Monday, March 14, 2016

Zydeco!

When I moved to Texas way back in 1990, I was a newly divorced mom with a 13 year old son and a cat. I tried my hand at meeting and dating men, getting introduced through friends or co-workers or through the predecessor to online dating, the personals ads in a local weekly news-magazine called The Greensheet. It was tough and time-consuming without the screening and anonymity that dating through the internet now provides. A lot of time was spent on the telephone, a process I found grueling and, quite honestly, distasteful. But it was the only way to safely get to know someone a little bit before agreeing to meet in person.

Fiddle, accordion, thumping bass, a washboard...all key elements to Zydeco music

One guy who seemed interesting and a possible good match dumped me during the early phone-dating stage when he learned I didn't know what Zydeco was. He assumed I was a boring homebody who never got out of the house which, if any of my readers know me, is truly a ridiculous assumption. Why is it that we never think of the good come-backs until it's too late?

For instance, I could have asked him if he'd ever been to Brugges, or slept in a Cornish castle, or listened to Mozart opera while sitting in the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, or quaffed a pint of beer during Oktoberfest in Munich, or had succulent game hens roasted in a centuries-old brick oven in a walled monastery on a Tuscan hilltop, just a small sampling of the many wonderful things that I had done. He didn't know that I'd lived all over the country growing up as a military dependent and had seen things and been places in my childhood that most Americans never experience in their lifetimes. He never bothered to find out that I'd just moved to Houston from Boston where life goes on blissfully unaware of the narrowly regional Zydeco music genre of the Acadiana prairies and swamps of Louisiana. Heck! Back then, country music wasn't even popular and was rarely played on the radio in New England.

Just as well that this not-so-worldly-after-all fellow blew me off, because I did meet the man of my dreams which led to a wonderful and loving marriage.

So, anyway, odd how this memory suddenly came to mind as I prepared to drive to Lafayette to run the Zydeco Half Marathon this past weekend. I had registered for this race last year in combination with the Beaumont Gusher Half Marathon held the day before. The two race organizers had gotten together and created a combo medal for runners who did both the Gusher and Zydeco races. I ran the Gusher in Beaumont but had to bail out on Zydeco so that I could help with the sound booth last year.

This year I was determined to finally get to run Zydeco Half Marathon. It's an easy drive - or should be - and I figured I'd get there in time to go find a good Cajun lunch somewhere, then get my race packet at the Cajun Dome before checking into the nearby hotel I'd booked using loyalty points.

But Mother Nature conspired against my best-laid plans. I got on the road just before 10:00 AM and should have made it to Lafayette by 1:00-1:30 PM easily. Heavy rains the day and evening before had cleared out of Houston by morning and the sky was beautiful with puffy white clouds and crystal-clear air.

Traffic moved right along until I got close to the LA border. Then things started to slow down a bit. As I drove through Lake Charles, things seemed to open up again, but soon it began to rain and soon traffic slowed to a crawl. I was stuck in stop-and-go traffic on I-10 all the way to Lafayette. It took three hours to get from Lake Charles to my exit in Lafayette, a distance less than 75 miles. It was maddening. The accordion effect was continuous. We'd start to get up to speed and then suddenly come to a complete stop. When I did finally make it to my exit, I could see that traffic was backed up ahead of me for as far as I could see. At one point along the way, I decided to go ahead and get off the interstate to take a bathroom break and since I was taking a gas stop, get a McDonalds lunch, as well. So much for enjoying a nice leisurely Cajun lunch in Lafayette!

When I got to the Cajun Dome about 3:30 PM, it was absolutely pouring rain! Despite my jacket and an umbrella, I was pretty much looking like a drowned rat when I made it into the convention hall to get my race packet. I didn't even bother to take my usual photos of the race packet pickup area, normally a tradition of mine. I got that packet pickup business done quickly and then made a mad dash back to the car, getting even wetter, if that's even possible.

The hotel was right across the street so I didn't have far to go to get parked, get rained on again as I walked from the car to the hotel lobby. By now it was 4:30 PM or so and I just wanted to get dry. I ordered room service, used the hair dryer in my room to tame the wild, wet, and woolly mane, and then settled in for the evening. Because of the change to Daylight Savings Time, it was going to be a short night.

