Saturday, March 26, 2016

New Bedford Half Marathon Race Report 2016

Great news #1: I actually had a good race!
Great news #2: On my 4th attempt, I FINALLY dressed appropriately for New Bedford!

On Sunday, I raced the New Bedford Half Marathon for the 4th time. This race is such a thing among competitive New England runners that I practically can't imagine doing anything else St. Patrick's Day weekend. Except last year, when I eloped to NYC, but I think we can all agree that the memories made and the huge PR I came away with made that trip worthwhile. This year, with a destination half already in the books, it was time to head back to the delightful streets of New Bedford and do battle there yet again. This course, while somewhat challenging, has always been one I've been able to run well on. Each time I've run this race, I've run a PR. My expectations for Sunday were not quite that lofty; my legs were seriously feeling the impact of several weeks of high mileage and the shakeout run I did the day before the race felt like it could have been done more effectively by a sloth. For the first time in awhile, I was genuinely nervous for a race. I was nervous about my entire left leg - Achilles, hip, et al - behaving. I was nervous about my legs even deciding to show up for the race! And of course, receiving an email from coach Tom entitled "The Teeth of the New Bedford Wind" which basically detailed all of the horrifying ways the wind was going to suck in this race did not do wonders for my confidence.

I ended up staying the night in Joy's guest bedroom before the race which was fantastic, since she lives 2 miles from the course. We carbo-loaded at a lovely little Italian joint right on the course and crashed early...we tried to watch the track worlds, but when we tuned to the channel that said "Track and Field" on the guide it was showing....a muscle car auction. Uh, OK. An 11 am race without a commute means sleeping in until a lusciously late 8 am. I got up and watched Molly Huddle unleash a ferocious kick to win the NYC Half, wished I was there, and then munched on a bagel with PB (first time going with PB instead of butter in like...years) and waited for the rest of our crew to arrive. Now came the most challenging part of the day: outfit selection. The high for the day was 36 and I knew there would be wind, but I also had this sense that every year I've run this race I've found myself too warm at some point or another. I ended up going with arm warmers and capris; looking back I probably could have done shorts but I don't think it made a difference either way.

We started jogging over to pick up our bibs, and the wind was immediately everywhere - it was one of those winds where no matter which direction you're going, it just seems to be THERE. I was still feeling generally not stellar and just way too nervous. I just really, really didn't want this to be awful. I NEEDED this race to be OK. And jogging through New Bedford in a pack with my teammates, I wasn't really sure if it would be.

We picked up our numbers and basically had enough time to stash our stuff in a locker at the Y and then head to the line. We briefly saw Tom who probably said some useful things but I was way too deep in the OH GOD THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW to hear what they were. Then we headed to the line. It was cold and I just wanted to be into it. Luckily I didn't have too long to wait - about 5 minutes later, we were off!

I was planning on going out fairly conservatively, and so I watched Joy and Dana and Taylor go streaming off in front of me. One of the most challenging things about racing with teammates is that while I've learned that I run much better with a more relaxed start, its so damn tempting to stay up with your friends. But I watched them go. My plan was basically to run New Bedford like I've already successfully run New Bedford: go out fairly relaxed and handle the early hills without burning up my legs, cruise the long slight downhill, and then see what's left for the wind and the hill back into the city. So for the first several miles, I had a refrain running through my head: relaxed and smooth and easy. Relaxed and smooth and easy. I must have repeated that to myself 100 times over the course of those first 4 miles. Grand Prix races are awesome because there's great, fast competition, but they also make you feel wicked slow sometimes - I felt like I was just constantly getting passed! Around mile 1 I came up on Joy, who informed me that our first mile split was 6:52 - yikes! Shortly after I came up on Taylor and ran alongside her for a bit before passing and heading off into the hills. There are 3 big rollers between miles 2-4 that get bigger with each one, and while I was aware that my pace would slow a bit as I headed up the hill I was still maintaining the relaxed feeling I was looking for at this point in events. Stay calm up, recover on the down. 3 times, up and over. My splits got kind of screwy on my watch at this point but I think mile 2 was 6:58, mile 3 7:10ish, and mile 4 7:21 - mile 4 is the one with the hill that lasts about a half mile and EVERY YEAR I see a shitty split there and throw a fit about it. Not today! I knew it was coming, looked at it, and promptly forgot about it. Onward!

