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.

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