Girls on the Run 5K

13235639_10154933504668228_4858850113780936631_oOn 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).

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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).

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Mom & G cheering us on!

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.

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Vivi & Sophie!

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.

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I love these girls!

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!

 

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!

Green & Gold 5K

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My new racing shoes!

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!

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My work friends are the best!

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.

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Me & Nick in Strawberry Stadium!

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).

So many races, so little time!

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…? 🙂

 

 

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.

 

My running playlist

I love music. I love singing when no one’s listening, strumming the guitar that I’m slowly learning to play, and watching countless covers of my favorite songs on YouTube. One of my favorite things about running is that it gives me an opportunity to listen to my music with no interruptions.

Many days music is my main motivation for running–running is hard, but listening to music is fun! The right songs will make you want to get up and move, and they also help you find your rhythm. For races, you can create a playlist that is five to ten minutes shorter than your goal time. That way, when the songs stop playing, you know you don’t have much time left to reach the finish line (a.k.a. pick up the pace!).

Here’s the playlist I’ve created for the Louisiana Quarter Marathon in two weeks:

  1. Stereo Love (Edward Maya)
  2. Naughty Boy  (La La La ft. Sam Smith)
  3. Sorry (Justin Bieber)
  4. All I Ever Wanted (Basshunter)
  5. Latch (Dislosure ft. Sam Smith)
  6. Zero (Chris Brown)
  7. Beautiful (Akon)
  8. Crazy (Kat Dahlia)
  9. Call On Me (Eric Prydz)
  10. How Deep is Your Love (Calvin Harris & Disciples)
  11. Levels (Nick Jonas)
  12. Applause (Lady Gaga)
  13. I Need Your Love (Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding)
  14. Survivor (Destiny’s Child)

It’s a very random mix, but it keeps me moving. This playlist lasts about 50 minutes, and my goal is to finish in under an hour. If I don’t hit my goal, I’ll have another chance a month later at the Mardi Gras Mambo 10K. I’m ridiculously excited for this race!

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.