Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Orleans, LA Marathon 3/4/12 State #22

The Trip

HH had never been to New Orleans or Louisiana and when the discount popped up for dollars off the race entry the number of points that the Saints won that week's game by, I jumped at the chance to pick up a new state. Before he knew it, HH was signed up for his second marathon. I think a few weeks later they put a cap on the discount about $15, we ended up with $50 or so dollars off and ended up paying about $40/pp per marathon entry fee. And who wouldn't want an excuse to get some chicory coffee and beignets from Cafe du Monde?

I lived in uptown New Orleans from December 2001 to December 2005 and left to earn my Bachelor's degree from University of Washington (then hike the AT, and move a few more times, etc.). So, we made a long weekend of the trip to play tourist to see the city, nearby plantation homes, and the damage from Katrina. I used to work for a tour company before starting nursing school and we went on 2 tours with that company. Despite living and working there when Katrina hit, I avoided seeing the levee breaches either intentionally or unintentionally in the months following the storm. I had seen the Lakeview neighborhood near Lake Ponchartrain about 4-5 days after the storm when the water was to the rafters and a leaking natural gas line was burning on the surface of the water. I worked at the hospital on nights, and during the day we would ride along with the National Guard in big trucks handing out MREs and water to the surrounding neighborhoods.

We stayed in a few different hotels in the city in a game of picking hotels that had been somewhat properly restored after Katrina as well as those that had no recent or re-occuring bedbug issues, as well as staying close to the race start the night before and after, and in quiet hotels the rest of our stay.

We stayed at Prytania Park (uptown), the Dauphine Orleans (French Quarter), and the Maison Perrier (uptown). If I were to do it again, I would just stay at Prytania Park or their sister hotel Prytania Oaks for the entire stay as I know the streetcar system and don't mind using it or walking if it is a long time between them. We did not rent a car and took a taxi to and from the airport.

Mint Julep at Oak Alley Plantation

View of the oaks at Oak Alley Plantation,
looking towards the Mississippi River

One of Brad Pitt's "Make it Right" homes

Typical cemetery group grave plot

Laura Plantation

The Race

"Practicing" at the expo

I was a little nervous about doing a Competitor/Rock n Roll race in light of the recent debacle at their "night" race in Las Vegas. Even when I was booking hotels, they had not even yet announced the race course so I assumed they were going to start and/or finish downtown and picked a hotel based on that. The weather had been warm and humid in the days leading up to the race but a cold front came through 2 nights before, cooling things down. I was even cold during a complimentary walking cemetery tour we went on the day before the race, provided by an Appalachian Trail section hiker, providing it to us from "one hiker to another." He even adamantly refused our tip!

Back to the race. We had some actually good in room coffee and that was great to get us started along with scones we had purchased the day before. It was about a 10 minute walk to the starting corrals. We were plenty early but not crazy early, and before we knew it we had started. The first half of the race is in uptown (St. Charles Ave, streetcar, big homes, large old oaks), downtown, and then up Esplanade Ave to city park, where the half marathoners peeled off to finish. Running in general went smoother with HH this race because we had spent a lot more time training and running together, where for Grandma's we were essentially training separately.

The race got long on the second half as it sometimes does, as we did a weird out and back "T" along the exposed road along Lake Ponchartrain. The bands were helpful to boost your mood, but it would have been helpful for me to have studied the course map a bit more to know more precisely where the turnarounds were. The last few miles were a difficult mental struggle for HH with all the people yelling "you are almost there!" despite having still 2 miles to go. We walked several times after passing by people cheering this phrase, and each time I worked to rule out any other issues such as hydration or fuel status. After several twists and turns in City Park, we could finally see the finish and we were done in 4 hours 30 minutes, a full 30 minutes faster than HH's first marathon 9 months earlier.

After walking about 1/4 mile to get in a 1/4 mile long line for buses back downtown, we rested for a short bit in the hotel after showers. We had saved 1/2 a muffuletta from the day before for a post race salty recovery snack.


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