Thursday, November 28, 2013

Making History with the Historic Route 66 Marathon!

This may not be the kind of history that will make history books one day, but a historical one for me in that it was technically my first (and probably last) ultra marathon!  The Tulsa Route 66 Marathon gave runners the option to take a detour which adds 0.3 miles to the race making it a total of 26.5 miles.  The detour takes you through Tulsa's Center of the Universe landmark.  A quick explanation for this landmark:  Apparently if you stand in the center of this circle and yell you can hear your voice echo but no one outside of the circle can hear the echo.  I'm not sure if this actually works as I didn't hear any echo, but maybe I didn't yell loud enough.  It was a tough decision to take this detour as it's placed between miles 25 and 26 of the race (a bit cruel if you ask me).  But despite the fact that I couldn't feel my fingers (temperatures were in the 20s) I opted to take the detour, and I was rewarded with this fancy coin!

 I certainly didn't expect for Tulsa to have so many rolling hills, but it did.  I was wondering when it would actually become flat, and it never seemed like it did.  But I have to say that the people of Tulsa were incredibly friendly and supportive.  As I mentioned, it was freeeeeezing, and many people had little fire pits set up in their driveways.  Probably more to keep them warm while cheering the runners on, and I have to give them credit for being out there, but they were more than happy to let you warm your hands and buns at the fire for a few moments.  One group even offered me a bloody mary!  Businesses were also letting runners hop in to warm up for a quick minute.  I don't know much about Tulsa, but there is certainly an affluent area that we ran through.  I've never seen so many women in fur coats cheering runners on.  And holy moly the mega churches!
Mega Methodist Church
Mega Presbyterian Church

I had a chance to walk around downtown Tulsa the day before when I walked to the Tulsa Convention Center to pick up my race packet.  Actually one of the least frustrating Expos I've been too, so good job Route 66 Marathon!  Tulsa has some interesting architecture.  Lots of art deco looking buildings. And like I said, lots of churches. Big, fancy ones. 

Tulsa also had some interesting buildings, bridges, fountains.  Although it was cold and windy as I walked around and eventually I couldn't feel my legs, I enjoyed the couple of hours I spent milling around downtown Tulsa.  And unexpectedly, Tulsa also had some pretty good restaurants downtown.  I stayed at the Fairfield Inn, and if you plan on running this race, it's location is perfect.  Easy walk to the start and REALLY close to the finish line, which is very important.  By the way, they had hot spaghetti at the finish line, which actually seemed appetizing, compared to the plain hard bagels and bananas most races have.  Of course, I was freezing and anything hot might have been appealing, but another "well done!" to the Route 66 Marathon.  
Oh, right, I was going to tell you about some restaurants. I highly recommend The Tavern, which was pretty much across the street from the Fairfield Inn.  Very cool place, sort of a gastropub.  I actually had lunch there on Saturday AND dinner there on Sunday.  Grilled cheese (which included turkey and a pepper spread) and tomato bisque for lunch and for dinner; a delicious kale salad with beets, brussels sprouts, apple and pumpkin. Pretty fancy, huh? I would not expect to find such interesting and delicious food in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but lo and behold, there was.  Oh, and I would also suggest the Rusty Crane for some good, but slightly atypical bar food.
It is is always hard to roll out of bed when it's 20 degrees out and decide to run 26.2 miles (or 26.5 in this case).  But there was a quote that I had seen posted on the Route 66 Marathon's facebook page the day before that stood out to me.  It said, "Never take the finish line for granted.  We are the lucky ones."  I try to remember this every time I run a marathon, how lucky I am for being able to get out there and have that experience.  And as it's Thanksgiving today, it seems appropriate to recognize I have a lot to be thankful for.  I'm thankful that I have good health so I can run all of these races.  I'm thankful that I have so many friends and family that are supportive of me in everything I do.  And I'm thankful for having the opportunity to share my experiences with all of you who are so kind to read about them.  A safe and happy holiday season to all of you and thank you for all your support through 2013 and through 17 states!  I wonder which states 2014 will take me to?  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Inspiration. Marine Corps style.

I always thought that as I was training for this race that it would be one of my favorites.  Well, as only the Marine Corps can do, it lived up to my expectations and then some.  This was my first trip to Washington D.C. and one of my most memorable races to date.  Of course, much of that was due to a great host (the generous Jon Garcia) and my fabulous travel partner (airport seizure super hero Jessica Statz).

We arrived in D.C. and were whisked away to the White House Garden Tour by Jon.  Jon's VIP status got us in the short line to enter so we didn't have to wait for tickets, which is always a bonus.  As cheesy as it sounds, it was pretty cool to be on the grounds where so many president's and first ladies had been.  And apparently they all planted a tree.  Each tree planting seemed to be memorialized by the same silly ceremonial dirt-throwing photo.  Kinda cool though to see those photos of trees planted decades ago and compare the size of the tree in the photo to the monstrosity it has grown into today.  Circle of life people...good stuff.  

After that we went to the Expo to get our goods.  I'm not going to comment much on the expo other than to say it was as annoying as most race expos are.  Why do I never like those things? After the expo, Jon took us to a traditional carb loading dinner at a Lebanese restaurant.  In my opinion, way better than some boring old pasta!  I'm pretty sure eating fried cheese and skewered meat is the best way to prepare for a race.

