Rock n Roll Marathon Series, Running

Race Recap: Rock n Roll New Orleans 2018

It’s hard to believe we’re three months in to 2018 already. Time is flying.

We headed to New Orleans for my birthday weekend. My best friend booked a ticket to The Big Easy to join in on the fun. I don’t actually recall when we’ve ever traveled anywhere together aside from family trips, so it seemed like a first for us!

My trip to New Orleans followed on the heels of another whirlwind work trip. My race trips seem to do that more often now. Traveling hasn’t worn on me yet, but the time zone switches and the long stretches on airplanes sure do a number on my body. I spent about 48 hours in Seattle and then headed back to Denver for 12 hours. Then, we boarded our flight to New Orleans and landed at 10am on Saturday morning. We picked up our rental car and headed straight away to the expo!

Ever since the start of the year, I had been wanting to do a full marathon. Arizona had a 7-hour cutoff, but I was unable to put in the training because I came down with something. Then, I was pretty much out of commission in between Rock n Roll Arizona and most of February because of my multiple colds and ear infection. By the time March rolled around, Rock n Roll New Orleans also promised a 7-hour cutoff but I had just enough training on my legs for a half.

The thing about a full marathon is that you can’t cheat the distance. What I mean is that you’re either ready for the distance or you’re not. Being nervous about the race is one thing. Being unsure of your level of preparation is another.

33 hadn’t felt all too impressive to me. When I think back to what I’ve done in the last year, I couldn’t think of anything all that amazing. I guess I had bought a house, and that I finished the Rock n Roll Marathon Series Hall of Fame, but I still wanted something amazing to close out my year. And what I wanted was a marathon. I wanted redemption for such a poor experience at Rock n Roll San Antonio because I was still really upset by that finish. Some people would have felt proud or courageous, but I still feel pretty demoralized.

I waffled a lot on my decision whether or not to run the full or the half. I openly waffled on it, which was probably a signal that I should do the half. As I was looking for consolation, justification, or really just emotional support, what I really got was something along the line of “well, you nearly got swept at San Antonio, and you actually prepared for that, so…” So I lost it on the expo floor. San Antonio was an awful race — emotionally and physically. I was finally getting over being sick for…well, forever. If I had to be completely honest, February was a really awful and shitty month. I was hoping for a redemptive birthday weekend. I was looking forward to this being a kickoff to an amazing year ahead. Instead, all I got was this.

The statement had completely taken the wind out of my sails. I tried not to let it hurt me, but it did. And I tried not to let it consume my race, but it did.

I think there comes a point in every runner’s career when they realize that they will ultimately have to put the work in, and they will have to do it alone. It’s not necessarily a bad or depressing thing. Setting up your own goals, keeping them personal to you, putting in the work, and accomplishing them is a very rewarding thing. Sometimes sharing your journey is a good thing. Sometimes sharing it can backfire. And I try not to let other people’s words affect me too much, but every once in awhile the vulnerability peeks through. Sometimes the people whose words matter most can never say exactly what it is you want to hear.

The weekend went on – we went to grab some food, and lots of it. One of my favorite things to do is to eat. I also love to do it when I’m upset, so I dove headfirst into a plate of beignets. Writing about it now, I wish I could have some. I didn’t take pics of all of the food I had, but I don’t think I had one bad meal there. It was all fantastic. If I ever moved to New Orleans I think I’d never go wanting for a delectable meal or sweets:

Race morning came. We opted for shuttles since it was a point to point course and with the logistics of three people, I didn’t really feel like trying to figure it out. I was still upset overall about how the weekend had kicked off, but I tried to keep my chin up. The race started off pretty chilly but quickly warmed up. It wasn’t unbearable — actually, it was a great change from the weather I’d been dealing with in Denver. Almost anywhere would seem warmer than Denver (although I’d heard about the blizzards in the northeast). For the first 10 or so miles I tried to push the negative thoughts out of my head. Those negative emotions had consumed more than enough of my weekend already, and I really did want to move on. Maybe I should resolve to not share my half-baked ideas, or even my big goals. But, what kind of life is that? I spent a lot of my run either on the verge of tears, tearing up, or crying. It reminded me a lot of how I felt at Disneyland Paris, except instead of being 3.1 miles it had dragged on for 10. There’s a saying that a run fixes everything – that somehow, if a problem hasn’t solved itself after a run, then maybe it can’t be solved. Lately my runs haven’t solved much of anything so either I keep going or I just accept that some problems can’t be fixed.

As soon as I got to the French Quarter, I tried to focus on myself. After all, I had come all this way for a race in a new city. I might as well enjoy it, rather than fret about something that had already happened. No one else was going to care about how awful I felt – why should I wallow in it and let it ruin more of my weekend? I tried to enjoy as much of the sunshine and warmth as I could. The sun was really beating down on us since there was no shade between the French Quarter and the finish line.

Once I got to the finish, I didn’t feel all too bad. I needed some shade to cool down, so we found a cool spot away from the crowds. As I stretched, a small camera crew came by and so did Katherine Switzer.

Now there was a woman who didn’t care about those who had tried to put her down. Many people told her that she couldn’t run a marathon. Many people tried to intimidate her. They insulted her. They even tried to pull her off a marathon course. How demoralizing is that? And then, there was me, with a few races where I felt the same way: demoralized. Meeting her seemed timely. Maybe I should be more like Katherine Switzer. I should be brave. I should keep putting in the work. I should go out there and do the thing that I set out to do.

It seemed like a fitting end to a race weekend.

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About Amara Poolswasdi Hulslander