Sunday, October 16, 2011

Detroit Free Press Half: October 16, 2011

Yes, this half marathon took place about 5 months ago and I am just now writing this blog. I could list a bunch of excuses but we all know what those are like...blah blah blah and they all stink. This race took place right in our back yard. It was the annual Detroit Free Press half marathon. This race was cool for a number of different reasons. The first being that Jauf came up from Columbus to run with Jess and I in this event which would be his first (and maybe last..hehe) half marathon. He was determined to break the 2 hour mark which would be an awesome accomplishment for his first race at that distance. The rest of the reasons why this was a cool race are mostly related to the actual course, which I will explain in the rest of this story. So, we were up late the night before and for whatever reason my alarm clock failed me. Luckily Jauf's alarm woke him up on time and we were able to get downtown with time to spare. We parked about a mile or two from the start so it was a nice little warmup walking to the starting line. Here is a pic of the three of us near the starting line, it was still dark outside:

When we got to the race area we realized how big this race actually is. The city was crowded with runners! This is a pretty popular event since it is the only "international" marathon in the U.S. The course crosses the Ambassador Bridge and goes into Canada. Then returns to the U.S. through the tunnel that goes under the Detroit river. At the start of the race Jauf took off at a much faster pace then us. Jess and I were keeping a pretty decent pace as well. The weather was chilly and there was some light rain at the start. It was still misting out and windy as we got to the bridge. The bridge is one giant incline to the middle and Jess and I ran the whole incline so that was a confidence booster! When we got into Canada the route took us along the Detroit river with awesome views of Detroit. Here is a picture of us running up to the base of the Ambassador Bridge:

After running a few miles in Canada it was time to head through the tunnel and back to Detroit. Upon entering the tunnel we discovered it was about 20 degrees hotter then the air outside. Not only was it hot down there it was very stuffy. When you have thousands of runners passing through an enclosed space I guess stuffiness is the result. We were glad to get out of the tunnel and back to some fresh air. The rest of the race took us through some of the cool neighborhoods around downtown Detroit. There were plenty of aid stations which helped keep things moving along. About mile 10 Jess and I had not walked at all. We didn't say anything to each other about it but i think we both wanted to make it to the end without walking. I admit I wanted to walk a few times but we just kept pushing on. Jess's determination is the single reason we were able to cross the finish line with our best half times ever and without walking!! We finished in 2:18 which is not a great time compared to competitive runners, but for us personally it was nice. Here is a pic of running in the tunnel. It is blurry due to the fact that it is not easy to take a picture while running:

So when we finished we were wondering if we were going to be able to find Jauf since there was people everywhere. He was waiting for us near the exiting gate so no problems there. We found out that Jauf had really kicked ass and almost finished under 2 hours. He was just a couple minutes over. He was hurting pretty bad, I can relate as I know how I felt after my first half. So all in all it was a really good outing. Jess and I set our PRs and Jauf finished his first half. Next weekend Jess and I are headed to visit her brother Luke in Virginia Beach. We are going to be running the Shamrock Half Marathon there. Luke will be running his first half marathon. Also, this is going to be a really big year for me as I am running two ultra marathons. Really looking forward to it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Run Woodstock Hippie Half: September 10, 2011

It took me forever to write this blog. Here it is January and I was contemplating if I should write it or not. I owe it to the great sport of trail running and the great people who joined me on this day to man up and write!! This was my second year doing the Woodstock Hippie Half and the first race since my marathon in late July and I was looking forward to it for a few reasons. The biggest reason is that I was going to meet people that I correspond with online all the time but have never met in person. Dos was coming from Iowa with his son and Chill was coming from Minnesota. We all post our miles in a running forum online and through correspondence and sharing of our training ups and downs we have become pretty good friends. We are also very similar in experience level for distance running. I was pumped when they said they were making the long haul to Woodstock and I was excited to do some trail running with them as Woodstock is a shining example of a pure trail running fiesta! Since this was my wind down run only a little over a month after the marathon I decided to just do the half marathon, wear my VFF Trek Sports, and just take it easy and enjoy the great bridle trails of the Pinckney State Rec Area. Dos was going to do his first marathon ever and Chill was going to run the half with me.

