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Monday, March 10, 2014

New Orleans Rock N Roll Half Marathon 2014

Okay, I've been meaning to write this post for over a month now.  It's not just that I've been busy with work, training, and life that had me putting this off, but partially the memory of the pain of this race has had me shy away again, and again from reliving it.

Last year, the NOLA Rock N' Roll became such a big event for me because of media fire storm surrounding Nic and Monique's amazing story. My plan was to run it again with some focused training this time.

The training was difficult.  Living in Colorado now, there were many days that it was too cold to train outside, resulting in several very long treadmill days along the way.  When I could get outside, Charles would do my workouts with me, which made it a little easier to get in those 12 mile runs.  He pushed me every step of the way and was my greatest support, my stand-in coach for Team EC coach Dan Arnett!  My hardest training days were probably the 8 or 10 mile race-pace training runs.  My goal pace was 6:50 per mile so I could be under the 1:30 mark at 13.1, and 8 miles of that was brutally hard and made me wonder if my goal was too ambitious.  

Running in the thick fog near miles 9-10

Six days before the race, I was doing and easy 4 mile run when I felt a pop in my Achilles and instant pain.  I stopped immediately and saw a PT the next day, suggesting it may be a small tear.  I was devastated, after all that training that I may not be able to run.  So the days approaching the race, I swam, cycled, and did water running.  For as they say "the hay was in the barn."   With 6 days to go, the training was done, and I either achieved the fitness I strived for or I hadn't.  It all came down to race day.

It was dark, warm, foggy, and incredibly humid.  Good 'ole Louisiana weather that I learned to love running in while in college.   

The national anthem, and the gun. 

 Like last year, Charles paced me the entire way.   As a distraction, we knew that Monique had started 2 hours before us, and we would look for her on the course at around the 5 mile mark by her predicted pace.  

Mile 1: 6:28.  

A fast start.  I check my heart rate, around 165, good.  We ease into the pace.

Like clock work, we tick off the miles in perfect pace.  The first 5 were 'comfortable'.   I thought of my sister at all the check points, knowing that she would be getting all my splits, and thinking she would be proud of how exact my first and second 5k splits were (21:18 and 21:20), and that my Achilles was holding up!

Seven miles in and still no sign Monique.  My mind was having a hard time with distractions from the pain. Charles and I were nearing the Mississippi river and the fog was incredibly thick.   The runners in front of us disappeared in it and we were running alone.  The mist covered us in moisture and we were dripping wet, the roads were incredibly slick with oil on the surface.  There was literally a rainbow over the surface of the road for nearly a mile with oil.  Around this time we had to maneuver to the edge of the road to find solid footing, our feet were slipping out from under us as if running on ice.  Charles guided me to the edge and we didn't lose the pace as I feared we might.  

Love this one:  Running stride for stride

At mile 8 we finally spotted Monique!  Way ahead of schedule!

The last 5 miles are mostly a blur.  Every step was so painful.  No more distractions, just looking straight ahead and clinging to the pace.  I whispered to Charles, "I'm fading, I can barely hang on,"  but the next mile split was right on.  And we pushed through. My quads, hamstring, calves were all on fire and begging me to stop running.   All the while I had no idea where I was in the race in comparison to the other athletes.  The fog made it difficult to tell, and based on last years times, I assumed I was somewhere in the top 50 women.

Celebrating my PR while crossing the finish!
By mile 12 I knew I was going to do it.  We crossed the 13.1 mile split at 1:29:33, with an extra 0.16 on the course.  My official time is 1:30:34.

It was only a while later that I got a message from my father that I was 4th.  Age group I assumed.  Then my best buddy Jeanne, that I was fifth!  Fifth??  Overall!, she said.  The official results finally were posted, and sure enough, a 5th OA place finish.  So a 4 minute PR and my first top 5 finish at this distance!  Such an incredible feeling, I'm thrilled to still see dramatic improvements like this in my 30's!  I was even mentioned in Colorado Runner Magazine for being the top Colorado female finisher at the race.

The rest of the morning was great, watching all the other athletes come in and cheering them on.  Including my brother Nick who completed his first 'real' half marathon in under 2 hours, and dear friend Charlotte, finishing her first one.  Monique's story is too much to include in my blog.  So please be sure you connect over to hers to see how her comeback is coming along and all the incredible press coverage following the race, here!

Special thanks to Charlotte for putting us up in NOLA!  and of course Charles for all his encouragement and support building up to this race, he also carried my visor in his hands from about mile 2 through the finish - you'll see it in his hands in all the pics.  And of course to my coach Dan, I can't do any of it without his guidance and the support of all Team Endurance Concepts.

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