Friday, January 8, 2016

Race Report: Route 66 Half Marathon

Friends at the 5K startline!
My weekend to Tulsa started off with the worst flying experience I've ever had to deal with. As per usual, LaGuardia had extensive flight delays, and we got off the ground 2 hours and 15 minutes after we were supposed to depart. The flight would now be slated to land at 10:03pm (instead of 8:20pm). The flight attendant assured the entire flight (which included about 50 folks connecting to other flights) that planes would be held in St. Louis especially if the connecting flights were the last of the day, as Southwest did not want to be responsible for hotels for stranded passengers.

Now I've never ever paid for onboard WiFi or similar options, but this time I decided this time to pay $2 for messaging. I found out from my friend Nicole (a Southwest employee herself, but also traveling to Tulsa for the Route 66 Half - which would notably be the race that would have her reach the Sun in Half Fanatics!!) that when talking with the gate agent that dispatch was NOT holding the Tulsa flight, therefore screwing three of us over, who were on this LGA-STL flight. The plane was going to board and push back and leave us unless we made other plans; and the next flight to Tulsa wouldn't leave til 4pm the following day. Thanks to Nicole and our text conversation, all three of us plus the two other's check-in bags were able to rebook onto the STL-OKC flight (the same plane as the one we were on) and one of the other's friends was going to drive the 1.5 hours to OKC to pick us up and drive us 1.5 hours all the way back to Tulsa. I acted as intermediary, going to the other two passengers and relaying to them the information I was getting from Nicole. However from the flight attendants? They said NOTHING. They found out from the copilot about the flights that were not being held (Kansas City was the other one) maybe an hour before landing (and after I found out, since I was getting info from the ground) and didn't make any announcement until maybe 20 minutes before landing.

Hey Dan!!  On the windy 5k course...
And then about 40 minutes before we were to land, Nicole informed me the crew themselves for the STL-TUL flight still hadn't landed either. After a tense last half hour of the flight, the three of us plus the check in bags were reinstated onto the STL-TUL flight (something about voluntary removals - apparently three people took whatever vouchers Southwest had to offer in order to get us back onto the flight!), but we had a very small window to get to the flight once we landed. I kept Nicole informed up to the moment we landed and I was able to get all three of us off the plane first, as we SPRINTED off the plane, through the jetbridge, to the gate agent waiting for us, and right to the gate (which was thankfully right next door to where we arrived) and were the last people on the plane, with only a mere couple minutes before the boarding door closed.  SO stressed out, but glad I got to Tulsa without the OKC detour, no thanks to LGA for ridiculous delays, but all the thanks to Nicole for helping us out as needed.

The flight from St. Louis to Tulsa was filled with students from the Naval Academy, as this weekend was also a big Tulsa/Navy football game.  Nicole had to sit in the crew jumpseat, as the flight was fully booked, but upon landing, we went together to the car rental counter (which was strangely not easy to find... Tulsa Airport needs some better signage!), and we rode her Mustang convertible (!!!!) into the city, where she dropped me off at my hotel where Hollie was waiting for me.

With the Main Maniac!
But, enough about my crazy travel issues - you're here to read about running! The next morning, Hollie and I went into downtown Tulsa to participate in the Saturday morning 5K.  We parked near the startline, and stayed in the car for a good twenty minutes to keep warm, as it was FRIGID outside.  As the clock wound down near the start, we headed off into the cold to meet up with many friends who were similarly suffering in the cold temps before the start.  Soon, the race started, and it only took a couple minutes before we realized that Tulsa was most definitely not flat.  Not only that, we experienced some ridiculously powerful wind gusts, making the chill in the air even more unbearable.  The wind was so strong at times that people's hats flew off (Hollie), some children who were running this shorter distance were being blown sideways, and even people's normal running gaits were being thrown off.  After retrieving the medal, we rushed back to the car for warmth and back to the hotel for  breakfast, a shower, and to pack up our stuff as Hollie and I were both transferring to other hotels for the second night in town.

With Bart Yasso!

Shenanigans at the expo...

The bloggers' forum I participated in!
We headed back into downtown Tulsa to go to the expo for the afternoon, as I was participating in the  Bloggers' Forum at the expo MainStage.  The event was moderated by Cheryl Lawson of Social Media Tulsa, and I was joined by four other bloggers, and we waxed philosophical on our running "careers" and our blogging lives, and how we manage our time doing both as well as promoting ourselves to our audiences.  It was a great opportunity to learn more about other "runners who write/writers who run" and their methodologies in order to increase site traffic or presence in social media.

More expo shenanigans...
For the remainder of the day and into the evening, there was a lot of fun opportunities to meet new people and reunite with others - some at the Doubletree across the street, some at a dinner I was invited to at a pizza place not too far away.  I even got to see my friend Jamil, who came down from Wichita to watch the football game (he's a University of Tulsa alum), and he brought me back downtown to the Best Western, also near the expo, where I was staying for the night and waiting for my friend Juan, who was flying in late from San Diego, having run the U.S.A. Half Marathon San Diego Invitational earlier that day.  We turned in not long after he arrived, since the start was going to be very early the following morning.

Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs pre-race photo!
(Photo by Route 66 Marathon)

The startline
And a few hours later, we were awake.  Unfortunately for me, there was something in my bed, and I awoke with itchy red welts on my lower back, my ankles, my feet and soles of my feet.  Bedbugs, carpet mites - who knows.  Whatever it was, it was itchy.  Grossed out, yes but we dealt with it later, but thankfully I had antihistamines on me and the itching subsided.  Wearing multiple layers as the temps had dipped even more from the day before (and the wind gone), we walked the 0.6 miles to the start area.  The park on 6th and Main was corralled off and turned into Maniac Corner, where members of the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs could congregate pre-race for the massive group photo.  Lots and lots of photos were taken before we all separated and made our way to the corrals for the start.  I made my way over to Corral A and soon after the national anthem was sung, we were off under a flurry of confetti!

The race course through Maple Ridge
We ran down Main Street heading southward out of the downtown area and then turned right onto 15th Street, hitting our first big downhill section of the race.  I clocked an 8:45 first mile, surely with that downhill helping me.  Almost immediately, we began to run through a very affluent-looking residential section of Tulsa known as Maple Ridge, running along a treelined street (Madison Street), with a manicured median running down the middle. We made another left turn onto 19th Street and then took that for a long stretch before we hit mile 2, and then turned again as we encountered St. John Medical Center on Utica Avenue in the historic Yorktown neighborhood of Tulsa.  We then made our way around the campus and through the campus of Cascia Hall Preparatory School, a prominent Catholic school in the city.

Running into Jim five miles in...
We reemerged onto Utica Avenue and ran southward until it dead-ended to 29th Street, turned right, and then followed that street northward as it became East Rockford Road, and passed the Philbrook Museum of Art, a 1920's Italian Renaissance style villa situated on 23 acres of gardens.  We then wound our way through more of the beautiful Maple Ridge neighborhood, passing by exquisite mansions, and many folks cheering us on in front of their homes.  Somewhere around mile 5, I ran into my friend Jim from Georgia, who had struggled with some stomach issues in the first few miles of the race, and I decided to help pace him as best as I can to the finish.  I was still using my intervals as best as I could, alternating between 4:00/1:00 and 9:00/1:00 run-walk ratios.  Having him with me help me too, as it broke up the monotony of hearing the same music I had been listening to for the last several races, and we helped each other through the meandering hills that populated this area.  And thankfully, he shared my love of stopping for cute dogs, as we ran into a corgi around mile 6.5 on Peoria Avenue.

The part of the race
actually on Route 66!
About 7.75 miles in, we reached Riverside Drive, which ran alongside the Arkansas River.  We ran on this road for about half a mile before turning back into the Maple Ridge, but running on the famed Cincinnati Avenue, known for having a great deal of spectators.  It was most evident at mile 9, where it's practically a block party - lots of food and drink "options" available for runners that want to partake!  At mile 10, we reached 21st Street and turned left toward the river, then ran along Riverside Drive for a little over a mile, while we saw the climb awaiting us to get to Southwest Boulevard.  A short out-and-back took us over the Arkansas River, and then we headed northeastward on the only section of the entire race that was on the actual Route 66.  Thankfully, we are also provided with a photograph opportunity with the iconic Route 66 sign from the skyway/observation deck overlooking the highway.

We continued our steady climb up the road, curving up to 7th Street, and past our hotel and the Cox Business Center where the expo was held.  Soon, we passed the 12 mile mark, and were back in the thick of downtown.  A few more turns were ahead, as we headed toward the finish line at Guthrie Green, where the 5K start was located.  I sped a little ahead of Jim, and finished to cheering crowds at the finish line in 2:17:39, with Jim not far behind me.  We progressed through the finishers chute and got some much needed chow (mmm spaghetti!) before making our way to the finish area reserved for Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs club members - where we could get more food and drinks (yay beer) and exchange our medals for extra-special HF and MM branded medals.

I stuck around the finish area for quite some time, taking in the sunny weather (still cold, but thankfully I had my down coat with me!), and watch several friends finish both the half and full marathons, some even bringing down their personal bests (yay Brian!)  I found my friends Colleen and Maureen near the finish, who walked over to the "Center of the Universe" landmark (which served as a short detour for the full marathon) with me, and were kind enough to take my victory headstand photo for me.

Victory Headstand!

Post race beers... yum!
My flight back home wouldn't leave till later, so after a shower and packing up my bags at my hotel, I met up with my friends Baylee and Hyalker at the Doubletree next door, and then we Ubered to a restaurant where we were able to get some appropriate lunchtime food (and I got an awesome stout and porter beer flight!) with other friends Colleen and Dave.  My flight was running late so I got some more time hanging out with them before it was time to head to the airport.  Oklahoma was fun... but COLD, and I was ready to head home, by way of Salt Lake City - yes, a long trip in the opposite direction, but it helped me avoid the ridiculous weather issues that crippled Chicago over the weekend - and I got back to NYC early the next morning after having a nice and easy layover in SLC, my fourth time there in 2015.  Only three more long distance races to go before the end of the year!

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