one was a bit fast, so sets one and two weren't all that different:1:40, 1:37, 1:36, 1;38. As I did my 400m jog before the next set, a guy showed up at the track to walk, so I wasn't alone anymore. I don't mind being at the track alone, but as I mentioned, Harrell is in a somewhat rough neighborhood, and I kind of wanted to be able to tell David that someone else was there! Set three:1:34, 1:33, 1:32, 1:33. Finally, the sun rose, and I could see for my last set. This one was a little tough: 1:31, 1:29, 1:31, 1:30. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't break 1:30 for these, but all in all, it was a good workout, and I ran 8 miles total with a short cool-down.
After the cool-down, I did form drills, stretches, and some lower body strengthening before heading home. I took Leonidas Street back, and on the way, a guy waved me to the side of the road. He asked for a jump, so I pulled over. I know. Terrible neighborhood, girl alone in car with window rolled down and hood up, I'm asking for a carjacking. But dude's truck looked rough, and sure enough, it was not starting. I looked out my window just as he was opening his door to turn the key - and saw that his door was riddled with bullet holes! Oh, dear. I decided that it might be a good idea to tell David where I was, but I didn't want to reach for my purse (I thought it best to leave it out of sight under the front seat). Anyway...his truck finally started and I wished him a good morning, but the shot-up truck had me laughing all morning. New Orleans might be gentrifying, but some streets have really kept their...charm.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Half Recovery

It's over a week post-half marathon, so - how's the old creaky body doing?
After the race, I had...
1. A painful right arch. This actually starting when I was standing on my bare toes in a drawer at work, straining to reach a burglar alarm battery. It ached after the race, so I slapped some tape on it, which promptly ended up balled up in my sock. It's fine now.
2. A weird right hip. I wish this thing would stop falling out of socket. The muscles around the joint are sore; the joint itself feels a bit off still. I ran long on it Saturday without issues, but it still concerns me that it bothered me during and after the race.
3. Chapped lips. Because it was windy!
Wind = hair everywhere
4. Sore left hamstring. Same old story. So tight I couldn't straighten it Sunday...better Monday.
5. Stomach cramps. This has become more and more of a problem: my stomach gets cramps after long runs and races (and sometimes just short regular runs!) and I have GI bleeding. However, it was not nearly its worst on Saturday - thanks to an empty stomach plus just one gel. We went to a party at 1 pm Saturday and the hostess offered me the richest German eggnog I've ever had: ingredients egg yolks, heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla, and brandy. Oddly, it was perfect for my stomach! It settled it right down! And more oddly still, my stomach was really well behaved all week, ever since then. Cured by eggnog!

Off topic, but the photo above reminded me, Louisiana Running Company was out taking some excellent pictures on the levee that capture the views of the river and the Crescent Connection Bridge.

Ships on the river
Anyway, so, my recovery went like this:
Saturday: All my hip and hamstring PT in the late afternoon after the race.
Sunday: 5 very easy miles on soft dirt followed by form drills, also on soft dirt. Later, foam rolling and more hip and hamstring PT.
Monday: Usually my day off. Did a core video for no real reason.
Tuesday: Usually track, but I didn't want to do track after a race, so I slept in and did some upper body weights and some glutes exercises instead.
Wednesday: Woke up to weird, warm, windy weather and ran 9 miles slow. Felt really good, although my hip was still - grumpy.
Thursday: 6.5 easy
Friday: 3.2 easy plus Iron Strength workout
And then Saturday I did 18 slow in the heat. Not my best 18 miler, and I was still aware of my hip.

But considering that a year and a day before the race I was having surgery on my right hip, I think I can call the race and recovery a success!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Eighteen means something

Eighty degrees. Humidity 84%. Eighteen miles.

I tired to take an "I'm exhausted!"
selfie, but David kept lurking on
the stairs and leaning into the
picture making stupid faces, so I
couldn't stop laughing. So this is
what you get. 
I feel pretty good about that. I will have to see how my hips (especially the right side, which was bothering me in the race last week and still felt off this week) hold up later, but for now, this is a milestone.
In my experience, 18 miles says, "I'm ready for the pummeling of a marathon." It says, "I can handle running far with nothing but slimy sugar for fuel." It says, "Please don't check your pace, you'll just want to claw your eyes out." But anyway. The first two are positive. I know the 20 milers are really important, and I even think going over 20 is important, but to me, it's 18 miles that's the turning point.
Sixteen miles? That might be a casual long run if I'm feeling super fresh and fabulous some weekend.
Eighteen miles? That's nothing but marathon training! Nobody runs 18 miles for fun!

If all goes well this week, I might go ahead and say it out loud: I'm training for a marathon!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Old Man River race review

I've done this race before, but the updated course and perks deserve a new review!

Pre-race information, logistics, organization, cost: 
Most information is located on the NOTC website, and you can register online. Website gives all the details about early packet pickup, day-of packet pick-up, parking, awards, and after-party. Like all NOTC races, it's organized and easy. The race is affordable, with the lowest price being $60 for members and $65 for non-members with early registration. There is a 5k held at the same time. You can register for either race the day of the race, although you had to get your T-shirt later.
Lodging and transportation: Host hotel on-site and free parking garages. Easy to get to, and the roads don't close until 7:15 for an 8 am start. 
Swag: I really loved the long sleeved T. It's a technical shirt, but looks and feels like everyday wear. And the design is excellent. 

The medal is cool, too: the ship's wheel actually spins!

Course:The half marathon course starts on the Mississippi River and follows it in both directions (1 loop and 1 out-and-back). Because it follows the river's bend, both loops end up with basically full headwind one way and full tailwind the other.That's a con, as is the fact that the whole course is full-sun. The first half of the course isn't amazing; it's in some industrial areas. But the second is very nice along the levee, with great views of the city. Since the course follows the road/path up and down the levee several times, it's not a totally flat course, which is a nice change for New Orleans race. It was refreshing to use some different muscles once in a while! One problem: the levee got a little congested even late in the half marathon - the 5k might have been tight. 

Overall, I think the course is excellent. You have to expect wind and sun, but given the smooth surface and the nice occasional man-made hill, I'd say in the right weather, it's a PR course.
Aid stations:
Water and Gatorade and even Gu on the half course at one point. 
After-party: Music, jambalaya, beer, coffee, red beans and rice, massages, and probably more - but we didn't really stay, as I had to run to the grocery store, then get cooking for a holiday party! 
 The NOTC finally got a timing mat at the START of the race, rather than just the finish, so you get a real chip time - but keep in mind that the NOTC always scores by gun time. I did not stay for awards, so I am not sure what they were exactly, but I saw some anchor and ship's wheel themed medals on Facebook.
Suggestions: Nice, low-key half with unparalleled views of the city; it would make the perfect Christmas destination race (visit NOLA for the holidays!).

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ole Man River Race Report

Saturday was the Ole Man River half, and I was excited to get it done so I would have a basis for any upcoming training. Goals for the race were:
1. Run a reasonable half to use for extrapolating paces for workouts, etc.
2. See how my hamstring and hips hold up to a half to make decisions about going for longer distances in the future.
3. Definitely run faster than my last half (1:36:xx), which was a hard course, and hopefully run 1:35 based on recent workouts (ie, if my "10k pace" interval paces were true, then I would be able to run a 1:35 half).

