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!

Mardi Gras Mambo 10K

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! I hope you all get to spend this day doing something you love or spending time with someone you love. Yesterday I spent the day doing what I love most–racing! I ran the Mardi Gras Mambo 10K in downtown Baton Rouge, with a goal of finishing in under an hour. I surprised myself by surpassing that goal and finishing in 55 minutes. What a great Valentine’s gift to myself.

P1040646This was my first year doing this race, and I’m definitely adding it to my list of favorites. It was super fun–from making my purple-and-green tutu, to enjoying the lovely route and the post-race party, I loved this race. There were over 1,000 runners in the 10K, and we were grouped with those running the 15K distance as well. Before we all took off, a group ran the 1-mile fun run. Basically, there were a lot of people in North Boulevard Town Square that morning.

Everyone was dressed in Mardi Gras colors, with several (myself included) wearing tutus, costumes, wigs, or beads. A DJ was already playing at 7 a.m., so the party had started. I got to the square an hour early, wearing nothing but a tank top, shorts, and my tutu. The temperature was in the 50’s and a cold wind was blowing. I was freezing! But I knew once I started running, these conditions would be perfect. (Which they were. Once the sun came out, the temperature rose into the 60’s or 70’s. It was a beautiful day.)

When race officials opened the corral around 8 a.m., they had pace signs set up for walkers, 10-minute milers, 9-minute milers, etc.. I lined up at the 9-minute sign and took note of the people standing around me. If I kept up with these individuals, I’d reach my goal.

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My race medal

A mile or so into the run, I picked one guy in particular and made it my mission to keep up with him. He was lean, in his mid-twenties, and wore a Louisiana Marathon hat and compression socks; I reasoned that he was probably an experienced and fast runner.

Whenever he got ahead of me or people came between us, I sprinted until I was right next to him again. We were neck-and-neck for miles. Then, on the last mile I passed him up. Then he passed me up. And so on and so forth. I wondered if he noticed or got annoyed that a twig of a girl in a gigantic tutu was getting a competitive edge on him. In the end I actually beat the guy. If he’s reading this, thank you for being an awesome pacer!

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Me and Jacob!

As I approached the finish line, I spotted my big brother, Jacob. “Lengthen your stride!” he shouted, as he ran alongside me to the finish line. I was so happy that he showed up to cheer! It’s a little disappointing that no one wanted to do this run with me. I guess people don’t get as excited about running 6.5 miles as I do (confession: I could hardly sleep the night before, I was so excited…).

That being said, I did make a new acquaintance that day. He’s a 70-year-old man who ran the 15K in 1:07. That’s impressive at any age! He gave me some training tips and encouragement, saying that it takes 10 years of running for you to reach your peak. He also said that with the right training, I could be running a 10K with a time in the mid-40’s. So that’s my new ambition.

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Enjoying my post-race jambalaya!

I also met a lady while I was grabbing a jacket from my car after the race. She’d just moved to Baton Rouge from Houston and, seeing my tutu, was wondering what was going on. I told her to come check out the post-race party. She seemed excited about it. Later, as I was enjoying the free beer and live music, I saw her taking pictures on a very nice, professional-looking camera. She waved and snapped a picture of me. I wondered if she is a journalist or fellow blogger. Maybe my picture will show up somewhere 🙂

The post-race party included live music from Baton Rouge Studios, and jambalaya, pulled pork sandwiches, Jimmy John’s, king cake, cake balls, Cane’s lemonade, beer, and more. All of which was all free and all-you-can-eat. Core Power, the main race sponsor, gave free drinks to all the finishers. There was also a gumbo cook-off fundraiser going on, and for a $10 donation you could have all-you-can-eat gumbo. Gosh I love south Louisiana.

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The post-race party

I’d recommend this race to anyone. It’s a great way to have some family-friendly Mardi Gras fun, and the race is large and competitive enough for serious runners.

