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Sunday, February 10, 2019

RnR NOLA: a last-minute almost-PR

Well, I ran a marathon this morning! I registered for Rock n Roll New Orleans in January when a flash sale + coupon code got me a registration for just $45. I chose the full, because the price difference between the full and half was only $3. And maybe I'd feel like the full!
Well. Then I started feeling kind of bad (and no, still do not have answers for my hematological issues!) and was left wondering if I'd run at all. But I started to improve this week, and it made sense to run the half. However, I never officially dropped down to the half. I was extremely late to the expo and they had already closed the solutions table, and I'd have to return the next day to have the drop-down recorded (this is a new process I believe. In the past you could just drop distances with no need to alert the race). I did somehow manage to circumvent the crazy-strict policy that only runners could pick up their own bibs. Everyone was in such a rush to go home - I got to the expo five minutes before it closed - that the volunteer didn't check my ID. I took a chance and got back in line to try to pick up my teammate Rachel's bib - she lives over an hour away, and that would be such a pain in the butt for her. Incredibly, this time the volunteer did ask for my ID, but didn't even glance at it as she gave me Rachel's bib! But I digress. Basically, I ran the full by default.
To avoid turning this into a high-stakes race on low-stakes training, I pulled out an old marathon workout and applied it to the race: 2x4 at marathon pace with an aerobic mile rest between. I decided to run the first half at aerobic pace, then do the workout, then easy home.
The start at Lafayette square, way early
We got to the race too early, because we were also giving Rachel a ride and she was doing the half. She needed time to warm up, but I didn't. So I shivered for a few minutes before finding my way to the corral. The weather was mid-50's, expected to rise to high 60's later, but blessedly overcast. A sunny lakefront can be brutal for this race! Humidity was mid-80's throughout - it was another rather foggy day, with winds between 8 and 16 mph. I'm used to humidity, so this weather actually looked good to me (although people are justified in complaining about the wind; it was not negligible, especially on the water).

When the gun went off, I settled into an aerobic feel, and instantly my calves were sore. WHY. This has happened in several recent races, and it's a ghost returning from my early running days, when tight fronts of my calves plagued me. All recent occurrences were in the Nike ZoomFly - honestly, I am about to give up on that shoe. I mean, it's fine, but it's finicky! I kept reminding myself that the pain would go away when I warmed up, and I just struggled through it. Once we got down St. Charles, I felt a bit better, and had the double pleasure of seeing David, who took some pictures, and of seeing half my Power Miler crew, finished with their long run and alternately egging me on to the full and admonishing me to drop to the half.  I headed back up St. Charles and enjoyed seeing the runners behind me and calling out to those I knew (the view of the leaders before we made the U-turn wasn't bad either, with Dathan Ritzenhein and Bett Emanuel leading the half). I was manually lapping my watch, but keep in mind that these splits can be off - the mile markers were not accurate this year. Mile 1,2,3,4,5,6: 7:14, :03 (short), :24 (long), :09, :16, :11.
Being heckled

We picked up a bit of tailwind for a little bit after St. Charles curved, and I got miles 7 and 8 in 6:59 and 7:07. And then I forgot what I was doing as we headed down Decatur to Esplanade, and skipped the next three laps...21:09. All this time I was feeling absolutely just fine. No straining, aerobic effort, lots of chatting to those around me and cheering to those I saw on the other side of St. Charles or spectating. I was also ON my Gu game. The night before I realized that I had a few ancient gels in my closet, none of which had caffeine, and luckily I was able to find two friends with extra gels who were going to the same party I was - I love runner friends! They hooked me up, and I brought four gels with me, three caffeinated (I think the caffeine really does give me a boost).
I ran 12 and 13 in 7:01 (short) and 7:05 (long), and by the time I said goodbye to my half friends as they turned off I'd already had two gels and gatorade whenever it was offered. My teammate Tom had biked along Esplanade on the other side, offering encouragement, but once the full marathoners turned, we were immediately lonely, like so many other years. And. Now the course heads up Wisner, and we were climbing the Wisner bridge. That's fine at mile 13, but at mile 25? Wow, brutal!

