Monday, March 5

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll NOLA

The start:
What start???
(If you haven't read already, there were some issues with start time on Sunday morning.*)

The bad:
Does starting almost an hour late because of mis-information in the race booklet count as a bad?

To be fair, I was in a bit of a snit for most of the race. Rather than rant, I'm going to keep this a fair and balanced assessment. After all, not every race can be the best-race-ever (like Gulf Shores was). And this race did have some silver linings.

I have no idea what the starting line was like, so I'll start from where I caught up with the sag wagon...

The stretch along St. Charles was pretty and (despite worrying that I'd hit a wall of bodies) surprisingly navigable. However, the course was crowded from mile 10 to the end, especially on Esplanade Ave.

Esplanade is a 2-lane divided road with trees in the median. Unfortunately only one of the lanes was open for runners. From that point to the finish, the course was C-R-O-W-D-E-D. Like getting-stepped-on by other runners crowded. And that's not just because I was playing catch-up. There were too many bodies and too little space.

Crowds only got worse in the finish chute. Spectators jammed the exit and left a human pileup of runners that would be a claustrophobic's worst nightmare... (Note: They need more than 1 lone bullhorn to keep thousands of spectators at bay.)

Adding to the crowds and confusion, the finish chute included "race finish photos" where finishers could pause in front of a "Rock 'n' Roll" backdrop for a sweaty photo op. This is a perfect recipe for disaster: as runners stopped to get a photo taken, they formed lines that blocked the rest of us from exiting! Hello people - some runners puke after races.  For so many reasons, the last thing a finisher needs is to be caught in a traffic jam...

Last, but not least, speaking of the finish chute and photos: I can't count the number of runners who confused the "smile for the camera" pad about a 1/10th of a mile before the finish with the actual finish line. I watched otherwise sensible runners stop, thinking they were done, only to realize they were a minute shy of the finish. Runners were comparing notes about this "race feature" on the post-race shuttle bus. They did not sound happy.

The good:
The course was beautiful, flat, and fast. (Hello. It's New Orleans. Of course it's beautiful!)
Jackson Square, New Orleans, LA
Much of the course was tree-shaded, including the above-mentioned Esplanade Ave, which made for excellent running conditions on an otherwise sunny morning.

While the last 3 miles were crowded, I felt like the first 10 miles of the race were fairly open. I expected the course to be more crowded than it was, given the 20,000+ person registration stats. Even weaving my way up from the VERY back of the pack, I didn't feel truly hemmed in until just after mile 10.

So... hats-off to the Competitor Group for the route. It was pretty fantastic.

Also, I've got to give credit where credit is due. With my late start I had my first taste of what it's like to be at the very back of the pack. Over the years, I've heard horror stories of inadequate water and food at the finish line for the back-of-packers. I did notice one GU station that was empty and abandoned by the time the walkers arrived, but everything else was up and running. Even the finish-line food seemed endless: plenty of bananas, bagels, water, sports drink, and other goodies to go around.

And last, but by no means least, the post-race music was phenomenal.

My race:
Does running my second fastest half ever count in the "good" category, even if it was originally recorded as a 3-hour-something "official" time?
My hilarious race splits.
A 25:55 pace for the first 5k? What? Was I walking backwards?

But aside from the wonky beginning I've got a nice, even pace. 10 minute miles from 5k to 10k (I don't how how the pace shows up as 17:50 - it took me 30:19 to run 3.1 miles. That math is 10 minutes/mile in my book... But I digress...)

From 10k to 10 miles, my pace was 10:27, but that slow-down included waiting for Hubby to catch up after a port-o-potty stop.

And my last 3.1 miles? That space where I normally blow up spectacularly? Where all logic and reason says I should have blown up after my running-as-hard-as-I-can-to-catch-up 7 minute mile start...

I'm not playing by the "don't go out hard" rule anymore. Clearly it's B.S.

Oh, and I'm sure being furiously angry from start to finish didn't hurt my pace either. Maybe "get as mad as hell and take it out on the pavement" is a new race strategy?

Overall (soon-to-be-official) time: 2:06:48

After sending a note about the mixup in starting time The Competitor Group agreed to update the record to reflect my late start. There will be no 3-hour half marathon on my record after all!

Either way, I'm just glad I have another half coming up next month so I can test my legs when I'm not weaving between walkers, up over curbs to get out of traffic jams, and waiting for Hubby to catch back up after a port-o-potty break.

I sense a new sub-2 in the making...


  1. Oh, god. Sounds like this one needs new organizers for next year- I don't run and I was even cringing at the thought of only having one lane open on Esplanade! It just gets dumber, with that photo-op mixup. Oy...

    Still, glad to see you're looking on the bright side, and sounds like you had a good run in spite of the poor organization. :) YAY! :)

  2. I spent forever weaving in and out of people during the Paris half marathon on Sunday. UGH. Hated that part. You so have a sub 2 coming up

    1. Thanks, Michelle!
      How did your race go this weekend? I'll bet Paris was beautiful!

  3. Sigh. I know why I don't do big races... I think some of these races are too big for the available running room. Regardless, you conquered, so good on you!

  4. wow - sounds like a crazy race from start to finish! You ran a great time though! And glad that it was a pretty course. There is always another race on the horizon! :)

  5. Columbia Gorge is limited to 1000 runners for the Full and Half combined.

  6. I've heard lots of bad things about the disorganization of the RNR races. That sucks about the start time and those last 3 miles sound pretty crappy. You;d think the RNR people would have their shit together by now.

    In any case, doing a race in New Orleans must have been awesome. And great job with the finish time!


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