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Sunday, April 29, 2018

It's official, and running sick

First things first: It's official. I'm registered for the Buffalo Marathon. Now I just need to NOT GET HURT. I registered right before prices increased, and I found a coupon code for $11 off, too! Nice! By the way, I exited out of registration the first time I attempted, deciding instead to wait a little longer - closer to the price increase, just in case - and the race sent me an email encouraging me to complete my registration, along with a coupon code. I'll remember that little trick for the next big race I try to register for!

Beach run was meh, but I did enjoy the beach later! 
Anyway, now I need to get into marathon shape, but unfortunately right now I have a weird cold that settled immediately in my chest. For whatever reason, I am prone to chest colds - the slightest allergy or viral exposure, and I'm down with a cough and tight chest. Luckily, I didn't miss much, since I got sick during my scheduled cut-back week, anyway. I reduced both my overall mileage and my long run this week, choosing to run only 16 miles on Saturday. I adjusted speedwork and tempo days by opting for the lowest number our group was doing: ie, only four of the "four to six" sets on Tuesday, and just three tempo intervals instead of the max of four on Friday. I ended up about 5 miles under the week prior. Several of my runs were VERY slow thanks to being sick, but I don't mind that at all if I'm recovering - I go by feel anyway. But I felt bad enough to struggle on my tempo intervals, and nearly collapse at the end of my 16 miler on Saturday, which were run on a sunny and windy beach. I ran out of water around mile eleven, and by the time I hit the lone fountain at 14.5, I was DONE. I jogged home, water sloshing in my belly.

I'm a little concerned about my upcoming marathon because I seem to be having a hard time with regaining endurance. I always get endurance back before speed, and by now - I've been running on and off for about ten weeks post-injury, with some time off at the discovery of Foot Fracture Number Two - I should feel like distance is easy. And in a way, it is; it was no problem to ease up to nineteen miles for my long run. But I keep feeling like the wall is looming on each run. Perhaps that's because they've been fairly fast long runs, for one reason or another, so I'm burning through fuel rapidly. But I'd be happier if I felt stronger on my long runs. I talked to a few people in my group, and they seem to think that I should focus on my weekly tempos, and try to do the longer workouts on those days (we have a group training calendar that leaves a lot up to the individual, including how many intervals or miles and what pace!). Their thinking is that I need to build strength and endurance at faster speeds to sustain a good long run (or race). We shall see. I don't always love those tempo early mornings, but I do want to have a good race. Not a PR, just a good race. No reason to humiliate myself!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Abbreviated marathon training

Since I decided to run a marathon with just six weeks build-up, and coming off not one, but two metatarsal stress fractures, I had to create a pretty conservative plan. Here's the basics:
Long-running in the rain (and our awesome new singlets)

1. No marathon speed work. I am doing our groups regular spring and summer speed work, which is short and fast rather than punishingly long. I don't want too many hard miles yet.
2. Low-stress long runs. My plan so far is to just get the miles in, either at moderate pace or with a very basic workout like a progression run. So far, I don't plan to do anything like "2x4 miles at marathon pace" or anything, although I may end up changing my mind. I've been running my long runs on the fast side, mostly because I've been keeping up with the group for part of it. But I've felt good. If I keep feeling good, then I might get fancy and add some speed in.
3. Mileage build-up. I am adding miles gradually by increasing my long run. I started at 16 miles, then 18, then 19, and plan for a cutback this week to16, followed by 20, 22, 12. I might swap the 22 for another 20, too - I don't really think I need to go up to 22 under the circumstances. These gradual additions are enough to get my mileage up; it probably will not go much (if any) over 60, which is ok. I don't think I ever even hit 60 miles per week until I did Hanson's in 2016, honestly.
4. Easy runs quite easy, but...for now, no days off unless I think I need it. I don't have time for that. But if I start feeling tired or injured, well, that's another story then!

All in all, I just want to get to the starting line healthy, and the finish line with a BQ. If I can do both of those things, then I'll consider this training plan a success.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bursting with Speed 5k

I was pretty happy with my 5k this weekend, because I went into it feeling pretty flat and tired, but still ran ok. I ran 19:50, which for me is good. I struggle with the 5k more than any other distance, and it's not easy for me to run under 20 minutes ever.

