A not-so-brief recap of the New Orleans Rock ‘N’ Roll, my first marathon of 2012.
Start: The start line could literally not have been closer to my hotel. This is a really fantastic arrangement for me, no need to wait in the port-a-potty lines for the overly hydrated.
Mile 1: Friggin cold out here, many people are running in long sleeves but I have none. The start is slow due to the crowd – I’m much closer to the front than I was in St. Louis but I want to be further up in my next Rock ‘N’ Roll race. There’s no mile 1 marker though so not sure how behind pace I am. I really want a Garmin.
Miles 2-3: After looping around a bit we’re running west along St. Charles St. They’ve stopped the street cars for the race so I follow other’s lead and hop up on the trolley right-of-way to run a dirt path along the tracks. The advantage here is softer ground and more room to maneuver but I miss a water table this way. The trees on this road are freaking huge and beautiful.
Mile 4-5: We turn back to overlap ourselves & run east along St. Charles. I read an article saying the organizers had rejiggered the course to increase the amount of there & backs to cut down on the number of cops needed to block intersections. Typically this kind of thing is irritating but this is such a gorgeous road full of massive oaks so I don’t really mind. One interesting difference – the trees on the south side of the road we are on now are draped in beads. Are these permanent or leftovers from the recent Mardi Gras parade? Unclear.
Mile 9: Running through this dude’s legs, and into the French Quarter. Some drinkers on the fringes here – not sure if they’re up early for a morning beverage or still up from last night. I heard bars here close at six am but it’s almost 8:30 now, kind of a no-man’s-land for any non-gatorade drinker.
Mile 11-12: Straight shot up Esplanade to the park. This road is fairly torn up, footing is tricky but fortunately no twisted ankles. The half-marathoners split off around, including the cute girl I had been pacing myself on. Most of the (many) folks running in tutus exit here.
Mile 13.1: My watch time at the half is 1:54:45. This is 42 seconds behind my time at last year’s BAA half, but I’ve got another half to go. Feeling solid. My mental plan from the beginning was to not be stressed by anything before mile 16, then worry about the last ten when the time came.
Mile 15: Long boring stretch up the west side of City Park. My eyes keep wandering off to the right looking for gators in the waterway but sadly there are none. To the left is a levy of some sort blocking the view west – afterward I learn the Orleans Canal is hidden behind there.
Mile 16: There have been opportunities for free beer in several places along the course but here some people have trays of martinis, olives & all. I pass on the drink but am starting to feel fatigued. This is my first mile with a split above 9:00 – at 9:06 I’m still under my goal of 9:09 (for a 4 hour finish), but just barely.
Mile 17: There’s a table handing out Gu – I’ve been carrying some but had forgotten to take my second and this gives a much needed boost. The high school guys handing them out are excited and dynamic – “look at your face, you definitely need one of these”. You have no idea how right you are dude. Some girl screams “you’re sexy and you know it” in my general direction – this makes my day.
Mile 18-19: Running along the lakeshore. Lake Pontchartrain is HUGE. Once we turn east the wind is more at our backs, thankfully. This part of the course reminds me of my 20 mile training run in Chicago prior to Baltimore last year.
Mile 20: Horrible mile for me, 9:39 split, slowest of the race. Ready for the last turn at the University of New Orleans. I see no interesting buildings or landmarks here, just a police cruiser blocking the road telling us to head back the other way.
Mile 21: There’s no much in the way of hills in the whole course (the elevation map is here), but this mile marker is at a relative high point, at the top of a bridge over the Bayou St John. Despite the hill, my split at mile 21 is back down to 8:57. I’m definitely going to make my 4:00 goal.
Mile 23: The doldrums of the long miles home. I can’t even be bothered to look for gators on the way back south. My splits around here are fluctuating from 8:50 to 9:10, I’m trying and failing to do any math but keep trying and failing anyway. Since the course is doubled back here I’m watching the slower runners coming north – with the last ones I see I estimate I’m 10 full miles ahead of them. I cannot express how glad I am that I don’t have 10 miles yet to go.
Mile 25: I ditch my headphones. Crowds starting to build as we cut into the park, lots of finished people cheering us on.
Finish: Brilliant. I actually really like this last mile, winding around in the park. I still have enough gas in the tank to push past a few people, watch time 3:54:57, a PR for me (!!) and nearly 15 minutes ahead of my previous best. Asthma kicks in as I cross the line but the medical tent doesn’t have any albuterol – this is becoming a recurrent problem for me at the end of marathons. I stumble off to find my breath, some liquids & listen to blues on the grass with my new friends.