Thursday, March 6, 2014

Little Rock Marathon Stats (LR...2, Me...ZERO!!!)

On my way to Corral A, right before the rain started at Little Rock
2014 Little Rock Marathon
Personal Stats & Analysis
March 2, 2014
Little Rock, Arkansas

Official Time: 3:34:59
Official Pace: 8:13
Finish: 179th/1,1749 Overall,  10th/130 in 45-49AG
Weight: 182
Calories Burned: 3,716
Pre-Race Health: Good, no issues
Post-Race Health: No issues, standard stiffness
Course: First half fairly flat, second half a little hilly
Elevation Gain: 808 ft
Elevation Loss: 843 ft
Total Distance Ran: 26.64 miles
Start Temp: 48 degrees
Finish Temp: 38 degrees
Conditions: Light rain all race, poured last 4 miles
Wind: 11mph NNE at start, increased to 20mph N
Humidity: 93%

Not a disaster race by any means, but definitely not one of my better efforts.  Started race cold without warming up, and just never really got loose.  All day my legs felt really heavy and lifeless, and while I held my targeted pace for most of the race, it just never felt smooth.  For some reason I ended up running 26.64 miles total.  THIS additional mileage, probably more than anything else, got in my head and affected my race.  The weather really deteriorated after mile 20, and once I realized at mile 22 that I couldn't BQ, I completely shut it down and began to jog.  I was a little faster than my first time at this race five years ago, but at the end of the day Little Rock got the best of me again ... LR - 2, Me - 0!

As usual, I set three different goals for myself at the Little Rock Marathon.  Goal #1 ... finish.  Check!  Goal #2 ... beat my Little Rock time from 2009, which was my first marathon.  Check!  Goal #3 ... qualify for the Boston Marathon for the third straight race.  Nope!  I needed a 3:25, and finished with a 3:35.  I really wasn't as far off as the time indicates, I was on pace until about mile 22.5.  And if I wouldn't have slowed to "jog mode" once I realized my goal was out of reach, I would have probably been at 3:26 or 3:27.

Admittedly, this training cycle didn't go very well at all.  I gained too much weight over the holidays - about 12 pounds at my  highest point.  Plus, the brutal winter of 2013-14 forced me inside for many of my runs.   I can still get a workout indoors, but it's just not the same as outside on the roads.

But I can't blame my training all on the weather.  I also seemed to lack quite a bit of motivation for this race on most days.  My goal was to BQ, but honestly, I wasn't "driven" by it.  Mostly, I think I just took the race a little too lightly.  And I was probably a little over-confident.  I thought that because I ran a 3:10 in November, I could just show up and put a Boston Qualifying time on the board without any problem.  But newsflash dumb-dumb ... you're not THAT good of a runner! (me talking to me)

As far as my diet goes, it was far from where it needed to be as well.  I would have stretches where I ate fairly healthy, but resorted junk food and snacks a lot more than I should have.  It was eating a lot of the things I shouldn't have, trying to use them as training fuel.  But the only result was too much extra weight.

When it came to training runs, I got all of the in, but few of them were at the speeds they needed to be.  Don't get wrong, I ran at my marathon pace on the treadmill most mornings, but for me the treadmill just doesn't really simulate the actual road very well.  Plus, I really needed to get in a lot more hill training at marathon pace ... and THAT, I will blame on the weather.  For most of my training runs, the hills I typically train on were cover with snow too deep to navigate.

And finally, my core and leg strength were a little diminished as well.  I typically do a core workout five days per week, but that sometimes slipped to 2-3 because of an increased travel schedule and laziness.  And my leg strengthening workouts were sporadic at best.

It definitely wasn't the worst shape I've been in for a marathon, but I absolutely was not where I need to be to run a strong race.  The weather was a factor, but there way more things in my control that I didn't take care of for this run.  But I think missing my BQ time finally lit a fire under me, and snapped me back into the training regimen I need to compete a little better in my next race.

Marathon breakfast
I didn't necessarily have a "hit the wall" moment in this race, but during mile 25, I definitely felt like I could throw up, which is typically indicative of a nutrition issue.  In spite of being a little overweight, and not eating great in the weeks leading up to the race, I managed the actual week before the run fairly well when it came to eating.  The day before, I had my typical chicken, spinach, a ton of steel cut oats, and about 3 bananas.

