Friday, March 28, 2014

Six Months

   Tick Tock, Tick Tock - what's that? Just the seconds ticking away until Ironman Chattanooga. I'm officially six months out. Six months until I attempt the most difficult athletic endeavor I will probably ever try. Surprisingly, I am calm. Though I haven't had an official training schedule up to this point, I've been exercising regularly, so I have a decent base. How much that will help me over the next six months remains to be seen.
   Rather than being nervous, I'm excited about what lies ahead. I'm excited about testing my limits and to see how far I can push myself over the next six months. I'm excited to see how much I, hopefully, improve both mentally and physically. I know it's going to be a rough six months, and a lot of it is going to hurt - badly. And there will be times when I'm wondering what the hell I'm doing, especially when out riding an 80-mile solo bike ride in the middle of 90-degree July weather. But I know that every drop of sweat and every aching muscle will bring me closer to the finish line where, if I'm lucky, I'll hear Mike Reilly say those magic words - "Kristine Mylls - YOU are an Ironman."  
  Training officially starts tomorrow. Bring it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

10K Made Easy!

   So yesterday, I was in the office break room, killing time while I'm heating up my random frozen glob that I'm going to have for lunch (appetizing, eh?), when I came across a magazine that had been left in there by a co-worker. Self Magazine to be exact - February 2014 edition. Figuring I could find 2:30 minutes of entertainment in the magazine, I opened it up. Surprisingly, it opened right up to an article about running a 10k AND had a pull-out training calendar! Of course, I HAD to check it out, especially since my last post was about running a 5K.
   Now, I'm assuming that the target audience of this article is supposed to be a non-runner. Self isn't a running magazine, it's a general lifestyle magazine that promotes "health, fitness, nutrition, beauty and happiness." Unfortunately, while I want to support anything encourages people to start running and maintain a healthy lifestyle, I had a few issues with this article.
  The first thing that struck me was the title of the article - "10K Made Easy!" Sweet! Because anyone who runs knows how easy it is, right? I mean, it's only 6.2 miles. I can pretty much do that in my sleep! (Right...) The article then states that the 6.2 miler is the new "It" distance - so great... now I have to worry about how cool my race distance is? My favorite distance is the half-marathon - am I not hip? And even worse, the article then says that by running a 10K, you can earn "serious bragging rights (unlike with a shorty 5K)." Really, Self? REALLY? It's bad enough that you're stating that my race distance isn't fashionable, but do you have to diminish the accomplishments of those who are running 5Ks? I've run some REALLY HARD 5K's (East Nashville Tomato 5K, anyone?). Shouldn't you be celebrating the fact that people are out there running at all, rather than shaming them because they're not running far enough?
   I then opened up their pull-out training calendar, which will train me to run a 10K with only three workouts a week - an easy run, a speed run and a long run. OK- I'm good with that. Three workouts a week is a reasonable number for a beginner. But that's where all logic ended.
   Y'all - the training calendar was only four weeks long. FOUR WEEKS! Every 5k training program I've coached as been at least eight weeks. Our local running store has a 10K training program that is 12-weeks. And, the very first run for this program was a three-miler! Remember - this is in a lifestyle magazine, not a running magazine. Nowhere in the article did it say that this program was for experienced runners. Isn't it a bit of an assumption that the average reader can go out and run three miles on their first time out, even if they're fit from other exercise? I know I wouldn't have been able to and I was an avid cyclist when I started running.
   So then, I got into the race-day "insider" tips. Cool - I love insider tips! While there were some good ones like to not eat a huge breakfast and to pace yourself, some of them just made me laugh. As much as the training program was designed for an experienced runner, these tips were seemed targeted more towards women who started running because a 10K is the "It" race and they want to be trendy.  Example - "Super cute ribbon hair ties make better bracelets than pony tail holders," and that I should use regular elastic bands... Ok - I guess that could be helpful...I guess. Also mentioned is that I should wear a low-ponytail rather than a high-pony. Now, THAT is a hard-core race tip, my friends. Forget about what kind of shoes you should get - worry about that ponytail!
   Another one of my favorite tips was to blend my go-to foundation with 50 SPF sunblock and wear water-proof mascara so I'll look good in my race photos. WHAT? I'm confused - am I supposed to be racing or posing for a photo shoot?  I'm sorry, but if you're actually making an effort, there is no such thing as a good race photo (with very few exceptions). There's even a rundown of awful race photos on Tumblr. If you want to wear make up on race day, that's your choice, but don't think it'll help with your photos. You should always wear sunscreen, though.
   One other tip about water stations just made me mad. "Don't feel guilty about football-spiking that Dixie cup afterward, either. It's not littering if you're racing!" Ha Ha! Hey - let's trash up the water station as much as possible! We don't have to clean it up! Leave it to those suckers, I mean, volunteers! They'll clean up my mess! Come on! Now, have I missed the trash can while I'm going through a water stop? Of course, I have. But I try not to be a jerk and at least TRY to get the cup in the general vicinity of the trash and I always throw it away before leaving the water station area.
    While I'm happy that Self is promoting running in their magazine, and if this article got even one person running, then they deserve applause. However, I think they really missed a good opportunity by publishing this article. It seems that most experienced runners would be put off by the article's overall attitude of "10K's are easy and hip! And don't we look good while we're running?!" While a newer runner would try that training program, get discouraged or injured within the first two weeks, and quit before race day.
   What I think is interesting is that this Self article was written by their fitness editor, who apparently is a marathoner. She should know better than to chastise people for "only" running a 5K, or to tell people that leaving their trash all around the race course is an acceptable thing to do. What's even MORE interesting is that this same magazine just came under fire for a more recent issue that made fun of a cancer survivor who wore a tutu at a marathon. So, what is it, Self? It's ok to care about hair and makeup at races, but someone wearing a tutu in a marathon isn't serious enough of a runner for you? Really? Maybe the next time you write about running, you write an article that promotes all runners, rather than making them feel bad about what distance they run or what they wear. (Well, except boy shorts. You can rip apart boy shorts - those things just need to go away) .
   See you on the roads!  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Running 101

   Recently, I've had several of people ask me about this running thing I do. So, I thought I'd write something for the non/new-runners out there. This post might not be of any interest to regular runners, as you already know this stuff. No, this post is more geared towards the newbies. Yes you, who has been sort-of, kinda thinking about maybe, someday signing up for a 5k. My friend from 10th grade biology class who randomly reads about all of my crazy running shenanigans, knows I HATED running in high school, and wonders if they can do it, too. This post is for YOU.
   First off - congrats on sort-of, kinda thinking about maybe, someday signing up for a 5k. Just thinking about stepping out of your comfort zone and signing for a race is a huge first step. Now - let's take that sort of/kinda and maybe/someday and turn that into a "Yes, I'm signing up for a 5k today!"

   For those not plugged into their local running scene, finding the right race might seem a little confusing. But it's not, promise. All you need to do is google something like "5k in the (insert local area here)," and see what pops up. If you get a lot of results, you can get a little more specific like "5k in April in Nashville."  Then just dig around and see if any appeal to you. Maybe some are affiliated with a specific charity that you support, or maybe one is advertised as being really flat. Or maybe you REALLY like cornbread or tomatoes - believe me, you can find a race that will spark your interest. Just be sure to select one about 8 weeks out so you have time to train.
  If you're lucky and have a large running community in the area, you might have a running club that hosts a calendar of upcoming races, like the Nashville Striders has. You generally don't have to be a member to access these calendars and they have been a huge help with planning my race calendars.
   Of course, one of the best resources for finding the perfect first race is your local running store. Not only will you probably find a bulletin board full of posters, flyers and postcards advertising local races, the store staff is most likely comprised of runners who will be more than happy to run down a list of their favorite races. And, a local running store can also be very helpful in our next step...

   Now that you've found the race that you want to do, what next? Well, unless you want to be like me and injure yourself on your first 5k by not training, you'll need to set up a training plan. There are plenty of training programs available free online if you want to train by yourself, such as from Hal Higdon  and this Couch25K program from However, if you don't want to run by yourself, check with your local running store. If they don't sponsor a beginner's training program, they probably know of someone who does. I HIGHLY recommend signing up to run with a group. This not only keeps you accountable, but you'll also meet some great people and have a lot of fun. Whatever program you use, please read it before starting it. Just don't blindly jump into the first thing you see.  Some beginner programs start with a lot of walking and a little running, which might be perfect if you're completely new to running. Others might be more advanced and start with you running a mile on your first workout. Be sure to select the program that is right for you.

