My Dad and I made the trip out to Arkansas over two days of driving. We stopped near Dickson, TN on Thursday night. I woke up Friday morning, the day before the race, and did a 3 mile shakeout run. It was cold; 21 degrees with a wind chill of 13. It didn't feel bad though and was much better than the forecast for Little Rock, Arkansas the following day. The race day forecast had been trending warmer throughout the week which was something I was not looking forward to. Past years the weather was cold for the race with an ideal for me temperature in the 40s. That was not going to be the case this year.
After my shakeout run, my Dad and I continued our drive to Little Rock. Luckily we had a full tank of gas once we crossed into Arkansas because there wasn't an exit with a gas station for hours. After a couple stops for lunch and to get out and stretch the legs and move around we went to packet-pickup at Rock City Running, a local running speciality store. It was a small running store but it was packed with everything you would need. It had an impressive apparel selection for a store it's size and of course they had the brands of shoes you would expect. Plenty of nutrition, stickers, magnets, and compression gear filled the walls. The volunteers were very nice and packet-pickup was a breeze. I was very happy to discover my bib number was 321. I've always done well in races with a 3 in it, as it is my favorite number and was Sonny's as well.
I used Airbnb again for a place for my Dad and I to stay. We had a great place on the greenway that was only 15 min from the race start. We settled in and just relaxed watching some TV before going to get dinner. Pre-race dinner for me is pretty simple; carbs and protein. Before Boston 2014, I opted for Chinese food; steamed rice with chicken and vegetables and it got the job done. So, my Dad and I headed to a local Chinese place and I got the same meal. The portion was so big I even had left overs for lunch after the marathon.
It was already 64 degrees as the sun was coming up and the forecasted high was 70 for the day; much warmer than I prefer for a marathon. They had a singer sing the National Anthem before we lined up for the start. I asked one of the timing workers if there would be a lead biker and he said there would be and he would pull out in front of us once we got going. I lined up at the front and went to the lead as the gun went off starting the race. However, no biker ever pulled out in front of me so I hoped the course would have enough markings and volunteers to keep us on the correct route. One guy pulled even with me a half mile in. He asked what marathon this was for me and I said it was my eighth and he responded this was his first. I asked what his goal was and he said sub 2:50 and I thought good, I'll have someone to run with. Then he pulled his cell phone out and started playing music. I also noticed he was wearing the race shirt and once I got a better look at him I realized there was no way this guy was running a sub 2:50 or even sub 3:00 in his first marathon carrying his phone and wearing the race shirt. Well, he passed me and lead for just a little bit till we got to the first bridge, the Big Dam Bridge at mile 1. We all know how much I like running bridges so I passed him on the first bridge and started to pull away as I was still focused on running sub 2:50 even if the conditions were not ideal because I was trained for a sub 2:50. The Big Dam Bridge, as the other two bridges in the race, was a pedestrian only bridge meaning there was no car traffic. The majority of the race was on the Arkansas River Trail, an impressive greenway system in the area. The race was a nineteen miles loop to the east then a seven mile loop to the west.
After mile fourteen in 6:26 I pulled out a soft flask of water from the back pocket of my shorts. In it was a scoop of Generation UCAN and a stick of UCAN hydrate for added electrolytes which was needed with temperatures already in the low 70s exceeding the forecasted high for the day. I had been taking water at every other stop for most of the race and the stops in-between I was taking a cup and dumping it on my head. It was heating up fast but I was still in the lead and my lead was growing although I didn't know it at the time. I just knew I had to stay focused. Several times I would picture Jarrod beside me or just ahead of me to keep me motivated as it was getting lonely leading for so long without much crowd support.
There was a lot of people out on the greenway the final seven miles because it was a nice warm day in December to walk, ride your bike, walk your dogs, but not to run a marathon. I was getting a little frustrated having to navigate around all of those people though because most were not yielding to the runners in the race.
My Dad was very happy for me and helped walk me over to the river front to sit on a stone wall. I felt horrible. I was so weak. At one point I was shivering even though it was 74 degrees when I finished. He got an EMT to come over to check me out and they said my pulse was very weak and barely registering. I felt like I was either going to throw up or faint or both. I got some diluted gatorade and started sipping on that as I ate a chocolate protein recovery bar. Slowly I started to feel better and a reporter from a local Little Rock newspaper came over and did an interview with me. My own newspaper, the Carteret County News Times, did a great article about my win. I love their support and really appreciate it. They cover all the local races and local runners no matter where we race. It's an honor to be apart of the best running community.
May Dad and I left Little Rock in the early afternoon after I cleaned up and ate the leftover Chinese food for lunch. We drove till we got east of Nashville before stopping for the night. The crazy weather swings continued as we drove through a tornado watch once in Tennessee as a strong cold weather front was coming. The day after the marathon it was 40 degrees, yes 40, colder the day after the race with sleet and freezing rain on the drive from Tennessee to North Carolina. The day before and day after the race would have been much better race conditions than the actual race day. My Dad and I stopped in Asheville to meet my friend Anne for lunch. I hadn't seen her in awhile seeing her was a highlight of the trip.
I want to thank all of my friends and family for their support during this training cycle. A big thank you goes out to my training partners for pushing me and keeping me company on long runs. I really enjoy running with Jarrod, Jason, Jason's dog Lucy who kept me company on my solo runs, Ryan, John, Katherine, Heidi, and Kent. I've got a great group of running partners. Another thank you goes out to Amanda LoPiccolo for her chiropractic adjustments that kept me running smooth and healthy during this training cycle.
For those interested here is the other gear I wore for my marathon win:
Watch: Garmin 920XT
Road ID Wrist Slim
Sunglsses: Rudy Project Rydon
Shoes: Adidas Adizero Boston 5
Socks: Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Low Cut
Shorts: The North Face Better Than Naked Split Shorts