Monday, November 26, 2012

Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon: The 2012 Recap

 For the fourth year in a row I participated in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon that happens annually on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The event is a rural race that takes place on the grounds of Stennis Space Center.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Jazz Half Marathon: The 2012 Recap

There are several races that I’ve participated in during every year of their existence, and even more that I’ve participated in both before and after major transformations (Crescent City Classic 10K, for example). The Jazz Half Marathon is a race that’s been on my calendar since its inception, and I’ve enjoyed watching it grow and evolve.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall / Winter 2012 Preview

It’s here. Race week. My first race longer than a 10K since April. I should be uber prepared from months of summer training, svelte and fit with many miles under my belt (that now buckles two notches further in around a trimmer waistline), and confident that I’ll obtain new PRs with each finish line I cross.

I SHOULD be, but nope, that’s not gonna happen.

This Saturday is the Jazz Half Marathon in New Orleans. At 7:00 a.m., runners will take off from a downtown starting line on a path that winds its way around the central business district, up St. Charles Avenue to Audubon Park, around the park and through the oak trees, and back down St. Charles for a finish near where the race started. This will be my first and only “long run” as part of my marathon training for the ING New York City Marathon that I’ll be running the following Sunday, November 4th.

I know I’ve talked about my unpreparedness countless times before. It comes as a standard in the lives of amateur runners who enjoy the weekend race regimen. Second guessing our ability and doubting the quality of training that we’ve put in prior to race day allows for “an out” should we fall short of finishing. This time, however, I know it’s not just nerves. I know I haven’t put in the work to better my best marathon time. And with that, I am ok.

I’ll run the Jazz Half this weekend. I’ll even finish the NYC Marathon next. Will it be pretty? Probably not. Will I have an amazing experience with one of my closest friends, take lots of photos, bring home a finisher’s medal, and have stories to tell for weeks? Most definitely.

I know this isn’t the last race I’m going to run. There’s always next year. Heck, the rest of 2012 is chock full of second chances. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon, Baton Rouge Beach Marathon, Ole Man River Half Marathon, Walt Disneyworld Goofy Challenge, Louisiana Marathon, and Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon will keep me busy through February. I’ll get stronger and faster, maybe even outperforming the goals I set for myself. What’s most important, though, is that I keep getting out there and having fun new experiences along the way.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Runner Initiation

The recent article (and accompanying video) on Runner’s World Magazine’s website entitled “5 Steps to the Perfect Snot Rocket” proves that there’s no such thing as an overshare of information amongst runners. Even the most disgusting of bodily functions are fair game. Only in a running magazine with a very targeted readership could you get away with a topic of this nature. The subject line of the e-newsletter reading “How to Clear Your Nose” made me open the email quicker. I don’t know what that says about me to the general public, but who says they ever need to know?

The realization that I talk about almost anything with my training partners is something I came to long ago. My first running buddy and I had a motto that stated “What’s said on the run, stays on the run.” While it’s not quite the same as a free pass in Vegas, the mantra allowed for free talk about training and the side effects that result from logging many miles. Basically it was my running version of “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” At the time that I was getting these daily briefings, I was the novice runner who had only just completed my first handful of races. I was not only learning from a marathon veteran how to navigate the rules of the road, but also learning the most basic of principles of the sport: Runners Are Gross.

Now that I’m the “veteran,” I’m having the pleasure to initiate new runners in to this not so super-secret club. A coworker and I are training together for her first half marathon at the end of October, and the training runs have been getting longer and more consistent. We’ve gone sans iPods several times over the past two weeks, and conversation during the runs have commenced. Recently we met for a run, and the first words out of her mouth were “Let’s see how this goes. I’m having some stomach issues. Sorry if that’s TMI.” Well, that prompting was all I needed to let the flood gates open. I proceeded to explain over the first mile how there’s no such thing as TMI, that its good to talk about those issues with other runners while training, and use those conversations to get reassurance that its totally normal, and possibly find out reliefs for many ailments.

The conversation eventually turned in to personal stories of race day occurrences, and what has transpired in spite of rigorous training and preparation. I wanted to make it clear that Murphy’s Law applied to endurance sports as well as everyday life. She was regaled with stories that included one instance where I attended a friend’s birthday dinner the night before the 2010 Mardi Gras Marathon, made a bad decision on the pre-race meal, and subsequently pulled the trigger to put a port-a-potty out of commission at the 14 mile marker. My training buddy’s response was “Better out than in!” Seeing that she didn’t flinch, I proceeded to share how a pit stop during a separate race day caused me to worry for 5 miles that I was hemorrhaging, only to realize I had eaten tomato basil soup the night before.  Still seeing that she wasn’t fazed, I concluded the run with a tale of how; during my first Walt Disneyworld Marathon, I witnessed a runner squatting to relieve himself on concrete at the rear exit (pun totally intended) to The Magic Kingdom. Her immediate reaction was “Didn’t he just run through a theme park? He couldn’t stop at a bathroom in there?” Honestly, I couldn’t have been more proud of my padawan; and was thrilled to have just become her running Obi Wan Kenobi.

Really, there’s no secret that a strong camaraderie exists amongst runners. We spend many hours together training in packs, waking up early to meet for races, and spend post-workout sessions at the local bar swapping stories of our latest PR. Its during these rituals that we bring in newbie runners and give them the “off-court” training that they need to get through running season. In addition to having stamina and endurance, the strong stomach of a runner is something that’s easily acquired. As experienced athletes, its our responsibility to show them the way.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Naked Runner

For the past week, I have been doing something that I haven’t done… ever. I’ve been running naked.

No, I haven’t been causing bouts of blindness with my bare posterior. Instead, I’ve been running sans electronics. Neither an iPod nor a Garmin has accompanied me on my training runs through Uptown New Orleans. This is uncharted territory for me, and I’m not sure where it may lead.

Since I started marathon training nearly four years ago, I have always used an iPod. Even if I was running and talking with a partner, I would have one headphone in with music keeping me on somewhat level 3-minute interval paces (the average length of a song). Over that same timeframe, there’s been a consistent playlist that has had few deletions and some major additions, and those tracks have been my most dependable training partners. Granted, I’ve gone through five iPod shuffles and an iPhone, all of which fell victim to my profuse sweating during the summer months; however, I’ve maintained my dependence on some tunes to keep me motivated and focused on my training.

A little over two years ago, I bought my first Garmin GPS-enabled watch. It COMPLETELY revolutionized my training. The first time I wore it to race was at my first Boston Marathon. I was amazed by passing the mile marker flags and simultaneously hearing the beep of my Garmin. It allowed me to keep an even pace, to know when I was pushing the pace too early in the race, to know when I needed to speed up to stay on pace, and to know where I was with finishing within a goal time. I swear by my Garmin as a training aid, and it’s a must-have during marathon season. The uploads of my runs to a personalized website, with maps of my routes, complete a great overall picture of my race preparation and serve as a mental reminder of what effort I have done in getting ready for race day and reassures me of my preparedness. Also, it leaves a fancy wrist tan line that never seems to go away.

Both of my training aids died this past week, so I’ve been on multiple shorter runs (4 miles) without them. It’s interesting how I have responded. My pace has not dropped any. In actuality, it has sped up some and become more even. I’m starting to think that I may have been relying on my 130 beats per minute music too much and it was hampering increased speed in my training. I’ve missed my Garmin immensely, but the farmer’s tan has evened out a bit and I’ve gotten some at-home remedies from a friend on how to reboot it. In the meantime, digital streaking will be in my future.

What do you depend on when training, and what must you bring beyond your front door?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Slow And Steady

Thanks to Hurricane Isaac, I’m in the middle of a mid-week weekend. That means I have two days off in the middle of the week, and am enjoying some down time in spite of the impending doom of the Crescent City (overreaction compliments of Meteorologist Bob Breck). This morning, during a lull in the slight drizzle and wind, I ventured out of my downtown lair with my PIC (Partner in Crime) to have pre-storm breakfast. Our one last jaunt before being under lockdown for the duration of the storm took us to Slim Goodies on Magazine Street, and a great idea it turned out to be.

The drive home along St. Charles Avenue was disrupted by the discomfort caused by a gluttonous consumption of banana pancakes. To add insult to my metabolic injury, I had a wave of guilt wash over me when I saw multiple runners along the streetcar line. They were dodging cars that were parked on the tracks in an attempt to avoid rising flood waters. I wanted to pull over and thank these jogging weather bandits for helping to solidify the runner stereotype … that we’re a little left of center, because even I certainly thought they had lost their mind.

Not only had my in-town evacuation led me astray from a healthy(er) weekday diet, but I had written off my training regimen as being “under duress” and these people were showing me up. Unacceptable.

When asked how training is going for my NYC Marathon debut, my typical response these days is “Its Going.” That’s not an emphatically positive statement saying that I’m convinced I’m going to knock it out of the park, nor is it an admission of throwing up a white flag in total defeat. I’ve been maintaining a steady stream of weekday workouts the past several weeks that range from 6 mile short runs to an hour long spin class followed immediately by a two mile sprint. My pace is totally lacking, and I was thrilled to lay down a 4 mile run the other day where I maintained a 9 minute per-mile pace. That’s better than the 10 or 11 minute miles I had been posting through the first part of August, but far off the 8 minute mile pace I want to have for NYC.

I’ve dubbed the worst part of my runs “Self Imposed Walks Of Shame.” Those would be the parts late in my workout where I am completely spent from the heat and humidity, and I have to walk, stretch, regroup and level off my breathing. And yes, I am usually walking kinda funny at this point and look totally disheveled. I hate having to do this, but it’s sometimes necessary to finish a run. Doing it as hundreds of cars pass by you on main thoroughfares in downtown New Orleans? That’s where the shame comes in, and motivates me to continue to omit the breaks from my workouts.

I’ve convinced myself that getting through a six mile run with minimal walking is most important right now. Once lower humidity and cooler temps arrive in the coming weeks, easier and quicker pacing will follow suit. Until then, I’m maintaining my training schedule as much as I can between tropical disasters and momentary lapses in persistence. September and October also have several races in store for me (Back to Football 5K, Tipitina's Rhythm & Blues 5K, and the Jazz Half Marathon), and those will help prep me for the big show. Until then, I’m keeping the same motto as Isaac … Slow and Steady. Now I just wish he would abandon that so he can leave the Gulf Coast, and I can return to my regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A One Track Mind

Have you ever met someone, and through regular conversation, they ask questions that you’ve never pondered? Questions that spurn deeper self-reflection, requiring more than some run-of-the-mill answer? This recently happened to me.

As a runner who is constantly in some sort of training cycle (and hence waking up early, abstaining from drinking, not eating certain foods, etc.), the fact that I run marathons inevitably comes up. Usually that conversation evolves to how long a marathon is, and then onto how long it takes to run. This time, however, the interrogation went one step further, and I had to explain what I think about during a four-hour run. After giving the superficial answer of, “I just turn on my iPod and it’s me with my music,” I realized this is far from the case. There’s no way I could spend that much time alone and not have more rattling around inside my noggin. So that left me wondering, “What DO I think about while running a marathon?”

When people say that running a marathon is 50 percent physical and 50 percent mental, they aren’t lying. The physical stamina and endurance that is built up during training doesn’t just reside in leg muscles, but in your head as well. I can speak from countless experiences that once you reach mile 16 of a marathon, all bets are off. Those last 10 miles are filled with more twists and turns than most runners can imagine, no matter how well you know the route.

Early on in my marathon running career, I’ll admit that I was an emotional mess when I’d finish a race.  The first couple times I competed at the distance, I literally teared up somewhere between miles 16 and 18, and then again at the finish. We’re talking full-on heaving with possible whimpering. It was a guttural reaction to a realization that I’ve gone from barely able to run 2 miles to being able to run 26. Throw in poor choices in music on my running iPod (thanks a lot, Lee Ann Rimes), and I couldn’t keep it together. Fortunately, race day chaos and a breathing pattern that sounds like I’m searching for my last breath allowed me to play off my emotion and keep my dignity. After this blog, though, I may be turning in my “man card.”

