Finally I was going to be able to cross off my first state of 2017 – Louisiana. I was almost not going to be able to do this race because of flight times, etc but luckily it all worked out for me. This might have also been one of the shortest trips for a race as well maybe behind Mercedes Benz Half last year. I didn’t get to NOLA until 5pm on Saturday and left at 2pm on Sunday. The only goal I had for this quick trip was literally just to finish the half marathon to cross this state off. However, I’ll admit it. I ended up getting sucked into the fun and crazy of Bourbon St and that made for an interesting night.
I digress though. No one wants to know about all that fun, right? So let’s focus on the race. The race started at 7:30am. Since I had to pick up my bib at the Rock ‘n’ Roll solutions tent the morning of the race, I had to get up a little earlier than normal. This wasn’t a huge deal other than the fact that I probably didn’t get back to the hotel room until abut 12:45am. Oops!
So when that alarm went off at 5:45am, I was hurting a little. More so from the lack of sleep versus the drinks I had the night before, but maybe both. The hotel I was staying at was only a 13 minute walk to the start line so I left the hotel around 6:35am. I had planned to leave earlier, but I am glad I didn’t. I ended up having plenty of time for morning duties and didn’t feel rushed at all.
After leaving the hotel, I headed right for Lafayette Square where the Rock ‘n’ Roll race solutions tent was set up. I very easily got my bib and noticed there were tons of other bibs there. This is one of my biggest pet peeves with Rock ‘n’ Roll. They close their expo so early the night before the race and sometimes it really messes up with people’s travel plans. Sometimes people just can’t get to an expo before 5pm. However, what I saw on race morning was something that seemed so easy and something I wish Rock ‘n’ Roll would offer for runners. While I got my bib, I saw at least 15 others pick theirs up as well. I also expected to have to check or carry my shirt in my pack, but I didn’t have to because they already thought of that. I would just have to pick it up at the finisher’s information tent.
As soon as I got my bib, I figured I would hop into the port-o-potty line. That took all of 7 minutes and by the time I was out, they were starting the 10k. I hung around a little bit longer before heading to the corrals. I had corral 10 as my starting corral but ended up starting in 5. Everyone was very courteous and there really were no issues with the corrals.
The plan for this race was to just treat it as a long run. I didn’t want to “race” this and just wanted to log the miles. I also planned to do my regular 4/1 run/walk. As I crossed the start line, I figured whatever would happen with this race would just happen. I knew my adventures the night before would certainly play a part of this race potentially being not as good as it could be.
The first mile of the race you wound through town as you headed to St. Charles Street. Even in these first miles, I never felt bunched with other runners. There really seemed to be a lot of room. For some reason for the first 2 miles, I missed my run/walk every time. I went every other. Really not sure why though. As I started one of my first walk segments, I put my hand up, looked around to ensure no one was directly behind me and moved over to the right. An older gentleman came up behind me, kinda patted me on the shoulder and thanked me for the great walk etiquette.
Once we got onto St. Charles St., we had a straight away for about 3.5 miles. This is a beautiful street and luckily provided lots of shade cover on the way out. On the way back it was a little less as you had the sun beaming at you now. One thing I noticed about the course was that the roads sucked. I mean sucked. I actually saw 3 people go down in the first few miles and one woman catch herself from what would have been probably head first into the pavement. It was definitely a race where you had to pay attention to where the next pot hole might be.
For the most part, there was a decent amount of spectators out. In fact, I don’t think there was a single part of the half marathon course where I didn’t see a spectator. There might not have been packed 10 deep, but there were people out there.
Just as we came to the turn around point on St. Charles St., there was a group offering up King Cake. At this point in the race, I was still feeling pretty good. I wasn’t looking at my watch so had no idea of actual pace. I was guessing how I was feeling I was around my marathon pace of 11:30ish. Since I wasn’t racing and was just out there having fun, I decided to grab the King Cake. Let me tell you, this was one of the best decisions I made on the day. It was delicious!
