I’m so behind on race recaps so those are forthcoming (Gulf Coast Interstate Relay III, New Orleans HIM Relay, and Crescent City Classic 10k) but I wanted to drop by and say hi.
This past weekend was my first swim since the Half Ironman Relay on April 13 and last. It was my first practice with Coach C since the relay too. We did a down and dirty quick 1000 that included 6×50 yard intervals. I was a little worried that I would blow them, but the rest paid off apparently because I nailed it.
It was only January when I was able to hit ONE 50 yard interval in under 1:00, so breaking :50 was a BIG deal for me. Brian was killing it too, staying 2-3 seconds ahead of me.
Five Weeks to Indian Creek Triathlon!
For the first half of the GCIR, check out my previous post.
Saturday morning we were ready to meet Van 1 at the next major transition, a luxurious Walgreens parking lot. It was actually great because there was a bathroom and we could pick up water and snacks. More and more vans were showing up, meaning the faster runners who had started behind us were starting to catch us. Some people were even sleeping in sleeping bags on the sidewalk. Valerie showed Mo and Kevin how to use KT tape on their legs, which turned out to be a life saver. Eve knocked out a fast 3.81 miles before needing to leave town and passed the baton to Kevin.
Once Kevin handed off to Fallon, we went to grab some food. Balancing when to eat a real meal was pretty tricky, since no one wants to eat a full meal until they have finished their leg, but there can be a 5-8 hour stretch over the course of legs. The temperature had also dropped quite a bit and I hadn’t packed anything except tanks, so I ducked into a Mobile, Alabama Winn Dixie and was faced with an LSU alum’s worst nightmare.
The only sweatshirts were Alabama and Auburn.
I had talked myself into buying an Alabama one, flipping it inside out, and gifting it to my dear dad (an Alabama alum) when the store manager, also an LSU fan, found one lone little boy’s plain navy blue hoodie. I wore that thing like a security blanket for the rest of the trip.
Fallon ran into an issue about 4 miles into her leg and I ended up picking up the last 6 miles. Since my first leg had been along the Mississippi beach in the middle of the night, I was appreciating the daylight. The area was pretty blandly suburban but there were some gigantic hills along the way. At least gigantic to a New Orleans runner. I used to really like running hills so that was an adventure. By this point though, after pounding 9.73 miles primarily on sidewalk and then another 6 that included quite a few downhills on sidewalk, my quads were talking to me.
We kept going. Valerie’s leg was mostly through suburban traffic with lots of stops and starts at traffic lights before hitting a nice stretch of neighborhood. She handed off her baton to Mo right in front of Dreamland BBQ, one of our favorite restaurants. Mo’s run was one of the more scenic ones of the trip, through old Mobile neighborhoods and finally through downtown. We were waiting for him at one particularly tricky turn and he showed up carrying a bouquet of flowers for me!
Fallon was pretty bummed she had to miss part of her run, and I was a bit nervous since I had an 8.25 mile leg scheduled for later in the same Van rotation so we tossed around some ideas about splitting it up. Mo ended up running an extra mile at the end of his/start of mine and Kevin picked up the last 2 miles of that leg so that I was down to about 5.25 miles. Fallon was also jealous because originally that leg was supposed to be go through the Mobile tunnel.
But it didn’t.
Ladies and gentlemen, what ensued on that 5.25 mile leg was some of the most ridiculous area I’ve ever run. It started in a boring deserted railroad yard and then trailed through some seemingly abandoned and yet… not abandoned houses. I kept thinking, “I sure hope this isn’t the scenic side of Mobile.” There was a really cool cemetery I would have liked to have seen, but I hadn’t stopped during a leg yet so I wasn’t going to start now. I turned the corner to be met with the biggest bridge I’ve ever seen in my life.
I should have stopped in my tracks.
I promise you that nobody had cycled or run over that bridge before putting it on this relay course.
I’ll let you in on a secret. I grew up in Tuscaloosa Alabama. For a year, my dad And I ran regularly over the Black Warrior River. Even living in Monroe, I ran over the Ouachita River without a second thought. Prior to GCIR, I’d raced bridges at least 6 times. Done right, bridge racing is exhilarating.