The morning of a race, I typically try to eat light.  Admittedly, for this one, I should have probably eaten a little more than I did, because I felt a little empty toward the end.  But the main point of a light breakfast is taking care of the fueling the day before, and not feeling bogged down with a heavy stomach at the finish line.

If I drink anything marathon morning, it's typically coconut water, for the added electrolytes.  I'll eat some steel cut oats, a couple of bananas, an energy bar - for this race that was a Kind bar, and then down three Beet It beet juice concentrated shots.  Looking back, I probably should have eaten a few more rolled oats, and maybe something with a little more sugar in it.

Even though the weather was an issue, the Little Rock volunteers were absolutely GREAT about handing out orange slices and bananas.  I always love it when I race does that.  And when I see a piece of electrolyte-high fruit on the course, I'm all about it.  I think I took about 4 or 5 orange slices, and a couple of half bananas during the race.  Also, I took a salt capsule at mile 12, and Roctane gels with caffeine at miles 7, 15, and 24.  I also took mostly water at every stop, but mixed in about three Gatorade stops during the race.

On my way to the starting line ... see ya soon!
The Weather
The weather was definitely an issue.  If you have wind, rain, or cool temps during a race, it's usually no big deal ... in fact, with the exception of the wind, sometimes it's preferred.  But the combination of all three is a HUGE game changer.  It wasn't bad when the race started, with temps in the low 50's.  I actually considered wearing only a sleeveless shirt and shorts ... which a lot of runners did.  But many of them were literally shivering later in the race, and all of their exposed skin was bright red from the 20 mph winds icing over their rain saturated skin.

For the first hour of the race, things weren't too bad.  There were rain drops dripping off of my hat, and occasionally we would get a strong wind burst, but overall it was manageable.  But since temperatures were dropping rapidly, and wind and rain were steadily increasing from the Northeast ... running either North or East were becoming a huge problem.  So when we were getting tired, and really needing to focus on pace in the late stages of the run ... the weather conditions were stealing most of your focus.  I'm telling you, we would literally come around a building that had been blocking the wind, and all of the sudden you would get a huge 20 mph blast of "feels like" 25 degree air all over your drenched clothes and skin.  That made the last couple hours of the race pretty tough.

My One Good Deed
From time to time I'm actually a nice guy.  Plus, since I have a beautiful 23 year old daughter who is the light of my life, I have a soft spot for girls her age.  I just always see Madi in them.  Well for most of the race, I had been jockeying back and forth for position with a young lady who looked about my daughter's age.  You know how it goes in a race sometimes ... it wasn't intentional, but for some reason we kept leap frogging each other's pace.  Well, at about mile 13 or so, she passed me and it was really starting to get wet and chilly.  A lot of runners had gloves, like me, but I noticed that she was wearing only arm warmers.  As she passed, she looked like she was freezing.  Plus she kept wringing her hands and blowing into them.

No idea who this young lady is ... hope the gloves helped her run a good race!
I had actually brought a second pair of gloves which I had tucked into the side of my shorts.  When I saw her, for some reason I felt really bad for her.  I mean, it was her fault that she didn't have gloves ... but I felt like I should offer her my second pair.  I said, "Do you want some gloves?"  And she replied, "No thanks."  So I said, "Are you sure, you look like you're freezing and I've got a second pair!"  When I told her about the second pair she perked up and said, "Well, if you're sure!"  I then gave her the gloves and she said, "Thanks, I thought I was hardcore!"  I just laughed and wished her good luck.  She then ran on ahead and I didn't see her after that.

But sometimes I'll filter through different runner's photos after a race, for no apparent reason other than to check out running form, get running outfit ideas (it's the fashionista in me), and kinda relive the race in my head.   And that's when I ran across the girl's photos. I have no idea what her name is (technically I guess I could look it up, but that would be a little too creepy).  I laughed when I saw that in some of her pics she had no gloves, but later in the race, her hands were nice and toasty ... awe, thanks Uncle Jimmy ... ha!   Actually, I would've wanted someone to do the same for my daughter or wife ... plus I did have two pairs.  Although later in the race it would have been nice to thrown on a dry pair.

The Race
As far as my actual race, like I said, I really just never really fell into a rhythm.  I didn't necessarily feel like I was struggling - in fact for a large portion of the race I felt like I could have gone much faster if necessary.  But nothing felt fluent, and my legs seemed really heavy and dead all day.  I felt like I was well rested, but I had the feeling you get when you're a little fatigued from training.  I'm sure the cold air on my legs didn't help with not warming up, but overall, they just felt lifeless.