   OK - so you've chosen your race and you have a training program. Now what? Well, fortunately, running is a pretty easy sport to start gear-wise. All you really need are a few basic items, let's start with the most fundamental - shoes.
   Do you REALLY need to get a pair of running shoes? YES! You might think that your 10-year old pair of Keds will do just fine for a 5k, but they won't. Sure, they might get you from the starting line to the finish line, but you'll also probably end up with shin splints and other random pains that could have been easily avoided with the right pair of running shoes. Again, your local running store is your best resource for this. Please do not just go online and find some pretty running shoes and order them from Amazon. This would serve about the same purpose as running in your 10-year old Keds. Go into the store, try on several pairs of shoes and have one of the store employees watch you run. If the employees are unable to assist you with finding the right pair for YOU, then go to a different store. Can shoes get pricey? Absolutely. But considering they are the most important piece of equipment you're going to need, they are worth the money. And spending $130 on shoes is a lot better than getting injured. And FYI - most true running stores will allow you to purchase a pair of shoes, run in them for a few days and then return them if they really don't work for you. Just don't go running in mud or anything crazy like that. The running stores WANT you to be in the right shoe, so don't be afraid to admit you bought the wrong shoe and you need a different pair.
   Next up - socks. While not as important as shoes, the sock can also be a huge factor in how comfortable your run will be. PLEASE don't wear cotton socks. They don't breathe, which allows for any moisture (sweat, rain, etc.) to get trapped in the sock, which can cause blisters. And you do not want a blister when you're running. Find a good technical sock and invest in a few pairs. I personally am loyal to Swiftwick, as they are a local company and I really love their socks. However, there are a lot of good brands out there and you can find them at any sporting goods store.
   Moving on to other tops and bottoms - again, no cotton. A cotton t-shirt will feel like a wet blanket if you get hot while you're running. Fortunately, you can generally find good tech wear almost anywhere that sells outdoor gear, so you don't have to spend a lot of money on this. Don't get me wrong - you CAN spend a lot of money if you want - but you don't have to. I've gotten tech wear from Target in the past. You can also generally find a lot of stuff on sale racks. The only thing I really recommend here is finding a pair of running bottoms that has a pocket in it. Even if you run from home, you're going to need a place to carry your keys.
   While on the subject of clothing, I want to bring up the #1 question asked to me by beginner runners. What about underwear?  (Well, women ask me this - I have no idea what you've got going on under there, so you're on your own. You can skip this paragraph.) Ladies - most of you will need to invest in a good running bra. NO - you shouldn't just run in whatever everyday bra you have. This will be extremely uncomfortable and really won't do a whole lot of good. Again, don't just go buy something random on the internet. An improper fitting bra can chafe you in places that you do NOT want chafed. Do yourself a favor - go to a running store and get fitted for a bra that has the proper support for what you need. And as far as running bottoms (shorts, running skirts, etc.), most of these items have liners sewn inside, which serve as underwear. You COULD wear underwear as well, it's kind of a personal preference, but chafing might be an issue.
   Whatever you end up wearing, be sure to try it out BEFORE race day. NEVER try anything new on race day.

   For a 5k, you won't have to really worry about nutrition on race day - the race is too short. Make sure you've had breakfast, and maybe have a little snack for energy before the race. I personally like Honey Stinger products, and will have a wafer or a few chews before running. Again - personal preference. Like clothing, try out your nutrition before race day. Drink water throughout your training and especially for the few days prior to the race. You don't want to get dehydrated. There should be 1-2 waters stops on the race course, so you won't need to worry about bringing a water bottle with you on race day.

   So you're now signed up, trained and have the proper clothing - you're ready to race! Here are a few tips for race day:
  • Find out when / where is packet pickup. Most races will give you a shirt, a bib number and a timing chip. Sometimes you can pick these items up before race day, sometimes you have to pick them up directly before the race. I pick mine up prior to race day whenever I can - the less stress on race day, the better. Also - some races will make you return your timing chip after the race and will charge you if you don't return it. Figure this out beforehand!  
  • Make a list of what you'll need race day - directions to the race, sunglasses, bib number, timing chip - whatever you think you'll need, write it down.
  • Lay everything you need out the night before the race. This is a pre-race ritual for me. I lay everything I need out so I'm not running around like a crazy person race-day morning. I actually take a photo of my gear the night before the race as a reminder of the day.
  • Wake up an hour or two before you need to leave for the race. This kind of depends on where you live and how far the race is, but it's hard to get up and immediately start running. Get up early, eat breakfast and let your system wake up a bit before heading out.
  • Plan your breakfast ahead of time. Things that normally don't upset your stomach might when you're racing. Example - I eat peanut butter toast frequently for breakfast, but I can't eat it before running. Seriously - I'll want to throw up. 
  • Scope out the race location and know where to park. Have a back-up plan.
  • Get to the race early - again how early will depend on the size of the race, where it's located and if you've picked up your race packet. But it's much less stressful to be there and have to kill a half-hour waiting for the race to start, than frantically running from the parking lot while the National Anthem is being sung trying to make it to race before it starts.
  • Coordinate with friends/family where to meet after the race. Sure- there might only be 400 people at the race, but it's pretty easy to lose someone in a group of 400 people. Choose a post-race meeting spot before the race starts.
  • Thank the volunteers who are helping with the race. Without them, the race wouldn't happen.
  • Enjoy the day! You've trained hard so have fun! Sure, you'll probably be a little nervous, but be confident in your training and have a great race.
   Any questions? Ask away! And for the seasoned runners out there, feel free to post more tips!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Yoga for Runners

   Last night I took a Yoga for Runners class at one of our local running stores - the Nashville Running Company, or NRC as it is commonly known throughout town. I have to say, our running stores in Nashville are awesome. I generally go to NRC and Fleet Feet in Brentwood. They're both owned and staffed by runners, so everyone there is really helpful and usually has first-hand experience with whatever you're looking at in the store. It's great. They also strive to develop relationships with their communities. Whether it be by sponsoring local races, coaching half-marathon programs or having in-store visits with running celebrities, both NRC and Fleet Feet really try to support local runners.
   Anyway, last night NRC teamed up with Kali Yuga Yoga to host a free 1.5 hour Yoga for Runners class. That's right, I said FREE. As soon as I saw the announcement e-mail from NRC about the class, I immediately signed up. Yoga is one of the things that I KNOW I really need to do for injury prevention, yet it something that I continually put off. So I was hoping that this class might be the little kick in the butt I needed to do more preventive maintenance on ME!
   Class started at 6:30. Being that I'm not a regular yoga participant, I didn't have a yoga mat, but the people from Kali Yuga Yoga brought a few extras. My plan was to get in the back row of the class because 1) I really had no idea what I was going to be doing, and 2) I don't have actual yoga pants, so I was wearing my running capris. I have NO idea how sheer they might be when doing all of those crazy yoga poses and I didn't want to have a lululemon moment and flash the row behind me. (For the record, I LOVE lululemon - I'm totally not hating on them.) But I was at the checkout when people started arriving and missed claiming my back row spot. In fact, I somehow ended up RIGHT in front of the instructor. No pressure. The good news was that I ended up knowing 75% of the other participants in the class, so I apologized ahead of time for any accidental flashing.
   The first thing we did was to sit, close our eyes and relax. How is it that I'm terrible at this? Everyone else was sitting there calmly...just looking so peaceful. And I'm all twitchy and my mind is racing. Example of what's going on in there: "My nose itches. Why does my nose itch. Should have I bought the Newtons? I think I really should have gotten the Newtons. Maybe I'll got get the Newtons after class. Crap, I have to cough...that's not peaceful for anyone. Everyone is going to wondering who the sick girl is and why did she come to yoga? I'm not sick, people! I just have a tickle in my throat! Wait - are we still supposed to have our eyes closed? What if I'm the only one with their eyes still closed...I'd better peek...OK. Everyone still has their eyes closed. I'm good."
   HOW can I be relaxed with that mess going on in my head? Seriously. That's why I run! I'm in too much pain to focus on anything other than running!
   After "relaxing," we moved into more traditional yoga. The moves weren't all that crazy - we were a beginner class so no headstands or any madness like that. Our instructor mainly focused on the basics (Downward Dog, Sun Salutation, Pigeon Pose) and how to do them properly and safely. THANK YOU! That's the kind of information I need. I've never taken a yoga class in a studio. Only a few at the Y and a few at home from "On Demand."  I was never really taught good form, and the last thing I want to do is tear a muscle from doing a pose incorrectly. The good news is that I'm still pretty flexible. I used to be CRAZY flexible from childhood gymnastics and 7+ years of karate. That's gone, unfortunately, but I still did OK. I have a lot to work on though. The main thing that concerned me is when we had to lean back while standing and look up at the ceiling. I kept thinking I was either going to faint or fall over. Neither one would have been pretty.
   Once we went through the poses, it was time to relax again. This time we were laying down on our backs. Again - I sucked. As soon as I laid down, I needed to cough. I don't know if it was anxiety or just having a dry throat or what, but I could not stop coughing. It was bad. Finally, I just had to get up and get a drink of water. After that, I was fine. Weird. I felt so bad about it that I had to apologize to the instructor after class. She just laughed it off.
   Today, I feel fine. Not sore at all, which is nice, and I feel like my piriformis that has been giving me fits is more stretched out. I'd like to figure out a way to incorporate yoga into my workouts on a regular basis. Actually, I NEED to incorporate yoga into my workouts. I'm really concerned that all of the pounding my body is going to take from Ironman training will leave me injured about two weeks before the race. I can't have that!
   If anyone is interested in this class, Kali Yuga Yoga is going to be holding more Yoga for Runners classes at their studio. I only have the experience of this once class, but I enjoyed it. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Little Rock Half Marathon Part 2 - RACE DAY

