Monday, December 3, 2012

Baton Rouge Beach Marathon Review

Baton Rouge Beach Marathon
Baton Rouge Beach Marathon sponsored by
The Running Chicken Track Club
December 1, 2012
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
24th Marathon Completed

Runners: 181/Full, 334/Half
Course: LSU Campus & Local Lakes
           Mostly Flat, 288ft Elevation Gain
Temp: 51 degrees at start, 70 degrees at finish
Wind: 5 mph SW
________________________________________________________
SWAG: Race Bag, Tech Shirt, Socks, Gloves, Koozie
Food: Best ever ... Jambalaya, Alligator, Gumbo, etc.
Volunteer Support: Good
Water Stops: Adequate but not great
Crowd Support: Very Sparse
________________________________________________________
Time: 4:18:52
Pace: 9:21
Place: 86/181 Overall
         8th/20 in 40-44 Age Group
Total Experience ... 1 2 3 4 5

Highlights
        - Nice small marathon in one of the best college towns, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
        - Best pre/post race food ever ... Jambalaya, Alligator, Gumbo - great Cajun treats
        - Convenient hotels close to Expo & packet pickup and good, no hassle shuttle service to the start/finish lines
        - Perfect weather, about 50 degrees at the start & 70 degrees at the finish
        - Beautiful flat two loop course around Louisiana State University and local lakes
        - Good, but very sparse volunteer support, post race support, and almost no crowd support
        - Very close to passing traffic during some stretches with no cones or markers, one of the more dangerous races I've ran
        - Met Jennifer who was volunteering at the RWB Booth (daugher of Grannie Frannie Runs)
        - Had a great time hanging out with and running the entire race with my friend Bobby from North Carolina
        - Probably the most anticlimactic ending to any marathon I've ran so far
        - Nice small race, but still looking for the "Beach" in Baton Rouge

Finisher Medal & SWAG
2012 Baton Rouge Beach Marathon Finisher Medal & SWAG including race bag, gloves, socks, and Brooks Technical Shirt
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times ... I LOVE THE SOUTH!!!  The Southern part of the United  States is somewhere I don't travel to a lot, but every time I'm there, I just don't want to leave.  And on this trip below the Mason Dixon, I found one of the true gems of the South ... Baton Rouge, Louisiana! As the capital city Louisiana, there was of course the typical Southern hospitality to be found everywhere, but the city is also one of the best college towns in America, home to Southern University and Louisiana State University.
Some of the sights of Louisiana ... Top row from left to right: Louisiana State Capital Building, Louisiana state sign outside of Natchez, Old State Capitol building in Baton Rouge   Second Row: Photo of Baton Rouge taken from across the Mississippi River at Port Allen   Third Row: Holiday signs in some of the small towns, above ground cemetery in Port Allen, Southern Louisiana Egret over University Lake   Bottom Row: various trees & lakes of Louisiana
As with most marathons, I traveled by car to the host city.  Baton Rouge is about 12 hours from Kansas City, so it gave me a great opportunity to experience some of the small town charm of Louisiana.  Interstate Highways of course get you to the destination much faster, but as I drove Highways 425 & 61, I took time to slow down  and stop in some of the villages that paint a true picture of the culture.  This marathon fell about a month before Christmas, and I noticed that almost all of the main streets I passed had rows of painted 4' x 8' sheets of plywood from local businesses and families lined up along side of the road, wishing their neighbors Merry Christmas & Seasons Greetings.  There were dozens of them in every little town.  It was something I had never seen before.

Beautiful ceremonial Indian Mounds on the LSU Campus
However, one of the more unique travel experiences happened to me on the way home after the race in one of these tiny Burroughs   As I was headed North on Highway 425, just outside of Clayton, Louisiana, all of the sudden traffic came to a complete halt.  I could see flashing lights and some of the cars being diverted up ahead, so I thought there must have been an accident.  But as I got closer to the small town's city limits I noticed several people standing around on the side of the street, in sort of a festive mood.  Police stopped diverting traffic about three cars in front of me and I could begin to see what the hold up was ... I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A CHRISTMAS PARADE!!!  I'm not joking, right there with a couple of floats, horses and their droppings, and children scrambling for candy that was being tossed from some of the participants ... I was one of the featured vehicles in the Clayton Christmas Parade.  The locals were waving at me and all of the other drivers that had suddenly been engulfed in the slow moving motorcade.  So funny!  It added about 45 extra minutes to my trip, but it was worth the experience.

Some of the great architecture at LSU ... Top Row from left: Tiger Stadium, Memorial Tower, Old Law Building   Bottom Row: Journalism Building, Julian C. Miller Hall, David Floyd Hall
I spent some time walking around and enjoying the beautiful Louisiana State University campus.  It's filled with history and is one of the most scenic college campuses I've ever visited.  Of course no trip to the LSU campus is complete without stopping by to see Mike, the living-breathing Bengal Tiger that is housed on campus directly adjacent to Tiger Stadium.  The current "Bayou Bengal", named Mike VI, is the latest in the long line of tigers that began their reign as team mascot in 1935.  The mascots get their name from the one of the team's first trainers Chellis "Mike" Chambers, who was responsible for acquiring the first Bengal Tiger from the Little Rock, Arkansas Zoo.  I was amazed at how big the housing for Mike VI was.  It was literally as big and nice as any zoo I've seen.   Mike was huge ... and beautiful!

Top: Mike VI ... the LSU Bayou Benal and team mascot who lives at Louisiana State University
Bottom: Tiger Statue in front of Tiger Stadium & Tiger Walk in front of Mike VI's compound
Expo & Packet Pick Up
I met my friend Bobby from North Carolina at the Myrtle Beach Marathon earlier this year.  Since then we've become friends and ran part of the Little Rock Marathon together and even played in an online fantasy baseball league together (because we're both sports geeks).  When we found out we were both running the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon, we decided to get together at the packet pickup and run this race together the next day too.

Me with Jennifer from Team RWB, 
 Bad camera angle, I promise my melon's not that  big
We met at the Marriott Hotel, the host hotel and Expo location for the marathon.  The Expo was fairly small with about 10-12 tables of samples, products, and future marathon info lined up on the perimeter of the Ball Room.  We looked around the tables for awhile before I met Jennifer from Team RWB.  Jennifer is the daughter of Fran from Grannie Frannie Runs.  Since she was a resident of Louisiana, I visited with her for a while about the local places of interest. She also shared a little about her great organization that she was there volunteering with ... Team RWB! Team Red, White, & Blue is an awesome community of volunteers that gets returning veterans active in various activities to help re-acclimate them back to everyday life in the States.  I would really encourage you to check out their website - they are doing great work.  Jennifer was really cool and it was great getting to meet her and learn a little about Team RWB.

At the Expo, I asked a couple of the volunteers why there was a chicken on everything.  I knew it was for the "Running Chicken Track Club", but wanted to know why they used a chicken.  The two ladies I asked didn't know.  In fact everyone I asked all weekend didn't know.  At this point I'm not even sure there is a "Running Chicken Track Club" ... but I probably just didn't find the right people.  Regardless, the logo makes me smile.  I mean ... it's a running chicken ... right?

After that, Bobby and I headed out and walked around the LSU campus before finding a good local place to eat for dinner.  One of the ladies handing out race packets recommended that we come back to the Expo later that night because they were having some traditional Cajun favorites for the pre-race meal like Gumbo, Jambalaya, and yes ... Alligator.  But I didn't think I wanted anything that spicy on my stomach before a race, so we looked for something else.  We were staying at different hotels, but the front desk employees at our individual places both recommended the same thing ... Parrain's Seafood Restaurant.

Parrain's Seafood Restaurant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Apparently Parrain's is a local favorite, as well as a great place for visitors like us to experience some of the great local cuisine.  And it didn't disappoint.  I had a dish called the Pontchartrain, which was a fairly spicy fish with mashed potatoes, a roll, and a salad. It was just what you would expect from a local seafood restaurant in Bayou country ... spicy food, friendly service, and even Alligator as an appetizer!  Yep, kinda tasted like chicken.

The Race
Shuttle bus to the starting line
Bobby and I again met in the lobby of the at the Marriott before hopping on one of the shuttle buses to the starting line.  The start and finish line were on the East bank of University Lake at Stanford Park, about 4 miles from the host hotel.  There was limited parking at the race site, but since this was a fairly small race, the shuttle buses were convenient and took us right to the starting line a few minutes before the starting gun.

While we waited for the race to get underway, several of the post-race meal preparations were underway.  I watched as a couple of good-ole-boys prepared what I think was Jambalaya.  I'm not sure what all went into it ... or if I wanna know ... but it smelled delicious.  All I can tell you is one of the fellas had a shirt on that said "Got Boudin?"  Boudin is a spicy sausage like combination of rice and hog guts ... so 'nough said!

Going into this race, Bobby and I were both pretty run down from a full year of running.  I had just ran probably my fastest marathon about three weeks prior at Marshall, and Bobby was running in his incredible 13th marathon of the year!  An unbelievable accomplishment!  So both of us agreed to just kinda take it slow and enjoy the day.  And the day was very easy to enjoy.  When I woke up on Saturday morning, it was a beautiful 50 degrees with almost no wind.  There was a little fog in the air that settled in right before the race started, but it quickly burned off.  It was a beautiful  morning to be running a marathon!

The race website said they were limiting registration to 1,500 runners, but as I looked at the runners lined up in front of and behind us at the starting line, it seemed there were probably no more than 500.  Also, the race is called Baton Rouge Beach Marathon ... but I didn't see one grain of sand before, during, or after the race?  Weird.  I think Baton Rouge Beach just refers to all of the lakes in the area, but who knows, maybe there was a whole beach that I missed.

A coupla Cajuns conjuring up some vittles fa yonda race!
They sounded the gun and we were off.  I immediately felt my gut and love handles begin to jiggle.  I thought, "Man ... this might be a long day!"  I had really let myself go a little over the past three weeks.  It's amazing how quickly you can lose fitness, considering how long it takes to build it up.  I was probably the heaviest I've been for a marathon in a couple of years and my legs were pretty dead.

Despite not being in great shape for this marathon, it was great having someone to run with for an entire race.  The only other people I had done that with were Michael at Disney, and my daughter Madison at Oklahoma City.  Bobby and I have a lot in common with our kids and our love of running and sports, so we of course had no trouble filling four hours with conversation.  Although toward the end, both of us got pretty quite.

Admittedly, Baton Rouge was a little different than I thought it would be.  I figured there would be gator-fighting rednecks with thick French/Cajun accents that I couldn't understand, and Fleur De Lis emblems painted on everything.  I also thought I would hear a lot more Cajun music.  For the most part its pretty much like most nice college towns, except for the Southern charm.  But at mile 4, as we ran toward a bunch of screaming girls in pink tutus at a water stop, I finally heard the familiar voice of Garth Brooks blaring over the loud speakers ... "Operator won't you put me on through, I gotta send my love down to Baton Rouge!" (Not that Garth is genuine Cajun but you get the point ... is that guys still alive?) I laughed and told Bobby that my trip was now complete.  I heard Garth Brooks singing "Baton Rouge" in Baton Rouge!  Awesome!  I high-fived the girls as we ran by and then settled in for a nice relaxing race.

The BRB Marathon is a double looped course.  This was kinda weird for me since before three weeks prior at the Marshall Marathon, I had never ran a looped marathon course.  But now I was running my second consecutive ... after running two of them back-to-back, I can tell you I prefer the non-looped type.  The course took us around the LSU campus, by the sports stadiums, through some beautiful tree-lined neighborhoods, by City Park Golf Course, and then finally around City Lake Park and University Lake.  The LSU campus is simply beautiful and it was great to spend so much time there.  The lakes were large city lakes with a lot of local birds nesting in trees that several folks had stopped take photos of.

The only real point of "criticism" I have about this race is the traffic control ... or lack thereof.  The local police officers did a great job of holding traffic for us, and there were a few volunteers along the way to point out turns. However, in a couple of locations along the course, we were running in the right-hand lane with cars approaching from the rear.  We were literally running in traffic!  There were no cones or anything to divert the approaching automobiles in some locations.  I mean, there's no way I would ever run like this on my own in training - it would just simply be too dangerous.  A couple of times we cut across an intersection and you literally had to look over your shoulder to make sure you weren't in traffic.  It just seemed like they could have had cones set up to at least encourage cars approaching from the rear to get over a little.

Because of the "not great" traffic conditions, and also because I have really grown to love trail running, I spent a good portion of the race on the grassy shoulder and on dirt paths that had been worn down from walkers and runners adjacent to the street.  When my feet got a little tired from pounding the asphalt, it was nice to jump onto the grass and give them a little cushiony break.

Most of the course was fairly well shaded, but it got a little warm toward the end.  I think both Bobby and I were both ready to be done at about mile 20.  The temperature was nearing 70 degrees - a far cry from the 18 degrees I had ran in on Tuesday morning in Kansas City.  Plus, since it was a looped course, we used the same water-stops the second time through the race.  Frankly I could have used one or two more stops, but it  was just because it was a little warmer than  normal.

Me and my friend Bobby after the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon
As we approached the finish line, we stared heading toward the giant blow up arch that  had served as the starting line a few hours before, but then we noticed that none of the runners were running under it to finish the race.  Instead, they hopping up onto the sidewalk on the right side and finishing on a mat laid out directly adjacent to the blow up arch.  That just seemed strange.  It was no big deal, but for pictures, and the "big finish", it seems like we should have passed under the archway ... I mean it was already blown up and sitting right there not being used.  Plus, as with the rest of the race, there were almost no spectators at the finish line.  You kind just crossed over the timing mat, got your medal and then went to grab some food.  Fairly anticlimactic.

I had really looked forward to all of the great Cajun food after the race, but was afraid I wouldn't be able to enjoy it due to post-race stomach issues.  The race had been fairly relaxing for both of us, but just as I thought, my stomach prevented me from eating anything for a while, let alone, spicy Cajun food.  But it looked and smelled delicious.

Bobby and I snapped a quick picture and then jumped on the bus back to the hotel where we both headed our separate ways.  We'll probably run more races together next year - and it was cool having a friend to run this one with.  The ride home is always a lot more challenging than the ride to a race, but this one wasn't bad.    Unfortunately, I'm running out of States that are close to home and will probably have to fly many of them from here on out.  I would recommend the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon ... it was a really nice small race in  one of the best college towns I've ever visited.
... be great today!

12 comments:

  1. As always I really appreciate your detailed review. I'm so glad you do this as it's a great reference to come back to when chosing a marathon.

    It sounds like a great race and I am glad you had a friend to run with. That always seems to make the miles tick by much faster.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's a cool race medal. And the post-race food includes alligator? Surely that's got to be a first. Congrats on yet another awesome race.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So cool that you got to be part of the Christmas parade and such a pity that you didn't dress the part. I was kinda thinking that you could have been Santa - only because of how many times you've complained about how fat you were getting. And then I saw the pic. You'd have made a pathetically scrawny Santa.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Now you see how I got lost on the course! There was traffic OVER the arrows on the road! But I do love that little marathon.
    I will do it again someday if/when I ever heal up.

    ReplyDelete
  5. glad that you got a chance to meet my daughter. Sounds like overall you had a good race experience. the weather this time of year can be so unpredictable. I think I may run the race next year after hearing your review. My blogging has been very sparse lately - hope to get back on track.

    ReplyDelete
  6. hahahaha, "horses and their droppings". Since you put on weight, did you take your Santa suit?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good job, Jim! It sounds like a more enjoyable (and less expensive) experience than my weekend (though I never want to run a marathon in 70 degree temps). When you look at CA, you should look at CIM, but I hope you get better weather than I did.

    Congrats on another one!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Whoop Whoop, thanks for the blog shout out! Glad you had a good race!

    ReplyDelete
  9. So great meeting you this weekend... and congrats on your race!
    I would LOVE to send you a Free TeamRWB Tshirt for your next marathon! Could you email me at lindsay.hartig@teamrwb.org with a good mailing address and size so I can get one out to you??!!
    Loved the BLOG post and appreciate your comments... we shared it on our Facebook Page too: http://www.facebook.com/teamrwblouisiana#!/teamrwblouisiana

    God Speed!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  12. We are always looking for Sponsors! Corporate Sponsors, Small Business Sponsors, and Individual Sponsors. Please help us if you can by becoming a sponsor for the Team Spirit Breast & Ovarian Cancer 5K & 10K. Join the 15th Annual Team Spirit Long Beach 5k and 10K marathon and help put an end to breast and ovarian cancer today! This is an opportunity to promote your business while supporting a worthwhile cause. All sponsors at the Hero ($2,500) level and above will receive recognition in Long Beach Memorial's Mercury Magazine, recognition in the Long Beach Grunion Gazette, recognition as a Team Spirit Sponsor on the Team Spirit Website, and your name posted at the start/finish on the day of the walk. Team Spirit Long Beach organizers can be flexible in the way your company chooses to be recognized. We are open to your suggestions and welcome your input on meaningful ways to impact the value you receive from sponsorship.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by ... your comment's always welcome!