Friday, March 29, 2013

A Confidence Builder

This morning's 20 miler could not have gone more perfect. I was starting to get anxious and a wee bit nervous for the Eugene Marathon (April 28). I haven't "gone long" since the Little Rock Marathon, which was only March 3, but it feels like a long time ago already. I tried to run 20 last weekend, but my body was clear - absolutely NOT happening! I felt deflated for stopping early and pouty the rest of the week.

This morning, I left my front door at 7:20am to make the 4 mile trip to the security gates of the Illinois Air National Guard base. I was participating in the 24 Hour Run Challenge. The event was simple... our team was to have a runner in motion at all times during a 24 hour period, starting Thursday afternoon. We were competing against TACP (Tactical Air Control Party) units across the world, including those deployed. The team that racked up the most miles and the team that raised the most were declared winners. But really, everyone involved was a winner... the run honored the memory of fallen TACPs and raises funds to support the TACP community and their families. Team Peoria ran in honor of Jacob Frazier, a local who made the ultimate sacrifice. Donations accepted here.

Once I passed through the security gates, I met up with my friend KO who was waiting by the starting table. We quickly fell into a groove and nonstop chatter. We haven't run together in quite some time, so we had a lot of catching up to do. It made the miles go by quickly. Best of all, we held a steady pace under 10 min/miles.

Flight line filled with C-130's
What a beautiful morning! The sun peeked through the clouds in our first loop.
We had nothing but sunshine for the rest of the run!

The course was a 1.25 mile loop around the base. We ran the full flight line and passed by my hubby's office building each time. In total, we ran 2 hours and completed 10 loops for 12.5 miles on base.  It felt good to run for a greater cause today. God Bless Our Troops!

Afterward, I tacked on another 4 miles on my journey home.  These felt a bit harder as I was trying to hold onto the pace we had all morning... ranging from 9:40-10:00 miles. I needed some encouragement... so I texted my cheerleaders. My little girls jumped on their bikes and met me at the end of our street to "run me in" once again. Precious.
TOTAL: 20.55 miles in 3:24 (9:55 pace)

My goal for the Eugene Marathon was/is 4:15... which is a 9:43 pace. I'm still not sure if it's capable... with only 30 days to go. But today's run certainly made me feel stronger and more confident of coming close. All I need is one good day on fresh legs... and some friends by my side!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Yesterday I ran... twice. The two runs were completely different, but both filled a special part of me.

My morning run was needed behind what words could explain. I was solo and had a lot of stuff cluttered up in my head. It was a chilly 30 degrees, but the sun was shining brightly. With each step, the tension evaporated from my body. I'm continually amazed at how clearly life comes into focus when I'm running. It's one of the reasons I treasure my solo runs. It's my escape, my time of reflection, a renewal. I was only two miles into my run and tears bubbled up at the base of my throat. I felt so incredibly blessed at that moment... but do you know how hard it is to run (breathe!) when you're holding back tears? Geesh, I thought my chest was gonna explode!

In the evening, I ran another 4 miles with my Sole Sisters. Before I left, my hubby said, "But didn't you already run today?"  I tried to explain... "A run with friends is different. It's like you meeting some friends for a couple drinks. You chat. You laugh. You catch up on life and form bonds. That's what we do... but we exercise at the same time.  What can I say? We're good multi-taskers..."

On Friday morning, I am participating in a 24 Hour Run Challenge at the Peoria Air Guard base.  The run competes against other TACP military units around the world, including those deployed. Each team is challenged to have at least one person run for 24 straight hours, starting Thursday evening. The winner is the team that racks up the most miles in that time frame... but really, it's a win-win situation as the money supports a very honorable group. Team Peoria will be running in memory of local fallen Jacob Frazier. The TACP (Tactical Air Control Party) position in the Air Force is one of the most dangerous jobs so I've been told. This event honors the memory of fallen TACPs and raises funds to support the TACP community and their families. Should you feel moved to support our team, click here for the donation page.

Important Numbers...
31 more days until the Eugene Marathon.
Eeeek! I don't feel ready for this. I'm hoping after my 20 tomorrow, I will feel more confident.