So Friday evening I roll into the Hell Creek Ranch after work and find out that Dos and Chill scored us an awesome camping spot right by the bathrooms. I think it was designated for the 100 mile runner's and their crew, but no one really seemed to mind that we were there. We decided to do the Friday night 5K, afterall this was a whole weekend devoted to trail running so we were going to take advantage. Dos decided to jog thru this but Chill and I just took it easy and hiked. We seen some of the Hallucination 100 mile runners coming down the trail starting their second 16.6 mile lap. It had also started raining while we were on the hike which was going to make things interesting for Saturday morning. It had rained for about 2 days straight earlier in the week which kind of souped up the trail. We ran into this guy toward the end of the 5K who had gotten lost during the 5K and ending up running about 10 miles. He didn't seem to happy as he looked spent and was doing the marathon the next day..LOL. So it became dark by the time we finished our hike..funny how the Woodstock 5K is actually 3.75 miles but it is all in good fun. The rain was pretty steady for awhile that evening and then died out for an hour or so. We hung out by the fire and shared some stories. I got a surprise when I was walking up to go to the bathroom and glanced over at the pool..there was a bunch of naked people in there..a true Woodstock weekend..LOL.

Jess came to camp with me Friday night and while I was doing the 5K she had gotten the tent all ready with the air mattress and blankets etc. and it was nice to just jump in and lay down in the cool September evening. As soon as we were about to doze off the thunder and lighting came rolling in. The rain was heavy and did not stop until about 6:00 AM. The large amounts of rainfall had turned the trails in a muddy mess. I was kind of excited about this because I knew how much fun it would be sloshing thru the woods sliding in the mud etc. The gun went off and Chill and I ran the loop through the campground together. We had lost Dos at the start and I figured he was way ahead of us as he was training so hard for this marathon and had a goal of finishing in under 4 hours. After the loop through the campground we reached the single track trail that went into the woods. It was a major mudfest! Ankle deep in some areas. People were losing shoes in the mud and slipping / sliding all over the place. It was awesome!! The first 2 miles or so were spent getting acclimated with running in the thick mud and then we hit the Lakeland trail where we would do a big out and back before heading back into the woods. The Lakeland trail part of this course is a flat mini gravel type wide track trail which is nice and relaxing for a few miles. The whole time on the Lakeland trail I was looking for Dos to come whizzing by on his way back from the out and back section. I never did see him and figured either I missed him somewhere or he was going so fast that he did the out and back section and got back into the woods before I would even have a chance to see him. If this is true then that meant that he was probably in first place and really kicking some ass! Here is a pic of the start of the trail:

After I reached the furthest out point and turned around I did see Chill who was not far behind me. We gave each other a respective high five and I asked him if he had seen Dos and he had not. So I got back to the point where we entered the woods again and back to the single track fun in the mud. A weird thing was happening as we got back into the single track trails. There were runners coming at us. These trails were a one way only part of the course and I could not figure it out. Were they doing one of the longer distaces and the course required them to come this way? Afterall Woodstock does have a 100 mile, a 100K, a 50 mile, and a 50K on top of the other marathon distances so it could be possible that this was part of one of the courses. We started seeing more and more runners passing us going the other way. I started to wonder if there was a huge mud pit or impromptu mud river that people could not get thru and they were going back to quit? Finally we started asking people where they were going. Apparently during the start and the loop thru the campground we ran by the section of trail where all the races end and some people thought it was part of the course at the beginning. So a few people jumped into the trail there and a bunch more followed. So there was a good number of people running the course IN REVERSE!! Another nice pic of Mudstock:

