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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Another last minute race? Sort of.

I signed up for this on June 22nd, so it's not really last minute - not as much as my other races have been lately. It's Four on the Fourth, that fun 4th of July race in Covington that is followed by a bikini beer mile (I will not be participating)!
I love this funky race - the director is goofy, the prizes are silly (last time I raced it I won a shark-shaped bottle opener...ok...), and fourth-place finishers get the biggest prize. This year, me and my slow times might just win fourth. I was third last time - I'm only concerned that I will be too slow to make fourth!
Is any one else racing July 4th? And if so, what are you wearing?
Not the exact shirt, but similar

Coeur Sports sent me an awesome red and blue ensemble I plan to wear - with my flag crop top. I actually bought this top specifically to wear to the race! Got to be festive!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ten-day training cycle

As I ease back into running, I'm considering moving to a 10-day training cycle temporarily. I've always used 7 days, and it usually has a few key features:
- a long run, always on Saturday.
- an easy easy run, a slow jog on soft surfaces, on Sunday.
- speed work. At least I USED to do this, Mondays at group track (canceled; everyone joined another Tuesday group but it's a farther track and a bad day for me).
- off day or cross-train day

The other days were just moderate running (although at times I was really consistent about a mid-week ten miler at a not-slow pace). The problem with this cycle was that I only got in one hard workout. I've tried two, but I could never adequately recover, and would end up hurt. So one speed session per week it was, and that meant too many moderate miles. See, speed session lead to recovery sessions. One speed session per week means just one easy day per week, too. And not enough variety running: almost all my runs were the same easy pace.
Another problem I foresee with the weekly schedule is handling cross-training. If I try to cross-train more to avoid injury, I can either sub an easy day for cross training and only run 5 days a week (not enough miles to improve) or sub an off day for cross training and never get a day off (hello, injury).

I've put together a tentative 10-day training cycle, and an example looks like this:

Long (long and slow)
Very easy (short and slow)
Easy(regular old running)
Very easy

So let's compare months:
Regular 7 day training cycle                 Ten day cycle
Long runs: 4                                             Long runs: 3
Hard days: 4                                             Hard days: 9
Very easy days: 4                                     Very easy days: 6
Off/cross training: 4                                 Off/cross training: 6
Easy/moderate days: 14                           Easy/moderate days: 6

As you can see, this gives me much more variety, and increases very easy or non-running days by a third. It is, however, a hefty jump in hard days, but "hard" isn't necessarily death-by-track every single day. Hard workouts can be mid-week long, tempos, fartleks, hills, or speed work, depending on the plan. I would definitely be redefining "hard".
The obvious drawback to a ten-day cycle is that your long runs could end up on a weekday. That shouldn't be an issue for me now, as I build up mileage, but if I were training for a half or full marathon, I'd have to reconsider.

What do you think? Doable? Safer? More dangerous? Have you ever used a ten-day plan?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I love this: magic erasers

Ok, so I actually got the generic. What I really love is "melamine foam sponges".

They are my new favorite cleaning tool, and yes, that's the level of boring to which I've sunk. I have a favorite cleaning tool.
Smudge on wall from clumsy spouse
Scrub, scrub - it's gone!

But it really is a thrill. We have an old house with flat paint, and every little scuff stays on the walls. I finally tried the magic eraser, and it takes the smudges off safely and easily! Hurray for scuff-free walls!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I almost wore flats.

Last night I almost wore racing flats. In fact, I took a picture, to be all, "Oooh, I haven't worn flats in a year" - but then as I walked out the door with them on, I felt way too close to the ground. I ran back upstairs and put my Kinvaras on.