The race is on a new course on the Westbank, in a cute area of Gretna. It consisted of two out-and-back portions at right angles to each other in the bend of the river. Since it ran along the river and a lot of the race was on the levee, I knew it would be sunny and windy.
David decided to run the 5k (I think he just said this so he'd have an excuse to drive me. He always assumes I will get lost on the Westbank, but he knows the area well since he used to work over there). We left the house at 6:45 and, with traffic light, had already found parking well away from the race course by 7:10. We went to pick up our packets, then huddled in the car. It was cold! But I knew it would be sunny later, so I wore shorts and a T-shirt (I also took a risk and wore my Kinvara I's with the glued-on sole!). It was perfect race weather, in the mid to upper 40's.

With 20 minute to the gun, I left the car to warm up and use the bathroom. I left my top layer long-sleeved shirt on, thinking I could stuff it somewhere before the race began. Unfortunately, the bathroom lines were crazy long. I got in one but I was seriously worried I would not make it to the start. Sure enough, as I finally got to a port-a-potty, they were already announcing the national anthem. I zipped in and out of the bathroom, then rushed to the start, stripping my shirt and shoving it under the city's Christmas tree display as I ran, and squeezed into the crowd. It was a rough way to start: I was far, far back from the front, behind people walking the 5k and families with strollers. So far, in fact, that we were still walking after we passed the start.
Miles 1-3: Oh, man. It was SO crowded at the start. I spent all of mile one dodging and weaving, working way more than I wanted to. My Garmin was way off already by the first mile marker, so I missed it beep the mile, but I glanced at average pace several times and I saw a 7:20 every time. So I thought mile 1 was 7:20ish. It was NOT. I found out later that it was 7:06, which partly explains why I felt like I was working (I assumed it was the dodging and weaving). During mile 2, we split off from the 5k, and I fell into a bit of a groove. Again, I saw 7:20s for my average pace, and was thinking about the stress of trying to negative split when this pace already felt fairly hard, and I'd have a headwind later. But mile 2 was actually 7:11. Mile three - same story. 7:04. But I thought it was 7:20, all from quick glances to average pace.
In these first few miles, I saw my race-picture buddy. It's this guy who ALWAYS ends up in my race pictures at local races! I introduced myself, and we had a laugh over how easily we recognized each other just from race pics. Unfortunately, no couples picture for us at this race!

Miles 4-6: During the fourth mile, we turned and headed into the wind. I politely asked a guy in front of me if he'd like to trade off drafting. He said, "Sure, can we keep it around 7:09?" and I was like, "But we're nowhere near that now." And that's when I realized that I was looking at the wrong screen on my Garmin. In the rush of the start, I'd scrolled to the wrong screen, and rather than average pace, I was looking at instant pace. Argh! Once I fixed that, I saw that this mile was 7:06. During the next mile, I took over drafting duty, but lost my fellow runner. The wind was getting tough. And then my freaking hip kind of fell out of socket. For real?! I couldn't get it back, and it clicked for the whole rest of the race. 7:10. Mile 6 we were back near the start, ready to begin the portion of the race on the levee, and I knew the wind would be insane! 7:12.

Miles 7-10: This was the prettiest part of the course - the first loop was along an industrial part of the river, but the levee looked over the city. However, it was also quite windy, and I was alone for a lot of it, just plugging head-down into the wind. 7:14, 7:12, 7:12, 7:12 (I was quite consistent there, hm). I took bits of a gel during this section and finished it off in the final miles. I have been having really bad cramps if I run with even a smidgen of food in my stomach, so I ran this on an empty stomach with a few sips of accidental Gatorade and this gel as my only fuel. I wish I could do more, but it's a fine line between fueling and being doubled over in pain.

Miles 11-13.1: Ah! The turn-around! The tailwind! I started doing race-math here, and thought 7:04s would get me a 1:35. I ran 7:02, 7:06, 7:04. During the last miles, reader/former blogger/fellow New Orleanian Allison powered past me, looking incredibly strong! I ran up the hill to the finish, and was a little disappointed to think I ran over 1:35.
Great view of the finish, my really long shadow, the Mississippi, and the Crescent Connection Bridge.

But I didn't. I ran a little over 1:34. I don't know what was wrong with me and my math and my pace and my numbers here today, but it wasn't until I looked at my Garmin later that I saw it was 1:34:03. Huh? I guess my math was still based on my erroneous assumed mile splits for the first 3 miles? No clue. But once I realized that it was actually 1:34, I felt a little better. I actually waited until results were posted to write this report, because I was so sure I'd seen 1:35 on the clock!

After the race, I got to finally meet Allison, and congratulate her on a PR (in that wind, wow), then I did some Myrtles to try to get my hip back. No luck. I did a short cool-down, then we were off to run errands. Luckily, when we got home, I flopped down on the floor and - pop! Hip was back!

Results: 1:34:03 chip, 1:34:27 gun (SO far back).
Goal #1: Got it. I will use a 1:34 half for my paces.
Goal #2: Boo. Hip didn't love it. Hamstring was insanely tight on Sunday. Jury is still out on this; it depends a lot on how recovery goes.
Goal #3: Turns out, got under 1:35. Baby steps. Although I think my effort was equal to September's 1:36:xx because that course was much, much harder.

It was great to get back out there racing, great to finally meet Allison, who's been kicking butt lately!, and great to try out the new course. I definitely have work to do, especially just getting used to racing - I don't know what was going on with me, my Garmin, my inability to calculate paces or read a clock, or any of that nonsense. It's like I forgot how numbers work. I need practice!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Race taper

By dint of a super-busy holiday season, I tapered for tomorrow's half marathon.
Real tights. Real long sleeves. It's winter!
Monday was my off day - that's my normal day off.
Tuesday was track - that's normal, too, and I ran a pretty average distance of about 6 miles.
Wednesday I got up late after late-night partying with the Bible study (haha) plus had early work, so did just 5 miles and no added strength, when I usually do a mid-week "long" run and a short strength session on Wednesday.
Thursday I woke up very late after my work party Wednesday night kept us up to almost midnight. I skipped any exercise altogether.
And now here I am on Friday after a measly five miles, hardly making up for other short days, but since by now it's the day before the race, I can't exactly go run ten miles.

In brighter news, it's finally FINALLY cold here, and I wore tights and long sleeves to run! And to think that Saturday's long run was in nearly 80F weather.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Not so fast

I'm really enjoying getting back to the track with the Harrell Track Club (slogan, "Was that a backfire?")*. But I'm noticing something that I also notice at races now: people expect me to be way faster than I am. Today we were doing some 800's at 2-mile pace, and my friend said, "So that's like 5:55 pace for you?" Er. No. Not ever, actually, but certainly not now! I'm just not so fast now!
Even though I have clearly struggled since being injured and having hip surgeries, my running friends still think I'm my old speed (or faster). It's getting embarrassing to have to keep correcting them!
Another friend thought I would go under 1:30 in Sunday's half, and I had to explain that I was more likely going to struggle to run under 1:40 - to which he replied, "Why? Are you injured?" No, dude, just old and slow!
Today's workout was 4x800 at 2 mile pace with nice, long, 2 minute rests, followed by a 400 jog and straight into 4x800 at 10k pace with 45 seconds rest. I liked the workout - the long rests made the first half easy, and the slower pace made the second half easy!
But I had to be honest to myself and my running partners - I was running 6:15 pace for the 2 mile pace portion and 6:45 pace for the 10k pace portion. And that was probably already stretching it!

Despite the endless explaining and excuses, track is benefitting me. I haven't moved fast in a long time, and just feeling those paces again is pushing me.

*Implication: Or a gunshot? 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Winter races

Winter races are my favorites. With our warm climate, any race that isn't in the dead of winter has a chance at being hot and humid. So if I can race in the winter, I much prefer it. I've been looking over our local winter races, and was sad to see that the New Orleans Track Club eliminated The Wall, the 30k race on the levee that I used to enjoy (and won once!). It was a great race-but-also-long-run opportunity for runners doing an early spring marathon. I was a little disappointed. But the track club was running a cyber Monday deal, so I had to pick another race to take advantage of savings.

I am running a half marathon December 19th, the Ole Man River half. I've run it twice before, but the course is in a new location on the West Bank this year. I do not have a time goal for this race. McMillan tells me that I can run a race virtually identical to the last half I ran in September (which means that my fitness is regressing, since that was a super hilly half and the Turkey Day 5 miler I based the prediction on was flat. That's not cool).
And then I haven't signed up for anything else, but I'm thinking that I will train for the Rock N Roll New Orleans marathon! Can you believe? I might return to the marathon? No promises, though. If anything feels the least bit off, I'm ditching that plan. My priority is to stay healthy.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas gift boxes

This year's Christmas gift boxes feature two kinds of fruitcake (my usual brandy-orange and a second whiskey-pecan), gingerbread, coffee and chicory blend, and espresso caramel corn. Off they go to all those hard-to-shop-for family members!

My godchildren are getting boxes of food, but also cute matching outfits: dresses for the girls;

a newsboy cap for the guy.

I bought the dress pattern online. It was my first online pattern purchase, and while I like the finished product (it's simple - front pleat, zip back, puffed sleeves, bow at the neck), taping the pattern together before cutting the fabric was tiresome. The dresses are cozy flannel with bright red trim, and I used the same red fabric as the lining for the cap.
Cute, but I kind of need a break from sewing now. Three dresses and a hat in two weekends is too much!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tuesday non-track

Monday night, our track club "coach" was babysitting and didn't send out any workout. That left us on our own Tuesday morning. Melissa texted to see if I'd like to meet at the park for pick-ups instead, so no track this Tuesday.
I ran to our meeting spot, and we did a workout of two sets of 5x2 min hard, 1 min easy. We had a 10 minute jog between sets.
The park in the early morning was beautiful. We watched a rainbow of colors come up with the sun, muted by fog rolling over the water. Since it's December, myriad migrating birds flew overhead or crowded around the track. It was really lovely. I'm usually in the park about an hour later in the day, so I don't often see the morning mist or the sunrise.
This workout doesn't have really fast running or really slow recoveries, which can be challenging if you're out of shape like me. But I managed to hang with Melissa for the first four reps, and finished about 5 seconds back for the last rep of each set. That's not bad. I do think I'm seeing a little improvement.
Once our last rep was done, we went our separate ways and both did our cool-downs on the run home (we live in opposite directions, but about the same distance from Audubon Park). I finished with 8.2 miles in average 7:31 pace, but didn't record laps or anything on my Garmin. I let Melissa do the timing. I know that's not fair, but she's so much faster/fitter than me now that the only way I can sort of keep up is to pile all that kind of work on her!
This picture looked less like I have a left prosthetic when I took it, I swear.
I'm back to wearing my Mizuno Mushas (discontinued, but great shoes) for track. I also wore them this for this park workout, because I set my clothes out the night before and didn't know that we were running in the park until I got a text from Melissa in the morning. I didn't want to go back into the bedroom for other shoes and risk waking David, so I wore flats in the park. Hopefully my hip won't fall off later after that stunt. Otherwise, I feel pretty good; just still feeling tight hamstrings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Discharged from PT

This week I completed my last session of PT and I'm released!
My PT's parting advice:
- Keep up the glute work. Give your body another muscle to use.
- Don't strengthen hamstrings. They're already strong, even too strong, to the neglect of other muscles.
- Start stretching more!
Let's see if I can follow orders this time and actually run healthy for a change. Right now, I feel decent, but as usual, there are a few things bugging me:
1. Right hip still falls out of socket. That's annoying. Doesn't hurt to run, but I do leg raises without pain. That hasn't changed since the surgery (coming up on the one year anniversary of that surgery soon!).
2. Left hamstring is still tighter than the right.
3. After long runs, my calves are tight and sore. But not in my old Kinvara I's - the new Kinvara VI's do it, though. Darn it.

If I can keep all those things in check, I have a shot at some healthy running and maybe racing coming up!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas card 2015

Last year I painted a Christmas scene and sent it off to Walgreens to create a photo Christmas card. It came out so well that I repeated that this year.
For 2015, we have a little cajun Santa in a pirogue!
Watercolor on card stock. Too cheap for watercolor paper. 

I actually love how it came out: the card design matches the painting so well. Having Walgreens print the cards not only convenient, but super cheap: there is always some amazing coupon code in addition to my employee discount. This year I got 60 cards for $20, which is ridiculous.
Cypress swamp and silly script - it somehow goes together. 
Our tree is a little unimaginative this year (I change my tree each year), but that's because I had a last minute change of design. At zero hour, I had a chance to feature these vintage teal glass globes (made in America from Sears in the 60's!). Our landlords were cleaning up the attic and found six unused boxes, so I went with it this year.

I actually have some wrapping paper in dark teal and gold, so we'll be all matchy.

What's on your tree this year? Do you send Christmas cards?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tuesday track: night and short

Oh, sorry. I meant to type "nice and short", but being as we run at the crack of dawn, I slipped.
This is the actual crack. PS: NOLA, I love you. 
Back to the track at 5:30! This week a larger group showed up, but I still didn't have someone quite my pace. Again, I started with Melissa, who is way faster than me - so I soon dropped back. This is not the most ideal way to run a workout, although I like the incentive of someone running a little faster than me. We ran a weird workout: 6x "broken 800s" - 600 at 5k pace, then 200 easy run, then straight into the next rep. I made my easy runs into a light jog, which made the no-stops workout more manageable for me. Melissa hammered away at 7:30 pace for her 200's, because she's in way better shape.
Oak street without a cab blocking my way: a rare sight

No stops means a fast workout, and I was home in an hour, watching the sun come up over Oak Street.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Hot and sticky

Ooh, cold snap on Wednesday.
Weather this week has been way too warm for November. It's been warm and sunny, yet damp: we wake up to dew and are soon enveloped in humidity.
It would be nice to have a crisp, cool, fall day, but actually, I like running in this weather! It's a little windy, almost like spring storm weather, and the humidity is not as bad as the smothering summer moisture. I like it. I'm used to it. I run well in humidity!

No one else agrees. I ran into several friends during my (pointless...what am I even training for?) Saturday long run, and every last one greeted me with some form of weather complaint!

