Sunday, August 26, 2012

A sprint written as a sprint

I’ve decided that since the Lake Norman Tri I just did is a sprint, I’d do my write up in sprint format.  Short and quick sentences.  Though after looking at it, it does look sort of like how I picture a dog would write it up.  Anyways here goes;

Here we go.  Swim. Swim. Ouch, who kicked me? Swim. Ouch, who kicked me? Ouch, who kicked me? Son of a ****, hey, move over.  There’s no room.  Where’s the buoy?  Ouch, who kicked me? How can I get around these guys? Ouch, who kicked me? Where’s the turn buoy.  There it is.  Keep swimming.  Ouch, who kicked me? Gotta squeeze in here.  Here’s the buoy.  Move over, dude.  Swim. Swim.  Where’s the next buoy.  I hope it opens up on the way back. Ouch, who kicked me? I’m never doing a tri again.  Turn, turn, turn.  Ouch, who kicked me? Why is this race so crowded all the time. Swim, swim.  Move over. Hey, someone just kicked me in the face. My goggles are off on the right side.  Should I stop?  No time.  Close my right eye.  Keep swimming.  That sun is really bright.  I can’t see anything through my one eye.  Better just follow someone else. Ouch, who kicked me? This sucks.  Swim. Swim.  Swallowed water.  Choking.  Cough. Cough.  Better.  Keep going.  There’s the shore, it must be close.  Swim.  Still can’t see it.  Did I pass it?  Can’t be.  Man this swim is slow.  I’m going to get killed on the time.  Swim.  There it is.  Holy crap, it’s 3 feet in front of me.  Turn, turn.  Last stretch.  Kick, kick, kick!!! Almost there.  Swim to the end.  Out of the water.  Get out of the way.  Oh great a photographer.  I’m sure I look flat.  Are they ever going to repave this parking lot?  Ouch.  There’s my bike.  Just get my bike shoes on.  No socks.  It’s cold, go with short sleeve dart shirt.  Ok, helmet-check, shoes-check, sunglasses-check.  Ok, head out.  Run, run, run. Hey, there’s Ashley Ackerman!  Hey dude.   Get on bike.  Up hil, up hill. Crank it.  That’s 1 road kill,2 ,3, 4.  This first hill always gets me.  There’s summit, anyone I know outside.  No, keep going.  Hit that corner.  Davidson-Concord, gotta get some nice speed here.  24 mph.  Nice, 5,6,7,8,9,10.  Can I get 25 road kills?  Keep counting.  There’s Mungers house.  No Dave!  I could use that martini  right about now.  Keep it cranking.  11, 12, 13, 14, 15…25!  I’m past 25 and only ¼ of the way through.  I want 50!  Here comes the traffic circle.  Hope Jo is ok.  Car coming, please don’t hit me.  Around the circle.  Keep up the pace up the hill. Wow, this hurts.  Want to beat last years time.  Keep going.  Up the hill, drop the gear, keep up the pace.  Wow, I’m going good up the hills, 26…35! Nice.  Onto Shearers. “Thanks for volunteering!” How soon until Grey road?  Drink.  Gotta keep drinking.  Don’t get dehydrated.  Hope jo is ok.  She should be swimming by now. More people up ahead.  Pass, pass, pass.  40!  Nice.  Why won’t this guy stay passed.  Ok, there’s grey.  A little downhill.  Nice.  Drink.  OK, back uphill.  Pace is good.  Gotta be at least 19?  I hope so.  Don’t give anything up.  Leave it all out here.  Pedal, pedal, pedal. OK, shopping center coming up.  I know this is faster than I practiced.  It’s gotta be. 50 road kills!  Why is this guy honking at me.  There’s a race buddy!  Ok, throw it all down the hill.  Pedaling down the hill.  OK, here comes the big hill.  Halfway through. OK, crank it up the hill.  Passing people left and right.  Up to 60!  OK, 115 is close.  Oh man, all these cars are blocking the road.  Anyone in the left lane?  No.  Man, this is really dangerous.  Screw it.  So long cars.  Turn, turn, turn.  OK, home stretch now.  Those girls are drafting.  You can’t do that.  “Hey, you can’t draft!”. Whatever.  Into town.  Wonder how Tristan and John are doing.  I hope they don’t crush me.  Ok, there’s Davidson.  This is the part of the course I never remember.  Wow, where did that hill come from?  Hey, didn’t I pass you before?  70 kills.  Almost there.  Hey Jason Gardner!  “Hey Jason!”  I don’t think he heard me.  Ok, just down the hill.  Man that dude is getting out of his shoes with a quarter mile to go.  Move over buddy.  “On your left! Coming through!”  73 nice.  Ok, off the bike.  Fast transition.  Fast transition.  I’m hot.  Better change to a singlet.  Damn, wasting time.  Why won’t these stupid socks go on!?!?  Ugh.  They’re not right.  Oh crap, grab your number!  OK, run, run run.  Hey it’s Jyl and Hope!!  High fives!  Awesome.  So glad I saw them.  Ok, just keep it together.  Decent pace.  Is that really my pace?  Don’t mess it up.  That hill is coming up.  Is that Theoden?  It is!   “Way to go TJ!” OK, first turn, then the hill.  This is where Tony passed me last year.  Don’t walk, don’t walk.  Tony said do it in 1:40.  Where am I.  uhhh, 15 plus something.  Whatever, keep going.  Made it up the hill.  Turn, some flat.  Damn, that guy passed me like I was standing still!  Nice tri shirt!  Where’s Sean’s house?  Don’t see him this year.  Is that really 1 mile done?  1/3 of the way done.  Keep going.  Here’s that long hill.  You can slow down, but no walking!  Keep going.  “Hey, are you ok?  You can do it, keep going!”  Wow, I made it up that hill.  There is no shade here at all.  OK, halfway done.  What’s my pace.  Keep it up!  Mile 2 already!  Sweet.  Almost home.  Hey, Emily Read!  “looking good, Emily!” who’s that guy yelling at Emily next to me?  Is that Tony? Oh crap.  Oh no it’s not.  OK, good.  Keep going.  Hey, there’s Tony!  Am I still ahead of him?  Let’s see, he started 12 minutes after me.  I’m almost at 3, right?  Ugh, too tired, keep going.  Want to walk.  If you walk now and someone you know beats you by 10 seconds you’ll be pissed, keep going.  There’s the turn for the finish.  Oh gross, that guy just threw up in front of me!  Where’s Jo?  Keep going.  I see the finish line.  Hey, don’t try to pass me right in front of the finish! Turn it on.  Done!  You want my chip?  You’re going to need to give me a second buddy!  Hey it’s Hope and Jyl.  High fives!!!  Done.

