Monday, April 20, 2015

April 18, 2015, Garmin Half Marathon in the Land of Oz, State #21. KS

I left for Kansas City on Friday, April 17th pretty early in the morning. My husband was still on a business trip in Las Vegas, so my mom helped out by getting the kids through their morning routine and off to school. Thanks, mom! My flight left BDL at about 8 am and traveled without incident, delivering me in Kansas City, MO by early afternoon. 
After a longer than necessary snafu at the airport Starbucks, I was on the bus to the rental car facility, and from there, on my way to Olathe, KS. I chuckled to myself as I set up the Garmin GPS in the rental car, as the main sponsor of the half marathon in the Land of Oz was Garmin. 
Sweet note from my daughter. I packed it in my suitcase to bring along.

The ride from the airport in Missouri to Olathe, KS was easy, and I crossed over the natural border of the two states, the Missouri River. The scenery around was largely suburban, featuring many shopping plazas along the way. When I arrived at my hotel in Olathe, more of the same surrounded me. As far as the eye could see there were retail stores and restaurants. I wasn’t really expecting Kansas to look like that, but at least I had plenty of options around for food and necessary supplies. 
Welcome witch!
The hotel I stayed in was also the host hotel for the marathon expo, so I was able to pick up my number as soon as I arrived before checking in. The expo was very small and took up the lobby area of the hotel. Cardboard cutouts of the Wizard of Oz characters were displayed, and the mood was festive. I got my number and t-shirt, which is one of the cutest race shirts ever! It shows a silhouette of Dorothy running away as she is chased by a flying monkey. The same design that was used on the half marathon medal I saw on line earlier in the week. Cool.
Dorothy and Toto
Lion, Tinman and Scarecrow

For dinner that night, I carbed up at a nearby Italian restaurant called Zio’s. I had my usual pre-race meal of spaghetti and meatballs, and it was terrific. I ended up staying up later than I should’ve, watching the Weather Channel in my hotel room. They were reporting on extreme thunderstorms in Texas that were causing all kinds of issues including severe lightning strikes, hail and tornado conditions. And they were heading to Kansas. Lovely. Now, I know race organizers like their race themes to be cohesive, but an actual tornado on Wizard of Oz marathon day was probably not what they were hoping for. I didn’t sleep so well that night. 
I was up at 4:30 am to begin my pre-race routine and catch the shuttle bus to the start of the race. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining yet, and the morning weather forecast indicated that the rain would likely hold off until midday. On the ride to the race, the bus driver told us that some of the roads we would be running on were actually part of the wagon trails that once brought settlers to the west. He explained that Olathe had been a major post for trading of goods and resting horses for the wagon trains. I thought that was a pretty neat connection with history. I couldn’t help thinking that Olathe is still a post for goods with all of its retail. 
View of starting line. Note the incoming clouds.

The race stepped off on-time at 6:45 am from the Garmin headquarters. I lined up with the 1:50 pace group, thinking that since my last two weeks of running hadn’t been all that strong, I’d not push it too much and try for a faster time. We took off, and I felt great to start, so I actually ended up aligning myself with the 1:45s and did my best to stay with them. 
Starting line selfie
Pacing group signs

The race was largely residential. We ran on some fairly major roads, but then turned in to some quiet, really pretty neighborhoods. The houses were mostly modest, but all of them were kept very nicely. A sprinkling of spectators were along the route, but largely things were quiet. I was able to continue my pace with the 1:45 group until about mile 7 or 8 at which point they pulled away. My starting goal was to finish with the 1:50s, so I didn’t mind or put any pressure on myself. 
We ran past a really pretty cemetery and up the largest hill at about mile 5. We passed some industrial areas and crossed over a bridge that spanned the train tracks where a coal train was passing along beneath me. I have never seen that while running before. At one point we passed a small street sign along one of the main roads we were running on that indicated it was the intersection where the Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails met. A bit later in the race, we passed a monument to the wagon train settlers.
The course featured more hills than I thought it would, but they weren’t huge, although I could feel myself losing some steam in the later miles of the race. With a few miles left to go, the route entered Indian Creek Park for a stint through a wooded area on a paved biking/running trail. The scenery here was lovely and helped keep my mind off of my fatigue. This was the nicest section of the race. I was also starting to feel blisters on my right heel. Maybe running without socks wasn’t such a great idea after all. 
I fell in to stride with a woman the last few miles of the course, and we chatted a bit about our various races and fitness interests. She was a triathlete and hoped to complete an Ironman sometime in the future. Talking to her was fun and helped to pass the time. With just about a mile to go, we ended up parting ways, as the final aid station slowed her down. At this point in the race, it was just starting to sprinkle ever so lightly. I pushed on to the finish and crossed the line just ahead of the 1:50 group. Success! As I made my way through the finishing chute and in to the food tent, the rain and wind began to pick up. I grabbed some food and water, hit the porta potty and made my way to the shuttle bus. Just after I got on the bus, the rain and wind really started to pick up. Boy was I glad to be done! 
When I checked my official results later in the day, my official time was 1:49:37, and I finished 8th in my age group (out of 215). Not bad! I was also the 62nd female finisher out of 1159 and 252nd overall out of 1886. One interesting statistic from this race is that there were 1159 women runners out of a total of 1886 runners. I think it is wonderful to see so many women out there participating. Not so long ago women weren't even allowed to run marathons!
Finish line photo with my huge medal.
I got back to my hotel and stretched out in my room. When I took my running shoes off, I discovered a huge broken skin blister on my right heel and some blood on my middle toe on my right foot. Yikes! I definitely should’ve had a sock on that foot! My left foot was mostly ok, but I did have a blister on my instep. Oh well. So it goes. Could’ve been much worse. 
Race battle scars. Clearly I will never be a foot model.

