Just when we thought it was safe to stock the fridge and plan a party for our first anniversary this weekend, another major hurricane came our way. This Friday, Delta struck the Louisiana and Texas coast as a Category 2 hurricane in almost the exact same location as the powerful and destructive Laura six weeks ago.
I don’t live in southwest Louisiana (the area worst affected by these storms), but I do work there. Some people had just gotten their power back, boil advisories lifted, and businesses re-open days ago. Schools were about to re-open. People were finding hope in these shreds of normalcy (in a year where even normal isn’t normal), and then Delta hit and it all starts over again. These people really need help in the form of volunteers, donations, and prayers.
My husband, Nick and I didn’t evacuate for this storm, and we watched out the window all day as 50 mph winds whipped our trees around. It was quite a storm, with non-stop rain and scary gusts. We lost power that evening and found ourselves in total darkness as night fell and the sky took on an eerie shade of purple. To make things worse, Nick had bronchitis (and of course I ended up catching it two days later).
The next day, instead of wearing my wedding dress and sipping champagne with our families, I was salvaging our food with ice packs while Nick was at the ER getting a Covid test. Typical 2020.
That being said, I have no regrets. Reading through my grandma’s diaries lately, I realize that even couples with successful marriages don’t have what I have: a fairy-tale kind of love. I’m perfectly happy being stuck at home, even without electricity, and even when both of us are sick (and we can’t keep track of whose Kleenex is whose), because I always have fun with Nick.
So happy anniversary, sweet boy. Maybe in the next year all our plans won’t be ruined by a pandemic or natural disaster.
A week ago people along the Gulf Coast began sharing images of two storms forming in the Gulf of Mexico: Marco and Laura. Often times tropical storms will fizzle out, or come through bringing heavy rains but never becoming a real threat. I wasn’t worried.
*Quick background: I’m from Baton Rouge and have lived in Louisiana my whole life, until last year when I moved to southeast Texas (SETX) after getting married. My husband works in SETX, so he bought a house in the Orange area just before our wedding. Being near the Louisiana border, this allowed me to continue working in Louisiana out of Lake Charles.*
My office was closed Monday due to Hurricane Marco, which ended up weakening and disbanding. From my home in Orange, it turned out to be a sunny and breezy day. I enjoyed the break and expected to be back to work soon, but that night we got news that Hurricane Laura was a Category 2 and strengthening. The projections were showing the eye moving right over the Texas/Louisiana border (where we live).
The next day offices were closed again, this time to prepare for Laura and make evacuation plans. Orange County was issued a mandatory evacuation, but I was intent on staying home. Not only did I not feel like packing up and driving 2+ hours, but I wanted to stick around to see the action. In addition, a possible Covid exposure I’d had made me nervous to leave the house. My husband Nick and I had snacks, filled up water bottles, and a charged solar lantern. I brought in all my garden decor, potted plants, bird feeders, etc.
By that night, Laura became a Category 3 hurricane and I began to question my decision to stay. Meteorologists were predicting over 100 mph winds and a huge storm surge. Nick was being required to go to Luftkin for work for the duration of the storm (he works for an ER), so I’d be home alone. It was guaranteed we’d lose power, and Orange County planned to cut off water the next day to protect infrastructure. Our yard has 8 very tall trees that could crush the house in 100+ mph winds.
At 5 am on Wednesday, a very nervous Nick (who hadn’t slept a wink all night) woke me saying “It’s a category 4 now. We need to get out of here.” Now they were predicting an unsurvivable storm surge up to 15 feet, which could travel up to 30 miles inland. Our neighborhood is already prone to flooding, and with that kind of storm surge, the situation was dire. We scrambled to get our possessions on higher shelves, pack for several days away from home, and squeeze all our food into an ice chest.