   The hardest part of race morning was trying to figure out what to wear for the race. Unlike most race days which get progressively warmer as the day goes on, this day started out at 54 degrees but was supposed to drop below freezing before the day was over. There was also a high percentage of rain. I decided on tights and two shirts (one long and one short), and just hoped that I finished the race before it got too cold. While it had been sprinkling some, the majority of the rain was supposed to hold off until after the noon, so I left my rain jacket at the hotel. It's a great jacket, but it doesn't breathe at all and I was afraid I'd get too hot. Funny to think about that now.

Ready to go!

   The race started at 8:00, but we had to catch a shuttle from the hotel down to the race site.  Since I'm a crazy, Type-A personality, I made everyone catch the 6:30 am shuttle. I was afraid that there would be a long line for the shuttles and we might have to wait a bit. Turns out, most people were more afraid of the weather than not catching a shuttle, so there weren't that many people waiting. We got right on an almost empty shuttle. The trip down to the race start was pretty interesting. And by interesting, I mean terrifying. The shuttle was one of those old-timey cable-car looking things that, I think, are mainly used for tourists and are generally driven at slow speeds while people are taking pictures of random sights. Our driver took our shuttle down the highway as if it were a normal car. The thing was kind of shaking and actually hydroplaned a bit from standing water a few times.  It was then we realized that we didn't have any seat belts and that we were basically riding in a deathtrap. I was picturing the newspaper headlines the next morning "TRAGEDY AT THE MARATHON! SHUTTLE OVER TURNS ON THE WAY TO THE RACE!"
   Fortunately, that didn't happen, and we made it to the drop-off point in one piece. Or what was sort of the drop-off point. Apparently, the shuttle driver was supposed to drop us off at one spot next to the race start, but couldn't because the early start marathoners were already out on the course and the roads were closed.  He got stopped by some course volunteers who made him drop us off at the corner of "I don't know where we are" and "What way to the race start?" Seriously. Want to freak out a bunch of high-strung runners? Just randomly drop them off in the middle of a city they have never been in and don't give them any directions as to where to go. It was awesome. It was even better when I asked where do we meet to get picked up since the posted pick up point would still be closed when we were finished. "Somewhere around here." Really?! REALLY?! 1) I don't know where I am. 2) I don't know how to get back here after the race and 3) if I DO make it back to this exact spot, you might not even be here!  That's comforting.
   Anyway, we had more important things to worry about right then, like finding the race start. We just blindly started following the other runners who got off the shuttle, hoping they knew where they were going. Good news - we were only about 1/2 mile away from the race and found the start pretty easily.
   It was about 7:00 am by this time, so we had about an hour to kill. We took a look at the race route and noticed something for the first time.  Take a look at the map legend - see anything different?

