So back in February I participated in my first half marathon (13.1 miles). I had a great time in New Orleans, at the race, and at the after party. This one is easier to show in photos...
The entire course was decorated with Mardi Gras floats. I liked this one in particular because the guy looks like he's thinking "What the hell are all these people doing awake so early in my city??"
The starting line. There were so many people at this race that I, in corral 24, started 41 minutes after the Elites. That means the Elites were almost done before I even started!
One thing that kept me going was the awesome course decorations. These royal statues were placed every 5K and was a great way to mark our progress.
Parades are the heart and soul of Mardi Gras, and many of them travel down St. Charles Street. This tree has seen LOTS of Mardi Gras parades! I just absolutely LOVE that the city represents itself with bejeweled trees.
I was still feeling pretty good at this point.
Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, with a championship Saints flag. Taken in the French Quarter, around Mile 7 or 8. By now, the heat was starting to get to me and I was definitely ready to be done!
Almost done, and definitely hurting!
This is where the marathon took a turn for me. This is St. Louis Cemetery on Esplanade. on the course, we had just passed mile 9. The heat was intense and I was about 2 hours and 15 minutes in. I was exhausted and desperately wanted it to be over. I wasn't really having fun any more. The last few miles had taken us through a residential area of town that, while nice, wasn't very visually stimulating. Most of the people who were running along side me were feeling down - for example, when we passed mile 9, some ladies in front of me stopped to walk and i said to them in encouragement "Only 4 more to go!" and the lady's response was "4 miles sounds like a nightmare!" although I didn't exactly echo her sentiments, this kind of attitude is hard to deal with when you're actually on the course. Then I passed the cemetery.
I have a deep love of horror and the occult, especially vampires, but one thing I haven't done in the 9 times I've visited New Orleans is take a cemetery tour. I just never really had the time or money for it. So when I passed this cemetery, I took time to stop and take some pictures.
I was really struck by the lack of color in the cemetery. I wasn't expecting the tombstones to be covered in beads and boas, but for a vibrant, colorful city, the cemetery was a stark contrast. If you are interested in this sort of thing, check out "St. Louis Cemetary 3" on Google Earth. You can scroll through the city and see all the greens and blues of the trees and water compared to the vast white of the cemetery.
I took a five minute break to photograph the cemetery. After that, I was recharged with new creative thoughts about death, vampires, and this amazing city, and I was ready to finish the last 3 miles. I took off toward City Park, which I knew was close.
As I rounded the corner from Esplanade into the City Park area, I saw someone on a truck with a video camera ahead of me. My initial reaction was that it was race crew filming for a promo video for next year. As I passed the truck, I glanced to my right to see who they were filming. My second reaction was "That person looks incredibly familiar! I wonder if they are from Chicago. We must go to the same gym or something," and I slowed to strike up a conversation. At this point - 2 hours and 30 minutes in - I had listened to my favorite playlist all the way through and was craving human interaction. Then I noticed what the familiar looking woman was wearing - a red Biggest Loser t-shirt. It clicked instantly - This was the red team from the current season of the NBC reality show! Oh. My. GOSH! While I was looking at Melissa and making sure that she was in fact who I thought she was, I realized that her husband, Lance, was running directly next to me.
In comparison to some of the other celebrities I have met, Lance and Melissa are hardly famous. Most people would not recognize them on the street. But the Biggest Loser has played a huge part in my life lately, most notably it is a huge part of the reason why I decided to become a personal trainer. I have never been shy about talking to famous people, and after 10 years of working in music I know how to treat the stars like the normal humans that they are.
We were 10 miles in, and Lance was clearly struggling. So I started the conversation by asking how he was doing, and letting him talk. He told me that he was hurting, as he had barely trained for this, but it was his wife's birthday wish, so he was going to finish (damn it.) He was extremely polite and only after about 2 or 3 minutes did we get into the fact that he was on television and I recognized him. I introduced myself and told him that The Biggest Loser had deeply inspired me. We talked about family, work, and running. We chatted for about 10 minutes before Melissa joined in the conversation.
If you watched this past season, you know that Melissa was a very controversial character because she gained weight when she had immunity, and lost huge numbers when she didn't ( therefore ensuring her stay on the show). The trainers accused her of lying, cheating, and manipulating the scale. As a (pending) weight-loss professional, I never believed what the trainers were accusing her of. It's extremely hard to control weight gain and loss like they were implying. Also, I understand the fragility of extreme working out. The contestants on the show were exercising for 6 to 8 hours a day, which is extremely taxing on the psyche. I never believed that Melissa had the emotional capacity to manipulate the scale in the way they were accusing her.
That said, I didn't bring ANY of this up while we were running. First and foremost, I didn't want to piss her off or make her want to stop running with me. When I first saw them, I was SO CLOSE to hitting a wall that I desperately needed their companionship. I wasn't going to risk them leaving me. Also, I wasn't caught up on watching the show and as far as I knew, she was still a contestant. I understand the seriousness of confidentiality clauses, and we were being taped, so I just avoided questions about the show entirely. The one thing I did ask, which I have always wanted to know, was if the confessional interviews are filmed after the events. The show is edited to look like the contestants start the challenge, stop for a 5 minute interview (during which time they talk to the camera in present-tense), then finish the challenge. Melissa told me that all the interviews are done at the end of the day, and they are asked to speak in present tense. Aside from that, I didn't learn much about the show. Mostly we talked about work (Melissa is a prosecutor in a small Texas town, and Lance was a deep-sea diver but is currently looking for something new and closer to home), and both of them knew what they were getting into when they signed up for the show.
We ran together for 3 miles, sharing stories about training and family, advice, and jokes. I absolutely LOVED hanging out with them and kind of wish we could stay friends.
Because we finished together, there is video of us crossing the finish line. YAY! I feel extremely lucky that my first half-marathon was documented this way. I'm the one in the white shirt and black pants (not the yellow):
Then I was done!
It felt amazing.
I LOVE NOLA TREES!!!
This is a bike stuck 25 feet up a tree. I was intriqued by how this could have happened, so I photographed it. It wasn't until I was on the plane home that someone told me this park had been 25 feet under water during the hurricane. I put two and two together, and the result is pretty mind blowing.
One last note - although this was a Rock'N'Roll marathon, none of the bands really stuck out at me. I was actually kind of disappointed that there wasn't more jazz and funk. Yes, it was 8am, but still...