On Friday I arrived in Louisiana having no idea what to expect.
I met up with my buddy Carly (who I haven’t seen for ages!) at the rental car place. I would like to say they just handed us the keys and said “Fair thee well travelers!”, but alas, it was not as simple as that. Instead we had to fight for our trusty rental car. After a few phone calls to banks and me trying to keep Carly from murdering the Thrifty Employee (this may be a slight exaggeration) we emerged victorious.
Unfortunately because of the rental car fiasco we arrived late to the expo. I only felt bad about this because Danielle (author of one of my favorite running blogs!) was there waiting for me so I could get my sweet, sweat Team T-Rex shirt. Thankfully she’s pretty much the friendliest person ever and didn’t mind. It was awesome meeting her in person and I hope to see her again at future marathons!
By the way? This race has the BEST FREE STUFF. Beer coozies. A string backpack. Gloves. Fantastic shirt. Discount codes to other races. I was very sad because I missed the free jambalaya, but I was able to score some free cold pizza. I take what I can get! But seriously, check out these amazing socks that came in my swag bag:
We really didn’t do much the rest of the night! We checked in. I passed out in what is probably the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in and then it was race morning! Of course I woke up several times before my alarm went off, but that’s just par for the course. Who actually sleeps well the night before the race?
Waking up was surreal. I couldn’t believe that I was in Louisiana (of all places!) and about to run another marathon. I’d known it was going to happen for a long time, but to finally be there was kind of incredible to me.
I hopped on the bus to the start. The bus driver proceeded to take several high speed u-turns that sent us sliding into the wall while shouting things like “Sorry y’all! It’s been a year since I’ve driven there!”. She did, however, manage to get us to the start without killing us all and I hunkered down and waited.
I was so uncertain of what was going to happen during this race! I didn’t know if I’d trained properly (how the hell do you train when you only have three weeks between marathons?) and I honestly I had no idea how my body was going to handle all of this. Still, I wanted to at least try for that BQ! Training be damned! So when the gun went off I took off and hoped for the best.
My plan was to hover right around 8:15 for the first half of the race. Then (if I could) speed up for a negative split. I also decided to go without music for the first 10 miles. I really just wanted to soak up the location and the experience! And my god, this course was beautiful. I really, really loved the first 10 miles or so of this race. I enjoyed them so much that I decided to hold off on the music until I hit the halfway mark! It’s just so much fun to run in a place you’ve never been before! Especially when said place is gorgeous. I had a nice time chatting with race volunteers as I ran by, rundancing when the aid stations had music, and really taking the time to just, well, look around!
Since this was a double loop course you had to run past the finish line at the halfway point…which I thought would be very, um, demoralizing. But it wasn’t! It was actually great because there were a ton of people cheering and one of the guys spectating said “13 more!!” and I responded with “no big deal, right?!”.
It was so nice to get halfway and still feel good.
It was around this time that I ran into Danielle and Amanda! I loved getting to see them out there and even though it sounded like they were having a rough race they seemed to be fighting through it!
The next few miles were honestly a blur to me. I know they happened. And I know I was feeling pretty strong, but I was also so nervous about getting lost! After reaching the halfway point there were far less runners (because way more people ran the half marathon instead of the full) and even though the course was well marked I was convinced I was going to space out and go off course. Which is pretty much my worst nightmare. Thankfully my paranoia kept me paying attention and on course!
Mile 18 (I think) was where the battle began. It’s where I first sensed things were about to get real hard, real fast. I still felt okay, but keeping a steady pace was slowly getting more and more difficult. I kept talking myself down “It’s okay, you’ve just got to make it to 20 miles, and then guess what? Only 6 miles to go!”. I was able to make it to 20 miles in one piece, but from then on every single mile was a struggle. It’s hard to explain exactly how I felt. It wasn’t any one thing that was hurting necessarily. It was just this heaviness and every step forward was a battle with my body. With every fiber of my being I was WILLING my legs to keep going. Trying to reason with myself! “C’mon! You’re so close! You can DO THIS”. Some of the miles were less dark than others. They hurt, but I was able to stay positive through it. Other miles seemed like an absolute eternity.
