I have returned triumphant from Little Rock, Arkansas! My short race report: I had an awesome race. I PRed (personal record) by 15:36. Even though this was far short than my lofty goals, it is a PR that I am very proud of. More importantly, I had a great time! And as some of you know, the words "race" and "good time" are rarely used by me in the same sentence!
Here's the VERY long report:
Tight Gluteus Medius
The week leading up to the race, I thought my IT band was really cranky. Not along the leg or knee, but in my butt. I also pulled my hamstring in the same leg (left side). On Wednesday, I went to a fabulous massage therapist who happens to be quite an accomplished runner. She worked my legs the entire hour and told me I had a tight butt, especially my gluteus medius. Yes, the fact that I have a tight ass has been the joke around the office. If only my ass was tight. Only the muscles were, not the layer of padding. Why were my muscles so tight? Because I don't stretch. And I have weak hip abductors. So now, I'm a reformed supporter of stretching. I was concerned about the discomfort, but it wasn't going to stop me.
All week long I fine tuned my packing list. If you don't have a packing list, I highly recommend creating one before your race. The morning of or evening before your departure, you merely check things off your list. It was the least stressful packing experience. On Friday, I made my way to Little Rock from Denver via Houston with no problem. I arrived at the hotel around 6:30pm. I went down to the front desk after dropping off my bags to speak to the staff about where I could walk to get some dinner. I really wanted to walk and stretch my legs. But I was told it was not safe to walk alone at night around the hotel. Oh no! Instead I ordered Chinese take out. As my food arrived, I ran into a member of the running group and discussed plans for the next day. Lights out at 10pm. But sleep did not arrive. My room was overlooking the interstate and across from the ice machine. Pretty sure any loud noise disturbed me. Note to Self: Add ear plugs to your packing list!
I joined the group at 9:00am for continental breakfast. This was a substantial breakfast offering...homemade waffles, eggs, and biscuits & gravy. I had some oatmeal (unfortunately the instant stuff was really yucky) and some eggs. On a biscuit. Three of us went to the expo while the others checked out the Pharaoh exhibit. The expo was the usual. You had to walk past vendors to get to the packet pick-up. I understand why they do this, but I don't think they should. Most people will check out the vendors. I had my packet to pick up plus one of my friends who was catching a later flight in & who would room with me that evening. I purchased a cute pink long sleeve tech shirt and then picked up a code for guaranteed entry to the Marine Corp Marathon for my friend (one of the perks for racing this race) and then had lunch. We then connected with my roomie and joined her why she ate lunch.
In the afternoon, three of us headed to Bill's place, also known as the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.
Madeline Albright's pin exhibit.
I took a nap and then nine of us headed to the pasta party at the Peabody Hotel. Except for the loud music and absolutely freezing cold room, it was a good pasta dinner. I carb loaded on two plates of pasta, a little side salad, one roll, and just a taste of the apple and peach cobblers. And lots of water. It was great to have almost our entire group together before the race!
Then it was time to get ready to race and sleep.
As we made our way back to our room, there were quite a few people milling outside the hotel waiting for the shuttle to take them to...country music nirvana. I guess. George Strait. Reba McEntire. And Lee Ann Womack. Oh no. Lights out around 9pm. But at midnight, the country music fans returned to the hotel in celebratory fashion. And the party continued until the wee hours. I couldn't even face the clock to see how long the roving guests and slamming doors kept us awake. Note to Self x2 - Really. Need. Ear. Plugs.
Up at 5:00am. Shower. Drink coffee. Eat two slices of bread and peanut butter. Plus two Immodiums. And two glasses of water. Apply sunscreen, opt for running skirt and sleeveless shirt with throw-away sweatshirt and gloves. Remembered to apply body glide to my toes, since last marathon got a blister. Three of us catch ride to the start with some gentlemen who are running second marathon in two weeks. One guy ran the marathon with mardis gras beads. I didn't ask. But I did wonder if he used body glide.Rest of the group takes the hotel shuttle.
I added the Perks Pavillion to my race registration. Promise of good food and shorter porta potty lines. Didn't care about the food pre-race but was real interested in the heaters, chairs to sit on, and shorter porta potty lines. They even had soap and water so that you could properly wash your hands. My kind of nirvana. Met up with a couple of others in the Open Corral and sooner than later we were off! Partly cloudy skies. Temps in the low 40s.
My strategy was to only worry about the mile I was running. Not to think too far ahead. Every time I wanted to focus on how crowded it was, I immediately dismissed it. This was about focusing on running, pace, form, and enjoying the sights. It worked. This was the best start to any race EVER. I was never annoyed. I was feeling quite peaceful. OK, I was annoyed by one thing. Why did it seem we were always going up or down a hill? I would slow it down on the uphill and speed it up on the downhill. At about mile 3, I saw the lead pack making its return from part of the course, on the other side of the bridge. It was amazing to see how easy they were running - at full sprint speed. Incredible. I felt strong. I was just behind the 5:00 pace group leaders. This was my A+ goal.
The uphills seemed to get harder. The 5:00 pace group leades were further and further in the distance. So then I let go of the A+ goal. I thought 5:15 would be achievable. I also had to dismiss the notion that the half marathon was sounding much better. It was hard not to as everyone who was running the half had to pin a bib that said "HALF" on their back. A sea of HALF signs was before me. A constant reminder that they would be finished when I was only half way through! But I dismissed it.
