Last year the Little Rock Marathon surprised me. I had heard it was challenging but I had to experience it for myself. It’s hard to explain but it’s a good kind of challenge. You know when you’ve crossed the finish line that you earned EVERY BIT of that ginormous medal. (The giant medals for the full marathon are no joke!) It’s a race course that pushes you to your limit. I knew as hard as it was last year that I would come back again.
I feel like I had a huge advantage this time around because I knew what to expect. Not all race courses are like that but LRM is definitely one that you want to know. The two hills in mile 25 did not anger me the way they did last year. I knew they were going to be there this time and I met them as if they were an old friend. Maybe an old annoying friend. I felt like I was about 80 years old myself at that point in the race so maybe that’s why.
I’m not sure the best way to start this roller coaster report so we’ll just start at the beginning.
We went to the expo shortly after it opened Friday morning. We were not there too long but the kids enjoyed the “lucky” rodeo/ horse theme.
I was pretty exhausted Friday night and extremely glad I was not racing the next day. I stayed home all day Saturday and rested. I also continued to drink a lot of water! I had so much built up race anxiety and Saturday seemed to be moving in slow motion.
What to Wear:
Saturday I finally decided what to wear. Race start temps were supposed to be in low 30’s but I knew it could get up to mid 40’s which is my favorite. The wind was the best part of the predicted forecast at only 3 mph. Yes!!!
|This is my “lucky” NYC marathon race top I bought at the NYC expo in November just an hour before we learned the marathon was cancelled. I’ve worn it in 3 marathons since then!|
I also made a handy little mileage map for my husband who would be driving all over the course trying to cheer me on. He is truly an expert on navigating around marathon courses. I have no idea how he makes it to so many locations with so many roads blocked but he does! I made the map with the set goal time of 3:05 (more on that later). Yes, I am very Type A. Of course, this is all give or take a few minutes!
I was a little stressed about my sleep. My body has a very hard time shutting down and resting the night before a marathon. In Memphis I woke up at 2:30 and could not go back to sleep. I was terrified that this would happen again. Ashton came in our room around 1:30 but somehow I fell back asleep until 2:30. Then I was awake until a little after 4. Fortunately, I fell back asleep until I had to wake up at 5:30. So about 5 1/2 hours in total the night before a marathon- I’ll take it!
I ate two pieces of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and honey. Then I ate most of a banana in the car on the way to Little Rock.
|Ready to leave- it’s 6 am and 20 degrees outside!|
I rode to Little Rock with my running buddies Tish and Shannon. They were both running in the half. John was going to be driving up a little later after dropping off the kids at my in-laws. By the time we parked it was a little after 7. It was crazy crowded downtown. (The half, full and 10K all start at the same time.) We found the restrooms and waited inside the Marriott where it was warm as long as we could. Then it was good-bye. I told Tish I’d be looking for her at mile 25. She planned to meet me there to run some with me. What a good friend!!
My Racing Plan:
My goal time was 3:05 for this race. Having run a 3:09 in December and based on other recent race times I thought this was a reasonable goal. I knew it would be challenging on this course though. My basic pacing plan was to hover just below a 7 minute pace for as long as possible and then hold tight in the low 7’s. The first half of the course has some rolling hills but miles 13-16 are plain HARD. I knew I would want to have some timed banked up for those puppies. There is a nice flat stretch after that but you are so wiped out from those hills at that point that it doesn’t seem to matter much.
|LRM elevation chart|
Last year after thumbing through the LRM brochure book I learned that the top five finishers win money. As a full-time stay at home mom I love my job but some extra cash for my family and my running obsession would sure come in handy! Running shoes and race registration fees are not cheap. I did a lot of homework in this department, reading up on all the past years top 5 winning times. I knew the top runners who would most likely be racing and I predicted I could probably pull off 5th place if I raced under a 3:08. A 3:05 would be best. So my goal was to finish in the top 5 this time.
As a side note- if you want to be eligible for prize money you cannot wear headphones/ iPod. I always listen to music during a marathon so this was a first for me. It actually went well and I didn’t even miss it!
Mile 1- 6:30. Yikes! This was not exactly the “hover just below 7” time I was aiming for and I should know better than this. This split was actually 14 seconds faster than my first mile in the half marathon I ran in 3 weeks ago.
Mile 2- 6:59. Better. Trying to find my rhythm and I knew it would take a few miles.
Mile 3- 6:48.
Mile 4- 6:50.
Mile 5- 6:59. (Ate a gel and drank some water)
Mile 6- 6:52.
10K- 42:55 (6:55 pace)
Mile 7- 6:54.
Mile 8- 6:51.
Mile 9- 6:53. (More water and shot bloks)
Mile 10- 6:57.
Mile 11- 7:01. Up until this point I knew I was in 5th place which was where I needed to be. John was at this mile and told me that the lead woman runner (she won last year with a 2:37) had dropped out of the full so I was bumped up to 4th place. I knew she had been dealing with a injury but when I saw her toe the line at the start I assumed she was good to go. I wanted to hold on to 4th place. (The higher up you placed the more money you won.)
|First time to see John and I almost missed him. So focused!|
Mile 12- 6:49.
