The forecast for the race was looking pretty bad...it had been on our minds for days leading up to the race. Cool temps, wind and rain - never ideal race conditions. As the race got closer and closer Jim and I monitored the weather like it was our job. It changed multiple times, but one thing remained constant - we were going to get wet and it was going to be cold. We hoped for the best, but were planning for the worst. In really cold weather you can bundle up and stay pretty warm, when it's raining and you are soaked through, no amount of layers can keep your warm. But more on that later....let's start at the beginning.
Jim and I both did the Little Rock Half marathon in 2012 and stayed at the Peabody hotel - the "host" hotel for the event. We had such a terrible experience there we vowed we would NEVER stay there again. When we decided to do Little Rock again this year I was pleased to see that the Peabody wasn't even on their hotel list, and that they had selected a new "host" hotel for the event - the Marriott. I usually like the Marriott and it was a good rate so we jumped on it.
Imagine our surprise when we rolled into town and got to the hotel, which seemed so familiar....wait - was this the Peabody???? Why yes it was...it had been bought out by the Marriott....but upon check in - clearly nothing had changed. We were handed a letter at check-in - that stated "due to our hotels sold out status on Sunday we are not allowing ANY late checkouts Sunday. You may store your luggage and take a shower in our fitness center if necessary. If you are in your room past noon we will charge you the regular rate of $164 plus tax." Because everyone wants to get up on race morning, pack all their things, then come back dead tired and stand in line to shower. With a race start time of 8 am (and for some up to 9am) this is almost impossible if you are doing the marathon. Even if you are doing the half it is still difficult - I got back to the room about 10 minutes to noon. This was the exact problem we had at the Peabody two years ago - and apparently from some comments I received after complaining about it on FB - was also the situation last year. I totally understand that no hotel can guarantee late check out for every guest, and that it is never something that is guaranteed...but when you are the host hotel...there is an expectation that you will be flexible - especially with a marathon in town. Their no exceptions rule was just ridiculous! They couldn't possibly have housekeeping staff posted at each door at noon...so guess what I bet you could accommodate some late checkouts with proper planning and a desire for customer service. So the weekend was not starting off on a positive note.
On Saturday, Jim and I didn't have anything on the agenda except packet pickup. We got up fairly early and had breakfast, then hit the expo. The expo at this race is really pretty nice. It is a pretty typical expo, with the typical vendors but with a race of about 8000 total participants it's actually pretty big. With the race theme of super heros this year they had lots of fun blow ups like Spiderman and Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles. Just the kind of thing Jim and I live for lol.
After packet pickup we wandered around the river area of Little Rock. The weather was overcast and gray but just about perfect. It was about 55 degrees and light winds. The 5K and Kids race were going on Saturday morning and I thought, man they have perfect racing weather - if ONLY our race were today. In 24 hours the weather would deteriorate quickly!
Around noon we made the mistake of having lunch at The Flying Saucer - which is actually a chain we have in downtown KC too, but we'd only eaten there once. In an attempt to eat "healthy" we both ordered the chicken salad. Ordering a salad at a bar is generally never a good idea and it certainly wasn't this time. It was literally all we could do to eat it. The lettuce mix itself was actually pretty good but whatever came on it that they were calling "chicken" was....not chicken. It was some kind of processed, pressed chicken meat and the more and more we ate, the more and more we had trouble eating it. When you don't eat a lot of processed foods anymore and you get fake food...it can be pretty hard to choke down.
|Jim & I messing with balloons...|
We finally made our way back to the room and began looking at the weather again and trying to decided what on earth we were going to wear.
RACE START OH THE WEATHER & RIDICULOUS WAVE START
Race morning finally arrived. We checked the weather once more...yep still gonna be cold and rainy. The weather was projected to be about 50 degrees at race start with light rains. Honestly this isn't horrible, but by 11 am it was supposed to be in the low 40s with 20 mph winds, with increasing rain. The "feels" like temps were projected to be in the 30s by the end of the race and when you are wet, and you have wind blowing in your face....that is going to be cold! No way around it.
|Pre-race dry and warm|
|Jim and I pre-race...coat already wet with rain|
At 8:30 I was finally off and running. It felt good to be moving. My body was so cold and I just wanted to warm up. In spite of the cold weather and delayed start the race day excitement takes over and I of course find myself running way to fast and finishing my first two miles in the 10s (too fast for me and my current training). Finally at mile 3 I settled in to a more comfortable pace of around 11:30. After a few miles, I'm warmed up. I feel like I am appropriately dressed and I'm having fun. I'm not too hot, not too cold and I feel pretty good. I am actually surprised by the amount of spectators and volunteers on such a crummy day. I totally expected the volunteer tables to be half staffed, but they weren't. Those volunteers were out there encouraging us and doing their thing! They were AMAZING!!! I made an extra effort to thank them as I went through every aid station that day.
The first five or six miles flew by and I felt pretty good. At about mile six though, you could definitely feel the weather changing. The winds were picking up and the temps were dropping. I was also getting tired and fatigued. I wasn't sure what to expect with my new diet and basically having no pre-race carbs...and I was starting to "feel" the race (I will do another blog about my diet pre-race and how I felt during the race). My muscles were aching - I think begging for carbs, but I don't know...it could have been the weather, lack of outdoor training, or a number of things, but I was definitely "feeling" the race.
