#SneauxRunLA: Louisiana Marathon 2018

#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.IMG_20180115_082716

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.

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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.20180114_065736

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.

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Louisiana Marathon 2017

3167129_img_2820-jpgThis 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!yoga

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.

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Half marathon finishers in order: Ben, Mom, me, and Nick!

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!

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Thanks to Conner and Vicki for their support and friendship –and tour of downtown!

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.

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Nick bears a striking resemblance to the Walk-On’s mascot…

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!