Marathon #13 is in the books! And, it was a doozy of a journey. One of the reasons I chose the New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Marathon is because of the awesome medal. Duh! Another reason was because it was within driving distance (6 hours, anyway). The final reason was because I have a very, very sweet friend, Robin, who recently relocated to the general area. Her son and Isaac are friends, so we arranged for the two of us to stay with her for several days. Score! She'd be able to keep Isaac for me while I was running the marathon, and he'd have a fun time with his friend. That's a win-win.
Isaac and I left at 9 AM on Friday morning. The race wasn't until Sunday (Super Bowl Sunday, that is). I have to say that he did an amazing job during the long drive.
A movie and some popcorn is all it takes, most of the time, to keep him happy.
We pulled into downtown New Orleans just past 4 PM. I was excited to take Isaac to the race expo with me. He's getting so big! I knew he'd enjoy seeing all that was there.
There he is with his trusty pal, Stinky Dog.
These Mardi Gras beads greeted us.
We got my race bib, timing strip for my shoe, shirt, and loot bag. Then we walked around for just a bit. I'm not a big race expo person. If you've seen one, you've seen them all. But this was Isaac's first large one, so I stuck it out for a while.
I really, really like my charcoal grey technical tee.
Isaac wanted to carry my things.
After the expo we headed out to Robin's house in Houma, Louisiana. My phone directed me on a 90 minute journey there. That felt longer than the drive to New Orleans. But we finally made it.
Here are Isaac and Charlie, enjoying some cupcakes from our hometown.
And here is Isaac wearing Charlie's "shrimp boots."
On Saturday morning we all headed into New Orleans to do some sight seeing. After a lunch of grilled shrimp, we toured the very neat Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Then we walked along the riverfront area. That is where IT happened: a seagull pooped on my arm. I thought someone had thrown a rock at me! Then I discovered what it really was. Eeewwww! I thought "This has got to be some sort of good omen, somehow." Ha.
Here we are along the river. It was a gorgeous day.
After a streetcar ride and some more walking around, we got ready to call it a day. Robin had arranged for us to stay at her sister's home that evening in nearby Metairie. That would mean only a 10 minute drive to the race for me, and I greatly appreciated that.
After dinner I laid out all of my gear, and that included putting my timing strip on my shoe.
I slept alone in Robin's niece's room that night, and I slept well. I was a little leery about only having ONE alarm set, but I trusted that everything would be OK. Even when I stay at hotels with three alarms, I usually wake up before my phone tells me to. So at 5 AM I was up making eggs and getting ready.
Here I am all ready to go, for the most part.
I got the the premium parking lot with ease. You see, this race started and finished miles apart. So, unless I got dropped off, I'd have a long walk back to my car. The extra $20 spent on the lot by the finish line, as well as the shuttle to the start, was money well spent.
For a race this large, I anticipated the lines for the port-o-potties to be very long. But they weren't. That's a first! Of course, there seemed to be hundreds of them. Say what you may about the Rock 'n' Roll races, but everything seemed to be very well thought out, logistically.
I made my way to the starting area, and I discovered my corral, #15, was blocks and blocks away. The race was just that large! I finally got there after the gun had fired, but this was a wave start, so I had plenty of time to spare. In fact, I didn't start until 7:28 AM. So what did I do for almost a half hour? I people watched, waited for my Garmin to find signal, and I observed the FOG. There was lots of it. Chasen later told me that New Orleans had 93% humidity when the race began.
Lots of fog!
Lots of St. Jude Heroes! Memphis REPRESENT!
I finally got to start! Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" was blaring.
The first few miles were downtown, like most city races. It was muggy, people. If you don't know humidity, consider yourself lucky. It wasn't very hot, thankfully, but it was sticky. It was still pretty clear, albeit misting rain. Then it got super foggy.
There I am chug-chug-chugging along in the fog.
I heard lots of off-color comments about running under the inflatable Brooks man.
Speaking of off-color, there were at least a few off-color signs along the course. I was shocked! I can only remember one right now, and I certainly won't repeat it.
Here's a good one.
And another very New Orleans one.
