Sunday, March 15, 2009

Little Rock, AR

For every marathon I choose there is a valid reason for the run. This one was chosen because they say that they offer the largest medal of all of the marathons…you know something…they’re right…but that isn’t the end of the story.

I determined that I would run the Little Rock marathon sometime in 4th quarter 2008 when I was putting together the running schedule. September is booked, HI, and I thought that 2 would be easy to squeeze in before September so I chose Little Rock due to its timing and that they tout the largest medal.

There are times when you look at an elevation chart and say “that’s nothing” and then there are times you look at it and say “what the hell was I thinking!” This race is somewhere in between.

I ended up getting scheduled to work in Vancouver, WA for the 4 weeks prior to this race so I was traveling every weekend back and forth from the West coast and came back Thursday night so that I could catch my Friday afternoon flight to Little Rock. To say that I was tired of flying was an understatement but it had to be done.

We got to Little Rock on Friday night and ate in the hotel. On Saturday we ventured out to a nice coffee house and then to the expo. The size of the expo was not that big but not too small either. Both my wife and I ended up with new jackets for spring and magnets for our cars. The packet pick up was well organized and everyone was very helpful.

After the expo we decided to drive the course…well as much of it as we could…there are a lot of one ways in Little Rock and they had us running down a few of them the opposite direction so we had to improvise. They had us doing a lot of turns on the course and I thought that was a great idea since I really hate those long one direction as far as they eye can see courses.

With that done we headed back to the hotel for some relaxation…and I should have thought about dinner then!!! When we finally thought about dinner everyplace that we headed to or called had a very long waiting time…duh! Night before a marathon, Saturday night and a large city…what were we thinking!

I spotted a hole in the wall pizza place and said if we didn’t find anyplace else we would come back…we ended up here at 8 pm. The calzone was fantastic and so was the homemade beer! Off to bed.

From the hotel to the starting line was about .3 miles so I opted to walk it in the morning. There was a buzz in the hotel and on the streets that you only see on race mornings.

Got to the starting line way too soon…thankfully porta-potties were plentiful and the conversation with strangers pleasant. Soon we were hearing the star spangled banner and the gun wasn’t far behind.

Oh what fun the beginning of this race was…I go to pee on the Clinton Library lawn!! Okay not really but I did use a porta-potty right on the lawn.

About 3 miles in to the run we headed under a small overpass and my GPS went a little nuts…I somehow gained nearly 2 miles in just under 100 feet! That made for a really great 5k though at about a 5:15 pace LOL!!!!

As I approached the hotel I knew that I’d get to see my wife waiting for me and I told her the going was okay so far…cool but still very humid. I was on target for a sub 5 hr marathon and feeling fine.

It was nice course. The people were terrific on the course while not a lot of spectators the volunteers were beyond any that I have found anywhere so far. I was running with the 4:30 pace group for awhile and about mile 12 when I took my gel they pulled ahead and I didn’t see them again.

The half way point was at the footsteps of the capital building…very cool site to see.

Here is where the trouble begins. At mile 13.5 the uphill climb begins. It continues until around mile 16 and the elevation reverses. Now don’t get me wrong the climb is not horrible. We are not talking a 5% grade for 2.5 miles we are talking a 1-2% grade for 2.5-3 miles it felt fine to me…or so I thought. At mile 16.5 we start downhill…the entire climb that took 2.5-3 miles we do in about 1 mile…talk about a kick in the teeth. By the time I hit the bottom of this hill my legs were shot and now I needed a porta-potty!

At mile 18 I stopped to use the facilities…combine the brutal attack that had just occurred on my legs and then the sudden need to stop running my legs were done. There was little that I could do now to get them moving again.

The out and back portion of this course was very scenic and it was nice to see all of the supporters on this portion of the course. My wife was there and really wanted me to run…I tried and I tried but there was nothing left. The legs were tightening up and all of the stretching wasn’t doing a thing to stop it. She waited for me to come back from the out and told me to try to run and that she’d see me at the end.

Well let me just tell you that the people that drew up this course were sadistic. As if the sharp elevation decline after the gradual incline wasn’t enough they have 2, not 1, two steep uphill climbs at mile 24.5 and 25!!!

After that I was glad that there was a “beer stop” at mile 25.5!!! Some kind people set up their own aid station complete with beer, soda, water and sport drink. I made my way to the finish line not even trying to run at the end. Finished in 5:12:31. Collected my goodie bag – great way to do it – all of your post race snacks in a plastic bag, collected my medal, and headed for the bathroom!!

I was hurting at the end of this race…very tight leg muscles that really wanted to cramp. But what I got out of it was a good race. The people working this race were by far the best I have ever encountered.

I always ask myself would I recommend this race and why. This race is a definite, yes! You do this race if you like a relatively small race with 5-10k runners. You do this race for the most friendly and helpful aid stations. You do this race for the medal!!