Race Review – CASA Half Marathon Pine Bluff, Arkansas (2017 Grand Prix Championship)

2017 CASA Half Marathon Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix Relive video


Overview of the Race.

This past Saturday, I ran the  CASA Half Marathon – a 13.1 mile race in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

It’s a pretty big deal for Arkansas runners, as it is the last race of the year for those of us that participate in the Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix event.

The Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix is a series of 20 races throughout the year, where Arkansas runners from around the state compete head-to-head, and running club verse running club to determine the best in the state.

The proceeds from the race support the work of CASA – the Committee Against Spousal Abuse.

CASA – who you can read more about here, is a non-profit organization that supports the victims of domestic violence, by helping the victims break the silence and get in touch with someone who can help.


The Course, Field of Runners, Organization.

2017 CASA Half Marathon Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix Relive video

Click here to watch my race on #Relive.

The race winds through some pretty cool parts of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

It starts and ends at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions Stadium.

2017-12-Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix CASA Half Marathon GrinchIt’s an out-and-back course, so you’ll get to run – twice – by Lake Pine Bluff, the Pine Bluff Regional State Park (and right along the Arkansas River).

It’s a quiet course, so lots of time to think, although 2 things are noteworthy.

First, as you run by Lake Pine Bluff and the Arkansas River, if it is cold, you are going to get blasted by wind.

A cold biting wind that seems to want to blow your backwards like a piece in a chutes-and-ladders game.

Second, the volunteers on this course are AMAZING!

They yell and cheer loudly, have plenty of water and gatorade at almost every mile, and the park crews even stop working to cheer everyone on.

The field of runners are really nice folks, but keep in mind…these are folks that have been competing head-to-head all year, so folks are trying really hard to turn in good times at that last race.

You are also up against some TOUGH as IRON runners – those handful of runners that complete all 20 races in the Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix get an “Iron Runner” award.  It’s hard to do – I’ve not even tried (yet!) because 20 races in a year is way more than my body can handle!

Now, my FAVORITE part of this race is the end.

You run across the finish, get your medal, and run right into the heated walkway under the stadium for a yummy pancake breakfast and hot coffee and hot chocolate!


The Bling. 

I did not get a shirt this year – signed up too late in the game (I was worried whether I would be pushing it to squeak in a half marathon just 2 months after my full marathon.

December 2017 Arkansas Grand Prix RRCA CASA Half Marathon Pine Bluff Arkansas Medal

I’m only starting my 3rd year of running, so I’m like Glenn Fry  just trying to “Take it Easy” with racing for now.

The medal is cool as you can see from the picture.

Arkansas RRCA GRand Prix CASA Half Marathon Cermic Dishes award

And, the awards that go to the top runners in the race are pretty unique…

….hand-crafted ceramic dishes.

I believe those in the picture to the left were from 2016.

Unfortunately, I had to miss the award ceremony this year.  I had to haul butt to drive 2 hours north to Conway for a kid’s Christmas party in Conway with the DADS of Down Syndrome group.

By the way, congrats to the winners!

The women’s winner was Tia Stone, who you may know from Instagram as…  She came in with a chip time of 1:26:04

The men’s winner was Brian Sieczkowski, age 39, with a chip time of 1:17:42

My Finish, By the Numbers.

2017-12-Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix CASA Half Marathon HeaterThe day started out FREEZING cold – 26 degrees at the start.

I made a mistake huddling up under the heat lamp before the race….but only because I had set my gloves down on the table and forgot to get them before the race.

Since my Army days, when I got iced in on a mountain in Korea in January, I have not been a big fan of cold weather, and I was cursing myself out for at least 3 miles.

But I settled into a comfortable stride, and felt strong – at the end of each mile, I sprinted for a count of 15 seconds and settled back down to my pace.

Everything went well until Mile 10, when I started running out of steam in my legs.

My sense was that my legs were tired from carrying a little more weight than it was ready to do….I just felt heavy.  Maybe that was in my head, I dunno.

I’m happy with my finish – breaking into Top 10 of my age group and Top 100 of the race.  Since my Spring Half in Little Rock, I dropped 32 seconds per mile, and broke below 2 hours on the half for the first time in a race (I did in a training run this summer).

December 2017 CASA Half marathon Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix Final Results

Two interesting notes.

First, I basically ran my plan for the first half of Chicago, and here’s what I learned: I did not put in nearly enough miles to run sub-4:00 in Chicago.

Heat wasn’t the primary problem at all – I just didn’t have enough time on my feet going into it to sustain that pace for 26 miles.

Lesson learned.

Second, I was worn out by Mile 10, but I didn’t run a single second in Heart Zone 5.

December 2017 CASA Half marathon Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix Heart Rate Zones

That’s odd to me.

If you have any thoughts why that would be the case, I’d love to hear them.

Who I Ran For.

2017-12-Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix CASA Half Marathon NDSSI ran to raise money for the National Down Syndrome Society – the NDSS – who is the largest human and civil rights organization for people with a Down Syndrome diagnosis.

My goal is to raise $500 for the NDSS in the month of December: will you please click this link and make a $21 donation to support my efforts?

Your donation of $21 will support the NDSS as they build campaigns on Capitol Hill to change employment and other laws which limit the ability of kids like my son from working, earning a living and having a career.

Click here to donate in the month of December 2017.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *