Number 35 was the 22nd Baton Rouge Beach Marathon on 5 December 2015. I finished in 3:33:44, 19th among 158 finisheers, 16th among 96 men, 2nd among 10 in my age group. Rachael ran the associated half marathon. Rachael didn't run as hard as her recent PR, but she ran beautiful and happy. Here is a photo of her mid-run:
and here she is at the finish:
At 63 days, this was the second smallest gap between races in the project so far (behind the 56 days separating 27 and 28). I trained formally for Arkansas but then just did a couple of longish training runs in November to stay fresh for Louisiana.
My plan was to drift through this one at a relaxed pace, hopefully staying below 4 hours. I was a bit of a wreck heading into the race. I had poison ivy rashes from a gardening misadventure in Bath. I woke up Wednesday night before the race with a bad cramp in my left calf. The calf remained tight up to the race, leading me to worry about whether it would be wise to run. As soon as the race started, however, I felt fine and I knew that finishing would not be a problem.
Despite the run being in Baton Rouge, we used the weekend as an excuse to visit New Orleans. This was Rachael's first time visiting the city and my second. My earlier visit was to the 1984 World's Fair with my parents, so my memory of the town was less than fresh. We flew in Friday afternoon and checked into the Hotel Mazarin in the French Quarter. Here is a photo of us on Bourbon Street.
Still on eastern time, we had an early dinner at GW Fins. The lobster ravioli was fantastic, as was the tuna tartar and the John Dory. Early to bed, we got up at 3 am for the drive to Baton Rouge. The French Quarter was still lively when we left at 4 am. We got to Baton Rouge at 5:30 and parked at the start line. Good to get there early enough to be close, it was 45 degrees outside but warm in the car. The race packet included gloves, which came in very handy. The race went off promptly at 7 am. Here is a photo of us at the start:
My plan was to ease out to 9 minute miles, consistent with a 4 hour finish. On a training run my creeky old bones start with a 10 minute mile, which I try to make up. A 9 minute average on a long training run is pretty good. My last training run was a short speed drill on the Sunday before the race, I did 4 miles at 8:32 minutes, 7:49, 7:12 and 7:02. I started GPS tracking a minute or so before the start at the marathon, so I was very surpised to cross the first mile at 8:42. The second was 7:52. I stayed mostly around 8 minutes through the half, although in the last mile I started trading position with a man and a woman kicking for the end. I did mile 13 in 7:29. Very surpised to still feel great, the weather was fanstastic. I caught up with Patrick Mills in the 17th mile. It turns out that Patrick is from my old home town of Champaign, Illionois, so we spent miles 17 and 18 chatting about old friends at an 8:30 pace. Patrick wanted to ease up, so he sent me ahead in miles 19 and 20, which I ran at 8:04. I was drifting back to 8:20-8:30 in miles 21-23, when suddenly Patrick is back on my heels. Nice guy, obviously very fast for 64 years old. He had run an ultra three weeks before. I decided go along with his game and ran mile 24 in 8:01, mile 25 in 7:35 and 26 in 7:23. I have never finished a marathon so hard, amazed that I felt so good and didn't feel nearly as bad at the finish as I had in Arkansas. I ran so hard that I caught a younger runner ahead of me in the 24th mile. He did not appreciate that, so another duel began. Here we are just after I passed him:
He fought back to beat me by a few seconds. I held on to beat Patrick by 7 seconds. Here I am coming to the finish with Patrick on my heels.
We drove back to New Orleans, had a fantastic late lunch at Sobou (avocado ice cream cones with a tuna core and brisket bao) and walked around the French Quarter. Here we are in Jackson Square:
We also took in the sounds of the French Quarter, as shown here:
Sunday we took a historic walking tour of the French Quarter and drove out of town for a swamp tour. Here is Rachael with a gator on the swamp tour:
We had a fantastic time in Louisiana. The race course is a tour of the LSU campus and University Lake. It is beautiful, mostly flat and fun, although it would be easy to get lost in all the turns. I think a lot about fractions as I run, getting 1/4 in at 6.5, 1/3 at 9, half at the half, 2/3 at 18, etc. Chatting with Patrick got me to 18 easy, having strength for the hard finish was surprising. Now I am in the last third of the 50 states and DC project, past mile 18 as it were. After running the first tenth of a marathon one thinks, "how nice it will be to be in the last 10th." With 2.62 miles to go, however, one thinks 3 miles is a long way. Now I only have 16 marathons left. But one marathon is still a long distance.
This ranks as one of the best marathons, but the last always seems best. So many have been fun and memorable now that it is very hard to crack the top 10. Louisana is currently number 12.