I was on the road to Houston by 6 am with our two pups, and Nick was headed north to Lufkin (we left early to avoid traffic jams, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people were under evacuation orders). Every news outlet was urging people in Lake Charles to get out before it was too late. I first went to my sister-in-law’s house for a few hours and enjoyed a good meal, then headed to my brother’s apartment for the night.
We live-streamed storm coverage on The Weather Channel. The storm stopped advancing westward as projected and began advancing north, with the eye moving over Lake Charles rather than the state line. I fell asleep around midnight just as the storm was making landfall, and woke up every hour to see updates. I watched the city where I work get destroyed by winds over 150 mph, and listened to the eerie sound of wind gusting through the parking garage of the Golden Nugget, where the storm chasers sought shelter.
The next day I was once more glued to my phone, this time viewing photos of the devastation. The huge storm surge they predicted never happened in Lake Charles thanks to the storm’s position slightly east of where it was predicted. This also saved SETX from facing the brunt of the damage, and once it was safe for Nick to check on our house, he reported that it was fine–no flooding, no trees down, no roof damage.
Although I was relieved about our house and being spared the storm surge, my heart was heavy for the residents and business owners in Lake Charles and all of southwest Louisiana who suffered incredible wind damage. What’s worse, Laura kept its wind intensity as it plowed northeast through central Louisiana, where my parents live. That area was devastated as well. It may be weeks before me, my parents, or my in-laws have power.
As Laura continued wreaking havoc through the state, Lake Charles faced more disaster in the aftermath. A barge from the Isle of Capri Casino had plowed into the I-10 bridge, a fire started at a Westlake chemical plant (see above image taken by the Cajun Navy), and dangerous chlorine fumes were released into the air. A shelter-in-place order was issued for the surrounding area, and I-10 was closed from the Texas border through all of Calcasieu parish.
I was cheered up when my brother took me out for pizza and crepes. We decided to leave in the morning to check out my house. As we neared Orange this morning, we drove through intense rains from the tail of Laura passing through the area. Trucks hauling generators and other equipment passed us going toward Lake Charles to aid in relief efforts.
SETX, southwest Louisiana, and central Louisiana are looking very post-apocalyptic at this point. Power outages throughout, long lines of cars extending down the street for the few operational gas pumps available, branches everywhere, debris, power lines down. In Lake Charles, water systems are down, windows are shattered, buildings torn apart, and mobile homes demolished.
This is a difficult, emotional, and uncertain time for a lot of people in these affected areas. I truly believe it’s the power of prayer that saved us from the 20-foot storm surge, which would have left entire homes underwater. I’m also very thankful for the prayers lifted up for my home and safety in this storm.
When it’s safe, I’ll return to work in Lake Charles and hopefully have the opportunity to help in relief efforts. I’ll post an update later. For now, we’ll just remain where we have electricity and water.
The 2019 Louisiana Marathon was one for the books–because for the first time in the history of this event, races were cancelled. Me, my mom, and my fiancée Nick had registered for the quarter marathon this year, taking a break from our usual Deja Vu 5K + half marathon. Little did we know, the weekend wouldn’t pan out quite as planned.
The three of us drove to Baton Rouge from Alexandria Friday afternoon, stopping in Lafayette to meet up with family for dinner and music by Dynamic Duo at El Agave (gotta carb load, right?!).
The next morning, we were walking out the door when the email came through that the race was cancelled. After paying good money to participate, driving all the way to Baton Rouge, and waking up at 6 am on a Saturday, this was a huge disappointment.
The radar did look terrible, a bright red band crossing the state. By 8 am Baton Rouge was not only experiencing rain, but tornado and hail warnings as well. Clearly the race officials made the right call, but we still wanted to participate in race-day fun.
Although we hadn’t trained for it, Nick and I decided to upgrade to the half marathon the next day. We registered online, then went for a warm-up 2-mile run/walk. Mom opted out on running the half, as freezing temperatures were expected in the morning. Smart.