And now it's race day.  Despite having done a few marathons before, I always wake up the morning of a race (wondering why I've decided to do this since I have to get up so early) feeling like I haven't trained enough, that I've forgotten something really important like a sports bra, and pretty much have an overall feeling of being unprepared.  Fortunately, I remembered everything so now it was just whether my training was enough.

Waiting for the blast
I walked in the dark to the race start line with a friend of Jessica's, Sarah, who was also running the marathon.  We walked past an eerily dark and beautiful Arlington Cemetery to get there, passing through a bag check point manned by Marines making sure we were all safe for the start of the race.

The Howitzer
The race start was by far the most patriotic one I've experienced, of course, that probably shouldn't come as a surprise.  As the National Anthem played, paratroopers dropped from the sky with the largest American flags I've ever seen.   And of course, the Marines wouldn't dare start off the race with a tiny little gun pop.  They go all out Marine Corps style and start it off with a Howitzer.  And so with the blast of a cannon, the race begins! 

We started the race in Arlington, Virginia and made our way into D.C. and back.  We ran along the Potomac where you could catch a glimpse of Georgetown University.  We ran along the National Mall, past all the Smithsonian Museums and right up to and past Capital Hill.  All along the course were Marines, either standing serious in watch to make sure we were all safe, or cheering all of us runners on to keep us motivated.  There were also soldiers participating in the race in full gear and I have no idea how they could do that with those giant packs on, as I was struggling just getting little ole me to the finish.
 One of the most memorable and emotional moments was a right around mile 12.  The organization wear blue: run to remember had set up a runner support area.  As you ran along, you ran past sign after sign of people who had died during active duty. Their names, tour of duty and date of death were posted. The faces seemed to go on forever.  There were so many and they looked so young.  Running a marathon, at least for me, is always an emotional event. Seeing this, well, brought all the emotions right to the surface and I'll admit I was tearing up.  And while this all might sound depressing, it actually was really inspiring.  Because when I could feel the blisters forming on my feet (and for some reason, I had several this race) I thought of those faces.  I thought about how lucky I was to be able to be out there doing this when so many couldn't, and I cared a lot less about the blisters, and my tired legs and feet.  And at the risk of sounding cliche, the sacrifice made by these soldiers and their families.... well suffering through 26.2 miles pales in comparison.

To bring the mood back up,  let me mention the several signs along the course that were pretty entertaining.  Since the race was in jeopardy of being canceled because of the government shut down, there were several "You're running better than our government" signs which made me chuckle.  Another chuckler, "1 out of 100 runners poos themselves.  Are you that one?"  Actually, there were a lot more signs than I'm used to seeing relating to poo.  But who doesn't love a good poo reference?  And of course, there was the typical "I love turtles" poster. Huh?

And then there was the finish!  Oh, the beautiful finish line, which was just at the top of the steepest hill of the race.  Leave it to the Marines to toss a big challenging hill in front of you the last 0.2 miles!  If you made it up this hill, you were rewarded by literally hundreds of Marines lining the finish corral and each one of them was personally congratulating and shaking as many sweaty runners' hands as they could.  (No one told me that Marines were so attractive, by the way).  And when you finally got to the medals, one was placed around your neck by a Marine, who then congratulated and saluted you.  I often get feel a little emotional at the finish line, but this just made the moment so much better, because it's not everyday that a civilian gets a salute from a Marine.

A truly amazing, great, amazing experience!  And except for that last stretch on the expressway, crowd support was ample all the way.

The remainder of the day was spent walking around Georgetown.  Wow, are there some amazing houses.  We hit up the historic Martin's Tavern which is celebrating it's 80th year.  And according to American Way magazine, it's rumored to be the place where JFK proposed to Jackie O.  Regardless if that is true or not, they place was still pretty cool.  Although, I was not thrilled by the bathrooms being upstairs.  Stairs are the enemy post race!  So not cool.

Sorta reminds me of my alma mater, Illinois State. Sorta, but not at all.

Yay laws!
E + MC zzzzzzz....
The day after the race was jam packed full of sight seeing!  The Capital, where our gracious host Jon got us a little behind the scenes peek of the Senate Press Room.  He took us the historic Ebbit's where we had lunch.  He took pictures of our butts in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  He showed us planes that went really fast, and outer space fecal bags. We saw the Vietnam Memorial and sat on Albert Einstein's lap.  What more could a girl ask for?  Best. Host. Ever.

You sir, a question?

Vietnam Memorial

We ended our last day in D.C. visiting some of the Smithsonian museums.  The art galleries, the Natural History Musuem.  I'm pretty sure I have never done so much walking after running a marathon.  It was pretty painful, I'm not gonna lie.

Despite the tired legs, I'm glad I spent an hour on my computer hitting refresh over and over and over and over to have made it into registration before it closed.  I'm thankful for having the chance to participate in such a great event and to bring awareness and support to a great organization like Pits for Patriots.  I'm thankful to everyone who donated to my fundraising event.  I'm thankful for all of those who've served and continue to serve in our military.  And as always, I'm thankful to all of you who read this blog and continue to support me.  That's a lot of thankfuls.  Tis the season to be thankful, right?  Each and every race I run, I'm inspired by the runners around me who are either running for a cause, in memory of a lost loved one, or to celebrate overcoming some of life's hardest challenges.  So most of all, I'm thankful to all those complete strangers for their continued inspiration.