State 12: Epic Arkansas

A few weeks ago I took the plunge and signed up for the Little Rock Half Marathon.  I couldn’t get firm commitment from any of my previous running partners to do it with me and I thought maybe a little definitive action would get them on board.

Nope.

When my plans for splitting a Little Rock hotel room and having a companion fell through, I decided it would be a shame to be so close to my most recent hometown of Memphis, Tennessee and not make it up to say hello.

Call me crazy but after work on Friday, I packed a bag, hopped in the car and set out on the ten hour drive north east to the Bluff City.  Little Miley almost made the packing list but after some deep consideration I left her with a house of ten Texas Wranglers…..

The journey north along I-35 went fairly smoothly until Waco when I hit one lane construction zones.  I was already wary of the late arrival time and growing increasingly frustrated with the delays.  What should have been a three hour trip to Dallas took 5, and set my ETA forward to 1:30 am.  I drove and drove, listening to my newest country playlist and catching up with anyone I could get a hold of on the phone – college roommates, high school basketball coaches, crazy aunts in Marietta.

Finally, I rolled over the bridge and into town, just in time to pick my hostess Holly up from the bars downtown.  I knew since I didn’t have long in Memphis I needed to cram as much in as possible.  I met with old clients, old friends, and spent a lot of time at the part of Memphis that makes me feel the most home.  My friends Holly, Mike and Kalli joined in on the pre-race pizza and wine tradition at Aldo’s on Main Street.

Holly, Me, Mike and Kalli

These girls have always been so supportive of my racing and they love getting the carb loading in for the work that cheering via text is on race day 😉

Prerequisite pizza and red wine

Prerequisite pizza and red wine

I also was able to see my favorite group of NBA men pull in a ‘W’ in the Forum on Saturday night.  At halftime Holls and I worked out the logistics of my Sunday travel – trying to consider carefully the true risk of a blossoming ice storm to the southwest.  We settled on a 5am alarm, leave by 5:30 to get to Little Rock by 7:30 plan.

Sunday

5am wake up went according to plan, as did departure time.  I made it to Little Rock by 7:30 and the temperature had dropped nearly ten degrees since I left.  I studied the weather for a good bit in the car, consulting apps as well as my meteorologists in Indiana.  It wasn’t the low 40s and threat of rain that worried me, it was not making it back to Austin before the storm hits.  I’m not sure a snow plow or salt truck exists in that entire very large state.

After much debating, I threw on my Mardi Gras tutu and went for it.  Walk the talk, Popsicle says.  Check another box.  Move a little before an 8 hour drive back to ATX.  All good reasons to run.  This race had wave starts so I stood in the corral for about twenty minutes before crossing the line.  I’m grateful for that – the energy was excellent despite the weather and just as the drizzle started, volunteers began handing out trash bags.

I’ve never worn a trash bag for running but I was unprepared for the rain and I watched a woman in front of me say to her partner, “You should grab one, it’ll make such a difference.”  She might as well have been talking to me.  I grabbed one, poked holes for my head and arms just in time for my corral to set off.

I honestly don’t remember a lot of specifics for this race.  I had my country boys playing on the phone so that I could keep a slower pace.  I hadn’t done any long distance runs since the NOLA half a month before.  The goal here was to check the state, not PR.  Not even break 2 hours.

The pictures will tell the story better than my words can – see the slideshow below and read the captions.

By the last three miles, I had encountered the hills previous participants had warned me of as well as some wind and a drop in temperature.  My hips and knees were telling me of the little mileage I had run to prepare (or not) for the race.  My mind was on thoughts of my masters report, my visit to Memphis and my plans after graduation and before I knew it I was being passed by the marathon winner in the last mile!  It was very exciting to see the front runner beat me at half the distance (I’m mostly serious here!).  He was effortless beauty.

At the finish the volunteers were cheery and helpful despite the weather (all over the course was the same).  I grabbed some choice freebies and booked it to my car.  Did a quick stretch routine in anticipation of the long drive and hopped in as fast as I could, tutu, trashbag and all.

I thoroughly enjoyed the run despite the weather conditions.  It was a well-supported race, and exciting to have a superhero theme.  Lots of runners were in costume – from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Batman to Wonder Woman.  Great race!

Normally my story ends there.  But not this time y’all.  The half-marathon was just the beginning of my adventure home.  I made it out of Arkansas in pretty good time and stopped just beyond the border to change clothes (I know, but there was no forethought for showers or things like that.  Luckily it was just me in the car).  Grabbed a coffee too and was on my way.  The rain had started by this point but it was just cold damp.

Not long after that I was in my first thundersnow storm.  And it was quite an experience.  I had my wipers going full blast while the skies rained ice with lightning and thunder overhead.  Very bizarre combination.  My wipers froze quickly so I had to crank the heat in my car….not a good combination with an unshowered racer.  I consulted my meteorologists in Memphis this time to see how far this storm stretched.  And much to my dismay it was all the way south of Dallas.

This news prompted even more debate.  It’s about 2 or 3 in the afternoon and I should be getting home by 7.  At the rate of 3mph with hundreds of miles to go, I knew that was out of the picture.  Stay at a motel? Shack up somewhere in Dallas?  Pull over?  A lot of cars did pull to the side but I just wanted to keep crawling along.

By the time I do reach Dallas, I’m hours behind schedule and just getting to the thick of the traffic (my meteorologists have teamed up with traffic controls).  My muscles and joints are starting to ache and I’m going stir crazy.  The worst part came just south of Waco when I sat in the car, not making any progress from about 9:30 pm until 11:30 pm.  Once it became evident we weren’t going anywhere fast, I put it in park and entertained myself by watching the Oscars on Twitter.  I also managed to throw together some of this blog post on my lap top and to start writing an anatomy practical I had to give the following afternoon.

I would like to thank any of you who helped entertain via text, Facebook and Insta as well as those consulted for traffic and weather conditions.  I ended up rolling into Austin 15 hours later around 1:30 am.  I was so glad to have made it home safely, the roads were pretty much covered in ice from Brashears to Temple.

Anyway, whatever it takes to get to your dreams.  I’m glad to have another state down, and a pretty epic story to tell about it!