Thursday, September 3, 2015

Race report: Hogeye Marathon 2015

So far this year, I've run three marathons. One of my life list goals is to run a marathon in each of the 50 states - and I'm never going to make it if I keep running races in the same states over and over again!! In March, I managed my third running of Hogeye (and hence, my third Arkansas marathon). It was my tenth marathon, and you know what? It just doesn't get any easier. No matter how many times you do it, 26.2 miles is still a looooong way.

One big difference in my running the Hogeye Marathon this year was my experience volunteering for the organization, trying to help with the race coordination over the course of the previous few months. It had been quite a learning experience, seeing behind the curtain, so I had a lot more appreciation for what I saw on race day.

Another big difference from my previous Hogeyes is that I had a friend fly up to Houston to run it, too!! Molly has always been a runner - and a wicked good one, at that - with at least six Houston marathons under her belt. I told her my door was always open if she decided to run a race up in NW Arkansas, and it all came together for her to do Hogeye this year! Add to that a classmate's fiance signed up for the half marathon (maybe because I talked it up), driving in from Tulsa, and what a cool way to share my hometown with some friends.
Molly and Cactus, my traveling friends!
The relayers and the travelers - Suzie's (far right) first race in Arkansas!
Being my hometown marathon, I know the Hogeye course backward and forward. Honestly, that should be enough to keep me from running it yet again. It isn't easy, y'all - plenty of not-so-gently rolling hills. And it's not very well supported by spectators. Oh, and it's almost always hot. So it's got all of that going for it. As runners are generally considered to be gluttons for punishment, maybe I should stop trying to figure out why I keep going back for more, and just be glad that the bling is worth it. Mostly.

I actually got two medals this year - I ran Hogeye both as the full marathon as well as being the first leg of a relay team. I had secured sponsorship from my then-employer at a level high enough to get a free marathon team entry, so I got a two-fer. Unfortunately, there weren't three other people in my office I could talk into running the relay. Two, yes. Three, no. Enter: twinnie Shauna!!! And, you know, that whole twinnie thing - she ran both the relay and the full, too, which meant at a minimum I knew I'd have a running partner for the first two legs of the race that we covered.
Relay team, before and after
Race morning was cool and comfortable, and as it was my fourth year to participate in race day (I did the relay as a stand-alone a couple of years ago), I knew the start line drill pretty well. There's still nothing better than being ten minutes from the start and practically sleeping in on race day! We gathered friends together, both local and out of town, took a few pictures, and stepped up to the start line. I was super excited to be running another marathon with Shauna - this was the second race in her three race Marathon Maniac qualifying series, so the only goals were to 1) have fun and 2) finish.

We started out strong - said another way, way too fast, as usual - and we clipped along our well-worn trails and routes in Fayetteville.
Why do I look like I'm having so much fun?
I was doing okay until we got to the lake - for whatever reason, over the course of the years running the trails here in town, I have developed a total mental block when it comes to running around Lake Fayetteville. I HATE it. It's hilly, yes, but not nearly as bad as I've made it in my head. Last year it was where I kind of broke down and decided I didn't care about anything other than finishing (or not dying, honestly). This year, I practically started hyperventilating when I was about halfway around. It was RI-DI-CU-LOUS. My logical brain tells me it's all in my head, but for whatever reason, I can't get past the mental barrier.

After making it around the lake, I could've cared less what my final time was. I kind of just wanted to stop running, honestly. But I kept at it, because who doesn't finish a marathon once they start it? It helped, too, that as I was slogging through the neighborhood part of the course, my friend Mary (who was a bike course volunteer, thank goodness) saw me struggling and stopped to check on me. In addition to the pep talk, she also took my long sleeved layer (because as someone who is perpetually cold, I had unfortunately dressed for the start of the race rather than the end of the race - rookie mistake!!) and got me some fluids to keep me going. I'm not going to say I had a ton of pep in my step after that, but it was MUCH better to not be melting in a long sleeved, layered outfit.

At this point, I was on my own, as Shauna was feeling much better than I was that day and had gone on ahead. I pivoted pretty quickly to walking when I wanted to, running when I felt like I could. I saw some old friends at the aid station behind P&G, which is always great, but then it was a long, quiet, semi-empty stretch of the trail with nothing but my negative thoughts about how much I didn't want to be running that marathon on that day.

In retrospect, I can't believe I thought that or felt that way. I try to be grateful for every day that I'm healthy enough to run, and for a body that's strong and fit enough to make it through 26.2 miles. But for whatever reason, I couldn't get my head screwed on straight that day, and I had a pathetic pity party for most of the back half of the race. One thing that did keep me going - I knew I was going to see my friend Sarah's family at the 1LT Tom Martin Foundation's aid station - right before the last struggle up the hill to Maple, the "Never Quit" aid station. People may think those are just words, but when you know the story behind them, it is so much more than a catchy phrase. Just like the year before, having them there got me up that hill, and from there, it literally was downhill to the finish.
I know that I've never been so happy to see a finish line at a race before; I was totally spent, physically and mentally. My friends were all there waiting for me; in fact, Molly placed first in her age group, which was pretty amazing considering the course elevation profile. I mean, to train for hills in Houston, she resorted to running ramps in parking garages! Hard core!! To make it even sweeter, Shauna finished third in her age group, I think her first age group hardware. Super cool.
That's her trophy, in the box!
I was the last one in that day. I'm cool with that, too - that's the season I'm in right now with my running, where more days are a struggle than are easy, and I'm one of the slower runners in my group. I hope to get back to "fast" one of these days, but I know just how much work it takes and I haven't been able to motivate myself to dedicate the time or energy to it. For now, I lament my loss of speed and try to be grateful for my health.

As I caught my breath and began to recover at the finish line, the pity party ended, and I soaked up the unique camaraderie that comes from the shared relief at finishing another race. It's a strange relief, tinged with exhilaration and pride, that comes from completing the 26.2 distance again. I'm going to assume that it's universal to all marathoners, whether they're elites, consistent BQers, age groupers, or back of the packers. Despite the pain and mental anguish of Hogeye 2015, I'm of course glad I did it. It's my hometown race, and it's another marathon under my belt. I think, though, that the third time was probably the charm - it's time to firmly cross Arkansas off the list, and work on the 43 states left to go.
Me and my best good running friends

1 comment:

  1. What's that red spot on the back of your right leg? Did you skin your leg? Hoping you are feeling better today! Love, Mom :-)