Latest reviews by Joe Raymond

(2015)
"Fast Course!"
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It was a rainy Saturday morning in New Orleans as I made my way downtown to City Park where the finish line was set up. We parked in the lot and made our way to the shuttles to the race start. We lucked into no wait time when we walked up to the shuttles we loaded right onto a bus and we off. The start line was down near the Superdome so we walked through Champions Square and toward the corral area. I met up with the CCC Blogger crew for a few pictures before the race started. There was a checkpoint here not letting runners into the seeded corrals. I was worried at first about the corrals being full of nonseeded runners and being in the way but they did a great job at preventing this.

I’ve been excited about this race for months and I knew that I wanted a big PR and to push myself mentally and physically as much as I was able too. The weather was overcast and slightly raining, there was a small wind blowing, but the temperature was fantastic for running and the course was waiting. I decided to not forego my spot in the corral because I needed to use the restroom and would just wait until the end of the race.

When the gun went off I took to the streets of New Orleans, the race starts by heading almost a mile down Poydras before turning onto Decatur and running by Jackson Square, Cafe Du Monde and the French Market. I grew up spending my summers with family hanging around the french quarter on the weekends and eating beignets, I love this part of the city.

Before I knew it though we had made the left turn on to Esplande Ave and it was a 4 mile straight shot to City Park. Despite the weather spectators were lined along the course cheering, unfortunately the course was not lined with a single porta potty. By the time I crossed into the City Park and passed under the mile 5 marker I had to stop at the first restroom I had seen the entire race. After a quick stop I was back on the road pushing hard to make up some time for the last mile of the race. I came across the finish line with an official new Personal Record time of 43:31! Beating my previous PR from January’s Walt Disney World 10k by 35 seconds! I think I could have made it in under 43 if I wouldn’t have had that restroom stop.

After the race I sat around at the VIP tent while my other friends and bloggers came across the finish. The food was great and the beer was better as I was working to rehydrate with my Nuun in one hand and a Michelob in the other.

After everyone had come through we took a few pictures and then dispersed. As Becky & I were leaving I wanted to see what my official time was so I went to the results tent and found out that I had finished in the Top 500 males! The Top 500 males and females each win a commemorative poster. (That sell for $50+ each at the expo and the online CCC store)

I was excited about this race for good reason. I had an incredible time over the weekend and can not wait for next year to run again!

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(2015)
"Country Music Marathon"
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Race morning began with an easy drive to downtown Nashville. We parked near the finish line area LP Field (home of the Tennessee Titans) and made our way across the footbridge to the starting area. The walk was about a mile, a nice scenic warmup before the race began. It made for a great place to grab a few photos with the city skyline as the backdrop.

Once we made our way to the starting area we found the corrals were way overcrowded. They stretched across all lanes of the road and there wasn’t enough space on the sidewalk for the masses of runners to move by so we stood in a deadlock for about fifteen minutes waiting for people to move forward. I never made it to my corral, I just stood still after the first waves took off and waited as my corral moved closer to the start.

After having a less than stellar marathon the week before in Kansas I decided to try to maintain a relaxed pace for the day. The weather was supposed to be stormy and there was fear of thunderstorms and race cancellation in the air. My goal for the day was to hang out between a 9:00 & 9:10 minute per mile pace and finally cross Tennessee off the sub 4 State list. As the race started the skies were overcast and the temperature was fantastic. The race started by running straight down Nashville’s Broadway St. (Think of it as a much cleaner version of Beale and Bourbon St) and wrapped around through the downtown area for a couple of miles before pushing into more residential areas. The streets were packed with runners across the entire street. There were areas were my pace was dictated purely by the people around because it was impossible to get around them. Of course, there were normal marathon shenanigans happening along the course. These two guys dressed in full Papa John’s gear carrying pizza boxes ran the full marathon. I saw them several times along the course. Then, there was beer. How do I say no to that? I actually had to double back to grab a picture with a cute little girl holding my favorite sign of the race. (Go Joe) How did she know I was running?

The half and the full split at around mile 11. As normal you can see how many the course immediately thins out as the masses stay to the right. Those half marathoners have the right idea though, it gets really tiring running all day.

I reached the actual half marathon mark about 2 minutes behind where I wanted to be on the clock. No big deal, step it up just a little bit and see how things shake out. Most of the next 10 miles consisted of several out and back loop sections. I saw a few friends running by going one way or the other. It was great seeing people along the way, seeing how some people are focused and others are just along for the ride. I crossed Mile 20 with right at 3:05 on the clock (chip time). I thought I could knock out a 55 minute 10k with little trouble, so that sub 4 shouldn’t be any problem today.

As I passed by Mile 20 the clouds started to open up and the sun came through warming things up quickly. I hadn’t been hydrating through the race like I should have been to take on a last minute heat wave. Miles 22 & 23 wrapped around a lake and this was when I felt myself start to lose control. My mile times dropped from sub 9 to 9:27 then 11:37, then 14:20 for mile 26. Right at the end of the race my body had started to shut down. I came to a complete stop at the final water station and made sure to really hydrate before putting on a smile and coming to the final turn of the race. I came around the bend and saw LP Field in the distance, coming across the finish at 4:10:28.

