My best friend and my mother told me that I should not do this race. Maybe I should have listened. I took a short walking tour of New Orleans (Bourbon Street) on a road trip back in '03 and a guy latched onto me, started talking and would not leave me alone. It turned out that he was well known by the police and would have robbed me if an officer did not step in. So why did I give New Orleans another chance and choose this race? Several reasons. One, I thought I was in shape to break 40 for the first time and wanted to do it at an event to remember rather than a small local race. Two, it's a mega 10K with nearly 20K participants and no chance of ending up in no man's land. Three, it's not that bad of a drive and a fairly easy way to take another step toward my 10K in 10 states goal (now have AL,GA,SC,LA). Four, New Orleans is almost dead flat and in good weather, all the right ingredients for a fast time.
I took the whole day off on Friday and left around 10 AM. I stopped for Irish food at a quick service place just across the Miss'Sippi border in Meridian. It was a very smooth ride until I got off the interstate and turned on to Canal Street. That was literally a parking lot and took almost a full hour to go just a few blocks. Finally, I pulled into the parking garage and took my tired body up to the expo, also at the hotel. I checked into my room, tried to take a quick nap and headed out the door for a walk. First, I went further down Canal Street to the Riverwalk, which was a cool shopping mall on the banks of the Mississippi river. From there, I took a walk down Bourbon Street and found a moderate priced sit down restaurant for dinner. You never know what you'll see on Bourbon Street and those who have been there know what I mean. Let's just say that I was not amused by what I saw and leave it at that. I was feeling better now and headed back to my room for a good night's sleep.
I felt okay warming up but really should have known that something was a little off. Nevertheless, the sub-40 attempt was on. I didn't feel very good before Rumpshaker either and still turned in a PR. The temp was around 70 with sunny skies and relatively low humidity. Not quite optimal but not bad enough to preclude a PR. I wish this one had started at 7:30 rather than 8:30. As expected the course was nearly dead flat and point to point starting from Jackson Square and ending at City Park. There were a few inclines here and there but I really didn't feel any of them. The gun went off and I was out well. According to the watch, which was not too accurate today (10.22 K), I was doing just about an even 6 pace. Relax. I told myself. Just allow yourself to slow down and when the pace hits 6:20ish, start pushing and hold it from there. The first mile passed (slightly downhill) in a strong 6:07 and early in Mile 2, my pace was still holding pretty steady. I thought I would smash the barrier but man, things would turn ugly in a hurry. By the middle of Mile 2, the pace began to slow to the 6:20s as planned. Okay, time to start pushing. This should feel like a hard tempo at this stage. I tried to push but there was nothing there. Mile 2 passed in about 12:30 but at this point, it felt like the power switch had been cut off. There was no power in my legs and I still had almost 7K to go. At this point, I knew sub-40 was out but I thought a sub-41 would still be respectable. In Mile 3, we turned onto another road. This was the rough surface that I had heard of. I did not find it too bad and it did not significantly alter my stride. Today, even if all conditions were perfect and I paced it evenly, it was still not my day. Mile 3 came and my pace was slowing to the 7:00 range. I'm going to be over 42. The 5K marker passed by in 20:04. Time to punt now. I'm not risking a melt down on a warm and sunny day when I am clearly off form. From this point on, I merely went through the motions. I stopped for water at Mile 4 (one of only 2 stations that I remember). Even if I was pushing as hard as I could, I don't think I could have gone much faster. I was surprised to see the 5 Mile marker showing a time of 34:14, still well under 7 pace overall. With 1 Mile to go, a volunteer yelled out 390 to me. I assumed that was my overall place. The top 500 get to take home a poster. Pride kicked in and managed a slight increase in my pace as we made the turn into City Park. I was still getting passed but they weren't streaming by me like the previous 2 miles and I was sure that I would hang on for a top 500 finish but my time would likely be over 43. Down the final straight, I surprised myself by mustering a pretty decent finishing kick. It was not enough to get me below 43 but it was enough to re-pass several runners in the last 400. Finished with a 43:08 (6:57 pace) for 405th overall. I got my poster, took the bus back to the hotel and got out of there as quickly as I could.
Here are my official splits, which are a bit different than I recall:
6:09 (6:09) feel good.
6:29 (12:38) power is gone
6:46 (19:24) this is going to be ugly
7:15 (26:39) this can't be over soon enough
7:35 (34:14) feels like Mile 19 of a marathon.
7:24 (41:38) pride is coming back
1:30 (43:08) roughly 6:40 pace on the kick.
No offense to any readers from the New Orleans area but I have not had good luck here and do not intend on coming back. If you are looking to race in Louisiana, I recommend Baton Rouge instead. Baton Rouge Beach ranks high among my favorite half marathons and have heard good things about the new marathon there as well. Clearly, I was off form and I could tell the difference between a bad day and my chemistry being off. Today, the latter was clearly the case. NOOOO! A 40:xx or even a 41:xx would be within the normal variability. Today, even if I went out conservative, I still don't think I could have broken 42. That's way off (:20/mile). As I've said before, if I have to take a couple of pills every now and then to stay in balance, I'm okay with that. If it's x# of pills per day every day, that sucks. If it's x pills one day then y or z pills another day, then I will be VERY ANGRY. For now, I'll just have to wait and see. God is still able. Let's regroup next week and bounce back strong in Louisville. The Gum Tree 10K in Tupelo offers a good chance at redemption at this distance. Both my 5K and HM predict a sub-40 10K so I see no reason why I can't do it.
A sub-40 is set as a A+ and it goes down in increments of :30. Sub-40:30 is an A and sub-41 is an A- and so on. A time between 43-43:30 is a "C" grade. One solace that I can take away is my 5K split of 20:04. I could have run a 19:45ish 5K today even off form. This one could have been a low 42 if I knew I was off form and went out :30 slower in Mile 1. I've been down before and will get back up.