After cresting the big hill, it was time for my most favorite part of any course ever - about 3 miles of gradual decline, YAY! Unfortunately, despite my relaxed initial pace I wasn't feeling as spectacular on this part of the course as I usually do. My stupid left pelvis/hip niggle decided to say hello around mile 4 and while it never really crossed over into true pain, it was present enough to make me feel like pushing things any further would be a poor life choice. I think there's something really calming and pleasing about running a course you're familiar with, because you know exactly where you are at any given time. The problem with this particular situation was that I was comparing how I felt in the moment to how I remembered feeling 2 years ago, and the answer was "less good". My pace, while OK, was hanging out in the low 7:00s and I vividly remembered throwing down some 6:5x miles in 2014. But for the moment, I felt like I was making the right call with the pace I was at and decided to just continue to try to maintain it. I think there might have even been a 7:15 in there somewhere, which I wasn't thrilled with, but I kind of accepted it and moved on.

Also in the back of my mind was the upcoming wind situation. We were already getting a pretty stiff crosswind whenever there was a break in the buildings on the left, and that did NOT bode well for what was going to happen when we turned into the wind. The lovely downhill stretch seemed to pass much more quickly than I remembered in the past, and soon enough we were passing mile 7, where I saw Brenda and Allison cheering, and getting ready to head towards the wind. Phew. Here we go.

We made the first turn towards the ocean and IMMEDIATELY, it was like being blown backwards. I had mentally prepared for this to happen but it was still kind of a shock having it actually happen. I immediately found a tall Somerville Road Runners guy to tuck in behind and basically decided that whatever pace that he was running at the moment was now my pace until we got rid of this wind. I don't think I've ever managed to draft effectively before, but I actually noticed a significant difference running just off his right shoulder. Around this time, Joy's friend who is much faster than me but who had somehow started in the back of the corrals passed me and asked how I was doing. "Eh, so-so" I responded, which pretty accurately summed up how I felt - not bad, but certainly not great. She reported that she thought Taylor might have dropped, which was a bummer, and then sped off on her way to finishing in 1:30. I had no delusions of going with her, so I stuck behind my guy in yellow and just motored along for a bit. I was pleasantly surprised to see an 8 mile split that was still in the 7:0x range - I really thought I had slowed down more than that. There's a small incline before another turn where I briefly felt like shit, but as soon as I made the turn? I suddenly started to feel a LOT better. As an important side note, this was also the stretch of road where I had to run around what looked like a diaper and/or paper towel literally filled with poop. It smelled like poop. It looked like poop. A guy behind me let out a hearty chuckle when he saw it. It was a very strange thing to see sitting in the middle of the road during a half marathon...I guess that's New Bedford for you. Poop aside, for whatever reason, my legs had suddenly decided that now would be a good time to start rolling. I figured, why not? At this point, I had honestly made my peace with running a 1:34 high/1:35 low - I couldn't imagine with a slower start than 2014 that I was going to manage to pull off anything better than that. So I figured I would just let my legs do what they wanted to do and find out what would happen once we made the turn into the REAL wind at mile 9.5.

I spent some time running with a girl from Cambridge Running Club who I desperately wanted to pass but just couldn't seem to make it happen. I'm sure I was driving her crazy - I kept pulling up right off her shoulder, she would pull away a little bit, and then I'd pull right back up again. There's another turn and a little downhill right before mile 9, and it was at this point that I suddenly saw a familiar red ribbon flying in the distance. It was Dana! I was sort of thinking that she had totally disappeared into the distance forever, so to see her up ahead - I knew I had to go get her. With CRC girl yo-yoing along with me, I felt myself starting to increase the pace, just a little. I figured if I could just get UP with Dana, then I could decide my next move as we headed into the real wind. Slowly but surely, I pulled on the string. I tried not to overthink it, but just kept my eyes on her red bow and saw the distance between us shrinking, bit by bit. Finally, just after mile 9, myself and CRC girl pulled even with her. We exchanged waves and I tried to ask how it was going but Dana had her headphones in, so I decided to just be content with running with this little pack. Unfortunately, just as our pack formed, we turned into the REAL wind; the teeth of the wind, as Tom put it. More unfortunately, the next tall gentleman (or any runner for that matter) to draft off of was a solid 20 feet ahead, a distance which would require a significant pickup which just didn't sound like a good plan while running into a 20 mph headwind at mile 10 of a half marathon.

