Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Big Easy Half Marathon 2017 Race Recap

It's been awhile since I've raced. I've been taking easy and haven't had a training plan since before the Rock 'n Roll Half in July. After the last few years of non-stop training cycles, I was constantly tired and my leg muscles were extremely stiff and sore. So, I decided I need to approach running differently. I took a few weeks off and then began running low mileage and doing more walks instead of runs. Eventually, the fog started to lift and my energy levels gradually improved. To help my legs regain flexibility, I kept up my yoga practice and strength training and also switched running shoes from stability (which I've pretty much always worn) to neutral shoes. That made almost an immediate difference in getting my legs back to normal.

But, as always happens after some time off, I started getting the itch to race. It was probably when I watched Shalane win the NYC Marathon that got me thinking that I'd rather race sooner than later. I wondered how I would I fare now that I'm doing much lower miles 20 to 30 per week. My longest run in four months was 11.5 miles. Extra weight wasn't too much of an issue since I've also been pretty good following a HFLC diet and only put on about 5 pounds from my lean marathon weight last year.

As luck would have it, I found a race. After planning a vacation to New Orleans, I decided to poke around the interwebs to see if there was a race taking place during my stay. I stumbled upon the "Big Easy Half" which would take place only 1.5 miles from my hotel at the Superdome during my stay. So it was decided, I would make my "comeback" in the Big Easy.

On Saturday, I left my hotel at 6:00 am for a walk down Bourbon Street where several of the bars were still operating with their doors open. Music streamed out of the bars and I could still see a few patrons enjoying their favorite "breakfast" beverages. On the sidewalk, I had to swerve around a few "reminders" left by people who had perhaps too good of a time partying a couple hours earlier!

After about a 15 minute walk I arrived at the plaza outside the Superdome at the start line.
Waiting for the race to start
I took a few pictures and then we were called over to the start. The announcer was trying to get people to line up at the start line, but just a few of us did, and so I got in one of the official race pictures:

A clap to get the race started (src)
The national anthem was sung and we were off!

I was one of the first runners across the timing mat, but was immediately passed by about 40 speedy runners. It was hot and I had only an inkling of what my half marathon pace should be, so I held back. I thought that a 7:30 to 7:45/mile pace was realistic so targeted that for my first few miles. We headed out of the Superdome plaza and ran under the expressway a trail that led us to City Park. Then it was up and over a bridge about 3x as high as Mt. Roosevelt in Chicago. At one point we could see the lead runners coming back towards us. A "triathlete" dude running in front of me was yelling at the runners ahead that he was going to catch them because he was running negative splits. I thought that that was cool, because that's what I usually do. So I tucked in behind him and let him pull me along, however that lasted only about a mile before he faded and I passed him.

Making my move
To my surprise, I kept on passing a couple of people every mile as my pace held rock steady at an also surprising 7:05/mile. I was in a groove and knew I could hold that pace the whole race. Since I was just running by feel, I think perhaps I've developed a decent "central governor" which gives me a good feel for pacing? In any case, it was nice not to be constantly glancing at my watch and to be just to be running freely. Soon enough, we turned around and ran back over the hill and I stepped on the gas. After passing a few more runners, I found myself running alone but also so far behind the next runner that I couldn't see anyone ahead of me. So, I had to rely on markers and the smattering of course volunteers to make sure I didn't make a wrong turn! Luckily, I soon spotted the Superdome on the horizon and made a beeline towards it. One final turn and I was back at the Superdome plaza. I appeared on the jumbotron and an announcer called my name at the finish I put on one last surge and ran the final 0.13 at 5:03 pace.

1st Half: 46:34
 2nd Half: 45:52
Final Time: 1:32:26 (7:03/mile)

AG: 3rd out of 40, OA: 15th out of 779

With the Big Easy Half medal
Not my fastest half marathon by a long shot, but honestly with the relaxed training I did going into this race, I was pretty happy with the result. Heck, I hadn't run 13.1 miles in four whole months, so just finishing the distance without stopping made me happy! I kept my pacing very even, with a slight negative split and I didn't have much left in the tank at the end. So, strategically this was an "A" race. I don't see myself ramping up my training anytime soon, and so I'll be happy to just keep this modicum of fitness and be able to jump in a race (and race hard) whenever the desire strikes my fancy. As long as I run a pace that matches my fitness, I'll take it as a win. If nothing else this race reminded me of how awesome it feels to be running hard over a relatively long period of time. Who knows, maybe I will run a marathon again someday?!

Post race, I ate some of the sausage jambalaya at the post-race food tent:

Jambalaya was a post race snack
I walked back to the hotel, passing the street cars on Canal Street.

Canal Street

I made the turn onto Bourbon Street. By 9am the bars were still open, but thankfully by that time the streets were being power washed clean to prepare for another day of revelers.

Next up: Art Van 8k Turkey Trot in Lincoln Park on Thanksgiving Day!


  1. Nice job Pete!!! So I guess this means I won't see you on Saturday?

    1. Thanks! Unfortunately, I am not running Schaumburg on Saturday. Three races in 8 days would be too much for me at this point. Have fun!

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  3. Nice job, Pete! Sounds like the downtime is working for you :)