Another half, another inaugural race. Just call me a trailblazer.
I give BDR kudos for being able to switch packet picket on such short notice– and communicate it to the racers — it was the right call. It was supposed to be at Louis Armstrong park, where the race began and ended. But severe thunderstorms were predicted to roll in. So they changed it to a hotel.
I still had to walk there, as we didn’t rent a car. I had to wait a while, because it seemed like every time I decided it was safe enough to venture out, got ready, and stood up, BOOM! A big crack of thunder. Eventually I got there, though, and packet pickup was relatively painless.
The expo only had several booths, none of them tempting. I checked out the sunglasses, which is my typical expo purchase, but they were $40 (unless you wanted ones that weren’t polarized); usually I only pay $20 tops for my sunglasses.
The hype leading up to the race proclaimed “best damn swag” — yeah, not so much. A couple of bars, a couple of ointment samples — seriously nothing to write home about. The race shirt is nice, but not a tech shirt.
I almost got caught in one of the thunderstorms on the way back, but thankfully just got rained on. It was the only day our entire vacation it rained, and it really lowered the temperature. I was hoping the weather app was wrong, and it would help with the race.
My Race Plan
It was really nice to have Rachel @ Runningonhappy hand me my race plan and not have to worry about whether or not I was overreaching myself or not pushing hard enough.
I’m going to put in my actual lap times with the race plan times below (so it will be 11:30 AP, which stands for average pace/11:20 RP – which stands for race plan). I know probably no one but me will read it, but if you’re a real masochist, go for it.
So how’d that work for me?
- Mile 1: 11:35 AP/11:42 RP. Okay, not too bad.
- Mile 2: 11:51 AP/11:37 RP. That was a little worrisome. Maybe just from running that first mile too fast?
- Mile 3: 11:37 AP/11:37 RP. Yeah baby — nailed it!
- Mile 4: 11:25 AP/11:27 RP. Nailed it again.
- Mile 5: 11:43 AP/11:27 RP. Uh-oh. No idea.
- Mile 6: 11:10 AP/11:27 RP. Again no idea. I do tend to get mad when I slow down — overcompensating?
- Mile 7: 11:35 AP/11:27 RP. Ok, it’s hot & it’s humid.
- Mile 8: 11:40 AP/11:27 RP. How weird is it that this was the same pace in the same mile as Craft Classic Phoenix?
- Mile 9: 11:22 AP/11:27 RP. Beginning to hope I could pull off the plan.
- Mile 10: 11:47 AP/11:27 RP. Well, maybe not. We lost the shade and clouds.
- Mile 11: 11:43 AP/11:17 RP. Around now I’m thinking at least it will be a PB for a hot race.
- Mile 12: 11:32 AP/11:07 RP. Color me surprised.
- Mile 13: 11:23 AP/10:57 RP. It dawned on me it could still be a PR.
- Last .21: 10:03 AP/All Out Sprint RP. Sprinting to the finish line
2:32:40 — Official Time
11:37 Average Pace
So, not even half the race followed the race plan. No negative splits. And my paces were all over the place — for the most part I couldn’t even tell you why.
The weather & dressing
The nice thing about going to New Orleans . . . it was always going to be a tank and skirt. Sure, they can get a cold snap at this time of year, but unless the forecast was seriously wrong that wasn’t going to happen and it didn’t.
Was the race well run?
Yes and no. Not bad for an inaugural race (it’s my fourth inaugural race, and you really never know what you’ll get).
- Switching the packet pickup on such short notice.
- Your choice between red & purple for the race shirt.
- I think there were enough portapotties (I got there early enough I barely had to wait).
- At least for me, all aid stations were well stocked.
- Personalized bibs.
- Most awesome medal.
- Pace groups going up to 2:50!
- They kept the finish line open longer than they said they would; the announcers were very enthusiastic all the way through, and they announce you by name as you finish.
- There was still food available when I finished.
- Free massages.
- Free photos.
- Free drinks (I don’t drink, though, so I didn’t check it out)
- And, of course, the chance to register for $10 — that’s what hooked me in the first place — that and the location.
- Seeing Jodi @ Mykindoffit during the race (even though I didn’t recognize her) and afterward, and seeing Tricia @ Misssippipiddlin and MB @ Tutusandtennies afterwards — even if it was just to hug each other and take the obligatory post race selfie
A lot of positives, although I still wasn’t super impressed by the Best Damn Race company. I would say the race wasn’t bad and it wasn’t great. Room for improvement, and I hope they do (although I don’t plan to be back — the whole one and done thing of trying to run a half in every state).
- They posted printed out results immediately after the race — and it stopped at 2:31:00 (and I finished in 2:32:40, so mine weren’t posted and I didn’t find out my official result until later).
- Not too many vendors at the expo — if you needed some emergency socks or fuel, there wasn’t much there for you.
- Although there were some signs in the park, we still found it very hard to find things. The portapotties weren’t immediately apparent — I asked a pacer and he had no idea. I also had to hunt down the massages.
- Jambalaya as post race food. Now, I love me some Jambalaya, but not on a hot, humid day after racing 13.1 miles. There were also brownies (and they were awesome), and bananas. So kind of slim pickins for food.
- The free massages were great, but there were only three therapists and I must have waited at least 45 minutes in line for mine. Not that I’m not very grateful for them, but it was a really long wait.
- Locals enjoyed running down St. Charles; frankly, I didn’t find much scenic about this race.
- The water at aid stations wasn’t cold, it was sometimes served in plastic rather than paper cups — both hard to drink out of on the run and not good for the environment, and most of the time there was maybe a third of a cup of water in there.
- While I was so pleased that there were pace groups going up to my pace range, they were all jumbled together. Frankly, once we started I never saw a pace group at all, and I should have been very close to the 2:30 group at some point.
- Very little spectator support, although there was one family out with a sprinkler, which was much appreciated.
So more positives than negatives.
What I learned
First and foremost, this is the first half I raced after beginning to work with Coach Rachel @ Runningonhappy and it was a resounding success for me and a new PR — after setting a rather large half marathon PR in my previous half.
I can actually have a good race in humidity — I think the cloudiness and shade and flat course were some of the key players in my success with this race; of course you can’t control much of that except for the flatness of the course! Also always carrying water in a hot race is key for me.
One of the other keys was Saltstick Fastchews (Amazon Affiliate link), I think. Unlike Panama City Beach, I had no cramping (at least, not until many hours after the race). I used to use Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes, which worked, but they’re capsules and it was hard to take capsules while racing (at least for me). Since you just chew these, I find them easier to take during a race.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown/French Quarter, and that worked quite well for us, allowing us to enjoy the city and be within walking distance of the race (actually, I did my warmup mile running to the race). Rooms have both a microwave and a refrigerator. The hotel was quiet (except for the odd noises the elevators made!).
Garlic cheese sticks are apparently good race fuel for me.
If you enjoy New Orleans, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy Best Damn Race New Orleans (as long as you’re good with racing in the humidity). Don’t race it for the spectators or good weather, but do race it for the bling, the flat course, and of course, the chance to visit New Orleans.