 

Louisiana Quarter Marathon 2016

signLast Saturday I participated in the Louisiana Marathon weekend for the third consecutive year. This event is a 3-day, Louisiana-themed running festival in downtown Baton Rouge. Friday was the running expo and packet pickup at the River Center; Saturday was the 5K, quarter, and kid’s marathon, and Sunday was the half and full marathon.

I registered myself, my mom, and my brother Jacob for the quarter marathon (6.5 miles). The company my dad worked for is a race sponsor, and they cover the registration fees for employee and retirees’ immediate family. Not only did they cover our registration, but the funds went to a great cause–the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.

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Behind the starting line!

Friday afternoon I headed to the River Center to pick up our race gear. While there, I bought some sport headphones, donated a half teaspoon of blood for stem cell research, and grabbed free samples of anything edible I could find.

Saturday morning Mom, Jacob, and I arrived downtown an hour early and did some stretching. At 7:50, we wiggled our way to the middle of the crowd behind the starting line. I don’t know how many runners were in that crowd, but with the 5K and quarter marathon groups combined, it was in the thousands. In fact, registration for all Louisiana Marathon race distances had sold out!

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A post-race pic with Mom and the Louisiana State Capitol!

When the clock hit 8 a.m., we were off. I immediately lost Mom and Jacob in the crowd. My first two miles were slow because I was pacing myself and also weaving around people. Once the 5K runners turned around, the course became less crowded and I was able to run at a steady pace of about 9 minutes a mile. Cheering spectators and volunteers along the route kept me motivated (they’re the best!).

I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:02. My best 10K time is under an hour, but considering I took most of the last year off from running, I was happy and proud of my accomplishment! Besides, it’s not about how fast you run or how you place; it’s about doing your best and giving it 110%.

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Mom and Jacob with their medals!

Jacob finished 10 minutes faster than me, and Mom finished 15 minutes after me. We were all happy with our times, and next year we plan to do the 5K and the half marathon. We retrieved my chihuahua Stu, who had been waiting in the car, and headed to the finish festival. There were some great bands playing, the sky was blue, the temperature rose into the 70’s…I can’t imagine a more perfect afternoon.

Several restaurant vendors came out to the Rendevous, and my post-race meal included: Core Power milk, gumbo, pulled pork sliders, Abita strawberry beer, and seafood pasta. It was amazing.

Here are more pictures from our day. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Louisiana running girl

Check out the personal running/blog site I built for my web design class this semester. The name was my professor’s idea; he thought it was cool that I run half-marathons and such, and he and his wife are about to get into running themselves. Here’s a link to my site:

http://louisianarunninggirl.com/

Of course, since it’s free to have a blog on WordPress, I will continue to write on here (I only purchased my domain for a few months). It was neat to create my own site though, and it’s something I wish to continue doing. I did all the html coding for the site myself. My professor taught us how to understand the language of coding, so my site was built without the help of Dreamweaver or any other drag-and-drop program.

If you’d like someone to build your website for free (or for a modest fee, as I am a poor grad student) please comment or contact me! I’d love to get more practice and experience with web design.

 

The Louisiana Marathon and other news

Somehow I’ve managed to neglect my blog for 4 months. I’m currently on spring break, spending a week out in the country with my family–a perfect opportunity to catch up on here! I ended up getting a graduate assistantship (and I love my new job!), so I’ve been working and attending grad school since January. This has made it a little more difficult to save money for and find time to train for races, but I’ve done 3 so far this year.Rendevous Finish Festival at the LA Marathon

The 2nd weekend of January my mom and I raced in the Louisiana Marathon weekend. We got free registration for this event through my dad’s company, and the company’s donations went to the Rett’s Syndrome foundation–a great cause. That Saturday, I ran the 5K and my mom ran the 10K; on Sunday I ran the half marathon. Of all the runs and triathlons I’ve done, the Louisiana Marathon is by far my favorite. It’s well-organized, the route is lovely, it attracts people from all over the world, it’s competitive (but at the same time, it’s a race for people of all levels), it raises money for good causes, the food is wonderful, and the finish festival is a blast.Louisiana Marathon Weekend