Last year the marathon weekend had record low temperatures in the 20’s. I swore I’d never run in those conditions again; but as the weekend wore on, the temperatures dropped drastically. Bone-chilling, gusty winds moved in. We headed to downtown Baton Rouge for lunch at Poor Boy Lloyd’s before meeting up with my aunt and cousins at the race expo.
We love the race expo because of all the freebies and running gear available. My mom, aunt, and cousin bought top-brand running shoes for as low as $60. We sampled Honey Stinger energy chews (they are delicious!) and Core Power milk (I’m loving their new coffee flavor).
It was dinner-time before we knew it, so we braved the chilly 20-mph winds to check out the street food festival just outside the Raising Cane’s Rivercenter. Once in the cold, we opted to go to an indoor restaurant–but not until after visiting Cupcake Allie’s food truck for some dessert before dinner.
The next morning, Mom, Nick, and I hit the donut shop at 5 am (because no one else is open that early). We ate our hot donuts while driving to the 26.2-minute mass with Father Allelo, a marathon-running priest, at St. Joseph Cathedral–just two blocks away from the start line.
At 7 am, Nick and I took our place at the back of the race corral. The windchill was 22 degrees, making it feel colder than last year! The crowd of thousands sheltered us from the wind, and after a couple miles the cold air actually felt good.
I crossed the halfway mark with a 10K time of 1:03. Either my lack of preparation for the half distance, or the fact that my new Hoka Clifton 5’s aren’t the best shoe for me, could explain why my legs were in pain after this point. I took a few walking breaks, but tried my best to stay near the 2:20 and 2:30 pacers.
Despite the cold, hundreds of spectators and volunteers lined the route–holding motivational signs, clashing gongs, handing out drinks and runner’s gu. My personal favorite was the Gordon McKernan posters: “Marathon? Get it done!”. Thank you to everyone who came out in the cold to support the runners!
I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:27–not a PR, but not my worst either. Nick, on the other hand, got a personal best time of 2:16. After our October wedding we’ll be training together–because whatever he’s doing…works!
Mom cheered for us at the finish line, and led us back to the car for an hour of enjoying the heater and shelter from the wind (and video-chatting with my nieces). The sun came out and the temperature rose; it was a glorious day after all.
Sufficiently defrosted, we made our way to the Rendevous Finish Festival in Capitol Park, where we enjoyed jambalaya, Uncle Larry’s gumbo, beer, alligator sauce piquant, and pasta bolognese. We took photobooth pictures, we danced with the 610 Stompers, Nick took a nap on the lawn, and Mom and I boogied with Quiana Lynell (SHE IS AMAZING!).
Despite a disappointing start, freezing temperatures, and wind that would make Jack Frost himself want to curl up under a blanket, the Louisiana Marathon 2019 was a success. The weekend ended on a high note, with a glorious sunny day, Cajun cuisine, good music, and excellent sportsmanship–the elements that keep me coming back year after year.
Earlier this month, I participated in my first ever cycling event: The 7th annual Le Tour de Bayou in Alexandria, Louisiana. This event benefits the Kent House Plantation, the oldest standing historic site in central Louisiana, which receives much of its operational budget through this and other fundraisers. The race featured distances for every level of biker–including 101, 69, 40, 25, 10, and 2 mile rides.
All distances showcase the lovely Bayou Rapides and the farmland that lies just outside the city limits. The 101-milers rode all the way to the community of Gardner, where I live with my family about 30 minutes outside Alex in the woods of the Kisatchie National Forest. (I cheered as I passed a few bikers on my drive home around noon).
I’d seen banners, flyers, and colorful bicycles around town in the weeks leading up to Le Tour de Bayou. The last few years that my family has lived here, we’ve seen the bikers on race day speeding down our street. But I never thought to sign up until this year–a week before the race, to be exact.
The truth is, I don’t have an expensive road racing bike, and I barely understand the mechanics of my own Trek hybrid. I was worried I’d embarrass myself if I participated.
