On March 1st, 2015 I ran in the 13th annual Little Rock Marathon. The weekend was very eventful, but I want to limit this post to everything race related.
The Little Rock Marathon is notorious for it's ever changing theme and giant bling. This year's event was to be pirate themed. Unfortunately the plate size medals were stuck on a ship that was being tied up due to the longshore strike on the west coast. The race directors did get advance notice out to runners about the situation. It was concerning given that last year's event was a partial disaster with the is it, isn't it canceled fiasco. The directors pulled through and were able to secure smaller place holder medals until our real ones could be shipped out. Disappointing to not get the real medal when we finished, but still nice to have something.
The expo was held at the State Convention Center. The pick up was quick and easy. The shirts were a hideous hunter orange. There was a small amount of race gear on sale including bandanas and doubloons. There were about 50 vendors there selling their wares. I took a quick walk through and left with a new pair of shoes.
Race day was cold and wet. The temperature hovered in the mid 30s and it would go from slow drizzle to steady rain and back. I headed out early to meet with the Marathon Maniacs for a group picture.It was supposed to be at 7:15, but they were already taking pictures as I approached the area at 7:13. I raced in to try and make it into a picture or 2. After I headed over to drop off my gear check bag and used the facilities. A short while later I lined up in Corral C near the 3:55 pace group and prepared to run.
Mile 1: There was no wave start, we all went off at the gun. A half mile in there were 2 firetrucks backed up to each side of an intersection with ladders extended over the road and an American flag hanging between them. A fireman was making his way up the ladder to to wave to runners. Pretty cool to run past. Time : 9:09
Mile 2: The first mile didn't feel the greatest and I though running sub 4:00 might be a bit of a challenge for the day, but I kept trucking. I ran by perceived effort instead of HR since my monitor wasn't working well. I never display my pace on my watch. Surprised to finish this mile in 8:16.
Mile 3: I did this one in 8:02 and fear I'm running to fast.
Mile 4: 7:49 WTF?!? I also feel the urge to pee.
Mile 5: I can't hold out and stop at the restroom. 8:30 with a minute stop, that's crazy.
7:48, 7:30, 7:33, 7:35, 7:28 - is this real life?
Mile 11: This was a decent downhill stretch that I hit in 7:13. I finally decide that I'm going to ride the wave and see what happens. I'm totally expecting complete meltdown later on, especially with the upcoming hills.
Mile 12: This one is bumpy but I'm still hanging in there 7:31.
Miles 13 and 14: Twin 8:01 splits for mostly uphill miles. There's nothing like this anywhere in Chicago. I just grit the teeth and keep running.
Mile 15 was bumpy but not completely uphill 7:35
Mile 16: This stretch looked like some backwoods and winded steeply downhill. I let gravity do it's job and tried not to slip as I blazed my way down. 6:52 and a yip and a skip when I saw my split time.
Mile 17: I passed the 3:30 pace group shortly after mile 16 and realized I was doing the unthinkable. 7:29
Miles 18-21 7:59, 7:48, 7:52, and 7:57. I was starting to feel the effects of the hills, but hung on.
I finally got fatigued during the 22nd mile but didn't give in. I strained a bit to hold on, but pacing slipped a bit. 8:15
8:27, 8:16, 8:34. There was one last steep hill that I finally gave in and partially walked. I decided saving the legs for one last push was the better idea. The 3:30 group passed by me, well I should say the pacer and 2 stragglers ran by representing all that was left of the group. I kept them in site the best I could.
Mile 26 I found some late willpower and did my damnedest to close the gap between me and the 3:30 pacer. I knew I had some ground to give since I started way behind him, but what fun is settling? 7:38
26.44 - I coasted in with what energy I had left and felt relieved when my watch was still showing a time beginning with 3:28 as I neared the end. Final time 3:28:42 and a whopping 21 minute PR over my Chicago 2014 time.
I was completely elated at the finish and floated through the athlete's village grabbing an apple, animal crackers, and chocolate milk. I skipped out on the piss water, I mean Michelob Ultra. Thankfully I grabbed a space blanket since I found a long line for gear check. It turns out they just threw the bags in a truck and didn't organize them. This means it took 90 minutes for me to finally get my jacket and pants. I was a frozen wet rat at this point and started shivering uncontrollably on the walk back to the hotel. After a long warm shower to thaw out I put on dry clothes and headed back to meet with my friends who finished after I did.
I didn't set out to run Little Rock as a goal race, but the stars aligned. I had actually run 50 miles in each of the 3 weeks before the race and another 24 the week of the race so there was no taper. I drove down to Little Rock which is a 10 hour trip. I then proceeded to eat and drink my way through town. All signs pointed to meh and then the awesome happened. My half splits were 1:44:09 and 1:44:33 meaning I had only a 24 second positive split which isn't terrible at all. They would also have been my 2nd and 3rd fastest half marathons if run separately. I also would of recorded my fastest half if you took the 13.1 mile stretch from mile 5 to mile 18.1. Now I'll be left dreaming of what could of been had I actually came into the race fresh and ate properly and ran a flat course.
Little Rock was fun, but wasn't free of issues. In addition to the gear check problems, they used a new timing system that didn't seem to log times properly. Many of people are missing splits, including me, and many more don't have a finish time. I initially finished 97th based on gun time. Once the results were cleaned up for people missing too many checkpoints and or dropped to the half I'm showing up as the 59th finisher. The race directors wouldn't do anything more than tell people to email the timing people. You would hope they would step up to address concerns, but they haven't. No mention apology was made for the gear check mess either. I wouldn't rule out this race in the future, but I'm going to check out some other races first.