Around Mile 22 I realized I had to pee.
There was really no decision to be made here. I knew that if I stopped somewhere to pee I would not start again. I would just lay down in a pile of sleepy muscles and never get up. I also knew that I still had a chance at BQing and making a pit stop would be giving up on that. So, of course, I just let it flow right then and there.
I thought I would be more mortified by this, but being 22 miles into a marathon reveals certain things. And one of those things is that peeing your pants ain’t no thing.
One thing I do feel slightly guilty about is that there was a Mom walking with her daughter when this happened. Whoops. Sorry, kid, I hope you’re able to forget watching a girl piss herself while running.
After that all bets were off. I pushed. And I agonized. And I pushed. And I wanted to give up. I wanted to just lie down on the side of the road and sleep for a million years. But I kept thinking “C’mon! You didn’t run 22 goddamn miles at that pace to give up NOW!”. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to myself as much as I did the last 3 or 4 miles of this race. I cursed under my breath. I let out pathetic groans. I repeated You can do this over and over. And just keep moving. Almost there. Keep pushing. I couldn’t help but think that this was how a marathon was supposed to feel. Sometimes it hurts. And it’s hard. No shit! My splits for the last 6 miles are nuts. 4 of them were under 8:10 (perfect!), but two of them were right under 8:30 (ouch). It was like I could pull it together 2 miles at a time, but then I’d need a break. Mile 25 was my slowest mile of the race and that pissed me right off! There was no way I was going to put all of that effort into a race and fall apart the last two miles! So mile 26 I ran as hard as I possibly could which wound up being 8:05. The last mile was the longest mile I have ever run in a race. It was about halfway through that last mile that I realized I wasn’t going to come in under 3:35. At first my heart sank. I was so close! But then I thought “Are you kidding me? You’re about to PR in a HUGE way. You PISSED yourself so you could finish this race! JUST FINISH STRONG”.
And even though I wanted to weep because it felt so hard I pressed on. Carly, bless her goddamn heart, was there at the finish line cheering for me. I got my fucking awesome chicken medal and stumbled towards the water. My chip time was 3:36:20. A 5 minute+ PR.
I couldn’t walk straight after I finished. I walked kind of at a diagonal and staggered around like a drunk. Carly escorted me like a sweetheart to the port a potties where I (again) pissed like a racehorse.
Afterwards I could not resist stumbling into the lake to soothe my legs.
I really couldn’t be happier with how I did. Of course I would have loved to BQ, but I know for a fact I could not have gone any faster than I did. I think I now know what it means when people say “leave it all on the course” because if by “it” people mean “pee” then, by golly, I did. But pee jokes aside, I really felt like I had nothing left at the end and that was an incredible feeling.
After I soaked in the lake Carly and I went to eat. The Baton Rouge Beach Marathon has a full on FEAST for its runners. Obviously I could not resist eating the alligator! We sat in the grass, enjoyed the sunshine, and stuffed our happy little faces. While eating they started announcing awards! I heard them say that the overall female winner got a 3:29 or something like that and I thought “huh…that’s not a whole lot faster than my time..”. After waiting a little longer they announced the winner for the 20-24 age group and guess what? IT WAS ME. I was shocked!!! I leapt up (er, grunted and hobbled, actually) and stumbled towards the speaker. I’ve never won anything like this in my life (I don’t count Risk)!
I found out later that I was 4th overall female, too, which was pretty damn exciting. Yes, it was a smaller race, but man…any slight disappointment I had about not BQing melted away.
This race really solidified my love of the marathon distance. Yes, it was hard as hell, but it just makes me want to do it again. And faster. 2013 is going to be the year I qualify for Boston and I can’t wait to start training for my goal race (when I pick one, that is).
After the race we hopped in the car, checked out of our hotel, and drove to New Orleans.
More on that later.