Miles 1-5
The early miles of the Little Rock Marathon are maybe my least favorite.  The course takes you across the Arkansas River into North Little Rock, where you make a loop, and then head back to the bridge to resume running in Little Rock proper.  Running across a bridge in the second mile of a race is not optimal.  Plus, with the wind coming out of the North on our first bridge-pass, the conditions were noticeable right out of the gate.  My pace was fine at this point ... maybe a little faster than I wanted ... but nothing game-changing.  Plus I stopped to pee at Mile 3 and didn't really worry too much about trying to make up time.  As far as I can remember, there was only one water stop in the first 5 miles, but I could be wrong about that.  I just remember thinking at the time, I was getting a little thirsty already ... as I typically try to drink early and often.

Oops, sorry about your "do not copy" policy ... actually I didn't "copy" it
Miles 6-10
The next five mile stretch is probably the easiest in the race.  It's flat, through downtown, and you run by several historic landmarks.  Plus, on Sunday, the crowds were definitely at their largest in the downtown area.  So many of the folk who came out to support were real troopers.  In fact, I talked to a guy at an architectural presentation on Thursday, who's girlfriend had ran the marathon.  He said he followed her throughout the race all over the course, but was absolutely freezing by the end.  Guys like this, and all the supporters who stood there in the cold, made it so much easier to put your body through a real test like this race.

We lost the half-marathoners at some point during this stretch, and I also opted for my headphones during mile 7.  I wasn't feeling too bad during this stretch.  However I tried to keep a serious eye on the pace for the hills that were coming during the next stretch.

Miles 11-18 ... The Hills
I'm sure Little Rock isn't the toughest course I've ever ran, but anyone who's ran it knows that the first half is a piece of cake compared to the seven mile stretch at the mid-way point in the race.  Overall, there's only about 800ft of incline, but most of that is condensed into a few miles.   Plus, it gradually gets tougher as you go.  There's a few rolling ups-and-downs that seem to take their toll on your energy and stamina, and then the tough part starts from miles 13.5 to 10 with a long, winding uphill along Kavanaugh Blvd.  This is the part of the race that really drained my legs back in 2009, so I made sure to take it easy this time and not "kill it" on the inclines.

I intentionally slowed my pace a little through this stretch, but noticed that it had a big effect on my overall pace for the race.  I just kept drifting closer and closer to my 7:48 overall pace I wanted to run for the day.  I saw quite a few walkers during this section, but I never really felt like I was anywhere close to that fate at this point.  Plus, I felt pretty good and actually thought about pushing it a little, but really throttled back.  When I hit the steep downhill slide at mile 17, I was relieved that the worst of the inclines were behind me.  But the steep decline of mile 17 is a lower quad crusher as you try to brake yourself as gravity attempts to pull you faster and faster.  Not surprisingly, mile 17 was my fastest of the day.

Added Mileage
For some reason on Sunday, I really accumulated a ton of extra mileage.  Everytime I looked at my Garmin as I passed a mile marker, I had added another tenth of mile or so.  This really bothered me.  I started doing some in-race math and figured I was going to end up running about 25.5 miles ... it actually ended up being 26.64.  This meant if I wanted to meet my time goal, I would have to run an extra half mile at the end of the marathon while the clock just kept ticking.  And I wasn't sure I could make my goal with 26.2, let alone an extra .5 miles.

This whole adding mileage thing during a marathon is really starting to bother me.  I can't believe that I'm so bad of a runner that I wander off course an extra half mile during the race.  An extra tenth or .15, sure.  But a freakin' half mile???  It's an absolute goal crusher.  I will honestly tell you that if I didn't have the extra mileage on Sunday, I would have pushed through those extra mile, and I would've been really close to my goal time.  But when I'm walking that "pace-line" as it is, it make it tough add any extra steps and still break the tape in the desired clock total.  I don't know.  It's something I'm gonna have to figure out.

Miles 18-22
The stretch from miles 18-22 is my second  least favorite of the Little Rock Marathon.  It's a long out and back, when you're basically getting to the point where you're ready to be done.  I don't really care for out and backs in a marathon for starters.  I feel it's a simple lack of creativity, and sometimes planning, on the race director's part.  But I especially turn my nose up at them late in a race like this.

