This weekend we experienced a little bit of everything, including the other LA, also known as Louisiana. We knew that this past weekend would be extremely tiring, not only because of the marathons, but because of the driving times, and it certainly lived up to its expectations. It was a weekend full of highlights and opposites, from the marathons we ran, to the hotels we stayed in. We all walked away sore, tired, and very excited about the weekend’s events. Here are a few of the highlights and opposites from my perspective, and please forgive the length, but there’s just so much to say, so break it up in two reading sessions if necessary.
Beating Jeff – I assumed that Jeff would beat me in all of these marathons, or that we’d be very close in time. We run around the same pace, but we don’t run together, which is how I prefer it. I don’t like having the pressure of running with anyone, so I start out at my own pace, and see where the race takes me. In Georgia, I was close to Jeff for the first half of the race, and he saw me just behind him at the halfway point. That must have lit a fire in him, because at mile 15, he started picking up his pace, as did I, and though I was doing near 8s to catch him, he was going faster. He managed to put 7 minutes on me for the second half of the race. Then on Sunday, I started well behind him, my mind and body just bummed to be running again, and then I got a second wind around mile 15. By mile 18, I had caught Jeff and a half mile later he peeled off to go to the bathroom. I saw it as my chance to beat him, so I put in a surge from mile 20 on, and never saw him again. I finished 8 minutes ahead of him, and was just beaming when I ran into the finish line, as I was so excited for Matt and Chris to see me run in before Jeff. This win against Jeff sort of has an asterisk, because he spent time going to the bathroom twice, but I’ll take it.
Friends – We were so happy to have our Cincinnati friend and fabulous runner along with us, Chris Reis. Not only did he live up to his potential and earn 1stand 3rdin the races, but he provided entertainment on the long car rides with his upbeat personality and his iphone so we could stream the NFL football games. Go 49ers! We also saw some familiar faces out on the race course on Sunday, including Anders, our Swedish friend that we spent time with last weekend, and a few other runners that we recognized along the course or at the finish line. I would say one of the best lines, among many, from Chris this weekend was while we were walking to the start on Sunday morning in Louisiana, when he said, “Running is unpleasant.” And that was before he’d even taken a single running step that morning, so we’re happy he pushed through the second marathon, despite how unpleasant it was.
Louisiana – Who knew Louisiana could be kind of cool? I’m slightly ashamed to say that we certainly weren’t expecting much, but I’ll say it anyway, and were pleasantly surprised with how cool Baton Rouge was. We didn’t get to see a whole lot of it, as we arrived there at 11pm, ran the next morning, and then walked around a bit before leaving Sunday afternoon, but all four of us said it’s a city and race that we could definitely repeat. Amazingly, it was the inaugural Louisiana Marathon, and the race did a fabulous job for their first go-round. We were all a little nervous to be guinea pigs for the race, but everything was great, including the course, the water/gu stops, the volunteers, the awards, and the post-race fare. And the race gear, including shirts, hats, mugs…were some of the best designed stuff we’ve seen in a long time. Love it!
Driving – Ok, maybe it wasn’t a highlight, but it sure was a major piece of the weekend. In addition to all the driving we did, our friend Chris had a 9 hour drive from Cincinnati to the race on Friday, and a 12 hour drive home yesterday from Alabama. Whew! Thankfully, the driving went very smoothly with no real issues besides a traffic jam coming out of Baton Rouge on Sunday. It could have been much, much worse. That being said, we are taking the Honda Element in for a little checkup this week before driving again this weekend to Ocala, FL.
100 mile training – When we signed up for the marathons, we didn’t think of these races as good training for the 100 miler we have in a few weeks. But, they feel like the best way to train for a 100 miler, as we’re simulating the act of running on tired legs by running back to back long runs, and I’m practicing eating and drinking lots of fluids and gels while running a comfortable pace. Let’s hope it actually translates to us completing the 100 miles, preferably under 24 hours. Only time will tell…
Chips and Ice Cream – One of the highlights of thru-hiking for me is the eating part, and running marathons is no different. We had a mandatory Walmart stop on Sunday night to pick up a few essentials that are normally off-limits, but completely acceptable on the night after back to back marathons. I finished off my weekend with tomato soup, cheddar flavored kettle chips, and mint cookies and cream ice cream. Yum! All of it was enjoyed while watching the movie Unbreakable, a movie about the running of the 2010 Western States 100 miler and the elite runners of that race. Then it was a night of blissful sleep in our own beds.
Hotel Rooms – Friday night in Warner Robins was spent in a budget hotel, and shortly after we turned out the lights, we all awoke to water pouring from the bathroom ceiling. Apparently the people above us overflowed their bathtub; thankfully it was just soapy water that poured into our bathroom. We ended up switching rooms, but it was one of those moments you just have to laugh about, because getting mad just won’t do a thing. As a stark contrast, we stayed in the super hip Hotel Indigo in downtown Baton Rouge on Saturday night, spending 3 times the amount of the night before, but basking in comfortable beds, fancy showers, and walking less than 10 minutes to the starting line of the race. Two very different hotel experiences.
Race Courses – While the Georgia race course was on an air force base, the Louisiana course was all over Baton Rouge, in neighborhoods, around the LSU campus, and in downtown. There were very few volunteers in Georgia and even fewer police blocking traffic because they simply didn’t need to. It was like we ran in a small bubble in Georgia where the town had no idea a marathon was happening, and then we contrasted that with waking up the whole city of Baton Rouge on Sunday morning with a couple thousand runners clogging the main streets and many more volunteers manning the course. I actually liked both race courses, as it was cool to see just how differently these races can be organized and ran.
Competition – Our egos were flying high in Georgia as we all accepted awards (Chris won $250 for GA, Matt won $100 for GA, and Jeff and I won age group award trophies), and then crashing a little bit as we got pushed way down in the pack in Louisiana. Chris and Matt still fared well in Louisiana at 3rdand 4th, but Jeff and I had to swallow our pride a bit, as I was 9thout of 44 in my age group, and Jeff was 23rdout of 45. I’d say it was a fair reality check from the small field in Georgia to the larger one in Louisiana.
So that’s all for now. We have one more marathon this weekend in Florida, and a 100 miler in Texas in a few weeks. Right now we’re doing running, walking, and taking ice baths in the outdoor pool to recover. Let’s hope our legs hold out a little longer for a completely successful season of Marathon Madness. Thank you once again to all those following our races and supporting us; we love sharing the results with you and always look forward to hearing from you.