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t make it in under 4, but Tennessee isn’t very high on my priority list. Not to take anything away from Tennessians, but at the moment I plan on returning to Memphis to run the St. Jude Marathon every December so there is plenty of opportunities to check it off the list. After the race I met back up with Brooklyn (she ran the half marathon) and our friends Mandi (5k) and Brian, who finished a few minutes ahead of me in the marathon! We’ve run 8 marathons together and this was the first time he’s come across the line first.

We went back to the hotel for a shower and lunch (discounted Papa John’s thanks to the Nashville Sounds blowout victory the night before) and then turned back around to head downtown again for the headliner concert. When the race offers a free Martina McBride concert you don’t turn it down!

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(2015)
"Running the Yellow Brick Road"
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When we made it into Olathe we went straight to race packet pickup being held at a Hilton hotel. For a race that seems popular with the Marathon Maniacs and 50 State Marathon Club I was surprised to see such a small event layout. Usually an expo at a hotel means in one of their convention or meeting rooms, but this was no more than 5 tables set up in the lobby of the hotel. After a quick pickup we checked into our hotel down the road and set out for dinner before heading to bed for the night.

The forecast had been telling us for days to expect rain and as we awoke Saturday morning we were all surprised that it had not started yet. We left the hotel just before 6 and made the 15 minute drive to the start line at the Garmin Headquarters. After walking to the starting line area I found my friend Jeff who was leading the 3:40 pace group. Jeff is a Marathon Maniac that I met during the Phoenix Marathon weekend. he needed a ride from his hotel to the Phoenix start line. There were problems with the race sound system so we completely missed the Star Spangled Banner and the race start command. We were having a conversation and all of a sudden everyone in front of us started running!

I hung with Jeff for the first 9 miles or so, talking with him and with the rest of the people in the pace group. There were a lot of first time marathoners in the group. This course was interesting because the half marathon split just after mile 3 and we would rejoin them later, our mile 13-16 was their mile 4-7 and our mile 21-26 was their 8-13. For the first while the weather was holding out. It was humid as it could be in Eastern Kansas but there was a nice overcast and the rain was non existent. Around Mile 11 the temperature started to drop and the rain started coming down. The course turned into a running/nature trail that was paved, but very hilly for just over a mile.

By the time I reached the half marathon mark I could feel that my legs were tired. (I’ve put over 100 miles on my body in the last 2 weeks) My pace was slowing to around a 9:30/mile and I was taking more frequent water and walk breaks. I thought I still had plenty of time banked up and could afford a little break. At Mile 15 I was passed by the 3:50 pace group. Uh-Oh, I had been waiting for the 3:45 group (that apparently never existed) and now I was tired, beat up and making a left turn onto a mud covered path. Walking became not just for the sake of fatigue setting in, but now every few hundred feet there were layers of slick mud covering the running path.

As I reached the turn around of the out and back section right around Mile 18 I was passed by the 4 hour pace group. Sub 4 is always my goal, seeing this pacer go by and knowing that my body wasn’t going to be able to hang with them was a mental barrier that I decided wasn’t worth battling to get through. I worked to keep moving forward through the rain and the stinging pain that was now taking over my right ankle from running on the trail.

We finally made it back to city streets just before mile 22. After 4 miles of a steady incline with a few rolling hills I saw the Garmin HQ coming back into view. Every finish line is exciting, but I was feeling pretty rough as I came around the corner and saw the yellow brick road leading to the finish chute. I crossed the line and snagged my finisher medal, which was gorgeous!

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(2015)
"Down the Hill, Into the Wind"
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Race morning was early, like super early, like runDisney kind of early. We had to catch a shuttle to the start line from the finish area so we arrived at around 3:30 to get in line. We ended up being in one of the first groups to arrive at the start area. It was windy and chilly on the side of the mountain area where we were waiting. There were several heat lamps set out, but we also made a few campfires and waited the almost 2 hours for sunrise to start the race. Our group met up while trying to stay warm and got ready for the morning run.

The sunrise at the start was really incredible and with it the race started. My original intention for this event was a big PR, my legs were still feeling pretty heavy after running hard at the Princess Half Weekend the week before so I wasn’t quite sure how they would hold up. I took the start line and begin my 26.2 mile journey into Phoenix.

Miles 1-4: Initial Descent

The first 5 miles of the run are almost completely downhill. This gives a big start to the runners and really allows you to open the race strong. The danger here is blowing open the gate too fast and burning out early. I knew the course, I knew the elevation, I planned accordingly. I tried to stay between 7:30-8:00/mile pace for this first portion hoping it would conserve plenty of energy to last the later parts of the race.

Miles 5-7: the Climb

The problem with running downhill for 5 miles? You have to run up for the next 2! It’s a climb that never seemed to end. Heading up the hill and waiting desperately for a change in elevation that never seemed to end. I backed off the pace and tried to conserve. I crossed the 10k mark (6.2 miles) at around 47 minutes. My legs were feeling heavy, but I was still making great time through the course.


