Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Race Report: Running with the Cows Half Marathon

Running with the Cows has been a race that I'd heard of since I started running half marathons.  Located about half an hour south of Kansas City in the communities of Wea and Bucyrus, Kansas, the race is actually quite a popular one for half marathon enthusiasts looking to check off Kansas as they run in all fifty states.  It's a very straightforward course with few turns, but definitely not as flat as you would think for being in Kansas.  (Note: despite the popular belief that Kansas is the flattest state in the nation, most scientists rank Kansas somewhere between the 20th and 30th flattest state, as there's an area of undulating surface in the eastern third of the state, known as the Flint Hills.)

It's located in Miami County, the county just south of Johnson County, where Kansas City's populous Kansas suburb of Overland Park is located.  My dad's younger brother and his wife live in Overland Park, and their home is actually just under 20 minutes away by car from the race start, so it made sense to stay there overnight before the race.  With my parents in Wichita, only 2 1/2 hours away, they decided to make the trip up as well, and have a fun family weekend - and it just so happened to be both my mother's birthday (on May 13) and Mothers' Day (on May 14).  Perfect timing all around!

So I flew out of New York after work on the last flight out at 8pm from LaGuardia, and we landed about 45 minutes early in Kansas City!  My parents unfortunately didn't check my flight status, so I was left waiting for a bit before they did arrive (on time, if my flight landed right on time).  The airport is about 45 minutes away from my aunt and uncle's house, so they timed it correctly based on my flight schedule.  We got back to Overland Park close to 11pm, and with the race early the next morning, I went straight to bed so I could get some rest.  Not only was I running, but I was slated to sing the national anthem with the children's choir associated with the Catholic School sponsoring the race, but also surprise the audience with a number as runners made their way to the corrals for the start of the race -- a "cattle call," if you will!

Driving in to Bucyrus.
Silo marketing.
So early the next morning, we head down to Bucyrus, and join the rest of the vehicles caravaning to the parking field, and then assemble for photos with various friends who made their way to Kansas for the race, and to celebrate the 100th half marathon of our dear friend Dan, who, with his wife Paula, are from the area.  About twenty minutes before the race, after Dan is introduced to the crowd, as well as two other VIP runners Calix (at 16 years old, running his 200th half!) and Susan (running her first race since finishing chemo!), I head up to the mic stand to sing my rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," perfect for a race in Kansas.  Shortly thereafter, I joined the Holy Rosary-Wea Catholic School Children's Choir, under the direction of Judy Wolf, for the national anthem!  Both numbers were videoed on my cell phone, and then shortly thereafter, my cell battery died.  A good signal that I needed a new phone, so I just handed it off to my parents, and decided that there would be no pictures from my phone for this race.  Sad face.

At the start with fellow VIPs, while I sing
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"(Photo by Pamela Brisendine)

Singing before the race (Photo by Dan Roehler)

The startline!
And then we were off, at 7:30 on the dot!  The May weather was definitely felt - at that point in time, it was 59º with 77% humidity.  To cheering crowds, the half marathoners took off out of the starting gate, down the church drive and right onto Metcalf Avenue, where we'd continue for 1.5 miles before turning right onto 215th Street.  The first mile was nice, running alongside several friends, including Tami and Dave, before taking off and running with the 2:05 pacer for a bit of time. I would end up staying with her for the first five miles of the race, as the course rolled up and down, very subtly.  It's a surprisingly hilly course for Kansas - but still relatively flat.

Running with Tami
(Photo by Donna Dullys)
At the 3.5 mile mark, we turned once again, turning left onto the 3 mile long stretch along Mission Road.  There were parts of this section that were nice long downhills, and I took advantage of the elevation loss, and gunned forward.  At around the 4.5 mile mark, we began to see the faster runners making their way toward us, turning onto the road we had just crossed.  It was nice to see some of the faster folks, especially friends of mine, as I continued on down Mission while they were coming up.  We eventually made a turn around at the 6.5 mile mark, and then it was my turn to head back up, attempting to conquer the uphill.  I soldiered on, and still managed to post strong sub-10 minute miles.  At mile 8.5, we turned right onto 207th Street, and it was along here I posted my first over 10-minute mile at the 9 mile mark.

Anatomically correct cow or
questionably placed udder?
With four miles to go, we continued onward, the sun blazing down on us.  I started to slow a bit from here on, posting a 9:57 and a 10:24, which would end up being my slowest mile split of the race.  The road slightly curved left before we turned right onto the first real "hill" of significance, a very short out-and-back nub on Metcalf Avenue that was the ramp up to an overpass.  We had less than 5k to go, and I gunned it for the final two miles, posting a 10:15, and then a considerably faster 9:28 as we began to move ever closer to the silo with the recognizable cow logo, signaling the turn back onto the drive of the church/school.  My legs were heavy, but I kept moving - and to a barrage of cheering spectators including my parents, I ran a 2:09:37, my fastest half in quite some time, but well within the range of times I had been posting in the past several marathons for the first half of those races.

Coming into the finish (Photo by Donna Dullys)

My parents excitedly seeing me cross the finish line (Photo by Donna Dullys)

It occurred to me shortly after the finish that despite posting my bib up, I neglected to attach my chip timer, which should've been threaded through my shoelaces on one of my shoes.  In the harried commotion of the morning, I had gotten my bib and bag from Donna earlier that morning, but didn't even realize that the race was being timed via a shoe timer.  Thankfully, I had my watch on hand, and I got my watch time collected as my finish time by the timing company.

Dan finishes his 100th!
(Photo by Donna Dullys)
After the finish, I had a blast getting to watch friends come in to the finish alongside my parents.  It was quite a thrill to see Dan finish the race, marking a huge milestone for him.  We all celebrated with delicious food provided by the parish, and then our fun tent specifically for friends of Dan, located outside the church. My parents thoroughly enjoyed themselves, too, getting to meet many of the friends I've made over the last few years of running from all over the country, and getting to partake in all the celebration.  But the day wasn't over yet...

With my always-supportive "Cali Mom," Jann! (Photo by Jann Carlson)

Me and my parents, cute AF!

My parents and I after the race. And a 🐮.

Victory Headstand!

After heading back to my aunt and uncle's to shower off the morning's sweat, we drove out to north Kansas City, where Dan and Paula had reserved a party room at a hotel, for more celebration!  We had some delicious barbecue to chow down on, and some quality craft beers (Dan knows his stuff!) to imbibe. There was even a fantastic cake in the shape of a running shoe that promptly got eaten!  My parents enjoyed this time as well, getting to sit down and chat with many of my friends again; we left with full stomachs and headed back to Overland Park for a much needed nap before... more food.  My cousin Patti made reservations for my parents and I, her, and her parents at Bonefish Grill to celebrate Mothers' Day as well as my mom's birthday.

Happy birthday mom!
I was POOPED by the end of yet another delicious meal, so I passed out early that night, and the next morning, Patti took me to the airport for my flight back home.  It was a quick weekend out to KC, but what made it better was the quality time I got to spend with my running family and my real family!

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