Jo finished her first real tri with open water.  I beat last years time by 21 minutes.  A good, but rough race.
And now..Pictures!:
Coach Tony and I before the race.  He somehow grew 2 feet!

Jo and I before the race

Jo coming in on the bike

Jo finishing the tri!

Emily Read coming in 3rd in her age group

Jo and I after

Jo and I with the Read's (l-r) Glenda, Tony, Emily, Dan

Thursday, May 24, 2012

“I think I’m going to do White Lake”

WARNING:  This write up is almost as long as the actual race!

"I think I'm going to do White Lake"

Those are the words I spoke to Johane at dinner immediately after finishing the Goofy challenge at Disney world in January.
A year previously, I had blown out my IT band doing the Disney marathon.  Since I couldn’t run, I started going to the pool again and swimming.  Eventually, I could bike again and started doing that too.  Since I was already doing the swimming and biking and running would be soon, I started thinking about maybe doing a triathlon again, so I signed up for a sprint Tri in Cornelius at the Y.  I wound up adding 2 other tri’s to my schedule, another sprint, and an Olympic distance, the first one I had done.  In the middle of all this fellow dart-er Todd Hartung told me that I really should start talking to his friend Tony Read. Tony had done a few Half Ironmans and even a full Ironman and was a great resource to talk to.

