Wednesday, February 27, 2008

13.1 Miles: Half the pain, twice the fun

Last weekend I went home to New Orleans to run the Mardi Gras Half-Marathon on Sunday 2/24. I love going home...the older I get, the more I miss New Orleans. Sigh.

So on Friday, my brother and I went to the Hilton to pick up my race packet from the expo. Past experience with expos is that they are huge...there are vendors from many various health food companies and athletic outfitters. I always stock up on discounted energy gels and bars, as well as peruse the workout gear. Not at this expo....I was actually embarrassed that this was my hometown's representation of an expo. There wasn't even a protien bar to be found, I had to stop at GNC on the way home. Other runners were just as dissappointed. People were walking around saying, "Is this really it?" Unacceptable.

Saturday I was forced to turn down a family crawfish boil (if you know me, you know that this was an extremely difficult task....). Consuming a week's worth of sodium the day before running 13.1 miles might lead to a painful run down St. Charles Avenue....and possibly death. So instead my parents were gracious enough to treat me to the uptown Louisiana Pizza Kitchen (LPK to us regulars). It's nothing like Cali's much better! I got my carb load on, and stayed true to my healthy diet, with the Rosemary Chicken with pesto whole wheat pasta. It was delich!! Knowing that I was going to run most of it off the next day made it even more enjoyable. Mom got a yummy kitchen sink pizza and dad got this calzone with some bad ass sausage.

The next morning, I was up and at 'em for 4:45am for the race! The weather was absolutely perfect. About 55 degrees, overcast, a little humidity (but not too much)...optimal weather for the avid runner. This race was the first that I did not have a running partner, so I opted to bring the iPod along with a super sweet playlist. (Thank you Hey Willpower, Chemical Brothers, Postal Service, The Bravery, and Lupe Fiasco...just to name a few) I wished some friends good luck, stretched, the sun came up and we were off!

The first two miles consisted of running down Bourbon and Toulouse Streets. Bad idea. Sure, in theory you think, "How entertaining!" Not so much. When you're trying to pace yourself for either the full or half race, seeing vomit and smelling that wonderful Bourbon St. stench doesn't really help. Besides that, the street slopes down from the center and there are cars parked along the narrow street, which makes for shin splints and lots of obsticals. Me and some others decided to take to the sidewalks and dodge the drunkards. It felt like I was on American Gladiator!

The rest of the race was along St. Charles, around Audubon Park, and back to the dome. I was hoping that since uptown is highly populated, especially post-Katrina, that there would be a lot of spectators along the course. Not the case. There were a few people lined up, but most were only cheering for their loved ones. A bit of advice from a runner: if you're there to spectate, cheer for everyone! We need keeps us going....and most of us will return the gesture with a greatful, "Thank you!" Sorry...enough ranting, on to more uplifting topics!

As I ran past every timekeeper, I noticed that my pace kept picking up. At mile 8 I knew that I was going to beat my 2:10 goal I pushed myself harder. My parents were at the turn before the finish line where I was about to give out (thank goodness for Bloc Party at that point) and my dad took this beautiful candid (and why are those people standing in the middle of the street behind me?):

A few seconds later, I made the turn to the dome and saw the finish line and race clock. 2:02!! Oh my goodness...I would have never thought that I would be able to finish with a pace faster than 9:30 minute/mile. Unbelievable....I'm still in shock actually.

After downing lots of water and pigging out on bananas and king cake (mmmm!), I drank my celebratory beer at 9:30am...on a Sunday! Most people are just getting up and going to church...I was already drinking a beer. Fantastic.

Next race....Crescent City Classic 10K 3 weeks and counting...

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