Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Beating Like a Hammer

Two weeks ago I thought I had found a track to hit up in the mornings at Mira Costa CC.  I got one short workout in after first trying to sneak onto the middle school's track and then getting lost up a hill. One week later, I made my jolly way over to MCCC and wouldn't you know it? The track was locked up. Nothing like wasting more than 30 minutes of driving and warm-up running to find the track is locked.

Anyway, during the one stupid track workout I got in, I realized that I don't like using the Garmin for track splits/intervals. I find it annoying that it shows me mile pace. I also obviously don't need the distance GPS-tracked since, duh, it's a measured 400-meter track. I just feel like it’s a lot of baggage, the Garmin, for the track.

I decided to go old school/low-tech with a digital watch that could record splits/laps. But perhaps also get the bonus of the heart rate monitor strap because if  it costs only a little bit more, why not? Then I can use it to force myself to run on feel (or heart rate) rather than trying to convince myself what my easy pace should be.

Flexing my deal-hunting fingers online, I found this little Ironman Timex in Plum. I say “little” because compared to the Garmin Forerunner, it's itty bitty. It's downright cute! With tax and shipping, it was like $46 (retail price is over $100, amazon has it for $67).


It has way more features than I expected. I kind of love it. I can enter my weight, HR zones, max heart rate, etc. You can set alarms on the heart rate zones, it tracks how long it takes for you to recover to a lower heart rate zone, etc. Data!!!


I strapped that bad boy on Monday evening for an easy two miles (post 15K race). I noticed going up a hill, my heart rate shot up to 167. Using those extremely inaccurate age-based HR calculators, my max is anywhere from 177 to 187. Those numbers seem very wrong, because that 167 felt only a tiny bit labored.

I then read this article:

How to Accurately Determine Your Maximum Heart Rate & Have An Out of Body Experience At the Same Time

I have zero desire to try to push to "heart fibrillation" and enjoy the "rad out of body experience" so I went with the other noted option of pushing it as far as I am comfortable with and then estimating the upper end (which I think might still be conservative, but much closer to reality than the equations based on age).

Cut to yesterday morning.

I went on “Track Finding Expedition #4” to CSU San Marcos... And the Heavens Opened! To reveal a track that was open with other non-students on it! Finally.

I was again short on time because it’s 20 minutes away, and I got a little lost finding my way in on foot, so I had only 40 minutes or so to warm up and get some repeats in. I was mostly concerned with seeing where my heart rate went when I pushed it, so I did 400, 800, 1200, 800, 400, with 400m rest jogs. In the last 400, I ran very hard in the last straightaway. But I did not feel like I do at the end of the race (not even close) so it may not have even been at 95% effort. I hit a high of 188. I believe my max heart rate is anywhere between 197 (+5%) and 207 (+10%).

Next thing was determining my resting rate and again this is a slight estimate. I sat in my cube yesterday afternoon and I counted beats over 30 seconds and got 30 (60 bpm, which is in line with another check thing I had done at our annual health fair last fall). But I was not really "resting" in the middle of the day at work, and determining my heart rate upon waking up in the morning is tough when you have an Australian Shepherd licking your face and/or leaning all of her body weight on top of you. Anyway, so, I'm going with an estimate of 55 bpm as my resting heart rate. 197 as my max.

With that I have some training ranges to work with!


What is interesting is the long run has a higher rate, maybe because you are out there longer and your heart rate continually creeps up, never getting a chance to recover. I ran a 6 miler (based on this morning with my new gadget. Instead of bird-dogging my pace, instead I was obsessing over my heart rate – which leads me to believe runners are just obsessed with any training data available. Doesn’t even have to be pace.

I hadn’t calculated my ranges this morning, so this run a was somewhat of a guestimate on where my HRM should be. I averaged 150 beats per minute (the hills didn’t help me – I was pretty steady around 147 but my neighborhood is far from flat, so the hills spiked my heart rate to 155-165). My pace based on the mapped route was 9:03. It was probably the easiest feeling run I’ve done in a while – so perhaps I am not taking my easy days lightly enough when I run them at 8:45-8:50 pace. Tomorrow I’m going to possibly try a tempo and aim to keep my HR in the “threshold run” range – 169 to 183.