The very next week while sitting outside Summit Coffee with my wife post run, both Tony and Todd were there, and Todd introduced me.  Right off the bat, I had my first encounter with Tony’s enthusiasm, as he invited me to his place for a group open water swim.  After that day Tony and I have been swimming a lot, and have even biked and run quite a bit. 

So when my knee flared up at Savannah, he reminded me that I felt best the previous summer when also biking and swimming along with running.  He also started gently prodding me to do a half ironman.  Tony’s mantra is “ Believe, decide, do”.  He kept asking me if I believed I could do a half.  Eventually the answer became yes, though I was still skeptical.  I sometimes have a hard time looking beyond my next goal to the one beyond that.  So I was focused on Disney, and didn’t commit.  After Disney, I knew I had New Orleans coming up, so I couldn’t commit completely to it, but I did start ramping up my bike and swimming workouts.

Once New Orleans was over, and I felt pretty good, I decided to go fully for it (after making sure that Jo would be ok with the long training hours), and then the training started in earnest.
Basically my training involved a long bike ride on Saturday of around 4 hours followed by a 30-40 minute run.  Swimming 3 times a week of 2,500 yards each.  Runs (in addition to the Saturday run) of up to 80 minutes on Sunday, a long run of 10-12 miles on Tuesday and a shorter run of 5-6 miles on Thursday.  Plus my shorter runs on the other days.

For the most part, my training went pretty well.  I had a couple of hot days where I started too late and my nutrition was off and I bonked.  I think in addition to the training for the distance, there was a lot of training around nutrition/hydration, and I learned a lot.

Sooner than I knew it the day was here.  We left after school on Friday and made our way to White Lake, NC, which is about 3.5-4 hours from my house in a little town east of I-95.  White Lake seems to be a area that was a resort location in the 60’s and 70’s (much like the poconos or catskill mountains in the northeast) and not much has changed since then, including the hotels.  We wound up staying in a little place on the shores of the lake.  The lake views were fabulous, the hotel room view, not so much.  After getting to the location, we went to packet pickup, and got everything I needed, then checked into the hotel.

Hopefully, I'd be seeing the finish line again the next day

The Pier behind our hotel

White Lake at dusk

Tony dispensing last minute advice

We met up with Tony and went for pizza and ice cream (yes, I actually ate that!).  I like going to these races with Tony since he’s so calm, that I feel myself calming down.  I had been particularly worried since the forecast was calling for temps of 90 degrees and upwards.  But he also gave me some last minute tips.  More on that later.

Next morning I was up at 5am.  I rolled out my leg as usual, ate my bagel and peanut butter, and loaded up the car. As I was loading the car, Tony drove by and said he’d meet me at the start.  We rolled up a few minutes later and the parking lot was already full.  They said you could park 1-2 miles down the road, so we started driving down.  About ¼ mile down the road there was a guy selling spots on his lawn for 10 dollars.   SOLD!!!  With the amount of crap I had to carry, I was truly relieved.  Jo and Julia helped me carry my stuff to the start, and I went to my spot and tried to organize.  I ran into darter Brian Helfrich and we chatted for a few seconds, but I was almost in full panic mode.

A small part of the transition area

 I visited the port-o-jon a couple of times and then started heading down to the swim start with Tony.  Halfway there I started waffling on having a gu before the start.  Tony patiently told me to go get it and I scarfed it down quickly and then headed for the water.  I think the water was warmer than advertised, but was very glad we got to wear wetsuits.  Definitely swim better with it on.  Tony and I ran into another friend of his that I’ve swum with at his house and we chatted for a while.  They both kept telling me not to go out too hard on either the bike or the run, because with the temps in the 90’s I’d pay for it.
The swim starting pier

My group was earlier than Tony’s so I headed out to the start.  I saw Jo and Julia on the pier and had a chance to swim in their direction and have them take a pic and wish me luck.