As I put more notches on my belt and complete more races at the marathon level, my amount of self-confidence has improved. I no longer spend time during races questioning my abilities; instead, I have more time to think about what I want to do in the future. This ranges from anything short-term, from what lies around the corner in the remainder of the race, to long-term, such as which future races I want to participate in, how can I improve my training for those races, who I can rope in to doing future training and races with me, and which body parts I’m willing to part with to pay for those future races.

I’ve realized that as runners, we evolve and mature. Physically we get stronger, run faster, set higher goals, and gain endurance. However, emotional maturation also is a major part of becoming a better overall athlete.  With the approaching full running season, I look forward to seeing how my growth improves my game.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

And We're Off!

Training for the ING New York City Marathon is officially underway, and I’m already doing my best to make sure I don’t burn out before November 4th. After several delays in kick-starting my running regimen (including a sinus infection, sprained ankle, and debilitating heat), I think I’ve finally settled in to the mindset that I have a goal to achieve and now is the time to start working toward that goal.

The biggest necessity when training for a marathon, or race of any distance for that matter, is having a support system that not only enables you to undertake a task of such magnitude, but also one that encourages you to push on in spite of the challenges that try to get in your way. In my case, the biggest challenges I face on a regular basis are the sweltering New Orleans temperatures and my own laziness. As a result, I’ve implemented some failsafe mechanisms to make sure training stays on track through the months where motivation may be lagging.

1) A fellow CYJ blogger, co-worker, and music connoisseur has started a “Fit Challenge.” It’s basically a several month program where my coworkers along with a few outside participants meet up on specified days of the week at specified times to do group athletic activities. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays (see below) are dedicated to group runs where Saturday mornings and various other times are for strength and cross training. So far we’ve done several 2-mile runs on St. Charles Avenue, and I’ve tacked on extra mileage to the front and back ends of the scheduled run to meet training requirements. Getting me out in the heat is the most difficult part of schedule, so once coworkers drag me out there I am good to go.

2) Nothing encourages me more than a need for me to be encouraging to someone else. Case in point, I have a coworker who wants to train for the Jazz Half Marathon in New Orleans at the end of October. She runs casually on a treadmill, but wants to ramp up to do this race. I’ve convinced her to agree to start running with me after work. The distance is dictated by her training schedule, the pace is what she’s comfortable with. In our first runs together, we’ve logged 4 miles per-run at a pace of around 10 minute miles. This is pretty impressive for someone who’s not used to running streetcar tracks or outside in the current conditions. I am actually looking forward to our training together so I can see her progress and then get to run the race with her come October. This will also keep me very active and training consistently. Accountability ... A lot can be said for just a little.

3) Sunday Runday New Orleans. Yes, we have finally expanded the fun to the GNO.  What CYJ groupies in BR have known about for quite some time has come to the Big Easy. Sunday nights in Audubon Park, there’s a group run starting at 6:30pm. You can do planned paths of 3 miles, 6 miles, or whatever fits your training schedule. This set date, time, and location keeps me obligated to get a weekend run in when I’m feeling lethargic and trying to enjoy my two days a week off. Plus, the company is fun and keeps it entertaining. Oh, and did I mention ice pops, watermelon, or other sugary treats provided post workout? (Rumor has it that there will be cupcakes for someone’s birthday very soon.)

Finally, I’ll be keeping you abreast of my training off and on with my blog here at CYJ. Knowing that there’s tens of dozens of readers looking on from a distance will serve as great encouragement to keep going. I’ll also hope to get some feedback in the comments below about what races you’re training for and what keeps you motivated as running season approaches.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

You've Earned It ... Now What?

One of my favorite pastimes is reading other peoples’ running blogs. I call it research, but in true runner fashion, it’s actually scoping out the competition. I like to see who else is writing recaps of what races, who’s an expert on any given subject from nutrition to technology, and to check out who has the latest in fancy equipment. It’s digital voyeurism in its purest and most innocent form.

During one of my recent perusals, I came across a blogger (who shall remain nameless) who threw out the age-old question about what runners do with their mementos from races. Usually this topic centers around where race medals are hung and on what apparatus.

In this case, the blogger was referring to actual plaques and awards for age division placement, and even first overall in a race. The blogger took photos of the awards laid out on an obscure piece of furniture, described each award and the race in which it was won, and then described unceremoniously throwing away multiple awards because they took up too much space.

My first reaction to the blog? If you have room for that furniture, you can find someplace to put a half-dozen plaques. But that’s just the beginning of my quandary with this situation.

I’ll admit that I rarely place in races, and the two plaques I have for placing in my age division are among my fastest marathon times. After receiving my plaque for my first place age division finish in the 2011 Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon, I asked the race director if there was a mistake and then double checked to make sure I wasn’t the only person competing in my age division. Having said this, I have now qualified my feelings that follow by showing that I place a high value on being recognized for an achievement, no matter how big or small.

Everything that goes in to the production of medals and awards takes time and energy put forth by race organizers. Months of planning, designs, and drafts are gone through in order to get those finished products produced and in to the hands of stand out performers at the event. As someone who understands on a professional level what goes in to putting on even the smallest production, it pains me to see those awards publicly being discarded as refuse.

As training for another running season approaches and the summer months dwindle, more medals and award will begin to line shelves of athletes everywhere. When I first ran a marathon three years ago to earn my first medal, I framed it to hang it in a prominent place. My initial intent was to run two or three races at that distance, so I bought matching frames to await filling them with medals.

Now, with many more marathons and half marathons under my fuel belt than I can name off the top of my head, I have more medals than the wall of my meager abode can handle. They hang on the side of a CD rack or from the top of a glass apothecary jar on my kitchen counter. I treat each as their own piece of artwork, and many are just that; however, there is no way each can be displayed in an appropriate way to justly note what they stand for and the achievement associated with each.

I like talking to friends who have their medals thumb tacked to their office walls to allow their coworkers to look on in awe at their accomplishments. I also think it’s a subtle way of them saying “Don’t tick me off, or I can easily run you down without the use of a car.”