So then, it was time to make a choice. Originally, once I had caught Dana I had thought that perhaps I should just sit behind her and run it out from there. It felt good to be working with a group and to kind of share the brunt of the wind for awhile. But after a few minutes I suddenly had this bizarre, completely out of character urge to just GO. To push into the wind and see what would happen. For some reason (and this NEVER happens to me late in races) I just had this feeling that if I were willing to make a push, my legs would go with me. I had been thinking about a quote from Tom's email about the wind: "It will suck, but remember, you don't suck". This somehow morphed into a line from the Sia song "Bang My Head": "If you feel like giving up just don't/You might feel like dying but you won't". I kept thinking that in my head as I pushed into the wind: You might feel like dying but - YOU WON'T. Slowly, slowly, I drew away from Dana and the CRC girl. I had no idea if either of them would put up a fight to get back with me but my goal was clear: I fixed my eyes on the next tall dude ahead of me and pushed as hard as I could to get behind him.

Strangely, my experience with the next couple of miles into the wind were actually not that bad. I almost feel guilty saying that, but it's true. It sucked, but it only sucked a little bit. Maybe I had just talked it up so much in my head that I had this idea of how AWFUL it was going to be, and then when it wasn't quite that bad it was amazing, but I just felt like despite the fact that the wind was there, I knew I could push beyond it. It was similar to what I felt at Boston last year, where I had this concept of the wind existing around me, and I knew logically that it was a problem, but physically I just couldn't process it. There was also something to be said for getting past that CRC girl and also for passing Dana, who I consider to be just as strong as a runner as myself. I had been running the whole race thus far under the assumption that she was going to crush me, so getting past her lit up in my brain this funny thought of "huh. You're doing better than you thought. You've passed all the teammates that it's reasonable for you to expect to pass. Why not really try these last 3 miles? Why not?"

Eventually we made the turn away from the water, a glorious reprieve from the wind and also a hilarious example of the New Bedford spectators. As I was coming up on the turn I was kind of by myself and I heard voices cheering but couldn't figure out where they were coming from. Suddenly, I realized there were two little kids in the second story window of the building on the corner of the turn, and as I passed they happened to scream something to the effect of "Nice job! Way to go! Nice relaxing day!" Hahaha I might have almost broken out laughing at the 'nice relaxing day' bit - can't say that's something I've ever heard before from a spectator, especially after fighting a nice headwind for the better part of the last half hour! My mile 11 split was in the low 7s which I couldn't BELIEVE. By this point I was definitely starting to look forward to the whole "not running" thing, but my legs were still pushing forward. Mile 12 was a 6:50 - what?? Then we hit the huge mile 12 hill and UGH, I felt like I had run into a brick wall. Suddenly I wasn't having fun anymore. I feel like last time I raced this course, this hill was shorter than I remembered. This time it felt like it lasted FOREVER. For whatever reason it also seemed like there were fewer spectators out this year, so I just felt like I was running up this endless mountain wasteland by myself. But once I finally crested the beast, I knew that there was half a mile or so to go, and it was time to GO. Just after the top of the hill I saw Tom who shouted some encouragement; he seemed pleased that I was looking reasonably good. Down the ugly row of fast food restaurants I ran, waiting for the last part of this course I knew was coming: a MASSIVE downhill to mile 13. Once I hit the downhill, I basically started sprinting. Everyone who had passed me on the uphill suddenly came right on back - I was flying. My 13 mile split was 7:02 despite the hill, which was pretty awesome. I turned the corner and could see the finish clock somewhere in the high 1:32s. 1:33! I was going to do it! I was finally going to break the string of bad races! I tried my best to kick down the straightaway and pulled even with a GLRR girl. I kept kind of looking at her and my head was thinking "please don't kick please don't kick please don't kick". Well, of course, she turned on the gas into a full sprint the last 50 meters, and what was I supposed to do but respond? So with my last ounce of energy, I turned the cadence up a notch and powered with her, then channeled my inner Molly Huddle and outleaned her at the line! I'm actually laughing in my finisher photo because it was kind of ridiculous.

