Race Recap: Three Bridges Marathon 2017

I’m an enormous fan of the small races put on by local running clubs that benefit the local community somehow. There is just something about being Erin and not runner bib number 13,572. So, while I was in Little Rock, Arkansas last March, local runners were raving about their little community marathon and mentioned that it ran along the trail next to the Arkansas River. They promised me it was flat. LOL I put it on my list of races and signed up the moment it opened.

img_0473You see, the timing worked out beautifully. It was a week after the Dallas Marathon and I knew that I would be working that whole weekend at Dallas, making the idea of running a marathon a really bad idea. But it was just a week later, which meant my training schedule could still line up nicely with my training group and I would just extend my taper by a week. Bada bing. Bada boom.

I didn’t have any idea that this would be my final marathon until late in the summer when my health challenges became great enough for me to relent and agree with doctors that maybe these long distances weren’t a good idea for me any longer. If I knew that it was going to be my last, I would have probably chosen a big bucket list race – New York or Chicago or Houston. A big race with a big race atmosphere. But I was committed, so Arkansas it was.

Since it was really tough to find good race recaps on this small race, I thought I would give some insight on the whole weekend. It should be noted that the race is a marathon ONLY. No chance of dropping to a half or having the majority of the runners finish before you and taking all the post-race goodies! Everyone there was going to slay 26.2 miles that December morning.

img_0740Packet pickup was at a local running store. It was efficient and full of volunteers. We got a bib with a timing chip and a long-sleeved shirt. The store had a super good sale on all winter gear being marked down 50%, which I took advantage of since it was wicked cold when we arrived. In and out in just a few minutes and there were no problems with picking up the packets for my friends that had not yet arrived.

The race provides a six hour time limit. However, if you think you’ll finish in 5 1/2 hours or longer, they encourage you to take advantage of the early start. They have a fairly large group that starts early, so it isn’t like you’d be the only one out there. There were a bunch of Marathon Maniacs and 50 Staters that took advantage and I would estimate it was around 75 people. Not too shabby. Because you start at 5am when you start early, you need to carry what you need for a couple of hours, as aid stations are only just then getting set up, and you MUST have a headlamp. Seriously, that trail is completely dark.

There is no parking at the race site, so you MUST take the shuttle from a church about a img_0479mile away. The shuttles were warm and roomy. Not much more to say, other than door-to-door service was kind of nice. When we jumped off the shuttle, we headed straight to the portos (there were plenty so the wait wasn’t long) and then into the big food tent that had some of the best portable heaters I’ve ever seen. They looked like jet engines and put off enough heat to handle the 20* weather outside.

Despite the early start, we were treated to exactly the same start line experience that the regular runners were given, so it was still special.

img_0745The race is called three bridges because, duh, you go over three different bridges. The first one comes up about mile 1.5. The Big Dam Bridge is the longest pedestrian-only bridge in the United States and is really beautiful at sunrise. That takes you over to a very wooded area with a narrow paved trail that you follow along, through a new neighborhood being built (I can’t help it, I window shopped new houses while I ran!). The only issue we ran into was when we got dumped onto a street. The course could have been marked a little better. We faltered a little and guessed, hoping we were going the right way for about a quarter mile. Thankfully, there were other runners out there that knew the img_0742course and confirmed that we were still good to go. The street was my least favorite part of the course, because it was a deserted area that was industrial and full of warehouses. It felt like it dragged on forever. We finally came to the next bridge about mile 9 1/2. Yeah, all that and it was only the first 9.5 miles. This next bridge was the Clinton Bridge which was also a pedestrian bridge paved with bricks of all the donors to the Presidential Library. The course dumped us right at the library, through the cul-de-sac, and then backtracked all the way img_0743back to the start line. At mile 19. Yep, the ultimate test of mental strength is to have to be that close to the finish line and still have seven miles to go. The course has a north loop that takes you across the Two Rivers Bridge and onto a sort of wildlife sanctuary island. It wasn’t really an island, but felt like it. There were no roads, just trail – lots of deer and bunnies and beautiful paved trail. This final loop takes you to the finish line and the FOOD! There are not a lot of turns in this course, so there is plenty of opportunity for some fast times if you’re up for it.