As I finished my stretching, I heard the first rumble of thunder and saw the first flash of lightning. I was super happy to be done with the race, but I was feeling sorry for all the full marathoners who were still out in that. Hopefully those tornadoes would’t show up! 
I showered and headed out to grab some souvenirs for the kids and some lunch. I decided after lunch to treat myself to a movie. Since it was raining, I figured it would be a good way to spend the afternoon. I opted to see McFarland, the running story of the kids in California who became state champion cross-country runners. It was the perfect way to spend a post-race afternoon. 
After that, I checked out the local brew pub, Granite City, and tasted a couple of their beers. I had nice chat with two local guys about the brewery. Like the new one in my hometown (Powder Hollow Brewing), Granite City featured growlers to go. It would have been cool to bring one home to my husband, but the whole no liquids at the airport thing made that impossible.
Beer taps at Granite City

Irish red beer at Granite City

I went back to the hotel to relax a bit before having dinner later on in the hotel restaurant. It was an Italian/Steakhouse restaurant. The restaurant was quite full with reservations. It was prom night in the area, so several young prom couples were there as well as other parties. I opted to sit in the bar area for dinner. 
I struck up a conversation with a family who were having fun at the bar sharing some drinks. Kevin and his wife (or girlfriend, I’m not sure) and her adult daughter were fun to chat with. I always enjoy hearing local perspectives. They gave me some recommendations for other restaurants in the area, and we generally just chatted and had fun conversation.They were absolutely amazed that I was running half marathons in all 50 states and wanted to hear more about that. I told them that it wasn’t a unique idea and that many other people are working on achieving similar goals. Still, they couldn’t believe it. We had fun laughing and joking about life in general, too.  
A little while later, and older gentleman, Larry, arrived and sat next to me on my opposite side and asked me for recommendations on the wine list. We struck up a conversation as well. He was a retired judge from the area who told me all about his daughter and her family who live in Brooklyn, NY. I chatted back and forth with both Kevin and his family and Larry throughout dinner. 
When Kevin and his family left, I gave them all hugs and thanked them for a fun evening of conversation on my visit to Kansas. We wished each other well. Larry and I chatted a while longer, and then finally it was time to get some rest for me. When I asked the bartender (Joe) for my bill to settle up, he told me that it was already covered! Kevin and his family had paid for my dinner! I was absolutely flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe that they did that. Kansas is one of the friendliest and most polite places I’ve visited. The people I met were just lovely. 
I got a good night’s rest that night, and the next morning squeezed in a short 3 mile run on the hotel’s treadmill before getting my things together for the airport. The return to the airport was easy. My flight to Charlotte was very turbulent, as we had to pass through those same crazy thunderstorms from Texas as they moved east. My flight from Charlotte to Hartford was delayed a bit, but not majorly, so I arrived home later than expected but not too far off the mark. 
Race number, t-shirt and medal. 

My husband let the kids stay up extra late to see me (9:30 pm!) since it was the start of school vacation week. It was awesome to come home to hugs and happy faces. Kansas was a wonderful experience. The race was excellent, and the people were delightful. I think the race t-shirt and medal are the nicest ones to date. I loved it all! But of course, there’s no place like home! 

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