215 Minutes at the Louisiana Marathon

15 January 2012
I made a late decision to sign up for the Inaugural Louisiana Marathon (LAM) after working on Fort Polk for most of the week leading up to race weekend. I had visibility on the race after checking our race calendars the previous weekend and found the LA 26.2 on www.marathonguide.com. I’m glad for several reasons that I was able to register for this race Saturday and race on Sunday. It’s always a terrific experience to cross any 26.2 mile finish line and this was no exception in Baton Rouge. I like taking part in Inaugural races, and I got to run in a major event in Louisiana and “check” that block in my 50-state mission. I learned a lot in this race, and while this certainly was not a targeted race on even a weekend in the calendar as late as Christmas, in a lot of ways this was maybe the best race I have run to date.

Just the Facts. Running the LAW 26.2 was my 1492nd straight day of running, the 48th major event that I’ve completed, 35th major in the previous 24 months, and 2nd marathon or ultra-marathon I’ve completed in 2012, along with the Harbison 50K last Saturday in Columbia, S.C. My overall time of 3:35 was not a PR, as I ran 3:26 in October, but this was my 2nd best at the marathon distance. Counting the Richmond 26.2 in November, my last 3 marathons have produced my 3 fastest 26.2 times. I finished in 90th place overall and 4th in my age group again. I think I’ve placed 4th in my age group in 5 or 6 of the last events I’ve run in, including Harbison last weekend.

Weather and Race Logistics. The weather conditions were terrific throughout the race. It was chilly at the start, 33 degrees, but clear all day, and had warmed up to the mid-fifties around the time I finished. I ran in my TRX tank top, shorts, Injini socks and my new Hoka Bondi Bs. This was only about the 4th or 5th time I’ve run in the Bondis at all, and had not gone over 6 miles in them, and I was very pleased with them throughout the race. No foot issues whatsoever, nary a blister or tweaky toenail even though the Bondis seem a little narrow for me in the toe box. I also wore my Nathan Hydration 2.0 pack without the water blivet. I had my IPhone, Walkman, 2 vials of Oral IV and a pack of Cliff Bloks in it. I started the race wearing my Moeben Sleeves and a thin pair of gloves and removed those between the 5th and 6th miles on the course once I had warmed up somewhat. It was definitely chilly awaiting the start of the race.

I stayed overnight in a hotel about 4 blocks up the street from the race’s starting and finishing point in that was excellent in support of the race. I got into Baton Rouge pretty late and didn’t get to sleep until well after midnight, but having accommodations that close to the main race area really enhances and supports the race experience.

The Race. I had no real goal for LAM other than to run it to the best of my ability. I started pretty far in the back of the main crowd, and could see pace group signs well in front of me including the 4:15 goal. It took me a mile or two to get in the flow of the race and then another couple of miles to warm up; once I did, I did the same thing I do in most races and just concentrated on trying to run down everyone in front of me.

I really liked the layout of the LAM 26.2 course, After running through downtown Baton Rouge, we wended our way southeast around a chain of lakes to include incorporating a big loop through the LSU campus that swung directly around the massive football stadium. Both Half-Marathon and Marathon runners shared the course with the full marathon taking expanded loops through some really nice east Baton Rouge subdivisions before we’d loop back onto the lake perimeter and rejoined the Half-marathoners sticking to the lake’s perimeter.

I always get caught up in the moment early in a marathon flowing out with the crowd at the start, then ease up a bit for a couple of miles, and then pick up my pace again. And that’s exactly how Lam went for me. I was around 33-34 minutes at the 4-mile point after some gear adjustments, and unfortunate port-o-let stop, and downsizing my sleeves and head-gear. I felt great and just tried to dial my pace up from there; I’d target runners ahead of me, gain on them and do my best to pass them. I did my best to stop thinking and just Ran. And then Ran some more and just kept running. As I continued to move forward among groups of runners the pace picked up and I had to catch runners or groups and run at their pace for a while until I got comfortable and then I’d pick it up and try to pass them.

LAM 26.2, like most marathon courses, is a really flat course and flatter than most. There was an overpass at mile 1 or so that we came back over at mile 24.5 that was significant at the time but nothing dramatic.

Somewhere around 10 miles, the marathon route took a hard right to the east that turned into mostly an “out” for about 5 miles to the neighborhood loop at the far end. The route stepped around some suburban corners but also lent itself to the energy and sense of urgency you get when you’re still running the “out” and the runners ahead of you are running the “back.” I got an additional boost by sticking to my music plan of action. I didn’t turn on my Walkman until the 13.1 point of the race, and then it turned into a whole new race for the next 5-8 miles. I felt really good on most of this section but was starting to feel hollow inside by the time I came out of it and took the right and headed north for the last 3 miles in the course.

All in all, I was very pleased with how well LAM went for me. Frankly, while I ran a faster time at Empire State in October, overall, LAM went better for me that any other marathon. At Empire State I got out quick, ran hard and got to 20 miles in 2:29, was out of energy and just toughed out the rest of the course painfully. I got to 20 miles in LAM at 2:40 but still felt very good and just kept forward; I actually felt very good right through 25 miles and that is a first for me in any event. I hit the 13.1 mile point in 1:46, and ran the 2nd 13.1 in 1:49 which is the most balanced split I’ve ever run in a 26.2. While I did hit the wall really hard somewhere right around 24.5- 24.75 miles and struggled in at a 10:00+ pace from there, I was encouraged overall.

Lessons Learned. I’ve improved at maintaining a 07:00-07:30 pace for long stretches of time over the past eight to twelve months. After finally breaking an age-group 3:30 overall time in Syracuse in 3:26+, I didn’t think I’d be able to duplicate that or improve on that until running LAM 26.2 on Sunday. I spent the week leading up doing a lot of work-related physical training on TRX coupled with getting to sleep late every night including the night prior. I also had a total of at least 10 “slow” minutes on the course to include bathroom stops and some real time-consuming screwing around with earphones and gear manipulation. While it might be very optimistic, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for me to target a late summer 26.2, continue to build a good training base with more hills, hard tempo and even speed-work involved, and then knock 15:00 of this 3:35 to help me get into Boston in 2013.

Tim Hardy
17 JAN 2012
Marietta, NY

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