Saturday, November 29, 2014

(Part 2) The Williams Route 66 Half Marathon--State #19, OK

Route 66 Race Day
Sunday, November 23, 2014
View from the starting corral.
I woke up early, slightly before Andrew and headed down to the hotel lobby to microwave the coffee I purchased the night before (neurotic planning). I like to get up a bit early so I can take my time going about my rituals including coffee, hygiene and dress, breakfast, and stretching while still leaving enough time to get to the starting line. Today went well, except that we didn’t really leave extra time to hit the porta potties prior  to getting in our corral. Oh well...I figured if I had to, I’d just find one along the route. Usually I never stop mid-race for a pit stop, but I really wanted to start on time, so I took the risk. 
Me wearing my wind-proof garbage bag at the start of the race.
The start of the Route 66 race was terrific! They shot off confetti canons which gave a special feeling of celebration to the race, and of course, my old friend Bart Yasso was at the start giving high fives along with other race officials. I made sure to hit his hand on my way out for good luck. The race started quickly and the running crowd wasn’t too dense thanks to the staggered corral starts. We snaked through the city and out in to the outlying residential areas rather quickly. I started at a good pace...somewhere in the 8 minute range, but I pretty much figured I wouldn’t maintain that for the entire route. 
Confetti flying at the starting line.
In my head I had decided that I would kick back and enjoy this race. I have been fighting off fatigue and injury lately, and as luck would have it, my period decided that this was the perfect morning to show up. Awesome. Also, for some reason, I had two really lousy nights of sleep at the hotel prior to this race. I took off at a decent pace and hoped for the best. The video below is courtesy of the Route 66 Marathon Facebook page. I run by the camera at about the :26 mark right after high-fiving Bart Yasso!

Post by Route 66 Marathon.

(Here's a video of the race start. You can see me run by at about 26 seconds, right after high-fiving Bart Yasso.)

As much as we noticed that the downtown areas of Tulsa were virtually deserted while we were there, the residential areas were gorgeous and well populated with spectators!  No wonder the area residents don't hang out downtown much. They have incredible neighborhoods to retreat to. If I lived there, I’d probably do the same. The houses were a combination of tudor style, bungalow, craftsman, some colonial and some fancier, maybe Georgian? The architecture was varied, and it was just lovely to run through. Some time later, the smaller homes morphed in to more grand estates. I guessed that these were likely a result of the oil industry in the area. It was beautiful to run through here as well. 

I felt fairly good through the first half of the race. The weather was warm, high 50’s at the start and warming through the race. I did well with my water stops, and the Rock Tape I bought at the expo was amazingly helpful on my (usually) aching hamstring. My only complaint was that my toes in my left shoe were numbing. This happens sometimes when I run, but my last few runs it has been more pronounced. I think it may be due to the new shoes I’m breaking in. I tried my best to wiggle my toes around and keep them awake. 

Once we came out of the residential area, we ran through a rather commercial strip somewhere in Tulsa. There were plenty of stores and restaurants here and spectators, too. The runners along the way were in good spirits. Surprisingly, there were many more hills than I expected on the course, but they were not killer hills like in Oregon. But as you can imagine, hills are tiring, so whenever one pops up, things slow down. I pushed on as best I could, but I could feel myself slowing down. Always my goal is to finish in under 2 hours, which I still knew was within reach. 

We came out to a road that ran along the river, and at this point I knew we were heading back in to the city toward the finish area. The river road was less picturesque than I expected, but it was exciting to be at this point in the race and to know that the end was approaching. We ran across half of a bridge and did a u-turn toward a Route 66 overpass.  Just beyond was the last big hill of the race, conveniently located near the medical center. 

We ran past our hotel (such a tease) and around a couple of more corners and in to the finish area. I could hear the announcers at the finish before I got there, and once the finish line was in sight, I gave my best kick to get there. I know it wasn’t pretty, but I sprinted the best I could. (I’m sure the professional race photographs from this stretch of the race will be the ugliest ever!) Case in point...see photo below that I found on the Route 66 Marathon Facebook page. Hey, at least I can say I was giving it my all!

Andrew and I after the race with our medals.

