Images like these, which have been plastered all over the news, leave me pretty much speechless. It’s difficult to wrap your head around the magnitude of this disaster, especially with articles like this. The Superdome is where my marathon began and ended. But instead of being a place of celebration, it’s been turned into a place where people are now struggling for survival. New Orleans remains near and dear to me after only a single visit; I can’t imagine what the residents of the city are feeling. Hopefully help is coming soon.
Posts Tagged ‘new orleans’
Finally, the long-awaited (or not-awaited-at-all) New Orleans report!
Jess was nice enough to offer to drive Buddy and me to the airport. I left my car at Buddy’s house, and after some wrangling with climbing equipment and luggage, we were ready to go. We ran into Linda at the airport and she gave us our beads, which were supposed to be our shuttle ticket to the hotel in New Orleans. We checked in without *too* much trouble, and then we were on our way.
The flight was pretty uneventful, and we were disappointed that promises of a movie did not pan out. We did, however, almost finish the crossword puzzle in the Hemispheres magazine. We am smrt.
When we landed in New Orleans, it was raining. A good sign for things to come, I say! After waiting around for a while, we piled on the bus to the Astor Crown Plaza / Alexa hotels. When we got there, it took us a really long time to check in, as no hotel is equipped to handle 200 excitable marathoners checking in at once. When Buddy and I got to the room, we high-fived each other (no, really) because we had made it in time to see…. THE OC. Yes, we’re nerds. We decided that it sounded like a good idea to take it easy tonight and just order room service and enjoy the antics of Seth, Ryan, Summer, and Marissa, but we had no room service menu. So we called down to room service and were assured that a menu would be up shortly. Which turned out to be true, if by “shortly” you mean “never.”
At 8:00 we turned on the TV and were greeted with… “CELEBRITIES WITHOUT MAKEUP.” Eh? And then the slow realization hit me that we were in…[cue ominous music] the CENTRAL TIME ZONE. Damn “8/7 Central!” Defeated, and still sans room service menu, we headed out of the hotel in search of dinner.
The first thing we realized is that Canal street is stinky. This ain’t yo mama’s stinky, neither. I’ve walked around big cities a lot, and never have my senses been assaulted with such malodorous…odors. I don’t even want to know what’s going on in those trash cans. We walked a bit down Canal and ran into Wilma, Sherise, and Mel, and decided to go on the hunt for food together. We checked out several different places (including accidentally ending up back at the hotel restaurant) before settling on a seafood place, whose name escapes me at the moment.
By the time we were seated, we were all certifiably starving. Wilma, Mel, and Sherise decided to share a spinach salad and a half seafood platter. I ordered the crab quartet, and Buddy ordered the crawfish quartet. As we soon found out, New Orleans folks sure do like their deep fried food. The girls’ half seafood platter consisted of a gigantic mound of various deep fried fishy things, sitting on a huge pile of french fries. Even their spinach salad was topped with bacon an friend oysters. My crab quartet was mostly fried, as well as Buddy’s crawfish quartet. I’m pretty sure I shortened my lifespan that night. The funny thing is that my asthma was triggered very slightly by the meal and I had to use my inhaler. Wilma commented that not once did she see me use my inhaler during our runs, but I had to use it after eating a whole lotta fried food. Perhaps it was just coincidence, but it also might have had something to do with the blood in my arteries grinding to a halt. After the meal, we all wisely agreed to avoid fried foods for the rest of the trip. Afterwards, stuffed and greasy, we went to bed.
Before the trip, I had come up with a brilliant plan to allow us to sleep on Saturday night. Basically, it consisted of us being really tired up until then. So I made us wake up around 6:30 am Friday morning. Although we woke up then, we didn’t actually get up until 8 because we may have been watching episodes of Buffy on TV. Maybe. Once we got up, we decided to go to Mother’s for breakfast, on Yar’s recommendation. We both had omelettes and grits and biscuits, but darned if I knew what to do with the grits. I tried looking around the restaurant to see how everyone else was eating them, but they all looked as clueless as we did.
Since we were already near the water, we decided to pop into the Audobon Aquarium of the Americas, which was actually a very nice aquarium. By my pictures, you would think that I went to New Orleans to go to the aquarium, not run a marathon. We also watched the SHARKS 3D Imax movie, which was kind of neat. We were seated in front of a row of school kids. Before the movie started, their teacher said in a heavy Southern accent (you’ll have to ask me to demonstrate to get the full effect): “Now if y’all get scared, just take off yer glasses! If yer still scared, just close yer ahhs!” It would have been funnier had one of them not spit their gum at me after the movie.
