Thursday, June 23, 2016

Race Report: Lincoln National Guard Half Marathon

I'm in the paper, ma!
When we last left off, I was prepping a double weekend, where I would mark off two new states - Iowa and Nebraska.  It just so happened, I was also given the chance to sing the national anthem at both races as well.  Earlier in the week, I got an e-mail from a reporter from the Lincoln Journal Star, who was contacting me because the race director for my Nebraska race, Nancy Sutton-Moss, had floated my story to him for a feature article.  We had a lengthy 40 minute conversation, and the article went live on the Journal Star's website on Friday morning and then was featured in the printed newspaper on Saturday morning.

Dana and I at the "Why" wall
The Des Moines race was WET WET WET.  After the race and getting cleaned up, we headed out for brunch in Des Moines, and then afterward, Dana and I took off down I-80 to Nebraska, and to its capital, Lincoln, for the Lincoln National Guard Half Marathon and Marathon expo.  It rained almost the entire way there, for the duration of the three hour drive.  We arrived in Lincoln to a very busy expo at the Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker hotel, notably packed for the last couple hours of the expo being open.  It seemed everyone was picking up their packets at the same time!  And the article had definitely been read by locals - some noticed me from the picture that went along with the article and congratulated me on my accomplishments. It was prom night too, as several young high school kids were dressed to the nines prepping to go out for the evening.  As we were leaving, I got a phone call from Bill Rentschler, a video journalist with the local CBS affiliate 10/11 News Now.  Nancy had contacted Bill, as well, to see if he wanted to cover my story for a segment on the news!  We arranged to meet inside Memorial Stadium at the completion of the race.  After stopping by the Journal Star's offices in downtown Lincoln to pick up some physical copies of that day's newspaper, Dana and I drove out of Lincoln northward to Ralston, an Omaha suburb about 45 minutes away, where my friend Jamie was hosting us for the evening.

My contribution to the "Why I run Lincoln" wall :)

Would've gotten the shirt if it wasn't so darn expensive.
Pre-race beer flight!
I met Jamie at Rock 'n' Roll Arizona 2015, and subsequently kept in touch with her over Facebook, sharing our love for corgis. While she was not running Lincoln, she had several friends who were, and was kind enough to host us, and also join us for the VERY early drive down to Lincoln, where she would spectate and cheer at the race, handing out candy to runners at the 11 mile mark.  That evening, after settling in at Jamie's house (and putting out our wet clothes to dry), we took Jamie out for dinner as a thank you for housing us for the weekend, going to Benson Brewery in the northern Omaha neighborhood of Benson, recommended by my friend Katie as one of the best breweries in the metro area.  A super early morning got us out of Ralston for the 45 minute drive south, and we got into Lincoln pretty easily, bypassing any major traffic issues, and parked in a structure about 1/4 mile away from the start area on the campus of the University of Nebraska.  It continued to rain as we drove down to Lincoln, and as we walked over to the start area, it was drizzling lightly, thankfully not as wet as the day before.  We stopped over to The Coliseum (former home of the Nebraska basketball team, currently the arena that houses NU volleyball) to make use of the bathrooms, but the lines were so incredibly long, I decided to forego them and head to the start and meet the RDs and warm up a bit.

With Lincoln Marathon race directors
Gary and Nancy
Thankfully, there was a trailer near the start, where I (along with Jamie) warmed up for about 15-20 minutes before the race start.  Finally meeting Nancy and her fellow co-race director Gary, I thanked them for the opportunity to sing the anthem for this race and for the connections with local media.  Soon, the announcer introduced a few folks to make some remarks, and then I was up.  I took the anthem nice and slow, considering the sound system, and finished singing the "Star Spangled Banner" in my eighth state!

Moments after finishing, I quickly headed off into the corrals, squeezing myself through some barricades. The corrals were let off very gradually, allowing only a few hundred runners out at a time, so there were some longer waits in the corrals.  Within 15 minutes, I began my second 13.1 miles of the weekend.



Singing the national anthem. Photo posted to Lincoln Track Club Facebook page

Prepping in the trailer before the race!

Our startline!
We set off from the start line on N 14th Street, turning left onto Vine Street, running two blocks over to N 16th Street, and our first long stretch of road.  As we ran southward on 16th Street (and as the streets we were crossing began to progress with the alphabet in reverse, meaning U Street, T Street, S Street, R Street, and so on), we passed several fraternities and sororities, some looking like its residents were still asleep (or probably running the race?  Who knows?!)  The skies continued to drizzle lightly as we ran, and about 3/4 of a mile in, I took my first picture stop, capturing a picture of me with the Nebraska State Capitol, a notably phallic looking building, in the background. Just past my 9:33 first mile, I stopped again to take a picture directly in front of the building.  I mean... I had to.  In fact, I had a crazy idea of making this be the background of my victory headstand photo!  We pressed on, running through the Near South neighborhood, home to many of Lincoln's grand historic homes and is currently experiencing a revitalization effort by the neighborhood association and city officials. Many homeowners here are reconverting properties that were once divided into apartments back into single-family homes. I clocked another sub-10 minute mile, before turning left onto South Street, a commercial strip.

