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Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: a year of changes

This year was a busy one for David and I, full of change, but all good changes!
Running: I started out 2018 in a boot from a metatarsal fracture, so the only running I did was in the pool. But I did travel to Houston to spectate the Houston marathon. I don't spectate races much, and I enjoyed the trip immensely!
Power milers run Houston
Life: As I recall, January sucked. I was in a three-car accident in which I was not at fault (a driver lost control of her vehicle and headed straight at me against traffic on a busy three-lane street), but which was a huge time-suck and paperwork nightmare.

We had several freezes in January, which is unheard of in New Orleans, and I actually enjoyed exploring the icy park!
Most of February was on the elliptical or similar machines
Running: I hit the 8-week mark in February, and began the arduous rehab back to running after my metatarsal fracture. The bone was not totally healed at 8 weeks, and "running" was mostly walking intervals until the 12 week mark. But I did make progress.
Life: I added a nephew in March, and he's a cute little guy! A few weeks early, but healthy (his unexpected, emergent arrival meant that he showed up the very weekend my brother was MOVING, and as the lease ended that Monday, poor Joey worked through the nights to finish the move while his wife and baby were in the hospital!). David started a new job in February - one he had been hoping to get for several years - and happily cut his commute from an hour a day to just a few minutes (the new job is on our street).
Running: March was a weird month. I jumped into a 5k to test out my foot - it was 12 weeks post-fracture at that point - and ran a fully understandable 20:31. But nagging pain in my OTHER foot brought me to the doctor, who pointed out that I'd probably fractured both feet this winter. My right foot lagged behind in callous formation since it bore most of the work while my left foot healed.

Life: March was fun, because...lent?! Yes, my lenten promise to paint 40 paintings over 40 days ended up less a practice in dedication, and more just a fun hobby! March also held Mardi Gras, which means David rode in Thoth and we went to the Thoth ball, not to mention a million other activities of the season.

Running: I ran two races in April: the Crescent City Classic 10k, which was really to see how I was doing and gauge my return to running, and the Bursting with Speed 5k. The CCC wasn't fast - 41:27 - but I ran watchless and accomplished a big negative split. It told me I was good to go to get back into racing.

Life: As lent drew to a close, a held a "Forty days of art" auction as a fundraiser, which was a success. David and I also squeezed in our only beach trip of the year (we tried later in the year, but got rained out).
In Buffalo
Dry needling after hamstring injury at Barathon

Running: In May I decided a marathon. My team all ran BQs in Houston in January, but I didn't have one, so I did the Buffalo marathon with just 6 weeks of "training". I had a nice trip (but FAST, just 17 hours in Buffalo!) and ran a 3:15 for a comfy BQ. Prior to that, I already had Barathon and Greek fest on schedule, and phew - I ran them all, despite a hamstring strain on the wet streets of Barathon. I did still manage to pull of a Barathon PR in 44:51, pretty nice for six bars-six beers-six miles.

Life: May is always just a bunch of birthdays for us, and I think it was a typical year?
Running: I took June mostly easy, recovering from the marathon and attempting to acclimate to the heat. But I did run (and win!) the Armadillo Dash trail race.
 Life: Well, we bought a house. David was biking home one day and saw an agent putting a sign on a house. He attended the broker's open the next day at lunch, and asked me to come along to see it again that night. The next day we put in an offer, and the day after that we were under contract. Four days from first noticing it to under contract!
Running: I raced a ton in July! From Four on the Fourth to the Spillway to a few Summer Series two milers to several track meets to, finally, the Power Mile. I PR'd the mile with a 5:38 on the roads on a hot July night.

That track

Power mile crew
Four on the 4th beer mile
Rachel and I on the Spillway

Life: The BIG MOVE. Since we only moved four blocks, it wasn't hard, and we settled right in.

Running: Marathon training started way back in August, and that meant mostly adding distance at that point. I got plantar fasciitis halfway through the month, so I ended up taking some time off, too.
Ow, my foot

Life: Just spent this month settling in to our new house.
Running:More hot marathon training. Recapping this year is reminding me why I don't always love marathon training - lots of hot slogging and not much racing!

Life: I took my sister on a trip to Scotland to celebrate her 40th birthday. What a great bonding experience!
Running: Beside Oktoberfest, a terrible 2 miler in 100 F heat, this month was about marathon training once cool weather FINALLY hit. I ran the Jazz half on tired legs and ended up with a 2:14 PR, running a 1:27:04 and feeling fine!