The Cochrane-Africatown Bridge (it wasn’t labeled on the map, but I’m pretty sure that was it based on my extensive googling skills) in Mobile Alabama is not a bridge for runners or cyclists. I didn’t know how bad it was going to be until I was about 1/3 of the way up. There was no walk way, only a shoulder and the guardrail was maybe hip high for about 2/3 of it. I had opted to run against traffic, which seemed safer, so given the option between the side of the bridge and the traffic, I ran closer to the cars. Honestly, I wanted to stop and call my van to pick me up, but any movement other than the foot-past-foot and arm swinging felt dangerous. At least continuously moving hadn’t gotten me hurt yet.
I wanted off that bridge so bad.
My van met me at the bottom to make sure I was ok to keep going for the last mile of my leg before Kevin picked it up. Getting off that bridge felt so great I was fine to keep going. Kevin knocked out the last 2 miles of that leg and Brian picked it up right before it started to get dark. He ran several bridges, opted not to pick up the bag of weed he found on the side of the road, and endured an epic rain storm before we pulled into Transition 24 and handed off the baton to Van 1 to start their last set of legs.
Well hello there.
I survived my spring funk and have many tales to tell of adventures therein.
The last two springs have been tough for me. Last spring there was a fair share of family issues going on, but this spring, I got no excuses. I just tucked my head down and slogged through whatever funk I was in. Straight into a hurtling mass of chaos otherwise known as Gulf Coast Interstate Relay.
My bestie Fallon likes to joke (I think) about how I’m the friend that talks her into doing crazy stuff. Entirely possible. But I did not expect to be captaining the very first relay I ever ran. I felt a little bad that I could only answer some of our runners’ questions based on other people’s experiences in relays, but that is how it goes.
Our final team ended up being: LB, Eve, Jordan, Jacque, Brandi, Keli (Van 1), Val, Me, Brian Fallon, Mo, and Kevin (Van 2). We made up Team Buck It.
So just to back up a bit: GCIR is a relay race. You can cycle it or run it. It spans four states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida). One of the teams told us that it is the longest running relay race in America at 263 miles (but I don’t know that for sure).
If you aren’t familiar with relay racing, each member is assigned legs of the race and the Van 1 starts off with the first six runners. They drop off their first runner, drive to transition and wait for that runner to finish and drops off the next runner. They continue this until all six runners have finished and they meet Van 2 at the point where the sixth runner finishes so that the second van can continue on with runners seven through twelve. Runners pass a baton as they complete their legs (our baton was a slap bracelet). When your van is inactive, you can sleep, eat, hang out. But mostly sleep.
Since GCIR is longer than typical relays, which are between 100 and 200 miles, the legs were longer, so it was hard to find 12 people who could make that commitment. We had a total of 6 members who had signed up at one point and then later dropped out for various reasons. I was pretty stressed over the last week making last minute arrangements securing volunteers (we were supposed to provide 3 but the logistics of volunteering was fuzzy), getting our van (my friend LB rented a van for her half of the team and Fallon seriously came through on borrowing a 15 person passenger van), and filling empty places. We even had a last minute drop out on Thursday (although she had a good reason) and had to find someone literally the night before. Big shout out to the Alexandria running community for in general awesomeness!!!
So Friday morning comes. We have 12 runners, 2 vans, and a ton of bottled water. All is good. I make it to the captain’s meeting, for which I felt woefully unprepared, as everyone else had color coded binders with the handbooks and transitions printed out. The race director, Nino, was giving details about each transition.
“So when you are approaching transition 19 there is a patch of gravel right before the sandwich board so you are going to want to hop on the sidewalk but avoid the purple fire hydrant and before you get to the transition you are going to want to slow to a jog, spin on one foot, and sprinkle the blood of three red head virgins on the ground.”
I leaned over and joked to someone, “Am I supposed to remember all this?” To which the man replied, “You aren’t recording this?” So I knew we were in trouble. It was great that there was so much detail, especially for cyclists, but bad because we were fresh out of red head virgins.