I’m totally geeking out on training data.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Holy Hills, Batman: Hot Chocolate 15K

Because I have an awesome friend, Nicole, who hooked me up with her extra race entry, I ran this bad-boy gratis. I had planned to run Xterra Black Mountain (20 minutes closer to home) 15K, but I was happy to run the Hot Chocolate 15K with my running blogger friends.

Until I saw the course.

Ok, I kid. I was still happy to run (if not excited for the blogger-gal meetup), but I definitely dialed back my expectations on my finish time. 828 feet elevation gain? Max grade of 12.5%, average 2.9%? Yeah, this was going to be far from easy.

My previous 15K PR in December 2010 was 1:16:13 on a hilly course in Loma Linda but this course was yet more hilly. When I saw that we were running through Balboa Park, I remembered my 8-miler back in August 2010 and tried to talk myself down off the I’m-not-going-to-PR ledge.

I decided I was going to sport my my new (or really, second-hand since someone else decided they didn’t like them and returned them for my $40 score) Brooks Cadence’s since they felt pretty good during my treadmill speedwork on Thursday (after I wasted 30 minutes driving to Mira Costa CC to find the track locked up. And the Track Search continues).

Kept myself to 2 beers the night before and went to bed at 9:30pm. 4am came quickly – had my soy latte (love my espresso machine), banana, mini-bagel with PB, made my little handheld of gatorade, and hit the road. Forty minutes later (PR on travel time to downtown), I took the advice of Nicole, and found street marking on Market and 10th. Freeeeee! And as I walked across the street, I got her text and she was parked maybe 100 yards away! Ha!

We walked over, hit the porta potties – there were plenty! Good work, race directors! At 6:15am, they were clean and un-smelly. Could not say the same thing at 7am. At the race merchandise area we found Ashley who cracks me up, first with the child-size clothing (everything must be small! And tiny!) and then when she was doing God-knows-what with her shorts at the start line. The girl is silly.

At the startline, I stripped off my cuttoff sock-arm warmers and ate a Roctane GU of some berry flavor which was VILE. It was free in my RnR New Orleans goodie bag so thank goodness I didn’t pay money for that freak-nastiness.

Few minutes later, we were joined by T-t-t-tootsie Roll, Emily, Nicole, & Margot. Here is the lesser of two-evils shot with me in it. Stolen from Skinny Runner.

Because I have gotten much better than my high school track/XC days at not going out ridiculously fast, I was able to avoid trying to keep up with these speedsters (Margot taking the prize for fastest on our ultra Ragnar team – she ran a wack-ass 7:06 pace on this course).

Right away, we were smacked around and put in our place with an uphill first mile. Without any warm up, my legs protested like they were involved with the Strawberry Statement (because I have to give props to my activist alma mater. We protest everything. Go Lions!).

Mile 1: 8:01 (slower than my current HMP)

Mile 2: 7:41 (sweet downhill relief, well, we still had to climb some)

Miles 3 through 5 were rough. You really had to know where your effort line was – taking it too hard could destroy the rest of  your race. We climbed and climbed. And climbed.


96 feet to 336ft with a little up-and-down annoyance in mile 4

Mile 3: 8:06

Mile 4: 8:10 (Umm, yeah, I’m going to need those TPS reports*)

Mile  5: 7:56 (not even sure how I managed a sub-8 here)

Somewhere in mile 6 one of the course volunteers thought she’d be funny and tell us “You’re not even close to being done!” I thought, “Well that was bitchy. But at least she didn’t lie an tell me we’re almost there.”

Finally, I thought, maybe the hills were over. Mile 6 was glorious.

Mile 6: 7:34

Then mile 7 came and the first half was almost too downhill. If that’s possible. Garmin says 83 ft down and 139 up, but I still managed the 2nd fastest split (7:23) of the race which tells you I was flying in the the first half. And then wanted to die in the second half with the incline. My pace dropped to 10:07 in that mile.

Mile 7: 7:23

By mile 8 I was sure we HAD to be done with the hills. My legs were kaput. But  NO. There was a stupid little up-hill switchback where I was so tired I could only wave to Nicole (and then later forgot that was the actual “last” place I spotted her, not back in mile 6). I glanced at my watch and thought “you could just trot this in at 10:00 pace and still PR.” I hate that my mind does this because it’s always so tempting. Thankfully my pride doesn’t take my mind up on the offer.