Life: Around about here I started sort of looking for another job. My job had been brutal for the past year, absolutely miserable, and I was ready for a change. My employer offered me another position when I expressed my concerns, and while the job held more prestige (and perhaps better quality of life), it didn't come with a raise. I accepted, but wasn't too thrilled about the lateral move.
Running: UGH. I got hurt! Mystery injury in my foot that ended up being a stress reaction had me out for most of November. I took off two weeks, then eased back in while wearing carbon fiber plates in my shoes. I even ran a 10k in them! I took them out to race Turkey Day, which was a hot mess (I was sick).
Carbon plates make my shoes look funny.
Life: So November is the month in which I worked three jobs. I wrapped up my old job, started my new job, and...immediately got an offer for another job. It's a complicated story, but basically job #1 was doing so smashingly well that a competitor decided to go after some market share. Obviously they tried to poach me. I agreed to meet and discuss, and the company asked me to apply. The application had a salary blank and...I put something outrageous. They accepted, so here I am.
Running: That miserable marathon. No PR, nowhere near goal, just a bad day.
Life: Besides a trip to Texas for training, I've mostly been off this year. My new pharmacy is owned by Tulane, and they close for the holidays, so I've kept a college schedule this year. It has been AMAZING. I've never had so much time off in my life, and I am in recuperation mode. My job had been killing me for years, and I swear I needed this time off just to get back to normal. I'm looking forward to a new year with a new job that won't run me into the ground!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Recovery weeks

Following the dreadful race that was Rocket City, I took eight days off before getting out for a run. I didn't feel like I needed that long, but better safe than sorry, especially since I have some high hamstring tendonitis. This was present pre-race, but the hills aggravated it (since I am not used to hills, I tend to really overreach with my hamstrings on the way up).
I was in Texas for training by the time I was ready to run again, so I just did a few short jogs around my hotel. I was next to a convention center/"resort" (quotes necessary, believe me, it was basically just a giant hotel right in the DFW flight path), and ran along the running path near their little lake. It was slow and easy, and COLD! Thirty-two on Monday. Luckily, I was prepared, but only because I accidentally packed double (I started packing, then got interrupted, then resumed the job, and ended up with twice the running clothes. That was perfect, because then I could layer up!).

Bridges, bridges, bridges for the hamstring!
Now, on week two, I am doing a slow return to running. I'm running five days this week, six next. Meanwhile, I've been doing some hamstring exercises to relieve the pain in my butt, and they're helping a lot (which is why I think this is tendonitis instead of tendonosis or tendinopathy; it's recovering too fast to be chronic damage). Weirdly, returning to running also helped a lot; my sedentary week made it very tight and sore. The fact that running is helping is also making me question if I have the diagnosis totally wrong, since the tendon should be irritated by running. But regardless, it's improving, and the strengthening is helping, so I'm happy with that.

Now I need to decide if I'm going to try for back-to-back races. I'm obviously unhappy with my Rocket City race, and I've doubled up in the past and done better at race number two. I've also never gotten injured doing this, which is the only reason I'd consider it, given my injury history. I'm registered for Rock 'n Roll New Orleans in early February. I chose the full, because it was only a few dollars more than the half. With a special deal and a $15 coupon code, I registered for under $50, even with the outrageous $9 processing fee! If I decide to run the full, great; if I drop down to the half, no problem, it's allowed. I'm still pondering this one, but if I do run the full, I probably need to be back in double digit long runs by next weekend. This is the week I'll decide.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Rocket City Marathon - a dud

Last week, I drove to Alabama to run the Rocket City Marathon, and ended up with one of the worst races of my life! And the terrible part is, I'm not even sure why.
I drove up the day before with a teammate, and arrived at about 5:30 pm. We picked up our packets and then met with the rest of the group at a Thai restaurant. Here's where I think things started to go wrong for me - I ate very little on the car ride up, much less than I'd normally eat in a day, and not a lot at the restaurant, either. I mean, I finished my dinner, but it was light and a small portion, and frankly, I eat quite a bit normally. So I think I already dropped the ball on glycogen stores.

