I’d be lying if I said this is a post I particularly feel like writing. I do not feeling like writing it at all, and soon you will see why. Nonetheless, that’s kind of what I do, right? I run and then I write about it. Sometimes you read it. It’s a thing we have going. Anyway, Amanda and I got up much earlier than we would have preferred to get to the early start of the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon on Saturday morning. We met Denis at the start of the race and were surprised how many people were already at the starting line at 5:30 in the morning, considering that most people were not starting the race until 7. We actually talked to a guy who was already there for the 7 am start. Dude, seriously? This race has like 1500 people total. So not necessary. I mean, more power to him, but you will never, not never, catch me at a race an hour and a half before the start unless it is forcibly mandated by the race itself, such as Disney. Sorry, I felt it necessary to rant about that. I just can’t process.
It was a very small group of us at the early start – I would say less than 15 people, and a lot of us were Maniacs. Larry Macon, who holds the Guinness World Record for most marathons in a single year (106) was there, as well as Jim Simpson, who is just a few marathons away from his 1000th marathon. HIS ONE THOUSANDTH MARATHON. Mom, AJ, and all other people who think I am crazy: I give you Jim Simpson and Larry Macon. Both of whom are extremely nice and very reasonable people, by the way.
We all lined up at the starting line, and I suddenly felt like I was wayyyyy to close to the front, even though again, there were only 15 people and all of us were planning on running pretty slowly. At the start of the race, Craig, the awesome race director, ran with us for about a quarter of a mile or so to make sure we wouldn’t get lost. It was pitch black outside, and guess who was leading the pack? Uh, me and Amanda. Pretty sure that is the first time that has ever happened and I am almost entirely sure it will be the last. It really freaked me out! I don’t know why – maybe because I was convinced I was going to lead the group off course or something. Fast people, I don’t know how you do it. God bless you. Fortunately, we were in the lead for less than a mile before Carol took off…making a wrong turn in the process and proving my nightmare true! Fortunately, Amanda and I caught the error and with the help of Denis, we were able to get her back on track.
At this point it’s important to point out that Amanda and I had stayed true to our word of wearing our “running chicken” Mardi Gras beads. We were pretty sure we would lose them by mile 2, but we wanted to make it as long as we could. Unfortunately, we had to hold them in order to keep them from bouncing around, which wouldn’t have been a big deal except Amanda somehow kept detaching hers from the beads. The chicken fell down a few times. It was bad.
I knew my stomach was in trouble from pretty early on. I want to say it started really bothering me around mile 2. Not much I could really do about it at that point, so Amanda and I tried to enjoy the scenery. We ran past Tiger Stadium in the vicinity of mile 3 or so, which is gigantic and purple and yellow and hideous (GO GAMECOCKS). At that point, the race turned onto LSU’s campus, which really struck me. No offense LSU people, but I could not believe how absolutely gorgeous it was. It seriously looked like something out of a magazine! Sensing that it was going to be a slow day, Amanda and I flagged down another early starter and asked her to take our picture in front of the
Christmas tree and tower.
You may note that I carried my typical bottle of Sprite with me the entire race. Since the course was a double loop, I had one at the start and one where we left the car, so I was cautiously optimistic that I would get through the race just fine. Turns out, not so much. As we ran along one of the lakes on campus past all the sorority houses (no ADPi…sad), the sun was coming up and we could hear the starting gun go off for the regular start. We were at about mile 6, and I predicted that we would be passed by the lead runners around mile 9. Yeah…it would only take them 3 miles to make up the HOUR LEAD we had on them. No big deal.
At mile 8, I saw porta potties and told Amanda that I was definitely going to get sick. She gets sick when other people get sick, so she always stays away during such times, which is fair. I found the actual porta potty far too claustrophobic (weird, right?) and ended up (sorry in advance) literally projectile vomiting behind them. I mean, whatever the sickest you ever got as a kid was…this was probably worse. It was reaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllllllllllllly bad. I just sat on the curb after and cried for a second because I felt so sick and we still had so. many. miles to go.
