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Sunday, September 22, 2019

2019 Blue Doo 2-mile race

If at all possible, I try not to skip this race: it is a fundraiser for Tulane prostate cancer research, and this department is one of my primary clients. I know firsthand how much they need the money to continue the lifesaving research they perform. And I love how this is a way to keep your dollars strictly local: I'm not funding a national organization with layers of administration and staff, I'm giving money straight to the doctors who may save the lives of my own friends and family.

And that's why I dragged my 5.5 month pregnant self to a two mile race! This race is on Tulane's uptown campus, just half a mile from my house, so I jogged to the 5pm start as part of my warmup. I did two miles to warm up, and decided against strides. I should have done some, but it was crowded and I felt silly. Actually, I already felt silly without the strides. I was wearing my racing crop top, and I really dislike that it draws attention to my pregnant stomach. It seems like I'm trying to make a statement or get noticed and I'm not...but I have no choice, because my racing singlet doesn't fit at all anymore! I wouldn't be uncomfortable except a stranger asked to take my picture of my belly before the race and I was like..."Oh, no thank you...." and that just made me feel so weird! But I shrugged it off and got up to the start.

This race starts on a very narrow path, basically a sidewalk, and creates a huge bottleneck right away, so I carefully assessed where I should start. Yeah, I'm slower now, but I'm not get-behind-the-walkers slow. I squeezed past a few people to get in about the sixth row of runners. And some guy condescendingly cautioned, "Watch it, mama, you might get run over up there." Eh, I'm pretty sure I won't get run over by you and your type II diabetes, buddy. Not that I blame him for protecting his place at the start: since this is a fundraiser kind of event, you do get those kids and walkers and weekend warrior types who don't appropriately self-seed, so you do have to watch where you line up. Which is what I was doing, too!

It had rained just a few minutes before the race started, so the surfaces - including areas of slippery brick - were wet, but unlike last week, the rain brought blessed coolness. It was only a little over 80F at the start - I've run this race when it was nearly 100, so this was a nice change. I was a little concerned about my footing in my Zoom Fly SPs, especially since this course has a ton of twists and turns, but I was still thankful for the cool rain!

We started, and I saw all my teammates ahead before they basically vanished from view. As usual, there was a little surge of youngsters who pushed ahead, but by the half mile mark, they had faded, the crowd had thinned, and we were all running steadily. Most of this course is tricky - narrow pathways, sharp turns, and a campus full of college kids make it challenging. I took extra care on sharp turns, and kept my footing on the bricks, too, so the rain didn't end up creating too much of a problem. I was running by "two mile effort" feel, but every so often I glanced at my overall pace. I was at 6:55 at the half mile mark, which was faster than my estimated 7-minute pace. There were two women in front of me in blue Guidos singlets (another local running group) and I told myself that if they were still in front of me at the mile mark, I should try to pass them.

Approaching mile one was a tough section of the crowded campus, and I had to dodge some students, but I felt ok as I passed the first mile in 6:49. I was a little worried that mile one was too fast. Right after the first mile is my favorite part: a straight out-and-back section that lets you see the other runners. Normally I wouldn't be able to say much while racing a two-miler, but this time - why not? I cheered all my teammates! I noticed Brock and Casey were running together in 2nd and 3rd, and Michelle and Paige had 1st and 2nd wrapped up. Then I rounded the hairpin turn and headed the other way. Ugh, that turn. I always lose so much time there. This time was no exception: a peek at my watch said my lap pace was 7:10!

Oh, heck no, I thought. And I threw in a little surge to get my lap pace back down to the 6:40's AND pass both women in blue who were in front of me. For the rest of the mile, I passed two more people, but I ended up in the same position, because two people passed me! One was my friend Dewey, who saw me ahead at the turnaround and was not thrilled with the idea of being beaten by a pregnant girl, and the other was a guy I passed right near the end but who out-sprinted me at the finish. I like how this race finishes, with a long straight section (the rest of the race is nothing but twists and turns). You can see the clock for a good 400 meters. But I no longer have ANY kick at all, so it didn't do me much good this time! At least I didn't slow down; in fact, I ran a negative split with a chip time of 13:33. I had estimated 14 minutes before the race started, so I was pretty pleased with that. And I also finished a distant fifth female, which is nice (thanks for not showing up, other fast girls).

The Powermilers turn this race into a competition between two mostly balanced teams of runners, black team and white team (our colors), but having a pregnant lady on team black apparently hurt us, since we finished 2:30 behind team white by cumulative time! Ha! Sorry, guys! Otherwise, we had a great night as a team, taking most of the top spots, and our ladies went 1-2. Another fun night at the Blue Doo, and I didn't totally embarrass myself!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Run to Remember 5k

I have mixed feelings about racing pregnant. On the one hand, I want to continue to do things I enjoy, and that feel normal to me. But on the other hand, it seems kind of pointless...I'm only getting slower, and races probably won't benefit me in any way. However, this race definitely did have a benefit of some sort: it was a fundraiser for the Coast Guard Foundation, which cares for the families of fallen Coast Guard members. As a former Coastie brat, and teammate of the race director, I knew I should support.
My teammate Rachel is from the midwest, and therefore doesn't mind driving. It's a midwest thing, I tell you. You plan a visit with a friend from Ohio and start looking for flights, and they give you a startled look and tell you it's only a two-day drive, why fly?! So anyway, Rachel drives an HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES one way to join us for workouts on Tuesdays and Sundays, which never ceases to amaze me. So I figured I owed it to her to drive that distance once to come to her race! Actually, not race. Run. It was an untimed, bib-less run. But measured to a perfect 5k, so kudos to Rachel for that, which can be hard to accomplish for a small race run in neighborhoods!

