Friday, March 9, 2012

Disaster relief (+ giveaway)

I did everything wrong in New Orleans. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

I got little to no sleep. I ate untested foods before the race. I didn't need to go to the bathroom before the race. I tried a new-to-me fuel. I wore multiple items of new clothing.

While there wasn't much I could do about the sleep (stupid drunk frat guys), I could do something about the rest - and I should have as a somewhat experienced racer. However, looking back, I'm pretty sure I lucked out.

Running Skirt. We were going to be twinkies. Twinkies in the matching running skirts Pattie purchased us from

As great as the idea sounded, the reality was much different. We were both a bit self conscious about the fit of the skirt and were fearful of what it would be like to wear it on race day. While confidence was the only thing that would truly help, Pattie thought if we were able to go a size up (even though I already had) that it might be better. She called customer service to see if they would have the skirts at the expo so we could exchange them. No dice. The mums were being discontinued and sizes were limited in the warehouse - and they definitely wouldn't be at the expo. However, the lovely service rep offered to Fed Ex us athletic versions of the skirt to our NOLA hotel. At no charge.

Since the skirts have compression shorts underneath (ours were yellow - like a ray of sunshine) and are a bit longer, I decided not to (Body) Glide. I figured I would be fine. I figured wrong. The shorts rode up even on the walk to the start line and I had a good bit of chafing by the time I handed over the baton. I was lucky that a little post-race Body Glide, I felt OK but I'm not so sure I'll be doing that again.

I'm also not so sure I'll be running distances in the skirt. I think it will be great for a fun 5K (maybe this summer's Diva Dash) but otherwise, I'll be sticking to Tempo Shorts. However, I will not trash the Running Skirt folks because they went above and beyond for us. Those ladies are classy!

Zensah. Leg sleeves - everyone has them. Up until NOLA, I had been a devotee of Recovery Socks but I couldn't help but be lured by the bright colors and patterns offered by Zensah. The fact that I could wear traditional running socks with the sleeves only piqued my interest more. I ended up with a yellow pair to match my little ray of sunshine mum skirt in small/medium, and I wore them during the race. Thankfully, they didn't give me any issues like the skirt. In fact, I practically forgot I had them on during the race (as a Zensah rep said).

See the Gu there, in my hand? P.S. I cropped the hell out of this photo so you don't have to see my extra skin. Seriously, I need to wear capris to a race so I can have at least one good photo.

Peanut Butter Gu. Holy mother of God. This stuff is good. So good. I carried the packet in my hand and by the time I took it at the 5K mark it was warm and easily extracted into my mouth. I felt like I was ingesting melted peanut butter. I'm pretty sure I wasn't but still ... I think I might be putting this on my pre-run bananas.

By the way, I had a feeling I would like the PB Gu so I picked up a few extra at the expo ... for you. Since you've put up with NOLA post after NOLA post, I have a giveaway for you.

*Assortment of Gu, including PB and Island Nectars Roctane.
*Biscoff spread (I keep seeing all this crap about it and since I finally decided to try it, I thought you could too)
*A copy of "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners edition"
*Brooks Printed Mesh Cap (in white/carrot)
*And anything else I decide to throw in. (I promise not to ship Miles, even though he has been up at 4:45 every morning this week.)

To enter giveaway, tell me in the comments section what item that you can't head to the starting line without.

Giveaway will end Friday, March 16 and the winner (picked via will be announced March 17. Entries from anonymous commenters will not be accepted.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Push it, push it real good


It screamed at me from the cover of Runner's World. The magazine had the key, 9 actually, to get me out there pounding the pavement. The writer suggested things like thinking positive, joining up with friends and doing workouts you love.

What can I say? Predictable, predictable, predictable.

You need real motivation to run.

Personal hygiene. Gross as it may seem, I try to avoid hair washing daily at all costs. It's taken a while to "train" it that way but I'm finally there and my scalp thanks me. I washed my hair yesterday, and I need to shower tonight because I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning. If I'm going to have to go to all the effort of washing my hair and such, I might as well get my time's worth by sweating it up beforehand. Rain or not, I'll be running 4.5 miles.

Pre-track your workout. I do this a lot with strength/cross training. If I know I should workout, I mark that I've done so on MyFitnessPal. I'm less likely to skip it because going back and removing it blows chunks.

A decent race time. My average pace for my 8 miles at RnR NOLA was 9:09. Do you know what that means? And if you say that I missed running sub-9, I might hit you. A 9:09 average is just what I would need to run to get a sub-2 finish at the Martian half-marathon next month. I know it's not what I've been training for and it would have to come down to perfect race conditions but that number was all that I could think about yesterday. It was that number that motivated me to do my interval workout even though I had the stroller. I had 7x400 on tap and though I didn't do the prescribed workout, I did 1:30 hard followed by 2 minutes easier for 7 or 8 times during my 4-mile run.  It might have been that 9:09 that pushed me to one of my fastest stroller miles ever - 8:55. (Thanks MOTOACTV for letting me check my stats online on Mark's computer. Booyah!)

