I spent part of last week in New Orleans for the American College of Cardiology (ACC) meeting which was a great educational and professional experience. At the meeting, the ACC announced a new partnership. The ACC sponsors a patient information website called Cardiosmart. The announcement was a new partnership with Subway to promote health diet and lifestyle choices.
So to celebrate that and to revive a tradition at the ACC, a 5K fun run was organized for the meeting. The suprise on race morning was meeting Jared Fogle (yes, that Jared) from Subway. He was there to support the new partnership and to join us for the run!
We started at the World Trade Center building near Harrah's casino on the south end of Canal street. The course went out along the Mississippi down to Esplanade, which is a divided road running north/south along the eastern border of the French Quarter. About a half mile up that road, we turned around and ran back to the start/finish line.
View Cardiosmart New Orleans 5K 2011 in a larger map
My wife is my best cheerleader and when I told her I was going to run this race, the only thing she wanted to know is "was I going to win?" I told her that when I ran the 5K in Chicago with a bunch of cardiologists, nurses, surgeons, and such, that I came in somewhere in the teens with a PR about 19 minutes. Expecting a similar crowd, I told her that I had no plans to win and no expectation that I would come close. A 19 minute 5K is excellent, and I am proud of it, but there are plenty of people faster than me.
Seeing the competition at the start line reinforced my opinion. There were several men about my age with lean physiques from Germany, Ireland and (as I found out later) Brazil. Again, no expectation of a win here. Then, the horn went off.
I was right up front, but there were only about 200 runners. I got out front with two other men and after we made the first turn towards the river, I realized that it was just the three of us. This, of course, rapidly changed my estimation and my plans. This was going to be a race, and I was in contention for a win! I was running second behind a young man who turned out to be a medical student from Brazil and another man right on my shoulder. I stayed right on Brazil keeping just a couple of steps behind him, matching his pace.
We ran along that way and after about a mile, the guy behind us could not keep up and dropped back. We stayed steady through 2 miles. I could feel some burn coming on in the legs, but I had my breath and figured now was the time for my move. Turning off of Esplanade, back towards the river, I surged out front. Not trying to dust the guy, just enough to test his stamina to keep up with my slightly faster pace. At first he kept on my shoulder, but after a few hundred feet, I heard his breathing fade as he dropped back.
I focused on the tempo, trying to keep the pace I was now setting for the field. The really incredible thing to me was the pace bike out front, showing me where to go, warning me about the train tracks and cracks in the road. I have never been leading in a race before and it was surreal. The course had a couple of 90 degree turns that gave me an opportunity to look back without having to turn 180 degrees and I could see that I had secured a healthy lead. No need to push at this point, just maintain the lead and Brazil was going to have a tough time catching up. On the last turn onto Canal, he was several seconds behind me and all I had to do was not trip on the streetcar tracks.
I crossed the line in 19:05, in first place, and won my very first race!
After the race and catching my breath, I had a great conversation with a couple of the other top men, and the top woman finisher who comes from a running family (her mom ran in Olympic qualifying trials for the marathon in the past!) I stuck around figuring that they would likely make some announcements and hand out some awards, which I had already seen at the tables full of goodies and drinks. The awards were Mardi Gras masks, mounted on plaques and looked very festive. Unfortunately, someone else took them! I saw someone with them after the race, but I figured he was some race official or organizational leader. When the PA crackled several minutes later announcing "if anyone has the winner's plaques please return them", I looked to where the man had been sitting and he was gone.
The race was obviously much more fun than having another plaque to hang on the wall, but it certainly was disappointing that someone would abscond with the plaques like that. The race sponsors did kindly take my address and said they would mail me another, once they could get it made, so I'll post a picture when it comes in the mail.
Additional note: results are now posted on Cardiosmart's website.