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Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 races

I put up a page of my 2017 races, and, fittingly, there are 17 of them. It's the most I've raced in years, and one of my fastest years, too.

I started running with the Power Miler Track Club this year, which made a huge difference. Initially, I may have slowed down, as the new, heavy workout load exhausted me. But by the summer, I was seeing results, and they continued through most of the race-heavy fall.

By the numbers:

17 - races I ran; 18 if you count the Greek Fest as two events (I ran the mile race as a warm up)
9 - placement in top three women
7 - bib number at Bar-a-thon, which basically qualifies me as an elite beer drinker
6 - place at RnR New Orleans marathon, my highest placement in this race ever, although not my fastest time
5 - years since I'd PR'd when I PR'd at Blue Doo in October
4 - PRs: the two mile, the half marathon, the ten mile, and the five mile
4 - 5ks, mostly disappointing
4 - Number of times I've been second in my age group at RnR New Orleans, including this year once again!
3 - 10ks, all of which were not very fast
2 - marathons, neither a PR
2 - overall female wins (10k and 2 mile races)
2 - months with zero races (August and September)
2 - months with three races (April and November, my two busiest race months)
1 - race after July of this year that was not a PR

How was your running year?

Friday, December 29, 2017

Breaking with tradition

Hope you are all enjoying this holiday week! I'm loving the the short weeks, and our volume has been a little lower, too, which has been a welcome break.

I thought I'd recap our Christmas celebration a little. We usually have three celebrations: Christmas Eve with David's parents, Christmas morning for us, and Christmas night with David's extended family. In years past, I've dreaded Christmas Eve a little, because our nephews kind of kill it for all the adults. Their behavior has been less than adorable, and a four-hour extended multi-child tantrum isn't my idea of holly and jolly. But as the kids have grown older, the tantrums have lessened, and this year wasn't half-bad. Only two huge meltdowns and zero shouting matches! The toy of the night was this little cheap helicopter office toy - that thing captivated the kids (and grownups!) zooming all over the living room. Meanwhile, the adults did a secret Santa. My wish list included a lidded salt cellar, and my Santa gave me one, along with a nice set of Himalayan sea salts.

For some reason, on Christmas morning, I felt like changing things up. Maybe it is because we already couldn't do our Christmas morning run, thanks to my foot, but I didn't think a brunch for just the two of us sounded fun. We walked to church that morning, and ran into good friends. We started chatting about Christmas day as an adult, and long story short, ended up inviting them over. A few quick texts yielded four guests for a casual brunch! I'd already planned on bagels and cream cheese with lox and capers for our breakfast; I added ruby red grapefruit, scrambled eggs, bacon, and a loaf of stollen I'd made weeks earlier. David made mimosas, we played Christmas music, and had a truly lovely morning with good friends! I've never had a get-together on Christmas day, but we had such an enjoyable time. Everyone was happy to have something to do, and we shared stories from childhood Christmases. Brunch was delicious - the homemade bagels were especially good - and the company a joy. It was one of the most fun Christmas celebrations we've had in years.

Usually I'm a stickler for tradition, but we had so much fun on Christmas morning that I let it slide this time!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


I was so happy to have a three-day weekend this Christmas. Nothing is worse than a Christmas on a weekend, when you don't get any extra days off; three-day weekends are the best-case scenario. I'd finished all my Christmas preparations early, so I was able to just enjoy the holiday for the most part.
Unfortunately, on Christmas Eve, we got "birded".
This awful thing

"Birding" is an extremely annoying tradition in my church. Someone gave this terrifying, molting stuffed pheasant to my pastor one year, and he left it on another parishioner's porch as a re-gift. And since then, it's made the rounds. A set of rigid rules developed, including that you can't regift the bird to the same family more than once a year, and that whoever is stuck with the bird at midnight on Christmas Eve has to keep it until next year, when it "takes flight" again on Christmas Eve. Passing the bird must be done secretly, as you must keep the bird if you are caught.

I remember that the first time we got birded, we were attempting to binge watch Making a Murderer, but were interrupted by this dumb bird, requiring us to gallivant all over the city to find another recipient. This year, we got the bird right before church on Sunday morning, and we tag-teamed it. I went to church, and surreptitiously texted him names of people safely ensconced in their pews. Meanwhile, he crept to their homes and eventually left it on the porch of a house without a locked gate!
David leaving the bird to another lucky recipient

Phew. Safe until next year. Although I really am a little over this tradition. Nothing says "holiday season" like creeping around like a burglar...

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A British Christmas

Apparently, I've started a tradition of travel-related Christmas gifts. Last year, when we went to China on vacation, we used fortune cookies as "bubble wrap" in our gift boxes, and our Christmas card imitated Chinese paper cutting. This year, our gift boxes are all things British!
Packing the boxes

We always send far-away friends and family boxes of edibles every year. This year, we stocked up on typically-British treats while in London. I added two different types of homemade fruitcake (although I didn't include traditional boiled English fruitcake, just because I like my own recipe so much more; I considered it, though, since it would have been much more appropriate!).

Our boxes contained:
- Jaffa cakes
- Scottish shortbread
- Prawn crisps
- Branston pickle
- Tea
- Several Cadbury chocolate boxes or bags

The Christmas card is supposed to evoke London streets, more or less...I was pressed for time, so it's not my best, but I think the card itself came out really well this year. Last year the printing quality was really poor, so I am much more pleased with this year's card.
The painting
The finished card
 Painting our Christmas card is actually one of my favorite Christmas activities, which is why we'll probably never drop the Christmas card tradition!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

But, why?

I'm feeling a little "Why me?" today, as my husband recovers from a half marathon he ran all by his lonesome on Sunday while I sat at home and sulked. Really, why did I end up with a stress fracture?

The fracture is in my second metatarsal, and I can pinpoint exactly where: not only did it swell and bruise right over the spot, it is incredibly painful to the touch, to the point that I'll see stars if I press on it (I don't sit around pressing on it for fun, that was just diagnostic). This is a common site of stress fractures in the feet, and are especially vulnerable in runners with bunions, which I have.