Meanwhile, in foolhardy news, I somehow ran 50 miles last week. NOT my intent. I really should start looking at those numbers throughout the week (that's what Daily Mile is for, after all!). But somehow, skipping a day off and lengthening my long run led to 50. That's bad, not because it's too many miles (although it's a lot for me - I'm more a 40 to 45 mpw runner), but because that week I also:
1. Went back to the track for the first time since early spring 2014
2. Ran a race.

So I will take this upcoming week a little easier.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


David and I have been so rushed and busy lately, that we decided to plan a staycation for a weekend before the holiday mayhem started (we also held our party pre-holiday, so we can relax and enjoy the season. In addition, I decided not to have Christmas surgery this year, so that should free our calendar up a little, har har).
David surprised me with a weekend downtown at the Windsor Court. They were offered a "rest and relaxation package" including a nice suite, spa credit, breakfast, and champagne.
We started the weekend with a Pelicans game. David former boss has a suite, and he invited us - which is obviously the best way to watch the game. It was also nice that they actually won, and against the Spurs, too! None of my teams have been good this year, and this was only their second win of the season, so it was a pleasant surprise. Then we walked about half a mile to our hotel. Saturday we didn't plan a lot: the idea was rest,  after all! Our suite had a lovely dining area overlooking the river, so we had breakfast in our room and read the paper (lots of election coverage: Saturday was the run-off for the governor's race, but we'd planned ahead and voted early to avoid having to head back uptown to vote Saturday). Then I went to the gym to see what cool machines they had (nothing too unusual; I ended up lifting weights) while David swam in the heated outdoor pool. After that, it was spa time. I selfishly declared I was using all the spa credit on myself, and David could just deal, but luckily that was his plan anyway, so I had booked a crazy luxurious HOUR AND 20 MINUTE deep tissue massage.
Best hour and twenty minutes of my life! I could not believe the state my muscles were in. My back was just a network of lumps and knots, but my massage therapist got to them all. One thing she did that was super effective for large, hard knots was to have me lay on my back, and then she'd place her pointed hand under me on the knot. My body weight would drive my back into her hand, breaking up some of the tightest spots. I was also thrilled to have her work on my hamstring, which is still really, really tight and sticky. By the time I got off the table I couldn't really walk normally, I was so loose and limber!
For lunch, we walked to a Vietnamese place we've been wanting to try (Nine Roses), but haven't because it's in the quarter. Then we went to M.S. Rau: it's always practically a museum in there, but this weekend they also had an actual exhibit of Saturday Evening Post covers. It was so neat: they had the covers with commentary, but they also had the original artwork or sketches on display, too. After a short walk through the quarter, we had some afternoon decaf before heading to the Windsor Court's Polo Club Lounge for live music and our complimentary champagne. Then we had late reservations at Peche, a seafood restaurant everyone has been raving about, but that we hadn't tried. I have mixed feelings about the place: the service was great, and the food was prepared excellently, but I would go back with maybe another couple. We wanted to get their specialty, the whole roast fish, but it was far, far too much food for two people. Even with no other food (no sides, no bread, no dessert, no appetizers, no salad) we had too much fish! That meant that, well, we just ate roast fish and nothing else for dinner and were still stuffed. I'd rather share it with more people and also try some vegetables or starches with it to break up the monotony of just fish very Paleo compliant, though).
We wrapped up the night with wine on our balcony, and in the morning headed straight to church (but not before coffee watching the sunrise over the river and a cruise ship come in and dock - great view).
It is a little wasteful to do the whole hotel-in-your-own-town thing, but the understated elegance of the Windsor Court just charms me (it's the little things, like giving you umbrellas to borrow as you walk out if it looks like rain, or the maids leaving cards on your pillow with the next day's weather written on them). Plus, if I try to do a staycation at my own house, I just end up working around the house. The idea this weekend was to relax and really enjoy each other's company - we brought some books, but made a no screens rule - and that's something I need to get away to do correctly. I returned feeling about a decade younger. We needed that break!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Turkey Trot: not as bad as I thought

For 108 years, New Orleanians have been running the 5 mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day - and like always, we joined in.
This race is usually a disaster for me. I either have a terrible race, or I get injured right after running it. Nevertheless, I doggedly persist in forcing this tradition on my long-suffering and darling husband, who really wants nothing more than a late wake-up, a cup of coffee, and a gigantic newspaper on Thanksgiving morning.
I was pleasantly surprised that I actually ended up with an ok race this year! I guess my expectations are now so low that almost anything pleases me.
We had neglected to pick up our packets early, so we showed up around 7:30 to find parking and pick up our shirts. That was pretty easy, but after running back to the car to drop our T-shirts off, we didn't have a lot of time for a bathroom run and a warm-up. I ended up getting in a mile easy warm up, but had no time for strides. I didn't feel like I needed a longer warm-up, because it was actually rather warm, although the skies were gray. It was blustery and humid, like a storm was coming, but it never did. It stayed warm, windy, and humid all day (the high was in the upper 70's. Boo. I want fall weather!).
I predicted my pace based on Tuesday's track workout. Assuming that I actually did run my reps at 5k pace, as I was supposed to, I used McMillan to predict a 5 mile time based on my slowest and fastest reps. I figured my slowest rep was the best indicator, and guessed I'd run about 7:05's. Maybe. If I could. I am feeling quite sluggish lately.
So, first mile was crowded like always, and I had trouble pacing (out of practice). Around a half mile in I realized that I was going too fast and slowed down to goal pace. But after that, the miles felt decently race-pace-ish at around 6:55. I wasn't working too hard, and I was staying pretty consistent, even with the variable wind (at times we had a nice tailwind; others, a rough headwind). During the last mile, I was smugly congratulating myself that I felt comfortable and was clearly speeding up since I was passing people - except my Garmin begs to differ; I slowed down. People around me must have just slowed, too. I ended up finishing  the five-mile race in 34:40. It's off previous years, but by now I know that's just not my speed anymore. I was happy with my results.It was almost exactly what my fastest rep from Tuesday's track workout predicted.
My only concerns with my performance were:
1. I can feel my short, slow stride and I don't like it. I hope track helps with this. My limited hip extension has been plaguing me since surgery.
2. Slow last mile and no kick - that's bad. I have to work on that.
3. I had that finish-line nausea that I dislike so much in this race. Racing more helps with this.

