My Valentine and the Cupid Shuffle 5K

Happy belated Valentine’s Day! Whether single or in a relationship, this has always been my favorite holiday. I just love the idea of love…*sigh*

I love the heart-shaped balloons, the adorable teddy bears, the chocolate, and the flowers. But most of all, I love the fact that anything can happen on Valentine’s Day. It’s the perfect opportunity to express your love for someone–whether it’s a crush, a friend, or someone you’ve been married to for 50 years!

16665952_10155918203708228_5715648938234742358_oThis Valentine’s Day was extra special because I had a great person to share it with. A little over a year ago, my mom’s cousins out in Texas decided to play matchmaker. Little did they know, Nick happens to share my love of dogs, Sandra Bullock movies, sitcoms, running, and ice cream. More importantly, we share the same beliefs and values.

The weekend before Valentine’s Day, Nick’s work sponsored the Cupid Shuffle 5K in Lumberton, Texas. I drove in from Louisiana on Friday and stayed up late making a pink, red, and white tutu for the occasion.

The 5K was held at Lumberton City Park the next morning. That week, the flu had been going around my family, and I’d had fever, runny nose, and a cough myself. My plan was to walk the race, but once I got out there with the crowd of people, my competitive side kicked in. I ran the entire thing with a time of 28–a whole three minutes slower than Nick (and my previous 5K time), but not bad considering.16422649_1685139921783129_6774431180354357117_o

After the race, there were snacks, a DJ, and a video game truck. Nick and I played Super Smash Brothers, and I walked my chihuahua around to visit with everyone (Stu is a social butterfly). And then, of course, we did the Cupid Shuffle.

This year I got to enjoy Valentine’s weekend doing what I love with someone I love. It was the perfect way to celebrate my favorite holiday!

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The Great Huey P. Long Bridge Run

IMG_20160506_152111This 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.

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Ben, me, Nick…and a sweet Lamborghini.

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.”20160507_090000

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.

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Representing the health & kinesiology department!

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).

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Chicken gumbo? Yes please!

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!

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A 5K and crawfish in one day. I was one happy girl!

Rain & the Rotary Shamrock Run

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Me & my fellow grad student Ben.

 

As many of you may have seen in the news, Louisiana got some major flooding last week. The Hammond Rotary Shamrock 5K and 10K were supposed to take place last Saturday at Southeastern University’s campus (where I work and attend grad school!), but the run was cancelled. Some places on campus had water knee-deep–it would have been a swim/run duathlon!

The good news is, the race was rescheduled for today. The bad news is, the 10K was cancelled. So I ended up running the 5K, which I finished in 25:40. I was 4th in my age group, which was a little disappointing. I think I could have done better in the 10K because I’m better at endurance than speed.

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A pre-race pic with my friends!

I like this race because all the proceeds support local charities. The St. Patrick’s Day theme is fun and festive, and it gave me an excuse to make a new tutu. And of course, I love Southeastern’s campus, and I saw a couple of friends there.

I convinced a fellow health and kinesiology grad student, Ben, to run with me. He started out so fast that I didn’t bother keeping up with him, but in the end he only finished 2 minutes ahead of me. He’s actually writing his thesis on the Apple watch as a fitness technology. So of course he was sporting one of those (I think it helped!).

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Crossing the finish!

It began misting as I crossed the finish line, and the rain only picked up after that point. I brought my chihuahua, Stu, to the post-race party, and we were both wet and cold! We stuck around for a while, but within an hour, everyone was packing up. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the Louisiana Marathon and their huge finish festival with lots of food and live music, but I usually make a whole afternoon out of my races.

Oh well. I’m home with Stu now, staying dry and cozy, wondering what my next race should be…? 🙂

 

 

Louisiana Marathon Recap

Post-race pic!

Post-race pic!

 This past weekend was filled with running, which is always a good thing 🙂 The Louisiana Marathon was held in downtown Baton Rouge, and I ran the 5K Saturday with my mom and the half-marathon Sunday. My dad’s company offered to sponsor registration for family members, and the money went to benefit research for Rett’s Syndrome. So I was able to run for a cause, but not have to pay the $150. How awesome is that?!

There were challenges this weekend that I hadn’t faced in past races. A week ago during one of my training runs, I felt a sudden sharp pain on the side of my knee. For the rest of the week, I was unable to run any distance without experiencing pain. So going into this weekend, I wasn’t well-trained or sure if I could even run at all. Which made me very nervous when I lined up for the 5K.

I started off at the slowest jog possible, and the pain was bearable. Except when we ran downhill on a bridge (ouch!). I ended up walking for a bit. My time for the 5K was 34 minutes, which isn’t bad. But if it wasn’t for my knee, I might have placed in my age group. That part was a little disappointing.

Another challenge was the below-freezing temperatures Saturday morning. Us Louisianans aren’t used to that.

After the 5K, there was a lot going on in downtown BR. Food vendors, live music, the farmer’s market, and a huge pro-life rally. Me and my mom joined in all of it, so by that night I was exhausted. And very nervous about the next day’s half marathon, considering my knee would barely let me run a 5K.

The group running for Rett's Syndrome research, and the precious little girl we ran for.

The group running for Rett’s Syndrome research, and the precious little girl we ran for.

The next morning I joined over 5,000 runners lined up behind the start line for the half and full marathon. One of the neat things about this race is that there were trainers running with signs that showed their pace times. When I saw a guy running at a pace of 10:18 min/mile, my goal became keeping up with him. That wasn’t easy. My knee hurt like crazy for the first few miles, but then it sort of went numb and I was able to catch up with my pacer.

From downtown BR, the route went past city park, around the lakes, through LSU’s campus, and back. Which is a lot. There’s nothing easy about running a half-marathon, injured or not. I admire the people who kept going for another 13 miles after I was relaxing at the finish. One day I’ll join those crazy marathoners.

The finish festival.

The finish festival.

Anyway, I finished my half in 2:18, which is faster than my previous half marathon. Yay! After the run we headed to the “Finish Festival”, which featured free food from the best local restaurants. This included alligator stew (a first for me… alligator is very chewy, by the way), crawfish ettoufee, jambalaya, meat pies, and other cajun favorites. I also stopped in at the physical therapy tent and got my knee checked out; just as I had suspected, the culprit was a strained IT band. Thank goodness this isn’t a serious injury and only requires ice and rest for a full recovery.

The Louisiana Marathon is a great race for any runner. The course was beautiful, it was well-organized, and it did a good job of showing out-of-towners a taste of Louisiana culture. I look forward to running it next year, sans injury. 🙂