So that brings me to asking you “What do you do with your awards and race mementos?” I’d love to get some tips on how to properly display them in both a proper, yet space sensitive manner. These items may be disposable to some, but to many I believe they are held in the esteem that they deserve.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Great Spillway Classic Trail Run: The 2012 Recap

The past couple months have found me neglecting my weekend racing. As a result, I forgot what it’s like to go to bed early on a Saturday night to allow for an early wake up on race day Sunday. This past Saturday was no different, with last minute calls to action for social obligations keeping me out way past my bedtime. However, I had the foresight to register for the 2012 Great Spillway Classic Trail Run weeks ago because I knew I wanted to run this race. All I choose to remember is that 6:45am came very early Sunday morning, and my alarm (along with the requested text message reminders from early rising friends) was not a welcome interruption to my slumber.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bad Eggs –Voting Now Open!

Normally blatant panhandling to the masses via blog would be totally against my style, but here I am. I’ll say in advance, your support is appreciated.

For the past three years, I have run the Walt Disneyworld Goofy Challenge. That’s the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. There’s even been an instance or two where I did the 5K on Friday as well. Alas, its time to register for the 2013 installment and I have realized … Disney races aren’t cheap. Trust me, for what they are, the experience is worth every penny. Nevertheless, I’m in a place where I have to decide if I want to go for four years in a row. It’s the 20th anniversary of the full marathon in Walt Disneyworld, and RunDisney has a bunch of special events planned for the anniversary, a new anniversary medal, a new and improved course, and even more on-course entertainment at the 20th mile marker. Its giving me more and more reason to HAVE to be there.

So, here’s my plea … ran a t-shirt design contest throughout June and the theme was Disney Villains. They gave a set of villains to choose from, and you design a shirt utilizing one, some or all of them. There’s a cash prize, so I decided to work on a concept with a graphic designer friend for entry. At long last, CLICK HERE to see what we came up with.

Please go to the page before July 16th, make an account (they don’t spam expect for cool shirt design releases once or twice a week), and rate it a “5” with a fun comment. Should we win, we’re splitting the cash prize and I’m using my half to do the Walt Disneyworld Marathon / Goofy Challenge the right way.

And while you’re at it, the running best friend who’s also a graphic designer by trade (for the sake of our friendship, we didn’t work together) did a t-shirt featuring Captain Hook. Feel free to show her some love as well with her design. She’s contemplating making the Walt Disneyworld Marathon her second race at that distance, and one of us winning would help me seal the deal. Check her out by CLICKING HERE.

Thanks for the CYJ Support! I’ll keep you posted on the results in the comments of this blog below.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Crescent Connection Bridge Run: The 2012 Recap

Nothing excites me more than getting to run a race for the first time. When it comes to New Orleans area races, that’s a seldom occurrence. I’ve attempted to run everything at least once, if not year after year. This year, the stars aligned and my race schedule was clear for the Crescent Connection Bridge Run on Saturday, June 9th.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Boston Or Bust?

This past Monday (April 16, 2012) brought runners from around the world to the Mecca of Marathoning. It was Patriots Day in the New England states, but to athletes, that local holiday is better known as Marathon Monday. It was the 116th Running of the Boston Marathon.

Many runners set qualifying for Boston as a life-goal. It’s admirable and something that, once achieved, you have bragging rights in to posterity. In my current age division, I would have to run a sub-3:07 marathon to even have the right to apply for participation. Because of my goals and my approach to run “for the fun of it,” I laugh at the idea of that ever happening. Qualifying is an achievement that I don’t know that I will personally ever obtain … unless I keep my current marathon pace until I reach my 75th birthday.

With that being said, I have had the privilege of running the Boston Marathon twice as an official participant. Fortunately, my position of employment combined with respectable marathon finish times at other races allowed me access to take the road from Hopkinton to Copley Square in 2010 and 2011. Some would call it a “perk of the job.” I would agree with that statement, and still wear my blue and yellow finisher’s jacket with pride; however, that pride comes with an asterisk.

Honestly, I felt (and still feel at times) my place at the start line diminished by the “less traditional” method I took to get to Boston. I was a mere mortal in the midst of supermen and women as I toed the line at the master of Marathon Masters Race. Nevertheless, the runs in 2010 and 2011 are very special race experiences to me for many reasons. In 2010, my best friend was able to come and support me for the first time at a race, and it was where she caught the running bug (she’s since quit a pack-a-day habit, dropped countless lbs, just finished her 11th half-marathon, and has NYC as her first full on the horizon in November). I was also able to run in the wake of some of the most talented marathoners of our generation, and was present when  Ryan Hall ran the 2011 race in the fastest ever American marathon time (2:04:55) for a 4th place overall finish. Also, experiencing the screams of Wellesley College Girls, the drunken frat boys of Boston College, running past Fenway and the Citgo sign … all memories that I can’t believe I was able to take in. Given an opportunity, I can’t wait to take them in again one day.

One thing I have realized in my experience is that you don’t have to be an “elite” marathon runner to experience the same euphoria that comes with a Boston Marathon bib. Runners who “run to finish” or correctly state “there’s no such thing as losing in a race with yourself” can still obtain a runner’s high by participating in another race with even greater memorable moments. When planning your fall and winter race schedule, here’s a list of races in which I’ve participated, and which don’t have the strenuous qualifying standards of Boston:

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Runners and walkers of all skill levels can participate in 5k, half, and/or full marathon distances. The South Florida weather is almost always perfect the first weekend in January, the medals for each race are incredible, photo opportunities with characters throughout the race make the miles fly by, and the Goofy Challenge (run both the Half and Full Marathon in the same weekend) all make the weekend special for the whole family. As a consecutive three-time Goofy finisher, this race is a must-do every year.

Marine Corps Marathon – I have my marathon PR on this course, so I may be biased. The race takes a historic route through the Capital City and around many of our nation’s most notable monuments. In addition, every water stop is manned by enlisted servicemen and women from the Marines. Their cheers of encouragement make you forget the pain of 26.2 miles. If finishing at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington Cemetery isn’t enough, your medal is placed around your neck by a Marine who congratulates you and thanks you for your participation. It’s incredibly emotional and rewarding, and again touts a field of participants in every shape and size. Once more, registration is open to first-come first-served, and sells out in hours.

