Latitude 17N

Monday, February 25, 2008

New Orleans Mardi Gras Half Marathon

Yesterday Jaime and I participated in the 44th annual Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans, LA. The race started bright and early at 7 am. As Jaime and I have been very busy for the last couple of months with holidays, moving and starting clinicals—not to mention the freezing cold weather and snow—we have not had much time or desire for training. I have done about 5 short runs since our last half marathon in October and Jaime has had fewer than that so we were ready for punishment. Our race began beneath a foggy ceiling. The air was cool and the crowd was pumped. After the anthem was played over a loud speaker the race director gave us the “Runners set…” and then the horn. We raced around a few roads before ending up on Bourbon St. Anyone familiar with New Orleans knows that Bourbon St is known for wall to wall bars and people staying up all night and walking around with beer in cups which spill all over the road along with other fluids that are washed off the street each night. We were lucky that the street had been cleaned although I think the runner high I thought I had was actually a high from inhaled alcohol fumes wafting up off the pavement. We passed a couple of bars that had not closed and people were lined up outside with drinks in hand cheering us on. No joke. Next, we ran up St. Charles to Audubon Park. The halfway mark was inside the park where runners were surprised with a beer and martini stop at the halfway mark. Only in New Orleans would you find such a thing. The town is known for its partying and drinking is a way of life here. At this point I was feeling good in my run and did not indulge in any spirits. But I did think about it! Haha. About 9 miles into my run my calf muscles started to ache. I was on target for my best time in a half but the last few miles were difficult and I ended up finishing at my worst ever half marathon time on the easiest course ever. The ONLY incline I can remember is a step up to get into Audubon Park. New Orleans is pretty much all BELOW sea level and sinking deeper and deeper with every storm. Needless to say I was really happy to finish, collected my finishers medal and found Jaime who I had seen cheering me on near the end of my run. I’m sure he could see I was willing my way with every step. It was a completely mental effort at that point. We didn’t have time to stick around after the race because we had to go over the 26 mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain to my sister’s house to pick up Julian. Jaime’s race was better than mine. Although he was pushing himself near the end he finished at a time better than his first half marathon. His finishing time was 1:43:48 and mine was 2:00:26. Next year we will train and do the full marathon.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mard Gras

Mardi Gras in southern Louisiana is a holiday seemingly bigger than Christmas. The schools are closed for 3-5 days. The celebration includes many parties, balls, and parades. The parades are hosted by a Krewe and each parade has a Grand Marshall and a King and Queen. The first parade we went to was in Houma. We set out to go to the parade and were running a bit late. As we approached the parade route there were hundreds of people lined up on the side of the road. Cars parked on lawns, driveways, and the side of the road. Soon we were blocked into the parking lot that we parked in. We waited, and waited, and waited; for three hours we waited for the parade to start watching people become undisciplined with themselves and their kids. We were introduced to Houma’s “finest” and were ready to go home before the parade even started but we were unable to leave the parking lot so we waited some more. Finally, ten or so Mardi Gras police motorcycles came whizzing down the road in a figure 8 motion. They speed in the figure 8 revving up their engines and getting the people excited. In the distance music can be heard and voices yelling. The excitement escalates until the float is in front of us and we are showered with beads. We grab for the beads and put them on. The people next to us give us a bag to gather our loot and tell us they have more when that one is full. We think they are crazy but the bag is soon full of beads, candy, cups, and little trinkets from the parade. Now, we’re having fun! Julian gets into the spirit yelling at the floaters to throw him some loot. The parade has dancers, school bands, funny cars and many, many floats that come one after the other. We end up with two bags of loot and a bunch of stuff that we kept dropping back at the car.

