Dr. J on Running

26 The Louisiana Marathon, Baton Rouge, LA

20 January 2013

I opted for a pre-race massage since I had to fly to Colorado right after the marathon. With an injured shoulder that prevented her from deep muscle massage, Nicole passed me on to newcomer Angela. An hour later, I gained an appreciation for pre-race massage therapy, and I reaped its benefits on race day.

I flew Delta to Baton Rouge on Friday morning. The gate agents in Syracuse and Atlanta were anxious to keep our business, and changed my flights at no cost to skip LaGuardia and reach Baton Rouge by noon. I drove straight to the expo at La Belle Hotel and Casino, and picked up my race packet – a triple disappointment: the organizers ignored my request to list Dr. J as my name on the bib; ignored my Marathon Maniac membership that would have assigned my MM number to my bib; and provided short-sleeve T-shirts with an awful baby-vomit color on thread-bare fabric.

I met Maniac Jim “Dr, Evil” for lunch at a Lebanese restaurant downtown, and indulged in Marla’s favorite pre-race curry dish. After a hearty meal and a walk back to the expo, I checked out the exhibits and greeted the ladies at the “50 States Marathon Club” table. Expo’ed out, I drove to the TownePlace Suites South and checked in. Brooke greeted me with a friendly smile and helpful suggestions on nearby eateries.

Saturday morning, I drove to the State Capitol to check out the parking situation at the Start and Finish areas. The 5K was underway, and police closed several roads. I found a suitable parking on 5th Street, programmed my GPS, and watched some of the race. I checked out the Farmers Market downtown, but I did not find bananas. I return to my hotel, visited with Brooke, and took a long nap.

I located a mega-church with a Saturday service, felt very uncomfortable, forced myself to sit through the first half, and ran out after the readings. I drove to Applebee’s for my traditional pre-race dinner of steak, baked potato and steamed broccoli. Back at the hotel, I lined up my clothes, checked the weather, and went to sleep.

A low of 40 and a high of 65 degrees made my selection of clothes an easy one. I wore shorts, a Marathon Maniacs T-shirt, mismatched red and black socks, a red headband, and a pair of New Balance Minimus. This was my first Marathon in Minimus – a good choice. I also wore throw-away long-sleeve shirt and wind pants to keep off the morning chill. A cup of coffee, a cinnamon raisin bagel and a banana provided the early morning fuel.

I drove early into town, and parked across from the port-a-potties, a few feet from the Finish Line. I blasted K-Love from the radio, and weighted for the sunrise. Spot lights projected the race logo and name onto the state capitol building. At 6:30am, I walked to Start Line, and gathered with a bunch of Maniacs. A poor rendition of the National Anthem and a canon sent us on our way.

Memories of Jackson, MS, rushed back when a woman tripped on the broken pavement and crashed next to me in the first quarter mile. I helped her back to her feet, and resumed running. Soon afterwards, a crack in the road sent runners tripping and falling in waves. I witnessed six simultaneous crashes, but there must have been many more. I focused on the pavement at the expense of the dozen assintights around me.

We ran the first few miles in a tight pack of Marathon and Half-Marathon runners. My plan to alternate running and walking fell apart, and I ran the first five miles in under an hour. A sharp pain in my left foot slowed me into walking half a mile. I ran a totally undisciplined race, running when I had pleasant company, and walking when aches dictated it. The very bad pavement notwithstanding, the course was otherwise beautiful. We ran along the Mississippi, through the LSU campus, and past some very expensive $50,000 homes.

I reached the half marathon in 2:45, and the 5:30 pace group passed me. Throwing caution to the wind, I took off like a bandit with a new tactic – run until the next mile marker, then walk until the 5:30-pacer catches me. We crossed paths with the leaders heading towards the Finish Line. Two Maniacs ran among the top three.

My new tactic did not work because I did not walk alternate half miles. I ran in bursts of a kilometer each, walked the balance of the mile, and repeated – except when I rescued marathon virgins in distress by walking with them until they recovered their breath or running with them until they mustered their cramps. I saw Jim at around Mile 16, his Mile 22. Jim went on to finish in 4:00:20.

The course featured some 18 water stations. To prevent hyponatremia or just bloating, I drank at the first station past every even mile marker – half-cup water and half-cup Powerade. I also partook of half a Protein Powerbar every five miles, and two Ibuprofens every 10 miles. My refueling worked like a charm until about Mile 20 when my guts started cramping up, at which point I switched to water the rest of the way.

I did not hit the wall, and I did not cramp up. My regular hot spots did not bother me – my right shoulder, left hip, right knee, and left Achilles. However, around Mile 22, my fractured right fifth-metatarsal started aching. I changed gait to relieve my foot from the repetitive pounding, and the ache eased. The ache turned into pain by Mile 24, worsened when I ran on my toes, but eased when I landed on my heel. I alternated toe and heel strikes every hundred strides, and kept the pain under control through the end.

Less than a K to go, I passed Micah and convinced her to join me to the Finish Line. We ran together, stride for stride, the last half-mile, crossing the Finish Line in 5:24:13 for a chip time of 5:22:38, my fastest post-injury run, and certainly faster than I had imagined in my dreams.

The hordes of half-marathoners who finished well before us had eaten all the food at the post-race party, but we Maniacs had our own tent with catered burritos and croissants. I ate to the point of indigestion, visited with Jim and fellow Maniacs, and drove back to the hotel to show Brooke my medal. I capped the day with dinner at Copeland’s – bacon-wrapped sirloin, red potatoes and asparagus.

Dr Kamal Jabbour threw caution to the wind and enjoyed a totally undisciplined run in Louisiana. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2013 Dr Kamal Jabbour