The San Francisco Marathon – Both half and full marathon options are available, and runners can choose which “half” of the race they want to run (the first 13.1 miles of the full course, or the latter half). The first half and full runners get to run out and back across the Golden Gate bridge on the only day during the year where the street is scheduled for closure. The second half and full runners get to explore Golden Gate State Park, follow in the path of the Grateful Dead, run by the World Champion Giant’s Stadium, and finish under the Bay Bridge.

Rock’n’Roll New Orleans – In my book, there’s nothing like a hometown race. Plus, seeing St. Charles Avenue, the French Quarter, the Lakefront, and City Park from a runner’s perspective doesn’t compare to the quick glimpses locals usually get from a car. Plus, a race where family and friends can come out to greet you along the course helps make the race that much more fun.

The Louisiana Marathon – Again, a hometown-ish race allows for running with friends. Plus, the first year experience was so superb for this “small town race,” I can’t wait to see what they bring out for 2013 to top it.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon – Another one of the Marathon Masters races, this race brings out the elite of marathon running. Its open to first-come first-served participants, and everyone is welcome to participate regardless of skill level. Running along the magnificent mile and seeing every part of the Windy City makes this race unforgettable, causing the registration to sell out fast.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

CCC10K: The 2012 Recap

On the list of things I know I shouldn’t do the night before a race, number one is now “Stay up past 2 a.m. to finish the first book in ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy.” It’s not something I’m proud of, but I decided to jump on the Katniss bandwagon two days before the 2012 Crescent City Classic … and damn it, that thing is a page turner. Regardless, that’s what happens when you leave me to my own devices for entertainment on a Friday night … and boy, did I pay for it race morning.

Friday, April 6, 2012

CCC10K: 2012 Coverage

For the past 4 weeks I have been writing non-stop about the 2012 edition of the Crescent City Classic 10K race. Well, Saturday is the day we’ve all been waiting for. It is April 7, 2012 … Race Day. After all of the blogs and articles I have written about the race, I feel like I have already run it ten times over. Today is my last shake-out run before the big event, and it’s the last chance I have to get my mind and body in the proper state for race morning.

I feel like now is the perfect time to re-cap all of the stuff you may or may not have read to help you better prepare yourself for what lies ahead:

CCC10K Expo Info – What you can expect and what you need to pick up before race morning.

CCC10K CYJ Official Meet-Up – Meet fellow runners and #RunLA enthusiasts at the CCC Expo.

Race Morning Transportation – Where to park, how to get there, and why being early is key.

2012 Race Preview – Course, Aid Stations and more about race day activities.

Race Day Etiquette / On-Course Safety – Rules of the Road on race day.

Top-500 Poster Award / CCC10K Artwork History – How to get your hands on a CCC10K print.

Post Race CYJ / #RunLA Night at the Hive – Post race meet-up for CCC runners and Discount Hornets Tickets!

CCC10K Training – While its too late for this year, thoughts to prepare for 2013!

Friday, March 30, 2012

CCC10K: You’re Not Alone

It’s one week from the starting gun of the Crescent City Classic 10K, and many veteran runners are lacing up their shoes for final tune up runs before they take off. However, this premiere road race of New Orleans annually brings out numerous first time race runners looking to cross the finish line. With the excitement of running their first race also comes the lack of experience of running with thousands on the narrow roads of the French Quarter, Downtown, and Mid City. First-time runners are what make races like the Crescent City Classic successful and ever-thriving, but certain “rules of the road” should be followed to make it an enjoyable for everyone participating.

The Road Runners Club of America has an extensive guideline of proper etiquette for running in races and events like the CCC10K. They are not only intended for the safety of you as a runner, but for the runners around you and the spectators alike. A full list of the “rules” can be found HERE, but several come to mind when thinking back on experiences of Crescent City Classics past.

The point that the RRCA makes, stating that “Races generally discourage running with dogs, headphones, cell phones, and jogging strollers” is by far the most relevant to the CCC10K participants. They go on to state, “Line up according to how fast you plan to run or walk the event. Slower runners and walkers should move to the back of the race pack. Just because you arrived early does not mean you should be at the front of the starting line.” While race organizers allow and encourage an all-inclusive party-like atmosphere, previous races have seen strollers, wagons, and walkers in some of the faster starting corrals. I personally love to see the family participation in the event, but stroller and wagons should start at the back of the pack to avoid rolling over or hindering the path of runners who are out to get the best time possible.

Also, walkers make it difficult to dodge from side to side of the street and can be trampled by faster runners. CCC10K runner’s bibs/numbers are color-coded based on the estimated time it will take to finish the race. Lining up with runners with the same bib color in the correct corral coinciding with that color is important and helps ensure the safety of everyone participating.

The Road Runners Club of American also makes a valid point for participants to “Arrive early for the event... Check your registration information carefully, especially if you are racing for an award or prize money.” With the Crescent City Classic, all runners are provided with a D-Tag timing chip on their bib / number. It should be attached to the runner’s shoe prior to the start of the race. It will give runners accurate timing of their finish, and will qualify faster runners for overall, age group, and Top-500 Poster awards. (Sidenote: The CCC facebook page announced this morning that posters for the first 500 finishers should be picked up day of race on the festival grounds. They will not be mailed as in previous years.) Regardless of finishing first or last, all participants need to utilize the timing chips properly to get finishing times for bragging rights. It’s the best way to prove to your coworkers “Yeah, I did it. Look up my time online.”

Once the race has started and you’re on your way to the finish, the Road Runners Club of America outlines the following as proper etiquette on-course:

-          If you drop something as the race starts, don’t stop and pick it up! Wait until almost everyone has crossed the starting line; then retrieve it.

-          Don’t drop clothing on the course after you warm-up. If you must shed layers of clothing, tie them around your waist or place them on the side of the road where no one will trip over them. If you drop it, don’t expect to get it back.

