Friday, January 5, 2018

Race Report: Hogeye Marathon

The approach into XNA - Table
Rock Lake on the MO/AR border
I took an early afternoon flight on Friday, which luckily was a direct, nonstop flight to XNA - better known as Fayetteville, Arkansas.  I was surprised that this existed, but then again; with such large companies as Walmart and Tyson based in Northwest Arkansas, it made a lot of sense.  I was able to be cleared into First Class for the flight, which included lunch on the plane for the under-3 hour flight.  I was worried though, as Delta had been experiencing a rough time with flights for the last few days, canceling many due to weather woes in Atlanta that had a domino effect on flights all around the country.

We only were about 20 minutes delayed to leave, and we ended up making a lot of time up by being second to depart and arrived pretty much right on time at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.  We arrived in Fayetteville at around 4:30pm, and after picking up a rental car, I headed straight to the Holiday Inn Convention Center where the expo was being held to retrieve my race bib.  While there, I got to chat with folks from the Prairie Fire Marathon in Wichita, who were there advertising their race, as well as Tabby, the race director, who was introduced to me by running buddies and local residents Ken and Calix Fattmann - who were actually on their way to leave town to head to Kansas City for a race themselves.

The first ever Walmart...
the Waltons Five and Dime
Afterward, I headed to the Marketplace Grill within the same parking lot of the Holiday Inn for a small, but fun Half Fanatic/Marathon Maniac dinner with three other members who were running the race the next day. Since it was pretty early, I headed back to the expo after dinner (it was only 6:30) and decided to grab a Hogeye Marathon hat as a memento.  Afterward, I realized that the Walmart Museum in Bentonville was open until 10pm. So, I took advantage of that and headed up to Bentonville.

Upon arriving, I realized that the streets around Bentonville Town Square were closed off, and there were tons of people milling about.  Turns out, Downtown Bentonville Inc., the local non-profit that serves the community, was putting on their First Fridays: International Festival with entertainment, food trucks, artisan vendors, and many more.  I was able to get free parking and headed over to the main point I was coming to this area - the Walmart Museum, though the street festival was a welcome option.  The museum was informative, but I made my way out to the Walmart Cafe, where a line was forming to get ice cream. I partook in the "Spark cream," vanilla ice cream dyed in blue and yellow colors like the Walmart logo.

With the Tyson chicken!
It was getting late so I headed to my hotel in the neighboring town of Rogers, where I still needed to check in, and set in for the night, as I was waking at 5:30am the next morning for the race.  The weather reports all week said it would be in the 50s early in the race, but would quickly rise to the mid to high 70s by noon, with stronger winds late.  I woke up at 5:30 and was out the door a little before 6 for the ~20 minute drive down from Rogers to Springdale.  This year's race would be a completely brand new course for the now 41 year old race, while taking on a new title sponsor in Tyson Foods, based in Springdale. In Springdale, I found parking not too far from the startline (though later, I find out it turned out it I ended up parking further away than needed) and then got together with fellow Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs for pre race photos.  I got to see my friend Marc, from Little Rock, and then headed up to the start as people began assembling as Tabby made announcements.  I was then given the microphone to perform the national anthem, and after finishing my rendition, was able to mark off state #25 for anthems!

The startline
We started the race almost immediately after I sang at just after 7am, with the temps being 52 and a negligible 4 mph wind.  We ran down Emma Street, a thoroughfare with rolling hills, but nothing major.  We then turned right onto Butterfield Coach Road, where we had our first test of a small hill, as it curved its way toward a southward direction. We made a left turn along Friendship Road, which headed eastward but curved its way southward (and turning itself into Hylton Road), past a cemetery and the fairly new looking Don Tyson School of Innovation, a technology-rich STEM charter school within the Springdale school district. Along the way, I met locals Andres and Susie, originally from Mexico, and running the half. We had a nice chat up until I took my walk break at the 45 minute mark, where I bid adieu to them.  However, not too far away, the sounds of music blaring through speakers greeted runners as we turned right onto Don Tyson Parkway, which was a long stretch of highway that tested our mettle with various degrees of rolling hills. Along the way I encountered a very spunky and excited Asian woman offering high fives as we passed by.

The sun greeting us in the opening miles along Emma Avenue
Affixed street signs all along the route
The Razorback Greenway
The stretch along the Don Tyson Parkway took us past the 10k mark, and we made a left turn onto S. Powell Drive where we passed the 7 mile mark.  From here, it was only a couple hundred meters before we entered the Razorback Greenway and the trail that skirted Lake Fayetteville.  It was a really pretty greenway, and I enjoyed being able to run through a well manicured path... until we reached a major hilly section that had us go up steep switchbacks before progressing along a downhill section.  Along the way we officially entered Fayetteville, leaving Springdale for the moment. We then ran along the trail while seeing half marathoners returning in the other direction along the parallel road.  They all turned around at some point before the 9 mile mark, but we continued on in thinner numbers, taking the trail right alongside the western edge of the lake.  The Lake Fayetteville Trail gave way to the Clear Creek Trail, as we the more woodsy section of the race course.  We emerged onto Ball Street, having made our way into the city of Johnson, and the 11 mile mark of the race.

Running along the western edge of Lake Fayetteville
Lake Fayetteville selfie!!
The sun peeking through the trees
as we run through Johnson
The course curved along these residential roads, turning onto Hewitt Road (parallel to some railroad tracks and a meandering offshoot creek from Clear Creek), before we made our way up Johnson Road beginning a gradual ascent that I definitely started to feel, as my walk breaks became suddenly a little more evident. After passing a few blocks of homes on both sides, we continued northward while passing several Tyson facilities - first, the noticeable feed mill, followed by a label printing facility, and then a food safety and research laboratory.  At the light, we turned left, but I could see in the distance on the right, a large building which I later would find out was the main corporate offices for Tyson Foods.  We were back on Don Tyson Parkway, and I had reached the halfway point of the race, in roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The Tyson Feed Mill, near the 13 mile mark.

