Monday, February 14, 2011

Mardi Gras Half Marathon 2/13/2011

So the Mardi Gras Marathon and 1/2 made my weekend just a bit more eventful. I planned to drive out to New Orleans Saturday afternoon to pick up my packet and then get up early Sunday and drive down again to race.
All in all, I drove more hours than I actually ran!

Driving down to the expo Saturday became in itself a little race. I left a tea party (yes- a tea party, so much fun!) a little early-3pm- to make try to make it before the expo closed at 5pm. On the way down I made good time, I wonder if there were any other runners on the road with me... but I ran into traffic just inside of New Orleans, making me very nervous. Then traffic right at downtown and around the Convention Center made me incredibly nervous, also the 32oz Gatorade I'd been sipping on the whole ride was catching up to me. I finally found a spot that I hoped actually was a legitimate spot and left my car (with its sadly broken window, covered in frayed masking tape and a cut-up Columbia Sports bag)- hoping that it would still be there and be intact, when I returned.

From my experience last year, I remembered that the expo was more to the left side of the Convention Center, because I was late and in need of a restroom (of course) this year it was on the far right side. I joined a few other runners who obviously were hurrying to pick up their packets in time and speed-walked against the flow of runners who already had theirs and were casually walking back to cars and hotels. Finally, I get there, pick up my shirt (an almost annoying neon green color, maybe it'll grow on me) and wander around the expo. Unfortunately, just as I was getting interested in enjoying the expo, it closed. At least traffic wasn't bad on the way back home.

That night I enjoyed some homemade chicken soup, rested up, accidentally took two doses of Nyquil (I guess it didn't hurt me any) and headed to bed early-ish. At 3:45 am, my alarm goes off and my first thoughts are "I don't wanna" in a pouty tone. Thankfully, that sentiment wore off pretty quickly as I drank my cup of coffee and slowly woke up. By 4:30 I was full of adrenaline, trying to get my number on and making sure I didn't forget sport beans, breakfast, shoes, clothes for after etc...
At 4:45 I was finally underway, and full of excitement as I drove towards the interstate. This quickly wore off as I settled into the hour long drive to New Orleans. I woke up a bit again when I had to pull over and repair my tape job on the window.

Duct tape=Awesome

There wasn't too much traffic around downtown at 6am, but the Superdome, where we parked last year with a few other runners, was completely deserted, making me doubt I was allowed to park there. Since I seemed to have a few minutes I drove around looking for a spot that was clearly ok for me to park in. Nada! All the while swarms of runners are cheerfully walking towards the start and warming up, making me feel more and more late. So I just went back to the Superdome, parked with one other runner and we commiserated about our doubts regarding that parking choice and talked about the upcoming race. All in all, it turned out fine: We got a brisk walk in as warm-up and I made it just in time to the UPS vans to drop off my bag.
Also I had plenty of time to head to a portapotty in an earlier corral and get out with plenty of time to start with my own corral. That was a slight manipulation in the system, but I don't think anyone would blame me.
Later on I needed to make another pitstop, and Community Coffee's presented itself so nicely! What a show of Southern Hospitality. Love you CC's!
Last year I stopped at a little bar and grill, which I saw again this year, and they were also very nice, offering me a pick-me-up beer (which I declined).

Race-side Offerings/Signs/Cheerleaders/Bands:
I don't understand how people can drink alcoholic beer during a race, but it's a funny offer, one that was made a number of times along the course. This goes right along with those people along the race that were handing out donuts. The thought of something so heavy, uuhhhh, I can barely stomach the Cytomax they gave out!
A few funny things along the way:
- A shirt that said "Will run for breakfast", a nice take on the "will run for __(insert food)___"
- Sign near the beginning: "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon", which made me more determined to one day finally run my marathon.
- Sign in the middle: "Go ______! If it were easy, I would do it!"

Also, I really hope someone got a picture of all the hundreds of runners visible on the street beside and under the "Evacuation Route" sign, which points in the direction we were running. There were a few of these signs up along one street we ran on (perhaps St. Charles?). I wished I were running with someone so I could share my amusement... Actually, I have to admit, I looked around to see if there was anyone that looked open to me just randomly sharing it, but they were all wearing headphones. *sigh*

There was a cute couple that I kept seeing towards the end, they were newlyweds. he was wearing a Tux Technical T and she had a flouncy short skirt thing over her shorts and they both wore cut out cardboard hearts with "Just Married" on their lower backs. Super cute. I finished right behind them, and he stopped her right before the finish and carried her over :-)

Around mile 8 I felt my left hip start twinging a bit with some soreness from my long run last weekend. Since it started hurting earlier then, around mile 6 or 7, I was hoping that the weeks rest would baby it along until at least mile 10, which it did! In fact, during my walking through the water stops (which I did each water-stop actually), it hurt worse to walk than to run, which was great motivation to get going again after the stop was behind me. In the end, I did walk a little bit at mile 11, walked through the remaining water stop and then finished fairly strongly!
Though that last stretch on Esplanade after it crosses the canal and you are running up that straight road towards the museum building in City Park, wow, that was long.

All in all, I liked the route changes they made from last year to this year and I generally had a much better race than last year. It's amazing how proper sleep and hydration feel on race day!
This year I left right after the race, my shower was calling to me, so I don't know how the after-race festivities were. The weather was beautiful though, sunny but cool.

An improvement they could make is to have the Shuttles just a little bit closer to the finish! It was a very long, hobbling walk for me (and I'm sure for a few others) to get to the shuttles. It actually makes for a funny comparison between our previous jauntiness as we made our way to the start and our lumbering, sometimes limping walk after the race.
Also, it would be nice if there were a few shuttle drop-off points along Poydras, not just the one at St. Charles. I had a long walk back to my car and a few others were in the same boat. Yet, at least we weren't in the bus that got lost near Tulane!

I got home, ate soup, watched a movie and slept until about 8pm. Woke up, ate again, watched another movie, and headed back to bed at 10:30. A great relaxing recovery. This morning I feel pretty awesome, much better than the day after my last long run when I had to hobble around campus.

As after every race, I'm more determined and committed to staying with my training, and especially to getting faster. I don't want my first marathon (whenever that ends up being) to be over 5 hours. Also, It'd be nice if I could run with my friends without feeling like I'm holding them back!

But, today I'm going to take it easy, speedwork/ladders/fartleks/etc can wait till next week!