On Saturday we met the Morrisons in Metarie for another parade. This one had Al Roker as the Grand Marshall. He was up on a float waving and throwing beads and plastic cups with his picture on them. We were introduced to the weirdness of Mardi Gras territory wars as we tried to find a spot to watch the parade. People come out and stay all night to claim their territory. They mark their spot with chairs and coolers sometimes even spray painting their grid or marking it with rope. We invaded someone’s territory and were soon told this is against the rules. Jaime got into it with the woman trying to understand the whole thing. We ended up moving a couple of feet down the street and that was ok with her. A nice lady in that “territory” told us we could sit in her chair if we got tired. We were seeing all angles of the crowd. This parade had bigger floats with tons of loot. We brought a big canvas bag and soon filled it. Julian scored an official Mardi Gras bag and by the end that was full too. It was fun doing a parade with our seasoned family who lives in Mandeville. They understand the whole Mardi Gras thing and tried to explain it all to us. We had a great time but the parade was followed by another parade and by about halfway through that we were hungry and tired and we bailed out. The Morrisons bailed out too. I am glad I made it down in time to have a taste of this interesting season. People decorate their homes for Mardi Gras and King Cakes are plentiful in the grocery stores. Next year we will plan ahead. There is a magazine that comes out and describes the parades and who will be in them. It is a good way to plan for a successful Mardi Gras season.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Big Move

Well...our move is now complete...well we are not even close to being unpacked but we are here in Houma, LA in our new apartment. We left Thursday night at about 10:30 pm after Julian's play and a nap. WE got about 5 hours of driving in before we stopped at a rest stop and got a couple of solid hours of sleep for Jaime. I had tried to nap along the way but was uncomfortable with Julian on my lap. Walker...I feel your pain in regards to the Penske truck. The important thing is that we got around New York City with no delays or traffic which was our plan for leaving at night. As we woke up on Friday morning at around 6:30 am I went inside the rest stop and saw that there was a Starbucks in there. I wanted to kiss the Barista! I ordered up a couple of lattes and we were on our way. We started out dry and ended up in the middle of a freezing rain storm. It was not fun but the driving was not slippery so we kept trucking on. We traveled until about 5:00, making stops along the way, where Julian and I went in to Cracker Barrel for dinner. Jaime took a short nap while we were eating chicken fried chicken slathered with gravy, and pulled pork for Julian. Julian had just woken up from a nap and was not in his right frame of mind until we started playing the little peg game that is signature to the Cracker Barrel Restaurants. If you have ever eaten at one you will know what I am talking about. If you have never eaten at need to! No life is complete without either chicken fried steak or chicken fried chicken. It might kill you but at least you will die with a satisfied tongue and belly. Back to the game...we stared out as a genius and ended up as an Ig-No-Ra-Moose. We were intermitently those titles along with purdy smart and just plain dumb. We were mostly just plain dumb and Ig-No-Ra-Moose. Julian really enjoyed that puzzle. As we were finishing up Jaime awoke from his nap and came in to join us and eat my leftovers. Then we were back on the road. We drove an uneventful few hours before stopping for the night. Julian was worried about leaving the truck unoccupied all night but we needed sleep. No sooner were we in the room and we were sleeping. We were happy to find our truck safe and sound, still full, outside where we left it. We found another Starbucks got lattes, a "cup of joe" for Julian, and some Diesel for the truck and headed out. We knew we needed a good base so we stopped once again at Cracker Barrel, this time for breakfast and got a good belly full of eggs, biscuits and gravy, bacon, homefries and toast. Then we drove, and drove, and drove until we found ourselves in Houma around 5:00 central time. We immediately got started unloading our things. Jaime had a couple of friends come over and we also hired two guys to help us. The two guys we hired struggled with our heavy items for an hour before we sent them on their way. They were not exactly sober but being the bayou and Mardi Gras weekend we were just happy that they showed up and took care of the heavy stuff. For a hundred bucks we were not only happy they had taken care of that but also happy to see them go. We got about half the stuff, along with all the big items, into the apartment before retiring for the night. This morning we got started around 9:00 after finding some coffee. My sister, Jen came down from Mandeville an helped us for the day. What a lifesaver. It was really nice to see her and she brought us some gumbo. Not just gumbo but Commanders Palace recipe gumbo. It was so yummy. We had that for lunch. She stayed until some time in the afternoon and then went on her way to cross the long bridge before dark. We will see her again on Tuesday for the Orpheus Parade in Metarie. Rumor has it Al Roker is in this parade. So that should be fun! Our stuff is about 1/3 unpacked. Julian's bed is put together complete with his new shark bed spread and our bed is ready and waiting for me to jump in. I love that bed so its off to sleep I go. Ta-ta! The first picture is somewhere in either Pennsylvania, Maryland or Virginia (freezing rain through all those states), the second picture is somewhere in Mississippi (almost to the end).