So I went to the Kent House to register in person, and was assured that it wasn’t a race; it’s just for fun. Feeling encouraged, I signed up for the 10-miler. I washed my bike, filled my tires, and did a couple challenging training rides during the week in the hills around my house.
Saturday morning I woke up ridiculously early so I could see the sunrise Blessing of the Bikes and watch the 101- and 69-milers take off. The group was pretty small, and I had some major bike shame after seeing their fancy specialized bikes (remind me to ask Santa Clause for one). An hour later, at 8:30, a Kent House employee counted down the takeoff for our 10-mile group.
I couldn’t help but get competitive as we cycled down Bayou Rapides road. To my surprise, within minutes I had passed the pack and had only three bikers ahead of me. Pedaling as hard as possible, I slowly gained on them until I was in 2nd place. Unfortunately, the route wasn’t marked and none of us had studied the route well–so when we hit a crossroads, three of us stopped to look at the map.
Losing my momentum, it was like starting over mid-race. I cycled as fast as my heart would let me, re-gaining my 2nd place status–but with the two others close on my tail. Sure enough, right at the finish line they passed me. This guy and gal sure motivated me to try my best and leave nothing on the road. The three of us crossed the finish within a couple seconds of each other, with a time of 38:50.
Bike racing is not easy. You know the flustered post-race feeling–heart pounding, legs like jelly, and swearing you’ll never do that again (until 20 minutes later when you wonder: When’s my next race?)? I was definitely feeling it.
With the sun high in the sky and not a cloud in sight, the grounds looked beautiful for the post-race party. Kent House staff and volunteers provided chocolate milk, snacks, jambalaya dinners, and beer. There were free tours of the plantation house, massages, a DJ, and local vendors.
I learned some interesting history in a 30-minute tour of the house before enjoying lunch and a “recovery” beer. A friend of my dad’s introduced me to some folks in the biking community, including the owner of a specialty bike gym. The future is bright for my biking hobby.
Le Tour de Bayou is a fun race with a flat, fast course and distances for all levels. It gives bikers the chance to see central Louisiana’s beauty and support the community. I had tough competition to push me to do my best, but it wasn’t so competitive that I felt discouraged. This may have been my first bike race, but it won’t be my last!
#GeauxRunLA? More like #SneauxRunLA! Last weekend was the 7th Rendevous at the Louisiana Marathon, and it was by far the coldest. Although this was the 5th year I ran the Déjà Vu (5K + half marathon), it was the most challenging and memorable due to the historically cold South Louisiana temperatures. It takes a lot of heart to cross the start line in 25-degree weather, and even more to cross the finish.
Saturday morning, my mom and I bundled up for the 5K. My boyfriend Nick was going to be our cheerleader, as he was saving all his energy for the half marathon. I wasn’t sure I was mentally or physically prepared to run in sub-freezing temps, but I wasn’t about to back out. At 8am we crossed the start; 29 minutes later, I crossed the finish. It wasn’t my best time, but I was happy just to finish!
Mom, on the other hand, got a personal best 5K time. Nick met us at the finish line and we headed to the Rendezvous Finish Festival to celebrate. Even though we weren’t particularly hungry, we went straight to the Food Village to warm our bones with gumbo, tortilla soup, and crawfish ettoufee. Runners didn’t hang around too long, as everyone was anxious to get indoors. Likewise, we made our way to the expo at the River Center to pick up Nick’s race packet.
The expo was almost as fun as the race itself. We got free Community Coffee, samples of Honey Stinger products, and free stuff. Mom and I browsed running shoes, and she ended up buying a pair of Brooks for a better price than you can find anywhere online.
Nick tried out “The Stick,” which is a stick strung with beads that you can roll over sore, tight, or injured muscles. It’s claimed to release muscle tension, roll out kinks, reduce injury healing time, and help with soreness. Nick decided to buy it to help with some IT band pain he’s been having. “The Stick” quickly became his prize possession, and he proceeded to carry it around all weekend.
