It was my first ever race at that distance, but maybe even more memorably we partied on Bourbon Street with a great crew of runners and fundraisers for the Wellness Community. We stayed at a beautiful French Quarter hotel, we were up all hours of the night, everything cost a fortune, tour guides wanted to “introduce us” to alligators (like…formally?), and there was a mechanical porpoise. Maybe it was an orca.
We woke up early to take our free plane ride (thanks Jamie!!!). It was early, but we had “priority access” which makes flying American Airlines a beautiful thing, indeed. Uneventful flights, but I must say that we were really impressed with Dallas Fort Worth International. It’s like a mall with airplanes nearby. I only wish we had more time to visit my cousin Matt and his family, or my friends from the Derdowski clan. We had a smooth transition from DFW to New Orleans, then down to the French Quarter on a quick shuttle bus.
The French Quarter is something else. Imagine the finest historic district you can…300 year-old buildings, stone streets, all of that. Then fill it up with the weirdest collection of businesses, homes, and other establishments anywhere in the country. It wasn’t just the variety; it was their juxtaposition to one another that threw me. In one block of Bourbon Street you have some huge spring break bars, strip clubs, and other houses of ill repute. Just a few hundred yards away are collections of $100 a plate restaurants and the kind of antique stores (galleries?) that have about 6 items, all of which are worth more than my house. The best thing is that it’s all walkable. You really don’t need a car or even transit.
We had a great view from our hotel balcony, but don’t expect a perfect night’s sleep in the Crescent City. When the party finally calms down at 3 or 4 a.m., that’s when the cleaning crews and garbage trucks rumble through.
Day two we started really exploring. We visited the Marathon expo and secured our race packets and goodie bags. We shopped the vendors and met a few fellow Brooks-sponsored athletes in the same Brooks ID program that I am sponsored through. That was a fun experience, meeting some other folks like me, with similar interests, but a wide range of stories. After that it was early to bed for the morning’s race!
A gang of us took a cab to the start line. It was 3 miles away and it was the right thing to do. At the start village I casually pointed out a few of the elite, pro runners to my training partner and friend, Brian Perron. The first guy we saw was the legendary ultramarathon runner, Scott Jurek. When I pointed him out, Brian exclaimed “Hey! I know him!” Sure enough, they went to college together. After a bit of yelling and waving, Scott came over and we had a nice chat with him. I was starstruck and inspired. Great guy, and I should also mention, a fellow Brooks athlete.
The start was agonizing…after the gun, each corral had to wait about 5 minutes, so we didn’t leave for about 10 or 15 minutes after the elite runners. I was sort of disappointed in the route, if I am honest. It was uneventful. It skirted the French Quarter, but avoided the waterfront, the heart of downtown, the historic cemetery areas, and only barely explored City Park. That said, it was mercifully flat and I wasn’t there to tour the place, anyway.
Fighting the aches and pains at the finish!
I started out too slow. It was my plan to be conservative and speed up, but I was too conservative, and was trapped in traffic for the first mile or two. When it dawned on me at mile 4 or 5 that I was off pace, I gassed up too early and ran 30 seconds a mile faster than my fastest goal pace. By mile 11, I was cooked. Rookie mistake, but hey…I AM a rookie, right? The fact is I was still over three minutes faster than my drop-dead goal of a sub-two hour half marathon. I would have loved to hit 1:52:00, but I will take 1:56:30 with a smile. After all, that is still in the 18th percentile. Any time I finish in the top 1/5 of the field, I feel like it is a great accomplishment for a former gravitationally-challenged runner like me.
When all is said and done, it was a fantastic experience. Leo had a great time with grandma and grandpa. Moira and I had a beautiful time together. We made new friends and grew closer with old friends. Thank you to all my donors who helped the Wellness Community raise up to $45,000 this year (I was awarded the top fundraiser award for the Ann Arbor crew!). Thank you to my sponsor Brooks, for setting me up with the best gear a runner can get. Thank you to all my readers and friends who sent me off with dozens of emails, calls, and tweets of encouragement. Finally, thank you to Moira, whose ass-kicking of cancer inspired me to get out on the road in the first place. It was my first half marathon, but not my last. This may have concluded a chapter in our lives, but it’s really a beginning.
Here are a few more pictures from the race:
Rocking out with my medal on!
Hamming it up before the race.
The beautiful hotel courtyard.