This is part 3 of a 5 part series about the 5 half marathons in 5 consecutive days in 5 states trip that I recently took which was hosted by Mainly Marathons.
Part 1, and Kentucky, can be found here.
Part 2, and Tennessee, can be found here.
Though each of the days from this series blended together, creating such havoc with my memory and ability to break it down into days, each day had one significant thing that also made it stand out. Day 1 was that horrid hill. Day 2 can be summed up by the word green.
Day 3 can only be described as wet. Wet. Wet. Sopping wet. To the core wet. Feels like swimming wet. And then some more wetness.
Day 3 brought us to Arkansas, to the Lake Chicot State Park in Lake Village, Arkansas. That morning, we woke bright eyed and bushy tailed (albeit we were all exhausted so a bit prickley), got ready, and went to the hotel lobby to see if we could partake in the complimentary continenntal breakfast before it was officially available to guests. Other participants in the series had the same idea, and as we scoped the food and gobbled it down, we saw the news which was calling for severe thunder and lightening storms, and sporatic tornado warnings. It was already rainy and wet outside in the parking lot, but we piled into the car anyway, thinking that if it got bad, we could always choose to skip the event, or perhaps Clint (the race director) would call it due to inclement weather.
Lake Chicot State park is a gorgeous place (or it would be had the weather been nicer) that according to the Arkansas State Park's website sits on Arkansas's largest natural lake, [which] is a scenic setting in the
Mississippi Flyway for fishing, boating, and birdwatching. This 20-mile
long oxbox lake was once part of the main channel of the Mississippi
River. Cut off from the river centuries ago, the lake is the nation's
largest, natural oxbow remnant. Outdoor enthusiasts have so many
recreational choices at this oasis in the Delta. Included in the
programs offered by the park interpreters at Lake Chicot State Park are
party barge excursions on the lake.
Unfortunately, because this is an enormous park, there are multiple entrances for the various activities that they offer. Our GPS wasn't so great at finding the location, and we wound up driving through what we believe was a large private farm and their cow pastures... I think we woke a bunch of cows up too, but with the lightening going off all around them... they were probably awake anyway.
We finally got to our destination and learned that everyone had difficulties with people being sent through main streets, random pastures, to closed or no-longer-in-service access roads, and areas that had clearly ONLY been appropriate for vehicles when there wasn't any flooding. (fast forward 12 hours and we heard the news telling us to beware of flash flooding, so that gives an idea of the kind of weather we were facing, but I digress).
Though the park was enormous, the course itself was short. It was just over a mile out and back, meaning that we had to collect either 8 or 9 rubberbands plus do one extra lap for the half marathon distance... These short courses can get monotonous after awhile and having limited visibility because of the storm didn't make it any better. About 4 miles into the race, I stopped at the car to strip off my ipod and my garmin timer... lest they be ruined in the rain. Clint told us that because the storm had stirred up, we could stop in our cars or take cover in the shelters, pausing our timers and have that time subtracted from our finish time if we wanted to. My thought was that unless it was lightening out, I couldn't see any reason to stop. We kept going.
I found myself remembering a moment years ago when I was caught in torrential downpours in La Vega, Dominican Republic. We had been shopping for supplies for the dental clinic, and the skies opened up on us and we couldn't find anywhere to take shelter so my friends Becky, Steve and I kicked off our extra layers of clothing and our shoes and we joined a bunch of school children who were frolicking in the runoff from the roofs. We danced, we laughed, we giggled, we threw water at each other, and what could have been a miserable afternoon turned into something that years later still brings a smile to my face.
It was remembering that afternoon in the Dominican Republic that really transformed this race. The roads were flooding in places as the storm drains couldn't keep up. We were soaked to the core, and going through calf high water in places was enough to really ruin a person's mood. In a split second I realized that feeling miserable was only going to make things worse and adopted a fake it till you make it attitude.
I jumped into the very next puddle that I saw. It was halfway up my calves and the water went everywhere!
And then I jumped into the next, and the next, and the next. And when people started laughing, I started kicking water around like a 3 year old in a puddle instead of a 30 something year old. And I was having the time of my life. I even randomly hugged another guy who was going the opposite direction... just because he looked like a soggy cat. And then I splashed some more.
And when we got to our final lap, and collected our rubber bands, I was ready for that last lap, and I was prepared to make the biggest splashes yet! It was going to be epic.
But not 20 yards into the final lap, my walking partner re-counted her bands and we realized there was a discrepancy. She had one more than I did. I must have lost a rubber band when I stripped a layer off at the car!
We turned around and hauled our butts back to the finishline to report our times. I was having so much fun, I was prepared to do an extra few laps! But alas, it was over.
I had a finish time of 4:11:30, 11 seconds faster than day 2, but who cares? It was 4+ hours of playing in the rain... I'd have blisters for weeks and I wouldn't be able to get warm for the next 3 days, but it was worth it!
To be continued...
*Disclaimer: Nearly none of the
photos that you will see in the posts about this trip are mine. I chose
to not bring my camera with me during the races and instead rely on
other people. To the people who have contributed photos to help tell
this story, I am thankful.