The weather was perfect for this race weekend–a little chilly, but refreshing once you started moving. There were a good bit of people running the shorter-distance events on Saturday, but Sunday the crowd of runners was gigantic. Thousands of people lined up behind the starting line for the full and half marathons. In fact, there were so many that we had to leave in waves. I got in the last wave, so I took off about 15 minutes after the race’s official start time. The half-marathon route took us through downtown Baton Rouge and all the way to LSU’s campus. We circled around the city park lakes and headed back downtown for the finish line. I’m not sure where the full marathon runners went–I was not up for another grueling 26.2 miles! Lots of spectators came out, encouraging us and giving us snacks and drinks along the route. (Side note: though I appreciate the kind ladies handing out free runner’s goo, I must say it’s possibly the most disgusting substance I’ve ever tasted.)

As fun as the race is, my favorite part of this event is the Louisiana-themed Rendevous Finish Festival. Local restaurants and vendors set up booths with food, drinks, merchandise, and even physical therapy. Food and drinks were complementary with race registration; I had some amazing cheese grits, corn and crab bisque, stew, Core Power milk, and more goodies as post-race recovery. On Saturday, the entertainment for the Rendevous was Rockin’ Dopsie, a New Orleans jazz/blues artist. He played some original tunes and some fun covers. At one point his band played the Mardi Gras Mambo and Rockin’ Dopsie got off the stage to lead a line dance with the runners. Following him was Baton Rouge Music Studios, a group of super talented local high-schoolers. Rockin’ Dopsie was so impressed, he got on stage with them and offered them to open at his Live After Five show (might wanna check it out!).

As we were leaving the finish festival Sunday, my mom and I saw the final few finishers coming in from the marathon. We noticed a group of people in pink running in a group around a girl in a wheelchair stroller/bike. Once they were within a few yards of the finish line, they came to a halt, helped the girl stand up out of her bike, and walked her across the finish line. I felt my eyes tearing up as I watched this girl cross the finish line of a marathon–an accomplishment that’s almost impossible, even for those with the strongest legs. The next morning I read about these pink-clad runners in the paper; they’re called Ainsley’s Angels, and they sign up for races in order to help people with disabilities complete the race. I would love to be an Ainsley’s Angel someday, but first I have to become strong enough to not just run the race for myself, but to help push someone else along (I will have to seriously step up my training). Someday… 🙂Shamrock Run 5K

After the Louisiana Marathon, my boyfriend informed me one day that he had run over 2 miles in like 16 minutes. So of course I immediately got online and found a 5K for us to run together. We only got in a few training runs before the Shamrock 5K on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, but we both did well. He actually beat me and was one of the top finishers! I think I have a new running buddy 😉 This race was small-ish (only 800 runners) but offered a 10K, 5K, and kids fun run. The route was around Southeastern’s campus, and the post-race party had some live music, good food, and a costume contest. This was much more fun and family-friendly than the St. Paddy’s parade, where many of my friends were spending that morning.

The next weekend, I ran another fun 5K which raised money for a campus organization that supports the fight against human trafficking. This race, the Electrik Run, took place at night in a park on campus. It was a small race, and I ended up finishing 4th out of about 80 runners. This run was…interesting. It took place at night, and the park was not well-lit, so the main source of light–preventing my klutzy self from falling–was the glow sticks I adorned myself with (lol). It was a super fun race though!

With school, work, and a little niece on the way, the next few months will be busy and exciting. Hopefully I can get myself on a consistent workout schedule so I’ll be ready for more 5Ks and tri’s (and so I can beat my boyfriend)! 🙂

Dirty South Marathon Recap

I was the Pink Lady.

I was the Pink Lady 🙂

On October 12th, the first annual Dirty South Marathon took place in West Monroe, Louisiana. Though small, this town has become well-known as the home of the Robertson family and their Duck Commander duck call business. On this particular Sunday morning, Willie Robertson came out early (along with about 500 runners) and blew a duck call to kick off what would be my first full marathon!