Time to work, I thought, but what with the bridge and then the next water stop, my set of marathon pace miles were 6:59, 7:00, and 6:58. And I didn't realize until after that...I only did three MP miles the first set! I got confused after missing hitting lap a few times! I ran a "rest" mile of 7:18, and then hit marathon pace again. By now I was on the lakefront, and I was fast overtaking a group of guys working together. I encouraged them to come with me, run one fast mile and see how they felt, and one did! The other 8 or so fell back, and soon so did the guy who joined me - BUT - he ended up just two minutes behind me and thanked me at the finish for keeping him honest! Fun, except - yeah, I was still alone. And also majorly pissed. Because mile 18 was a 5:32. Huh?! I knew that was short. I ran the next two in 7:03 and 6:54, but was astonished to see my hard work on my fourth mile of the set was a 7:21. Oh. It was long! I hoped it had made up for the earlier short mile, but obviously it didn't; it was maybe 25 seconds too long and mile 18 was a good 1:30 short.
Obviously all these pictures are from St. Charles, sorry!

Meanwhile, I was still interminably on the stupid lakefront. We made a giant T for an incredible 8 miles of windy, empty lakefront, complete with I think 6 bridges? Which, ok fine, that's not that bad. But remember that I am a flatlander. Two feet of elevation is noticeable, forget a 23-foot high bridge (it's the steepness that is hard, really, although I tried to take the downhill hard and fast). One thing I liked was that we had other runners opposite us on the T, so I got to cheer people on. I felt very good, and had plenty of energy. And I was passing everyone in my line of site. No women, though: I passed the last girl for the whole race in the middle of mile 13. There were, as usual, almost no people out there - I saw one group of spectators! - but the volunteers loved me, so excited to see someone still running hard when so many people were struggling. And that was a big boost!

So now, here I was, with a 10k to go, and I started to do the math. I realized that if I just held aerobic pace, I could PR. I decided that 7:08 sounded good. I ran 7:08, 6:53 (I think I had a mile with a downhill and no uphill, last bridge!), and 7:07 as I finally left the lakefront and headed back down Wisner. And suddenly I was two miles from the finish. Quick math told me I'd PR, even if I added 30 seconds a mile! Right at 24, I passed two guys in matching singlets, one obviously pacing the other, who was falling apart. I cheered him on and tried to work with them, but he was a goner. On I went! Another 7:07, and then I saw Will and Rich from our club, who cruelly offered me a disgusting beer. I was insanely thirsty at that point, but not beer thirsty!
Edited to add this picture Will sent me, from right before mile 25
Mile 25 started and the Wisner bridge loomed miserably above me, somehow growing an extra 50 feet while I was running the past 12 miles, and I trudged up it. Unfortunately I couldn't take advantage of the downhill, as - oddly - the last water stop was positioned at the foot of the hill, forcing me to brake hard to grab a cup. And I couldn't afford to skip it, because I'd been choking on my last gel for a whole mile. I did great getting my gels down, though, taking all three Gus and two Science in Sport offered on course. My last mile was 7:09, winding through a dusty construction site (huh?) and then, there was the finish. I sprinted through at 5:45 pace for the last 0.2, feeling still quite energetic. 3:04:38. My previous PR was 3:06:11 from 2012!
No PR for me. But still happy with the race!
But. Unfortunately that 3:06 still stands. The course was slightly short. I finished with 26.15, when I normally get about 26.25, so it was probably a tenth short. I blame mile 18! I am annoyed by that, but not terribly upset. This was a last-minute race. I'm untapered (I hit 68 miles this week). I've been feeling dreadful lately. And I still would have PR'd, so that means that the next race I definitely should have a real PR!


  1. I'd still consider it a PR because it would not take you anywhere close to 2 minutes to run 0.1 miles! Or 0.05, really! I think you can say you PR'd the marathon because it was a marathon! Strange that it was short, though! Congrats on your super speedy surprise PR!!!!

  2. Congratulations Grace! I'm impressed that you got this race report up the same day as running a marathon. I'd also say this was a great race, and it stinks that the course was just a simdge short.

  3. This report was so fun to read! It seems like you are on the brink of a big breakthrough. Your last marathon sounded like a fluke bad day (at least to me, as a random outsider who loves following your running story). To be able to (essentially) PR in a workout like this is beast status, even if you have to give it an asterisk. Also, what the heck, RNR New Orleans?!!!

  4. Congratulations! That's so amazing, especially since you weren't tapered. You can probably still use that time to get better corral placement in Boston. I love how you approached this race and the fact that you are just so fit you can run like that as a workout!