We started off again, and soon enough the lead runners were catching us. It’s pretty amazing how easy they make it look, and I know it isn’t easy for anyone. Somehow, this whole situation made me perk up considerably despite the fire raging in my stomach, and I decided that when the next fast people came by, I was going to try and run with them for 10 seconds. Seems easy, right? No big deal.
Uh, yeah. There were a lot of factors I didn’t consider. First of all, even though I MIGHT be able to keep up with them for about 10 seconds, I didn’t plan ahead far enough to have a running start. Second of all, trying to keep up with them going up a hill is not the ideal scenario. Third, it turns out very fast runners are not amused by my antics. Let me paint the picture for you. As they started to approach I would yell “I’m going to run really fast with you for ten seconds ok? OK!” and then I would run. Not with them ever. Just sadly behind them. The guy in the video was slightly amused. Several other victims were not.
The last few miles of the loop runs along the LSU lakes through some of the most gorgeous neighborhoods and streets I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry, Baton Rouge. I seriously underestimated you. I was really enjoying the scenery SO MUCH even though I felt like absolute garbage. It was at this point in the race that I was starting to think about not finishing. Here is what was essentially my internal conversation between Mean T-Rex and Less Mean T-Rex (let’s be real – there is not a nice version of me during races).
Mean T-Rex: “You’re such an idiot. Seriously, you can’t keep any food down half the time in real life and 100% of the time during races, yet you continue to come do marathons. What’s the point? You feel like shit. Your times are atrocious. Is “running” a 6 hour marathon, toughing it out and finishing really any more admirable or any better than recognizing that you feel awful and stopping at the half? No. It’s not. No one is going to be impressed that you walked the last half of a marathon.”
Less Mean T-Rex: “Don’t be a jackass. You can’t quit. Your blog went viral this week. Are you really going to welcome your new readers with a DNF post? Really? No. Suck it the hell up. You spent all this money to come out here and finish a marathon in Louisiana, and dammit, you’re going to finish. Dean Karnazes said “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must,” right? Right. You might not be able to run much, but you can walk when you need to. Stop being a baby.”
I made the mental decision that I was going to finish the stupid marathon if it killed me. I can’t even justify why I decided to do that, because I really don’t know. We crossed the halfway point actually in about 2:30, which really wasn’t too bad for us considering the bathroom, walk, and vomit breaks. After crossing the midway point, I leveled with Amanda about my internal conversation. She told me that it was ok if I didn’t want to keep going and that she could still go without me, but I wasn’t going to do that. Nope, I was going to grace her with my puke for another 13.1 miles. She said she wasn’t feeling great either and that we could walk as much as we wanted and that we should just concentrate on enjoying the day. She has good perspectives on things. I do not.
We still had our chicken beads on, though, so I guess things weren’t going too badly. Shortly after the halfway point, Chelsea caught up with us and told us that someone had mistaken her for me, since she was wearing a T-Rex Runner shirt. She pointed out that she does not have my luxurious blonde hair, so it could not possibly be me. I about died laughing. She waved goodbye and kept running really fast.
At this point, Amanda and I were doing run/walk and the methodology was basically to run until I felt too sick to continue, then to walk until my stomach calmed down enough to run again (Did you read that? Seriously? I’m the worst. What is my life?) We took some scenic shots by Tiger Stadium to pass the time, and I saw my friend Jonathan, a fellow Maniac who I adore – had no idea he was going to be there!