4 days left in the #JellyBean virtual race.
Anyone can still participate for a chance to win cool prizes! Have you completed all your desired events yet? Don't forget to report your results! All the details/links are here.

3 more days until Easter Sunday.
I wish you all a blessed Easter. I will be celebrating with my family and offline most of the weekend. Rejoice and Be Glad!

Monday, March 25, 2013

My #JellyBean Runs

** My 5K **
I kicked off the 3rd annual #JellyBean virtual race on the first day - Wednesday, March 20. I met up with my Sole Sisters in the evening to tackle the 5k event. It was pretty cold and windy, but the sun made it tolerable. We had a smaller group than normal - which means there were plenty of extra jelly beans leftover for me my kiddos.

My (underdressed) hubby shivered in the cold as our official photographer.  Little Girl had the important job of handing out jelly beans at the finish and took her job quite seriously. I finished the 5k with my group in 29:55 (9:38 pace). We weren't really "racing", but Patty did edge us out in a last minute effort!

** My Half Marathon **
My goal was to complete this event part as part of my 20 miler on Friday. I started off by myself for 5+ miles through Dunlap neighborhoods before meeting a group of friends at the trail entrance. I felt really weak from mile one. Typically by time I get a couple miles in, my body goes on autopilot.  Not today... I felt overly taxed the entire run, worn down and beat up. I ended the long run at 14 miles, six short of my goal. Disappointing, but sometimes I actually listen to what my body is saying. Now I have to examine and tinker with the training schedule to squeeze in two 20's before Eugene (April 28).

We ran the Rock Island Trail, which is a staple running area in my town. After a fairly warm winter, however, the trail is pretty beat up. The surface is gravel/dirt, so when the ground gets soft, bikes and feet make deep imprints in the ground... and then it freezes. Friday was cold, so footing was tricky and a main concern for me. I am still babying a sore peroneal tendon, so every awkward turn on my right foot irritated the tender spot. Not fun... and now I'm back to icing.

The best part was the important part... meeting up with friends for a run. Despite the initial cold, the sun made it a beautiful morning. At one point, we had 7 Sole Sisters running and chatting away happily. Lots of smiles and laughs. My official #JellyBean half marathon time was 2:16:33 (10:25 pace).

** My 10K **
I came home from teaching Spin class on Sunday morning and had the urge to run. Overnight we had received a small dusting of snow, but the roads were clear. I made a deal with my family... give me one more hour and then we'll do something fun the rest of the day. Negotiations are a mother runner must!

I decided to try out a new 10k loop through Bellevue. It included a big hill (200ft climb), which is the main reason I've avoided the route. But today, I was feeling badass already, so why not?

Almost as soon as I began to run, the snow started coming down faster. I can't lie, I enjoyed this run tremendously... until I hit the big hill at mile 5. Oh, that hurt. As I was slowly battling the climb in now quite heavy snow, two cars stop and ask me if I wanted a ride. Hahaha... No thanks, I do this for fun.

Big Girl really wanted to come with me on this run, so I made a deal that she could join me at the end to "run me in". As I made the final turn towards home, I sent hubby a "Go!" text and she was off on her bike to meet me for the final 1/2 mile. Official #JellyBean 10k time: 1:00:30 (9:46 pace).

The #JellyBean virtual race is always a celebration of SPRING.
Who knew this year we'd be running it in the snow? Crazy weather!  

The rest of my Sunday Funday... a hot shower after the cold run, out for lunch, meet and greet with the Easter Bunny, egg hunt and craft for the kids, a two-hour nap (yup, even momma!) and then an evening of play in the snow. A seriously fabulous day!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Double Hangover

Coming off last weekend's double (Alabama & Georgia), I have a bit of a run hangover. I was slightly exhausted. Yet I couldn't stop reminiscing the events that went down... which brought about smiles and laughs. The endorphins have now settled, but I have a couple realizations from the Double weekend...

