Greetings from the state where the weather changes minute by minute! Oh my goodness-turning the furnace on in September-I don’t like it ONE bit! Nor do I like having to put on jeans (though I’ve heard they’re out of style-whatever), and sweaters/sweatshirts! Some people LOVE this weather. Though I like fall (as well as spring), I DO NOT like the extreme changes in temperature. It was 93 degrees here five days ago for goodness sake! Today when I got up at 0430, it was 37 degrees! What is wrong with this picture?! Yes it makes for good running conditions, but I much prefer 50 degrees at the lowest. Such was not the case today as I ran my 7th lifetime 1/2 marathon.
I set out this year, starting in April, to do some kind of race each month. There is a group called the “Half Fanatics” that require a certain amount of 1/2 marathons in a certain period of time to qualify for their group. I wanted to pursue that (call me kooky, call me quacky), but I had other races on the calendar that were not 13.1 in pursuit of my goal marathon that was in August. I try to do races that I have not done before and especially those that are not well known, or smaller. I found such a race online called the Scout Strong Challenge that was in it’s second year. I have also been more particular about race entry fees and what they support. This one supports scouting which is such a great organization I couldn’t pass it up. I will start with a recap of this race from the packet pickup to the finish and then talk about other life things. So here I go.
I try to give every race the benefit of the doubt and cut them some slack especially when it is a fairly new race. As previously stated, this race is in it’s second year. Since I have never been a race director, I can only begin to imagine the enormity of the work that goes into putting on a race. I think this race will increase in popularity because it really is a great course. However, the improvements could start with their website. It was not updated until the last few weeks before the race this year and the packet pickup directions were very confusing. To me, it should be a cut and dried thing-here’s where you go, here’s how to get there, here’s where you park, etc. The online directions stated to park in “parking lot D” for the expo. This race was to finish at the Kansas Speedway-the only place where there were marked parking lots. As I drove into the area, which is also “Sporting Park” where soccer is played, there was no signage whatsoever to guide one where to park or any signs eluding to “packet pickup.” It truly was like finding a needle in a haystack. The only thing that made it bearable was the fact that a friend came along and we could laugh and joke about the whole thing. After a rendezvous through the actual “speedway” and talking to a “security” person in a truck who thought we were there to measure something and were from NASA (that was a good laugh), we found the way to the “expo” at Sporting Park at the “Member’s Club.” It was a bit disappointing that there were only about 3 vendors there and no one seemed to know about where to park the next day for the race. I picked up my race packet, extremely thankful that I had come a day early to figure logistics out.
Race day (this morning): I almost slept through 2 alarms. The warning (pre-alarm) went off and I mistakenly shut it off plus the final (15 minute later-GET YOUR BUTT UP alarm). I finally rolled out of bed at 0430, slurped down my coffee, got my thoughts together, and left by 0545. The race was to start at 0730, and since it was at least a 45 minute drive, I wanted to have plenty of time to FIND where to park, go to the Johnny room and catch the shuttle to the start. I arrived at 0640, drove around to the backside of the stadium (still no signage), where there were some cones set up marking off what appeared to be the entrance (one of many) into the parking lot. There was no fanfare, no light sticks or anyone waving vehicles into the area where the runners were to park. Two guys in hoodies stood at the entrance (it was dark), and asked drivers if they “were running.” One of them told me, “Go up to the stop sign, take a left, then a right.” Ok, that was easy enough. As I navigated through, I had my radar on for the beloved port-a-potty. I found a parking spot relatively easy, downed my “Gatorade Prime” (which I spilled on my chest), grabbed my gear and made a beeline for the john. It was lightening up by then and I didn’t have the SNAFU I had at my previous race in the little portable bathroom-BUT it was disgustingly gross and filthy. I know what you’re thinking-aren’t all port-a-potties disgustingly gross? Well, some are worse than others. To top it off, there was no toilet paper. I at least managed to hover (with the lid up, lol), but had to use one of my cut off t-shirt sleeves (aka sweat rags) as toilet paper. Yeah, I know you’re not suppose to throw that stuff in a port-a-potty toilet, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Out the door I went and ran onto a warm bus.
So I was actually expecting at least a 10 minute drive to the start. I don’t even think that drive took 5 minutes. We all could have used it as a warm up walk to the start and gotten there just as easy. Don’t know what they had to spend on those buses, but I would rethink that as a race director. The race was to start at the same place as packet pickup. I had about a 40 minute wait until the start so after about 15 minutes, I thought I would get one last pee in. WELL, they had only unlocked the men’s bathroom and we were suppose to use that because they had blocked off 3 stalls for us of the female persuasion. NOW, if I had been desperate, that may have been an option-BUT I was not. Eventually (Oh happy day), they unlocked the women’s restroom as well. It was at least warm in there and I was able to kill off another 10 minutes or so by dawdling. Okay so some of this “dawdling” was people watching. I was TOTALLY amused and bemused by the young (twenty something and under) girls who were totally trying to make a fashion statement. Nary an un-color coordinated item did their body display. Every hair perfectly in place. It was barely 40 degrees and by jiminy they were going to sport their little skorts and “barely there” shorts (fully equipped with butt cheek drop) anyway! There I stood with my (somewhat) color coordinated pink and black long pants, gloves, headband, and long sleeve shirt covered by an old zip up hoody (that was too small and bleach stained). At least I was warm. Back out into the cold (is this September)? I spotted the pacers who were pacing the 1:50 group and lined up with them.