As we started heading through campus again, I asked Amanda if she was ready to run again and she goes “Ugh, every time you start talking I am dreading that you are going to say it’s time to run again. Seriously.” I about fell over laughing because she never gives that impression at all – she always seems game to keep running, but I guess not. Amanda then made the executive decision that we needed to take prolonged walk break in order to give my stomach plenty of time to settle. I’m sure we looked pathetic walking at mile 15, but neither of us really cared. Lots of people commented on our shirts, and we watched with great interest as most of the field went running past us. The nice thing about double loop courses is that after the halfway point, all of a sudden the numbers seem so high. You feel like you’re really making progress since the last time you were in that spot, it was 13 miles ago. For some reason, I find that very comforting. Anyway, we walked…and walked…and walked. We walked at least 4 miles with no running at all. I have never in my life done anything like that in a race.
We eventually started doing a bit of running and walking again because it was getting really hot (in December, I know) and we kind of just wanted to be done. At a water stop around mile 21, we saw Jeff Galloway running and walking on the course! This is particularly crazy because a) he’s a former Olympian and b) although I have been to many races that he has attended as a speaker, I didn’t know he actually runs the races too. So that was kind of cool! Of course, he left us in the dust with his patented run/walk method of 30 seconds running, 30 seconds walking. Ugh.
By this point it was becoming abundantly clear that this race was mostly likely going to be a PW (Personal Worst). For the record, my previous PW was the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon, which is run in sand and crosses over a mountain range. And it was 88 degrees that day. I mean, legit right? Flat paved course in December? Not legit. Nonetheless, as we approached mile 25, I was determined to do a T-Rex. For those of you who are new to my blog and don’t know what a T-Rex is, it’s running the entire last 1.2 miles of a marathon (from mile marker 25 to the finish) without stopping. I try and do that in every race, no matter how bad I feel, in an effort to prove to myself that I can push myself farther than I think.
Usually, the last 1.2 miles go by pretty fast no matter how bad I feel, but this was an exception. It felt like we were running forever. I thought I was turning 85 years old while running because we had been out there that long. With about half a mile to go, Denis found us! He was pretty concerned we had died out there, so after finishing his race, he came back to run us in. This is one of many reasons why I love Denis. Also, he has a magnificent accent.
I would love to say crossing the finish line was great, and in a way, it was. I always have fun with Amanda when we run together. The course was beautiful, we met some great people, kept our chicken beads on the whole time – hell, we even led the race for awhile. We saw Craig at the finish line and told him what a wonderful race it was, and it really is. The volunteers were fantastic, the food at the end was good (so I hear…poor stomach) and the course was beautiful. Even if you don’t like double loop courses, this is really a good one. I think the whole race is exceptionally well organized and well executed . You really can’t go wrong with running Baton Rouge Beach. I don’t say that about every race, but I really have nothing bad to say about this one. It’s just really well done!
So that’s how the race went. It was a PW for me timewise. Would it have been smarter for me to just stop at the half and not finish? Probably. I can’t say I won’t come back and try and get redemption from this course once my stomach is fixed, because I feel like it would be a course I could run well on under different circumstances. Although I generally don’t care too much about my race times, there’s something about the idea of finishing a marathon in 6+ hours that I just personally cannot deal with. I think I’m getting so frustrated lately because I know my fitness has gotten better. I’ve been training and running hard for the most part, I just can’t get my stomach to cooperate 95% of the time. It makes no difference what I eat or whether or not I take my medicine. My stomach just makes the executive decision each day how it going to feel and that’s it. Nothing I can do about it. My stomach is clearly an asshole, so it’s not going too well. My doctor is talking about doing surgery in the next few months, and it seems like at this point that might be my only option because I’ve tried everything else. I’m frustrated because I know I can do better and I want to do better.
Oh well, that’s enough of a pity party for one night. I sound like Taylor Swift.
To clarify: This report is in no way meant to be disparaging to people who finish marathons in over 6 hours. I am a firm believer in performing to the best of your ability, whatever that may be – whether it’s the Olympics or an 8+ hour finish. My frustration lies in feeling like I can’t perform to the best of my ability, not the actual times themselves.
If you’re a runner, leave a comment and tell me about your PW. If you’re not, tell me something else that I will find interesting. Preferably some type of little known fact.