Whenever my family gets together for a reunion we have a tradition of finding a local race to run. This has led to some interesting race experiences over the years. We’ve raced in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Alabama, and Florida. We really aren’t picky on the course or distance- just some race we can do together. This year’s reunion was in the middle of the summer in Arkansas and we couldn’t convince as many family members to get into the spirit… Could it have been the 90-100 degree temps?
Originally it was just going to be two of my sisters and I and we planned to run the Full Moon 25k- a trail race that started at 8 pm. Then my dad mentioned he would really like to find a 5k since it was his birthday and how could we say no to that? So we found a local 5k in the morning and a few more family members decided to join the party.
Race #1- River City Ministry 5k
Saturday, July 21 @ 8:00 AM
North Little Rock, AR
We left our house a little after 5 am to pick up my dad on the way to the race. During this time we got an email that the 7:30 scheduled start was delayed until 8:00 due to lightning. I guess we missed the rain on the drive over because by the time we got there it was sunny and warm. My dad planned to walk in the walking division and my kids, my sister and I were all going to run. It was a muggy 80 degrees at the start so I planned to start conservative (closer to 10k pace) and look to negative split.
During the first half mile I settled into a comfortable fast (but not too fast) pace holding right around 6:10. I moved into first place around the 1 mile marker and ran along-side the lead male. We stayed together through mile 2 (6:06) and then I picked it up slightly and he fell back a little. Mile 3 was a 6:05 and the last part was at a 5:13. Official time- 18:56. (1st Female/ 1 OA) My sister finished 2nd female in 19:49.
Then we watched my older 3 kids finish before we went back to find my dad. He seemed to be taking a while and when we finally spotted him we knew something was wrong. He told us he had accidentally gone straight at the 2 mile marker when he was supposed to turn right. He doesn’t see very well and he thought the volunteer told him to go straight. He said he walked about a mile in the wrong direction before he turned around. He was pretty disappointed but was happy that our races went well.
Since this was in the middle of a family reunion we had a pretty packed day planned. Right after the awards ceremony we had to book it over to Altitude Trampoline Park to meet up with the rest of the gang. We’ve taken the kids there a couple of times and I have always jumped with them (it’s hard to resist!) but decided I better not since I was between races.
After Altitude we went to downtown Little Rock to eat lunch at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. Surprisingly I’ve never been there and it was very good but a little spicy for my taste. I’m sure it wasn’t the ideal pre long trail race meal but I didn’t want to stress about it.
After lunch we went to the Arkansas Arts Center to see one of my sisters artwork which is on display in an exhibit there.
After the Art Center Tricky and I headed to Tara’s house in Benton. We planned to leave from there for the 25k and then spend Saturday night in Benton since it’s only 1 hour away versus over 2 hours back to my house. We had a little time to rest, change, and eat a light snack at Tara’s before the three of us headed to Perryville, Arkansas.
Race #2- Full Moon 25k
Saturday, July 21 @ 8:00 PM
We arrived right before 7 pm- just in time to see the 50k runners take off.
We walked to the Rec Center to pick up our race packets. Once we had our bibs on and chips on our shoes we went back to the truck to put away the packets and grab all of our race supplies. I was going to carry a handheld water bottle, flashlight, and had 1 gel.
I had a pretty good idea of what to expect since I ran this race in 2015. I remember it being extremely hot, hilly, and long. The heat index was over 100 degrees then and this year was no exception. You just have to throw all normal racing logic out the window and get over it.
The majority of the race is on gravel service roads so you have to watch your footing- especially since most of the race is in the dark. It’s also pretty hilly (especially in the first half) but that’s part of the fun.
By definition a 25k measures at 15.5 miles but I’ve learned that in the trail running world distance is very relative. This course unapologetically measures about 16.2 so it helps to know beforehand what you’re getting into. When I ran this race 3 years ago I started pretty conservative and picked it up a lot on the downhill on the way back. This was my plan again but I was hoping to beat my previous time of 2:10.
The first half was definitely the harder of the two. There’s a lot of elevation gain and it took me a few miles to really get into a good breathing rhythm. There were some miles I ran alongside others and then some miles by myself. If I was running with someone I noticed I was usually stronger on the uphill climbs but they had me on the down. There was an aid station at mile 4 but I had plenty of water so I kept going. At this point I needed to turn on my flashlight and it stayed on the rest of the time. I ran miles 6-8 with a runner named Jose I had met at a half marathon I ran last year. We had paced some of that race together as well. The toughest stretch is the last mile before the turnaround. This mile alone has over 250 feet elevation gain. During this mile a few of the lead 25k male runners were heading down and I started working on my gel so I could drink and refill my water bottle at the turnaround aid station. When we finally made it to the top it felt like it took forever to refill although I’m sure it was only 30 seconds or so. I closed the lid and started back down as fast as I could. My plan was to not stop anymore and pickup the pace! As I was heading down Tricky was heading into the turnaround. She was so close to me and looking really strong.
I started the second half with Erik, another runner I’ve raced with and we went back and forth for maybe 2 miles. uring this stretch we passed a lot of 25k runners who were on their way up to the turnaround. One of these runners was my sister Tara who was doing great. Another runner we passed warned us about a copperhead on the trail up ahead. I kept my flashlight aimed on the ground and kept going. Soon we caught one of the guys in front of us who Erik knew. I pulled ahead of them but after a few miles his friend caught up with me so I assumed he was feeling better. We went back and forth a couple of times and even ran alongside each other for a mile which really helped. I was feeling pretty good so I pulled ahead in the last mile. It wasn’t until the last half mile that I realized the second place guy was right in front of me. It was so dark and I barely saw his light. I started sprinting to try to catch him but ran out of time. This was one of the rare times I wished a race went just a little longer. Official Finish- 2:06:08. (1st female/ 3rd OA). I talked to the 2nd place guy right after and he said he knew I was coming so he was just trying to finish before I caught him!
Note-I didn’t realize until the next day but this is now my new 25k PR. I’ve only raced this distance 3 times with 2 of those times being this summer. I ran the War Eagle 25k in 2:07 last month so this race was about a minute faster. (Talk about different trail races!)
After the Race
I was given a large unique light-up trophy and a really cute finishers duffle bag. I then headed immediately to the rec room to consume as much Gatorade as I could! I was so thirsty! I drank more water in the second half of the race and ran out early in mile 15. I think I drank about 4 straight large glasses and then I went outside just in time to see my sister finishing. Tricky finished in 2:11:57. She was with Jose (the same one who had paced with me miles 6-8). He ran with her the entire second half which really helped her.
We talked with some other finishers and then ate a little fruit but we wanted to wait to eat the large breakfast meal until our sister Tara finished. Her longest training run was 11 miles and she’s never run a trail race before so we didn’t know what time to expect her. She did great and ended up finishing in 2:48:51.
We decided to shower and change at one of the camp sites and then eat before the drive home. This race offers a full breakfast for all finishers. I’m not used to eating a large breakfast after midnight but it was the perfect fuel for the drive back to Tara’s house.
We got home around 2 am. Long night but so much fun!! I loved getting to experience the Full Moon with two of my sisters. Tara even commented that she might do it again! Who knows- we may have a future trail ultra runner in our family…