Saturday, April 5, 2014

Race Report: The Hogeye Marathon 2014

Hometown races: you can't beat 'em. No travel, no sleeping in a hotel bed, no taking a chance on restaurant food, no navigation of unfamiliar city streets at 4:30am on race day. Packet pick up can be accomplished as part of Saturday's errands, you run into friends at the expo without prior planning, and even get to meet an NFL Tight End because he's home during the off-season, helping coach at a Razorback football clinic.

The Hogeye Marathon is the oldest marathon in Arkansas, and has quite a history. Its course has changed over the years, no longer going to the town of Hogeye and back (and if you think Hogeye is an unusual name for a town, then you need to do a little more research, because there are some awesomely crazy town names in Arkansas). It is run fully inside the city limits of Fayetteville, mostly on our amazing trail system.

Before we get to that, though... the start line. Race day weather was perfect, which after Louisiana I couldn't believe I'd get lucky enough to have two races in a row with beautiful weather. The 36 degree temperature let me enjoy the start line just waiting, hanging out with friends and making some new ones, too. In my first race for Gold, it was fun to see a few other Maniacs ready to take on the Hogeye!
The only pre-race mishap I made was not starting my Garmin early enough. I figured it wouldn't have a problem finding the satellites - downtown Fayetteville isn't exactly crowded with concrete and glass skyscrapers - but I figured wrong, and when the gun went off, my Garmin wasn't ready. Everybody knows that if a run isn't on the Garmin, then it doesn't count. I couldn't start the race without my Garmin!! PANIC!!!! The crowd began moving forward, and though it wasn't a very big crowd (the entire race, marathoners, half-marathoners and relayers together, was about 1,700 strong), I kept slipping back in the pack while I waited for my watch. FINALLY it synced with the satellites, I began moving forward, and hit start as I crossed the start line. Crisis averted!

I mentioned that the race is largely run along the Fayetteville trail system,  which I run almost every single time I go out for a run, four or five times a week. You'd think I'd remember just exactly how H-I-L-L-Y that dang course is. I mean, we're in the foothills of the Ozarks, and just north of the Boston Mountains. I run up and down hills on just about every run I do because there's no avoiding them. The thing is, most of my runs typically go just six to eight miles, so while there might be a wicked hill in there, you get it done, and the rest is a bit of up and down, total elevation gains in the 100-200ft range for a typical run. When you're running 26.2 miles, though, you encounter a lot more than just one wicked hill. This particular race course puts the most challenging hills at the beginning.
And that's where my story of "Oops, I did it again" begins... with the first hills.

Knowing that I have a tendency to go out too fast, I made it a goal these past two months to work really, really hard on negative splitting my long runs. Start my Saturday morning runs with a pace of 9:00 per mile or slower, and then gradually get faster over the course of the run to finish with an average pace of somewhere between 8:45 and 9:00 per mile for the entire run. The theory was to create a habit so that, come race day, I would have the discipline and experience to hold back when the adrenaline of the start line kicks in. I did pretty well, keeping my weekend long runs close to goal pace, and negative splitting most of them.

Unfortunately, theory disproven. Not only was I hopped up on race-day adrenaline, I was far enough back that there was a bit of a crush, and I began weaving and dodging in an effort to get closer to the front where there was more elbow room. That also meant that I picked up the pace intentionally (doh!!) to pass this runner, then that runner, then this pack of side-by-side runners taking up the whole road. I share my wacky splits from the first eight miles as evidence:
It's pretty difficult to negative split a course when you start out with an 8:20. *sigh* At least I was conscious of my mistake this time, rather than thinking this was the easiest-race-ever and I-can-run-this-way-for-hours. I knew I was going to pay for it, and pay for it I did. But at least I got to see my husband, kids, and friends along the way. Hometown race, how I love thee...
Quite a bit of walking in the back half, and there is no doubt - I couldn't have done it without the help of my friends Hollan and Sarah along the way. Hollan ran with me from about mile 16 to 25, and if she hadn't been with me, there is no way I would've run as much as I did. The overly fast start wasn't just hard on my aerobic capacity later in the race; those wicked downhills did ten times more damage than the punishing uphills, and my quads were absolutely shredded by the back half of the race. I had pain in my right quad; pain in my left hamstring; pain on the bottom of my left foot. It's rare to run 26.2 miles and not hurt somewhere, but this one was really tough, because the hills just.don't.quit.

By the time Hollan and I parted ways at mile 25, I knew I was going to make it, but there was one more WICKED hill in front of me: the part of the trail that leads up to Maple Street, and then the final downhill to the finish. Hometown races always come through: there is absolutely nothing like seeing one of your best good running friends and her husband on the bridge above you as you loop around the trail, cheering you on, encouraging you to finish strong. As I came up to the bridge where Sarah and Jeff stood, she came alongside me as I shuffled and barely picked my feet up, step after step. I just said, "get me up the hill" and she did. I walked it; it was steep; but Sarah stayed with me, encouraging me all the way to the top, and gave me that last burst I needed to physically get over the hump.

Then... then, it was quite literally downhill from there. I barreled down that last hill, quads screaming, but thankfully, so was the crowd. The only true downside of a small race is that crowd support is sparse along the way. There were stretches where I didn't even have any other runners around me. But the last 100 feet to the finish line, there were crowds cheering, ringing cowbells, clapping, and encouraging me onward. And how wonderful to be able to see all the way down that last hill to the finish line, my destination in sight.

As I came across the line and looked to my left, there were my husband and kids - my biggest fans - cheering for me. My running twin Shauna and another good friend from my running group, Mary, were there, too, to support me and celebrate the joy of finishing the race. Joy and silliness abound in a hometown race called Hogeye, the place where the Razorbacks call home:
Hog nose on my face and on my medal!
While this race wasn't about time, considering how poorly I executed my race strategy, I think the time I turned in was pretty respectable, especially for the kind of elevation gains this course has:
Official time was actually 4:12:17, but
what's 15 seconds between friends?
This is the third year I've done the Hogeye - I did the marathon in 2012 and the relay in 2013. There is unfortunately some bad press on the race in the local running community for various reasons, but it's my hometown race and I think it's a really important part of life here in NW Arkansas. It is part of what makes Fayetteville such a wonderful place to live, and I want to support it.

It's time to change the narrative - this year, there were no apologies necessary. The race went off without a hitch, and was the best planned and best supported Hogeye I've done yet. The aid stations were top notch - water and Gatorade at every one, Clif Shots and Clif gels at multiple stations on the back half of the course, and medical and support personnel on bikes in various places to make sure everyone stayed safe. The volunteers making sure all of the runners stayed on the course and took the proper turns were wonderful - the only regret I have from the entire race is that I didn't get a picture of the signs that were on some of the city streets warning motorists that they needed to share the road with runners. They stated:
Punctution is everything, no?

If you've read my other recent thoughts on running, then you know this is the first in my quest for Maniac Gold; the first of my "marathon of marathons," if you will. The goal wasn't to run fast; the goal was to have fun.

I can say, without hesitation, mission accomplished.


  1. Running AND smiling. 1 down -- 3 to go, you maniac. (Is it tri season yet...?)

  2. Kyle and I were laughing about those signs along the course, too. Although, they ended up being punctuated correctly for the race I ran. :-)

    1. I'm so glad y'all had great weather for the "redo" after Little Rock. Congrats on having Hogeye under your belt!!

    2. That was an awesome read Amanda. I hope you are going to continue to be one of the Hogeye's best fans. Tabby PS- Sorry I missed you today.

    3. Thanks, Tabby! Looking forward to being a part of Hogeye for years to come!