Monday, March 07, 2011

Little Rock Marathon

The numbers:
State #20 - 40% complete
Bib #1099 (not the tax form)
Temperature at race start: 37F
Temperature at race finish: 48F
Finishers: 1811
Final Time: 4:42:01

The end result - a completely enjoyable race experience.

What a difference two weeks can make. My time in Austin was only 9 minutes slower but boy did I beat myself up over that one. I approached Little Rock with a whole new attitude and perspective and a rejiggered set of expectations. I went into Little Rock with the goal of enjoying myself and finishing off state number 20 without any unhealthy mental and emotional gymnastics.

I flew in the day before the race just in time to pick up my bib, buy some Gatorade and to enjoy the pre-race Pasta Feed with fellow CA Cruisers - Margaret, Cyndee and John and John's wife. I'd talked to Margaret a couple of days before and asked her about running together, since we'd done a few long runs together recently. She agreed. The Pasta Feed was a nice event capturing the spirit of the Little Rock Marathon - An Event of Mythic Proportions.

Race morning dawned cold and breezy. I'd counted on slightly warmer weather but had packed for the weather. The one thing I'd forgotten were gloves. I picked up a pair for $2 at the expo and was glad to have them on race morning. I wore my Marathon Maniac singlet and arm sleeves, topped that with at long sleeve tech shirt and then a long sleeve cotton t-shirt. I wore the gloves and a cap just to help keep some warmth in by keeping my head warm. Dave Mari, Maniac #2465, organized a Marathon Maniac photo before the race. There were over 80 of us there. On the course you were never far from one.

Part of the plan of running with Margaret was to start off slow with the hope that I wouldn't die so dramatically at the end. I hit my watch at the mile markers, gave the time a quick glance and then moved on. Margaret and I seemed to be pretty evenly matched. She said that she was doing her best to keep up with me and I was doing my best to stay half a step behind so that I wouldn't pull her faster than she was comfortable with.

The first few miles were chilly. My face was cold and the gloves felt good. I took off the long sleeve cotton T at mile 2 and held onto to it for about a half mile. I finally tossed it, not wanting to carry it along with me the entire way like I did in Austin. I wasn't going to be needing in to mop up sweat at these temps and I didn't need the added stress on my shoulder from carrying the thing around. It was harder than it should have been for me to toss it, but I did it.

The course winds its way back and forth through and near downtown Little Rock and the adjacent North Little Rock for the first 12 miles and it seemed like we were getting no where. We were always within a mile or two of the starting line. The course was up and down and full of many right and left turns, but never overly crowded

Mile 13 to 16 contained the most challenging section of the course. We'd left the half marathoners behind so the crowd thinned considerably and the 3 mile climb up Boone and Kavanaugh made us all did deep to keep moving forward. The climb seemed to never end. Margaret and my pace slowed understandably. Margaret began to press me to go on without her, but I stuck to my plan to stay with her and enjoy the day. Margaret and I had used a one mile run/one minute walk break so far.

After mile 16 we were rewarded with a nice nearly 2 mile long down hill, through a pretty section of town with large homes up on the hill to our right and a forested area off to the left. The sun broke through for the first time during this section. Miles 18 to 23.5 were an out and back flat section. It was fun to see the others coming back already. Margaret and I were able to spot Cyndee coming back. She'd taken the early start two hours ahead of us.

At mile 20 Margaret asked for an additional walk break. She'd been struggling with her asthma from the start and had used her inhaler twice already. She needed to walk to get her heart rate under control. Again she urged me onward. I finally agreed to go after making sure that she was going to be OK and that I'd see her at the finish line. It was along here that I was warm enough to take off the long sleeve tech T and was finally recognized as a Marathon Maniac. Wearing one of those shirts sure gets you a lot of attention from the other runners and spectators alike.

I continued with my 1:1 schedule to the end of the race. My pace had slowed into the 11 and eventually the low 12 minute range but I was happy that it was there rather than in the 14's and 15' as there were in the end of Austin. In addition my feet, ankles and hips didn't hurt nearly as much. Maybe even better than that was the complete lack of negative thoughts from Austin.

I crossed the finish line to Bart Yasso calling out my name feeling happy and tired. Cyndee was already there to see the rest of come in. It was very cool for her to be the one waiting for us this time rather than knowing that we were all waiting for her. Margaret finished about 6 minutes behind me and then John came in 5 minutes later. We enjoyed the post race food and walked the mile or so back to the hotel together.

Later in the evening Cyndee, Margaret and I went over to Bid Bodacious Post-Race Party for some BBQ in the Clinton Library. It was quite the affair and included in the registration fee. The folks that run the Little Rock Marathon know what they are doing.

The course isn't easy, but it is well marked and well staffed. The citizens of Little Rock seem to embrace the event. The pre-race dinner and post-race party were well run as well. And of course the marathon medal is truly of "mythical proportions." It dwarfs the other 23 marathon medals hanging on my wall.

I've come to really like races of this size, less than 2000 marathon runners. They seem to really be able to cater to the runners without all the crowds and confusion that can sometimes accompany the big city races. If you are like me, you should put Little Rock on your schedule.


Greg said...

Congratulations on reaching for #20. It sounds like Little Rock puts on a fun race. Good effort sticking with your race plan and taking many more steps toward your goal.

Joe said...

Great write up and, yes, what a difference! I'm so glad this went well. You didn't mention it but the rock tape may well have helped the ankle/foot discomfort, no??

8 weeks and you get a flat flat flat course!! Gonna be fun.

Wes said...

80 of you crazy people in one place? scary! bwahahaha! Nicely done!! I think you have restored your marathon equilibrium...

f.y.i. - for my fall marathon, I'm looking at going back to Rocket City, or maybe the Chickamauga Marathon in Georgia, or perhaps the inaugral Rock and Roll marathon in Savannah? meh... not sure yet...