Honestly, I don't know how I could have prevented this fracture except by modifying my training plan. It's not due to bone density problems. If you've been reading forever, you may recall the really cool DEXA scan I got for free back when I had my last stress fracture. My bone density looked excellent, and I doubt that in a few years it made a sudden and unprovoked swing into osteopenia territory. Plus, I am not in a risk category for fractures due to bone mineral loss. I am not post-menopausal, I am not underweight or overweight, I eat a healthy diet, and I even take a supplement called "Bone-up"!
All this goodness, every single day.

I eat generally quite well: I like to cook, and almost everything we eat is from scratch, with very few processed foods (except I do love spicy chips and cheese crackers as a snack, but we're talking on top of healthy foods, not instead of). We have a lot of raw fruits and vegetables in our diet, plus cooked vegetables twice a day as well. We probably eat an average amount of meat. It's rarely the focal point of the meal, a holdover from my hungry and miserable vegetarian childhood, but I think I get enough to have all the main nutrients in abundant supply. I've never had blood work that revealed any sort of nutritional deficiency.

During this training cycle, I did try to do all the "little things" - stretch, strengthen, foam roll on occasion. Before each run I did my hip exercises, and after each run I either stretched or fit in one of Coach Jay Johnson's post-run routines (per our group coach, we were supposed to do these every day, but they are time-consuming). I did a weights routine once or twice a week and core once or twice a week. I definitely could have done better, especially in the post-run routine category, but I did more than I usually do. The one thing I didn't do well on was recovery, especially sleep. I've been extremely busy this fall, and I started sleeping less and less. I never get a lot of sleep - six hours is fine for me, over seven and I'd feel groggy and ill - but now I was maxing out at five. Weirdly, I wasn't tired at all, and in retrospect that might have been the cortisol talking: I could have been producing a lot of cortisol in response to stress, maybe due to overtraining. That could negatively impact bone strength, too, but all of this is just guesswork.

The point is, the only reason I fractured my foot was good old fashioned overuse. I ran too many miles, too fast, too soon for my body. I loved every minute of the process, but it was more than I could handle. I don't regret it, though. Sometimes you have to push your body to find out your limits: limits of ability, and limits of strength. I guess I found my break-down point, but in the process I ran several PRs and felt progress for the first time in years, since before I had my hip surgeries. I might feel different a few weeks from now when I'm itching to run and bored out of my mind, but for now, I don't regret a thing.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Treatment plan

I can hardly believe that two weeks ago I ran a 19 miler with 15 tempo miles at 6:54 thrown in there like it was no big deal. And this was capping off a 72 mile week, the most I've ever run, and the week after a 4-week stretch that included four races (three of which were PRs).
Hm, I can't imaging why I'm injured! Really, that's a recipe for overuse injury, and I think that's exactly what I have.
I don't have an official diagnosis, but I am 100% sure this is a stress fracture. I have textbook symptoms, and my recent running history also points to the likelihood of this being a fracture. Maybe it's not a bad one - I definitely caught it early; I saw my doctor the day after it started to hurt, and no fracture was visible on the x-ray, so it was too early for any osseous changes to show. But I will probably never get an official diagnosis.

Why? Well, my doctor, who obstinately refuses to think this is a stress fracture, has asked me to get a confirmatory MRI. Totally understand that - you need proof before you can go willy-nilly prescribing walking boots, etc. But with my schedule, holidays and end of the year, the schedule of the imaging center, and the fact that I am changing insurance January first (and restarting a jumbo deductible!), I probably won't be able to get one until the first week of January. And at that point...well, I'd be four weeks out and probably out of the boot, anyway.
Walking boot, the perfect holiday accessory!

So I think I'm just going to go ahead and not get the MRI, and self-treat. Please, someone, when I lose use of my left foot, remind me that I wrote these words. But really, I think it's ok. One of my dear friends is lending me her walking boot (oh, runners!), and I don't intend to wear it long, anyway. I see the value in protecting the tender bone from impact until a callous starts to form, but then I need to start stimulating bone growth, and that happens with impact. I guess I'm thinking about a week or three in a boot, then three more bootless, then see how it feels? I know healing times vary hugely for stress fractures, so I'll have to play it by pain!

Monday, December 11, 2017


Saturday's test run was decidedly a disaster.
I think that's a broken bone...

NOPE. I limped home in pain with a bruise developing across my foot. I am suspicious of that bruise. It points to a stress fracture, no matter what my doctor says! I placed a call to his office Monday morning to report, but I haven't heard back. Meanwhile, I think my winter running is over!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Progress stalled

Mystery foot pain has me temporarily off the marathon training this week: hopefully for only this week! On Saturday, we had a really tough workout on schedule: 18 miles with 15 miles at marathon pace in the middle. This was on day 6 of a 72 mile week, the most I've ever can see where this is heading. Increase in intensity PLUS increase in mileage = injury!
Saturday's run was obviously hard, and I ended up with 19.5 including running to and from the meeting place; plus it was a humid morning with a slick surface to the levee. We planned to meet as a group, jog over to the levee, and do a 7.5-mile out-and-back at marathon pace. The levee is topped with a paved bike/pedestrian path, and there are no vehicles, so it's ideal for this type of tempo workout when you absolutely don't want to have to stop. I was lucky enough to have a large group to run with: myself, plus three other guys. We were also lucky to have a not-too-windy day; often, there is a heavy headwind off the river on the way back, but it wasn't bad on Saturday. Our group was shooting for 6:57 pace, and for the first few miles, it was conversational. We held together pretty tightly, with the only time our pack spread out being during a brief off-road episode due to construction on the levee. But we were still together at the super-tight hairpin turn to head back. By mile ten or so, I was getting tired. We had some water from a group member biking around with bottles, but not much - he was toting bottles for all fifteen of us out there, so we were just sharing sips. And like usual, we had no fuel, although our coach posted that we could take one or two gels if we wanted to test them on our stomach. I didn't, because I didn't think there was enough water to manage it, but I did chew two salt tablets. We ended up with a little over 15 at 6:54 pace, and I was immediately sore when I got home. I was happy with our pace and the workout, and happy that we were able to finish pretty strong (we didn't slow on the second half, even with the mild headwind).
Long run group

