Sunday, March 6, 2016

Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon Race Recap

Last Sunday, Kristen and I woke up with an alarm at 6:00 a.m. to get ready for the race and we head out from our hotel at about 6:30 a.m. for the 15ish minute walk to the start line of the race. Our hotel was in a prime location and the walk was short and easy and filled with other runners!

Rock N Roll New Orleans had about 22,000 runners in the race and the corrals were sectioned off by the 1000s and went back to 22 corrals. I was in Corral 12, but my friend was further back so I stayed with her until right at the time that the race started. It was fun to see lots of festive people dressed up in different Mardi Gras themed outfits or just silly outfits during the race. Aside from the actual surroundings very clearly being New Orleans, I felt like I was in Atlanta because I bumped into a number of people that I knew on the walk to the start line.

The race had both a marathon and a half marathon option as I previously mentioned and the bibs categorized the runners. I felt like a bit of a phoney with my yellow bib indicating that I was a marathon runner because I had no intention of running 26 miles that day whatsoever!

After taking some pics and parting with Kristen I got into my race corral, which was packed. There was barely any room in the corral to be able to do my pre-run routine of having a solo dance party! I put my music in and rocked out and very patiently waited for the race to actually get started. It wasn't until about 25 minutes after the actual start of the race at 7:30 that we crossed the start line.

New headband

The start of this race provided an extremely unique experience for me as I actually ended up at the front of the corral pack. They let a new corral of runners go through every 2 minutes I think (as I was corral 12, that makes sense with the timing I recall.) So the runners from the corral ahead of you got a pretty good head start and as I toed the line for corral 12 to start. I was at the very start of the line in a runner's start position as they counted down "10...9...8...7..." and when the buzzer went off for the start of the race, I took off.

Not too far ahead of the start there was a left turn. So, essentially, when I was running, I couldn't see anyone ahead of me. It was as if I was running the race in first place. Nobody was passing me from the corral and I was in first place as I ran down Poydras Street in New Orleans. It was a cool feeling and I was tempted to pull out my phone and try to Snapchat or take a picture because I figured it was a once in a lifetime thing to experience. However, I just tried to soak up the moment instead.

The initial few miles of the race I didn't think were very scenic. We ran through a bit of construction and a random part of the city. It was an out-and-back for the first 8-miles or so, so once we were a couple miles in we started to see the lead runners returning back out, and then from there on, the other side of the boulevard we were running on was packed with runners. I tried to keep my eyes out for people I knew and spotted one Running Nerds runner and shouted out to them.

The early miles went by fine, nothing too exciting. I knew right away that my pace was not feeling strong and it wasn't going to be a surprise "I feel great!" race that I would shockingly finish well in. I just took everything in and settled in for the ride.

The route was not as scenic as I thought it would be. The roads were a bit broken and you had to watch your footing for the entire way, which was a bit hard. I also knew in my mind that the roads were so destroyed and uneven because of what had happened there during Katrina so I didn't want to complain.

At about mile 4 there was a family handing out beads and I grabbed some. At mile 5 people were handing out King Cake, which I was tempted by but passed on. Right after the king cake we turned around and ran back towards where we had started the race and I continued to try and scan the crowd for friends and people I knew.

I didn't listen to any music during the race and tried to enjoy the bands as we passed them, btu frankly, the energy just wasn't high for the race I didn't think! The weather was great though and as the miles moved upwards, the warmer it got outside.

I'd worn a long sleeve shirt and started to think about taking it off - which is something that I never usually do, especially when I have a bib pinned to the race shirt. I knew that I didn't care about my pictures and the chip for this race that tracks your time was on your shoe and not your bib, so I decided I would be okay with taking off my long sleeved shirt if I got too warm.

I never felt really great during the run and the miles seemed to all take a long time to get through. I reminded myself to run mile by mile and kept focusing on the mile that I was in. It was a tough mental race for me though.

The best part of the course was around mile 10 when we ran down Decatur Street. There was music BLASTING, people waving American flags, lots of fans around, and it was through a scenic part of New Orleans, running past Cafe Du Monde and the French Market. I loved the loud music and when we ran through the group of people waving American flags I felt myself starting to choke up.

