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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!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fast is happening to me

Crap. I'm getting faster. And it's all at the wrong time!

Like usual, when I race and don't give it EVERYTHING, I have a really fast next workout. Saturday's race was not everything I had, even though it was a PR. So I had some speed left in my legs! That's ok if I can quickly sign up for another race, and use that peak before I plummet, but this time, my schedule just won't allow it.

So I'll just race my training, sure, why not?
This looks accurate.

So I guess this is accurate, too?!

Er. Because running a 5k PR that includes a two-miler as fast as last Saturday's race during a hill workout makes total sense. But that's what I did on a regular old Tuesday night! Ack! Disaster! Must immediately find a race!
Please keep in mind that this is 30 seconds faster than my current 5k PR. WHAT THE.

Also, I definitely questioned my Garmin on this one. But I did go back and enlarge the Garmin connect map and I think it's telling the truth. No weird tangents or cutoffs. But I do think the hills somehow help. I was FLYING on the downhill. But really. I need to find me a 5k STAT!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Finally, A PR

It's been more than four years since I ran a PR, so Saturday night was sweet. I was third female at the Blue Doo two mile race,  breaking a four year old PR 0f 12:19 with a 12:00.9. The thrill was dampened a little bit by consensus that the course was short - again? What gives, New Orleans Track Club? - but even extrapolating out, I would have run 12:06, still a gigantic PR.

Most notable about this PR is that this is the first time I've PR'd since my hip surgeries three years ago (interestingly, my last PR was also the 2 mile!). A big goal for me coming out of surgery was to PR again, and I am very happy to have done so! And at one of my worst distances, too, with no specific training. This bodes well for upcoming races!

The Blue Doo is a night race that starts at 5pm on Tulane's uptown campus. It's a little hard to figure out how to plan your day around it: we're in the thick of marathon training, so we had a scheduled ten-miler that morning for those of us in our group planning to run the race. I slept in, so I wasn't running until late, getting home after 10 am. I wrapped up the run with six 100m strides, for leg turnover purposes. I do these on our nice, newly paved street most of the time. I definitely felt the ten miles, and I wasn't sure how fresh my legs would feel later. It would probably have been wise to have done the miles earlier in the day. However, my total weekly mileage was pretty low going into the race - around 35 miles. I ate a slightly late lunch (soup) and hoped for the best as far as my stomach was concerned.

Conditions and lead up to the race weren't ideal, so I thought I'd probably do well, since that seems to be how my races go. I'm a little paradox of a runner. I had cramps (always!), I had ten miles on my legs, and it was a little hot - 87 at the start (side note: I wish this race started at 7, when the sun is starting to set). But I knew I'd PR. I've been running lots of miles and hitting all my workout paces, and when I compared Tuesday's Moneghetti workout to the one we did a month ago, I ran a tenth of a mile further in the same amount of time for this time-based workout. It was time for a PR!

I jogged a little over half a mile to the start, planning to pick up my bib, jog home, change shoes, and jog back as a warmup. Then I would also fit in some strides. However, when I got to the front of the pre-registered line, my bib was nowhere to be found. My name was on the list, but my actual bib was missing. I was directed to get out of line and re-register, then come back into line and wait. Finally, officials copied my info onto some other form and gave me a bib, but it took much longer than I'd planned. By the time I jogged home, switched shoes, grabbed some water, and made a bathroom stop, I was cutting it a little close. I actually barely made it, so getting near the front was a struggle (it's a narrow starting line, too, so the crowds are thick). I couldn't get up as close as I wanted, and I didn't have time to do any strides or pre-race stuff, but I was ready.

The start was really, really crowded, and right after the gun we were all jostling. Of course, I was entangled in a crowd; I could see the other girls in our group, all ahead of me, but I'd have to work to get to them. There was plenty of clipping, ribbing and bumping, but finally I was running free: and right behind my teammate Kate. Now, Kate ran for LSU, so I have no doubts about her ability, but she's also mainly a track girl (her 400m DESTROYS me). However, she's been improving wildly on the roads, too, this year. Could I beat her? I thought so, maybe. Two miles might be the far end of her skill set. She's definitely more of a sprinter. Yet there she was, ahead of me, and as we closed in on the first mile, her pace was steady and strong. I passed her right before the turnaround, and it was a mistake. She grabbed on and stayed right behind me, and she didn't budge!
Kate on my tail!

Pain face! 

Meanwhile, Paige and Morgan, our two speediest ladies, were neck-and-neck for first place. All our PowerMiler women were working together! But man. Did Kate ever give me a run for my money! She definitely kept me moving in mile two: she was glued to me, and I knew I had to try to shake her before the finish, because she has a killer sprint. Mile one had been six flat, and I was exhausted, because that's fast for me, but Kate's presence prevented a major slowdown. Her footfalls behind me (very obvious to me, because she has a long stride, so her steps don't match up with mine) were like a warning bell. I pushed hard from about 1.5 to 1.75, gaining maybe another second, and I was so glad: as we saw the finish, I did my best to sprint, but with Kate's strong finish, she finished just one second behind me! Paige had won; Morgan was second. With my third place and Kate's fourth, plus Daniella's fifth, our five women members went top five!