Double the fun. We can all go out and sign up for a 5K and "stick" to training plan. But come race day, we can dial it in just because. Well, when you have someone else depending on you, it's a whole lot different. I know I ran harder in NOLA because I didn't want to disappoint my friend and I know she trained and ran harder for the same reason.

Chocolate milk ... or beer. When Pattie and I were walking back to the shuttle, we were trying to be good runners and cheer on those who were heading toward the finish line. I started shouting that they were just a few strides away from chocolate milk (the best ever recovery drink if you ask me). And the Pattie started with the two beers because, well, there were two beers. It's probably not all that amusing to you but I can assure you that we thought we were being funny helpful. On a hotter by the minute day, who wouldn't run for beer or chocolate milk? I know I shouldn't advocate caloric reward for sweat but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Do you have an unconventional way of motivating yourself?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Taking a bite out of NOLA


Oh, the beignets. There's a reason everyone talks about you when mentioning New Orleans. You are pieces of fried dough deliciousness only made better by the addition of powdered sugar.

If I could you every day ... well, I probably wouldn't. Just being honest. But on vacation? Yes. PUHLEASE.

Eating was one of the things I was most looking forward to about New Orleans, and I have to say that the city didn't disappoint. I told Pattie that I think you could spend your lifetime trying to eat everywhere and it was next to impossible to get all of the classics - and then some - into one trip. Especially a trip with a race when you schedules are off and foods are avoided to prevent any tummy issues.

Nonetheless, we still managed to enjoy some great food.

Stop No. 1: EAT

This restaurant was suggested to us by the hotel manager. It scored bonus points for being a couple blocks from our hotel and well-reviewed on Urbanspoon.

Its rating went off the charts when we realized we'd be dining with George Clooney.

Of course, the food was good, too. And well priced. I had Butterbeans with Shrimp, and Pattie had Crawfish Pie. A great introduction to NOLA cuisine.

Stop No. 2: The Rum House

I had found The Rum House on Urbanspoon and was totally pumped to try it. The fare wasn't traditional to the city but it was far different from what I'd get at home.

I had two tacos - Lamb Vindaloo and Calypso Beef - with a house salad. The salad had spinach, roasted sweet potato, toasted pecans, shaved red onion and goat cheese. With each bite, I had to promise myself that I'd re-create the meal at home.

And any place that serves Diet Coke in a giant mason jar is a winner in my book.

Stop No. 3: Sucre

Sucre is a sweet boutique on Magazine Street that specializes in French macaroons, chocolates and gelato. I had originally scoped out the place to try the macaroons.

And then we got distracted.

All things NOLA sundae with Bananas Foster Sauce, Brown Butter Pecan Gelato, Bread Pudding Pieces, Whipped Cream, Roasted Pecans.

To say it was good would be an understatement.

Stop No. 4: Oceana

Again, a selection by the hotel clerk. You can do all the scoping you want but people who live in the city and need to afford to eat in the city know where to go.

I had the Taste of New Orleans sampler - crawfish etouffe, jambalaya, red beans and rice and smoked sausage. I really liked the etouffe and could have eaten a whole bowl.

Stop No. 5: NOLA

The Holy Grail of our eating extravaganza. Pattie and I like to do one expensive meal when we travel, and we decided to go all celeb with Emeril's NOLA.

We started with the Fried Green Tomato Salad. It was amazing. It made me want to eat fried green tomatoes every day while watching Kathy Bates take out her aggression on a car in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot.

And then I had an unremarkable fish dish.

Followed by a fabulous Banana Pudding Layer Cake, split - of course. So good.

It was really important for me this trip to eat. Not to eat bad per se but not get so caught up in calories/weight gain/restriction that I failed to enjoy myself. While I did have plenty of sugar, I feel good that I split a lot of the worst items and balanced it all with lots of movement.

Of course, they were things we didn't have - gumbo, po boys, the traditional muffaletta. I guess there's always next year ...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rockin' it out in NOLA

"I love you," she said.

As I passed the "baton" to my friend and watched her take off, I couldn't help but feel like those three little words were more than just our feelings for each other. "I love you" was the way I'd best describe my experience (overall, of course) at Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans.

Pre-race. The starting line was about a mile and a half from our hotel and with a 7 a.m. start, I figured that I would have to get up by 5:15, be down to the complimentary breakfast by 5:45 and out of the hotel no later than 6.

Too bad someone had other plans in mind. And by someone, I mean a group of 21-year-olds staying at the hotel for a fraternity formal. They were caught in the throes of college drunk drama the entire night, and I was awake every half hour from 3 a.m. to 4:55, when Pattie and I said fig it and got up. 

While I would never recommend intermittent sleep at the hands of 21-year-old girls screaming, "Why don't you love me?", it was nice not to rush. I put on my Running Skirt, braided my hair and even remembered to brush my teeth.

