I have had my eye on running this race for a long time now, at least for 2 years that is. It is a race in Ardmore, Oklahoma and the A2A stands for Arbuckles to Ardmore because they bus you to the start of the race at the top of the Arbuckle mountains and then you run down back to the city of Ardmore. The words, “run down” are always intriguing, right? I sure thought so. It’s said to be a fast half and a definite PR course.
I was really excited when Kristie said she wanted to join me for this race as well because it meant I didn’t have to travel alone! Ardmore is only about a 90 minute drive north from me so I had considered driving up the morning of (they have race day packet pick-up) but when she signed up as well I made a hotel reservation for the night. We left late Saturday afternoon and made it to Ardmore right at 6:00pm when they shut down packet pick-up. There was no fancy expo or anything but packet pick-up was super easy and the people were very nice. We were both really impressed because instead of a shirt this year we got technical half-zips - that was an awesome perk! Another thing that I thought was really great was they had a pasta dinner available and every race entry received a free ticket to the dinner. So as soon as we got our packet we walked next door and had a nice pasta dinner. Free food is always the best!
Once we had our packets and had dinner we went to find the high school stadium where the race parking was. Ardmore is a really small town and there were only like 4 different lights so we found the high school no problem at all. Then we went and checked into our hotel. Once we checked into our hotel we just layed around watching tv for the night and got ready for race morning.
Race morning was super easy in my opinion; we were close to the race site, parking was no problem and we immediately got on a bus to head up into the mountains. It was about a 15 minute bus ride to the top of the Arbuckle mountains where the race start site was.
It was super windy and a little bit cold, although it was PERFECT racing temps for me; I will gladly be a little cold at the starting line for great racing weather. There were plenty of port-o-potties available and barely any lines at all. There was also water and some very nice volunteers up at the top. Kristie and I stood around talking to a volunteer for a while and just trying to stay warm. Eventually we realized we could sit inside the warm busses so we got back in one for a bit. About 15 minutes to the start we used the port-o-potties again and got ready to run. There were not too many people at the start line (the marathoners started about 5 miles up even further) and we started at 8:00am right on the dot. And we ran down, and down and down!
The first 2 miles were seriously shocking to me. I think, no, I know Kristie and I spent more energy holding ourselves back from going too fast instead of going forward. We were trying to find the right balance between not expending ourselves too much from the get go but also letting ourselves just go with the flow. In hindsight, if I were to do this race again I would definitely go all out in the first 2 miles and just let it ride. But regardless early on we were able to set an awesome pace of sub-10:30 miles.
Around mile 3 the course finally flattened out and then around mile 4 or so the rolling hills started in. I knew going in that this wasn’t ALL downhill but it definitely became apparent that I haven’t done any true hill training in oh, 5 months or so…. But regardless Kristie and I had set a nice pace early on and we just kept clicking off those miles. I actually remember getting to mile 5 and then what felt like only 10 steps later we were at mile 6….they just really kept flying by. It was such a great racing experience - Kristie and I had our Jesus music on just singing and praising the Lord, the weather was unbeatable and we were running down country roads enjoying the gorgeous scenery.
At mile 6.5 I grabbed a half a banana and some water at a water stop. Which by the way the water stops were awesome! Every mile there was water, gatorade, sometimes fruit and cold wet sponges and just really sweet people giving up their morning to volunteer. At mile 7 I took half a GU and we just kept moving along.
And then, about mile 8-8.5 is when the wind started, lots and lots of wind, head on pushing us back. Our 10:40 miles felt like so hard and eventually our pace dropped a bit. We kept pushing but the fast pace mixed with a headwind really started to wear on us, not to mention Kristie has been dealing with some fairly significant knee pain over the past few weeks. We finally had to walk up a hill right before mile 10, and then again right at mile 11. Our pace dropped some but by mile 12 we could see the town of Ardmore and we knew we were close so we sucked it up and kept going.
We were able to pick up the pace in that last mile due largely to the fact that we were out of the wind and there were no more hills. The finish line was at the high school stadium where we had parked and so we were running towards the football field. Kristie had a major PR in the bag already but we were both ready to be done. I was super excited because the last quarter mile we got to loop the track around the football field; I know this sounds ridiculous but I never got to run track in high school and I always wanted to. I also have always wanted to PASS someone, on the inside mind you, and beat them to the finish line and this was my chance. Yep, there was a lady who had played leap frog with us for the last 2 miles and she was in my sight so once we were half way around that track I just laid it all out and passed her on up, on the inside, and finished right before her.
Kristie and I were shooting for a 2:20 but we finished in 2:22:09 and I was beyond thrilled with that time. I haven’t seen a time like that in well over a year for a half and for Kristie that was an 8:00 minute PR! We got our medals and immediately found the medical tent to get Kristie some ice on her knee. We also stocked up on food that they had at the finish line - full sized snickers bars, chicken wraps from McDonald’s, apples, bananas, bagels, pretzels, water, gatorade….quite the spread!
And then we were off to Denny’s for breakfast - you see when we checked into our hotel we were given a FREE breakfast voucher for Denny’s to use by 11:00am. Free dinner AND free lunch, BEST TRIP EVER!!! So yes, we made it in time to cash in on free lunch post race! Over all this was a quick but super fun little road trip and I cannot say enough good things about this race. It is one that I would definitely do again. It was very affordable, the race crew and volunteers were some of the best I have ever seen, the things you got for your money were definitely worth it and the city of Ardmore was just so welcoming. Not to mention the race course was just beautiful and fabulous. I would say, if you plan to do this race enjoy the first 2 miles and don’t skimp on your hill training going into the race. Also, be prepared for sunshine, wind and the smell of fresh air and nature, cow patties included!