Sunday, January 15, 2012

2012 Louisiana Marathon Race Report...

Let me just start by making the following declaration: This is an absolute MUST-DO event!!  If you don't have plans for January 20, 2013 then you need to plan to be in Baton Rouge for the Louisiana Marathon! If you do have plans; cancel them and meet me in Baton Rouge anyway!!  This event is WELL worth it!!!  Okay, now on to my normal, excessively long race report....

As always, let's start at the beginning, long before the actual race.  If first heard of the Inaugural Louisiana Marathon via a small ad on the sidebar of Facebook way back in August.  Remember, I might not live in Louisiana, but I was born in Lafayette and I've spent plenty of time visiting family down here so I know all about Louisiana weather!  My first thought was, "who in the world would be dumb enough to run a marathon in Baton Rouge with that heat and humidity?!?!?!?!"  I clicked on the ad because, let's face it, I've been know from time to time to actually BE the guy that is that stupid!  Well, much to my excitement, I saw that the race was being run on January 15th!!  "The weather is PERFECT in Baton Rouge in January," I immediately told myself.  Then I though, "well, it could be a family trip stopping in Shreveport, it is the day after my wife's birthday, and there are no road marathons in the mid-west in January."  Yep, I was sold!  I went and "liked" their Facebook page so I could keep up with everything going on with the event and talked to Kristy about it.  Then, they put a coupon code in Runner's World magazine to get $26.20 off the marathon and $13.10 off the half marathon (for Kristy)!  This is just meant to be!  How could this get any better??  Well, my birthday is in August so my father-in-law told me he was going to send me the money to register as a birthday gift!!  Greatness!!

As time went by, I was VERY impressed with their use of their Facebook page (any race directors that might be reading this: pay attention to this part!).  They provided almost constant updates, asked for and took to heart feedback (both positive and negative) from runners, posted lots of motivational items, and ALWAYS responded to any question or suggested posted on the page.  This is 2012, people, if you are active with your Facebook page you will keep runners' excitement and interest levels high!  The more this went on, the more certain I was that this was going to be a great, well run event.  I told Kristy that if it did end up being as good as I expected we would make this an annual January tradition so that we could say we've run every single Louisiana Marathon!  She agreed.

After the Patriots' Run on 9/11 I decided I wanted to use the Louisiana Marathon to give something back, especially if it could be for our military.  I went to the race's website and checked out their charity partners and found Team Red, White & Blue.  As I did my research to learn more about them I was so impressed with the work they are doing.  They pair up volunteers with a wounded veteran returning home.  They are there for their vet in any way they need; babysitting, a partner for working out, going out to dinner, helping them shop for groceries, or just someone to talk to.  I knew I'd found the way I wanted to help, but they are not in Kansas City at this time so I signed up to use my running to fund raise for them.  I knew times were tough and it would be hard, but I set a goal of $1000 by this race.  I fell well short (as I kind of expected), but I managed to raise $493!  I wish it had been more, but with a relatively region organization it's tough to raise money from people around the country; out of sight/out of mind and all.  I'm proud of every single person that donated and I appreciate it so much; whether it was a large donation or a small one they all helped support those that risk it all for us.

Finally it came time to get down to Baton Rouge!!  We left on Friday (1/13) and drove down to Shreveport to spend the night with my grandmother; it was about a 10 1/2 hour drive.  You have to make some extra stops when you've been hydrating for a week (TMI)!!!  We had a nice couple hours chatting with Memaw then headed off to bed.  The next morning we drove the rest of the way down to Baton Rouge.  I just couldn't help myself but take this picture when we got to mile marker 26 on I-49 about an hour outside of Baton Rouge!!  Finally we got to our hotel, a La Quita about 15 minutes from the start line.  We unpacked everything from the car and relaxed for about 20 minutes or so then headed out to the Expo where we were going to meet up with one of our buddies from the HCR Running page on Facebook, Jamie.  He was running a little late driving in from Pensacola thanks to an accident on the highway, so we knew we'd be there for a while but we didn't mind at all.  It was a short drive over the the hotel the Expo was in and we found parking quickly an easily in the hotel parking garage.