I love Half Marathons. 
Oddly enough, I hadn't run a half marathon in over four months. Last weekend's Double restored my love for the 13.1. I was full smiles at both finish lines without feeling completely spent. Sure, I needed strength and endurance to make it the 13 miles, but there was never that crushing wall of hurt that I feel in a full marathon. Once I get past the Eugene Marathon (April 28), I may take a break from 26.2 for awhile... which means I better PR at Eugene.

I need to challenge my Half PR.
When I ran a 1:56 last spring, I didn't think there was any way I'd come close to it again. But I gotta admit, my mind was whirling on Saturday after nearly missing a sub-2 in Alabama... on a rolling course without really pushing myself. It gave me food for thought... if I train specifically for 13.1 again, could I get under 1:55??  I'm thinking of making a return to the flat and fast Fox Cities Marathon (Sept) to do just that.

I want to Double again.
I seriously enjoyed the challenge of back-to-back half marathons, and my body didn't respond too badly either.  I thoroughly enjoyed a whole weekend dedicated to running. Impossible to maintain, but fun maybe twice a year.  Lucky for me, we have another Double planned for this October... Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Plus Kim and I are already looking at a Vermont - New Hampshire Double for Fall 2014.

Recovery is key.
Learning how your individual body responds to running is critical. I practice recovery measures after every long run, and have learned well what works for me and what doesn't.  I took the time after the first Half to do the deeds (stretch, ice, compress, walk) and it paid off the next day.  In hindsight, I probably should have iced one more time before bed, but us girls were too busy chatting...


Don't forget... Today is the START of the 3rd annual #JellyBean virtual race! You have 12 days to complete one (or all four) events. Good Luck! Anyone is welcome to still join in ... right up to the last day. Free participation!  All the details here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Race Recap: Georgia Half Marathon

As soon as I finished Saturday's Centerpoint Half Marathon, I hurried back to the hotel to soak my legs in an ice bath before part two of my St. Patty's Doubleheader... the Publix Georgia Half Marathon.

I made a rest stop every hour on the drive to Atlanta to walk and stretch my legs. As tempting as it is to relax after a race, I have found easy activity makes for a quicker recovery.  I tried to walk at least a 1/2 mile at each rest stop to keep the blooding circulating through my legs. The Georgia Welcome Center had a pretty rest area that included a nice walking path. Like Alabama, the dogwood trees were abundant and I was in springtime heaven. 

Three hours later, I arrived at E's condo in Atlanta, where Kim and LJ had arrived the previous evening. After hugs and hellos, we immediately strolled down the street for cupcakes and popsicles. That's how every Girls Weekend begins, right?!  We were nonstop chatter for the afternoon and evening... with a second outing for pizza and beer.  (I was born to be a runner... I love my carbs!)
E, LJ, me and Kim
We stayed up talking much later than I normally would on a race night. I was exhausted and yet once I finally laid down, it was difficult to sleep. Five hours later, the alarm woke me up for race morning. I grudgingly pulled myself out of bed and stumbled through making my first cup of coffee with a Keurig. (I'm so old-school drinking full pots yet...)  E was injured, thus not racing; but she made the best hostess, driver, photographer and cheerleader for us. By 6:15am, we were on our way to the starting line... 
I look seriously SHORT when sandwiched by these ladies...

E dropped us as close as possible to the start and we huddled in a hotel lobby until minutes before the start. It was mass chaos at the start. The corrals had already collapsed, but I didn't really care where I fit in since time wasn't an issue for me in this race. So I just followed Kim like a little child through the crowds. We finally found an open spot that seemed appropriate. I turned around and BAM... there was Pam from Moms Run This Town!  What fortune to bump into her twice in Atlanta - first at the expo and now the race. I ran into several other MRTT members during the race too.
Pam is cute as can be... and much more my height!

This race is mass amounts of runners... over 10,000 I believe? Needless to say, it took some time to actually reach the official starting line.  I started jogging carefully, not entirely sure what my legs could do today. My lower quad muscles were a bit achy from the previous day's Half.  I could feel every little incline early in the race... and this city is known for its HILLS.  I had no idea what to expect from my body as the miles ticked away...

