Glide Path – RNR New Orleans 2017

Glide Path: noun: 1) an aircraft’s line of descent to land, especially as indicated by ground radar. 2) a series of events or actions leading smoothly to a particular outcome: “we are on a glide path to success”

We’re a month into 2017. My knee is on the mend, the scale says “target racing weight +10” and we’re heading into a city that’s flat, fast and has amazing food for a 5K and a half marathon. In 2016, it was one of my fastest races, but this time around, it felt like a rebuilding year.
Flying east usually means an early morning departure out of Oakland (this time 2:45 wake up for a 5:45 flight). Note to self: TSA was actually open and at that time on Friday, there wasn’t a line. We had a layover in Denver and were surprised to see Ann on the flight. Apparently, she was missed at Rock n Roll Arizona so much that CGI asked if she could come back early. No pictures. I didn’t want to post any and spoil the surprise!
After a quick bag drop at the aLoft and we were off to the Moriel Convention Center. Those of us walking in from Canal Street side got an extra mile in as the RNR Expo was on the far west of the center. We met Rick, our friend from Nashville and picked up a few supplies. We’re going to pass on signing up for RNR New Orleans 2018 because we have faith in the TourPass and don’t want to pay the non-refundable processing fees. I started justing my iPhone 7’s portrait mode a little more this trip. I think I got a few good shots. Race 2 of the year: Stop by the TourPass booth, say hi to Mindy or Ryan and get your 2017 Credentials. New this year: a back bib showing off your TourPass status – one for each location.
The medals for the weekend were in the throwback theme for the 20 Years Running celebration. Hard to believe, but Rock n Roll started before the turn of the century.
The forecast looked dry and cool, but not cold. Susan was stocked up on snack food, so we skipped lunch completely and hit Galiano’s for dinner. King Cake bread pudding was a must have.
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Saturday, February 4th. Inaugural Remix 5K
There wasn’t a decent public transit option to get to the starting line in City Park, so drivers for Uber and Lyft (well, this week, mostly Lyft) were busy. Elizabeth (Runner of a Certain Age podcast and Train with Bain) and Andrew (Twitter @smartwatermelon) were staying at our hotel. We really should figure this out beforehand so we can take the same UberXL. There wasn’t a lot of shelter at the 5K and we were somehow under-prepared this trip – no sleeves, no racing gloves. The wind picked up a little more than we were expecting and it was good to get under way. Registration for the 5K was capped at 1,500 and it sold out.

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Henry @barefootelvis Chan
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Annie, back to work. Best. Job. EVER.
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It’s a gypsy start. We found out Dominique is actually from our area. Tamara found us in the sea of people.

The inaugural 5K was a pretty loop course through City Park’s lakes and fields, passing the Museum of Art about half way. There were more than a few Mardi Gras masks including Leny, Melinda and Aidin.

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I passed by a race walker with really good form at about mile 2.75, but after a brief chat, she pulled away. I tried to keep pace, but just couldn’t get under 11 minute miles. I have some work to do this year, it seems. Still, the finish line was a welcome sight. It was warm enough at the finish to relax a bit before catching an Uber back to downtown.

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Josie joined us for the new mom update.

Our post-race refueling was at Cafe Beignet. Most people who go to NOLA swear by Cafe du Monde, but we like the lighter taste and the shorter lines. The fact that it’s literally next to a police station speaks well to its likely longevity.

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We grabbed a quick nap before meeting at M Bistro at the Ritz Carlton for dinner. We hadn’t seen Tamie since our trip to Iowa City. Gary is going for Hall of Fame in 2017 (assuming RNR doesn’t cancel any more of his races), Tricia and Juan were late but very welcome adds to the party. Light was low, so we took pictures afterwards.

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After dinner, Al gave us a preview of the new Hall of Fame shirt design, in poster form. He has a small order being run now and if you’re interested in getting a shirt (short or long sleeve) or a jacket, let him know. This is the back. The front will be black with microphone made of neon laces.

Sunday, February 5th. Half Marathon:
Given how badly prepared we were for the chill on Saturday, we took a little extra time to get to gear check for the half. Note to first timers, be sure to give yourself another 10 – 15 minutes to search for the UPS trucks. Gear Check closed at 7:10 for the 7:30 start.  The digital event guides used to include starting area locations, but I haven’t seen them recently. More portrait mode pictures. Having the crowd makes for a really good background.

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You know it’s cold when Al needs a space blanket.
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The Gypsy start line pic back in the cheap corrals.
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Rick and Tawni stayed together to get into the 2:10 – 2:20 range.
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Zach and Sherry. She’s on track for 100 full marathons by Austin.

We both decided to start getting back into shape this race, so we tried to beat our last few race times. We’ve done this course several times, so we kept the phones stowed away this time. I have this weird feeling that some of my knee issues were caused by short-swinging my left arm while playing Pokemon Go. We did pass a few good sites like the King Cake station at mile 4.8 and the Screwdrivers at 6.2 and the world-famous beignets at Cafe du Monde at mile 10. For a better visual, jump over to Elizabeth’s blog. I was able to walk a decent first half but flagged a bit in the second half until I saw the 2:30 pacer. I was determined to keep within 50 feet of him up until the finish line where I took a few more pics. Susan did her standard negative split and is feeling good about the start of her year.