Miles 8-18: Rolling

A big chunk of rolling hills making our way into the Mesa area. I crossed the 13.1 mark with 1:41:00 showing on the race clock. A little slower than last week’s Half Marathon in Disney, but still checking off miles at a strong pace averaging 7:47/mile. My legs were getting heavier and heavier as I pushed passed the halfway point and I could feel my heart rate speeding up. I spent some extra time at the water stations after mile 15 hoping to stay hydrated and moving forward.

Miles 19-23: The Thirst

My body was feeling more and more depleted as I could feel dehydration and fatigue settling in. I adjusted my run/walk intervals to be more open and took extra time at each water station I ran by.

Miles 24-26: The Push

salt-n-pepa-push-it-commercial

I was constantly doing math, knowing that I wanted to finish sub 4, and that I couldn’t let it slip away in the last 5k. I dug deep and ran through the end as best as I could muster. I felt beat up crossing the finish line. As quickly as I could I found electrolytes and water, then I camped in a line with Carlee for a massage while I waited for Brian to finish. We ran into a few other friends too while we were waiting.

I finished the race with a final time 3:55:15. Sub 4 is always the goal in a new state. This was my 19th overall marathon, 15 overall state, and my 6th < 4:00 state. After the race I set out for lunch at In-N-Out Burger (Always a must do when I’m visiting the West Coast) and we spent the rest of the afternoon watching the Cubs run drills. A really great way to wrap up the weekend!

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(2015)
"26.2 Mile Party"
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I made it to New Orleans much later than I had planned on Saturday because of a show that I had to play that morning and missed the Rock n Blogger meet up at Cafe du Monde. Instead, I went straight to the expo once I made it to town. The expo was help at the convention center in downtown New Orleans by the Carnival cruise departure area and is usually pretty packed. I was lucky to find a metered parking spot just a few blocks away from the expo hall and made the quick walk over. After a super fast bib & shirt pickup we walked through and looked at all the great Brooks event merchandise and then into the general vendor floor. The expo was very crowded while I was there, right around lunch time, but we were able to participate in a few things going on and check out a few other races coming up in the area.

After leaving the expo we went to check into our hotel in Westwego, it was about a 15 minute drive from downtown. It was nice to rest for most of the afternoon, between the races at Disney and then working the expo last week in Baton Rouge I haven’t relaxed before a race day in months. After a few hours Brooklyn made it to town and went through the expo then met up with Us at the hotel. She was with our friend Mandi and they had picked up another friend Lisa who flew in from D.C. Once we were all at the hotel we drive downtown to search for a dinner spot around the French quarter. We went to a small corner bar called 801 Royal, alligator sausage poboy sandwiches!

Sunday morning we were up early at the hotel. 5 of us got ready to run and headed off towards downtown. I dropped off the 4 passengers around the starting area and drove to the finish line, about 7 miles away. I paid for the premium finish parking pass which included a shuttle ride back to the start. With the car safely tucked away about a half mile from the finish I was on the shuttle and ready to run.

I started in the second wave of runners in the first corral and was on the road just over a minute after the race clock started. The race course is really well laid out with significant changes in scenery from the first to second half of the race. The first half of the race is a down and back run around the business district of downtown New Orleans. It’s great running through the French Quarter and past Jefferson Square, Cafe du Monde, and the French market before heading north towards City Park.

I had a fantastic first half of this marathon. I was running strong through the 10k split and even stronger up to the 13.1 mark. I hit a half split of 1:37:23 (Just a few minutes off my half personal best) and looked to be on my way to huge PR!

The half splits just before mile 13 and the marathoners wrap around the park and head out towards Lakeshore Drive. The back half is a down and back run along the edge of Lake Ponchatrain. The lake had a strong wind coming off of it that made the run rough. However, this would be the least of my problems. After crossing the mile 16 mark with right at 2 hours on the clock the shin splints that I have been battling since the Disney 10k decided to show up and make their presence known in a big way! I had to pull back the reigns and resort to plan B, which was finish a sub 4 marathon in the state of Louisiana. I took the advice of Jeff Galloway given to me at the WDW Half Marathon and adjusted to a 2 minute run, 30 second walk interval shortening my stride and decreasing my cadence speed.

The last 10 miles of the race took almost 2 hours as I battled through the pain in my shin. I knew though with the Phoenix Marathon just over a month away that it was better to finish today and not further aggravate the problem. It’s always upsetting to see a potential goal drift by. I was at mile 18 when the 3:15 pace group passed me by. Then at 21 the 3:30 group, mile 23 the 3:45 group passed by. I crossed the finish with a time of 3:52:30, a successful sub 4 finish. and 9 minutes than the last time I ran RnR NOLA in 2012. Take victories where you can find them. Sub 4 state #5!

After a few post race pictures I met up with Mandi, she ran the 10k, in the reunion area and we watched the post race concert while we waited for the rest of our party to finish the marathon. After a few drinks, jumbalaya, and a great concert by the Kongos we went to the finish line to watch Brooklyn and Lisa come across!

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