I had faith in my smartphone knowing that at some point overnight we went onto Daylight Savings Time. Hoping that this faith wasn't misguided, I set it to wake me at 5:00 AM, plenty of time to have an in-room breakfast of cereal and fruit brought from home, and to check e-mail and browse others' pre-race posts on Facebook a bit, before getting dressed. But this also gave me enough time to still quickly get ready, just in case my Smartphone wasn't savvy to the overnight time change. I had everything I'd need all laid out so that getting dressed wouldn't require too much thought and would ensure nothing was forgotten.

I had a 1.5 mile walk to the start line. Way back last summer when I first registered for this race and booked my hotel using Hilton Honors points, the start/finish was to be at the Cajun Dome where it had always been. But then, this past fall, the Race directors changed the route and changed the start/finish line to be on Jefferson Street in the little downtown area of Lafayette. Well, crud! There are no hotels within walking distance of this changed race venue. I was booked at what would be pretty much the closest hotel. What to do? I decided I'd do nothing. My hotel was better than the alternatives, all of which would require driving into town and finding parking or dealing with shuttle buses. So I stayed pat and decided to just walk to the start and then walk back to the hotel afterward, a total of 3 miles round-trip.

At 6:15 AM I was waiting for the elevator to take me down to the lobby and then I was out the door and walking in the dark toward Jefferson St. As I got onto the sidewalk and headed east, I could see the participants in the "early start", maybe a dozen of them, carrying flashlights or wearing headlamps. Those who registered for the full marathon were granted an hour's early start if they needed more than 6 hours to finish. So having greeted them and wished them all a good race, I continued on in the dark toward Jefferson Street, avoiding the rugged and sketchy sidewalks by walking in the street, since there was a coned-off lane already for the race.

The start line was on Jefferson Street, with an inflated start-line arch over the timing mats and gates cordoning off the runners' chute. I picked my way through the congested sidewalk, dodging official race crew equipment, cables, electrical cords, and tons of other people to work my way to the back entrance of the corral. I immediately spotted several others in their Half Fanatic shirts and the time went quickly as we waited and chatted about where we were from. Some had a difficult time getting to Lafayette because of widespread flooding throughout the state.

The national anthem was sung and then the runners were released in waves, based on their estimated pace. I'd positioned myself in the last group, the >13 minute mile pace, which is where our little Half Fanatic group was stationed. So it took several minutes after the official start for us to work our way up to the start line.
Zydeco race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

The race route was very pleasant, made interesting with lots of turns and lots of very nice shaded neighborhoods and the LSU-Lafayette campus. At a couple of points along the route we could see the faster runners pass us in the opposite direction, always worth a bit of entertainment.  The early morning sunrise and the fog rising up from the water-saturated ground was beautiful. The race route was pancake-flat except between miles 8.5-10, where there were rolling hills along the river.

I started out running, kept it up for the first 6 miles, but then as the sun got higher in the sky, it got warm and the humidity was very high.  I slowed to a walk and then, in the last couple of miles, slowed even more to a stroll. But in the last mile I seemed to be able to re-group a bit and picked up my pace a bit.

I crossed the finish line, collected my finisher medal and a bottle of Powerade, and then exited the finisher chute and had no idea where the finisher's party was. I was truly perplexed and in my fried-brain post-race state, simply could not figure out exactly where to go. There were no signs and no volunteers to point me in the right direction. Not sure where that finisher food was, and not wanting to wander around any more than necessary, I just gave up and headed west on Congress Street toward the hotel 1.5 miles away.

Finisher!

Finisher medal for Zydeco

Back at the hotel, time to shower, get dressed, check out of the hotel and get back on the road toward home. 200 miles, sunny skies, fast moving, light traffic and I got home around 3:30 PM. Another medal to add to my medal rack and another race to add to my race count.

Now a week of recovery and then Seabrook Lucky Trail Half Marathon next weekend.





1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a trip. And so much rain, makes me think of Oregon. Sound like a nice race though except for lack of directions at the end for finishers.

    I'd never heard of Zydeco music until this post. Good thing I've already found my Mr. Right.

    ReplyDelete