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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Buffalo Marathon, by the numbers

Time: 3:15:53
Place: 65th overall; 9th female; 1st AG
Tangents: 26.34. Could be worse; lots of turns on this course.
I did my best, but perfect tangents were hard to
accomplish on every single turn on this one!

Half splits: One minute positive split
Slowest mile: Mile 25, 7:49, at the top of a gradual but long climb
Fastest mile: Mile 26, 7:06
Elevation gain: 382 feet per Garmin. Ha, ha, coming from NOLA I definitely thought it was hilly! To the rest of the world that's like nothing!
Minutes off PR: almost ten, but that's cool.
Passing the last person for the day, right at the finish line! 
Long runs: 18, 19, 16, 20, 18. Good enough. Missed my last long run due to hamstring strain. Definitely missed the extra time from a run longer than 20 miles.
Time back running: Almost four months since my first run back post-stress fracture, although I ended up taking off more time later for the OTHER foot. This was a really fast turnaround from "no running for months" to "marathon" and as a result, I didn't have much of a base. Do not recommend from a safety standpoint.
Weeks of training: seven; also do not recommend!
People passed in the second half: At least 100. Or it felt like it. Probably more like a few dozen ;-)
Race schedule: Three races (barathon, 5k, marathon) in ten days
Time in Buffalo: Seventeen hours total!
Time flying/hanging out bored on the tarmac/layovers: Seventeen hours total!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Buffalo Marathon: BQ acheived

I registered for the Buffalo Marathon as a last-minute race to check off a BQ, allowing me to register for Boston along with all of my teammates. They all BQ'd at Houston, but thanks to my stress fracture, I hadn't run a marathon since February of 2017, out of the BQ window for 2019. My extremely abbreviated training - seven weeks, only one 20 miler, nothing farther than that or longer than 2:30, and no marathon-specific workouts - was further undermined by a hamstring strain a week and a day out from the race. After skipping my last long run and taking some total rest, I managed to squeeze in a few days of tentative, easy, short miles, and then one ill-advised 5k (for God knows what reason). And then, just 35 hours later, I was on the starting line in Buffalo.

I'll do a separate race review post, but logistically, the Buffalo marathon is a breeze. Thanks to the super-convenient race-day packet pickup, I was able to walk from my hotel the morning of the race straight to the start, grab my packet in the adjacent convention center, drop my bag, and stop at one of the bajillion port-a-potties with no stress at all. I was a tad groggy, thanks to a wake-up time of what would have been 3:30 central time (the race starts at 6:30 am). I'd had some oatmeal I'd packed for breakfast, plus hotel coffee, and brought a handful of free gels that a team member had given out to the group last month, obtained from some friend who sells them? I don't know, but they don't require water, so they're rather bulky, and were hard to carry - but whatever, it all worked out. I had brought a white ball cap, but I didn't wear it, which was a bad idea in retrospect.

I crammed into the crowded corrals in time for the anthem and fireworks (!) at the start. I also got to meet Laura Anderson, whom I follow on Instagram (@losingrace), the eventual women's overall winner! We started off easily enough, and I tried to stick to my game plan of 7:30's. My goal had been 3:20 - a reasonable BQ, but not strenuous for me, and not racing - but that put me at a little under 7:40 pace, and for some reason I tend to struggle to hold that pace. It's easier to run either 7:50's or 7:30's! Plus, I was afraid of trying to run for that long. That's a long time for a girl who tends to bonk, you know? So I estimated that a 3:16 would be a perfect long run, with a good BQ cushion. Naturally, I also had to consider my hamstring, so any goals carried that caveat that I could slow down to a comfortable pace if necessary, as long as it was under 8 minute pace.

Miles 1 - 6: While it was quite muggy, we started out early, and the temperatures and sun weren't bad yet. In fact, it was overcast, and running felt quite easy. We were really crowded at first, spreading out some by mile three. I ran 2 and 3 slightly fast, but they were downhill, and I was still adjusting to any kind of elevation change since I only run flat surface. I was chatting a lot with other runners early in the race, including two women who had recently run Rock 'n Roll New Orleans - but I let them go ahead, as their pace was too aggressive for me and my race plan. Then I found myself running next to a very tall dude (6'8") and we ended up running together for several miles. He was great company, and had run the race several times before. The course was gradual, though not terrible, ups and downs, which I was trying to adjust to. I was also coming to grips with the fact that my brilliant idea to run a 5k Friday night had...left me a little sore! Especially my quads! (7:32, :19, :15, :30, :31, :21).