I grabbed a bagel, peanut butter and jelly from the breakfast bar as well as a cup of coffee (duh). I ate about three-quarters of the bagel before parting ways with Pattie and heading to the start.

Once I arrived, I immediately got in line for the portable bathrooms. Better safe than sorry, I say. The line moved quickly and it seemed even more so because I had some lovely people to chat with. And that's what I want to stress. Not the bathroom but the people. Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans was, hands down, the nicest race I've ever run. I talked to people in line for the toilet. I talked to people in the corral. I talked to people along the course and on the walk back to the shuttle. I talked to people on the shuttle and at the finish. I talked so much that I never felt alone, something I was worried about with a relay.

The race. I was so busy chatting about other races and babies that I was a bit shocked to hear the national anthem. Wave by wave, runners were off. I was in corral 9 or 10 (I got to pick as a relay) and so it was a bit before we got to the start but soon enough I was off.

I was a bit unsure about how to race my leg of the relay. I knew that even at 7.5 miles (which was actually more like 8) that I'd have to pace myself but I wanted to leave it all out there. I wanted nothing in the tank when I handed off the "baton" (a drum stick). I decided to go out comfortably hard and allowed myself to get caught up in the excitement of the race start.

My leg took me through the Central Business District (uneventful) to St. Charles Avenue, through the Garden District and down to Loyola, and then back through the Garden District. While I typically hate out-and-backs, St. Charles Avenue is wide enough that you can look at the homes on one side of the street and lose yourself in the architecture and gardens. To say it was gorgeous would be an understatement.

Or, if you are me, you can lose yourself in an effort trying to locate the "Real World: New Orleans" house. I passed it (according to the map) but never did notice it. Bummer.

The first couple miles seemed to go pretty quickly but once I saw the half marathon winner blaze past the 10K mark on the other side of the street, my mind started to race. "Where is the turnaround?" "Where was the 5K mark?" "God, there are a ton of people. I wish I could settle into a pace." "Are we at the turnaround?"

One of my questions got answered before the other - the 5K mark. I crossed a timing mat and took a Peanut Butter Gu, which, by the way, is amazing. A Gu for 8 miles is probably not that necessary but it was humid and warm, and the water stations were pretty far apart (about 1.75 miles). I wanted to make sure that if I bonked, it would be because I went out too hard.

And I was pretty sure I did so by the time I hit the turnaround. Or maybe it was when I caught up to another runner who said, "You again? I saw you blaze past me a while back." Oops. Whatev. While I was enjoying the race and the course, I was getting tired and antsy to start seeing some signs of the transition. It didn't help that I saw a lot of kids out with signs cheering on their moms. Just shy of the 6-mile marker, I nearly lost it when I saw a "Go Mommy Go" sign. I felt so guilty for leaving Miles and, at the same time, couldn't help but picture him a couple years older and out cheering for me.

I gave myself a moment to feel what I was feeling and then made myself get it together - I didn't go to NOLA to cry during a race. I came to NOLA to race a race.

I allowed myself to ease up till the 10K marker and then it was going to be hard until I got to the transition. I don't remember much during this part of the race. It was all about getting to the next milestone - the 7-mile mark and the sign for the transition and when my watch hit 7.5 miles.

And when my watch hit 7.6 ... 7.75. Another first legger came up from behind me and headed toward his partner. I tried to dig deep and pass him but I couldn't. And with no transition in sight, it was hard to kick it. Finally, around 7.85, I saw the second leg runners and ran toward Pattie. I saw her push through the crowd in her matching Running Skirt.

"I love you," she said as I passed the drum stick. And she was off.

About 20 seconds after I stopped running, I finally stopped the MOTOACTV. It read 8 miles in 1:03:20. Best case scenario had me finishing in 72 minutes and I guessed that 7.5 would take me between 72 and 75 so I'm pretty stoked about my time (9:09 pace). I ran negative splits, with the last two miles under 9, and I left everything I had on the road.

Post race. There were Snickers Marathon bars, bananas and water waiting for us (sadly, no chocolate milk) and I stocked up. For once, I was starving finishing a race. From there, it was a "4 block" walk (more like a mile) to the shuttle, which I took to City Park so I could see Pattie finish.

I had been worried that I might miss her because the shuttle took forever but I got there just a few minutes early. It was so incredibly awesome to get to cheer her onto a spectacular finish. She came in under an hour, besting her 5-mile PR by more than 5 minutes - and she even ran farther (5.25) this time around. 

To quote one of my favorite signs of the day, "OUCH! I just tripped over your awesomeness."


To celebrate, we cashed in our bibs at the beer tent and enjoyed our Michelob Ultras in city park as we listened to the band and people watched.

It was the perfect way to end a fantastic race ... even if it was 10 a.m. And don't give me that face - we were in NEW ORLEANS, after all.