The Rock n Roll New Orleans marathon was held on Sunday February 2nd. Both the full and half marathon started at 7AM. The race had about 10,000 half marathons and 3,000 full marathoners that ran and finished, I don’t remember the cost of it because we signed up probably a year ago to get the best deal, but I can tell you it wasn’t cheap.
There’s no same day number pick up, so we got to New Orleans on Saturday. The expo was your typical Rock n Roll expo. Huge Brooks area, some local running store, and your usual socks/headbands/running stuff etc. etc. etc. Sometimes, I like to walk around the expo and stop by my favorites and restock on Nuun, but I had all our lugguage with me so we kept it short. Number picked up, empty swag bag check, t-shirt scored and out the door we went.
I did manage to somehow register myself using my last name as both my first and last name. Luckily, the RnR people cleared my issue up in 2 minutes.
There’s a lot of things I didn’t really like about the start and finish of the race. The race starts and ends miles apart and that involved some tricky logistics if you’re not from around the area. From what I understood (I could be wrong) there were limited free parking options since the race started downtown. Instead you could pay $10 to the competitor group in addition to your race fee. Now that you paid for parking, you could get a shuttle from the race finish back to your car, but this shuttle pass was only good for the driver and anyone else in your carpool had to pay $5 or something for the shuttle. We ended up not using any of these options because it all seemed too complicated. Plus, we decided on not renting a car for the race weekend.
Instead we ended up getting an AirBnB place that was within a mile of the finish line. We got a cab for 6:30 AM to drop us off at the race start. We probably should have left for the start of the race a little earlier, but I like to cut it close.
Cab driver – “So they paying you to run”
Me – “No we pay them to run”
Cab driver – “How long a marathon?”
Me – “26.2 Miles”
Cab driver – “Louisiana ain’t that wide”
When I got to the start, I couldn’t find the bag check area, so finally I hopped into the elite area until someone pointed me to the trucks. Found them, checked our stuff, and sped walked to try to get into corral 1, just as the gun went off.
I started 20 seconds after gun time, so talk about cutting it close!
Not sure if the map shows it well, but the course kind of goes in and out for both the first half and the second half of the marathon. We ran through a lot of construction and unexciting areas. Since I was pretty focused on running, I didn’t take in the sights to the same extent I would otherwise.
I can break up the race into 3 stages
Mile 1-13 This is the first out and back loop that ends around city park. It was super flat with no wind. There were a lot of misty sections with limited visibility. I ran it in 1:34 or so. I would say, this was my favorite part of the course and that I had a ton of fun on it.
Miles 14-20 This felt like absolutely hell. It wasn’t that the course got crazy hilly, but compared to the flatness and no wind of the first half, any gain in incline, felt magnified. I don’t know the speed of the wind, but it felt like a hurricane as it went against me. It was also around mile 14 that it started raining!
The scenery after mile 14 or so got more boring than even before. It was all concrete, concrete with nothing to look at. These felt like slow painful miles, where I started to settle down my goals. Before, I was running well ahead of the 3:15 pace group, but by mile 16, they passed me. I also ran for the first two hours without headphones, but as I started to lose the 3:15 pace group, I decided that I needed some music.
Speaking of music, I don’t know if it was the rain or what, but I saw almost no live bands on the course? They just had speakers that felt like they played the same 3 songs over and over again. I’ve done a handful of RnR races, and they always have bands, so I don’t know what went wrong here. Maybe the 7AM start?
Mile 20-26.2 At mile 20, I made my video on instagram to entertain myself from the pain of the past few miles. Luckily, as we turned around to head back to City Park Finish line, it got easier. It still felt like rolling hills, but this time the wind was with me, instead of against me and that made all the difference in the world. By mile 22, I realized, I could PR, or least come darn close to it. I was in pain, but I sucked it in, and tried to ignore it. I told myself that if I ran faster, the pain would end sooner. I would tell myself, walk break at the next mile, and then I would keep running and say to myself walk break at the next half mile, and so on. I would end up not taking that walk break, because I didn’t need to! However, this little compromise with myself gave me something to look forward to.
Before I knew it, when my legs wanted to collapse on the side of the road, I started to see the white barricades indicating the finish is soon. I looked behind me to see if I was racing anyone near by, and there was no one there. Then I looked at the clock and decided to give a kick to shave off as many seconds as I could.
My Fueling and Pacing
I tend to not eat or drink a lot before or during the race. It works for me. In the morning I ate one slice of some crappy Walgreens bread with Jiff peanut butter. Tony made coffee so I drank some of that and ate some chocolate. I also took an Imodium because I got lucky enough to get my period day before and it always makes my stomach weird (TMI, but o well deal with it boys). I did try to drink some water as well before the race start.
I packed with me a Hammer gel and 4 salts tabs in case I dropped one. There was a water stop every mile or so and I probably stopped a total of 2-3 times max to grab half a cup. I don’t carry water with me on my long runs, so race day isn’t too different for me.
Can you tell I have some favorites when I race? I have a whole dresser devoted to running clothes, but I rotate only my specials when it comes to racing.
I ended up not using any gels, or salt tabs either because I was worried if I took the time to stop, I wouldn’t want to keep running, so I just tried to stay in the moment and run like a Kenyan. Thinking back, I probably should have taken a salt tab or two, it might have made my legs feel less cramped.
As for pacing strategy, I went back to my master of positive splits. I tried starting slow and saving energy for second half, but I find that boring, and mentally draining that it kills my second half of the race for me. Instead, I run as strong as I can for as long as I can. It’s not quite sprinting, but probably around 75% effort. I’m glad that I went with how I felt vs. a more traditional pacing myself strategy. I got to bank in some time at the start, and take it a little easier on the middle windy section.
Would I do this race again?
It’s hard to say. While I didn’t think we ran by anything that exciting on the course, it’s a great excuse to visit New Orleans. Also, it’s a flat and fast course and if it wasn’t for the travel, I would love to see how hard I can push each year on it. So most likely, I wouldn’t run this race again, but only because I want to try so many new courses!
Overall, Tony and I had a blast. I walked away with a 2 min 30 second PR, and he walked away with a 10 minute PR on almost no training. In fact, if I told you his training, you would want to smack him and tell him life is unfair.