-          Run or walk no more than two abreast.

-          Do not block runners coming up behind you by swerving needlessly back and forth across the course.

-          If you are walking in a group, stay to the back of the pack and follow the two abreast rule.

-          Bodily functions are a fact of life during a race. If you need to spit, blow your nose or throw-up, move to the side of the road and do it there. If nature calls, check for a port-a-potty, an open business, a kind neighbor along the course, or as a last resort, a discreet clump of bushes before relieving yourself.

-          Move to the side if someone behind you says “excuse me” or “on your right/left.” The person behind you is giving you a heads up before passing. It’s proper race etiquette to let that person pass you without blocking their effort.

-          If someone in front of you is wearing headphones, and they are blocking, gently touch their elbow or shoulder as you pass to alert them to your presence.

-           If you need to tie your shoe or stop for any reason (phone call, nose blow, etc.) move to the side of the road and step off the course.

-          Pay attention to your surroundings. The course may or may not be closed to traffic. It is your responsibility to watch for oncoming traffic!

-          Yield the right of way to all police and emergency vehicles. Yield the course to wheel chair athletes, you can change direction or stop more quickly than they can, especially on a downhill.

-          Don’t cheat! Don’t cut the course or run with someone else’s number.

As always, the most important rule to follow is to have fun. This is something you’ve trained hard for, and it’s an event to be enjoyed. Following the above as a guide to having an exceptional experience will make for a great day for not just yourself, but every participant around you. Remember, when you’re at the Crescent City Classic 10K, you’re not out there alone.

Friday, March 23, 2012

CCC10K: The Quest for 500

With a little over two weeks to go before the 2012 Crescent City Classic 10K takes to the streets of New Orleans, local runners are putting the finishing touches on their training for the race. For many, the pounding of the pavement from Jax Brewery to City Park is a social outing with the goal of having fun, but for an elite number of racers, the goal is to obtain the sometimes elusive top-500 finish and procurement of a commemorative Crescent City Classic 10K poster.

In 1993, race organizers started the tradition of awarding a collector’s poster to the top 500 finishers of the race. This prize increased local competition in the event, and provided a badge of honor to those fast few who were able to secure a time worthy of receiving wall art. While the poster has been a race tradition since long before the award process was incepted, the poster is often the driving force behind athletes taking to the streets the Saturday before Easter.

As a runner who has taken part in the Crescent City Classic numerous times, I’ve always thought about the possibility of being able to walk away from the post-race festival grounds the proud owner of a poster. However, with the typical top-500 finish time being somewhere below the 45 minute mark (2011 was an inordinately warm race, having a slightly slower pace with the 500th finisher crossing the line with a gun time of 45:27), I know I am not within grasp of a finish worthy of printing in the Times Picayune on Easter morning. Nonetheless, I admire the poster year after year as a must-have work of local art. It is not uncommon for me to purchase the general issue version of the print to remind me of the race that I’ve run. One thing is for certain though, I know the first time I earn my print on the route of the Crescent City Classic, it’ll be hung on the wall as fast as I can get it framed behind glass.

For those of you looking to finish in the top 500 and avoiding the out-of-pocket cost of this year’s exquisite commemorative print, several tips that I suggest when hitting the streets on race day include making sure you correctly use your race-provided timing chip. You can’t prove you finished in the top-500 without it. Also, make sure your correct mailing address is on your race registration. Posters are mailed out a couple of weeks after the race once results are finalized. And finally, if I see my pace is going to get me close to under 45 minutes, avoid me at all costs. I don’t want to “accidentally” trip you in my quest to move up a couple spots.

Below is a sample of Crescent City Classic 10K posters from recent years, as well as a few from before the top 500 award was implemented. You’ll notice the evolution of the artwork and the elements included evolves with the history of the race and the route it has taken from start to finish. Earlier prints include landmarks of an earlier Uptown route, while more recent prints include scenes of the French Quarter and City Park. The long vertical print to the far right will be the 2012 edition awaiting the top 500 finishers on April 7th this year.

More prints from earlier CCC10K races can be viewed on the CCC10K website by CLICKING HERE.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

CCC10K: It's a Classic

Every New Orleanian knows that 40 days after Mardi Gras is Easter Sunday. Ok, maybe that’s just the Catholics, those of us that attended a high school with “Archbishop” as the first word in its name, and the few that give up drinking as a sign of solidarity for their Catholic brethren (and for the chance to dry out post-Fat Tuesday).

What fewer locals realize is what always happens 39 days after the debauchery ends. The astute readers of this blog realize that this is a running website and know what I am referring to is the Crescent City Classic 10K. For the rest of you, it’s probably not something that’s on your radar until street closure signs go up the day before the race; however, I’m here to tell you it’s not too late to make it part of the finale to your annual Lenten fast.

The Crescent City Classic 10K is the premier road race that happens annually on the Saturday of Easter weekend. Thanks to a very flat and fast course, the time of year it occurs, and the cash prize for the winner, the race attracts some of the finest elite athletes to grace the streets of any race in the country.

Local runners look forward to this race to cap off the running season in New Orleans, as it usually is the last race of the Spring (aka tolerable weather), and tourists from around the country come in to participate in what is sure to be a great race-cation experience. Locals who may not be as competitive with their pace and endurance use this event as a social gathering to get out and enjoy the scenic urban course and post race festival on the grounds of City Park. It’s not uncommon to see the back of the pack have strollers, wagons, costumes, and beer kegs on wheels taking the 6.2 mile trek from the French Quarter to City Park.

If you are ready to be a part of the 20,000+ participants who have hit the streets in previous years, it’s not too late to take your time and finish successfully. For those of us who have a fitness base and want to get 10K ready, here’s a quick 4 week plan (Courtesy of Running World Magazine) to get you off the couch and to Tad Gormley Stadium on April 7th. We’re already a few days behind on this schedule, but make the decision now to get on track!

Once you have made the commitment to take part in this amazing race (I have personally run it nearly a dozen times), check out the official race site where you can register online. With a very reasonable registration fee, you get your personal race number (bib), an official race t-shirt that features great local art, plus admission to a post race festival that showcases local music, free food and beer.