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Ann was losing her voice near the end. I guess everything needs practice.
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When your engines stall, find something to get you back in rhythm. Like this guy.
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John, the hardest working man in racing.
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Ryan at the Heavy Medal tent. Just the Remix medals this time.
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VIP Joe knocks off yet another Rock n Roll
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Ilona and Carl Marino with a rare RNR appearance since ID’s Homicide Hunter changed their filming schedule. Great to see them!
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Kamika wearing the shirt from the successful Inaugural Mainly Marathon Kauai series.

Susan and I both finished about 10 minutes faster than any of our last 5 races. With a few more weeks off to do some final healing and start doing short distance speed work, we’re gearing up for four weekends in three time zones in March. We’ll look for another shot at our PR’s in San Diego in early June, so consider this the first of 5 legs before our test flight.

Stay on the glide path. So far, so good.

~//~

Rock n Roll New Orleans has been around since 2010 under the CGI brand. This year was the first Remix 5K. There were 14,874 total finishers for all events this weekend  (2,865 in the marathon, 9,255 in the half, 2,468 in the 10K and 1,286 in the Remix 5K), down about 2,000 compared to the 2016, mainly due to a smaller half marathon participation.  Race conditions were good for the 5K and the half. Word has it, it got a bit warm past 10AM so those mortals doing the marathon got to work on their tans.

Lifetime Achievements: Sherry Ricker pulled even with VIP Joe Harris on lifetime Rock n Roll events of all distances. Sherry (and everyone else) is years behind Joe on Heavy Medal qualifying distances (full and half marathons), but she has the highest total for 5K’s at 29 and also 4 10 K’s. Jeff Calene will become the fifth person to hit the 100 Rock n Roll race mark in D.C and Joe needs just 31.9 more miles to become the first person to hit the 2,000 RNR Mile mark. This should happen some time in March.


Pokemon Hunter Report: The 5K through Central Park was prime ground with the grass and water environments. There were a decent amount of magikarp, polywag and pair of dratini as well as a pretty established kabuto nest. If you’re back in downtown, the Mississippi River bank near Mardi Gras World has a good mix of water and other rare Pokemon. I didn’t hunt in the French Quarter. There’s just too much going on to have your nose glued to your phone!

We’ve put RNR NOLA on our permanent list barring any schedule conflicts due to the floating date. It’s just a really fun place to be 🙂

 

A Big Easy Race – RNR New Orleans 2016

Rock n Roll New Orleans is always a tough race to plan for, mainly because the date is based on Mardi Gras so it moves around every year. In 2015, we were in NOLA in late January. This year we’re racing in the last weekend of February. There’s also the matter of the unpredictable winter weather. Earlier this week, the southeast was getting hammered by tornadoes. The weekend was looking clear and mid-50’s when we took off, basically ideal racing conditions.

At least dealing with the weather would be easy!

This was also the race where our friend Joe Harris was coming back to the RNR circuit after surgery. Among our close friends, it seems we’ve seemed had a lot of health issues in the last few years. Statistics say 50-75% of runners get hurt every year, but few of these are the typical joint or muscle pains. I’m happy to say that every single one of us has bounced back to return to racing, something about the group energy that brings us motivation to GetBackUp! As a tribute, Al brainstormed the “VIP Joe 116 mile challenge.” Three of us ran or walked 116 miles in the month of February, one for every Rock n Roll race Joe has completed. Lisa Marie finished her 116 on Thursday.  Al and I hit 116 sometime in the last few miles of the half marathon on Sunday.

We took a late Friday flight in, landing right about when most of downtown NoLA was just coming to life. We skipped the festivities, but I heard George Melichar was putting on an aerobic dance party near his place on Camp. The lights from Canal Street were a peaceful backdrop to get some sleep.

On Saturday morning, we went through the expo pretty quickly – well, for us at least. We took about an hour and a half which is better than usual, and we somehow controlled our CGI swag spending for once. 2015 was the Year of the Half-Zip for Ron. This time, just the usual luggage tags and half marathon pins. This was the first time Al and Joe were able to see the 2015 Hall of Fame banner with pictures of everyone who finished 15 or more RNR half and full marathons last year. It’s really humbling to know so many people who made the Hall this year.

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Seeing Joe was a great lift. A lot of our group skipped out on RNR Arizona so it’s been over two and a half month since most of us had seen each other. Al surprised Joe with a brand new pair of his favorite racing compression pants. After running behind him for a while, he figured it was time to get a backup pair to prevent any on-course wardrobe malfunctions.

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Fortunately, he didn’t try them on right then and there.
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Susan thought up the idea of sending Joe a card for 30 days after his surgery. He ended up treating it like an Advent calendar, enjoying every day and getting motivated to get back to running.