I managed to stick with Kim for the beginning miles. We chatted and the miles ticked off comfortably. Around mile 3, she ditched me we lost each other making our way up a hill. My Garmin did not like Atlanta, unable to locate for nearly 30 minutes. I stopped to snap a picture of the city skyline around mile 3 and noticed it finally kicked on. 
Miles 1 thru 3 - 31:29 (10:29 pace)

Good Morning Atlanta!
By far, the "money shot" of the course. Everyone was stopping for a photo.

I continued onward, one mile, one hill at a time. I tried to find a steady pace and pretend I was out on a training recovery run. I took in the scenery, the beautiful old houses, the outfits, chatted with runners, thanked volunteers, read signs and laughed aloud too many times. 

Mile 4 - 10:13
Mile 5 - 9:51
Mile 6 - 10:13
Mile 7 - 10:26
We hit the jelly bean station between mile 6 and 7. I stopped for the first time, ate a handful of jelly beans and took in some water shortly after that. I forgot my GU energy gels (Surprisingly for a race this size, there was none on the course), but I felt alright throughout the race since I wasn't really pushing myself.

Mile 8 - 9:45
Mile 9 - 9:45
Mile 10 - 10:32
Mile 11 - 9:59
Mile 12 - 10:35
Mile 13 - 10:18
As we entered into Piedmont Park, I was feeling really good - even feeling like I might have a second wind. I guess I never noticed that it was a 2 mile elevation drop. Aw-man, that felt good... although short-lived. As we exited the pretty park, the last three miles were uphill, uphill, uphill. I had to walk on and off in the last two miles. My energy level felt good, but my quads were not liking the push upward.

The elevation chart didn't lie... this route was hill-acious. I tried to run without a concern for time most of the race. In fact, I don't think I even looked at my watch the entire race. Looking back at my splits now, there is no doubt that I ran this on "perceived effort". My pace dropped every time the elevation went up...

The last mile was pretty cruel... continued uphill and no sight of the finish line.  Finally, we turned a corner and BOOM - a short downhill finish. Not much room to pick up speed for a strong finish, but I tried to make an effort...

Georgia - State #12
Official Chip Time 2:13:50
10:12 average pace
Overall #4433 out of 8742
Women #1951 out of 4951
Division #391 out of 919

Once I made it through the finish line hoopla, I hunted down my faster friends, who were relaxing in the grass of Centennial Olympic Park. We snapped our post-race pictures and headed out for celebratory burgers. I wanted immediate beer after finishing my first DOUBLE, but had to wait for that. Darn Georgia and their Sunday alcohol laws!

These gals are "teaching" me how to Race All 50!
LJ is on her 37th (Georgia was a repeat of her #5)
Kim hit #20, and I now have 12 in the bag!

Race Recap: Centerpoint Half Marathon

Last weekend, I challenged my first "double"... running two half-marathons in two states in one weekend. Some call it crazy. LJ calls it budget-efficient. I call it FUN!  It felt like Spring Break for this mother runner.  I left the hubby, kids and most importantly, the cold Illinois weather at home.  I flew solo into Atlanta, went to the Publix Georgia race expo (for Sunday's race) and quickly hit the road for my Saturday race in Alabama... the Centerpoint Half Marathon. Unlike the minivan I've driven for a decade, my rental was a little silver bullet. I felt pretty darn cool cruising down the interstate, window rolled down, music rocking, in a tank top with the glorious Southern sun shining down on me... I was in 7th heaven and no one could wipe the smile off my face.

I arrived in Prattville, AL on Friday late afternoon and headed straight to the Centerpoint Half packet pickup. It's a fairly small event (in comparison to the Georgia Publix), so there was no expo per say, but I had a nice time chatting with the race coordinators. They were so nice and genuinely excited for me to be there. The half marathon (and 5k) is organized by the Centerpoint Fellowship Church and benefits a charity called Stella's Voice, as well as the Centerpoint International Missions.