Just as I approached the finish line, I saw Bart Yasso again and gave him a victorious finger point. He acknowledged my effort, and I crossed the line with a great smile of relief. Another state in the books. My official time was under 2 hours, 1:58:34, enough to make me happy on this one. Andrew finished well before me and was at our designated meeting spot ready to greet me. We traded our race tales, took photos and stretched, then walked back to the hotel to shower and get ready to head to the airport.

The Tulsa Route 66 Marathon/Half Marathon was a terrific, well-organized race. I read later in the day on their Facebook page that the race directors and officials stay at the finish line until the very last person crosses the line to cheer them on. Now that’s class. Well done, Tulsa. My legs are ready for a rest for a few months after this hectic year of running. Oh yeah, and the medal for this race, it is the Cadillac of medals! Dedicated to William Wollenberg and Charles Labutis, our grandfathers.

The trip back home was filled with delays and rerouting of flights, but as luck would have it, I ran in to a friend from home while waiting for my flight to take off from the Dallas Fort Worth airport. Thanks to Katy Santanella for keeping me company and for helping the time pass in a fun way! What a great way to end a the trip. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

(Part 1) The Williams Route 66 Half Marathon--State #19, OK

So planning these marathon trips is now starting to be rather routine. The hardest part (besides being away from my family) is remembering to pack all my necessities and/or making sure I can get them when I arrive in my destination. You may wonder what kind of things I require in my gear bag. Here goes: running shoes, running bra, tech shirt (short or long sleeve depending on weather), running skort and or tights, yoga pants, zip up long sleeve jacket, running hat, gloves, socks, gps watch, cell phone, belt for carrying cell phone, vanilla bean GU, chia seeds, packet of instant oatmeal, sunglasses, and then all the regular travel stuff like regular clothes, pajamas, toiletries, casual shoes, etc. All of my running essentials I keep in my gear backpack which I keep with me on the plane. My other travel items go in my suitcase which I check with the airline. My gear bag was especially heavy this trip because the weather in Tulsa could go either way this time of year, so I had to pack for both cold and temperate weather. And I brought a packet of hand warmers. Just in case. I guess I’d rather over pack than under pack though.

The flight out to Tulsa was fine. I met Andrew at the airport in Charlotte which was cool. We were on the same flight from there to Tulsa, but we sat in different areas of the plane. Near the end of the flight as I was reading my November issue of Runner’s World  Magazine, the man sitting across the aisle from me asked if I was running the marathon in Tulsa. We struck up a conversation, and I told him I was doing the half. He asked how I liked the issue of RW that I was reading, and I told him that Marc Parent (the Newbie Chronicles columnist) was my absolute favorite. He mentioned that he worked at Runner’s World and that he’d tell Marc that I enjoyed his work. I was excited to hear that he worked at RW so I asked if he was running the race. He said he wasn’t but that he was there to give some talks at the expo. It suddenly dawned on me that I was sitting next to Bart Yasso, the RW chief running officer and overall running legend! I was thrilled to meet him and have his ear for a few minutes. We chatted about the Route 66 race and that it seemed really well organized. I mentioned to him that I was working on halfs in all 50 states and that I just really loved the 13 mile distance. As we parted I expressed to him what a pleasure it was to meet him and to look for me at the 1:50 (or so) finish time. So cool! I only wish I’d asked him to take a photo with me. 

Our first day in Tulsa, we found a great little coffee shop for breakfast called Foolish Things Coffee Company. It was a fantastic little off the beaten path place with fresh wonderful food. We sat in the somewhat industrial space enjoying breakfast and coffee while watching the rain fall. It was raining pretty steadily, but the coffee was warm and the vibe in the restaurant was perfectly Saturday. A 70’s inspired soundtrack was playing  including songs like Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty and Funeral For a Friend by Elton John. I joked with Andrew that it was like watching one of those infomercials selling soft rock tunes of the 70’s--Saturday 70’s. It actually was pretty perfect. Before we took to the streets again, I asked a couple who were sitting nearby if there was a convenience store in the area were we could get an umbrella. They gave us directions to a place a few blocks away and we were off. On our walk, we passed the temporary quarters for the city library while the main location is under renovation. It is called the Librarium, and I think it is fabulous!