Ummm - Lip Stick Stop?

There it is on the map. This is right before you hit the finish.

What the whaaaaa?  A Lip Stick Stop? What in the world is a Lip Stick Stop? I guess if we were more curious, we could have asked a volunteer, but we were starting to get a little chilly so we headed into the River Market, which was right at the start line. Remember how I said in my previous post that this place would be important to us? Well, here is reason #1 - it gave us a sheltered place to sit down and wait until the race started. I think every race needs one of these at their starting lines. It also provided a great place to people watch. LOTS of people played along with the theme and wore Superhero costumes. If I were a better blogger, I would have gotten photos of them. But I'm not, so just know that there were LOTS of Wonder Women, Supermen and a really good Batman who had "Bruce" as the name on his bib. Totally NOT what the real Batman would do, but it still made me laugh.

Chairs and warmth. What else could you need?

   As the starting time got closer and closer, we noticed people coming into the River Market in wet clothing. Great. It was starting to rain. I was kind of regretting not bringing my rain jacket down now, but I DID bring trash bags to wear and then dispose of once the race got started. I'd never done the trash bag thing before, but since the rain was really starting to pick up and it was DEFINITELY getting colder, I decided to try it out.

Who can rock a trash bag?  I can rock a trash bag! 

   The race corrals were literally right outside of the River Market. PERFECT! We waited until almost the last minute before 8:00 before lining up. Seriously - the National Anthem had already been sung and everything. We were in Corral D, but just kind of funneled in wherever there was a break in corrals since there were already so many people lined up. I think we ended up in E.  Of course, while I knew that the Race Directors would probably stagger the starts of the corrals, I didn't realize that they would take SUCH long breaks between corrals. Generally, I think it's a one-minute lag between corrals in large races - I think it was at least two minutes between corrals at this race. From what I understand, this was the first time the RDs had tried staggering corrals, so they need to work on that a bit. Normally, this delay wouldn't be a huge deal, except it was really raining now and the corrals were set between tall buildings which created this wind tunnel that was just horrible. It was SO COLD. We were truly miserable. The only thing that made it better for me was that the DJ started playing Queen's "Flash Gordon" which is one of my favorite Queen songs. Random, I know, but it just cracked me up.
   FINALLY - we got to the race start and began running. Fortunately, it had stopped raining and I was starting to warm up a bit. Not enough to get rid of the trash bag yet, but I wasn't freezing. (Sidebar - have you ever heard 5,000 people trying to run with trash bags on? It's hysterical. Kind of this unending WHOOSH WHOOSH WHOOSH sound.) 
   The route took us all over downtown Little Rock. I had heard that it was supposed to be really hilly, but up until mile 7 or so, it's relatively flat. Well, there was a big bridge, which are always the last thing runners want to see - especially when you see people coming from the opposite direction so you know you have to run it again.  The bridge was also absurdly windy. The mile markers were blown over, there was a banner that was trying to blow away - it was nuts.  
    Unfortunately, due to the weather, I don't think there were as many spectators as usual out on the course. Don't get me wrong - the volunteers were amazing (they had to be FREEZING!) and they were out in full force. We just didn't get the lines of spectators lining the route that I had expected from reading race reports. However, I did get blessed with Holy Water by an Episcopal priest around Mile 8, which was nice. I appreciated that. We also ran by the Governor's Mansion at some point, which had several official-looking type people around the gates (I don't think the Governor was one of them).  
   All throughout the race, I just trotted along in my happy place. I hadn't trained to PR, nor was this the weather or terrain for it. So I just stayed as comfortable as I could for the entire race - not pushing it too hard pace-wise, but not totally slacking either. I kept thinking that at some point I'd be warm enough to ditch the trash bag, but wasn't actually able to until mile 10. You know what's hard to do? Rip off an industrial trash bag while you're running. I actually wish someone had been filming me taking that thing off because I totally got wrapped up in it. I finally just stopped for a minute to remove it.  
   The route definitely got hillier on the second half. There was one stretch around mile 11-12 that was just awful. There was a L-O-N-G hill that just seemed to take forever. The entire time I was running up it, I was thinking "long uphill means long downhill."  Which was true - but unfortunately once you got to the top, you turned directly into a terrible headwind. It was like someone smacked me in the face - that's how strong it was. Totally took any enjoyment out of running downhill.
   After descending that hill, I knew the finish was near, so I just blew by the remaining aid station because I was done being cold and wet. It was then I started noticing used lipstick containers littering the race course. I figured it had something to do with the "Lip Stick Stop" we saw in the race course legend, but I completely missed it (turns out, Maybelline is a local company and sponsors this stop. They have lipstick right before the finish line so you can look good for your finishing photos). I just kept running until I saw the finish, crossed the line, and was awarded one of these bad boys...