Mile 8: 8:01 (I was so ready to be done)

From here, it was all downhill. I really busted my ass in the last mile. I had the “I could vomit right now” feeling but tried my best to kick it in.

Mile 9: 7:03

Last .36: 2:27 (6:51 pace). Garmin time: 1:12:21 (7:44)

Official time: 1:12:18 (7:45 pace)

Nearly 4 minutes off my last PR on a much tougher course. I’ll take it!

Two weeks in a row with either bad weather or a hard course – I feel like I can still shave more time off these distances. Which leaves me hopeful. Honestly, I never thought I could run even remotely this fast (which, really, is not that fast in the grand scheme of things, but to me? It’s fast).

The race management exceeded my expectations. I’m still not sure I would have paid almost $70 (including registration fee) to get my ass beat** by hills for 9+ miles but there was not a single hitch in this race. Everything went very smoothly. Whatever mistakes Ram Racing made in DC, they didn’t repeat in San Diego. The post race food could have been better – I think less serious, more recreational runners probably loved the chocolate fondue deal, but I’d rather just have a bagel, a banana, and an orange. Nothing high-maintenance. But that’s their shtick, so, I get it. It’s just not my bag, baby*** (sorry, I am quoting all kinds of ridiculousness).

Oh, and the Brooks Cadence’s were ‘muy excelente’. Just the right amount of support for my slight over pronation. A little narrow for my wide feet but still manageable with thin socks.

[Giving quote credit where credit is due: ***Austin Powers, **J-Wow to Angelina, and *Lumberg (Office Space)]

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gone With the Wind–Girls On The Go 10K

Southern California is having it’s annual “winter storm” which, in reality, is not really much of a storm, but we never have real “weather” so, comparatively speaking, it’s a big storm. At 3000-4000 feet, there is snow (so, we can see dusting on the local smaller mountains, 40 minute drive east). We’ve had  hail and some thunderstorms. Along with your typical rain. And wind.

Earlier in the week I decided that it had been too long since I had run a race shorter than a marathon (last half  marathon was in December). The last thing shorter than that was in November (turkey trot). Last 10K was July of last year. I gambled that the Weather People would be wrong which is par for the course out here and said, screw it! I’ll go run a 10K even if the conditions are shitty. I anticipated rain which is no biggie. I did not factor in the wind part.

They advertised the course as “flat” but I knew better. I’ve run the roads near the Del Mar Racetrack. I know they are not really flat. Not necessarily hilly, but definitely not flat. Total climbing of 218 ft.


I really don’t have fear of hills. But I do have major beef with wind. I have yelled at the wind on several occasions running along the 101.

When I pulled into the parking lot  (we had to pay $9 to park – not ideal) it was still sprinkling. It had been raining off and on through the night. It was pretty cold, too, like 49 degrees. Wearing a fleece jacket and wool hat I jogged over to pick up my bib. The wind. People were laughing at the ridiculousness of running a race in it. I got my chip, bib number (which were not the same – mind you – for anyone), and t-shirt which is ludicrously long (and I have what I consider to be an average length torso – short legs, long torso). No goodie bag. By the way, I paid $50 + processing fee for this race (like $53 and change).

I go back to the car, decide to keep my long sleeve tech tee on, and iPod because clearly I’m going to need it. I’ll take the risk of possible rain damaging it. (Note: in reality, the wind at times was so loud I couldn’t really hear my tunes. Probably would not have mattered if I had left it). I jog back to the start and hit the bathrooms (almost no lines/wait – there are plentiful restrooms at the racetrack). My stomach had been all kinds of wacked out since mid-day Saturday. I don’t know, maybe getting my taxes done the night before left me some unconscious stress (not sure why, we got a good-sized refund). I was worried I was possibly going to yak or something on the course.

At 7:26am, 4 minutes to start time, I step outside and there are maybe 10 people waiting to walk over to the relatively sparse-looking start area. We get there and they are  not ready – the clock is not even up. Runners start to file out of the warm shelter area and we stand there in the wind and cold until we finally take off at 7:38am. I was close to the front but I really had no idea what kind of field had showed up. It looked like 100-150 people (maybe? maybe more? I don’t know – still waiting for results) for the 10K.