I walked through the finishing chute and a guy came up to me and said something to the effect of "nice finish! Way to come back from that hill!" I think he was one of the people I passed while sprinting down the final stretch haha. He hadn't run the race before and so was not aware of the mile 12 death hill either - that's not a fun surprise! My left leg pretty much immediately seized up once I stopped running - it had actually been feeling better the past few miles but now, ouch. I grabbed water and my medal, and waited for my teammates. Dana came in shortly after me, followed by Joy and our other friend Ali. Once we were all together, we headed back to the gym to get our stuff from the Y because now that we weren't running, it was COLD. The cooldown back to Joy's house was frankly awful - my leg was hurting, I was exhausted, and I wanted nothing more than to crack open the can of seltzer in my hand and just chug it. We then had brunch with some of the guys team at Joy's recapped our races, and then headed off for some beers. All in all, it was a quality day!

Teammates! <3 p="">
I feel like when I've been thinking about this race this week, I've sort of been "meh" about my time. Sure, it's my second best half ever, but it's not a PR or anything, But then I consider all of the other factors - how bad my legs felt in the week leading up to the race, the fact that I was pretty much still at full training volume, the whole hamstring/butt debacle, and the wind - and I realize that I was able to run a really strong race despite all of those things. Mentally I was tough, and I executed my new go-to race strategy of having something left to finish with perfectly. I surprised myself with how well I handled the wind at a point in the race where I typically sort of give up at the first sign of any obstacle. So thinking about that, this was a really good performance for me! I of course didn't score for our team (and I shouldn't - that would not be good for our team haha) but the women's team ended up winning the team competition which was AWESOME! My butt was kind of a bitch for a couple of days after the race, and I ended up having to take Tuesday off because I was hit with an awful cold in addition to that, but I was able to have a really strong workout on Thursday (4 x 1000 at 10K pace, followed by a 5K tempo) with no pain so I can't have done too much damage. I'm hoping that things are all coming together at just the right time - I can definitely feel the strength from the higher mileage coming through in these workouts and the late stages of races. Last big long run tomorrow - it seems crazy that we're already here! It feels like yesterday that I was getting ready for Boston 2015...I've put a lot more miles in the bank in the last year, and I'm looking forward to seeing the results in a few weeks.

New Bedford Half Marathon
441/2480 OA, 83/1161 F, 36/263 F20-29

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

RnR New Orleans Half Race Report

Well, it was bound to happen eventually - I had a terrible race this weekend. On paper, 1:36:22 does not look like an atrocious time, but given my hopes/expectations/estimated current was a pretty big blow to the old confidence. There were a wide variety of things that I think played into the meltdown I had, but one major factor that I keep thinking about is the abrupt change in my expectations. In the week leading up to the race, I had pretty much written off running a PR or even close, since I know full well I'm a poor warm weather racer and 65-70 was going to be HOT to my New England winter acclimated body. But then, somewhere in the 24 hours before the race, I got the idea into my head that I was going to have this incredible race and run a PR. That, I think, was a big part of my undoing. Luckily, I had a really great experience with the rest of the weekend (and the race itself, I have no complaints about) so the feeling I'm left with is overwhelmingly positive! I'm not mad I did the race, I'm just a little frustrated with my performance - clearly, there are some kinks to be worked out before Boston!

