Did You Say Race Across Arkansas?

Guest Writer Yoni Johnson gives us the story of the Foxy Moxie Running Mavens

What Strong Looks Like
What Strong Looks Like

“What did you do to your leg?” I’m asked as I hobble around in the boot. With a sheepish grin, I reply “I ran across Arkansas.”

It all started with those famous last words bravely said by every runner embarking into uncharted territory. “Sure! Why not?” It was my answer to the question posed by Andi Stracner “Hey Yoni, what do you think about running across Arkansas?”

Andi, Lisa Luyet, and I formed a team to participate in the Race Across Arkansas, naming ourselves the Foxy Moxie Running Mavens and opting to run approximately 162 miles together rather than doing the run as a relay version, taking turns running instead of running together each day. The race originally broke down into six back-to-back marathons and three miles on the seventh day fro a big finish. The course started at the Louisiana/Arkansas border, traversing the southern towns of Magnolia, El Dorado, Strong, Crossett, Montrose, and Lake Village to end at the Arkansas/Mississippi border.

The Race Across Arkansas is part of the larger effort of the Race Across the USA series. The goal of RAUSA, is “inspiring a healthier generation” by promoting childhood fitness. As a team of runners move across the country, the core team visits schools on behalf of the 100 Mile Club, and all fundraising goes to implementing this program in schools. The focus is to encourage and help kids run or walk 100 miles over the course of the school year and to teach them healthy lifestyle habits. This race is organized by Run-Walk Events, and at the conclusion of RAUSA on June 2nd, Run-Walk Events will present the 100 Mile Club with a check containing the proceeds from fundraising.

The Foxy Moxies raised and contributed over $1,300.00 to add to the countrywide fundraising effort thanks to many of our friends, family members, and sponsors. The love, support, and generosity of those around us made our possibility into a reality. My journal tells the story of our adventure.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 6pm Leaving Little Rock

Lisa picks me up and we’re off to Magnolia trying to stay ahead of the thunderstorms. It gets country dark the further south we drive and it’s indeterminate if the sounds we hear are raindrops or bugs hitting the windshield. Conversation centers around typical race talk- clothing, gear, food, pace, and logistics. A late night dinner buffet starts one of many themes for the week,  as we all know that the words “all you can eat” are music to a marathoner’s ears. Thought of the day at the dusk of our new adventure – is the joke on us that we start our epic journey on April Fool’s Day?

Thursday, April 2, 2015 (Day 1) Start: Springhill, LA    

The circus is in town – five of us pile into Andi’s VW Bug (or clown car) to find the starting line. After a brief moment of panic and a message to the RD we locate the core team and crew at a gas station near the sign “Welcome to Arkansas the Natural State”. A quick group picture, announcements from Sandy, the Co-race director, and we start promptly at 8:00am. Spirits are high with the excitement of beginning our journey and meeting our amazing fellow runners. But as the old adage goes- It’s all fun and games until someone (Andi) gags on a bug and pukes at mile 1.5. The first day proved to be the albatross around Andi’s neck, but she persevered and overcame bugs, an upset stomach, and the suffocating Arkansas heat to finish strong. Thankfully her husband and son were crewing for us and kept us stocked with cold Ginger Ale. All puking aside, the one odd occurrence involved a man, a truck, a confederate flag, and much discussion about history. My lesson of the day and advice to you is don’t try to post to Facebook and run at the same time or you *might* kick roadkill.

Recovery: Hop in hotel pool with running clothes still on, drink Sonic slushes, eat Tie Dyed Trail Grub smokey pepper almonds, devour an Asian buffet, and put on compression socks.

Finish: Magnolia  Distance: 26.47 miles  Time: 6:56

Marathon Eaters
Marathon Eaters, by the end, the buffet owners see us coming and are frightened

Friday, April 3, 2015 (Day 2) Start: Magnolia    

It’s Good Friday and we walk to the start line from our hotel and sip on coffee until the core team arrives. All three of us are suffering strange bruising and swelling on our left ankles from the camber of the road, but without typical marathon recovery time we have to push through the soreness. The theme of the day quickly becomes “dirty” with road grit and clouds of pollen kicked up by speeding logging trucks causing the grime to settle on the surface and crevices of our arms and legs. To test our cardiovascular system, we run across bridges without shoulders at top speed while logging trucks bear down on us á la the ATARI game Frogger. Things that make the time pass by include looking for appropriate places to potty, singing songs, reviewing plans for the evening, taking pictures, deep thoughts, and trivial conversation.  Logistically, the day also involved a move from one hotel to the next. My parents, with two of my children in tow, drove to the hotel in Magnolia where we had left all of our luggage at the front desk where they loaded it up and met us along the road to help crew. They waited at the finish line to take us to our hotel in El Dorado and then picked up our dinner at the Flying Burger. Tips of the day include to always upgrade your hotel room if you can,  trash cans carry large quantities of ice, be careful of choosing said potty spot or you’ll get poison ivy, poor Lisa, and marathon brain in which you can’t speak or think clearly is a real disorder.