Our team was a mix of fast experienced runners and newbies, which was pretty cool. We had signed up as having a 10 minute mile average got the earliest wave time, 1:00, along with the only ultra team: Ultra Moms on a Mission.
LB started us off. Van 1 hung around to watch her as she looped back by the starting line and Van 2 left in search of food. We followed the route and hung around at Turtle Landing (restaurant/bar), narrowly missing the alligator that was chilling behind our van, and safely arriving at Transition 6 to watch Eve hand off to Kevin around 7:30.
Our six legs were interrupted by an hour long thunder and lightning storm that the Ultra Moms powered through and we chose to wait out. Val ran a speedy 5 miles once the storm stopped. Mo’s first leg went over the Biloxi Bridge around 11 pm and my first leg started right at midnight. I didn’t end up taking any pictures because I was so ready to just get moving! Those 9.75 miles along the beach in the middle of the night were pretty cool though. It would have been even cooler if I could have actually seen the water, but I sure felt the sand. In some unexpected places. Poor Brian had been waiting about 12 hours to run his first leg and by that point, everyone was out of steam.
Van 1 crashed at a Motel 6 near our exchange and we grabbed their hotel key so we could catch a couple of hours of sleep sans van but got up bright and early Saturday morning. Once I had some coffee I was bright eyed and having the best time though. We were ready to meet Van 2 at the halfway mark!
Mardi Gras was fun, don’t get me wrong. But it also warranted some serious recovery time and I was grateful to have the entire week off to get back into the swing.
Unfortunately, I did not train much during the two weeks of Mardi Gras. And then I got sick.
The result? I’m dropping out of the New Orleans 5150 Triathlon.
I am disappointed. However, I’m not ready. I’ve spent a lot of time on the trainer, but not much on the road. Gulf Coast Interstate Relay is April 4-6 and Half Ironman NOLA is April 13. Those are both team events and I feel like that is where my commitment needs to go.
I learned a couple of things.
1. I committed to too much in the spring, too many races too fast. The New Orleans Triathlon is normally at the end of May so I had that in mind, and when it got pushed up to the end of March, I didn’t think much of it. But spring for a teacher and fall for a teacher are two very different seasons.
2. I’ve also had March and April fill up with professional commitments that I didn’t see coming. I learned I need to save major triathlon training for the fall, after I’ve had a restful summer and don’t have standardized tests looming over me. I know there are people that could train through all of this and do all three races, but I’ve reached my limit.
I am SO excited for both GCIR and Half Ironman though.
GCIR will be awesome for the experience of a relay race. I’ve been reading about relay races for a couple of years and have really wanted to do one. What sounds better than being in a van with five other sweaty friends for 48 hours and running a ton of miles? The weather should be beautiful and the company can’t be beat.
And I’ve really developed a love of swimming in the past year. I’m by no means great, but I’ve been putting in the yards and seeing some improvements. I’m a little stressed about swimming in the cold lake and I don’t want to let my relay team down. I’m on a team with a great cyclist and a great runner so I’ve got to pull my weight!
So here’s to live and learn.
And the Mardi Gras love continues! The Saturday before Mardi Gras is the parade for the Krewe of Endymion. Mo rode in this parade in 2006 and we host a party for the parade since it rolls near our house. Before the party got started though, we did the Endymion Run.
A group of runners meets informally every year near the start of the Endymion route in City Park and runs the seven mile route. We met them at the beginning and ran until we got near our house. But first we had to put on our Mardi Gras finery. I was rocking a Steel MagNOLA jersey plus a beautiful tutu and some beads for throwing. Mo also wore some beads for throwing.
There were maybe 15 to 20 runners at the start. It was very casual. We stood around talking and sharing beads before hand. There were about 5 Steel MagNOLAs there, including Eve, who is still training for Boston! She was doing the Endymion Run as a part of her 20 mile run that day. Beast.