At mile 21, my race pace showed that I had slipped to 7:49, so I need to pick it up.  But I again started doing the math, and I figured that due to the added half mile, I would have to run a 6:40 pace the rest of the race to make my goal.  I knew that on Sunday I just didn't have that kind of burst left ... so I basically threw in the towel on a BQ at Little Rock and began to jog the rest of the way.  I was pretty bummed, but mostly I was just wet and freezing and wanted to be done.  Of course I never considered stopping, I just didn't see the point in busting my butt to come in two minutes behind my goal time.  The point was, I wasn't going to BQ, and it really didn't matter to me by how much.

Miles 23-Finish Line
The last 3.5 miles were a little bit of a struggle.  Once I've effectively called it quits in a marathon, I'm simply ready to get my medal and get home.  The weather was really picking up now and I could feel occasional pellets of sleet hit the bill of my dripping cap.  I get this weird cramp under my chin when I get dehydrated and it really started cramping, bad.  If it happens when I'm running hard, it almost makes me stop.  IT HURTS!  And I notice it the worst when I get dehydrated on a cold run.  I literally spent the last couple of miles at the race massaging the bottom of my chin trying get the cramping to go away.  Believe me, I was more than ready for the finish line.

I came in at 3:34:59, which isn't a horrible time for me.  In fact, in those conditions, even after phoning in the last few miles, it was good enough for 10th out of 130 in my age group, but I'd be less than honest if I told you I WASN'T pissed about it at the time

Since the race, I've pretty much gotten over it.  It just ended up being a bad race, but at least I beat my previous Little Rock time of 3:43 back in 2009.  I've outlined the problems with the race in my marathon review, and seriously doubt that I'll run the race for a good long time.  But overall, I'm really glad I made the trip, and it gave me a very solid idea of what I need to work on for the next race.
... be great today!


  1. Jim, May I inquire if you target a certain amount of carbs the day before a marathon? Doesn't seem like you're too worried about carb loading.

    1. Hey Randall, thanks for the question - I actually consume quite a few carbs the day before, but they're gluten free carbs such as steel cut oats, bananas, and sometimes quinoa and rice. I'm not a true "gluten free" eater, but it's just been my experience that the pasta dinners and wheat-based carbs like bread and crackers really sit heavy on my stomach for the race. I used to eat a ton of pasta, and even pizza (mostly for the wheat crust) before most races, but standing at the starting line, I always felt bloated with food up to my gils, and really didn't feel like running. Changing to more natural carbs that were also low on the Glycemic Index helped prevent blood sugar spikes, and honestly I really haven't had the crashes late in races when I've fuel with them. I'm not an expert in the nutrition thing, but from what I've studied and learned, this approach really seems to work best for me.

    2. Thanks for your insight...I've got to try something different, I've been eating so many Carbs 12-36 hours prior (1500-1800 grams, no joke) I feel like I'm 6 months pregnant with twins, which is weird because I'm a guy. I most definitely don't crash though. I drink a decent amount of those carbs, so it's not quite as impossible as it sounds.

  2. Thanks for all the effort you put into giving so much detail about the races you do. I find it very interesting and also enjoy the view into how it happens in other countries.

  3. No problem Johann, but it's really just because I'm a nerd and enjoy the research of it all

  4. Couple of thoughts about your extra distance - one is that it could be the bad weather messing with your Garmin reading. Mine always measures long in the rain. And the other is that you could have been dodging puddles. Extra steps add up!
    That was nice of you to share your gloves! If there is one thing that will ruin a run for me, it's freezing fingers. Once my hands get cold, I just don't warm back up. So that was kind of you. Probably saved that girl a lot of misery. I always bring disposable latex gloves with me to race starts and pitch them when I warm up.
    Question - Didn't you used to do carb depletion/carb loading? Or tried it once? I think I remember that you mentioned that. How did that go? All the big distance people in my running groups swear by it, but I've been too preoccupied the week before races to try it.

    1. Grace, I usually really cut back on carbs, and food in general until two days before a race. If a race is on Sunday, I'll eat as much as possible on Friday, with heavy carbs - but lately no carbs from wheat if possible. Then on Saturday, I'll consume a lot too, but not as much as Friday. Its worked fairly well, I think the carb depletion early in the week is more mental than anything. It helps me feel like I'm not gaining a bunch of extra weight during taper. Honestly, I'm not as up on the science of it as I should be, but it's been pretty effective for me so far.

  5. So nice you gave your gloves to that young girl. Great job on the race - even though you don't feel it was one of your best - it's still impressive!


Thanks for stopping by ... your comment's always welcome!