Miles 7 - 11: Miles one through eleven of the race contain most of the downhill, so this section contains some of my last miles that benefited from downhills. Tall dude had pulled ahead, but by eight? nine? we were running a pretty section near Lake Eerie I caught back up to him and we ran a few more miles together. But it was about then that the sun came out, strong, full-force, and immediately the race atmosphere changed. The half-marathoners were tiring out, and the marathoners were getting hot. Finally, the pack strung out a little, which made water stops a little easier: I was actually struggling to stay on top of hydration; a combination of flying the day before, warm and humid weather, and crowded/tightly bunched water stops was leaving me thirsty (one of my few complaints about the race is the water stops in the first half; they were set up with tables and volunteers too close together, making it really hard to grab water without colliding with another runner or another volunteer, so I missed several stops early on!). (7:20, :29, :31, :10, :21).

Miles 12 - 15: The race wove through a windy walking path, where I lost all control of tangents. I was getting hot by now. It got up close to or at 80 during the race, but that doesn't faze me; the sun, however, was quite bright and glaring, and already I was feeling it. I said farewell to the half-marathoners at mile 13, and then, like usual, the course got lonely right away. And at mile 14 I saw my first walker, yikes. I had lost tall dude when he dropped back at the lakefront, and from the half marathon point on, I did nothing but pass people. Every single one in my line of sight. So - no company for me, unless it was a minute or two, but at least I could make catching people a game for entertainment purposes! I would think, "Next up - green singlet. Now, guy in orange" etc. (7:16, :33, :29, :32).

Miles 16 - 21: I took advantage of some downhills here to roll on down, although I was starting to wonder if that was a good idea, as my quads were already feeling very sore. In this section, my hamstring finally started to make its presence known, with some nagging stiffness and a pulling sensation. I tried to adjust my stride a little to accommodate it, and luckily it never got too bad.  I hadn't seen another woman since the half broke off, but here I did; I passed two around 18 and 20 who were both slowing significantly. (7:15, :15, :26, :38, :24, :26)

Miles 22 - 25: Miles 22 though 25 is one gradual uphill, which I ground up, gritting my teeth. Starting at mile 20, my muscles had gotten progressively more painful, probably from a combination of under-training and the Friday 5k. By now the race was pretty strung out, but if I ever did see anyone, I passed them. I had slowed, though: I laughed at myself that, despite running a so-called "easy" race, I was still slowing for the final miles! By now the sun had baked me into a nice bright red, but the warm and humid weather still didn't seem bad to me, coming from NOLA, so I had a huge advantage over local runners. I continued to pass people. We got back into the downtown area, and there were more spectators, and that was fun. The race did well handling the somewhat warmer weather than expected, with ice and sponges at the aid stations. I didn't grab any of those, but I did pour some water on my head in the sunniest spots. The last uphill is mile 25, and for the first time, I started to really struggle to run the incline - mile 25 was my slowest mile. (7:38, :38, :37, :49).

Yet why so much pain face?! Also, I'm losing my hair stick, which would have
been a disaster. So glad it hung on for the last few feet (this is the finishing chute,
with some blessed shade from downtown buildings)

Mile 26 - finish. When mile 25 beeped, I realized how much I'd slowed down and hit the gas, a little ashamed! Now there were even more people about, and they were an encouraging crowd, which was nice, and I was ready to be through and out of the sun. I ran mile 26 as my fastest mile of the day at 7:06 - which did make me wonder if I didn't just slow down out of habit in the later miles?! After navigating a very weird hairpin-turn out-and-back section right at mile 26, I crossed the finish line in just under 3:16.