In the water and ready to go

Before I knew it, it was time to go.  The countdown started and we were off.  I tried to stay towards the outside, since last year when I was in the middle at the Lake Norman Sprint, I got completely abused by being kicked.  The good part about the first 500 meters was that I didn’t have to do any sighting of buoys.  I was neck and neck with some other guy, and I just sighted off him.  After the first 500 when I was warmed up, I pulled away from him and then the sighting fun started.  They had buoys every 100 meters for the first 600 meters.  After that they seemed to be every 200-300 meters.  I was going pretty good for a while.  The course is a sort of rough triangle, going out around 700 meters, turns right, then goes for another 700, then turns right again and back in for 700.  The last 700 felt a bit dicey for me.  I had a hard time sighting on the buoys and it felt like they weren’t in a straight line.  Luckily, the swim finish has a giant balloon man, so I just sighted on that and headed for home.  It was rewarding passing not only people in my wave, but then people 2-3 waves ahead of me.  As I got to the pier to leave Tony Tip # 1 popped into my head.  (Tony Tip # 1 – don’t go for the first ladder on the pier, everyone does.  Skip by it and go for the second)  This was dead on.  There was a line getting out at the first ladder, and absolutely no one at the second ladder.  Got out and started running towards the transition area, taking off my swim cap, goggles and nose plug.

Out of the water
Somebody take my stuff, please?

I saw Jo at this point and she took my pic.  As I entered the transition area, I ran into another darter, Ashley Ackerman.  Ashley has done a ton of halves and even some full ironmans.  He was there as part of a relay team, and he was doing the run portion.  So I got to see him for a few seconds, say hi, good luck, etc.  That got me even more pumped up. I headed for my spot, took my first dose of salt pills, and prepared to head out.

Getting ready to head out on the bike

Tony heading out on the bike, and about to crush me

And then I made mistake # 1.  I had bought a pair of triathlon shorts.  Tri shorts have a pad like bike shorts but not as think.  The advantage is you can swim and run in them also.  The disadvantage is that they don’t have much padding against the bike seat.  And my tri bike has what’s called a tri seat, which means it’s nice and light, but can feel like you’re sitting on a sharp rock.  For 3 hours.  So I had brought a pair of bike shorts that I planned on putting on over the tri shorts.  I got about a half mile down the road when I realized I had forgotten them.  Instead of going back I figured “how bad can it be?”  Bad idea.
My first  bunch of miles were at a decent pace, though I did have to stop twice, once to go to the bathroom in the woods, and once when I dropped a water bottle and had to go back (they’re $20 bottles, and I knew I’d need the water).  I was averaging almost 20 mph for the first 20 miles.  I settled into a pattern of nutrition and hydration.  I had 2 salt pills every hour on the hour, and had half a clif bar every half hour on the 10’s and 40’s.  I also made sure to drink a whole 21 oz water bottle every hour.

Part of my challenge to myself was to see how long I could hold Tony off.  I knew that my swim started 10 minutes before him, and we’re pretty evenly matched, so I knew I’d be good there.  I knew his transition would be faster than mine, but not by much.  So I figured it would be just a matter of time.  However, I was hoping it wouldn’t be until at least 30 miles in.  But at mile 20, he pulled up next to me.  He had talked about going out hard and banking some time, because the second half had some serious headwinds.  We chatted for a few seconds and he was off.  Most of the rest of the bike ride was uneventful, except for a few things.  1)  The lack of padding definitely hurt me.  By mile 50 I was almost desperate to get off the bike.  2)  The was a heavy headwind from around mile 25 on.  3)  It started getting hot enough that I felt it even on the bike going almost 18 miles an hour.  All of these factors played into my steadily decreasing paces until we were mercifully back at the transition point.
I took my time at this transition, almost because I knew subconsciously that I didn’t want to go out on the run.  By this point it was over 90 degrees.  I sat down, changed into my Noosa’s, strapped on my water bottle belt, changed into my dart singlet, put suntan lotion on my head, neck and arms (I’d be wearing a visor), and at the last second picked up my other running pouch thing that had my phone in it.  I walked until the transition mat and then started running.
Thankfully, the first mile had a slight downhill, so I tried to get my running together.  Though the run was all on blacktop and by the time I got to the first aid station at mile 1, I thought I was in trouble already.  It was hot, and I started to feel myself overheating already.  Thankfully I got to the first aid station, and it truly was an aid station for me.  The first thing was that they had chilled washcloths/small towels that they were giving out.  I put one over my head and that cooled me a bit.  The second thing was something I had gotten from Tony.