EPIC!!  Notice the lips on the exclamation point.  Apparently, the lip stick stop is a big thing.  Oops.

   After collecting my medal and going through the food chute, I headed back to the River Market to warm up. It was also our designated meeting spot, which was a really smart move because it was almost sleeting by now. Once there, I promptly ordered the most awesome cup of hot chocolate I have ever had (Thanks, Kathy!).

Is this a thing of beauty, or what?

Post race. We're all just a little warmer now. Just a little.

    Knowing the weather was just going to get worse, we wanted to get back on the road ASAP, so we headed back to the general area where the shuttle may or may not be waiting for us. We walked towards where we were dropped off, and saw a little white bus in the middle of a parking lot. It wasn't the trolley thing we rode on the way down, so we weren't sure if that was our shuttle, but we headed that way anyway. Fortunately, it WAS for us. We were literally the last three people on the bus. Dudley actually had to sit on the floor of the bus because it was so crowded. But, it was better than waiting for another who-knows-how-long for another shuttle.
   After getting back to the hotel and showering, I was in the hotel hallway and ran into two marathon finishers. You knew they were marathon runners because their medal was literally twice the size of the half-marathon medal. It was ridiculous how big this thing was. Anyway, I made a comment about their medals and they stated that they actually only made it to mile 12 before their race was cancelled and they were shuttled back to the finish line. What? The race was cancelled? Yep. Sure was. Apparently, there was a huge ice storm coming our way, so the RDs rerouted the marathon course to make it drastically shorter so everyone could get out of the area safely before the storm hit. This caused a huge uproar from a lot of people because some runners thought the race was outright cancelled (because that is what they were told) and just went home, while others took a shorter route (or just kept running the regular route) and were able to get a finishing time and a medal. Huge controversy. I was very thankful that I only ran the half and was able to finish without any issues.
   Overall, I really enjoyed this race, even with the horrendous weather. It was very well-organized and remembered even small details like having clothespins at the finish line to hold our space blankets closed. It's obvious how much time, effort and pride the RDs and volunteers put into this race. I know I might have sounded a little whiney in this report, but I really don't like cold weather. I would love to come back and run this again in normal temperatures. I know there were a lot of things that I missed on race day because of the weather. And - there is a small part of me who wants to come back and actually tackle the 26.2 so I can get that GIANT medal. We'll see about that one... 

Little Rock Half Marathon
Final time: 2:10:26
Overall Place: 1419
AG: 68th out of 432
Gender placement: 567th out of 2,895

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Little Rock Half Marathon Race Report - Part 1

   Last Sunday was the Little Rock Half Marathon. Though I won't be able to focus too much on my quest to run in all 50 states this year because of Ironman training, this race was early enough in the season for me to run. I was really looking forward to it because I've heard nothing but great things about this race. I was told that Little Rock really embraces the race and the whole city supports it. Apparently, it's not unheard of for the Governor to come out to cheer on the racers as they run by his house. I think that's pretty cool. This race is also known for its GIANT medals. Like ridiculously huge. It's kind of their thing. Who wouldn't want a giant medal?
   We left at 7:00 am on Saturday. For whatever reason, I was convinced that Little Rock was five hours away. Turns out - it's six. Not a huge difference, but that extra hour lasted forever. When we finally arrived, we decided to go directly to the expo, which was downtown. One of the first things we saw when we rolled in was this:

Little Rock LOVES their marathon, y'all.

and then you saw these all over downtown:

  Just in case you didn't know there was a race in town.

