I just want to see an alligator when I’m running. It doesn’t need to be up close and personal. It can be down in the swamp while I’m above on a bridge. It can be across the road or in a cage. It can be a costume and be the wrong color. I am tired of being warned about potential gators on signs, brochures, and insurance waivers. I want a kinetic alligator experience (that doesn’t kill or maim me). Is this too much to ask?
Clearly it is, as I have yet to see an alligator in all the miles I have run. In the end, it is probably a good thing because I can’t run any faster. I probably can, but I gave all I had for this race. I couldn’t help it. I started off the day thinking “Take it easy, you have 48 more personal marathons this year!”. Right before sunrise I had convinced myself that I would keep the 5:30 pacer (that’s someone who is hired to run the specific pace of 5 hours and 30 minutes to help you cross the finish line) in view for the first two hours and then see what my body feels like. By noon, I was thinking “Don’t Stop – You MUST PR – Keep Going!!!”.
The beautiful and proud Louisiana Capital building sets a dramatic backdrop to the start and finish of this race. With blue skies, the pristine pale tower will match whatever running outfit you wear. There is a feeling as you cross the starting line and pass by the massive classic government buildings in downtown, that you are Superman in the classic 50’s TV show. All we needed was a traditional phone booth to run through and we should be able to launch ourselves into the heavens on the other side. I purposely was trying to slow down as I was not only excited by the adrenaline rush, I think the first mile of the course is a very slight downward slope. Just after the first mile is the only hill on the course, an overpass that crosses the I-110. You do cross back over it as you enter your final mile and fight the slight uphill to the finish but I promise you, if you do even the slightest hill training regiment, you will laugh all the way up and down that hill. This course is so flat (How Flat Is It?), Columbus is going to try and sail around it. It is flatter than that last joke. It is flat and fast and filled with water stations.
Aside from the 22 official water stations, neighbors were out in full force setting up there own party refreshment tables. Someone must have published an article about what runners really want at a water station because these neighborhoods had it. By saying they had it, I mean they had it all. Water, energy drinks, energy gels, chewable energy gels, Vaseline, Ibuprofen, band aids, sponges, sanitary napkins and moist towelettes were all standard fare. This was just the beginning! Beer, sparkling beer, home made craft brews, Champagne, Mimosas, whiskey, moonshine, pancakes, little smokies, spray cheese on Ritz Crackers and candy bars galore were dotted around the course so if someone wanted to get plastered while they were running 26.2 miles they could. They could rename this the longest neighborhood bar in North America.
A consistent course design I am seeing is that the first half of the marathon is always the sumptuous visual feast. After the downtown we toured around the LSU campus and stadium which certainly pumped up local fans with members of many of the college teams manning the support tables. This was followed by the BREC City-Brooks Community Park and runs around City Park Lake and University Lake. I am a sucker for water views and the breeze coming off the lake made it feel like we were flying. However, after the first 12 miles, we settled into nice, nondescript, suburban neighborhoods. A cruise by the botanical gardens was tempting and hopefully could be added in future course adjustments. Certainly, the spectators and neighbors kept us more than entertained but visually, it is disappointing to run so near the mighty Mississippi and not catch a glance. I would still highly recommend this course.
Keep Going Versus Don’t Stop
It has been pointed out to me before that “Keep Going” is a better mental attitude than “Don’t Stop”. Even though we sometimes get to the point where something feels so good that we fear and know that at some point the ecstasy will end and we would do anything to keep that from happening, we are better off contemplating how to maintain or prolong that feeling than reinforcing the fear. Although we know “Don’t Stop” is a double negative and balances itself out, our mind uses each word to reinforce itself. Don’t. Stop. Don’t. During the race, I kept thinking “This feels too good. I shouldn’t be running this fast. I don’t believe I can keep this up the entire race.” Sure enough, I started to slow down during miles 14 and 15 and had fully downshifted by mile 16. I still shaved quite a bit of time off my best, but what if I had been thinking “This is great. I’ve got a lot of bounce in my step. I could run like this all day!”? Maybe, just maybe, I could have stayed with the cool kids in the 5 Hour Pace group. Certainly, after 3-5 miles I should have just accepted my good fortune. In the end “Oh God, oh God, OH GOD!” is probably a good mantra.
Investing in Quality Compression
With temperatures starting in the low 40’s and staying there for the first half of the race, I wore my long compression pants and used my usual lubrication, BodyGlide. Around mile 18 I was starting to feel a little chaffing and so went to readjust my leggings when “Skrrrrrip!” I felt the seam pop. I readjusted and found a comfortable spot and promptly forgot about it until well after the race was done. This is the third pair of pants to rip in the past year and I really haven’t put that many miles into them. I still have some cold races ahead so I need to do some research and protect my valuable assets.
I feel great! Really!!! I remember how I felt in November after completing 3 marathon distances in a row and I do not feel the fatigue nor soreness that felt at that time. Remarkably, I seem to be getting stronger. The marathon isn’t getting easier, but I am finding my groove faster and maintaining it longer. I must admit that the wardrobe malfunction I mentioned about my running pants caused a fairly substantial friction burn and so I have taken an extra day of rest with no running to give my nethers a chance to heal. Hips, knees, and ankles feel great and my feet feel good but look ragged and desolated. I will be applying some self love with a hand roller, some sandpaper, and a greenhouse full of aloe plants. Finally, I am feeling extremely confident. Although I was only able to keep up with the 5 hour pacer for the first 15 miles, I was able to maintain a decent pace to finish in 5:24 – a fourteen minute PR over last week. I’m over the moon. This week will bring some challenges where the weather will break as I move further north, finally contend with a route with hills, and go back to running this vast distance alone, but after the success of the last couple of weeks, I feel mentally and physically able to tackle Jackson, Mississippi. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.