We take off and one woman immediately is out in front (she holds onto the lead the whole race). I try to settle in. The first half mile, I am 5th. One woman comes flying out of nowhere around the half mile mark and settles into 2nd. Now I’m 6th. I stick behind a girl in a blue hat hoping she went out too fast. I edge past her in the first mile. Now I am 5th. We take the turn up Via de la Valle.

Mile 1: 7:30

And then comes the hill. Buttmuch hill is like .6 miles long. And we’re running toward the ocean so the wind is blowing right at us. 25 mph with gusts to 45, you know, just a cute little breeze. Nearly blowing my hat off even with my head down. The first hill was rough and I knew I had to do it again for another loop. Not cool. I struggled to hold onto something close to 8-8:10 pace. I passed #5 girl on this hill, and then I was 4th. Down a little hill to a steep turn and we’re going back to the track.

Mile 2: 7:51 (<—yuck)

The last part of the loop is around the horse practice track. Dirt. Thankfully it wasn’t really muddy, but there were some mushy spots. Footing was not the greatest. We leave the track and back to the start/finish for to begin the second loop.

Mile 3: 7:20

I’m still 4th. The 5th and 6th girls are maybe 20 seconds behind me. I can see the 3rd place female ahead but it’s kind of a sizeable gap. She would have to slow down some and I would have to pick it up significantly (spoiler: it doesn’t happen – later I would find out she was disappointed with her time, roughly 40 seconds ahead of me).

Mile 4: 7:23

And the damn hill with the headwind again. Good grief. This time around I felt markedly worse. My legs were actually starting to get sore and fatigued. My lungs – I had this weird burning/pain in the lower part of them. I thought, with real earnestness, that I could just stop at that point. Why not? Did I mention it was windy? Seriously. I muttered some insults at it during the race. I’d rather run a race uphill the whole way than deal with wind. At least it wasn’t also raining. Gotta find a positive.

Mile 5: 8:02 (<—really? 8’s? Slower than HMP.)

I was still about the same distance from 3rd but 5th and 6th were no longer close. I know I have 4th, and I also know that with a mile to go, it’s going to stay that way. I can’t catch 3rd. I can see her, but she is picking it up as much as I am. We mercifully have the wind at our backs. Another lap in the practice track which had gotten a bit worse for the wear. The 5K walkers are out and I do my best to call out left and right, but I end up bumping into one lady. They really should be over to the right, for Pete’s sake.

Mile 6: 7:08

I was close to a sub-7 split there but, guess what, it was still freaking windy so I had to battle a few gusts.

Last .24: 1:39 (6:48)

I saw the clock at 46:xx and busted my ass to get under 47. Unofficially(Garmin) 46:53.

So I actually PR’d. I wasn’t expecting it – was hoping for 48 and change when I saw the conditions. I do think that I can drop some time off that (maybe a minute or so) when weather is less of a factor.

After the finish line we get the medal and, well, it’s kind of cheesy/cheap. But ok, not a huge deal. I look around for food. I find water. And champagne? Really? One hot second after the finish? I like to partake in adult beverages probably more than the next girl, but not 10 seconds after I cross the finish line. I walk over to the expo building in search of food and the expo doesn’t open until 9am. Whaaat? And no food anywhere. None. Zippo. 30 minutes later they open the expo. Still no food. This is probably the biggest problem I had with this race. Not the lack of timely results posting or the lack-luster age group awards (only 1st in each age group get recognition), but no food at all? I have no idea who thought that would be acceptable. Especially considering it was $55 for the 10K  (I had a $5 off coupon).

All in all, I would probably not do this race again. It’s just too expensive for what you get. The expo was decent – I got a few samples, and managed to score a very gently used pair of Brooks Pure Cadence for $40 from RRS! Sweeeeet. But if I want to run a sparsely organized, low-end-tshirt-and-medal race, I can do it for much less than $55 + $9 parking. Get rid of the shirt and medal, have some age group awards, food, and charge $40-45. That would make for a good race.

Edited to add:

It gets better! The results came out and, just, wow. They have me as 30th. And the winner ran an AMAZING time of 34 minutes!! Um. NO. There was no elite 10K’er running 34 minutes in 25 mph winds in this small race. Good grief, it’s not a RACE if the timing is completely inaccurate. Now I definitely am not happy with this race. This is more egregious than the lack of food.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Getting Lost in My Own Neighborhood

Trucking up a hill and dodging two-foot weeds, I knew I couldn’t possibly be in the right place.