Prerace, I had delightfully uneventful flights down to New Orleans and proceeded through packet pickup without a problem. I then walked over to the hotel and went out for a quick shakeout run - only 3 miles, but better than nothing! - along the Mississippi which was fun. Joy and I ended up randomly going to a New Orleans Pelicans game because the tickets were cheap and really, the only other things to do would have been eating and drinking...far too tempting. The game was actually quite fun (especially the random mascot games that occurred during timeouts...#pierresmascotparty for life) and we got back to the hotel around 10. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised since we were staying less than a block off Bourbon Street, but our next door neighbors were a gang of guys who appeared to have come to town for one reason: to drink as much as possible. Thanks to some extremely thin walls I felt like I became friends with them, particularly one guy named Dave who had many stories about the times that he had been "totally sober..and then WHAM! BAM! I was drunk!". Thankfully, they departed for the bars around 11 - just in time for us to go to bed!

Race day dawned, and I awoke not to my alarm, but Dave and company returning from the bars full of stories about the large women who had attempted to abduct them into their van. Luckily it was close enough to my wake up call anyway. Soon enough we were up and getting ready - I had bought an iced coffee the night before and put it in the ice tub which actually worked out perfectly for morning caffeine intake, and I also ate a banana and half of a Clif bar (the second part, I think was a mistake). Also a mistake: I think I only drank about 6 oz of water before leaving the hotel room. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But a\s we warmed up towards the start, I was excited! I mean, sure I was sweating and absolutely did not need to be wearing warmups (never a good sign), but my legs felt good and I saw no reason why today couldn't be an awesome day.
Pre-race, when everything was still exciting

We headed into the corrals and were trying to figure out where we should line up when I ran into Grace! I guess wearing a Greater Boston singlet in a race nowhere close to there helps to pick you out of a crowd. She was getting ready to run her comeback marathon, and it was fun meeting her in real life! I wished her good luck and we headed up a few more rows...then it was time to go! Bullhorns! Music! Excitement! Possibility! Gotta love race starts. 

For exactly one mile, things went more or less according to plan. I had decided in my fit of "wait, I AM going to run a PR!" madness the previous night that I was going to try to go out in 6:50 and see how long I could hold on. Well. Turns out the answer to that question on this particular day was ONE LOUSY MILE. Things basically felt OK up until the mile mark, but pretty much immediately after that they took a turn for the worse - not really what you want to have happen at mile 2/13. The first section of the course was a long out and back through the Garden District, which was lovely and perhaps more importantly, shaded. I perceived that we were running downhill but in reality I think I'm just REALLY not used to running on flats! But despite the shade and the flatness, problems continued to emerge. Problem #1 was nausea. Between about miles 2-4 I basically just felt like I was going to barf. I tried to slow down the pace a bit in the hopes that it would help and it did - a little bit. But not really enough to decrease my concerns. I took some water at the first opportunity, hoping that THAT would solve my problems. And it pretty much did fix the stomach issues...what it did not fix was the fact that my legs just felt totally unresponsive. After the opening mile, I slowed down to 7:10ish and pretty much accepted that that was where I might be for the rest of the day. But THAT still felt hard! WTF was going on?

As I tried to figure out what my stupid body wanted or needed, I tried to at least look at the crowd and the stuff that was going on around me. I've never done a Rock N Roll race before and I will admit that I enjoyed the bands, etc. that they had out on the course. On the way out we passed a jazz band which was also the point where I decided that someone with a tuba should always be around when I'm running. There were also some hilarious little New Orleans touches, like the group of spectators handing out king cake at mile 3, or the mimosa table around mile 5. Oh, how I wish I'd just gone for the mimosa!  We continued running out, and things didn't seem to be getting worse but they sure as hell weren't getting better either. By the time we hit the turnaround, I was becoming mildly concerned. Interestingly, my splits seem to indicate that 5K-10K was my most consistent section of the race, and there were moments that I did start to feel just slightly better. I heard "Don't Stop Believin'" at one point and that was exciting, although whoever was playing it cut it off in favor of another song, party foul! But I still felt like literally transforming into a unicorn was more of a possibility than running a sub-7 mile, to my great frustration. "Well, maybe if you stay relaxed enough here, you'll have something left for a kick at the end!" I thought to myself. Oh, self. How very, VERY wrong you were.

