Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Orleans Rock N Roll Half Marathon

Rock 'n Roll event Number 3 of 2013: New Orleans Half Marathon

Saturday, February 23rd:

Upon our return to Ashley's place after the MS Walk this morning the rains returned as well. We changed into warm, dry clothes then set out towards the French Quarter where we were in search of food, UNC-NC State Basketball and a familiar face at George's Pin-release party at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Ashley generously offered to be our chauffeur for most of our weekend with her. It's so nice to be with a local who knows the back ways and secret parking options! Here we are in the heart of the French Quarter on our way to the Hard Rock Cafe.

Our friend, George Melichar! He invited us to his autograph-signing, pin-release event at Hard Rock so we came in true George style (at least in Geo T-shirts and leopard print sleevies, if not full-fledged mohawks again).  The proceeds of George's pin sales go to charity and with his rock-star status we're certain they will sell out quickly. Great job, George!!

Here's George's pin, a limited release. How cool is this?!!!

We finally get to introduce our 2 favorite New Orleans celebs to one another.

It was so much fun to see George interact with his fans. He's always so gracious and personable and today was no exception. The line to meet him was out the door as we were leaving.

Some of his youngest fans.

The little boy to the far right waited patiently in line to meet George and we heard him ask with wide eyes, "Mommy, is he REAL?" Ha! Too cute.

Off to the next adventure I share a moment with the statue of fictitious Ignatius J. Reilly just off of Bourbon St. "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

Next stop in the Graham Guide, the Roosevelt Hotel for a quick break and a little shopping!
One item on the agenda this afternoon is something we each have a vested interest in: watching the UNC vs. NC State basketball game. State is Jim's team while Ashley and I both went to Carolina so the rivalry is on! We went to Bourbon House per Ashley's recommendation and watched the game at the bar while enjoying the great food and atmosphere. Forgive me, I was so wrapped up in the Tarheels that I neglected to get photos but here's a link to the restaurant:

Two hours- and a Tarheel victory-later (yes!!) we made our way back to Ashley's neighborhood for one last bite for the evening. We have a 4:30am wake-up call in the morning so we thought we'd have a very early light dinner and hit the sack. Another of Ashley's recommendations, Ancora, turned out to be perfect.

Famous for their wood-fired pizzas we had to try one...

The 3 of us split one Margharita pizza before heading back to the house. YUMMMMMMMM!

Sunday, February 24th...Race Day!!

I turn Ashley's dining room into a craft studio and work on my Get Back UP sign pre-dawn.

Almost ready, just a few more pieces of leopard print duct tape to make it more wind-proof.

What a trooper! Chauffeur Ashley up before dawn to get us to the race start...we are getting the full VIP treatment. Jim telling me to "get back today?" I guess all this running is ruining his patience for getting up before dark to embark upon yet another 13.1-mile trek.

The flowers at VIP are a cheery sight in the dark morning.

Finally the sun peeks over the horizon.

No hot chocolate for Ashley here but Jim finds his coffee without delay!

Ashley's cousin Jonathan and his wife Alicia meet George Melichar for the first time. Their daughters have collected Hard Rock pins for years so this is a special photo for the parents: Once their daughters get their newest pins (the George-pin, of course!) then see their parents hob-nobbing with the inspiration for the pin, it is actually possible that these parents will receive the elusive "cool" moniker from their own offspring!

Incredibly the overnight winds, hail, deluge, thunder and lightning have completely disappeared as the race gets underway.

The crowd in the corrals behind us show reverence for the National Anthem being played via guitar solo by Pearl Jam's Mike McCready. McCready is going to run the Half Marathon after his solo in support of Team Gleason for ALS.

Brilliant! Jim forgets that he has his reading glasses on and it's too late to do anything about it. Oh well, 3 miles until we see Ashley where he can toss them off... I guess we can stop for reading breaks during the first half hour of running.

Jim will support me by running my pace today...SLOW by mandate of my neurosurgeon. I don't know how I will feel so I have 4 spots picked out along the course where I can easily drop out and get back to the finish area in case anything feels amiss with my spine.

First stop, the 3-mile mark! Ashley and her cousin, Jonathan on the course in her neighborhood. We dropped off our headbands, arm warmers, extra shirt layers and reading glasses for safekeeping with Ashley now that it has warmed up. A & J will see us again around mile 6 where they'll make their way after seeing Alicia come through.

As per my promise to doctors I take frequent walk breaks to ensure that I don't get fatigued. (With fatigue comes sloppy running form and sloppy form will prevent proper healing at the site of my spinal fusion surgery. I am obedient!!! ) Here I'm stopping to take photos of everyone running by me.

Walking along the right side of the course while runners are flying past me on the left. I thank the officers for their service whenever I see them... this one is taking her job very seriously today and I can't get her to smile for my photo.

I make Jim stop with me every time I stop to walk. Apparently this is a treat for him, I'm not used to seeing him smile when we run together...usually he's trying just to breathe.

Proof for Dr. Roy! See all those people passing me? See my feet NOT moving?

We met an awesome group of fans on the course, they are with Training Wheels Personal Training. They had free Gatorade (or free beer, depending upon the runner's choice) to offer in addition to great motivational cheers as we went by. Thanks, TWPT!!!

Yeah!!! I made it to the finish line without having to drop out and so did Ashley and Jonathan. We got to see them at the start, at mile 3, at mile 6 and along mile 12 until finally seeing them at the finish. I'm guessing they logged at least 10 miles without being entered today. Thanks for the amazing support!

Mike McCready of Pearl Jam had a great run today. Congratulations, Mike!

No Merle here this weekend but Sweaty Bands were everywhere...and in place! the Finish Line.

George finishes the Full Marathon before the rain sets in. He's obviously a hit with his fans.

David "The Clydesdale Runner" DeNeire runs a personal best in the Full today...congrats, David! 

The full marathoners congratulate and commiserate. 

4 weeks after spinal fusion surgery and I have completed a Half Marathon. Have I said "Thank You, Dr. Roy and Team" 100 times yet today?

The race support crew with their well-earned Get Back UP medals and Alicia, who finished her first-ever Half Marathon today. Alicia said her medal was too heavy to wear after running 13.1 miles. Clearly you can see from her expression that she's not happy with her accomplishment.

Joe surpassed his goals today in the Full Marathon and is all smiles to prove it. 

Friends at the Finish! What a great day and a great weekend with our two favorite NOLA residents.

Following a brief stop at Ashley's house to shower and change clothes after a long day of Rockin' and Rollin', Ashley donned her chauffeur cap yet again. She took us to another local favorite area, Frenchman Street, and this is a view along our walk down there.
Once again, I neglected to get photos of our food and experiences on Frenchman Street...I was too busy enjoying Ashley's company, her stories of local lore and basically just catching up on the life of a friend from home. I can share with you some of the favorite spots we visited though: The Three Muses... (my personal favorite),  The Spotted Cat, and Although at the Marigny I might recommend avoiding the Jumbo Lump Crab and Pimento Cheese Dip, which I didn't eat because it looked very, very, unappetizing, Pepto-Bismol pink! Really. Everything else there was great though.
As you can see, the storm clouds are building again! We popped into a few great music clubs and restaurants for "appetizer-hopping" before we realized we didn't want to be caught in the downpour. 
Monday, February 25th:

Jim plans to work all day with one of his reps, they are heading to Baton Rouge from where he will fly home tomorrow, so we plan to share coffee before he departs.  I will fly home later this afternoon and hope to have lunch with Ashley before leaving town. We walk 3 blocks down Milan street to find freshly brewed coffee and delectable beignets!

One made-to-order small portion of beignets contains 3 of these incredible treats. We forced ourselves to share the Small: I had one and Jim had the other two. We both quite easily could have eaten another 2 or 3 each!

My stepdad, Robert...

...Jackson! Fitting to see Robert Jackson here since all of the food here made me think of him.

And then a spot for my youngest nephew, Joey K. !

Fittingly for an inside family joke, Joey K's is on the corner of 7th avenue.

Maria, this one's for you. Just don't "Be the dead bunny".

Another Joey K. sighting in an art shop around the corner.

One final favorite on Ashley's list before I leave town: St. James Cheese Company. What a fabulous place for cheese (of course!) but also fresh salads and sandwiches. We had a wonderful lunch here, just the 2 of us, before I headed back to the airport for home.
If Jim could only eat one food for the rest of his life I'm certain it would be cheese. Too bad he missed out on the St. James Cheese Company, it would have been very high on his list of favorites.

I opted for a light assortment of fruit and cheese, a perfect way to end my culinary tour of NOLA!
It was tough saying goodbye to Ashley, she truly went the extra mile in playing host, chauffeur, concierge, valet, cheerleader, tour guide and FRIEND this weekend. She's been gone from Greensboro as long as she once lived there so apart from a quick Christmas sighting here and there we don't see each other much anymore. Thank you, Ashley, for everything you did for us this weekend. It was great to see you and next time I know you'll be running with us!

Between my 2 flights home I got an amazing email from my great friend (from junior high school), Rod Davis. Rod had the misfortune years ago of a bad fall on the ice on a college campus and suffered compartment syndrome in his leg. Once a gifted athlete, Rod learned that his leg had to be amputated after that fall. For many years he has been hoping for a prosthetic leg that would allow him to be an athlete once again...and he finally got his wish! Rod emailed these photos to me of his first 5K since being an amputee... I was so excited I started to cry right in the middle of the airport! 
Rod on the left with another runner at the Wounded Warriors 5K in NC.

Rod celebrates his first steps of Getting Back UP in his new running leg. Rod, when I get home we're gonna finally have that run together...I can't wait. And a shout-out here to Advanced P&O, my orthotists and Rod's Prosthetists in the Triad of NC, for getting us both back up and guys ROCK!

This year's Half Marathon medal from New Orleans
With a time of 2:15:46, about 2 minutes per mile slower than last year's run here of 1:52:51, I finished my 1st 1/2 marathon since undergoing my 2nd spinal fusion surgery. (Wow, that was a lot of numbers in one sentence.) It has only been 4 weeks post-surgery and I am over the moon about my time! Most likely I will have slower times in the next few events (this was very flat, perfect temperature for running and we had a tail wind much of the way) because I vow to follow doctor's orders and take my healing very seriously. Hopefully by late May or early June I will be able to train in earnest again and get back up to speed. For now, I am still so grateful just to Get Back UP at all. Did I say "Thank you, Dr. Roy!"?

See you in DC!!

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