Race Recap: New Orleans Marathon (Part 2)

I want to start today’s recap with a reminder of where I started as a runner/athlete. There are some people who decide  they want to start running and go out for a 3 mile run. That was NOT me. I worked up to 3 miles over 12 weeks and ran/walked my first 5K in over 42 minutes. I finished my first marathon with a time of 6:45. Why am I telling you this? So that as you read this race report, you keep in mind that no  matter where you are today as a runner, you CAN go farther and faster.

I am not the type of person who likes to get to races early. In fact, if I could time it so the races started 2 minutes after I arrived, that would be perfect. I have all my gear laid out and ready to go the night before, so getting dressed is the easy part. I also assembled my “B12 Blast” power breakfast and munched on that while getting ready: bagel with peanut butter, marmite, nooch, and chia seeds. Yes, I know I’m weird, but it’s obviously awesome!! =)

2012 - NOLA Marathon Weekend

We walked to the start, arriving around 6:30AM – plenty of time for few pictures before the 7AM start. Stuft Mama’s Flat Kitty even had time to wish me luck!




I was in corral 6, so it didn’t take too long to cross the starting line. I wish I had paid more attention to the starting time, because as we passed the clocks at each mile along the course, I had no idea how far off from my time they were.

I break down a marathon into three sections: two 10 mile runs and one 6.2 mile run. It’s a mental game that works for me, so I’ll follow that format in my review of the race below. :)

Miles 1-10

The race began and I started my Garmin GPS. The biggest reason I race with a watch is typically to make sure I don’t start out to fast. I set a lower limit of 8:50s for myself, any faster and I had to slow down. The watch was struggling a bit to capture the right pace and I had to run by feel more than I would have liked for the first mile (unless I really was running a 6-7 minute mile, but I doubt it!).

It seemed to find the signal after that first mile and I started focusing on the average pace per mile to settle into the right pace. That was the main focus for these first 10 miles – breathe easy, don’t go too fast, and enjoy the race. As we came through the French Quarter, this giant blowup arch was crossing the road. I pulled out my phone and did my best to capture a quick photo for you while I ran:

happy2012-03-04 08.30.32


A lot of people made comments about my “No Meat Athlete” shirt throughout the day – almost all of them encouraging and it was fun to chat and pass the time. It was fun to meet other veg athletes this way on the course and hopefully encouraged a few moments of thought for anyone who still things you need meat to be a successful athlete. :)

Miles 10-20

On the way out of the Quarter, we passed the 10 mile mark – yipee!! – the first section of the race was complete! When I realized we were headed down a road near our hotel, I scooted over to the left side of the street and looked for Kirk. I pulled my arm warmers and gloves out of my fuelbelt and threw them in his direction (it was a terrible throw – I can’t throw well and run at the same time!)


The road started to get a little rougher now, so I spent more time watching my footing to be sure I didn’t trip. I also noticed my right pinkie toe (on the top) was starting to hurt. What that heck – that’s a new one? I followed my plan and ignored the pain as much as possible, trying to wiggle my foot and adjust things to minimize the pain. Around this time my Garmin decided it was done with the race and turned itself off. I messed with it for a few miles before giving up. The rest of the race was run mostly by feel.


Between mile 14 and 15, the pain in my pinkie toe was too much and I moved to the side of the road and sat down to take off my shoe. I couldn’t feel anything rubbing in my foot, but the joint at the base of my pinkie toe was pretty swollen…great. I ended up turning my socks inside out  – something I did on a training run last year when dust was rubbing against my foot – I figured it was worth a shot. It actually did help somewhat, although it still hurt, and I knew there was really all I could do – no more stopping, time to suck it up.