   The expo was at the Convention Center. Unlike most expos that funnel you through the packet pickup when you first walk in the room, the Little Rock race had theirs in the back of the building. Don't think I can't see what you did there, Little Rock Expo. It's kind of like grocery stores that put food staples like milk and bread on opposite sides of the store so it's impossible to run in and out without walking through the entire store. If you HAVE to walk through the expo, you'll be more likely to shop at the expo vendors. Very sneaky... Or it could just be that it was better logistically to have the packet pickup in the back of the building. What do I know?
   Anyway, we successfully picked up our packets, and as any normal racer does, immediately checked out the race shirt. This would be a good time to mention that the Little Rock race has a different theme every year.  I love me a themed race. This year, the race had a Superhero theme and had the catchphrase of "EPIC!" Let me tell you, the Little Rock Marathon EMBRACES a theme, y'all, and does not let it go. Seriously. You saw "EPIC" everywhere.

T-shirt and bib number. 

Random poster around town.

There were, of course, a lot of Superhero references at the expo, as well.

Kathy and I taking a photo op with some sort of Superhero leaping over the State Capitol Building.

And, of course, Spider-Man was there.

   We totally fell into the labyrinth that was this expo, and immediately started buying a whole bunch of stuff that we didn't need. Seriously. This wasn't one of those times when I forgot something and was thankful for the expo so I could pick it up. No - we just went on a freakin' spending spree! Though Dudley and I both already have compression sleeves, we both got more. I also got GU (Salted Caramel - OMG!), Body Glide, a head band to match the shirt I was planning on wearing on race day, and some instant heat things that a salesman talked me into getting. I have to say though, the heat thing felt amazing on my neck while standing around the expo. I fully expect it to break after a few uses, but whatever. I just can't help myself - I go to an expo and I HAVE to buy something!  See, Little Rock Expo - you don't have to hide your packet pickup in the back of the building! I'll buy a ton of crap anyway! Actually, I did get the headband for free. Basically, the guy got tired ringing stuff up, so he just gave it to me. True story.

Seriously, I didn't need any of this. Sigh.
   It was about 2:30 by now, so we left to go get something to eat. Having never been in Little Rock before, we had no idea where to go, but we figured something HAD to be downtown, so we just started wandering. Guess who pretty much has the same restaurants as Nashville...Little Rock. Want to go to Bocso's? They have one. How about Flying Saucer? Have one of those, too. So we headed over to the Saucer (their pretzels with cheese are amazing) for a little lunch. OF COURSE, they had a "WELCOME RUNNERS!" sign on their door. Because everyone loves the marathon here!
   After lunch, we decided to walk down the street a little more and check out the city. You know what else Little Rock loves besides their marathon? Bill Clinton. The guy is everywhere.

Oh, hey Bill!

There he is again...and again and again.

And the obligatory street sign.

   There were some other non-Bill Clinton sights, too.  The have a really cool River Market, which unbeknownst to us at the time, would come to play an important role in our lives on race day. 

   We wandered around enough that we happened to stumble upon the starting line. Well, it wasn't that hard - it was on the same street as the restaurant, but it was still pretty cool to see.

The EPIC starting line.

Me and Dudley. Note the "Elite Corral" sign. This will be the last time I'm in an Elite Corral.

   By this time, we were all tired and we needed to check-in to our hotel rooms, so we started to head back to the car. We were almost there, when I saw what I thought was a dachshund, which was cool because we have one. After getting a closer look, I realized that it wasn't a doxie, but a CORGI PUPPY, which was even better because who doesn't love a Corgi puppy?!! Being the geek I am, I walked right up to the owner and said that we have two Corgis at home and asked if I could play with her dog. Yes, I'm a grown woman and I did this. 

How cute is this dog?!  

   It was possibly one of the best pre-race / expo days I've ever had. Between the free headband and the Corgi puppy, I felt that luck was on my side. I knew race day was going to be great!

To be continued...