Monday, March 8, 2010

little rock marathon: 3:21:07

scott and susan griffith picked up robin and i saturday morning and we enjoyed a scenic road trip to little rock. we made a lunch stop at subway. the route we took is not super friendly to those who tend to get a bit car sick, and robin did experience a portion of that.

we parked the car in the parking garage next to our lodging (the hampton inn). the locality of our lodging was perfect for walking to the expo, to dinner, and to the starting area of the race. we got in and out of the expo without spending too much money. i picked up a couple magnets for our van. i ran into my friend and coworker sue kidd at the expo. sue was in little rock to take on her first half-marathon. i also ran into two springfield runners that i was acquainted with through dailymile but had yet to met in person: kris and jeremy.

for dinner we ate at the flying saucer. the food was awesome!!! saturday night everyone slept well and we got up with plenty of time to visit the complimentary breakfast dining area. as we walked to the starting area around 7:30 am, i parted ways with the others to do some warming up and to find a place in my starting corral.

this was susan's first half-marathon and scott was planning to mule for her. robin had also been training to participate in this event, but her training was setback by some injuries. robin embraced and excelled in the role of support coordinator for the day.

when i took my place in the "a" corral, i noticed that i was right next to the 3:15 pacer. 3:15:59 is the boston marathon qualifying standard for a male of my age. my ego strongly desires to be able to boast of being a boston qualifier. at the same time i don't want to soil the pleasure i get from running by stressing about boston qualifying. i am committed to being patient about it, and enjoying the journey into greater running shape.

i decided that i would take my own pace out and assess what to do about the 3:15 pacer as the race unfolded. when the event started i had no difficulty getting out of the gate from where i was lined up. i hit start on my timex as i came across the timing mat. i was committed to not concerning myself with splits during this event. from the beginning i was trying to find a pace that i felt i could maintain evenly for 26 miles. during the first mile i saw robin and i was encouraged by her cheers.

i ran the little rock half-marathon last year so i was familiar with where the first mile marker was. i wanted to check this split to make sure i wasn't out too hot and to make sure i was getting out at a solid pace. i know from experience that once i get into a gear i will usually stay in it for a long time. i came through the first mile close to 7:20 and was pleased. i relaxed and enjoyed mile two and didn't concern myself with my split at the second mile marker.

just after the three mile marker the 3:15 pacer came past me with a group of about 12 runners who were attempting to stay with him. i immediately decided i would stay with him. when we hit the fourth mile marker the pacer shouted out our time and gave us an update on our pace. the experience was reminding me of high school cross country and the times i would try and stick on another runner's shoulder. i was actually digging it.

four miles in and it was apparent that i was going to be more comfortable without my arm sleeves and my gloves. i ditched the gloves around mile four and a half and i figured i would be able to throw my arm sleeves to my wife when i passed near our hotel at the mile six marker. i was able to execute this thought perfectly and my wife made a great catch of my sweaty sleeves.

for the next few miles i found myself appreciating that i knew this portion of the course from participating in the half in 2009. i wasn't concerning myself too much with distance, i was more aware of elapsed time so i could stay on top of my fueling. at one point i passed a struggling half-marathoner and attempted to encourage him. he inquired if i had noticed the ninth mile marker and i responded that a mile marker was just around the corner. i was actually surprised that we were already nine miles into this journey. i was moving a little faster than i was in 2009 and i was feeling so much stronger. that was very encouraging, but i was also aware of the fact that i had registered for double the distance this time.

around mile ten and a half the half-marathoners parted from us. i attempted to give some encouragement to the ones near me. over the next mile i found that i was having difficulty staying with the 3:15 pacer. i wanted to reel him back in and keep him close, but it just wasn't happening. i noticed the runner next to me was wearing a bass pro marathon shirt and some kind of missouri related hat. i inquired if he was possibly from springfield. yeppers. his name: chad lakin. we conversed for the next three miles. his marathon p.r. was 3:19:51 and he ran it at the chicago marathon in 2009. this was his third or fourth time running this marathon. he informed me of a big climb coming up during the early portion of the back thirteen. as our conversation winded down, he encouraged me to go on ahead of him. i informed him that it was likely we would do some back and forths over the next few miles. [picture below of chad and i just after 13.1]

this course features about a two mile climb from miles fourteen to sixteen. somewhere near the top of the climb i noticed i was starting to feel very hot. the sun had come out from behind the clouds and i felt a little zapped. i am guessing i stepped the pace down over the next couple of miles. the 3:15 pacer was no longer in sight at all. chad caught back up to me at mile seventeen and a half. soon he was ahead of me and stayed ahead of me for the rest of the race (though i can recall him being in sight through mile twenty-five).

at this point i was wanting to get past mile twenty and i was hoping to have something left in the tank for the final 10k. i got into a zone for the next few miles and before i knew it i was making the turnaround and had less than 10k to go and it was all straight to the finish. i could not find another gear, but i was feeling like i was maintaining and that i could make it to the finish close to my 26.2 personal best.

i did have an issue over the last 6 miles: my stomach. i was very concerned that i was going to have an accident. thankfully i did not, and i managed to keep going without losing time in a porta-potty. i intend to be more cautious in the future regarding what i eat the night before a race.

i am not the greatest at math, but over the last two miles i was calculating the possibility of shaving a minute or two off the 3:22:41 that i ran at the "des moines marathon". this kept me going and helped me to resist the temptation of walking up a hill that emerged halfway between the mile twenty-five and twenty-six markers.

i hit my split at the mile twenty-six marker so i could have that time for my log (i don't want to log a .2). twenty-six miles: 3:19:41. during the last .2 i got a rock out of my pocket so i could hold it up for the finish photo. the encouragement coming into the finish was great.

26.2: 3:21:07 (a personal record by 1:34). 13.1: 1:37:36 (a personal record by 2:32).

chad lakin from springfield came in at 3:20:19.

my division place: 15 out of 146 finishers
my gender place: 58 out of 971 finishers

while i was in my own world with the 26.2 mile event, susan griffith and sue kidd finished their first half-marathons. susan has a foot injury that almost knocked her out, but she powered through and even accomplished her time goal. i love seeing people accomplish their goals. big time kudos to both susan and sue. big props to scott for doing a great job muling for susan. and of course, robin did an awesome job supporting us all.

regarding the event itself: excellent!!! for those looking for solid events for the 50-states-journey, i highly recommend "little rock" for arkansas.

oh, and did i mention that "little rock" features the world's largest finishers-medal :) and how apropos that it has an "8th" on it, as this was my 8th thoning state.

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