My mom and I drove in to West Monroe that Saturday. We picked up my race packet at the fitness expo and checked into our hotel. This was my first visit to West Monroe, and as a Duck Dynasty fan I had to visit the Duck Commander headquarters (which is pretty much just a gift shop). We later ate dinner at Willie’s Diner, where we had Miss Kay’s meatloaf–perfect pre-marathon fuel (not to mention the service was great–would definitely recommend this place).

Willie the duck commander!

The next morning, we lined up at the start line at 7:30. There were about 180 of us running the full, and about 370 runners who were only half crazy. The weather was perfect–in the 70s and overcast, with a slight breeze. We prayed and said the pledge. Willie blew the duck call and we were off!

There were lots of spectators along the half-marathon route, and at least one water station every mile. We ran across the Ouachita River, through downtown Monroe and the quaint antique district, and back across the river. There were some hills, but nothing too grueling.

After the first half-marathon, there were less spectators, fewer runners, and less water stations. The course became very quiet and peaceful. We ran through a gorgeous park with a paved trail through some woods. There was a Cane’s dog park, where Cane’s employees were handing out lemonade (yum!). At this point I had been running for 3 hours and 30 minutes, and I was on mile 18. I was hydrated and energetic, and right on track to finish with a sub-5-hour marathon.

The antique district

The antique district

My hips, knees, and ankles ached as I looped back through the hilly park. My muscles felt like rubber bands stretched to their limit. As I exited the park, I grabbed some water at an aid station. The volunteers offered Aleve to runners with their water. I almost turned around to get in on that. Almost. But isn’t pain part of the marathon experience? If I had taken that Aleve, the next 6 miles would have been a lot easier…but I didn’t want to take the easy way out.

Mile 20. I had been running for 4 hours, and all I had left was a 10K. In theory, I could still finish in under 5 hours. Spectators cheered me on, commenting that I looked great–I was barely even sweating. True: by not going out too fast in my first half-marathon, by drinking at every mile, and by periodically popping sports beans to keep up my electrolyte levels, I’d managed to make it this far without feeling bad or getting fatigued.

However. My legs were in pain (which is to be expected). It was at this point that I began taking walking breaks. It even hurt to walk. And I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Other runners had begun to walk at this point, and some of them were moving pretty slow.

The route went through subdivisions and roads–which were not closed off to traffic and didn’t have shoulders. Spectators and stations seemed few and far between. Not once, but twice, I missed a turn and got off the course (so technically, I ran more than 26.2 miles!). The clouds went away and it suddenly became much warmer.

I made it to the finish line!

Crossing that finish line is something I’ll never forget!

My last 6 miles dragged on forever. I guess that’s what they call hitting the wall. I felt as though I was trekking across the Sahara desert, with no end in sight. And then a man called out, “Keep going, just one more mile!” Could it be? I jogged up the overpass, and sure enough there in the distance was the finish line. I was going to make it! I almost cried.

My mom and her friend were waiting for me at the finish. Finishing near me was a professor of pharmacy who I met on the run (this was his 2nd marathon, his first being in Montana), and a guy who is planning to run the New York Marathon in a couple of weeks.

Overall, my first full marathon was a great experience. The weather was perfect, the route was nice, and the race was well-organized. Lots of volunteers and spectators came out. I had fun and achieved my goal.

I hobbled around for the 3 days following the race. My joints were stiff and aching, my muscles tight and sore. It was quite humorous actually–a 24-year-old athlete having more trouble getting around than a geriatric patient.

Now, two weeks later, my muscle and joint soreness is gone. I tried running last night for the first time, and discovered I still have some discomfort in my left knee. So I’ll need to rest for a few more weeks and maybe do swimming and strength training.

I’m already looking forward to my next race–the Louisiana Marathon in January, where I’ll be running the 5K and the half marathon, earning the “Deja Vu Award”. I did this last year and had a great time. After running a full, I know I can do anything 🙂

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. 🙂