We finished up at the aquarium just as Nathaniel and Mike called me. Since we were at the bottom of Canal and they were somewhere at the other end, we just decided to both walk towards the middle and hope we saw each other. Surprisingly, that plan worked pretty well. United, we made our way to the French Quarter to find somewhere to eat. We settled on The Gumbo Shop, which Mike had read about in a guide book. Since Buddy and I had eaten breakfast not too long ago, we had a couple appetizers, while Mike and Nate had full meals. I had a small jambalaya and a cup of chicken andouille gumbo, both of which were quite yummy.
Afterwards we headed to Jackson Square where we heard a cool jazz street band, and where Nathaniel and I got tarot readings from a drag queen. (I mean, really, how many people can say that?) Nathaniel’s was apparently spot-on, but mine was wildly inaccurate. Too bad. Afterwards, Mike and Nate were pretty tired from travelling, so we went back to our hotels and made plans to meet up for dinner later.
After resting for a bit, Buddy and I headed over to the Superdome to pick up our race packets. I was bib #1345, and he was #1334. We also got to test out our swanky chips, which was pretty exciting. I also picked up a couple things at the expo, like cheap gloves, and a little cell phone holding case for my water belt.
In the meantime, the remaining AIDS Marathoners arrived in New Orleans, including Robert and Val from my pace group. We also met Greta, who was a Switzer who trained in Berkeley, and her friend Kristen who had come to cheer her on, but ended up running the half marathon as well. We all hung out for a while in our hotel room eating snacks to not pass out, and sharing in the wonder that is the foam roller. We decided to try the hotel restaurant, Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, and it ended up being very good. Buddy and Nathaniel shared a dozen oysters for only $10. I thought about having some, but I decided to forgo my first raw oyster experience until after the marathon. After dinner, everyone came up to our room to hang out and watch TV until bedtime.
Like Friday, our plan for this morning was to wake up early. We had the clock alarm set for 6:15, but unfortunately the volume had been turned down, and we ended up waking up around (gasp!) 7:30. I decided that I wanted a glass of milk (for reasons that shall not be divulged), so I called up room service to order it and also request a menu, which we never received that first night. The minutes ticked by, and still no milk. After 25 minutes, Buddy called room service again to ask about it, and he was told that they had no record of that order. Some 4-star hotel. But the woman who eventually did bring it up was very nice, so all was forgiven.
After getting ready, we called everyone up and headed over to the famed Cafe du Monde for breakfast. Having breakfast there on a Saturday morning was probably not the world’s brightest idea, as the line literally went down the street. But we toughed it out and ended up getting two adjacent tables, and enjoyed the beignets and chicory coffee.
After breakfast we met up at our hotel with Cheryl, who had just arrived in town after a business trip in Georgia. She tried to convince the hotel staff that she was me so she could store her luggage there, but that plan fell through when they asked for ID. Buddy and I had a small lunch with her and her friend Matthew in the hotel restaurant. Then we wandered some more around the French Quarter, checking out all the little shops. I got surprisingly tired just walking around that day, a fact that didn’t exactly inspire confidence in my ability to run the next day. We split up in the early evening so that all the marathoners could head over to the Fairmont for the AIDS Marathon pasta dinner. Most of us Switzers (from SF and Berkeley) sat together, and I had a good time loading up on pasta and bread. It was cool to have so many AIDS Marathoners from around the country in one place. We also had some speakers representing the AIDS organizations we were fundraising for, and it was a good reminder of the reason why we were in the training program.
Afterwards we headed back to the hotel, and laid out everything we would need for the next day. Buddy and I were both quite tired, (yay plan!) and went to sleep around 9:30.
Go here for a full race report.
After the race, Nathaniel and Mike treated me and Buddy to lunch at Zydeque where the food was good, and the waiter was nice enough to give me and Buddy bags of ice for our knees. Mike split off to meet up with a friend, so the three of us walked (or hobbled, in my and Buddy’s cases) back to the hotel. We showered, stretched, and rested, (while Nathaniel played minigames on the DS for two hours) and later Greta and Kristen came up to watch
When I had called my mom after the marathon to tell her that I wasn’t dead, I think she was so happy that I was still breathing that she told me to use her credit card to treat my friends to dinner. We initially had a reservation for 5 at K-Paul’s, which we ended up expanding to 12. The meal was quite good, although in a cruel cruel twist of fate, the hostess seated us up stairs. It must have been quite a sight to see 9 mostly 20-something people hobbling up the stairs. Present at the meal were me, Buddy, Nathaniel, Mike, Cheryl, Val, Greta, Kristen, Robert, Wilma, Mel, and Sherise.
