Tuesday, March 4, 2014

An Epic Race - Little Rock Half Marathon Recap

Sunday was definitely an Epic day to say the least. That was the theme of the this year's Little Rock Marathon and it lived up to the theme for sure. I apologize for the length of this ramble in advance.

This race has always been tough for me. Even though I run portions of the race route during almost every single run I do, I am always shocked at how difficult it ends up being. And the half course isn't as hilly as the full. It starts off relatively flat, even a great downhill going into North Little Rock. But then you come back over the bridge and it's up, up, up .... up before finally getting to some downhills. Of course, by that time, any of the rolling hills on that last mile feel like mountains.


The forecast for race day was not looking good. All week they were predicting severe storms rolling through with frigid temperatures behind the front. Thankfully it wasn't pouring rain with thunder and lightening at the start, that was to come later, for those doing the full.

The temps were hovering in the low 50's at the start, but they were already starting to drop. The wind was powerful and cold, it was dreary and misting.


We lined up on our corrals. I got to meet up with Liana from Run to Munch. That crazy girl drove 22+ hours to Little Rock for this race and had to get in the car and drive back directly after to try to avoid the impending ice storm. Talk about deserving her Epic 2.5 pound medal!


I was in Corral B, my friend Amy was in C. So, we hadn't planned on running together. Also, she had been really sick (again this year) with some upper respiratory funk. She wasn't sure how hard she could push. And the weather certainly wouldn't help with her breathing.

So, I was surprised when I saw her come up to me. She sort of snuck under the rope and no one paid attention. Just before the start, the rain started coming down, much heavier than the mist. I was very happy to be moving, hoping it'd help warm me up. And, of course it did. Me, Amy, and Liana took off, pacing together nicely.

We visited a bit here and there. Amy was definitely just trying to breathe. I don't know how she did this race to be honest. Liana was going to stick with me as long as she could. She was doing the full so she needed to start slowing after a point. But we hung together until somewhere after mile 6.

Heading into mile 7 is usually where I start to fall apart because it's another long incline and turns onto a serious of rolling hills. You are rewarded with a downward stretch though. However, it felt much harder because the wind was icy coming in hard from the North. My hands were starting to become numb and stiff. I wanted gloves more than just about anything in life at that point. The other thing I wanted was to head South again. That was absolutely the only time you weren't being pummeled in the face by the cold wind.

Heading into mile 10, you pass by an Episcopal Church. The Bishop (?) was giving out blessings and I felt like I needed that and many more. I told Amy we would take that uphill stretch a little slower, trying to conserve a little bit of energy. She was there for me last year when I tore my plantar fascia; I wanted to return the favor. I could hear her breathing and felt so bad for her. The temps were continuing to drop, we were wet, cold and still had 3 miles of hard road ahead.

At mile 10, she stopped at the aid station, but I didn't notice. I was really zoning out, focusing hard, trying to keep my cap from blowing off even. When I noticed, I slowed my pace hoping she could catch up, which she did. We continued on, not talking, just running. Ok there may have been some cursing going on. Then it was back to heading North into the winds again. We stopped at the final aid station. I debated this one. I was so close to the end. I didn't need to stop. I shouldn't have stopped. But I should have at the same time. I felt it was the right thing for me to do. I didn't want to just run off and completely leave Amy and the break helped me mentally as well.

That last 1.1 is always hard. But it felt even harder. I was cold, wet, hands hurting, but I gave it what I had left to get through that final stretch, that chute with the golden mats at the end. They should be gold, not blue, they felt like an oasis to me at that moment.

Jason and I had paid for the perks pavilion. It was worth it last year. They have their own bag check, potties, lots of food, free massages. Only it took over 10 minutes to find my dry bag, during which time I began to shake uncontrollably. The windchill was 28 degrees at this point. And I was miserable. I couldn't even think about celebrating the race itself.

I finally changed into warm clothes and was shoveling food down my face, but I was already cold to the core and couldn't control the shaking. It was so bad that the poor girl trying to give me a massage took off her own coat to cover me up. I don't ever recall shaking so violently to be honest.

Long story short, we ended up in the actual River Market area, which trumped the perks pavilion this year because it had heat. Color finally returned to my lips, which Amy had told me were blue.

Amy, Me, Jason, Toney
I have to give a huge shout out to my friend Toney for finishing his very first half marathon with a great time of 2:01. He's the first person I have coached for a half and I can't express how proud I am. And I'm also proud of Amy. She's one tough chick.

I wish someone would have told me my hat was askew
I'm also proud of my husband for a time of 1:50. He hasn't been training as consistently because he's apparently taken on my piriformis issues. His mental resolve for racing always amazes me. 

Because my only goal after finishing was to get warm, I never looked at my Garmin, but throughout the race, I had thought we were averaging a 7:37-7:38 pace. However, I was also tracking ahead of the mile markers. I know the mile markers were more correct than my Garmin. But I wasn't thinking about how that was affecting the pacing. 

In the end, my official time was 1:41:31. This is about a 9-minute course record for me. Not an overall PR, but I'm not upset with the time. 


Do I think I could have pushed harder? Yes, most definitely. I stopped way too long to get water and at more aid stations that I normally do. I have yet to figure out how to drink through an aid station. But, I was stopping with Amy each time. She truly needed to get in that water, and the brief rest was a bonus. And honestly, it forced me to take in more water than I usually do. And that was a great thing. I was never dehydrated, so stopping was a huge win to be honest. It also gave the legs just enough rest to get moving again and pick up the pace. So stopping at the stations ended up being a blessing I think.


The weather conditions continued to deteriorate. They ended up having to re-route the runners after a certain point because there were thunder storms within 30 minutes of Little Rock. The rains got harder, the wind got stiffer, and the temperatures continued the downward spiral. Many marathoners didn't get to complete the 26.2 miles. Some did anyway. All are amazing in my book!

Because of the weather conditions, the crowd support wasn't at all what it typically is for this race. But I was impressed at how many were still out there to cheer everyone on regardless. And the volunteers? There are no words to express enough thanks to all of them out there for all the runners that day.