Highlights were waving to the Governor who came out of his mansion to cheer on us runners. And then the half marathoners took a right while the marathoners went straight. Our reward was to run past Central High School. I was excited to get to see this school and a piece of our country's history. As we headed towards the State Capital, we were rejoined by the half marathoners for a few hundred feet before the course split again. I must not have been paying too close attention because a volunteer ended pulling me onto the marathon course which I was thankful for!
Right before the half way mark, I made a quick porta potty stop because the 5:15 pace group leader did as well. I kept him in my sights and decided that 5:15 was my new A+ goal. I was taking a gel every four miles and alternating gatorade and e caps with gels and water. I told myself that I could break out the pringles for a snack after I conquered the big hill.
There is one major hill in this race. And it covers about 2 to 3 miles. At least in my head it does. As I started up the hill, I considered whether I would work hard and get up and over quickly or take it slow. Doubt about my ability crept in. I opted for the slow way up because I wanted to make sure that I had enough in the tank to finish. So up the hill I went and at about mile 15 or 16, I lost the 5:15 pace group leader but hoped to catch him again on the downhill portion.
For a small race like this, I thought the spectator support was spectacular. And I appreciated this greatly going up the hill. At one point, a group of spectators were offering cheesecake. I can't imagine consuming that, but I really think they had orange slices and were adding a bit of humor. I asked them were the bacon was.
There were two folks from a training group that I stuck with as they made there way up the hill. I would pass them in the later portion of the course, but sticking with them helped me get over the hill. We crested what I thought was the top of the hill and started to quickly make my way downhill...to only notice one more uphill section before we really crested the hill. I went hard and fast down the hill to see if I could find the 5:15 pace group leader. Unfortunately, I never saw him again. Along the way, I passed three women who were praying to God, out loud, to have the strength to finish. And I passed an assemble playing Celtic music.
At the bottom of the hill is an aid station. I walked the aid station, ate my pringles and started running again...to find that my quads and calves were screaming. Oh no. And then the sun came out from behind the clouds. Double oh no. It was hard to get going again.
This part of the course is an out and back section along the Arkansas River, park and golf course. Along here, I saw four folks from my running group, which was a welcomed sight. I also saw a runner being attended to by medics. And a lot more carnage along the way - many folks walking or running with painful gaits.
I hit a section of this out and back next to some bullfrogs. It kinda freaked me out, so I was able to pick up my pace a little to get away from them. The out portion of the course was nicely shaded. As I approached the turnaround, I knew I'd be in the hot sun. What I didn't anticipate was the wind in my face. I wasn't happy about the wind, but in retrospect, this probably helped me not notice the hot sun as much. This section was extremely boring.
I did a little math and hoped that the 5:30 and 5:45 pace group leaders hadn't passed me. I assessed my body and energy levels and decided that if these pace group leaders caught me, then I could keep up with them if this happened around mile 23 or 24. However, they never passed me...and it wasn't because I was faster than they were...
To the Finish!
After the out and back portion of the route, we went along a small portion of a bike trail and I could see the downtown skyline and was motivated that the finish was close. I made my way up and over an overpass, passing a few folks (always motivating) and crested the top to only see one more hill in the distance. I was a little ticked off about that. Really, a steep, long hill at mile 25? A cruel joke! But I was still motivated that the finish was approaching. At the top of the hill was a great DJ and MC. The MC was in the road, greeting folks in his velour suit. He really made my day. We passed a water station manned by firemen I think. At this point, I knew I needed to really go hard to finish sub-6 hours. I took off, passed the lip stick stop (where you can get ready for your finishing photo) and dug in deep. Really deep. Like crying like a baby deep.
I crossed in 5:58:25. And it was way cool to hear my name and my hometown. And the announcer asking if I liked the oxygen rich air of Little Rock.
I made my way through the finishers chute, saw some of my friends from the running group and stopped by the Perks Pavillion where I got the best strawberry banana smoothie ever. And chocolate TBCY. This was the perfect post-race food for me. My fabulous running group had secured the hotel shuttle and I needed to only walk a few blocks to make my way back to the hotel.
After showering, walking slowly, talking to my very nice bachelor who called to see how things went, and texting friends and my coach, saying goodbye to my roommate and welcoming my new roommate, five of us headed over to the Post-race party. This required a rather slow 20 minute walk.
They offered bbq (pork or chicken), potato salad, coleslaw, cheeseballs, pretzels, other snacks and alcohol. I enjoyed two beers, a lot of cheeseballs, and a little bbq before taking my picture with Bill!
We didn't stay long, headed back to catch the Oscars and sleep. That evening, I didn't hear the ice machine or the interstate noise.
First, I highly recommend the Little Rock race. It was well run, well supported, and a nice and somewhat challenging course. Well, very challenging for me as I'm not really a fan of hills.
I'm taking the week to recharge and replenish. Going to try to feed my body good food, but I won't be logging or tracking calories. Starting Monday, I will be hitting the diet hard. Time to lose those extra 15 pounds. Today, I'm ordering P90X. I'm sure that will provide a few entertaining blog entries.
Have a great day!