It began last night, after work. I had decided after 2 or 3 years of saying that I needed to find a local track open to the public, that I was actually going to do it. First, I tried to find one close to work (maximize the daylight) – via Google Maps. I found that just a mile or so away, was University City High School. Arrived to find a construction fence with a sign stating that the athletic facilities are closed. OK, then.

Later that evening via Google Maps, I see that the middle school less than a quarter mile from my house has a dirt 400 meter track. I will run on dirt, especially that close. Just as the sun was rising this morning, I jogged over to find that the track and the eight tennis courts were all locked up. I am pretty sure the middle school doesn’t use them much – what a waste! Locals would happily use them.

Not to be deterred, I immediately hopped into the car and drove over to Mira Costa. Knowing that you need a permit to park on campus and not wanting this to turn into a $40 track-finding-failure, I parked in the closest residential neighborhood to the campus entrance and tried to remember the satellite view of how to get to the track on foot. The sidewalk on the one side abruptly ended so I started following a walking path going east.

And then I ended up an overgrown hill of mostly dead weeds. Wondering if I was going to get attacked by an axe-murderer at 7:30 in the morning with no one around.

I backtracked and managed to find a backwards way to the track entrance behind another building. At this point, I was pooped. But, dammit, I was going to get in some kind of intervals.

The last time I ran a lap around a proper track (not the dirt-excuse-for-a-track in Redondo Beach’s Aviation park back in 2003) was 1996. I decided to attempt a 400m. First of all, I have decided I really don’t like my Mizuno Precisions. It’s like running in a shoe shaped from concrete. Kind of unyielding. As soon as I hit 200 miles, those things are getting retired to casual use. Second, 16 years of absence from the track were squeezed down into a sliver of seconds and I was right back to feeling like a mediocre, average high school runner.

It’s a wonder I’ve avoided the track.

My high school team (XC, indoor, and outdoor) was one of the best in school history. The 4x800 team 3rd best at the state relay meet (class A – biggest schools). We had 2 girls at 12:01 and 12:02  in the 2-mile and then four more under 13:00. More than 6 girls (I can’t even remember) were under 6:00 for the mile, two under 5:15. The 4x400 and 4x100 relay teams were of the state’s fastest. Our shot putter was state champion. We routinely kicked the shit out of other teams. The boys were 4 x 800 relay New England Champions (as in, across 6 states). It was pretty easy to feel inadequate with a 13:30 2-mile and a 6:15 mile with this group. Small fish. Big pond.

So as I ran that first stupid 400 this morning, I was thrown right back into it that feeling of medocrity. Crazy, huh? While I am getting faster, and while I know I am faster than the average recreational runner (heck, next year I need 3:40 for BQ, and I’m less than seven minutes away with a peak-week-mileage of only 42 miles), I seriously felt like a sloth. I could not fathom how I got around the track 3 more times at the same pace in the mile. Which was still slower than 6 other girls on the team.

I think I must make peace with this damn track or I will forever feel like that barely average runner always missing the mark.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Race Report: Rock ‘n Roll New Orleans Marathon 2012

After six dead-to-the-world hours of sleep, I lay there in the hotel bed for 3o minutes half-asleep, wating for my real alarm (rather than my husband-4am-alarm) to go off. I still had a belly full of gumbo (or at least if felt that way) so I knew that, for the first time in my 33 years, I would be drinking the brewed-in-your-bathroom-hotel coffee to get “things” moving.

Turns out that the Astor Crowne Plaza has some decent coffee – specifically the local CC Community Coffee, around since the WWI era. If only they’re commitment to putting the customer first was also as good. The night before I asked the front desk if we could get late checkout since it was impossible that I could be back and showered by 11am with a 7am start on a point to point course. She acted like I had asked for a free night and said that noon was the latest checkout they could allow. Noon. Really. Still, not enough time to finish, get on a shuttle, get back and shower.

After drinking a cup of coffee and eating a banana I decided that the Husband did not need to meet me at the finish. I didn’t want him checking my purse with the bellhop, nor did I expect him to carry my purse around New Orleans the entire morning. I am certainly not that emasculating or high maintenance.