Things had already thinned out somewhat after the turnaround, and I found myself briefly in conversation with a girl who apparently used to run for WMDP. This was quite possibly the most annoying thing that could have happened to me, as she looked to be bouncing along, loving life, practically skipping down the course and asking me what brought me to this race. Meanwhile, I was pondering the meaning of life and why I choose to put myself through such torture, and could barely summon the strength to answer. Slog, slog, slog. I noticed my pace dipping into the 7:20s and felt my life force draining away. I was running my goal MARATHON pace. Ugh. Some clog dancers distracted me for a second, and a sign that literally just said "Fuck you, run harder" propped up by the side of the road also made me pick it up briefly, but in general I was just riding the struggle bus, and there were wayyy too many miles still left to go. I was getting some great "Go Greater Boston" and "GBTC" cheers along the way, and I wished I could be representing the club better. 

I took my Gu at mile 7, again, in the hopes that it would spark something, ANYTHING, in the useless things known as my legs. Maybe I was hungry. Maybe I needed salt. Maybe I was dehydrated...there had to be SOME reason why this was becoming such a mess. The Gu perked me up ever so briefly (or it may have been the water I dumped over my head). And then we turned off the lovely shady road and onto a blazingly sunny industrial street and all I could think was "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!"
I took this photo on the streetcar the next day just to remember the horror of this turn

I realize this whole thing is sounding extremely dramatic, but it's just been such a long time since I had a race just go so spectacularly wrong that I wasn't even sure how to process it. Everything just sucked. In retrospect, it's pretty obvious that I was a) dehydrated, b) just not having a good day, and c) hot, but none of those things felt like they were good enough excuses. I feel like I can be OK about feeling terrible if I'm running fast, because obviously running fast is hard and it hurts. But the problem was, I wasn't running fast! And I was barely able to hang on to the pace I was running - 30 seconds slower than the pace I was hoping to run. I think that's what was really making me feel miserable. We eventually turned off the sunny road and I had another slightly uplifting moment with this cool acapella group (there were possibly also some kind of pipe/drums involved). But any happiness I had left shattered when I saw I had just run a 7:34 split. And that slowdown had not helped me feel better, not even a little bit. 

My 10 mile split was actually reasonable at 1:12:15 - that's technically a PR - but then I just fell apart so spectacularly the last 3 miles that there's really not much to say. I ran a 7:40 mile 11 and when I saw that split on my watch I just wanted to cry. I FELT so terrible that I couldn't believe I was going that slowly. I then tried to make an effort to pick it up and was rewarded with...a 7:37. Ouch. Add to all this that somewhere around mile 7 my left hamstring/butt problem that has been bothering me on and off started tightening up and I felt it for the remainder of the race, and I was just not enjoying my day. At this point, the goal had just become survival. Finally at mile 12, in similar fashion to a bad day I had at Boston way back in the day, I mentally told myself "well, you have to TRY". It's not that I wasn't trying - because man, was I ever trying - but in that moment I felt like I had to be wimping out on myself somehow, that it couldn't actually be as bad as I was making it out to be. Honestly, I think it kind of was. I apparently managed to pull it together enough to run 7:23 pace for the last 1.1 miles (super kick, that) and crossing the finish line I felt nothing other than pure relief to no longer be running. About 10 seconds later though, my relief turned to frustration. This was it? This was ALL I had to give after a huge last 6 weeks of training, was the exact same freaking time as I ran 6 weeks ago but feeling much worse? My butt hurt and I was so thirsty and I just sat and grumped on the curb for a few minutes while I waited for Joy to come through the chute. 