I'm not really sure how I stumbled across this event, but sure am glad I did.  I found everything to be organized expertly, but it had a unique warmth to it that you don't find at larger races. When I arrived a half hour before start time on Saturday morning, I was one of the early birds. It was dark and slightly cool on my bare arms. I warmed up comfortably with a slow jog and some stretches... and chatted with some locals (I got to meet Amanda, who was also doing the AL-GA double!).  We lined up behind the starting line, where I fell into conversation with Kelli from North Carolina.

New friends I met in Alabama... Amanda, Kelli and Barbara!

By 7am, the sun was shining over the horizon and it was simply a perfect morning to run. The race started with a nice prayer, which I personally loved since running has become a time of prayer and reflection for me. I can't put into words what a beautiful charm this race had for me. Everyone was very gracious and supportive. There were a little over 200 runners in the half marathon, so congestion was never an issue. The start was easy and my first mile popped out at 8:55. Sweet! It felt good, but I told myself to back off. My goal was a smooth strong run, but no straining.

Mile 1 - 8:55
Mile 2 - 9:14
Mile 3 - 9:04
Mile 4 - 9:13
We entered some neighborhoods and I was quickly schooled that this wasn't the "flat" course that's elevation chart had showed me. Instead it was rolling hills that kinda reminded me of my own neighborhood. I was delighted to see some early signs of spring nature... the number of blooming dogwood trees had me smiling all morning (my whole trip in fact).

Mile 5 - 8:59
Mile 6 - 9:12
Mile 7 - 9:20
The course continued to wind through neighborhoods and we had several loop spots where we passed other runners (in front and behind). I always like those for support and banter between runners... especially in these smaller races.  The local crowd support was nice - lots of families sitting out in their front lawns to watch the "parade". I loved seeing several dads with a bunch of kids and then a "Go Mom" sign... made me miss my own cheering crew. There were water stations throughout the course - many in creative theme costumes, lots of kids and volunteer photographers.

Mile 8 - 9:20
Mile 9 - 9:22
I was starting to get tired with the low-9 pace, and my quads were starting to feel the rolling elevation. I had a little conversation with myself and started to back off. I had another race the next day... that I knew would be many more hills. So I made my first stop for water.

Mile 10 - 9:30
Mile 11 - 9:36
Mile 12 - 9:35
Mile 13 - 9:32
Right before the Mile 10 marker, I saw a brief glance of the finish area... but we turned and wound through some more neighborhoods. Eventually, we hit a little park trail, where I slowed to walk up the hill. Finally, I saw and heard the finish line area once again. I felt good coming in and pleased to complete the first of the double. As I crossed under the finish arch, I was happy with a well executed training run. And then I glanced at my watch... 2:00:05. What?! Seriously, to be so close to a sub-2 and not even know it. I was instantly upset with myself. Later, I realized I forgot to turn the auto pause off on the Garmin, so I wasn't quite as close as I thought. Still...

Alabama - State #11
Official Chip Time  2:00:41
9:13 avg pace
Division #5 out of 14 

There was a nice post-party afterward with families sprawled across the grass, listening to the live band and gobbling up a nice spread of food. I'm kinda lazy about stretching after races, but today I made a point to relax in the grass and stretch myself out real good. I was careful about what I ate and immediately began rehydrating in preparation for Georgia the next day.

Thank you Alabama! 
I had a great run in State #11 on my quest to Race All 50.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

St. Pat's Double Preview

It's race week (again). I'm heading south for a DOUBLE Half Marathon weekend (Saturday in Prattville, AL and Sunday in Atlanta, GA). I've never pulled back-to-back 13.1's before... and I should really be more nervous about it. Instead, I'm calmly putting together race outfits less than 48 hours before I leave. I'm slightly giddy at the weather forecast... warm weather!!

Instead of a long drive for this one, I have a quick flight from Peoria into Atlanta (We never get direct flights from Peoria!).  Once I arrive Friday afternoon, I'll drive across the border to snag state #11 at the Centerpoint Half Marathon.  It's a flat course, so it should be fairly easy on my legs if I can hold back the reins.  The route has lots of turns, which always help slow me down. My goal is to come in around 2:05.  I think a 9:30 pace would be a good workout for me right now, but not straining too hard.
That's a lot of turning....