But foot started to hurt. That night, the top of my foot ached, but it was ok when I woke up, so I headed out for eight miles. It hurt so much that I cut it short at 7.5 and walked back. By Monday morning, I called my doctor, and went in for an x-ray. I was happy that there was no sign of a fracture, but I have a ton of inflammation between the metatarsals, and a bone bruise. Apparently there was just too much pounding during the long run. I am taking time off until it doesn't hurt, and taking some NSAIDS. I'm glad it's not fractured, but concerned that it will be slow-healing: it still hurts to walk on it! I'm hoping some time off doesn't totally derail my race! 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

This year's tree: running medals!

I finally put to use all of those finisher's medals David and I have collected over the years!
I've been removing the ribbons and stuffing them in a box for years, and finally the collection was large enough to cover the whole tree.

Some of them are kind of neat. I hadn't really looked at any of them since I took them off my neck! Here are a few favorites:
Top L, clockwise: My first long distance race, before RnR bought the Mardi Gras marathon; a medal that looks like a crawfish; one that looks like a boot (also...a medal from a 5k?!); a pretty one from the  Louisiana half

Top L, clockwise: My first marathon; last year's Ole Man River (with moving wheel!), one from a marathon I won; the cute wooden medal from the Bar Harbor half

Top L, clockwise: My one and only Boston, a spaceship (oh, Stennis, such a weird race), one of many Crescent City Classic 10k medals, and a hand-made model of John Brown's jail from Freedom's Run in Harper's Ferry - also David's first half. 
And after this, I'm throwing these out. Storage is at a premium in my uptown home!

What do you do with medals? Save them? Display them? Pitch them? 

Monday, November 27, 2017

The 110th Turkey Day race!

When I woke up Thanksgiving morning to low 50s weather, I knew I'd PR the 5 mile! As you might have noticed, my hard training with the Powermilers is paying off: I've been getting faster. Despite my qualms about a five mile race being too short for my current ability, given my marathon-trained body, I could almost guarantee a PR. My PR going into this race was a 33:30 from 2012; recent races predicted I could run 32:30. That's 6:30 pace, and I'd run two miles at that pace in the middle of a workout just this Tuesday, so I felt good about accomplishing that.

We arrived early enough to join the Powermilers' warm-up, glad that one of our group had picked up our packets on Tuesday so we could avoid those lines. After two miles, I was feeling warmed up (I was freezing when I arrived) and eager to start. For some reason, this year seemed super easy. The corrals weren't crowded, everyone was being civil, and I found an appropriate spot right away. I saw people I knew all around me - this is the 110th running of this race, and it's a big NOLA tradition - and I shook some hands and offered good luck. We sang the national anthem, then we were off (I mean, I sang. I always sing the anthem pre-race, even if it's just me warbling on by myself while other runners seem scandalized).
Photo by Powermiler spouse Jen at mile...3? 

This race is crowded at the start, but I was close enough to the front to avoid most pushing and bumping. The whole first mile was just about finding my pace and my place. I wanted to run a 6:35, then run 6:28ish for the rest to hit my goal. It was a breezy day, but not as bad as last week's long run of tornado misery, so I just lowered my head and plowed forward. The mile beeped before I even realized we were racing, honestly - 6:34. "Perfect," I thought, and we moved to a less-windy part of the course. By now the crowds were thinning, but this race is large enough that you're always in a pack, and I saw some of my teammates ahead of me. Mile two flashed by in 6:25. "That was because the wind was blocked; I'll lose some time in this next windy mile," I thought. But mile three was also done in a flash - another 6:25. By now I had passed two women, but otherwise I was mostly surrounded by guys, and except for some high schoolers burning out, we were mostly keeping pace. I grabbed a water and kept trucking. So far, except for some annoying and persistent stomach issues that had been present pre-race anyway, I felt...fine. Oddly fine. In fact, when mile four beeped at 6:24, I realized that I should be picking up the pace. I had now closed in on two of my teammates. We started nearing Tad Gormley Stadium for the track finish, and here's where I messed up: the course has always entered at one end and turned left for a 300m track finish. So, while I pushed past one teammate, I then held steady instead of pushing ahead. We were close to the stadium, and I was planning to SPRINT that track! Except. The course had changed, and I didn't know it. Instead of going left, we turned right, and suddenly I realized that I had under 100m for my finish! Boo! But I sprinted like a mad woman, and finished in 32:12 chip time - eighth woman and a huge PR. I didn't catch my teammate, but we crossed at the exact same moment. My final mile was a 6:17, so I ran a nice negative-split race (although probably should have started speeding up in mile four). My average pace was 6:27, which means I was able to beat my goal; it also means that I'm kind of close to start considering a sub-40 10k, which requires 6:26 pace.

The only bad part of the day was that, during my cool down, my Garmin touchscreen froze. And this time I think it's gone for good. I tried every trick I know, but the screen won't respond. I'm calling Garmin support today, but if they can't advise me, I am out of warranty and will need a new one. Luckily, I bought this one with my American Express, which doubles the warranty on electronics, so I will actually get my money back!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Garmin woes

Ever since the Jazz Half, my Garmin had been annoyingly stuck on trying to download a damaged file. Whatever happened during that race, I never recovered any Garmin data, but every time I was in Wifi, my Garmin tried to download the file. Not only was it wasting battery, I think the corrupted file was messing with the Garmin functions. The problem was, while the file was on the watch somewhere, I couldn't see it.
Pesky file!

