Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Little Rocky Running

Warm hospitality, seasonable and pleasant (albeit breezy) weather, pretty doggone good food, very cute ducks, civil rights history, Presidential mementos (and cooking), an interesting expo, a good post-race party, and even a respectable race - all of which would describe our recent weekend in Little Rock, Arkansas, for the Little Rock Marathon and Half-Marathon on the 2nd of March. However, it was also a race to remind everyone of their mortality - definitely a rocky race for a 27-year old graduate student from Wisconsin - running something like his 5th marathon and trying to run a time that would qualify him for Boston. He finished the race in his best time ever (a Boston qualifying time) - then immediately collapsed and could not be revived. No doubt he valued a healthy lifestyle as much as I do - and it was a powerful reminder that despite all that we do - sometimes there are forces at work well beyond our control - and we just need to be grateful for all that we have been given. I know I am reminded of that often and hope I don't forget to say thank you just as often.
Anyway, the Little Rock weekend was a good one. The people really were extremely hospitable and friendly and made us feel very welcome. Karen's Mom (Betty) and brother (Tom) met us to spend the weekend with us - Tom running the marathon in his quest to do one of that variety in every state. (We had to remind him that between the two of us, we also do a marathon every time we race!) I must say that although I was never much of a fan of one of our recent presidents - his library and museum was quite interesting. It was the first time I have visited a Presidential Library and this one certainly has a lot of high-tech stuff to keep your interest. It also has the only existing exact replica of the Oval Office, which was interesting, as was the Cabinet room and the displays of annual highlights. No doubt there was some "manipulation" of the message - or at least a somewhat biased presentation - but it was nonetheless a worthwhile visit and since our next race is in Abilene, Kansas - home of Dwight D. Eisenhower and his library - we will have another opportunity to check one out very soon.
Back to the race, though - the expo was nice on Saturday and we even won a Clinton and staff presidential cookbook - which at some point we'll have to check out - to see if their cooking rivaled their policies....hmmmmmmm. We also managed to visit Little Rock Central High School - site of one of the really historic events in the civil rights movement and school desegregation - very interesting displays and narratives. Their Capitol Building was equally impressive and worthy of our visit. After the race we ate dinner at a "hole-in-the-wall" type restaurant downtown ("Flying Fish") - lots of history, absolutely nothing fancy, open fronts to main street and some great catfish! Oh - about the ducks. Little Rock is home to one of a couple of Peabody Hotels - very stately, elegant (and expensive) - and also home to trained ducks (Mallards) that at appointed hours every day have a red carpet laid down for them - and then to John Phillip Sousa at his best, march out of their pond, over some stairs, onto the red carpet and over it to the glass-walled elevator that they march into prior to being whisked off to some suite above! Quite a sight - and one that a LOT of people watched. Rachel was quite fascinated and I'm surprised the ducks made it by her on the side of the red carpet!
All in all, a very good weekend with State #11 being checked off. However, before I close - since this IS the Thoughtful Runner's blog - perhaps I can share a thought or two about expectations and how this actual race was affected by them. Karen and I had somewhat disparate reviews of the actual course and race. Although both of us thought all the associated race activities were very nice, Karen liked the actual race and route - whereas I wasn't nearly as fond of it. It seems we all go into activities, jobs, meetings, relationships and just about everything with certain expectations - which greatly affect how we perceive them. In this case, I had reviewed the race route online prior to the race. I envisioned a course that looped around through downtown and across the Arkansas River and then went out into the suburbs before turning around and heading back. I envisioned a few minor hills, but nothing to sweat about. What I EXPERIENCED was a course that I perceived as continually doubling back on itself with it taking forever to get out of downtown - and one which had a number of inclines - ALL of which were into the wind! Although I think I am always kind of shooting for a "best time" (PR) - this would likely not have been one due to hills and the fact that both Karen and I came down with some good colds prior to the race - but the expectations, when compared with perceptions as I ran, certainly didn't work in my favor. Lesson learned (again) - be careful with expectations. Try and make them realistic to begin with, but remain flexible enough that when reality isn't exactly aligned with them, that it doesn't become a factor negatively impacting performance.
One other item of note in closing - Karen finished our "Medals Board" in the last couple of weeks and we got it up between our maps in the basement. I think it speaks for itself very nicely, but is a good visual reminder of what we are trying to accomplish and how far long we are - always a good motivator when working on achieving goals.