The race starts at 8:20 on the Lakefront, which means it is a sunny and windy race, but when I arrived to warm up, I noticed that the wind didn't seem terrible. It was also a headwind at the start, which was good, since it's an out-and-back race. I did about a mile and a half warm up, then squeezed in about four rows back. We had quite the crowd up front, as this race offers prize money and thus brings out crowds of fast runners.
Sunny day on Lake Ponchartrain
Mile 1: I wore my Garmin, but decided to only look at the mile splits and run mostly by feel. But I did get caught up in the start, and went out a bit fast. I looked around about a tenth of a mile in and saw that I was around the too-fast crowd, and backed off. This is a mostly easy, flat mile, but I think my Garmin read it a bit off; my Garmin buzzed well before the mile marker, and showed 6:11, which definitely seemed far too fast for my pace. I'm going to blame that one of the Garmin.
Mile 2: The second mile of this race is hard: you have a bridge, followed immediately by a traffic circle, which is the turnaround point, then back up the bridge. I huffed up the first climb, and realized as I tried to charge down the other side that the turn coming right up prevented really taking advantage of downhill speed. I scooted around the circle and headed back up the bridge. The only good part of my slow climb was passing another female (actually, a teammate!), which I hadn't been able to do since the early moments of sorting out. But the bridges - and probably my Garmin inaccuracies! - took their toll; mile 2 was 6:35!
Mile 3: Now I should have been able to really book it, with the bridges done and the benefit of a tailwind, but I wasn't really able to muster much leg turnover (my cadence for this race averaged 182, which is about what I do for a marathon!). I tried to sort of pick people off - I got one dude. That was it. And I was about to stroll across the finish, except my teammate Will (who had already finished) shouted at me to pump my arms, so I did get in a little sprint there. 6:24 for mile 3; 5:12 pace for the remaining 0.1.
Power Miler women after the race

I was happy with my 19:50, although I definitely need to work on getting that faster (much faster) at some point. In retrospect, I need to keep an eye on pace for the 5k - I'm not a good enough 5k runner to go by feel, and not only do I get caught up in too much speed, I am also prey to the late-race slow down that those around me undergo. Next race I will go back to monitoring my pace a bit more.
I also thought the track club did a much better job this year on a few things: finally, FINALLY, after years of suggestion, they posted signs with the alphabetical breakdown for packet pickup up on the tent over the tables. So now you can easily see that you need to be in the third line, which is N - T, for example, rather than the mayhem, madness, and shuffling that generally occurs as people swap lines back and forth (the various alphabet sections also aren't always in alphabetical order, so you can't even assume that if your name starts with "B" that you will be near the first spot; the first line might be G-L. There was no rhyme or reason).
Surprisingly non-ugly T-shirt

Plus, the course wasn't short! Hurray! Because it was last year, and that sucked. So all in all, a good race, and hey, even the shirt is cute!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The BQ bug

I mean, after a Boston like that, who wouldn't want to BQ?!

But there's really more to my sudden desire to run Boston again. I ran in way back in 2012, and it was, uh, toasty. It was also an ordeal, and as much as I enjoyed the history, nostalgia, prestige, and atmosphere of the race, I didn't think I would want to go through all the travel and planning again. I've changed my mind this year. The reason for that is that my running group, the Power Milers, all ran the Houston Marathon in January while I was trudging around in a walking boot with one stress fracture and one very sneaky, hidden stress reaction.

No marathon for me. 

They're fast people, and they all BQ'd. And most of them plan to run Boston. I don't want to miss out! I had so much fun in Houston, just attending as a spectator, that I don't want to miss another group race trip.
Fun, even with a broken foot or two.

I don't need to PR to run Boston; I just need a solid BQ. I'm an old lady, so my BQ time is 3:40. I figure 3:35 to be on the safe side, but really, I hope I'll be significantly faster than that, even though I'm doing a very abbreviated training. My sights are set on (drumroll) - the Buffalo marathon!

Why? Two reasons:
1. Packet pick-up the morning of the race
2. Easy flights the night before and the afternoon of the race.