Lakeshore Drive was a hard stretch (miles 16.5 – 22). It was getting warm, there was a strong wind in one direction, and there was no shade. I just wanted to get off the levee and run under some trees! At mile 18 I saw Kirk again – yay! It’s always a mental boost to see a familiar face (especially him!) on the course and I smiled for the camera. He asked how I was doing and I told him weird things were hurting. He told me “Ok – just keep running”, which was what I needed to hear.

leveethumbs up

(source)                          (source)

While running by the water, I realized how different my approach to races has become. If you looked around on the course, it was very scenic — we ran through the garden district, the French Quarter, and by the water –but I realized that I really didn’t look around much. I was focused on running, pacing, and maintaining a good mental attitude that I really didn’t look around as much as you’d think.  The bands every mile were a nice distraction, but they came and went so fast. A scenic location is not my top priority for marathons. 


Miles 20-26.2

Passing mile 20 was awesome – only 6 miles to go!! Yes, you read that right, only 6 miles to go. The 50K really did help me here, since passing the 20 mile mark a month ago meant I had 11 miles left – 6 sounds a lot better! At 22 miles, I was so happy to turn back onto the tree-lined street and get some shade. I do not like running in warm weather.


Kirk appeared again around 23 miles and ran along side the course until mile 24. I remember that he was getting text messages from the race with my progress, so I asked him if he knew what pace I was running. When he said I was still on pace for a 3:55, I was shocked! I had walked through a few water stops stations to refill bottles and felt like my pace had slowed, I assumed the 3:55 goal had been lost a few miles ago.

Time to dig deeper and keep pushing– how bad do you want 3:55?!

The last 2 miles went on FOREVER.  I wanted to stop, to lay down, to do anything but keep running. Whenever I felt myself slowing to walk, I shifted focus and allowed myself to just run slower – “You can do this”, I kept telling myself.

With a mile to go, we entered City Park and I ran the longest mile of my life. Where is the finish line? We looped around City Park and you couldn’t see the finish line until it was right in front of you. Coming down the shoot, I could see the clock, but I didn’t know what that meant for my time.



I crossed the finish line and looked for Kirk. When I found him through the fence I asked about my time.


WHAT?! Seriously? YES!! Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it, seriously? You’re sure? That’s so freakin awesome!! I really want to lie down now.. Ok, after one more picture!



It was a hard day, but I loved it! The weather could have been cooler, I would have loved it if my toe/foot wouldn’t have hurt for at least 10 miles, the sky could have been overcast…but you know, there’s rarely a perfect race. My stomach never bothered me (that’s a first), my hydration was perfect, my nutrition was perfect, and I made good decisions throughout the race.

I’m learning (finally) that you just need to know it’s not going to all go well, but you can prepare for dealing with whatever comes up.

In case you missed Part 1, click here to read about my Pre-Race Adventures.

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    • says

      Thanks Beth – I do love it!! I should have put the toe details in the post – it was actually just a really bad (painful) blister. Wish I had known that while I was running, I had some crazy diagnoses running through my head. 😉

  1. says

    First of all, congratulations on your awesome time! Also, you totally rocked those blue sleeves!

    I really liked the fact that you started this post out with your running origin story (yes, origin story like a super hero). Its so inspirational to see how far you have come as a runner.

    Your bagel combination intrigues me, I may have to give it a try sometime, just need to find marmite.

    Enjoy your rest and take care of that toe!

    • says

      Thanks Rebecca!! I do love the bright colored Zensahs, I almost bought a green pair at the expo.

      I’m so glad that my story helped put this race in perspective for you, a lot of people assume I’ve always run and I want to share that anyone can do it – it just takes time and work! :)

      Marmite is an aquired taste for many people – I think Vegemite is a milder choice (and my fav), but harder to find. Remember to use a very small amount if you try it!

      And toe is doing great now – I need to go back an update – it was actually just a bad and poorly placed blister!

    • says

      Thanks Laura! I was pretty surprised I was still running at many points during the race, but my actually body listened when I told it that wasn’t an option. :)

  2. says

    congratulations! that is so amazing you were able to make your goals all while smiling through any pain! and thanks for sharing a little about how your running journey started, it’s nice for me to see how far you have come as someone just starting with running! :)
    Traci @yellowWISHBONE recently posted…Fitblogger FeatureMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks Traci – getting a good picture outweighs the pain sometimes. :) YES – it doesn’t matter your background, you can get better and go farther as a runner!! You’ve been doing a great job with your training so far!