Ok, let’s talk about the announcer. He should have just stayed in bed. He was boring, corny, monotonous, and searched for words. A three year old kid could have done a better job. At least it would have been funny-oh well. The National Anthem was played by a dude on a trumpet, the gun sounded and we were off. The pacers were an older gentleman, maybe in his late 40- early 50s, and a younger thirty-ish guy. I am not really a fan of pace groups as I feel like I am running someone else’s race, but I wanted to break my previous half marathon time of 1:54:16. It started on an uphill & the first few miles were a breeze. I warmed up after mile one and was able to chuck my old zip up hoody (that was too small and bleach stained). NOW I looked fly! We had a good little group going and the pacers were doing a good job of keeping us all together. I could tell early on that they meant business when they said, ” We like to bank time in the beginning.” Holy moly, they were FAST, but I was able to keep up with them. I skipped the first water station and took in a GU and some water at mile five. Between mile six and seven we had a pace going under 8 minutes. There were hills, but they were gentle hills with equally gentle down hills. I met up with a friend I had met back in April at the Garmin 1/2 marathon. I didn’t even recognize her until she said my name. We were able to chat and encourage each other for the remainder of the race. Mile seven I swallowed my salt capsule and was starting to feel the effects of the fast pace. The group had spread out a bit and there was a pacer in the front and the tail.
Somewhere between miles eight and nine, we started entering the speedway. I swallowed my last GU and kept on a truckin’! It was at this point that both pacers pulled way ahead in the front. We all kept noticing that the mile markers seemed to be a little off. The pacers even commented on this fact. At the tunnel into the Speedway, my nemesis right knee started to twinge a bit. I walked a few yards and it helped. At this point there were 2 1/2 miles left around the actual track itself. My friend would pass me, slow down and walk a few steps, and I would do the same. For some reason, this seemed to be a REALLY long 1/2 marathon. I can’t say enough how thankful I was to have her out there to talk with. I could see the pacers a quarter of a mile ahead. By then, I had not run over an 8:49 pace on any given mile. I felt confident that though I would probably not come in at 1:50, I would still beat my previous 1/2 marathon time. My friend pulled way ahead as we had about a half lap to go. I started playing those silly games in my head imagining the stands filled with people cheering for me-ha! I finally rounded the corner and could see the finish line. However, my Garmin had already beeped off the 13 mile time and there was a lot more than 0.1 mile to go. Oh well, I surged at the end and ended up with a finishing time of 1:52:08, beating my previous 1/2 marathon time by 2 minutes, 08 seconds. For me that is significant. I found out later that I had also won my age group (females). It would be nice to know what the actual finish time would have been if the course would have not been 13.4. My time was probably more like a 1:51: something. But that is neither here nor there. It is an official time and that is what will count.
What I gleaned from this race: New races are still in their infancy and being improved upon all the time. However, there are simple things that could be better-website upgrade, signage, enthusiastic parking attendants with flashlights. I personally would do away with the buses. The mile markers need to be more accurate as well as the finish line. It is a novel concept to cross the same finish line as the race cars, but it could have been moved forward some to reflect an actual 13.1. There were many people mad at the finish because they ran hard and their times should have been better. Personally, it was the longest I have ever ran at that pace. It was good to push myself because I know that I can always do better. The medal is nice, the tech shirt is nice (but SMELLY-some of the ink that is used in the darker colors is really odiferous). We had to go up the stairs into the stands to get post-race refreshments. That was okay, because that was the way out to the parking lot. It actually felt good to climb the stairs and stretch. Most of all, this race supports the scouts and that is important. I think as this race is promoted, it will become one of the bigger races in the Kansas City area.
So in the past 5 weeks, I have ran my fastest marathon and 1/2 marathon. These two medals I cherish:
On life: It was so good talking to someone I had not seen/talked to since April. Not only is she one of the sweetest people I have ever met, but she encouraged me as much as she said that I encouraged her. It was a mutual giving of support to a fellow runner. No one understands your frustrations with yourself and timing, pacing, aches/pains like another runner. Some would say that we are an odd lot. I’ve always known that I’m odd, so it’s really no big deal.
Until we met again,
“A poor performance is a strong motivator for me. I can’t wait to prove to myself that I’m a better runner than my last showing.” -Clint Verran, elite marathoner