It's strange to run, but not race, a marathon. The weird part was that overall - mentally, energetically - I felt comfortable the whole race, but my muscles still got very sore! And at the finish line I just kind of jogged across, grabbed a medal, and headed out. Not a very exciting finish. I quickly picked up my dropped bag and headed to the post-race party, conveniently held in the convention center out of the heat. After a beer, I walked back to my hotel, attempted an ice bath (ha! I lasted two seconds, how do people do that?), checked out, and by noon I was sitting at a restaurant on the race course, watching the final runners as I ate lunch. By two pm I was boarding my flight home, BQ in hand!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Another Greek Fest 5k: race #2 in a week and a half

The Greek Fest is easily my favorite New Orleans fest, but the 5k has historically been bad for me - until last year, when I ran 19:53 despite feeling like throwing up all day. Months ago, I was eager to really race this one, hoping to chip away at my miserable 5k time, but alas! Things changed. I registered for the Buffalo marathon, but more than that, I strained my hamstring at the Barathon just a week prior to the 5k. I ended up taking off several days with my hamstring, and did just a little slow running during the week. I assumed that the 5k was out. But Thursday morning I felt a little more comfortable, and decided to at least show up to the race, and see how I felt.
Friday night, I got to the race just in time to join the rest of the Power Milers for a warm up. It had rained earlier in the day, but it was still hot. I was soon pouring sweat, and not totally comfortable, but after about a mile and a half without much more than tightness and a bit of a stiff twinge, I decided to run the race.

We lined up, but I didn’t get right on the line, because I thought might struggle a bit and would be slow. That was a mistake, because (inexplicably) the New Orleans Track Club has returned to reporting only gun time, despite having a chip timing system. But anyway. I felt pretty good for mile one, with just barely a hitch in my step, and I actually thought I’d maybe have a good race. I hit mile one in 6:11, but it was short, I think - other runners’ Garmins were beeping a little later (I had manual lap on). Things went downhill during mile two- I was obviously lacking any speed in my legs after my long running break, and suddenly my feet felt far too heavy. To make matters worse, I felt my hamstring tightening, and started shortening my stride. Mile two was 6:21.

At this point, I started playing with pace and stride to help alleviate some strain on my hamstring. It worked, all well and good, except that the pace that helped was slooooow. Like 6:38 slow. So that’s how mike 3 went. And I ended up with 19:58, feeling a little sheepish and a little sore.

That little 5k was a bad idea, obviously. I could have re-strained my hamstring and destroyed my upcoming marathon - just 35 hours later! Plus, it gave me tired, sore muscles right before a 26 mile race. But I figured that my marathon goal was not too hard. My BQ time is 3:40, so I could always dial the effort back; I’d have some cushion. Of course, the result simply meant that I ran two very average races. Quantity over quality, I guess!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

#sixer: or, how I pulled my hamstring a eight days before a marathon

Friday was the Tchoupitoulas Barathon, that series of bad choices that results in six beers, six bars, six miles. The race is unique in that it doesn't have a course: you just have to hit the bars in order, and you can't run on Magazine Street or on the Audubon golf course. Anything else goes!
David modeling this year's shirt: it says #sixer.
The shirts are usually a tad obscure.

Oh, and to be eligible for awards? You have to drink all the beer - always a challenge.

As we left for the race, it was amid a torrential downpour and thunderstorm. So instead of a racing shoe, I grabbed my old (OLD - 540 miles) Kinvaras, instead. Bad choice, as it turns out...but anyway, we got to the race start and, just as I was about to warmup, the director called a rain delay of 45 minutes. Many of the streets had flooded in the sudden rain, and plenty of runners were still trying to get to the start - plus it was still lightening, which made sense. With my sudden extra time, I was worried about getting hungry, so I ran to a nearby corner store for some potato chips. I sat in the car, as not only was it pouring, I was getting chilly: the rain brought a blessed 78F, as opposed to the predicted 94F.

Once we finally warmed up, we were ready to run, but the start was a mess. I didn't hear the call to start, and didn't start drinking my first beer until I saw some runners already running! And hello, I can't chug a beer. I'm not a frat boy. I take genteel sips. All of which is to say - I'm a bad barathoner. Soon after I finally got started, I passed my friend Melissa, who is a super chugger, so I assumed I'd see her later. I was feeling ok for having had a beer, and was kind of booking it! I hit mile one in 7:13 - and that included a beer. So pretty good. I grabbed my second beer at Reginelli's - a can of Hamm's, if you can believe it. This year we had four cans and two draft, an improvement over the four cans last year, but the first four were warm and foamy cans. And that Hamm's didn't really stay down. I had a very quick and unexpected puke mid-stride as I got started again, which was kind of dreadful, but I kept pushing! My pre-mapped route took me down Henry Clay to St. Charles, then almost to my own home to beer #3 at T.J. Quill's. Meanwhile, I clocked in at an astonishing 6:28 mile 2 on the way (that included beer #2!), but the beer at T.J's took its toll: mile three was a 7:32. The beers just weren't going down that easy anymore. As I turned at TJ's, I could see that I was third, with Paige way out in front, Meghan (an old pro at this race!) second, and a girl in an LRC jersey behind me. I was well in front of Melissa, who must not have been having a good chug night. During mile four I made the bold decision to cut tangents across the park, skidding over wet leaves in an erratic charge to beer #4 at Patois.