For once, I'm feeling rather confident about my running. I have room to improve, but I feel okay, and I am ready to work for some improvements. Now I need to schedule some races in.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New track club

This week, my friend Melissa (of Hood to Coast team fame - she set the whole thing up) told me that she and a small group had been meeting at Harrell track once a week in the mornings. She asked if I'd like to join them. I hesitated, because I'm woefully slow right now, and nowhere is that emphasized more than at the track! Plus, they meet at the ungodly hour of 5:30, and I don't even wake up until 6.
But I'd recently complained that part of my lack of motivation was no one to train for. So before I knew it, I was signed up for the Harrell track club.
Harrell Park - photo from the incomparable NOLA defender blog

I like Harrell track: it's a community track near my house, but it's in a sketchy neighborhood (Leonidas, for any local readers!). But, it's fenced in, it has a parking lot, and it is totally empty in the mornings.
I set my alarm for 5:00 and fell all over myself getting ready in time for 5:30 track. I got there in time, still swallowing the last of my coffee, and met up with four women and a man (only one of whom I knew). We did a 2-mile warm-up, then got down to the workout: five x 1000m with 1 minute rest. I automatically didn't like the workout. I do not approve of distances further than 800m with only 1 minute rest, let me tell you. I like my rest. I stagger around and spit and drink water for a good 40 seconds, so I need at least 1:30 to be ready to go again. Oh, and since this workout was written by Andrew, who used to coach our old track club (and is married to Melissa), the 1000m were at 5k pace. He likes to do workouts that turn out to be a race distance at race pace, just broken up: 2x800 at mile pace; 5x1k at 5k pace.
I tried to start with Melissa and another girl, but immediately I knew that was too, too fast. I dropped back. I have no idea what my 5k pace is right now, but I know it's not 6:20 (I wish). I ended up being a bit behind them for the majority of the workout, but it was still nice to have company somewhere on the track. I ended up running somewhere around 6:40 pace for the last four reps.

And I survived. I felt ok, my hamstring was tight but stretchable, my coffee stayed put (it was threatening for a few minutes there), and I forgot I'd ever had hip surgeries. And then I was home with 6+ miles done by 6:45 am, giving me plenty of time to do my PT and work on my oft-neglected core. I might just stick around and become a new member of the Harrell track club.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Time to get off my butt

Running update: I've been getting dry needling on my hamstring, which is really just social hour with the physical therapists since a. I have apparently lost the ability to feel the needles, and b. I met my max on my insurance, so there I am, just being a glut in the healthcare society. I've been running throughout this, except when I stopped when my knee hurt a little (it was a little distal hamstring tendinopathy. The funny thing is, that was my misdiagnosis way back when I had a femoral stress fracture, and now I can't believe I could confuse the two. Totally different!).

My PT and my doctor are not very worried about my hamstring, and it feels pretty good. I'm at a long run of 13 miles and four or five days a week running. I am doing some PT, but not many exercises. Usually hamstring strains require mild stretching and a lot of strengthening, but I already have strong hamstrings. I think the strain was just from handling hills poorly in my race. My PT tested my hamstring to quadricep ratio, and my hamstrings are actually strong for a runner, at about 80% of my quad strength (anecdotally, he sees about 50% on average in distance runners).

Basically, my hamstring will be just fine, but it was a nice excuse while it lasted, ok? I definitely think that if I'd been running faster, I would not have really taken a break. I just get bored with my slow self. Now It's time to get off my butt. I'll be slowly racing the Turkey Day five miler as a rude reawakening.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wine Tasting Wars

David and I finally held a party we've been planning on for a while: Wine tasting wars!
It goes like this: Each guest brings two bottles of their favorite cheap red wine. One is for the tasting; the other is put in the prize kitty.
The host masks each bottle of wine, and as people mingle and taste, they rank the wines from one to five stars on ballots. At the end of the night, ballots are turned in, and the winning wine takes home the prize - all the extra bottles of wine!
We'd been to a party like this, and it was so fun: it's never awkward, because everyone has something to talk about, and the competition adds excitement. In our version, we had ballots labeled from A to Z and we marked each wine with a letter of the alphabet (we had so many people over that we actually completed the entire alphabet - 26 wines to taste!).
I checked guests in on a spreadsheet, and David and I covered the bottles with paper bags to hide the label. We used a thick Sharpie to mark the letter on the bag. Meanwhile, guests were sipping and mingling and eating (I did some trays with meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, chocolate, and nuts, and throughout the night I served flatbreads that I cooked at intervals so they wouldn't get cold: goat cheese and caramelized onion, ricotta/Mozzarella with spinach, fresh basil and tomato, and ham, apple, sharp cheddar, and mustard greens).
Announcing the winners: my only picture from the night (and somehow
we managed to make it look like there weren't 50 people in my house,
which there were! It was a tad crowded! 

As people began to fill up their ballots, David and I entered their ratings, working on two computers on a shared Google doc. Soon, we had a winner! The excitement was palpable! People were getting REALLY into the rankings! I announced the winners, and first, second, and third took home a bunch of wine (first got 12 bottles: that's quite the prize, right?!).
Want to know the winners?
First place: Nineteen Crimes, a red blend
Second place: Dark Horse Big Red blend
Third place: Fourteen hands, also a red blend.
Apparently red blends win the popular vote!
We had a great time and a bunch of people went home with new favorites or wines to try. And everyone is already asking for a repeat next year. I'd love to do one, but I will need to enlist help: I woke up the next day with my wrist swollen from opening wine bottles!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Long sleeves!

Not quite. I was way too hot. But hey, weather in the low 60's with humidity FINALLY below 60% feels like winter to me! Time to break out the sleeves!
Those are my Wal-mart shorts.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

MD and PT

This week I saw my MD and my PT. I went to check in about my tight left hamstring and my loose right hip!
The doctor confirmed that my hip is just my hip - that's how it's going to be post-surgery. He encouraged me to keep up with my hip exercises, which I do religiously.
As for my hamstring, it seemed a little tight to him, but he wasn't worried about it. He recommended reducing distance and speed and getting some dry needling. The tightness is mostly in the belly of the muscle, but some distal tightness, too, right at the junction of the tendon and muscle.
The next day I saw my PT - new one, who works with this doctor - for some dry needling. Same story from him: it didn't seem that bad (but this is hard for me to explain sometimes: I'm really flexible on my left side, usually, so being able to stretch a little beyond 90 degrees with my hamstring doesn't mean I'm "normal" - that's not normal for me. I usually can stretch much further).

The dry needling didn't seem to make a huge impact this time, but I go for two more sessions, and in the meantime I'm not running much as my PT said to take two days off after each session. I guess time will tell.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fruit of the Loom cotton jog bra review

For years, I've run in cotton Fruit of the Loom jog bras that came in a pack of 3 for $10. They pulled over the head and had a regular back instead of a racerback. I loved them, but sadly, they stopped making a size 32. The smallest size is now 34, and it's too loose to do the trick.
Luckily, I found a pretty good substitute in another Fruit of the Loom bra. It also starts at size 34, but it doesn't run as large as the other style, so a 34 fits me.
This bra is kind of awesome. It's 95% cotton and 5% spadex, which makes it cool and breathable but with enough stretch. It has this weird front closure going on, but I just ignore that and pull it over my head.

The front is lined and shirred for modesty, and the 34 fits like a typical small. The back is a racerback, with a vent to keep you cool. The bra comes down a little lower onto the abdomen than most, which makes me even more comfortable wearing it shirtless in the summer (I tend to be more modest, but all that goes out the window when it's 99F out).
I'm a big fan of cotton jog bras because I think they keep you a lot cooler than synthetic materials, and you don't have to worry about sweat-soaked clinging because they're already tight. But sometimes, cotton isn't study enough for a jog bra to do its job. These really do, though, and they're a great deal at 2 for $11.
Huge drawback: the bottom of the front closure chafes. I MUST use Body Glide in that spot - but that's not a big deal for me, since I always lube up at my bra band (it's a high-chafe area for me).
This has now moved up to my #2 bra. My number one is still my Coeur Sports bra, which has good coverage and two pockets, but for everyday wear, this cotton bra suits my needs just fine. And at that price, I didn't care that one of the two-pack had an unraveled seam that I had to stitch up. It was still a good deal!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Saturday's race

I decided not to run Saturday. I actually took all week off running for several reasons:
1. Why bother if no race?
2. Hamstring still tight, no clue why, time to see MD.
3. I'm not really into running right now. I am into these ballet workouts that make my legs feel like jelly.