Once I complete Alabama, I'll head back to Atlanta to meet up with Kim, LJ and Elizabeth for the Georgia Half Marathon (state #12).  This Half is a bit more hilly... but I'm in love with the finisher's medal already.  My goal is to finish and not die; possibly even keep up to Kim?
Baby, that's not flat...

My race outfits are complete for St. Patty's weekend. My fingers and toes are all green. And now I can finally start packing the suitcase.  If you're running either race and see me, please come say hello! I know it will be crazy in Atlanta, but you never know who you'll bump into!
Green/White on Sunday (left)
Orange/Green on Saturday (right)
A lot of people ask me HOW I make these shirts... a tutorial coming soon! 

Are you racing St. Patrick's Day weekend??  Good Luck!

Monday, March 11, 2013

#JellyBean Prize Vault Opened!

Spring is almost here, which signals the start of the 3rd annual Jelly Bean virtual race... March 20-31.  Anyone can still join the fun!  Participation is always free!  In finishing, you will be entered to win the fabulous prizes below (random drawing).  Sorry, finisher's medals are sold out for this virtual race.

Sign up for the #JellyBean HERE.  Race directions and bib will be e-mailed to you on Monday, March 18 via the #JellyBean e-newsletter.  Links will also be available here at  You can do one event or all four... 5k, 10k, Half-Marathon and/or 21k Bike.

Now let's open up the PRIZE VAULT... to see what you can WIN!  Motivation to RUN!?!? I hope so!

(in alphabetical order)
Please click on company name to visit their website.

courtesy of

4 winners of a 3-PACK OF SOCKS
courtesy of

2 winners of a $20 GIFT CARD
courtesy of

2 winners of a RAINBOW OF LOCK LACES
courtesy of

2 winners of a RUN HAPPY T-SHIRT
courtesy of

1 winner of a NUUN 4-PK + WATER BOTTLE
courtesy of

3 winners of a RACER PHOTO FRAME
courtesy of
Racer Frames

2 winners of a $25 GIFT CERTIFICATE
courtesy of

2 winners of a DRINK TUMBLER
1 winner of a RUNNER CHICK SHIRT
courtesy of

courtesy of

courtesy of
ZOOMA Women's Race Series

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Race Recap: Little Rock Marathon

The Little Rock Marathon will be hard to beat in my book. It is so refreshing to see a race event done right. All the little details add up to make this marathon truly special. I heard so much hype about Little Rock that I knew it was "the one" for Arkansas. I originally planned on the half, but once I got wind of the big bling, I quickly registered for the full 26.2.

I already wrote about the expo and opening day of races. Check it out here if you missed it. I was pretty calm on marathon morning, although indecisive on what to wear. I dressed out of my norm - heavy on top and no compression socks. (Tip: No matter the weather, always go with how you've trained. I was so unhappy with myself late in the marathon.)  

The skies were clear and sunny, but it was a chilly 30˚ at the starting line. My friend Patty and I (along with 100's of others) huddled in the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard to keep warm. We were so busy chatting away with other runners that I didn't step outside until minutes before the starting gun.

I really liked Little Rock's corral system. There were three corrals before mine: Corral A (marathon 3:20 and under), Corral B (3:20-3:45), Corral C (3:46-4:00). Get all the fasties out of the way first. The start was alive with pumping music and excitement. The race directors, DJ and Bart Yasso were overhead cheering, dancing and giving waves to the crowd. When the Open Corral was finally released, the beginning was smooth and uncongested (similar to my experience at Route 66). It was easy to find a consistent pace from the very beginning and I love races like that.

After a week of nursing my poor ankle, it felt so good to be running again. I tried to keep it "easy" by hanging with the 4:25 pace group. Like every other marathon, it feels slow in the early miles with rested legs and pumping adrenaline... I tried my best to conserve (unsuccessfully).

Mile 1 - 9:55
Mile 2 - 9:35
Mile 3 - 9:39
Mile 4 - 9:44
Shortly after mile one, I saw my hubby and then turned to head over the Broadway bridge into North Little Rock. (A fellow runner told me the course will change for 2014 since they will be building a new bridge next year.) As I came up the bridge, the elite runners were on their way back already. There were three men out front in a pack and I took a close look and tried to guess who would win.
I snapped some pix the day before the race while we drove the course.

We ran a quick 4 miles in North Little Rock - through neighborhoods, downtown, past the civic center, along the river, past the baseball stadium (home of the Double-A Arkansas Travelers) and then back over the bridge. There were big crowds as we came back into Little Rock downtown. At this point, I started to feel my sore ankle (peroneal tendon) and said a little prayer that it would stay simply an annoyance and not turn to pain. I focused more than usual on my stepping, trying to avoid any rough spots that would turn my foot awkwardly. (Eventually it just went numb and never gave me a problem.)

Mile 5- 10:01
Mile 6 - 9:55
Mile 7 - 9:55
Mile 8 - 10:01
Just before mile 6, a guy keeled over right in front of me. It looked like he was having a seizure and went down face first with a huge plunk. A fellow runner rolled him over and it was frightening as he had white foam coming out his mouth. I waited until I saw medics on the way and continued forward... Yikes! I sure hope he is ok?!

The course cut out of downtown into some residential areas now. I started to notice the little elevation changes, but at this point, powered up them easily.
Shortly after mile 8... a slow gradual climb
Mile 9 - 10:00
Mile 10 - 10:08
Mile 11 - 10:08
Mile 12 - 10:01
I was pretty pleased with how consistent I was keeping my pace. My goal was to hold it under 10:20 min/mile for a nice training run. I was obviously going faster than planned, but it was hard to slow my fresh legs down. Eventually, my mind just adjusted and said, "run whatever is comfortable". I really wasn't in the mood to look at my watch... so I didn't... for the rest of the race.

I liked the stretch where we ran towards the Capitol building (we did this twice actually - once during mile 8 and again in mile 12).
photo from previous day
At the end of mile 9, we passed by the beautiful Governor's Mansion. I made a quick stop to shake Governor Mike Beebe's hand, who stood at the open gates.
Arkansas Governor's Mansion (stock photo)
Throughout the race, we passed a lot of churches. (Welcome to the Bible Belt)  Many of them had support tables (water, candy, fruit, kleenex!) and big cheering sections. Shortly before mile 12, I stopped at one for an orange. The young gal misread my shirt Run with Jess for Run with Jesus. The whole group started chanting, "Run With Jesus" before I knew what was going on (huh?! puzzled runner brain). I trotted away without the heart to correct them... I mean really, who is Jess compared to Jesus? It became the standing joke the rest of our trip.

Mile 13 - 10:11
Mile 14 - 10:51
Mile 15 - 11:30
Mile 16 - 10:34
By mile 13, we split from the half marathoners and headed back towards the Capitol again. This time, we ran right up to it (literally UP as in elevation). It was a nice view of the grandiose building. This is when the hills kicked in... really, I should say hill. singular. It was one giant climb for three straight miles from 13 to 16.  I pushed upward with each step, stopping just once for water. The area was really pretty and I tried to enjoy the quiet neighborhoods, but all I could think of was stripping off my UA turtleneck underneath. The sun was warming up now and I was getting hot. This long hill wasn't helping matters either.

Mile 17 - 10:15
Mile 18 - 10:22
Mile 19 - 10:25
Mile 20 - 10:45
Finally we hit the top, but I knew from studying the elevation chart that it was a short quick drop. The fast downhill made my quads scream more than the uphill. I can't remember my quads hurting this bad in a race before. I felt really deflated... especially since I've been doing more hill-training lately.

the only picture I stopped to take during the race...
My favorite part of the race was the short time we ran down North Lookout (photo above), making our way back to river elevation. There were lots of trees and it was a serene area. During this time, I ran a good mile next to an assisted runner... not sure if she was blind or deaf, but I was intrigued watching the guide direct her (by a hand on her lower back). It was inspiring to say the least. Suddenly, my achy quads didn't seem so tragic...

