I went in to this race with a goal of breaking 4:40, but deep down I knew it would be pretty hard to accomplish. I didn’t train quite enough, and in the last 5 weeks since the Galveston Marathon, my long runs had only totaled 13, 20, 11, and 13 again. I had focused on speedwork during some shorter runs, but I think I would have had a better idea of my abilities had I tried to do speedier mid-range runs like 5-7 milers. So I was hopeful, but not too confident.
The week leading up to the race, I ordered a new duffel bag and then organized all of my running stuff in Ziploc bags. This bag contains everything I could possibly need for a run or race, including sunscreen, energy gels, pepper spray, headbands, band-aids, ice packs, medicine, armband/fitness belt, baby wipes, gloves, etc.
On Saturday we drove into Lafayette, which is a quick 2 hours away. I had reserved a hotel on Expedia for a very cheap $55 – I was a little leery about it because the hotel was apparently a former Ramada and had been purchased and re-named, but the reviews on Yelp and other places were pretty much positive, so I went for it. I am not high maintenance and it was just for one night.
Check-in wasn’t until 3 so we went to lunch as soon as we hit Lafayette. I had a nervous stomach, I guess due to anticipation of the race, so for lunch we went to Saigon Noodle and had Pho. The food was very good. Afterward we went next door to Frutti Smoothie and I got a Tropical Splash Protein Smoothie, which was also absolutely awesome.
Finally done eating, we went to the expo at the Cajundome Convention Center, near the ULL campus. For some reason I thought the race shirts were going to have cuts for both men and women, but they were unisex, which was super disappointing because I like the shirt so much! But even getting the XS, the unisex Brooks shirt never fits me right. We also got a cool little shoulder bag, and I went and purchased a Zydeco 26.2 sticker that has the distance written out in French, plus a nice glass with the race logo on it.
We checked into our motel, which was outdated but worth the cheap price. It feels like it’s been such a long time since we stayed in a motel, and I prefer that so much more actually – I loved having our car right outside our door so I could run out and put things up or grab something I had left in the backseat.
Dinner was at Bon Temps, a popular Cajun restaurant just a few miles from our hotel. I got blackened chicken pasta, and could only eat about half of it. After dinner we were pretty much spent and I was trying to go to sleep by 9 or so. This was the weekend of Daylight Saving Time, and we were losing an hour of sleep, so I knew the morning would probably be extra rough. But when my phone alarm went off at 5:30, what felt to my body like 4:30, I woke right up. I started getting ready, forced down a bagel with peanut butter, and at 6:10 got my husband up so he could dress and drop me off. The race started at 7, but I figured it wouldn’t take us long to get to the start.
We drove in the darkness to the Cajundome and encountered a long line of cars waiting to park and policemen blocking the way up further, so I hopped out of the car in the street and started walking with other runners down a sidewalk toward the starting line. I was in my corral by 6:40 with nothing to do but wait for 20 minutes.
It was chilly at race start, but the kind of chilliness you could tell would go away pretty quickly once the sun came up and you started running. I wore a light short-sleeved shirt, light capri tights and Nike shorts over the tights. There had been a 90% chance of rain for the daytime earlier in the week, but by Friday the forecast showed rain holding off until at least 2 p.m. They had a short wave start, and by the time my corral got started, the sun was coming up. We headed off and I almost immediately started feeling dread. Not a good sign. At mile 5 I had to take a Pepto Bismol powder I’d brought with me because my stomach felt very unsettled, and I feared if that kept up I would throw up. The medicine worked very well, and soon I was feeling better.
My goal was to keep about a 10:50 pace for the first 10 miles, 10:40 pace for the next 10 miles and then try to go 10:40 or less for the last 10K. Well, I did pretty well with this for the first 10 miles. I had to slow myself down at some points even, because I found myself going too fast. It was getting warm rather quickly, so I drank water or Powerade at every single aid stop. The water stops were plentiful and the volunteers were great. I felt like there was a regular occurrence of cheering spectators, which for some reason surprised me.
Even though I wasn’t feeling excitement to run, the first 7-8 miles went by pretty quickly. We ran through Lafayette’s downtown, near the university and around a park. It was around this time that we encountered a very hilly neighborhood that was pretty difficult for me. The hills were rolling though, so I never had to stop and walk them, I just ran them very slowly. I have found in my last three marathons that the first half is always toughest because you just want to reach the midway point. As long as there are half marathoners on the road with you, you still have more than 50% to go. So I was aching to see the halfway point and felt it would have to be easier mentally once I got that far.
At mile 11 I had to stop at a medical tent and ask for a band-aid because my shirt sleeve had chafed my underarm so badly it was already bleeding! Bad news. The band-aid helped a lot.
This was a double loop course, so as we approached the finish line, marathoners veered left to do the loop a second time while halfers headed to the finish. I was very relieved to finally get to this point, and I felt like the first half had gone by pretty quickly so I knew I would survive the second half. My Garmin said it was about 2:22:something at the half, which was disappointing because I knew there was little chance I’d run the second half faster in order to get under 4:40. The course also was already 0.25 over according to my Garmin, so I’d have to make up for that too. I had been confused as to why the 4:45 pacer was ahead of me most of the first half, because I was sure I was running a pace faster than that, but he must have been accounting for the course being longer than 26.2. He was right on the money, and I was completely off.
Knowing my goal was probably impossible, some of the pressure came off and I just focused on holding on to a sub-11 pace. On the second loop, I saw a lot of half marathoners who were walking coming back the opposite way, and then I started seeing marathoners! They were like an hour and a half ahead of me. I think I did a good job of mentally keeping my head in each mile rather than thinking of the miles to come. I started walking a little slower through water stops, whereas in the first half I had tried to be quicker.
At mile 20 I stopped and took a picture of the sign, then texted it to my husband to let him know I was a little over an hour away from finishing. I was determined not to take any walking breaks outside of water stops, because it’s so hard to start running again when you’ve stopped. I just wanted to hold on to running, even if it was super slow running.
The last mile and a half of the race runs down this one street which leads to Cajundome Boulevard. It goes slightly uphill near the end, which is a nice little torture tactic for someone who has just run 25 miles 😉 When you finally reach the top of the uphill climb, you are at mile 26 and turn left to head for the finish line.
As I approached the finish I felt like crying, not of happiness but a little disappointment. This was the second time I had set a goal for a marathon finish and it was the second time I had failed to accomplish it. It wasn’t quite the bomb that was the 2012 BR Beach Marathon, but it was disappointing.
Chip time = 4:47:36 – my third best time out of 5 marathons. I will get that sub 4:40 one day, but I will need to train better and hope for cooler weather. So far I just cannot sneak out of the 4:40-4:50 zone.
My husband had to park super far away and didn’t get to the finish in time to see me cross, but that was OK by me. I sat down on a curb and waited for him to reach me. When I saw him I actually did tear up a bit, but I got over it quickly.
He took a picture of me with my medal (and had to tell me to look happy because I had a fake smile on), then we walked to the finish festival nearby. I got a smoothie from Smoothie King and a frozen custard in a waffle cone with smashed Butterfinger topping. I couldn’t stomach anything else, so we headed back home and an hour later I was able to eat lunch in Lake Charles.
Once we got home, I fell asleep and took a 2-hour nap. DST gets me every time! Looking back on the race, even though I was disappointed in my performance, it was a really great race with wonderful volunteers, plentiful water stops, a nice medal and T-shirt, some cool race merchandise that I actually wanted to buy and a great finish festival with lots of food. The course could have been pretty boring because Lafayette doesn’t have a lot of unique-looking areas, but they changed it up enough that it wasn’t monotonous.