Let me preface my Expo experience by making two important points: 1- I like beer; 2- this was my first event as a Marathon Maniac so I wore my shirt to the Expo.  Almost immediately upon getting into the Expo area I was greeted by some fellow Maniacs and some 50-Staters!  It was so awesome to show up somewhere that I don't know anyone yet I'm surrounded by friends that want to talk and encourage!!  I'm so glad I joined them!  I love the idea of the 50-Staters as well and I plan to join them once I qualify; you need a marathon in 10 different states to officially sign up.  This race would be my 4th state (KS, MO, CA, LA) and if my plan holds I should be at 6 states by the end of the year.  This group is a little tougher with the cost of travel, but I'll get there in time!  We went to pick up our packets and I had one of only two frustrations with the entire event.  There was one person checking in marathoners and someone was with him getting their stuff so I got in line behind him.  Well, a girl came along behind me and decided she didn't want to wait so she started her own line and about 5 or 6 other people lined up right behind her, so when the volunteer finished the guy he was with he went to her and I had to get behind all of these people.  I seriously wanted to punch them all; that was seriously rude and even a 3rd grader knows to just get in line.  Not the race's fault or the volunteer's fault by any means, it was the fault of the very rude people.  I had more patience than them so instead of creating a scene I got in line behind them and waited patiently for my turn.  I was given bib #216 (very cool bib by the way) and got my shirt.  The shirt is a VERY nice, high quality dryfit type shirt with a very cool design.  It is one of the best race shirts I've gotten which is nice since I plan to wear it a lot to advertise this event!

After getting our shirts and packets we headed back over to the vendor booths.  Okay, beat this; 3 bottles of free, cold Poweraide, 3 cups of beer each, about 4 or 5 bottles of beer free to take with us!!  SWEET!!  So I'm sitting at a marathon Expo waiting for Jamie drinking some free beers; non-too-shabby in my book!!  Not too long after that Jamie, his wife, daughter and baby arrived and we all introduced ourselves.  They headed in to get Jamie's bib/shirt (and free beer) and I ran into several Marathon Maniacs that I've been chatting with over Facebook!  We all introduced ourselves and chatted about the race and previous races we've done.  It is amazing how Maniacs are all just instant friends whether they've ever actually met or not (and I'm glad to be a part of it!).  After the Expo Jamie invited us over to his hotel for a homemade pasta dinner that he has before every race.  It was a nice time chatting and a very nice dinner.  Perfect way to spend the evening before the race.  We then went back to our hotel to get all of our clothes, gear, food, bags, etc ready for race day.

The morning started when the alarm went off at 5:15 AM.  I had forgotten to bring milk for my normal pre-race breakfast (a bowl of Wheaties Fuel) so I had to eat a Pop-Tart instead.  This definitely effected my race but not too much.  I had planned to wear my Team RWB shirt and my Marathon Maniac arm sleeves, but because of the shape of the bibs and the placement of the logo on the shirt it really didn't fit well with my bib on it.  I opted, for comfort reasons, to go with my Marathon Maniac shirt and sleeves instead.  We left the hotel around 5:50 and got to the start line around 6:05ish.  Again, almost immediately on stepping out of the car I met another Maniac!  This one was a very nice lady in a Maniacs Divas shirt named Ellen that had driven in from Atlanta.  We walked over to the start area together then went our separate ways.  She will come back to be an important player in my marathon later.  We went to the steps of the Capital Building for the Marathon Maniacs group picture, which was great meeting so many fellow Maniacs!  I'll post a picture once someone that took one with an actual camera posts it; we only got one with my cell phone so all you can see is reflectors!!  Then a quick trip to check my bag in and it was off to the start line.

It was only 36* but the sun was already coming out so it didn't feel anywhere near that cold.  I found "Pacer Jim" who was leading the 4:15 pace group I planned to run with.  He said that he would "run 9:44 every single mile; not 9:34, not 9:54; always 9:44."  That's what I wanted to hear.  I knew that a 9:44 pace to get 4:15 would be very tough, but I knew I could do it since I wouldn't be going out too fast and burning out as I always do when I run on my own.  Finally the gun (actually more like cannon) went off and it was time to go!!  The first half mile we were right on pace (mostly thanks to dodging people) at a 9:48, but then Pacer Jim became a speed demon.  I wasn't paying attention to my watch since I was letting him control the pace, but I suspected we were going fast by the time we were getting to around the 6 or 7 mile point.  From mile marker 1 to 2 we ran an 8:55.  The next 3 miles we ran at a 9:20 avg.  The first 5 miles were at an overall avg of 9:33, the first 11 miles ended up at an overall 9:43 but I had had started to tire very badly because we had gone out so fast for the first 10k.  By 11 miles my legs were already getting sore and the sun was in full force, it had really warmed up and gotten a little humid.  Normally the temp, sun and even humidity wouldn't have bothered me, but we had started so fast I was feeling the effects.  I had already pulled off my gloves and arm sleeves, but I knew that the way my legs were already feeling there was no way I would hold a 9:44 (even if Jim did manage to keep it at the right pace the rest of the way), so I decided to just drop back from the group and enjoy a great event and not worry about my PR anymore.  In the next 3 miles the group was completely out of view and I had run that 3 at a 9:45 pace!  I'm glad I dropped off, he was going far faster that the planned pace.  This is my only issue with the event; Jim was a very inconsistent pacer and it completely destroyed my plan for the race.  Several runners that had started in the group and other pace groups had similar experiences and burned out much too early.

