Back in January, I ran a great half-marathon time on an Austin course that simulated to some extent the one I will face in Boston come April. Thus, with 4 more weeks of training, I felt great about the New Orleans’ Half-Marathon. Janette and I arrived late Friday night to a city that I had not visited since my junior year of high school. I was most eager to see what the city had to offer in the post-Katrina age. I must admit, things seemed well in tact.

We spent Saturday morning taking care of the mundane stuff that must be done before a race, such as visiting the expo, picking up our bib numbers and race materials, as well as organizing race-day parking. Oh, and making sure we know how to get to the starting line. I was not terribly excited about competing in a Rock ‘n’ Roll race due to the commercialization of it, but after giving my choice more thought, I concluded that it allowed us a chance to visit New Orleans. This also meant that I would not compete in the Little Rock Half-Marathon, which took place on the same day. The expo was nice, but you could not help but note the corporate feel. In defense of Competitor Group (race sponsor), I am not sure there are any competitive venues left that are not corporate. Just watch the Super Bowl or the NCAA Bowl Championship Series.

Once all of our pre-race day business was taken care of, we spent most of Saturday touring the city. I found even the run down and older sections of the city to be attractive. I loved the modern mixture of buildings mixed in with the older sections of town.

Bourbon Street is always cool, but I was amazed at what the peripheral parts of the city offered. The food choices made my day very interesting seeing that I needed to avoid 99% of it; I even avoided their famous beignet. After mucho touring and sight seeing, we did settle on a pre-race meal at a pretty cool Italian restaurant. Because the restaurant was so popular, we had to eat outside in the cold. I was cool with that. The food was great. And, I avoided the alcohol temptation. I would never drink wine the day(s) before a race.

We arrived very early to our designated parking area. I was happy to see that the heavy winds had calmed down a great deal. They were coming in at 16 MPH on Saturday, but had been reduced to 6 – 8 MPH by race day. Temps were good, which is always a concern for me.

As I headed to the front of the starting line, I felt a small sense of panic since my GPS watch was struggling to find a satellite signal. I assumed 10 minutes in advance was ample time, but I was proven wrong. The gun fired and I was off; I could feel the early nerves as I looked around at the rest of the field. It is not unusual to start too fast, but when I saw folks passing me, I thought am I going too slow. My Garmin GPS watch had yet to get set; it was telling me that I was running a 4:50 per mile pace. I was clearly frustrated in that I feared going out too fast. But, I had no idea I was running 30 seconds slower than I wanted to run. By time I hit the mile one marker, I asked a p runner for the 1 mile split; he told me 7 minutes. Darn!!! Afterwards, my watch had regulated itself and all was good. I was not sure I could make up that time, but I elected to stick with the plan.

Above: Just shy of mile 1

Splits:

Mile 1: 7:00

Mile 2: 6:30

Mile 3: 6:31

mile 4: 6:32

Mile 5: 6:29

Mile 6: 6:31

Mile 7: 6:32

I was feeling great. The pace seemed too slow at times, but I stuck with it knowing that I still had more miles to go. Much of the first 7 miles were an out and back along St. Charles Avenue. The long stretch was nice because it allowed me to find a pace and stick to it. The lack of turns helped out too.  By time I finished mile 7, I dropped my hat. I could feel the temperature increasing, but it was nothing uncomfortable. The next stretch of miles took us toward the French Quarter. Magazine, St. Peter’s, and Decatur Streets coalesced into another nice stretch of runway. I was able to maintain a pretty even pace knowing the end was near.

Here I am cruising along mile 10 at a 6:24 per mile pace

Mile 8: 6:32

Mile 9: 6:31

Mile 10: 6:24

Knowing that I was in the final stretch of the race, I sought to find another gear; in doing so, I discovered that my legs were a bit tired. The last set of miles took us down Esplanade Avenue, a nice long stretch of highway that offered no turns. I could hear the announcer calling names as they crossed the finish line. I was elated to be done, but frustrated at my inept mile 1 start. Regardless, I had a great race. I was pumped. I knew I would recover very quickly from this race in order to get my eyes focused on the Boston Marathon.

The final stretch was in view.

Mile 11: 6:32

Mile 12: 6:30

Mile 13.1: 6:18

The last 1.1 mile stretch was my fastest split of the day. I felt pretty good and was happy to be done. All I could see in my head was a nice juicy burger and a tall cold glass of beer. I must say that I was pleased with this event. It was well organized and managed. Once Janette crossed the finish line with after running a 2:10.28 (9:55 pace), we headed to the race shuttles. Because this is an out course, all runners must be transported back to the starting area. I think this is a great course to run a fast marathon on, but be warned, this is the city of New Orleans. The weather is hard to predict.

How did I do?

I guess it is onward to Boston now.

* I ran a 1:25.42 (6:32 per mile pace).

* I finished overall at 93 out of 13,093

* 8th out of 803

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