And then we were off. People camp out on the neutral ground certainly the night before, some times for several nights in advance of this parade so we greeted lots of dedicated parade goers and threw them beads along our way. They were happy to see us and to catch the first of many beads. Since we never leave our area before Endymion, it was nice to see other parts of the parade route crowded.
Endymion is one of the biggest (maybe the biggest) parades of the Mardi Gras season and since it is the Saturday before Mardi Gras, it attracts lots of people from neighboring cities and parishes. The Uptown parades roll in the morning but it can be hard to catch both the Uptown parades and Endymion, which rolls through Mid City, so a lot of people do one or the other. Unless you are our family because my brother-in-law and sister-in-law ride in Tucks on Saturday morning (their float is Funky Tucks). So most of our family is Uptown for that parade and then heads to Mid City to see Endymion.
Whew, it has been weeks since I posted. First there was Mardi Gras, and then there was the Mardi Gras recovery.
This was my first year riding with Nyx, an all women’s krewe. We paraded February 26th. Bayou Creole has also posted some great pictures and stories about riding in the title float in the front of the parade. Consider this a view from the back of the pack since I rode on the second to last float, Float 26!
Each year a krewe picks a theme and organizes all of the floats around that theme. We throw beads and cups and other souvenirs that relate to the theme. Our theme this year was Cookin’ With The Krewe. Last year we published a cookbook with the same title. Each float adhered to that theme so the parade started with drink themed floats, then appetizer themed floats, entree themed floats and then finally the desserts. Nyx’s special throw is purses, which the ladies decorate all year. Each sister (as we call each other) was allowed to decorate up to 30 purses, which sounds like a lot, but I decorated 25 and pretty much only had enough to throw to people I knew until I got near the end of the parade route. For that reason it can be pretty tough to get a purse at Nyx, just like it can be tough to get a shoe the next night at Muses.
Tuesday night we loaded the float. If you purchased a bead package, the company preloaded everything you ordered in your spot, but even then it could be hard to tell what was yours. My friend Allison and I were standing next to each other and it was tight. Tuesday night Mo and I loaded my purses and the extra throws I brought from home.
I took Wednesday and Thursday off from school since we had to be at the pre party before 2:00 to get checked in. This year we had 900 riders in our parade, so Generations Hall was crowded.
After that we loaded our float and started to try and organize our beads. But there was really no rush because we got on the float at 4ish and drove to the parade start and then since we were in the back, it was past 8:00 when we started moving again.
I’ll admit, there were some dark thoughts as I sat on this float for four hours in the bitter Louisiana winter (It was windy and in the upper 30s, low 40s). Mostly about how cold I was and how much I wanted a coffee. But I was also worried about my mom who had driven in to see me parade and how she was sitting out in the cold. She said Mo and his friends took good care of her to make sure she was warm and entertained. And finally, we rolled.
And it was awesome.
I didn’t take pictures while we were rolling because I didn’t want to disappoint anybody by not throwing and I tried to pace my beads carefully down the route because, well, it was my first parade and I didn’t want to run out. I saw tons and tons of people I knew! I had pre packed bags for a few groups of people that I knew would be standing together to make sure they each got a purse and some of the nicer throws. And next year I’m going to have to be sure to make special throw bags for my students because I saw lots of them. I tried to make sure to give them each something nice or at least good beads. But it was also really exciting to give something nice to a stranger and see how excited they got to get one of the special throws (we had aprons and colanders to go along with the theme, but also blinky rings and pins, blinky beads, mini purses, goblets, umbrellas, and then the special beads I had packed and stuffed animals my mother in law collected for me). I had a blast!
The downtown crowds were sparser than normal, but being the second to last float, it was nearly midnight as we rolled through downtown and then down Canal Street and I had rationed my throws so I had some nice stuff to throw at the end too. We finished at around half past midnight. The good thing about being the back of pack was that there was no traffic getting home and the part of the parade route I needed to drive down to get home was re-opened by the time we got to our car!
All in all, so much fun. So next year, if you are planning a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, include the Wednesday before Mardi Gras and come see me and Nyx roll!
I detailed most of this week’s workouts in my Friday post but the weekend is just an opportunity to pile on the miles right?!