Finally I plugged it in and opened the activity folder on my computer and sure enough, there was the rogue file. I deleted it, and the problem is solved. For some reason I am particularly aggrieved that I could never get any data from that race, but oh well. I think I'm mostly concerned that maybe the course was short, and my PR is fake! But I went back and looked, and it's a USATF certified course, plus I saw my friend's Garmin data, so I am now assured that it was indeed a 13.1 mile course and I did indeed PR.

The Garmin story, though, doesn't have such a happy ending. Even though this fixed the file transfer error issue, my Garmin has all manner of other bugs still going on, and when the screen froze yesterday, it never came back on. So now I'm in the market for a new one.

Have any recommendations? My specific needs are simple: I need at least seven data fields, preferably eleven, available. I like to have three screens set up: one for laps/intervals/track, one for races, and one for long runs. That way I never have to switch screens mid-run. The 230 only offers 8 data fields, because one screen is reserved for heart rate data, which I don't use. I currently have the 620, and I like its ease of use, but I'd like to find one with either no touch screen or a better touch screen. Please share any suggestions!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Picking up the pace

Fun fact from yesterday evening's workout:

I ran it at a faster pace than I ran the Crescent City Classic 10k this year.

And tonight's workout was eight miles. We did a mile warm up, then three miles at goal marathon pace, then two miles at "tempo" pace, then three more at goal marathon pace. We ran it at City Park, n the roads, but luckily our evening workout was bright enough to avoid trips and falls thanks to the Christmas lights set up for Christmas in the Oaks. And I was also lucky enough to have a big group to work with: it was myself and five other guys. You know what, though? I never take advantage of running in a group to allow others to "pull me along". If we are on the track, we'll take turns pacing, but I struggle when I follow. I think it messes with my cadence or something. I am a million times better in the lead. Same with the roads: we don't really take turns leading on the road, but I do better spread out or up front. I don't care that I'm "doing more work"; I just feel like it's more natural and easy that way.

Our first set's splits were 6:59, 6:52, and 6:46 for the MP miles; we picked it up for the tempo and ran 6:35 and 6:28. As we settled back into marathon pace, it felt almost easy now: conversational. 6:52, 6:48, 6:45. Now, those splits are a tad fast, but I think I should add a few seconds; my Garmin was beeping a little sooner than everyone else's, so I think it lost satellite for a little bit. My teammates got most splits in the low 6:50's. My results were 8 miles at 6:46 pace, so yeah, faster than the 10k I ran this spring. I can feel the training working!

But here's the big catch: I have to prove it in races. So far this year, despite several PRs, my racing has been spotty, especially short distances. Up next is the Turkey Day, that race that loves to hate me (it's usually a rough day for me), and at five miles, it will be a test of speed. I hope I can pull off a good race, and hopefully another PR!

Do you workout with a group? Are you a lap leader or follower?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Marathon training: two months to go

Houston is just eight weeks away, and our training has gotten a little more serious. It's a little more serious for me regardless of time and training, simply because the Power Milers do so much more hard work and run so many more miles than I usually do. Here's how training has intensified in the last few weeks:

  • We've already done two twenty-milers, which is way early in training for me. Both of these went very well for me, even though both had less-than-ideal weather: warm and humid for one, and extremely windy this morning for the second.
  • We kissed our day off good-bye. Yep, no more days off. The last break I had was October 27th, and the only reason I got that day off was because I was running the Jazz half the next day. My only "rest" now is a day with five or seven easy miles. Surprisingly, I noticed a huge improvement by skipping rest days. Right away I felt stronger. The difference was mostly how strong I felt, physically and aerobically, early in the run. It's like I'm always ready to go. I am a little concerned about injury or overtraining - My knees have been aching, and I've already started needing less and less sleep, which usually means my body is pumping out cortisol - but as far as running goes, it was time to make that move. I'm no elite, but for now, five easy is rest. 
  • We've reevaluated our paces. I started out marathon training with the goal to PR, specifically run a 3:05:xx (my PR is 3:06:11). But as time has passed and workouts have been completed, our group coach looked through everyone's goals and adjusted them. He moved me to a goal 3:02! That's a huge pace jump for me, but I actually think it is doable. If I stay healthy, I should be able to accomplish that. My races haven't always pointed to that kind of projection, but I have had strong long runs. As of now, my goal marathon pace is a terrifying 6:57. Yes, it starts with a six. That's scary. But exciting! 
  • We're being stingy with our rests during long runs. I am much more comfortable with our long runs now, and one reason is that everyone is making an effort to minimize stops. With such a large group, it can be hard: we develop lines for the bathroom or water fountain. But we're not just shooting the breeze, at least. I get the longest breaks of anyone, because I run from my house to our meeting place, then wait around for our run to start. So I run a little over half a mile, then take a lengthy break. I don't mind that much, because I've barely even started the run, so I don't think it really matters. Today I waited seven minutes, but sometimes it's more like ten or twelve. So for today's 20 miler, I had about twelve total minutes of elapsed time minus moving time, and only five minutes were mid-run: one group water stop at mile five, one combined bathroom/water stop that I really could not avoid - taken during the break mile in our workout - and then a few minutes at mile 19.5 chatting with the guys who were finished/cheering others on before jogging home. 
  • We're also being stingy with our fuel. Like, extremely stingy: it's nonexistent. We're doing all our long runs as glycogen depletion. This is really severe for me, because I cannot eat before I run unless I want to risk GI bleeding later. So I wake up, have a cup of coffee with cream (so maybe 30 calories, if that?), and head out for 20 miles. In the later stages of both long runs I've taken two salt tabs, but they only have 5 calories each, so I'm virtually fuelless. This was something I was really worried about initially: I was so sure I'd bonk. But not only have I not bonked, I've felt really strong at the end of the runs. This is so counter to my usual long run outcomes that this fact alone is giving me great hope for a solid race in January.
  • We're adding hard workouts to our long runs. No long slow distance here: it's all work, all the time. Today our 20 miler started with ten easy (80 to 85% of goal marathon pace, or for me, around 8:05 to 8:20 pace), followed by four miles at goal marathon pace, one mile aerobic float (about 20-30 seconds above marathon pace), then another four miles at marathon pace before one easy mile cool down. That's quite the workout! 
So how did today go? It actually went really well. It was incredibly windy today, so we decided to do our marathon pace workout on the park's 1.8-mile oval track to at least be able to alternate headwind and tailwind, rather than do it on the levee as an out-and-back, which would have been brutal. We started with a ten-mile loop, easy pace, but I didn't know the route and everyone was going much faster than I expected. I tried to be as true to my pace as I could without losing touch with the group, and it worked out OK - I think I ran right at 8 minute pace for that part of the run. 