Sunday morning, we arrived downtown early to go to the 26.2-minute mass led by Father Allelo, the marathon-running priest. It was so cool to see a church full of runners in all their race gear. After mass, we hurried to get our race bibs on, our gear checked in, and ourselves to the race corral.
It was 25 degrees outside. I never thought I’d run a half marathon dressed in two pairs of leggings, two pairs of socks, a fleece jacket, gloves, hat, and a scarf. Yet even with all those layers, I was still freezing. How am I going to do this? I thought. Running 13 miles is hard enough already!
As we began to move, the cold became more bearable. We lost Mom in the sea of thousands of runners. Nick and I started with the 2:30 pacer, but Nick kept speeding up. I managed to keep up with him, and in no time we found ourselves ahead of the 2:20 pacer.
The tortoise-and-hare analogy describes us perfectly: he’s a hare, speeding past me and always winning 5K races; I’m a tortoise, moving slow and steady, but always beating him in half marathons. And so was the case this weekend.
Determined to keep ahead of the pacer, I finished with a time of 2:18. Nick finished about 10 minutes later—and from what I hear he quite enjoyed the second half of the race, partaking in donuts and mimosas from spectators along the route.
This was an unforgettable race weekend for us Louisiana Marathon regulars. Never before have we run over a low spot on the course and realize that the crunching underfoot was ice; never before have we run through LSU and seen the edges of City Park lake frozen over. Kudos to everyone who was out there, especially the spectators, police, and volunteers—you’re amazing for braving the cold to support the runners! If you can take on that challenge, you can do anything.
This weekend I participated in the Louisiana Marathon race weekend for the fourth consecutive year. My mom and I earned the Deja Vu Award by running both the 5K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday. We love the Louisiana Marathon, and this year was extra special because my cousin Vivi joined us for the 5K, and my boyfriend Nick and good friend Ben joined us for the half marathon.
Friday evening I headed to the Baton Rouge River Center–along with Mom and my cousins Vivi and G–for the race expo. After we grabbed our race packets, we discovered the plethora of free stuff being offered by vendors. We got headbands from Supreme Rice, coffee from Community Coffee, snack samples from Honey Stinger, sunglasses, chapstick, ice packs, and more!
My cousins and I joined a group in the center of the expo for some pre-race stretching led by Yoga Rouge. One guy in the group was really enjoying himself at the expo–in fact, we saw him later taking a shirtless picture at the photo booth. (His antics continued to amuse us throughout the weekend). Mom and Vivi ended up finding a great deal on some lightweight Mizunos and each bought a pair. We had a blast at the expo and left with lots of treasures.
My boyfriend Nick drove in from Texas that night. Thanks to his generosity, I was able to stay with him in the Hilton downtown for the weekend. Saturday morning we met in the lobby at 6am. It was filled with runners, including several of Ainsley’s Angels, who were setting up as Nick and I ate breakfast in the restaurant hotel. We had the most delicious breakfast any runner could hope for–eggs, grits, fresh baked muffins, fluffy waffles, berries, yogurt, and more. I had to stop myself from eating too much before the 5K!
Nick and I walked through a very foggy downtown to the race start. It was so foggy, we couldn’t even see the State Capitol building looming only yards away from us. We met my mom and Vivi at the gear check. After a few minutes of stretching, us girls weaved our way to the front of the race corral. At eight o’clock, the cannon blew and we were off!
I managed to stay by Vivi until the one mile mark, at which point she disappeared in the crowd. I ended up finishing around 25 minutes, Vivi around 27, and Mom around 34. Pleased with our times, and joined by Nick and my aunt and uncle, we headed to the finish festival to celebrate.
The finish festival featured restaurant vendors and businesses from all over Baton Rouge. Nick (a Texas native but Cajun at heart) enjoyed the jambalaya, gumbo, and crawfish etouffee. Vivi liked the fact that people were handing out freebies galore. In fact, our phrase of the day was “Let’s go find more free stuff!” Mom enjoyed the live music. And me, I loved the experience of being around hundreds (er, make that thousands) of runners from all over the world. I never wanted it to end.