Saturday morning was a 45 minute run and then a 1600 meter swim. When did I start to prefer the outdoor pool to the indoor pool? Last summer I hated swimming outside, but it was lovely and sunny and after a week of nasty weather I couldn’t stand to swim in the dimly lit indoor pool, even if it was a little chilly outside.
Saturday night we bummed around the house watching the Olympics. I’ll watch whatever sport is on, since I don’t follow Winter Olympics sports on a regular basis like I follow more of summer Olympic sports. Go Jamaican Bobsled!
Sunday morning was long. I started with a 90 minute Trainer Road ride. I should have stuck with the intervals Time Crunched Triathlete had set out because the ride I picked out from the Trainer Road library was more challenging than I could handle. I set out for a quick 15 minute run and it turned out to be too warm for even gloves.
After the brick I went to the gym to lift. This stage of New Rules of Lifting calls for 15 minutes of intervals at the end of some of the workouts, but I’ve opted to skip them since I already so much cardio including interval work. How much cardio is too much? Even though I skipped the intervals, the workout still took me almost an hour! Hopefully I’ll get a little quicker at it in a few weeks. Otherwise it’s going to take more than a latte to get me from Sunday tri training to lifting.
A Little Bit of Lagniappe:
It was warm enough today to break out a new dress! I’m over our New Orleans winter and am ready for the heat. If you live in a snowy area, you may hate me for this, but you can get me back in July when I’m suffering through 95* heat with 90% humidity.
I loved this old post John from the Family Sport Life blog tweeted this week on Training Effect on a Garmin 910XT! I have always paid attention to that number but not known how to use it to inform my training. I’m going to be paying a lot more attention to how planning rest in relation to Training Effect.
How cold is it where you are? Do you prefer the heat to cold, or vice versa?
Do you train with a Garmin 910XT or another kind of watch that tracks Training Effect? Do you use it to plan training/rest?
So since it’s been awhile since I really detailed some workouts and it’s Week 1 of New Orleans Triathlon training, I figured I’d give you a blow by blow of what I’m up to so far this week.
1 and 2 Tuesday: Brick
I did a 60 min trainer ride with 3×8 intervals. I set it up with Trainer Road and it was much easier to stay focused than it is on the road just guessing my intensity. 15 minute at the end. Not much to say. Day 1 done.
3. Wednesday: Swim
Wednesday I swam with Coach C and Brian. I think it was the first time since before Christmas we have all worked out together so it was nice to catch up. I probably ate too much before I swam and my limbs felt slow and heavy. We swam 1700 yards. It was cold outside and I was grateful we got in the indoor pool. I forgot my Garmin at home so I had no idea how fast/slow I was going. Turns out I’m not much for unplugging.
4 and 5. Thursday: Run and Lift
45 minute easy run with a few strides thrown in after school. Unfortunately I didn’t know it would be 37* after school and had only packed shorts. I persevered but my legs paid the price!
After school we drove to the gym. I started Stage 2 of the New Rules of Lifting for Women so there was a lot of elevated lunges, step ups, planks, wood choppers, and push ups. I’ve been psyching myself up for ditching the Smith machine and getting friendly with the squat rack. Mo came with me and spotted me doing front squats for the first time. Wow! I definitely could have squatted plenty if I was doing a normal squat but all I could do with those front squats was the bar. I’ve got some work to do there.
When I got home today there was a surprise waiting for me! I won a prize on the Ironman Year One podcast and my homemade soap came in the mail today. This is frequently the podcast that keeps me company on long boring trainer rides.
Check out a bunch more Friday Five lists at You Signed Up For What?!
The title of this blog may be Sweating For It, but the tag line is “getting sweaty in New Orleans” and I sometimes wonder if readers mind me writing about living in New Orleans when it doesn’t pertain to fitness.
I hope not.
Especially since I’m in the middle of a string of New Orleans related posts.