For someone who hasn’t participated in an organized race, this is the perfect opportunity to get your start in the New Orleans running community and see what it’s all about. The social and non-competitive atmosphere (aside from those toeing the line and running 10K in half an hour flat) will get your feet wet and let you see that there is a place for everyone on the streets of the Crescent City. For those of you with a goal time in mind, and want to get your hands on the collector’s poster given to the first 500 finishers (more on that to come), it will once again be your annual challenge. I think the best way to sum up the race is to use its own self descriptor: It’s a Classic.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Marathon: The 2012 Recap

The 2012 edition of Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans has come and gone, thus a race report is in order.

I’ll start with the negative first to get it out the way: Whose genius idea was it to put an extra six miles on the unshaded lakefront … at the end of the race?

Friday, March 2, 2012

R'n'R NOLA Race Weekend Eve

On the eve of the biggest weekend of the year for the New Orleans running community, I have a confession to make: I have never been more anxious, unsure, unprepared, or nervous about a race.

The 2012 Rock’n’Roll New Orleans Marathon isn’t my first full marathon. Its actually far from my first time at this rodeo; however, in the three years I have been participating in endurance sports, this is the first time I’ve let something get in the way of my training. What’s been my impediment you may ask? One word… Life.

Training has been on a downward spiral since I did the Goofy Challenge in Walt Disneyworld the first weekend in January (Goofy = Half Marathon & Full Marathon in the same weekend), and it never did get back on track. My longest run since was the Louisiana Riverfront Half in late January, and that was far from a best effort. Aside from several six mile jaunts on the streetcar tracks, my running has been non-existent.

Plus, to top it off, I decided it was a good idea to continue with my weight training classes through race week … something I never do. Who pulls a muscle in his lower back 5 days prior to race day? This guy. Seeing me get out of bed Wednesday morning was a comedy of errors. I’ve been hobbling around the office since, but a quick casual run Thursday evening seems to have worked out most of the kinks.

A race that was once intended to be a new PR has turned in to a race that is a “must not DNF.” As a result, I have put some safeguards in place to make sure I cross the finish line … the condition I am in is yet to be seen. What do I have in mind for my Sunday Must-Runday?

1) Strategically telling friends / family certain spots on the route to come out and support. Their presence makes sure I have accountability to see them. For example, the parents will be around mile 14 (and again at mile 25) not allowing me to duck out for a half-finish.

2) I’m bringing extra Gu to make sure I take it more often and don’t hit a wall earlier than normal.

3) I’ve read, re-read, and read again my Race Course Preview blog to plot a strategy for pacing. (Check out that blog entry HERE.)

4) The iPod music playlist has been updated with new tunes that are sure to keep the adrenaline flowing and the mind off the task at hand. (Chris Brown – “Turn Up The Music,” Breathe Carolina – “Blackout,” Jessie J – “Domino,” etc)

5) I’m scouring online for inspirational articles and information relating to the race. Stuff to think about while toeing the line always helps get me motivated.

6) The blogger universe will certainly be the ultimate factor when I’m grunting through those last 6 miles. Knowing I can come back Monday morning with a full race re-cap and the opportunity to say “I did it!” will be just enough to keep me moving.

One thing about the weekend that I am excited about is the Claim Your Journey Tweet-Up on Saturday at the Expo. (Check out the details HERE.) I’ll be with CYJ staff manning our booth from 10am-2pm, and will stick around to meet some of my fellow bloggers that I’ve only “met” through their profile, chatted with on G-chat, or stalked via-facebook.  Come out, say Hi, and get your Run Louisiana shirts to represent!

To all Runners this Weekend, Best of Luck! If you’re chasing a BQ, a PR, or you’re just out to finish … the hard part of the journey is already over. You’ve put in the work, time, and dedication to sign up and train for the race. Think of the final miles on Sunday morning as your victory lap, and bask in all its glory. Enjoy it … You’ve earned it!

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's a Fetish (Kinda)

I woke up this morning, the Friday before Mardi Gras, to news about an oil spill in the Mississippi River, a shooting on St. Charles Avenue during a parade, a car driving in to the side of a house in the Lower 9th Ward, and the pending weather events of the weekend ... and then I got to work with the ability to display the above scenery in my office. Its days like these that I am reminded how much I love living in New Orleans and couldn't imagine being anyplace else.

Now how does this post apply to a blog on Claim Your Journey? I can easily justify it by pointing out that runners appreciate a good shoe. Heck, I know endurance athletes that could give Imelda Marcos a run for her money (pun intended). However, as much as I am attached at the foot to my Brooks Ravenna 2's ... I wouldn't trade the above for anything in the world!

And with that I say ... HAPPY MARDI GRAS!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2012 RNR New Orleans Marathon: Preview

Louisiana is steeped in traditions and heritage, and accepting change is something we sometimes do begrudgingly. As a runner, one tradition that we have come to love is the annual return of the Mardi Gras Marathon. I think anyone who has participated in the spectacle can agree, the race has become a 26.2 (or 13.1) mile showcase of the best the city of New Orleans has to offer.

For many years, the New Orleans Track Club put on the event with full, half, and 5K distance options that locals and visitors enjoyed alike. I had the privilege of making this my second full marathon in 2009 (the final year that NOTC put it on exclusively), and I can say it was certainly a Big-Town Race with a Small-Town Feel. It was a well executed event, and made for a great first marathon experience on home-town turf.

In 2010 the Mardi Gras Marathon was turned over to the Competitor Group and was included in the quickly sprawling Rock’n’Roll Marathon Series. I can assume from an outsider’s perspective that this was done for a number of reasons, including the ever important financial viability and competitive growth against other big-city events. Unfortunately, with growth comes some sacrifice. The 2012 edition, during the first weekend of March, brings the most drastic change to the race to date. It’s now Rock’n’Roll New Orleans, and lacks the Mardi Gras motif. I’m guessing many visitors came to town wanting to see a parade, and were aghast to find out the moving target date of the event was intended to steer clear of actual parade season. Now when you yell “throw me something,” it’d better be a GU.