I showered around 5:15 am since it wasn’t clear I was going to get to shower after the race, figured I might as well get as clean as possible beforehand. Decided I should drink the second cup of hotel coffee (again in the interest of clearing out the gumbo), had a PB and bagel thin sandwich, and mixed my gatorade for my fuel belt bottles.

Shortly before 6am, I was walking to the Starbucks in the Marriot off Canal. Yes, a third cup of coffee (soy latte specifically). Hit up their restrooms and then walked a few blocks to the start area. It was around 50 degrees, so I had on a plaid flannel which I decided to bag check (which turns out to be the smoothest post-race bag check retrieval ever). I made one visit to the portajohns – the lines were long – then walked over to my corral (#6).

I had heard that RnR races had strict corral policies, but this one totally did not. They did not check bibs at all. It was around 6:45 and #6 was already pretty crowded, so I didn’t even try to get toward the middle/back of the corral. I started chatting with another runner who went through the trouble of changing his corral, officially. He was shooting for a 3:55 and said that he was notorious for going out too fast. I almost suggested he run with me, but decided that I didn’t want to screw him up.

Our corral went off maybe 7 minutes after the 7am start which was pretty quick, and being at the front of it meant it was a bunch of rabbits. Including the dude I had chatted with before the start. Holy smokes, that guy took off like a bat out of hell. I wanted to run after him and tell him to slow the eff down, but I as trying to get my bearings on the proper pace with everyone else pretty much out of control. At one point in that first mile I looked down at my garmin and saw 6:59 as my projected split pace. Um. No. I put the breaks on, big time.

We took a few early turns in that first mile and I clocked mile 1 on the Garmin, still trying to slow down.

Mile 1: 8:21

We then hit St Charles Ave which was the majority of the half marathon course. Such a pretty street! Huge old houses, lots of trees. Just gorgeous. I would live there, happily stuffing myself with oysters and crawfish. Anyone want to hire a software engineer to work in New Orleans? I am there.

St Charles Ave was miles 2-8. I was still reeling from the ridiculously fast start, so I was still trying to gage my effort level. But the road felt downhill! Seriously. Around mile 3 I asked a runner if she felt it was downhill. She assured me it was just flat. I was not convinced.

Miles 2 - 4: 8:42, 8: 44, 8:39

The roads were a bit rough – in need of some repair/TLC. Along the way, I would see mardi-gras beads STUCK in tar in the road. I kind of loved it, though, because it was a reminder that I was, in fact, running a marathon in the heart of the big easy. We doubled back at 4.5 and again, it felt like I was going downhill. WTF. That is not possible. Unless you are grandparents talking about how you used to walk to school in 20 degrees below zero uphill both ways.

I commented, again, about it to another runner and they agreed that it had felt downhill before, but clearly, it must not have been. I don’t even know. All I know is that in this stretch, my garmin would beep, I would look down and see 8:39. It was creepy how steady my pace was.

This stretch also had a band that must have been well-known, locally, because runners were cheering for them, loudly and energetically. Generally, at every band, I paused my iPod so I could listen. Unfortunately, this band landed in the middle of my new favorite race song, Hall and Oates, You Make My Dreams Come True. Yes, I am that dorky. I love me some seventies cheesy music.

Miles 5-8: 8:39, 8:39, 8:38, 8:39

We were making our way to Decatur Street the south side of the French Quarter where the shade was hard to come by. But the temps were still cool, around 60.

Fullscreen capture 362012 81305 AM.bmp

Most of my course pics are from after mile 20, but, they are like glamour shots compared to my Carlsbad pics (view at your own risk. I take no responsibility for any cardiac arrest events resulting from fits of laughter).

The marathoners hung out with the half marathoners for nearly 13 miles, so, while it wasn’t necessarily crowded, it was a little weird to know that most of the people around you were working much harder for the same pace. Kind of threw me off a bit. I chatted a bit with one girl who was on pace to PR – I wanted to tell her to pick it up because her ability talk easily meant she had lots of engergy left, but I didn’t want to be meddlesome.

Miles 9-12: 8:43, 8:46, 8:39, 8:40

Again with the 8:39. F**king creepy, I tell you. To use a Heather word.

Short after mile 12, we had the mentally agonizing split from the halfers. I wasn’t really tired or anything, I just knew the discomfort I was in for. It’s like making the conscious choice to be gently tortured for 2 more hours.

