Thursday, March 8, 2012

New Orleans Rock n' Roll Half Marathon Race Report - Just let me hear some of the Rock n' Roll Music!

The Short Story

New Orleans Rock n' Roll Half Marathon
1:48 (course was a little long)
8:02 Moving Pace
6th out of 542 in my Age Group!!!

The Long Story

Last Sunday I ran the New Orleans Rock n' Roll Half Marathon!  My husband Bill ran it too, his first Half Marathon and the longest distance he's ever run.  I found out a few months ago that one of my nieces that lives in New Orleans was planning to do the race so I talked Bill and his sister Nina into signing up.  Then I got Bill's brother and another niece to commit to the race.  Come race day however everyone bailed except Bill, Nina and me.  We three had a really great time and of course had to give the others some grief for not being there! 

We drove down to the city on Saturday and picked up Nina to head to the race expo and packet pick up at the New Orleans coliseum.  It was a mad house!!  Bill had to work Saturday so we got out of town around 1:00.  Packet Pick up closed at 5:00pm.  Being my typical nervine self I was worried about getting there in time (I also wanted to have time to shop at the expo!).  We picked Nina up around 3:00 and headed downtown. 

We finally found a place to park - they had "Event Parking" for $20 - but Bill and Nina being from N'awlins and knowing their way around found us a parking place directly across from the coliseum and free!!  Whoo Hooo $20 more dollars to spend at the expo!!  I was supposed to meet one of my Aquaphor Teammates at the expo but missed her.  Darn.

We got our race packets and Nina changed corrals so she could start in the same one as Bill.  I was in corral number 4 and they were a couple back from that.  Did a little shopping - no where near what I was hoping and then the lights dimmed (what are we in bar?) to let us know that the expo was closing.  Darn.  I did nab a cute Brooks running skirt - not to run in but for post race clothing, and we got Bill and Nina each a Spibelt to hold their phones during the race.  I'd signed Bill and I up to get text messages to let us know where the other was on the course. 

Race morning - I don't know what in the world I was thinking - or not thinking for that matter.  I always have oatmeal for breakfast before all races.  I add a sliced banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter and some vanilla soy milk.  This breakfast works perfectly for me and I never vary from it.  We spent the night at Bill's mom's house so it would have been really easy but I completely dorked on the meal planning.  Maybe because in my head I wasn't really thinking of this as a "RACE".  My plan was to just run it.  So I found some English Muffins in the fridge and I had one with some peanut butter and honey.  Booo...not enough calories.  I'm an idiot.

Now.... I am a huge OCD person on race morning.  I like to be at a race at least and hour before hand so I have time to get everything done without any panic issues.  We had bought a Premier parking pass at the finish area and were going to catch the buses to the start.  When I picked up the pass at the expo I overheard the woman in front of me asking what time she should be at the buses and was told 5:30am.  Sounded good to me.  What time did we leave the house?  5:45am.  Let the stress begin!! 

Pre Race!!
We got there and parked and caught the bus at a little after 6:00am.  7 mile or so ride to the start.  It was about 6:30 by the time we walked from where the buses let us off to the race start area - and I needed to visit the port-a-potties (typical race morning business).  We got in a line and waited and waited and waited.  I still needed to drop off my gear bag with my jacket that would be transported to the finish line so I left Bill and Nina and headed to find the UPS trucks.  Letter "S" was way down the street with a gigantic line in front of the truck - which I rudely bypassed to the front and gave them my bag.  Back to find Bill and Nina who had barely moved at all.  I was beginning to panic. 

8 minutes to race start and there were still 4-5 people in front of me.  I talked one guy into letting me go before him since he was in corral 25.  Kissed Bill goodbye and good luck and ran to the start.  I got there with about a minute to spare and squeezed in between the police barriers into my corral.  Okay - now I can calm down. 

I never heard a gun go off just started moving slowly forward with the crowd.  Remembered to start my Garmin as I crossed the starting line and had a moments thought that I'd forgotten to mention to Bill to start his as he crossed.  Darn.

All of my long runs prepping for this race were right at or around a 9:00 minute pace.  With my fragile knees I felt that at that pace I would be okay.  I was planning to just run this half, not "race" it.  But of course I did look up last year's results for my age group and saw that 10th place in my age group was a 1:50:47.  I did think that just maybe if everything went just perfect that I could get close to the 8:30 pace per mile.  Typically on my shorter runs they always seem to fall right around 8:39 average pace.  So in the very back of my tiny little brain I had a thought that maybe, just maybe on the perfect day I could break 1:50 and be in the top 10 women in my age group.  Just maybe. 

The first mile must have started out fast although it didn't feel that way at all.  I remember passing a lot of people and glanced at my watch once and saw a number that had a 6 in it!  Oops... got a little carried away... so I eased up a bit.