I made it back to the park and launched right into my marathon pace miles, opting to skip the water and bathroom break others were taking - which was a bad idea; I had to go so bad for that first set of MP miles! The wind was making pacing really tricky: as I usually do in the wind, I work too hard, and my miles kept ticking off much faster than my goal pace. My first segment of four miles was 6:53, :47, :47, :49. I wasn't running with anyone in the group (too bad; it would have been nice to work with someone), but we kept passing each other in the park and everyone was so motivating! I felt like the tailwind parts were like flying; the headwind was a ton of work. I rolled right into the aerobic mile, which I ran in 7:31, but I did make a dash into the bathroom: that just couldn't wait any longer. I also chugged some water at the fountain, because the only other water I took in was at mile five. By now I'd run fifteen miles, and I geared back up for the final four marathon pace miles, worried that the pace would feel much more challenging so late in the run. But it didn't. I cruised through in 6:49, :53, :47, :49. I did start to struggle on the last mile. My throat was so dry that my breath kept catching and kind of gagging me, but I had no problem holding the pace. As soon as I ran the fourth mile, I made a beeline to the water. The fastest guys, who were long-finished, were waiting for others with water bottles, offering water on the run (which was such a nice gesture, and one I should have taken advantage of!). I hung with them for a few minutes, cheering on the last members of the group as they made their final pass, before jogging home. Overall, I felt good: tired, like I'd worked, but not bad at all. I can definitely feel myself getting stronger, and I have high hopes for this marathon! 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Middendorf's Manchac ten miler: podium sweep!

The Power Milers only recently added women to their team, but it's paying off: first at Blue Doo, and now again at Middendorf's Manchac ten miler, we swept the women's podium. Our guys did well, too, going 1, 3, 4, and 5.
Manchac is about 55 minutes away, near Hammond, so we gave a ride to a friend who has a less-than reliable car. He said he was excited to see what our amped-up "game face" music would be on the ride over, and was a little let-down by Morning Edition on NPR. Hey, when you catch a ride with boring old people, that's what you get!

We arrived in Manchac at 7 for an 8 am start, which was plenty of time for us to park and pick up packets before my warm up. In fact, we were one of the first cars there, which is a rarity for us! My group was doing a 3-mile warm-up, since we were converting this into a long run, and I went ahead and put on my race shoes for the warm up. In the past, warming up in different shoes has lead to some front-of-calf soreness when I speed up for the race. I wore the New Balance 1400s again, even though they made my knees and ankles tender after Jazz half. My warm up felt pretty good. It was nice out, sunny and mid-50s, a little humid, a little breezy, but not bad.

We grouped at the line and I looked around at the other women. This is a small race, and immediately I knew our ladies had the podium this race! None of the familiar fast faces were out there...which gave me a fighting chance! After the national anthem, the horn sounded, and we headed out to climb the bridge. This course is an out and back with a giant bridge at the start and finish. It's not so bad on the way out, but the return trip? Ooof, it's rough.

I settled right into low-mid 6:40's right away - 6:45, 6:43 - hoping to run 6:45 pace for the race. It didn't feel terrible, and for part of the race, I tagged along with some other Power Milers. But that was probably a bad idea, since they were going faster than me, so two of my early miles were a tad fast. I had an idea that I was second female, but the turnaround point would tell. The first half was uneventful, except a water-grab snafu (for some reason, the volunteers set up cups, then let us all try to make a mad grab on the run...I missed one once, and ended up knocking over a bunch of Gatorade. You can't take me anywhere). But I was aware that we were taking advantage of a tailwind, as usual for this race. Sure enough, I rounded the cones and smacked into a headwind. But now I could see my place, at least. I was well behind speedy Paige in first, but I had second place by over a minute.

Naturally, I was totally alone for the second half in the headwind! But I put my head down and plugged on. I had some miles in the 6:50s, but I never fell apart. Yet I never sped up, either. I felt good aerobically, but my legs had zero pep. No life at all. I got a mental boost from seeing David (we pulled off a sweet mid-race high-five, too), plus some other friends and, actually, a lot of 10kers still on the course. This race also has a 5k and a 10k, and we all start together and turn around at different points, so for the final miles, I was chasing 10k runners.

Before I knew it, that blasted bridge was looming in front of me, and I am a little ashamed of my pathetic jog up its steep side. I think if both of your feet are on the ground at one point, it's not really running anymore! But then I plunged down the back side to a 1:07:47 finish: second female and a PR by close to a minute!
Paige, me, Daniella. Making that money!
With Paige in front and Daniella behind me, our ladies took the top three spots, meaning we all went home with Varsity Sports gift cards. I got $100! SWEET! I'm pretty happy to see another PR fall: my old one was from this course in 2012. My overall 6:46 pace ought to be faster (my half marathon is 6:49), but I think at this point in marathon training, I can't ask too much of my tired body. We have been running a lot, including a hard 20 last week, and I could definitely tell by my heavy legs. But a PR mid-training is a great sign for things to come!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Rollercoaster weekend

This weekend I did two things:
1. Ran the worst 5k of my life
2. Ran the best 20 miler of my life

So, the 5k. It was the hot and humid Crescent City Fall Classic 5k, a corral qualifier for the CCC 10k in April. And...I didn't qualify for the B corral. I MISSED THE 20 MINUTE CUT OFF. What the heck!?
Still smiling pre-race, showing off my brand-new kit!
BTW the shorts SUCK.