Other than that, I have no good reason for selecting Buffalo, except that it falls within a time frame in which I can be marathon-ready. By the time I picked Buffalo, I had eight weeks to train. And eight weeks is enough, if I'm careful and don't get greedy (famous last words). I've sorted out my training plan, so now I just need a goal! BQ, here I come!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The race that wasn't

I was registered for the United Way Bridge Run this past Saturday morning, a 5k over the giant Luling bridge, but the weekend was looking pretty stormy. The race was put on by New Orleans Running Systems, so before we left the house Saturday we made sure to check their Facebook page. It said the race was still on, so we headed out. That made sense, since the rain wasn't supposed to start until after 11 am. Well.

We got all the way to Luling, and headed to packet pick-up, to discover that the race was cancelled! The United Way posted the cancellation to facebook at 6:28 am - which is exactly when we left the house. But I'm not following United Way on facebook, anyway. Obviously I'm following NORSI, the group putting on the race. And they didn't share United Way's post until 6:39! We arrived at about 6:45 am, so that was super annoying. I get why they cancelled the race - concerns that the weather would create a problem as people tried to drive home post-race - but the communication was pretty awful. No twitter, no instagram, late facebook. Just not a really social-media savvy group. It turns out that they did email on race morning, so that's on me for not checking - it went to my junk email account that I don't check all the time and it's not on my phone. But that information should also have been shared on social media, especially when your most recent posts say that the race is still on.
I picked up my shirt anyway. Nice $30 cotton T with runners from 1987.

I had skipped my Friday tempo because of the Saturday race, so when I got home I decided to go ahead and get that tempo in. It was supposed to be five tempo intervals of 7 minutes each, interspersed with 1 minute jog, but I only did four. I started to struggle on the last one, and didn't want to add a slow fifth interval. It was still a hefty workout, so I guess the day was salvaged after all!

Have you ever had a race cancelled?

Friday, April 6, 2018

My bike commute

In a fit of environmentally friendliness, I ditched my car and started commuting by bike. Not exactly ditched, I guess - I usually still drive two days a week. I definitely drive on Tuesdays, because I go to track and then the grocery store straight from work (I started piggybacking groceries onto track so that I only had one day when a car was required, although usually some other errand - or rain - makes me have to drive a second day).

I did a little research before diving in, and here is how my planning shook out:

My bike: Eh. It sucks. It's an $80 Walmart mountain bike, and it weighs a ton. Biking feels like swimming in quicksand, and it won't change gears. You can manually change them (like, move the chain by hand), but they flop right back into their favorite spot. I definitely need a bike upgrade. Maybe for my birthday?

My tires: This big old mountain bike has huge, heavy tires, and I added tire liners. I'm not at all interested in getting a flat, so they seemed like a good investment.  
My storage: I got a light chain with a combination, so it's easy and fast to lock up. It's not a very theft-proof chain, butI park it right outside the police station at work, so I doubt it will be stolen. When it's rainy, I put a plastic bag over the seat.
Expensive seat cover

My clothes: I bike in my regular work clothes except a different top, and change shirts at work. Once the summer heat starts, I'll probably have to wear shorts, too. So far I have been wearing normal work shoes, which include wedges, clogs, flats, etc. It's a slight challenge, but I've survived. Wooden clogs are definitely the hardest footwear!
My basket: Since I'm heading to work, I need storage. I attached a Wald adjustable basket to the front, and it fits my lunch bag and work bag. One complaint about this basket - the bolts come RIGHT OUT on bumpy roads. I had to replace them with bolts with lock nuts, which helped. Really, the basket should come with lock nuts!
My basket, all packed up

My helmet: I bought this adjustable helmet and I find it very comfortable. You can dial it to the perfect fit.
My work bag: I use a string backpack to throw my water bottle, keys, wallet, and shirt in. I don't mind if this bag gets dirty from road dust, plus in a pinch I can wear it as a backpack if I need to make more room in my basket (like if I run to the post office on the way home or something).
My bike bag: I have a little zippered bag with a few essentials in it, and when I get to work, I stop at the bathroom in the clinic and clean up a little. I don't know if this will be adequate in the summer, but for now, I freshen up with some sports wipes, and quickly do something with my helmet hair.

I use Elf wipes for a "missionary bath" as my mom
would call it; other essentials are hair elastics, body spray
in case the outdoors smell lingers in my hair, deodorant
(duh), and a comb. The Body Glide is because this is
also my track bag! 