The course itself was absolutely amazing!!  This was my first time in Baton Rouge so all I knew were the pictures I'd seen of the areas we'd be running through.  The pictures definitely did not do the course justice!  This was probably the most scenic race I've run (and my first marathon was in Napa Valley so that's saying a lot!).  We started in front of the very impressive Capital Building, ran by the lake on the LSU campus, around Tiger Stadium, around the opposite side of the lake, through some very cool historic neighborhoods and back up to the Capital.  It was a gorgeous day and the sights were amazing!  It was so much fun to see an impressive city on foot!  Really, I think it was almost a good thing that I let the pacer go off without me.  Once I gave up my 4:15 goal and just decided to have fun I got to spend more time enjoying the scenery!  I think from now on I'm going to stop worrying about my speed.  My most enjoyable 2 marathons have been the ones that I didn't push for speed (Pilgrim Pacer and this one).  Why not slow down and enjoy the scenery a little more?

At about mile 16 my legs were shot; tight hamstrings, quads on fire.  I started walking off and on and slowing the pace of the runs quite a bit, but enjoying the company and camaraderie of all my fellow Maniacs.  I'm not sure at what point, but eventually I caught up with my Maniac Diva friend Ellen that I'd met that morning and we started walking, running and talking together.  It was so great to have a partner to keep me going.  She was a HUGE help.  We were both struggling badly.  She had started out with the 4:00 pace group but had the same problem, they started out very fast and she eventually burned out and dropped back.  We had a nice time talking and we pushed each other to keep going.  Finally with about 1.5 miles or so left Jamie showed up.  He had finished with a 30 minute PR of 3:39:46 and turned around to come pick me up and bring me in.  He really helped get us to the finish.  I ended up finishing with an official time of 4:46:01 (10:55 overall pace); 430th overall, 40/54 division, 287/394 men.

After finishing Kristy & I found each other and went to pick up our bag.  On the way we ran into a guy that had started with my pace group that was running his first marathon.  He had finished a little bit after me.  I congratulated him on a huge accomplishment and he when one way as Kristy and I continued on to get our bag.  We found Jamie & his family at the Finish Festival.  This was awesome!  We had some red beans & rice, free beer and enjoyed a great jazz band!  This was a one of a kind finish area; never been a part of an event with a festival like this.  It was really great!  On our way out I ran into one of the race directors and thanked him for such an amazing event.  He remembered me from posting so often on their Facebook and told me that they had done a marketing study of their Facebook page and found that Jamie & I were two of the most active people!  He asked me to send him my contact info so he could follow up with me.  Pretty cool that they paid enough attention to what was going on that he specifically remembered Jamie & I.

Overall this was a very impressive event; first year or not.  All of the planning and communicating leading up, the Expo, the shirts, the course, the volunteers, the Baton Rouge Police that managed traffic, the finish festival; all top notch.  This was hands-down the best run, most fun and most scenic event of any distance I have taken part in.  I plan to make this an annual trip and run every single running of the Louisiana Marathon from here on out.  I recommend any of you that were not here for it come down next year.

Marathon #5; State #4 are in the books.  Now it's a full 3 months until my next marathon; the Oz Marathon in Olathe, KS.

7 comments:

  1. Woohoo!! sounds like a great race and Congrats on a awesome Marathon #5!

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  2. Very nice blog site! Congrats on Louisiana Marathon. It was a wonderful Marathon. Good luck on the next ones!

    Arnel Gonce

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  3. Thank you Arnel & Indi!! Louisiana was amazing and I'm excited about it being the kickoff of a great year!!

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  4. Would you mind sharing the coupon code in Runner's World for the Pilgrim Pacer half marathon?! Pretty please!

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    1. There are not any coupon codes for Pilgrim Pacer that I am aware of. It is a small event, and events that small very rarely have coupons. I'm not sure what gave you the impression I have a coupon code for it.

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  5. How was the terrain? Was it pretty flat? I am training for the one this year, any tips would be fantastic!

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  6. Great review! I'm running my 1st Louisiana Marathon this weekend! LOoking forward to it! Hoping for a 3:55!

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