Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hills? What hills?

Hills? What hills? Yep, that is the slogan for the Little Rock Marathon. They also went with "It's a natural" this year, since Arkansas is the "natural state." Anyway, back to that slogan, be afraid, be very afraid! As I was climbing away on the course I remembered why I had never opted to run the full marathon while I lived in Little Rock. It's a hard course! And why, I ask you, did I wait to sign up for the full, until I had been gone for almost two years! I mean, I USED to train on every inch of that course! It's been awhile. :) Still, it's a great course, very challenging, an accomplishment to finish, well organized and I definitely recommend it! But next time I just want to run the half in Little Rock if it's okay with all of you.

Best Part of the Race: Unexpectedly getting to run with running partners from years past! Seeing friends along the course both running and on the sidelines! Just loved that. I stayed with my friend Tina in Little Rock the night before the race and she and I went to the start together. Ran into Amy in the corral and her husband snapped a pic of us together.

Weather: A warm 48 at the start with a slight breeze. I felt a bit chilled at the start but it was truly just race jitters! My long sleeved shirt came off just after mile 2. It was tank top and shorts weather! Temps climbed to mid-60's but we had cloud cover till my last mile, it was perfect!

Miles 1-3: Took it easy and did not go out too fast for once! Right on my goal pace at 8:30's and 8:20's. According to my training and 800 m repeats and tempo runs and marathon pace runs etc, I should have been able to hold this pace, but more on that later. :)

Also saw a friend and running buddy Karen Call running past me at mile 2, she ran a great half even with her achilles injury! Yay! Saw a teacher friend on the sidelines who called my name, also great! Saw my friend Tina pass me by in mile 3! Always great to see friends and cheer each other on!

Miles 4-11: There almost aren't words for these miles. My friend from literally 7 years ago, came speeding past me and I called out to her to cheer her on. Diane Novotny, oh what a great runner-winner of the half in the early years of the race! She and I have trained quite a few miles together in years past. We ended up pacing off together and catching up on the past few years. We were chatting it up for the entire time. I know, shocking, me running my mouth, who knew? :) I didn't want to hold her back so in the beginning I said, just go ahead anytime, please. But no, this was a good pace for her, she wanted to stay right where we were and she literally helped me keep it up! At mile 6, I had to stop at a porta and I told her to go on, I'd catch up. Guess what? I came out and she was standing there like my coach with a cup of water which she quickly handed me and we took off running. That mile was an 8:53 due to the porta stop but it was fine. At mile 7 we both took a GU. I LOVED talking to her! Picture a typical runner build on the tiny side! And dark brown braids flying along! That was Diane. We hit every water stop and then at mile 11 she had to turn off for the half route while I had to keep straight ahead past Central High School. She told me she would see me at the end around mile 24 or 25 where she was planning to cheer some other friends to the finish. (By the way, these were the flat miles of the race.) Also saw Tina again, (an awesome runner, 3:21 PR), having knee pain around mile 9, and she told me she was pushing me on ahead with some positive vibes. Diane and I were right on my goal pace the whole time, awesome.

Tray and Jen made me this sign to cheer me on!

Miles 13-17: Hills. This is just one big climb with not a break. It's true. And I used to run miles 15-16 twice a week as a speed workout, of course, they were only miles 3 and 4 of the training run. Big difference. Plus it's been two years! Still I knew exactly where I was and what was next and where the end was, that helps. Let the pace slowing begin, whether you want it to or not, there goes marathon goal pace. This was when my friendly IT band decided to speak to me, protesting the hills. My right hip was tight and feeling the pain. I'm such a doctor of my running ailments. I can diagnose and treat right there in the marathon. Ha! So, on Kavanaugh, I gave in and stopped to do my famous IT band stretch, you know the one. I just held it for awhile and then hit the other side too, just to be safe. Miraculously, the pain was gone when I started to run again. Unfortunately, my IT band chose to be a complainer so I had to stop and stretch about 4 or 5 more times as it tightened up again. But it always felt better after the stretch. You gotta' do what you gotta' do, ignoring it and not stretching would have been excruciating. It was quite bearable, not even close to IT issues I've dealt with in the past. It really was about the hills, wow! No break, until...

Mile 18: Big downhill!! So fabulous! I let it go, I mean first we turned the corner and climbed a little bit more, but then the downhill. So worth it! The downhill wasn't a full mile or anything, but it was a good break. And here is where I ran into another old friend! Bentley came sprinting past on the downhill but didn't hear me call to him due to the music in his ears. So, I sped up and caught him. He was someone who had encouraged me to do an ironman one day and I totally rejected that idea. So we chatted it up for a good mile, climbing another hill without realizing it. He and his wife have a two year old son now, and he has run the LR marathon all 8 times. Alas, we hit a water stop and I had to stretch it out (again) so I let him go.

Miles 19-23: This is the out and back part that everyone dreads. It goes out and you see all the people coming back who are well ahead of you, and you just want to be where they are! Fortunately, it's flat, but that didn't matter at all, I was totally beat up from the hills!!!! By the way, I was doing beautifully with fueling for the race. I kept up my Vanilla Bean Gu gels and Blueberry Pomegranate Chomps consistently every 4-5 miles. I saw Scott, from the IM in Florida, on his bike twice during these miles. He was riding along the course to support his wife and other family members and friends who were running. It helps so much to see friends who cheer you on. Reaching the turn around is a great feeling with music blasting and all the relay runners for the last leg making a lot of noise for the runners. Of course you still had to run out of there! This was also my old running route for 5 miles, an out and back starting exactly at the turn around. It was still really hard on marathon day though.

Shout Outs: To Ashley, Scott's wife, and we high-fived as we passed each other. Yay! Then I saw Jackie, another shout out! Then I saw Arland, who called my name because he saw me first, another shout out! By the way, those last two have both achieved marathon maniac status, which means lots of consecutive marathons. I think 5 in 5 months is the minimum. wow!

Mile 24: One word, rude. But with a smile. At this point, Kevin, another guy who did IM FL in November, caught up to me. He was having a day like me. We talked about the course, how we were feeling, future IM's, trainers for biking indoors, the size of the marathon medal... We may have started running together somewhere around mile 23. It's all a blur. So back to why mile 24 is rude. Two huge hills add insult to injury, and at the top of the second hill is mile 25. I never take energy gels at this point in a race because I'm so close to the finish I can always push through and the last thing I want is another GU. I had taken in 2 gels and 1 chomp pack at this point. We were at the water stop in between those two consecutive hills and Kevin said he was taking a gel. I looked at the hill and decided I needed one too to make it up that thing!!!! Off we went!

Mile 25: Remember Diane? My running angel? There she was running out on to the course to run me in! I introduced her to Kevin and she immediately started cheering us on while running right along beside us. Kevin had to drop back and Diane just kept going, pushing me, my pace was suddenly up again. We came though a water stop and she grabbed a cup, threw some water on me and said "You need that to cool you down you're hot, drink the rest, pour the extra on your wrists!" She was AMAZING!!! She kept running me in, she said her friend was with other people and would be fine, she was getting me to the crowd support right near the finish line. Later that night I thought about Diane helping me through this race and got tears in my eyes over it. How incredible! Once the finish was in sight she gave me one last hurrah and I picked it up to get to the finish. What a great feeling, utter exhaustion, but I was done. 4:05:47.

Pity Party: I've been beating myself up all day over my finishing time. Why didn't I do mile repeats? Why didn't I do more hills? Why do we have snow on the ground all winter? Why can't I run anymore? I couldn't sleep last night over it. Ridiculous I tell you. But my therapist and previous awesome training partner, Raquel, texted me through it today at work. I love my running friends. She gave me some encouragement, and good reminders, and understood.

