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New Orleans & The Best Damn Race

Save $5 off any distance or location with HALEYD

Save $5 off any distance or location with HALEYD

If you don’t follow me on social media (you really should), you may have missed the big announcement about Best Damn Race (BDR) expanding their brand into New Orleans Louisiana.

As a huge fan of the Big Easy, as well as BDR, I am beyond thrilled for this news. Two of my absolute favorite things, together in one place. I haven’t been to New Orleans since Mardi Gras 2001, so it’s waaaaay past due for me to return. My husband has never spent time there, and I’ve been hinting around to taking him. With this news, I may be able to kill two birds with one stone: Run an awesome race in one of my favorite cities and take my hubby for a tour of the French Quarter. My friend recently stayed at the InterContinental Hotel New Orleans so I will have to look into staying there!

Just check out the course map for the half marathon. It starts and finishes in Louis Armstrong Park in the renowned New Orleans Tremé neighborhood adjacent to Congo Square off the French Quarter!


I can’t wait to pass through the St. Roch Market then run down the oak tree lined Esplanade Avenue past the New Orleans Fairgrounds to the tip of Bayou St. John around the edge of City Park. With so many sights to see through some of the oldest and most historical neighborhoods in the city, this race is a destination not to miss, And who can refuse a New Orleans style post-race celebration? – Laissez les bons temps router!


There are certain destination races that have been on my radar for quite a while, some mostly for their location. New Orleans has always been at the top of that list, and I think I’ve finally found the perfect race series to get me there. With all the sights of the city and the racer perks that BDR is known for, this race is sure to be an event for the books.

***** Registration blitz opens this Friday at noon. Be sure to get on the trigger to score those $1, $5, and $10 entries. I’ll be on my laptop promptly at noon hitting refresh to score my half marathon entry as cheap as it gets. ****

What is your perfect race destination?

Have you ever raced in NOLA?

Race Recap – Best Damn Race Jacksonville 2016

Who would have thought I could come back a week after running the Disney Marathon and run one of my best times at Best Damn Race Jacksonville?

I most definitely wasn’t expecting to have an exceptional race when I woke up Saturday morning. To be honest, I wasn’t even certain I was going to make the trip to Jacksonville at noon on Friday. My hubby was still working and I wasn’t feeling too inspired to run a race. I had several doubtful thoughts about going. I think the only thing that kept me motivated was that I hate to miss a BDR event.

Thankfully I didn’t skip out on the race, because it turned out to be one of my best races and I was thrilled with my performance.

Race Recap BDR Jax 2016

Going into this race I really didn’t know what to expect of myself. My legs were still feeling a little tight from Disney,  Even when I was lining up in the starting corral talking with Andrea, I still didn’t have a clue how the day was going to pan out.


I wasn’t planning to leave for jacksonville until late afternoon. I wanted to wait until my hubby was done working for the day so he could devote his full attention on the two kiddos. Around 4pm he told me he had one last conference call and then I could get on the road. Jacksonville is about three and a half hours from us. Making it to the expo before they closed up for the day was not a possibility this time. My only plan was to arrive in time to check in to my hotel and grab a quick bite to eat. Traffic was very light, so I was able to do exactly that.

I settled on dinner inside the hotel at the lobby restaurant. It wasn’t my first choice, but I didn’t want to venture too far from the hotel once I checked in. I was feeling lazy and too dang tired to put  much effort into finding someplace else to eat.

I ordered shrimp ceviche and a chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries. The meal was just meh. I picked at my food, drank my glass of Pinot Noir then signed for my tab and retired to my room.


The best part of my meal

I laid out my clothes for the morning and double checked my belongings to ensure I wouldn’t be fumbling around looking for my hydration belt or breast pump parts at five in the morning.  Then I turned off the lights and drifted off to sleep.IMG_3831

Race Day

My alarm woke me at ten ’til five and I restfully rose out of bed.  I pumped, made coffee, put on some makeup and donned my running attire before snapping a pre race selfie and heading out the door.


I easily navigated to the race start from my hotel and located registration and packet pickup.  Once I acquired my bib, grabbed another coffee and bagel from the Dunkin Donuts table, I then walked over to the BDR merchandise tent to see if I could help out before the half marathon started.  Beth was situated in the tent organizing merchandise when I arrived, later Jenn and Jamie arrived and then it became a real party.  It was my first time meeting them IRL (in real life).


They are more than delightful and it was such a pleasure having chatting with them before and after the race.  We even shared a moment of excitement when a team of stormtroopers arrived on the scene.


Soon enough, the 5k and 10k runners were released onto the course, so I excused myself to go line up for the half marathon.  I swear, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was there to run. Apparently, I was all about the socialization aspect of this event.

I found my way into the starting corral and near the 2:15 pacers.  I figured this was a good place to start.  I could always fall back if I needed to.

Just before the race began, I bumped into Andrea.  She had ran Dopey last weekend at Disney and wasn’t sure how she was going to run today. We chatted briefly about the course and then before we knew it, the national anthem was being sung.  About two-thirds of the way through the anthem, one of the race coordinators began motioning with his hands for the singer to “hurry up” as the lead runner of the 5k was already nearing the finisher chute where she was standing.  It was quite amusing and inspiring at the same time. His final time for the 5k was just over 17 minutes.  Every half marathoner was cheering as he blew past us towards the finish line.  It was the perfect send off for all of us as we were about to take our first steps onto the course.

The half marathoners started at Jacksonville Metro Park and ran West on Gator Bowl Blvd, parallel to the St. John’s River.  Not even a mile into the course we could smell the coffee beans from the Maxwell House factory.


It was just one of the delicious aromas I encountered along this course.  We soon approached the bridge on Bay Street and made our way up and over.

I slowed to a brisk walk up the incline and then crushed it on the downhill.  I always find I do much better to walk the inclines instead of powering through to the top.  It keeps me fresh for the long haul and that was exactly what I wanted today.

After the first mile marker we made a couple turns near the Jacksonville Landing and past my hotel towards Riverside Ave.  Here’s where the enticing aroma of either bacon or pancakes tempted me towards an early exit from the race. I swear.  If I had seen the establishment where the smell was coming from, I would have ripped off my bib right there.  It smelled so good.   My tummy began to rumble as I fought off the urge to follow my nose to breakfast haven

We continued along Riverside Avenue and then rounded a little loop into a quaint neighborhood before touring the Shoppes of Avondale where I caught another whiff of breakfast, undoubtedly from one of the nearby restaurants.  I shook it off and checked my garmin to see how I was doing with time and pace.  I was keeping an even pace near 9:45 for most of the first half.  And at this point, I still felt good.  I was stopping to walk through every hydration station and that seemed to be all I needed at the time.  My breathing was only slightly labored and my legs were feeling pretty light compared to earlier.  I didn’t think it’d hold out for the entire race – I know, I’m exhuming positivity here – but I was going to let it carry me as long as I could.

We hooked around another neighborhood for a little out and back and then we began making our way back North up St. John’s Avenue.  I knew we had passed the half way point of the course and I was optimistic for a better than average finish time if I kept it up. It was at this point that I made the decision to maintain my current pace and push it.  I knew a PR wasn’t in the plan for me, but I was going to come closer to my second best time if I kept the momentum.  However, I knew the toughest portion of the course was still way ahead of me, so I planned to continue walking through the water stops, but not exceeding more than thirty seconds for each mile.

Miles eight, nine and ten crossed back over previous portions of the course and then we made it to the boardwalk along the riverwalk.  Mile 10 was flat and fast around the water.  Even though I hate running on cobblestone, I was able to maintain my average pace.  Being along the water, you could see just how thick the fog was.  Even at mid morning, you could barely see a few yards in front of you.  I resisted the urge to stop for a picture along the water.


this was taken at 11 am from my hotel room 15 stories up.

Eventually we reached mile eleven and the largest incline of the race.  I slowed to a brisk walk and used the break to stretch out my arms and back.  I have a horrible running posture.  My shoulders slump as I fatigue and my upper back ends up very cramped.  I slowed to my slowest pace of the race here, 10:34, but I resumed running as soon as I reached the peak.   The final mile was back on Bay Street and towards the park.  I pushed myself to ramp my speed slightly and finish strong.

When I crossed the finish line, I clicked off my Garmin and did some quick calculations in my head.


My Garmin was off by 0.19 so I figured I actually finished this half at about a minute faster than my second best time.  My PR is 2:04, but next fastest is 2:10:24  I was thrilled to have this time today.  What a great surprise!!!

Chip time    2:10:16

Garmin       2:10:20

Average Pace   9:49/mi

Best Pace  5:43/mi (this has to be on the downhill)


Mile 1    9:19

Mile 2    9:58

Mile 3    9:37

Mile 4    9:46

Mile 5    9:53

Mile 6    9:49

Mile 7    10:29

Mile 8    9:44

Mile 9    9:36

Mile 10  9:39

Mile 11   9:52

Mile 12   10:34

Mile 13    9:23

Mile 0.29  8:54

After taking a few minutes to cool down and grab some water, I made my way through the food tent.  Pollo Tropical, which is my favorite Latin fast food, is a sponsor.  They always have a spread of hot rice, beans and chicken at the athlete tent.  I grabbed a bowl of the warm chicken and then walked over to get a celebratory Bloody Mary.   As I made my way back to the merchandise tent, I mentally patted myself on the back.  Not only did I run a great race today, but I gave myself the confidence going into the next half of racing season.  I have 3 half marathons left to train and race towards that sub 2 goal of mine.  Having ran strong today made me realize I have so much more that I’m capable of.  I just need to train and put in the work.

With that decision made, I knocked back a couple Bloody Marys and celebrated a race well done.  And mentally prepared myself for the next several weeks devoted towards speed work.



Have you ever ran a race when your performance took you by surprise?

How long do you typically recover from a marathon before racing again?

Best Damn Race Discount Code

If you are looking for the Best Damn Race Discount Code, you can use HALEYD to save $5 off registration for any Best Damn Race distance or location.BEST DAMN RACE PROMO CODE

If you haven’t run this race series yet, what the heck ya waiting for?  It’s called the BEST DAMN RACE!  So much so, that Runner’s World magazines rated Best Damn Race as one of the top races to run to “Beat the Winter Blues.” 


There are FOUR Florida locations to choose from:

(in chrono order:)

Cape Coral – December 11th

Jacksonville – January 14th

Safety Harbor – February 4th

Orlando – March 4th 

New Orleans  –  March 26th

***(edited to add New Orleans for 2017)

If you needed another reason to run one of these events, take comfort to know that I’ll be running the half at each one of these venues.

One of the best things about this series is that it’s specifically catered to the runners.  With just under 3,000 finishers, it’s small enough to get that intimate racing experience, without that hefty registration price tag.  

If that doesn’t get you revved up and ready to race, how about offering free race pictures?   Who can resist professional finisher pictures?

Don’t forget, my discount code is good for $5 off registration for any distance, at every one of these locations.  Don’t miss out on your opportunity to run this awesome race.

At Best Damn Race, you’ll expect things like,

  • awesome finisher medals
  • on-course support teams
  • Awesome Post Race Finisher Party with Free food
  • Post Race Free Beer (not just one beer, but as much as you’d like for yourself) and complimentary Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s
  • Tech Shirt in Men’s and Women’s sizes
  • Goodie Bags with samples and snacks
  • Free Massages at post race party
  • PR Bell for Ringing (Seriously, what other race has a PR bell?)
  • Free Race Photos




Best Damn Race Orlando 2015 Recap

This past Saturday was the best damn race Orlando.  If you’re not familiar with this race series, then you might not know that it has three different distances to choose from.  There is a 10k, 5k and a half marathon.  I would be attempting the half marathon for the second time.  I ran it last year for the inaugural race, but if you remember correctly, I was about 11 weeks pregnant at the time and not necessarily feeling 100%.  So this year, I was determined to not only beat my time from the previous year, but to beat my last two postpartum half marathons.

Going into race weekend, I was already really excited for many different reasons.  Probably the biggest reason was because my best friend, Marci, was flying in from California to run this race with me and my girlfriend Diane – her sister-in-law.  I hadn’t seen her since my birthday last year, so her visit was very much anticipated.  She was also bringing her boyfriend along, who I was meeting for the first time, to run his first official half marathon along with us.

I had planned to drive over to Orlando with Harrison on Friday afternoon to pick up our bibs, and then drive over to the airport to meet my friends, but traffic was ridiculous and I barely made it to the airport with enough time to pick them up. Traffic on the I – 4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando is my least favorite and the most unpredictable.   I ended up coordinating with Diane to pick up our bibs instead.

We all met back at the hotel and then we found a nice little Italian spot in downtown Orlando to grab dinner.  Since I had driven over with the baby, I had to wait for my husband to drive over and pick little man up before I was even able to start getting ready for bed.  My hubby drove over around 8 o’clock and met up with us at the hotel for about an hour or so.  I was able to nurse Harrison one last time (remember he doesn’t take a bottle very well)  while Rosalyn played and entertained everyone else in the room.  Eventually I had to say goodbye to them so the rest of us could get to sleep and take our flat runner pictures.  BDR Orlando 2015 Flat Haley

I woke up at 5 am the next morning.  The half didn’t start until 7:15, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to pump, eat something, get dressed, take my obligatory hotel bathroom selfie, and grab some coffee – not necessarily in that order.BDR Bathroom Selfie

We drove from the host hotel to the start line – about a mile – and found parking super duper close to where the finish line party was setup.  We had plenty of time to kill before the start of the race, so we hit the Dunkin Donuts tent for coffee and bagels and then made a pit stop at the port-o-potty lines.  BDR Orlando 2015 PortopottyWe chatted for a while and then took a couple group photos before heading to the back of the corral to line up for the race.BDR Orlando Prerace pictures

BDR Orlando Start Line CorralI didn’t really mind lining up in the very back for a change.  Since I didn’t have any specific race goals, other than beating my last two race times, I was really laid back and focused on having fun. The weather report was predicting rain, so I wasn’t feeling too hopeful for a hugely successful race.  Truth be told, I was more worried about getting my iPhone wet than having the rain impede my race strategy.  (I had a little plastic baggie tucked into my Flipbelt to shield my phone from the rain, if it came down to it)  My plan was to run for as long as I had it in me, then start 3:1 intervals when I began to feel fatigued.  I’ve been running intervals on all my postpartum training runs longer than 6 miles, so I figured I would most likely be doing something of the same for this race.

As we took off, I remember telling Marci and Diane to pay attention to the cobblestone streets.  There were so many dips and uneven spots. I’m really surprised I didn’t see anyone trip this year.  (last year I witnessed two different runners eat it at the very beginning).  We bobbed and weaved a little for that first half mile or so.  We kept our pace at a very slow and steady 10:30. I took the lead through most of the congested traffic, so I kept looking back to see if my girls were still there.  We had previously discussed running at a 10:30 pace for the entire race, but I just didn’t know how my legs were going to feel going into this day, so I just played it by ear. If I felt good, I wanted to run hard.

The first mile was a slow one.  I took my time; with each step I carefully studied the road for perfect placement of my foot.  I did a lot of sidestepping to avoid potholes and uneven areas of the cobblestone streets.  I hadn’t hit my comfort zone just yet.  t wanted to make sure my legs were good and warmed up before I began making my way through the packs of runners.

Once we made it past that initial mile, I stopped turning around to check for my girls and instead I just settled into a nice comfortable 9:30 pace.  I didn’t want to leave them, but I felt good, so I kept moving forward on my own.

The course starts on Central Blvd and takes runners through a tour of the downtown neighborhoods with a turn onto Maguire, leading over to my favorite part of the course rounding Lake Underhill.  It’s only about a mile loop around the lake, but I love this loop, because you get to catch other runners as you enter and exit the loop.  I always see half a dozen or more friends during this point in a course, but I hadn’t noticed any familiar faces this year.  In fact, I didn’t even see my girls as I was leaving the lake.  So that led me to believe that they had fallen way behind me, which made me a little concerned. Nonetheless I just kept moving forward.

By the time I had made it to the six mile mark, I was beginning to feel fatigued. I went ahead and ate my Salted Caramel GU (best flavor of all time) and downed some water at the next hydration station.  I figured it would help push me past this hump, but I didn’t feel much better nearing the 7 mile point.  This is when I decided to go ahead and begin rotating in the 3:1 intervals.

I took that first break and within an instant felt recharged.  Why is it that I feel so deflated whenever I’m forced to take a walk break?  I’m always so tough on myself and I feel defeated if I have to walk. I should know by now that it always recharges my body and keeps me finishing strong.

Even though I was still feeling good and wanted to keep pushing forward, I knew that I needed to pull back just a little to maintain my stamina for the remainder of the race.  Instead of keeping exactly with the intervals, I skipped a few of the “walk” portions in favor of keeping up with a pace group.

Around mile 10, I started loosing steam.  I resolved to  take a couple minutes to walk it off and then restart my intervals on the next cycle.  After doing so, I felt a little better and decided to take another GU.  I don’t typically eat two GUs during a half marathon, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.  I needed something to jump start my engine again.

As I was nearing the 12 mile mark, my knee began to hurt a little.  It wasn’t feeling too bad, and thankfully it wasn’t anything like how it was for Space Coast, but I knew it was going to slow me down more.  

I went into this race not expecting much, but I got a little hopeful in my head during the first half, thinking I was on point to bring home a shiny PR or something ridiculous like that.  Being that i’m just 5 months postpartum, and have only been back running since December, I truly lack the training and haven’t put in nearly enough training runs this season to race at peak performance.  At this point, it’s just been wishful thinking.

On the final stretches of the course, there’s about a mile and a half of a straightaway on South Street.  I had my little moment where I kept praying for God to give me the strength to finish strong.  That straightaway kept getting longer and longer in my head.  At this point I just wanted to be done.  And then, what do you know, Marci and Diane pop up out of nowhere and tap me on the back.  Thank you Jesus.  Just what I needed to keep me honest and pushing to the finish line – which was less than a mile away at this point.  The three of us pushed each other through to the finish line and we collected our medals and met up with their family immediately after.  We were done.  BDR Orlando Stats 2015BDR Orlando 2015 Finisher Pic GroupBDR Finisher PictureI wasn’t able to stay at the finisher party too long because I had to get back home to feed little man, but we were able to gather for a group shot with our medals.

Every year this race impresses me with the turn out, on-course support, and finisher medals. It’s slowly becoming a recognizable brand and I’m so extremely proud to be affiliated with it as a race ambassador.  This particular venue is probably my favorite of them all and I can’t wait to be back in 2016 for another go at it.

If you’re interested in running the BEST DAMN RACE CAPE CORAL, registration opens this Friday at 12:00 pm noon    I’ll be signing up for another half.

Have you ever ran a race with your best friend?  

Have you ever ran one of these races before?


15 in 2015

Yay for Fridays!!!!   I hope everyone had a spectacular new years. In typical Friday Five fashion, I’ve linked up with Courtney, Cynthia and Mar for another glorious edition of the Friday Five.  Please go visit their blogs and show them some love.  This week we are talking about goals.  

Today marks the first Friday of the new year and I couldn’t be more excited about it.  A new year means a fresh start and a whole new set of goals.  Among other things, this year I’m going to attempt something I have yet to try before.  I’m setting myself a race goal.  

Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve seen plenty of other determined runners with aspirations to complete the “13 in ’13” and “14 in ’14”    I’ve always thought that was reaching, especially given the cost of some races, but this year is going to be the year of my first marathon, so I thought it would be a perfect way to keep me motivated as I prepare myself for 26.2.  

So listed below is the beginning of my list of 15 races that I will complete by the year’s end.  15 in 2015


Best Damn Race Jacksonville Half Marathon  

Gasparilla 5k

Best Damn Race Safety Harbor Half Marathon

Best Damn Race Orlando Half Marathon  

Gate River Run 10k  

First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon  

Athleta Iron Girl Clearwater

TCS NYC Marathon  

Best Damn Race Cape Coral Half Marathon   


As you can count, there’s only nine races on my schedule so far.  The year has just begun, so obviously I will add more as the year unfolds.  Most likely I’ll add in a few 5ks and fun runs to spruce up the list since most of these races are half marathons.    They will all be leading up to my grandest attempt with the NYC Marathon.  

And as you can tell, I will be busy running all the Best Damn Races this year.  That is because I’m one of their race ambassadors, if you didn’t know, and because this year they are offering a challenge to RUN ALL FOUR HALF MARATHONS for a chance to score this awesome Mich Ultra Challenge Medal.  BDR Challenge Quad MedalI had to.  I couldn’t resist.  The challenge pack also rewards runners with a Bottle Opener, Pilsner Glass and the BDR Slingpack.  Whoop Whoop!!!  More bling for me. ****Remember to use my discount code HALEYD when you register, so you can save $5.****

By the way, if you’d like to join in on our January Instagram Challenge you should go check it out.  This year, we’re doing medal-a-day for the month of January! Don’t have 31 medals yet? That’s ok! Post what ya got! #medaladay  


What races do you have on your calendar for 2015?  

Do you know of any must-do races that I should add to my list?