I was still feeling okay, but I could tell my legs were just getting heavy. I had run 6.4 miles the day before with the PBR Training Group and did a ton of walking when I got to NOLA as well. In fact, before I even started the race, my step count was up over 4,000 already and I was starting to feel it. Around mile 5, I honestly felt like I had 2 lead legs and felt that my pace was slipping.
Then maybe around mile 5.5, I saw the unthinkable. I actually saw someone cut the course. Since I don’t run with headphones, I am always listening to random things on the course. I heard this girl scream a name and just happened to look at her direction. She screamed her friends name another 2 times and instead of continuing onto St. Charles in her direction, she literally turned and started running the other direction. I thought maybe she’d back but nope. She cut a good 1-1.5 miles off her course.
She kept up with her friend who was clearly going much faster than her for a bit, but then started to break off. At this point, I caught up to her and as I passed her, totally turned around and got her picture. I get that her finish time didn’t put her up for an AG award, but it’s the integrity of yourself or lack there of that allowed this person to think cutting the course was okay.
So after that happened, I was really feeling the lead legs kick in. In fact, through miles 6-7 I was feeling a little disheartened. I kept smiling and was having fun, but in the back of my head, I just kept thinking about how slow I’ve gotten and I need to throw out my marathon goal of going Sub 5.
Finally we turned off St. Charles and headed back into the city. We had a few turns and went through some fun parts of the city. I do wish the course took us on some part of Bourbon St., just to say we ran on Bourbon, but it didn’t. Instead as we weaved through miles 8 and 9 we hit Magazine St and Decatur. We passed by Jackson Square and of course the famous Café du Monde. I knew I’d be going back there post race and couldn’t wait! Quickly after passing that, we came up to mile 10 and turned left onto Esplanade Ave where we spent another 3 miles. Again I was thankful for the shade during this stretch as I was starting to feel the heat.
It was finally during this last 5k that I actually felt myself feeling fast. I happened to look at my watch when it buzzed for mile 11 and was shocked to see a 10:41. I was by no means trying to go this pace, but it was just happening. I also started to notice that during this last 5k I was passing more people than getting passed. I was actually feeling good in the last part of this race which was something I hadn’t felt in awhile. Instead of dreading these miles, I was perked up and hitting
Finally around 12.6, we came to the entrance to City Park. This was also where the marathoners split off to the left to hit their back miles. The first thing I noticed about the park was just how beautiful it was! I thought the finish line was just inside the park but it wasn’t. I picked it up a little and made the mistake in that I picked it up a bit too soon. We had to go left around a building and then one more turn to the last straightaway. I think all in all we had a good half mile still left in the park.
When I crossed the finish line, I probably had the biggest smile on my face. I really felt great. I probably could have kept going for a few more miles which was a nice feeling. For the first time in awhile, I finished feeling confident in my race.
After getting my medal and goodies through the finishers chute, I made my way over to the finisher’s village area. I picked up my race shirt and bag and then hung out a little bit before making my way toward the shuttles. Since the finish line is a few miles away from the start line, Rock ‘n’ Roll provided shuttles back to the start line area. I found this process was to be very simple. I maybe waited 7 minutes total before getting on a 10 minute bus ride.
Back at the hotel, I quickly showered as all I had on my mind was getting to Café du Monde for those beignets. I had about 2 hours before I needed to get to the airport for my flight. I ended up getting my beignets to go and ate on the steps across from Jackson Square. It was an amazing day out so it was nice to soak in some of that sun and relax a but after the race.
Overall, I really enjoyed this race! So much so, this would be a race I’d be willing to repeat. Total elevation change for the half marathon course was 7 feet. You can’t really get any flatter than that. With the spectators, decent shirt and great medal, if you haven’t done this race, I would definitely recommend trying to do it one year. Just keep in mind due to Mardi Gras and all, the date does change. Next year for example, it’s the first weekend in March.
As for my final reaction to this race, I needed it. I needed a solid race to boost my confidence. Maybe I’m still not there for the sub-5 marathon, but getting a finish like this right now was what I needed. The fact that my last mile was my fastest was even just the cherry on top. Maybe this was the turning point I needed to feel back on track with my training and in my relationship with running in general. Thanks, RnR NOLA, I’ll take it.
Official Finish Time:
407/898, F 30-34