I started to think that was what happened to Dos since I did not see him on the out and back setion of the Lakeland trail. The rest of the race was just as I had envisioned it, very slow and fun. Going through all the mud like we were kids. Sliding down hills and struggling to make it up other hills because the mud was so thick. I entered my favorite section of the course back in the pine forrest and was just happy to be having such a great day. Also, hoping that Dos and Chill were having as much fun as me. Heck, they drove a great distance to do this thing and it would be a bummer if they were not having fun. I got out of the woods and ran through the finish line and straight to the food line. I had not eaten anything nor did I take any GU chomps with me out on the course. I could of grabbed a gel at an aid station but I am not a huge fan of them so I passed. The bananas and cookies at the finish line were phenominal! I stood there chowing down for a few minutes. Then I decided to hobble over to where the trail dumps out into the campground so I could root Chill to the finish and also try to figure out what happened to Dos. I seen Dos Jr. over by that point with a few other spectaters and he had not seen his dad either.

Then out of nowhere Dos emerged from the trail and seemed kind of irritated. Turns out he was part of that group at the beginning that ran into the trails going the wrong way. He had came back out to the campground and was led the wrong way again. Then someone finally showed him the correct way to get into the start of the trails. He had run about 5 miles out of his way before actually starting on the correct course! I applaud his determination though, as he just finished his first 13.1 mile loop with 5 extra miles added on and he decided to go for his second loop! His goal of a 4 hour finish was kind of a wash but I think he was having such a good time that it did not matter. He ended up doing his second loop and ran about 50K. Not only did he do his first marathon he did his first ultra as well!! His son had bought him a 26.2 sticker and also an ultra sticker which he placed on the car before Dos got finished. Here is Dos after his Marathon / 50K:

Chill was right there with Dos when Dos came off his first lap and after Dos started his second lap I met up with Chill and we discussed the course and the weather conditons and about how much fun we both had. I was glad to hear he enjoyed running the trails especially in the extreme conditions. We both had a beer to celebrate our finish. I waited quite awhile before I hit the showers as they were pretty jammed. This gave me time to rinse out my VFFs and get some more food down. The shower house had about an inch of mud everywhere but it felt great to get all the mud rinsed off. Dos finished up his marathon and was feeling the burn of that awesome distance. We hung out and talked all afternoon. Dos and Dos Jr. left to start their long drive home. Chill and I stayed and camped out Saturday night. We both met some interesting characters and also went into downtown Hell, MI for some pizza which really hit the spot. Here is a pic with Dos, Chill, and myself:

I would give this weekend an A+ as it was so much fun meeting these guys and running in the mud. Dos and Chill had so much fun they vowed to return in 2012 to Run Woodstock again! Chill is gonna run his first 50K! I think I am just going to do a slow half since I have an ultra planned in Colorado the weekend after.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Grand Island Trail Marathon: July 30, 2011

I am please to be publishing this post because it tells the story my first attempt at a marathon. I knew that completing a full marathon would not be an easy task. I had some great training runs over the last 5 months leading up to the marathon. The long training runs were done on weekends at some of the tougher trails in Michigan and Ohio. In March I ran 15 miles with Luc on the orange loop in the Mohican State Forest which has some really steep ascents and was a great first long training run of the year. The Michigan trails included the Potawatomi Trail at Pinckney State Rec Area, Island Lake Rec Area, and Highland Lake Rec Area. If I was going out of town for the weekend I would find a place to run wherever we were going. To make a long story short, I have devoted a lot of time and energy to running throughout this year. Running is not just a way to stay in shape anymore it is actually very enjoyable and I found myself looking forward to my long trail runs on the weekends. I also have been more active in the ultra running community and met a lot of great people who share similar passion for trail running. I volunteered at Forget the PR 50K in April and also crewed for Luc in his epic attempt at completing the Mohican 100 mile trail run. These events have really pumped me up and given me a lot of motivation to take my running to the next level. Two years ago when I got back into running I never dreamed I would be attempting a full marathon!