To me, they are so connected. So much of my fitness is related to my enjoyment of New Orleans. And I hope that all my readers (both of you) enjoy a glimpse into my city. Maybe you frequently or rarely visit. Maybe you live here or you’ve only dreamed of living here (that was me as a kid). Maybe you think New Orleans is too damn hot, thank you very much, and you prefer where you live. Any way that it is, I love reading in other people’s blogs about what makes other their home special and one of the most special things about New Orleans is Mardi Gras.
Last year I applied to and was invited to join a new all women’s krewe, The Mystic Krewe of Nyx. Krewes are the clubs that host Mardi Gras parades. So essentially, members pay dues to join the club and buy throws and put on a free parade for anyone who shows up. Aside from the typical plastic beads, stuffed animals, and cups, we decorate and throw purses. Nyx will be holding its third parade so as krewes go, it’s really new.
Krewes also host events throughout the year for members: meetings, charity fundraisers, social events and balls. This past Saturday was Nyx’s coronation ball, where this year’s goddess would be formally introduced. Mo and I got to go with a lot of friends. This was a lovely event. I’ve been to a few other Mardi Gras balls over the year and thought this one was big enough to be exciting (open bar, live band), but small enough to include a lot of thoughtful touches to make the night special (professional photographers, commemorative necklace, custom centerpieces). Where else but New Orleans would a high school marching band march straight through a formal ball?
This week was a bit rocky for working out. Between the city being shut down for two days for icy weather, Mo getting sick, the Nyx Ball, and next week being the first week of New Orleans Triathlon training, I threw my hands in the air and rolled with it.
My main priorities were staying healthy enough to go to the ball Saturday night and start my new training plan Tuesday. I ended skipping working out Thursday as I was feeling congested and in general yucky. Saturday morning I just swam. I actually did the Time Crunched Triathlete fitness test and saw some huge gains from last summer when I took it the first time. The first time I took it, I swam in the 50 meter pool. I finished my 400 in 11:25 and my 100 in 2:31. This time I swam in the outdoor 25 yard pool. I finished my 400 in 8:32 and my 100 in 1:48! I have seen so many gains in my swimming over the last year working with Coach C and swimming consistently. It’s nice to see it quantified.
I carry Time Crunched Triathlete around the house like its a stinkin novel. To the bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen counter, the couch. It’s dog-eared and bookmarked and scribbled in. I like to pour over a training plan weeks in advance and feel like I understand what it is building to. I’ll plan our week’s meals and activities around this schedule.
So in choosing between the intermediate and advanced Olympic distance plans, I had to take into consideration my racing needs. March 30 is the New Orleans Triathlon, April 4-6 is the Gulf Coast Interstate Relay (running) and April 13th is the New Orleans Half Ironman Relay (swim leg for me).
Not to say I’m advanced. At all. I couldn’t always push myself to do all of the intervals in the intermediate plan when I was training for Big Cajun. But both the intermediate and advanced plans had pros and cons.
Intermediate Plan Pros:
- Four days a week
- This time I might be able to hit all the intervals
Intermediate Plan Cons:
- Those long, long Saturday rides. So many 2, 2.5, and even a 3 hour rides
- Not a lot of focus on running, which of the three, is my strength, which could pose a problem for GCIR
- Barely enough swimming to be trained for the HIM NOLA swim leg
Advanced Plan Pros:
- More running, around 2.5 hours, with more longish runs built in
- Fewer long rides (most long rides are 90 min, with only one 2 hour ride)
- Higher yardage swim workouts
- Since there are five workouts a week, some of them are shorter, so less time per day potentially
Advanced Plan Cons:
- Five day a week plan and I really like that extra rest day in the intermediate plan
- Can I even hit all the intervals? And isn’t the point in the Time Crunched Plan to be doing interval training?
- I’d argue cycling is my weakest sport and there is less emphasis on cycling
In the end, I’ve decided that despite the cons in the Advanced Plan, it’s a better fit for my overall goal of competing in these back to back to back races.
So this week starts the new training plan and continuing the next stage of New Rules of Lifting for Women. Now, training through Mardi Gras is a whole other challenge.
Do you use a coach or do you make your own training plan?
Do you plan your workouts out for the week?
Any recommendations for a better sunscreen than the one I’ve been using?