There were five of us planning to run the Baton Rouge Beach half Marathon this past Saturday. Only three of us made it – Me, Charles and Eric. Terry was sick and had a house of sick kids. He had been training and I am sure that he was upset that he missed out on the race. Jim – not sure – I think the weather played a big part in him skipping the race.
I drove over to Charles’s house Friday afternoon. The sky was bright blue but there was a chill in the air. As we neared Baton Rouge the sky turned gray and it started to rain. The rain turned to a rain / snow – or as we called it in the Midwest – a wintery mix. It was cold and nasty.
We met up with Eric in the hosting hotel but we were a little bit early. The registration had not yet opened so we went and had a drink at the bar. This would foreshadow the rest of the event.
The Baton Rouge Beach race is pretty special in that it has a pre-race dinner and post race food – both of which are fantastic. We are talking jambalaya, seafood pasta, alligator – all really good stuff. Oh yeah, and beer.
I got my fill of all of the good food and my share of the beer. After talking with many of the other participates Charles and I parted ways with Eric. Eric was staying at a friend’s house while Charles and I were staying at another hotel that Terry had reserved. Charles and I checked in just in time to enjoy the last 30 minutes of happy hour. I made a grave mistake and switched to run and diet coke – fewer calories. With just a few minutes left in happy hour the barkeep came by and suggested that we double up while the drinks were free - ouch. Charles and I went up to the room as happy hour ended but we needed to procure something to eat prior to the race.
We went back downstairs and talked the barkeep into finding us some cereal or whatnot. She was very accommodating. So, this is not my pre-race routine – you know – tying one on. Charles said that he heard me exercising my demons in the bathroom at about 3 in the morning. I am sure that all of these shenanigans did not bode well for his race either. Many apologies.
I awoke feeling like death warmed over. It was about 32 degrees outside and I was hurting. Eric met us at our hotel and we drove to the race site. I was resting my head against the head rest in the back seat of the truck. We all got out and wished each other well as we froze in the race starting line.
The race is chip timed but there is not a race mat at the start. The race start is gun timed. We never heard the gun but the crowd of close to 1000 started to move. I ran a little ahead of Eric and Charles and just tried to fall into a groove. Mile one came up extremely slow – and quick – at the same time (7:08 – by my watch). I thought about pulling up for a minute or so and waiting for Eric or Charles and just taking this race easy. But like a hair shirt I needed to pay for the nights transgressions. I kept the pace up. The miles slowly clicked off on the light rolling course through the LSU campus and along a lake (hence the Beach portion of the race name). The mile markers were each manned by different groups of volunteers that were competing for a best water stop station prize. That was a lot of fun. There were people in costumes and many a girl scantily clad – they traditionally win the prize I later heard. It did not hurt that the temperature was in the lower 30’s – at least there was no rain for these troopers.
In races of this distance my mind tends to wander and I rarely am able to stay on task. This is a mental problem for me. It is hard for me to maintain that hard line between racing hard and blowing up – I almost always tend to back off a little bit. When I do this I get chatty and look for anyone to talk with. I found a couple of guys with the New Orleans ½ Iron race shirt on and struck up a conversation. This was the middle portion of the race and my mile times slowed. I was still pushing hard – just not race hard. I missed the mile marker at mile 12 and told the guy I was talking to that I needed to pick it up and finish strong. I sprinted hard the last ¾ of a mile and finished the race in a low 1:37 – just about even for my ½ marathon PR – I’m not sure of my official time yet. Eric took a spill during the race and still ended up with a PR – 1:48 and Charles finished just behind Eric well under his goal time of less than 2 hours. All things considered we all raced well.
I really want to actually prepare for a ½ marathon and push hard the entire race and see just where I might end up. I was disappointed and encouraged at the same time. I have only run about 20 miles per MONTH for the past 2 months and my longest run by far (at least double) was the last ½ marathon that I ran at Halloween.
I am going to put together a few weeks of REAL training – throw in a taper and give it everything. Depending on the results I just might try a Boston Qualifying run at the Mardi Gras Marathon in February.