Due to several factors, my training did not proceed according to plan. Modifications are always necessary, but I had several major challenges to face during this training cycle. Getting the flu (or food poisoning) and two colds caused interruptions. I also had some knee pain during my longest training runs that slowed me down significantly at times. The biggest challenge was the weather, specifically the bitterly cold temperatures and heavy winter precipitation. Oh, and my refusal to run inside on treadmills or eleven-laps-per-mile tracks. I did actually run on a treadmill for an hour on a particularly icy day. It. Was. Agony. And, I was actually sore the next day; so sore, in fact, that I had to cut short that day's run. I braved the cold temps and wind and snow and ice and slush when I deemed it safe. I am sure non-runners who saw me thought I was absolutely crazy for being out (that usually just encourages me.) Heck, a lot of runners thought I was crazy! Even though I was out on the road getting the time and miles under my feet, my pace was much slower than I had hoped, ultimately limiting the resulting training effects. So, overall, I did not complete the total volume of running at the desired intensity that I had planned.
|Carb-loading at Big Whiskey's|
|Pre-race dinner at Copper Grill|
|The calm before the storm|
|Heartland Road Runners ready to (Little) Rock it!|
I started off a bit fast as so many of us are wont to do. During the first one to two miles I slowed down to around nine minutes per mile and settled in. Considering my training, I thought that was a reasonable goal and I really wanted to stay under four hours (9:09/mile). I ran alone most of the time, I could not seem to find anyone who was staying at my pace. Even when I encountered the four-hour pace group, we seesawed back and forth. That was okay for me most of the time; I am usually lost in my thoughts anyway. I continued solo, taking a Gu every thirty to forty-five minutes, drinking a little water every time it was offered, and visiting nearly every porta-potty I saw! I tried to thank as many volunteers as I could and encourage fellow runners when it seemed they needed it (when I could spare the motivation.)
The course had a lot of turns and a lot of rolling hills which, I suppose, broke the monotony. I do not recall thinking the hills were too tough; I guess I trained appropriately for them. On each out-and-back section, I scanned the crowd for my fellow Heartland Road Runners, cheering them on when I found them. Because of the weather, the crowds seemed small, but the folks who were out certainly did not lack enthusiasm. There were numerous home-made posters that made me laugh. One guy, I saw every few miles with a different sign. Apparently, he was there to cheer on his wife. I saw him at the finish line and thanked him for all his signs and accompanying giggles. One of his signs is my all-time favorite marathon sign: "WORST PARADE EVER!" Always gives me a chuckle. Another was "PEE NOW, POOP LATER. NEVER TRUST A FART."
That describes the first twenty miles or so of my race. However, somewhere between fifteen and eighteen miles, my knees started to hurt. It was not bad initially, but was irritated by the long hill, reinforcing my suspicion that the cause is IT band. I maintained my pace on the climb and accelerated on the descent afterward, still on target for a four-hour finish. At around mile eighteen, the course starts a long, flat, out-and-back section through a park up to around mile twenty-four. This was where my race and, I suppose, everyone's race got interesting. The pain that was alleviated by the downhill returned on the flat and increased in intensity. I had been staying close to the four-hour pace group, but at around twenty-one miles, I watched them slip away along with my sub-4:00 finish. My knee pain was forcing me to walk quite a bit.
Soon after, word came to the course that storms containing high winds and hail were nearing and the course was closing. We could seek shelter there in the park or continue on to Wal-Mart where buses would take us back to the start. I continued. Later, a police officer was repeating an announcement that the race was cancelled, that buses were coming, and that proceeding would be at our own risk. When I first heard the message, I had mixed feelings. Part of me said "I can stop!" The other part said "What a waste of my time and effort!" Anyway, I continued running/walking as well as I could, looking for Wal-Mart and waiting for some official person to force me off the course.
|We made it!|
|Pizza and The Oscars|
Our epic continued the following day. Little Rock and the surrounding region received about two inches of ice and sleet overnight. We soon discovered that the state of Arkansas apparently is not equipped to handle frozen precipitation; I40 was basically untouched. It took us over seven hours to travel the 120 miles to the intersection of I40 and I55. Then, Pat started feeling ill, so much so that we stopped in Memphis for the night. Of course, we couldn't have traveled much farther anyway. Pat was still ill in the morning, so we stayed another day. While Pat slept, I was able to explore Memphis a little. On Wednesday, Pat was ready to travel and we headed north through Tennessee, traveling on mostly clear roads, arriving at home that evening and ending our five-day adventure.
|Most of the Heartland Road Runners who ran Little Rock, back in Quincy|