I lived in New Orleans at one point and my girlfriend wanted a really flat course upon which to run her first marathon. Thus, our plans to visit New Orleans for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half and Full Marathons were born. Back in August when I began running, this race was my goal race. I progressed a bit faster than anticipated, so I did a half in December and this race became the half for my marathon training plan. My goal was just to improve on the time of my first half (2:45) and to pace the race well.
We got into New Orleans on the Friday before this Sunday race. We stayed in the Hotel Indigo in the Lower Garden District. I lived in this neighborhood before and it wasn’t too far from the race start, so it seemed like the perfect choice. Saved a bit of money too by not staying right at the start. As it was right on the streetcar line, we didn’t rent a car (this is important later). Overall, I was really pleased with the service, value, cleanliness, and feel of the hotel. Would definitely stay here again.
Saturday we slept in a bit and then ventured out to the convention. The convention was in the Central Business District. We took a cab down and went through all of the convention shenanigans. Bought a shirt, collected the free swag, and got some last minute Gu. Took some pictures as well, i.e.:
After the convention, we went out to grab a bite. Settled into a CBD favorite of mine, The District, but it was kind of busy so we just got a beer and a snack and moved on. Tried to get an oyster po boy at my favorite po boy shop, Freret St. Po Boy and Donut Shop but they closed two hours early!! Ahh! So we ended up at another favorite of mine that is just across the street, Dat Dog. I got this really delicious duck dog with some sort of berry reduction and other toppings. I was really impressed.
We then went back to the hotel, took a nap, got dinner in the lobby, and tried to go to bed early. Before we knew it, it was race morning! It was kind of challenging finding some pre-race breakfast options because the hotel breakfast and places nearby didn’t open until 7 AM, the time the race was supposed to start. We found out that Trolley Stop Cafe opened at 5, though, and we ended up eating there. I got a pancake, banana, and a bagel with some coffee and water. We then took a cab down to the start, settled in, and, before we knew it, they were waving on corrals for their respective starts.
I knew I didn’t want to start out too fast, so I tried my best to lay back and ease into the race. As always, people around us blasted off the start and I did my best just to use my Garmin to go at my own pace. I realized quickly that I had to use the bathroom! So because my hotel wasn’t at the start but was along the course (and fairly early too), I waited until about mile 3 where my hotel was. I ran into the lobby, used the facilities, and filled up my water. Much faster than the 10 min+ wait there was at most of the port-o-potties. I think I may book a hotel down the course in the future for this reason. It was super convenient.
I settled back into my groove as the course took us up an out-and-back along St. Charles. There were about five bands or so along this way. Most were pretty good, with a few incompetent ones thrown in (one brass band sounded worse than my high school jazz band ). By mile 6 or 7, I was started to feel a little rough. The sun was making it hotter than I am accustomed to this time of year, there was 100% humidity, and I had a pretty bad bloody nipple (see end result of the bloody nipple below). I wasted a bit of time around this point trying to get some vasoline at medical stations for my nipple. As we turned down the straightaway towards the finish in City Park, I was starting to feel better. Before I knew it, there was just about 1.1 miles left.
I felt like I had enough in the tank to start picking it up. I was finally able to pull away from some run/walkers that were annoying me ( kept going back and forth with them and they kept spreading themselves out across the course after they would re-pass me on one of their run intervals). I picked it up some more. And then a little more. After I passed the mile 13, I cranked it up to a near sprint. I think in the last 1.1 I passed about 50 – 60 people total. Now, I know going hard at the end seems silly to many, my girlfriend included. I know I’m not an elite runner or even an average runner. But I never claimed to be rational either. There is something deeply satisfying about turning it up and leaving nothing in the tank at the end.
I ended up tweaking my foot as I finished (Tory: “I told you not to sprint at the end”). So I went to the medical tent and got a bit of ice and iced it while I waited for Tory to finish her full marathon. It was kind of nice just relaxing, listening to the music stage in the distance and just reflecting on my race. After a couple hours, I hobbled back to the finish and watched Tory finish her first full marathon. So cool! I was (and still am, I suppose) so proud of her.
So, anyways, in the end my splits were:
Of course, I forgot to stop my Garmin right away so the last .1 is a little off. My final time took a couple minutes off my first 1/2, with a 2:43:51. Looking forward to trying to shave some more off at my next race (Tom King Classic on 3/9/13).
Matt, would you do it again?
Overall, I really enjoyed the race. The course went through some of the prettiest parts of New Orleans. The medical tents were on top of their games. There was plenty of water, Gu, and Gatorade. Everything was well organized. The race wasn’t too enormous, but was big enough to get that big race feel. If I were to improve one thing, it would be the bands. If you’re going to have bands at all, at least get good ones. Some were real stinkers (but full disclosure: I am a former musician so I may be overly critical in this area). Also, the location of the end point made it hard to get transportation back to any of the hotels. I feel like they could have mitigated this issue by alerting cab companies that people would likely need some cabs in that area. All that said, I would definitely go back. Wouldn’t mind making this race a yearly thing.
(1) I am really slow. But the improvement is encouraging.
(2) Maybe I won’t go quite as hard at the end of the next race, especially if its not a goal race. But I am a blockhead, so who knows?
(3) Next time, I will rent a car and pay for the parking at the end of the course. The $50 we saved just taking cabs was not worth all of the trouble.