I kept trudging along, but my paces kept dropping. By mile 9, I was really getting cold and tired and started counting down the miles. The temps were dropping fast, and it seemed like no matter what direction you turned you were heading straight into the wind. At mile 11 we break off from the marathoners and I can't tell you how happy I was to be going right instead of left. I was so happy to know that I would only have to endure this for about another 25 minutes and not another 2.5 hours.
I had intentionally ran the entire race without gloves. I had a pair stashed in my coat in a plastic bag. I knew my hands would get cold, and I thought a nice warm, dry pair of gloves would feel magical. Wet gloves in the late stages of the race would be pointless. My hands were completely numb, so I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out those gloves...ahhhh.....what relief....for at least 10 minutes I felt warm again. LOL.
I was really freezing and literally couldn't feel my legs anymore. I could tell it was getting colder because as I ran by people their hats and gloves were frosted. I passed one guy and asked "hey, can you look and tell me if my legs are still here? I can't seem to feel them anymore". He laughed and just said, "well you still appear to be moving forward so I think you are ok".
At mile 11 I decided I didn't care how bad my legs were aching, I wanted to be done. So I picked my pace up and finished those last miles strong...well at least back into the 11s again...miles 9-11 had been in the 12s. My legs ached like never before in a race but I tried to push out the pain and coldness and just get done. I finally see the finish line in sight! I run to the finish and smile, so glad to be done! My Garmin read 13.38 miles, over as usual. My Garmin pace had been 11:37 which I was pretty happy with, but my official pace would be 11:51. I finished in 2:35 - not my best or worst time. As a matter of fact, I did 10 half marathons in 2013 and only broke 2:35 in 3 races. So all in all considering the conditions, my diet, and my lack of training outside due to weather, I was very much ok with my time.
|A very large medal for a half marathon!|
I managed to beat Jim back to the room and the second I sat down for a second I just started shivering uncontrollably. I was so cold and wet. I began stripping my clothes and turning the shower on to its hottest setting (which wasn't particularly hot). A shower has never felt so good!!! When Jim didn't show up shortly behind me, I figured he must not have had a great race. I knew he wouldn't be happy....it's bad enough to face the elements, but worse when your race doesn't go as planned. But it was certainly not a PR or even good race kind of day. As a matter of fact, I had heard the same person who won the marathon in 2013 also won in 2014...so I was curious about the time difference. He won race in 2013 with a 2:19 - in 2014 a 2:25. That's 6 minutes for an elite runner!! That is huge. I think that tells the story right there. It was tough racing conditions for everyone.
Jim and I got our things together and got out of town as quickly as possible, trying to beat both the hotel checkout time and the weather. Temps were continuing to drop and an ice storm was rolling in. We knew we had snow/sleet and ice in Kansas City and pretty much all along our path home. We began our drive out of Little Rock in pouring rain. We were thinking - oh those poor people still on the course. About that time, I was checking FB and started seeing lots of comments about the event being canceled. People were livid about the wave start and how it had probably cost them a finish. Apparently there was a ton of confusion about the even been canceled vs "re-routed"...which means they cut off several miles of the course and bused people to the finish. But volunteers were shown with signs that clearly said "Event Canceled" and from all the comments from the 500 or so people that it affected it sounds like volunteers and police clearly thought the event was canceled. The Little Rock race officials are claiming it was simply a miscommunication and that it was just re-routed....either way, many people did not get to run 26.2 miles that day whether they received a finishers medal or not. And to hear some of the stories from the participants were awful. To be pulled off the course at mile 18 - told to walk/run about 3 miles to a Wal-Mart and wait up to an hour and a half soaked and cold for a bus. If they had a plan, it wasn't well executed or communicated.
|Hmmm...so the event is not cancelled???|
So here's my take on the Little Rock marathon. It is a fun event. They are known for the huge marathon medal, and very large half marathon medal. It has usually seemed well organized, except for the hotel issue, but this year was a mess. Yes, I know there is absolutely nothing they can do about the weather. But communication and a better contingency plan are key. The weather wasn't a surprise and was expected all week. It was supposed to only get worse and worse through out the day. If they were going to go ahead and try to have the event, they should have moved people across that start line as soon as possible. Would some people still not have been able to finish - yes, probably so, but far more would have. Neither Jim or I were affected by the cancelation, but as runners we can feel their pain. I know it would be very difficult to be in the Race Directors shoes, and I don't envy them at all. They did what they had to do for the safety of the participants and I get that and I respect that. But, have a better plan. Communicate that plan better and eliminate a wave start when you know the weather sucks. And then DON'T get hung up on semantics like "the race was never canceled"....well maybe you didn't tear down the finish line and evacuate...but the event was canceled early...let's call a spade a spade. Just own up to the situation.
In the end, Little Rock is a great city. Jim and I still had a good time in spite of everything, but we certainly won't be doing this event again any time soon. I hope they regroup after this and get some things figured out.
Lastly, I can't believe how SORE I am after this race. I didn't run it fast but I am so SORE. Still 2 days later and I feel close to how I do after a full marathon. Not sure if it was the tenseness due to the weather, the long tense drive home, the diet or a combination of things...but man that one hurt!