My best friend Sheridan lives in Little Rock, so I drove down to stay with her on Saturday. The race was Sunday. Tomorrow, I'll devote an entire post to everything I ate on Saturday in my pre-marathon meal plan, but in today's post, I'll be recapping race day.
I woke up at 5 a.m. Sunday morning and threw on my race gear. The night before, I added some almond milk to this package of Kashi Cacao Nib & Almond Overnight Muesli, so it was thick and creamy in the morning. It contains chia seeds, which are great for endurance runs, and I've found, through much experimentation, that this muesli sticks with me longer on long runs. I always add nut butter for extra stick-to-your-ribs action. On race day, I used a Justin's Chocolate Almond Butter pack. Also had some unsweetened, iced green tea because that's how I start every morning! At home, it's homemade. But when traveling, Honest T will do!
A week or so before race day, the forecast was showing 74 degrees and sunny. Perfect racing weather for a warm weather runner like me! I know most runners prefer cooler temps, but I'm extremely cold-natured, and I thrive in the heat. Sadly, that forecast shifted to low-50s and rainy by race day. I'd come prepared though with full-length Lululemon racing tights, a long-sleeve Breakaway Running tech shirt, my Mizuno rain jacket, and throwaway clothes (a hoodie and sweat pants from the Goodwill) for the starting line. Also, some cheap throwaway gloves from Target. Sheridan gave me a poncho to wear at the starting line too. Here I am in my throwaway pants! I added my red throwaway hoodie and poncho after this shot.
Me and Sheridan before the race!
Starting line selfie after shedding my throwaway gear! For non-runners, throwaway clothes are just cheap things you wear in the hour or so you're standing around waiting for the race to start. Most races donate all the clothes back to charity. I'm not certain about Little Rock, but I hope they do!
Just after 7 a.m., my corral took off. I was in corral E because I'm slow. But back-of-the-packers have the most fun! People stop and take selfies or snap shots of scenic moments. In my last marathon in December (my first ever!), I took off way too fast and lost serious steam and hit a wall by mile 16. I knew better, but I was worried about making the halfway point cutoff time. Little Rock has a much more generous cut-off (8 hours!), so I knew I could pace myself without worrying about not being allowed to finish.
So I resisted the urge to fly through the first half, which is hard when everyone around you is also failing to hold back. But I stuck to an easy pace, and I never hit the wall! Non-runners: the dreaded "wall" is the moment when your energy stores feel totally drained, and every step becomes tremendously hard. When it happened to me last time, my shoes suddenly felt like they were weighted with lead. I powered through then, of course, and finished the race. But it wasn't easy. This time, it was pretty darn easy! I remember, around mile 18, feeling like I could run forever.
It also helped that there were MANY treats along the way! I had packed Huma and Clif energy gels and chews in my pockets, and I had one every 5 miles. But I also took advantage of all the free snacks being offered on the course — orange slices, pickles, peanut butter pretzels, and — my very fave thing — tater tots!! Those tots at mile 15 were a game-changer! Also, especially toward the end of the course, there were beer samples nearly every mile. And I sampled them all! Beer and running go together like PB & J.
That said, the course was TOUGH. Sure, I felt strong the entire time, but that was a mental game. Little Rock has WAY more hills than Memphis, which is located on some of the flattest Earth in the U.S. I didn't get much hill training in beforehand because we just don't have many options for hill training. My legs were on fire as I crossed the finish line, so much so that I teared up a little at the thought that I could actually stop running. And I didn't PR. My finish time — 5 hours, 42 minutes, and 1 second — was 48 seconds slower than my St. Jude Marathon time. But I finished feeling much stronger, which is more important than a PR, I think.
I hobbled my way into the post-race party inside the Statehouse Convention Center. Glad it was indoors this year. It was cold and rainy for pretty much the entire race, so it was nice to be in a warm building. The last time I ran this race — the Little Rock Half Marathon in 2015— the celebration was outside, and it was sooooo cold and awful. So I very much enjoyed this indoor party. I immediately got my free beers and I settled into a chair to enjoy them with some pretzels that I'd had in my pocket throughout the race. I'm not really a Micalob Ultra fan, but it's all they had. And any beer tastes great after 26 miles.
I typically bypass the hot food at races because it's almost never vegan. And I'm not usually hungry until 30 minutes or so after I finish. So I bypassed the pasta station, assuming the pasta contained meat. Sadly, I noticed later, when I spotted a half-eaten cup of pasta on a table, that it was just spiral pasta and marinara. I wish I would have grabbed some! Oh well.
Sheridan met me at the expo, and we took some more pics with the medal.
I thought I was hungry enough to eat the whole thing at once, but for some reason, I fill up faster after races. So I had two slices there, and I took the rest home to Memphis with me. I finished the pizza last night, back at home, around 9 p.m. with a glass of merlot poured to the 26.2 line on this souvenir Little Rock Marathon wine glass I'd purchased at the 2015 half-marathon. I measured to see how much wine that was — 15 ounces!
By the way, that 2 1/2 hour drive home with tired legs was tough. I wasn't sleepy, but my legs were! Every time I stopped to pee, I had to hobble into gas stations like an old lady. My mom said I should have worn my medal around my neck into the gas stations so people would know my reason for hobbling. Ha!
Overall, GREAT race experience. Little Rock knows how to throw an awesome marathon! The course took us all over town, and I got to see parts of the city — both urban and rural areas with great views of the river — that I've never seen, in all my years of driving down there to visit Sheridan.
Plus, it feels nice to be able to say "I run marathons." Plural. :-)