I prefer to run on trails since they give a lot of variation in terrain and elevation. Also some of the views of the forest and lakes are a lot better then watching cars driving by. In short, trails provide much more of an adventure which makes it fun and assisted me in determining what type of marathon I wanted to do. I was reading Luc's blog from his Grand Island experience a few years back and it seemed like a good trail course for a first time marathon. So early this year I decided to do the Grand Island Trail Marathon and Jess wanted to do the half marathon so we registered for these runs and requested a couple days off work. Grand Island is in the upper peninsula of Michigan all the way North on the Lake Superior lakeshore, which provides some of the most scenic views in the eastern side of the United States. On the way up there I was amazed at how there was hundreds of miles of uninhabited forest in the upper peninsula. Here is a pic of Jess from a beach on Lake Superior:

Since we had a few days off work we decided to make mini vacation around the run. On our way North we met my Aunt Becky at a Decemberists concert at the Interlochen Arts Center and then crashed at her place in Elk Rapids. The next day we went to Short's Brewing Company, which is some of my favorite beer and it was great that we could try different kinds fresh from the source. They even named all there food items on the menu after Ween songs. We even tried a spruce beer made of spruce tips from the pines in Northern Michigan and it was awesome! Friday morning we crossed the Mackinac Bridge, a 5 mile bridge which connects Michigan's lower and upper peninsulas, and the views were fantastic. Jess missed them since she had her head buried in her hands in fear, as I kept saying a quote from the movie Anchorman "ahh Sandy Yaaaago" That afternoon we arrived at a campground in Munising, MI where we met Pete and Sarah who had come up that way on vacation as well. After we got set up we went into town to register for the race and go to dinner at Dogpatch which has good food but the menu is like reading a mystery novel. Then we went to see a few of the area attractions such as Munising Falls and went to an awesome beach and it was cool to see how crystal clear the water was in Lake Superior. Here is pics from Short's brewing company, holding a flight of beers:

After checking out some of the sites we went back to the campground where we hung out for awhile and then decided to try and get some sleep. The shuttle was picking me up at 4:50 AM. I was concerned that I could not finish in five hours which was the cutoff so I opted for the early start at 6:00 AM which would give me six hours to finish. It was perfect sleeping weather as temps dipped down to the mid refreshing compared to this super hot summer we've had so far. I had everything laid out so all I had to do was get up and put my contacts in and I would be good to go. Only problem was that Jess and I both thought it would be a great idea to drink big jugs of water the day before so we would be plenty hydrated and that caused me to get up for the bathroom at 12:30. I was anxious anyway and figured I would not sleep well. After about 4 hours of sleep my alarm went off. I quickly got ready and kissed Jess goodbye as her shuttle was not until 6:30 Am. I met about 5 or 6 other runners at the front of the campground. They were freaking out because the shuttle drove by so we went out to the road and the shuttle grabbed us on his way back. We made about 6 other stops to grab people and then we got down to the ferry boat. Yes, we had to take a ferry over the island and this is when I realized that it is the moment I have been anticipating for a few months now. I was going to find out if all my training was going to pay off and I did have a couple concerns. Here is Aunt Becky and Jess at Short's:

In mid June I had some severe pain in my right foot and basically had to take about 2 weeks off running. This was a big concern to me since it was prime time for long training runs and I was not running at all. Then I was slowly able to build mileage back up and did a couple long runs the next few weeks. My longest run was two weeks before the marathon. I did the full 17 miles of the Potawatomi trail, which is very technical and tough. I was completely drained after that training run and questioning whether or not I could go another 9 miles after that in the full marathon?? Yikes! Also, my times in these trail runs were not that great and I was worried that I might not be able to finish within the time limit of 6 hours. To come up short after putting in all this training would be a big let down. I also was not sure which footwear to run with but I have been doing all my long runs in Merrell Trail Gloves, which are a barefoot style shoe so I went with them. They have a stiffer sole then my Vibram Five Finger Trek Sports which does not make it hurt so bad when you accidentally step on a jagged rock. I started thinking about my strategy and figured if I could keep 11:00 to 12:00 minute miles the whole way then I would be fine. Another concern was calories and hydration. This particular trail marathon was a green marathon and required you to bring at least a 20 ounce water bottle as they would not use wasteful paper cups. They had pitchers of water and Heed to fill your bottles up. There was no food at the aid stations, only those nasty gel packs. I brought my waist pack that holds two twenty ounce bottles and I also packed two power bars and a couple packs of GU Chomps, which are like energy in candy form. I really wanted to bring a camera but did not want to carry any more weight then I had to. Here is a pic of Pete and Sarah at the falls:

So I got to the island where there was quite a few people gathered already. I was right at the start line to hear the race directors speech. He informed us that they had to re-route part of the course between miles 17 and 22 because there was a search and rescue mission gone awry throughout the night and part of the trail was closed off. I never did find out what exactly that was all about. Anyway I toed the starting line and the gun went off, I think I was in first place for a brief second! I felt great as the run started, the air was cool and refreshing, and my legs felt good. The views of lake superior were already stunning and made the whole experience even better. The adrenaline of the race and the flatness of this part of the course helped me to keep a 9 minute and 45 second per mile pace for the first 4 miles and that was a lot better then I expected. Then we got to the first aid station and I really didn't need anything at that point so I kept pushing on. Then we began the only out and back section of the course on the island's thumb. There was a pretty good climb up the trail here for about a mile then another flat part and I reached the turn around. At the turn around I said in a Forest Gump voice "I think I'll go home now" but no one really laughed, I thought it was funny? Here is a map of the island, the marathon followed the perimeter:

Then we went back down the hill to the aid station where we entered the beach. It was really cool seeing the sun rising in the background and shining off the cliff edges. Running on the sand is difficult but staying on the wet packed sand made it a little easier to handle, but with a view like this..who cares?

After the beach we went back into the forested trail where there was another big uphill section which led us out to the main service road that the rest of the race follows. I still felt pretty good here, but knew I needed some calories so I ate a pack of chomps and miles 9 through 13 seemed to fly by. I remember, if I was just running a half marathon I could of really torn it up! But, my reality was that I was only at the halfway point. I started to feel a little tired around mile 15 and I ate my power bar. I also brought some electrolyte tablets to drop in my water which I made sure I did that at the aid stations. Around mile 17 I started to feel some pain in my left foot. What?! I never have pain in my left right foot has always been my problem child. I thought that maybe since I was wearing my water bottles on my left hip that my foot was bearing to much weight. To make things worse my middle toe on my right foot started killing me too, and this stems back to a year ago when I stepped on a rock and that pain always comes back after long distances. At this point I just told myself to make it to mile 22 aid station and I could crawl the rest of the way if I had to. So I felt a little beat up but my energy level was still good. I think I was was hydrating and keeping down calories perfectly, which I knew would be key. I learned about the repercussions of not staying hydrated in my training runs. Also in my training runs I learned to make sure to pick your feet up on the trails even when you are tired to avoid tripping on a root. I was reminded of this when I seen a guy take a terrible wipe out as I was coming into mile 22 aid station.

I made it to mile 22! I thanked the volunteers and began my journey toward the finish line. Even though my left foot felt like it was broken and my right middle toe was killing me with every step, I knew I only had 4 more miles to go. I could walk the rest of the way and would still make it. I was keeping a great pace, for me personally anyway, up until my pains at mile 17. Then my pace dropped from 11:00 minute miles to almost 12:00 minute miles by the time I got to mile 22 aid station. Any hopes of finishing in five hours were pretty much shot. I was ok with that though because just finishing the marathon was going to be a great accomplishment. The last four miles were on a flat straight single track trail that ran along a cliff edge of the island as seen here:

The views were still awesome at that point because you could see down to the lake and the clear water allowed you to see the bottom. I would walk for awhile and it took everything I had to start running again but I would do that periodically. I kept that same walk a little / run a little routine for the next couple miles. My legs were completely shot by the time I reached mile 25. Every step was torture, but who cares..I WAS ONLY A MILE AWAY!! The excitement that I was going to finish carried me to mile 26 where I ran the last .2 miles with great enthusiasm and even passed someone right before the finish. I even impressed myself with a time of 5 hours and 7 minutes.

