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!