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!