But alas, the crowd thinned and my family left. The fog had lifted and it was a beautiful afternoon, but because Nick wasn’t feeling well, we walked back to the hotel. Once he was settled in, I took a walk to the downtown grocery to get him some ibuprofen.
On my way back, a reporter stopped me on the sidewalk and asked if I was in town for the race. We chatted a bit and then she asked if she could interview me. Of course I happily agreed. Then she whipped out a video camera, to which I reacted “Oh, this is for TV…? Cool!!”
Here’s the news clip from that night, featuring yours truly.
The next morning Nick and I met in the lobby even earlier–at 5:45 am. We walked to St. Joseph’s Cathedral downtown for a very unique, 26.2 minute runners’ mass. Father Michael Alello, a marathon runner himself, does this mass especially for those running the Louisiana full and half marathon. It was interesting seeing the church filled with people in Nike shorts, compression socks, and racing shoes.
After mass, we met up with Mom and Ben. This was the first half marathon for Mom, Nick, and Ben, and I could sense their nervous excitement. When the race started, we were in the back of the pack, with nearly 3,000 people ahead of us. Ben, who can run a 45-minute 10K, sped ahead of us and ended up finishing in under two hours.
Nick and I stayed together for the first half of the race–high-fiving cops, waving to spectators, and enjoying the sights of City Park and LSU. Using a mile split tracker I tattooed to my forearm that morning, I paced myself for a 2:15 half marathon. However, Nick refused to keep that pace, nervous that he might burn out. So, I confess…I was a bad girlfriend and left him in the dust. I sped up in the second half of the race and ended up finishing in 2:12.
Some interesting things I saw along the route:
A spectator wearing nothing but a speedo and a unicorn mask
Guys handing out water and donuts wearing some sort of stripper cop outfit, including disturbingly tight short shorts
A runner in a shirt reading “This is a lot of work for a free banana”
Volunteers handing out mimosas and beer in the middle of the race
Signs reading “At least you’re not at work” and “If Trump can run and win, so can you”
I met up with Ben at the finish line, and we watched as Nick crossed the finish with a time of 2:21 and Mom with a time of 2:47. We headed to the finish festival for some more food and free stuff!
We met up with my friend Vicki and her husband Conner, who had come out to cheer for us. It was great to see them! We were enjoying some jambalaya and Abita beer when I suggested we give Ben (a New Orleans native) and Nick a tour of downtown Baton Rouge.
Vicki and Conner were up to the task, both of them quite knowledgeable of the area. They gave us a lesson in history and culture, walking us down the main streets and past the old state capitol. We ended our tour at the old governor’s mansion, where we sat on some benches and talked for a while. According to Nick’s Fitbit, we’d walked several miles in addition to our 13.1!
With my friends and family spread out in different cities and states, it was great to have this event bring us together. The Louisiana Marathon is fun, fast, and well-organized. It benefits many charities, including the Rett Syndrome Foundation, who my registration fee benefited (thanks to the generosity of my dad’s company Albemarle). I can’t wait to do it all over again in 2018!
On May 14th my 12-year-old cousin Vivi did her first 5K race through the Girls on the Run program, and I happily served as her running buddy. Girls on the Run is a non-profit organization for grade-school girls that encourages healthy lifestyles and builds confidence. Vivi participated in this program for several weeks leading up to the run, and her training paid off. We finished the 5K in 27 minutes–not bad for her first rodeo!
My mom and I arrived at “Inspiration Village” (held in the fields behind the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge) around 7:30 that morning. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and it was a beautiful day for a run…albeit, a little hot.
Various schools and organizations had tents set up for their girls in the program. A DJ was playing on a stage. There were several stations for the girls (and boys) to get decorated for the run, including colored hair spray and bandannas with individualized expressions like “just keep running” or “sunshine.” We also got buttons, and someone was selling tutus (but for the record, I made mine myself).