I'm going back to Dr. McNulty today, and I'll ask him his opinion on my hamstring (and my MCL, which is 100% better, but I want to know if he thinks I'm putting strain on it because of too-tight hamstrings).
And then, depending on what he says, I'll decide if I'm on a long running (and therefore blogging!) break, or if I'm going to get back into to it. I don't know where my motivation has gone, but I think it's a combination of both being slower and not running with any groups anymore. Track with a group was very motivational, and I miss that. There's no one to push me now...and no one to hold me back from silly speed or mileage decisions.

I'm still into running enough that I rushed home from church to catch the end of the men's race at the NYC marathon, though! I love watching finish lines!
Anyone else watch? I missed most of the broadcast, but I saw the starts for the women and the men and the men's finish.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

I have to explain

I hate costumes that require explaining.

If you're from NOLA, you get it: but if you aren't, you probably just think we're wearing bad puns.
Actually, we're dressed as skeletons from the skeleton house on St. Charles, where we took pre-party pictures!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Don't burn your bridges

This week I joined a few managers to conduct interviews at a pharmacy school career fair. It was a packed couple of days full of anxious students in their newly-purchased suits, hands shaking as they thrust their $1-per-sheet vellum in front of me. Of course, you meet all kinds of students: the highly involved, hardworking student with stellar grades; the student who volunteers for multiple charities every month; the student who is a published co-author of several papers; the student who never worked in a pharmacy; the student who has never worked at all, anywhere; the sociable student who is a member of every organization but is clinging to a low B average; the student who wore jeans and a sweatshirt - all types.

A few months ago I had a student at my site named Tiffany (not her real name). I am a preceptor, and take one or two students a month from our local pharmacy school. Upon entering the first morning, Tiffany announced, "I just want you to know that I really hate Walgreens. I think the system is stupid and like, everything is dumb. I begged and begged to get out of this rotation, but they wouldn't switch me, so - here I am!" (Dramatic giant shrug). This bitter attitude continued throughout the rotation, which made it hard to teach this otherwise bright girl. She constantly put Walgreens down, and did the bare minimum to pass the rotation. On her last day, she turned in a short assignment that was printed straight offline - no citation, no original work: in other words, plagiarism. Normally I would fail the rotation for that, but I'd submitted her grade that very morning! So instead she got a very stern reprimand, which she responded with the least penitence and grace possible.

So there I sat yesterday, whipping through an interview every 30 minutes, as our interview coordinator brought each student in and - who should be led up to my table? Yeah. Tiffany. She saw me and her face just FELL. Of course I conducted the interview with total tact and professionalism, but the conclusion was foregone. I was co-interviewing with another manager at that point, and he sensed my change in approach: I went from vocal and conversational, guiding responses, to flat reading the suggested interview questions (normally I just use those as a very loose guide). The interview was wrapping up in only a few minutes. "Is there anything else you want to ask?" he questioned me in surprise. "Oh, no," I said. "I think I know everything I need to know."

Moral of the story: Don't burn your bridges. Pharmacy is a small world.

Monday, October 26, 2015

I didn't go to the doctor

Last Saturday I was doing jump squats when my yoga mat slipped beneath me. I wrenched my knee a little bit, and by that evening, the inside back of my knee was pretty sore. I tried running on Sunday, and threw in the towel early - something was wrong. I consulted my handy dandy Jordan Metzl book, The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies, and determined that I had an MCL strain. The book also said that I should see a doctor, because any knee injury should have a doctor's attention. I decided to do as I was told, so I made an appointment to see my sports medicine doctor (the one who took over for my surgeon after he moved) on Wednesday.
I held off running at the moment, because it was bothering my knee, and because I had a sneaking suspicion that the only reason I strained the ligament was because my hamstring on that side was still tight and bothersome. By Monday I was much better, and by Wednesday really quite fine, but why skip the appointment? At least I could discuss the fact that my right leg keeps falling out of socket (seriously. How annoying).
Turns out that one of my bosses was in town last minute and wanted to see me. He emailed about this on Tuesday - so unfortunately I had to explain that I wouldn't be at work that afternoon. My appointment was at 2, and he was going to be available at 2! So I canceled plans with him, got up and went in to work early to make up for leaving early, left at 1:30, drove to my appointment, checked in, and...Sat there. For an hour. After waiting an entire hour, I asked the receptionist for a time estimation. She told me they were waiting on a room. Then the assistant (an exercise physiology student) came out and brought me back "for x-rays". Now this irritates the heck out of me about Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine. Without ever seeing a doctor or other qualified health professional, and without anyone reviewing your chart, you are always immediately x-rayed. It's basically insurance fraud. I declined x-rays (duh, they would be useless in this complaint) and now had to wait in the imaging waiting area.
At 3:10, I got up and went to reception and asked to see the clinic manager. Well, the manager that day was actually in administration at the hospital, spending time at the sports medicine clinic that day because they were short staffed. So that was awkward, because I work with her downtown at the hospital. She explained that they'd overbooked the doctor and were running 1:30 behind. Seriously?! So call and tell me! Tell me and I will reschedule, cancel, see another doctor, come in later...anything. But to make me wait over an hour without a single word of update or explanation is unfair. I rearranged my whole schedule for nothing, because I left. I told her that I simply did not want to be treated like that as a patient, and I would transfer care elsewhere (now that my doctor is no longer there, I have no reason to go there  - it's not even convenient to my work since it's not at the hospital where I work, but offsite).
Since my knee doesn't hurt now - oh well. No big deal. But I am irritated at the waste of time. And I have to admit - I won't be recommending this clinic to my patients. I've had multiple bad experiences there: the wait is always very long, and this is the second time I left without being seen after over an hour. Twice I've scheduled an appointment that wasn't entered into the system, meaning that I left work and drove all the way over for nothing. So I'm over it. I'm switching care back to the doctor I saw before, even though YES he did misdiagnose my labral injuries for a good while. Hopefully I won't need to see him for a long time anyway!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Probably not.

Last week I hurt my MCL doing jump squats (I think Dr. Jordan Metzl's Iron Strength workouts are great in concept, and I'm really intrigued by the number of people who say that following his strength plan kept them injury-free, yet every time I start following the workouts, I get hurt!). So I'm probably not going to race next week. It's ok to run on after several days of ice alternating with heat, but I think the fact that it's my left leg points to an underlying issue - my tight hamstring. I probably wouldn't have hurt the ligament if my muscles were limber. That, or my squat form just sucks!

I did an abbreviated long run today - 10 miles - and taped the ligament before the run. It was miserably hot and humid today, and I sweated the tape loose in less than a mile, but once I warmed up it felt ok. Not 100%, but it wasn't really bothering me. Still, my gut says don't race. I have until the 27th to make a final decision.