THIS was the moment I needed in this race. I needed this moment of emotion - this reminder of why I do these things. Why I run and why I train and why I push myself to do things that sometimes, I frankly don't want to do. I do it because it inspires me. Because others inspire me. Because I have the ability to. Because I can. And because I never thought I could. Because it allows me to surprise myself. It allows me to challenge myself continually. To make friends. To be a part of a community. To have fun. To celebrate life. To endure. To remind myself how strong I am.

I run for so many reasons and it all sort of came back to me a little during Decatur Street as I ran past American flags and high energy music and I just felt super energetic.

I wish I could say that this boost of energy and mental clarity gave me the energy to charge the last 5K of the race and finish amazingly, but the rest of the race was still a struggle! I told myself it was a training run a lot of times and pulled back on pace. I didn't want to hurt myself and I wasn't trying to win any prizes. I ate an Oreo. I ate a munchkin. And I drank a little dixie cup of beer. At mile 10 I took off my long sleeved shirt and tied it around my waist. Super awkward to do while running, but I got the job done.

Following Decatur Street, we had to run through another sort of bland street in Atlanta, except for a few really fun and colorful homes I wanted to stop and take a picture of but didn't. We had to run around a weird construction area that I later learned was where they are expanding the street car in New Orleans. Then eventually we made our way to the park where I knew the race was finished.

Per usual, it felt like it took forever for the race to finish, but eventually, as every race always does, - it did!

The race medals had a unique look to them of the Cathedral in New Orleans and instead of a ribbon, there was actually beads as the "ribbon" for the medal to hang on. I loved that! It wasn't quite as amazing as my Miami race medal, but I love that it is unique and has a special character or quality of it from the city of the race.

I ran into a friend at the finish and talked with him for a bit before walking off to try and stretch and relax a bit. I literally had just finished when we took this pic. Omar is a good person and didn't mind touching me when I was super sweaty and gross.

I knew I would have a little bit of time before my friend finished, so I rested and stretched a little, drank some water and chocolate milk, ate some snacks, tried to find some other friends, grabbed a beer, and made it back to the finish in order to see India and Kristen finish.

Once everyone started to gather together, it was a lot of fun. Everyone was celebrating, waiting for the marathon finishers, and enjoying the music and the fact that this race had unlimited beer at the finish line!

It again, felt like I was in Atlanta for the finish of a race because there were so many people I knew and so many people I kept running into that I didn't realize would be there. My whole Facebook and Instagram news feeds were of people finishing the race!

The good thing about the the fact that I had the marathon bib was that I had the ability to go and get a marathon finisher's jacket. And no, I didn't earn it at this race... but I am a marathon finisher! And I had paid for it! So, I grabbed myself a marathon finisher's jacket.

I felt a bit guilty and vowed not to wear it. But then as we were waiting for the buses that took us from the finish to the start (it was a point-to-point race) I got cold...

Listen, I am very against having the gear/jackets for races you didn't finish. But sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do.

The race shuttles back to the hotel were super convenient and when we were back at the hotel, we were sufficiently tired, hungry, ready for showers, and ready to to get cleaned up and celebrate.

All in all, the race went really well. I took it easy and was okay with that. I would have loved a PR (who wouldn't?) but it wasn't in my sights for that day. I finished in 2:04:20 with a pace of 9:21. I was happy with how I did and my finish still ranked pretty well, which was cool to see. Rock N Roll now has all these neat features that you can look up and compare how you do throughout the course.

I was glad that I had enough in me to push the last mile as well - that is always something I look for, in order to see how my pace is maintained or improved upon throughout the race.

I loved New Orleans and it is definitely a city I would like to return to and to see more of. I think it could be a total blast and also hear there are some amazing locals only things to check out that I want to see more of. I personally, was totally unprepared for the craziness that the city offered and don't feel like I took full advantage of the night life.

However, as far as races go, I won't be signing up for the next year's race (as some of my friends already have!) I thought that the course was kind of boring. I thought that the uneven pavement was a challenge. And I just didn't think it was the most amazing route that I've ever run that I would be ready to rerun it and do it again. I am so happy to have a new state checked off and wouldn't have wanted to run anywhere else in New Orleans though!!

1 comment:

  1. This place was amazing! Great food, it's smaller than others I guess but it is still a fair sized fun. The decor at these Seattle Venues was amazing as every note of music reverberates off the beautiful walls. Everything about this venue is nothing less than 5 stars.