After dinner Wilma, Mel, Sherise, Val, and Robert headed back to the hotel, while the rest of us headed to Bourbon Street. We hit up several bars (including the famous Pat O’Brien’s, original home of the Hurricane), wandered around the street a lot (where Kristen got beads the, um, traditional way) and ended up at a dance club for a really long time. I’m not really sure how all of our legs held up for so long. We went back to the hotel around 4 am, made sure to stay up until 4:30 (so we could say we were up for 24 hours) and basically crashed. It was a fun ending to a great day.
Monday morning Buddy, Cheryl, and I woke up pretty late and headed over to a late lunch at Commander’s Palace in the Garden District. While waiting to be seated, we ran into Coach Toby and Theresa and chatted with them about our marathon experience. We were eventually seated upstairs (curses!) and had a really nice meal. I had crab bisque, blackened fish, and a bread pudding souffle for dessert. The service was also fantastic, where they would do fun things like fold your napkin while you were in the bathroom, and change your glass of water once your ice was melted. Cheryl had to catch a plane soon after, so we took a trolley back to the hotel.
After Cheryl left for the airport, Buddy and I rested for a bit, before meeting Wilma, Mel, and Sherise for a jazz boat cruise dinner thingy. Or some combination of those words. It was pretty good, but a little subdued. Also, it was quite dark outside so you couldn’t really see anything on the riverbanks. But it was a nice, low-key dinner, and still fun to hang out with friends, whom I impressed with my cherry-stem tongue-tying skillz.
Afterwards Buddy and I went to Harrah’s where he lost $90 on blackjack, and I lost $35 on slots. Good times! We were pretty tired after that so it was straight to bed.
Tuesday morning Buddy had plans to meet with his pace group for breakfast, so I went back to Cafe du Monde for another round of beignets and coffee. I also took the opportunity to take a few pictures around the French Quarter. After our respective breakfasts, Buddy, Jenny, Anthony and I went to the French Market to buy some
last minute well thought-out gifts for friends and family.
We had plans to have a half-dozen oysters back at the hotel, but we ended up not having enough time before it was time to board the busses back to the airport. I ended up wearing my medal on the plane ride back, and left a cool imprint of it on my arm when I fell asleep on it.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and it was definitely the perfect way to cap off 5 1/2 months of training. I made new friends, hung out with old ones, and ate to my hearts content. Oh yeah, and that marathon thing, too. If any of you are even remotely considering undertaking something like this, do it. You will have no regrets.
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on race day. I changed, had a bagel (provided by the AIDS Marathon folks), stretched, and rolled. I also slapped 3 Ace Bandage heat packs on my IT-bands (2 on the right, 1 on the left). At 5:30 all the AIDS Marathoners met in the lobby of the hotel to walk to the Superdome. It was raining pretty hard, but fortunately Wilma had the foresight to bring an umbrella, so I stayed pretty dry. We milled around in the Superdome for a while waiting for the race to start, and I felt surprisingly calm.
A few minutes before 7, we headed outside to wait for the start. Along the way, we lost Robert a couple of times, but did end up all starting together. It took us about 5 minutes to get to the start line, and we were off! By this time, the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. After 3 minutes, it was already time for our first walk break. We lost Robert again. (You’ll see that this is a common theme.) I felt a little dopey walking 3 minutes into the race, but we remembered that the most important piece of advice our coaches gave us was to take it slow in the beginning. So we kept a pretty slow, steady pace, but around mile 2, Wilma and Ross decided to break from the group. So it was me, Val, and Tony for a while.
My right knee started hurting shortly after, and I told my group that they’d have to help me keep going. We did eventually find Robert again, surprisingly. Around mile 4, we ran into the first AIDS Marathon cheering section. I felt a little silly because we happened to be on our walk break when we saw them. But it was an amazing feeling having a whole crowd of strangers cheering our names (we had written our names on our singlets.) After a few moments I saw Nathaniel on the side, so I took off my jacket and gave it to him and continued on my merry way.
I was feeling pretty good (besides the knee pain), so I asked my group if they wanted to switch to a 4:1 run:walk. Val, wisely, said that we should wait until mile 8. I’d appreciate this in the last few miles of the race.