The D-tag is from Greek Fest 5k...over a year ago.
What was the occasion? I jumped into a 2-mile race last minute. I don't know how it's happening that all my races are last minute, but in this case, half-way through the workday I found out that our evening plans changed. Instead of community group with our church (which I lead), we'd be meeting for a farewell party for a member who was moving away (which was at a bar...which I could be late to, since I wasn't in charge). This will probably be the only summer series 2-miler I can make, so I wanted to do it.
The summer series are free for New Orleans Track Club members, so I just showed up and registered few minutes prior to the start. I got in a 1-mile warmup just running from my parked car, then adding a little extra.
My plan going into the race was 6:30's - I know, not blistering, but I'd run speed work that morning since I hadn't planned on racing! My legs definitely were feeling those 400s, too. So I thought that sounded safe and hopefully doable. The weather was hot and humid, with a storm possibly brewing.
These races are heavily attended by the high school runners, so of course I found myself swept up in a large group of teenage boys early on. I was still able to hold my pace pretty consistently, but it's funny that the race stayed so crowded the whole time and I had to do a lot of weaving. I guess I'm the same pace as the slower high schoolers, so we were together the whole time.
The race went by so fast I don't really have a lot to say about it, except that the air was very heavy the whole way. I crossed the line in 12:56. Not my fastest, but good considering the 12x400's that morning. And pretty good pacing, too.
After the race, they had beer, hot dogs, peanuts, etc., but the impending storm arrived and I left early. I got drenched on the way to my car. Of course, the rain made the temperature so much more bearable as soon as it didn't matter anymore!
As for racing flats, I'm not sure I'll be wearing them again. I used to think these shoes (Mizuno Musha - now discontinued) felt perfect for the track or short races, but they felt hard, inflexible, and uncomfortable last night. I might need to ease into them.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sister visit!

At the National WWII museum with a Higgins boat replica 
Jazz at the Park at Armstrong Park
$10 lunch special at Bornge
Look closely: we're in a float at Mardi Gras World!
More props at Mardi Gras World. My friend is a sculpture there and took us on a personal tour!
Some of the fam. Missing four brothers here. 
At Destrehan Plantation
By the river
The cathedral

Thursday, June 18, 2015

House Call

Or work call.
My awesome surgeon who moved to Florida was in town for the AVP tournament (his girlfriend, I believe, is an avid volleyball player).
And he stopped by my pharmacy to check on me! How cute is that! I totally wish he'd stayed here. He is the BEST.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

You can almost die on a 6-mile run.

Sunday morning I got up a little late and stumbled out the door for 6 miles of soft-surface running. Since we got a lot of rain over the past week, the outside loop of Audubon park was out of the question: rain turns it into a bog. I opted instead for the streetcar tracks, which dry out faster, and promised to be mostly runnable.
I almost died.
I got out the door at close to 8 am, and it was 88 degrees. Not bad, really; I've run in much worse. But the humidity was stifling. There was a damp dome of moisture above me, through which the sun was beating down. For about a mile, I was just trucking along. Then somewhere in mile two, I decided that I was going to die in about 5 minutes. My clothes were saturated with sweat and being annoyingly clingy. My shoes were squelching with mud and sweat. My head throbbed in the heat. I kept squinting angrily to keep the sweat from pouring into my eyes.
To make it worse, I was running into a steady headwind that felt like a public bathroom hand-dryer. Somehow I survived until the turnaround point, and things got much better: the wind was behind me, and it brought in clouds that occasionally provided respite from the sun. A storm was rolling in, which explained the incredibly heavy air, but the shade was worth it.
Somehow I didn't die, even though I was pretty sure death was imminent, but I felt terrible the rest of the day. I was light-headed and had no appetite, and just moped for several hours. Finally I remembered that whole electrolyte thing and had a pinch of salt. Ah! Revival! That made a big difference. But man, it was still a rough day.

I have a feeling that my new, slower self (never got under 8:30 pace Sunday) is going to struggle this summer.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

I feel a little better.

Here I am looking bright red and miserable at the end of the Bridge race.

The CCC gives you one free picture from the race! And the opportunity to purchase more. Of course, they always pick the worst one as the free one, but hey, it's free.

Oh, and I feel slightly better about my race...I thought I ran the worst tangents in the world (ended up with 4.18 on my Garmin, and no way did it have satellite trouble on that wide open bridge) and I did, indeed, have to dodge and weave some at the beginning of the bridge. But not THAT much! Well, other runners have confirmed that some of the first finishers were misdirected to the far side of the neutral ground once you got off the bridge. We should have been on the inside lane. It doesn't make that much of a difference, but the two very wide corners probably add up. Or so I'm telling myself. All I know is, for a girl who might show under 26.4 for a marathon, running almost two tenths of a mile off on a 4 mile course doesn't make sense!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Toxic people

Tonight our church community group meets, and I'm looking forward to it. Our church is informally divided by neighborhoods to make small groups that meet during the week and kind of support each other. Like if someone needs help with yard work, we pitch in; if someone needs someone to get the mail while on vacation, we volunteer; if someone needs dinner after a baby, we cook. That stuff.
David and I are group leaders, and in the space of a month we've gone from dreading the meetings to enjoying them. Why? Well, when we became group leaders we inherited a problem. It was a couple who were:
- racist
- bigots
- rude
- interrupters
- angry
- inconsiderate
And just all-around bad "group" members: they didn't share talking time, they'd stay so late at the hosts house that everyone else went home and they were still there, they never contributed snacks or insight, they gossiped about other members, etc. Basically, awful people.