I just had a terrible race. I was late, I couldn't find my bib (we had group pick up as part of a registration contest for local schools, and I was so late that my friend giving out the bibs had already started his warm up), and it was hot. Then, I picked the wrong shoes. I wore the same shoes as I had on for last week's half marathon, and they are too soft and mushy for a shorter distance. And I had no leg turnover. I never got my pace under 6:20, and ran 20:01. I couldn't believe it. Worst of all, I felt sick after it, like I'd run as hard as I ever have. It was so bizarre. I was coming off a week of high mileage, I'd raced the weekend before, and I had an extremely stressful work week: I think I was just exhausted. I might be teetering on overtraining, actually. I'll see how next week goes and assess then (we had 63 miles this week and 64 planned for next week. Can I push through, or will I be overwhelmed with fatigue? Time will tell!)

The very next morning, I had a 20 miler. And not just any old 20 miler: ten easy, seven aerobic, and 3 marathon pace, all with no fuel. The day promised to be another hot one, so we met earlier than usual: 5:30 am. I had to use David's GPS watch, an older Soleus that I am unfamiliar with, because mine was on the fritz again. It wouldn't take a charge! So once again, it was a mostly-by-feel run, since I couldn't figure out how to view any pace except instant pace. I ran with Dave and Kevin for the first ten miles, although they were a tad faster than my easy pace - we changed up the route a bit to add some miles, and I didn't want to get lost. Their aerobic pace, however, is significantly faster than mine, so I was on my own for the final ten. At 17 miles, I was almost to Audubon park. I took a salt tablet, chugged some water, and got ready to suffer through three marathon pace miles. But it was no big deal. I easily ran faster than marathon pace, hitting 6:50's even while heading home on St. Charles, which is a tad more challenging than the park. I ended up with 20 miles at 7:28 pace, which is the fastest I've ever run a 20-miler. But even more importantly, I felt strong at the finish.

So what gives? Am I so marathon-trained that I can't run 5ks anymore? Why such a huge discrepancy in my abilities? Have you ever run a marathon and found that your shorter races suffered drastically?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Jazz half recovery

It's over a week later, and I think I still feel a little "Jazz Half" in my legs!
The good race picture: "Yay, 1:29:xx!"
The picture in which I look terrified, or like I'm crying, or something? Maybe
I look like this because I'm scared Morgan will catch me?
Meanwhile, totally do not remember passing this guy at all. I know I passed
quite a few on my charge to the finish but it barely registered. 

Sunday I did just five easy miles. It was cold and beautiful out, but I made sure to keep the run short. Monday was another easy, easy run; by then I was feeling a lot of soreness in my left ankle: like my ligament was strained. But not bad. I could run on it, but I did ice it later.
Tuesday was back to track, and you know what? I felt fine. We did a workout of 2 x (1 mi at HMP, 90 sec jog), then 2 x (1 mi at 10k pace, 90 sec jog), then 4x400 at 5k pace with 60 sec rest. I easily hit my paces and in fact, felt great. During the cool down, though, I felt really tired. We were running 9+ minute pace and I asked to slow down!

I stayed tired all week after that. It was a tough week: we had 64 scheduled miles (I ended up with 63 because I shortened Monday's run), including a ten mile aerobic effort on Thursday and a race Saturday. More on the race later, but - it was TERRIBLE. Was I still exhausted? Maybe. Running a PR half marathon and then blithely continuing with training isn't my usual modus operandi - and I think it took a bigger toll than I expected. I have to keep reminding myself: I'm not getting any younger!

Other than running, I did a little gentle strength (hip stuff, as usual) and some runner's yoga this week, focusing on stretching my quads and hamstrings and avoiding any hip openers (which hurt my post-op bionic hips). I'm maybe sort of starting to feel a little better!

What does your usual race week recovery look like? Do you "train through" races, or treat each race like a goal race? Do you take time off after a race shorter than a marathon?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Long run update

When I first joined the Power Miler Track Club, I wondered how to handle long runs. As the slowest member of the group, I was pushing way past my pace on these runs. Now, as marathon training commences, we are pushing the weekend distance up from twelve to fourteen to sixteen miles. Could I keep hanging at 7:30's? Honestly, probably not, for sixteen miles. But I also came up with a solution.
Since the group generally starts slow and finishes fast, I can hang with them for the "start slow" part. Only for me, it's not really slow. So instead, I do some slow-to-me miles early, before meeting them, then join them for middle miles, then speed up to finish. Since I've already done extra miles, I part with the group once they start picking it up: I take a shorter route back. A few Sundays ago, for example, I ran two miles at 8:30ish before joining the group for another five, then as they headed into City Park to add a two-mile loop to our staple route, I turned onto Esplanade Avenue to finish my run.
This serves three purposes:

  1. I get to see the group and be social, for at least part of the run.
  2. I get to run my correct pace
  3. I also finish earlier than everyone else since I start earlier, and that allows me to get to church on time.
I might have to make some changes as time passes and our long runs change, but it works for now. We're doing two hard efforts a week right now - speed on Tuesdays and some tempo variation on Fridays - and I can't risk total exhaustion on the long run. I'll either get hurt or my Tuesday quality will suffer. So far, sticking to my paces, Tuesdays have been largely good. I'm glad I figured out a solution that allows me to still see the group for part of the miles. I mostly do long runs alone, so this is kind of new to me, but I find it really breaks the run up: I'm chatting for part of it, then just quietly enjoying my run for the rest.

How about you - do you do long runs alone, or with a group? Or a running partner?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Jazz Half Marathon: a PR!

I am quite excited to report that I did, indeed, PR in Saturday's race! I ran 1:29:18, which is both a PR and my first sub-1:30 half. I was also third female, and a podium finish (theoretically; no one here uses podiums at road races) was icing on the cake!