Lately, I've been adding hills into my long runs. Since all of NOLA is totally flat, if we are ever in Bay St. Louis for the weekend (where we often meet friends), I run the Bay Bridge to get some elevation in. And when I'm home, I have been jogging the levee. My normal ten-mile route takes me over four hills: I get on the levee (hill 1), then I run downhill when the levee path dips down to ground level in front of the Army Corps of Engineers building (hill 2), then I go uphill when the path climbs back up to the top of the levee as I enter the Fly (hill 3), then finally downhill to exit the Fly and head to Audubon Park (hill 4). At each hill, I do five repeats - easy up, easy down. The Bar Harbor Half showed me how weak I am at climbing hills, and my hamstring strain was due to pulling with my left leg. So I'm keeping the reps very easy to prevent hurting my clearly weak hamstrings.

Other things I've been doing lately:
- Decreasing water breaks. Now that it's not deathly hot, I do one or two breaks. Today I drank water twice, even though I ran only ten miles, because it was mid-80's and humid (C'mon, fall, get it together!). I stop my Garmin for water breaks, because I usually have to wait for another runner or a biker, and I don't want too many breaks because then your pace is so off reality!
- No music. I stopped listening to music while I run a while ago, but kept it for long runs. But ever since my surgeries I only rarely listen to music. I have no real reason why! Just fell out of the habit!
- Fast finish. I've been trying to either fast finish (according to my training plan) or at least negative split long runs. This has not been hard to do, because for some reason my first mile has been super slow. Like, at least a minute slower than overall pace. I'm old and it takes me some time to warm up.
- Wearing those stupid Kinvara 6's. I guess I just have to deal with the smaller toe box. I was wearing Saucony Cortana's on my long runs over the summer, but I no longer like that shoe. It feels too heavy and too squishy and unstable.

How are your long runs lately?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wal-mart running shorts review

Since I have this secret addiction to Walmart brand coffee, I occasionally have the need for a few dollars' worth of merchandise to get me to the $50 required for free shipping (or I could go into the store, but NO. NEVER.).
This time, I threw in a pair of running shorts, on sale for $3. They are the Danskin Now Woman's Woven Running Short with Built In Liner. 

This is the color I got. 
I thought these would be awful shorts, because the material felt thick and unbreathable to me. But actually, they aren't the worst in the world. They have a mesh side panel, so they don't feel too hot, and the wide waist band stays in place. They have an itty bitty pathetic key pocket. 
But they're pretty nice for a cheap pair of shorts, and they aren't too balloon-y or too tight. 
My biggest complaint is that they're, obviously, cheaply made. They second time I wore them the key flew out as I was running, and I realized that there was a HOLE in the key pocket. It wore through with just one use. I can sew, so I firmly reinforced it, but that's really annoying and almost not even worth the time.
Other than that, they haven't fallen apart yet, so I would recommend them. As you can see, I set the bar very high on quality so you can totes trust me. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Work: it needs to go away

I'm kind of over my entire job. My new manager (post Spring restructuring) is a sweet and rather clueless man. For example, I needed #64 tablets of a backordered drug to complete a patient's prescription. He already had enough for 3 weeks, so no rush. I sent an email out asking if I could borrow 64 tablets, and no hurry because the patient had plenty. Then I closed my store for the weekend. Meanwhile, the emails were flying fast and furious, with my manager sending emails that there was an emergency shortage, and could we help Grace out, patient's life on the line, etc. I came back to work on Monday to over 1,000 pills transferred to my store (I will NEVER use that many tablets - this is the only prescription I've ever gotten for this drug).
Huge waste of time sorting back through all the emails and begging people to take their drugs back.

Then, we've been having conference calls in which twice we've been encouraged to do something that is no longer condoned by the company. It's a sticky little legal matter, and something our company used to espouse, but the fact is that two years ago our stance on the matter changed and the company issued a very clear policy on the subject. After the first conference call, I politely forwarded the policy to my manager with a reminder that this policy had changed, and a recommendation for a legal-approved way to handle it. He ignored it, and we were told to do the same exact incorrect procedure the next week.
I emailed him again, once again pointing to the P&P. He replied, "Well. I'll have to ask legal to clarify that."
THERE IS NOTHING TO CLARIFY. The policy is a clear as glass. It could not be more forthright. One more push to do something that is against company policy and considered, by our lawyers at least, to be illegal and I'm done being cute. I'm calling the ethics department. This is absurd.

Then, all my patients are crazy, and that's just getting exhausting.
We have this guy who has rapidly progressed in his hypochondria, and now he's veering toward paranoia as well. Today he drove to the hospital, went to his routine appointment, and came to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. While there he told me he had a question to ask me, and proceeded to tell me that he was pretty sure someone was putting poison in his house that was making his mouth taste funny. I asked if he'd had repairs done, or his house cleaned, or yardwork done. "Oh, no," he whispered. "It's people intentionally spreading poison. I know, because this guy was in my yard in a mask with a spray can. And I jumped out with a knife and told him to get out of my yard or I'd call the police. AND HE RAN. Would he run if he wasn't guilty?" Um, perhaps it was the knife that made him run?
So anyway, his question. He wanted to know if he should go to the emergency room after this incident. Yep, after coolly driving himself to the doctor, seeing his doctor, seeing me, and having no symptoms whatsoever, he wants to go to the ER because someone was spraying RoundUp in his yard. Seriously. No wonder our healthcare system is floundering.

And then there was the tantrum over our registers. We recently switched over to using a chip card reader, and a woman refused to use it because she was sure it was the mark of the beast referred to in Revelations. She would not insert her card. So I had to manually key the numbers in and call her credit card company for authorization. Next time you wonder why your prescription is taking so long, blame the antichrist.

Over it. Time to retire.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

To race or not to race?

The half-marathon I've been training for is coming up in two weeks. I still haven't registered for it, despite the whopping price increases, because I try not to register early given my recent injury history. In the end, late registration averages out to less money than skipping races or dropping to shorter distances!
Now I'm wondering if I should go through with the race. I don't feel like I'm any faster than I was a month ago at the half in Bar Harbor!
I missed several days when I first strained my hamstring, then the following week I mostly slowed my pace and shortened distances. Those were two key weeks of important workouts missed or edited. I really only got back on the training plan this past week; even then, I'm a little hindered by my hamstring, which is still healing. As long as it feels pulled, I am running with a shorter (slower) stride. As a result, I feel like I'm almost exactly in the same place as I was for the last race, which ended with a disappointing 1:37.
So I'm wondering if the race is worth it, or if I should count this training plan toward base building, and refocus on some upcoming shorter distance races in our area. The local race calendar features the Crescent City Fall Classic and the Middendorf's Manchac Race; since Middendorf's now offers a 10k in addition to a 10 miler, both the Fall Classic or Middendorf's could be used as qualifiers for next year's Crescent City Classic. I want to run a qualifier, but I'm faced with a debate: the 5k, which distance I dislike? Or the 10k? I enjoy the distance, but I love the 10 mile option, too, and I'd hate to miss it!
If I run the half marathon anyway (which I'm still leaning towards at the moment), I'll have no time at all to train for a 5k or 10k, and the 5k is just the next week, so a fast race probably won't happen. Lots of factors to consider for this decision.

