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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.