As I mentioned before, I registered for this race late, and we already had plans, including a work party that started at 9 pm Friday night. I managed to make it out of there and home by 11:00, and got to sleep around midnight, so not much later than usual. I woke up at 5 am to torrential rains, but by the time I was dressed and heading out the door by 5:50, the rain had stopped. It was 56 degrees, but windy. As usual, I didn't have breakfast, but I had a cup of coffee on the way to packet pick-up (I really appreciate the morning-of packet pick-up option for this race). It was held in a hotel lobby near the start, which means I also got to make a bathroom stop. I did a two-mile warm-up, and after trying them out, decided to wear my New Balance 1400s. I was worried about them slipping around on the damp ground, but it didn't seem to be a big problem: the roads were starting to dry. I did one more port-a-potty stop before heading to the start corral, but I think that was a mistake. I didn't really have to go, but the line was incredibly slow, and I just got less and less warmed-up. So by the time I got to the start, I was feeling stiff. I'd stay that way the whole race.

Hanging in the front corral.

A group of us were self-seeded in the front corral, including my super-fast teammate Michelle, who I expected to win easily, and my teammate Morgan. Morgan is much faster than me at short distances, so I wasn't sure what kind of half marathon she'd run. There were some other women I didn't know, and I realized after we started that I should have checked their bibs to see if they were running the half or the 5k. There aren't any usable out and backs to check your position after the first mile or so, which meant that I spent most of the race unsure of my position.

The first few miles were actually pretty tough. I felt very strange: my legs felt stiff, my quads were almost immediately sore, and I was running with a weird gait, like I couldn't get any leg swing at all. I attribute that to a poor warm-up - I should have gone longer, and shouldn't have stopped so far before the start. And I need to do strides or something faster, so I don't start fast on stiff legs and get sore right away! But the real reason it was tough was the wind. The first miles were really, really windy. Luckily, when we turned onto St. Charles avenue, it turned more gusty, so we got some relief, although it still wasn't pretty. By then, we were starting to sort our overall positions out. But how? I knew Michelle was the fastest girl out there, and was too far ahead for me to even see (she went on to win in 1:23 on a windy day). I could see Morgan in front of me, and she had a bicycle pacer. Hmmm...she must be third? Meanwhile, I could sense another woman nearby but behind me. I could tell by her breathing and footfalls that she was a woman, so that was nerve-wracking.

And then...disaster! My Garmin was kind of useless already, since it usually reads downtown really wacky thanks to the tall buildings, but I wanted to use it for mile splits, since there were mile markers on the course, but no clocks. However, at mile 3 it beeped "low battery" and...then I couldn't get the "low battery" message off the screen. It froze. Meanwhile, the watch kept working for miles, all the way to mile ten I think, with mile splits beeping, but frustratingly hidden under the frozen message on the screen! So, I was on my own. No problem: I'd go by feel. I plugged awkwardly down St. Charles and into the park, my favorite part: home turf! I run here all the time! And I saw my friends Melissa, Christine, and Caroline here. They cheered for me and Melissa told me, "You can catch her!", pointing to Morgan. And sure enough, the gap between us was shrinking. We were at nine miles shortly after leaving the park, but I realized that rather than passing Morgan, I was about to get passed myself! Girl Behind Me and her male pacer were hot on my heels! Sure enough, by ten, they whizzed by me, and then Morgan, who was only a few yards ahead of me by then. In a minute, I was past Morgan, too, offering encouragement. We followed that pattern for a mile and a half, but then behind me I heard a guy talking to Morgan. A friend had jumped in with her and, invigorated, she sped up - and passed me back! By now my Garmin was long-dead and I had no clue my pace or position. But whatever position I was in, I didn't want to give it up to Morgan. I also felt like I was slowing down, and needed to speed up, hoping to at least snag a post-surgery record, since I thought PR was out of the question. I held back momentarily, but at mile twelve, I made another move and pulled even with Morgan. We neared the windy final mile almost even.

I love how the Jazz half course ends: you turn off Saint Charles Avenue onto Lee's Circle, take the first exit, then turn right for a straight shot to the finish at about 12.8 miles. Your last turn gives you ample time to see the finish line and gain some speed (I hate courses that turn at like mile 13.0 and give you no time for a hard finish). As we headed into those final turns, I cut the tangents sharply, laid on the gas, and left Morgan behind. Soon I could see the finish, and could hear the announcer call the second female. Second! So I would be third! That is - IF I could hold off Morgan's finishing sprint! Well aware of my slow kick, I started sprinting at once. I looked up and saw the clock was still at 1:29 as I approached and I was shocked: I thought I was closer to 1:32. It's tough to judge pace in the wind. I was elated to finish in 1:29:18, having made all three of my race goals: PR, break 1:30, and place in the race. Morgan was right behind me in 1:29:25!
Second and third female - yes, I tried to recruit her to our running group
I'm very happy with this result, since I am mid-marathon training and my "taper" was taking Friday off after running every day this week, including 12 miles with seven hard on Tuesday and an eight mile tempo on Thursday. At some point, I'd like to actually train specifically for a half, and at that point I'd want to get low 1:28, high 1:27. But for now, I'm just glad to have the 90-minutes monkey off my back!

(Meanwhile, in Garmin-ville, I did figure out how to reboot this screen, which is what came up when I plugged it in:

But my race record is just gone. It won't file transfer, but it also doesn't even show up in my activity history on the watch. Luckily, the race has some timing mats, and I think they give an accurate picture of my race pacing...

I think maybe I race BETTER without a watch?!)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Last minute race

I made a last-minute decision to run the Jazz Half marathon tomorrow! We got an unexpected cold front, and I couldn't pass it up. It's going to be in the mid-50's for the start. And raining. Also raining. But I'd rather rain than the 80 degrees I usually get for races! Besides, the race was offering a great last minute discount code. See, last Sunday was supposed to be the New Orleans Ironman 70.3, but terrible storms caused the race to cancel. And this was after I drove an hour and twenty minutes from Mississippi in blinding, driving rain to my volunteer spot, only to discover that I had to turn right back around (my running group had volunteered for a water stop). But anyway, as a kind gesture to athletes forced to skip their triathlon, the Jazz half offered a substantial coupon code for the race the following weekend. I took advantage, and I'm running a half tomorrow!