My legs were really feeling it, my knees were locking up, my feet were killing, but none of that mattered because I had accomplished my goal. What a great feeling it was to let my legs soak in the ice cold water of lake Superior as I mentally was breathing a big sigh of relief and excitement. I found Jess and she had done a great job finishing her second half marathon. She realized a half marathon on trails was a little tougher then the flat pavement of New Orleans but she met the challenge head on and kicked ass. We got our finisher medals and boarded the ferry to head back to the mainland. We packed up our things at the campground and went with Pete and Sarah to a pizza place in Munising that Luc told me about. We ordered a lot of pizza and let me tell tastes even better after running 26.2 miles. I probably consumed all 4,000 calories that I burned earlier. From there we headed to our neighbor's condo on Lake Michigan where we relaxed for the rest of our vacation. It was truly a vacation I will never forget. Here is a pic from Grand Island as we were waiting for the ferry boat.

It is now a week later and I am about to head out on my first run since the marathon. I was originally looking forward to resting after the marathon but all last week I was itching to get back out there. As for the rest of this year we have a couple half marathons planned. Heading to Run Woodstock again in September to run with a couple friends from out of town and also thinking about doing the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon in October. Next year I have some bigger things planned. I will wait until later to disclose the future adventures. Until next time...Farewell!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mardi Gras Rock and Roll Half Marathon: February 13th, 2011

This run takes us to the great party city of New Orleans. We had plans to go visit Jessica's brother Luke down there and it turned out that the Mardi Gras Rock and Roll Marathon and Half Marathon was taking place at the same time. So we registered for what would be my second and Jess's first half marathon. The race was early on Sunday morning and we got there Thursday night so we had plenty of time to tour the city and do a little partying in the days before the run. On Friday afternoon we walked down to the New Orleans Convention Center to pick up our race packets at the health and fitness expo. Once we arrived at the expo we quickly got our packets and decided to walk around to check out all the festivities. I sort of got in a depressed mood at this point because I came to realize how commercial the sport of running has actually become. I am glad that it is motivating people to exercise and become involved but a part of me can't stand big business preying on people. I am not a scientist nor do I know if a lot of these products are legit or not but I hate it when people are trying to feed me lines of crap about their products which are extremely overpriced. One guy was feeding me a line of crap about this compression gear and then you have these ear buds for listening to music...$50 for a set of earpieces...are you kidding me...?! Anyway enough ranting now on to the good stuff.

Winter had just begun when I found out that we were going to run this half marathon. I cannot stand running on a treadmill so I knew it was going to be tough training all winter. Last winter I was able to run during the day, but I am now working during the day so I could only run after dark during the week. So I got a reflective vest and also used my headlamp with a red flasher attached to the back. There are no street lights in my hood so I had to make sure cars were going to see me rather then run into me. Not only was it going to be dark, but freezing cold as well. I also thought that if I am able to train in these elements that it would make me tougher and running in some nice weather would be a breeze. For Christmas my loving wife Jessica bought me a new pair of Vibrams Five Fingers. I was excited because I had outgrown my KSO's and also the KSO's are not really made for trail running. I needed some VFFs with traction and a bit more protection for my forefoot. The model that Jess bought for me was the Trek Sports and they were exactly what I was looking for. They fit perfectly and my first run in them was 4 miles and it went really well. I was excited to train in these and they definitely stood up to this harsh winter. Before I go any further I want to apologize for not having more pics on race day. I had left the camera in the rental car and did not have time to get it before the race.

