Friday, January 19, 2018

Marathon State #38 Baton Rouge, Louisiana

January 14, 2018

December can sometimes~or always~be a low month for me.  Cold temperatures and less sunlight paired with the holiday season of eating tends to result in weight gain. The end of the year is also a time of reflection as yet another birthday approaches. It is a time to assess and review unrealized dreams, lost opportunities, wasted potential and relentlessly haunting regret. But this year has been better~except maybe the last few days of December~notoriously dark days for me, but not to dwell...I have more gratitude for my life and just happy to make it to another birthday. There really is no time to waste...each day needs to be treated as a treasured gift.  Although some things can never be fixed or healed, the ability to move is my blessing and saving grace. Running keeps me functioning and gives me the strength to make it through tough days. My strong marathon finish in early December helps me stay motivated towards reaching my running goals in the coming year. My running is consistent and strong throughout the last month of the year. I complete 1700 miles in 2017. Instead of getting really out of shape in December, I increase my mileage and maintain my weight! That never happens!!  It is the small victories!!
...Until the last few days of December creep by...with too much eating and no running~damn that delicious cheesecake among other things~ preventing me from reaching my 2017 weight goal! My biggest mistake is not running on the last day of the year! It starts my new year in a negative mindset. January; however,  will never begin with a crazy New Year's Resolution to lose weight anymore. It begins rather with more self-acceptance for the skin and body in which I reside. It is a body that carries me through many miles and it deserves to be treated kindly. One of the best things I can do for myself is run...and occasionally wear something besides running clothes and even travel for something other than a marathon. 
Our first Las Vegas...who does that!!  Apparently lots of people!!  It was unbelievably crowded!!
Our first marathon trip in 2018 is not well planned out. We are supposed to dog sit for my mom the week before. I book an early morning Saturday flight, but then she ends up getting a dog sitter making it possible for us to leave on Friday, but we keep the already booked flight. We prefer being up all night and feeling extra tired and grumpy on race morning, it adds to the challenge. Mother, don't call me and be upset. I am just being "overly dramatic" to make my blog write-up sound more interesting!! Plus driving in the middle of the night allows for a speedy trip with no traffic.  We make the drive in two hours and forty minutes and even have time for a nap in the car before catching our 6 am Southwest flight to New Orleans. We make a quick stop in Nashville that turns into a longer stop while waiting for a pilot and de-icing the's snowing!  It is a prequel to the cold days to follow...oh how I love to be cold!! We hustle out of the airport to the rental counter.  Thankfully, there is no line and we our given a nice Rogue with heated seats for the one hour drive to Baton Rouge. We make it to packet pick-up with thirty minutes to spare as the expo is  
winding down and they are completely out of shirts!~and I signed up for this one...way in advance~ But they take our information and say shirts will be mailed. I will give them a it gives me a chance to work on my patience...It is too cold to look around the Riverfront or feast on any of the food truck items.  We head to the hotel before trying to find a place to eat near LSU on a game night. Although it is an opportunity to "practice patience" there is no progress on that front since I am unwilling to wait an hour to be seated at a popular restaurant. We elect to eat at "Illegal Burrito" Louisiana's version of "Chipotle" in California.  It has a long line and everyone is wearing the LSU colors. Apparently, also a popular place to eat before a basketball game. Exhaustion is setting in and we call it a day. My husband wants to get an early start in the morning to get a prime parking spot close to the start-finish area. I set the alarm for 4:30 but wake up before it goes off. We are out the door by 5:30 and park near the festivities. We quickly get out to check the logistics and find the potties before running back to the car to warm up.  There are no runners or anybody for that matter milling around...way too chilly. The heater goes up to 90 degrees and I enjoy every single degree of heat until it is time to run to the start line. We weave our way through runners in various levels of layers.  The hardy are dressed in just shirt and shorts with maybe a pair of gloves. I, on the other hand, have on two jackets a long sleeve running shirt and two pairs of gloves. Who cares if the first jacket will be wrapped around my waist for most of the run...I don't do cold. Did I say that already!! My legs are the only really
cold part of my body since my pants leave a gap of exposed skin. Last year's weather is described as "hotter than donut grease." What a difference a year makes. This year's weather can be described as "colder than a witches tit!" Something I often heard my great grandma say as I was growing up... At last with what sounds like a cannon blast...the race begins. 
It doesn't take long before the first jacket goes around my waist.  The first few miles wiz by in no time and I am feeling cozy and try to settle in for the 26.2 mile tour of Baton Rouge.  My energy
wanes between mile 3 and mile 8. I have to pee and I am dreading running all the remaining miles with a full bladder.  I take a GU around mile 5 and tell myself if a potty is green I will stop.  I am running in front of the 3:45 pacer and dread getting passed if I stop.  The course is beautiful. As I round a lake bend there are potties and one is green so I dash in and try to make it as quick as possible. What a relief to be able to run the rest of the way without a full bladder!! One of the greatest joys in life is running pee free. As the potty door slams shut and I try to adjust my pants and jacket the 3:45 group zip by me.  As I get back into my running groove right behind the group, my GU kicks in or maybe it is sheer panic, but I quickly run past the group and try to catch up to the people that were running near me before my pit stop. It doesn't take too long and I am back among the other runners. My bathroom mile is 9:06 but I make it up with an 8 minute miler.  Thankfully, the miles are not feeling as tough anymore and I lock in a nice steady pace. I am enjoying the views and the beautiful houses.  

