More than two years after my last disastrous marathon where I started out with high expectations and the wheels fell off around mile 20 (prompting me to swear I would never run a marathon again), I set out for Marathon #3 and found that the lessons I learned last time around were very valuable and got me to the finish line despite being a bit under-trained.
The weekend started on Friday when we drove into Luling and spent the night at my parents’ house. On Saturday I ate a big breakfast of pancakes and an omelet, then later had pho at MoPho in New Orleans before heading to the marathon expo. Pho seems like a great pre-marathon meal, lots of noodles and meat and vegetables.
The expo was packed even though when we got there, there was only 3 hours left until it closed. Packet pickup went smoothly and though I had my heart set on buying some special marathon merchandise to commemorate the occasion, nothing struck my fancy. The clothing selection exclusively by Brooks was very limited and very expensive.
We checked into our hotel and that night we had Italian food at Frank’s in the French Quarter. I got French fries and Italian Sausage Spaghetti. It was OK. Back at the hotel by 8:30, I laid everything out and prepared to go to sleep. I think I got a decent amount of sleep considering my first alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. I ate most of my bagel and PB, got dressed, then got back in bed because I was still tired! My second alarm went off at 6:50 a.m.
I loved being so close to the start. The official start time was 7:30, but since I was in corral 12 I knew it wouldn’t even be until around 8 or so before I got to start. I left the hotel at 7:15 with no concerns. I used an old space blanket from a previous RnR race to keep warm in my corral. The temperature wasn’t that bad but we were situated between tall buildings which created a fierce wind tunnel. You would think being packed in like sardines would help, but it didn’t. Without the wind, it would have felt great.
So as we got to the starting line and they started to count down for my corral, my Garmin was STILL “getting location.” I had to start the race without it. Going in to this race, I really had no “official” goal, though I said to myself that I would be pleased to finish under 5 hours considering my slacking training. I was just leery of the second half after how badly my last marathon went from mile 20 and on. So I set out prepared to run slow, fuel consistently, stay very hydrated, and just temper my expectations.
Throughout the race I had my Polaroid Cube in my hand to take pictures. They were often hit or miss – with this tiny camera, you just sort of point and aim it but there is nothing available for you to see exactly what you’re taking a picture of. These are some photos I took while waiting for the race to start:
Mile 1 – My stupid Garmin couldn’t find satellites for most of the first mile. Once it finally found a satellite, I considered waiting until the first mile marker to start it up, but decided I just needed to use it to know my pace. This turned out to be a good decision because since my Garmin mileage was off of the course completely, I never looked at the mileage part of Garmin. Thus, I was never sure where I was between mile markers, which helped me mentally. I can’t be sure, but I think my first mile was like 12 minutes because of the congestion and narrow pathway.
Miles 2-6: I kept a pretty tempered pace as we ran down St. Charles Avenue for several miles and then turned around to go back the same way we came. The sun was out and the sky was cloudless, so the shade provided by all the buildings and trees on St. Charles was important here. I was sweating some but the breeze kept it from getting too hot. I wanted to take my second gel at the mile 6 marker, but I was waiting for the water stop which never came that mile. Turns out water stops were only at odd-numbered miles for the first half. I was distressed until I could finally take the gel at the mile 7 water stop.
Meanwhile I was drinking water or Gatorade at every single water stop to stay hydrated and checking my pace. I wanted to stay under 11:25/mile (5-hour marathon pace) but I was making myself slow down whenever I was running faster than 10:40ish. This sounds slow, but I did not want to conk out in the second half of the race, as I did in my last marathon. “Conserve energy” was my mantra.
I was tempted to shout “only 20 more miles” at the 10K mark but restrained myself.
Miles 7-10 – I had several mental milestones during the first half that I was looking forward to – I have done this half marathon three times, so I knew the course and knew that once we finally left St. Charles we would be heading to the French Quarter and would be at mile 10 once we got through that area. Then a little while after that would mercifully be the course split where the halfers headed to their finish and the course would be much less congested. I didn’t really mind the heavy foot traffic during the first half, but I also knew that getting to the halfway point would make it “all downhill” from there and the course split would mark the beginning of that. So I couldn’t wait to see the halfers go.
