Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Half Marathon

Enjoying the Jackson Square along
Decatur Street in the French Quarter.
I left a little early from work to get myself to LaGuardia for my 3:45pm flight to New Orleans, via Charlotte, on U.S. Airways, which got me into New Orleans at around 9pm.  My buddy Chad (who's featured on this season of American Idol -- he made it to the Hollywood round from New Orleans auditions!) picked me up from the airport, and we headed back to his house in the Bywater neighborhood just Northeast of the French Quarter, right alongside the Mississippi River.  Later that night, we went out for some dinner (delicious pork belly po' boys from Killer Po' Boys located at the back of the Erin Rose bar), and then a night out at Club Oz, where I met up with fellow runner Martin from Austin, TX, who I met at Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio in December!

After an epic night out, we headed back to get some z's and the following morning, slept in a little bit before heading to the expo at the Morial Convention Center so I could pick up my bib.  While there, my cousin came by to pick up a bag from me, as I was going to meet up with her after Sunday's race, and didn't want to have to deal with checking my small "suitcase" at gear check.  I kept only the essentials for prepping in the morning at Chad's place.  After we were all done at the expo, we went out on the town, walking all around New Orleans... and drinking up a storm.  A list of the things we got to do:
Oh, hello extremely large Hurricane.
  • consumed Charbroiled Oysters and a bottle of seasonal Abita Mardi Gras Bock from Drago's Seafood Restaurant
  • consumed half of a Muffuletta sandwich (Sicilian round bread, salami, ham, cheese, and olive salad) from Central Grocery
  • listened to many a jazz combo along Chartres Street (they pronounce it "charters." sigh.) and Royal Street
  • consumed a humongous fleur-de-lis shaped cup of Hurricane from Big Easy Daiquiris.  The entire thing.
  • consumed one and a half beignets covered in powdered sugar from Cafe Beignet
  • watched a bar with seated patrons move around a turntable at the famed Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone... while drinking a Pimm's Cup.
  • after separating from Chad, I met up with Sandira, Afy, Jane, Kimberlee, and Sally at Lucy's Bar.  And had a white sangria.
  • met up with members of the 50 States Half Marathon Club at Tommy's Cuisine, and had a chicken parmigiana.  And another bottle of Abita Mardi Gras Bock.
The RnR New Orleans startling!
Needless to say, I thought I may have sabotaged myself for my race the following morning, but I got to bed at a decent hour, and woke up bright and early at 6 to get myself ready for the race.  Chad allowed me to wake him up, despite his late night arrival home (he had a Mardi Gras ball gig), and he drove me as close to the start line as possible - and on my way I ate some of the King Cake he saved for me from the party the night before.  Basically, I'm a pig.

Being crazy with a slew of really
awesome folks, pre-race!
(photo by Sandira Reddy Salehzahi)
Anyway... I met up with my friends in Corral 12, and we took many a photo, and I twerked many a time before we were finally off on the course.  I decided to have fun with this race, and donned fleur-de-lis shaped sunglasses and a gold-sequined jester hat complete with bells.  My fellow racers were either gonna love me or hate me.  #sorrynotsorry.  The course started us off on Poydras Street, heading toward Rampart, where we turned left, and then down Howar Avenue before hitting mile 1 as we passed underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway/I-90.  From there, we were on a long stretch  along the famed St. Charles Avenue that took us along the streetcar line that stretches right into the Garden District.  This is an area of New Orleans that I am a little more familiar with, as the last time I was in the city was for my cousin's wedding pre-Hurricane Katrina.  Running down this street, however, was an interesting lesson in being very watchful of here you stepped, as St. Charles in both directions is riddled with potholes.  For much of this stretch of this race, I opted to run ON the streetcar line, as it was better on my knees, being packed dirt (slightly muddy in some areas, but I just avoided as best as I could).  Having worn short shorts, around the mile 3 mark at Napoleon Avenue, I stopped at a medical tent for some much needed vaseline to slather onto my inner thighs, as my initial body glide application was not very effective.  Sorry - TMI.

Who wears short shorts?
It was at about mile 3.5 where the road thinned due to some construction, which we were warned about in an e-mail from Competitor Group (who, thank you by the way for letting us know about this ahead of time - it was good to anticipate the construction in this area!).  We turned around at just past the 4 mile mark, in front of Audobon Park, and proceeded to run all the way back on St. Charles Avenue.  We finally made a small turn at about mile 7.75, and again at the 8 mile mark onto Magazine Street.  Along this stretch, I saw probably my most favorite spectator in the last nine months of running halfs all around the country - a guy, dressed as Buddy the Elf from the movie Elf, with a sign that said, "You smell like beef and cheese!"  I sooooo wish I got a picture of him, because it was amazing.  After a few more turns, we were in the heart of the French Quarter, heading down Decatur Street, past Jackson Square and Cafe du Monde.  We turned one last time at mile 10, down the last 2.75 mile stretch down Esplanade Avenue into City Park.  As we reached City Park, a group of folks were handing jello shots to runners, which I gladly took!

Just an epically beautiful medal,
don't ya think?
That last quarter mile was a blur, after we made the turn around the New Orleans Museum of Art.   I finished in 2:13:23, far off my PR on a flat course, but still great considering it was my fourth half in fifteen days, and the fastest of all four half in the month of January.  I met up with Kimberlee, Sandira, and Afy at the finish after we beaded up our bling - got some selfies with my favorite Competitor Group employees, and then had a couple beers at the finish line festival before meeting up with my cousin and her kids for lunch at the Ruby Slipper, before my flight home that afternoon.  State 15, completed!

Post race nom noms with my cousin and her hilarious kids


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