The rain was pretty steady at this point, and we were pretty wet by the time we got to the QuikTime convenience store. To our dismay, they didn’t sell umbrellas. So we just grabbed some Gatorade and got in line to check out. To my incredible disbelief, the woman from the coffee shop who had given us directions came walking in to the convenience store and asked me if we found umbrellas there. When I told her no, she handed me an umbrella that she had in her car. What an absolute angel! We couldn’t believe that she would do that for us. I commented to the clerk in the store that her kindness was such a mark of the Midwest. 
Here we are outside the convenience store with our lucky umbrella!
We were off again to walk through the downtown area. We saw some cool art deco architecture which Tulsa is known for and also found the general area where the starting line was to be located. They were still setting up the corrals. This was in the Bartlett Square area where we also saw this neato rotary circle in the street with a band of rainbow lights scrolling around it. We walked from there to the expo center where we picked up our numbers, t-shirts, and goodies and checked out the various vendors and exhibits.
Bartlett Square rotary with colorful chasing lights.
Starting line set up
Downtown architecture
I met a woman who I had previously met in Utah. She owns a company called Shoe Frosting, which is this cute charm jewelry that you can tie on your shoelaces. I bought a couple of the charms for my girls while out in Utah, so I stopped by to see if it was the same woman, and it was! We chatted about the Utah race (she is from Salt Lake), and had a great chat about our goals. She is running 40 halfs in this year before she turns 40. I told her about my 50 states before 50. We promised to keep in touch via facebook, and I picked up a couple more charms for the girls. 

The expo had all kinds of cool things there including many classic cars, an anti-gravity treadmill (what??!!), Route 66 selfie station and loads of products, services and gear. I loaded up on all the stuff I wanted or needed. I even spied Bart Yasso briefly again, but didn’t want to act like a stalker. 

By lunchtime I was getting hungry, and Andrew had already left, so I met him back at the hotel. We had a quick bite at the hotel and ventured back out to find the Center of the Universe in Tulsa. This is a spot in the city where when you stand right in the center of the circle a weird amplification of sound takes place. Andrew and I both tried it and it is so cool. To others around you, you sound like you are talking in a regular voice, but to your own ear it sounds like you are speaking in to a microphone. Super freaky but cool. 

Andrew & I at the Center of the Universe
Next we walked around the arts area nearby called the Brady Arts District. We discovered that this was the finish line area.

Also, several museums are located in this area including a contemporary arts space, the Woody Guthrie Center, the Arts & Humanities Council Arts Center, and the Jazz Hall of Fame. We stopped in to the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa Hardesty Arts Center (AHHA for short) and discovered they had an exhibition of art based on Route 66 travels. Perfect! The main gallery space was filled with sculpture made from a variety of materials including glazed ceramic, various metals and found objects like toys and Elvis heads. 

Another section of the exhibit featured photographs taken along the route. This was my favorite part of the gallery. The photos were very intriguing and at times comical and or desolately beautiful. There were also some multi-media presentations like slides, audio selections and one video. It was an interesting and meaningful stop considering our Route 66 race. The second floor of AHHA featured an exhibit on African wax art on textile, similar to the batik method. 

The fabrics were intricate, colorful and beautiful. The woman working at the AHHA recommended a fabulous chocolatier (Glacier) to us which was right around the corner from the gallery, so of course, we bee-lined it there. I bought a few delicious sounding pieces of chocolate. Two that I enjoyed immediately (dark chocolate hawaiian salted caramel, chili apple salted caramel) and two to save for after the race (the Elvis (peanut butter, banana, bacon and chocolate) and a chardonnay salted milk chocolate). We also found an Italian restaurant and made a reservation for dinner. We walked back to the hotel to rest for a bit after that and to take a break before dinner. 

Dinner was at a lively Italian spot called Hey Mambo. The atmosphere in there was terrific with bold pop-art-esque paintings, Edison bulb style lighting, many diners carb-loading and a violinist playing table to table. It was a fantastic place. I also thought of my college pal, Terry Colosimo, as above the bar area, the movie Raising Arizona played on the television. Which with the advent of captioning made the movie funnier to watch. 