While I look determined in this photo, I appear to have a Kim Kardashian rear. I really don't.
I have to admit that the first half of the race was filled with doubts. After the fiasco that was marathon #12, I had reservations about potentially running in the rain. A month or two before the race, I had doubts about running, period. I'm thankful for several amazingly supportive friends who kept on encouraging me to make it to New Orleans. But, once the misting rain turned into a downpour, I thought "I'm done. I'll just come back next year, stay with Robin again, and it'll all be alright. It's a fairly easy drive. I don't have much money invested in this." Thankfully that rain lasted only a minute or two, so I persevered. After all, I hate the idea of quitting. I may be slow as molasses, but I don't quit.
Shortly after leaving downtown, we headed down beautiful St. Charles Avenue, which is lined with mature trees. They provided both shade and a bit of an umbrella from the rain. Almost the entire rest of the course was an out-and-back, i.e. you could always see speedy people who were miles and miles ahead of you running the opposite direction. That was, at times, a tough pill to swallow. On the other hand, it was great for people watching.
One of the toughest parts of races for me is when the halfers turn off to head to their finish line. You can hear the hooplah, and you wish you were nearly done. But the glass half full approach is that you get to celebrate being half done already, and the runners thin out quite a bit. So let's go with the latter!
I left the city park/finish area and headed down another long out-and-back that lead me to Lake Pontchartrain. It was during this long stretch that I had an epiphany. I truly did. I discovered that, once and for all, I truly do not care about my marathon time. I just don't. I want to run the race, enjoy it, enjoy the scenery, and get my medal. I love every second of it, even when I'm struggling. There ya have it. If I ever get faster, that's great. But if I never do, I'll be perfectly content.
Lake Pontchartrain brought me a lot of clarity, wouldn't you say?
It was a long, long distance out by the lake. With the exception of 2 or 3 small bridges, this course was flat as a pancake. So I had lots of time to think! The turnaround was at mile 19 or 20, I think. So, not only did it feel good to get to the 20's, it just felt good to turn around and "head back home." As a bonus, I discovered that I wasn't the last runner! I encouraged lots of people who were not yet to the turnaround.
Past mile 20 --get this!-- I passed people left and right! My body felt good, and my homemade energy bars were doing their job. I may be slow, but I'm STEADY. (At least I was this day.) I was just so happy to be out there! I mean, running marathons is what I live for! So, like I said, I don't care how long it takes me. It's my happy place.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful water stations. Different groups staffed them, including tiny cheerleaders, girl scouts, boy scouts, Hash House Harriers wearing red dresses (men, too!), and, my favorite, a group of white haired cajun gentlemen. At mile 24 or so, when I'm sure I wasn't looking so wonderful, one said "You got dis, dahlin!" Another said "Guhl, you almost done and you know it!" Ha - I loved it.
Finally I was within a half mile or so of the finish line. That's always the longest half mile of my life. I was spent, but I made it to the start of the chute. I channeled some hustle and bee-lined it for the end.
I'm coming, I'm coming!
An announcer, perhaps the race director, was standing with a microphone on the course and said "Here comes Susan and she's got her arms up and she looks ready to finish." Brother, ain't that the truth!
He high fived me, and I loved it.
I crossed the finish line and, as always, was happy as a clam. There is no better feeling in the world than completing a marathon.
Happy, happy, happy!
Aaaaaaand the bling! This makes it all worth it.
See, best medal in Louisiana! What an experience. Even though it took what seemed like an eternity to get to my car and get out of those "devil shoes," which is what I call running shoes after 26.2, I couldn't wait to call home and tell Chasen about it. And I was so excited to show Isaac my medal. Good times!
I headed back to Metairie, got cleaned up, and then we all headed back to Houma and actually watched the Super Bowl a bit. Isaac and I slept like the dead that night. Go figure. We headed back to Southaven the next morning. I fared well during the long drive. Either due to my change from heel striking to running on the balls of my feet, or because the course was so flat, my quads had very little soreness. I could actually walk down stairs pain free!
I'm not exactly sure when #14 will be, but I know it'll be fun. Keep running, friends, and don't stop believing!