So what happened? Naturally, our membership began to decline. I remember the husband of the couple insulting another member's career choice just horrendously, and that girl stopped coming. Then he spoke incredibly callously to a woman whose daughter had survived cancer, but was facing her five-year brain scan. The mom never came back. The wife cut off another member's sad story about his rough time at work to inform him, "No one hear works as hard as me, ever" - and he actually shrugged, got up, and left the room!
Around this time, David and I were made leaders of our group, and we knew we had to face this problem. So, since we're more like facilitators than actual leaders (in a sense of having any authority), we brought the problem up to our church leaders (leaving out names). Of course, they instantly knew who the problem was! And they never discussed the solution, but I think someone talked to these two. Things got a little better, but we still kept having awkward conversations in which I was forced to referee and make sure no feelings were hurt. It was stressful, our group was getting smaller, and everyone was afraid to say anything. We never socialized anymore. It was terrible!

Then? Oh joy! A month ago, the couple moved! And there was an instant change. Our group started to have fun again. We started enjoying each others' company. Five new people joined us. We like each other. Things are great again. And I have no idea why I'm writing this down, except to say that I finally understand what people mean when they refer to "toxic" people. These two were basically poisoning the group, and the difference since they left is marked. I just can't believe how much the overall feeling or vibe from the group changed.

I'm sure, looking back, that David and I could have handled this better, but I have never been in that situation before, so I didn't really know what to do. Work conflict when you are the boss is easy. Social conflict when you are all peers is not easy!
Ever met someone like this? Or been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Weekend: A whole lot of painting

It's Vacation Bible School week at my church, and as usual I got picked for painting the backdrop! Don't doodle on your church bulletins during the service...someone will notice and put you to work. Most of the skits for the week take place in "the throne room" so, the I painted a throne room! 
Just started:

Almost done:
We hung it up in church and it looks good enough for kid-eyes. 
While I'm talking about art, this weekend we parked on Poydras while doing some gift-shopping. We got a close-up of two sculptures by Carole Feuerman that were installed recently: incredibly life-like!

It was an arts-and-crafts kind of weekend - after painting and installing my backdrop, I tweaked an old and simple pattern I have to make this basic chambray dress. I love this pattern: it is so fast and easy, and because the fabric is cut on the bias, the finished product drapes just right. 
But it's boring, so I'll be accessorizing that one.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Crescent Connection Bridge Run

The Crescent Connection Bridge Run is a 4-mile race over the Mississippi River, held on a June evening. This race used to be in late August, but after several cancellations due to hurricanes (including Katrina!), it was moved to earlier in the year. Still hot as heck, though.
This year, for the first time, the start time was pushed back from 6 pm to 7 pm in an effort to give participants some relief from the heat. The course is entirely in the sun (obviously - it's a bridge) and the heat can be brutal - especially since you have to get in line for a shuttle to the start, then wait around at the start, and neither area has any shade. By the start of the race, you're already pouring sweat!
Nice tech-T with raglan sleeves.
Notice that the bib says "Eastbank" - you get
to pick your side, eastbank or westbank!

My race was not that great. I started out with a bad attitude about it: I don't like that I've gotten slower, and it annoyed me that David signed us up when I knew I wasn't race ready. So in defiance, I decided to run 8 miles that morning. I ran them slow and easy, but I'm just not in the conditioning to run that kind of distance before a race. I probably could have a few years ago, but now those miles really tire me out. My prep wasn't the best in other areas, either: I struggle with stomach cramps any time I run after eating, and I definitely ate too close to the race start. Then, we were too early, and waited at the start for over an hour in the heat. I could definitely have planned things better!
David took this picture of a tug pushing a barge under the bridges at the after-party