Mile 13- 6:42. (Water, shot bloks)
Half Marathon: 1:30:25 (6:55 pace). My HM split in December was a 1:32:00 so this was a little more aggressive. I knew I would not be going sub 3 because the hardest miles were still to come and negative splitting this course was not likely!
Mile 14- 6:49. The first half of this mile is fine but the second half begins the long uphill trek. During this mile my right hip started to hurt. The only ever time I have felt this pain was during the final two miles in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon this past December. It hasn’t bothered me at all in my training or other races since then. Why did it start now?
Mile 15- 7:20. Hardest mile of the course. My sweet sister and her family live right near this section and they came out to cheer me on. I wish I had a picture of them but I just waved as I climbed the hill. She snapped this one of me.
Mile 16- 7:19. Another rough mile. I was predicting my pace to drop at least 20 seconds on these miles and I was right. I knew the downhill was ahead I just had to hang on.
Mile 17- 7:08. My right hip was still hurting with every single step. I just had to keep going. Nine more miles.
Mile 18- 7:08. (Water, shot bloks)
Mile 19- 7:15. The Little Rock Marathon has an early start system which allows walkers who need more than 6 hours to complete the course the opportunity to start at 6 am. I am all for this opportunity but there were a few times when a giant pack of walkers blocked the main path. This was one of those times.
|Working my way around the 6 hour pace group pack.|
Mile 20- 7:06. (20 mile time: 20:20:26/ 7:02 avg. pace) During this mile the 3:05 pace team caught up with me. I admit it was a little discouraging to see them but I quickly made the decision not to give up without a fight. I decided to stay with them as long as possible.
Mile 21- 6:59. Where did that 6 come from?! During this mile the lone pace ranger lost the other two guys in the group. It was down to me, the new girl and him- and I was hanging on by a very thin thread!
Mile 22- 7:16. I stayed with the pace guy until about halfway through this mile but couldn’t hang with him anymore. At the fueling station I grabbed some water and finished off my shot bloks and I couldn’t catch up with him again.
Mile 23- 7:27. I was fading. My form at this point was terrible. My hip was killing me and I was so ready to be done. Unfortunately, there was the little matter of running a little more than a 5K.
|On my way back from a section of the course that is out and back.|
Mile 24- 7:39. I was really struggling at this point. The final 5K is so hard. I took a final gel at the end of this mile and a quick sip of water. I knew I would see Tish during mile 25 somewhere and she would help pull me through.
Mile 25- 7:47. Worst mile of the race for me pace-wise. There were two big hills that I had to deal with before I could even think about finishing. I saw Tish right before the hills and she totally helped take my mind off them. When I started to look at my watch in frustration she told me not to even look at it. She told me I was almost done and I could do it.
Mile 26- 7:34. I am pretty sure the only reason my pace wasn’t 8 something was because of Tish! She dropped back just before the 26 mile marker and I was on my own for the final stretch.
Mile 26.45- 3:07 (6:55 avg.)
Total time: 3:07:11. Garmin avg- 7:05 min avg. * New marathon PR by over 2 minutes!
Official race avg. 7:09 min. pace
|4th place overall female- $750 prize|
Ok, this is RANDOM but seeing this picture of me holding up the #4 reminds me of another picture. This was the last time I held up a “4” back in 2010- only that time I was holding a pregnancy test NOT a marathon medal!
|Definitely more proud of this number 4! 🙂|
Tish found me right away but I knew John was parking his truck and trying to find me. He had made it to so many locations to cheer and take pictures. My legs were cramping up but my hip was my main concern.
|My biggest encourager!|
|An up-close look of the beast!|
|The winning times for anyone interested…|
During the hour long drive home we stopped for lunch. I was freezing and the only thing that sounded good to me was hot soup. A cherry coke also sounded good so I had one of those too!
Then we picked up the kids at my in-laws. Gotta love this crazy bunch. Ashton got a nerf sword for his birthday (in January) and carries it everywhere.
Last night after church Abi wanted to throw me a “You did good a job!” party. That’s what she called it.
|Abi makes the best signs!|
Then the kids provided entertainment. Anna put on a puppet show and Abi and Anthony each played a song on the keyboard. Then Ashton started crying and we knew it was bedtime. Needless to say, mama was tired too!
And there you have it. I have a lot of post race thoughts but I will save that for another time this week. I am taking the entire week off running. Besides the usual complete-body-soreness after a marathon my hip still really hurts. I had a massage this morning and have another one scheduled for next Monday. I’m hoping between now and then my body- particularly my hip will heal. The Boston Marathon is 6 weeks today. I can’t even think about that right now because I can barely walk. Maybe in a few days I will have a different outlook…
My quest to eventually break 3 hours in the marathon continues but I am extremely at peace and pleased with the way everything worked out yesterday. The theme verse I kept repeating in my head was Joshua 1:9. I recited this verse over and over as I trudged along. Whenever I started to think about my hip I said the verse again.
|This verse carried me to the finish line!|
Two other mother-runner-bloggers (that I know of) also ran in LRM yesterday. It was their first time. I am anxious to hear their thoughts! I met Jess outside the ladies room of the Marriott before the race started and I finally met Katie in Corral A. They are both very inspiring women who run and I think it’s great they made the trip to Arkansas to experience this race!