As it turned out, Joy and I had had virtually identical experiences on the course! We were both pretty disappointed - I think knowing that the course was so flat, we had both had kind of high hopes about how we would run, but clearly that wasn't in the cards. We begrudgingly headed out to cooldown in order to get 17 miles on the day, and got to cheer on some marathoners as we went which definitely picked me up. After the cooldown we decided to grab some beers and head to another spot on the course to cheer for the marathoners coming it - yay for New Orleans lack of open container laws, meaning we could bring our beers wherever our hearts desired! Watching runners come through just before the 26 mile mark, most everyone looked rough. The heat was clearly taking its toll, and I was thankful that at least my poop race hadn't lasted an additional 13.1 miles. After watching for awhile, we headed back to the festival area to say hi and congrats to Grace again, and got some great recommendations of things to do in New Orleans - SO helpful since we really had no game plan for the rest of the day, and we got to see some gems of places that we definitely wouldn't have found otherwise!
Spirits lifted after cheering on some marathoners

Our rough races over and at least partially forgotten, we moved on to the more important part of the day: EATING AND DRINKING! This part of the trip is probably best shown through photos...
The wait for po-boys was totally worth it. Followed up my catfish poboy with a beer at Bayou Beer Garden, which was also delightful. We took the streetcar back downtown and after a brief siesta (aka an absolutely amazing 40 minute nap) we went back out on the town!
Alas, our original oyster happy hour destination was really crowded, so we ended up going somewhere else. I know pretty much nothing about oysters (this was really my first experience with them) but I enjoyed them! Also, there was a college track meet on TV at the bar, which was both weird and awesome. 

Possibly my new favorite bar, and this shandy was DELICIOUS. Hilariously, we also ended up in a small back room with room for ~8 people, and all of the people were runners - 4 of them were even from New England! Small world, and it was a fun coincidence having a little runner party, trading insights on New England races, and chatting about our races that day with our new friends.
When on Bourbon spend way too much money on a silly frosty drink that you can carry around outdoors.

My legs felt HORRENDOUS the day after the race - probably a combination of race pain, walking around in flip flops, and dehydration - and the thought of going for a shakeout run was almost too much to handle. But, with assistance from some ibuprofen (I know, I know) I managed a verrrry easy 6 miles that wasn't too atrocious. We ran out on the St. Charles streetcar tracks, so basically the course we had been on the day before, and then did a loop around Audubon Park which was lovely. Then we took the St. Charles streetcar back downtown for yet more food and drinks. We ended up taking an Uber to Bacchanal, which came recommended and did NOT disappoint. It looks rather sketchy from the outside, but inside it is a delightful land of wonders.

We also made a stop at Cafe du Monde as well as looping around to a few more bars/restaurants before calling it a night. I did finally have an actual hurricane (not the awkward frosty variety) tasted like the mysterious concoctions that we used to make in a cooler or a gatorade tub back in college, which is to say it was delicious, and very strong. A good ending to the New Orleans experience.

As for post race thoughts, well, I'm not really sure what to think. It's definitely discouraging to run a time that ranks in the bottom 4 out of 10 half marathons when you've been training harder than ever and feel like you're in really good shape. I keep reminding myself that there were MANY factors at play including warm temps, poor hydration before the race, long day of air travel pre race, a pre-race dinner that was not what I'd normally eat, the fact that I ran this race in the midst of full training and didn't taper, the fact that a flat course actually may have been more challenging because it's not what I'm used to, my ongoing butt saga, etc. None of these are excuses, though, for the fact that my legs simply didn't show up on Sunday. That happens, sometimes, I guess, it's just been quite awhile since it's happened to me. I think the half marathon is a tougher distance for me than the marathon, because I still don't have a good strategy for it - the question of how hard is too hard to go out isn't one I've figured out. Maybe at some point I'll take a season away from racing the full to work some more on racing halfs, since I do think I have room to improve in the distance! I placed reasonably well in the grand scheme of the race (237th OA/11K+, 42nd woman/7800, 10th AG/991), so that was nice. I just really want to get to that next level, and so this isn't the kind of progress (or lack thereof) that I want to be seeing. Still, my favorite theory of training has always been from Once A Runner - the idea that it's a spiral, not a straight line, and sometimes you have to feel like you're going backwards to really move forwards. I'd happily sacrifice this race if I knew it meant running a great Boston in 7 weeks, so I can only hope that this is just a small downward spiral that is building towards catapulting me even higher. And, I had an awesome weekend in New Orleans, so that can't be discounted!