Miles 11-14- After the main French Quarter part ended at mile 10, we had to run like 2+ miles down one street to get to the course split, and I had some waves of tiredness that came and went as I looked for that to arrive. When we split from the half marathoners, like 30 people around me went the half way and three people near me went the full way. I took another gel at the water stop after the split and proceeded down yet another street that they had us run down and then make a U-turn to go back the way we came. A lot of out-and-back portions in this race. So you can see all the people who are like a mile ahead of you coming in the opposite direction, which is sometimes a downer.
During the race, some of the mile markers were either just inconspicuous or turned sideways or fell down completely, or I wasn’t paying good attention, because I missed several including the 13 mile marker. I ran over a mat that I assumed was for the half marathon mark but there was no sign telling us that?
A little ways after the mile 14 marker we turned off onto another residential street.
Miles 15-25: So the second half of the course kind of made me feel like the race organizers hate runners. Like at times I felt disliked because of the course they were making me run. First off, they make you run down the street that goes past City Park where the finish line is. So you can hear music and noise coming from the finish area, see half finishers walking by with their medals and waiting for the shuttle buses to take them back downtown. Once you get past that, it’s just several miles of boring scenery-less road taking you far away from civilization. Water stops and volunteers were still great, but there were very few spectators compared to the first half.
Miles 16-18 were uneventful and I never even saw the 18 mile marker. Since I wasn’t tracking mileage on my Garmin I was kind of shocked to see the 19 mile marker come up. I ended up taking a fourth gel between miles 18-19. I felt pretty fine during this time – taking it one mile at a time, focusing on not going too fast and breathing steadily, drinking water at every stop and stretching here or there. At some point I took 3 ibuprofen which was GREAT. We again came to what was apparently an out and back as runners who were far ahead of me were coming back in the opposite direction. This led to Lakeshore Drive, which, as the name suggests, was by the lake. This was nice for a change of scenery but there were some brutal winds coming off the water which at some points created a bit of a headwind. At 20 miles I still felt decent and texted my husband to “plz” bring my hair brush when he came to the finish line “thx.”
I again felt disliked at this part of the course because there were no less than three overpasses on Lakeshore Drive, so we not only had to climb them once each but we hit them again after making the U-turn.
I walked through water stops and mostly walked these uphill climbs to save energy. But as the miles climbed higher and I felt more confident I wasn’t going to have the wheels come off like at the BR Beach Marathon, I got more confident to run a little faster and not be so conservative.
Math was hard to do in my head the last hour, but based on my knowledge that I had started about 30 minutes off the gun time, I figured based on the clock at the 20-mile marker that I could do a sub-5 as long as I maintained less than 11:30-miles the rest of the way. And I knew I could do that as long as I didn’t have to walk.
During these last miles I passed a guy walking who was barefoot. He had his chip tied around his ankle, so I assume he ran barefoot the whole way. Ouch.
Mile 26 and 0.2 – Once I hit the mile 25 marker, I sped up quite a bit and even ignored the last water stop. I was ready to be done and also really happy that I still felt good enough to run. I had had no stomach issues and no breathing issues throughout the whole race. When I saw the 26 mile sign I felt a little teary but pulled myself together to smile for the camera guys. Entering the finishing chute I saw my parents and husband waiting for me. I high-fived the announcer on my way in. The gun clock said 5:17 so I knew that I had a chip time of less than 5 hours, but I had no clue what it was.
More race photos I purchased, all from finish line area –
And my own personal favorite, taken by my mother right after I finished:
I have to give props to RnR – this year they had free finisher jackets for marathoners at the finish line, and unlike last year (when I did the half) I really liked the medal and also liked that it had a ribbon instead of the usual Mardi Gras bead. But for people bummed about the missing bead, you could “bead your medal” and get one at a separate station at the finish. I have enough medals with Mardi Gras beads, and the ribbon was pretty, so I didn’t care to do that.
My mom had been tracking me so she pulled up my profile and it showed my finishing time as 4:50:51. Only about a minute slower than my 2nd marathon but such a different feeling at the finish. Because of my lowered expectations I was smiling widely after this one, and I was crying in disappointment after the last one. I felt after this the same as I had felt after my first marathon (which was a time of 4:40 and could have been better had I not experienced stomach issues the whole time) – very proud and accomplished.
And here are my three marathon medals side by side –