Oh look, there's the Nebraska State Capitol building!

Making fun of the building while on the run... lol!
Running down 16th Street
South Street was our first elevation challenge, rising 58 feet over the 3/4 mile stretch.  It was very gradual, so not as noticeable, but by the time we clocked our third mile after turning onto Sheridan Boulevard, I clocked in a 10:07 mile - still not bad.  I was feeling good, not feeling too cold, and happy that I had worn gloves this time around!  Sheridan Boulevard then marked one of the more fun stretches of the course, running a mile through the neighborhood of Country Club (and at one point, running past a house with a front yard covered in Ben Sasse posters - the Republican Senator representing Nebraska who won reelection two years ago).  We passed a couple narrow areas around some of the roundabouts along Sheridan, and reached the mile 5 mark while passing by the beautiful homes and hundreds of spectators in the neighborhoods of Greater South and College View, all the way to the end of Sheridan Boulevard until it merges with Calvert Street.  We continued down Calvert Street before turning right onto South 48th Street.

South 48th Street was a nice 1.2 mile downhill, where the elevation dropped 87 feet.  Along the way, we passed Union College, a smaller four-year college for which the College View neighborhood is named.  It was a great stretch of road, filled with tons of people braving the crummy weather, and cheering us right along to the 10K mark as we moved onto the Helen Boosalis Trail (named after Lincoln's first female mayor), that snaked through 40th and Highway 2 Park and then crossed a few streets closed off to the runners.  This marked the first part of the race course that was mostly devoid of spectators.  We were left to brave the wind (we were right next to the highway) as we ran the next 2.2 miles along this paved trail.  We skirted the southern borders of the neighborhoods of Bishop Park and Country Club, before finally exiting off of the trail, turning right onto S. 20th Street (the eastern border of the neighborhood of Indian Village) and immediately seeing what lay before us... a 60 foot incline over a 1/2 mile, all the way up to Calvert Street.  We continued along 20th Street, feeling relieved that we had a little downhill just after that incline, then turned left onto Harrison Avenue into the homely neighborhood of Irvingdale.

The "Steve Harvey" Finish line
We turned right onto S. 10th Street for the final stretch of the race, heading northward to our ultimate destination - Nebraska Memorial Stadium.   We ran up the generally flat street through the neighborhood of Everett, and at mile 11, I found Jamie, braving the cold for all us runners!  I gave her a quick hug, complained about my hardheadedness for stopping for a bathroom break, and the fact that I was en route to finish as much as five minutes faster than the prior day's race!  A little afterward, as we continued northward, I found one of the funniest signs I've seen on a course - a little pop culture humor, poking fun at Steve Harvey's major flub hosting Miss Universe in December, by claiming that THAT was Steve Harvey's finish line :)

About to turn into the parking lot!
The last mile was TOUGH.  Though the road was more familiar, as I had driven it in the last couple days, and the stadium finally came into view, I was a strugglebus getting myself up Salt Creek Roadway, the frontage road that ran alongside the onramp from S 10th Street to I-180.  This road curved around the parking lot of the stadium, turning onto Stadium Drive, as we were left to finish the last 400 meters of the race, seemingly the toughest for me.  However, the turn INTO the stadium was right there, as we were cheered on by hundreds of folks, and we made our way on the incline into the stadium, finishing smack dab in the middle of the stadium on the 50 yard line... a different finish than the Knoxville Full, which was on the 50 yard line as well, but along the side of the field.

Finish line ahead!
I crossed the finish line in 2:13:56, 5 1/2 minutes faster than my finish time at the Drake Relays Road Races the day before.  To say that I was ecstatic was an understatement... I felt really good, and was happy to be able to finish on the field, and in much better weather than the previous day.  As I finished, I found Bill, who had caught me crossing the finish line and then brought me back to a spot on the field where he conducted a roughly 10 minute interview, where I did my best to answer his questions with my frozen fingers, face, and... basically, marathon brain.  After having him do my victory headstand photo on the field (it was far too cold to get back out to where the capitol building was), I stood in line to get through the post-finish chute, and found a spot to warm up a bit; I tracked Dana and had her coming in about half an hour after I finished, since they were letting out corrals slowly at the beginning.

Victory Headstand!

Finish chute into the bowels of the stadium...

Three amigos!
After retrieving Dana, we called up Jamie, and met up at the car, and made our way back up to Ralston for much needed showers, and to pack up - we had a quick lunch at a nearby pizza place; Jamie took Dana to the Omaha airport, while I said my goodbyes and headed off on my three hour drive back to Des Moines for my flight back to New York.  I sped down I-80 and made it with lots of time to spare before my flight! :)






The end is near?

Bling and bibs!

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