Nothing excites me more than getting to run a race for the first time. When it comes to New Orleans area races, that’s a seldom occurrence. I’ve attempted to run everything at least once, if not year after year. This year, the stars aligned and my race schedule was clear for the Crescent Connection Bridge Run on Saturday, June 9th. In short, it’s a four mile run front the Westbank over the Mississippi River via the Crescent City Connection Bridge’s HOV lane, finishing in downtown New Orleans. For certain it was an experience I wanted to have, and in hindsight I’m so glad I made the trek across the bridge (and back) to participate.
The pre-race setup couldn’t have been more convenient. I parked in the Warehouse District, had a friend drop me off near the finish line where shuttle busses brought participants to the start line in the back parking lot of Oakwood Mall on the Westbank, and walked less than fifty feet to complete race-day registration.
The registration process is the biggest concern I had for the day. Prior to race time, I checked the race website for fees and any race day details I may need. Being a mostly plastic user, I went to the ATM to get cash for my participant fees. The website said the cost would be $30, so I brought exact change to the start line along with a camera (for rainy day shots of the city from the bridge) and my iPod. Everything anyone should need for a race of four miles. The registration forms laid out on tables in the start area had the race day cost of $30 scratched out and had $35 written in by hand. After completing the form, race organizers and volunteers under the tent attempted to charge a large number of race day registrants the $35 dollar fee that contradicted the race’s official site. Most of the other runners also had exact change, and it took some time for a man-in-charge to tell volunteers to go ahead and accept $30 as the fee. For future reference, runners normally would think little about that extra $5 for the convenience of day-of registering but race organizers need to make all fees clear and up-front to avoid confusion on race day.
The race start time of 6:00pm on a Saturday in June was ideal. The rain that tormented the city throughout the day was not. Less than a half hour before the start, a downpour commenced that sent participants running for shelter. The rain slacked up 5 minutes before the starting gun, and my first two miles were completed in a slight drizzle. This was just long enough to get me to the summit of the Crescent City Connection Bridge and a great view of the sunset and the city skyline. The quick descent from the bridge was sharp and fast, but hard on the knees. I was quite pleased with my pace as I watched on the Garmin, rarely going above a 10min mile on the ascent, and not slower than an 8:30 pace on flat and downhill stretches. For someone who had slacked on training because of other obligations, I was pleased with my performance.
Prior to race day, organizers announced that the top 200 finishers would receive an official race poster with artwork by local artist Tuna. I had no expectations of finishing in the top 200, but it allowed me to set a lofty goal for myself. At the starting area, race officials announced that chips would be handed out to the first 200 finishers, and could be redeemed for a poster at the post-race party. When I crossed the finish line, I was directed to the left and out of the finisher chute. I did notice that to the right, a volunteer was handing out poster chips to a separate chute and it looked to be all female finishers. I’m not certain if the race organizers ended up doing first 200 finishers plus females that finished under a certain amount of time (the same way the Crescent City Classic 10K makes up for the physiological differences between the sexes with top 500 finishers and all females finishing under 45 minutes receiving posters). If so, I’m thrilled that was taken in to consideration evening the playing field. However, this wasn’t explained and was a mild point of confusion at the finish. Regardless, I’m quite pleased with my unofficial Garmin time of 35:50, but that’s still unofficial over a week and a half post-race. Results have yet to be posted on the race website, but what I’m sticking to as my splits and finish are below. Hopefully my schedule allows me to participate in this event in years to come.