  3. says

    Awesome lady! It’s so nice to hear a marathon runner say that it takes hard work to do what you do. Running is not easy for me and progress is slow, but I am getting better and it feels good to hear that you started similarly.
    Alayna @ Thyme Bombe recently posted…Getting my art onMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks Alayna! If you hear someone say training for a marathon doesn’t take hard work, they are crazy. :) Or they are in for a very painful and long event on race day. “Running isn’t easy, you just get faster” =)

  4. says

    GREAT STUFF! I’m an NMA too and had to laugh out loud when I saw the pictures of your “goods” that you had set out before departure. I have an almost identical photo posted to my Facebook the night before the Marine Corps Marathon in October – NMA shirt, Nuun, Vega, same skirt, etc. Congrats on your amazing time – that’s just awesome! I’m just hours away from registering for Marine Corp again this fall – it’s all out online warfare beginning at 3:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow. Send an fellow NMA’er some of those 3:55 vibes if possible :)
    Lauren McHugh recently posted…MSGeeeez!My Profile

    • says

      Love meeting other plant-strong athletes!! And apparently you have good taste in running clothing & nutrition. =)

      I’m doing MCM this year too! My hubby did it last year (I was still recovering from a bike wreck) and I deffered, so I’m already registered. He’s planning to register tomorrow too – good luck!! We’ll have to plan a meetup in October. :)

      • says

        Happy to report that I made it in! Would love to connect at the race! My little group of runners is almost all vegetarian (I’ll crack the remaining few before race day! ha) and I’ve recommended your site to all of them. Being a vegetarian/vegan athlete is unique and wonderful! It’s nice to share the love…
        Lauren McHugh recently posted…MSGeeez Part 2My Profile

        • says

          Yay!!! We’ll have to make some plans when the dates get closer. There are so many veggie restaurants in DC to choose from, it’s going to be a great weekend! Thanks so much for sharing my site, you rock!!

  5. says

    someday i will be like you. someday i will embrace this gift of running. and someday i will drink a glass of wine to celebrate… WITH YOU! congrats!

    • says

      I’ll be happy to join you for a race, as long as it’s not during the Texas summer heat. :) The celebratory wine is delicious – we have a bottle picked out for later this week that was earmarked for the 4:00 barrier!

    • says

      It doesn’t seem quite as far when you do a 50K first – it’s all relative. :) Seriously though, each distance builds on itself and what seems impossible isn’t nearly so. You could do it – just need to pick a race and have time to train!

  6. says

    Awesome recap and incredible race, Heather! I feel so proud of you…way to go and great work really earning that PR and not giving up. The photos are fantastic and I loved reading about your experience; thanks for sharing with us! 😀
    Bonnie recently posted…100 Burpee ChallengeMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks Bonnie – one day I’m going to get you to sign up for a marathon (or ultra) and hear all about it!! I’m glad you enjoyed the pics, I made sure to smile regardless of how I was feeling as often as possible – positive attitude!

  7. Samantha says

    Way to go girl! Sounds like your race was a lot tougher than mine – I’m so glad you met your goal and really pushed through!

    I find scenery a perfect distraction, quite opposite of you, it’s key on my list when looking for races!
    Samantha recently posted…Rock N Roll New Orleans: Race RecapMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks Samantha – I think it’s being prepared for issues and learning how to keep pushing anyway. I used to be into distractions, and still am for certain distances (Ironman, for example), so I was surprised to find it unnecessary for a marathon this time.

    • says

      Thanks Harold! It’s always crazy to look back and remember how all this running fun started, you’re right it’s miles away from today!

    • says

      Absolutely – I know how it is to be starting out! =) There is so much progress that ANYONE can make if you put in the time and effort. Thanks for stopping by Callie!

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    tips for backpacking lost coast recently posted…tips for backpacking lost coastMy Profile


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