I shared a room with two teammates, and slept just fine. We woke up at 4:50 and I had some coffee and attempted to eat the oatmeal I'd packed, but - that didn't go well. I never can eat very much marathon morning. It was cold, rainy, and windy for our walk to the start (a little under a mile) so we wrapped up in contractor trash bags to stay dry. The forecast wasn't going to change for the whole day, so I hoped I'd made the right outfit choices: shorts, singlet, arm warmers, ball cap. I didn't wear glasses, since there wouldn't be any sun out that day, so I needed the hat to keep the rain out of my eyes.
Getting ready
We lined up right on the line, because we like photo-ops (we do, it's good for club publicity!), and right after the anthem I shed my bag. I kept my latex gloves on, though, and actually I never took them off. We started up a short incline, and soon we started to spread out. Right away alarm bells started going off: "Major problem. Sore calves". Sometimes I get this annoying tightness in the fronts of my calves. It's due to one of three things: shoes tied too tight, unstable footing requiring my calves to stabilize, or poor warmup. I hoped it was #3, and REALLY hoped it wasn't #1, which I can only fix by re-tying.
The start. Count the VaporFlys!
About three miles in, I was freaking out. My calves were on fire, and I felt terribly uncomfortable, for no real reason. Was I cold? Working too hard? Was it just that I am not used to hills? I knew for sure the turns were killing me - this course has a lot of corners, and my Nike ZoomFlys were NOT handling the corners well. They're too tall and unstable. They weren't doing great on the wet surfaces either, and I decided that lack of stability was the cause of my tight calves. But then I snapped out of it. I thought, there's no reason to be upset you don't feel perfect. Nothing feels like hard work, you're pacing well, and you can't change your shoes or the weather at this point. Your calves will loosen up in a few more miles. And if you're struggling with tight turns and little hills, so is everyone else. Those little thoughts did the trick, and immediately I felt better. I was manually lapping my watch, and I was way off by mile five. Garmins don't do turns very well. Miles one through five were 7:01, 6:54, 6:51, 7:06, 6:56.
Tom, me, Jeremy
By now I could see Tom ahead of me, and he was running in a small pack with another man and a woman. Don't try to catch her, you're already a little fast for so early, I told myself. For the next few miles, I was enraged to see that the man had a bicycle pacer assisting him, which was clearly against the rules. This race has cash prizes, so they strictly adhere to USATF guidelines (you can't even win money if you wear headphones, although you won't be DQ'd). The prohibition against outside aid is mentioned many, many times on the website, yet this guy was not only pacing, he was handing off water, gatorade, and gels, all of which count as outside aid. I was bothered for three reasons: 1. The runner looked to be Tom's age, and could be fighting with Tom for an age group award. 2. The runner was handing off the bottles to the woman in their pack, which meant that she was also benefiting, and HELLO, she was in front of me! and 3. The biker wasn't behaving safely on the course, cutting runners (me) off and zipping unpredictably between people. My righteous indignation helped the next miles flow by at 6:57, 6:42, 6:54, 6:51, 6:51. What it didn't do was help me with my gel situation. I dropped my first gel while opening it, and didn't have enough time to get another gel out before we passed the water stop. Then, absurdly, my cold hands failed to open the next gel before the next water stop, and oops - missed another one. 6:43, 6:51, 7:00 all ticked by with still no gel. And suddenly I felt terrible. Like, BAM, wall. I actually felt the first inkling at mile 11, but it seemed so silly to hit the wall at mile eleven that I ignored it. But by the half I had massively hit the wall!

It's raining in my face and I feel like death, why am I smiling? 
Well, I thought grimly, I'll see how long I can hold on. And I got a little boost because the woman in front of me suddenly dropped out. But then Tom suddenly zipped into a port-a-potty, and things were getting sort of lonely. I FINALLY managed a gel. 7:00, 7:00, 7:27. That 7:27 at mile 16 was like the death nell. I couldn't believe how fast this race went south. I was completely out of it, couldn't string together two words, could barely lift my legs. It was the worst wall-hitting I've experienced in years. Tom caught up to me right then, and as he passed, I made a last-ditch effort to stay with him. Aided by a downhill, I ran a 6:47, but the exhaustion I felt made it clear that that was all I had left in me.
For real, why am I smiling?!
That grim face is more like it.
The final miles were a total death march. Tom crashed, too, and we spent the rest of the race trying to drag ourselves to the finish in some semblance of running. 7:20, 7:13, 7:02 (marker was short), 7:58, 7:45, 7:55. It was raining, there was a gravel path, I was disoriented, my feet kept slipping, the wind picked up - I can't even describe how miserable this section felt. And then, I slid fully into the wall and finished the race in the 8's - 8:17, 8:16, 7:43, something for the last (I didn't hit stop). Tom and I finished three seconds apart, in 3:09:13 and 3:09:16, and stared at each other in disbelief. The outcome was so much worse than what either of us had planned or hoped for that we really couldn't believe it. I ran an EIGHT minute positive split, nowhere near my goal, and felt really bad.

Extremely disappointed at the finish. 
Meanwhile, the rest of the club did amazingly well - Paige and Dave ran huge PRs, both right under 2:52!!!, Tyler ran a 2:36 in his second marathon, and Jeremy ran 3:10, which was a 32 minute PR. Me? No PR, no 3:01, no reason why. I definitely underfueled (2 gels total for the race, not good at all), but that isn't the only reason. Sure, the rolling hills were hard for me - I train in total flat - but everyone else in the club did just fine with them! Same with the weather, which honestly, I barely noticed. I think the timing of my injury was the biggest factor. It's like I had a six-week taper. I just didn't get the quality long runs in - in fact, only ran over 20 once (and hit the wall!). I also think these super long training cycles don't work well for me. I peak too early. And I tend to get hurt! I think twelve weeks is plenty.
Oh, and Drew was second in the half marathon. 

