Loving Loiusiana

In July of last year, my friend Karen went and ran Missoula. Along the way, she decided to sign up for the 5K the day before the marathon just for a training run the day before. This flies in the face of all known marathon training which tells you rest the day before a marathon is always the way to go. However, she went out there, crushed it, got a cool extra medal and an age group award to boot. She also did well at the marathon the next day and got a personal record there too! I am no stranger to running the day before a marathon so when I found out that the Louisiana Marathon offered top finisher prizes to 5K winners just the day before the marathon? I had to get in on one of those!

So I talked to another friend running the day before, Glen, and the two of us made plans to get to town the night before, hang out and then run the 5K. Then… a snowstorm ruined my early start, flight issues ruined his way into town and we both arrived much later than we wanted to in Baton Rouge. We did meet up but not until five minutes before the race! After a couple minutes chatting, we took off and I had not a clue what to expect. It seemed to be a faster crowd than the year before (is that not always the case?) and I was able to settle into the top 20 by Mile 1. I passed a couple other people and soon enough found my way into the top 15 by the 2 mile point. I even made another move and made my way to 12th overall but fell apart a little and came in around 15th. I was pretty sure I had age group placed so I was very pleased with a sub 20 minute effort. Still not running my high school times but I was not in pain either so my marathon time was not in any trouble either.

Glen broke 23 minutes (which he said would have been way too fast), and it was a great meeting with him and Peter afterwards. I was also able to talk to new friend, Andy Bowden, a bit afterwards as well. I remember when my friend first suggested trying to meet a new friend each race I thought it may be impossible. Seriously would I not run out of people to meet sooner or later? Well the answer is a big NO! Andy and I both ran the double the week before and we both run in under four hours yet had no idea who the other was until this day at a 5K. Andy is from Houston and really has been active this year running as often if not more often than me. And how did I meet him? Peter needed a ride to the race and Andy stepped up to help him out. The funny part was we even had the same modus operandi – got into town a day early? Find a cheap hotel near the airport. We just chose different hotels is all.

After a short time chatting, I actually met three other runners from Iowa (seriously does not happen that often) and then made my way to get my finishing time. Yes! Second place age group and the guy ensured me there were age group prizes. One of my new Iowa friends scored as well. We chose not to stick around and get our prizes at the marathon the next day.

And that was the real reason I was here. Two years ago on this weekend I had flown to Louisiana to run my 11th state. I had a fantastic race with my buddy John and when we got done I got a couple local brews at the finishing area. I loved the course which was mostly around a lake. I liked the crowd support. I loved the finishing area and the many options to eat. They were all local and all so different! And even the awards (I was lucky enough to age group place) were awesome! I got a light jacket and a very nice poster. Last year I needed Arizona to complete my quest so I had to skip year two however the reviews were all raves so I had to come back. When people ask me my favorite marathon, this one is always at the top of that list.

And as I had made my way to this event they proved along the way what makes the Louisiana Marathon such a great event. They offered an expo only discount rather than a discount for everyone. They gave me a free visor when the discount did not work. They became the reunion spot for the Marathon Maniacs this year. They really concentrated on working their “weak” spots increasing their vegan options and inviting a couple top notch speakers to the Pastalaya. And I repaid them in kind. I convinced a girl from Vermont to attend the event with a week to go helping them get to their all 50 states represented goal. I convinced at least three other runners to go this year on top of her too. I guess you could say we have a symbiotic relationship!

So after the 5K, I checked out of my hotel, parked my car at the casino and made my way to the expo. I was getting mighty hungry at this point and was just hoping to run into someone to eat with at the expo. The first thing I saw there was Missy! It was great to see her again. She commented late last year that her love for running had been lost so any time I see her at an event I breathe a sigh of relief. After that I did run into Glen again along with Steven, Chris, and Tony – the main maniacs at their own booth! Angie was there too and I believe she was responsible for the extra this year – a Maniac stocking cap! I actually did an interview at that time and at that booth. Don’t get too excited – I think she interviewed everyone that was a maniac on this day just to see what makes us tick.

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Just after that Glen and I went to get something to eat and along the way ran into JoeWee and Mary! Man, I love seeing these two when I get a chance. They were looking forward to getting another state done on their way to 50. I had a great conversation with them and was able to meet their significant others. And of course it goes without saying Abbi was there stalking me as always with Jim. By this point I was taking samples from Core Power to sate a small part of my hunger. So  I opted to go with Denis and go to a local place that another local Maniac recommended. I ended up leaving Glen behind and loaded up into a car with Denis, a couple new friends, and Ed. She was right about the place – it was a 45 minute wait at two in the afternoon so we just went to Five Guys. It was okay.

After that I made my way back to the hotel and finally checked in and had a drink with Abbi. I always love seeing Abbi and we always try to get a drink together. Probably one of my traditions I try to keep every time I can – ever since our first race together in Indianapolis. And after the drink I actually went to a meeting! I know! A meeting and me – that just happened. And they did a great job running the meeting and giving out information on the Maniacs so I did learn something. However I am not sure if I will make this meeting thing a rock in the future. There is just so little time on these weekends. It was nice to talk to Paul and Leah for a first time and to see Bob again. Bob is very instrumental in 50 Sub 4 and I was getting the scoop from him. Changes coming soon? I am not telling!

After that, I was talked into Pastalaya, which was funny considering what had just happened in Alabama the week before. However it was very good – with no tomatoes! And it was great to hear the speakers Matt Long and Bill Rodgers. I was a amazed by Matt’s adversity and Bill is just an icon. It was a nice treat that I did not expect when I signed up for the dinner – like I said I never do these things. And I cannot list all that Matt Long is – you can look that up for yourself. I sat with Glen again and it was nice to get to know him a little better over the weekend. Sometimes when you travel like we do, you end up hanging out with people you never really thought you would even a couple weeks ago.