Pre-race, I did a mile and a half warm-up to get my heart rate up,  followed by two 100-m strides, then scooted up to the start. There were about 4,000 runners, and the start is narrow, so it can be congested: I tried to get close to the front. I was probably ten or twelve rows back.
The race starts with a flat first half-mile before you hit the bridge. I ran that at 6:58 pace, and it felt hot and difficult. I had many women ahead of me at that point, but couldn't see my place. Things started to string out a little as we hit the incline. A frustrating aspect of this race is the number of people dropping off in front of you - people tear out of the gate, then slow to a walk at the bridge! The incline is very hard for me. I run on totally flat surfaces, so a 2.5 mile incline is no joke for my legs! I saw my pace leaping up into the 7's, and knew this was no PR for me. But instead of giving up totally, I decided to practice race technique. I've been doing that recently, rather than waste these slower races. For this race, I decided to practice passing! 
I had three women in my sights at this point, about 1.5 miles in, and I could tell that the one closest to me would be an easy pass - she was slowing down. I passed her just by holding a steady pace. The next one was charging up the hill, but I hoped she'd fatigue at the top, and she did: as soon as I saw her start to slow down, I surged forward and passed her on the uphill. The bridge flattened out, now, and I kept on the gas to make sure I had her firmly passed. I also used this brief flat section to make up ground between myself and the last girl I could see. I got right on her tail, then mustered all my energy to pass her and hold my speed for a good 100 yards until I dropped her. She didn't drop easy, though!
After that, I was just holding on. We were screaming down this incredibly steep, banked spiral and I was definitely braking to stay upright. I'm pretty dissatisfied with how I handled the downhill portion: it's just a mile, and you really have to use gravity to get back the time you lost uphill, but I didn't do that very well. Finally we were off the bridge, and after two short turns, bam, you're at the finish line. I'm also not happy with my zero kick at the finish: I have been noticing my slow leg turnover lately, and it really shows at the end of a race. 
I crossed in 28:55, and just about puked. For such a slow time, I was dead! My legs hurt, I was dehydrated, and my head was burning hot to the touch. The late race start did help the heat a little, but I was still very warm. I dumped water on my head and wallowed in my disappointment for a while, until I was approached by one of the fast guys. He asked if I wanted to come along on a cool-down, and given how tight and sore my legs felt, I decided that a cool-down was a great idea. We did two miles and the guys talked to me about how they stayed healthy, got back in shape after injury, etc. It made me feel a little better. I checked the results the next day, and I was 5th female and first in my AG. 
With our friend and race-buddy, Joseph (we drove together: it's our tradition)
Race take-aways for me:
1. Miles prerace matter. Eight miles the morning of was stupid. 
2. Evening races are hard - I need to work on nutrition prior. 
3. I need hill practice! How I'm going to get that, though, I have no idea. 
4. I'm slower now. I need to accept that. 
5. My leg-turnover is incredibly slow. Any tips for working on that? 
6. I'm happy with my passes. I think passing actually takes technique, and this race was a good opportunity to practice that. 
7. I'm starting to feel close to physically ok. My left leg has been more of a problem than my right, and it keeps tightening and developing niggles, aches, and pains. But I didn't hurt much after this race. It's getting better and better. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

More easy racing

I found a few pictures from Greek Fest. I look very warm. Also, not sure why I brought sunglasses, then wore them on my head and squinted. 

This weekend, I have another easy race. We're running the Crescent Connection bridge run, a 4 mile run over a big bridge designed to confuse our flat-land legs. We've run this race before, and last time we brought a neighbor and had a great time. But I wasn't actually ready to race again just yet: I want to actually do some training for the next race! David disagreed, though, and registered me behind my back. Sneaky. I don't know what's come over him: I'm supposed to be the one pressuring the other spouse to run races. 
I guess this will be another easy race, especially given the route: mostly uphill (the downhill side of the bridge is a steep spiral, so you can't get full benefit of it to make up for the miles of climbing you just completed). I'm definitely not in very fast shape, so I expect that will be a tough, slow slog for me. No winning glass alligators this time! 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Weekend: long run, lunches, and quality control

This weekend I: 
1. Went for a ten mile run, then drank an entire liter of club soda after. The humidity is a terrible enemy right now. I did some miles on the street car line, some in some cute neighborhoods, and some in the park. I did a little bit of a messy progression run: I started in the 7:50s and ended with a 7:13 for a 7:34 average pace, but not every mile was faster than the last. I suck at progression runs.
2. Cooked lunches for the week. Black bean and veggie stuffed sweet potatoes , all my daily salads, granola bars for snacks. 

Wrapped granola bars.

3. Got my money back on these sandals. I like them (I mean, they're hardly ground-breaking fashion, but I have wide feet and they're comfortable), but the dye rubs off terribly. The seller was kind enough to reimburse me when I showed a picture of the damage. 
4. Did not get my money back on this cute dress, which revealed this hilarious repair job when I turned it inside out to wash it. I can't believe it came from the factory this way!
But I like the dress, and it was clearance and was the last one in my size, so I just sewed it up (better) and carried on. This is the dress on. It was $8 :)

How was your weekend?