The Big Easy

Date: March 4, 201

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:36:01

If I had to sum up my New Orleans weekend in a few words, I would need to make sure to include: Bourbon Street, new friends, Jon Bon Jovi, mechanical bulls, jambalaya, zydeco, three card poker, blisters created BEFORE the race, a couple of phrases I really shouldn’t repeat in a blog that my parents and kids can see, and Krystal Burger. Oh, yeah, and there was also a race thrown in there somewhere.

The much-anticipated girls’ weekend started on Thursday when I saw my friend, Caree, and her friend, Ryndee as our travel itineraries merged at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

During our relatively brief flight to Los Angeles, we lightheartedly chatted about our upcoming weekend and our families, and then seamlessly transitioned into discussions that new acquaintances generally don’t share on airplanes. When I saw how easily we started talking about topics that are usually reserved for only the closest of friends, I knew right away that this would be no ordinary weekend.

Our hotel was conveniently located on the corner of Canal and Bourbon—the edge of the French Quarter, and we wasted no time getting out to explore. None of us had been to New Orleans before, and Caree quickly dubbed it, “Las Vegas on steroids.”  Yes, everything you may have heard about the French Quarter is true. I’ll let you ponder that statement on your own.

After delayed flights, missed connections, and thousands of extra flight miles added to Denise and Debbie’s travel plans, they both finally arrived at about midnight and we gave them a limited tour of the French Quarter and a re-cap of our adventures that included Caree riding a mechanical bull, and not remembering the next morning that she did until we showed her the video and photos to prove it. The evening ended at three a.m. and we capped it off with my first taste of Krystal Burger—a restaurant we would visit the next night as well due to its convenient location so near our hotel and its 24-hour availability. Yes, I blew two months of dieting in one weekend.

I can’t possibly capture our experiences in the French Quarter in writing, but I can say we all enjoyed a fairly complete New Orleans experience without compromising our morals or our marriages—and that’s not something everyone we saw on Bourbon Street could say.

Denise and I have been friends for over twenty-five years, but I had never met Debbie before. She is a co-worker of Denise’s and, as I happily learned, is a distant cousin of mine. Small world. I had run races with Denise and Caree before, but not Ryndee and Debbie. It was so fun to get to know them and after this weekend, I have made two new friends for life.

The race—our excuse to all meet up in New Orleans—was great. Caree completed the full marathon (she is my hero) and the rest of us ran the half. The weather was perfect—clear skies, only a slight wind, and nice racing temperatures—50 degrees at the start, and climbing to 70 later in the day.

I had to remove my new orthotics at about mile five because my feet still aren’t completely used to them and my calves and arches were starting to get sore. After I took those out of my shoes, took a Gu at about mile six, and started listening to music at about mile seven, there was no stopping us. It felt so great to run on that fast, flat, lower-than-sea level course surrounded by 20,000 other runners, live bands, cheer squads, and other spectators cheering us on. I may pay the price over the next few days, but it felt so good to run, I really saw no reason not to—especially since my foot has been feeling so good and I was taped up really well.

Neither Ryndee nor I had been able to complete our intended training plans for the race due to our respective medical issues, and we ended up running the race together the whole way. We were perfectly matched for this race—we both had to walk at times, and then wanted to run at times—pretty much at the same pace the whole way until she kicked it into high gear at the end and finished about three minutes ahead of me. Even though we ran the race at a slower pace than what we are capable of had we properly trained, we finished strong.

Ryndee’s personal journey is not mine to tell, but I will say that after I learned what she has been through over the past year, I was incredibly proud of her and happy to think that this race must have felt triumphant. Denise and Debbie both had great race times, and Caree’s full marathon finish was amazing too. I think everyone was happy with their race results.

Following the race, we all met near the stage where a really great Zydeco band played and I enjoyed a post-run sampling of jambalaya. Certainly appropriate for a race in New Orleans.

I had to leave after the race to shower, pack, and catch my flight back home. The rest of the gang stayed behind for one more night of carousing. I’m not sure I could have gone out for a third night, especially after completing a 13.1 mile race. I’m sure the rest of the girls mustered up the energy to do so, however, and I can’t wait to hear their stories.

Many people run races with particular causes in mind or in support of various charities. This race benefitted the American Cancer Society, which I was so glad to support. The five of us girls also used this race to remember and honor Sherry Arnold. If you aren’t aware of Sherry’s story, she was a teacher from Sydney, Montana, who was brutally murdered recently during an early morning run. The men who murdered her were high on drugs and simply thought it would be a good idea to go out and kill someone that day. Her death was senseless and incredibly sad on so many levels. You may read more about her story here.

All being runners from Montana, we thought that wearing signs in her honor would be one small way we would express our condolences to her family and even though we didn’t personally know her, we feel a connection to her. We can relate to her as a mother, as a wife, and feel sad for her family’s loss. Ryndee and I were glad that a few people ran up to us during the race to ask us about our signs or to let us know that they knew of Sherry’s story.

I had many opportunities over the weekend to think about some of the “big picture” things in life and death. I also thought a lot about my husband, my children, and my friends. I cherish all of the people in my life who give me such support and encouragement. So many kind, generous people make my life’s journey filled with joy and gratitude. You know who you are and I thank you.


March 30, 2012 update…Ryndee was featured in her local newspaper, which also includes a group shot of our NOLA running gang. 

April 23, 2012 update…Article about Montana runner who honored Sherry during the Boston Marathon.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Denise Lampi-Kok on March 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I love reading these blog posts ! I hope someday I can have them in a book !!! I love you ! Niser


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