After this it was time for bed as I was cold! I went to bed and an hour after that Karen finally made her way to the room. It was not her fault – she had a late flight and it really was going to be a short trip as she was going to be out by five the next day. When I told her about my success at the 5K she was a little irked that she had not done the double at this race. She had thought about it – she just had work to do as well. She liked the marathon shirt (it is a good one) and checked out the other goodies as well. It was not long after that we were out and headed to the State Capitol to start our marathon!

And who was in the lobby? It was Brent, Rob, Tony and Luke! I first met the four of them at Tupelo and just love their camaraderie and the way they run together as a group saving personal goals for specific races. I have seen them several times since and always go out of my way to say hello when I can and have had my share of beers with a couple of them as well. The group of us made our way to the start line and there was some confusion about finding the bag drop off but Karen found it after a bit of a search and we both were in the corrals with plenty of time to spare. I was even able to make a last minute stop at a port-a-potty. Pretty rare you can do that without a long line. I lined up in the corral ready to go.

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And we were off. Oddly enough, I knew more than a few runners around me and was able to run with Steve for a little bit (he got in almost as late as Karen) and was able to joke around with Tony the pacer as well. My friend Paul fell back when we hit Mile 3. That is odd. Usually he stays up front much longer and has been pacing himself much better lately. After Mile 4 Tony’s pace of 3:05 seemed a bit quick on this day so I settled back about 30 seconds behind him and a female half marathoner and I ran for a bit jockeying for position with each other. We did not talk much but we did a great job working off of each other. In moments like this you can see where a pacer could really help. And then at Mile 10 Paul passed us again and moved in front of Tony as well. Guess he felt it again.

The course in Louisiana was very flat and may only have three hills but the slight incline at Mile 11 turned me into a pile of running goo. I went from 7:05 miles to 7:30 by Mile 12 and an 8 minute mile for 13. I hurt – bad! The only real joys after that point were seeing the other runners. Eliot went blasting by me talking briefly as he was chasing a PR. I ran into non pacer Tony not much later and he looked strong. A Colorado runner told me he had signed up for the race based on my recommendation. And then we turned around and saw the other runners coming our way. I ran into another Tony and Brent looking good. Mary and JoeWee yelled out my name. And I was able to see Karen running with the Maniac President Steven a little bit later. They both looked great and were in front of the 3:45 pacer! Karen was looking for a PR and she had chosen the right course! And another surprise came at Mile 22 when Todd, race director for Carmel, Indiana, passed me pacing another runner and looking strong!

I struggled those last four miles and was thrilled and a little shocked to walk away with a 3:24 on the day. JoeWee and Mary’s significant others gave me a huge cheer when I passed and that really helped. I had convinced Eliot to get a PR on this day because it was my wish as well. I ended up far from it with no lessons learned unfortunately. Whatever went wrong at Mile 11 has happened before and, I will be honest, most probably will happen again. He would later thank me for inspiring him to do so. That meant a lot. And Paul stayed up there and ran a sub 3:10 for his first time ever. I walked over the Maniac finishing area and was thrilled to see the second medal the group offered for attending the reunion. I grabbed a beer and enjoyed time with Steve and Glen who had finished just behind me. I waited for Karen to get done and knock another state off her own 50 Sub 4 quest. I was able to say hi to Paul and Leah as they came in looking happy and healthy and together as always. Such commitment to run together!

Karen did come in a little later but no sub 4. She told me she was hurting when I saw her and it got much worse so she chose not to cause possible damage and had to walk a lot of the last four miles. Bob came in and we were able to talk again and he even got an age group award! He had the plaque around his neck so I went back and got my plaque and poster as well. It felt great to wear that plaque though I was quick to point out that it was for a 5K and not the full distance.

Karen and I did not get an early checkout so we headed back to the hotel to clean up before the day was over. I was a bit down already. Snow was predicted for Iowa and I already knew I would be heading back before I wanted to. Karen had a flight out at six and I was pretty sure I would want to take off before that point. We were able to run into Gary and Chuck who had come in first and second. Really it is an honor for them to even know who I am. Gary is a fantastic runner who wins marathons regularly and Chuck holds the record for most marathons won EVER.

After cleaning up, we headed back for more beer and fun at the race. Denis was there and in excellent spirits as always. He really is very underrated in his enthusiasm and constant outgoing nature. I was able to run into the Vermont runner again and she took a picture with me thanking me for telling her about the great run. Things were really shutting down so we went to the bar and there was a group getting together already. We were able to put a few back with Kerri, Bill, Dave and several others who kept coming in. We had a great time and after only one beer I had to go. I had a 15 hour drive in front of me and my goal was to hit Arkansas by night. I left the others behind just as it was getting fun and did the one thing I did not want to do on this trip – leave early.

I was right in case you were wondering. The snow did hit an hour after I reached home (so I escaped it) and I had a good meal in a town named Monticello, Arkansas. The truth is running can be addictive, yes and I suppose that is why we are all here… but that really is not the truth. The truth for many is the lifestyle is addictive. All these friends and all these times and getting treated special that can be quite addictive too! When I scheduled this run the whole idea was to spend extra time and enjoy the town. When it became a reunion spot for the Marathon Maniacs, the goal was even more magnificent. I did not reach that goal so now I suppose I will be making my next extra time trip to spend more time with my friends and create that next perfect marathon weekend. I guess we are all trying to replicate that perfect marathon weekend – mine would still be Deadwood 2012. Maybe I should head on back…

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One response to this post.

  1. id love for you to follow my running journey run100run.wordpress.com

    Reply

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