Tony Tip#2 – after the bike, don’t try to eat anything (gel, solids, or anything) for the first 3 miles of the run.  Get some of the flat cola at the rest stops and drink that. 
Well that paid off in spades.  It sounded weird, but I had the cola and felt that little sugar jolt right away and I was off.  I decided to walk through each of the rest areas, but try to run in between.  I told myself that If I could make it to the turnaround point while running, I would let myself walk more on the second half.  I set off between mile 1 and 2 at a slower than usual pace. Due to the heat, I knew I’d have to so a little slower.  Between the cola and the towel on my head, I felt a little better.  I made it to the mile 2 aid station.  There, I realized that if I took my visor off, and put the towel on me head, I could put the visor over it and keep it in place.  I also got another towel and put it on my neck.  From mile 2 on, at every mile I gave them back their towels, and got 2 fresh (well, mostly fresh anyways) towels and kept replacing.  I actually felt much cooler than I should have.  By mile 3, the cola was feeling good, and I basically pitched my entire nutrition strategy.  I had planned on gu every 5 miles or so.  However, in training I had found a few times that gu while running, after getting off the bike bothered me.  The cola seemed to be working, so I stuck with it.  I had ½ cup of cola at every stop, and 3 times I stopped for 2 orange slices.  It somehow worked.  I’m sure I couold’ve very easily plummeted over a clif and bonked but I didn’t.  I kept on this was until mile 5.  Miles 5-6 were, for me, the best (except for when it was over).

I hear the French Foreign Legion look is in this year

At mile 5, I decided to call Jo, just to tell her where I was, while running.  We had a brief conversation which brightened my spirits.  Almost immediately after hanging up I ran into Brian again.  He had started before me and was coming back the other way.  I could tell immediately that he wasn’t doing that great as his shirt had blood on it from chafing.  We stopped for a few seconds to talk and I asked him how he was doing.  He told me he felt like poop and had already thrown up once.  I told him he was almost done, and to keep going.  And he was off.  At this point, I was looking for Tony.  Tony is a much faster runner than me, and I was expecting to have passed him already.  I figured I missed him.  But then around mile 6 there he was going in the opposite direction.  He seemed concerned about how I was doing.  I actually had a smile on my face and was joking around about how I wanted to strangle him for this, so I’d imagine he realized I was good.  And I was.  I actually knew at this point, that I would finish in one way or another.  After leaving him, I hit the turnaround, where they were handing out bracelets that indicated that you had gone through the turnaround point and not cheated.  Strangely, the bracelets say “finisher” on them, which was a pretty big assumption considering the temps were still climbing and there was another 6.5 miles to go! Most of the run back was a blur.  Things I remember; a lot of people down on the side of the road, a woman staggering towards me in obvious distress, telling the next aid station people to go help her, getting high fives from the ECU folks at mile 8, calling jo at 11 to tell her I’d be there soon, and the last mile which, to add insult to injury, was uphill.  Throughout all of this I kept running between rest stops.  I had told myself I could walk after 6.5, but then I told myself 1 more mile, then another, until it was at the end, and I wasn’t walking that last mile.  Next thing I knew I was coming up the hill towards the finish line.  Tony was walking his bike back to the car, and gave me a “great job” and “see you in a few”.  As I got towards the finish line I though about taking my towel off my head before crossing for a pic, but then figured the towel on the head perfectly reflected the race, so I left it on.  Next thing I knew, I was across the line.  I got my medal and some water, and Jo and Julia were there to greet me.  I had done it.  It felt awesome.