Since then, I've been pretty sedentary, but I have Boston in the spring, so I have to gather up my wounded ego and try again later. And pray that I figure out what went wrong and avoid the same mistakes!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Marathon goals and last thoughts

My race is right around the corner, Saturday at 7 am. I'm driving up Friday with a teammate. We had a last-minute lodging emergency when our group's AirBnB was cancelled due to discovery of bedbugs (!!!). We spent Wednesday night scrambling for the final hotel rooms available in the city center, finally managing to disperse amongst four rooms.
I feel like my taper has gone pretty well, although I shouldn't have totally dropped strengthening. I have had a bunch of little irritating niggles pop up that I normally control with strength exercises - SI joint, piriformis, hamstring. My left piriformis is my main concern, as it is irritated at fast paces or long strides. My right foot still kind of hurts, too, honestly. But I don't expect any mid-race injuries to impact me.

My last few marathon pace workouts have been easy, in fact too fast, I could barely hold back to the 6:40's. Does that mean I'm ready for a 2:56? Ha, no, but it means that I am nicely rested and have some pop in my legs! I am sticking to the plan of 6:52's, probably to be adjusted for weather. The weather is still predicted to be cold, rainy, and windy, although thank goodness the wind is now down around the 14-16 mph instead of in the 20's. Gusts still up there, though. I'm just hoping that there is some shelter for parts of the course.

I haven't even packed yet, but mentally I'm ready. I can handle the bad weather for a few hours, no biggie. And I did the work this cycle - time to perform! Our team got a huge mental boost last week when one of our members, Michelle, headed to CIM to race. She ran a big PR of 2:43, and became an Olympic Trials Qualifier! Tracking her was so exciting, and we really felt like that was a team victory. She's our team's first OTQ! I'm hoping to channel some of her strength and grit this weekend and pull off a PR, as well.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Taper troubles

Let's complain a little. The race is Saturday, and

Month before marathon...that's low.
Darn injury, 
1. My husband gave me his cold. I am slamming vitamin C and living on apple cider vinegar and honey, and praying it goes away.

2. Oh boy, the weather. It will be mid-40's for the race, but - raining and VERY windy. As in, 18mph winds with gusts to 32. That's not fun. I do not run well in the wind at all! Furthermore, it's directionally predicted to be a headwind for the majority of the race! I'm super unhappy about this.

3. I had planned to wear the Nike ZoomFly for the race, but a teammate told me that the shoe has very bad traction when wet. I might need a backup plan, so I think I'll bring alternative shoes in case it's raining (not sure if it will rain before, during, or after race).

But hey. You don't always get perfect race days. So I'll do the best I can with what I've got!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Marathon training, week 18

First week of taper! 

Monday: Five easy plus strides
Tuesday: Our final real track workout of the training cycle (next week is just a few marathon pace miles in a dress rehearsal): Two mile road tempo, then 2xmile on the track with a 400 jog. We were back on the dirt track at Pontiff playground for this one, but luckily the track wasn't in very bad condition this time. We did the tempo on the park walking path (6:26, 6:25), then I ran 5:58 and 6:05 for the miles. Definitely went out too fast for the first mile! After this workout, my right SI joint started to bother me. Actually, something starts to feel irritated or "off" after almost every Pontiff workout. I just do not do well running at high speeds on a rough and messy dirt track. My feet slide around in the dust or mud (depending on the weather), and catching my balance puts a lot of pressure on my joints. But it has been improving, luckily.
Wednesday: 5 easy on the soft dirt path around the park.
Thursday: 6 aerobic with 1-minute surges for last four miles. This averaged 6:58 pace, too fast. I need to reign it in. My tapering legs are feeling way too fresh! 
Friday: Instead of our typical tempo, we ran a 9.5 mile run with 6 at marathon pace thrown in the middle. I tried to really hit my prescribed marathon pace (6:52), but again...erring on the fast side. I talked to our group's coach about my pacing issues and and he said that wasn't unusual in taper, but just make sure it wasn't any of the long stuff. Too late for that, we're about done with any long stuff! MP miles were all 6:49 except two at 6:41. 
Saturday: 4 easy.
Sunday: Easy 13ish. Conversational, no workout, just a medium length shakeout, really.
Weekly mileage: 51.8. Funny thought: my average weekly mileage for my PR marathon was about 50. Hm. 
So, about that marathon pace. Our group has a coach who writes the workouts and also gives pace recommendations. His recommendation for me is 6:52. I am not sure I can run that pace, which would probably put me right around 3:01 (given the extra distance I'm bound to run - this course had a lot of turns). But I do think I'm ready to race in the 6's - and I'm willing to give 6:52 a chance. Unless he changes recommendations during this last week, that is!