Vivi, her sister G, and my aunt and uncle arrived shortly after us. There was a station for spectators to decorate posters, so my mom and G made some while me and Vivi got ready. Then at 8:30, there was a Zumba warm-up in “Balloon Field.” This activity was for everyone, so my mom, G, Vivi, and I all did Zumba. The girls were clearly embarrassed at my mom and I getting into the dances, which just made it more fun for us (hehe).
After the warm-up, I wasn’t just warm–I was already sweating! I hoped I could keep up my energy and have a good race; I didn’t want to let Vivi down. We lined up near the back of the race corral, and at 9 am we were off.
I explained to Vivi that it’s important to go slow at first, to avoid burnout. We weaved around walkers and slower runners, keeping a slow and steady pace. When we reached the first water station at mile 1, I encouraged her to go a little faster. She seemed okay, but she didn’t want to go faster. Not wanting to push her too hard, I kept the slow and steady pace.
As we ran, I explained some of my racing tips and tried to keep her motivated. At mile 3, when I was telling her to go her fastest, she wanted to slow down. When the finish line came into view, she wanted to–*gasp*–walk! She complained about a stitch in her side. But I refused to hear it.
We reached the final stretch, and I told her to sprint. Out of nowhere she starts sprinting full speed ahead, leaving me in the dust and finishing a good 20 seconds faster than me. That stitch in her side must have miraculously disappeared!
I was very proud and impressed by Vivi, but I have a sneaking suspicion she could have done better. Next year I want G and my mom to run with us, and I’m not letting anyone slow down.
After the race, my brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting from out-of-state, came out with my niece Sophie. There were pancakes, fruit cups, music, and a photo booth at the post-race party. It was fun dancing with little Sophie, who just turned a year old.
This is a fun race for anyone of any age. Everything about it was adorable. I had a great time with my family, and I can’t wait to do this one next year!
This weekend I ran my first bridge run, a 5K stretching from the East Bank to the West Bank of the Mississippi River, across the Huey P. Long Bridge in Harahan, Louisiana. My running buddy Ben’s mom, who lives just minutes from the bridge, offered to host me for the weekend. Thanks to her, I was able to get plenty of good food and rest the night before the race.
Saturday morning, me and Ben arrived at the start line 15 minutes early, despite a last-minute run to Starbucks so I could get breakfast. We spotted our fellow grad student, Nick, checking out a sweet Lamborghini parked at the race start. We took some pictures and then lost each other in the crowd of about 1,000 runners. A few minutes later, the Lamborghini started rolling and we were off!
So, confession: I didn’t actually train for this run… My last 5K, two weeks before, was the last time I’d been running. Now considering I was about to run across the Mississippi River on an incline, I didn’t expect to be very fast.
So I went slow and steady. Taking off at a leisurely pace, I set my goal to finish in under 30 minutes. We ran for about a half mile before reaching the actual bridge. Then there it was: the first incline. I kept telling myself to go slow, not knowing what to expect.
The bridge leveled out for several yards, and then we faced another incline. I felt thankful when I saw a water station staffed with several wonderful volunteers on that second incline.
As we increased in elevation, I became distracted by the awesome view of the river and city below me, everything looking so small. Then I saw a sign that said “You made it to the top. It’s all downhill from here!”
I slowed down for a moment to sneak a glance at all the runners behind me–hundreds of determined people, all running uphill. It was an inspiring view.
Just as the sign promised, it was all downhill from there. I picked up my pace and let gravity work its magic. I could see what was ahead of me, and I knew the finish line (and free food!) was near. I laughed when I heard one man say “I’m just running to the beer.”
The race finished in Gumbo Festival Park, where a live band was playing and several vendors were set up. They were serving delicious gumbo and jambalaya, as well as beer and donuts. Ben finished exactly two minutes ahead of me, with a time of 23:44, placing third in his age group. I finished 6th in my age group, and was quite pleased with my time.