 My route: Since I live uptown but work downtown, I have several route options, but they're all 5 to 6 miles and not all of them are safe. The routes with the most bike lanes, actually, have proven the least practical. My route of choice is about 40% bike lanes, but are along roads with light traffic and low speed limits, so I feel safe. From uptown, I use Broadway all the way to Fountainbleu, then Fountainbleu to Octavia, then Octavia to Jefferson Davis parkway. That whole section has no bike lanes, but mostly wide streets and safe drivers. I'm briefly on Jefferson Davis, which has a bike lane, and includes a horrid bridge that I can barely drag my heavy bike up, and then I turn onto Tulane ave.
I swear it's steeper in real life. Photo from Yelp.
The city recently added bike lanes to Tulane, and from there it's an easy straight shot to work. The entire commute takes me 32 minutes, including changing my clothes and cleaning up, so it's only a minute or two more than driving. And I consider that a win!

Monday, April 2, 2018

CCC 2018 - a watchless race

Since I'm coming off injury, nowhere near PR shape, and need to know if I'm ready to train hard again, I decided to run the CCC 10k watchless. It wouldn't be completely blind, since there are on-course clocks, but I thought it would be wise to just run a steady tempo pace and assess my fitness, form, and feet. After a blow-up and aching foot at the Al Briede 5k a few weeks ago, I wanted to be careful.

It's been years since I purposefully ran a race without a watch, and I knew it would be tricky - it's a big race, and the crowd can easily sweep you away, plus I wasn't really sure of my fitness yet. I completed an entire workout on Tuesday, for the first time since my injury (albeit an easy workout, since it was race week), but then on Thursday I felt so bad and slow that I turned around and went home. I was up front in a seeded corral, which was a little humbling since I was easily the slowest in the group, but I did scoot back to make sure I was staying well behind others in my group that I might expect to be close to. I didn't want that temptation!
Free race pictures!

It's hard to write a race report without mile splits, but I do have some, thanks to the race results. I didn't look at on-course clocks, except for an accidental glance at mile 3, but I did know that I started out slow and easy. Sure enough, my results say I ran a 6:54. By then we had thinned out some, and I was able to stretch out and comfortably cruise. I felt like I was keeping a pretty steady pace, and I was breathing smoothly and easily. I grabbed water at mile 2; at mile 3, I saw that I was at 20:mid. I felt fine, but I reminded myself to just run a steady race and not take any risks. Now wasn't the day for that!
Looking like there is sun in my eyes!

I think the beautiful weather helped me feel so good, but I never felt winded or wretched like I usually do in 10ks. I did get a nasty side stitch at mile 5, which was annoying, and I also felt like I might have started to slow down at that point; it can be tough in a 10k since miles 4 - 5 are when the people around you might start to slow. For me, with no watch, that was tricky. I also kind of forgot how to kick at the finish, so my finish was exceedingly lackluster. But I felt completely fine, and in fact, not even tired! I finished in 41:27, and results tell me that my first half was 20:52 and my last half 20:35. All in all, it was a good confidence booster, both as practice pacing and a test for my foot. I felt good in both areas, and I'm confident that I can move back into training now.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Forty Days of Art

I wrote earlier about my Lenten project, replacing time frittered away mindlessly with art projects: forty art projects, to be exact, one each day of lent. My restrictions for myself: each piece must be small, no larger than an envelope, and the subject could not be people. I am first and foremost a figure drawer, so this forced me outside my comfort zone to stretch my imagination.

As the project wrapped up, I decided to use the interest in my art to benefit charity, and held a charity fundraiser selling my art. The timing wasn't great - Saturday Easter weekend, after the Crescent City Classic - but I figured that was ok; a smaller turnout would be easier to manage and reduce squabbling over certain pieces! Which did still happen, but it wasn't too bad!

I served drinks and light snacks (it was a cocktail hour affair) and let people make a donation of their choice for the art they chose; what interested me the most was seeing what art sold and what didn't. Some pieces I knew would sell; either the art itself or the subject matter was universally appealing. Others got a lot of attention, but didn't sell - for example, the anatomical series below was much admired - but who really wants to decorate with bones?!

Overall, I think the event was so much fun; I love sneaking a peak into my friends' art preferences, which is one reason I love to go to art shows with people. And the fundraising went very well. I sold or gave away most of the art, but photos remain! Here are some of my favorite pieces: