Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Gulf Coast Half Marathon Mandeville, LA

October 18, 2015

Saturday in Mandeville

My mom and I hit the road around 6:00 on Saturday morning to head to Mandeville, LA. We arrived at Varsity Sports for packet pick up just after 11:00. Packet pick up had just started, so it wasn't that crowded. We enjoyed looking around the shop. We each got a couple of shirts, some Honey Stingers, and a new pair of shoes. Then, we went out back to get our bibs and t-shirts. The expo was small featuring tents from other races in Louisiana.

This was my first trip to Mandeville, LA. It was gorgeous there! I loved all the beautiful homes overlooking Lake Pontchartrain and the tree lined streets with Spanish moss.


We walked several blocks taking in the sights when we came upon a church fall festival. There were several tents with arts and crafts, food, games, and more. We saw a booth fundraising for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. We made a donation and bracelets for the patients of St. Jude. What a neat fundraising idea! The boy in the picture wears a bracelet for each chemo treatment he's received. That's a lot of treatments!


After checking out the festival, we grabbed lunch at The Beachhouse. I had a chicken Panini and salad and mom had a taco salad. The atmosphere was nice and we ate outside. Then we headed to our hotel in Covington less than 10 miles from Mandeville and Fontainebleau Park where the race would start in the morning. We checked in just in time to watch the Bama -v- Texas A&M game. When the game was over, we grabbed supper at Don's Seafood near the hotel. We each had pasta dishes to carb load. After supper, we went back to the room, laid out our things for race morning, and got ready for bed. We were in bed by 9:00.

Race Day

Mom and I ran the other two races in the Gulf Coast Half Marathon Series earlier this year. We looked forward to running the last of the series in Mandeville for months. My goal this year was to run a sub-2:00 half marathon. With only two half's left on my calendar, I was beginning to put that goal out of my mind. I had some rough half's this spring. I ran one with a sinus infection, the other while recovering from walking pneumonia, and on my last one it rained and I chaffed and got blisters. My main goal for this race was to do my best and feel good. I wanted to run under a 2:10. Deep down I hoped for a new PR, my current PR (2:06:55) was over a year and a half ago. I was doubtful that I would reach my goal of a sub 2:00.

The race started at 7:00. Mom and I left the hotel around 5:45 to drive the 7 miles to Fontainebleau Park. We arrived at the park just past 6:00, but it took us 15 minutes to park. There's only one way in and out of the park, so parking quickly got congested. We were glad we left early. We had 30 minutes to spare before the start of the race. We used the porta potties, then made our way to the start line. This race is capped at 2,500 participants, so there's no corral start or official pacers. However, there are pace signs at the start and runners position themselves closest to their pace. I positioned myself behind the 10:00 pace sign. I didn't want to get caught up in the excitement closer to the front and go out too fast. They made a few race announcements, played the National Anthem, and then we were off.

It was congested at the start and I did a lot of weaving through the crowd. By half a mile in, the crowd spread out and I got into a rhythm. The first two miles were through the park heading back towards Mandeville. Miles 3-4 went through a residential area with beautiful homes. There were several people cheering us on from the front porches. Mile 5 was my favorite part of the race and the most scenic. We ran a mile stretch with views of Lake Pontchartrain on one side and beautiful homes on the other. I was maintaining a consistent pace up to this point, clocking each mile under 9:10. I knew if I maintained this consistency I could PR, maybe even get my sub 2:00. It was still early in the race, so I tried to put those ideas out of my mind and focus on one mile at a time.

Mile 1- 9:01
Mile 2- 9:00
Mile 3- 9:06
Mile 4- 9:02
Mile 5- 9:01
There were water stops at every mile and a half. I stopped at each one alternating water and Gatorade. I ate my Honey Stinger waffle just before Mile 6. We ran back through a residential area and I could see other runners already making their way back on the other side of the road. We went through a neighborhood, circled around, and then went back out at Mile 7. When I turned around I tried to look for my mom on the other side of the road, but I didn't see her. The course continued through the residential area and my mind was occupied looking at all the houses, some were nicely decorated for fall and Halloween. Just past Mile 8, we ran by Varsity Sports where we got our packets on Saturday. My legs were starting to feel heavy and my cadence was slowing down. I was starting to clock miles at and above a 9:10 pace.
Mile 6- 9:09
Mile 7- 9:08
Mile 8- 9:12
Mile 9- 9:11
At 9.5 miles we made our way onto the paved trails that led us back to Fontainebleau Park. I no longer had the beautiful homes and lake views to occupy my mind. There were only trees, trees everywhere. My pace was really beginning to suffer, but no matter how hard I tried I wasn't going any faster. My average pace was creeping over 9:10 and I knew my chances of a sub 2:00 were slipping away. I kept telling myself to put the sub 2:00 out of my mind. Regardless I was going to get a new PR.
Mile 10-9:14
Mile 11-9:30
Mile 12-9:25
I hit the 12 Mile Marker just over 1:50. That left less then 10 minutes to run just over a mile and get my sub 2:00! I stopped at the last water stop at 12.5 miles. Then, I ran as fast as my tired legs would let me. As I approached the finish line it read 2:00:13. "I didn't make it," I thought. I knew my chip time would be less than the clock read, but by how much I wondered.
I was convinced that I missed my sub 2:00 by seconds and disappointment flooded my mind. I wasn't ready to see my results. I went straight to the car and changed into my flip flops. When I got back to the finish area, I had finally gotten the courage to request my results. They printed the ticket and I slowly turned it over. It read 1:59:57! I could hardly contain myself, happy tears filled my eyes. I finally did it! I finally ran a sub 2:00! 

As I was making my way to the food tent, I saw Mindy from Road Runner Girl in the crowd. I knew she was running this race and I hoped to meet her. She was very nice! She and her friend Jenny ran a huge PR!

I grabbed some fruit and another bottled water. Then, I headed back towards the finish line to look out for my mom. Mom suffered some setbacks before this race with bronchitis and a hamstring injury. She had taken time off over the last few weeks. I worried about her during this race. I hoped she was feeling ok and having a good run. It wasn't long before I saw her rounding the corner with a smile on her face. She ran better than she expected and finished strong.
We headed to the post race area for some pictures. There was plenty of food: red beans and rice, sandwiches, fruit, and beer. The Bar Hoppers band performed and we enjoyed listening to them. We stuck around for the post race fun for about an hour before heading back to the hotel to shower and hit the road.


I love the race shirts for this series because they are super soft and have cute designs. However, this one screams LSU. As a Bama fan, I don't know how much I will wear it especially during football season. I did wear the shirt home as part of my tradition.

I am so glad that Mom and I had a girl's weekend together. We loved Mandeville! Now that we've experienced all three half's in the series, this one is our new favorite. Mom is already talking about returning for next year's race.


  1. Oh, Debra -- I'm so happy for you! I ran this series in Pensacola and it was well done. The T-shirt has a turtle and is one of my favorites. I hope I can one day break my PR (2:00:52 at Centerpoint). Maybe this winter or spring! I'm so glad Bama played as well as they did. It looks like a fun trip with your Mom and a nice place for a race. Congrats!!

    1. I love this series! We're supposed to get a medal for doing all three in the series. They said they'll be mailed to us. The 2014 Pensacola race was my PR (2:06:55) before this one. You'll get that sub 2:00, probably on a day when you least expect it like me! I'm glad Bama had a good game. We started to play conservative at times, but they put it away in the fourth quarter. Roll Tide!

  2. I love reading your race recap, and felt like I was running right along beside you! Congrats on your new half PR. How exciting!

  3. How fun to have a girls weekend with you mom and a HUGE congrats on getting that sub-2!! Way to not give up and run as strong as you could to the finish line. That looks like such a neat town, and the race series sounds really cool. I like how a lot of races are going to those soft cotton technical-ish shirts. They're comfy to wear around!

    Crazy story: My old half marathon PR was 2:06:57 and it took me 5 years to finally break that. When I did better my PR I was also gunning for a sub-2. I fell short, finishing in 2:01:00, but I was still elated.

  4. Thank you! We had a fun time! I kept telling myself if I didn't get my sub 2:00, it would be a huge PR. I would have been happy with that too. It seems I can PR in a 5K or 10K each year, but half's are a totally different beast.

  5. Awesome! Congrats on your PR! You ran a great race! So great that both you and your mom ran the half marathon! Mandeville looks like a cute town!

    1. Thank you! It was half #6 for both of us. Mandeville is a beautiful little town. I wish I had gotten more pictures. I can't wait to go back.

  6. Congrats to you and your Mom!
    Sub 2 is huge :) It is so hard to put together 13 great miles, so much can go on...
    You did a fantastic job! I am so happy you didn't miss it by 12 or 13 seconds, that would have too frustrating. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you! I was so worried I missed it by seconds. I would have still been happy with a new PR, but it would have been frustrating to come that close.

  7. Great race! Congrats on that PR and I love that shirt and hope you wear it all the time! :) Geaux Tigers!
    (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

    1. Thank you! My first teaching job was at a school with the purple and gold colors and a Tiger mascot. I said the shirt would be perfect to wear on casual Friday's if I still taught there. That's gonna be a good game next weekend! Roll Tide!

  8. This was a great recap! Congratulations on your sub-2. What an accomplishment! :)