The Medal: Just way too much, too big. My neck could not handle it after 26 miles. I had to hold it with my hand with the ribbon around my neck. Then I had to take it off. Come on, I like to wear my medal on race day only, but it was impossible. AND I had to get re-scanned through airport security because that medal was in my carry-on, sheesh!

My attempt to show how large the medal is next to my dog's heads...

Post Race Massage: First time for this, I waited in line for 45 minutes, and it was so worth it. Actually, it got to the point where I really didn't want to wait anymore but I had already stood there so long I had to continue. I got this big burly guy with a diamond grill, he was the best. I highly recommend post race massage, deep tissue was his specialty, but he only did pressure since it was directly after the run.

Weekend Wrap-Up: I spent precious time with a dear friend, Teraysa, and her sister and family. They came to the race finish but I missed seeing them! Also got to meet other running friends for pre-race carbs the night before and the post-race party on race day. I loved running on the nostalgic streets of Little Rock. I miss these friends and this place so much. There were sooooo many people that I didn't get to see and I truly am sad about that. It's just hard to fit it all in. Another marathon in the books and lots of beautiful friends and memories tucked away with it.

Hardest Course: Yes! Not the hardest marathon I've ever run because I have run much harder marathons due to injuries. This one was definitely the hardest marathon course I've run. There is solid up-hill with no break and the hills at the end in mile 24 clench the deal. I much prefer the rolling hills of Boston which break it up some. :)

One more thing....Lots of praying on this marathon run and it's how I made it through, honestly it's how I make it through every time. Thank you Lord for another finish line and for the gift of running, and the gift of friends. :)


Jen said...

Every time I read your race reports, I get teary-eyed. I love it. So glad I will never volunteer to run that race with you. UGH - sounded painful. Have Colin take a pic of your doing your IT stretch for me - just in case I need to do.

Love the bling... I think a medal as big as Goliath is exactly what you deserve after those hills.

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

I'd like to see your "famous IT band stretch", too.

I ran my last marathon in 4:05 (a pretty flat one), missing a BQ again! I was disappointed, but it wasn't long before I was ready to try again.

Glad you worked through the pain and the hills! Great race report - seeing so many friends = fun! And that's a great finish time for a hard, hilly race!

Brick said...

Great report! I thought this course was hard so it's nice to hear someone like you who's run many a marathon say the same thing. I know it wasn't your best time but I do appreciate your attitude and your joy for being out there.

I'm curious to know how the conversation between you and Kevin ended up when you were talking about indoor trainers. I'm fer 'em! That's Arkansas talk for I'm in favor of them.

ashleyphilbrick said...

Well, I have several things to say here. First, i am so proud of you and your time. I think it's awesome on a course that is such a challenge. I loved it. it wasn't my best time, but felt like such an accomplishment. Secondly, I think I need Diane's phone #! Ha ha! I could use a friend like that. I envy the running relationships you seem to form so easily and so deeply everywhere you go. I hope to get to that point. I don't really have anyone here and I think that's why I turn to you so much for advice and encouragement! Now, i love the IT stretch and I do it constantly. Ever since you showed it to me in Florida and told me to do it like 3 times a day! Lastly, i was so glad to see you in LR two different times. I appreciate all the effort you made to see everyone. You're a great friend! And lastly, I don't much care for the medal either!

Kirsten said...

Thanks for reading guys and for the encouragement! It helps! IT band stretch pics are on the way. :) Jen marathons are major experiences for me and since you are on your way to your first, I think you connect with the whole idea!

Kevin told me he got hooked up with a fancy trainer for a good deal, from you Scott. But don't worry, next week I start biking outside no matter the weather and today we hit 60 which was awesome! I have hope for biking and also hoping for no more snow in March!!

Ashley-thanks for your comments! Glad you got them all! It was quite a race!!! Congrats to you on a major accomplishment, I can't wait to hear about Hogeye, you will rock it!

You guys should check out Tina's blog, she has great running workouts and some yummy recipe's here and there that are way fit for all runners! :)

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

Thanks, Kirsten, I like your blog, too! Lots of good info and photos! And again, congrats on a great finish!