Coming into the finish line

Finishing it up
done.......and done

But not as awesome as changing into a bathing suit and jumping into the lake with Jo and Julia to cool off.  THAT was great.  After swimming for a bit, we got cleaned up, changed, Jo and Julia ate some hotdogs, and we headed back to the car.  On the way out which was a good hour after I finished, there were still people coming in.  My car temperature said 96 at that point.  It was amazing.

I spoke to Tony later and he asked how I liked it.  I said “I’ll be back next year”.
Makes it all worthwhile

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Rock N Roll New Orleans Marathons

They say the marathon is the type of race that can change in the blink of an eye. Your months of training and preparation can disappear because of a twist of an ankle or even a slight change in the weather. Weather can change just like that and derail all of your preparations. Which explains why Jo and I were in a Walmart in new Orleans at 9:30pm the night before the marathon.

First a little background.  After running the Disney Marathon in January 2011, I came up with the crazy idea of doing the Goofy (1/2 marathon on Saturday, full marathon on Sunday) at Disney in 2012, despite completely messing up my IT band at the 2011 race.

As Jo and I started gearing up for Disney, we heard about the inaugural Rock n Roll Savannah Race, and thinking it would be fun signed up for that too.  And then Jo saw the New Orleans race.  We’ve both wanted to go to New Orleans, and this seemed like fun, though I was a bit concerned about 3 marathons so close together.  My previous best had been 2 years between marathons, and now we were talking 3 in 5 months and 4 in a year’s time.  The topper was that there was a promotion that every time the New Orleans Saints won a game, you got the margin of victory off the price of the marathon.  I looked at the Saints schedule and saw they were going to be playing the Colts, who were terrible this year.  I circled that date as the day I’d probably sign up.  The Saints won 62-7 which meant we got a $55 dollar discount each off the race.  So Jo and I got in for $40 each.  You can’t beat that price for a marathon.

My IT was in bad shape after Disney, and it took me 2 months to start running again.  But over the summer, things started to look better, and our long training runs seemed to go well.  It all came crashing down at Savannah where my IT started acting up at mile 8.  Since I knew I had Disney and New Orleans coming up, I bailed at the halfway point, even though it killed me to do it.

Disney was an interesting experience.  The half went fine, but my knee flared up again at 14.5.  I was able to finish it in pain, but took a week off and was able to start running again.  We had our next long run 2 weeks after Disney, on a very cold, rainy day.  My knee felt like the cold settled into it and it ached the entire way, not a good run.  The next training run was 3 weeks later and 3 weeks before New Orleans.  The first 16.5 miles were pretty good, but then the knee started up again and I limped through 3 more miles with quite a few walk breaks.  So I wasn’t exactly heading to NOLA brimming with confidence.

We took an early flight so we could head over to the expo on Friday and then take it easy  Saturday to be well rested for Sunday.  The expo was nice, though a little small by Rock N Roll standards.  We didn’t walk around too much since I felt that walking around the expo at Savannah helped bother my knee, plus we didn’t really need anything.  I did manage to score some more KT Pro tape cheap, plus I won a cool hat from my friends at Brooks.  And we got our marathon shirts.  Nice design even though I wasn't a fan of the white color.
Nice shirt, except for the white color
I like my new hat

After the expo it was back to the hotel for a nap for Jo, and my daily mile run for me.  I unwisely decided to check out Bourbon Street on my run, not realizing that; a) at 3 in the afternoon,  it would already be packed with drunk people, b) the road surface was awful, and c) it smelled horrible!  So I ducked off bourbon and finished my mile elsewhere.