We ordered our dinners, and shortly thereafter, Jocelyn, the violinist came over and asked us if we had any requests. She had just finished playing Sweet Child of Mine by Guns & Roses for another table. Clearly she was up for just about anything. She played Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode and Ordinary World by Duran Duran for us. We loved it! She is also in a band called We The Ghost. I bet they are pretty great if her talent in the restaurant is any indication. According to their Facebook page, they recently won an award for Musical Group of the Year at the LA Music Awards. Not bad! We finished up our meals while we enjoyed her violin serenades throughout the restaurant. It is fun to hear songs that aren’t typically violin songs played on a violin. 

The rain began again as we left the restaurant, but luckily the hotel shuttle picked us up along with some other guests along the way. Back at the hotel, I gathered my creature comforts for the morning and prepared my clothes and carry-ons for early access. I had to run an unexpected errand and on the way to catch the van to the convenience store, I ran in to Bart Yasso again. I feel like we are old friends now. We chatted about the expo and the forecasted weather for the start of the race. He wished me a successful race and gave me a high five. Not a bad way to end our day before the race. It was back to the hotel to get our things ready for the race in the morning.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Exercising Freedom

Good morning 50x50 readers. I'm here to redeem myself and get rid of my award for being the biggest slacker blogger ever. Life has been very hectic here on the home front since the September race in Utah, and as such, my blogging has taken a back seat. My apologies for stepping away from the keyboard for so long. Here is the post I wanted to compose last Tuesday on Election Day.
I always look forward to my Election Day run. My polling location is conveniently situated on one of my regular running routes, so my tradition is to run to vote. Doing this always makes me feel so empowered; not only am I exercising my voice as a citizen, I am also freely exercising! I love that! The greatness of this really impacts me on Election Day, and I feel so energized post-vote and post-run. One of the wonderful things about running is allowing your brain to wander while you plug away at the miles. Many times as I run, I think about just how fortunate I am to be out there...enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, feeling physically strong, listening to my breathing, not having to worry about the many restrictions that citizens of other nations deal with everyday. I love looking up in to the bright blue sky, watching for seasonal changes to the scenery I pass, waving to the regular folks I see as I run around. It is all so good.
That brings me to another fun story to share. Last week I was working on a semi-long run (10 miler), and as I reached my turn around point, a garbage truck was just turning the corner, set to continue along in my direction. I caught the eye of the driver as I turned around, and looked at him as if to ask, "Wanna race?" I started to sprint briefly along side him, and we both shared a good laugh as he drove along up the street. Fast-forward a mile and a half later, he was coming down a side street as I passed along on the main road, and I gave him a victorious, "I beat you" arm punch in the air as I ran by him. It was really funny, and gave me a kick as I finished up my route. I happened to see the same driver in the garbage truck on Saturday as I ran, and he gave be a beep and a wave. I love seeing my "regulars" out on the streets. Distractions are good while distance running.
So all that said, my next half is right around the corner...less than two weeks until the Route 66 Half in Tulsa, OK. I have to confess, this being my 7th half this year was a bit ambitious for me, and I'm getting tired. I know I will certainly finish this race, but for the first time in my state race training, I didn't log a 12-13 mile run prior to the race. I did a 10 miler, which is fine, but I am nursing a tired right hamstring and glute, and I just didn't want to push it too much. My taper just started a little earlier than normal, that's all, and even then, I'm still good to throw a substantial 7 miler in to the mix before the actual race.
Route 66 will be a special one. My cousin Andrew is running with me, which I'm excited about. We haven't run together since June when we did the Covered Bridges Half in VT. He scored an amazing PR there, so I'm sure he's gunning to better that. I just want to finish OK in under two hours without any injury. That's my goal this time. Then I get to rest for December and January. No races on the calendar for me just yet in 2015, but I have lots of ideas swirling in my head.
Back to Route 66...the race, of course, takes place on the iconic stretch of road, and each year the race directors fashion the finisher's medal after a 50's inspired car hood ornament. This year's medal will honor the Cadillac. Not too shabby! I wrote Andrew after I read about the Cadillac medals to tell him. His grandfather, Bill, passed away a few years ago. He was a very special man to all of us in the family. He always drove a Cadillac. So I suggested to Andrew that we dedicate this race to him. He enthusiastically agreed. When I told my mom about this, she reminded me that my grandfather, Charles (her dad), also always drove a Cadillac. So of course, this race will honor both of our grandfathers! I love that! I will have them both in my thoughts as I make my way "on the road" in Tulsa. Can't wait!