The under construction Arkansas
Children's Hospital Northwest
The slog on westward continued along the rolling hills of the Don Tyson Parkway, where we would also encounter some of the windiest parts of the course.  Notably, the area was pretty open with no buildings blocking the way, and we were right near I-49.  As I ran on this stretch, I met Mike from Seattle, and we chatted for a little bit as we passed the Arvest Ballpark, home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (a AA affiliate to the Kansas City Royals); and the under-construction state of the art Arkansas Children's Hospital Northwest.  And of course... a Wal-Mart (surprisingly, the only one I saw during the race!)

We headed back eastward along Watkins Avenue as we passed by several baseball fields in Rotary Park at the mile 16 mark.  A welcome surprise was spotting the excited Asian woman for a second time! After doglegging on South 40th Street, we took Chapman Avenue eastward as we passed a large open field at the 17 mile mark.  This was the end of the longer of the two net uphills we experienced since the 11 mile mark (the first being 11 to 15, with a short downhill following, then the two mile rolling uphill)  We then turned on Johnson Road, before running through the parking lot of Cross Church Springdale, and a service road within the complex that took us to Cambridge Street. 

Tank and Moose, Arkansas corgis!
Over the next three miles, we would be running through the fairly residential area west of the downtown. But unfortunately, it was also the area of the course where the streets were a bit more open to car traffic.  I was not alone with my genuine dissatisfaction with the lack of barricades after mile 16 through Springdale.  In fact, lots of vehicles would drive by feet away from us runners as we hugged the shoulder (or lack thereof.)  We would pass Springdale High School just before the 20 mile mark, which was also the last relay exchange station, so there was at least a group of people there cheering all of us on.  By this point, my right quad was starting to twitch, and I knew I was going to be slowing down significantly to the end due to cramping.  Along the way, I see some folks cheering us on in front of their house, and out of the corner of my eye, I see two corgis wandering in their backyard!  I stop to ask if I can take a picture with them, and the owner obliges - therefore, I have a photo with Arkansas corgis named Tank and Moose!

Rolling pathways through JB Hunt Park
JB Hunt Park, where my Garmin
stopped measuring correctly
We finally emerge out of the residential area at around mile 21.5, as we enter JB Hunt Park. We are handed cold towels which were so needed by the time we got there more than four hours into the race.  We move through the paved pathway, and end up back onto the Razorback Greenway. Somewhere along the way, my Garmin stopped recognizing the distance after 22.25 miles in, but was still registering the elapsed time. Later, when checking out my stats, I realized it still mapped out my route, but it showed that my last mile took me an hour to finish. We maneuvered through the Razorback Greenway's northern Springdale section, and through the pain in my quad, I got through the winding paths, and up and down rolling hills. The wind had picked up, too, so I was fighting some strong gusts.  Wonderfully, I spotted the excited Asian woman for a third time! The five hour pacers passed me, which was a little disappointing, but it was definitely getting hot, and my muscles were not having it anymore.  I caught up to a couple maniacs as we got to the 25 mile mark, and chatted them up, meeting fellow Marathon Maniac Ryan, and then felt fine enough to finish the last mile on my own with a little kick in speed.

A marching band cheering us on through the park
Plenty of twists and turns along the Razorback Greenway in the final two miles
Mile 25 or bust.
That looks relaxing...
The wind was strong as we emerged out of the greenway, and got onto the roads.  I could hear the announcer on the other side of the street, but I still had about 1/4 mile to go.  After a couple turns, I could see the finish line on Emma.  I crossed in 5:09.  No food was left at the finish (something to think about for the race organizers and us slower marathoners), but I did get a chance to get my cramping quad muscles massaged out, and decided to soak a little bit in the little makeshift pool they had for runners after the finish.  I got my headstand done by some bystanders near the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, and then headed back to my hotel for a shower (thankfully they gave me a late checkout!) and then some delicious highly recommended barbecue at Whole Hog Cafe in Bentonville before I went on the road, deciding to make the 4 hour drive back to Wichita to see my parents... I was that close to home, so I thought, why not!

That's a real big medal.  And we also got a commemorative pig nose.
Someone needs a haircut. LOL
Lunch before driving out to Wichita
Getting back to Wichita was nice, but it was such a quick trip - I was only home for 15 hours.  After having dinner with mom and dad when I got in, my dad drove me over to my friend Katie's and we headed to Central Standard Brewery, a brewery located just east of Old Town Wichita, that opened in August 2015.  I ended up running into alums from where I went to grade school, middle school and high school there, which was nice - I mean, it was a beautiful Saturday evening, so it was no surprise how packed the place was.  The next morning, I had breakfast at home with my parents and got gas before getting back on the road to Fayetteville, as I had a 5:30pm flight to catch.  With a few hours to spare when I arrived in the early afternoon, I fit in a visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which I had been told was a must see in the area - and I was definitely thankful to have had time to visit.  In addition to a historical and important collection of American Art, there was a travelling exhibit called "Border Cantos," exploring the various elements of the US-Mexico border through photography and music that I really enjoyed.  If you   I was able to get back to the airport with time to spare (and time to throw back a local toasted coconut beer from Springdale's Core Brewing Company, the only one I got to enjoy all weekend thanks to all of the driving I had to do), and then board my flight, with yet another first class upgrade!

Taking in some art at the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art before flying home!

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