I felt a little refreshed and anxious to hit the straightaway that was the end. At mile 18, we turned left for an out/back along the Riverfront drive. At this point, I started to catch up with the walkers. (There was a 2-hour early start for those who would need 6-8 hrs to finish).  Mentally, it was really tough to keep myself strong when there were suddenly so many people walking around me. In fact, it drove me mentally crazy (especially when they were walking 3-4 wide and I had to take extra steps to get around them. Grrr, my pet peeve.)  The 2.5 miles to the turnaround felt like forever. In fact, when I reached the big "Mile 20" archway, my thought was "I'm only at 20?"

Mile 21 - 11:02
Mile 22 - 10:42
Mile 23 - 11:27
Mile 24 - 11:39
I started stopping for water frequently after 20 - like every single mile. It was more an excuse to walk rather than a thirst issue. I was just so tired and warm. (It grew to 52˚ by the time I finished.)  I had to laugh at the large WALL banner at mile 21. I didn't even have the energy to walk off the course and take a photo like so many were doing. I trudged onward, but it felt like my feet were dragging on the ground.

Now I'm usually pretty good with mental talking to myself, but not today. I tried to remind myself that this was just a training run and time wasn't the point. Who cares if I walk? And yet, my lack of strength in these final miles continued to grind at me. I flipped on my music for the first time and tried to numb the brain.

Mile 25 - 11:57
Mile 26 - 11:22
Coming off the trail, we immediately hit a hill that felt like a mountain at this point. The reward for getting over it was that I saw my hubby at the bottom. When he asked if I needed anything, all I could respond was "for this to be over." There was a couple more inclines in the final miles. I picked a spot halfway up, ran to it and then walked the rest of the hill. It's all I had in me at that point. By time I hit the mile 25 sign, I was determined to just get it done. The final mile is honestly a blur.  My eyes and mind were focused solely on finding the finish line.

I missed the 'Lip Stick Stop' completely, although I do remember seeing lipstick laying on the road. I heard later that it was used up before a lot of marathoners came in. That's the only bummer with running the full 26.2... many times (at any race), activities/food/etc are done before the average marathoner comes in. When my hubby went to get a chocolate milk, they were out. The guy laughed and said, "Next time, run faster."  I wish I could.

I wasn't smiling during the finish...

But once I had that gorgeous plate-sized BLING, I was the happiest gal around!
So quickly the pain stops once I'm done!
Top left in the picture...
That's Bart Yasso in the crazy lobster shirt cheering every runner in.
This is now the 2nd marathon that he has been at my finish line. Cool, huh?!

I immediately found my hubby waiting with a big hug and my flip flops. We found a spot along the finish line and watched for my friend Patty to finish. Afterward, all we wanted to do was lay in the grass... and snuggle with bling as big as our heads.

Marathon #4   |  State #10
Official Chip Time  4:36:51
10:34 avg pace
Overall #987 out of 2447
Females #317 out of 1151
Division #60 out of 179

The race was over, but the event was not. Typically, I shower and head out for home, but I heard rumors that the Little Rock post-party was worth an extra night of hotel. And boy, was it!!  We had so much FUN on wobbly legs!

I loved how Little Rock took the "Lucky" western theme to the max... cute displays and costumes everywhere we went. The post party was held at the Statehouse Convention Center in one of the big ballrooms from 4-8pm that evening. We got there right on time (because I was ravishing hungry!). Our ticket into the party was included in our race registration - but you did need to RSVP.  There was a huge buffet of food - pork sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken and all the fixin's. The bar was also hosted - free drinks all around. Our table took full advantage of the *free beer* until the kegs spit.

The ballroom filled quickly and the DJ kept the dance floor grooving, and then the band Salty Dogs took over. I couldn't believe how many people were dancing. I wanted to... but had to settle for "chair dancing". My legs just didn't have it in them to bust a move. We stayed the entire party. There was even a complimentary photo booth that we had fun with...
Sine we were now operating on beer brain, we continued down the street to Big Whiskey's bar and met a bunch of runners who were there celebrating. The entire evening was so much fun. We had an absolute blast in Little Rock... definitely a race to remember.  I can't imagine a better pick for Arkansas!