Recovery: An ice bath made tolerable with adult beverages and compression sleeves for Andi & Lisa, but I already lost mine.  Finish: El Dorado  Distance 26.45 miles Time 6:41

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Making new friends, Barefoot Alex
Making new friends, Barefoot Alex

Saturday, April 4, 2015 (Day 3) Start: El Dorado    

We get a ride with the core team to the start line. Our ankles are increasingly worse and we’re trying out KT Tape and duct tape for support. Strangely, the normal aches and pains you’d expect aren’t an issue, but I personally had a rough night with stomach problems and not much sleep. The things that helped me push through were Andi & Lisa singing and dancing, playing music for the last few miles in Lisa’s speaker becomes part of the ritual, the weather was sunny but cool, and cold Ginger Ale provided by our crew which consisted of Andi’s family again including  Chiclet the famous chihuahua. Other established rituals include shouting “Game on!”and “Game off!” to indicate oncoming traffic, after all foxy ladies have to channel Wayne’s World, and using a particular expletive and telephone poles to denote the beginning of our next running interval. By day three we’re getting to know the Race Across USA core team, and they are a wonderful group of people. We spend a few moments running with Newton and Barefoot Alex (he runs barefoot as his name implies) at the beginning of the day’s race. Each athlete brings a unique perspective to running and reminds me that we were brought together by this race at this particular time and place to achieve personal goals as well as inspiring future generations- it doesn’t get any better than this for a runner! Lesson of the day – there’s no love like the running community’s love.

Recovery: Flying Burger for dinner again, another ice bath,and falling asleep at 8:30.

Finish: Strong (in more ways than one)   Distance 26.44 miles Time 6:56

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Newton and the Moxies

Sunday, April 5, 2015 (Day 4) Start: Strong   

Easter Sunday greets us with making the cover of the sports section of the El Dorado newspaper, a sunburn on the left side of my neck and ear, and a bunny bearing gifts at the start line. The bunny turns out to be Arkansas’ own Jesse Riley, a former Trans-America Foot Race director. I decide to try a new tactic for my ankle since it hurts each time I flex it, meaning every step is painful, and I wrap it snugly with an ace bandage. The majority of the course for the day passes by the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge and we cross multiple bridges over troubled waters with names like Lapile Creek, Deep Slough, and Ouachita River Relief. The day is rainy and cold, and I’m grateful when my husband and kids show up on the side of the road with our luggage from the last hotel so I can dig out my raincoat and get kisses and hugs from my family. My husband Mike finds the crew at the finish line, and they ask him to be there for us to finish and self-report our time so they can get their core runners back to camp to get warm and dry. It was a monumental day in that we hit mile 100 and are guaranteed a coveted 100 mile belt buckle at this point. I seriously considered going home with my husband and kids, but I kept my thoughts to myself and decided to finish the race even if I had to crawl. I officially met Harry and Sally, the giant blisters residing on Lisa’s big toes. I had heard rumors of the star crossed lovers, but didn’t realize the extent of their drama until I witnessed it in person. They almost met, but alas it wasn’t meant to be…the blisters remained on separate footing for the rest of their lifetime. We upgraded our room at the Ashley Inn and ended up next to the most happening Easter party I’ve ever heard. The merrymaking went on until 1am when a second call to the front desk put an end to the fun. Lesson of the day is that a room upgrade might not be worth it unless you can upgrade your neighbors too.

Recovery: Band-Aid tough strips for Harry and Sally, ice bath, and Chinese Buffet.

Finish: Crossett  Distance 26.44 miles Time 7:21

Monday, April 6, 2015 (Day 5) Start: Crossett 

With little sleep and slightly delirious, we load Lisa’s car for the next hotel move and eat breakfast at the Huddle House in which the amount of food consumed should’ve been embarrassing. Having to leave the car ½ a mile away, Andi and Lisa drop me off at the start line on the side of the highway because of the severity of my ankle injury. At this point more of the core runners add to the great debate on how to doctor it. Some suggestions were strong European drugs, an ankle brace, and no brace. I decide to leave it unwrapped and alternate taking Tylenol and Alleve. The day’s course takes us through agricultural communities with fields of newly planted crops and silos. The bugs swarm us as we take a potty break, and I walk into a batch of poison ivy to join Lisa in the itchy and scratchy show. Today’s crew is Lisa’s parents who greet us with every type of beverage a runner could want. Michele Lucas unexpectedly shows up on the side of the road with water and hugs to lift our spirits. Seeing as we are trustworthy and capable of staying the course, we are allowed to self-report our times again. Logistics involve a ride to Lisa’s car and transporting our stuff to the Quality Inn at Lake Village which elicits my favorite quote of the day “What do you mean there’s no elevator?” asked by a bewildered and confused Lisa Lu. Then a ten minute tense conversation about the lack of an elevator, no availability of rooms on the first floor, and the hotel being wheelchair accessible and compliant with the ADA. Thank goodness for the employee of the year. Tina’s patience, problem solving skills, and youth worked in her favor as she carried all of our luggage to the second floor and later hauled buckets of ice to our room, because you guessed it, the ice machine was on the first floor too. Later that evening, we finally met the Delta Moxie and Lake Village Ambassador,  Kellee Mayfield, who took us to dinner at the casino buffet. Little did we know what she had in store for us the next day. Advice for the day is to watch diligently for poison ivy, and always check that your hotel has an elevator because climbing flights of stairs after five back to back marathons is brutal.

