Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Feeling Little Rock's Vibe

2011 marked another year where I did something I said that I wouldn't do: a marathon. In 2010 it was Ironman...said I'd NEVER do an Ironman, which is swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, followed by a MARATHON. On November 14, 2010 I signed up for my first solo (non-Ironman) marathon in Little Rock. I wanted a goal to carry me through the winter, wanted to see what doing a marathon would be like after NOT biking 112 miles, and needed an Arkansas destination in my quest to visit all 50 states.

It was a wise decision, though a little challenging getting through winter's snow and ice. Leawood and Olathe's trail-clearing prowess saved me numerous times. The idea of spending any time (let alone over an hour) on a treadmill is MOST unappealing. I went to a few a la carte Runner's Edge sessions and scored big on the random inquiries "so what race are you training for?"...I found a big KC group going down there for the race (including some that I knew and people that I didn't know). It turned out to be a lot of fun! That plus my aunt Kristen going down there with me...which was helpful too. I swung through Springfield to pick her up and off we went.

We rolled into Little Rock and I thought it was so cute! I was feeling Little Rock's vibe. The metro area has around 900,000 people. Aunt Kristen and I went to packet pickup and then drove over to see the State Capitol building, and then to the national historic site/museum Little Rock Central High School. This was the site of the nation's first school integration after Brown vs Board of Education struck down "Separate but (not) equal".

The visit to Little Rock Central High School was deeply moving. The museum is excellent and includes photos and video, as well as context of our culture and the Civil Rights Movement at the time. The video kiosks overlook the actual school (which is still operating) and it was surreal to see the present day site compared to the video of the mobs and military on that site where history took place in 1957. Nine black students attempted entry to the school several times unsuccessfully before President Eisenhower intervened. The mobs & threats they faced were beyond overwhelming...it is hard to imagine how these 15/16 year olds faced it with the grace and convictions that they did. They just wanted a better future, and thank God they believed that they deserved to have a better opportunity. They changed history. I thought about them during the race...as "suffering" and "perseverance" tend to be themes for me during marathons. And perspective. To see more about the Little Rock 9 and the adults they became, see http://littlerock9.com/

So pre-race night comes and the KC running crew hit downtown Little Rock and we ate at the Dizzy Gypsy, which was a really unique cool place. Our meal of choice, pasta of course. We got back pretty early and I went over my race instructions and gear. I was ready to go!

Race morning was overcast and about 32 degrees...I chose 'less' rather than more and went with capri tights and a short sleeve with a long sleeve layered over that. No hat and no gloves. By the end of the race it became sunny and was mid-40s. PERFECT conditions for a marathon!!!!

My main goal was sub 5 hours and to NOT LET THE RACE BREAK ME. I executed my training plan, which included everything up to 22 miles (one 20 miler, one 22 miler). So now it was going to be a mental battle, and I didn't want to "break" mentally (which can mean give up / not try / etc). The Ironman marathon did break me a bit...I recovered but it wasn't pretty and I didn't execute the run like I really wanted to.

I ran with Renea and Angela from KC and we start out conservatively and had fun chatting. The first 13.1 to 14 miles are "easy"...I felt strong and really great. I tell myself how great I feel and enjoy that positive feeling while it lasts. The first part is fun...the scenery, the crowds, the experience. It's all good. A random weird fact...I didn't stop for a "pitstop" the whole time. I was well hydrated and drank at every station, but kept telling myself that my body was going to absorb it and sweat it out at the perfect rate. I didn't want to stop and jeapardize my goal time!

We run through many historical areas in town, by the capitol, high school, and Governor's mansion. The Governor is out to greet us. Lots of fun bands playing along the way.

After 14 miles, a little fatigue sets in. Miles 14-15 are a big hill that just goes on and on. Which for me is fine because I'm a hill runner. Bring it! Actually running back down the steep downhill after that was more difficult because of the angles on my muscles.

After that from 17 on it is mostly flat with an out and back where you can finally see a lot of the other runners. Now even more fatigue is setting in. It's sunny and warmer now. And around mile 18, the "wall" comes or "pain cave" where it is fatigue with way more discomfort. My legs feel a little stiff...lactic acid buildup? Not so much fun anymore. But I achieved exactly what I wanted to...I didn't give up and I hung in there. I wasn't quite as fast, but my pace didn't fall off the cliff either and I was investing the effort and fully engaged.

Getting to mile 22 lifts the spirit a bit because then you are counting down...but it is major fatigue time. The whole race I had been doing an 8 minute run/1 minute walk ratio but had to keep going the last 3 miles...I just couldn't stop anymore. It hurt too much.

There was one more hill and then the lipstick station. I grabbed a lip gloss but kept going and was SO ready to be finished. Overall I was really happy with my race. After I crossed the finish line, I'm just in a massive hurt locker...I can barely walk and feel exhausted and stiff. Not fun!

Overall, worth it though for the learning & character building experience. And I met my goals! That's why I do it...and for fitness of course. There are other fun aspects too...like the people. I had a great time with the KC crew. Little Rock is a great race...highly recommend. The marathon finisher medal is enormous!

Marathon 1,811 finishers & half marathon 2,921 finishers