BUT. But! As I wound up Webster, hitting 6:36 for my fourth mile, I suddenly felt my foot slip underneath me, and pain stabbed my hamstring! My old shoes and wet streets conspired in the worst way! I jogged up to Patois, hoping to rub the strain out as I drank my beer, but all that happened was that bending over brought on another case of the pukes, and most of that beer came right back out. Ugh. Misery. I tried to jog on, but mile five was an 8:13 of limping. I managed to keep down the two draft beers at Dos Jefes and Grits, but I was easily passed by woman in LRC jersey as I sat clutching my leg. A sweet guy tried to run with me and give me advice (or at least observation, like, "Hey, there is a giant lump on the back of your leg!"), but every step was agony. And I was annoyed, because here I was doing great, and now this. And I wouldn't even place! I drank six beers for no reason! The last mile, with two bars, was the slowest at 8:31, and I finished with just a tad over 6 miles and a 44:51. Fourth. Worst place to be (teammate Paige, by the way, ran under 40 minutes - beers included! And Rich won for the guys, so we did well as a team).

But the night got better. My encouraging friend from the run dragged over his...PT. Yes, his physical therapist had also run the race, and guess what? He had needles in his car. Supposedly clean ones. So I got dry needled - on the bench outside Le Bon Temps Roule bar.

You're not really hard-core until you've had a drunk stranger stick needles in your hamstring outside a bar.

So, my hamstring: I am a little worried about the marathon next week. I iced and compressed it on Saturday, and it's much better now, but I'm probably just going to stay off it all week and jump into the race off a long rest. Or maybe it will miraculously heal. My emergency PT told me that by Sunday it would "just be a memory" and seemed to think two days off was fine, so we shall see!

Monday, May 14, 2018

New goal: 3:20

Last week, I asked our group coach to review my workout log and suggest a goal for the upcoming Buffalo marathon. He usually writes our key workouts in advance, but he's been taking a step back from that lately, plus I am doing this race on my own, so I have just been making my training up as I go (with the exception of Tuesday track, when I join the rest of the club for whatever workout we added last-minute!).
Jimi kindly agreed to take a look and told me - 3:20. Ouch, that hurts the ol' ego! But his reasoning is that I really just need a solid BQ, and since I'm ancient, that's a 20 minute cushion for me. And if I want a good summer, I need to be healthy and ready to run, not on some prolonged recovery period. Plus, while my long runs have been surprisingly good lately, it's a really short training cycle, and my other runs - tempos, speed work, have varied from "nothing special" to "downright awful".
Let's take a look at this week, for example: if it were modern art, I'd call it "variations on 6:58".
We did hills on Tuesday: 8xbridges (hard up, easy down); a little over a mile at aerobic effort; then another set of 8 bridges. The result? 5 miles at 6:56 average.
Oh, but redemption on Thursday tempo, right? No. I usually have a tempo on Friday, but I moved it to Thursday because of my weekend schedule, and on Thursdays my legs are generally pretty tired. I had a four mile tempo, plus warm up and cool down, and I could NOT move my legs, and got 6:53, 6:52, 6:46, and 6:50 (goal was around 6:40-6:45). Then Saturday I show up and blast out 18 miles at 7:21 pace - but really, it was a long workout, with an 8 mile warm up followed by two sets of four at marathon pace with a mile easy in between and a mile cool down. So of course, my four mile segments were (6:58, 6:58, 6:57, 7:00) and (7:00, 7:03, 6:53, 6:55). *
Basically, this training cycle? I have learned how to run 6:58 pace for a few miles.

Anyway, I guess that proves that I am nowhere near a magnificent marathon, and I need to sit down and chill out at 3:20. I bet I find that 3:20 is challenging enough - I never ran a marathon that felt easy!

*A word about that workout: 1. Obviously that's not current MP; that's goal MP 2. I botched it, taking a water break during the rest mile and at mile 2, which I know, that negates the whole workout. But it was 80 degrees and I am not in stellar shape, ask coach Jimi!