The next few miles consisted of a lot of turnarounds, so we did see Ross and Wilma again. We also saw our first camera man around mile 10. This was also around the second AIDS Marathon cheering section. I just remember grinning like an idiot while running through the cheering section, and we ended up doing a 10:30 mile.
Mile 13 was back at the Superdome. Since it was also the half marathon finish, there was a lot of noise and commotion, and Robert and I didn’t hear my watch beep for a walk break, and we ended up leaving Val and Tony behind. They had a timing chip pad at the halfway split, and I was somewhere around 2:40. As we passed the halfway mark, we started to see the fastest runners coming in for the finish. It was pretty impressive. Shortly thereafter, I ran into another runner who I had met at the expo. This was his 16th marathon. We had a brief chat before I continued on.
There was a pretty long stretch through the Garden District, and I started unintentionally pulling away from Robert. By 16, I was basically running alone. Policemen were allowing cross traffic through between packs of runners, and there was one woman who was stopped in her car who yelled out her window, “Pick it up!! I have places to be, too!!! Come on!!” I yelled back at her, “Are you serious!?!??” and continued on. People are silly.
At mile 17, I called Caitlin on my cell to wish her a happy birthday. I think the message went something like this: “Hi [huff puff] Caitlin. [huff puff] I’m [huff puff][huff puff]at mile 17[huff puff][huff puff][huff puff][huff puff][huff puff][huff puff][huff puff]Happy[huff puff][huff puff][huff puff]Birthday![huff puff][huff puff]” I’m surprised she could understand me.
Miles 18-21 were in Audubon Park, which was pretty nice. Since it was a loop, I saw a lot of other runners I knew. I saw Wilma had pulled away from Ross, but he was still a ways ahead of me. I also saw Greta and several other AIDS Marathoners.
When I finally exited the park, I knew that I was in the home stretch. At mile 20 I had switched to an 8:1 run:walk to attempt to make up some time. I had been drinking a lot of Gatorade on the course (something I’d never done before) and was feeling a little queasy, so I tried to stay focused and steady. I don’t actually remember much about the last stretch of the race, so I’ll just assume I ran or something. I do know that I tried to smile for the last AIDS Marathon cheering section, but could only come up with some sort of grimace. Just before mile 25, Nathaniel met up with me to run the last stretch with me. Shortly after, Coach Toby ran with me only for a minute or so, but their encouragement was just what I needed at that point. Around mile 25.5, I saw Ross walking ahead of me. I caught up to him and said, “Hey, let’s run it in!” He ran about 10 steps with us before he said that he needed to stop and walk. I guess it was good advice for us to go slow in the beginning.
I ran up to the Superdome and saw Buddy cheering me on the sideline. At the curve to the entrance, I started sprinting. I feel like I was going really fast, but I was probably barely poking along. But I crossed the finish line, weakly held my fist up in the air, and I was done.
I was done.
They put the medal around my neck, cut off my timing chip, and I gave Nathaniel a very sweaty hug. I saw Cheryl and Mike too, and gave them slightly less sweaty hugs.
I was in a bit of a daze, and couldn’t really believe that I was finished. I gathered my senses and called my mom to let her know that I hadn’t died.
My chip time was 5:09:35, which works out to 11:49 miles. I was hoping for a sub-5, but I was still really happy with my time, especially with my injury. There were a couple times were my right knee almost gave out, but it never lasted more than a couple steps. I am living proof that yes, you can run through ITBS. Not that I’d recommend it.
It’s hard to believe that it’s over now. 5 1/2 months of training led up to a single 5-hour event. But it was definitely one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. I pushed myself mentally and surely physically harder than I ever have in my life.
Thank you so much to everyone who supported me both financially and otherwise through this whole ordeal. I’ll let you know how the next one goes.
Current fundraising amount: $4918
|Overall Place||Bib Number||Full Name||Gender||Age||City, State||Race Time||Chip Time||Min/Mile||Half Split||Gender Place/Total||Division||Division Place/Total|
|1291||1345||Sha Sha (Patricia C||F||24||San Jose, CA||5:14:46||5:09:35||11:49||2:41:01||501/943||F2024||74/152|
Full race report to come later.
Current fundraising amount: $4918
In 12 hours, I will be on a plane to New Orleans. Wish me luck!
I probably won’t have e-mail access until I get back next Tuesday, but feel free to give me a call while I’m there.
And on Sunday morning at 7 a.m. Central time, send non-knee-hurty thoughts my way.