We met up Rick, our friend from Nashville who we met a few years ago in St. Louis and headed off for beignets. Unlike most of the folks who took suggestions from the volunteers, we went to a smaller shop that didn’t have the hour long wait. The beignets were just as good.  We even stayed long enough for Kamika to check his Facebook feed and realize we were just down the street. Social media has it’s advantages.

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What you don’t see is the 5 orders we polished off before Kamika arrived.

We took a quick walk downtown to find some photo ops and ended up next to George Melichar’s house on camp. The hashtag banner will end up in a museum somewhere. I kept expecting him to appear on the balcony so we could throw him some beads. Heh.

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We found some good photo ops. Even in broad daylight, there’s a lot going on downtown.

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St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square was the inspiration for the 2016 race medal
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Really no idea what was going on here, but they were very enthusiastic about it.

I planned to push this race, knowing how flat the course was and having a decent month training, so Susan and I put our feet up at Canal Place for a showing of Deadpool. Probably not the kind of movie Susan was expecting, but it fit into the schedule before dinner.

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Parmesan popcorn, butternut squash spread and blood orange Italian soda. I wish we had these back home!

We joined Sherry, Joe, Al and birthday boy, Don for a quiet dinner at the 5 Fifty 5 on Canal. I’m starting to get out of the habit of taking pictures because I respect the time we spend together. Maybe I’m getting lazy?

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The view before bed.

The Sheraton was one of the Team Challenge hotels and our floor had a few dozen team members. We woke up to a row of doors decorated with motivational signs. The first time we were here, we were with Team in Training and one of those were on our door. Feels like we never left!

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Susan got out a little early to visit our gypsy friends at the Hilton, including local celeb, Geo. He’s got some big projects in the works this year. Stay tuned!

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Geo takes a Juan-inspired selfie.
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And apparently, Geo was really glad to see Dave. Either that or he was choking on a pre-race po-boy.

We started in corral 10 for a quick group selfie or 4. Drew is still not completely healed from the high ankle sprain the put him on a scooter in San Antonio. Rick was working through some nagging back issues. Sandy was gunning for a PR in her 3rd full marathon with Beth and Jim pacing her for the first half. Dave’s friend Jeff was running his first race of ANY distance. Probably the coolest thing about waiting in the corral was that every minute or so, someone else we knew showed up and it seemed like everyone had different objectives.

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The half course is seriously flat. Susan’s Fitbit actually measured zero flights of stairs for the event. I think there was a rise and fall of about 9 feet, but obvious hills were non-existent. The challenge for NOLA is the pavement. The first 8 miles are an out and back on the long curve of St. Charles and hugging the inside tangent put you on the canted gutter on the way out. While it was tempting to shorten the route, it put a lot of stress on my hips. There were a few diversions for road construction in the same place as 2015 and a few crosses over the railroad tracks. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t generate the kind of lift I was getting for the last few weeks. My Garmin data tells me my stride length shortened by 4 cm, translating into a 2.5 minute gap. The PR wasn’t happening this week, but I still walked in just over 2:25 – not bad for February.

It was sunny at the finish and we sat on the track at the City Park listening to headliners J. Roddy Walston and The Business. The beads in the picture below weren’t from a side trip down Bourbon Street, those are the lanyards for the medals. Those of you who’ve been reading our blog will recognize Carl Marino (top left), star of the Investigation Discovery Channel’s Homicide Hunter – Lt. Joe Kenda. It’s quite an addictive show and I’ve been binge watching them on treadmill workouts. His wife Ilona (bottom) has made a dozen appearances in various roles. This was the first time we’d seen her without the knee scooter that she used for almost half of last year.

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Jeff had a good first race, capping it off with a stogie. Joe was overflowing with gratitude for the friends he came back to see and being able to get back on the race circuit again. We had to catch the shuttle back to the hotel before Sandy and Sherry finished the full, but both did well. Sandy got that PR.

IMG_1493NOLA is likely going to be on our 2017 schedule seeing how there isn’t much else to do between mid January and March. If vacation time frees up a bit, we might spend the extra night and actually get to enjoy the city a bit more.

If nothing else, we’d go back for more beignets.

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Rock n Roll New Orleans was run for the 7th time under the Rock n Roll name. This year there were 17,791 finishers. There were 3,625 in the full (median finish time 4:51), 11,553 in the half (2:27), 2,613 in the 10K (1:17). As noted earlier, the course is really damn flat, though by a few reports measured it being a bit long (13.2 miles by my Garmin). Unlike previous trips out, we didn’t have any rain around the weekend at all. Race day, as usual, was clear and sunny.

With only 2 RNR races down so far, John took time to upgrade the Pannell Report, adding some visual basic programming to make it easier to figure out who the Elite Heavy Medal leaders are after each weekend and also highlighting former Hall of Famers to see who is on track to repeat or three-peat. John is focusing on the Race 13.1 Series in his home state of North Carolina this year, but will be doing more than a handful of Rock n Rolls.

After NOLA, 464 participants (about 1.65% of the total number of finishers) have finished half or full marathons for both weekends. We’ll see how this shakes out after a busy March with seven races – DC, Dallas, Mexico City, San Francisco and Raleigh –  in the next two months.

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