Ok, on to the run. So when we signed up for this run we had to mark down the time we thought we would finish in and then they started us in waves based on what time you thought you would finish. The fastest people got to start first and the slowest people started at the end. This made a lot of sense because there was 15,000 runners for this event. Our waves were not suppose to start until around 7:20 or so. We got to bed early the night before and got a good sleep which is very important. So we were up early and began our 1.5 mile walk to the start line. When we got to the race start area there was a ton of porta potties but the lines were enormous. When Jess woke up in the morning she thought we still had some more time to sleep and chugged a bunch of water. She had to go to the bathroom so we got in one of the long lines. The waves of starting groups had begun. Both of our waves had already started and we were still in line for the bathroom. Jess told me to go ahead and get started in the run since I didn't have to go. As I walked over to the start area I noticed there was a whole bunch of unoccupied porta potties. As I turned back to go get Jess I noticed everyone who was waiting in line for the other bathrooms were running towards the start area. Here is a pic of the starting line:

I seen Jess and she said they were told if they did not go to the start line they would be disqualified. I showed her the other bathrooms and then I started the race, probably about 30 seconds before Jess did. Then I did something that I had never done at a race before, I flipped on my iPod and away I went. Before this winter I have never listened to music while running because I always found it to be distracting and kind of annoying. This winter was so harsh that I started taking my old iPhone with me on my weekend runs and it was actually kind of nice, especially in longer distances, it took my mind off of the fact that it was freezing outside. So, I settled in to a nice little pace, not too fast as I learned that energy reserves are very important for the last part of a half marathon. Then about a mile into the run I felt a poke in my back and to my surprise it was Jess! She was feeling good and wanted to pick up the pace even more. I told her we have a long way to go and should pace ourselves. She had used the bathroom and actually started in last place! She passed a whole bunch of people and it gave her a good boost of motivation. I was glad that she caught up to me and we could run together because I know how nice it is to have someone with you on your first half marathon. On my first half marathon I would have struggled a lot more if I didn't have my bro Luc with me leading the way. Here is a pic of Jess and I before the race:

The first 5 miles we were with the marathon runners so the streets were packed with people as we ran through some neighborhoods on the west side of the city. Also there was bands playing about every two miles since it was the Rock and Roll half marathon they thought it would be a good idea to have live music on the course! Then the marathoners split off from us and there seemed to be more room. We ran through the garden district and also seen a lot of the old mansions and awesome homes in this part of New Orleans. It was very scenic. At mile 6 someone had a tray of small beers in cups handing them out like they were water, I thought about it but decided against it. Then miles 7 through 10 took us through the financial district and the French Quarter. I had thought about walking a couple of times but Jess wanted to get to mile 10 before we walked so I agreed that was a good idea. At about mile 8 I took my earphones out as I got sick of listening to music and just wanted to take in all the sounds of the race. We got to mile 10 and walked for a minute or so and then we kept pushing on. At this point we only had about 3 miles left so we were doing good. Check out the video of the half marathon course.

We were both feeling the burn as the last three miles went on. We walked a couple of times. I noticed that we were looking good at finishing under my goal of 2 hours and 30 minutes so we reached deep down and ran the entire last mile. We finished strong at 2 hours and 22 minutes and it felt great to complete my second half marathon ever. I was extremely proud of Jess who completed her first half marathon and did really well. We hung out at the finish line and did a little stretching before heading out of the park to catch the trolly back to our hotel. Then we went out for lunch and ate some delicious muffulettas and beignets...and as always, food tastes even better after running 13 miles. The rest of our vacation was spent relaxing with some of Jess's relatives and her brother Luke and we had a really great time. It was good all around.

In conclusion, I have signed up for my first marathon! July 30th I will be running in the Grand Island Trail Marathon and Jess will be doing the half marathon. This will take place in the upper penninsula of Michigan and is suppose to be one of the coolest running courses in the country. Really looking forward to it. Let the new adventure begin!