The band, Imaginary Frenz, was awesome. They played a great mix of oldies and contemporary stuff, like Better Than Ezra and Blues Traveler. I absolutely loved them and their song choices.
Ben and I caught up with Nick and got some food. I held off on the beer because the line stretched all the way across the field.
Later, we were heading over to the finish line to take a picture when we noticed the last runner coming in. It was a man who had walked the entire 5K with a cane. Everyone flocked to the finish line to cheer him on. He is awesome!
Ben and I hung out for a while after the crowd thinned out, enjoying the band while we waited for the awards ceremony. I eventually got my beer–not because I actually like beer, but because supposedly it restores electrolytes (and it’s part of the whole experience, especially at a New Orleans race).
I took a shuttle bus back across the bridge, marveling at how I had just run over it. Me and Ben headed back to his mom’s place, where his family and friends were having their annual Kentucky Derby pool party. We had boiled crawfish, gumbo, cake, and tons of snacks. It was amazing. My chihuahua, the social butterfly that he is, had a great time as well.
The Huey P. Bridge Run is definitely worth doing again next year. I recommend it to any runners reading this!
My most recent 5K turned out to be less than a 5K–and that’s okay. It was my first race with my fabulous new running shoes: the women’s Asics gel hyper speed 6. These shoes are more minimalistic than traditional running shoes, with a thin sole and very little support. They’re as light as a feather; one of the kinesiology professors in my department even compared them to ballet slippers.
The Green and Gold 5K was held at Southeastern University’s campus last Saturday to benefit our athletics program. It was neat in that the finish line was the end zone in Strawberry Stadium. Two of my fellow grad students came out for it, as did my friend Nick from Texas. We were surprised how small the group was on the morning of the race. Only about 50 people ran!
Despite the small size, I still didn’t place in the 20-30 age group. The ROTC runners and my friend Ben took the medals for that. According to our Apple watches and running apps, the course was about 2.9 miles. Me and Nick tied, crossing the finish line in 23 minutes flat.
I just registered for the Girls on the Run 5K, which raises money for young girls and helps them to get healthier. My little cousin is doing their training program, and this will be her first 5K. As her running buddy, I will make sure she successfully finishes. She’s extremely fast, so I’m hoping she doesn’t beat me.
My friends from work also want me to do the Huey P. Long Bridge Run 5K. This race goes across the bridge and back, so it will be a challenge. If I stay on top of my schoolwork, I’ll be able to do this one (even though it’s right before finals).
This week was spring break, and since I work at and attend a university, that means a whole week off for me. I headed straight home after work last Thursday night, making it to my parents’ place by 11 pm. They live out in the middle of the woods of central Louisiana, with several acres on a beautiful lake. Home is like a vacation destination, complete with fine dining, a pool, hiking, and the luxury of cable television (something I don’t pay for at my own home).
On Easter, we were joined by my dad’s side of the family, as well as my mom’s sister’s family. This included my two youngest cousins (who are like little sisters to me) and my cousin Ira’s three adorable children. We dyed eggs and explored the property. I baked a delicious chocolate cake that was such a hit, my aunt asked me to make another for an upcoming family reunion (recipe here)!
One of my little cousins stayed for the week after Easter. Tuesday she, my mom, and I drove up to the Kisatchie Backbone Trail, part of the Kisatchie National Forest near Natchitoches, Louisiana. This is the only trail in Louisiana where you see a lot of rock outcroppings. It was a neat trail, complete with sandy streams, beds of ferns, some steep inclines, and great overlooks. We hiked a total of seven miles.
We also saw the movie Miracles from Heaven this week. This is an excellent movie, and I highly recommend seeing it. Not many movies these days are worth paying $10 to see, but I’ll gladly splurge to see the few Christian movies that make it to theaters.