"And the impossible has happened. The Saints won the Superbowl and Janie ran a half-marathon."
What an awesome weekend it was! The hubby and I dropped the kids at the neighbors and headed out Saturday morning for packet pickup in New Orleans. As if being childless for 24 hours was not enough to get excited about, as we entered the city you could almost feel the energy in the air. Eighteen thousand of my closest friends (ok, just go with it) were coming to run through the city. We hit the Expo without difficulty, picked up our packets and went across the street to Mulatte's to grab a bite while we waited on Coach Canada to join us. I instinctively ordered a big bowl of the corn and shrimp bisque, laden with butter and heavy cream, to fill up my growling stomach. I tried to improve upon my meal choice by ordering a side salad, but the damage was already done. I figured nerves would have it all cleared out of the way before race time anyway. So I savored it. Yum.
We met up with Coach Canada at the expo and I couldn't believe how many people I knew there. It was energizing to see old friends, schoolmates, co-workers, and people from the past that I didn't even know were runners. I bought myself what I thought was a cool technical shirt as a memento, but was after the fact told that it was ugly (haters). I still think it's a good shirt. So there.
Texting battles between FitBird teammates left us hungry and with no decision about where or when we could all get together to eat dinner. An official decision was finally made and Hill, Coach Canada, and I decided to check into our hotel and meet up with Lizzard and her hubby for dinner. Our hotel accommodations for three were a bit unimpressive, as we got put in a room with one king bed rather than the two doubles we requested. Hill was downgraded to the floor so the athletes would be able to get some rest. Unlikely.
Mama Mea's in Metarie was the closest, carbo-loading establishment that could be agreed upon. We had a great pre-race meal with the Harris'. Enough pizza, lasagna, and cheese bread to stop up a horse. We met a lovely waitress with some interesting adornments.
We had plenty of laughs, watched a little Olympic action on our table-side television, and made friends with the owner. My appetite was a bit spoiled by my mid-afternoon dairy fest and I was starting to feel the rumblings...
Although tempted by the thought of childless freedom and the lure of sin city, training took over (as did Coach Canada) and we decided to call the night over by about 8:30. My big spicy bowl of creamy chowder kicked in and I didn't disappoint my roommates with the show (we'll just leave it at that).
Sleep ran from me all night and I just couldn't catch it. I was hot, cold, tossing, turning, and racing all night long. Finally my alarm went off and I got up to get dressed. I proceeded to put my tank on inside out (which I didn't discover until the ride home), so I should have some really brilliant looking finisher pictures to post up later.
Let's skip ahead - traffic ok, short walk to the start village, cool and crisp morning. Oh! What's that?? Is that the cream chowder AGAIN?? Thank GOD I had the potty pass for the nice trailer. It was a bit of a wait, but my gloves got warmed for me while I said goodbye to my pre-race meals one more time. Ah, much better.
At this point it was time to split from "Safety Blanket Shawhan" as she went to take her place in the first corral (WTF??). I made my way to corral #15 and looked for a familiar face. Why is it that now I can't find anyone to run with? Lizzard where are you?? I set my jaw and convinced myself that this was doable and walking was not an option for me today. We eased to the start line and suddenly it was on!
I managed to keep a consistent pace from the beginning. I was afraid my adrenalin would make me shoot out of the stall like I always do and I'd be spent by mile two. Luckily it was a little crowded at first which helped me to stay under control. I felt strong as I approached the 5k mark and knew I'd be okay, at least for a while, since the first few miles are usually my biggest challenge. I managed to look around at the architecture of New Orleans and actually enjoy the sites and the sounds of the spectators. This was fun!
About mile three the gloves came off (literally), by mile six the jacket, and as the run progressed I berated myself for not following my gut and running in shorts instead of running tights. At one point I went for the one gel I had attached to my race belt to find it was no longer there. It must have come off when I took off my jacket at mile six. As did my handkerchief. Bring it on race! You will not destroy me by taking my Gu and my snot rag!
I held out on drinking at the water stations until mile six when I started taking sips of water. I was tempted by the Cytomax but was afraid to try it since I hadn't trained with it. I decided that if I couldn't find any gel on the course I would try it toward the end if I was crashing. That was my plan B. Mentally tough people have a Plan B (see last weeks posting). Plan C was to steal a gel from the girl that ran ahead of me that had like 10 in her race belt. And I was making fun of her before the race for being overly loaded down. Silly me. Her plan B and C was to just keep taking them out of her belt if she dropped one. Lesson number 1 of things I learned during the race.
The course was fast and flat but had a ton of potholes everywhere. At one point I left the road and ran along the dirt streetcar track to pass a group of people. I am Cougre! Get out of my way! They moved.
I ran down St. Charles. I ran through the French Market. People tried to hand me donuts and cups of cold beer. So tempting. But I was on a mission.
I saw one lady do a face-plant on the side walk. It had to hurt. Did I stop? Hell no. Let the bystanders take care of her. I was on a mission.
Approaching mile ten. I am losing the joy. I am fighting to ignore the pain in my legs. I see an old friend from high school and almost trip over the curb trying to say hello. I decide it's not worth the effort to talk and just wave at her and keep going. I am on a mission.
Oh thank God an aid station. And there is a volunteer handing out Gu. My last chance for nutrition and since I lost mine way back when I decided it's not too late to try to get some down. I open up the blackberry gel and try to swallow it. It sticks in my throat. Give me water. I gulp it down as a runner pours her water out on my shoe. I give her a dirty look but keep on running. I am on a mission.
A few more bands, a lot more potholes, surely the end is getting closer. Finally I see City Park and can see the runners ahead of me circling around the lake. Thank God I am near the end! I know I can do this. I make it to the bridge to circle around to the other side of the lake but then...what the hell? There are orange cones blocking my way! I look to the right and the course is veering off in the wrong direction. People come back! You're going the wrong way! My mind screamed for me to just stop and it kept telling me I would never make it. I took a deep breath, sucked it up, looked at my HTFU bracelet and set out to finish this @#$*! mission. Around the bend, up a hill (this was supposed to be a flat course), and finally I was circling the lake.
I near the Art Museum and realize the finish line is on the other side. I am trying to decide when to give that final sprint effort as I don't want to blow my last bit of energy too soon. I see a lady holding up a "Beer Next Exit" sign and laugh. It's got to be close now.
As I round the building, there in the near distance is the finish line, lined with people yelling and clapping for everyone that passes them by. I give it all I've got so if anyone who knows me sees me finish I will look strong. I've got a grin on my face as big as I can make it. Another chapter closed, Another goal met. Another mission accomplished.
Woop Woop!! Bring it baby! Ironman 70.3 I'm coming for ya!