Crescent Park- Bywater, New Orleans

Happy Monday!  This morning Pepper and I got up nice and early to take a wander though the Marigny and Bywater.  I had seen on the Goggle Maps (which I couldn’t live without at this point) that there was a small park by the river that had some good reviews so I thought we could check it out.  It was about a mile away, so even if it was a bust, we’d still cover good distance getting there and back.

There is a large crescent shaped bridge (hence the name Crescent Park) that allows pedestrians to cross the railway tracks to get into the park.  As you descend down the bridge into the park, you are struck with a gorgeous view of the Mississippi River, downtown New Orleans, and even Algiers Point- our neighborhood!

The landscaping is gorgeous and I immediately felt like I had been transported out of New Orleans into a completely different city.  It was beautiful!  They even had a small dog run down at the far end so Pepper was able to enjoy some off leash time and a drink from the doggy water fountain.  We will definitely be stopping back through this park this summer, but next time I’ll bring some cash so we can swing by a coffee shop on the way home.  ūüôā

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Pepper Visits Armstrong Park- Downtown New Orleans

Now that Pepper has fully recovered from her adventures at summer camp, we are continuing on our quest to visit different areas for our walks this summer.  Today we went to the French Quarter for our morning walk. We stopped into Armstrong Park, which is on the north end of the Quarter, for a wander around. 

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The park became quite run down a few years ago, but as been re-vamped in recent years and is a nice space to wander through now.  It has water running throughout, with various bridges and fountains.  Of course, Pepper went for a quick swim to cool off….

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And then practiced her Broadway stage pose by the fountain…

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We wandered around the different statues and art installments…

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We found some ducks (that I wouldnt let her chase!)…

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And hid from a quick rain shower and drank some water under one of the massive oak trees.

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It was a very relaxing Friday morning!

New Orleans Triathlon Race Recap (More of a Race Fail!)

How does the phrase go? ¬†“Piss poor planning produces piss poor results?” ¬†I think that might be the tag line for my race this past weekend. ¬†It was the New Orleans Olympic Distance Triathlon– 1500 m open water swim, 40 K bike ride, 10 K run. ¬†The swim location and part of the bike and run routes are the same as the upcoming New Orleans Ironman 70.3, so this was the perfect warm-up race before my first 70.3 in three weeks.

Except it wasn’t the perfect warm-up, it was pretty horrible. ¬†Here is the nitty-gritty race breakdown:

Pre-race:

The problem with living in New Orleans is that there is always something going on. ¬†This weekend was the big Hogs for the Cause BBQ competition and my friends’ team was participating this year (Peace. Love. Pig.- you should check them out) so I volunteered to help them out on competition day. ¬†We all had such a great day hanging out, cooking, selling pork sandwiches and piggy pudding, listening to the bands, and checking out what all the other teams were cooking. ¬†Unfortunately, I was having so much fun that I neglected to ever eat a proper meal that day, so my pre-race fueling was half a bag of pork cracklins, a few bites of piggy pudding, and a few pieces of the whole hog that had been smoking for 14 or so hours. ¬†Not really the kind of nutrition that provides good race day energy. Poor planning.¬†Not only did I neglect to eat, I also neglected to hydrate properly. ¬†I drank water throughout the day, but the beer was steadily flowing also, so I probably caused a net hydration loss for the day. Poor planning.

I drank fluids when I got home that evening and figured I’d have plenty of time to hydrate and eat in the morning as well. ¬†My friend Diane was picking me up at 5:20 am, so I packed my race bucket, set my alarm for 4:20 am, and settled down at 9 pm for a good night’s sleep. ¬†Then, around 2 am, the pre-race nerves kicked in and I found myself wide awake. ¬†I stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep for about 2 hours, and then I woke up to Diane calling me to let me know she was at my house ready to pick me up. ¬†What!??! ¬†I checked my phone and was indeed 5:20 and my alarm had failed me. ¬†Thank goodness I’d packed the night before so I was able to brush my teeth, throw on my clothes, fill water bottles, and dash out the door in about 7 minutes. ¬†In my haste, I did not have time to eat breakfast or get more fluids in me before I left the house. ¬† Again, very poor planning.

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Proof the alarm was originally set!

Swim:

I’ll spare you the details of my set-up once we arrived at the course, as everything went smoothly. ¬†The swim was 1500 meters through the Southshore Habor and would be my first open water swim. ¬†Eeekk! ¬†I’ve always been a strong swimmer, so the swim portion usually never bothers me, but this was a little more intimidating than the pool swims I’m used to. ¬†Diane walked over with me and showed me where to go (she was doing the Sprint so her swim started in a different spot) and once she left, I made friends with another girl who looked equally as nervous as me. ¬†This was her first open water swim as well and she was also doing this race as a warm-up for the Ironman 70.3 in a few weeks. ¬†It was comforting that someone else was in the same boat as me. ¬†We discussed the path through the harbor- “So, wait, do we zig-zag-zig through those buoys or is it zag-zig-zag?” and reassured each other with the “yeah, we got this” line.

Then we were off. ¬† I jumped in, popped my head above water, and started swimming Baywatch- style (head above water) so I could catch my bearings. ¬†After about 10 seconds I felt myself starting to freak out. ¬†I don’t know if it was my adrenaline or the cold water temperature, but I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. ¬†I also couldn’t see. ¬†The water was the iced- tea colored and I really couldn’t see more than an arm’s length in any direction, which was also a little disconcerting.

As I was making my way to the first buoy my imagination started to run wild- what exactly could be in this water?! ¬†It’s a known fact that there are bull sharks in Lake Pontchartrain from time to time, there are also alligators occasionally, I’m sure some kind of venomous snake species, killer whales, carnivorous plants, Nessy, the list goes on and on and that’s before I even thought about the parasites and bacteria. ¬†Clearly I was going to die on this swim. ¬†I flipped over to kick on my back for a minute or two to catch my breath, just waiting for nature to take to my watery demise, but it never happened. ¬†So, I decided to get my sh*t together and get on with things, because the water was cold and waiting for a shark attack wasn’t getting me out any faster. ¬†After that, I was fine. ¬†I found my groove, zig-zag-zigged around the orange buoys, made a bee-line to my favorite green buoy (the last buoy!) and got the hell out of that lake. ¬†Phew, 1500 meter down in 32 minutes. ¬†I’ll take it!

As I was left the swim exit I waved to Diane who was waiting to start her swim and trudged towards transition. ¬†My legs were a little wobbly so I was happy to take it slow and let the blood redistribute itself in my body. ¬†As I was nearing transition one of the volunteers caught my attention as he was yelling, “the strippers are up ahead.” ¬†What?! ¬†Damn, I thought, I know this is New Orleans, but that’s a little crazy even for us. ¬†But still, I was intrigued, so onward I went looking for said strippers.

Turns out the strippers were two very nice middle aged-ladies who helped me take my wet-suit off. ¬†I have to say, I was little relieved. ¬†I wasn’t sure I could handle strippers after surviving what I can only assume was a very near miss with the whole shark-attack situation.

Swimming Wins:  My new wet suit was awesome, my time was faster than I expected, I swam (almost) the exact Ironman course, no shark attack.

Swimming Fails:  Having a mild panic attack, swallowing half of Lake Pontchartrain, need different goggles for buoy sighting purposes.

The Bike:

I took my time in transition, headed off on the bike, and everything was fine. ¬†I was fairly confident that there weren’t any man-eating creatures hiding anywhere on this portion of the race, so I felt okay to eat an energy goo and drink some gatorate as I cruised along.

Then I hit “the hills”. ¬† Now, we don’t have hills in New Orleans. ¬†Our highest point in the city used to be Monkey Hill at the zoo, which was constructed so kids in New Orleans could learn what a hill was (no joke) and it can’t be more than 20 ft tall! ¬†However, this bike course was riddled with overpasses and bridges, and I swear every other mile there was another damn bridge to go over. ¬†Gah! ¬†It wasn’t as bad when the wind was behind me, but on the way back pedaling uphill and into the strong wind got a little tiresome.

Then, to make matters worse, I got a flat tire. This wouldn’t have been that bad, except I used my last tube to change another tire last week¬†and hadn’t replaced it yet. ¬†Again, poor planning. ¬†Luckily for me, after a while of walking my bike back towards the starting line, Dave the bike-tech guy pulled up in his handy van and changed my tire for me, quick as a flash! ¬†(Thanks Dave, and I’m sorry I secretly cursed you for driving across the bike course about a half-hour earlier).

I hopped back on and finished my very underwhelming bike ride. ¬†Average pace was around 13 mph, which is incredibly slow for me, but that did include the flat tire factor. ¬†However, I did feel like I found my “cruising altitude” as I like to call it, where I have a comfy pace that I feel like I could maintain for hours. ¬†This was what I really wanted to feel out on this race so I would have figured out before the Ironman.

Bike Wins: ¬†I hydrated well, I found a comfortable “cruising altitude”, I didn’t fall off.

Bike Fails:  My pace was slow, I was not prepared for a flat tire, I handled hills (and wind) quite poorly.

Run:

The run was pretty horrific overall. ¬†My lack nutrition (poor planning) hit me hard and I had no fuel left in my tank. ¬†My hydration level was okay and I didn’t have any cramping, I just had no energy. ¬†Out of the 6 miles, I probably ran half, and did find a good run-walk interval pace for myself for part of it. ¬†We had to run the 3 mile loop twice and honestly I thought about cashing in at 3 miles, but I didn’t. ¬†I figured it was better to complete than to cash out early, even if it meant walking a lot. ¬†My pace ended up being 12:54 min/mile for the run, which is terrible for me, but I did it and I lived to tell the tale.

Run wins:  I did it

Run fails:  Everything else.

Here are my overall stats from the day:
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Today I actually feel okay and not as stiff as I thought, but that’s probably because I was moving slow damn slowly through the race. ¬†I’m going to go for a short jog today with Pepper and then stretch really, really well afterwards. ¬†Tomorrow it’s back on the bike, hopefully for a 30- 40 miler.

I don’t have any shots from the race (thank God, because I’m not sure I want to remember it), but here is a pre-race selfie of Diane and I and a few that the Marine took of me on the route.

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Ready to go!

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Heading out on the run

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Finally done (not an accurate time)

Our First Barkus Parade

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It’s my favorite time of year in New Orleans- Carnival Season! ¬†Most people just think of Mardi Gras as Bourbon Street and beads, but really it’s so much more. ¬†Mardi Gras is almost a month of parades and parties and costumes and wigs and glitter and fun for everyone of all ages.

Not to be left out of the party are the dogs. ¬†The Mystic Krewe of Barkus puts on an all canine Mardi Gras parade every year. ¬†Everything about the parade is canine oriented and they even have a doggy King and Queen every year. ¬†It’s a Who’sWwho of the New Orleans canine social circle and therefore, Pepper and I had to be part of this. ¬†We paid our membership dues (which are donated to various animal charities by the Barkus organization) and started the process of brainstorming costume ideas.¬† The theme this year was “Bark Wars”, (a play on Star Wars) and so we had lots of options to choose from (see some ideas here). ¬†Ultimately, we decided to keep it pretty low key for our first year and made a fun shirt.

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W settled on a humorous quote and then doused it in glitter to make it “humor chic”. It was a big hit on the parade route and got lots of laughs. ¬†Of course not to be outdone by my hound, I made my own shirt to match Peppers, keeping with the theme of humor.

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On parade day, we woke up, ate breakfast, and then began the glam process (basically dousing ourselves in glitter!).

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Patiently awaiting her hair and makeup team

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Sprinkling on the glitter

After the glitter process was complete, we met up with Pepper’s friend Rowlf and his owne,r Teresa, and took the ferry across to the French Quarter for the festivities. ¬†Rowlf complimented Pepper’s outfit well, as he does have a “Wookie-esque” appearance. ¬†They made a great pair.

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Pepper and Rowlf (her Wookie)

We arrived at the pre-party and hung out for a couple hours before the parade.  It was a great place to meet other dogs, look at the great costumes, and generally enjoy the beautiful spring weather in the French Quarter.  One of our friends had given us VIP passes for free food and drink so I had a few pre-parade cocktails and Pepper snacked on various dog treats from different vendors.

Once the parade started rolling, we walked through the French Quarter and tossed beads to the crowd.  The weather was beautiful and Pepper had a great time meeting people and giving licks to unsuspecting children.

All in all, we had a great time!  We will definitely be doing it again next year, but with more beads to throw, fancier costumes, and more glitter!

If you want to see more photos, head over to Barkus on Facebook and give them a “like”. ¬†Here are some of my shots from the day- next year, I promise to take more pictures.

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Hanging out at the pre-party.

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Pre-party festivities

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French Quarter crowds

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A mini Princess Leia

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Weasel Voodoo?

One of Pepper’s favorite hobbies is finding fun treasures to bring home from her walks.  Usually it’s a stick, sometimes an old tennis ball, and last week it was a pretty nice furry green squeaky toy.  Today’s treasure, however, has given me cause for concern. 

Behold!  Creepy voodoo doll toy!

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(Ok, I think it’s actually an old Mardi Gras throw,  but it could have voodoo powers). 

With the naturally destructive nature of my sweet Weasel Dog, it isn’t really a stretch to assume that voodoo would be right up her alley.  There a few people that I wouldn’t mind her voodooing or if she wants to use it on the neighborhood cats, that’s fine too!  But she hexes me, she’s off the p-o-u-n-d because goodness knows I don’t need anymore bad luck!

To be on the safe side, I’ll be feeding her extra wet food tonight!

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Pepper’s Morning Out in the French Quarter

This is my only week off for the summer before school starts back up next week, so Pepper and I are living it up!  Today we decided to hop over the Mississippi River from our neighborhood and do our morning promenade in the French Quarter.

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“Yay, ferry ride!”

We jumped on the Ferry, conveniently located a block from our house, and off we went.

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“I’m so excited!!”

Pepper does enjoy a breezy ferry ride. 
Once we got to the Quarter we were off to take in the sites of our awesome city.

We picked a great day because the Quarter was nice and quiet.

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Strolling down Royal St.

Pepper visited the George Rodrigue Blue Dog gallery and felt right at home. I tried to explain to her they weren’t actually interpretive paintings of her, but she didn’t seem to believe me.

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“Paint me like one of your French dogs, George”

Next we visited St. Louis Cathedral.

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And then ran into the mules that are used for carriage rides through the city. Pepper was quite unsure as to what these overgrown creatures were.¬† This was as close as she got before she decided she didn’t need to get any closer.

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As we headed back to the ferry, Pepper decided to browse for her Mardi Gras mask for next year…

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“I’m thinking green with lots of sequins…”

And was also very upset that her favorite French Quarter bar, The Kerry Irish Pub, was not open yet.  Both her and I were ready for some AC and a cold drink.

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Lastly, we swung by Canal Place and longingly looked at some jewelry through the window. Pepper has now requested a diamond studded collar for her Christmas present.

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As you can tell my the length of the tongue, we were quite hot by this point, despite multiple water breaks.

We had a great morning.¬† I think this might be our new Monday morning tradition on my day off once school starts.¬†¬† But for now, we’re both ready for a nap!

Triathlon Update- 6 Days Out

Hopefully this time next week I’ll be writing a post about how great an experiance my first triathlon was.  Hopefully I won’t be writing a post about how I passed out before the finish line.

I’m starting to get a little nervous about the whole process.  The swimming portion should be a piece of cake for me, I’m not worried about the bike portion, but the run portion makes me very nervous.  Very, very nervous! 

The Weasel Dog and I went for a Ginger Jog this morning and it was brutal.  We did 2 miles successfully but I thought my head might explode by the time we hut the two mile mark.  Turns out it’s really hot even at 8:30 am in New Orleans with 90% humidity.  But, we powered through and then stopped at the brand new water fountains on the levee.  There was even one for Pepper. 

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Tomorrow we’ll do it all again!