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.


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!


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.


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!

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.


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.


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).


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!


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

Spring break

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).

IMG_20160326_182037On 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.

I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter as well. 🙂

Rain & the Rotary Shamrock Run


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.


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!).


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!


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%.


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!

Christmas in the country


Hiking Club adventures

The last time I had a month-long semester break, I was sick the entire time and spent a day in the emergency room. So I’ve decided to make the most of this Christmas break. On my first day of post-finals freedom, I went to the hiking club Christmas party in Baton Rouge. I haven’t been able to do many hikes this year, so it was nice to see that group again and meet some new people. The dirty Santa game was hilarious, with the most coveted items being a giant frog-prince planter and a bottle of Fireball whiskey. My favorite quote of the night was “I got the frog, but you got the prince,” to which this little old lady replied “Yeah, and I should’ve never kissed that damn prince!”

The next day, my mom and I headed to Tylertown, Mississippi for the hiking club’s monthly group hike. A man in the club hosted a lunch at his home, and then led us to his tree farm for the hike. He owns about 400 acres of forest and has created his own trail through it. The 5-mile trail we hiked was lovely. I brought my chihuahua, Stu, along, and since his tiny legs couldn’t keep up, my mom and I took turns carrying him. Eventually our arms got tired, so I put him in my backpack. He enjoyed the ride and we got a good laugh out of it.

From Tylertown, me, Mom, and Stu drove to my parents’ house out in the country of central Louisiana. The small country community of that area had a Christmas fundraising event that night. A live band was playing, and there was food and a bonfire. Some teens sat on a tailgate parked by the fire. I spent the whole year in the world of academia, but suddenly it felt like I was in a country song. It was a welcome change of scenery.


St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Alexandria, LA.

A few nights later, my parents and I headed to the big city (Alexandria) for a concert of the Red River Chorale at the gorgeous St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. The church lights were dimmed, and candles were lit as the concert progressed. The chorale did a wonderful job, and I was reminded of my days at Centenary College (where I got my bachelor’s) and going to hear their award-winning choir at every possible opportunity.

After the concert, my parents and I went to a nearby coffee shop downtown for some hot chocolate and games. As we drove there, we accidentally drove through a movie set. Curious, my dad asked the barista at the coffee shop about the movie. Since I’ve been an extra in movies before, I got some information from the barista and applied to be an extra. So, this weekend I will be working as a movie extra!

Today I learned how to use a jaw saw, and I chopped down our Christmas tree on my parents’ property. Christmas in the country has been full of adventures, and there’s more to come!

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 🙂

Trying another tri

A couple weekends ago, I competed in my 2nd Rocketchix triathlon 🙂 (I wrote about my first one in Trying a Tri). The race last Saturday consisted of a 200-meter swim at the LSU rec. center, a 12-mile bike, and a 2-mile run along the LSU lakes. This women-only sprint triathlon is beginner friendly and super fun, while at the same time pretty competitive and challenging.

Post-race pic!

Post-race pic!

I ended up seeding myself in the 3-minute group for the swim as we lined up at 7 am. I’d had my cousin time me in the pool a few days before, and my 200 time was 2:30–not bad considering I hadn’t swam much the last couple of years. After discussing swimming experience and best times with the other triathletes, it was decided that I’d go first. So out of the 300 or so women present, I was the first one in and out of the pool (as if I wasn’t nervous enough already!). But that was actually awesome because I felt like a superstar as I jumped in to kick off the race.

I started my 200 at a sprint pace, but since I haven’t trained much in the sport of swim since college, I ran out of steam about halfway through. Regardless, I still finished 1st place in the swim with a time of about 3 minutes (yay!).

The bike is the part that killed me. I’m still relatively new to biking, and my bike is a hybrid–not a racing bike. I got passed by so many women on the bike portion of the race, my mom was starting to worry about me back at the transition area!

In transition!

In transition!

I finally finished up the bike portion, and I was ready to run. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to walk at all. It’s just 2 miles! I kept thinking. The thing that really kept me going was the volunteers cheering and handing out water along the run route. A local group called Girls on the Run–which helps young girls get healthy and fit while training for a 5K–sent some of their girls to volunteer at the tri. These girls were precious and inspiring, cheering “You can do anything through Jesus!” I think for a lot of the athletes, this was the favorite part of the whole race.

I was very burnt out by the time I got to the run, so it was more like a jog. But I managed to catch up a good bit, and crossed the finish line with an overall time of 1 hour and 17 minutes. This placed me 64th overall and 4th place in my age group (20-24). I was a little disappointed that I didn’t place in my age group and that I was so burnt out by the end of the race. My ultimate fitness goal is to finish an Ironman Triathlon, and this sprint tri is only a small fraction of that distance. Basically, I have a long way to go.

Our wonderful volunteers :)

Our wonderful volunteers 🙂

After the tri, I felt a new wave of determination and motivation to improve my performance. I can’t afford a fancy racing bike anytime soon, but I can improve my training and diet. So I started going to spin class to improve my biking, I started reading a triathlon training manual (educating myself on technique, nutrition, and proper training), and I’ve managed to avoid fried food for the last 2 weeks. I registered for another tri that takes place in 4 weeks; this one has a 1/2 mile open-water swim, 20-mile bike, and 5K run. It will be my most challenging race yet. The only way I can improve is to push myself, so that’s exactly what I’m doing. Stay tuned…