Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Monday, January 20, 2014

Louisiana Marathon Recap

By the grace of God I finished the Louisiana Marathon yesterday. And I mean, by the grace of God.

Less than a week ago, the weather forecast was for a starting temperature in the high 30s with temps increasing to the low 50s by my expected finish time. As race day approached, those projected temperatures were creeping up. The night before the race, it was looking like we'd start in the mid 40s and end in the high 50s. That didn't sound too bad.

But when I woke yesterday morning, it was already 540. When I finished the race, it was 640. Now most folks love a race in those temperatures. I do too, if the race is early in the fall. That's because in the fall, I'm acclimated to running in warm temps. But this race pretty much kicked my tail because I've been training in 20 and 30 degree weather, with even a few single digit runs and runs in the teens thrown in.

Weather, though, is something that can't be controlled by race directors and it's just something we have to deal with if we continue in this sport of running marathons. As for the race itself, it was pretty awesome!

It started at 7 AM, instead of the typical 8 o'clock start for most marathons. That was a really good thing, otherwise it would have been even warmer at the start and finish. So I consider that great planning by race organizers, knowing that many folks will come from cooler climates to Baton Rouge. The course was beautiful, the first half especially. A couple of miles of it was run through the Louisiana State University campus with lots of beautiful architecture and around a lake that was fantastic. Traffic control was outstanding. A couple of times late in the race we dealt with cars on the road in neighborhoods, but nowhere on the course were we running in traffic. They had the streets we ran on closed down tight. The volunteers were awesome too. A bunch of LSU students worked aid stations, and a bunch of other groups too. Aid stations were plentiful and well stocked. I was offered water and powerade at every station, and Gu at numerous aid stations. Some offered candy and fruit. And there were plenty of port-a-potties along the route. There was good crowd support too. In some parts the crowd was a little sparse, but I've yet to run a race where that's not the case. But most who were out there were energetic and enthusiastic and lots of fun. I was really looking forward to the after party, but was feeling sick at my stomach and didn't partake of the plentiful food and beverages at the end. But you could tell it was an awesome finish festival.

Taking all that into account, I'm glad I chose this race for our Louisiana marathon. I want to thank the organizers, the volunteers, the Baton Rouge Police Department, and all the spectators who made it a really enjoyable 26.2 miles!

So let's get on with the recap.

Expo


The expo was pretty great. Part of that was because we went through the VIP packet pickup, not because we paid extra, but because I'm a Marathon Maniac and Janice is a Half Fanatic. This race is really MM and HF friendly. Plus, the clubs chose this race as the 2014 reunion race. So there were lots of us and we were treated kind of like royalty. In the VIP room, they had some pretty awesome sandwiches, some chips, and granola bar type snacks. The food came in handy since we stopped there right as we finished the seven hour drive to get to Baton Rouge.

But the VIP treatment wasn't the only thing that made it nice. There were lots of vendors there, and a bunch of them were giving out samples or other free stuff. The stuff they give away is rarely ever worth much, but it's pretty nice to get something after you pay all the costs associated with running a marathon. The race shirts are nice short sleeve tech shirts too. Another nice touch was the local newspaper took and gave out a free picture of us.

The River Center was aptly named because just steps away was the Mississippi River. There was a nice pier to walk out on and a veterans' museum too. We didn't pay to go into the museum, but there was a cool memorial, two airplanes, and a destroyer, the USS Kidd, all right there. So we took a stroll along the river and got to see some cool stuff when we left the expo.

Marathon Maniac Reunion


At 4 PM, the Marathon Maniacs met in a room just outside the expo. I'm not sure exactly how many there were, but I'd guess a couple hundred or more. The founders of the club got up and talked about the origins and the history of the club, and told a few funny stories about each other. I enjoyed it, because I like to hear folks tell of their running and racing exploits, but that wasn't my favorite part of the meeting.

When they finished their presentation, they passed the microphone around, to everyone attending, and asked us to give our name, where we are from, and our MM/HF number. Several things made this my favorite part. First, there were quite a few who added to the requested information, adding tales of their own exploits on the way to running so many marathons. Second, it made it really easy to spot the Arkansas contingent of MMs and HFs. And finally, I recognized a lot of the people who were there, a lot more than I thought I knew who were running the race.

We sat with our friend Roger from Florida. Roger's also a member of the Red Felt Running Club, an online running club with members from all over the country that I mention here from time-to-time. I first met Roger face-to-face when he came to town for the Little Rock Marathon last year, and that was the last time I'd seen him. He joined us for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant, enjoying some great conversation and (you might have guessed it) more running and racing stories.

After dinner, it was time to get back to our hotel and get ready for the big day.

The Race


2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:2-4

The plan was to leave the hotel at 5:45, so I set my alarm for 4:30. At least I thought I did. I was surprised when I woke and read 5:08 on the clock. It was later than I planned to get up, but no harm done. (I'd learn that afternoon at 4:30 that I had set it to go off in the PM instead of the AM.) After a quick shower, I headed downstairs for a cup of coffee. Then, we were headed for downtown and the race start.

We had no trouble finding a spot on the street to park, probably 8 or 10 blocks from the race start. That was awesome because the Baton Rouge Police Department don't require you to feed the parking meter on weekends. Walking from there to the race start, we passed a parking deck that was charging $10 to park. Saving a little money is a pretty good way to start the day.

At the state capitol building, there were already a bunch of Maniacs and Fanatics gathered. Here was where the MM/HF photo was taken at 6:30. Again, I saw several of my Maniac friends. Janice and I hung out with Roger until the race started. We were pretty far toward the back and couldn't hear the announcer. So it was the migration of the herd that told us the race was underway. As we neared the starting mats, I wished them well and we all began our individual races.

At the race start it was a quite comfortable 520. That's quite a comfortable temperature for a marathon...in September. But it was 20 to 25 degrees warmer than I'd started most of my runs in the past few weeks. In the back of my mind, there was a little worry about the temperature, but I decided to start according to my plan, attempting that so-far elusive 4:30 finish time.

This time, I didn't start out too fast. I stayed disciplined and focused, checking my Garmin quite often, following the plan to keep every mile between a 10:00 - 10:15 pace. At 5 miles, I was still feeling great as we ran by Tiger Stadium on the LSU campus. This was a beautiful part of the race, through the campus and around a lake. It was just a really pretty place to run.

At mile 10, I was still feeling great. I was on pace and just out in front of the 4:30 pace group. A couple of people had commented on the bible verse on the back of my shirt and we had some great fellowship right around this point of the race. This was right before the split, where the half marathoners would split off and we'd head right to start the long out and back of the course.

I was just a tad ahead of my goal pace when I crossed the timing mat at the halfway point. I still felt okay, but it was warming up by now, and I had serious doubts that the second half of the race would go as well as the first had. I decided to keep up the pace and see how long it would last, so I pressed on.

At the 15 mile mark, I was still keeping my pace steady, between 10:00 and 10:15 each mile. In fact, only one mile had come in slower and that was because of a pit stop I made. But now we were in the sun more and more, and it was getting warmer. The higher temps were taking their toll, but I kept going.

It was mile 18 when I began to feel overwhelmed. I remember telling myself, "I'm going to walk a quarter mile, then run three quarters. I'll do that until I feel rested." So at the 18 mile mark, I slowed to a walk until my Garmin showed I was a quarter of a mile farther along. Then I picked it up to a run, but nowhere near my previous pace. It was at this point I realized the 4:30 goal wasn't going to happen.

This walk a quarter and run three quarters worked pretty well for three more miles. Somewhere during my run in mile 21 though, my hamstring locked up. At this point, I decided to stretch my walk to a half mile, just this once. I walked the half mile, then picked up the pace again. Only it wasn't too far in, maybe a half mile, maybe not, before I was walking again. From here on in, it was a walk/run with no set plan or consistency on one or the other.

I texted Janice and told her I thought I could still finish in 4:45, but it didn't take long for that goal to evaporate. Around four and a half hours in, I told her it was going to be more like 5 hours. I can't even remember exactly where that was on the course, but I was walking a lot at that point. Pretty much I was walking anything that was even a slight incline and when I was running, it wasn't much of a run at all.

With around three quarters of a mile to go, a guy who I had passed and who had passed me several times late in the race, suggested we try to run it the rest of the way in. So we started that all-too-familiar-end-of-a-marathon shuffle, intent on keeping it up to the finish. It didn't take long until he slowed to a walk again, and I was pretty pleased to drop down and walk with him. I picked a spot up ahead and suggested we run again when we reached it. We did, then again we walked. Finally, at the 26 mile marker, we picked up the pace and didn't walk again.

This was marathon number 9 for me, and it was a lot tougher than I expected it to be. But, the weather is something that's never guaranteed and something we just have to deal with if we're going to run marathons. So I'm going to count it all joy that it challenged me, that Jesus Christ carried me through it, and that I didn't need to visit the medical tent when I finished.

I planned to post a bunch of pictures I took on the course, but I'm too tired and still have stuff to do to get ready for school tomorrow. So I'll put the pics up in a post tomorrow night.



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