Now.. for one of the reasons for this blog post.  The MUSIC.  Not the bands along the way, I didn't even notice or hear them because of my iPod.  I started with one earbud but then after everything cleared out put in the other one.   I have a Playlist on my iPod named RACE! - with just the songs that have a beat that match my run cadence.  A long time ago I read an article by Jeff Galloway about watching the fast Kenyan runners as they passed through the water stops during a marathon.  He noticed that their stride turned to more of a shuffle just during these points in a race.  This is how he based his run/walk technique of marathon running. 

At one point when I was running on Sunday I noticed that some of my songs were of course a little slower and I would match my stride to the beat of those songs, others were really fast and I kept up my "Quick Feet, Quick Feet" chant in my head.  At another point during the race I started to think that I should change my thoughts to "this is just a beautiful run through New Orleans not a race".  When I did that I didn't slow down but I felt my jaw relax and everything smoothed out. My shoulders relaxed and I felt like I was cruising.  Hmmmm.... interesting.... while I don't think I would ever do this in a triathlon the thought is one for me to explore for longer running races (if I ever do any more of them). 
I think changing the pace of my foot cadence just slightly for the different songs made a big difference too.  It allows you to slightly change muscle groups. 

Here is my race playlist in case anyone is interested:

Party All the Time - Black Eyed Peas
Bari Improv - Kaki King
Mockingbird - Rob Thomas
All In - Lifehouse
Stay the Night - James Blunt
Bring Me to Life - Evanescence
The Sound of Sunshine - Michael Franti & Spearhead
I Melt With You - Modern English
Born This Way - Lady GaGa
Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5
Brave New World - Weezer
Fireflies - Owl City
Say Hey (I Love You) - Michael Franti & Spearhead
On the Floor - Jennifer Lopez

I did something different with my Garmin before the race which I really liked and would recommend.  Usually I keep 4 data fields on the watch:  Time, Pace, Distance and Heart Rate.  I decided not to wear a heart rate monitor so I changed that field to Average Pace.  LOVED it!!  I remember looking down at some point during the race and saw 8:06 for my average pace!!  Whoo Hoo!  I kept an eye on that way more that the regular pace.  I tried to note what the mile splits were as they buzzed but the type is tiny and hard for me to see.  I just trying to get that Average Pace to drop.  This was one of those races/run where you don't plan to race but you end up feeling so good that it becomes inevitable. 

At mile 9 I decided it was time to try to pick it up a little - I had thought that I would try with 3 miles left to go.  And then realized that I was a mile early, so I backed off a tiny bit.  Then in mile 12 my calves started acting up, I felt the beginnings of some cramping so I slowed down a little and even stopped completely to get two Recovery e21 out of my little pocket and take them at an aid station (use code "e21wins" for a 20% discount).  After that I had to watch my step a little so I wouldn't over tax my calves.  I did manage to pick up the pace a little bit for the last mile.  I just added up the first and second halves of the race and found that I pretty much even paced the two!!  (That's NEVER happened before - usually it's a hang on and struggle for the last few miles.) 

1st 6.5 miles -  52:34
2nd 6.5 miles - 52.58

I didn't factor in the last .41 (I think the course was a little long - Bill's Garmin got the same thing).  I was really pushing it the last part and feeling great so my pace was atypical. 

As you near the finish there are the police barricades on either side of the street in City Park to keep the way clear for the 22,000 runners.  As I was running towards the finish banner I just happened to look to my right and saw my three friends Lesley, Deanna and Judy standing on the side screaming for me!  I couldn't hear a thing because as I was getting closer and closer to the finish I'd kept turning up the volume on my iPod.  But I could see their faces and I can't describe what it meant to me to see them there.  I didn't know that they were going to be there.  The night before Deanna had the idea to drive down that morning.  Lesley had to up at 4:30am to drive to Hattiesburg from Laurel so they could all come down together.  They left at 6:00am to be there for me.  I have to tell you even now as I write this it chokes me up a little at the kindness of my friends.  When we all went to Tyler for our bike fits I got us all t-shirts that say "We Are All In This Together" and they all had their shirts on too.  I feel very lucky to have these special women in my life.

Deanna, Me, Judy and Lesley!

I finished in 1:48 with an 8:04 pace, 8:02 moving pace (I like that one better) and placed 6th in my age group.  Made both of my goals! 

After I finished and found my friends we went to the car for me to change and get my phone.  I checked the text updates on Bill and saw that he was WAY ahead of the time he thought he would run.  I hurried back (as fast as I could hobble) towards the finish line and just then he called me.  Darn.  I missed his finish!  I felt like a loser!  All of the races of mine that he has come to and seen me finish - here is my chance to cheer him in and... I blow it!  I found him and we went to the finish line to cheer in Nina... and we missed her too!!!  What is wrong with us???

We regrouped with Nina at the family reunion area and headed for the car and to meet back up with Deanna, Lesley and Judy who had gone to get a bite to eat at Bud's Broilers!  Another reason I love my friends - they saw Bud's Broilers (its a hole in the wall but with awesome hamburgers) and went there to eat!  The headed back to Hattiesburg and Bill, Nina and I went to Bud's too!!

Spansels Rule!!