Maybe in this? Just kidding. My whole pharmacy is wearing that get-up to a party tonight! But I am a little tempted to do a re-wear on race morning...

A little about my race goals: 

I am obviously taking into account that this race will be run as part of a full, even heavy, week of training. We ran a 12+ mile workout with hill repeats Tuesday night, and yesterday I did an eight mile aerobic run with two minute surges at the start of each mile. However, despite all that, I 100% believe I can run a post-surgery PR. The fastest I've run after surgery is around 1:33, although I ran 1:32-high somewhere in the middle of my last marathon according to my Garmin. I definitely want to be under 1:32 - so around seven flat pace. 

But! If the weather isn't too bad, and I feel like everything is "on", I think I could run a lifetime PR. My half PR is a little soft - 1:30:26 - and I think I'm actually in sub-1:30 shape right now. Maybe. There are lots of factors that play in to a goal like that: for one thing, I probably won't be able to wear my fast-but-soft New Balance 1400, my preferred shoe, because they have terrible grip when it's wet. And the rain will probably be accompanied by heavier winds than I'd like. And I have two Halloween parties the night before, one of which STARTS at 9 pm (who does that?!). But I'll be giving the race my best no matter what, and I hope that means going for a PR!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bay St.Louis long run

This weekend we got to enjoy some time with our godchildren in Bay St. Louis. They are in the process of moving further away from us, so any chance we get to visit before they permanently settle very far away is an opportunity to take advantage of.

Godmother-goddaughter lunch

When I mentioned my plans to some members in my running group, one of the guys, Mike, said he'd be at the bay himself Saturday. He actually has a house out there, and he runs long there almost every week. Since he already has a regular 15 mile route, we decided to meet up sort of halfway between our places, and then continue on to his route. We estimated that would get us the 17 and 18 miles he and I needed, respectively.

I think this is the longest run I've done in Bay St. Louis: 18 miles. I was worried about bonking, because last week, I had a bad bonk on a 16 miler after getting off a plane a few hours before. But the company was great, and our route along Beach road was beautiful. We turned just in time to see the sunrise over the bay. Before the sun rose, I was also lucky enough to surprise a coyote! The wind was favorable to mask my approach, and I got right up close before he saw me, froze, and bolted. Speaking of wind, that's the only real drawback to a long run on the water: lots of wind!

Like most of our group long runs, this one started at easy pace, but included a workout or fast finish. Saturday was 5 easy, middle steady with slight negative split down to aerobic pace, last four aerobic pace cutting down to marathon pace. As it turned out, the route brought us to the Bay Bridge to do four of the last five miles with inclines. But it actually wasn't bad. I finished with 7:15, 7:12, 7:05, 6:57, and 7:00. Mike dropped back once I started to pick it up, but he didn't lose contact, and he wrapped up his 17 miles at the fastest pace he's ever completed a long run (his marathon time goal is actually 2:55 so I am not at all worried about leading him to complete a long run too fast!).
My goddaughter wanted to take a post-run picture
for Instagram, but kept begging me to "look more tired"! Ha! 

I was happy with my strong finish, and I really felt great at the end, not at all tired, so I hope that means that my early bonk was just a product of jet lag.

Do you stick to long, slow distance for long runs, or incorporate speed work or fast finishes?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Break for Britain

I finally, FINALLY, took a little time off this year so David and I could take a break and head off to the UK! New Orleans airport added a direct flight to Heathrow, and we took advantage: A quick 8 hour flight over the pond.
And it was great.

We went to ALL THE MUSEUMS. This is partially because I am fixated on antiquities, and partially because I am cheap, and so many museums in London are free. We didn't do a lot of advance planning for this trip, but I did laboriously pore over museum maps and plan out our exact routes to see what I wanted.

This is an original cartoon by Rafael....

...and this is the tapestry made from his pattern hundreds of years later

And I ran in Kensington Gardens. We stayed less than a mile away, and it was so worth it. I needed a beautiful place to run!

We also toured Kensington, and saw Princess Diana's gowns in the "dressing Diana" display - an exhibit so popular that we had to join the Historic Royal Palaces just to squeeze in, since the all of October and November were sold out.
Queen Victoria's doll house

Kingly suit from the 1700's

This was actually a smart move: it got us in to the Banquet Room...

Reubens ceiling

And the Tower, line-free!

The Tower of London was easily my favorite part of our trip. It was so full of history I could barely process it. My absolute favorite was the carved graffiti in various towers: momentoes from former prisoners hundreds of years ago.

We did a trip to Greenwich, where I stood on the prime meridian, and a trip to the London library. I don't have pictures from the London library, but it was an awe-inspiring visit: their collection includes a copy of the Magna Carta, the original Hallelujah chorus score, a Wycliffe Bible, a first edition Paradise Lost, fragments of the gospel of John from 300 AD, and other treasures. I was speechless in the presence of so many historic books and manuscripts!

Actually, this screenshot was taken at Bradley's meridian: the old prime meridian, still used for maps and ordinances. 

We sucked it up and joined a tour for Stonehenge (the coldest place on the earth, and much smaller than I perceived it to be from photos) and Bath (which has such history and architectural art: and where we picked up our Christmas ornament, as is our tradition!).

One enjoyable part of the trip was the several church services we attended: on Sunday, David went to mass, while I joined an Anglican church for worship. Why not?! But the best service was evensong at Westminster Abbey. We heard the incredible choir fill this historic building with music.

And of course, we had to go to a party. We ran into one of David's law school friends on the plane, and he invited us to a party he was hosting for his London clients. So we went to a party! As we do. Our social calendar is always packed...even overseas.
Luckily I brought this cool sequined shirt, so I could look like a robot.

All in all, the trip was wonderfully enjoyable, and I give high marks to the direct flight. And now my boss will get off my case for not using my PTO, too!