“No matter how awful a time I had during the run, when I cross that finish line all the pain or struggle goes away and it turns out to be a glorious day.” - John Churchill
After we checked in, we walked over to the expo at the convention center to pick up our race packets. Thankfully, I noticed that my marathon bib was missing its shoe timing tag. Chris checked his and the wrong timing tag was attached to his bib. We headed over to the Solutions table and they quickly fixed it. Once we picked up our gear, we walked back to our hotel to drop off our things and grabbed a drink at our hotel’s super trendy rooftop bar - Monkey Board. We had a wonderful view of the city and the drinks were on point! We got a little tipsy and decided to venture out for dinner in the French Quarter to get a taste of what New Orleans had to offer - a little jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, and red rice & beans - and we were happy campers! New Orleans has THE best food! We never had one bad meal. Obviously, we ended the night with beignets and a cafe au lait from Cafe Du Monde. Duh :)
...and then it began. As I started running, the voices started going off in my head. On top of that, I found myself constantly looking at my watch.
Dude, really? I haven’t even hit a mile yet?
Why do my legs feel so tired?
Where’s the finish?
Ugh, I’m not even running fast. if I feel like this today, how’s tomorrow going to be like?
I absolutely HATE when I have conversations like these in my head. It’s so draining. All I kept thinking was how I’d rather be curled up in my super soft bed lounging lazily under my cushiony cloud-like comforter while being hugged with pillows that mold to you perfectly. Before I knew it, I could hear the announcers and the finish line was in sight. Finally!
But seriously, if I felt like this today, how was tomorrow going to be like?
We grabbed an Uber and headed over to a recommended breakfast spot - The Ruby Slipper. It’s so good, we ate here twice during our stay. I definitely recommend their famous eggs benedict dishes. Served on biscuits, I had one with a fried green tomato with shrimp and one with corn beef hash. So good! They have a great background story on how they originated with the name Ruby Slipper. It had to do with Hurricane Katrina and how they came back to rebuild because “there’s no place like home.” Try it if you ever visit NOLA! You won’t be disappointed!
Since I had not trained, I had no intention to race. This was purely a “check a state off” in my 50 states marathon journey. As we crowded in corral 9, I noticed the 4:15 pacer was amongst us. I was at hoping that I’d finish within 4:15 or so, but since my only long training run was 17 miles and I barely did any speed work sessions, I didn’t know if this would even be possible.
I’d find out later that yeah, no, this wasn’t possible.
As our corral passed through the start, I ran the first 2 miles coasting and ended up catching up with the 4:15 group. Running the streets of New Orleans felt as if I was back in Savannah. Parts of the course looked exactly like running down Washington Avenue. The only difference was spectators handing out pieces of king cake and jello shots! I loved how all the homes were completely decked out in purple and green Mardi Gras decor. After mile 3, I started wondering when I’d get into my groove where the miles would just easily come and go. I still felt like I was struggling. What was wrong with me?
At around mile 10, I needed to hit a porta-potty from all the water (or beer) I had last night. I veered off, did my business, and got back onto the course. For the next mile and a half, I ran my fastest pace at 8:00 trying to catch up with the 4:15 group. I finally caught up to them and out of breath. Thank goodness, I could slow this pace down a little and try to get into a groove. The plan was to hang on as far as I could.
“I’m going to shoot for 4:30 guys. I wasn’t expecting it to be this warm.”
“I can’t keep the pace this much longer. See you guys at the finish.”
I know what you’re thinking, but this wasn’t me or those annoying negative voices in my head. These were other runners in our 4:15 group. Our small group was starting to dwindle one by one. I ran with the 4:15 group until I hit mile 17. This is when I completely unraveled. It was hot. The sun was beating down upon us and there was absolutely no shade to try and even escape the sun rays. I wished I had put on sunblock. Every water stop, I grabbed a cup to drink and another to dump on my head. I found it extremely difficult to beat my mental game. I wanted to quit. I questioned my love for running. I called myself an idiot for having this lofty goal of running 50 marathons in 50 states. Why did I think this was fun? And for the love of God, why is it so damn hot?! I thought it was supposed to be an overcast day!
As I looked around me, I didn’t feel quite as horrible because everyone was feeling the same way. We were all grumbling, and walking, and running for a few seconds only to resort back to walking, which led to more grumbling. We were unified in our disdain of running in direct sunlight on a warm day. I felt like we resembled those drunken idiots we saw last night walking down Bourbon Street, except they were most likely still in bed while we were up and running a marathon. I couldn’t even enjoy beautiful Lakeshore Drive with all its magnificent homes. Instead, all I could think about as I watched the runners on the opposite side of the street was trying to calculate how far the turnaround was ahead. At one point, I saw Chris on the other side of the road and screamed “It’s too hot for this!” He looked as equally miserable as me and since misery loves company, it made me feel better. Later, he would tell me the same thing.
It’s been a long time since I’ve walked this much during a marathon. I was hurting mentally and I felt overheated. Those last few miles were brutal. I tried to talk myself into running the last 3 miles, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt so defeated. I ran/walked it to the finish with a time of 4:30:07. I was relieved that it was over and that I had my 11th state covered. On top of feeling miserable, I was famished. Before I picked up my Remix medal and marathon finisher jacket, I headed straight over to the food trucks. There was a line of them and I went for the one that had smoked sausage. I grabbed my sausage dog and hunkered down in a shaded (thankfully) grassy area in the finisher zone to wait for Chris. I didn’t even take advantage of the unlimited free beer. Sheesh. What the hell was wrong with me?
Once Chris made it through the finish, he joined me in the shade as we swapped stories and laughed at how miserable we felt during the run. We didn’t hang around long at the finish line festival before we hopped on one of the free bus shuttles that took us back close to our hotel. We quickly showered so we could enjoy our last hoorah in the city which consisted of a delicious crawfish boil at the Monkey Board, some chargrilled and raw Gulf oysters at a new oyster bar (can’t recall the name), a few drinks at Jackson’s Brewery to watch the Super Bowl's half-time show and last half, one last drink at the Golden Lantern, and then ended the night at Cafe Du Monde for our last beignets and coffee.
Now that New Orleans is in the books, I’ve got to think about my next racecation coming up in May! A group of us are headed to Pittsburgh, PA to run the Pittsburgh Marathon. This time around Michael is joining me as we take on the Steel City Challenge where we run the 5K the day before the full and half marathon!