Some homeowners have full bars set up.  It is nice to see the hospitality of the city. I am sure the cold has deterred many people from coming outside, but I really appreciate those that brave the cold to cheer us on and offer us liquor, bananas and even King Cake which my husband actually turns around and goes back to taste. That is the last thing I would want to eat while running especially during the tough sections. I have to remind myself there are rough patches in every race. Every run has peaks and valleys. Bad miles are usually followed by good miles at least that is what I tell myself.

I try to mentally get to the halfway point to assess my strategy for the second half. Sometimes I get to the halfway point feeling as if it takes forever...other times the miles are over in the blink of an eye and I can't believe I am halfway done. Today feels pretty good. I know it is always a choice. How much do I want to push and how much suffering am I willing to endure? Today is an opportunity to go for a best time with a flat course and as much as I complain about the dreaded  cold, it does foster faster running. I tell myself to keep pushing to try for a personal best.  The second half isn't as easy as Delaware where I passed many people in the second half. Today, I am just trying to hang on to my banked time without letting too many people pass me. I know the boost they feel as runners pass while struggling to maintain my pace without slowing down too much.
The views help keep me distracted. As I see the glass like lake once again, a group of white birds fly over in a V-formation. I wish I had my camera out for a picture. But I have to keep my focus on
running hard. The last three miles are a struggle...ingesting five GU's over the entire course, but nothing helps the leg turnover. I can't keep them going strong. The energy source is empty and running on mere fumes. If I can keep my pace under a 9 minute mile, it will be a three minute PR...but the legs can't do it. The last two miles are a  battle; my will is strong but my legs are weak. Sometimes, it's possible to finish strong and gain momentum as the finish line beckons and other's hang on for dear life. In desperation I compel my legs to keep going to keep pushing, but there is nothing left to propel me any faster. As I make the final turn and see the mile 26 sign it seems close yet feels so far. The last two tenths is agonizing. As runners sail past me, I will my body to run faster to hit 3:44 but it refuses to go any faster. Stuck in slow motion the finish line...still so far away. The last steps feel like two miles worth of steps. Finally I hit the finish mat, spent, definitely leaving everything on the course. As I grab my thighs to stay on my feet, a strong young man from the medical team dressed in red and white says, "I got you!" 
He grabs me by the waist and holds me up, a big slumped over hug keeps my legs from buckling out from under me. I may have collapsed if he had not been there to catch me. After several seconds, I am able to stand and continue on, but I can't say thank you enough to the medical personal for being there to help me out. It's the closest in seventy-five marathons, I've come to dropping to the ground. Overcome with emotion, it is a sweet finish even though I miss my goal of hitting 3:44! The care and kindness rendered by the volunteers brings a girl to tears...                                     



The after party is pretty sweet too. Each participant is given a wristband to get six items either all beer, all Cajun food or a combination of the two. I think I had four beers while encountering some interesting characters who also run and drink afterwards! With two more nights in Louisiana, it gives us time to relax enjoy the music and fun without having to rush to catch a plane or checkout of the hotel. The eating and drinking takes place, of course, after I spend thirty minutes in the car warming up and changing into dry clothes. My second marathon begins as I try to extricate myself from a drenched tight sports bra in the front seat of the car without giving anyone a show. Finally, dressed in dry clothes a warm coat and my The End of the Trail beanie, it is time to celebrate!! I end up second "grand master" earning me a signed copy of a local artist's artwork!  My husband politely informs me, "You do know that means the fifty plus category...thanks dear for reminding me!!"
As the endorphins wear off, we shuffle back to the car and make it to our hotel to shower and rest up before devouring a tasty "Burgersmith" burger and butter garlic fries while watching the Louisiana football team lose their shot at the Superbowl. The entire bar shrieks then groans in unison  as the Minnesota team scores in the final seconds. After several long days with little sleep my husband sleeps like a log, but for some reason I have more trouble.  The aches and pains from a hard run along with hotel noise makes for a fitful night of feels like I am awake most of the night. 
Once we are up and moving the next morning, we drive to the State Capitol. Unfortunately, it is closed for the holiday, but my husband is able to take a tour of the USS Kidd Battleship while I take a stroll to look inside a casino on the Mississippi River. Gambling is not my thing I never win so I decide to wait in the car and look for a place to eat lunch instead. We end up eating some southern comfort food leaving us completely stuffed.
We are too full to eat anything on Bourbon Street except for beignets later in the evening. New Orleans is just as I remember almost four years ago to the day when we came for state number ten in Mississippi.  There are so many homeless young people asking for money. It makes me wonder how and why they end up out here... There are many children out hustling by drumming on buckets.We don't last too long on Bourbon Street, it's too cold and too sad for me... 
Our final morning includes a drive out to one of the War of 1812's final battle sites "Battle of New Orleans."  Andrew Jackson along with the help of many courageous Americans end the war against Britain by killing over 2000 troops as they tried to capture New Orleans after burning down the White House and capturing
 Baltimore. The valiant fight secures America's independence.  The war inspires Francis Scott Keys to write the Star Spangled Banner and Jackson's leadership in the final battle helps to restore American pride and patriotism.  The nations new sense of nationalism leads Jackson to eventually become President of the United States. America and Britain never fight one another  after the War of 1812 and remain strong allies to this day. Our visits to historical sites through the fifty states, 
300 year old..Live Oak still standing!

                  give me such a great appreciation for our history and the true sacrifices of the men and women that came before us.  It is a good reminder to never take our hard fought freedoms for granted! The weather in Louisiana is colder than usual for our visit...and snows blankets the ground  thankfully, we are flying through the clouds when the snow begins. With no delays we land early and sleep in finally easy as soon as my head hits the pillow.
Kitty demonstrates how easy it is to...sleep!!

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