The run began with a short memorial service at 10am, so we started running around 10:30. In Houma, Louisiana. In early September. In other words, it was incredibly hot. We had rain in the morning, and unfortunately it stopped shortly before we got going, and a brilliant sun poured down instead. Steam rose around us and we got the worst possible scenario: almost 100% humidity AND bright, hot sun! It was mid-80's, but it felt a lot hotter. I realized that my sunscreen was totally gone after my sweaty warmup, and I hadn't thought to bring more. Not surprisingly, I got a toasty burn.

I knew from my warmup that my legs were pretty tired. We had a tempo workout on Friday of 5xmile at tempo with 60-second jogs. I ran those miles faster than usual, and I was feeling it! I figured I could probably run around 7-minute miles, even on tired legs, but it turns out that the heat was a factor, too. We started  with a simple,"Go!", and were running on grass before moving onto the roads in a subdivision. This course was entirely within a subdivision, and there was absolutely no shade at all at any point on the course. We were being baked. Rachel was lead bike, and near her ran a fellow Coast Guard officer. She was joined by a few Power Milers, but no one was racing, since it was an untimed event. I ran a hard-tempo feel, and tried to keep the lead bike in my site: there were arrows on the course, but I could see myself missing one and spending the rest of my life wandering a subdivision in Houma, passing identical McMansions for days and asking if I'd already passed Garfield street, or was it Coolidge street? Indeed, the course was - well, boring. Just a lot of the exact same for the whole thing! The only change up was the start on grass and finish on gravel. I was surprised that my pace was around 7:10; I felt like it was a little faster, but eh. That's life these days. I ran almost exactly even, picking it up a little for the final mile, and ran 22:06 by my Garmin. The last 0.2ish was on a gravel drive, and I lost my footing and almost fell, but I caught myself. Thank goodness. I did NOT want to be the gigantic pregnant lady sliding through the gravel and creating a scene! Ha! It didn't feel like a 5k, but then  - it wasn't a real race, and since I was totally alone, sore, tired, and puffy, I think defaulting to a tempo was to be expected.
Power Milers represent! Rachel is on the far right. I'm the pregnant one on the ground.
I'm glad I ran, though. I have a few other races coming up: the Blue Doo (another cause I simply MUST support!) and the Jazz Half (I registered ages ago so now I'm on the hook for 13 miles in my 3rd trimester, lucky me). I needed a low-key "race" to rip the bandaid off and get back into the swing of things. Got to get used to pacing when you're slower and all that! It's actually harder than it seems! It was also great to see Rachel shine as race director: she's such a dedicated member of the Power Milers, balancing hard training with long drives and a military career, and we're lucky to have her. We always joke that she's the youngest and most mature member of our team! Putting on a race is a big endeavor, and I was pleased for her that everything went so well and that all the participants had fun.

Monday, September 2, 2019

UNO cross country opener

This year, the University of New Orleans did something pretty cool: it turned its first cross country race into an open event. Any team or individual could register. I hope they get more publicity the second year (first year events are always hard!), because that's such a good idea! When else do you get to race on a cross country team once you're out of college?
UNO's coach and assistant coach are both Power Milers, so our club put together a team. Mostly because I pressured them into it. It turns out that no other club teams entered, only college tams, but we can certainly work to change that for next year!
I had intended to run this race to support UNO athletics (it was a fundraiser - and cheap at that; $15 for an individual entry). We couldn't field a girls team: too many of us were busy that night. But I thought I'd trundle out there anyway. I wasn't worried about finishing last or something; it was just for a good cause! But unfortunately I had a really stressful and busy week, and the registration deadline passed without me even thinking about it. This is really not like me, so I'm blaming the baby. A baby is very convenient like that.
I still wanted to spectate, so David and I packed a snack and headed out. We got there just as the girls race finished and with plenty of time to watch the guys run.
Headed to the line

The cool thing about cross country races is that they tend to be on repeat loop courses for the sake of space. That also means good spectating. We joined some other team members and spent the race dashing from side to side of the 5k course!

Kenneth runs in Zoom Flys on the grass!
What was cool was watching their strategy. The college kids almost dropped our guys at the beginning, but after mile one, we were back in the mix. Slowly our guys - probably with the benefit of age - worked their way up; Casey finished thirteenth overall as our top finisher, and I was impressed to see Pat finish strong, moving well up in position from his place at mile one. Kenny also ran well in his very first cross country race...and not wearing spikes!

I know this had to be a tough race, because it was a million degrees out (ok, well, low 90's). And super humid. I was hot just watching them run! But our team ended up 5th out of 8, which I think is pretty impressive against a bunch of college kids. Next year I hope we can run a women's team as well!