Bourbon Street - the world's most foul smelling street

Saturday we decided to take a bus tour to eliminate too much walking.  Since it had turned chilly and rainy this worked out.  We went to dinner at John Besh’s Domenica, a modern Italian place for pasta and bread.  Excellent by the way.  While there we looked at the weather forecast again.  While we had been checking from home the temps in NOLA were all in the 65 low, 75 high range, so we had only packed shorts, a dart short sleeve shirt for me, and a dart tank for Jo.  Now the weather forecast said lows of 45!  We were realizing that we were going to be freezing at the start, so figured out we better find the Walmart and get some throw away sweats.  We headed out to Walmart where we discovered that apparently everyone in NOLA is either a 2x, 3x, or 4x since those were the only sizes they had.  We bought 2x stuff and were laughing hysterically when we tried it on.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of 112 pound Jo in her 2x Tinkerbell sweatpants.  Classic.

Ready to go

Anyway, race day came and we got up at what seemed, after Disney, a fairly reasonable 5am,  grabbed our Mardi Gras beads and headed to the start at Lafayette Square.  After the usual ½ hour wait for the bathroom, we headed for our start corral.  Unlike the corral nazi’s at Disney, this was pretty loose and you could move about a bit if you wanted.  

Getting ready to go

We pulled up right as our corral was starting and we jumped in.  One of the big issues my massage therapist has is my not warming up properly before a race, so she’s got me walking the first half mile of the marathon if I don’t have time to warm up before (which I never do).  So we walked the first ½ mile so that my knee was loose.  I might’ve walked further except Jo was a bit, um, “disgruntled”  at the walking so we started running.  The course runs through a little of the central business district before heading out through the Garden District on St Charles for about 3 miles and then back for 4.  St Charles was a great place to run.  
Heading down St Charles
Look at me!

Still heading down St Charles

Usually I hate out and back, but I really liked this.  Both sides of the street were wide and there was a wide grass median in the middle where the trolley’s normally run.  Many folks took advantage of the non running trolleys and ran on the dirt.  There was amazing crowd support through these miles and a lot of nice scenery.  Plenty of nice houses to look at.  We were sticking to our plan of 4/10 run 1/10 walk.  We had done Galloway for Disney and I thought there hadn’t been enough time between the two to switch back, so here we were.  Even though the first miles were pretty I had my usual thoughts of how far there was to go and nervousness and fears of “I’m never going to make it”.  I seemed so far to go.  At mile 6 I had my first gu and the energy/sugar made my spirits lift a little.

After we left the Garden Distract we headed past the museum section including the World War II museum, a really interesting part of town.  After a brief lull, the crowds were back in full force, which was great.
Still running

After the museum area we headed through the French Quarter.  Thankfully, it wasn't on Bourbon Street but on Decatur, which had a better road.  At this point we were pretty familiar with this part of town, so it was cool to see the areas we had visited already.  We even spotted the waiter who had server us lunch before as we passed the French Market Cafe.
Hey, didn't we have lunch there yesterday?  Why yes, we did

After this quick trip through the French Quarter, we headed up Esplanade for about 3 miles to the halfway point where the marathoners and half marathoners split up.  The esplanade was another nice area, with tons of crowd support, and interesting houses to see.  There were also tons of people giving out beads and Jo and I augmented our supply.  The only downside was that the Esplanade was apparently a VERY old road, so I had to spend almost 3 miles watching the road to make sure I didn't step in a ditch.  I couldn't afford a mis-step at this point.
Carefully watching every step

As we hit mile 12 it was decision time.  When I had originally signed us up, Jo wanted to do the 1/2 marathon and I wanted to do the full.  As we got closer to the race, our opinions switched.  I knew if I was feeling lousy I could bail at the halfway point.  We had a brief conversation and decided to press on since we both felt pretty good at that point.  

Of course, we had gone only about a mile, when my knee started to hurt.  I had a brief moment of panic and then stopped and tightened my cho-pat strap, not thinking that would change anything.  Miraculously, it did!  My pain went away for quite some time.  Around mile 14.5 we hit the alcohol/refreshment stop.  Amazingly, they were serving martini's, bloody mary's and beer.  Since it was only mile 14 and I knew we'd come back at mile 24, I skipped the drinks and went for the 4 or 5 peanut m&m's.  It was like heaven.  And kept rolling. 

After the full and half split the full course goes out to Lake Pontchartrain where you make a left turn and go about a mile down the road then about 3 miles in the other direction then 2 more to go back down the way you came.  I had heard this part was a bit boring and could be hot, but we really got lucky with the weather.  The temps were quite cool and there was even a bit of a breeze.  The lake looked so nice we even stopped for a quick picture.
Jo on the waterfront
Really a beautiful day!

After the turn around we kept running along the water.  Around mile 19 I did get a little hot, but once I took my hat off and tied it to my waist, I felt a little better.  At this point I felt like I was carrying pounds of extra stuff.  I was carrying my own water belt (so I could control my water/gu brew, plus carry gu packets), I still had my sweatshirt tied around my waist, plus now my hat, plus the mardi gras beads.  We wound up running for a couple of miles with some folks from California and chatting with them passed the time.

Around this time we hit the first of the "uphills" a series of 4 little bridges over the waterways.  After the previous 19 miles of flat it was a little jarring, but a bit nice for a change in the routine.

After passing through the University of New Orleans around mile 20, there were a bunch of female students in tie-dye shirts giving out flowers.  They gave one to Jo, which I though was a quite nice touch.

On the way to mile 21, I started getting really hungry, so I broke out my honey stinger waffle that I started carrying on my long runs, after a suggestion from Kara Vincent.  I find it's really something to look forward to as a little treat.

Around this time I started thinking that I was still running pretty good.  But didn't want to think about it.  Just as I was thinking "please don't let Jo say anything about it", she said "so how are you feeling, you seem to be going pretty good, better than Disney".  I had to give her the "I don't want to talk about it, let's just keep going" (and an explanation later.  She always forgets how superstitious I am!).

We kept rolling to mile 24.  At that point the beer sounded pretty good, so I had a beer shot, but Jo went all out and hit the martini.  It was probably the best beer I've ever had. And it kept me going.

Right after that, Jo wanted to just run the whole rest in to finish up, but I knew that my knee was aching, and I was just barely making it to each walk segment.  Each walk was like a reset button on the knee pain.  It stopped while we walked, and then gradually built on each run segment until the next walk.
Ready for it to be over

Eventually we got to the sprawling city park complex, and headed into the park.  The park was really nice and felt pretty large.  There were again some nice sights to see, as we headed for mile 26.  Right before mile 26 you passed the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), a neat looking builing, so we took a quick pic and kept going.
26 is around the corner!

Around the corner was the 26 mile mark and I was still running. 

Interestingly, the finish line was past where the finish pictures were being taken.  Surprisingly, I was able to throw on a little kick at the end and we passed some other people.

And then we were across the line.
We did it!

Cool finishers medal with a mardi gras bead ribbon

In another amazing move, my new favorite recovery drink, chocolate milk was waiting just over the finish line. I got to have some chocolate milk, got our picture taken, got a finisher shirt and headed for the long bus line back to the city.
Finisher shirt

Overall, I thought this was a great marathon, and redeemed the rock n roll series in my mind.  It was a fun, beautiful course, the support was great, and I really had a good time.

While it wasn't my fastest marathon, it was my most consistant.  Every mile was within 45 seconds of each other.  The last 3 were the fastest.  I ran every mile start to finish.  I was pleased.

On a slightly ominous note, Jo has always talked about running an ultra, even a 50K.  She always says that it's only 5 more miles past a marathon.  I've always said that I never have felt like running 5 more feet let alone 5 more miles after a marathon.  After this one I siad "you know, I think I could go a little farther"  uh oh
Jo celebrating on Bourbon Street