Aid stations are plentiful! The race has water stops about every mile and a half and almost all of them included water, Gatorade, and food of all sorts. Those last seven miles I was like a mountain goat. I took in pickle juice, just because I hadn’t ever done it before and wanted to try it, Oreos, candy, orange slices, banana slices. It was a miracle my body didn’t revolt and insist on a porto mid-race.

 

The post-race was all in a large tent and the food was insane! It was an all you can eat buffet of sandwiches, chips, cookies, crackers, candy, sodas, water, coffee, pastries, and cup-a-noodles with hot water. I felt like I was at a trail ultra marathon, not a road marathon! There were lots of tables and chairs and just a lot of hanging around. The shuttle stop was right outside of the tent, so when we were ready to head to the car, we just grabbed a shuttle and went straight to the car.

There was only one small disappointment about the course – there is an absolutely stunning, wide paved trail on the other side of the river from where we ran for a large portion of the course. That part of the trail has gorgeous sculptures and gardens and I was hoping we would run through that. This course was a little more natural and rugged.

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All in all, this is a great local race that attracts a lot of runners from all over the country. Thirty-three states were represented in approximately 350 runners in 2017 and I would definitely encourage you to add it to your list of races to run.

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The best Medal Monday ever… or why you should #runlocal

I’m kind of a fan of bling. Really though, what running princess isn’t? But this weekend’s race tops them all.

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Running clubs across the country are in place to benefit so many local groups and they do great work. My local club‘s main beneficiary is the Tal Morrison Scholarship Fund. They award six scholarships (three boys and three girls) to area high school seniors that participated in their school running program.

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How I race when I’m not racing…

You don’t have the be the fastest on the team and you don’t have to commit to running in college, but you do have to be a great student. Tal, the founder of the club back in 1969, passed away last year and he has said that his greatest legacy was this scholarship fund.

 

Every April at our club race, I have gotten a little choked up by how awesome it is to give checks to these students. We can accomplish some pretty great things with our club and I’m proud to be a part of it all. But this year was special. My son was awarded one of these scholarships.

imageThree thousand dollars is half of his housing paid for. Three thousand is a huge chunk of the out of state tuition bill. I have seen that award become the reason a child went to school in the first place. These kids are fantastic. One of the girls will be attending MIT in the fall. One of the boys will go to Texas A&M and study math. Another girl plans to attend Duke. My son will be at LSU studying political science.

I know it’s fun to participate in the big national races, but for a moment, think about how much good you can do by running in one of your local club’s races. These small clubs all over the country do great things. They are changing lives one mile at a time. Real lives with real hopes and real dreams. I would say that the award received at this club race is better than any age group trophy or finishers medallion that could be won. It is an investment in the future. Alex and Daniel, well deserved boys. I’m proud of you both.

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Medal Monday: Michelob Ultra 13.1 Dallas Recap


Marcy and I after the 13.1This weekend, I ran the Michelob Ultra 13.1 Half Marathon in Dallas. It wasn’t a race on my schedule, but when a friend of mine that was organizing the pacers asked if I would pace, I couldn’t say no. This particular race a couple of years ago was my very first half marathon. The course is really nice and it’s MY BIRTHDAY WEEKEND! I quickly asked one of my best running friends if she would be willing to pace with me. I was afraid she might say no because it would mean that we would be giving up an 18 mile training run and she is responsible for pacing our training group. I was so excited when she said YES!

The pace would be a fairly easy run for us with a 2:50 finish. I love pacing runners with a 2:50 or 3:00 finish time. Many times, they are first time runners not sure if they can finish and just praying they don’t get swept up by the SAG wagon. Other times, they are second-time halfers wanting that sub 3:00 finish and unsure if it’s feasible because they remember how bad they hurt trying to complete their first. Whatever their goal, they are some of the friendliest people you will meet at a race. They say thank you to everyone out there cheering them on, keeping them safe and handing them water. They have stories and aren’t afraid to tell them. Stories of how they got up of the couch and lost 100 lbs the hard way. Stories of battling a cancer that is ravaging their body and they want to accomplish something off of their bucket list after facing down death. This is a pretty powerful bunch of runners. We don’t have dreams of age group awards or elite status back here. Pacing this group requires more than just even splits and knowledge of the course. It sometime requires education, such as “what is this ‘gu’ that everyone keeps eating?” But mostly, it requires you to be a top-notch motivator and believing in the runners in the group when they are positive they can’t go any further.

