Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Visuals: Mississippi snow day

It got a little wintry around these parts last Thursday. At first, the forecast was just for a possibility of flurries, but as the the "event" got closer, predictions rose upwards of 1-inch of white, fluffy stuff on the ground. We woke up to snow falling, the ground covered, and even the roads and sidewalks sporting a slushy, slippery coating. 

Alas, as is typical around these parts, by the afternoon, the sun came out, the temperatures rose, and the snow was completely gone (except for a few snowmen stumps) by the time KC and I took our late afternoon walk around the neighborhood. It was pretty and fun while it lasted...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Race Report: Mississippi Blues Half Marathon

I think the absolute best part of the Mississippi Blues Marathon and Half Marathon is the Blues version of the Star Spangled Banner. Every year, it sends shivers up my spine.

Okay. This year, the shivers may have been due in part to the rather cool start to the morning. While most people were raving that the cloudy skies and temps in the mid 40s were absolutely perfect for racing, I was shivering and wondering if I should have put on more clothes. Since living in MS, I seem to have lost all tolerance for cold. And I define anything below 70 degrees Fahrenheit as cold. Yeah. Pathetic.

I did, however, manage to do the Hundred Up while waiting in the porta-potty line. (Want an easy technique to improve running form? Check it out.) Then, did an easy 7-minute run with a few rather weak striders. That was my warmup, and I felt fairly ready to go. Until the start was slightly delayed, and I got cold all over again. Yeesh.

The gun went off, and we were finally underway. 

Of late, my training has been consistent. No worries on the distance. It's also been consistently at a zone 1 or slower pace. Meaning, I have had to keep my heart rate fairly low, which has translated to a pace a bit slower than I am used to. And, definitely, a pace significantly slower than half marathon race pace. No speedwork either. So, it was hard to decide what pace I might be able to go and what my heart rate might do now that it had been given permission to soar.

Soar, it did. Way, way above zone 1, that's for sure. But I started conservatively, easing into a pace that felt comfortable, but not too slow. I decided to follow my standard half marathon 5-5-5 plan: settle into a moderate pace for the first 5 miles, pick that up to moderately hard for the next 5 miles, and then crank it up as much as possible for the final 5k. I also gave myself permission to abandon that plan should I not be feeling the half-marathon running love.

It was love at first step. Much like last year, I felt great from beginning to end in this race. It's a tough, tough course with several small, steep hills and a few longer more gradual inclines (including the last mile to the finish...is that a requirement of race course planners?) that, along with some rough roads, can leave me feeling a bit beat up. Not last year...and not this year. The effort level felt easy (relatively speaking), I was enjoying myself (relatively speaking), chatted with a few friends (that I passed...hah!), and ended up finishing just a few seconds over 2 hours. Five minutes slower than last year, but with my conservative approach and lack of speedwork, I was extremely pleased, and my plan worked out perfectly:

  • First 5 (+.17...a bit off the mile marker) miles: 48:49; 9:26/mile (average HR 145)
  • Second 5 miles: 44:31; 8:54/mile (average HR 160)
  • Final 5k: 27:01; 8:48/mile (average HR 164)

The funny thing is last year, I ran each of the first and second 5 miles 2 minutes faster and the last 5k 1 minute faster. If nothing else, I am consistent.

The other best thing about the MS Blues Marathon and Half Marathon is the finishers' medals. The first year, they were unremarkable, and the half marathon medal was sort of a sad little half guitar. I didn't do the next year's race, but have run each year since, and each year, the medals have been among the best and biggest of all my gazillion finishers' medals. This year was no exception. 

Very cool.

Because this is a local race, so many friends run both the half and the marathon. I hung out for a little bit to cheer others in, but my skinny butt couldn't take the cold anymore, the rain was headed in, and I wimped out and headed home to warm up. I did stay long enough, though, to yell loudly for one of the ladies in my marathon training group as she finished her first 13.1 mile-race in her whole life. 

It was awesome. 

An excellent way to end the first race of the season.

(Well...it's been far too long between posts. I have a lot to write about this year. My typing fingers seem to be working again. I have so many things I would like to write about: racing [like this post], training, new life adventures, a healing heart, travel, cooking, photography, horses, on and on. So, I promise you [all 6 of you] that I will become a much more regular and consistent blogger with loads of interesting things to read [at least, they will be interesting to me].)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas on a hybrid

As is my wont these days, I traveled to Florida for the holidays. This time, at my parents' request, I went to their home in Jupiter (on the east coast, just north of West Palm Beach). The airline ticket was their Christmas gift to me. So, while it meant leaving KC at home with friends, I was able to enjoy a mild, pleasant week...vastly different than the ugly weather that assailed Mississippi.

In any case, with a couple of races coming up and IMLP looming, I knew I didn't want to break up my workout schedule too much. And since a little bit of research revealed that shipping or traveling with my bike would cost about as much as renting a bike, I decided that I would rent one. Besides, the whole shipping route requires dismantling and remantling (just made that one up) the bike. 

With tools. 

Yeah. Right.

So, several days before I left, I called a local bike shop that advertised rentals, and not just of the beach cruiser type, but also road bikes. Perfect. Except I'm short and I need a little bike. "If you felt comfortable on a 56, I could get you on one of those." I'm 5'4" and my road bike is a 52. I have very short legs and a long torso. Maybe if I tied blocks to my feet. I settled for a hybrid. 

With a kickstand.


I ended up riding that little Trek hybrid just a bit over 40 miles through and around the neighborhoods of Abacao. San Remo to Greenway to Indian Creek to Central to University to Parkside, around the "Island," and back to San Remo. The entire loop is only about 6 miles, so on a few occasions, repeated it several times with variations taking me on little side streets. The big seat kind of hurt my butt bones, and I found myself having to scootch back frequently (noticed my dad doing the same on his hybrid when we took a little ride together). After so many years of clipping on to my Speedplays, it was odd to just use the platform pedals. When it was a bit windy, I felt as if I should hunch down, but there was no real way to reduce my profile. Just meant I had to work harder. I probably "overdressed" for the hybrid in my fancy padded bike shorts, IMFL bike jersey, and bike gloves. I maxed out at perhaps 15 mph. And, by golly, that kickstand did indeed come in handy.

So, on Christmas day, after downing a Bloody Mary with my bacon and eggs, I found myself tooling around the neighborhood at a comfortable cruising speed of 10 mph. Forty-five minutes later, I took a short jog, and called it a brick. 

In all, I managed nearly every one of my scheduled bike rides and runs while in Florida (alas, no swimming...the pool is heated but the outside was chilly [for me] and I decided to skip it). And I really enjoyed it. Really.

So, Happy New Year to all six of my readers...I hope you find some time to enjoy the view from the saddle of a hybrid this year!