“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
When I opened up my emails this morning, this popped up as the Runner’s World Quote of the Day and boy, did it speak to me. I started writing my New Orleans race recap last night and had to struggle to find my joy in running this marathon. Maybe it was because I wasn’t fully trained for it and had felt “meh” from the start. I tried my best to activate my inner bubbliness when it comes to running a new marathon in a city I’ve never run before, but I couldn’t seem to find my powdered sugar-dusted mojo. See what I mean? Instead of running, all I had were beignets on the brain.
Last Sunday, Feb. 5th, I completed my 11th marathon and state running the Big Easy and let me tell you, there was nothing easy about it. My friend, Chris, and I registered for Rock n’ Roll New Orleans a year out (March 2016) and later registered for the 5K in December when they announced its addition as part of the Remix Challenge. If you run Saturday and Sunday, you could earn three medals. More bling?! Hell yeah, sign us up!
We were ready to have a great time in New Orleans! Both of us even downloaded customizable watch faces on our Garmin to count down the days until marathon morning. Several of us from Savannah were running New Orleans and there was so much excited chatter as the days neared our racecation!
We got in Friday (Feb. 3) and stayed at the The Troubador, a fabulous Joie de Vivre luxury boutique hotel in New Orleans. It was so funky and eclectic and I loved every bit of it! Our room was spacious and we both fell in love with this little lightbox that when lit, highlighted the word - Desire. Instantly, we decided our theme song for this trip would be Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” (my love is blind, can’t you see my desire?) and played it every time we were getting ready to head out for an adventure.
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 :)
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to a cold and brisk Saturday to run the 5K. Thankfully, Chris reminded me to pack a long-sleeve zip-up and gloves because I definitely needed them! We took an Uber to the start line (which would be our marathon’s finish line) since it was about 5 miles away. The 5K took place at City Park, which standing under the shaded oak trees, reminded me so much of Savannah’s Daffin Park. It felt as if we were home. This was going to be a good shakeout run for tomorrow’s marathon. Yeah!
...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!
We spent the rest of the day and evening exploring more of the French Quarter. We did a little eating (I had to have a shrimp po boy) and a little drinking - more than what we’d normally do before race day - but hey, we’re in New Orleans! Laissez les bon temps rouler! I even discovered a new favorite drink - a Pimms cup! We were brave enough to walk a few blocks down Bourbon Street. It took only those few blocks to realize it was time to call it a night. We walked back towards our hotel and stopped at a little no-frills pizza joint to have our last carb load before marathon morning.
Ugh, that alarm came fast the next morning. Thankfully our hotel was just a few blocks away from the start line, so we walked over with plenty of time to spare. The weather was a lot warmer than the day before and I was fine just wearing my tank and skirt. The weather even felt like we were in Savannah.
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.
Even though my marathon didn’t go as well as I liked, overall, New Orleans was a great racecation! We shared so much laughter and have some great memories from this trip. I would do this all over again, but for sure I’d run the half instead of the full (now that I have Louisiana checked off the map).
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!
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!