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Recovery: Ice bath, elevate legs, and multiple trips to the buffet.

Finish: Montrose  Distance 26.40 miles Time 7:20

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 (Day 6) Start: Montrose  Finish: Lake Village  Distance 26.35 miles Time 6:43

Second Start: Lake Village Second Finish: Banks of the Mississippi River  Distance 2.77 miles Time 1:00 

We choose to finish the race across Arkansas today rather than getting up the next morning for the last three miles. Lisa’s wonderful parents take us to the start line for our final leg of the race. Rob from the core team hops out of the support vehicle, prepared for Arkansas insects wearing mosquito netting draped around his head and arms. We find out he’s in the process of breaking the world record for the number of marathons run in a year. For his astounding and touching story go to  www.marathonmanuk.com. Early on in the day we are running stronger than we have all week and end up getting lost for the first time and unnecessarily crossing a scary bridge in the process. On our detour, we happened to be running with core runner and friend Newton whose laws include “relentless forward progress” and to “go lightly.” He was spotted across the fields by the crew at our first aid station, and they called his cell phone to tell him we were off track. We made our way across the fields and added about a mile to the day’s already long run. This was a temporary setback mentally and might have been a damper, but not for long – thanks to Kellee, all of Lake Village was on high alert for Foxy Moxie sightings. People came out of their homes and businesses to offer us water, take pictures, and cheer us on. They honked, shouted, and encouraged from their cars as they drove by. Kellee and her coworkers stood outside the hospital with food and drinks. Of course, the Foxy Moxies can’t be spotted walking through town instead of running, and it’s our last day so we give it our all, and we finish our marathon distance in record time for the week. Lisa’s parents and Kellee meet us at the Mississippi River bridge to finish the final stage of the race. But first, we wander around trying to find the levee which is the official finish line.  Being a local, Kellee was able to show us the way. We finished on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River with cold beverages in hand to celebrate. No crowds, no bells and whistles, no music, just the feeling of accomplishment under beautiful cyan skies. The moment feels surreal and I’m not sure how to react after completing 162 miles in six days. That night Kellee treats us and the core team and crew to dinner at the country club. We get to know the crew and core runners even better and friendships are made for life. Sandy & Darren, the Race Directors, present us with our 100 Mile Club medals and tell us that we are the top team fundraisers. Lesson of the day – “You can accomplish anything you set your mind to.”

Recovery: laughter, cold beverages, good food, and friends.

Total Distance 30+ miles

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Finish

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 Leaving Lake Village

Aren’t we suppose to run another marathon today?  Nope, we head home stiff and sore with a bittersweet air lingering in our conversation and on our hearts. The race has left an indelible impression on our lives. The three of us made a great team with Lisa showing her brains and organizational skills as the grandmaster logistics maven, Andi’s fearless, badass honey badger soul kept us focused, and I found that heart and stubbornness will keep you going even when your body says to quit. When we formed our team it was with this in mind – “The mission of the Foxy Moxie Running Mavens is to run across Arkansas, to promote childhood fitness, to conquer our fears, and to push the limits of what we thought was impossible. We will strive to spread the word that running is fun!”  Mission. Accomplished.

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To find out more about donating and to follow our shenanigans, “like” our Facebook page at Foxy Moxie Running Mavens for Race Across Arkansas.

Editor’s notes from Lisa: I’d like to thank the Foxy Moxies for the inspiration that they are, not only for the six days they spent running across Arkansas, but the other 359 days a year that they invest their time and energy in the running community of Arkansas. 

You can follow Rob’s Marathon journey here. The Race Across America Team here and on Facebook and Instagram. Please continue to donate to this incredibly worthy cause.  The core team will be arriving at the White House on Tuesday June 2, 2015 to finish their journey from California. 

You may recognize Andi from her multiple turns at as a cover girl for the Arkansas Outside Friday! photos. Yoni is a first time contributor to AO, we thank her for sharing their incredible journey. 

To add to the Foxy Moxies thanks to Ms. Kellee Mayfield, THE Delta Moxie herself, I’d like to thank her for taking such good care of our friends, just as she has taken care of me when I’ve come to run her town for the Mississippi Marathon. Thanks for being such a great supporter of the running community Kellee!