Course changes were also among the most notable when Competitor took the reins of the Mardi Gras … ummmmm, Rock’n’Roll New Orleans Marathon. While it still stays true to the overall scope of the route I ran in 2009, there are several distinct differences that make me apprehensive about the 2012 version. A quick overview of this year’s course immediately shows a new starting point on Poydras Street in Downtown New Orleans’ Central Business District, followed by a quick jaunt through office buildings to St. Charles Avenue that is a 3.5 mile (7 total) out-and-back through the Garden District. Visitors will enjoy seeing the majestic oak trees of the avenue with the grand houses of the New Orleans elite; however, as a local, I will miss the old starting line on Tchoupitoulas at Mardi Gras World. This launching point gave access to the interesting scenery of Magazine Street shops, the modest and historical houses of Prytania, and the eventual loop around Audubon Park that led back to St. Charles Avenue on a return trip to downtown. The complete omission of Audubon Park is probably the hardest for me to swallow, considering the beauty of the golf course, a glimpse of our world-class zoo, and the glass-smooth asphalt of track that was a nice break from New Orleans city streets. The new course along St. Charles will be great for spectators, allowing for supporters to see their runners twice in the first leg of their journey.

Runners leave the Uptown area around mile 8 of this new course, enter the warehouse district and the business heart of the city before transporting back in time with the antebellum architecture of the French Quarter. To this day, running up Decatur Street is a highlight of my marathon season. Passing Jax Brewery and St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in North America, is second only to passing the drunken college students who extended their prior night’s party on Bourbon Street to cheer on the runners. The history lesson tapers as runners turn on to Esplanade Avenue for a straight ahead to New Orleans City Park. The stretch along Esplanade is again very residential, but runners can look forward to the French Quarter’s eclectic residents coming out to support the masses.

The entrance to the park at the conclusion of Esplanade Avenue is where runners become endurance athletes. Half-marathoners head directly in to the park for their grand finish, while full runners take a hard left and run the perimeter of the grassy space to start an additional 13.1 miles. City Park is the sixth largest urban public park in the country and houses the largest collection of live oak trees that date back over six-hundred years. Unfortunately, only a small part of the perimeter of the course is shaded by these trees. The marathon route touches tennis courts, a golf course, dog park, and walking / bike path that leave foliage sparse. On the backside of the park, runners cross over a levee on to the Lake Potchartrain shore. A newly extended 6 mile loop on the shoreline starting at mile 16 is very daunting to me as a local, as I know that it is hot asphalt without any shade, all during the last stretch of my race. The glare off the water will be grueling, so sunscreen and protective eyewear is highly advised due to this span alone. However, once this stretch is complete, it’s a quick 4 mile return trip back down the same stretch around the park to join up with the half-marathoners once more for a dramatic and exciting finish behind the New Orleans Museum of Art in the heart of City Park.

The new course, while still touching the best of the Big Easy, is something I will have to experience in its entirety to judge. I’ve run all parts of it at one time or another, but never consecutively. It is sure to be fast and flat, and the elite runners always have a chance at breaking records … assuming they avoid breaking bones by falling in to notorious New Orleans potholes. But weather and temperatures will play a big role in how recreational runners finish. Should March 4th be a sunny warm New Orleans spring day, full-marathoners who will be on the un-shaded segments of the course past four or five hours will certainly feel the burn. The best bet is to come to New Orleans prepared for the weather conditions, and once on the course stay ever vigilant about hydration. Be sure to enjoy plenty Cytomax, which is always present on-course at Rock’n’Roll Races. (For those of you are unaware, it’s the sugary sweet carb-laden drink that is a sponsor of the race series.) If you’re used to a certain beverage while training, bring your own to carry en route to the finish.

I may be partial because of my affinity for the location, but the 2012 Rock’n’Roll New Orleans Marathon is sure to be a great experience for all participants. The course is very spectator-friendly, where friends and family can show their support multiple times throughout the journey … and still easily access the finish to join in the post-race celebration. As an added bonus, I personally can’t wait to get my hands on the finisher medal commemorating the achievement (kudos to the race director on a great 2012 design). Best of luck to all competitors, and Laissez Les Bon Temps ... Run!

Friday, February 3, 2012

... And Everybody's Havin' Fun

Its that time of year again. Time for King Cake, adult libations, random food items thrown from floats (moon pies, potato chips, peanuts, tootsie rolls), Popeye’s, and King Cake. Yes, I said it twice on purpose. Its also the time of year when I fall off the running wagon. Not only does the number of local racing events taper off due to the holiday, but my training grounds of choice are taken over by neutral ground campers for the better part of a week and half. I'm one of those runners who gets in to a pattern and that's how I stay motivated. Its routine. Its consistency. Its knowing that the best part of my day will be the hour when I hit St. Charles Avenue for 6 miles of solitude (minus streetcars and vehicles that insist on left hand turns). I don't know how I'm going to keep up my  training schedule for RNR New Orleans come March 4th, and I certainly don't know how I'm going to keep off the inevitable 10lbs that will be inflicted on me by multiple "2 piece and a biscuit" selections. I'm ready to just chalk this one up to the hazards of living in Southern Louisiana ... and will enjoy every last second of it. Who knows? Maybe this break is just what I need before hitting my next PR.

What do you do to stay motivated during this time of self indulgence? And more importantly, what do you do to get back in to the swing of things once the party's done?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Run Louisiana? Sure... Why Not?

As a follower and fan of Claim Your Journey since soon after its inception, I'm thrilled to have been asked to contribute via blog to the site. We'll see how long they let me use this small corner of the digital universe to post updates about my aerobic adventures on asphalt and trails around the city and beyond. I promise to keep it clean, usually interesting, and hopefully entertaining (at the very least, I know I'll entertain myself). All I ask in return is that if you see me in training mode along the St. Charles Avenue streetcar tracks, at a local race, or at a your favorite watering hole, please introduce yourself. The community is one of the best things about running ... and living in Louisiana. The combination of the two is what keeps me motivated and coming back for more.