I finished off my first pack of blocks and kept trudging along, wondering if I was going to be able to maintain my pace. We ran long City Park making our way towards Lake Pontchartrain. We had a bit of shade in this region but the temps were rising. I crossed the half-way point around 1:53.

Miles 13-15: 8:35, 8:39, 8:41

Between mile 15 and 16, I caught up with the rabbit dude I had chatted with at the start. Only I wasn’t sure it was him until after I passed. So I didn’t say hi. He would end up finishing 4:10+. Again, clearly going out too fast is not a good idea. Shortly after, I was running along, chatting with fellow runners about the leaders – when we would finally see them (as it was getting close to the point where they should be doubling back).

We hit the lake where it got truly hot. No shade, and the temps were approaching 70. I was leap-frogging with one of the runners from mile 16 until around mile 18 when we just started running together. Because why not. We chatted it up with two runners, one cute, girly runner with braids and a running skirt who totally farted loudly. Cracked me up. It would be the girly-girl breaking some strong wind along the lake.

This lake portion felt like it went on forever. There were some somewhat steep, short overpass/bridge hills which messed with my head after such a complete flat course. Finally, we hit the turn around shortly after 20 miles.

Miles 16-20: 8:46, 8:35, 8:34, 8:34

I was working. If I didn’t have my new-found running buddy, I’m not sure I would have had those miles in the 8:30’s. Another stupid hill before mile 22, and we turn to go back to City Park for the finish. An awesome band was playing some local jazzy type stuff which had the perfect tempo for my cadence. There was some shade here, but, it wasn’t much. I was nearly out of gatorade and did not want to use aid stations because I have zero practice running whilst trying to drink from a cup. And stopping to drink seemed like a fatal choice.

The last 6 miles I was hanging on to 8:40 for dear life. Every time I would pass a mile marker, I would take the number of miles left, multiply by 10 minutes, and add to my current time. That was my gage on if sub 3:50 was possible. I figured I could drag my ass through a 10 minute mile, worst case. But until it was true, that 10:00 pace would yield sub 8:50, I didn’t allow myself to slow down.

Miles 22-25: 8:45, 8:40, 8:40, 8:34

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My stranger run-buddy! I finally got his name at the finish. I would not have been able to hang on to my pace without him – running with someone was holding me accountable. If I slowed down, I knew he might call me out on it so I hung on.

Sometime after mile 25, I told him he shouldn’t feel compelled to stay with me. I didn’t want to hold him back from kicking it in. Though he said he was fine, shortly after he started picking it up. I just tried to keep up as best I could.

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Apparently, I was also running long side Charlie Sheen’s long-lost son.

Mile 26: 8:41

I’m just hanging on. We hit the final stretch and I check my watch – can I squeek in under 3:47?

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How red is my face!? It was hot and I was definitely dehydrated.

Last .25: 2:02, 8:08 pace

I crossed 3:46:50!!! I was both happy and immediately in pain. Like, instantaneous leg pain. Wow. My run-buddy waited for me to finish (it turned out because he started in corral 5, I actually was 30 seconds ahead of him, time-wise) and we exchanged congratulations.

Checked my phone - Nicole and The Husband had already texted me congratulations! I picked up my stuff, hit the med tent for two acetaminophen, and walked straight to the shuttles, hoping that I might somehow make it to the hotel before noon.

No dice. Meanwhile, The Husband had asked, again, that morning, if we could get more time, and was denied. Again. I get on a shuttle at 11:30am but I don’t get back to the hotel until 12:15pm. He’s waiting in the lobby with our luggage and I decide to make one last plea, in my sweaty disgustingness, that all I want is a 5 minute shower. This front desk person was super nice and says it’s no problem, let’s just see the keys still work for the room. They do. So I haul butt and take the fastest shower ever. Third time was a charm.

We spend the rest of the afternoon walking around the French Quarter, eating raw oysters, and drinking hurricanes. Confirming that I freaking love Louisiana.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Enroute to New Orleans

Friday morning, after waking up at 3:30am, we flew out of LAX (third time I was up there in less than a week) to Houston, our first pitstop on the way to New Orleans. Why Houston for less than 24 hours? We hadn't seen some dear friends (who decided to haul butt out of SoCal in '06, back to their hometown) since 2009 in which time two babies have been born. So while it was short and 6 hour drive from NOLA, it was completely worth it.