Marcy and I rode together downtown to the start line because the train tracks in downtown were under repair beginning that day, which is about typical. I hate driving downtown because I always get turned around – add a race with closed off roads and I have no idea how I managed to get there. LOL We had to be there by 6:15am so we could grab the pace sticks at the VIP tent and get a group picture taken before the 7am start. The first thing I noticed was that this race felt smaller than it did the last time I ran it, which makes me sad. It’s a good course and one of the few that are in downtown Dallas. We make our way to the start line and immediately begin to see people gather at all of the pace sticks. A few fast selfies with friends pacing other times and we turn our attention to the group. The usual deer-caught-in-headlights looks from people caused me to snap into pacer mode. We began asking questions to warm the up – is this your first half? how has training been going? are you by yourself or with a friend? We quickly told the group that we would be using a run-walk method of 1 minute run and 1 minute walk to get us to the finish. This finish time seems to lend itself well to the 1:1 interval and with newer runners, sometimes that is all they can muster by the time you hit 11 miles. It ended up working out for a girl in the group that was training with the Dallas Galloway group and was well-versed in 1:1’s. There were others that thought they would do a different interval and we encouraged them to do whatever they felt most comfortable with and just stay near the stick because we were running even splits.

imageimageEarly on, Marcy and I encouraged the runners to get water when they could because the water stops were spaced every two miles until we got to mile 7. In some cities, this might be ok. In the heat of Dallas, the first lesson was that you should always carry water, even in late October. I had to make a pit stop at mile 6 (WHY?!?) and send the rest of them on. Four people in front of me at the portos taking their own sweet time resulted in an 8 minute mile for me to catch up to the group. Thank goodness for run-walk, because I really needed walk breaks for a while after that! Hahaha

Some of the best moments of the race include seeing Devanghi hanging out on the corner while down in the M-Streets, cheering everyone on and seeing one of my son’s old hockey teammates on the Katy Trail working a water stop with his school group. Sunny with the BGR girls just in front of the AAC was superb and they gave the runners a much-needed burst of energy with their enthusiasm and a group working one of the final water stops had “Panther Pride” shirts on. I quickly asked if they were the Hillcrest Panthers. What an awesome surprise to see them out there! I yelled “Go Crest” and told them my son was a student there. They all knew him (I hope that’s a good thing!) and we cheered and went crazy for a second before I kicked it into gear to get us all to the finish line. This is why I run. There are so many great people out there and we are all brought together by this crazy thing called running.

The final mile of the course is all uphill and can be kind of intimidating because you can see it coming. I could hear the heavy sighing and I reminded them that we would finish this hill together, Marcy and I talking them though it. Baby steps, sixty seconds at a time, swing the arms more, keep your body as upright as possible. To see the smiles on everyone’s faces after the conquering of the hill was the bomb. All that was left was a couple of turns. Thanking them for letting me spend the morning with them, we told them to go grab their PRs because they earned them. This group of runners stuck with us the entire race, through a few tears of “I don’t think I can do this.” To have them waiting at the finish line for Marcy and I as we crossed at 2:49:14 (not too shabby, if I do say so…) was pretty stinking amazing. One of the girls actually won her age group!! Seriously, that never happens!!

imageSwag: This is a race shirt I will wear. It is navy blue and had a cool design by taking its cue from the Dallas BIG campaign. BIG things happen in Dallas with lots of B’s and G’s around town. You stand in between them be cause “I” am part of what makes Big D BIG. I’m a sucker for it, what can I say? Even better? The PACER SHIRT ROCKS! Oh my goodness. Adidas knocked it out of the park with their shirt. At first, we were disappointed because they were supposed to be singlets, but they were so light and airy, that they really kept you cool. There was so much s-t-r-e-t-c-h to this shirt I could have shoved a three hundred pound guy into it with me, but when it isn’t stretched, it was perfectly form-fitting. Definitely some space-age technology going on with this shirt.

Aftermath: I feel as if I have been hit by a car. I think the fast mile mid race about killed my knee because it is so stinkin’ stiff. No bueno. Lots of yoga and stretching, a chiro visit, epsom salt bath and a massage are all on tap for this week because I am running the DRC Half on Sunday for myself in hopes of a sweet PR. Shoot, maybe I’ll even use a pacer to get me there. 🙂