2005 New Orleans Half Marathon Race Report

Somewhere on the course...

A little more than 18 weeks ago, I decided I would start training for a marathon. I’ve completed four marathons, but I’ve never gotten in the full recommended training. After checking www.marathonguide.com I chose the New Orleans Mardis Gras marathon as it is supposed to be flat and fast. However, the cold winter months prevented me from adequate training and as the marathon drew closer I changed my mind and decided to forgo New Orleans altogether. I briefly considered going down for just the half marathon but couldn’t justify the expense. Then I remembered seeing an email from Melissa Short on the Columbia Multisport listserv about a road trip to New Orleans for the half marathon. I decided that if I could share the cost, then maybe the trip isn’t such a bad idea after all. And that is how I found myself making the 13 hour trip to Louisiana…

As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, my primary goal on this trip was to set a new PR for the half marathon. My previous PR of 1:24:45 was from back in April of 2003 at the Drake Relays. For the last couple of months I had increased my running considerably and was confident that I would run faster, besides, Drake had been hilly and this was supposed to be flat…

After the long 13+ hour trip to New Orleans, we arrived at our motel around 2am. At this point we should have all gone to bed, but instead we headed down to Bourbon Street. Finally, around 4am we made it back to the motel room.

I guess I should mention who “we” are. We consisted of me (duh) and the following three people:

Melissa on the run...

– Melissa Short, a University of Missouri student and CMC member, the originator of the “road trip” email and my future Columbia tour guide…
Kevin on the run...

– Kevin Wren, originally from Britain transplanted to Jefferson City, MO, another CMC member and fellow LSD trainee…

– Leslie Zarzeck, not here to run, but had come along as Melissa’s friend and was also there to see her boyfriend Marc who was already in New Orleans for the weekend…

So around 4am we all retired to the room and I was out like a light. The following morning Melissa, Kevin, and I went down to the continental breakfast for a light meal and then we went back upstairs and back to sleep. Finally around noon we got up and headed down to the race expo.

After meandering around the race expo, I made my way back to the hotel. Melissa, Leslie, and Kevin had split off and headed down to the French Quarter. I planned to take the day easy and walking around New Orleans wasn’t on my pre-approved list of “easy”. I did feel that my legs could use a little activity so I changed into my running gear and did a brisk 3 mile run down Canal Street to the river and back. That evening when it came time to carbo load, I headed down to a mall where there was supposed to be a Sabbarro’s, turns out they were closed and since the other location I was aware of was over 2 miles away, I ended up settling for Quizno’s. I went with a mesquite chicken sub, probably better than a lot of options, but not the same as a nice big plate of pasta. Anyways, the sub was good and I ate it while watching Forest Gump in the motel room.

Ok, I’m getting a little long winded here, gotta shorten things up a little. We got to the race site around 6:15; we had gotten up at 5am to get some fuel in the body. After checking in our gear, we all wished each other luck and then went are separate ways.

I didn’t end up making my way to the start until around 6:50 and by then the starting line was packed. I was only able to work up to around 20 deep so I knew it was going to be a bad start. Sure enough, when the gun went off I found myself dogging people and having to swing way wide to try and get towards the front. Finally around half a mile things seemed to be clear and I tried to find a group to run with. At the first mile marker, my watch said 6:10 and my heart rate said 183. The 6:10 was great, especially for a bad start, but the 183 worried me. But the pace felt comfortable so I decided the high heart rate was probably the result of the bad start and having to work my way through the crowds. So I slowed a little but not much thinking that now I didn’t have to fight the crowds and my heart rate would fall. Instead my monitor quit, my battery was dead…

My time for mile 2 was 6:10 and my heart rate monitor was still blank. Since I no longer had my monitor, all I could do was run at what felt comfortable so I kept the same pace up, mile 3 was 6:10 as well. I’m not sure exactly when I started having problems, mile 4 was a 6:12 but I was feeling fatigue setting into my legs, lactic acid was building up. So I really kicked it back in mile five and then hit the “hill”, a massive overpass that had been designed specifically to hurt runners… My 5th mile was a slow 7:34

The rest of the run was just a battle, trying to maintain some speed while suffering the effects of going anaerobic early on. From mile 5 until the end I had a headache, though from 5 through 10 it was at its worst. I seriously considered quitting, but then finally decided that finishing it out would be the best, treat it as a training run and maybe recover a little towards the end. When I finally saw the Super Dome, I was relieved. With less than one mile to go another runner passed me, I could tell he was trying to kick it in strong. My competitive spirit kicked back in and I stepped right in behind him. I followed him for about ¼ of a mile and then I passed him and finished 6 seconds ahead of him, my final mile was a 6:23.

Time: 1:26:21 – 1:36 slower than my half marathon PR.

So what went wrong? Had I gone out slower initially, I probably could have maintained a 6:20 pace and run a PR by over 2 minutes, but by going anaerobic early on I blew any chance I had at that. In addition, my pre-race nutrition wasn’t right; I ended up with gastrointestinal discomfort during the run. Finally, my sleeping the nights leading up to the race was poor with Friday night being the worst; it should have been the best night sleep in order to be ready for Sunday.

As a whole the New Orleans Mardis Gras Half Marathon/Marathon was a great event. The post race food was good, and there was plenty of Michelob Ultra to drink. I would definitely do this event again, and probably will next year. The drive down was long, but the trip home went by a lot faster…

posted at 11:40:14 on 03/04/05 by Tony Rigdon – Category: Race Reports


Melissa wrote:

Oh Tony, your focus is impelling. I can hardly wait for next year. I will, however, decide in favor of rest in the days before the race, I suffered through every mile. I walked a lot!!
Funny, my trip was long on the way down, and seemed much shorter on the way back too……………. 😉
M. Short
03/06/05 14:32:56

me wrote:

Seems quite reasonable that the entire lead up to the race was a flop. How often had you run at sustained 6:10-6:20 leading up to the race? In swimming there is a “critical speed” in which one must train to advance such outcomes. What is yours? Having run several marathons myself seeking a PR and staying out late, improper nutrition and poor race strategy are contradictory.
03/09/05 14:36:05

Kevin wrote:

Hi Tony….I have learnt a few things and even though I’m a novice at this competitive running thing (I know, I know, I’ll never be competitive)I’d offer one nugget of advice if you want to get more consistent and faster…..ditch the processed sugar till after the race….no pop tarts or honey before the race…..insulin isn’t good for speed….

take care

03/29/05 16:12:58