The male half of the couple ran The Woodlands marathon on Saturday morning (and PR'd!). Friday afternoon, we got to walk around the small expo while his wife picked up his bib. I snagged a cowbell! Thinking it will be very useful for Ragnar cheering.

We crashed at their place Friday evening. I had full plans of waking up at 6am in order to be on the road by 7am and figured I would wake up no problem. Well, the whole jet-lag thing turned out to be a bigger factor than I expected and I woke up 7am. We managed to get out the door by 8am, but then getting my coffee at the Starbucks (inside a Kroger) took forever (seriously, like 30 minutes to get coffee, water, and bananas). While there, I decided I didn't like the prices at all and that we'd stop at Walmart in Jennings, LA.

In Beaumont, TX somewhere between 10 and 10:30am, we stopped to top off the gas tank, take a pee break, and make a mandatory visit to the Cracker Barrel Country Store (I love this place. Love. It.). Then back on the road.

For maybe an hour. See a pattern?

We hit Westlake, LA and the Husband has to make a second pit stop (apparently, the seal had been broken). Westlake was probably one of the ugliest towns I have ever seen (at least the parts we saw). So many oil pipelines everywhere, running up and over streets like a freeway overpass. And this enormous sign perched way to low over the street for its dimensions.

Less than an hour later, we arrive at my one planned stop in Jennings, LA to get race-morning foods. While the selection/prices for bread/bagel type items were significantly worse than our local Walmarts, they had my favorite Danksin workout top on clearance ($5) in a bunch of colors, with x-smalls abound (never see this in ours). This stop cost us another 20-30 minutes, tacked on to the 90 minutes we were late starting out, plus the two other pee-stops. And we hadn't even had lunch yet! But somehow my brain thinks there is plenty of time. It's 12:30 and we're almost to Lafayette, right? Ok, Einstein.

I transferred the driving duties to the Husband and started Yelping down seafood places to have lunch in Lafayette. After a wild good chase to a highly-rated restaurant that isn't open for lunch on Saturdays (WTF? Saturday? I get Sunday in the Bible Belt but Saturday?) costing us more precious time, we find a sit-down place, Don's Seafood Hut, that assures we can be in and out in 30 minutes. And they deliver. Not to mention the crawfish gumbo was excellent. At this point, inhaling tasty, spicy, cajun shelfish stew that I realized I was going to love Louisiana.

Except, I was freaking out that I wasn't going to make bib pick up.

Traffic getting to the Convention Center was ugly, according to Google Maps.
No more stops after Lafayette. I spent the better part of 3 hours (thanks to traffic) wondering if I should be driving - like that would make any difference. Control Freak much? Obviously it wouldn't but I guess in my mind if I were driving at least I would be in control. But The Husband is as good a driver as anybody, so, I put the crazy away. We finally parked way the heck at the opposite end of the expo in the Hilton garage ($8 for less than an hour of use. Oh well.) 30 minutes before the expo closes. Phew! Packet pickup was easy, except later in the evening I realized the shirt they gave me was freaking dirty (like black soot-like spots in 3 different places). Hopefully it comes out, but a lesson to check the shirt before leaving.

Because we had squandered our time on pit stops, by the time we got our car valeted and checked into the hotel, it was past 6pm. Leaving slim-pickins in the OpenTable reservations department - some slots I tried to book only to have them swiped from under me because I took 4 minutes to check Yelp's restaurant reviews before booking. We ended up at a rather mediocre (yet still expensive) restaurant called M Bistro (inside either the Ritz or the Marriot, I can’t remember which). Service was great, but the food, while decent, didn't hold a candle to anything else we ate in Louisiana. Yet another coordination/time management lesson learned. Instead of compulsively freaking out and checking the traffic on the ride into New Orleans, maybe one should spend said time getting good restaurant reservations.

With a stomach full of gumbo (there were basically zero carb options on the menu - not a single pasta dish to speak of), race outfit and fuel laid out, I was asleep by 10pm for a 4:30am wake up. Oddly, I wasn't all that nervous, no tossing and turning. The Husband woke up out of the blue without the alarm at 3:54am and asked me what time it was - my own personal human alarm clock! Laid there for another 30 minutes before it was time to get on with the race preparations...

Race recap to follow!