Thoughts? Should I stick to the plan and do the Jazz half, or move on to other races?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Questioning Hal

Far be it from me to pretend I know more than the revered Hal Higdon.
Yet there are some parts of this half-marathon plan I'm using that I just don't understand.
For example:
- Every single week, from week one on up, there is a day with 3 to 5 miles at goal half-marathon pace, either stand alone or at the end of a long run. Yet speed work on week 8 and week 10 includes 3x1600 and 4x1600 at race pace. Makes no sense to me at all. I can see 3 or 4x1600 at race pace the final week (week 12) as a way to get a feel for the pace, but otherwise? That's not very impressive speed work when the very same week you have to run 5 miles straight at that pace.
- Every single week includes two easy 3 mile runs. I don't know what these are supposed to do. I don't understand their function. I wouldn't even be running 3 miles easy if I was training for a mile race.
- Most of the speed work seems too short to me: 6x400, 5x800, etc.
- The overall mileage, as the plan is written, is in the low to mid 30's. If I were faster, I could get more miles in the timed long runs (they are either 1:30, 1:45 or 2:00 long), but even then, it's not a lot of miles. I really wonder if this is enough miles...but not as much as I wonder why I have all these easy 3 milers.

Of course, I modified the plan. I would much rather run an easy five to seven miles than an easy three. So some of those I've lengthened. That bumps my weekly mileage up, too, although I still think I won't get over 40 for the duration of the plan. Or maybe once or twice.
Other than the occasional increase on easy runs, I've stuck to the plan, since I do still think Hal Higdon must know more than I do! My half marathon is on Halloween weekend, so I will know soon enough if it worked. So far I'm not feeling especially strong or fast, but part of that could be because I reduced intensity / miles slightly due to my hamstring strain (poor timing). It is still bothering me a little, but it gets a smidge better each day.

Besides those tiny modifications, I've been pretty good about following directions. I'm going to stick to the plan for the duration, and we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Saints game at the Bay

We did it! We finally realized a dream and watched a Saints game while kicked back at The Blind Tiger in Bay St. Louis. It was our good friend's idea - the breeze blowing through the windows right on the beach while the Saints defense proudly stood their ground, the offensive line let Drew Brees do his thing, and the offense played penalty-less, clean, concise ball.

Er. As you know, none of all that happened. But we did have drinks by the water with friends, and the setting was really perfect. The bar is all open-air and right on the bay beach, and the weather was sunny and low 80's - ideal. If only the Saints had won...or, like we said in the old days, just lost with dignity. I think it's time for the Ain'ts again.

We had our godchildren for the weekend at the Bay with us, and had a lovely time, although no pics for you since I haven't asked mom's permission yet. But we flew kites, made personal pizzas, read lots of books, and painted pumpkins. A nice break from work!

Oh, and I took advantage of the Bay Bridge for a hilly 12 miler. Got to get "hills" where you can.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reality check

The Bar Harbor half marathon was a running reality check for me. It brought home a few factors that I ought to be aware of:

- I am old(er) than when I was a little faster.
- I no longer have a good, strong distance base. I ran distance consistently for several years before ever running a half marathon under 1:40 the first time. Right now, a half marathon is the farthest I've run in almost two years.
- I, um, have gained weight. This is a tricky issue to talk about, because I'm still a healthy weight, I was just faster when I was lighter. After my first surgery, I gained ten pounds. When I was able to exercise again, I lost five. The other five stayed. I repeated that performance after the second surgery, and now I'm dragging an extra ten pounds around the race course. It's not easy.
- I have a changed stride. One frustration from the surgeries is that my extension is shortened.
- I have been running my workouts too fast. I was basing my workouts off about a 1:34 half marathon, which is what I guessed (loftily hoped?) I was capable of, but I'm nowhere close. Time to slow it down a little!

Now I need to figure out how to get some speed and endurance back. I think I need:
- Slower workouts
- Probably fewer hard runs. I don't do well with lots of tough runs.
- I should probably try to lose these extra pounds - ugh, boo. I love my food.
- More distance

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bar Harbor Half Marathon race review

Race website:

Pre-race info, registration, and logistics:
You can register online up until Tuesday of the race week. Website is unclear and hard to read; information was hard to find. There is no race day registration. Packet pick up was the night before (where? Who knows? It wasn't listed. The website just said, "packet pickup on Friday at x:xx". I finally found it under the FAQ's); however, you could request race morning pick-up, which I did. Cost at any time was $100 for the half, which is...steep. Just like the hills. But it supports the YMCA, so I guess that's ok. Speaking of the YMCA, if you bring your own soap and towel, you can shower at the Y after the race, which is exactly what I did since we continued on from the race straight to the airport to fly home.

Lodging and transportation:
This is a race far away in the corner of the world on an island, so I assume you'd only run it if you were staying on Mount Desert Island! No roads are closed, so you can get to the race easily. 
That is hideous.

Swag: The worst race shirt I have ever received in my life and a bottle of vinegar from a local store, plus lots of coupons and fliers. The shirt is advertised as "long sleeved tech T" and instead it is a terrible shapeless short sleeved nightmare with a neckline so tight that I can't actually get it over my head. The medal is unique and lovely, one of my favorites, and I will certainly be turning this into a Christmas tree ornament.
Non-metal medal in the shape of Mt. Desert Island

The course is a "challenging" (as the website describes it) loop course comprising streets of Bar Harbor and 9 miles of carriage roads in Acadia National Park. I found the course to be quite hilly, but take it with a grain of salt, since I run only flats usually. But for comparison, the week before I ran my regular long run of 12.5 miles at the same pace as the race! The park is incredibly beautiful, especially as you circle Eagle Lake, but it is lots of ups and downs and it's on gravel paths. They are generally fine for running, but you have to run where the path is more packed down - the gravel is looser and deeper on the sides, and it's a waste of energy to try to run through it. 
Entering the gravel carriage roads (and grabbing water)

Not much is actually on the roads, and Bar Harbor at this time of year doesn't have crazy traffic, but I still didn't love that the roads were not closed. The race course wasn't even coned off or anything. It was just me and the highway traffic. 
Plus side to the hilly course: it ends with a steeply downhill mile. Odd part of the course: you head into a playing field to finish and have to make a sharp left turn at like, 13.05. Weird and poorly planned IMO.
Interestingly, Joan Benoit Samuelson holds the women's course record in 1:17:06!

Aid stations:
There are six; two have Gatorade in addition to water. 

 Gun-timed. First three overall and first three in age groups. The director was nice enough to let me get my AG award early, and allow me to swap a restaurant gift certificate (we were leaving ASAP) for a box of locally-made blueberry tea. Plus the ubiquitous Road ID coupon, which I sold on Ebay.

- The race is capped at 400 runners, and I think we got close to that number, so sign up early. 
- Remember the gravel when choosing shoes (I was fine in Kinvaras, but for you racing flat types, that might hurt).
- There are few, if any, spectators, so if spectators are your thing, I wouldn't do this race. 
- There are no cars on the carriage roads, but there are bicyclists and regular runners and walkers to watch out for.